Theodosia Burr Alston was born into one of America’s most respected families in 1783. Indeed, her father, Aaron Burr, became vice president in 1801, serving a single term with President Thomas Jefferson. But it was not to be her father’s fame that made Theodosia an almost legendary figure. Instead, it was the mysterious circumstances surrounding her premature demise and the subsequent rumors that clouded the waters. In a historical foreshadowing of the today’s fake news and conspiracy theories, newspapers of the day were full of flights of fancy over Theodosia’s fate.
If the name Theodosia Burr Alston does not ring a bell, listen carefully to one of the stand-out songs in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical, Hamilton. In the musical, the ballad “Dear Theodosia” is sung by Aaron Burr, celebrating the arrival of his baby daughter and the star of this story. Titular hero Alexander Hamilton also gets in on the act, singing part of the song to welcome his new son, Phillip.
In fact, Theodosia’s father played an extraordinary part in the life of Hamilton. Burr actually fought a duel with the Founding Father, despite the fact that they had once been on friendly terms. The two men had both been active participants in the Revolutionary War before going on to be influential politicians. And it would be their political rivalry which drove them ever further apart over the years.