Aaron Burr's 1807 trial challenged the Constitution

In late March 1807 Aaron Burr arrived in Richmond, Virginia, in a vile mood, filthy and stinking. He had just endured a month of hard travel under heavy guard through the dense forests of the Southeast. “It is not easy for one who has been robbed and plundered till he had not a second shirt,” he complained to a friend, “to contend with a Govt having millions at command and active and vindictive agents in every quarter.” Read more »

American Politics at Ten Paces

Strict codes of conduct marked the relationships of early American Politicians, often leading to duels, brawls, and other—sometimes fatal—violence

Numerous books codified the rules of dueling or "code duello," including the 1829 All the Stages of a Quarrel, above, which mapped the position of the duelers' assistants, or seconds, on a dueling ground. Read more »

The Imperial Congress

An impetuous and sometimes corrupt Congress has often hamstrung the efforts of the president since the earliest days of the Republic

On a little-remarked, steamy day in late June 1973, a revolution took place in Washington, D.C., one that would transfer far more power and wealth than did the revolt against King George III in 1776. On the 29th, a sweaty, angry majority of the House of Representatives and the Senate defied the president of the United States and voted to end armed American involvement in Vietnam. Read more »

The Boyhood Of Alexander Hamilton

Some old myths die in this new study of his West Indies childhood

Of his boyhood Alexander Hamilton habitually said very little. His political enemies said a good deal but mostly under their breath and only the most illtempered of them, old John Adams, went so far as to call him “the bastard son of a Scots peddler.” Hamilton’s family, by seeking to deny the fact of his illegitimacy, merely focused attention on it. Gertrude Atherton, in her fictionali/ed biography, The Conqueror , told a pretty tale of a blue blood rescued by wealthy relatives from the consequences of his mother’s shame.

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Wall Street’s First Collapse

Speculators caused a stock market crash in 1792, forcing the federal government to bail out New York bankers— and the nation

Wall Street’s first bubble swelled burst in the spring of 1792, exerting a profound effect on American politics and society. Nine years after the Treaty of Paris and the acknowledgement of the former colonies— independence, both Europe and America lay in turmoil. The French Revolution was showing its first symptoms of radical violence. In March an assassin’s bullet felled Sweden’s King Gustav III, who had called for a crusade against France. In the United States, President Washington struggled to fight a war against British-backed Indians in the Midwest.Read more »

40 More Critical Moments In American Business History

1. 1606: The Virginia Company is formed to seek profit from a new business: American settlement.

2. 1612: John Rolfe plants West Indian tobacco in Virginia, the cash crop that assures the colony’s success.

3. 1614: John Smith, finding no gold, sets his men to fishing for cod off New England, pointing the way to the area’s first economic mainstay. Read more »

10 Moments That Made American Business

How a debt-ridden banana republic became the greatest economic engine the world has ever known

It has been 400 years since European settlement began in what is now the United States. In that time a land occupied by a few million Neolithic hunter-gatherers has been transformed into the mightiest economy ever known, producing nearly one-third of the world’s goods and services. There are few economic sectors indeed, from agricultural exports to jet-aircraft production to entertainment, in which the United States does not lead.

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What Would The Founders Do Today?

Suppose they could go on "Meet The Press"...

Who cares what the founders would do? Who believes that the experiences, opinions, or plans of men who lived 200 years ago could have any relevance to our problems? Who imagines that the Founders could answer our questions?Read more »

George Washington, Spymaster

Without his brilliance at espionage the Revolution could not have been won


George Washington a master of espionage? It is commonly understood that without the Commander in Chief’s quick mind and cool judgment the American Revolution would have almost certainly expired in 1776. It is less well known that his brilliance extended to overseeing, directly and indirectly, extensive and very sophisticated intelligence activities against the British.

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Thomas Jefferson Takes A Vacation

ON IT HE GAVE THE NEW nation a new industry, wrote a protoguide to New England inns and taverns, (probably) did some secret politicking, discovered a town that lived up to his hopes for a democratic society, scrutinized everything from rattlesnakes to rum manufacture—and, in the process, pretty much invented the summer vacation itself

BY THE END OF THE FIRST CONGRESS, IN THE SPRING OF 1791, Thomas Jefferson badly needed a vacation. The first Secretary of State disliked the noise, dirt, and crowds of the capital, Philadelphia, and the cramped routines of office work. He had suffered near-constant migraine headaches for fully six months; one cause of them may have been his growing struggle with Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, who had views opposite to Jefferson’s on almost every issue facing the new government.Read more »