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What Happened to Burr After Killing Hamilton?

July 7, 2020
4 min read

As the exclusive rights to a live stage recording of ‘Hamilton‘ were bought for $75 million by Disney, it was clear that the musical had become the most pivotal production of the early 21st Century, and for good reason. ‘Hamilton’ has led to several “reforms” in representation and general storytelling with its compelling presentation of the rags-to-riches-to-death story of one of the founding fathers of the nation.

The musical is inspired by Ron Chernow’s biographical novel, ‘Alexander Hamilton.’ Revolving around the life of the titular figure, the musical paints quite a sympathetic portrayal of a man from humble origins who went on to become incredibly influential. Modern storytelling methods are used to depict a story from the past. Genres like R&B, hip-hop and even rap are combined with classical Broadway to deliver some memorable music.

Apart from that, actors of color are cast in roles of Caucasian figures in order to subvert racially discriminatory phenomena like blackface. Lin-Manuel Miranda plays the character of Hamilton. The story ends rather tragically with Hamilton dying in a duel with Aaron Burr. It is natural for viewers to wonder what happened to Aaron Burr after the duel. Was he punished? Did he end up redeeming himself? Did he feel guilty?

What Happened to Aaron Burr After Hamilton’s Death?

It ought to be noted that Burr decided to challenge Hamilton for a duel because of threats to his political image and career. Hamilton had been thwarting his ambitions for a long time and Burr felt that he might be able to redeem his image after defeating Hamilton in a duel. He had also lost the presidential election and the election for governor of New York (more recently) before the duel.

Burr was apparently largely unmoved by the fact that he had just killed Hamilton. A few hours after the duel, he mad met with one of his relatives “normally,” without having mentioned the duel. He had sent a single letter inquiring about Hamilton’s health when he (Hamilton) was being given medical assistance but nothing much apart from that. “For the rest of his life, he never uttered one word of contrition for having killed a man with a wife and seven children and behaved as if Hamilton’s family did not exist,” according to Chernow.

However, his public and political image took a rather large blow after Hamilton’s death. There was even word of the public wishing to burn his house down. Hamilton had ensured that people, after his death, would know that he had thrown away his shot. Hence, Burr’s image suffered drastically because of that. “Hamilton triumphed posthumously over Burr, converting the latter’s victory at Weehawken into his political coup de grâce” (Chernow).

However, the more immediate problem that Burr faced was a murder trial arranged by the city coroner. The coroner’s jury declared him guilty of Hamilton’s murder. Avoiding arrest, Burr hid at St. Simons Island, off the Georgia coast. But, on August 14, a New York jury dropped the murder indictment with the only charge against Burr being the initiation of a duel challenge. While hiding, Burr engaged in a secessionist plot. He assured a British ambassador that he could cooperate with them in helping the Western part of the United States separate. He had to still stay away from New York and New Jersey because of Hamilton’s death and his own debt.

However, on November 4, 1804, he showed up to Congress. With some remnant political support, he was able to lobby for the dropping of his remaining charges. It took three years, however. It ought to be noted, however, that Burr was still the Vice President of the United States! He finally did step down in March 1805. However, after that, he was practically useless to other politicians and his public life almost instantaneously died down.

In 1807, Burr was arrested for treason and for attempts to incite war against Spanish-controlled colonies of Mexico. However, he was acquitted from those charges. Unfortunately, he was still a man with a lot of debt and the trial left him with few influential friends.

Read More: Was Aaron Burr Black?

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