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Joanne Freeman on
anxiety in early national politics

Joanne Freeman Q: Describe the times in which these guys rose to power.

A: Burr and Hamilton were really reactive individuals anyway. But they also happened to be practicing politics in a time in which politics was extremely personal. And thus, extremely heated, and always on the edge of possibly some sort of violent encounter. There were stonings. There were riots. All the time. And once the national government got started -- you know, its tempting to look back from, with the perspective of hind sight, and say, well, of course the government's gonna survive. What are you so worried about? But the fact of the matter is, if you think about the fact that the government was just starting, they had no reason to believe it was gonna last more than 3 years, 4 years. And so every time there was a crisis, there was a huge explosion of anxiety. Again and again and again. Civil war is looming on the horizon. Disunion, the government's going to fall apart. Every year or two. And its amazing when you look in the correspondence of the period that the anxiety level in national politics that exists throughout the period. So, again, any sort of what seems to us like a seemingly minor tiff, might end up having huge implications, because okay, maybe Burr's not a trusty, worthy guy, but in this environment, that might mean the government's going to go down with him in a position of power.

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