THE HEARTBREAK OF AARON BURR by H.W. Brands

THE HEARTBREAK OF AARON BURR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Most schoolchildren can tell you that Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Brands (History/Univ. of Texas; The Murder of Jim Fisk for the Love of Josie Mansfield, 2012, etc.) chronicles the story of the downward trajectory his fortunes endured thereafter.

Burr’s relationship and devotion to his only child, Theodosia, produced a wealth of correspondence that allows us to see his tortured, often-desperate persona. His break with Thomas Jefferson over political issues and the outrage after Hamilton’s death finished Burr’s political life. More importantly, the press of creditors suggested it was a good time to get out of town. He left New York and headed west to investigate the possibilities of land speculation. While traveling he became convinced of an impending war with Spain, either in Mexico or Florida. He raised a great deal of capital to buy a tract of land in the Louisiana Territory and to outfit an expeditionary force. Burr never actually stated the purpose for the 15 boats, 500 men, firearms and provisions, but his intentions made many nervous. It was to be his ultimate undoing. Jefferson didn’t trust him, and many others saw his moves as an attempt to split the United States in two. Despite charges of treason, no indictment could be reached after two hearings, but Jefferson rejected the findings and called for his arrest. Burr attempted to evade capture but was eventually taken and transported to Richmond to stand trial. The second in the author’s series entitled American Portraits, this is one of the increasingly popular “small stories” that give so much insight into the men, women and events of history.

A short but thrilling page-turner. Brands burrows into Burr’s psyche and exposes his failings as he details the outstanding talents that were so sadly wasted.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-307-74326-8
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Anchor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2012




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Kirkus Interview
H.W. Brands
October 11, 2016

As noted historian H.W. Brands reveals in his new book The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War, at the height of the Korean War, President Harry S. Truman committed a gaffe that sent shock waves around the world. When asked by a reporter about the possible use of atomic weapons in response to China's entry into the war, Truman replied testily, "The military commander in the field will have charge of the use of the weapons, as he always has." This suggested that General Douglas MacArthur, the willful, fearless, and highly decorated commander of the American and U.N. forces, had his finger on the nuclear trigger. A correction quickly followed, but the damage was done; two visions for America's path forward were clearly in opposition, and one man would have to make way. Truman was one of the most unpopular presidents in American history. General MacArthur, by contrast, was incredibly popular, as untouchable as any officer has ever been in America. The contest of wills between these two titanic characters unfolds against the turbulent backdrop of a faraway war and terrors conjured at home by Joseph McCarthy. “An exciting, well-written comparison study of two American leaders at loggerheads during the Korean War crisis,” our reviewer writes in a starred review. View video >

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