"Good night," Burr said, laughing a little.
Hamilton being Hamilton, he didn't turn to go. "I just can't believe you don't want to do this."
"Really?" Burr asked skeptically. "You were just talking about how I don't like to court controversy."
Hamilton snorted. "Court controversy? Burr, you only sign up for something when you're five hundred percent sure that that side is going to win."
"It's impossible to be more than one hundred percent sure of anything."
Hamilton waved his arm. "I'll defer to your judgment on that."
"That's really unfair, though. I fought against the British long before Yorktown."
"Sure," Hamilton agreed. "But also long after my friends and I signed up to fight."
"As much as I respect Lafayette, it's really not fair to judge everyone by his cargo-buying, king-defying standards. And you were mostly worried about rising above your station," Burr pointed out. "Sometimes I think you came to this land in the first place just to fight in the revolution."
"And did I rise above my station," Hamilton said proudly. "But listen, there have been plenty of cases where I thought you'd be an asset but I didn't bother asking you because I knew you'd never go for it. I don't like wasting time either, you know. There's always so much to do and never enough time."
"But you thought I would help out with an issue so divisive that you need to write anonymous essays to defend it?" Burr asked rhetorically. "I mean, I've seen some of the arguments against the constitution and I don't disagree with some of those either."
Hamilton was making a face.
"Nothing. I just can't believe that you can't even actually have an opinion in private without backtracking and qualifying it."
"If you were being honest you'd admit that they're not wrong about everything either," Burr said.
Hamilton waved that off. "We can amend it after it passes."
"You might have a better chance if you did it concurrently."
"Are you actually…weighing in on the issue?" Hamilton asked hopefully.
Burr scowled. "No."
"But this is so perfect for you! It literally could not be better!" Hamilton protested.
"How do you figure that?"
"A series of essays anonymously published," Hamilton said slowly. "Anonymous. As in, no one will know that you wrote them."
"Then what's the point?"
"You can't just wait for good things to happen to you," Hamilton said. "You have to work for it. You know that. You graduated college so quickly. You may have taken awhile to sign up for the war but you might have died fighting in it! And now you're working to build your practice."
He seemed to be waiting for some kind of a response.
"But that kind of steady dependency only gets you so far. Big risks, big rewards, big losses. I know that makes you nervous. But if you do this and nothing comes of it, you never have to tell anyone. It'd be a waste of time but you wouldn't have to suffer any negative consequences. But if it works, you can reveal yourself and have the glory of having helped defend our new constitution. It's win-win!"
Burr hadn't thought about it that way. If no one read it, it would waste his time. If it didn't work, it would be a waste of time. But he was an attorney. He was well-used to wasting his time after having done a lot of work for a case that changed. "I don't know."
Hamilton's eyes lit up. That was never a good sign. "That's progress!"
"Anonymous essays? These things have a way of getting out."
"Is your writing so distinctive that someone can read your words and know, out of the dozens or hundreds of men it could be, that it must be you? Or even women, though I daresay most would not suspect them."
"Women?" Burr repeated, surprised.
"I've heard good things about Mercy Otis Warren," Hamilton replied. "And don't even get me started on what Angelica could make of this."
"Why don't you go ask her then?"
Hamilton scowled. "She's moving to London. Apparently her 'husband' is 'British' and is going to be a 'member of Parliament.' I don't get it, really, but she refuses to see reason."
"Or one of you does at any rate," Burr muttered. "Perhaps my writing is not so distinctive as all that. Those who are familiar with my work might realize that it's me but not the public at large."
"And even if people suspect you, if you don't want to be recognized you can just deny it. Surely no one can derail your chances because of a rumor," Hamilton said reasonably. "Well, at least not a rumor that you once supported the constitution."
Burr groaned. "Why did I even come to the door? Nothing good happens after midnight."
"You have so much you can contribute," Hamilton said persuasively. "I'm probably going into the technical details. You are just so damn good at figuring out what people believe and capturing the public opinion. If you keep your finger on the pulse of public opinion, you can address their concerns as they develop and help to change minds as we explain."
"I could," Burr said. "How much work are you thinking?"
"Oh, nothing all that strenuous," Hamilton said. Of course, since this was Hamilton, that really could mean any number of things. His work ethic was just not normal. "We were planning to divide twenty-five essays by three. We could divide it by four or do thirty instead or something like that."
"Why would you plan out a series of essays to be evenly distributed that are not evenly divisible by the number of people writing them?"
"Twenty-five is a nice, even number," Hamilton explained. "Or, well, not even but you know what I mean. Should we have planned on writing twenty-seven so it works out right? Who even does that?"
Burr rolled his eyes. "Oh, don't even pretend you care a whit for what other people do."
"It's just a number," Hamilton said dismissively. "It's our goal; not our limit. We're not worried about being too convincing. I'll probably write twice that."
"Twice of the eight and a third you'll be assigned-"
"I'll take the ninth essay!"
"Or twice the twenty-five you all plan to do?"
Hamilton shrugged. "We'll see how it goes."
"Well I haven't started yet. I know I have a lot to say but I'm not yet sure just how much," Hamilton explained.
"Your need to write three hundred essays aside-"
"Okay, I'm not going to write three hundred essays. I don't think there's three hundred essays to be written on this topic, let alone by just one guy."
"I have faith in you."
"And I have faith in you! You could do a lot of good here. We're still young and trying to establish ourselves. This is a great way to get widespread acclaim."
"Assuming this works and people know about it."
At some point, Burr was aware that he'd stopped refusing to do this. He hadn't accepted the proposal, though, and Hamilton needed to remember that.
"Well, of course. I mean, good luck blowing people away if you don't assume it's going to work," Hamilton said.
"You said you're doing this with two other people," Burr pointed out. "Who are they?"
Hamilton opened his mouth then pause. "See, I could tell you. And we have different reasons for anonymity than you might. But that's no way to convince you I can keep a secret."
"You can't keep a secret." Burr just knew that to be true. No examples came to mind but he was Hamilton. He could never shut up. How could he keep a secret?
"I didn't tell anyone about Theodosia Prevost," Hamilton pointed out. "Not even Laurens."
Laurens, tragically killed so young and so uselessly, was not a subject Burr was prepared to broach. But that much was true. Burr often asked himself what had possessed him to confide something of that importance and sensitivity to Hamilton. He always made him say too much and then turned around and accused him of not believing in anything. It's what made him so dangerous.
"What about your anonymous partners?" Burr challenged. "Do you trust them to keep my name entirely secret?"
Hamilton hesitated. "I don't know if they'd accede to your exaggerated need for secrecy."
Burr crossed his arms. "Exaggerated?"
"Oh, you know what I mean! But I could just tell them that I have a silent partner. Whether they'd be able to figure out it's you…I mean, on the one hand who else would demand such secrecy? But then, they don't really know you and you're pretty unlikely to agree to this."
You know that and you still ask me?"
"What can I say?" Hamilton asked, shrugging. "Hope springs eternal. You could write essays and give them to me to have published. I fully intend to come out at some point no matter what happens."
"Then why bother with anonymity at all if you're not afraid of losing?" Burr asked.
"Because who would listen to a guy, or two or three I won't even give you that much, who helped write the constitution about why you should adopt it? And what about people who don't like me or the other two? Or who may discriminate against them based on their gender or their color?"
"You're not seriously suggesting-" Burr started to say.
"I am giving you nothing," Hamilton interrupted. "We want people to vote for the issue, not the mouthpiece. The people who do like us and would be swayed by us already know where we stand and don't need to know we've spent hours writing essays."
"You've given this a lot of thought."
"This is going to work. I can feel it. And if not…well then at least you covered your ass."
"Surely you can ask someone else," Burr said. "Someone not as difficult to move."
"Sure but, at this point, I'm invested," Hamilton said cheerfully. "We passed the point of no return like fifteen minutes ago. And I meant what I said. I'd like to add you to our group. I believe that we can change this new nation of ours. I don't insist on there being four of us if it's not right. It's either the four of us or me and the other two. But this is happening. Your privacy is as protected as it can be. And, be honest, which have you regretted more: something you have done or something you haven't?"
"Well, I don't know, but I certainly wish I hadn't embarrassed myself in front of Washington all of five seconds before he met you," Burr said. "I think he still hates me. And I didn't even do anything."
"Hate is…a strong word," Hamilton said delicately.
Burr snorted. "Are you actually trying to be tactful? That's adorable. But it's fine, really. I don't think much of him anyway."
Hamilton's eyes flashed. "I will duel you right now!"
"Calm down," Burr told him. "I thought you were trying to get me on your side, not shoot me."
Hamilton looked skeptically at him. "Are you really going to watch me be brilliant and get the constitution ratified and just watch?"
That's all you had to say,' Burr thought, feeling strangely like he was back in court denying being Hamilton's assistant council.
"Eight essays, right?"
"I think I can persuade my fellows to write at least twice that out of sheer embarrassment to be so outpaced by the time I'm done," Hamilton said. "So you're in?"
"I'm going to regret this."
"No, you won't. In fact, one day you'll thank me for dragging you kicking and screaming into history."
"That's not how that happened."
"Well it's how I remember it happening and, let's be honest, which one of us is more likely to grant an interview?"
He was regretting this already but once he'd already agreed nothing would stop Hamilton from seeing that he actually did as he said. But maybe Hamilton was right. Maybe this really would work. If not, the writing would be good practice.
And he'd always wondered what it was like in Hamilton's shoes.