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Memoirs of Aaron Burr, Volume 1. by Matthew L. Davis

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exception, in a similar degree of latitude, the same sun which ripens
the tamarind and the anana, ameliorates the temper, and disposes it to
gentleness and kindness. In India and other countries not very
different in climate from the southern parts of the United States, the
inhabitants are distinguished for a softness and inoffensiveness of
manners, degenerating almost to effeminacy; it is here then, only,
that we are exempt from the general influence of climate: here only
that, in spite of it, we are cruel and ferocious! Poor Carolina!

"The state of society, too, is equally inviting. The men and women
associate very little; the former employ themselves either in the
business of life, or in hunting horse-racing, and gaming; while the
latter meet in large parties, composed entirely of themselves, to sip
tea and look prim!" Would a stranger who had been among us, who had
witnessed the polished state of our society, the elegance of our
parties, the case and sociability of manners which prevail there, the
constant and agreeable intercourse between the sexes, the
accomplishments of our ladies, that proud and elevated spirit among
the men which would feel "a stain like a wound," believe the account
you have written meant as a picture of South Carolina? Would he
believe, still further, that it was drawn by an American? No. He would
suppose it the production of some jaundiced foreigner, who had never
visited us, and who set down every thing out of his own country as
rude and Gothic. Now I recollect Morse gives a description something
like this of _North_ Carolina; and I suspect your "friends" stole
their account, with a little exaggeration, from him, but mistook the
state. I have now replied to the fable of your "dear friends" in a
_veritable_ style; but, setting aside rhapsody, if you have time to
read it, I will give you a proper and impartial account of our country
in a few words. Possibly it may serve to amuse you, if still confined
by your ankle.

For about sixty or seventy miles from the seacoast, the land is,
perhaps, more uninterruptedly level than any equal tract of territory
in the United States; from that distance it gradually becomes more
hilly, till, as you advance into the interior, you become entangled in
that chain of mountains which, rising in the back parts of
Pennsylvania, runs through that state, touches a corner of Maryland,
and, extending through North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia,
forms a line between the Atlantic and transatlantic states. In upper
Carolina it is as healthy as anywhere on the continent. The people are
robust, active, and have a colour as fine as those of Rhode Island. In
the low country, it is true, we are visited by "the fevers and agues"
you mention, but it is only at a particular season, and near the banks
of the rivers. In this we are by no means singular; those who reside
on the borders of the lakes, the Connecticut, the Delaware, and the
Potomac, are equally exposed. On the seacoast we again find health;
Charleston, till within a few years past, was remarkably healthy.
Since '93 it has been afflicted, at different times, during the
summer, with an epidemic, which has certainly proved extremely fatal;
but ought it to be called an "annual visitant" here any more than at
Boston, New-York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, &c., all of which places
have been equally, and some of them more, afflicted by it?

With regard to our manners; if there is any state which has a claim to
superior refinement, it is certainly South Carolina. Generally
speaking, we are divided into but two classes, very rich and very
poor; which, if no advantage in a political view, is undoubtedly
favourable to a polished state of society. Our gentlemen having large
fortunes, and being very little disposed by the climate to the
drudgery of business or professions, have full leisure for the
attainment of polite literature, and what are usually called
accomplishments; you therefore meet with few of them who are not
tolerably well informed, agreeable companions, and completely well
bred. The possession of slaves renders them proud, impatient of
restraint, and gives them a haughtiness of manner which, to those
unaccustomed to them, is disagreeable; but we find among them a high
sense of honour, a delicacy of sentiment, and a liberality of mind,
which we look for in vain in the more commercial citizens of the
northern states. The genius of the Carolinian, like the inhabitants of
all southern countries, is quick, lively, and acute; in steadiness and
perseverance he is naturally inferior to the native of the north; but
this defect of climate is often overcome by his ambition or necessity;
and, whenever this happens, he seldom fails to distinguish himself. In
his temper he is gay and fond of company, open, generous, and
unsuspicious; easily irritated, and quick to resent even the
appearance of insult; but his passion, like the fire of the flint, is
lighted up and extinguished in the same moment. I do not mention his
hospitality and kindness to strangers, for they are so common they are
no longer esteemed virtues; like common honesty, they are noticed only
when not possessed. Nor is it for the elegance of their manners only
that the South Carolinians are distinguished; sound morality is
equally conspicuous among them. Gaming, so far from being a
fashionable vice, is confined entirely to the lower class of people;
among gentlemen it is deemed disgraceful. Many of them, it is true,
are fond of the turf; but they pursue the sports of it merely as an
amusement and recreation, not a business. As to hunting, the country
gentlemen occasionally engage in it, but surely there is nothing
criminal in this! From my education and other pursuits I have seldom
participated in it myself; but I consider it, above all exercises, the
most manly and healthful.

But come, let us dismiss the gentlemen and their amusements, and take
up the female part of the community.

The ladies of Carolina, I confess, are not generally as handsome as
those of the northern states; they want that bloom which, in the
opinion of some, is so indispensable an ingredient in beauty; but
their paleness gives them an appearance of delicacy and languor which
is highly interesting. Their education is perhaps more attended to
than anywhere else in the United States; many of them are well
informed, all of them accomplished. For it would be far more
unpardonable in a girl to enter a room or go through a congo
ungracefully, than to be ignorant of the most common event in history
or the first principles of arithmetic. They are perfectly easy and
agreeable in their manners, and remarkably fond of company; no
Charleston belle ever felt "ennui" in her life. In the richness of
their dress and the splendour of their equipages they are unrivalled.
From their early introduction into company, and their constant and
unreserved intercourse with the other sex, they generally marry young;
and if their husbands want only companions for the theatre or the
concert-room, or some one to talk over the scandal of the day with
when at home, they make tolerable wives. As we have now brought them
to the "ne plus ultra" of human happiness, marriage, we will leave
them there, and so finish our description.

The reason of your not hearing from me so long after your return to
New-York was this: not knowing till you wrote me from Ballston how my
letters would be received, I was really afraid to venture writing.

You ask how Miss P. walks? If it is your object, as you say, from
knowing bow you stand with her in point of forces, to preserve better
what you have won, receive a general lesson. "Continue in every
respect exactly as you are, and you please me most."

You wish me to acquire French. I already understand something of it,
and, with a little practice, would soon speak it. I promise you,
therefore, if you become my instructress, in less than two months
after our marriage to converse with you entirely in that language. I
fix the period _after_ our marriage, for I cannot think of being
corrected in the mistakes I may make by any other person than my wife.
Suppose, till then, you return to your Latin, and prepare to use that
tongue with me, since you are averse to one understood by all the
canaille. Adieu. I have literally given you a folio volume.

Yours, my dear Theodosia,


P. S. The arrangement you speak of proposing in your letter for an
interview has determined me. I shall there fore sail certainly in a
few days. Winds be propitious!

Miss BURR.

In April, 1799, the federal party were triumphant in the State of
New-York. The city was entitled to thirteen members of Assembly. They
were federalists, and were elected by an average majority of 944; the
whole number of votes being about 6000. Colonel Burr during this year
was not in public life, but he was not an idle spectator of passing
events. The year following a President of the United States was to be
elected. It was now certain, that unless the vote of the State of
New-York could be obtained for Mr. Jefferson, he could not be elected.
It was equally certain, that unless the city could be carried by the
democratic party, the state would remain in the bands of the

During the winter of 1799 and the spring of 1800, Colonel Burr
commenced a system of party organization for the approaching contest.
The presidential electors were at that time chosen by the legislature,
meeting in joint ballot. His first object was to secure such a
committee of nomination for the city and county of New-York as, in the
selection of candidates for the assembly, would be influenced by his
recommendation. His opinion, often expressed to his confidential
friends during the winter of 1800, was, that without a most powerful
ticket there was no prospect of success; with such a ticket and proper
exertions it could be elected. He entertained no doubt (and the result
proved that he was correct), that on the city and county of New-York
were suspended the destinies of the country, whether for good or
whether for ill. These views and these opinions were presented and
enforced by him for days, and weeks, and months previous to the
election upon all the young and ardent politicians of the city with
whom he had any intercourse. The effect of which was, that when the
crisis arrived, every member of the party seemed to feel the great
responsibility which rested upon him.

The next object with Colonel Burr was to inculcate harmony in the
party and concert in action. It was known that a most unconquerable
jealousy existed between the Clinton and Livingston families and the
adherents of those factions. The Clintons and their supporters were
anti-federalists. The Livingstons were not less distinguished as
federalists, until some time after the organization of the general
government under the new constitution. Colonel Burr enforced, in mild
and persuasive terms, the necessity of sacrificing all prejudices and
partialities; of surrendering all personal and ambitious
considerations; of standing shoulder to shoulder, and uniting in one
great effort to rescue the country from misrule. By the most unceasing
perseverance he succeeded in both these objects.

Every section of the democratic party felt the necessity of Colonel
Burr's being a member of the legislature that was to choose the
electors; but a difficulty arose. It was understood that General
Hamilton would personally attend the several polls during the three
days of election; that he would counsel and advise with his political
friends, and that he would address the people. Here again all seemed
to feel that Colonel Burr was the man, and perhaps the only man, to
meet General Hamilton on such an occasion. But if his name was on the
Assembly ticket as a candidate, his personal exertions during the
election would be lost to the party. To place him in that situation
appeared to many like abandoning the field without a struggle to the
federalists. In this dilemma, the county of Orange patriotically came
forward and nominated him as a candidate on their Assembly ticket,
thus leaving him free to act in the city of New-York; and by the
people of Orange Colonel Burr was elected a member of the legislature.

All the details connected with the formation of the Assembly ticket in
April, 1800, for the city and county of New-York, will be given
hereafter. The result is known. It succeeded. The legislature was
democratic. Presidential electors of the democratic party were
appointed. Colonel Burr's services were appreciated by the democracy
in every section of the country, and he was nominated on the ticket
with Mr. Jefferson for the offices of President and Vice President of
the United States. By the constitution, as it was originally adopted,
the person who had the greatest number of votes, provided they were a
majority of the whole number given, was president; and the person
having the next highest number, with the like proviso, was
vice-president. When the ballots were examined, it appeared that Mr.
Jefferson and Colonel Burr were the two highest candidates, and that
their votes were equal. By the provisions of the constitution, it
devolved upon the House of Representatives of the United States,
voting by states, to designate which of these gentlemen should be
president, and which vice-president.

On proceeding to the ballot a contest ensued, which lasted for several
days, producing the most implacable and bitter animosities; a contest
which terminated in the election of Mr. Jefferson and the ruin of
Colonel Burr. Until within a few years that scene has been completely
enveloped in mystery. A part of the incidents connected with it,
however, in a fugitive form, are before the world. But the period has
arrived when the question should be met with manly firmness; when the
voice of history should announce to posterity the truth, the whole
truth, and nothing but the truth, so far as it can be ascertained. The
generation which were the actors in those scenes have passed away. The
parties immediately interested are sleeping the sleep of death. Few,
very few indeed now living, understand the nature of that contest. The
curtain shall be drawn aside. The documents which develop its
character, and which are scattered in fragments, will be brought
together, and recorded (it is hoped) in a permanent and tangible form.

It will be seen that the immediate friends and advisers of Mr.
Jefferson, until within a few hours of the balloting, had no
confidence in certain leading and distinguished members of Congress,
whose names shall be given, but who, on his coming into power,
promptly received the most substantial evidence of his kind feelings
by appointments to office. The clearest evidence will be presented
that Mr. Jefferson entered into terms and conditions with the federal
party or some of their leaders; that the honourable James A. Bayard,
of Delaware, acted on the part of the federalists, and the honourable
Samuel Smith, of Maryland, at present mayor of Baltimore, on the part
of Mr. Jefferson; and that terms and conditions were agreed upon
between them before Mr. Jefferson could be elected; while, on the
other hand, it will be demonstrated that the charges which have been
made against Colonel Burr of having intrigued and negotiated with the
federal party to obtain the office of president were as unjust as they
were groundless. But "_I come to bury Cesar, not to praise him_."


1. Manuscript poem of my own.

2. From the same.

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