Sunlit Water

June 28, 2007

Hey Now

Filed under: Culture — by teofilo @ 6:16 pm

There’s nothing wrong with smug young Ivy League bloggers.  Also, even leaving aside his ownership of slaves, Jefferson was an asshole.  At least, that’s how he comes across in Chernow’s biography of Hamilton (who, oddly, doesn’t seem to be included among the founders discussed in the book Dana Goldstein is reading); this may be largely a function of the conventions of Hamilton biography as a genre.



  1. Soooooo… is serial blogging your new procrastination technique or are you distracting yourself while waiting for a response?

    (Yes, rhetorical.)

    Comment by Witt — June 28, 2007 @ 6:20 pm |Reply

  2. I still haven’t written the thing, so it’s primarily the first.

    Comment by teofilo — June 28, 2007 @ 6:39 pm |Reply

  3. At the risk of sounding elitist, I’d guess that Wood knows more about Jefferson than Chernow. A lot more. This is not the same as being a better judge of character, of course.

    Comment by eb — June 28, 2007 @ 7:21 pm |Reply

  4. Oh, I’m sure he does, and Chernow’s obvious sympathy for Hamilton definitely seems to get in the way of an objective appraisal at times. Still, there’s a lot about Jefferson’s behavior during the 1790s that reflects poorly on him even if you don’t take a strong pro-Hamilton view.

    Comment by teofilo — June 28, 2007 @ 7:25 pm |Reply

  5. There’s a lot of Jefferson’s behavior that reflects poorly on him in just about every decade. As far as I can tell, from reading yet a different book on the 1790s, in the early years of Washington’s presidency Hamilton had the better ideas and policies, but that Hamilton makes a turn towards more troubling policies like the standing army that never got built during the Adams presidency for the war that was never really fought with France, and then goes on to that embarrassing feud with Adams himself (who had his own personal problems).

    Comment by eb — June 28, 2007 @ 7:31 pm |Reply

  6. I haven’t read Wood’s book – except what parts may have already appeared in his NYRB and TNR reviews – but the table of contents show an essay devoted to Hamilton and the “fiscal-military state.”

    Comment by eb — June 28, 2007 @ 7:34 pm |Reply

  7. I’m actually only about halfway through the Chernow book (to mid-1792); it’ll be interesting to see how he deals with Hamilton’s later years, when he was no longer so popular or powerful.

    Comment by teofilo — June 28, 2007 @ 7:36 pm |Reply

  8. I read Chernow a few years ago and my recollection was that the quality went down as the book progressed. The strength of the narrative was Chernow’s insight into Hamilton’s character, and obviously his earlier years are going to be more probative as far as that goes. The later intricacies of political infights and policy just didn’t play to Chernow’s strengths.

    Comment by Anon — June 28, 2007 @ 10:15 pm |Reply

  9. I can see that. I’ve also noticed that Chernow seems to be really interested in Hamilton’s childhood (which, to be fair, is very interesting), and he keeps suggesting that such and such action in his later years may be reflective of his attitude toward his mother or whatever. It gets a bit tiring after a while.

    Comment by teofilo — June 28, 2007 @ 10:38 pm |Reply

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