War of Two: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Duel That Stunned the Nation

John Sedgwick. Berkley, $27.95 (448p) ISBN 978-1-59240-852-8
Journalist and novelist Sedgwick (In My Blood) looks back on one of America’s earliest scandals: the duel between Alexander Hamilton, the nation’s first secretary of the treasury, and Aaron Burr, the sitting vice president. The standoff stemmed from Hamilton calling Burr dangerous, but it was fueled by the interaction of two men for whom “relative standing was everything.” Hamilton, who had risen from illegitimacy and poverty to great power, possessed “a protean ability not just to make enemies but to create them,” and his influence waned accordingly. The nation’s rising star was Aaron Burr, whose political career began as “a testament to his high standing as a lawyer and to his elite background.” Sedgwick perceptively suggests that Burr’s skill at influencing public opinion epitomized for the emerging Republicans what Hamilton’s preference for elite governance did for the Federalists: competing versions of democracy. Never gaining Thomas Jefferson’s trust even as his vice president, Burr sought a power base in New York—where Hamilton had returned after leaving the government. Both men felt unacceptably diminished; each focused on the other as cause and symbol of his own relative decline. Sedgwick shows that while the duel was not inevitable, the pair’s final encounter was predictable. Agent: Dan Conaway, Writers House. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/28/2015
Release date: 10/20/2015
Paperback - 480 pages - 978-1-59240-969-3
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