Founding Brothers

Why is there a chapter about a duel?

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This first chapter is the only one of Founding Brothers not placed in chronological order. The author deliberately chose to insert this story first in order to “capture the reader’s attention.” In many ways, he offers this explanation as an apology, but it is also a bit disingenuous. The truth is that the chapter also provides insight into his overall thesis and methodology.

The Founding Fathers desperately feared that a breakdown in the federal government would result in civil war. Much of their anxiety and passion was driven by this all-too-present danger. As indicated in the Preface, these men were not certain that their Union would survive, and so did they have to safeguard their creation closely to ensure its success. Hamilton and Burr’s confrontation is a manifestation of this fear of breakdown.