This post is also available in: Spanish
The progressive liberal Democratic-Republican hero was supposed to be handed the presidency in 1800, and instead there was a tie.
Somebody was going to have to pay. And the proper payment would be a charge of treason.
We know that Thomas Jefferson was a progressive liberal because he said really nice things. He also enslaved and whipped and raped. He invented claims of white racist superiority to prove that all men were not created equal — claims that inspire fascist visitors to Charlottesville to this day. He invented the right of slave states to “nullify” federal law, not to mention being the principal creator of our beloved two-party system.
It was Jefferson’s presidency. He had waited for it. It was his turn now. And that blasted Aaron Burr had exactly as many votes as he had. First this would have to be fixed. Then Burr would have to be punished.
Jefferson was at a disadvantage. He had no CIA, no MSNBC. He was lacking a whole alphabet soup of modern tools and implements. But, if the tale told in Jennifer Van Bergen’s new book is right, Jefferson nonetheless found a way to exact his revenge. The book is called Malice: Thomas Jefferson’s Conspiracy to Destroy Aaron Burr. Somehow Jefferson came up with every ingredient, right down to ridiculous forged documents and dossiers.
Russiagate is a case of projection, distraction, and reckless foreign endangerment. It began with WikiLeaks revealing Democratic Party emails that agreed with what was already plain: the Democratic Party had rigged its primary election. Russia and Donald Trump were blamed for providing this public service, accused of rigging the election by revealing rigging of the election. This story was so much more enjoyable than the first one that it simply replaced it. The result was the Doomsday Clock ticking closer to midnight than ever.
The Aaron Burr affair was a case of projection, distraction, and reckless foreign endangerment. Jefferson had backed expeditions into Spanish territory. The Freeman/Custis Red River expedition nearly started a war with Spain. The Neutrality Act that Jefferson accused Burr of violating had resulted from illegal expeditions that Jefferson had encouraged and sponsored. Jefferson blamed Burr for what he himself had done. The false story replaced the real one. The result was increased hostility and militarism. A giant treason scandal was created. The only trouble was that Burr was acquitted and the charges against him found to be fraudulent. The anti-climax of the Mueller Report is not without precedent.
Yet, everybody remembers Burr as vaguely treasonous, just as many a U.S. resident who has owned a television during the past three years will imagine some sort of Putin-Trump deal. Jefferson and Hillary Clinton will be recalled as our true and rightful leaders.
In reality, Trump has evicted Russian diplomats, sanctioned Russian officials, put missiles on Russia’s border, sent weapons into Ukraine, lobbied European nations to drop Russian energy deals, left the Iran agreement, torn up the INF Treaty, rejected Russia’s offers on banning weapons in space and banning cyber war, expanded NATO eastward, added a NATO partner in Colombia, proposed adding Brazil, demanded and successfully moved most NATO members to buy significantly more weapons, splurged on more nukes, bombed Russians in Syria, overseen the largest war rehearsals in Europe in half a century, condemned all proposals for a European military and insisted that Europe stick with NATO. Can one imagine a worse candidate about which to fantasize servitude to Vladimir Putin?
If Van Bergen is right, Burr was the least likely person on earth to charge with having done the sort of things Jefferson did. Jefferson declared Burr guilty, just as if he were Barack Obama talking about Chelsea Manning pre-trial. If Van Bergen is right, Jefferson worked long and hard at his failed effort to have Burr hanged. I’m sure this example will serve as a guiding light for many a falsely concocted outrage to come.