Thursday, February 14, 2013

Filibuster? Blame it on Aaron Burr-- My Relatives' BFF!

Unlike most Americans, I am a big fan of Aaron Burr. 

                                                                      Aaron Burr

As the Senate, the media, and the rest of political intelligentsia hums about the filibuster over the confirmation, I am smiling and shaking my head. 

From AP wire Feb 14, 2013:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., slammed Republicans today for attempting to filibuster the confirmation of former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., as defense secretary, suggesting the Pentagon could be left without a leader if Hagel's confirmation is blocked. Reid announced this afternoon that the Senate will hold a cloture vote at 4:15 p.m. ET, requiring 60 votes to move on to a final confirmation vote tomorrow for Hagel.  If the vote today receives 60 votes, then the final vote on his confirmation tomorrow only requires a simple 51-vote majority. If today's cloture vote fails to receive 60 votes - in essence, a filibuster - then, Democratic leaders say they will attempt to end the filibuster when lawmakers return on February 24 after a week off.

Aaron Burr is one of America's colorful characters from the past who affected the tide of history in many ways other than his infamous duel with his political rival, Andrew Hamilton.
And--Aaron Burr is the reason behind filibusters.

 In 1789, the first U.S. Senate adopted rules allowing the Senate "to move the previous question", ending debate and proceeding to a vote.Aaron Burr argued that the motion regarding the previous question was redundant, had only been exercised once in the preceding four years, and should be eliminated.In 1806, the Senate agreed, recodifying its rules, and thus the potential for a filibuster sprang into being Because the Senate created no alternative mechanism for terminating debate, the filibuster became an option for delay and blocking of floor votes. {source Wikipedia}

To make a tangled tale short involving my family and Burr I will just say briefly that Burr was practically a brother to my ancestors Aaron and Matthias Ogden. Burr had moved in with the Ogden family after his parents died and the three boys became life long friends.

                                                    Aaron Ogden, Aaron Burr, Dayton

See the charming, flowery letter written to my relative Matthias Ogden by Burr:

Princeton 1777

Dear Matt,
I this evening received your letter of yesterday's date, by Stockton. I knew not how to direct to you, nor where to send for the horse, or should have done it sooner. I do not perfectly recollect the one you mention, but should be glad of any on your recommendation. Both boots and a saddle I want much, and shall be obliged to you to procure them for me;--good leather would suit me as well as boots ready made. I have not had a pair worth sixpence since those I had at Elizabethtown {New Jersey,USA).
As to expectations of promotion, I have not the least, either in the line or the staff. You need not express any surprise at it, as I have never made any application, and, as you know me, you know I never shall. I should have been fond of a berth in a regiment, as we proposed when I last saw you. But, as I am at present happy in the esteem and entire confidence of my good old general, I shall be piqued at no neglect, unless particularly pointed, or where silence would be want of spirit. 'Tis true, indeed, my former equals, and even inferiors in rank, have left me. Assurances from those in power I have had unasked, and in abundance; but of these I shall never remind them. We are not to judge of our own merit, and I am content to contribute my mite in any station.
I shall probably be at Morris within ten days, on public business. Write me whether I may expect you there. With sincere love to Mrs. Ogden,

This letter is very revealing about Aaron Burr's personality. He has a tone I just can't describe in one word. Is it bold pushy, whiny, insincere, petulant, funny? All can apply I feel.  But I still love devil-may-care Burr even if he did some really bad things. He  did some great ones too and am very glad he was so close to the Ogden family. Filibusters or not!

If you want to read more about the wild adventures and escapades of Burr, the Ogdens and another friend from New Jersey, there is a fascinating article from the Smithsonian referenced below: 

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