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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 6

Chapter 6

(p.75) Chapter 6
Burr, Hamilton, and Jefferson

Roger G. Kennedy

Oxford University Press

In a letter, Alexander Hamilton told Aaron Burr that “his address was pleasing, his manners were more, they were fascinating”. This chapter asks: What does Hamilton mean by “fascination”? Clinically, it is being powerfully drawn by the gravitational force of oneself, in projection. And in Hamilton's case that projected self was a person whose “ambition is unlimited”, whose “sole spring of action is an inordinate ambition”: Burr's ambition. Burr was not given to passion; Hamilton was; yet he wrote of Burr: “He is of a temper to undertake the most hazardous enterprise”. That is exactly what John Adams said of Hamilton. Ambitious, passionate, and “bankrupt beyond redemption”. Many writers, including several novelists, have assumed that the references to Burr's private character referred to his sexuality. The long-standing political and personal bitterness that had developed between Burr and Hamilton over the years culminated in a duel in New Jersey, where the latter got shot and eventually died.

Keywords:   Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, duel, fascination, ambition, passion, character, sexuality

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