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Burr, Aaron, 1716-

educator; born in Fairfield, Conn., Jan. 4, 1716; was of German descent; graduated at Yale College in 1735; and ordained by the presbytery of east Jersey in 1737. He became pastor at Newark. N. J., where he was chiefly instrumental in founding the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), and was elected its president in 1748. In 1752 he married a daughter of Jonathan Edwards, the metaphysician. In 1754 he accompanied Whitefield to Boston. He died Sept. 24, 1757.

Vice-President of the United States; born at Newark. N. .J., Feb. 6, 1756; a son of Rev. Aaron Burr, President of the College of New Jersey, and of a daughter of the eminent theologian, Jonathan Edwards. When nineteen years of age, he entered the Continental army, at Cambridge, as a private soldier, and as such accompanied Arnold in his expedition to Quebec. From the line of that expedition, in the wilderness. Arnold sent him with despatches to General Montgomery, at Montreal, where he entered the military family of that officer as his aide-de-camp, with the rank of captain. Offended because checked by Montgomery in his officiousness, he left his staff, and joined Arnold's on the night of the assault on Quebec (Dec. 30 and 31. 1775). He was with Arnold when the latter was wounded in that assault, and was his acting brigade major for a while. He left the

Aaron Burr.

army in Canada. and joined the military family of Washington, at New York, in May. 1776. with the rank of major. Dissatisfied with that position, he left it in the course of a few weeks and took a similar position on General Putnam's staff. He was active in the events connected with the defence and abandonment of the city of New York in 1776: and in 177 he became lieutenant-colonel of Malcolm's regiment. Burr distinguished himself in the battle of Monmouth in 1778, where he commanded a brigade in Stirling's division. During the winter of 1778-79 he was stationed in Westchester county, N. Y. For a short time he was in command of the post at West Point, but, on account of ill-health, he left the army in March, 1779.

Burr was a born intriguer, and was naturally drawn towards Lee and Gates, and became a partisan in their schemes for injuring the reputation of Washington. He had been detected by the commander-in-chief [488] in immoralities, and ever afterwards he affected to despise the military character of Washington. He began to practise law at Albany in 1782, but removed to New York the next year. Entering the arena of politics, he was chosen a member of the New York legislature in 1784, and again in 1798. In 1789 he was appointed adjutant-general of the State, and commissioner of revolutionary claims in 1791. A member of the United States Senate from 1791 till 1797, Burr was a conspicuous Democratic leader in that body; and in the Presidential election in 1800 he and Thomas Jefferson had an equal number of votes in the electoral college. The House of Representatives decided the choice in favor of Jefferson on the thirty-sixth ballot, and Burr became Vice-President. In July, 1804, he killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel; and the next year he undertook his mad and mysterious enterprise in the West, which resulted in his trial for treason.

In March, 1805, Burr's term of office as Vice-President ended, and he descended to private life an utterly ruined man. But his ambition and his love of intrigue were as strong as ever, and he conceived schemes for personal aggrandizement and pecuniary gain. It was the general belief, at that time, in the United States, that the Spanish inhabitants of Louisiana would not quietly submit to our government. Taking advantage of this belief, and the restlessness of many of the inhabitants of the valley of the Mississippi, he conceived some daring schemes (none fully developed) of military operations in that region, which he attempted to carry out immediately after he left office. With several nominal objects in view. Burr started for the Mississippi Valley in company with General Wilkinson, who went to take possession of his office of governor of the Louisiana Territory, to which he had been appointed. At Pittsburg Burr started in a vessel called an “ark,” in which were fitted up conveniences for a long voyage. Wilkinson was not ready, and the impatient Burr proceeded without him. He stopped at Blennerhassett's Island, nearly opposite Marietta, then inhabited by a wealthy and accomplished Irish gentleman of that name, who had created there a paradise for himself (see Blennerhassett, Harman). He had a pleasant mansion, enriched by books, adorned with paintings, enlivened by music, and presided over by a lovely and accomplished wife. Burr laid before Blennerhassett a brilliant vision of wealth and power, in a scheme of conquest or revolution, which captivated him and fired the ambition that lay in the bosom of his wife. They engaged in Burr's scheme, whatever it may have been, with ardor.

After remaining there some time, Burr pressed forward, and at Louisville overtook Matthew Lyon (q. v.), with whom he had voyaged in company in the earlier part of the journey. He accompanied Lyon to his home on the Cumberland River, whence he journeyed to Nashville on horseback; had a public reception (May 28, 1805), in which Andrew Jackson participated; and, furnished with a boat by that gentleman, returned to Lyon's. Then he resumed his voyage in his own “ark,” and met Wilkinson at Fort Massac, nearly opposite the mouth of the Cumberland. Some soldiers were about to depart thence for New Orleans, and Wilkinson procured a barge from one of the officers for Burr's accommodation in a voyage to that city. There he found the inhabitants in a state of great excitement. The introduction of English forms of law proceedings, and the slight participation of the people in public affairs, had produced much discontent, especially among the Creoles and old settlers. Even the new American immigrants were divided by bitter political and private feuds. Burr remained only a short time, when he reascended the Mississippi to Natchez, whence he travelled through the wilderness, along an Indian trail or bridle-path, 450 miles, to Nashville, where he was entertained for a week by Jackson early in August. After spending a few weeks there, Burr made his way through the Indian Territory to St. Louis, where he again met Wilkinson, that being the seat of government of the Louisiana Territory. Then, for the first time, he threw out hints to Wilkinson of his splendid scheme of conquest in the Southwest, which he spoke of as being favored by the United States government. At the same time he complained of the government as imbecile, and the people of the West as ready for revolt. He made no explanation [489] to Wilkinson of the nature of his scheme, and that officer, suspicious of Burr's designs, wrote to his friend Robert Smith, Secretary of the Navy, advising the government to keep a watch upon his movements.

Burr went from St. Louis to Vincennes with a letter from Wilkinson to Governor Harrison, in which he urged the latter to use his influence to get Burr elected to Congress from that district. Thence Burr went eastward, stopping at Cincinnati, Chillicothe, and Marietta, everywhere conversing with leading men, to whom he gave only attractive hints of a brilliant scheme in hand. He spent that winter and the following spring and summer in Philadelphia and Washington, engaged in his mysterious projects. There he more clearly developed his scheme, which seemed to have a twofold character — the conquest of Mexico from the Spaniards and the establishment of an independent monarchy, and the revolutionizing the Mississippi Valley, separating that region from the rest of the Union, and forming an independent republic, with its seat of government at New Orleans. If the first-mentioned scheme should be carried out, Burr aspired to be king; if the latter, he was to be president of his new republic. Towards the end of summer (August, 1806) Burr departed on a second Western tour. For a year a vague suspicion prevailed throughout the country that Burr was engaged in a scheme for revolutionizing Mexico — an idea agreeable to the Western people because of the existing difficulties with Spain. It was believed, too (for so Burr had continually hinted), that such a scheme was secretly favored by the government. Under this impression Burr's project received the countenance of several leading men in the Western country. One of the first things which Burr did after his arrival in Kentucky was to purchase an interest in a claim to a large tract of land on the Washita River, under a Spanish grant to the Baron de Bastrop. The negotiation was carried on through Edward Livingston at New Orleans. The avowal of an intention to settle on these lands might cover up a far different design. Blennerhassett now joined Burr actively in his enterprise. Together they built, with the money of the former, fifteen boats on the Muskingum River; and negotiations were set on foot with an Ohio senator to furnish supplies for an army in the West and the purchase of two gunboats he was building for the government. A mercantile house at Marietta, in which Blennerhassett had been a partner, was authorized to purchase provisions, and a kiln was erected on Blennerhassett Island for drying corn to fit it for shipment. Young men enlisted in considerable numbers for an expedition down the Mississippi, about which only mysterious hints were given.

Meanwhile Wilkinson had arrived at Natchitoches to repel, with 500 or 600 troops, a Spanish invasion of the Territory of Orleans from Texas. There a young man appeared in camp with a letter of introduction from Jonathan Dayton, of New Jersey, to Colonel Cushing, the senior officer next to Wilkinson. He also slipped, unobserved, a letter into Wilkinson's hand, from Burr, which was a formal letter of introduction. It contained a letter from Burr, principally written in cipher. Circumstances seem to show that Wilkinson was at this time privy to, if not actually engaged in, Burr's scheme. The cipher letter informed Wilkinson that he (Burr) had arranged for troops under different pretexts at different points, who would rendezvous on the Ohio by Nov. 1; that the protection of England had been secured; that Truxton had gone to Jamaica to arrange with the English admiral; that an English fleet would meet on the Mississippi; that the navy of the United States was ready to join: that final orders had been given to his friends and followers; that Wilkinson should be second to Burr only; that the people of the country to which they were going were ready to receive them: and that their agents with Burr had stated that, if protected in their religion, and not subjected to a foreign government, all would be settled in three weeks. The plan was to move detachments of volunteers rapidly from Louisville in November, meet Wilkinson at Natchez in December, and then to determine whether to seize Baton Rouge (then in possession of the Spaniards as a part of west Florida) or pass on. Enclosed in the same packet was a letter, also in cipher, from Jonathan Dayton, [490] telling Wilkinson he would surely be displaced at the next meeting of Congress, and added, “You are not a man to despair, or even to despond, especially when such prospects offer in another quarter. Are you ready? Are your numerous associates ready? Wealth and glory! Louisiana and Mexico!--Dayton.”

The correspondence, in cipher and otherwise, between Wilkinson and Burr for several months previously leads to the conclusion that the former was, at that time, engaged in Burr's scheme, and that the latter relied upon him. Intimations in the letters of a design to seize newly acquired Louisiana startled Wilkinson, and he resolved to make the best terms he could with the Spanish commander on the Sabine and hasten back to New Orleans to defend it against any scheme of conquest there which Burr might contemplate or attempt. This design he communicated to Cushing, and obtained from the bearer of the letters such information as excited his alarm to a high pitch. The young man (named Swartwout) stated that he and another (named Ogden) had been sent by Burr from Philadelphia; that they had carried despatches from Burr to General Adair, of Kentucky, who was a party to the scheme; that they hastened towards St. Louis in search of Wilkinson, but learned at Kaskaskia that he had descended the river; that they followed to the mouth of the Red River, when Ogden went on to New Orleans with despatches to Burr's friends there, and he (Swartwout) had hastened to Wilkinson's headquarters. He said Burr was supported by a numerous and powerful association, extending from New York to New Orleans; that several thousand men were prepared for an expedition against the Mexican provinces; that the Territory of Orleans would be revolutionized — for which the inhabitants were quite ready; that he supposed some “seizing” would be necessary at New Orleans, and a forced “transfer” of the bank; that an expedition was to land at Vera Cruz and march thence to the Mexican capital; that naval protection would be furnished by Great Britain; and that Truxton and other officers of the navy, disgusted with the conduct of the government, would join in the enterprise.

After gathering all the information possible, Wilkinson sent, by express, two letters to President Jefferson--one official, the other confidential, in which, without mentioning any names, he gave a general outline of the proposed expedition; and then pushed forward to the Sabine. He sent orders to the commanding officer at New Orleans to put that place in the best possible condition for defence, and to secure, if possible, by contract, a train of artillery there belonging to the French. Having made a satisfactory arrangement with the Spanish commander, Wilkinson hastened back to Natchitoches, where he received a letter from St. Louis informing him that a plan to revolutionize the Western country was about to explode; and that Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Orleans Territory had combined to declare themselves independent on Nov. 15. Wilkinson, alarmed, ordered Cushing to hasten down with the troops, while he sped to Natchez; whence he sent a second special messenger to the President with duplicates of his former letters, and another declaring that a. conspiracy really existed; and authorized the messenger to mention the names of Burr, Dayton, Truxton, and others as apparently engaged in the enterprise. He informed Governor Claiborne, of the Orleans Territory, that his government was menaced by a secret plot, and took other measures for its defence. At New Orleans Wilkinson procured a meeting of the merchants, to whom he and Governor Claiborne made an exposition of Burr's suspected projects. Bollman, an agent of Burr there, with Swartwout and Ogden, were arrested, and the militia of the Territory were placed at Wilkinson's disposal. Great excitement now prevailed on the lower Mississippi and on the Ohio and its tributaries. A series of articles, inspired, no doubt, if not written, by Burr, had appeared in an Ohio newspaper, signed “Querist,” arguing strongly in favor of the separation of the Western States from the Union. Similar articles had appeared in a Democratic paper at Pittsburg. In Kentucky were many uneasy aspirants for political power, and an old story of Spanish influence there — through pensioners upon the bounty of Spain — was revived. Burr's enterprise became associated in the [491] public mind with the old Spanish plot; and Burr and his confederates, offended by what they deemed Wilkinson's treachery to their cause, associated him with the Spanish intriguers. These hints, reaching the lower Mississippi, embarrassed Wilkinson; for it was intimated that he was also connected with the schemes of Burr. General Jackson--who had favored Burr's schemes so long as they looked only towards a seizure of Spanish provinces — alarmed by evidences that he had wicked designs against the Union, wrote to Governor Claiborne (with the impression that Wilkinson was associated with Burr), warning him to beware of the designs of that officer and the ex-Vice-President. “I hate the Dons,” Jackson wrote (Nov. 12, 1806) ; “I would delight to see Mexico reduced; but I would die in the last ditch before I would see the Union disunited.”

Daviess, United States district attorney for Kentucky, watched Burr, and finally applied to the court for process for his arrest. Burr was summoned before a grand jury (Nov. 25), but, the attorney failing to get such witnesses as he desired. the jury not only failed to find a bill, but declared their belief that Burr intended nothing against the integrity of the Union. This triumph for Burr was celebrated by a ball at Frankfort. Meanwhile the President of the United States had commissioned Graham, secretary of the Orleans Territory, to investigate the reports about Burr, and, if well founded, to take steps to cut short his career. On Nov. 27 the President issued a proclamation that he had been informed of an unlawful scheme set on foot for invading the Spanish dominions; warning citizens of the United States not to engage in it; and directing all in authority to endeavor to suppress it. Before this Graham had drawn from Blennerhassett facts of great importance (for the latter took the secretary to be one of Burr's confidants), and applied to the governor of Ohio for the seizure of the boats on the Muskingum. The legislature, then in session, granted the request. A few days afterwards several boats, in charge of Colonel Tyler, filled with men, descended the Ohio to Blennerhassett's Island. Blennerhassett, informed of the seizure of his boats on the Muskingum, and that a body of militia was coming to seize those at the island, hastily embarked (Dec. 13) with a few of his followers, and descended the river in Tyler's flotilla. The next day a mob of militia took possession of the island, desolated it, and even insulted Mrs. Blennerhassett, who succeeded in obtaining an open boat and following her husband down the river.

The legislature of Kentucky speedily passed a similar act for seizures to that of Ohio. Tyler, however, had already passed Louisville. They were joined by Burr, and the flotilla passed out into the Mississippi and stopped at Chickasaw Bluffs (now Memphis), where Burr attempted to seduce the garrison into his service. Burr now first heard of the action of the legislature of the Orleans Territory, before which Wilkinson had laid his exposure of the schemes. Perceiving what he might expect at New Orleans, and fearful that the authorities of Mississippi might arrest him at once, Burr passed to the west side of the river, out of their jurisdiction, where he formed a camp. 30 miles above Natchez. Under the proclamation of the President, a militia force was raised to arrest Burr. He made an unconditional surrender to the civil authority, and agreed that his boats should be searched and all arms taken. Before this was accomplished his cases of arms were cast into the river; and as no evidence of any hostile intention was found. a belief prevailed that he was innocent of any of the designs alleged against him. Burr was brought before the Supreme Court of the Territory, and was not only not indicted by the grand jury, but they presented charges against the governor for calling out the militia to arrest him. Burr spoke bitterly of Wilkinson as a traitor. and, fearing to fall into his hands, he resolved to disband his men and fly. He told them to sell what provisions they had, and, if they chose, to settle on his Washita lands. They dispersed through the Mississippi Territory, and furnished an abundant supply of school-masters. singing-masters, dancing-masters, and doctors. A reward was offered for the capture of Burr, and he was arrested (Feb. 19. 1807) by the Register of the Land-office, assisted by Lieut. (afterwards [492] Maj.-Gen.) Edmund P. Gaines, near Fort Stoddart, on the Tombigbee River, in eastern Mississippi. An indictment for high treason was found Against Burr by a grand jury for the District of Virginia. He was charged with levying war, by the collection of armed men at Blennerhassett's Island, within the dominion of Virginia. He was also charged with concocting a scheme for the overthrow of the national authority in the Western States and Territories. On these charges he was tried and acquitted.

After his acquittal Burr went to England and sought to engage that or some other European government in his project for revolutionizing Mexico. Pressed by his creditors, he lived a miserable life, in poverty, in London and Paris. Becoming subject to suspicion in London as a French spy, he was driven from the country, and took refuge in Paris. Finally, after long solicitations, he obtained leave to return, and appeared in New York in 1812, where he resumed the practice of law; but he lived in comparative poverty and obscurity until 1834, when, at the age of seventy-eight, he married Madame Jumel, a wealthy woman in New York, with whom he lived only a short time, when they were separated. Burr's first wife was the

The Burrows medal.

widow of Gen. Augustine Prevost, by whom he had a daughter, Theodosia. She became an accomplished woman, and the wife of Governor Allston, of South Carolina. She left Charleston (1812) in a vessel to visit her father in New York, and was never heard of afterwards. Burr was small in stature, of great ability, and fascinating in manners. He died on Staten Island, Sept. 14, 1836.

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