Day 1097: Alexander Hamilton

Cover for Alexander HamiltonBest Book of the Week!
I don’t think it’s ever taken me so long to read a book as it did Alexander Hamilton, despite it being a fascinating biography. Although it did not seem as if it went into too much detail, as some biographies do, it is certainly long.

Thanks to the Broadway show, which is based on this book, people have become a little more conscious of the accomplishments of Hamilton. Unfortunately, he was such a controversial figure that his enemies managed to blacken his legacy for many, many years.

A man of astounding intelligence, Alexander Hamilton sprang from a difficult heritage as an illegitimate son of a man who was a failure at business and deserted his common-law wife and their children. From this beginning, Hamilton expended his own formidable efforts, eventually to become one of the most powerful men in the new United States.

Hamilton was apparently not at all tactful and earned himself many enemies through speaking truth to power. He and Washington had a close and affectionate relationship that began when he was Washington’s aide during the Revolutionary War, but he counted among his enemies James Monroe, Thomas Jefferson, the New York Clinton family, Aaron Burr, and to a lesser extent, James Madison. John Adams hated him. None of these men emerge from this book looking well, although Hamilton certainly had his faults.

I think almost anyone interested in history will find this book fascinating, even if, like me, you are not particularly interested in the Revolutionary period. Alexander Hamilton was an amazing man who has been largely robbed of his proper legacy.

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Day 817: The Hornet’s Nest

Cover for The Hornet's NestIt is 30 years after the Battle of Culloden, but Highland Scots are still forbidden by their English overlords to wear the plaid, play bagpipes, or honor their heritage in other ways. Rebellious Lauchlin MacLeod and her brother Ronald, teenage children of Laird Kildornie, are always finding themselves in trouble.

So it is on the day they meet their cousin Matthew Lennox, a gentleman from Virginia journeying to visit his English and Scottish relatives. Lauchlin is marveling that this Sassenach is related to her family and doesn’t realize he has been escorted there by a troop of redcoats. She just barely avoids being caught wearing a kilt while her brother hides in the bushes with his bagpipe.

In town showing Cousin Matthew the sights, Ronald and Lauchlin attack some boys who are torturing a kitten. Later Sergeant Tucker arrives at their home to tell them that the boys are the children of Captain Green, the new area commander. The boys have lied about the cause of the attack, and Captain Green isn’t as likely as the previous commander to overlook their behavior. The next incident could be serious.

Cousin Matthew has a solution. Lauchlin and Ronald can travel to Virginia and live with his sister Lavinia until things calm down. Secretly, he enlists them to send news and drawings, for Lauchlin is a gifted caricaturist, about doings in the colonies for a paper he is founding in London called The Gadfly.

So, Lauchlin and Ronald set out for the colonies accompanied by their kitten Haggis. They arrive in Williamsburg in 1773, just in time to witness the lead-up to the American Revolution. It’s not too difficult to imagine where their sympathies lie.

This novel effortlessly mixes the viewpoints from both sides of the revolution, for their Lennox relatives are Loyalists, and some are charming characters. Lauchlin is an ebullient scamp, Ronald a boy who must learn that all Sassenachs are not the same. Their many Virginian cousins dislike them at first but then most of them learn to love them. And Haggis has his own distinctive personality.

This novel is one of my favorites so far of the Watson books I’ve newly discovered, because it is less unlikely than some of them and has really enjoyable characters. Plus, it provides an unusual viewpoint of the American Revolution. Young teens and tweens should love this book.

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