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  • Writer's pictureBrian Powers

Episode 47 - Hamilton 2: Burr Boogaloo

Let's address the weird controversy right from the top: if you knew about the Alexander Hamilton, Jr., connection already, you may have heard it differently. The popular story is the Junior was Eliza Jumel's attorney. That's even what Ron Chernow wrote in the biography that Lin-Manuel Miranda used as the basis for Hamilton. The problem is that this is a largely apocryphal story without any evidence to back it up. It's close to the truth, which is why it's repeated so often. So if even the most well-known Hamilton scholar said it was true, why did I disagree? Because of an author named Dr. Margaret Oppenheimer, who wrote the definitive biography not on Hamilton or Burr, but Eliza Jumel, Burr's final victim. She went to original sources and hunted down the story. So despite the contradicting narratives, we're going with the one that came from studying Jumel herself and not the one where she was a bit player in the saga long after the subject had died. Sorry, Mr. Chernow.

There are so, so many odd little coincidences here and there in the whole Hamilton-Burr saga, too. It was such a small world, so the same faces keep combining and recombining in new stories. For instance, Hamilton wrote the Reynolds Pamphlet to set the record straight on his affair with Maria Reynolds and the blackmail scheme from her and her husband. When she divorced, guess who represented her? Aaron Burr.

It got cut from the episode, but Burr's FIRST duel was with John Barker Church in 1799. Who was he? Only the husband of Hamilton's sister-in-law, Angelica Schuyler. Small enough world yet?

Eliza Jumel has an incredible backstory of her own and will probably get her own episode someday, but here's a spoiler for that one: one of her children was named George Washington Bowen, and he was conceived at a time when she was likely a sex worker in New York while the federal government was centered there. Rumor has it that the boy bore an uncanny resemblance to his namesake.

Finally, while Aaron Burr is buried in Princeton Cemetery in New Jersey, Eliza is buried in a particularly crowded cemetery for consequential American historical figures - Trinity Church in Manhattan, final resting place of Alexander Hamilton, his wife Eliza, the other two Schuyler sisters, Hercules Mulligan, and Benjamin Franklin's daughter-in-law who died while his son languished in prison.

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