Wall Street Offices

Hamilton and Burr were considered the two best attorneys in New York if not the United States. Both studied the same courses-  Burr visited General Schuyler’s library. Burr studied with Robert Troup, and then Troup with Hamilton.  Both were allowed to take the Bar exam with less than three years of law school because they had fought in the War.  They started practicing law in Albany in late 1782. Hamilton was active in Poughkeepsie and Philadelphia in government service. By December, 1783 Alexander, Eliza and baby son Philip moved to 57 Wall Street.  Aaron, Theodosia and baby daughter Theodosia along with the Prevost children moved to 3 Wall Street. “Ver Plank’s house with 115’ of frontage” These were happy times for Aaron Burr, but 11 years later, Theodosia would die of stomach cancer.  Ron Chernow describes Burr's and Hamilton's life together in the 1780's by quoting Commodore Truxton who said “I always observed in both (Burr and Hamilton) a disposition when together to make time agreeable… at the houses of each other and of friends.” Hamilton said Burr and he were “always on good terms. We set out in the practice of law at the same time and took opposite political directions.  Burr beckoned me to follow him and I advised him to come with me.  We could not agree.” sometimes they worked together on cases and at other times they were opposed.

Burr said “Law is whatever is boldly asserted and plausibly maintained.”

General Erastus Root said “”As a lawyer and as a scholar Burr was not inferior to Hamilton. His reasoning powers were at least equal.  Their modes of argument were very different.  Hamilton was very diffuse and wordy.  His words were so well chosen, and his sentences so finely formed into a swelling current, that the hearer would be captivated.  The listener would admire, if he was not convinced.  Burr’s arguments were generally methodized and compact.  I used to say of them, when they were rivals at the bar, that Burr would say as much in half an hour as Hamilton in two hours.  Burr was terse and convincing, while Hamilton was flowing and rapturous.  They were much the greatest men in this State, and perhaps the greatest men in the United States.”

They each made about $10,000 a year in salary, and invested in land for profit or loss. Both borrowed and spent lavishly. Frenchman LeGuen lent to both of them. Hamilton wrote that by 1801 Burr was $80,000 in debt, half being a mortgage on Richmond Hill. Hamilton’s speculation in upstate land instead of Manhattan property also caused him problems.  Had they practiced law alone, they would have been financially secure, but the government service they performed was not economically rewarding for them. However both escaped the fate of Robert Morris. After substantially funding the American revolution, he found himself in debtors prison.

 

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