War of Two: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Duel that Stunned the Nation
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
A provocative and penetrating investigation into the rivalry between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, whose infamous duel left the Founding Father dead and turned a sitting Vice President into a fugitive.
In the summer of 1804, two of America’s most eminent statesmen squared off, pistols raised, on a bluff along the Hudson River. That two such men would risk not only their lives but the stability of the young country they helped forge is almost beyond comprehension. Yet we know that it happened. The question is why. [/b]
In War of Two, John Sedgwick explores the long-standing conflict between Founding Father Alexander Hamilton and Vice President Aaron Burr. A study in contrasts from birth, they had been compatriots, colleagues, and even friends. But above all they were rivals. Matching each other’s ambition and skill as lawyers in New York, they later battled for power along political fault lines that would not only decide the future of the United States, but define it.
A series of letters between Burr and Hamilton suggest the duel was fought over an unflattering comment made at a dinner party. But another letter, written by Hamilton the night before the event, provides critical insight into his true motivation. It was addressed to former Speaker of the House Theodore Sedgwick, a trusted friend of both men, and the author’s own ancestor.
John Sedgwick suggests that Hamilton saw Burr not merely as a personal rival but as a threat to the nation. Burr would prove that fear justified after Hamilton’s death when, haunted by the legacy of his longtime adversary, he embarked on an imperial scheme to break the Union apart.
Florida and Louisiana, and, while he was at it, to remove the Spanish from land east of the Mississippi, and possibly to go marauding down the South American coast, expelling European colonists, as well. To round out his roster of brigadier generals, Adams selected a Republican: Burr. Washington was shocked about the selection of such an “intriguer.” Burr? Adams was thunderstruck—he’d show Washington an intriguer. “How shall I describe to you my sensations and reflections at that moment? He had
Lawrence the entire bone-chilling winter while Arnold waited for a chance to avenge his losses and take the fort, but that chance never came. Ogden meanwhile had received orders to return to New Jersey. When he received no letters from his friend, Burr became increasingly fretful. Rivalrous, Burr wanted Ogden to do well, but not too well, not while he was bivouacked in the snow for months. When he finally learned in May that Ogden had been promoted to lieutenant colonel, Burr’s envy burned
serving on the staff of General Washington. Washington responded to the good word from Ogden by issuing Burr an invitation to meet him at Richmond Hill in early June. Burr had been released to New York by the time that message arrived, and he arrived at Washington’s headquarters with alacrity. The tall, taciturn commander looked over this intrepid young soldier and briskly appointed him a member of his staff—or “family,” as he preferred to say, stressing the loyalty and intimacy of the
furious. “And alarmed beyond measure to find all his Excellency’s views have been hitherto frustrated and that no single step of those I mentioned has been taken to afford him the aid he absolutely stands in need of and by delaying which the case of America is put to the utmost conceivable hazard.” It was brilliant to make this Washington’s request, not his, and make clear that Washington was asking not for himself, but for the good of the country. Putnam saw no choice but to oblige him. It was
the most savage contempt. Not even Jefferson aroused him to such a height of indignation. Every reference to Burr in his letters is black with scorn. He never acknowledged his own part in the catastrophe by blithely alienating the Livingstons so fiercely that he kicked away his majority in New York and would never recover it. Burr knew that his election would be “displeasing” to the Hamilton forces, but he never imagined the secretary would hold a grudge. “Burr is as far from a fool as I ever