The Real Reason Alexander Hamilton Had So Many Enemies

Rappers are all about the Benjamins, but thanks to the musical Hamilton, the man on the $10 bill might be the rapping-est Founding Father of all. Of course, in his own day, not everyone was all about the Hamiltons, least of all Vice President Aaron Burr, who dueled with Alexander Hamilton politically and with pistols. As Lin-Manuel Miranda might say, Burr didn't throw away his shot. Instead, he buried it in Hamilton's body, killing him in an 1804 duel.

Capping Hamilton cemented Burr's legacy as a famous villain, but some say he got a bad rap. As Time describes, Burr "fought for the little guy," for women's rights, and for immigrants, and against elitism. By contrast, Harvard history professor Annette Gordon-Reed points out that Hamilton held elitist views and advocated having a president for life. Plus, dueling pistols were notoriously inaccurate, making it likely that Burr never meant to kill his nemesis. Besides, Burr wasn't the only person to take shots at Hamilton, whose many enemies included some of the country's most celebrated Founding Fathers. And from the sound of things, the hate isn't wholly unfounded.

Throwing shots at Hamilton

If Thomas Jefferson had written the Declaration of Independence about Alexander Hamilton, it might have gone something like this: "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, except for that power-hungry scumbag: Hamilton. It would be right for our creator to alienate him from the government before he chops down the tree of liberty." According to George Washington's Mount Vernon, the men clashed and bashed each other while serving in George Washington's cabinet. As Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton thought of himself as kind of a prime minister. The less explicitly ambitious Jefferson served as Secretary of State and served up blistering criticisms of Hamilton.

Jefferson decried the staunchly elitist Hamilton as "not only a monarchist but for a monarchy bottomed on corruption." Voicing his misgivings to Washington in 1792, he said Hamilton aligned himself with men who would "form the most corrupt government on earth" if left unchecked. Biography writes that the brash and combative Hamilton also butted heads with Founding Fathers James Madison and John Adams, who much like Jefferson later became president.

Another eventual POTUS, James Monroe, investigated accusations that Hamilton misused government funds to conceal an affair. Per the University of Mary Washington, the ensuing dispute fueled so much animosity that Hamilton nearly challenged Monroe to a duel. However, cooler heads prevailed when "none other than Aaron Burr defused the tension."