Now available on Amazon: print versions (in full color) of Alexander Hamilton: A Brief Biography and Alexander Hamilton: A Friend to America, volume 1 and volume 2. If you’re ready to buy, scroll to the end of this post for a 40% discount.
The photo on the front cover was taken at the Museum of American Finance, which owns the plaster model of the granite portrait sculpture by Carl Conrads that was dedicated in Central Park in 1880. The Conrads sculpture shows Hamilton as an orator and writer; its base (used for the back cover) honors Hamilton’s military service.
Another Hamilton book: Why? How?
This is the introduction to Alexander Hamilton: A Friend to America, volume 1, which explains how I came to write these books.
The two volumes (728 pages) of Alexander Hamilton: Friend to America supplement my 92-page Alexander Hamilton: A Brief Biography. Here’s how such a big tail came to be wagging such a small dog.
Since 2002, I’ve been researching and writing about outdoor sculpture in New York City. When Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton appeared in 2004, I was eager to learn why New Yorkers had erected four lifesize sculptures of Hamilton. I enjoyed Hamilton’s company so much that I worked up a walking tour of the sculptures, focusing on the relationship between the important events of Hamilton’s life and the ideas that drove him. For me (writer’s bias!), the best way to get to know someone is to become familiar with what he wrote. On the tour, volunteers read aloud excerpts from Hamilton’s writings. In 2012, I turned my tour notes into a Kindle book—Alexander Hamilton: A Brief Biography—and then toddled off to work on other projects.
In 2015, along came Hamilton: An American Musical. By the time I listened to the soundtrack in January 2016 (see Chapter 1), tickets were scarce and expensive. I compensated by writing blog posts on DianneDuranteWriter.com. Once a week for sixteen months, I linked lines in the musical to writings by Hamilton and his contemporaries. Since I love visuals, I found early illustrations for the posts – included here in full color. I tackled the difference between art and history, and why we need both. When dealing with disputed points (e.g., Alexander’s “death wish”), I talked about the process of writing history.
After I discovered the line-by-line Hamilton annotations on Genius.com, I began to focus less on matching lyrics to Hamilton’s writings and more on stitching together an image of Hamilton’s life and ideas via his own words. Because my time for research was limited, I chose not to delve into secondary sources. Instead, I read as many primary sources (original writings of Hamilton and others) as I could cram into each week.
That turned out to be quite a lot. Before I gave my talk on Hamilton in 2004, I spent hours poring over the 27-volume printed edition of Hamilton’s works. This time around, not only did I read most of Hamilton’s letters and essays online—I read the letters he was replying to, and eyewitness accounts of events he participated in.
I’ve tried to allow Hamilton, Washington, Angelica, Eliza, Madison, and their contemporaries speak for themselves. The lengthy excerpts from their writings are the backbone of Hamilton: A Friend to America, and make it unique among the hundreds of published works on Hamilton. (For those unaccustomed to such long stretches of eighteenth-century prose, I’ve broken up the quotes by highlighting key sections in red.)
If you’re a fan of the musical, you’ll recognize that the order of the early posts is based on the sequence of events used by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Aaron Burr, Hercules Mulligan, John Laurens, and the Marquis de Lafayette appear in Chapters 3-6 because they appear near the beginning of Act I. I hope you’ll enjoy delving into the real lives of the characters. I’m still surprised and delighted by how much history Lin-Manuel Miranda managed to fit into Hamilton: An American Musical.
If you’re a fan of the Founding Fathers rather than the Broadway musical, the extensive primary sources in Alexander Hamilton: A Friend to America will give you a new perspective on America during and just after the Revolution. To read them in chronological order, check out the cross-references in Alexander Hamilton: A Brief Biography.
A side note: I kept posts that were filler (such as Chapter 10) because if I deleted them, I’d have to change hundreds of cross-references—a horrifying thought. Another horrifying thought: making corrections to the blog posts (which are still online) as well as the printed version. The printed version is the up-to-date one.
Some of my favorites topics:
- Alexander’s “death wish”: what’s the evidence? (Chapters 8, 9, and 24)
- Alexander and Angelica: yes, no, maybe? (Chapters 12, 53, and 59)
- What made Hamilton’s first essay (Vindication, 1774) so attention-grabbing? (Chapters 8 and 14)
- Duels: what were the rules? (Chapters 27 and 28)
- Hamilton’s economic policies: was he a laissez- faire capitalist? A proponent of Big Government? Where did he draw the line between politics and economics? (Chapters 60, 61, and 62)
- Maria Reynolds: what the hell was he thinking? (Chapters 63A, 63B, and 63C)
As first published, the blog posts included many lines from the musical. The producers of Hamilton: An American Musical denied my request to use the lyrics in the printed version. Hence I’ve stripped the lyrics from both books and blog posts. The few lyrics that remain fall under fair use.
Why “A friend to America”?
Seventeen-year-old Alexander Hamilton signed his first political pamphlet, A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress, as “A Friend to America.” His pen name nicely sums up the range of his achievements: writing in defense of the American colonies and the new nation, acting as Washington’s aide-de-camp, promoting business, supporting the Constitution, and organizing the financial system of the new government. The man wasn’t perfect, but he was damn good.
I hope that someone is, at this very moment, working out a way to make hyperlinks easy to translate into footnotes. Lacking that, I’ve left the hyperlinks underlined in the printed text and created pages on DianneDuranteWriter.com with clickable links (here and here for volumes 1 and 2, here for the Brief Biography). As a back-up, the links are also printed at the end of each volume.
I’ve thanked a number of scholars in the text. I’d like to also thank my husband, who was willing to discuss Hamilton and Hamilton for hours and hours. Thanks to my daughter, Allegra, whose Photoshop expertise made the cover much more attractive. And thanks to my sister / copy editor Jan Robinson, who caught many errors. If you find others, email me (DuranteDianne@gmail.com) and I’ll fix them in a future printing.
Kindle vs. Print
This three-volume Hamilton set was created in InDesign, my software of choice for book layout. It turns out that converting a PDF generated by InDesign into an ebook is a tricky, time-consuming task … but I got it done. Available here.
How to purchase copies at a 40% discount
The Hamilton set, published in full color throughout, is published via Amazon’s CreateSpace. CreateSpace offers to list the book on sites that cater to booksellers, libraries, and other institutions. Since I’d love to see this book in the hands of high-school and college students who are fans of Hamilton, those distribution channels are essential.
However, if you choose to distribute via those channels, CreateSpace increases the minimum price of the book substantially, in order to allow for the standard discounts given to booksellers and institutions. The cost to me of Hamilton: A Brief Biography is $8. In order to make a $2 profit using all CreateSpace’s distribution channels, I had to set the price at $24. Hamilton: A Friend to America volume 1 costs me $30. In order to make a $2 profit, I had to set the price at $80. Volume 2 is $23 to me; to make a $2 profit, I had to set the price at $62. In short: I can get all three volumes for $61 (before shipping and tax). Amazon lists the set for $166, of which I’ll receive $6 if the set is sold to a library or bookseller.
I am willing to sell sets of all three books at a 40% discount: $100 plus shipping and tax (if applicable). The process:
- You send me (DuranteDianne@gmail.com) your USPS mailing address.
- I place a preliminary order on CreateSpace and tell you the cost of various shipping options and the applicable tax.
- You send me, via Paypal, $100 plus shipping and applicable tax.
- I place the order and have CreateSpace ship the books directly to you.
If you’d like signed copies, there will be a double shipping charge: CreateSpace to me, me to you.
If you’re interested, email me and we’ll get the process started!
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