Aaron Burr- a biography (By: Ava Hall)

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     You may have heard about the play Hamilton which tells about Alexander Hamilton's troubled beginnings, an eventful and scandalous personal life and career, which ended in a sad exit out of the world. But what the play mostly focuses on is his rivalry with Aaron Burr. The play portrays Burr as a evil will-do-whatever-it-takes-to-get-his-way kind of guy. But was he really bad? Or was he just over-exaggeratedly portrayed to seem this way in Hamilton? Let me give you a view into Aaron Burr's Beginnings all the way to when he first met Alexander Hamilton.

Family History

      Aaron's father, Aaron Burr Sr., was born on January 4, 1716 in Fairfield, Connecticut to Daniel and Elizabeth Burr. Aaron Burr Sr. attended Yale and graduated at the head of his class in 1735. On December 21, 1736 Burr became a Presbyterian Church minister of Newark, New Jersey. Aaron's mother, Esther Edwards Burr, was born on February 13, 1732 in Northampton, Massachusetts to Puritans Jonathan Edwards and Sarah Pierpont Edwards. Her family was huge, consisting of 11 children. In 1752 she married minister Aaron Burr Sr. in Newark, New Jersey. Together they had two children, Sarah and Aaron Burr.

Early Life

      Aaron Burr was born on February 6, 1756 in Newark, New Jersey to Aaron Burr Sr. and Esther Edwards Burr. He had one sibling, his sister Sarah. Aaron's father was a Presbyterian minister and the president of the College of New Jersey. His mother Esther Edwards Burr was a writer and wrote daily into a notebook that viewed the life of a Puritan women in the 18th century. Later in 1757, Aaron Burr's father passed away. He was forty- one. A year later Aaron Burr's mother passed away. She was twenty- six. Aaron and Sarah went to live with their uncle, Timothy Edwards.

Law and Military Career

      At the age of thirteen, Aaron attended the College of New Jersey and graduated by the age of sixteen. After graduating, he attended classes at Litchfield Law School in Connecticut but his studies were put on hold due to the start of the Revolutionary War in 1775 . Burr became a solider for Benedict Arnold and while serving for him, Burr achieved the rank of major and was arranged to serve under George Washington in New York in 1776. Later, he would eventually be relocated to become a part of the staff for General Israel Putnam until he retired from his commission in 1779. Later in the year he would go back to Law School and continue his studies. Eventually in 1782, he became a licensed attorney and was accepted into the bar, which is where Burr first met Hamilton. In December, 1799 the body of a young woman, Elma Sands, was found at the bottom of a well. The situation was quickly heard throughout Manhattan. The public quickly accused Levi Weeks as the culprit of the crime. Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton worked together to prove that Levi Weeks was innocent.

Hamilton and Burr's Relationship

      After the case, Burr and Hamilton went their separate ways. Burr married Theodosia Prevost and had their first child together in 1783. A year before Hamilton and his wife, Elizabeth Schuyler, welcomed their first child. Hamilton was also in the U.S. army serving as an adviser for George Washington, helping to establish a government, and helped the colonists win against the British in the battle of Yorktown in 1781. But in 1791, things changed. Burr ran for senate up against Alexander Hamilton's father-in-law, Philip Schuyler, and won. This marked the rivalry of Burr and Hamilton. 6 years later, Burr lost the re-election to Schuyler and blamed Hamilton for his loss. In 1800 Burr ran for president against Thomas Jefferson. They both received the same amount of electoral votes which meant it was up to the House of Representatives to determine the winner. When the House met to discuss the election, Hamilton vocalized his support for Jefferson. In the end, Jefferson was elected president and Burr became vice president. Burr was infuriated, and called out Hamilton accusing him of manipulating the votes.

The Duel

      Near the end of his term as vice president, Burr ran for governorship of New York but lost. Once more, he blamed Hamilton for his loss and eager to defend his reputation, challenged Hamilton to a duel. Hamilton accepted. On July 11, 1804 at Weehawken, New Jersey around 7 am, Burr and Hamilton shot their first bullets. Hamilton, whose son was killed in a duel, fired into the air. But Burr came to the duel with an intention to revive his reputation. Burr's bullet hit Hamilton in his ribs, fracturing them and critically damaging his internal organs. Hamilton died the next day, surrounded by his family. Bad press about the duel raced through New York, ultimately ending Burr's career. Burr fled to Virginia and made his way up to New Orleans and met with General James Wilkinson, an agent for the Spanish. We don't really know what was exchanged in their conversation but speculation ranges from a establishment of a independence republic to the seizure of territory in Spanish America. In 1806, Burr led a group of colonists to New Orleans, causing a investigation by the US authorities. Wilkinson, in an attempt to save his honor, turned against Burr and sent letters to Washington accusing him of treason. On February 19, 1807 Burr was arrested in Alabama for treason.

Final Years

      3 years after Burr was released from jail he married Eliza Jumel, a wealthy widow. They divorced after 3 years of marriage. After the divorce Burr suffered strokes which left him partially paralyzed. He died under the care of his uncle on September 14, 1836 in Port Richmond on Staten island, New York.

My Opinion

       I believe that the play Hamilton over-exaggeratedly portrayed Burr as a bad guy in the play. In reality, both Burr and Hamilton had their part as the bad guy In the play. Therefore my opinion about Aaron Burr has not changed while writing this essay. While researching Aaron Burr I found much more about his background which the play barely talked about. He was also an orphan just like Hamilton. For me the only difference between their childhoods is that Aaron Burr grew up under a wealthy name while Hamilton did not. They both were very smart and went to academic colleges. When the Revolutionary war started, they both went to war to defend their country. While in the army, Hamilton was appointed by George Washington to be his assistant and adviser. Burr was also recognized by Washington but was placed to serve for him at his home in New York. In the play, the song "Aaron Burr Sir" sets the setting where Hamilton and Burr first meet. But actually, they first met when they were working on a case together in 1799. At that point they had a cordial relationship. In summary, the play portrayed Burr as the bad guy but in reality they both played the role of the villain at different points in their lives.  

Links Used For Research









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