Aaron Burr's Explanation of 1830s Political Parties
By David Henderson
On my vacation in Canada, I’m enjoying Gore Vidal’s novel Burr immensely. Of course it’s a novel and so it’s not necessarily accurate. Vidal admits in an Afterword that he attributes motives and makes up dialogue. But he also points out that he uses known phrases from various speakers. I’m becoming quite impressed with Aaron Burr, or should I say “aaon buhr.”
Two U.S. historian friends tell me that the novel is right in many particulars.
Here’s a short monologue in which Burr explains the various political parties in 1834 and how they had morphed:
Van Buren will be nominated and he will defeat Clay or any other National Republican—no, no, Whig. I must get used to calling them that. How topsy-turvy it is! Those of us who were for the Revolution were Whigs. Those for Britain were Tories. Then there was the fight over the federal Constitution. In our state [New York] Governor Clinton wanted a weak federal government. So some of the Whigs became anti-Federalist and some like Hamilton became Federalist. Then the Tory-Federalists became Republican. Now Tory-Federalist-Republicans call themselves Whig though they are anti-Whig while the anti-Federalist Republicans are now Jacksonian Democrats.
I posted about a non-fiction book on Burr here.