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To judge by many standard histories, the revolutionary founders of the United States came equipped with wings and haloes. They were anything but saintly, however; their behavior, public and private, was often scandalous. One of the most outrageous men of the day was Alexander Hamilton, the Federalist leader and architect of the American banking and judiciary systems, whose amorous exploits and political maneuverings alike were the stuff of legend. Tangled in a succession of failed business ventures and personal intrigues, and convinced that the might of the United States should not be hampered by such inconveniences as checks and balances, Hamilton fell afoul of just about everyone he encountered in his quest for influence and wealth.
To his eventual misfortune, one of those he crossed was Thomas Jefferson's vice president, Aaron Burr. Many histories of their tangled relationship personalize their differences, and, to be sure, they disliked each other with splendid fervor. Thomas Fleming's contribution to the often-told tale is to ground the Hamilton-Burr rivalry in the politics of the day--a politics complicated by many contending ideological factions, powerful interest groups, and lobbyists. Writing with vigor and clarity, Fleming points to the clay feet on which Hamilton and Burr marched to their sad destiny, and he crafts an exceptionally interesting portrait of the early Republic. --Gregory McNamee [via]