Is Thomas Jefferson complicit in the death of Alexander Hamilton? | HistoryNet MENU

Is Thomas Jefferson complicit in the death of Alexander Hamilton?

9/4/2012 • Ask Mr. History

Is Thomas Jefferson complicit in the death of Alexander Hamilton?  He was no friend of either Burr or Hamilton, and stood to profit regardless of the outcome of the duel – but seems needed the duel to take place.  Could he have urged Burr on to do the dirty work?

Jeff C

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Dear Jeff,

As far as I know, there is nothing to positively tie Thomas Jefferson to any conspiracy theory you care to conjure up for Alexander Hamilton’s mortal wounding in Weehawken. Although they were more fundamentally opposed in their approach to government and even interpretation of the Constitution than the current presidential contender, there was a mutual respect between Jefferson and Hamilton that contrasted dramatically with Hamilton’s opinion of Aaron Burr—to such an extent that in 1800 Hamilton used all his influence to see to it that Jefferson got the Republican Democratic presidential candidacy, with Burr as his vice president, rather than the other way around. That enmity resurfaced in 1804, when Hamilton publicly denounced Burr as a “dangerous man” as he, Hamilton, endorsed Lewis Morgan Lewis in Lewis’ successful bid to become governor of New York. It was Hamilton’s rancorous words in that election that led to Burr ultimately demanding an apology and, when Hamilton refused, a duel. I see no way that Jefferson could either have had that strong a motive nor to have been in a position to orchestrate such a thing.



Jon Guttman
Research Director
World History Group
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6 Responses to Is Thomas Jefferson complicit in the death of Alexander Hamilton?

  1. Kevin M says:

    Dear Mr. History ,

    How is it that General MacArthur was never held accountable for his criminal inaction at the beginning of WWII ?
    Kimmel and Short were vilified for their decisions at Pearl Harbor . They were scapegoats for the higher brass and Washington pols and policy makers .
    General MacArthur had a full 24 hour notice we were at war and the Japanese were committed to a very aggressive War Plan . The Phillipines lost nearly every fighter and bomber in the first two days .
    Even if it was decided MacArthur was needed for the War Effort and given a free ride for the duration , I can’t understand how later Historians did not call him to account for his decisions after the War was won .

  2. reasonmclucus says:

    Kimmel and Short knew there was a war on. They should have had both sea and air patrols out watching for any approaching ships. A surprise attack on Pearl Harbor is a possibility they should have been aware of. I’ve forgotten the altitude the planes in Hawaii could fly at, but they should have been able to fly high enough to see a large fleet from many miles away.
    Morning patrols should have spotted the approaching aircraft in time to warn the ships and air bases.

    Personnel should have been better schooled on the radar they had which did detect the approaching aircraft.

  3. Elliot Linsky says:

    Kimmel and Short did not have any news stating that war had been declared and at the time of the attack the Japanese emisaries who were in Washington for supposidly the purpose of obtaining a new peace treaty. Fortunately, the two aircraft carriers normally stationed at Pearl Harbor were at sea for training otherwise they would have been the first targets of the attack. The aircraft were spotted on radar and it was reported to the officer in charge, but he assumed it was a flight of B17 bombers that were due to arrive. Radar was new and very few new much about it.
    Actually Mac Arthur did protect the Phillipines from any Japanese threat. He could have authorized an ariel attack on Formosa which was part of Japan or even secured the planes on the ground. As a result all the aircraft were destroyed on the ground a day after the attack on Pearl Harbor.I have never heard of anything ever said about his failure to take any action during that time

    japanese planes were spotted on radar but the officer in charge assumed it was a flight of B17 bombers that were expected to arrive.
    i have never read or heard anything about why MacArthur took no action. He could have done several things to secure the aircraft or he even could have ordered an air attact on Japanese held Foremosa

  4. reasonmclucus says:

    They should have been aware that Japan might “declare war:” by attacking Pearl harbor. They should have been aware that Japan needed to destroy or at least weaken the U.S. Pacific fleet in order to defeat the U.S. The best way to achieve that goal would be to attack before a declaration of war.

    • Wbcsports says:

      The question that should be asked is how much did Winnie Churchill know about it? There is a passage I read in a book recently on this subject which stated his intelligence network in Asia let the British know something was going on weeks in advance. Yet they drug there feet about revealing it because they knew what it would mean. The US would come in on the Allies side. The US on the other hand were new to espionage and the only 2 groups gathering intell outside the US were army and navy intelligence. The process of getting on more of a war footing in the phillipines and at Pearl had started but it was felt that there was adequate time to prepare. There wasn’t and theJapanese naval brass and the military junta made a the worse mistake possible…they kicked the sleepy tiger.

    • Whale says:

      Kimmel and Short did NOT know that there was a war going on when they were attacked at Pearl Harbor. MacArthur absolutely KNEW that a state of WAR existed with Japan because he was informed of the attack on Pearl Harbor, yet still, when the first waves of Japanese attacks came, his places were sitting.

      MacArthur screwed the pooch and then when he left Corregidor, rather than leave his staff behind and take 8 nurses, he left the nurses and took his staff. For his heroic desertion of his troops, FDR, in need of heroes, arranged for the Medal of Honor for him.

      Radar was brand new in Dec 1941 and the US Military was not the large, well equipped and well trained sword and shield that it is today, prior to WW2, the USA always eviscerated its military after the last war and didn’t start preparing for the next war until it was too late.


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