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Burr conspiracy (wikipedia.org)
70 points by vinnyglennon on April 20, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 23 comments

It's not mentioned in the Wikipedia article, but Burr's trial for treason was the earliest legal case in the United States questioning whether a defendant can be compelled to decrypt their documents. In Burr's case his secretary knew his encryption keys and because the secretary was not a defendant, it was ruled that the secretary could be compelled to divulge them.

Here are a few articles about it:




The fact that this conspiracy was likely real lends importance to Hamilton's self-sacrifice in the famous duel. There were two possible outcomes of the fight. 1) Hamilton kills Burr, eliminating him, or 2) Burr (the sitting Vice President!) kills him, thereby discrediting himself as a political figure. Killing a man, even in 1804, and especially as Vice President, would not simply blow over. Hamilton knew this. He won the duel in spirit before it began.

Hamilton's career was essentially over due to the Reynolds Affair, but facing Burr was his final act to serve his country. A fascinating bit of history indeed.


I don't think Hamilton was quite thinking of the duel as a way to stop this plot. For one thing the timeline doesn't quite match up there, the duel happened in 1804, the conspiracy seems to not have come to light until 1806. Maybe Hamilton was aware of it before, but I haven't seen much evidence of that. My understanding is that it was more the other way around, killing Hamilton discredited Burr as a public figure and the only option he had left to hang on to power was to essentially create his own country that he could be President of. It was quite ill-conceived and accomplished nothing but his arrest.

That being said, Hamilton did know going into the duel that Burr would permanently mar his reputation if he slayed him, Hamilton. And thought that this would keep him safe. There is a 3rd option in duels, which is both people shooting into the air, maintaining their honor without casualty. This was actually the most common outcome of dueling at the time, though reading history it's easy to get the opposite impression. Duels that end with pistols to the sky don't get discussed as much. But Hamilton was in many duels leading up to the Burr deal that ended that way.

The process was known as deloping ("throwing away"),[0] and normally involved firing a round into the ground. Hamilton's second claimed he deliberately fired into the air, while Burr's second claimed Hamilton fired at Burr and missed.[1] There's really no clear answer, unfortunately, and Hamilton's use of pistols with hair triggers could have played a role as well. Hamilton did write in a statement prior to the duel that he'd delope if possible:

> ... I have resolved, if our interview is conducted in the usual manner, and it pleases God to give me the opportunity, to reserve and throw away my first fire, and I have thoughts even of reserving my second fire—and thus giving a double opportunity to Col Burr to pause and to reflect.[2]

Firing into the air rather than the ground would involve moving your pistol in a manner that would clearly appear as if you intending to fire on your opponent. On the other hand, his death at Burr's hands certainly gave Hamilton the "brilliant exit" he'd admired for years.[2] Plus, if Hamilton wanted to ensure Burr's destruction after his death, his statement couldn't have been better written. Society would have shunned Burr regardless, but the statement all but guaranteed it would view him with the deepest of contempt.

0. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deloping

1. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/burr-slays-hamil...

1. https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-26-02-00...

2. http://www.historynet.com/hamilton-burr-duel.htm

Not to mention that Burr had fought a duel on the exact same ground with Hamilton's father-in-law in which both their guns jammed, they both laughed it off, and they were joking with each other on the boat ride back to Manhattan (anecdote found in Chernow's Hamilton bio).

I think most likely Hamilton and Burr would have acted out of personal intent, rather than any heroic ideal of serving the country, in this matter of the duel. By most reports Hamilton; whose reputation had been tarnished by other matters, left no stone unturned to ensure that posterity will remember Burr as villain.

I like your way of looking at it.

I’ve been absolutly fascinated by this story and happenings of the time after listening to the Hamilton musical music. Also epic music which I can recommend to everyone.

Hamilton is a rare piece of music that is musically wonderfull, and impressively cerebral at the same time. The only musical that comes close is Jesus Christ Superstar, and it loses (in my books). A hip hop musical that won a pulitzer - and it's firing on all cylinders musically and in literary form the whole time.

Lin Manuel Miranda worried for years for individual pieces and you can hear it. Several pieces are near perfect and I could listen it over and over.

Hamilton himself as a historical character is unebelievable. It is an astounding story however you look at it. A - in the literate sense - a poor bastard born in the middle of nowhere in Caribia ends up one of the founders of the greatest political experiments of his time.

While his endeavours lacked mathematical and scientific output he is actually the prototypical historical super geek. He was a product of englightenment and book printing. He engorged himself on the literature of the time and deviced systems in his head which he then implemented with great vigour. While obviously skimping on historical details, the musical celebrates this victory of pure gumption again and again while not forgetting the critical human weaknesses of his character

I think it may be remembered as one of the most notable artistic works of the 21st century. It’s seriously that good.

One of the weirder episodes of early American history -- which is saying something!

Burr's trial set the precedent for an extraordinarily high evidentary bar for a treason conviction -- which, in the long run, turns out to have been an Amazingly Good Thing.

Just having read Gore Vidal's 'Burr', I get the impression that Jefferson was acting against Burr(Writing to Congress that Burr was a traitor, before the trial had begun), with personal vendetta.The trial was almost a disaster for Jefferson with the chief witness for the prosecution Gen Wilkinson only averting indictment for treason only by a very thin margin, and by Wilkinson's tampering of the letters of Burr gave the impression that the government was trying to frame Burr.

I know this will be down voted but...

Given today's media climate I would love to read Burr's tweets. I pray the resulting outrage leads to porn stars and opportunists selling books.

The more things (i.e., politics) change, the more they stay the same. Funny eh.

Is this intended to be an allusion to the alleged Comey-Clapper-Clinton conspiracy?

Probably not. Though when comparing killing one of the Founding Fathers and (allegedly) conspiring to make significant portion of the US into a separate state, anything that modern politicians do kinda pales. I mean, can you imagine, say, Joe Biden killing Jeff Sessions on a duel and then conspire for the West Coast to secede and form a separate independent country?

To the degree that anyone thinks this is about any particular event in recent history, my humble opinion is that you are missing the point.

The point, as I see it, is that it doesn't matter if people have the internet, or the microwave, or tv, or transistors, or airplanes, or automobiles, or bicycles, or steam engines, or even cotton gins.

The human experience, and our propensity to ensure our own continued survival, has always been fraught with peril. Everyone has friends and enemies, and yet we all live amongst each other.

I think the best allegory for this story is that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

How...? Were they trying to steal Texas?

Not to give credence to such a conspiracy by asking, I'm just curious to an almost sordid degree...but what? Is this a thing people actually think is...well a thing?

>Is this a thing people actually think is...well a thing?

The answer to that question is always going to be yes.

What is this conspiracy? First I've heard of it.

Exactly the same, hence the intense curiosity. I love a good conspiracy theory, if only because I also love spy/espionage novels and geopolitical thriller movies.

Yes I'm very exciting at parties :)

11 Republican members of Congress on Wednesday sent a criminal referral to the DoJ and FBI seeking an investigation of ex-director James Comey, ex-AG Loretta Lynch, and Hillary Clinton in connection with the 2016 campaign. Clapper is (elsewhere) alleged to have been pushing a fake "Russia dossier" to/with Lynch and Comey.

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