Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson were political foes in the late Eighteenth Century.
As Dana Milbank put it in the Washington Post, “Their system was under threat in 1800, when a quirk in the electoral college left the federalist-controlled House of Representatives to award the presidency to one of two republicans, Jefferson or Aaron Burr.”
The hit Broadway musical Hamilton portrays Hamilton as reluctantly drawn out of retirement to endorse Jefferson, but as Milbank pointed out Hamilton’s letters show he was zealous in persuading fellow federalists to choose Jefferson — a man with whom he had more ideological differences than with Burr.
Hamilton’s comments are as provocative today as they were 216 years ago when discussing Burr.
Hamilton wrote “a man without theory cannot be a systematic or able statesman.” Burr is “more cunning than wise . . . inferior in real ability to Jefferson,” Hamilton wrote. “Great Ambition unchecked by principle . . . is an unruly Tyrant.”
Jefferson became president and Burr vice-president. In 1804, Burr killed Hamilton in a duel.