You Think Politics is Tricky TODAY?

Could you win a duel for your immigration status?
On this date in 1804, U.S. Vice President, Aaron Burr, mortally wounded former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton in a pistol duel in Weehawken, New Jersey. 

The two had once been friends, but a long history of conflict spawned largely by their clashing political ambitions set them at odds. The bad blood may have started in 1791, when Burr replaced Philip Schuyler, Hamilton's father-in-law, in the United States Senate. 

In 1800 Burr very nearly won the presidency, tying Thomas Jefferson with 73 electoral votes, and Hamilton—who disliked both Jefferson and Burr, but distrusted Burr more—worked hard to ensure that Jefferson emerged the victor when the election was thrown into the U.S. House of Representatives. Hamilton similarly labored to defeat Burr's bid for the governorship of New York when it became evident that Jefferson meant to drop Burr as vice-president after one term. 

The situation reached a crisis when Burr challenged Hamilton to repudiate comments he'd allegedly made about Burr that were mentioned in a letter published in the Albany Register.

After they sniped at each other through intermediaries for a time, Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel.  Hamilton, who did not want to oblige but saw no way out, had been a party to 10 or so duels already in his career, and very often they were ceremonial affairs in which neither party actually took aim at the other and no one got hurt. 

By some accounts Hamilton had no intention of firing at Burr. It's unclear which man fired first, but clear enough that Burr did aim at his opponent, shooting him in the abdomen and piercing Hamilton's liver and spine. Hamilton died the next day, and though Burr was never prosecuted, the episode spoiled his political career. 

Later Burr traveled west with a small force of men, apparently hoping to play Spain against Mexico and come away with a territorial fiefdom to call his own. 

Jefferson, serving his second term in the White House, angrily declared Burr guilty of treason and ordered him arrested.  Burr was eventually tried and acquitted, but not before Jefferson's efforts to coerce a guilty verdict from Chief Justice John Marshall, who presided over Burr's trial, resulted in one of the United States' first separation of powers tussles.

Burr died in 1836 after spending the last 25 years of his life in relative obscurity.

-Source: MSBA News Digest



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