Aaron Burr

This essay has a total of 1025 words and 4 pages.


Aaron Burr




Burr, Aaron
Although Aaron Burr, b. Newark, N.J., Feb. 6, 1756, fought in the American Revolution and
became an important political figure, serving a term (1801-05) as vice-president of the
United States, he is best remembered today for having killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel.
The son of a president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) and the
grandson of another (Jonathan Edwards), Burr could trace his ancestry back to the earliest
Puritans. He entered Princeton at the age of 13, graduated at 16, and went on to become a
Revolutionary War hero, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel at the age of 21. In July
1782 he married Theodosia Bartow Prevost, the widow of a former British officer. They
moved to New York City, where Burr built a reputation as an excellent attorney and made
important political connections. He was "the most rising young man in the state," a
contemporary noted. Political Career In 1789 Burr was appointed attorney general of New
York by Gov. George Clinton. Two years later the state assembly, which was controlled by
partisans of Clinton and Robert Livingston, elected Burr to the U.S. Senate. His career in
the Senate was not particularly memorable. Hamilton hated him, Clinton soon learned to
distrust him, and George Washington refused his request to be appointed minister to
France. But in and out of Congress, Burr managed to maneuver so skillfully, and with so
much personal charm, that he won the support of many Federalists as well as Democratic
Republicans. In 1796 and 1800, Burr ran for vice-president with Thomas Jefferson on the
Democratic-Republican ticket. Whatever doubts Virginia Republicans had about Burr--they
had not voted for him in 1796--were put to rest when he carried New York City for his
party in 1800. It was assumed that the outcome of the national election would follow that
in New York, but under the confused electoral system then in use Jefferson and Burr
received an equal number of electoral votes for the presidency (73 each), throwing the
election into the House of Representatives. There the Federalists refused to heed the
advice of Hamilton and unsuccessfully tried, against the obvious wishes of the public, to
elect Burr. Jefferson won the contest and Burr became vice-president. Jefferson doubted
his loyalty and soon began to withhold patronage from Burr and his followers. Although
still a Republican, Burr began to cultivate Federalists; his strategy was to unite
dissidents against the Virginia party of Jefferson and James Madison. Frustrated by
Jefferson's national popularity, and dropped from the Republican ticket for 1804, Burr
entered the 1804 gubernatorial race in New York. Some northern Federalists who were
plotting secession called on Burr to support them, but his response was masterfully
enigmatic. An old enemy, Alexander Hamilton, did everything he could to defeat Burr. Some
of Hamilton's derogatory comments, personal in nature, appeared in print, and Burr, who
lost the election, demanded a retraction, which Hamilton refused to make. The duel that
followed at Weehawken, N.J., on July 11, 1804, resulted in Hamilton's death. Charged with
murder, Burr fled to Philadelphia to escape arrest. The Conspiracy In his final eight
months as vice-president, Burr's conduct was exemplary. He presided over the impeachment
Continues for 2 more pages >>