March 2013 Follow up Review of Burriana
Dear Brian Hardison,
Thank you for your note and for your offer to write an article for Manuscripts. Burr's protégé Samuel Swartwout sounds like an interesting topic.
I've attached a copy of Bill's review. I'm sure he would have no objections to having it posted on the Burr website. I'm also copying Bill on this note so he can enjoy your comments.
I look forward to working with you.
Itinerary for 2012 Annual Meeting
Sue Bowles, ABA Vice president, reviews Burriana
Burriana: A Catalogue of Rare Books, Pamphlets, Letters, Manuscripts, Documents, & Objects By, About, or Relating to Aaron Burr and His Contemporaries. By Brian Davon Hardison. (New York: The Grolier Club, 2012, Pp. xxiii, 306, ISBN 978-1-60583-038-4.)
This book has been published in conjunction with “Aaron Burr Returns to New York: An Exhibition on Burr and His Contemporaries” held at The Grolier Club, May 15-July 28, 2012.
This book is a catalogue of the collection of Brian D. Hardison of Dallas, Georgia, who must be the nation’s, if not the world’s, foremost collector of books and documents relating to Aaron Burr (1756-1836). The book lists 524 items, described by Hardison as “the core of my collection.” Some listings are self-explanatory, but most include a brief description by Hardison and some also include an excerpt from a work about Burr. Provenances, where known, are listed. There are some photos of the items as well. The items are grouped into chapters based on periods and events in Burr’s life. These give the narration an easy to follow chronology and enable the reader to easily locate items relating to a specific topic. The book also contains a very good introduction by Hardison and a variety of appendices, mostly relating to the duel with Alexander Hamilton (1804) and the treason trial (1807), a bibliography and index. Particularly useful for researchers is a listing (Appendix J) of thirteen documents in Hardison’s collection which do not appear in the microfilm collection of Burr’s papers as listed in Mary-Jo Kline and Joanne Wood Ryan, eds., The Guide and Index to the Microfilm Edition of The Papers of Aaron Burr, 1756-1836 (1978). That these documents have come to light and we now know where they are provides a useful postscript to the Kline and Ryan collection. It should be pointed out that not all items in Hardison’s collection pertain directly to Burr. However, all the items relate to some person or event that had a connection with Burr.
While this volume is an excellent reference tool, what can we learn about Burr from reading its contents? Two points in particular struck this reviewer. One is the sheer breadth of people with whom was Burr was involved in one way or another. Granted, he lived a long life and was a major player in politics for many years, but no biography of Burr captures this aspect of his life as well as this volume. The number of people Burr knows or has dealings with is mindboggling, but so is their variety cutting across all demographic lines. Here in this collection is the hard evidence of the scope of Burr’s intellectual interests and curiosity.
The other significant feature of this collection is the large section on Burr’s treason trial and the events which led up to it, the so-called Burr Conspiracy. Hardison is a lawyer and a judge and he brings his legal acumen to bear on this issue, especially the trial itself and the various investigations connected with it. While many writers over the years have weighed in on the Burr trial, this is the first book which covers in such complete detail such issues as the great number of grand jury investigations, the selection of jurors, the backgrounds of all the lawyers involved, the legal strategy of both sides, and the role of President Thomas Jefferson. Not only has Hardison thoroughly researched these topics, but his analysis of them, based on his experience as a lawyer and judge, is a tremendous addition to Burr scholarship. Given that the verdict in Burr’s trial was “not guilty,” historians have generally taken one of two positions. Some believe that Burr truly was not guilty of treason and the verdict was therefore correct. Others believe that Burr really was guilty but the government botched the case. Hardison belongs in the first group and his research into not only the treason trial but also the multiple grand jury investigations clearly points to the conclusion that the government had no case. His conclusion is not new, but his painstaking accumulation of what we call today a paper trail provides the most complete construction of the case for Burr’s innocence that this reviewer has seen.
This book is not only a valuable addition to Burr literature, but is an indispensable reference work that no Burr scholar should be without.
Suzanne Geissler Bowles William Paterson
Preliminary Itinerary for 2012 Annual Meeting
On Thurs and Fri, we go the Grolier Club in the afternoon, and visit Trinity Church and cemetery (either Thurs or Fri., in the morning).
Saturday: Annual Luncheon at Kennedy's Restaurant W 57th St. (about $45 per person).
Katherine Woltz will be our speaker at the Saturday luncheon.
Exhibit of Aaron Burr Correspondence at The Grolier Club
The Tuesday night opening and Thursday night lecture and reception by Brian Hardison went very well at the Grolier Club.
Several ABA members were on hand for both evenings.
The 15' x 15' Aaron Burr Returns to NY flag flying on 60th St. is splendid.
Here is the NYTimes article:
that describes the Exhibit, and links to this web site.
9/17/11: See Exhibitions Link and Forthcoming Exhibitions.
The Annual Meeting in 2012 July 18-21, 2012
- the bicentennial of Aaron Burr's return from Europe
Dear members of the ABA,
and those interested in early U.S. History:
In the summer of 2012 an unprecedented event is scheduled to take place in New York City important to anyone interested in Aaron Burr and the early days of our republic. An exhibit titled: Aaron Burr Returns to New York: an Exhibit of Burr and His Contemporaries will open in May and run into July. The event will coincide with the 200th anniversary of Aaron Burr’s return to New York City (June 7, 1812) after a four year self imposed exile to Europe. The exhibit will be located in the Exhibition Hall on the first floor of the Clubhouse of the prestigious Grolier Club at 47 East 60th Street, between Madison Ave. and Park Ave., in Manhattan. The following is the theme of the exhibit:
A New Appraisal of Aaron Burr
A Study of Aaron Burr and the Politics
of the Early Republic
The 1970s Bicentennial Celebration of our nation's independence sparked a renewed interest by historians in the early American republic. Their research has focused a greater understanding of those politically explosive decades, which established the system that governs us today. One important result of this intense study by scholars and students of history has been a much-needed reevaluation of the life and career of Aaron Burr, third Vice President of the United States. Thus, a more authentic image of the real Burr has begun to emerge to replace that of the arch-villain, based upon popular prejudice fostered by political animosity that has darkened the pages of history books for too many years.
2012 will mark the 200th anniversary of Burr's return to New York ending a self-imposed exile to Europe that came upon the heels of his acquittal for treason and the tragic duel with Alexander Hamilton. This exhibit of rare items of Burriana ranks as the first comprehensive portrayal of the Vice President's life ever staged. Besides revealing the exciting story of his political disputes, it reminds us, too, of his less publicized, but highly significant, achievements as a daring soldier of the Revolution and of his brilliant rise as a lawyer and politician of the Early Republic. The exhibit also examines Burr's beliefs, considered progressive during his time, regarding women's rights, his support of the arts and the beginnings of the anti-slavery movement. At the dawn of the 21st century, whether Aaron Burr continues to shed his persona as one of the most misunderstood individuals in American history and assumes the more celebrated stature that he once enjoyed will be for the patrons of this exhibit to decide.
The exhibit comes primarily from the collection of ABA and Grolier Club member, Brian D. Hardison. However, he needs our help. There are expenses with the exhibit not covered by the Club, including the services of a professional exhibit coordinator and designer, shipping, transportation and other costs required to present an exhibit suitable to present the life of Aaron Burr. This is where the ABA and you can help. As a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization, the ABA will be lending its support.
Everyone interested in supporting this event can do so by making a taxable deductible contribution to the ABA, designated for the 2012 Burr Exhibit. * Brian has already made his first 2010 donation, so we need to lend a hand. The ABA has begun by opening a separate account to receive contributions for the next three years. Any donations not used for the event will be transferred to the other projects of the ABA. Please start by sending your 2010 contribution for this tax deductible cause.* Thank you for your help.
* All donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by applicable law; please consult with a tax expert for advice.
Mail checks to "The Aaron Burr Association" for the 2012 Burr Exhibit,
1004 Butterworth Lane, Upper Marlboro, MD 20774. Thank you.
Thank you Brian. Here is the library at the Grolier Club.
BRIAN DAVON HARDISON
After starting my law career fifteen years ago, I began collecting contemporary works of and about famous lawyers in United States history, such as Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, Alexander H. Stephens and others. My passion of collecting grew to include books, manuscripts, autograph letters and documents, newspapers, paintings and relics. My favorite books in my collection are those previously owned by famous Americans.
One of the central themes of my collecting concerns the Revolutionary War hero and noted New York lawyer and politician, Aaron Burr and his contemporaries. “Burr was personally acquainted with a wider range of Americans, and of the American Continent, than any other Founder except George Washington.” Roger G. Kennedy. Burr, Hamilton and Jefferson, A Study in Character. New York, Oxford University Press, 2000. In the Election of 1800, Burr tied Jefferson for the Presidency of the United States. In 1804, Burr killed Hamilton in the most famous duel in United States history. This year is the 200th anniversary of one of the most important courtroom dramas in the United States history, Burr’s Trial for Treason. I find Burr to be one of the most interesting individuals in the history of our country.
Having two daughters of my own I consider Burr’s relationship with his daughter, Theodosia, an example to be followed by all parents. As a feminist, Burr spent a great deal of his time and spared no expense to insure that his daughter received a thorough education. Studying under tutors such as Washington Irving, Theodosia received an education of history and literature unheard of for women in the late 1700s. She learned to speak several languages and was fluent in French. By the time she married Joseph Alston, the future Governor of South Carolina, Theodosia was one of the most educated woman in the United States. She was the pride and joy of her father. I especially like the written correspondence between them. A personal letter from Burr to his daughter encouraging her to spend time wisely studying her lessons hangs on a wall in our home as a reminder to me to be constantly involved in the education of my daughters.
Unknown artist. The Pocket Watch of Aaron Burr with the Enameled Portrait of this Wife. 1790.
Aaron Burr commissioned an artist to paint facing miniature portraits of himself and his wife on the face of this pocket watch as a gift to himself and as a token of affection for his wife. The portrait of Burr’s wife on the watch is the only likeness of her known to exist.
After Burr left the United States in 1808, Burr’s kitchen chef seized the watch and other valuables in payment for earned wages. For nearly two hundred years the watch was handed down by descendents of Burr’s chef. I acquired it in 2002. Most recently Dr. Ray Swick, historian for Blennerhassett Island, WV, the alleged site of Burr’s conspiracy, has declared the watch to be the holy grail of Burr collecting. It was recently pictured in the new biography of Burr by Nancy Isenberg, The Fallen Founder, the Life of Aaron Burr, published May 10, 2007.
[William Coleman]. Report of the Trial of Levi Weeks, on an Indictment for the Murder of Gulielma Sands, on Monday the Thirty-first day of March, and Tuesday the First of April, 1800. Taken in short hand by the Clerk of Court. New York: Printed by John Furman, and sold at his Blank, Stamp & Stationary Shop, opposite the City-Hall, 1800, first edition.
This was the first recording of a murder trial in the history of the United States. The victim’s body was found at the bottom of a Manhattan well. Aaron Burr was one of the three lawyers who successfully defended Weeks along with Alexander Hamilton and Brockholst Livingston.
This copy of the book was previously owned and autographed by Theodore Dwight, an American lawyer, congressman and journalist, and cousin of Aaron Burr.
Aaron Burr. Autographed Note Signed by Burr as Vice President of the United States to the Treasurer of the United States, dated in New York, July 22, 1801.
This brief note written in Burr’s hand is his request to the Treasurer of the United States that the payment of his services as Vice President of the United States be paid to Daniel Ludlow, who endorses the verso.
Both Burr and Ludlow were two of the original Founders of the Bank of Manhattan Company (presently Chase Manhattan Bank part of JP Morgan Chase). Ludlow served as the first President of the Bank from 1799-1808.
William Coleman. Particulars of the Late Duel, fought at Hoboken, July 11, between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, Esqrs. In which the latter unfortunately fell. Containing all the Papers related to that event, together with the Will of Gen. Hamilton, and the Letters of Bishop Moore, and Rev. J.M. Mason. New York: Printed by A. Forum, 91 Beekman Street, 1804, first edition.
Coleman, the Court Reporter in the Weeks Murder Trial, was first a law partner with Burr and later a close friend of Hamilton. He eventually became the owner and editor of the Evening Post. In this brief pamphlet, Coleman complied all of the written correspondence between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton and their seconds that eventually led to the most famous duel in the history of the United States.
Trustees of the Estate of Alexander Hamilton. Certificate of the Hamilton Fund to William Rogers, No. 279. New York: November 29, 1804.
This document is a direct result of the Aaron Burr/Alexander Hamilton duel. It is autographed by Gouvernor Morris, Egbert Benson, Rufus King, Oliver Wolcott and Charles Wilkes as Trustees of Hamilton’s Estate.
Hamilton died deeply in debt. “The Hamilton Fund, as it came to be called, was a trust fund established by Morris, King and others, subscriptions to which were in the form of four hundred shares worth $200.00 each, or a total of $80,000.00 ($960,000.00) if all shares were bought. … While it is not known if the fund was fully subscribed, and if so by when, the undated list of subscribers in the possession of the Bank of New York indicates that at least 367 shares worth $72,000.00 ($880,000.00) were purchased by 126 individuals in amounts ranging from one to ten shares.” Arnold A. Rogow. A Fatal Friendship, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, New York, Hill and Wang, 1998, pg. 275.
Thomas Jefferson. Message from the President of the United States Transmitting Information touching an Illegal Combination of Private Individuals against the Peace and Safety of the Union, and a Military Expedition Planned by then against the Territory of a Power in Amity with the United States; with the Measures Pursued for Suppressing the same; in pursuance to a Resolution of the House of Representatives of the Sixteenth Instant. January 22, 1807. [Washington, 1807], first edition.
“Here President Jefferson discloses to Congress the Burr Conspiracy communicated to him from New Orleans by General Wilkinson, charging that Burr planned to seize on New Orleans, plunder the bank there, possess himself of the military and naval stores, and proceed on his expedition.” The Thomas Winthrop Streeter Collection of Americana, Eighth Session, 1967, pg. 1283.
This copy of the pamphlet was previously owned by Senator John Smith of the State of Ohio. Smith was later indicted as a co-conspirator of Aaron Burr regarding the same alleged conspiracy but never tried. After Burr’s acquittal, a Senate censure of Smith’s activities with Burr failed to pass. Smith ultimately resigned his seat.
William Marshall, Clerk of the Court of the United States, for the 5th Circuit, in the Virginia District. A Witness Subpoena regarding the Motion to Commit following the Trial for High Treason of former Vice President Aaron Burr. Richmond, Virginia, September 15, 1807.
This original subpoena was issued by the Clerk of Court in the name of the presiding judge, John Marshall, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, to Littleton Waller Tazewell to testify on behalf of the Defendant, Aaron Burr. Evidence of the service of the subpoena by the local sheriff is on the verso. Tazewell’s testimony was used by the Defense to impeach the testimony of the Government’s chief witness, General James Wilkinson. Burr was acquitted of all charges, but committed to stand trial for a misdemeanor in Kentucky. Tazewell would later serve as Governor of the State of Virginia.
Burr’s Trial for Treason was one of the most important trials in the history of the United States. The lawyers involved for the Defense included Edmond Randolph, the first Attorney General of the United States and Charles Lee, the third Attorney General of the United States both having served under President George Washington. One of the lawyers representing the United States was William Wirt, who would later serve as the ninth Attorney General of the United States under both Presidents James Monroe and John Quincy Adams.
A Defense pretrial motion to subpoena the papers of President Thomas Jefferson was submitted and successfully argued by Burr himself. This precedent established in Burr’s Trial was later used to subpoena President Richard Nixon’s tape recordings in the case of the United States v. Richard M. Nixon.
William Godwin. Essay on Sepulchers: or, a Proposal for Erecting Some Memorial of the Illustrious Dead in all Ages on the Spot Where Their Remains have been Interred. London: Printed for W. Miller, Albemarle Street, 1809, first edition.
This copy of the book was previously owned by Theodosia Burr Alston, daughter of Aaron Burr. It is inscribed on the title page by the author as follows: “From the author to the daughter of A. Burr.”
Following his trial for treason, Burr spent the next four years in self-exile in Europe. While there he met and spent time with several philosophers such as Jeremy Bentham, William Godwin and others. Godwin presented this copy of his book to Burr as a gift for Burr’s daughter Theodosia, the wife of Joseph Alston, Governor of South Carolina. Burr mailed the book from Gravesend, England to his daughter in Charleston, SC. According to her letter to her father dated August 1, 1809, Theodosia received the book. Burr would return to the United States in 1812 and resumed his practice of law in New York until his death in 1836. Unfortunately, he would never see his daughter again. Theodosia was lost at sea on a trip from Charleston to New York to visit her father in 1813.