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Aaron Burr Essay

1008 words - 4 pages

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,...

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