Much of New Jersey’s history — real and mythic — revolves around violence. Yesterday I explored some of that tradition with the redoubtable Jim Clifford, attorney and history enthusiast extraordinaire. Herewith, the story:
We started at Boxwood Hall in Elizabeth, the home of Senator Jonathan Dayton, who compiled an enviable record of public service — youngest delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and senator. Unfortunately, Dayton also was a boyhood (and lifelong) chum of Aaron Burr, and was deeply enmeshed in Burr’s conspiracy of 1805–07, the subject of my next book. (Photo below.) We enjoyed a very informative couple of hours with Boxwood Hall’s resident expert Katherine Craig, pictured with young Clifford.
Then it was on to Weehawken, the site of the duel between Burr and Alexander Hamilton, as well as numerous other duels involving prominent New York politicians such as DeWitt Clinton and Hamilton’s eldest son, Philip. The actual dueling site has been obliterated by the March of Progress, but there is a monument on cliffs above the site (and overlooking a spectacular view of Manhattan). Instead of firing away at each other, the boys should have been buying some primo real estate in the area.
But perhaps the best fun of the day was a terrific lunch, featuring wonderful calamari, at Manolo’s Restaurant in Elizabeth (recommended by Ms. Craig). Sopranos‘ fans (that would be most of us) will remember this location as the initial site of Artie Bucco’s restaurant, Vesuvio’s, which Tony burned down in order to prevent his Uncle Junior from staging a hit there, which would have ruined Artie’s business. Tony “reasoned” that burning down the restaurant would hurt the business less than a hit. Despite the terrific food, Manolo’s had a pretty small crowd for yesterday’s lunch, and no more than half of them were dead ringers for Hesh, Paulie Walnuts, and Big Pussy.
Ah, New Jersey.