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Bad Blood

Aaron Burr, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing left, c1899. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
Alexander Hamilton, between 1900 and 1912 by John Trumbull. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

The duel grew out of a long history of conflict between the two New York politicians.

After Burr defeated his father-in-law in a race for the U.S. Senate, Hamilton wrote:

I fear Mr. Burr is unprincipled, both as a public and a private man. In fact, I take it he is for or against nothing but as it suits his interest and ambition.

When Burr ran for Vice President, Hamilton commented:

Mr. Burr is determined, as I conceive, to climb to the highest honors of the state. He is bold, enterprising, and intriguing, and I feel it is a religious duty to oppose his career.

When the Federalist-controlled House of Representatives had to decide between Jefferson and Burr for president in 1800, Hamilton threw his support to Jefferson:

There is no doubt but that upon every virtuous and prudent calculation Jefferson is to be preferred. He is by far not so dangerous a man and he has pretensions to character.

Question:Why did Hamilton distrust Burr and why did he feel so strongly about this?


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