Political History: Alexander Hamilton and the Louisiana spy

July 11, 1804 marked the 215th anniversary of former U.S. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton being mortally wounded in a dual.

It was a legendary political battle — literally and figuratively — that culminated in Weehawken, NJ, pitting the 49-year-old Hamilton against the 48-year-old Aaron Burr, then the nation’s third vice president.

Burr claimed he was insulted by Hamilton and demanded the duel to save face. He indeed got the last word, as Hamilton was shot and died just a day later.

Charges were brought against Burr and a grand jury got involved, but nothing stuck and he served out the remainder of his term as vice president.

That’s when Burr headed southwest, reportedly to conspire with Gen. James Wilkinson, the future governor of the Louisiana Territory, about carving a new form of government out of the region.

In the mid-1800s, Louisiana historian Charles Gayarré was able to prove that Wilkinson was actually a high-ranking spy for the Spanish Empire.

As for the Burr incident, however, Wilkinson’s role has taken on a softer tone, since it was him who personally alerted President Thomas Jefferson of Burr’s intentions to secretly liberate Spain’s American colonies.

They Said It

“I’ll have a talk with myself.” —State Senate President John Alario, when asked if he would consider running for the House again, in The Advocate

“My life has been so charmed.” —Former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, in the USA Today Network of Louisiana Newspapers

 

About Jeremy Alford 211 Articles
Jeremy Alford is an independent journalist and the co-author of LONG SHOT, which recounts Louisiana's 2015 race for governor. His bylines appear regularly in The New York Times and he has served as an on-camera analyst for CNN, FOX News, MSNBC and C-SPAN.

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