Monday, April 25, 2011

Alexander Hamilton: The Outsider

It's Nonfiction Monday and I'm back from my vacation to Boston, a wonderful city which lays claim to the title of Birthplace of America.  The role of Boston in the American Revolution cannot be denied, nor can the contributions of Alexander Hamilton, scholar, soldier, politician and statesman. 

Frtiz, Jean. 2011. Alexander Hamilton: The Outsider. New York: Putnam.

In Alexander Hamilton: The Outsider, Jean Fritz follows a theme that ran through all aspects of Hamilton's life - that of outsider.  Born on the island of St. Kitts in the West Indies, Hamilton was often accused of being an interloper in Revolutionary American politics.  Once committed to the ideal of a free and independent America, however, his "outsider" status never dampened his enthusiasm for his country. Fritz recounts his many contributions to the revolutionary cause and to these United States.

Besides serving in the Revolutionary War, he was also an aide-de-camp to then General George Washington.  He served as a New York delegate to the Constitutional Convention. He was the architect of the Bank of the United States and the nation's first Secretary of the Treasury.  As a New Jerseyan, I knew that his life ended in Weehawken in the famous duel with Aaron Burr, but I did not know that he founded the city of Paterson.  He was convinced that American should and would be more than an agrarian society. He chose Paterson because its large waterfall could be used to generate electricity for business.  (In 2009, Paterson's Great Falls became a National Park Historic District)

In short, using her customary exactitude, Fritz tells a complete story of a complex man, using only facts and period quotations in this small, slim, 144-page volume.  Archaic language ("poltroon") or long-abandoned customs (anonymous leaflet writing) are explained fully in the author's Notes. Historical reproductions (credited) are scattered throughout. A Bibliography and extensive Index complete the book.

This would make an excellent choice for a school biography report, much better than the formulaic series that students often choose.

The United States Treasury website features a page on Alexander Hamilton, the nation's first Secretary of the Treasury, and architect of the National Bank and the US Mint.

Just an aside - Jean Fritz is 95 years old! How wonderful that she's still working and producing great children's books.

Today's Nonfiction Monday roundup is at Telling the Kids the Truth: Writing Nonfiction for Children. Please be sure to visit.


  1. Wow! I learned some new things about him just from the posts. i think this would be an interesting biography to check out.

  2. I've added it to my cart--I love these kinds of biographies. Plus it is long enough for all the teachers that want 100+ pages.