Aaron Burr

Aaron Burr

Overview
Aaron Burr, Jr. was an important political figure in the early history of the United States of America. After serving as a Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

 officer in the Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

, Burr became a successful lawyer and politician. He was elected twice to the New York State Assembly
New York State Assembly
The New York State Assembly is the lower house of the New York State Legislature. The Assembly is composed of 150 members representing an equal number of districts, with each district having an average population of 128,652...

 (1784–1785, 1798–1799), was appointed New York State Attorney General
New York State Attorney General
The New York State Attorney General is the chief legal officer of the State of New York. The office has been in existence in some form since 1626, under the Dutch colonial government of New York.The current Attorney General is Eric Schneiderman...

 (1789–1791), was chosen as a United States Senator
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 (1791–1797) from the state of New York, and reached the apex of his career as third Vice President of the United States
Vice President of the United States
The Vice President of the United States is the holder of a public office created by the United States Constitution. The Vice President, together with the President of the United States, is indirectly elected by the people, through the Electoral College, to a four-year term...

 (1801–1805), under President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

.
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Quotations

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.
Encyclopedia
Aaron Burr, Jr. was an important political figure in the early history of the United States of America. After serving as a Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

 officer in the Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

, Burr became a successful lawyer and politician. He was elected twice to the New York State Assembly
New York State Assembly
The New York State Assembly is the lower house of the New York State Legislature. The Assembly is composed of 150 members representing an equal number of districts, with each district having an average population of 128,652...

 (1784–1785, 1798–1799), was appointed New York State Attorney General
New York State Attorney General
The New York State Attorney General is the chief legal officer of the State of New York. The office has been in existence in some form since 1626, under the Dutch colonial government of New York.The current Attorney General is Eric Schneiderman...

 (1789–1791), was chosen as a United States Senator
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 (1791–1797) from the state of New York, and reached the apex of his career as third Vice President of the United States
Vice President of the United States
The Vice President of the United States is the holder of a public office created by the United States Constitution. The Vice President, together with the President of the United States, is indirectly elected by the people, through the Electoral College, to a four-year term...

 (1801–1805), under President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

. Despite these accomplishments, Burr is chiefly remembered as the man who killed his rival Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America's first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury...

 in the famous 1804 duel. Controversy dogged Burr throughout his lifetime, and his reputation among historians remains contested.

Early life



Burr was born in Newark
Newark, New Jersey
Newark is the largest city in the American state of New Jersey, and the seat of Essex County. As of the 2010 United States Census, Newark had a population of 277,140, maintaining its status as the largest municipality in New Jersey. It is the 68th largest city in the U.S...

, New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

, to the Reverend Aaron Burr, Sr.
Aaron Burr, Sr.
The Reverend Aaron Burr, Sr., was a notable divine and educator in colonial America. He was a founder of the College of New Jersey and the father of the third United States Vice President, Aaron Burr , who killed Alexander Hamilton.-Biography:A native of Connecticut, Burr was born in 1716 in...

, a Presbyterian
Presbyterianism
Presbyterianism refers to a number of Christian churches adhering to the Calvinist theological tradition within Protestantism, which are organized according to a characteristic Presbyterian polity. Presbyterian theology typically emphasizes the sovereignty of God, the authority of the Scriptures,...

 minister and second president of the College of New Jersey in Newark (which moved in 1756 to Princeton and later became Princeton University
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

). His mother, Esther Edwards
Esther Edwards Burr
Esther Edwards Burr was the mother of U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr, Jr. and the wife of Princeton University President Aaron Burr, Sr. whom she married in 1752. Esther Burr's father was the great preacher of the Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards...

, was the daughter of Jonathan Edwards, the famous Calvinist
Calvinism
Calvinism is a Protestant theological system and an approach to the Christian life...

 theologian
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

, making Burr Edwards's grandson. The Burrs also had a daughter, Sarah, who married Tapping Reeve
Tapping Reeve
Tapping Reeve was an American lawyer and law educator. In 1784, he opened the Litchfield Law School in Litchfield, Connecticut, the first school to offer a comprehensive legal curriculum in the United States....

, founder of the Litchfield Law School
Litchfield Law School
The Litchfield Law School of Litchfield, Connecticut, was the first formal school offering training for the legal profession in the United States. It was established in 1784 by Tapping Reeve, who would later became the Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court...

 in Litchfield
Litchfield, Connecticut
Litchfield is a town in and former county seat of Litchfield County, Connecticut, United States, and is known as an affluent summer resort. The population was 8,316 at the 2000 census. The boroughs of Bantam and Litchfield are located within the town...

, Connecticut
Connecticut
Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

.

Aaron Burr's father died in 1757, and his mother the following year, leaving him an orphan at the age of two. Grandfather Edwards and his wife Sarah also died that year; young Aaron and his sister Sally went to live with the William Shippen family in Philadelphia
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Philadelphia County, with which it is coterminous. The city is located in the Northeastern United States along the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. It is the fifth-most-populous city in the United States,...

. In 1759, the children's guardianship was assumed by twenty-one-year-old uncle Timothy Edwards. The next year, Edwards married Rhoda Ogden and moved to Elizabeth, New Jersey
Elizabeth, New Jersey
Elizabeth is a city in Union County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city had a total population of 124,969, retaining its ranking as New Jersey's fourth largest city with an increase of 4,401 residents from its 2000 Census population of 120,568...

. Rhoda's younger brothers Aaron
Aaron Ogden
Aaron Ogden was a United States Senator and the 5th Governor of New Jersey.-Early life:Ogden was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey...

 and Matthias
Matthias Ogden
Matthias Ogden was born at Elizabeth, New Jersey on October 22, 1754, Fought in the American revolutionary war and served various political positions afterwards.-Family:...

 became the boy's playmates and lifelong friends.

At age thirteen, Aaron Burr was admitted to the College of New Jersey in Princeton where he joined the American Whig Society and Cliosophic Society. These were clubs that helped develop character, establish brotherly bonds, and strengthen verbal contests and opinions. Burr’s involvement in these clubs helped prepare him for the “real” political world and are probably a big reason why he became so involved in politics later on. He received his Bachelor of Arts
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 degree in 1772, but changed his career path two years later and began the study of law with his brother-in-law Reeve. When, in 1775, news reached Litchfield of the clashes with British troops at Lexington and Concord, Burr's studies were put on hold while he went to join the Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

.

Military service


During the Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

, Burr took part in Colonel Benedict Arnold
Benedict Arnold
Benedict Arnold V was a general during the American Revolutionary War. He began the war in the Continental Army but later defected to the British Army. While a general on the American side, he obtained command of the fort at West Point, New York, and plotted to surrender it to the British forces...

's expedition to Quebec, an arduous trek of over 300 miles (482.8 km) through the wilderness of what is now Maine
Maine
Maine is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and south, New Hampshire to the west, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec to the northwest and New Brunswick to the northeast. Maine is both the northernmost and easternmost...

. Upon arriving before the city of Quebec
Quebec City
Quebec , also Québec, Quebec City or Québec City is the capital of the Canadian province of Quebec and is located within the Capitale-Nationale region. It is the second most populous city in Quebec after Montreal, which is about to the southwest...

, Burr was sent up the Saint Lawrence River
Saint Lawrence River
The Saint Lawrence is a large river flowing approximately from southwest to northeast in the middle latitudes of North America, connecting the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean. It is the primary drainage conveyor of the Great Lakes Basin...

 to reach General Richard Montgomery
Richard Montgomery
Richard Montgomery was an Irish-born soldier who first served in the British Army. He later became a brigadier-general in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War and he is most famous for leading the failed 1775 invasion of Canada.Montgomery was born and raised in Ireland...

, who had taken Montreal, and escorted him to Quebec. Montgomery promoted Burr to captain and made him an aide-de-camp
Aide-de-camp
An aide-de-camp is a personal assistant, secretary, or adjutant to a person of high rank, usually a senior military officer or a head of state...

. Burr distinguished himself during the Battle of Quebec
Battle of Quebec (1775)
The Battle of Quebec was fought on December 31, 1775 between American Continental Army forces and the British defenders of the city of Quebec, early in the American Revolutionary War. The battle was the first major defeat of the war for the Americans, and it came at a high price...

, earning him a place on Washington's staff in Manhattan. However, he quit within two weeks, desiring to return to the battlefield.

General Israel Putnam took Burr under his wing; by his vigilance in the retreat from lower Manhattan to Harlem
Harlem
Harlem is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan, which since the 1920s has been a major African-American residential, cultural and business center. Originally a Dutch village, formally organized in 1658, it is named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands...

, Burr saved an entire brigade
Brigade
A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of two to five battalions, plus supporting elements depending on the era and nationality of a given army and could be perceived as an enlarged/reinforced regiment...

 (including Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America's first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury...

, who was one of its officers) from capture after the British landing
Landing at Kip's Bay
The Landing at Kip's Bay was a British amphibious landing during the New York Campaign in the American Revolutionary War on September 15, 1776, occurring on the eastern shore of present-day Manhattan....

 on Manhattan. 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.

On becoming a lieutenant colonel
Lieutenant Colonel (United States)
In the United States Army, United States Air Force, and United States Marine Corps, a lieutenant colonel is a field grade military officer rank just above the rank of major and just below the rank of colonel. It is equivalent to the naval rank of commander in the other uniformed services.The pay...

 in July 1777, Burr assumed virtual leadership of Malcolm's Additional Continental Regiment
Malcolm's Additional Continental Regiment
Malcolm's Additional Continental Regiment was one of several "additional" regiments authorized by the Second Continental Congress for the Continental Army...

. There were approximately 300 men under Colonel William Malcolm's nominal command. The regiment successfully fought off many nighttime raids into central New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

 by British troops sailing over from Manhattan. Later that year, during the harsh winter encampment at Valley Forge
Valley Forge
Valley Forge in Pennsylvania was the site of the military camp of the American Continental Army over the winter of 1777–1778 in the American Revolutionary War.-History:...

, Burr was put in charge of a small contingent guarding "the Gulf", an isolated pass commanding one approach to the camp. Burr imposed discipline there, defeating an attempted mutiny by some of the troops.

On June 28, 1778, at the Battle of Monmouth
Battle of Monmouth
The Battle of Monmouth was an American Revolutionary War battle fought on June 28, 1778 in Monmouth County, New Jersey. The Continental Army under General George Washington attacked the rear of the British Army column commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Henry Clinton as they left Monmouth Court...

, Burr's regiment was devastated by British artillery, and in the day's terrible heat, Burr suffered heat stroke
Heat illness
Heat illness or heat-related illness is a spectrum of disorders due to environmental heat exposure. It includes minor conditions such as heat cramps, heat syncope, and heat exhaustion as well as the more severe condition known as heat stroke....

 from which he would never quite recover. In January 1779 Burr, in command of Malcolm's Regiment, was assigned to Westchester County
Westchester County, New York
Westchester County is a county located in the U.S. state of New York. Westchester covers an area of and has a population of 949,113 according to the 2010 Census, residing in 45 municipalities...

, a region between the British post at Kingsbridge
Kingsbridge, Bronx
Kingsbridge is a working class residential neighborhood geographically located in the northwest Bronx in New York City. The neighborhood is part of Bronx Community Board 8. Its boundaries are Van Cortlandt Park to the north, Goulden Avenue to the east, West 225th Street to the south, and Irwin...

 and that of the Americans about 15 miles (24 km) to the north. In this district, part of the larger command of General Alexander McDougall
Alexander McDougall
Alexander McDougall was an American seaman, merchant, a Sons of Liberty leader from New York City before and during the American Revolution, and a military leader during the Revolutionary War. He served as a major general in the Continental Army, and as a delegate to the Continental Congress...

, there was much turbulence and plundering by lawless bands of both patriot
Patriot (American Revolution)
Patriots is a name often used to describe the colonists of the British Thirteen United Colonies who rebelled against British control during the American Revolution. It was their leading figures who, in July 1776, declared the United States of America an independent nation...

 and Loyalist
Tory
Toryism is a traditionalist and conservative political philosophy which grew out of the Cavalier faction in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. It is a prominent ideology in the politics of the United Kingdom, but also features in parts of The Commonwealth, particularly in Canada...

 sympathizers, and by raiding parties of ill-disciplined soldiers from both armies. Colonel Burr established a thorough patrol system, rigorously enforced martial law
Martial law
Martial law is the imposition of military rule by military authorities over designated regions on an emergency basis— only temporary—when the civilian government or civilian authorities fail to function effectively , when there are extensive riots and protests, or when the disobedience of the law...

, and quickly restored order. He did not stand for any horseplay or reckless behavior. He demanded honesty from his men and when they did not abide by these rules they were punished. One of Burr’s favorites was public shaming in which he tried to embarrass the guilty. When he resigned, he left a description of his “system” in hope that future colonels or generals would continue to enforce these rules.

He resigned from the Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

 in March 1779 due to his continuing bad health and renewed his study of law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

. 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
Arthur St. Clair
Arthur St. Clair was an American soldier and politician. Born in Scotland, he served in the British Army during the French and Indian War before settling in Pennsylvania, where he held local office...

, and on July 5, 1779, he rallied a group of Yale
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

 students at New Haven
New Haven, Connecticut
New Haven is the second-largest city in Connecticut and the sixth-largest in New England. According to the 2010 Census, New Haven's population increased by 5.0% between 2000 and 2010, a rate higher than that of the State of Connecticut, and higher than that of the state's five largest cities, and...

 along with Capt. James Hillhouse
James Hillhouse
James Hillhouse was an American lawyer, real estate developer, and politician from New Haven, Connecticut. He represented Connecticut in both the U.S. House and Senate...

 and the Second Connecticut Governors Foot Guard, in a skirmish with the British
Tryon's raid
In July 1779, British Major General William Tryon and 2,600 men embarked onto a Royal Navy fleet led by Admiral George Collier, and raided the Connecticut ports of New Haven, Fairfield, and Norwalk. Military and public stores, supply houses, and ships were destroyed, as were private homes,...

 at the West River
West River (Connecticut)
The West River is a freshwater stream in southern Connecticut. It flows through the towns of Bethany, Woodbridge, and New Haven before discharging into the West Haven Harbor....

. The British advance was repulsed, forcing them to enter New Haven from Hamden
Hamden, Connecticut
Hamden is a town in New Haven County, Connecticut, United States. The town's nickname is "The Land of the Sleeping Giant." Hamden is home to Quinnipiac University. The population was 58,180 according to the Census Bureau's 2005 estimates...

.

Despite these activities, Burr was able to finish his studies and was admitted to the bar
Bar (law)
Bar in a legal context has three possible meanings: the division of a courtroom between its working and public areas; the process of qualifying to practice law; and the legal profession.-Courtroom division:...

 at Albany
Albany, New York
Albany is the capital city of the U.S. state of New York, the seat of Albany County, and the central city of New York's Capital District. Roughly north of New York City, Albany sits on the west bank of the Hudson River, about south of its confluence with the Mohawk River...

 in 1782. He began to practice in New York City after the British evacuated the city the following year. The Burrs lived, for the next several years, in a house on Wall Street.

Marriage and family


In 1782, Aaron Burr married Theodosia Bartow Prevost, the widow of Jacques Marcus Prevost
Jacques Marcus Prevost
Jacques Marc, Jacques-Marc, James Marcus or Mark Prevost was a British Army officer of Swiss origin.-Early ife:...

 (see The Hermitage), a British army officer who had died in the West Indies
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

 during the Revolutionary War. They moved to New York City, where Burr's reputation grew as a brilliant trial lawyer. The marriage lasted until Theodosia's death from stomach cancer twelve years later. They had one child who survived birth, a daughter named Theodosia, after her mother. Burr believed in equality of the sexes, and prescribed education for his daughter in the classics, language, horsemanship and music. Born in 1783, Theodosia
Theodosia Burr Alston
Theodosia Burr Alston was the daughter of Theodosia Bartow Prevost and the controversial U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr.-Early life:...

 became widely known for her education and accomplishments. She married Joseph Alston
Joseph Alston
Joseph Alston was the 44th Governor of South Carolina from 1812 to 1814.-Early life and career:Born in All Saint's Parish near Georgetown, Alston attended the College of New Jersey, but left in 1796 without graduating. He then went to study law at the office of Edward Rutledge and was admitted to...

 of South Carolina
South Carolina
South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

 in 1801, and bore a son who died of fever at ten years of age. Theodosia died under mysterious and tragic circumstances; due either to piracy
Piracy
Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence at sea. The term can include acts committed on land, in the air, or in other major bodies of water or on a shore. It does not normally include crimes committed against persons traveling on the same vessel as the perpetrator...

 or in a shipwreck
Shipwreck
A shipwreck is what remains of a ship that has wrecked, either sunk or beached. Whatever the cause, a sunken ship or a wrecked ship is a physical example of the event: this explains why the two concepts are often overlapping in English....

 off the Carolinas in the winter of 1812-1813.

Recently, the Aaron Burr Association has recognized two illegitimate children of Burr with Mary Emmons, his servant. Louisa Charlotte was born in 1788, and John Pierre Burr in 1792. At that time, Burr was still married to Theodosia, but most of the time was in Albany while serving in the state assembly. DNA testing, which might verify these claims, is not possible due to the lack of a male descendant in this line.

Legal and early political career


Burr served in the New York State Assembly
New York State Assembly
The New York State Assembly is the lower house of the New York State Legislature. The Assembly is composed of 150 members representing an equal number of districts, with each district having an average population of 128,652...

 from 1784 to 1785, but became seriously involved in politics in 1789, when George Clinton
George Clinton (vice president)
George Clinton was an American soldier and politician, considered one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He was the first Governor of New York, and then the fourth Vice President of the United States , serving under Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. He and John C...

 appointed him New York State Attorney General
New York State Attorney General
The New York State Attorney General is the chief legal officer of the State of New York. The office has been in existence in some form since 1626, under the Dutch colonial government of New York.The current Attorney General is Eric Schneiderman...

. He was also Commissioner of Revolutionary War Claims in 1791. In 1791
United States Senate election in New York, 1791
The 1791 United States Senate election in New York was held on January 19, 1791 by the New York State Legislature to elect a U.S. Senator to represent the State of New York in the United States Senate.-Background:...

, he was elected a U.S. Senator from New York, defeating the incumbent, General Philip Schuyler
Philip Schuyler
Philip John Schuyler was a general in the American Revolution and a United States Senator from New York. He is usually known as Philip Schuyler, while his son is usually known as Philip J. Schuyler.-Early life:...

, and served there until 1797. Although Alexander Hamilton and Burr had long been on good personal terms, often dining with one another (Lomask, vol. 1), 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. More details of their relationship may be found in the Burr–Hamilton duel article.

After being appointed commanding general of U.S. forces by President John Adams
John Adams
John Adams was an American lawyer, statesman, diplomat and political theorist. A leading champion of independence in 1776, he was the second President of the United States...

 in 1798, Washington turned down Burr's application for a brigadier general
Brigadier general (United States)
A brigadier general in the United States Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, is a one-star general officer, with the pay grade of O-7. Brigadier general ranks above a colonel and below major general. Brigadier general is equivalent to the rank of rear admiral in the other uniformed...

's commission during the Quasi-War
Quasi-War
The Quasi-War was an undeclared war fought mostly at sea between the United States and French Republic from 1798 to 1800. In the United States, the conflict was sometimes also referred to as the Franco-American War, the Pirate Wars, or the Half-War.-Background:The Kingdom of France had been a...

 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." (Lomask vol.1) 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."

Bored with the inactivity of the new U.S. Senate (Lomask vol. 1), Burr ran for and was elected to the New York State Assembly, serving from 1798 through 1799. It was during this time he cooperated with the Holland Land Company
Holland Land Company
The Holland Land Company was a purchaser of the western two-thirds of the western New York land tract known as the Phelps and Gorham Purchase. This tract was known thereafter as The Holland Purchase...

 in obtaining a law to permit aliens to hold and convey lands. During John Adams' term as President, national parties
Political party
A political party is a political organization that typically seeks to influence government policy, usually by nominating their own candidates and trying to seat them in political office. Parties participate in electoral campaigns, educational outreach or protest actions...

 became clearly defined. Burr loosely associated himself with the Democratic-Republicans, though he had moderate Federalist allies, such as Sen. Jonathan Dayton
Jonathan Dayton
Jonathan Dayton was an American politician from the U.S. state of New Jersey. He was the youngest person to sign the United States Constitution and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, serving as the fourth Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, and later the U.S. Senate...

 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
Tammany Hall
Tammany Hall, also known as the Society of St. Tammany, the Sons of St. Tammany, or the Columbian Order, was a New York political organization founded in 1786 and incorporated on May 12, 1789 as the Tammany Society...

, later to become the infamous Tammany Hall
Tammany Hall
Tammany Hall, also known as the Society of St. Tammany, the Sons of St. Tammany, or the Columbian Order, was a New York political organization founded in 1786 and incorporated on May 12, 1789 as the Tammany Society...

, which Burr converted from a social club into a political machine
Political machine
A political machine is a political organization in which an authoritative boss or small group commands the support of a corps of supporters and businesses , who receive rewards for their efforts...

 to help Jefferson reach the presidency. In 1799, Burr founded the Bank of the Manhattan Company
Bank of the Manhattan Company
The Bank of the Manhattan Company is the earliest of the predecessor institutions that eventually formed the current JPMorgan Chase & Co.-History:...

, which in later years was absorbed into the Chase Manhattan Bank
Chase (bank)
JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., doing business as Chase, is a national bank that constitutes the consumer and commercial banking subsidiary of financial services firm JPMorgan Chase. The bank was known as Chase Manhattan Bank until it merged with J.P. Morgan & Co. in 2000...

, which in turn became part of 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).

Vice Presidency


Because of his influence in New York and opposition to the Hamiltonian Federalists, Burr was asked by Jefferson and Madison to help them in the election of 1800. Burr sponsored a bill through the New York Assembly that established the Manhattan Company
Bank of the Manhattan Company
The Bank of the Manhattan Company is the earliest of the predecessor institutions that eventually formed the current JPMorgan Chase & Co.-History:...

, a water utility company whose charter also allowed creation of a bank controlled by Jeffersonians. Another crucial move was Burr's success in securing the election of his slate of greater New York City area Electors, defeating the Federalist slate backed by Alexander Hamilton. This event only served to increase the antagonism between the former friends.

Burr is known as the father of modern political campaigning. He enlisted the help of members of Tammany Hall
Tammany Hall
Tammany Hall, also known as the Society of St. Tammany, the Sons of St. Tammany, or the Columbian Order, was a New York political organization founded in 1786 and incorporated on May 12, 1789 as the Tammany Society...

, a social club, to win the voting for selection of Electoral College delegates. He was then placed on the Democratic-Republican presidential ticket in the 1800 election with Jefferson
United States presidential election, 1800
In the United States Presidential election of 1800, sometimes referred to as the "Revolution of 1800," Vice-President Thomas Jefferson defeated President John Adams. The election was a realigning election that ushered in a generation of Democratic-Republican Party rule and the eventual demise of...

. At the time, most states' 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
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

. 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 during the voting stalemate in the Congress wrote that he would give it up entirely if Jefferson so demanded. Ultimately, the election devolved to the point where it took 36 ballot
Ballot
A ballot is a device used to record choices made by voters. Each voter uses one ballot, and ballots are not shared. In the simplest elections, a ballot may be a simple scrap of paper on which each voter writes in the name of a candidate, but governmental elections use pre-printed to protect the...

s before James A. Bayard
James A. Bayard (elder)
James Asheton Bayard II was an American lawyer and politician from Wilmington, in New Castle County, Delaware. He was a member of the Federalist Party, who served as U.S. Representative from Delaware and U.S. Senator from Delaware.-Early life and family:Bayard was born in Philadelphia,...

, a Delaware
Delaware
Delaware is a U.S. state located on the Atlantic Coast in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It is bordered to the south and west by Maryland, and to the north by Pennsylvania...

 Federalist, submitted a blank vote. Federalist abstentions in the Vermont
Vermont
Vermont is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state ranks 43rd in land area, , and 45th in total area. Its population according to the 2010 census, 630,337, is the second smallest in the country, larger only than Wyoming. It is the only New England...

 and Maryland
Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

 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
Samuel Chase
Samuel Chase was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court and earlier was a signatory to the United States Declaration of Independence as a representative of Maryland. Early in life, Chase was a "firebrand" states-righter and revolutionary...

 with helping to preserve the principle of judicial independence that was established by Marbury v. Madison
Marbury v. Madison
Marbury v. Madison, is a landmark case in United States law and in the history of law worldwide. It formed the basis for the exercise of judicial review in the United States under Article III of the Constitution. It was also the first time in Western history a court invalidated a law by declaring...

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


When it became clear that Jefferson would drop Burr from his ticket in the 1804 election
United States presidential election, 1804
The United States presidential election of 1804 pitted incumbent Democratic-Republican President Thomas Jefferson against Federalist Charles Cotesworth Pinckney...

, 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
George Clinton (vice president)
George Clinton was an American soldier and politician, considered one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He was the first Governor of New York, and then the fourth Vice President of the United States , serving under Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. He and John C...

. Hamilton also opposed Burr, due to his belief that Burr had entertained a Federalist secession movement in New York. He called Burr "a dangerous man, and one who ought not be trusted with the reins of government," and on occasion compared him to Catiline
Catiline
Lucius Sergius Catilina , known in English as Catiline, was a Roman politician of the 1st century BC who is best known for the Catiline conspiracy, an attempt to overthrow the Roman Republic, and in particular the power of the aristocratic Senate.-Family background:Catiline was born in 108 BC to...

. 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
Charles D. Cooper
Charles DeKay Cooper was an American physician, lawyer and Democratic-Republican politician.-Life:...

 was published in the Albany Register, Burr sought from Hamilton an affirmance or disagreement with Cooper's characterization of Hamilton's remarks.

Instead Hamilton responded verbosely, in part that Burr should give specifics of Hamilton's remarks, not Cooper's. He said he couldn't answer regarding Cooper's interpretation. A few more letters followed, in which the exchange escalated to Burr's demanding that Hamilton recant or deny any statement disparaging Burr’s honor over the past 15 years, but Hamilton, having already been disgraced by the Maria Reynolds
Maria Reynolds
Maria Lewis Reynolds is best known as the mistress of Alexander Hamilton and wife of James Reynolds, and she played a central role in one of the first sex scandals in American political history.-History:...

 adultery scandal and ever mindful of his own reputation and honor, did not. Burr responded by challenging Hamilton to personal combat under the code duello
Code duello
A code duello is a set of rules for a one-on-one combat, or duel.Codes duello regulate dueling and thus help prevent vendettas between families and other social factions. They assure that non-violent means of reaching agreement be exhausted and that harm be reduced, both by limiting the terms of...

, 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
Weehawken, New Jersey
Weehawken is a township in Hudson County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the township population was 12,554.-Geography:Weehawken is part of the New York metropolitan area...

, and following the duel 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. Historian William Weir
William Weir
William Weir may refer to:* William Alexander Weir , Quebec lawyer and politician* William Weir , Scottish restorer of historic buildings* William Weir, 1st Viscount Weir , Scottish industrialist...

 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. Louisiana State University
Louisiana State University
Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, most often referred to as Louisiana State University, or LSU, is a public coeducational university located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The University was founded in 1853 in what is now known as Pineville, Louisiana, under the name...

 history professors Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg concur in this view. They note that "Hamilton brought the pistols, which had a larger barrel than regular dueling pistols, and a secret hair-trigger, and were therefore much more deadly," and conclude that "Hamilton gave himself an unfair advantage in their duel, and got the worst of it anyway."

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
Liver
The liver is a vital organ present in vertebrates and some other animals. It has a wide range of functions, including detoxification, protein synthesis, and production of biochemicals necessary for digestion...

 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 charged with multiple crimes, including murder
Murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

, 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. He avoided New York and New Jersey for a time, but all the charges against him were eventually dropped.

Conspiracy and trial


After Burr left the Vice-Presidency at the end of his term in 1805, he journeyed into what was then the West, areas west of the Allegheny Mountains
Allegheny Mountains
The Allegheny Mountain Range , also spelled Alleghany, Allegany and, informally, the Alleghenies, is part of the vast Appalachian Mountain Range of the eastern United States and Canada...

, particularly the Ohio River Valley
Ohio River
The Ohio River is the largest tributary, by volume, of the Mississippi River. At the confluence, the Ohio is even bigger than the Mississippi and, thus, is hydrologically the main stream of the whole river system, including the Allegheny River further upstream...

 and the lands acquired in the Louisiana Purchase
Louisiana Purchase
The Louisiana Purchase was the acquisition by the United States of America of of France's claim to the territory of Louisiana in 1803. The U.S...

 drumming up support for his plans. Burr had leased 40,000 acres (160 km²) of land (the "Bastrop" lands) along the Ouachita River
Ouachita River
The Ouachita River is a river that runs south and east through the U.S. states of Arkansas and Louisiana, joining the Tensas River to form the Black River near Jonesville, Louisiana.-Course:...

, in what is now Louisiana
Louisiana
Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

, from the Spanish government.

His most important contact was General James Wilkinson
James Wilkinson
James Wilkinson was an American soldier and statesman, who was associated with several scandals and controversies. He served in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, but was twice compelled to resign...

, Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Army at New Orleans and Governor of the Louisiana Territory. Others included Harman Blennerhassett
Harman Blennerhassett
Harman Blennerhassett was an Irish-American lawyer, born in Castle Conway in County Kerry, Ireland to Conway Blennerhassett and Elizabeth Lacy. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and in 1790 was called to the Irish bar...

, who offered the use of his private island for training and outfitting Burr's expedition. Wilkinson was later proven to be a bad choice.

Burr saw war with Spain as a distinct possibility. In case of a war declaration, Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson was the seventh President of the United States . Based in frontier Tennessee, Jackson was a politician and army general who defeated the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend , and the British at the Battle of New Orleans...

 stood ready to help Burr, who would be in position to immediately join in. Burr's expedition of perhaps eighty men carried modest arms for hunting, and no materiel
Materiel
Materiel is a term used in English to refer to the equipment and supplies in military and commercial supply chain management....

was ever revealed, even when Blennerhassett Island
Blennerhassett Island
Blennerhasset Island, an island on the Ohio River below the mouth of the Little Kanawha River, is located near Parkersburg in Wood County, West Virginia, USA....

 was seized by Ohio
Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

 militia
Militia
The term militia is commonly used today to refer to a military force composed of ordinary citizens to provide defense, emergency law enforcement, or paramilitary service, in times of emergency without being paid a regular salary or committed to a fixed term of service. It is a polyseme with...

 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, the 1819 Adams-Onís Treaty
Adams-Onís Treaty
The Adams–Onís Treaty of 1819, also known as the Transcontinental Treaty or the Purchase of Florida, was a treaty between the United States and Spain in 1819 that gave Florida to the U.S. and set out a boundary between the U.S. and New Spain . It settled a standing border dispute between the two...

 secured Florida for the United States without a fight, and war in Texas didn't occur until 1836, the year of Burr's death.

After a near-incident with Spanish forces at Natchitoches
Natchitoches, Louisiana
Natchitoches is a city in and the parish seat of Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, United States. Established in 1714 by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis as part of French Louisiana, the community was named after the Natchitoches Indian tribe. The City of Natchitoches was first incorporated on February...

, Wilkinson decided he could best serve his conflicting interests by betraying Burr's plans to President Jefferson and to his Spanish paymasters. Jefferson 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 toward Spanish Florida
Spanish Florida
Spanish Florida refers to the Spanish territory of Florida, which formed part of the Captaincy General of Cuba, the Viceroyalty of New Spain, and the Spanish Empire. Originally extending over what is now the southeastern United States, but with no defined boundaries, la Florida was a component of...

; he was intercepted at Wakefield, in Mississippi Territory
Mississippi Territory
The Territory of Mississippi was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from April 7, 1798, until December 10, 1817, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Union as the state of Mississippi....

 (now in the state of Alabama
Alabama
Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...

) on February 19, 1807, and confined to Fort Stoddert
Fort Stoddert
Fort Stoddert was a stockade fort in the Mississippi Territory, in what is today Alabama. It was located on a bluff of the Mobile River, near modern Mount Vernon, close to the confluence of the Tombigbee and Alabama Rivers. It served as the western terminus of the Federal Road which ran through...

 after being arrested on charges of treason.

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
Edmund P. Gaines
Edmund Pendleton Gaines was a United States army officer who served with distinction during the War of 1812, the Seminole Wars and the Black Hawk War.-Early life:...

 and the daughter of Judge Harry Toulmin, the man responsible for the legal arrest of Burr. Mrs. Gaines and Burr played chess that evening and continued this entertainment during his confinement at the fort.

Burr's secret correspondence with Anthony Merry
Anthony Merry
-Biography:The son of a London wine merchant, Anthony Merry served in various diplomatic posts in Europe between 1783 and 1803, holding mostly consular positions. He was Chargé d'Affaires in Madrid in 1796 and again in Copenhagen about 1799, and Minister ad interim in Paris in 1802.Merry was...

 and the Marquis of Casa Yrujo
Carlos Martínez de Irujo y Tacón
Don Carlos Martínez de Irujo y Tacón , from 1803 known as Marqués de Casa Irujo, was a Spanish diplomat, Knight of the Order of Carlos III and public official....

, the British and Spanish ministers at Washington, was eventually revealed. It had been to secure money and to conceal his real designs, which were to help Mexico to overthrow Spanish power in the Southwest, and to found a dynasty in what would have become former Mexican territory. This was a misdemeanor
Misdemeanor
A misdemeanor is a "lesser" criminal act in many common law legal systems. Misdemeanors are generally punished much less severely than felonies, but theoretically more so than administrative infractions and regulatory offences...

, based on the Neutrality Act of 1794
Neutrality Act of 1794
The Neutrality Act of 1794 made it illegal for an American to wage war against any country at peace with the United States.The Act declared in part:...

 passed to block filibuster
Filibuster (military)
A filibuster, or freebooter, is someone who engages in an unauthorized military expedition into a foreign country to foment or support a revolution...

 expeditions like those questionable enterprises of George Rogers Clark
George Rogers Clark
George Rogers Clark was a soldier from Virginia and the highest ranking American military officer on the northwestern frontier during the American Revolutionary War. He served as leader of the Kentucky militia throughout much of the war...

 and William Blount
William Blount
William Blount, was a United States statesman. He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention for North Carolina, the first and only governor of the Southwest Territory, and Democratic-Republican Senator from Tennessee . He played a major role in establishing the state of Tennessee. He was the...

. Jefferson, however, sought the highest charges against Burr.

In 1807, on a charge of treason, Burr was brought to trial before the United States Circuit Court
Circuit court
Circuit court is the name of court systems in several common law jurisdictions.-History:King Henry II instituted the custom of having judges ride around the countryside each year to hear appeals, rather than forcing everyone to bring their appeals to London...

 at Richmond, Virginia
Richmond, Virginia
Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States. It is an independent city and not part of any county. Richmond is the center of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Greater Richmond area...

. His defense lawyers included Edmund Randolph
Edmund Randolph
Edmund Jennings Randolph was an American attorney, the seventh Governor of Virginia, the second Secretary of State, and the first United States Attorney General.-Biography:...

, John Wickham and Luther Martin
Luther Martin
Luther Martin was a politician and one of United States' Founding Fathers, who refused to sign the Constitution because he felt it violated states' rights...

. 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
Chief Justice of the United States
The Chief Justice of the United States is the head of the United States federal court system and the chief judge of the Supreme Court of the United States. The Chief Justice is one of nine Supreme Court justices; the other eight are the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States...

 John Marshall
John Marshall
John Marshall was the Chief Justice of the United States whose court opinions helped lay the basis for American constitutional law and made the Supreme Court of the United States a coequal branch of government along with the legislative and executive branches...

, began on August 3.