Founding Brothers

by

Joseph J. Ellis

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Aaron Burr was a politician from New Jersey who served as Thomas Jefferson’s vice president for one term. He had an antagonistic relationship with Alexander Hamilton, whom he blamed for his loss in the New York gubernatorial election. The friction between the two men escalated to the point that Burr invited Hamilton to a fatal duel in which Hamilton was killed. It is believed that Burr did not want to kill Hamilton (and perhaps didn’t even intend to harm him), although there is no certainty over exactly what took place during the duel. Hamilton’s death stained Burr’s reputation and political career, and he spent the rest of his life away from the spotlight.

Aaron Burr Quotes in Founding Brothers

The Founding Brothers quotes below are all either spoken by Aaron Burr or refer to Aaron Burr. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Conflict vs. Compromise Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Founding Brothers published in 2002.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Strictly speaking, Hamilton’s concession should have been the end of it. Affairs of honor were supposed to involve only personal charges. Political or ideological disagreements, no matter how deep, lay outside the field of honor on which a gentleman could demand satisfaction. Hamilton’s distinction between personal and political criticism was designed to change the dispute with Burr from an affair of honor to a political difference of opinion.

Related Characters: Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

The hyperbolic tone of Hamilton’s anti-Burr comments derived not so much from intense personal dislike per se as from his intense fear that the precarious condition of the infant nation rendered it so vulnerable to Burr’s considerable talents. Burr embodied Hamilton’s daring and energy run amok in a political culture still groping for its stable shape.

Related Characters: Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:
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Aaron Burr Character Timeline in Founding Brothers

The timeline below shows where the character Aaron Burr appears in Founding Brothers. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Preface: The Generation
Conflict vs. Compromise Theme Icon
Heroism, Leadership, and Collaboration Theme Icon
The Personal vs. The Political Theme Icon
Present vs. Hindsight Theme Icon
...on the “eight most prominent political leaders” of the time: Abigail and John Adams, Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington. The book focuses on... (full context)
Conflict vs. Compromise Theme Icon
Heroism, Leadership, and Collaboration Theme Icon
The Personal vs. The Political Theme Icon
...in chronological order, except for the first one, which portrays the fatal duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. This appears first in the book because it introduces the themes of... (full context)
Chapter 1: The Duel
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Heroism, Leadership, and Collaboration Theme Icon
The Personal vs. The Political Theme Icon
A basic summary of the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton states that both men shot each other, and that Hamilton was fatally... (full context)
Conflict vs. Compromise Theme Icon
Heroism, Leadership, and Collaboration Theme Icon
The Personal vs. The Political Theme Icon
Aaron Burr left his home in Manhattan at dawn on July 11, 1804, having slept in his... (full context)
Conflict vs. Compromise Theme Icon
Heroism, Leadership, and Collaboration Theme Icon
The Personal vs. The Political Theme Icon
...He approached political problems as “personal challenges,” and the fact that he chose to accept Burr’s invitation to the duel was characteristic of his eagerness to accept challenges. On the evening... (full context)
Conflict vs. Compromise Theme Icon
The Personal vs. The Political Theme Icon
Burr arrived at the “narrow ledge” where the duel was to take place around 7:00 in... (full context)
Conflict vs. Compromise Theme Icon
The Personal vs. The Political Theme Icon
Present vs. Hindsight Theme Icon
...put his glasses on, which—contrary to his own claim—seems to suggest he wanted to hit Burr. What happened next is unclear, and will be explored in detail later in the chapter.... (full context)
Conflict vs. Compromise Theme Icon
Heroism, Leadership, and Collaboration Theme Icon
The Personal vs. The Political Theme Icon
Present vs. Hindsight Theme Icon
...was “still cocked.” This suggests he didn’t realize that he even fired a shot at Burr. He died the following afternoon, surrounded by his wife, children, and the Episcopal bishop of... (full context)
Conflict vs. Compromise Theme Icon
Heroism, Leadership, and Collaboration Theme Icon
The Personal vs. The Political Theme Icon
Present vs. Hindsight Theme Icon
...followed (even though the whole thing was illegal). Pendleton and Van Ness agreed that both Burr and Hamilton fired their weapons, and that a few seconds passed between the shots. Yet... (full context)
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Heroism, Leadership, and Collaboration Theme Icon
The Personal vs. The Political Theme Icon
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Van Ness confidently testified that Hamilton shot first, and that it seemed as if Burr was hit, when in fact, Burr had only sprained his ankle on a rock. Yet... (full context)
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The Personal vs. The Political Theme Icon
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...is that Hamilton fired his gun on purpose and did so first, aiming to miss Burr. Burr, not knowing that this miss was intentional, was “perfectly justified” in shooting Hamilton with... (full context)
Conflict vs. Compromise Theme Icon
Heroism, Leadership, and Collaboration Theme Icon
The Personal vs. The Political Theme Icon
Stepping back, what led Burr to challenge Hamilton to the duel in the first place? The two men had a... (full context)
Conflict vs. Compromise Theme Icon
Heroism, Leadership, and Collaboration Theme Icon
The Personal vs. The Political Theme Icon
...rather than personal nature. This should theoretically have ended the dispute, but instead further enraged Burr. Speaking on behalf of Burr, Van Ness demanded a full and unequivocal apology. After Hamilton... (full context)
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Heroism, Leadership, and Collaboration Theme Icon
The Personal vs. The Political Theme Icon
Patriotism and American Values Theme Icon
At the 1804 Independence Day dinner held by the Society of Cincinnati, Hamilton and Burr sat at the same table. While Burr was gloomy and quiet, Hamilton was jolly, and... (full context)
Conflict vs. Compromise Theme Icon
Heroism, Leadership, and Collaboration Theme Icon
The Personal vs. The Political Theme Icon
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...nonetheless made him pause and reflect. However, he stood by what he had said about Burr, which is why he refused to apologize. The consequence of the duel was that Hamilton... (full context)
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Heroism, Leadership, and Collaboration Theme Icon
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Hamilton and Burr had been undermining one another’s political ambitions since 1789. Yet Burr was not even Hamilton’s... (full context)
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It is hard to know if Hamilton’s accusations were justified, as Burr had a habit of giving vague answers and destroying his own correspondence. Burr was enormously... (full context)
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Heroism, Leadership, and Collaboration Theme Icon
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There were some similarities between Hamilton and Burr’s personalities, insofar as they were both talented, energetic, and ambitious. In fact, Hamilton’s fear was... (full context)
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Heroism, Leadership, and Collaboration Theme Icon
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Hamilton’s reaction to Burr may have seemed paranoid and extreme, but that is because we, unlike Hamilton, know the... (full context)
Chapter 5: The Collaborators
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...Adams had narrowly beaten Jefferson 71 to 68, with Pinckney a close third and Aaron Burr a distant fourth. Jefferson had predicted this exact result and wrote a letter of congratulations... (full context)
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Heroism, Leadership, and Collaboration Theme Icon
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...Adams did better in the election than many expected, he still lost to Jefferson and Burr. Just before the election, Hamilton published a pamphlet accusing Adams of being unfit for office.... (full context)