Friday, July 17, 2015

the last book I ever read (Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, excerpt three)

from Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow:

In the late spring of 1777, Hamilton began the most intimate friendship of his life, with an elegant, blue-eyes young officer named John Laurens, who formally joined Washington’s family in October. One portrait of Laurens shows a short, commanding figure in a pose of supreme assurance, with one arm akimbo and the other resting on the hilt of a long, curved sword. He was the son of one of South Carolina’s most influential planters, Henry Laurens, who succeeded John Hancock as president of the Continental Congress that November. Hamilton and Laurens, both French Huguenot on one side of their families and English on the other, seemed like kindred spirits, spiritual twins. Both were bookish and ambitious, bold and enterprising, and hungered for military honor. Both were imbued with a quixotic sense that it was noble to die in a worthy cause. Like Hamilton, Laurens was so sure of himself that he could seem brusquely overbearing to those who disagreed with him. More than any friend Hamilton ever had, Laurens was his peer, and the two were long paired in the fond memories of many who fought in the Revolution.

Born in Charleston, South Carolina, a few months before Hamilton was born in Nevis, Laurens had a privileged upbringing on one of the state’s biggest slave plantations. In 1771, while Hamilton toiled away as a clerk in St. Croix, Laurens’s father enrolled him in a cosmopolitan school in Geneva, Switzerland. He was a versatile, accomplished student, who excelled in the classics, fenced, drew, and rode. While breathing in the republican atmosphere of Geneva, he prepared to become a barrister. In 1774, he studied law at the Middle Temple in London. This was a time of antislavery ferment, spurred by Lord Mansfield’s legal decision that a slave became free by being brought to England. Laurens became a passionate convert to abolitionism, which was to create a strong ideological bond with Hamilton.

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