Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Hamilton Shmamilton

I figure fanatical devotees of Alexander Hamilton are more likely to be reading this blog than anything else, so this is a quick note to let you all know that you missed the two-hour American Experience special on my favorite founding father.

However, not to worry! This being a PBS program, it will be replayed constantly in the near future on your local station. Even cooler, though, is that starting tomorrow (May 16th), it will also be available for free online. It isn't very clear to me whether it's ONLY available on the 16th or any time after that, hence my posting this.

If you're a fan of Hamilton, this should be a good opportunity to dig deeper into his story. If you don't know much about him, tune in and prepare to be surprised by his amazing life story and the enormous impact he had on shaping our country. If you belong to the vast ranks of Hamilton-haters, I beg of you to be open-minded. Hamilton has been slandered for over 200 years, and much received wisdom about the man is simply false. Try to take a fresh look at the man and his actions, and you may be pleasantly pleased at what you find.

Update 5/19/07: It looks like the program is still available via the link above, which is good news. It'd be cool if they kept it up there for a while. And fair, too. After all, our taxpayer dollars paid for those wigs!

My quickie review: this is a good gloss on Hamilton's life. It's a testament to the man's prolific (though tragically short) career that I'm tempted to call it "too short" at two hours, but there you go. If I had my druthers, it would have focused a bit less on his private life and a bit more on his role in founding crucial national institutions: the program barely mentions the National Bank, the creation of the tax and tariff system, the abolition movement, or his role in creating an American industrial sector.

Those are the complaints of a Hamilton loyalist, though. The fact is, anyone who sits through two hours of public television is going to feel disappointed if they don't get a story out of it, and PBS was wise in making the choices they did. The program isn't dumbed down, just a limited view at an extraordinary man. Hopefully people will see this, be impressed, and then pick up Chernow's biography of Hamilton to learn more.

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