Most biographies become popular as a result of a historian's dogged research but "Alexander Hamilton," the book, has acquired its remarkable fame after it was made into a hit play on Broadway.
"Alexander Hamilton" was written in 2006 by Ron Chernow, and returns to the best seller list now because of the hugely successful stage production.
Chernow brings much detail to the text, including Hamilton's creation of what became the U.S. Coast Guard.
Newburyport is the birthplace of the Coast Guard, which Your Scribe confirmed last week.
I traveled to the Coast Guard Museum in New London, CT, where the museum is sited on the campus of the Coast Guard Academy.
And there it was: Words that stated the service started in Newburyport because the first revenue cutter, the Massachusetts, was built here.
Hamilton was Secretary of the Treasury, and in 1789 he realized the struggling young republic had few sources of revenue.
So he started a fleet of "revenue cutters" which were small (60 feet) vessels to collect tariffs and stop smuggling.
Ten cutters were ordered. Hamilton instructed that they be built in different ports so that numerous communities could benefit.
Newburyport built two, the Massachusetts and the Pickering.
Most of "Hamilton" is about subjects not relating to maritime expansion but Chernow does say that Hamilton and President George Washington put in a lot of time on deciding how big the cutters should be, how many men would staff them, and how many guns they would carry.
These revenue cutters served as the starting point of the U.S Coast Guard, officially so named in 1915.
A few things about "Hamilton":
- I could not read this as a book. Too much material. I listened to it on audio and loved it.
- The energetic, ambitious Hamilton was a rake with women, and was blackmailed by a married woman whose (knowing) husband sent the demand letters.
- Hamilton's 20-something son also died in a duel of honor. Alexander Hamilton was devastated but months later went out and did the same thing - with the same result.