Reputation, Power, and Death
On July 11th, 1804 Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr met on the dueling grounds at Weehawken, New Jersey, to fight the final skirmish of the long-lived political and personal battle. When the duel was over, Hamilton would be mortally wounded, and Burr would be viewed as a murder. What was really at stake between Hamilton and Burrs’ legendary duel? The thing most at stake during the duel between Hamilton and Burr was their reputation. A man’s reputation is a man’s power, and they will fight to the death to defend it.
Hamilton was known as a federalist, advocating for a strong central government. And Burr was a republican, strongly guarding the original American ideals. Both men had a high reputation. Hamilton, known for his actions in the revolutionary war, where he rose to be a Senior Officer under George Washington, and Burr at the time serving a vice president was a member of a highly viewed ancestry including Jonathan Edwards, a famous theologian. Hamilton and Burr had worked together on the battlefield and creating some of the first legislation in the U.S. government. Their closeness meant that Burr's eventual betrayals stung all the worse. Through a series of events and personal battles between Hamilton and Burr, it was a desperate attempt to maintain their reputation.
Just as there was a duel of words after the incident, which was won by Hamilton’s advocates, and made Burr’s political career crumble to ash, there was a duel of words before hand. In 1800 Burr obtained and had published an article on the character of John Adams, a federalist, and written by Hamilton, intended to be a private work. And the effects of its publication created deep rifts in the Federalist Party. Also on June 18, 1804, Burr published a letter almost two months earlier than the duel in the Albany Register enlightening harsh criticism of Hamilton, and created a deeper political rift between Burr and Hamilton. These attacks from Burr had caused Hamilton to counteract desperately. He published works against Burr to try to keep his reputation alive. Even if this is still the beginning of American History shows how important a man’s reputation is in politics. When Burr published the article about John Adams, written by Hamilton, made many members of his own party turn against him. And in a democracy, political support from members of your own party is crucial for obtaining power.
There are many instances in history were you can see deep political battles between two opposing ideals. For example, the conflict between the republican and democratic party is similar to the fight between Hamilton and Burr. The Republican and Democratic parties have been in constant struggle from the beginning. And eventually in 1861 escaladed into the American Civil War. Seven Southern States, (slave states) declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederacy. The North, or the Union, refused to allow the southern states to break away from the United States and went to full out war. The war primarily caused by the issue of slavery turned into a blood bath as the North and South fought over their ideals.
But the invents during the civil war that most reflected the duel between Burr and Hamilton was the election of Abraham Lincoln. In the 1860 presidential election, Republicans, led by Abraham Lincoln, opposed the expansion of slavery into the US. When Lincoln won, the seven cotton-based stated formed the confederacy. Lincoln in defense to this and trying to preserve such the fragile nation, which the founding fathers worked so hard to create had a peace conference that failed to find a compromise, and both sides prepared for war. Similar to Hamilton before the duel Lincoln had to endure harsh criticism and deal with what is said to be the hardest situation a president has ever had to deal with. And eventually like the duel between Hamilton and Burr, Lincoln was shot in the head, in defense of the southern ideals.
The civil war and Lincoln was definitely a huge time in history were to opposing ideals fought against each other, but another example today were the duel between Hamilton and Burr can be reflected is the political adds of TV. One add narrated by Morgan Freeman in support of Barrack Obama comically criticizes Mitt Romney and says, “I’m Morgan Freeman and I am supporting Barrack Obama, because he possess the measure of vision our great nation hungers for. And I oppose Mitt Romney because he’s a no caffeine drinking, dog car-scrapping, weird named given Android, so rich each of his 493 houses is equipped with bidet that cleanses his bum with $1,000 bills. I’m Morgan Freeman, and I am off my medications.” Though this add is comical, it shows how both political candidates constantly attack each other to make their reputation higher, and receive more votes. And with a higher reputation, ultimately they have more power over one another. Shown by Hamilton and Burr, once that reputation is threatened, it can lead to them attacking one another back and forth with public insults, and publications.
Because Hamilton and Burr knew each other so well and were both aware of the importance of reputation, their conflict reflected extreme high stakes. From the build up of public criticism, then Burr winning the duel but ending his political career shows how important reputation is when dealing with power. Shown by Lincoln when he was elected, made his reputation cascade to the ground with the southern states causing them to break away from the United States forming the Confederacy. And even today, when trying to be elected president or county commissioner, you can still see very similar battles that Hamilton and Burr had before the duel. A man’s reputation is essential to obtaining and maintaining power.