Magazine October 15, 2018, Issue

The Roots of Corruption

Alexander Hamilton and James Madison (Portraits by John Trumbull, John Vanderlyn/Wikimedia)
The Price of Greatness: Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and the Creation of American Oligarchy, by Jay Cost (Basic Books, 256 pp., $16.99)

In his retirement, Thomas Jefferson confessed his puzzlement at his nemesis Alexander Hamilton. Although a man “of acute understanding” and undoubted integrity in public and private life, Hamilton was nonetheless convinced that “corruption was essential to the government of a nation.” It is this theme of Hamiltonian corruption that is at the core of Jay Cost’s fine new book. Rather than see Hamilton through the prism of Jefferson, however, Cost places him in dialogue with James Madison. This is a brilliant choice, for throughout much of the 1780s Hamilton and Madison forged a powerful political alliance, fighting to strengthen the

Darren StaloffMr. Staloff is a professor of history at the City College of New York and the author of Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson: The Politics of Enlightenment and the American Founding.

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A reader sympathizes with Rael Jean Isaac’s frustration in reporting on Frank Fuster’s plight (“The Last Victim,” September 10).

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