Aaron Burr in the News

May 07- Dec. 07


December 31, 2007

Annual Meeting in Kingston, NY

Get information here


Attached is a description of the Peter Burr family reunion plans. I have condensed it from information sent to me by Joyce Cole (bjoycecole@gmail.com), who is organizing this event. I believe it would make a newsworthy item for the ABA website.

Further, I encourage Joyce inform you directly of further doings. In particular, the best way for our members to have up-to-date access to her plans would be to establish a link on our site's home page to her website once it is up and running.

Best wishes,


Link to Reunion document


Season's Greetings to all ABA members  !

Mary mentioned how this was one of her favorite cards received this year.

I told her it was mine too.     Thank you Lyman and Mary.

The scene of course depicts South Street Seaport at the time Aaron Burr traveled to the docks each day.

(The Brooklyn Bridge was built later in that century.)

He was awaiting the arrival of the schooner The Patriot with his beloved Theodosia aboard.

But it never arrived, and was considered lost at sea.

Instead of visiting her father, she perished.

Whose heart would not break?





Looking Back: Future governor, Revolutionary soldier born

by Claire Heininger/The Star-Ledger

Monday December 03, 2007, 7:00 AM



On Dec. 3, 1756, Aaron Ogden was born in Elizabethtown, the son of a legislator who would rise to a public service career of his own.

Ogden, who served in the military during the American Revolution and the undeclared war against France, grew into a skilled orator and debater. He served in Congress from 1801 to 1803 and was elected governor of New Jersey in 1812.

Ogden, who also had business interests in steamboat machinery, later became embroiled in a Supreme Court case concerning the monopoly of steamboat service in New York waters. Drained of his resources from legal bills, Ogden faced bankruptcy and watched his home and assets seized.

He was briefly sent to debtor's prison in 1829, but his friend Aaron Burr quickly had a law passed that exempted all Revolutionary War veterans from imprisonment for debt. Once freed, Ogden went on to serve as a trustee of the College of New Jersey and the collector for Jersey City.


Dear ABA members,

Antonio just telephoned and emailed to let you know  about this upcoming event.

Please try to attend if you can.

The lecture will discuss Aaron Burr, DeWitt Clinton, and others.


  Visit us at www.nyc.gov/parks
for the latest in Parks news and information.


Hello everyone,

I apologize for not including the event time in the first email.

7:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 29, 2007 at Tony Dapolito

The Forgotten Revolution- How New Yorkers Created Our Political Party System


Hope to see you there,






Revolutionary Real Estate   11/27/07

Roger Straus III   

Statesmen, soldiers and spies who made America—and the way they lived


America's founding fathers shaped one of history's most dramatic stories, transforming 13 obscure colonies into an emerging nation whose political principles would change the world. But to see them in the household settings they shared with wives and families and in the intimate context of their very different era, is to understand the founders as individuals, extraordinary ones, to be sure, but also men who supped and shaved, wore slippers and read by candlelight. It was also an extraordinary time, but a time of achingly slow communications and travel, primitive and perverse medical care, a moral code that had only begun to condemn slavery, and ways of living that seem today an odd mixture of the charming, the crude and the peculiar.  Continue reading article here: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/founding-fathers-200712.html


New book:  http://www.philly.com/inquirer/entertainment/books/20071125_1800__Dawn_of_partisan_elections.html



Thank you for mailing me the video tape "Magnificent Doll" starring David Niven as Aaron Burr and Ginger Rogers as Dolly Payne Todd Madison, filmed 95 minutes long in 1946.  You were correct in your warning to me that Burr's character starts out charming as we know him, and then evolves with lies and inaccuracies to cast him as the villain.  Burgess Meridith playing Jimmy Madison becomes the hero along with Dolly making the ridiculous speech in Richmond at the conclusion of Burr's trial.   (If any ABA member would like to publish a movie review here, please send it to me.) When Hamilton came to Burr during the election tie, and Burr insulted him (with roles of both reversed) I laughed so hard !  Burr's character is basically fine until he takes Dolly to a restaurant where a sword fight breaks out, and Burr watches it with joy.  The Hollywood writers have no perception into Burr's character at all. It is post WWII 1946, and they need an enemy, so they twist Burr history to meld fact with fiction for the uneducated masses.

The Blennerhassett Mansion scene was cool. It looks like the building with side wings we all know.  In reality Aaron is not even there when the militia invades. They drink all the wine in the cellar and vandalize the home. In the movie, Burr tells his men to ambush and fire upon the approaching militia, and they disobey him. What nonsense!  The movie also portrays Virginia plantation owner Madison as trying to pass a law stopping slave shipping from Africa (so Madison and others would have a monopoly on slave children who they own for sale. ) Abolitionist Burr is shown saying the law was unenforceable, as if he, not the Virginians oppose slavery!  When Dolly supposedly visits Burr in NYC, it's shown she convinces him not to deal for the tied presidency. There's no mention that he attends Theodosia and Joseph's wedding. There's no mention that Jefferson bribes Delaware's rep. James Bayard to change his vote.  Dolly has no children in this movie except one that died. No mention that Burr was appointed guardian of her real son. (" The education of my son is to him and to me the most interesting of all earthly concerns")

So I now see how our Founder Samuel Burr saw the necessity to start the ABA the year that this film was propagandized upon the American people some 61 years ago. Thank heavens for his standing up to the truth.  We await the rebuttal film that casts Aaron Burr as he really was.

Thank you for this nice gift Brian.  Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.



True life: I have a famous name


Washington University has produced its share of famous alumni, like Peter Sarsgaard, Steve Fossett and Tennessee Williams. Few students, however, are aware of the numerous "celebrities" that have yet to graduate. Mixed in amongst this student body are students graced with names that are recognized all over the world-because of someone else's fame. Here's a look at some of the people on the campus that share names with the rich and the famous.



Aaron Burr

Aaron Burr is a sophomore in Engineering. When he introduces himself to new acquaintances, he finds that their reactions tend to pan out in a distinctive manner.

"You can always see them squint, you know, thinking about middle school history," said Burr. "[They think] 'Were you a president? Did you shoot a president?' Well, almost."

The details of the infamous Alexander Hamilton duel then come out, he discusses the early history of the United States, he talks about the trial for treason-and only after all that can he proceed to have a normal conversation.

Unlike the other Wash. U. pseudo-celebrities, Burr is actually related to his more famous counterpart.

"He's an uncle, but a great-great-great-great-great-great-uncle," said Burr. "Six greats, something like that…people always get a crack out of the fact that I'm related to him."

Despite his lineage Burr has no political aspirations, and actually plans to be an engineer.

Because of the actions of his forefather, Aaron's name occasionally causes a somewhat mixed reaction.

"Initially, it's never a bad reaction," said Burr. "But they'll start talking to me about it…saying I was America's first supervillian [and] stuff like that. A lot of people ask me if I'm good with guns, if I'm going to take over [part of the United States]…just little history cracks…but occasionally some people online named Hamilton will send me some pretty mean things…I try to laugh it off."

His high school history teachers would give him a hard time, but in general Burr finds that people get used to the famous moniker pretty quickly.

"In eighth grade I even did a little history project about him," said Burr. "I dressed up and everything."

He's handled the pressure of celebrity and still manages to live a fairly normal life.

"Of course, I still get some funny looks when I check stuff out of the library," said Burr.






I found a video of Gore Vidal speaking on Aaron Burr.  It is interesting if you haven't seen it.


I had trouble downloading it, but hopefully you won't :)



'Heaven's homicidal beauty returns to print

By Scott Eyman

Palm Beach Post Books Editor

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Ben Ames Williams' Leave Her to Heaven was the basis for a memorably demented Technicolor extravaganza starring Gene Tierney and Cornel Wilde. The story concerns a beautiful woman so controlling and obsessed with her man that she kills anybody who has any potential for diverting his attention from her - his brother, other women, basically anybody other than a clerk in a grocery store. Williams was a popular novelist between the World Wars with a specialty in historical themes (All the Brothers Were Valiant, etc.).

Leave Her to Heaven has been reprinted by the Chicago Review Press, and it turns out to be very close to its film adaptation, except the movie has better dialogue. Williams did sweep and story pretty well, but his dialogue was of the "Richard, will it please you to know that we are to have a son?" variety.


Also reissued by the Chicago Review is Anya Seton's first novel, My Theodosia, a novel about the daughter of Aaron Burr. Seton was a more assured stylist than Ben Ames Williams, although always a romanticist, but her subject is fascinating.

Her book is based on the historical record as it existed in 1941, and it's odd that nobody else has thought to write a book about Burr's daughter. .......


What about Richard Cote's Theodosia in 2003 ?



Holiday song & dance

Local shows a must-see this season

Tom Murray/The Sun News
Jason and Christine Cox sing and dance to the song "Baby it's Cold Outside" during the Alabama Theater Christmas Show.

Dancers perform during the Alabama Theater Christmas Show. Jeff Zona and Regina McCrary sing a tribute to the troops serving overseas during the Alabama Theater Christmas Show. Victoria Huggins sings with the "most famous reindeer of all" during the Alabama Theater Christmas Show.


Alabama Theatre
Barefoot Landing, North Myrtle Beach

The show is at 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays through Dec. 22. There also are 2 p.m. shows on Nov. 23, Nov. 27, Nov. 30, Dec. 5 and Dec. 7. There is no show Dec. 23-25, with 7:30 p.m. shows Dec. 26-30 and 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. Dec. 31. Tickets are $37.95, $39.90 and $44.95.
What you'll hear | Don't expect to hear the unfamiliar here: This show is all about the classics, beginning with a medley featuring tunes such as "White Christmas," "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and "Deck the Halls." The singers and dancers perform flawlessly, and the women's costumes are so pretty you'll wish you were in the show. The show gives each of the talented musicians some time in the spotlight, too.
Back for her eighth year in the Christmas show is teenager Victoria Huggins of St. Pauls, N.C., a little girl with a powerful voice especially suited for tunes such as "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." Also part of the cast is 14-year-old dancer Aaron Burr of North Myrtle Beach. As with all the Alabama Theatre shows, comedian Grant Turner, as Ricky Mokel, is a crowd favorite. He entertained the crowd with his comments about why U.S. 17 Bypass is called a bypass and more.
What you'll see | If the songs don't get you in the Christmas spirit, the decorations surely will, with tastefully decorated trees in the lobby and auditorium. The show scenery takes you to a winter village scene, a toyland and, for the final act, home.
Seen in the gift shop | From T-shirts to toys to wacky hats, you'll find it there. Also Christmas show host Greg Rowles and comedian Grant Turner were greeting visitors and selling their CDs in the lobby during intermission.
At the concession stand | You can snack on popcorn, candy, ice cream and soft drinks.
— Gwen Fowler, The Sun News


News   Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ft. Massac Encampment this weekend in Metropolis


By Diane Wilkins, Marion Daily Republican


....In 1794, President George Washington ordered the fort rebuilt, and for the next 20 years it protected U.S. military and commercial interests in the Ohio Valley....


U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr and Gen. James Wilkinson, who allegedly drew up plans to personally conquer Mexico and the American southwest, met at Fort Massac during the summer of 1805. Edward Everett Hale later used the setting of Fort Massac and the Burr-Wilkinson plot as basis for his classic historical novel, “The Man Without a Country.” ....


Dear Sir,
My name is Robert Botts & I have been researching my family for some years now. I came across a book on google searcg call 'Aaron Burr part 2' written by Samuel Wardel in 1925. In the limited search it mentions a portrait of one of Burr's lawyers, a Benjamin Botts, on page 200. This gentleman was my (4X) great grandfather. I was wondering if you have a copy of the book & could tell me if it is the same is the attached file that I got from the Weems-Botts Musuem website. If not, would it be possible to get a scanned file?

Thank you for your time & effort & hope to hear from you soon.
Robert Botts



Can any members help him?
I have Sam Wandell in 1927 and 1936.

 No reference to Botts there (Vol. 1).


Dear Sir:
I have a copy of the 1925, Samuel H. Wandell and Meade Minnigerode, two volume biography titled, AARON BURR. There is a portrait of Benjamin Botts on page 200 with the caption "Now reproduced for the first time from an original portrait in the possession of the family." This portrait clearly matches the one presently on the ABA web site with your letter. Unfortunately the picture from the book will not scan well. If you will provide me your address I will send you a copy.
I have been collecting Burr letters and artifacts for nearly 15 years. I have been looking for a letter or some other example of your Great Grandfather's handwriting. Thus far, he and Jack Baker are the only lawyers involved in Burr's treason trial that have alluded me. Benjamin Botts, the youngest on Burr's team of lawyers, demonstrated a great deal of legal talent during Burr's trial. It is my understanding that he died as a result of a fire quite early in life. Burr later helped the Botts family in some way that at present escapes my memory. Please contact me if you wish a copy of the portrait or if you have an original letter of your Great Grandfather's to spare.
Brian D. Hardison



Founding Chauvinist Pig?



Published: October 14, 2007

If you really want to analyze the founding fathers through their love lives, Alexander Hamilton is the man to watch, the only blackmail-paying, apology-offering adulterer in the bunch. Washington, Adams, Jay, the long and loyally married, can sit this one out. A scamp from early on and a flirt well into his widowed 70s, Franklin was ultimately more talk than action. Which again raises that pesky question: What to do with Jefferson? .....

Many things gave Jefferson debilitating headaches — the death of his mother and the trial of Aaron Burr among them — but the news of Rebecca Burwell’s engagement to a rival set off the first. It does not seem too much to label the affair an obsession on Jefferson’s part, though generally he was tepid in his tributes, except where architecture was concerned. There is no question that he took the news badly. There is equally little question that a long sulk followed. On the other hand, brooding was a Jeffersonian specialty. After his college graduation, he warned that he would in all likelihood die soon, a claim he made regularly for the next 63 years.

See article here




Subject: work in progress
Date: 10/13/2007 2:12:33 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time
From: tolstoy@erols.com
To: PeterJTJ@aol.com


The Redemption of Comfort Tyler  10/13/07

Comfort Tyler was one of the first settlers in the Finger Lakes region of
New York and quartermaster to Aaron Burr’s attempt to establish a colony
including free blacks in the Arkansas-Louisiana Territory

The Onondaga Heudenausaune were the keepers of the Iroqois Nation’s Central
Fire. They named  Comfort Tyler To Whan La Gua for his ability to work
easily in both Indian and White  worlds. They showed him how to process
local salt bogs for food preservation. This was essential for all settlers
barging down the Ohio and Mississippi. Burr’s connections in New Orleans,
the most French and cosmopolitan city in America, made him a threat to the
Virginia Plantation slaveholding  interests. If Burr, a leading abolitionist
(and feminist) among the founding fathers, should succeed in Louisiana, he
could move  the Deep South and the West, all the way to Mexico City, out of
the Confederacy. Without these states, there would be  no demographic
possibility for the Civil War.

Tyler was arrested by Jefferson and  brought to the Richmond trial with Burr
(1807). His case was dismissed after Burr was found not guilty, but his
political life, like Burr’s,  was  destroyed. Tyler became ashamed of his
association with the former Vice President.

Today the heirs of Tyler’s commercial salt industry have made Lake Onondaga
the most polluted in New York State. The local  Iroqois have sued the state,
the Federal government, and Monsanto Chemicals et al. to clean up their
Confederacy’s former central meeting place.  Contemporary  Iroqois fault
Tyler for being the great father of excess capitalism not inclusive

While the legal settlement of this case is being dragged out by the
polluters and the Courts,  the true Redemption of Comfort Tyler lies



We had a wonderful meeting in Richmond.

Here are photos.

Oct 9, 2007

Richmond Photos before the Annual Luncheon


Annual Luncheon



Burr's farewell speech to the Senate on March 2, 1805 was recorded by a reporter from the Washington Federalist & reported in that paper on March 13. Burr told Theodosia that the reporter's version was "awkwardly and pompously told" (Burr to Theodosia, Mar. 13, 1805, Davis, ed., Memoirs 2:360), but it's the only version we have.  The speech was analyzed by Thomas L. Gordon in his article "Aaron Burr's Farewell Address" in Quarterly Journal of Speech, Vol. 39 (1953), pp. 273-82.

It was great to see you at the meeting. I think it was a great success.

Best regards,

Thanks Sue!
Great seeing you.


Dear ABA members,

I came across and old ABA pamphlet in my archives which was produced on February 6, 1947, shortly after the founding of the organization. 

Attached are the first scanned pages from the publication.

Hope to see you in Richmond.

Frank Burr








Thank you Frank for making this available for our readers.


Here is a scan of a picture from Magnificent Doll.



New Jersey article with comments about Burr 9/25/07




Thank you Brian for inviting me to The Hermitage for Dr. Nancy Isenberg's lecture.

Our friends at The Hermitage are so gracious and knowledgeable about Theodosia, and when she resided there.

What a wonderful dinner they hosted for us at the 1790 Ho-Ho-Kus Inn!

The display of your artifacts was magnificent.


Dr. Isenberg's 45 minute talk had everyone spellbound, and full of positive questions that she later answered brilliantly.

This is part of the audience.  90 made reservations, and even more attended.


Dr. Nancy Isenberg, Judge Brian Hardison, with a copy of the watch photograph he gave as a present to The Hermitage,

and your faithful webmaster Pete,  looking forward to Richmond next week.





Military orders for Battle of Bunker Hill realize $22,050

An original, two-page military document issuing direct orders by the Commanding General of the American Forces in the days immediately preceding the famous Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775, sold for $22,050 in a mail bid and Internet sale held August 25 by Early American History Auctions (www.EarlyAmerican.com).

[USPRwire, Thu Sep 13 2007] An original, two-page military document issuing direct orders by the Commanding General of the American Forces in the days immediately preceding the famous Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775, sold for $22,050 in a mail bid and Internet sale held August 25 by Early American History Auctions (www.EarlyAmerican.com). All prices include an 18% buyer's premium.
The document is dated June 14-16, 1775, and contains regimental orders from General Artemus Ward, the Commander of the American and Continental and Patriot Militias at Cambridge (outside Boston). The dates are significant, since they coincide with the official founding of the United State Army by the Continental Congress. June 14th has forever since been celebrated as Flag Day here.
“This document was one of our favorite lots of the sale,” remarked Dana Linett, president of Early American History Auctions. “The winning bidder was a woman who bought it as a gift for her husband's collection. I'm sure he was very pleased. It's a true piece of American history.” Mr. Linett added the sale was “our most heavily bid-on auction of the year. Most lots exceeded their estimates.”
In other highlights:
The top lot of the sale was a 1694 Carolina Elephant Token, PCGS graded Very Fine-30, that crossed the block at $25,960. The piece was able to soar past the high estimate of $24,000 by its great condition, but also because of its rarity: on the side that says “God Preserve Carolina The Lord's Proprietor, 1694,” the “O” is over the “E” in 'Proprietor.' An elephant is clearly visible on the obverse.
The biggest surprises of the sale was an 1860 ferrotype portrait pin of Abraham Lincoln – beardless – in choice near mint condition. The pin was expected to fetch no more than $1,800, but a pair of determined bidders drove the final gavel price to an astounding $12,980. The pin featured a sharp, clean image of Lincoln from his first presidential campaign, in an elegant, gilt brass oval frame.

An oil-on-canvas painting that served as cover art for the auction catalog, titled “President Jefferson and His Cabinet, 1801,” unsigned and in choice extremely fine condition, realized $11,800. Depicted in the 26” x 45.5” painting are President Jefferson, Vice President Aaron Burr, Secretary of State James Madison and other cabinet members, in an ornate, carved, gold-painted wooden frame. ........





The Procedural Filibuster: a Brief History Print E-mail
Written by EditorsChoice   
Thursday, 06 September 2007


It has been many years since the last real filibuster was held in the U.S. Senate. In the meantime there have been numerous procedural filibusters, an interesting concept that is unique to our American political system. Here is a brief history about how the procedural filibuster came into existence.


The U.S. Constitution contains a provision that each house of Congress may determine their own set of rules and procedures. The early Senate adopted many of their rules from the British parliamentary experience. Traditional British parliamentary procedures included a section about the concept that allows a member to interrupt debate on an issue by raising a motion to call the “previous question.” If this motion is seconded and passed, then the question is put to an immediate vote with no further debate allowed. Thomas Jefferson wrote about this procedure in his Manual of Parliamentary Practice. Not surprisingly then, a similar procedure appeared in the list of rules used by the Continental Congress in 1788. In 1789 the rules adopted by the U.S. Senate also included a similar section about calling the “previous question.”


Vice President Aaron Burr, in his farewell speech to the Senate in March of 1805, recommended that the rule regarding the "previous question" be discarded since it had been used only once during the previous 4 years. When the rules were rewritten in 1806, the section about the "previous question" was omitted.


However, the rules of the Senate still granted authority to the presiding officer of the Senate, the Vice President, to use his discretion to bring to an end long, dilatory speeches and to disallow meaningless motions. In fact, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Aaron Burr each used this power during their terms as Vice President.


As the years went by this power was viewed suspiciously as one that could potentially be abused. An incident in 1825 caused the Senate to revise their rules. Vice President Calhoun allowed Senator Randolph to ramble on daily over a three month period about irrelevant subjects,.......








Please find attached an email with attachments concerning the Isenberg lecture and exhibit at The Hermitage. Please post on the website. Let me know if you are coming. Thanks

I am planning to attend Brian.

See you there.

Pete 9/5/07


Exhibition of Aaron Burr Artifacts

Link to pdf about Hermitage Lecture


In anticipation of the upcoming lecture by Dr. Nancy Isenberg, author of the new book Fallen Father: Life of Aaron Burr, The Hermitage has placed on exhibition a special display of loaned historical artifacts related to this “Founding Father.”  The exhibition opens on August 4th and runs through September 19th, the date of Dr. Isenberg’s lecture at The Hermitage.


The Burr artifacts on exhibition have been loaned to the museum from the collection of Brian Hardison and include Burr’s personal pocket watch and four original autographed letters.  The watch was commissioned by Burr in 1790 and was later presented as a gift to his wife Theodosia.  Three of the letters reveal Burr’s military involvement during the Revolutionary War.  In the fourth letter, perhaps the most touching, Burr writes about the 1794 death of his beloved wife Theodosia.  It was Theodosia, the widow of James Marcus Prevost, who married Aaron Burr fourteen years earlier inside her home, The Hermitage in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey.


The origin of The Hermitage National Historic Landmark may be traced back to pre-Revolutionary times when it was home to the patriotic Prevost family.  During that time, The Hermitage was host to notable eighteenth century figures such as George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and the Marquis de Lafayette.  In the early 1800s, the house was purchased by the Rosencrantz family who resided there for the next 160 years.  In 1847, the small red sandstone Dutch style structure was enlarged and remodeled into the Romantic Gothic style home as it appears today.


The lecture by Dr. Nancy Isenberg, from the University of Tulsa, will take place on Wednesday, September 19th at 7:30 pm at The Hermitage Educational and Conference Center, 335 North Franklin Turnpike, Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ 07423.  The lecture is part of the year-long History Lecture Series at The Hermitage, which is open to the general public.  For more information, please call (201) 445-8311.



Louisville, KY
Monday, September 3, 2007

Best Bet

Wednesday: Afternoon Lecture Series

By Ken Neuhauser
The Courier-Journal

The next Historic Locust Grove Afternoon Lecture Series will feature a talk about Aaron Burr, the famous attorney and politician who was a dinner guest of the Croghan family during an 1805 visit to Louisville.

Walter Baker, a Glasgow attorney and past president of the Kentucky Historical Society, will discuss Burr's fascinating life on Wednesday at Locust Grove.



The theme of the 2007 Lecture Series is "They Came to Locust Grove: Important Visitors to the Home."



8/10 NPR

Really, how much do you know about Aaron Burr, other than the fact that he killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel he didn't even want to fight? Gore Vidal gave us a fictionalized account of Burr in his 1973 novel Burr. Ron Chernow portrayed Burr as a villain — but a fascinating one — in his biography of Alexander Hamilton.

Nancy Isenberg's years of research have yielded a very readable history of this complex, elegant man — a former vice president — whose political life ended the day Alexander Hamilton's did. (Read an excerpt.)But as Isenberg shows, when Burr's Washington aspirations died, his life as a Western explorer blossomed.



Hello Peter,
I hope you have been well and are enjoying the summer.
Just wanted to let you know, in case you have not otherwise heard, that the Hermitage is having Nancy Isenberg give a lecture on "The Private and Public Worlds of Aaron Burr" on Wednesday September 19 at 7:30.  We would very much like to have you come.  As you, I am sure, know Isenberg has just written a very positive life of Burr and we look forward to her talk.  She will be east from the U. of Tulsa in mid-September.
We have been trying to contact all of the Burr Associates.  Mr. Hardison called and has arranged with us to show the items in his Burr collection.  They have just been at the Grolier Club in NYC , and we will show them through August until the lecture in September.
If you have a chance I hope you will circulate our invite to other Burr Associates and to our Weehawken friends. 
It would be very enjoyable to see and talk with you again.
Best Wishes
Henry Bischoff


Thank you Henry.
I have posted your email message to me on our web site
I am planning to attend the 9/19 lecture.
Glad that you and Brian could display his exhibit.
Best wishes to all at the Hermitage.




Dear Peter,
My brother, Stuart Johnson desires you to put this on the web for the ABA:
new book by Prof Michael J. Drexler
Secret History ;or the horrors of St. Domingo and Laura
to order:
isbn: 978-1-55111-346-3 paperback $17.95 u s
Broadview Press
P O Box 1243
Peterborough O N, Kpj 7H 5
or fax to: 705-743 8353
shipping $5.00 for the first book, 50cents for each additional book
email is customerservice @broadview press.com
also my book : The Burrs
I am still selling for $15.00 plus $3.00 shipping
send to VonMelsbach de Bures Pub Co.
318 W Grant St.
Lancaster, Pa. 17603
phone is 717-295-1596
email is mphyllis 87@aol.com
my book has info that goes along with these 2 books by Prof Drexler



Dear Peter:

The Grolier Club exhibit ended this past Saturday. It was a great success. I would like to thank everyone who attended. With your assistance, Aaron Burr's Watch, three Burr Revolutionary War (1776-1777) letters and Burr's 1794 letter to Timothy Edwards concerning the death of Burr's wife are now on exhibit at The Hermitage in Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ through September 20, 2007. The exhibit is there to coincide with the previously announced presentation on Burr by Dr. Nancy Isenberg at The Hermitage on September 19, 2007. Please inform the membership. I hope this email finds you well.
Brian D. Hardison    




A Change for the Electoral College   By Tim Holland   7/31/07

It seems to me that as we continue into the 21st century we should revisit the way in which we elect our presidents. The manner in which the electoral college is structured seems to run counter to the “one man, one vote” principal the courts have affirmed with regard to non-presidential elections. However, although it is impractical to eliminate the electoral college and replace it with a simple popular vote (see Time for a Change – 1, ToTheCenter.com June 13, 2007), there is a way to make it more responsive to voting preferences.

In order to bring about a change, it is necessary to understand the electoral system itself and why it was a good idea to begin with and continues to have merit.

The use of electors, who are the persons who actually elect the president of the United States is found in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of Electors equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress:….

The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two persons…. The Person having the greatest number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed:….

The twelfth amendment to the Constitution changed Article II so that separate votes for president and vice president were mandated. It was proclaimed on September 25, 1804 and is the only change made to the Constitution relating to the Electoral System. It was the response to the presidential election of 1800 where Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr each received 73 electoral votes and left the election of the president up to the House of Representatives. According to the rules set out in Article II, Section 1, each state delegation had one vote. With 16 states voting, it would take a clear majority of nine to elect a President. The initial vote was eight for Jefferson and six for Burr with two states’ delegations evenly split. The vote remained unchanged through 35 ballots until Jefferson made some concessions to the Federalists and received ten votes on the 36th ballot, thereby giving him the presidency and Burr the vice presidency.

The electoral college worked as designed but had one flaw: the candidate receiving the second highest electoral vote total would become the Vice President. After the 1804 election, the states’ representatives believed the country would be best served by a separate and distinct electoral vote for Vice President, hence the twelfth amendment. Even though in modern day elections.....







Hello -

I have the only manuscript in the world of a full, book-length biography of Aaron Burr written around 1919 by a former United States Senator and Representative from Illinois - Albert J. Hopkins.  I know it is impossible to become wealthy from this book, but if anyone is interested in it I'd be happy to show it to them.
An interesting aspect of this book is that Hopkins having spent nearly 20 years in D.C., probably knew people who knew Burr. This might put a spin on the book that could be of interest. It might even contain some information that no one else has ever published (although I really doubt this).
I live in  Illinois. Please let me know if there are any society members who live near me who might like to see it.


Please email PeterJTJ@aol.com if you are interested in seeing or purchasing this book.




Dear Peter,

This is a quick note to say hello and to let you know about a program here at The Hermitage that I believe will be of interest to the members of the Aaron Burr Association. On Wednesday, September 19, 7:30 p.m., Dr. Nancy Isenberg will give the first lecture in our 2007-2008 History Lecture Series, "The Private and Public Worlds of Aaron Burr." The talk is based on Dr. Isenberg's excellent new biography Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr and will address such questions as how politics shaped Aaron Burr's career in the 18th century and how they are shaping his reputation today.

The Friends of the Hermitage warmly and cordially invite members of the Aaron Burr Association who are in the New York Metropolitan area (and those who'd like to travel) to join us for this important lecture. I hope you will help spread the word!

The admission fee for the lecture is $7.50 per person. As you know, our space is limited to about 125 people, so advance reservations will be required. I will start taking reservations on August 22, 2007, at (201) 445-8311.

Hope you're having a great summer.


Sue Deeks



Anna Burr, former Bordentown district principal, at 107

Burlington County Times

MEDFORD — Anna T. Burr, a former principal and active community member in the Bordentown area, died Sunday at the age of 107.

Burr was born in Bordentown City and lived there until 1983, when she moved to the Medford Leas Retirement Community.

She worked as a teacher for several years, and then became principal of Bordentown High School. She later served as principal of Clara Barton School and William MacFarland Jr. School in the same district.

Roy Parcels was a student at William MacFarland Jr. School while Burr was principal there. “She was quite a gal,” he said. “She was pretty tough, but she was awfully fair.”

Parcels said Burr was more than a principal to her students. She was a counselor who cared about the future of her students.

“She was interested in what you were doing and what you planned to do,” Parcels said. “There are so many lives that she had touched.”

Charles Fisher, a teacher at Clara Barton School, said Burr was an “extremely well-organized person.”

“She was very supportive of both her students and her staff,” Fisher said. “The lady was stern, but had a wonderful sense of humor.”

Outside of school, Burr volunteered with numerous historical, educational and charitable groups.


She had been president of the Bordentown Library Board, the Bordentown Cemetery Board, the Bordentown Good Cheer Club, and the Bordentown Visiting Nurse Association.

She also was a member of the Bordentown Historical Society, the Burlington County Historical Society, and the Genealogical Society of New Jersey, and she compiled six books on genealogy. Burr was a descendent of Vice President Aaron Burr who served from 1801 to 1805, and who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel 1804.

Burr was invited last May to tour the newly constructed Bordentown Regional High School. Students and administrators greeted Burr with flowers and accompanied her as she traveled through the hallways in her wheelchair.

Parcels said Burr was witty and intelligent even in old age, and took pride in the fact that she did not take any prescribed medication.

“I just was amazed at the way she kept up to date on everything,” Parcels said.

Memorial services are scheduled Friday at 2 p.m. at Medford Leas, 1 Medford Leas Way, Medford, and July 13 at 2 p.m. at the First Baptist Church, 200 Prince St., Bordentown City.







Time.com 6/29

New York Senator and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani continue to run at or near the top of Democratic and Republican presidential polls, as they have for months. Hovering over the horizon like a Predator drone, current New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg co-hosted a conference on bipartisan political solutions in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago and changed his party registration to unaffiliated a few days later, fueling persistent speculation (denied, so far, by him) that he might pull a Perot and make a third-party run as a billionaire maverick. Come November 2008, voters could be facing a Subway Series presidential race.

Empire State pols used to dominate presidential races. And they might do it again in 2008

Opposing the War of 1812 killed the Federalist Party. Democrats should tread carefully

Historically, New York was the cradle of presidential candidates. Two of the first politicians to spot the state's potential were Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. In the spring of 1791 they took a vacation from their jobs as Secretary of State and Congressman to make a tour of New York and New England, ostensibly to collect botanical specimens but in fact to look for political allies. One they found was the supple young New York Senator Aaron Burr. They might better have left him alone. In the presidential election of 1800, Burr morphed from Jefferson's running mate to his (unsuccessful) challenger for the White House itself.



Hello, Peter:

I attach, for your possible inclusion on the ABA website, the recorded file in New York City records wherein Aaron Burr freed, in consideration of $1, Miss Peggy, a mulatto slave. The date of the event was December 24, 1801, and it was officially recorded January 14, 1802. I have transcribed it faithfully, except for the insertion of some punctuation and formatting, to make the statement clearer.
The entire credit for this discovery goes to Kay Freeman, who has been searching through many New York records for quite some time. I am merely the transmitter of this message.

Lyman 6/19

Recorded for and at the Request of

Miss Peggy this 14th day of January 1802


To whom it may concern. Whereas I have heretofore purchased from Elizabeth Crum, Widow of Benjamin Crum of Marbletown in Ulster County, a Mulatto woman named Peggy for a term of years not yet expired with condition that the said Peggy should be free at the expiration of the said term. Now in consideration of one Dollar to me in hand paid, I do hereby liberate and manumit the said Peggy and do declare her to be henceforth free. Witness my hand and seal at the City of New York the 24th day of December one thousand eight hundred and one.

A. Burr (s.s.)

Sealed and delivered in presence of James Clapp, State of New York fs;


Be it remembered that on the thirty-first day of December in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred and one personally before me, John B. Prevost, Recorder of the City of New York, appeared James Clapp, the subscribing witness to the within written Certificate of Manumission, who is known to me and who being duly sworn did depose and say that he saw Aaron Burr, the within named Grantor, sign, seal and deliver the said within written Certificate of Manumission for and as his act and deed, whereupon I allow it to be recorded.

J.B. Prevost, Recorder of the City of New York.




Great Americans immortalized as potatoes                   6/19 California

By: CRAIG SHULTZ - Staff Writer

TEMECULA ---- What's the best way to immortalize great Americans? With a museum or library? A plaque on a wall? A statue in a park?

For the last nine years, students in Darren Thomas' Advanced Placement history classes at Chaparral High School have been enshrining members into the American Hall of Fame in the form of Mr. Potato Head.

The figures are atop cabinets and shelves in Thomas' classroom.


The 2007 inductees, honored at a ceremony June 6, were Clara Barton and Frederick Douglas. Their likenesses, created using the popular toy, join Rosa Parks, Thomas Edison, Earl Warren, Lyndon Johnson, Mark Twain, Jane Addams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Clay, John Marshall, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Thomas Jefferson, Harriet Tubman and Andrew Carnegie in the Hall of Fame.

Inducted into the Hall of Shame was Sen. Joseph McCarthy. He joins Nathaniel Forrest, the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, Aaron Burr and Boss Tweed as spuds of infamy.

About 150 students are involved in the project, doing everything from designing the figures, performing or speaking at the induction ceremonies to creating PowerPoint presentations and display boards and working on various committees.

"I was looking for something for the end of the year," Thomas said of the genesis of the project. "The AP test is in May, so I was looking for something exciting and fun. I was looking for a balance of fun and serious."

Thomas said that by the time students take the AP test in early May, they have already covered all of the curriculum for the course. But with a month left in the school year, they need something to do.

"We've already studied everything during the course of the year," Thomas said. "The course is so difficult. This is kind of a reward. We lighten it up for a while. They lead a very stressful life, (I figure) let's play with the material for a while."

What began as a simple event has grown into a major project that incoming students look forward to, Thomas said.

"One of the first things we did was ask 'What's up with the Potato Heads,'" junior Jake Simon said. "We've been building toward this all year. It's a culmination of all we've learned. The AP test is the biggest academic thing, this brings everything together and lets us enjoy the subject."

Students nominate people who have had a lasting effect on the country then discuss each candidate's merits before voting for the enshrines.

Thomas said there is often great debate, never more than with Lyndon Johnson, who was lauded for improving civil rights, but criticized for the Vietnam War.

Juniors Kylie Fuller, Nicole Choi, Ana Bondoc, Sherry Pinneo and Alex Cropino were working on the McCarthy Potato Head last week. His figure was holding a blacklist containing such names as Tom Cruise, Marilyn Monroe, Johnny Depp, Madonna and Lucille Ball.

The girls admitted they didn't know a lot about blacklisted celebrities from the 1950s, so they chose some more controversial names.

Kylie said she enjoyed being able to get creative with history.

"We learned so much this year," she said. "It's fun to be able to pull out important aspects of history


Post a comment:

Aaron Burr was not a Spud of Infamy.
Read "Fallen Founder". Just because he stood for women's education and voting by the common man did not make him bad, as his political enemies wished us to believe. Hamilton shot at him first, and Jefferson wanted his vice president Burr hanged because he threatened plantations. But Burr won at his trial.
When will history teachers learn to stop making our students instruments of hate?  Peter T


Jun 17 2007 8:12AM
Associated Press
Today in History

Today is Sunday, June 24th, the 175th day of 2007. There are 190 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History: On June 24th, 1948, Communist forces cut off all land and water routes between West Germany and West Berlin, prompting the western allies to organize the massive Berlin Airlift.

On this date: In 1314, the forces of Scotland's King Robert the First defeated the English in the Battle of Bannockburn.

In 1509, Henry the Eighth was crowned king of England.

In 1793, the first republican constitution in France was adopted.

In 1807, a grand jury in Richmond, Virginia, indicted former Vice President Aaron Burr on charges of treason and high misdemeanor (he was later acquitted).

In 1908, the 22nd and 24th president of the United States, Grover Cleveland, died in Princeton, New Jersey, at age 71.

In 1940, France signed an armistice with Italy during World War Two.




Bedford Springs is bubbling

Mountain resort to reopen July 1 after luxurious restoration

Sunday, June 17, 2007

By Marylynne Pitz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pa. Historical Museum Commission
Above: A postcard from Bedford Springs
Below: Bedford Springs has undergone a $120 million restoration and will reopen July 1.

Click photos for larger image.


PG Slideshow
Watch and listen to an audio slideshow about the Bedford Springs resort.


BEDFORD -- Here at the lush Bedford Springs Resort, the Allegheny Mountains echo with the sounds of hammers, drills and buzzing saws. This cacophony of power tools is punctuated by regular grunts from an army of carpenters, electricians, landscapers and men laying elegant carpet in the Eisenhower Room or shimmering blue tile in the Eternal Springs Spa.

As the opening day of July 1 looms ......



Not to mention the elimination of all those noxious exhaust fumes, which might interfere with taking the waters, inhaling spruce-scented breezes or relaxing on the front porch -- attractions that drew Aaron Burr and his ailing grandson here in 1806.

 Even after two centuries, this place is all about its seven gushing natural springs. American Indians drank from the springs long before they were discovered in the late 1700s by Nicholas Shouffler, a gold prospector.

The magnesia spring is reportedly good for your stomach; the iron spring, a tonic for your blood. Locals regularly fill jugs with crystal spring water. The limestone spring lies just beyond a gold medal trout stream called Shober's Run while the sulphur and sweet springs are closer to the hotel on Sweet Root Road. ....

















June 13, 2007

Dear Peter:                                                          June 9, 2007
Please place this e-mail and attachments on the ABA web site. I have been given the opportunity to exhibit eight pieces of my Aaron Burr collection as part of the New Members Exhibit at The Grolier Club located at 47 East 60th Street, New York City. Attached please find my personal statement and the label descriptions of the items I have chosen to exhibit. There will be thirteen other bibliophiles exhibiting their collections. The opening of the exhibit is next Wednesday, June 13, 2007, 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. (business attire). The exhibition is on view through July 28, 2007. It is not open to the public. However, any current ABA member who wishes to view the exhibit may do so with my advance notice to enter. I am proud to be a member of the ABA since 1996 and a new member of The Grolier Club. I believe you will like the Burr items I have chosen to exhibit.
Brian D. Hardison

Click here for Exhibition Description

Some of the ABA members at the opening reception in NYC that night:
Amy, Debby, Bob, Brian, George and Pete (Walter Burr and Kay Freeman were not in photo)

Thanks Bob for the Grolier Club photo above.


Click here for Exhibition Description





Thomas Fleming brings Alexander Hamilton to the Desmond-Fish Library

Thomas Fleming, president of the Society of American Historians and author of Washington's Secret War, The Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Future of America and many other acclaimed books of American history, will speak about Alexander Hamilton at the Desmond-Fish Library in Garrison at 2pm on June 16.



This week's email comments on Fallen Founder by ABA Members :

Dear ABA members:

I walked into Barnes & Noble this morning and saw a new book on Aaron Burr.  It's  Fallen Founder, The Life of Aaron Burr (540 pages) by Nancy Isenberg.  It retails for $29.95 but had a 20% discount because it's a new hardcover.  This is the first paragraph from inside the dust cover:

"The narrative of America's founding is filled with stories of godlike geniuses -- Franklin, Washington, Adams, Jefferson -- versus the villainous Aaron Burr.  Generations have been told that Burr was a betrayer -- of Alexander Hamilton, of his country, of those who had nobler ideas.  But that version has been shaped by historians and writers from the eighteenth century on, who were blinded by tabloid reports and propaganda created by Burr's political enemies during his lifetime.  It is time to discover the real Aaron Burr."

Have a good summer, and I hope to see you in Richmond.

Frank Burr 6/13


This book has already been reviewed in The Weekly Standard in the June 4 issue.  The review was mostly favorable both as to the book & to Burr. 

Sue Bowles  6/13



Stuart Johnson, Helena Lawrence, and I were among those who attended a Nancy Isenberg talk and book signing at Olsson's bookstore in Alexandria VA. I am reading Fallen Founder while on vacation; it's reviews are generally favorable, and, personally speaking, I find that Isenberg seems to have discarded, or at least toned down, some of her earlier shallow views about Burr.      Lyman Coddington  6/14



The new book, Fallen Founder, has been reviewed several times since March, including one by our own Dr. Ray Swick. Peter has posted several of the reviews on the web site. It is a great book. In my opinion, it is the definitive work on Burr to date. Also don't miss the Burr exhibit at The Grolier Club in New York City this summer. Details on the web site.
Brian D. Hardison  6/16



Similar to Lyman am on vacation (from retirement) in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia on the Bras d'Or Lakes (largest saltwater inland lake complex in the world) making my way through "Fallen Founder". The book deserves nomination for 'definitive' based on several factors, e.g. extensive footnoting, first biography of Burr to resort extensively to the Mary-Jo Kline compilatio of Burr legal & real estate & personal letters (would enjoy her comments on the book) and the sorting out of conflicting views over various aspects of Burr's life and personality.
        "Fallen Founder" & "The Conspiracy Against Aaron Burr" are on the same wave length, and although the latter (partly by reason  of Oliver Perry Sturm's demise before completing the book) is scholarly neither in the sense of degree of documentation nor condensation, it is more readily consumable by the casual reader and as a primer in public and high school level. Another interesting contrast is that while "Fallen Founder" relies on in depth research into archival material and publications,  Sturm for "Conspiracy" went into the field traveling in Europe to retrace Burr's steps and connections.
       After finishing will do a precis and circulate.  Reminds me of a paper I did at college (University as the Brits phrase it) comparing Job from "The Book of Job in the Bible) to Iago in Shakespeare's "Othello".






5/31/07  Boston Globe book review by a free lance writer:




5/27 NY Times book review

I assume you've already bought the book, but in case you haven't, attached is the New York Time review. The book sounds very interesting.
We're having a BBQ this afternoon (Sunday). Any chance you and Mary can join us?

pdf Link

NY Times must of course focus on widower Burr's intimacy with the Swedish maid.

All the news that's sensational to print!



Tyler Dueling pistols for sale:  Interested?
Dan Tyler was cousin of Comfort Tyler.





Nancy Isenberg after delivering her lecture at Barnes & Noble, West Windsor, NJ


With Nancy Isenberg is Gene Biddle, grandson of ABA founder Samuel Engle Burr (who started the ABA in 1946)

Gene recalled the days when the ABA had 5000 members and annual meetings were at magnificent ballrooms.


Pete told Nancy that the Aaron Burr Association absolutely loves her book, and thanked her for all her thorough research work.






Did Aaron Burr Really Try to Take Over Half of America?

By Jon Grinspan  5/22



A new book attempts to restore the reputation of the most reviled Founding Father.
A new book attempts to restore the reputation of the most reviled Founding Father.

Two hundred years ago today Aaron Burr was indicted for treason. The former Vice President stood accused of an outlandish plot to take over the American West and Mexico. He has always been presumed guilty, though nothing has ever been proved. Now a new biography suggests that it was all a lie, and that Burr may be the most maligned man in American history. Is this true?

Poor Burr. In the seven years before his trial he tied Thomas Jefferson in the presidential election of 1800, was demoted to Vice President in an unfair backroom deal, and shot Alexander Hamilton. By 1807 his powerful enemies were beginning to call him a traitor. Even President Jefferson made the accusation, based largely on hearsay. Aaron Burr, nearly elected the third President of the United States, was turning into something approaching a national scapegoat.

In her new biography, Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr (Viking, 544 pages, $29.95), the historian Nancy Isenberg challenges the bad reputation that has stuck to him ever since. She praises his heroism during the Revolution and his skill as a New York politician and lawyer, and she demonstrates that he possessed a concrete political philosophy. Burr is remembered mainly as Alexander Hamilton’s killer, but Isenberg shows that Hamilton had conspired to destroy his career time and again. Moreover, Hamilton got into ten other dueling challenges before he was shot at Weehawken, whereas Burr actually loudly condemned the practice.

Isenberg, who has also written about sexuality in Burr’s era, presents her subject as a feminist. He turns out to be a progressive advocate of female education and an admirer of Mary Wollstonecraft’s essay “Vindication of the Rights of Woman.” Yet such admirable traits hardly answer the most serious question: What was he planning out West?

He was certainly working on something in the forests of the Louisiana Territory. Between his 1804 duel and his 1807 trial, he moved up and down the Mississippi and Ohio rivers repeatedly. He told people he was preparing “a grand expedition.” He may have been conspiring to separate the lands he was on from the United States; he may have been plotting an invasion of Spanish Mexico. His enemies claimed he was working at both; his defenders, only the latter.

The secession of the West was hardly unimaginable then. Many Westerners were furious that their territories, not yet being states, were unprotected by the Constitution and administered by appointed officials. James Wilkinson, the governor of the Louisiana Territory, was one of the true villains of American history, a double agent for the Spanish Empire.

As for the evidence against Burr, Great Britain’s minister to America, Anthony Merry, informed London in 1805 that Burr had asked him for funding “to effect a Separation of the Western Part of the United States.” He said Burr had even requested that the Royal Navy seize the Mississippi during his takeover. Merry supported the plan. But Isenberg says Burr was merely using Merry’s dislike of the administration to fund his filibuster of Mexico.

While traveling near Pittsburgh in 1806, Burr spent the night at his old friend George Morgan’s house. Over dinner he averred that the West’s separation was inevitable and tried to recruit Morgan’s sons for his undefined expedition. His host reported this all to the government as soon as he left. Morgan had invited Aaron Burr into his home as a friend, so it’s hard to credit Isenberg’s insistence that he was biased against Burr. Still, the suspicious dinner conversation proves nothing.

Most of the remaining evidence of treason is weaker, the product of the “Burr fever” that swept the West in 1806. Newspapers published reports that he was scheming; anonymous informants contacted President Jefferson; and some even claimed that Burr was plotting to invade Washington D.C. Rumors circulated that he hoped to raise a Native American militia, or buy weapons from a corrupt Army fort. And he did, in fact, write questionable messages to Wilkinson, referring to “things improper to letter.” Again, none of this is solid evidence of a design against the government; indeed, it can be taken to support Isenberg’s description of a panicked campaign of libel against Burr.

There are reasons to doubt the anti-Burr accusations. Descriptions of the conspiracy took on absurd proportions: He was said to be plotting to capture more than 2.5 million square miles of American and Spanish territory, and he was said to be doing so openly, despite his being a first-rate lawyer and clever politician. A Mississippi militia searched his boats just before his arrest in 1807 and found no military weapons. Finally, he was tried twice in the West for the conspiracy and found innocent both times.

The acquittals did not allay Burr fever, and in 1807 he was captured and shipped east. In the process many laws were broken. Wilkinson turned on him, arrested his associates, and declared martial law in New Orleans. Jefferson publicly proclaimed his former Vice President’s guilt, biasing the investigation. The U.S. Senate tried to suspend habeas corpus to hold Burr and his friends; the House defeated the move.

Two hundred years ago Aaron Burr was taken east to Virginia in a cage (he had repeatedly tried to escape—sure evidence of either his guilt or his resistance to wrongful arrest, depending on which side you take). His trial in Richmond pitted a former Vice President against the President. It was presided over by the chief justice, John Marshall (a friend of Burr’s), involved four past, present, and future U.S. attorneys general in various roles, and was attended by prominent spectators from Andrew Jackson to Washington Irving.

Marshall began by setting out a working definition of treason that narrowly defined the crime as open military preparation for war. Treason, he wrote, “may be machinated in secret but it can be perpetuated only in the open day.” Noting Burr’s lack of either soldiers or weapons, the justice asked, “What kind of invisible army must this have been?”

A hundred and forty witnesses were listed by the prosecution, and those called offered hearsay but no concrete evidence that met Marshall’s standard. The prosecution relied mainly on the testimony of James Wilkinson and William Eaton. Eaton, a hero of the recent Barbary War, had returned to America an alcoholic known for belligerent, paranoid rants. His accusations probably helped Burr. Wilkinson was no stronger. He was widely disliked and widely thought of as a co-conspirator of Burr’s.

Burr sat in the courtroom, clad in black silk, and watched his reputation crumble. The court held him innocent until proven guilty, but there was no due process in the national press. Three months after his May 22 indictment, he was acquitted, but his name never recovered.

Though innocent of treason, Burr had definitely plotted an invasion of Mexico, which can explain his suspicious letters to Wilkinson and to Merry. He confessed that plan to future President Andrew Jackson, sent supplies downriver, lobbied the American and British navies for help, and corresponded with Mexican priests who promised local support. Worst of all, he often told Americans in the West that he was acting as an authorized agent of the federal government.

His Mexico scheme would have had terrible consequences for the young republic. An invasion would have forced America into an unwanted war with Spain and its ally France. The neutrality Jefferson had fought so hard to maintain during the Napoleonic wars would have been undone. Ludicrously, invading Mexico was only a misdemeanor at the time; nonetheless, Burr is clearly not the slandered saint Nancy Isenberg suggests. His Mexico plot, while neither treasonous nor felonious, was extremely dangerous.

Aaron Burr is remembered today for the treason he didn’t commit and the duel he didn’t want. Isenberg works hard to rehabilitate the fallen founder, but his bad image is partially his own fault. He refused to publicly defend himself and never wrote his own account of events. He came to regret this. Late in his life he wrote, “I fear I have committed a great error; the men who knew their falsity are dead, and the generation who now read them may take them for truths, being uncontradicted.” Finally, Nancy Isenberg contradicts many of the truths we always knew about him.

Jon Grinspan lives in New York City and writes for Military History magazine.


Mr. Grinspan will be welcome to learn more about Burr's western expedition by attending the annual meeting in Richmond.

He confuses settlement after military action, with military action.  Burr clearly was there to help if war with Spain was first declared.
Everyone including Jefferson thought it was imminent.  Burr did not know Wilkinson was a spy for Spain. Does Military History Magazine side with Wilkinson here just because he commanded the army? 20 squirrel shooting guns does not constitute an arsenal.  Burr never said he was an authorized agent. etc. etc.    (Pete)


Nancy Isenberg photo from book jacket






Attention ABA Members:  

Fallen Founder is now available for sale. Please read at your earliest convenience.  Pete








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