Monday, May 22, 2006

199 years ago today...

In the tradition of occasional writing, I thought I'd revisit May 22nd, 1807 and engage in some neo-plutarchian blogging, especially given the hue and cry of people requesting I do so, which I might be making up.

Aaron Burr of course, was the 3rd vice president of the United States, and Dick Cheney(on his right, above)is the 46th, in case you haven't been keeping up with the numbers.
(I'll admit I haven't, but I cleverly looked it up.)

Burr was chosen as vice-president after the election of 1800, by the house of representatives, after the election left the result unresolved.

Cheney was chosen as vice-president by the supreme court after the election of 2000, after the election left the result unresolved.

Burr was Jefferson's VP for his 1st term, 1800-1804. Jefferson dumped Burr after the that 1st term and was widely reputed to have intensely disliked him, and to have ignored any advice Burr may have given him.

Cheney was VP for George Bush jr's 1st term, as well as for this 2nd term(so far), and is widely reputed to have a disproportionately greater influence on the president than any previous veep has had on the boss.

Burr was a war hero. He was a major in the war of independence, and served on General Washington's staff.

Cheney received five deferrments from service in Vietnam in the 60s, first for going to college, then for getting married, then for the birth of his first daughter.

Gore Vidal(who is a distant relative of 45th vp Al Gore), wrote a loosely historial novel about Aaron Burr. Even though it was published 33 years ago, it is still easy to find in second-hand bookstores and online.

So far(and so far as I know), nobody has written a novel about Dick Cheney, but his wife Lynne wrote a (sort of) historical novel, Sisters, which is very difficult to find a copy of in bookstores or for purchase online. Supposedly this is because she has actively sought to suppress it after she became the head of the NEH in the 80s, and was concerned that the book's prurient lesbianism might reflect badly on her. (Although at least 2 sites have it available as a free pdf as I write this.)

Whatever they may have accomplished in public life, both veeps will be remembered for shooting people. Burr for his duel with Alexander Hamilton in 1804, and of course Cheney for shooting lawyer Harry Whittington not too long ago. Neither suffered any legal consequences, although both inflicted considerable injury. And yes, Burr's aim was better.

Now you're wondering: what happened 199 years ago? Aaron Burr was indicted by a grand jury for treason. (He was aquitted that September for lack of evidence.) The details weren't entirely clear, but Burr was believed to be conspiring to start his own country(!), partially from lands controlled by Spain, and partly from American territory. If you want to draw additional parallels with Cheney and the present day administration, well...