If there was a list of bad boys from the American Revolution, Aaron Burr would have likely been toward the top. Generally, he is glossed over in the history books if he is mentioned at all, but Burr lived quite the life. According to U.S. History, his journey started with joining the military in 1775, where he served under another one of history’s bad guys, Benedict Arnold. Shortly after that he joined the staff of General George Washington, but as fate would have it, they did not get along all that great. Because of this, Burr left Washington’s service, but still managed to work his way to lieutenant colonel of his own regiment by the age of 21.
Following the end of the war, Burr returned to school and finished his law degree before opening up his own private law firm, per Biography. After operating his own practice for a bit, he decided to switch his focus to pursuing a political career. In 1789, the state of New York appointed him as attorney general, and in 1791, he was elected to a seat in the U.S. Senate. The man he beat out for that seat turned out to be the father-in-law of Alexander Hamilton, and many believe this could have been the start to their legendary feud.
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In 1800, he became vice president under Thomas Jefferson. It wasn’t until the end of his term that his relationship with Alexander Hamilton came to a head. In July 1804, Burr and Hamilton agreed to a duel (which was illegal), which resulted in Hamilton’s death. This was the first and only time a U.S. vice president has killed someone while still holding office, states U.S. History. After Hamilton’s death, Burr’s political career never recovered because, well, it isn’t everyday you have a vice president killing people in the street.
Aaron Burr’s questionable reputation did him no favors. In 1803, he met Martin Van Buren, and the two became acquaintances who worked on some legal cases together, according to Mental Floss. The time that they worked together sparked rumors that Van Buren was Burr’s illegitimate son. They had a similar build, had an obsession with their appearance (especially their sideburns), and were wily politicians, per History News Network. Apparently this was enough evidence to throw the issue of Van Buren’s paternity into question.
While Burr’s reputation with the ladies was legendary, and they were far enough apart in age that it could be plausible, there is no actual evidence that supports this claim. It’s unclear what inspired this absurd rumor, though it could have something to do with their political careers. This particular falsehood followed Van Buren all the way to the White House, where he served as eighth president of the United States.
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