Aaron Burr is a hard person to sum up in a few sentences. While he was notorious for killing a man, he also saved that same person from dueling someone else, per Smithsonian Magazine. He also was a feminist during a time when women were not highly regarded at all, via National Portrait Gallery. He also faced charges of treason, of which he was found not guilty, according to History. This complex man is part of American history, though.
While most people remember Burr for a duel with Alexander Hamilton, thanks to a certain popular play, he is also part of history for several other reasons. One of them was how he just up and quit being a part of George Washington’s military staff, via USHistory.
Apparently, Burr was a restless person, and he chafed at having to sit at a desk under General Washington. He yearned to be out in battle, not sitting in an office. So he decided to leave that staff position and went over to serve on the staff of Major General Israel Putnam. This was a move that apparently left General Washington feeling decidedly nonplussed.
Washington and Burr were not on good terms
The feeling was seemingly mutual, with Aaron Burr insulting the intelligence of his former boss, saying that he couldn’t spell a sentence in English, per Mental Floss. This kind of in-fighting would have been delicious on social media, but that option was more than 200 years in the future. So Burr had to content himself with writing letters to friends.
As mentioned before, Burr did not have an easy life after the duel with Hamilton. Not one but TWO states wanted to execute him for the act — both of them wound up dropping the cases, per PBS. He also was tried for treason for supposedly trying to take over part of the South to create his own nation, but was acquitted due to lack of evidence, according to History.
It was not all doom and gloom for Burr, though. He is also known for starting what became JP Morgan Chase, via the company’s website. His contribution to the Tammany Hall political machine, which became a cesspool of corruption, lands in the “Mixed Bag” category, according to Britannica. He might not have foreseen it becoming what it did.
So it is not easy to categorize the man called Aaron Burr. His ledger shows some good and not so good. Well, General, and later, President Washington would probably lean toward the “not good” side.
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