Long known only for his famous duel with Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr is a very mysterious and colorful character in American history. He has been labeled a charlatan, a despicable traitor, an incredibly brave soldier, generous to a fault, a great man, and a loser…and just about anything in between. For most of his life, Aaron Burr lived a life that was legendary, building up armies of adventurers, defining what the United States vice presidency was, languishing in foreign prisons, and being expelled from countries by famous emperors. However you feel about this American enigma, you have to admit he was a colourful character.
Aaron Burr was born in New Jersey and spent most of his early life in and around New England gaining a fine education in Theology and then in Law. During the Revolutionary War, Burr distinguished himself as an incredibly brave soldier and was promoted several times; finally ending up in George Washington’s entourage at its base camp in Manhattan. While in this entourage, a brief glimpse of the Burr to come shone forth. While stationed with Washington, he made it clear that he had no wish to languish behind the lines and hungered for both battle and glory. Washington, ever distrustful of Burr granted his wish and sent him to go and to work with General Jew Putnam. While working with Putnam, Burr would make the foolish mistake of saving an entire brigade of American soldiers while they retreated from British forces in Harlem. Among the soldiers Burr saved was a young army officer named Alexander Hamilton, but more on him later…
For the remainder of the American Revolution, Burr would go and do many insanely brave things and develop a huge respect from the men who served under him. Finally, Burr was forced to retire due to his flagging health. He had developed a case of heat stroke during battle and remained crazed because of this debilitation for the rest of his life.
After leaving the army, he was not quite able to leave the war. He became a spy on behalf of George Washington and led several student uprisings against British forces garrisoned on New England college campuses. Throughout these strenuous activities he also managed to finish his studies in Law and became a lawyer.
Aaron Burr was always considered fine looking by the women of his time. He was married twice, but several scholars speculate that he had numerous mistresses and several one-night stands, gaining him a legendary status amongst the fine ladies of New York, and legendary hatred amongst their husbands.
After the Revolutionary War, Burr’s rise through the American political system was meteoric. He first became a New York state assemblyman, and then within ten years, was tied in a dead heat for the American Presidency with the famous Thomas Jefferson. Only owing to his disfavor amongst several political enemies would he lose out in the election and be made Vice President.
Defeat of Schuyler
Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr were very good friends for most of their political lives, often seeking each others advice on political problems and often seen dining together in restaurants around Virginia. This friendship ended when Burr defeated Hamilton’s father-in-law in a New York Senatorial election. Once his father-in-law was defeated, Hamilton became increasingly butthurt over his former friend’s political success and eventually that butthurt would lead to open trolling on an epic scale.
George Washington was mistrustful of Burr, calling him a “schemer” whenever Burr wasn’t around. This mistrust manifested itself openly when Burr, wanting to write the history of the American Revolution, was told by Washington to fuck off. Washington was worried that Burr would write a very derogatory history of the war, making sure to highlight all of Washington’s failures and pointing out better strategies. Burr’s political career was never free of taint from that point onward. He was often referred to by his political enemies (and his political friends) as a man full of “intrigues”.
During the election of 1800, it was understood by all that Thomas Jefferson would be the Democratic-Republican golden boy. Burr was placed on the Democratic-Republican ticket along with Jefferson in an attempt to swing New York votes in Jefferson’s favor. This maneuver backfired when Burr himself won enough electors in the Electoral College to actually tie with Jefferson. Both men were now President of the United States, and it would take the House of Representatives to decide which man would actually do the job.
Amid this political quagmire, Alexander Hamilton would have his revenge. Owing to his powerful banking system, Hamilton had great influence within the House and he used this leverage to make sure that Burr would never be a sitting president. Even still, with all of this Jew, it took 36 separate votes to finally give the Presidency to Jefferson, thus making Burr the Vice President.
Because of this long and drawn out affair, Jefferson never fully trusted Burr as his Vice President and aimed to shut Burr completely out of Federal proceedings. Burr kept his mouth shut about the whole thing and served as President of the Senate (one of the Vice President’s jobs) and earned praise for his “impartiality of an angel and his rigor of a devil.” During this time, he gained respect from many political beings, including many of his former enemies.
It was obvious to everybody that Jefferson would not keep Burr on the ticket during his run for a second term as President. It was also obvious to everybody who had orchestrated the downfall of Burr behind the scenes: Alexander Hamilton. Long held in high esteem by Jefferson for the development of his banking system, Hamilton was considered the chief reason why Burr was cast from office, despite his popularity and his political brilliance. Events finally came to a head when Hamilton, at a dinner in New York also attended by Burr, mentioned that he had several opinions about Burr that he should not utter in public. Enraged, Burr stood and openly demanded an explanation from his former friend. Hamilton, ever the smartass, did not offer any explanations to Burr, but rather began to define what the word “despicable” meant to Burr. This sent Burr over the edge. He walked the length of the hall and proceeded to demand an apology for everything Hamilton had ever said about him, both public and private. Hamilton refused and so Burr, probably drunker than hell, slapped Hamilton and demanded a duel.
Neither men were strangers to duels, both of them having been challenged to several of them over the years, but this was different; nobody was going to back out of this one, which was normal for the day and age. Hamilton, probably also very drunk, wasn’t very bright. He had never been a fighting man, but rather owed his successes to being a master manipulator from behind the scenes. He had already lost a son to dueling and he, in all probability, thought that this upcoming duel with Burr was just for laughs.
Boy was he wrong.
The men met in New Jersey and proceeded with their duel. They gathered, back to back, walked the 15 yards prescribed by fashion, and then turned, took aim, and fired. No one is completely sure what happened, but witnesses at the site describe the duel pretty much all the same:
- Hamilton shot first – some say he shot in the air, others say he shot directly at Burr and missed.
- Three or four seconds elapsed between Hamilton’s shot and Burr’s shot.
- Burr took careful aim and shot Hamilton some place in the abdomen.
Later investigation would confirm that Burr’s bullet entered Hamilton’s abdomen, pierced his liver and then went on to destroy his spine. Hamilton would die in Manhattan and Burr was charged with his murder.
While Hamilton lay dying, Burr was such a badass he went back to Washington and finished out his term as Vice President. He was charged with the crime of murder in both New York and in New Jersey, but either he never reached trial or he was acquitted of the charges.
Cracked's online magazine uses Encyclopedia Dramatica as a source, so should all you kids who are struggling in your history classes at school!
—Cracked Magazine mentions that Encyclopedia Dramatica is an excellent source for information for high school kids who wish to write about Aaron Burr.
—John Quincy Adams who, unlike his father, disliked Burr.
After his term of Vice Presidency was over, Jefferson hated Burr even more than he did before…if that is possible. Jefferson sought any way to discredit Burr, or if he were lucky enough, to imprison him. Jefferson’s chance came when Burr, while out west, began to stir up trouble.
Burr left Washington soon after his term of office was over and he traveled west. He had a large area of land in Texas that he had leased from the Spanish Empire, and he wished to travel there and set up a compound of like-minded individuals out there, far from any sort of governmental rule. His conspiracy was this: Burr knew that the United States would soon go to war with the Kingdom of Spain. He knew that the United States would kick the Spaniard’s asses, so he figured that he would get to keep the huge area of land as his own, where he could set up his own new country. These plans fell through due to the war never occurring during Burr’s lifetime, and to the fact that Jefferson sent a spy (General James Wilkinson – a noted turncoat who was also working for the King of Spain) to work from the inside of Burr’s compound, and report back to Jefferson any and all activities. When Burr’s full plan came to light, Jefferson moved to have Burr charged with four different counts of Treason, and had Burr hauled back to Virginia to stand trial.
Secret correspondences were revealed to the federal courts that Burr was involved in the whole affair because he was fomenting a revolution that would release Mexico from her Spanish overlords. This, though illegal, was not treason. Jefferson, owing to his hatred, disregarded this and still charged Burr with the full charge of Treason, thus making himself look like a fool for the Virginia press.
When he was finally brought to court, the main evidence against Burr was a letter between himself and General Wilkinson. When asked to produce this document, Wilkinson brought forth an obvious fake. When he was told to produce the original, Wilkinson went on to state that the original was lost and that this new document was an exact copy…done in Wilkinson’s own handwriting, the night before, in haste…etc
Burr was acquitted of all charges.
Summary of This Section
Despite the fact that the full might of the federal government was gunning for him, Burr was able to escape his legal problems even in light of the fact that he was obviously trying to pull some shenanigans west of the Mississippi river. Jefferson used all of his political powers to convict Burr, but in the end could not gain a guilty verdict. This caused lawmakers to take a closer look at how the constitution worked and it pretty much ended Burr’s political career…a career that was in shambles as it was anyways.
Burr, now in facing crushing financial problems (due to his land speculations in the new Louisiana Purchase and Texas), fled the United States to keep the creditors off of his back. He arrived in Europe with no fanfare and was quietly asked to leave several countries in short order, even being refused entrance to France by Napoleon himself. Since he found no lasting rest in Europe, he came back to the United States under an assumed name.
Finally, in 1834, he had a stroke and was immobilized by its effects. This did not curb Burr’s womanizing as he was married around the same time to his second wife, Eliza Bowen Jumel, a rich widow. Burr continued with his land speculation as well, running through Jumel’s money from his stroke-induced bed just as quickly as if he were able to walk and use his arms. She finally divorced him on the day he died, scared to do it while he was alive due to the fact that she didn’t want to have to lose a duel to a man who was bed-ridden.
Questioning Burr’s Character
- Calling him amoral, they cited his womanizing.
- Calling him a callous murderer, because he shot (some say in cold blood,) Alexander Hamilton.
Because of these public opinions, Burr would never reach his true potential within the American political system. It is for those very reasons that he sought to go outside of the rules and create his own country. After failing at that, he finally gave up on political aspirations and stuck to law, which he knew very well.
While all of those things might have been true about Burr, he was also known as a very generous man. There are several stories of him and his charity directed towards children. He was also well known as a very brave and loyal soldier, often leading his forces despite overwhelming odds. Because of his political and military career, John Adams often wrote fondly of Burr.
There are an astounding number of videos on YouTube related to Aaron Burr. More than are probably necessary, but hey that just illustrates how much of an asshole the guy is. It also illustrates how far your average teenage kid will go to get extra credit to bail out his failing grade in History class.
First up, one of the funniest commercials of all time, directed by Michael Bay, and about Aaron Burr.
Below, you will find a small assortment of other videos related to Burr. Be sure to watch the “Aaron Burr Rap” where some retard tells you the whole duel story.
—Burr was never considered a lazy person, but he liked the idea of laziness.
- Jefferson’s Indictment of Aaron Burr
- The Aaron Burr Association
- Sleep where Burr rested his own head.