Alexander Hamilton

by Noemie Emery. Putnam’s, $14.95. The great puzzle about Hamilton has always been, What possessed that extremely intelligent man to undertake the lunacy of a duel with Aaron Burr? By combining a study of Hamilton’s plainly stated beliefs about heroic patriotism with a clear account of the bitter political animosities of the time, Ms. Emery has constructed a plausible explanation of his suicidal folly. Her terse, well-written “intimate portrait" is frankly pro-Hamilton and acidly disrespectful of any Founding Fathers who disagreed with him, but enthusiasm is not a bad thing in a biographer. It makes for enthusiastic readers.