Burr and the Final Judgment

I read recently Burr by Gore Vidal, a 1974 novel that centers on the infamous early American figure, Aaron Burr. Burr is known to history as a scoundrel. He shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel, was tried for treason when his plot to become king of the west was uncovered, and was removed as Vice President of the United States. If murder and treason were not enough, he was also an adulterer.

The book is not necessarily revisionist history. It does, however, provide another side of the story, as we know there are always two sides to a story. Burr comes across as a quite capable military commander and actually a figure with integrity and effectiveness. It is rather George Washington and Thomas Jefferson that come across as rather inglorious personages. Washington's military inadequacies, in the novel, are revealed, as well as his vanity and petty rivalry. Jefferson is likewise seen as vain, rivalrous, and cowardly. Here is a snippet from the book:

I asked Mr. Davis why it was that Jefferson wanted to destroy Colonel Burr. The question is a simple one, and I have asked it a number of times. Unfortunately I never get an entirely convincing answer.

Mr. Davis sighed. “It is so obvious. When Burr got as many votes as Jefferson, and then did nothing to promote himself, Jefferson was undone. Men like Jefferson can never forgive a rival who behaves honourably.” (p.234)

The story made me think of the Final Judgment. All will be revealed in this decisive moment at the end of time. We will know who was truly good and who was truly bad. History has been a poor judge of Burr, but perhaps Christ the King at the Final Judgment will not be.

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