15. Aaron Burr’s political career cut short by duel that killed Alexander Hamilton.
Over the centuries, many a promising political career has been cut short by an offhand comment, a case of corruption or a serious error in personal judgement. But very few have come to a premature end due to shooting a political rival. Aaron Burr did just this. And though the shooting was the result of a pre-arranged duel, and though that rival initially survived, Burr’s career never did. Indeed, he went from being one of his country’s most powerful individuals to being a virtual nobody.
Burr was born in Newark, New Jersey in February 1756. As a young man, he served with distinction as an officer in the American Revolutionary War and then went on to pursue a career in law. Possessing a fine mind, Burr soon made a name for himself and used this reputation to embark on a career in politics. He served as the New York State Attorney General and then, in 1801, he was named the third Vice President of the United States, serving under Thomas Jefferson.
In the final year of his term in the White House, Burr’s political rivalry with Alexander Hamilton got out of control. The two men agreed to a duel. On July 11, 1804, the two men met. Hamilton was mortally wounded. While Burr was not charged with his death, he was forced to leave Washington and politics for good. He spent almost a decade in self-imposed exile in Europe before returning to his homeland. Settling in New York City, he lived out his days as a lawyer in relative obscurity.