Jefferson Versus Hamilton: The Trial That Shook The Nation

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Jefferson Versus Hamilton: The Trial That Shook The Nation

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All history is a mingling of the great and small, of kings losing kingdoms for want of a horseshoe nail, of presidents assassinated because a guard needed a break. But seldom has there been a stranger mixture of the petty and the magnificent, the comic and the tragic, the trivial and the profound, than in the case of the People versus Croswell, in 1803. The question before the court: Is it a crime to say that the president of the United States tried to seduce his neighbor’s wife - even if he did? Before the case was settled, an obscure 24-four-year-old printer wrote himself into the Dictionary of American Biography, established the libel law on which contemporary press freedom still rests, jarred the political security of President Thomas Jefferson, and indirectly helped involve Alexander Hamilton in his fatal duel with Aaron Burr. In this digital short, New York Times bestselling historian and novelist Thomas Fleming writes that the ferocity of the verbal warfare raging between the Federalists, the party created by Hamilton, and the Democratic-Republicans, led by Jefferson, has rarely been matched in American politics, even by the diatribes of today.

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