The Full Wiki

Aaron Burr: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Aaron Burr

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Aaron Burr

In office
March 4, 1801 – March 4, 1805
President Thomas Jefferson
Preceded by Thomas Jefferson
Succeeded by George Clinton

In office
March 4, 1791 – March 3, 1797
Preceded by Philip Schuyler
Succeeded by Philip Schuyler

In office
September 29, 1789 – November 8, 1791
Governor George Clinton
Preceded by Richard Varick
Succeeded by Morgan Lewis

In office

Born February 6, 1756(1756-02-06)
Newark, New Jersey
Died September 14, 1836 (aged 80)
Staten Island, New York
Nationality American
Political party Democratic-Republican
Spouse(s) Theodosia Bartow Prevost
Eliza Bowen Jemel
Alma mater Princeton University
Religion Presbyterian
Military service
Service/branch Continental Army
Years of service 1775–1779
Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Battles/wars American Revolutionary War

Aaron Burr, Jr. (February 6, 1756 – September 14, 1836) was an American politician, Revolutionary War participant, and adventurer. He served as the third Vice President of the United States (1801–1805), under Thomas Jefferson, and was the first vice president to never serve as president.

A formative member of the Democratic-Republican Party with a political base in New York, Burr served in the New York State Assembly (1784–1785, 1798–1799[1]), as New York State Attorney General (1789–1791), United States Senator (1791–1797), and for one term as vice-president under Jefferson. A candidate for President in 1800, Burr tied Jefferson with 73 electoral votes, making him eligible for one of the country's two highest offices and sending the election into the U.S. House of Representatives. After 36 ballots, Jefferson was elected President and Burr elected vice-president. As vice-president, Burr was president of the Senate, and in this role presided over the impeachment trial of Samuel Chase.

During an unsuccessful campaign for governor of New York in 1804, Burr was often referred to in published articles written by Alexander Hamilton, a longtime political rival and son-in-law of Philip Schuyler, the first U.S. senator from New York, whom Burr defeated in Schuyler's bid for re-election in 1791. Taking umbrage at remarks made by Hamilton at a dinner party and Hamilton's subsequent failure to account for the remarks, Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel on July 11, 1804, at the Heights of Weehawken in New Jersey, in which he mortally wounded Hamilton. Easily the most famous duel in U.S. history, it had immense political ramifications. Burr was indicted for murder in both New York and New Jersey (though these charges were either later dismissed or resulted in acquittal), and the harsh criticism and animosity directed towards him brought an end to his political career in the East, though he remained a popular figure in the West and South. Further, Hamilton's death would fatally weaken the remnants of the Federalist Party.

After Burr left the vice-presidency at the end of his term in 1805, he journeyed into what was then the West, particularly the Ohio River Valley and the lands acquired in the Louisiana Purchase. Burr was preparing to lead a filibuster into Spanish possessions in Mexico in case of war with Spain, which would have been of dubious legality considering the Neutrality Act of 1794. Due to the rumors and the sullying of Burr's name by means of claims as far-fetched as Burr's desire to secede from the United States and form his own monarchy in the western half of North America, Burr was arrested in 1807 and brought to trial on charges of treason, for which he was acquitted.[2] After several years in self-imposed exile in Europe, Burr returned to practicing law in New York City and lived a largely reclusive existence until his death.




Early life

Burr's grandfather, Jonathan Edwards

Burr was born in Newark, New Jersey, to the Reverend Aaron Burr, Sr., who was a Presbyterian minister and the second president of the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University; his mother, Esther Edwards, was the daughter of Jonathan Edwards, the famous Calvinist theologian. The Burrs also had a daughter, Sarah, who married Tapping Reeve.

In 1772, he received his A.B. at Princeton University, but changed his career path two years later and began the study of law with Reeve in Litchfield, Connecticut. His studies were put on hold while he served during the American Revolutionary War, under Generals Benedict Arnold, George Washington (for two weeks), and Israel Putnam.

Military service

During the Revolutionary War, Burr took part in Colonel Benedict Arnold's expedition to Quebec, an arduous trek of over 300 miles through the wilderness of Maine. Upon arriving before the city of Quebec, Burr was sent up the Saint Lawrence River to reach General Richard Montgomery, who had taken Montreal, and escorted him to Quebec. Montgomery promoted Burr to captain and made him an aide-de-camp. Although Montgomery was killed while attempting to capture the city of Quebec during a fierce snow storm on December 31, 1775, Burr distinguished himself with brave actions against the British.

Burr's courage made him a national hero and earned him a place on Washington's staff in Manhattan, but he quit after two weeks because he wanted to return to the battlefield. Never hesitant to voice his opinions, Burr may have set Washington against him; however, rumors that Washington then distrusted Burr have never been documented.

General Israel Putnam took Burr under his wing; by his vigilance in the retreat from lower Manhattan to Harlem, Burr saved an entire brigade (including Alexander Hamilton, who was one of its officers) from capture. In a stark departure from common practice, Washington failed to commend Burr's actions in the next day's General Orders (the fastest way to obtain a promotion in rank). Although Burr was already a nationally known hero, he never received a commendation. According to Burr's stepbrother Mathias Ogden, Burr was infuriated by the incident, which may have led to the eventual estrangement between him and Washington.[3][4]

On becoming a lieutenant colonel in July 1777, Burr assumed virtual leadership of Malcolm's Additional Continental Regiment. There were approximately 300 men under Colonel William Malcolm's command. The regiment successfully fought off continuous nighttime raids into central New Jersey by English troops sailing over from Manhattan, crushing those forces. During the harsh winter encampment at Valley Forge, Burr was put in charge of a small contingent guarding the "Gulph", an isolated pass commanding the approach to the camp, and necessarily the first point that would be attacked. Burr enforced discipline there, successfully defeating a mutiny by some of the troops.

On June 28, 1778, at the Battle of Monmouth, his regiment was devastated by British artillery, and in the day's terrible heat, Burr suffered heat stroke from which he would never quite recover. In January 1779, Burr was assigned to the command of the lines of Westchester County, a region between the British post at Kingsbridge and that of the rebels about 15 miles (24 km) to the north. In this district there was much turbulence and plundering by lawless elements of both Whigs and Tories, and by bands of ill-disciplined soldiers from both armies. Burr established a thorough patrol system, rigorously enforced martial law, and quickly restored order.

He resigned from the Continental Army in March 1779 due to bad health and renewed his study of law. Though technically no longer in the service, he remained active in the war: he was assigned by General Washington to perform occasional intelligence missions for Continental generals such as Arthur St. Clair, and on July 5, 1779, he rallied a group of Yale students at New Haven along with Capt. James Hillhouse and the Second Connecticut Governors Foot Guard in a skirmish with the British at the West River. The British advance was repulsed, having to enter New Haven from Hamden.

Despite these activities, Burr was able to finish his studies and was admitted to the bar at Albany in 1782. He began to practice in New York City after the British evacuated the city the following year. He lived in Richmond Hill, Manhattan, an area just outside of Greenwich Village.


In 1782, Aaron Burr married Theodosia Bartow Prevost, the widow of Jacques Marcus Prevost (see The Hermitage), a British army officer who had died in the West Indies during the Revolutionary War. They moved to New York City, where Burr's reputation as a brilliant trial lawyer was well known. They had a daughter who survived birth, named Theodosia, after her mother. Burr was one of the first Feminists, and raised his daughter in the classics, horsemanship and music. The marriage lasted until the elder Theodosia's death from stomach cancer twelve years later. Born in 1783, his daughter Theodosia became widely known for her education and accomplishments. She married Joseph Alston of South Carolina in 1801, and bore a son who died of fever at ten years of age. She died either due to piracy or in a shipwreck off the Carolinas in the winter of 1812 or early 1813.

In 1833, at age 77, Burr married again, this time to Eliza Jumel, the extremely wealthy widow of Stephen Jumel. When she realized her fortune was dwindling from her husband's land speculation, they separated after only four months. The divorce between Burr and Jumel was completed on September 14, 1836, the day of Burr's death.

Legal and early political career

Burr served in the New York State Assembly from 1784 to 1785, but became seriously involved in politics in 1789, when George Clinton appointed him New York State Attorney General. He was also Commissioner of Revolutionary War Claims in 1791. In 1791, he was elected a U.S. Senator from New York, defeating the incumbent, General Philip Schuyler, and served there until 1797.

While Burr and Jefferson served during the Washington administration, the Federal Government was resident in Philadelphia. They both roomed for a time at the boarding house of a Mrs. Payne. Her daughter Dolley, an attractive young widow, was introduced by Burr to James Madison, whom she subsequently married.

Although Hamilton and Burr had long been on good personal terms, often dining with one another[citation needed], Burr's defeat of General Schuyler, Hamilton's father-in-law, probably drove the first major wedge into their friendship. Nevertheless, their relationship took a decade to reach a status of enmity.

After being appointed commanding general of U.S. forces by President John Adams in 1798, Washington turned down Burr's application for a brigadier general's commission during the Quasi-War with France. Washington wrote, "By all that I have known and heard, Colonel Burr is a brave and able officer, but the question is whether he has not equal talents at intrigue." John Adams later put this situation in perspective by writing in 1815 that Washington's response was startling given his promotion of Hamilton, "the most restless, impatient, artful, indefatigable, and unprincipled intriguer in the United States, if not in the world, to be second in command under himself, and now [Washington] dreaded an intriguer in a poor brigadier."[5]

Bored with the inactivity of the new U.S. Senate, Burr ran for and was elected to the New York State Assembly, serving from 1798 through 1799.[1] During John Adams' term as President, national parties became clearly defined. Burr loosely associated himself with the Democratic-Republicans, though he had moderate Federalist allies, such as Sen. Jonathan Dayton of New Jersey. Burr quickly became a key player in New York politics, more powerful in time than Hamilton, largely because of the Tammany Society, later to become the infamous Tammany Hall, which Burr converted from a social club into a political machine to help Jefferson reach the presidency. In 1799, Burr founded the Bank of the Manhattan Company, which in later years evolved into the Chase Manhattan Bank and later JPMorgan Chase.

In 1800, New York presidential electors were to be chosen by the state legislature as they had been in 1796 (for John Adams). The state assembly was controlled by the Federalists going into the April 1800 legislative elections. In the city of New York, assembly members were to be selected on an at-large basis. Burr and Hamilton were the key campaigners for their respective parties. Burr's Republican slate of assemblymen for New York City was elected, gaining control of the legislature and in due course giving New York's electoral votes to Jefferson and helping to win the 1800 presidential election for him. This drove another wedge between Hamilton and Burr. Burr became Vice President during Jefferson's first term (1801–1805).

During the French Revolution, French diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, in need of sanctuary to escape the Terror, stayed in Burr's home in New York City, but also spent much time at Hamilton's house. When Burr, after the Hamilton duel and treason trial, traveled Europe in an attempt to recoup his fortunes, Talleyrand-Périgord refused him entrance into France. Talleyrand was an ardent admirer of Alexander Hamilton and had even once written: "I consider Napoleon, Fox, and Hamilton, the three greatest men of our epoch, and if I were forced to decide between the three, I would give without hesitation the first place to Hamilton. He had divined Europe."

Vice Presidency

Because of his influence in New York City and the New York legislature, Burr was asked by Jefferson and Madison to help the Jeffersonians in the election of 1800. Burr sponsored a bill through the New York Assembly that established a water utility company that also allowed the Democratic-Republicans to create a bank for Jefferson's campaign. Another crucial move was Burr's success in getting his slate of New York City and nearby Electors to win election, thus defeating the Federalist slate, which was chosen and backed by Alexander Hamilton. This event drove a further wedge between the former friends.

Burr is known as the father of modern political campaigning. He enlisted the help of members of Tammany Hall, a social club, and won the election. He was then placed on the Democratic-Republican presidential ticket in the 1800 election with Jefferson. At the time, state legislatures chose the members of the U.S. Electoral College, and New York was crucial to Jefferson. Though Jefferson did win New York, he and Burr tied for the presidency with 73 electoral votes each.

It was well understood that the party intended that Jefferson should be president and Burr vice president, but the responsibility for the final choice belonged to the House of Representatives. The attempts of a powerful faction among the Federalists to secure the election of Burr failed, partly due to opposition by Alexander Hamilton and partly due to Burr himself, who did little to obtain votes in his own favor. He wrote to Jefferson underscoring his promise to be vice president, and again during the voting stalemate in the Congress wrote again that he would give it up entirely if Jefferson so demanded. Ultimately, the election devolved to the point where it took 36 ballots before James A. Bayard, a Delaware Federalist, submitted a blank vote. Federalist abstentions in the Vermont and Maryland delegations led to Jefferson's election as President, and Burr’s moderate Federalist supporters conceded his defeat.

Upon confirmation of Jefferson’s election, Burr became Vice President of the United States, but despite his letters and his shunning of any political activity during the balloting (he never left Albany) he lost Jefferson's trust after that, and was effectively shut out of party matters. Some historians conjecture that the reason for this was Burr's casual regard for politics, and that he didn't act aggressively enough during the election tie. Jefferson was tight-lipped in private about Burr, so his reasons are still not entirely clear. However, Burr's even-handed fairness and his judicial manner as President of the Senate were praised even by some of his enemies, and he fostered some time-honored traditions regarding that office. Historian Forrest MacDonald has credited Burr's judicial manner in presiding over the impeachment trial of Justice Samuel Chase with helping to preserve the principle of judicial independence that was established by Marbury v. Madison in 1803. It was written by one Senator that Burr had conducted the proceedings with the "impartiality of an angel and the rigor of a devil."

Burr's farewell in March 1805 moved some of his harshest critics in the Senate to tears. However, except for short quotes and descriptions of the address, which defended America's system of government, it was never recorded in full.

Duel with Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton fights his fatal duel with Vice President Aaron Burr.

When it became clear that Jefferson would drop Burr from his ticket in the 1804 election, the Vice President ran for the governorship of New York instead. Burr lost the election, and blamed his loss on a personal smear campaign believed to have been orchestrated by his own party rivals, including New York governor George Clinton. Hamilton also opposed Burr, due to his belief that Burr had entertained a Federalist secession movement in New York and called Burr "a dangerous man, and one who ought not be trusted with the reins of government." Burr, however, felt that Hamilton went too far at one political dinner, where he said that he could express a "still more despicable opinion" of Burr. After a letter regarding the incident written by Dr. Charles D. Cooper was published in the Albany Register, Burr sought an explanation from Hamilton.

Instead Hamilton responded casually by educating Burr on the many possible meanings of despicable, enraging and embarrassing Burr. Burr then demanded that Hamilton recant or deny anything he might have said regarding Burr’s character over the past 15 years, but Hamilton, having already been disgraced by the Maria Reynolds scandal and ever mindful of his own reputation and honor, did not. Burr responded by challenging Hamilton to personal combat under the code duello, the formalized rules of dueling. Hamilton's eldest son, Philip, had died in a duel in 1801.

Although still quite common, dueling had been outlawed in New York, and the punishment for conviction of dueling was death. It was illegal in New Jersey as well, but the consequences were less severe. On July 11, 1804, the enemies met outside of Weehawken, New Jersey, and following the code duello Hamilton was mortally wounded. There has been some controversy as to the claims of Burr and Hamilton's seconds. While one party indicates Hamilton fired only because of the shock of being struck by Burr's shot—the implication being that Hamilton's shot was unintentional—the other claims that Hamilton fired first. The two sides do, however, agree that there was a 3 to 4 second interval between the first and the second shot, raising difficult questions in evaluating the two camps' versions.[6] Historian William Weir contends that Hamilton might have been undone by his own machinations: secretly setting his pistol's trigger to require only a half pound of pressure as opposed to the usual 10 pounds. Burr, Weir contends, most likely had no idea that the gun's trigger pressure could be reset.[7] In any event, Hamilton's shot missed Burr, but Burr's shot was fatal. The bullet entered Hamilton's abdomen above his right hip, piercing Hamilton's liver and spine. Hamilton was evacuated to Manhattan where he lay in the house of a friend, receiving visitors until he died the following day. Burr was later charged with multiple crimes, including murder, in New York and New Jersey, but was never tried in either jurisdiction. He fled to South Carolina, where his daughter lived with her family, but soon returned to Philadelphia and then on to Washington to complete his term as Vice President.

Conspiracy and trial

Burr had leased 40,000 acres (160 km²) of land in the Texas part of Mexico, in the "Bastrop" lands from the Spanish government. His "conspiracy," he always avowed, was that if he settled there with a large group of (armed) "farmers" and war broke out, he would have an army with which to fight and claim land for himself, thus recouping his fortunes. However, that war in Texas didn't occur until 1836, the year of Burr's death.

In 1805, General James Wilkinson was chosen by Jefferson to be the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Army at New Orleans and Governor of the Louisiana Territory. It was revealed years later that at the time he was a spy, secretly in the pay of the Kingdom of Spain. Wilkinson had his own reasons for aiding the Burr Conspiracy. As Territorial Governor, he could have seized power for himself, as he had attempted in earlier plots in Kentucky. Ignorant of the General's treason, Burr enlisted Wilkinson and others to his plan in a reconnaissance mission to the West in April 1805.

Another member of the Burr conspiracy was the Anglo-Irish aristocrat Harman Blennerhassett. After marrying his niece, Blennerhassett had been forced out of Ireland. He came to live as a quasi-feudal lord, owning an island now bearing his name in the Ohio River. Highly educated, Blennerhassett maintained a scientific laboratory and an impressive villa on the island. It was there that he met Burr and agreed to help finance the ambitions of Burr's group.

Like many of his countrymen, including Jefferson, Burr anticipated a war with Spain a distinct possibility. In case of a war declaration, Andrew Jackson stood ready to help Colonel Burr, who had already purchased the land shares in Texas. Burr's expedition of perhaps eighty men carried modest arms for hunting, and no war materiel was ever revealed, even when Blennerhassett Island was seized by Virginia militia (the island was just off shore from modern Parkersburg, West Virginia).

After a near-incident with Spanish forces at Natchitoches, Wilkinson decided he could best serve his conflicting interests by betraying Burr's plans to President Jefferson and to his Spanish paymasters. Jefferson's passivity throughout most of 1806 remains baffling to this day, but he finally issued an order for Burr's arrest, declaring him a traitor even before an indictment. Burr read this in a newspaper in the Territory of Orleans on January 10, 1807. Jefferson's warrant put Federal agents on his trail. He turned himself in to the Federal authorities twice. Two judges found his actions legal and released him. Jefferson's warrant, however, followed Burr, who then fled for Spanish Florida; he was intercepted near the Missouri and Alabama Territories on February 19, 1807, and confined to Fort Stoddert after being arrested on charges of treason.[8]

Burr was treated well at Fort Stoddert. For example, in the evening of February 20, 1807, Burr appeared at the dinner table, and was introduced to Frances Gaines, the wife of the commandant Edmund P. Gaines and the daughter of Judge Harry Toulmin, the man responsible for the legal arrest of Burr. Frances and Burr played chess that evening and continued this entertainment during his confinement at the fort.

Burr's secret correspondence with Anthony Merry and the Marquis of Casa Yrujo, the British and Spanish ministers at Washington, was eventually revealed. It had been, it would seem, to secure money and to conceal his real designs, which were probably to help Mexico to overthrow Spanish power in the Southwest, and perhaps to found a dynasty in what would have become former Mexican territory. This seems to have been a misdemeanor, based on the Neutrality Act of 1794 passed to block filibuster expeditions like those questionable enterprises of George Rogers Clark and William Blount. Jefferson, however, sought the highest charges against Burr. It seems that both Jefferson and Burr gravely misjudged Wilkinson's character—Jefferson had personally put him in charge of the Army at New Orleans.

In 1807, on a charge of treason, Burr was brought to trial before the United States Circuit Court at Richmond, Virginia. His defense lawyers were John Wickham and Luther Martin. Burr's senior court was Edmund Randolph. Burr was arraigned four times for treason before a grand jury indicted him. This is surprising, because the only physical evidence presented to the Grand Jury was Wilkinson's so-called letter from Burr, proposing stealing land in the Louisiana Purchase. During the Jury's examination it was discovered that the letter was in Wilkinson's own handwriting – a "copy," he said, because he had "lost" the original. The Grand Jury threw the letter out, and the news made a laughingstock of the General for the rest of the proceedings. The trial, presided over by Chief Justice of the United States John Marshall, began on August 3.

Article 3, Section 3 of the United States Constitution requires that treason either be admitted in open court, or proved by an overt act witnessed by two people. Since no two witnesses came forward, Burr was acquitted on September 1, in spite of the full force of the Jefferson administration's political influence thrown against him. Immediately afterward, he was tried on a more appropriate misdemeanor charge, but was again acquitted.

The trial was a major test of the Constitution. It was carefully watched drama (Henry Adams gives a full account in The History of the United States of America (1801-1817)) as Thomas Jefferson wanted a conviction. He challenged the authority of the Supreme Court and its Chief Justice John Marshall – an Adams appointee who clashed with Jefferson over Adams' last-minute judicial appointments. Thomas Jefferson believed that Aaron Burr's treason was obvious, and warranted a conviction.The actual case hinged on whether Aaron Burr was present at certain events at certain times and in certain capacities. Thomas Jefferson used all of his influence to get Marshall to move to conviction, but Marshall was not swayed.

Later life

A later portrait of Burr

By this point all of Burr's hopes for a political comeback had been dashed, and he fled America and his creditors for Europe, where he tried to regain his fortunes. He lived abroad from 1808 to 1812, passing most of his time in England where he occupied a house on Craven Street in London. He became a good friend, even confidant, of the English Utilitarian philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, even living at Bentham's home on occasion. He also spent time in Scotland, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, and France. It was during this period he is known for remarking, "In the past even I was afraid of my own greatness, therefore I could not stand in front of mirrors." Ever hopeful, he solicited funding for renewing his plans for Mexico, but was rebuffed. He was ordered out of England and Napoleon Bonaparte refused to receive him—although one of his ministers held an interview concerning Burr's aims for Spanish Florida or British possessions in the Caribbean. After returning from Europe, Burr used the surname "Edwards," his mother's maiden name, for a while to avoid creditors.


Burr suffered a debilitating stroke in 1834, which rendered him immobile. In 1836, Burr died on Staten Island in the village of Port Richmond. He was buried near his father in Princeton, New Jersey.


According to his detractors, Burr could be unscrupulous, insincere, devious and amoral. Towards his friends and family, he was a man of firm principles, a kind man who, during his tenure in the Senate, was pleasing in his manners and generous to a fault.[citation needed]

Burr believed women to be intellectually equal to men, and hung a portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft over his mantle. The Burrs' daughter, Theodosia, was taught dance, music, several languages and learned to shoot from horseback. Until her death at sea in 1813, she remained devoted to her father. Not only did Burr advocate education for women, upon his election to the New York State Legislature, he submitted a bill to allow women to vote.

In her Autobiography of Jane Fairfield, the wife of the struggling poet Sumner Lincoln Fairfield, she relates how their friend Burr saved the lives of her two children, who were left with their grandmother in New York while the parents were in Boston. The grandmother was unable to provide adequate food or heat for the children and was in fear for their very lives. She sought out Burr, as the only one that might be able and willing to help her. Burr "wept and replied, 'Though I am poor and have not a dollar, the children of such a mother shall not suffer while I have a watch.' He hastened on this errand, and quickly returned, having pawned the article for twenty dollars, which he gave to make comfortable my precious babies."[9] In his later years in New York, he practiced estate law and provided money and education for several children, earning their lifelong affection.

Although he proved irresistible to many women, few historians doubt Burr's devotion to his first wife while she lived. He was profligate in his personal finances, and gave lip service to abolitionism even though he owned one or two slaves for a time. John Quincy Adams (who was a great admirer of Jefferson) said after the former vice president's death, "Burr's life, take it all together, was such as in any country of sound morals his friends would be desirous of burying in quiet oblivion." This was his own opinion: his father, President John Adams, was an admirer and frequent defender of Burr. John Adams wrote that Burr "had served in the army, and came out of it with the character of a knight without fear and an able officer."[10]

Gordon S. Wood, a leading scholar of the Revolutionary period, holds that it was Burr’s character that put him at odds with the rest of the “founding fathers,” especially Madison, Jefferson, and Hamilton, leading to his personal and political defeats and, ultimately, to his place outside the golden circle of revered revolutionary figures. Because of his habit of placing self-interest above the good of the whole, those men felt Burr represented a serious threat to the very ideals for which they had fought the Revolution. Their ideal, as particularly embodied in Washington and Jefferson, was that of “disinterested politics,” a government led by educated gentlemen who would fulfill their duties in a spirit of public virtue and without regard to personal interests or pursuits. This was the core of an Enlightenment gentleman, and Burr, his political enemies felt, lacked that essential core. Indeed, it was Hamilton’s belief that Burr’s self-serving nature made him unfit to hold office—especially the presidency. Jefferson, though one of Hamilton’s bitterest enemies, was at least a man of public virtue. This belief led Hamilton to launch his unrelenting campaign in the House of Representatives to prevent Burr’s election to the presidency, favoring his erstwhile enemy Jefferson, instead. Later in Burr’s life, Jefferson, in turn, would go so far as to push the boundaries of the Constitution in his attempt—in the charging and trying of Burr for treason—to eliminate Burr.[11]


A lasting consequence of Burr's role in the election of 1800 was the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which changed the way in which vice presidents were chosen.

In public and in private, Burr's behavior, even by his political foes, was labelled as considerate and gracious and he was often commended as a great listener. Although much took place in Burr's life, he is remembered by many only for the deadly duel with Hamilton. However, his establishment of guides and rules for the first Senate impeachment trial set a high moral bar for behavior and procedures in that chamber, many of which are followed today. His silence and refusal to engage in defending himself from his political critics either in legislatures or in the press, plus the fact that most of his personal papers disappeared with his daughter's death at sea and with his biographer, Matthew Davis, has left an air of mystery over his reputation.

Gore Vidal chose to write about the controversial figure in 1973 with his historical fiction novel, Burr.

In the comic book The Flash, a 1975 backup story featuring Green Lantern stars Burr.[12] "The Man of Destiny," written by Dennis O'Neil and drawn by Dick Dillin, reveals that Burr was recruited by aliens to act as a leader for an interplanetary society in chaos. (The alliance cloned Burr, sending the clone back to earth to duel with Hamilton and live out of the rest of "Burr"'s life on earth.)

A famous "Got Milk?" commercial directed by Michael Bay features a historian obsessed with the study of Hamilton (to the point of owning the guns and the bullet from the duel). He is called by a radio station while he has peanut butter in his mouth and asked who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel to win a large prize. The historian is out of milk and cannot manage to say the "Aaron Burr" clearly enough to be heard before his time runs out.

In the Chris Parnell and Andy Samberg Saturday Night Live digital short "Lazy Sunday," Parnell raps "You can call us Aaron Burr from the way we're droppin' Hamiltons," referring to spending ten dollar bills (which have Hamilton's portrait on them).

A boss in Super Mario Galaxy, Baron Brrr, is a reference to Aaron Burr.

In Michael Kurland's "The Whenabouts of Burr" (DAW, 1975) [13] the protagonists chase across various alternate universes, trying to recover the Constitution of the United States, which has been stolen and replaced by an alternate signed by Aaron Burr instead of Alexander Hamilton.

In Alexander C. Irvine's 2002 novel A Scattering of Jades, Burr takes part in a plot to bring an ancient Aztec deity into power, explaining his interest in Mexico.


  1. ^ a b Collection of U.S. House of Representatives. "BURR, Aaron". Retrieved 2009-11-26. 
  2. ^ Isenberg, p. 245–288
  3. ^ Lomask, 82
  4. ^ Shachner, 37
  5. ^ The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States By John Adams, Charles Francis Adams, Letter to James Lloyd, 17 Feb 1815, pp. 123–124
  6. ^ Ellis, 20–47
  7. ^
  8. ^ Pickett, 488–502
  9. ^ Fairfield, 89
  10. ^ The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States By John Adams, Charles Francis Adams, Letter to James Lloyd, 17 Feb 1815, pp. 123
  11. ^ Wood, Gordon S. Revolutionary Characters, What Made the Founding Fathers Different. (New York: Penguin Books, 2007) 225–242.
  12. ^ The Flash vol. 26, #231, January/February 1975.
  13. ^


  • Burr, Aaron. Political Correspondence and Public Papers of Aaron Burr. Mary-Jo Kline and Joanne W. Ryan, eds. 2 vol. Princeton University Press, 1983. 1311 pp.
  • Cheetham, James. Nine Letters on the Subject of Aaron Burrs Political Defection. Reprint by Kessinger Publishing, 2007.
  • Cheetham, James. A view of the political conduct of Aaron Burr, esq., vice-president of the United States. (1802)
  • Clark, Daniel. Proofs of the Corruption of Gen. James Wilkinson, and of His Connexion With Aaron Burr: A Full Refutation of His Slanderous Allegations in Relation to ... of the Principal Witness Against Him (1809). Reprinted by University Press of the Pacific, 2005.
  • Robertson, David. Reports of the Trials of Colonel Aaron Burr (Late Vice President of the United States) for Treason and for Misdemeanor...Two Volumes (report taken in shorthand) (1808)
  • Missouri History Museum Archives. Aaron Burr Papers
  • Van Ness, William Peter. An Examination of the Various Charges Exhibited Against Aaron Burr, Vice-President of the United States: and a Development of the Characters and Views of His Political Opponents. (1803) Reprinted by Kessinger Publishing, 2007.
  • Adams, John, and Charles Francis Adams. The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: With a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations. Boston: Little, Brown, 1850. googlebooks Retrieved October 4, 2008
  • Burr, Aaron, and Matthew L. Davis. Memoirs of Aaron Burr. With Miscellaneous Selections from His Correspondence. 2 Vols. New York: Harper & Bros, 1837. Project Gutenberg: Vol. 1, Vol. 2
  • Lomask, Milton. Aaron Burr. 2 Vols. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1979.
  • Ellis, Joseph. "The Founding Brothers." (2000).
  • Fairfield, Jane Frazee, and Sumner Lincoln Fairfield. The Autobiography of Jane Fairfield; Embracing a Few Select Poems by Sumner Lincoln Fairfield. Boston: Bazin and Ellsworth, 1860. Accessed September 5, 2007
  • Pickett, Albert James. "The Arrest of Aaron Burr in Alabama." History of Alabama, and Incidentally of Georgia and Mississippi, from the Earliest Period. Charleston: Walker and James, 1851. Accessed September 27, 2007
  • Schachner, Nathan, Aaron Burr, A Biography, New York, 1937. online edition
  • Isenberg, Nancy. Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr, New York, 2007. [1]
  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

Further reading

  • Abernethy, Thomas Perkins. "Aaron Burr in Mississippi." Journal of Southern History 1949 15(1): 9–21. Issn: 0022-4642 Fulltext: in Jstor
  • Adams, Henry, History of the United States, vol. iii. New York, 1890. (For the traditional view of Burr's conspiracy.)
  • Barbagallo, Tricia (March 10, 2007). "Fellow Citizens Read a Horrid Tale" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-06-04. 
  • Burdett, Charles. Margaret Moncrieffee: The First Love Of Aaron Burr (). Reprinted by Kessinger Publishing, 2007.
  • Clark, Alan J., Cipher Code of Dishonor: Aaron Burr, an American Enigma. (2005)
  • Clemens, Jere. (Hon.), The Rivals: A Tale of the Times of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. (1860)
  • Cohalan, John P., The Saga of Aaron Burr (1986)
  • Cote, Richard N., Theodosia - Theodosia Burr Alston: Portrait of a Prodigy. (2002)
  • Davis, Matthew L., Memoirs of Aaron Burr, Complete. (2007)
  • Faulkner, Robert K. "John Marshall and the Burr Trial." Journal of American History 1966 53(2): 247–258. Issn: 0021-8723 Fulltext: in Jstor
  • Fleming, Thomas. Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Future of America (1999)
  • Ford, Worthington Chauncey. "Some Papers of Aaron Burr", in Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, April 1919.
  • Freeman, Joanne B. "Dueling as Politics: Reinterpreting the Burr-Hamilton Duel," in William and Mary Quarterly 1996 53(2): 289–318. Issn: 0043-5597 Fulltext: in Jstor
  • Isenberg, Nancy. Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr (May 2008) Penguin Books ISBN 0143113712 – ISBN 9780143113713
  • Jenkinson, Isaac. Aaron Burr: His Personal and Political Relations with Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. (1902)
  • Kennedy, Roger G. Burr, Hamilton, and Jefferson: A Study in Character (2000).
  • Künstler, Laurence S. The Unpredictable Mr. Aaron Burr (1974).
  • Larson, Edward J. A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America's First Presidential Campaign (2007).
  • Lomask, Milton, "Aaron Burr," 2 Vols. New York, 1979, 1983.Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
  • McCaleb, Walter Flavius, The Aaron Burr Conspiracy: A History Largely from Original and Hitherto Unused Sources, New York, 1903.
  • McCaleb, Walter Flavius, A New Light on Aaron Burr (date unknown)
  • Melton, Buckner F., Jr. Aaron Burr: Conspiracy to Treason. New York: John Wiley, 2002. 278 pp. online edition
  • Parmet, Herbert S. and Marie B. Hecht; Aaron Burr; Portrait of an Ambitious Man (1967). online edition
  • Parton, James, The Life and Times of Aaron Burr, Boston and New York, 1898. (2 vols.)
  • Rogow, Arnold A. A Fatal Friendship: Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr (1998).
  • Rorabaugh, William J. "The Political Duel in the Early Republic: Burr v. Hamilton." Journal of the Early Republic 1995 15(1): 1–23. Issn: 0275-1275 Fulltext: in Jstor
  • Seton, Anya. My Theodosia (1948).
  • Todd, Charles Burr. The True Aaron Burr: A Biographical Sketch (1902). Reprinted by Kessinger Publishing, 2007.
  • Vail, Philip. The Great American Rascal: The Turbulent Life of Aaron Burr (1973).
  • Vidal, Gore, "Burr". New York. (For a fictionalized view of Burr's life during and after the U.S. Revolution)
  • Wandell, Samuel H. and Meade Minngerode. Aaron Burr (1925). Reprinted by Kessinger Publishing.
  • Wheelan, Joseph. Jefferson's Vendetta: The Pursuit of Aaron Burr and the Judiciary., 2005. 344 pp.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas Jefferson
Vice President of the United States
March 4, 1801 – March 4, 1805
Succeeded by
George Clinton
Legal offices
Preceded by
Richard Varick
Attorney General of New York
September 29, 1789 – November 8, 1791
Succeeded by
Morgan Lewis
United States Senate
Preceded by
Philip Schuyler
United States Senator (Class 1) from New York
March 4, 1791 – March 4, 1797
Served alongside: Rufus King, John Laurance
Succeeded by
Philip Schuyler
Party political offices
Preceded by
George Clinton(a)
Democratic-Republican Vice Presidential candidate(1)
1796(b), 1800(b)
Succeeded by
George Clinton
Notes and references
1. Prior to the passage of the Twelfth Amendment in 1804, each presidential elector would cast two votes; the highest vote-getter with a majority would become President and the runner-up would become Vice President.

a. In 1792, with George Washington as the prohibitive favorite to be elected President, the Democratic-Republican Party fielded George Clinton with the intention that he be elected Vice President.
b. Burr was a presidential candidate in both 1796 and 1800, although the Democratic-Republican Party also fielded Thomas Jefferson with the intention that Jefferson be elected President and Burr be elected Vice President.


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The rule of my life is to make business a pleasure, and pleasure my business.

Aaron Burr, Jr. (6 February 175614 September 1836) was the Vice-President of the United States under Thomas Jefferson, also famous for having killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel.


  • The rule of my life is to make business a pleasure and pleasure my business.
    • Letter to Pichon, reported in Marshall Brown, Wit and Humor of Bench and Bar (1899), p. 67.
  • There is a maxim, 'Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.' It is a maxim for sluggards. A better reading of it is, 'Never do today what you can as well do tomorrow,' because something may occur to make you regret your premature action.
    • Reported in Marshall Brown, Wit and Humor of Bench and Bar (1899), p. 67. Alternately reported as "Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow. Delay may give clearer light as to what is best to be done", reported in Jacob Morton Braude, The Complete Art of Public Speaking‎ (1970), p. 84.
  • Law is whatever is boldly asserted and plausibly maintained.
    • Reported in Burton Stevenson, Home Book of Proverbs, Maxims and Familiar Phrases (1948).
  • On that subject I am coy.
    • Last words; Burr was an atheist. His last words were a response to the efforts of his friend, Reverend P.J. Van Pelt, to get Burr to state that there was a God. Reported in Holmes Moss Alexander, Aaron Burr: The Proud Pretender‎ (1937), p. 356.

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

AARON BURR (1756-1836), American political leader, was born at Newark, New Jersey, on the 6th of February 1756. His father, the Rev. Aaron Burr (1715-1757), was the second president (1748-1757) of the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University; his mother was the daughter of Jonathan Edwards, the well-known Calvinist theologian. The son graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1772, and two years later began the study of law in the celebrated law school conducted by his brother-in-law, Tappan Reeve, at Litchfield, Connecticut. Soon after the outbreak of the War of Independence, in 1775, he joined Washington's army in Cambridge, Mass. He accompanied Arnold's expedition into Canada in 1775, and on arriving before Quebec he disguised himself as a Catholic priest and made a dangerous journey of 120 m. through the British lines to notify Montgomery, at Montreal, of Arnold's arrival. He served for a time on the staffs of Washington and Putnam in 1776-77, and by his vigilance in the retreat from Long Island he saved an entire brigade from capture. On becoming lieutenant-colonel in July 1777, he assumed the command of a regiment, and during the winter at Valley Forge guarded the "Gulf," a pass commanding the approach to the camp, and necessarily the first point that would be attacked. In the engagement at Monmouth, on the 28th of June 1778, he commanded one of the brigades in Lord Stirling's division. In January 1779 Burr was assigned to the command of :the "lines" of Westchester county, a region between the British post at Kingsbridge and that of the Americans about 15 m. to the north. In this district there was much turbulence and plundering by the lawless elements of both Whigs and Tories and by bands of ill-disciplined soldiers from both armies. Burr established a thorough patrol system, rigorously enforced martial law, and quickly restored order.

He resigned from the army in March 1779, on account of illhealth, renewed the study of law, was admitted to the bar at Albany in 1782, and began to practise in New York city after its evacuation by the British in the following year. In 1782 he married Theodosia Prevost (d. 1794), the widow of a British army officer who had died in the West Indies during the War of Independence. They had one child, a daughter, Theodosia, born in 1783, who became widely known for her beauty and accomplishments, married Joseph Alston of South Carolina in 1801, and was lost at sea in 1813. Burr was a member of the state assembly (1784-1785), attorney-general of the state (1789-1791), United States senator (1791-1797), and again a member of the assembly (1798-1799 and 1800-1801). As national parties became clearly defined, he associated himself with the Democratic-Republicans. Although he was not the founder of Tammany Hall, he began the construction of the political machine upon which the power of that organization is based. In the election of 1800 he was placed on the Democratic-Republican presidential ticket with Thomas Jefferson, and each received the same number of electoral votes. It was well understood that the party intended that Jefferson should be president and Burr vice-president, but owing to a defect (later remedied) in the Constitution the responsibility for the final choice was thrown upon the House of Representatives. The attempts of a powerful faction among the Federalists to secure the election of Burr failed, partly because of the opposition of Alexander Hamilton and partly, it would seem, because Burr himself would make no efforts to obtain votes in his own favour. On Jefferson's election, Burr of course became vice-president. His fair and judicial manner as president of the Senate, recognized even by his bitterest enemies, helped to foster traditions in regard to that position quite different from those which have become associated with the speakership of the House of Representatives.

Hamilton had opposed Burr's aspirations for the vice-presidency in 1792, and had exerted influence through Washington to prevent his appointment as brigadier-general in 1798, at the time of the threatened war between the United States and France. It was also in a measure his efforts which led to Burr's lack of success in the New York gubernatorial campaign of 1804; moreover the two had long been rivals at the bar. Smarting under defeat and angered by Hamilton's criticisms, Burr sent the challenge which resulted in the famous duel at Weehawken, N.J., on the 11th of July 1804, and the death of Hamilton on the following day. After the expiration of his term as vicepresident (March 4, 1805), broken in fortune and virtually an exile from New York, where, as in New Jersey, he had been indicted for murder after the duel with Hamilton, Burr visited the South-west and became involved in the so-called conspiracy which has so puzzled the students of that period. The traditional view that he planned a separation of the West from the Union is now discredited. Apart from the question of political morality he could not, as a shrewd politician, have failed to see that the people of that section were too loyal to sanction such a scheme. The objects of his treasonable correspondence with Merry and Yrujo, the British and Spanish ministers at Washington, were, it would seem, to secure money and to conceal his real designs, which were probably to overthrow Spanish power in the Southwest, and perhaps to found an imperial dynasty in Mexico. He was arrested in 1807 on the charge of treason, was brought to trial before the United States circuit court at Richmond, Virginia, Chief-Justice Marshall presiding, and he was acquitted, in spite of the fact that the political influence of the national administration was thrown against him. Immediately afterward he was tried on a charge of misdemeanour, and on a technicality was again acquitted. He lived abroad from 1808 to 1812, passing most of his time in England, Scotland, Denmark, Sweden and France; trying to secure aid in the prosecution of his filibustering schemes but meeting with numerous rebuffs, being ordered out of England and Napoleon refusing to receive him. In 1812 he returned to New York and spent the remainder of his life in the practice of law. Burr was unscrupulous, insincere and notoriously immoral, but he was pleasing in his manners, generous to a fault, and was intensely devoted to his wife and daughter. In 1833 he married Eliza B. Jumel (1769-1865), a rich New York widow; the two soon separated, however, owing to Burr's having lost much of her fortune in speculation. He died at Port Richmond, Staten Island, New York, on the 14th of September 1836.

The standard biography is James Parton's The Life and Times of Aaron Burr (first edition, 1857; enlarged edition, 2 vols., Boston and New York, 1898). W. F. McCaleb's The Aaron Burr Conspiracy (New York, 1903) is a scholarly defence of the West and incidentally of Burr against the charge of treason, and is the best account of the subject; see also I. Jenkinson, Aaron Burr (Richmond, Ind., 1902). For the traditional view of Burr's conspiracy, see Henry Adams's History of the United States, vol. iii. (New York, 1890).

<< Burntisland

Burriana >>


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address