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He’s thinking about his reputation. And so he’s not going to act injudiciously. He’s not going to dismantle anything. He’s going to think before he acts, and he’s going to be careful. Burr is not really thinking about fame. He’s not thinking, according to Hamilton, about anything other than the moment. And how much power can I get, and how much money can I get. That’s how Hamilton sees it. And given that, Burr will do anything he can to get into office, to get those two rewards, including installing himself as an emperor, subverting the constitution. There’s no telling what Burr will do once he’s in office. So there’s no choice between the two men. (“The Duel”)
In the musical, Hamilton finally stands on the balcony. Candidates stand below on opposite sides between the crowd, while a red and white ring of light alternate – more partisanship. Either way, all await his opinion and he gives it – “When all is said and all is done/ Jefferson has beliefs. Burr has none.” Historian Carol Berkin adds: “Even though he disagreed totally with Jefferson, Jefferson at least was interested in trying to do something that would be good for the United States. Burr – Burr was in it for Burr” (Alexander Hamilton: American Experience).
In some ways, Burr was a crook – he offered and took bribes. He collected funds to bring Manhattan clean water then spent them on a bank instead. After Burr took the senate seat from Hamilton’s father-in-law (an important backer Hamilton needed to help pass his bills), Hamilton turned savage. “I fear Mr. Burr is unprincipled, both as a public and a private man. In fact, I take it he is for or against nothing but as it suits his interest and ambition,” he insisted (“The Duel”).
This is the core of what really makes Hamilton so crazed, so really frantically panicked at the idea of Burr in office. It’s that Burr is as ambitious as Hamilton is, but there’s no restraint. He doesn’t appear to be thinking about anything other than what does this opportunity hold? So there’s nothing holding him back.