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Burr, Hamilton, and JeffersonA Study in Character$
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Roger G. Kennedy

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780195140552

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195140552.001.0001

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Chapter 1

Chapter 1

(p.7) Chapter 1
Burr, Hamilton, and Jefferson

Roger G. Kennedy

Oxford University Press

The problem for historians assessing the character of Thomas Jefferson is that they have too much accessible information. As to Aaron Burr, they have the opposite problem; after his trial, his exile, and the loss of his beloved daughter and grandchild, he made no significant effort to present his own case, while Alexander Hamilton, in his final hours, made an effort to set things straight, but only in anticipation of death, and so desperately that not even his most admiring friends accept his self-disclosure as reliable. Burr's lies were to foreigners concerning politics, and perhaps to creditors concerning money, though it is possible that neither he, nor Jefferson, nor Hamilton, three chronic debtors, deliberately stated an untruth to those they owed. Corruption was incompatible with “character,” as these men used the term. Our use of the term “integrity” reminds us that for them a person of character manifested a harmonious wholeness out of which correct behavior ensued. This book argues that it is high time to restore Burr to the Pantheon of the Founding Fathers of America.

Keywords:   Aaron Burr, America, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Founding Fathers, politics, character, corruption, integrity

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