Aaron Burr (Magill's Literary Annual 1980)
Few public figures in the history of America have provoked as much controversy as Aaron Burr. He has been maligned, misunderstood, labeled adventurer and traitor, and, quite recently, romanticized in a fictional biography. The general public, for the most part, still tends to think of him as the man who callously killed Alexander Hamilton in a mismatched duel. Those who recall their American history more clearly may remember Burr as the provocateur who engineered an unsuccessful conspiracy against the United States aimed at creating for himself a western empire from Spanish and American territories beyond Louisiana. Few of us have a clear picture of this brilliant, compelling, and enigmatic American, and historian Milton Lomask has attempted to close this gap. In a new study of Aaron Burr, Lomask addresses himself to a sympathetic and thoroughly documented biography grounded in carefully detailed scholarship. Although Lomask is no apologist for some of the more controversial actions of his subject, he does provide some convincing arguments which help explain Burr’s erratic behavior, much of which seemed contradictory and self-destructive.
In addition to revising the imperfect portrait of Burr which many of us carry, Lomask is concerned with the man’s political and legal morality, which, on several occasions, tested the strength and flexibility of the newly created American government. With the nation barely in its second decade, Burr questioned the...
(The entire section is 1526 words.)
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