Part 8 out of 9
than to read and write, for all above common sense and school
education spoils the planter.
Though in my former letters I did not, in express terms, inform you
that I was under ostracism, yet it must have been inferred. Such is
the fact. In New-York I am to be disfranchised, and in New-Jersey
hanged. Having substantial objections to both, I shall not, for the
present, hazard either, but shall seek another country. You will not,
from this, conclude that I have become passive, or disposed to submit
tamely to the machinations of a banditti. If you should you would
greatly err.----and his clan affect to deplore, but secretly rejoice
at and stimulate the villanies of all sorts which are practised
against me. Their alarm and anxiety, however, are palpable to a degree
perfectly ridiculous. Their awkward attempts to propitiate reminds one
of the Indian worship of the evil spirit. God bless you ever.
Philadelphia, March 29, 1805.
I arrived here on the 21st instant, and shall remain here yet ten
days. John W. Smith is now here. He married Miss Duer a few weeks ago,
and will take her, with Frances, &c., to Orleans next month. Ann does
not go; but one younger than Susan, whose name I forget. Miss Dallas
is to be married in a few days to a handsome young man, just admitted
to the bar: no fortune, but said to possess talents. Poor La R. quite
pale and emaciated; the fruit of dissipation. Celeste as heretofore,
abating the influence of time, which is a little too visible;
courteous even to flattery. La Planche a recluse. Miss Binney is to be
married next week to Mr. Wallace, a young lawyer of this city of good
character and prospects.
People who are occupied are never dull, never melancholy. I learn,
then, from your letter of the 10th, that you have been a little lazy.
To be sure, if that letter was written for publication, it would do
credit to the author; but to me, _en particulier_, other reflections
might have occurred. The story, however, is prettily told, and I kiss
your hand for some other pretty things. But let me see more of the
effects of those precepts and that example.
I am apprehensive that your milk diet will not carry you through the
summer. You will want stimulus of some kind. For this purpose
something is used in all warm countries. In the West Indies they drink
rum and they die. In the East Indies and China, ginseng is the
panacea. Try ginseng. Some decoction or (bitter) infusion. When my
stomach is out of order or wants tone, nothing serves so effectually
as a cup of chamomile tea, without sugar or milk. I think this would
give you an appetite. Make the experiment. Bathing in seawater is a
grand preservative. If your bath be in the house, the best time is an
hour or two before dinner. Tepid bath; none of your cold baths for
such a machine as yours. If you have no convenience for a warm bath in
the house, set a mason to work to-morrow and make one in each of your
country houses. It is a high evidence of the barbarism of our Southern
states that, in an extent of three hundred miles, filled with wealthy
people, and in a hot climate, there should not be, in any one private
family, a convenient bathing-room. Perhaps, indeed, some ruined French
refugee may have expended fifty dollars to furnish himself and family
this luxury, as essential to comfort and cleanliness as to health.
In ten or twelve days I shall be on my way westward. My address, till
further orders, is at Cincinnati, Ohio, to the care of the Hon. John
Smith. As the objects of this journey, not mere curiosity, or _pour
passer le tems_, may lead me to Orleans, and perhaps farther. I
contemplate the tour with gayety and cheerfulness. The most weighty
solicitude on my mind is your health and that of your boy. My letters
have given you some advice as to yourself. You will have a letter from
Pittsburg, and from other points as opportunities may offer, though I
shall seldom be far from the route of some mail. God bless you
Philadelphia, April 10, 1805.
I rejoice that your nerves are in better tone, for truly, in some of
your letters, I could scarcely recognise my daughter. As to the boy, I
beseech you not to undertake to teach him the various sounds of the
letters abstractedly from the words in which those sounds are found.
This must be learned arbitrarily. Go on with his a, b, &c.; and when
he shall have learned the language, and not till then, can you teach
him (or ought it to be attempted) the principles of the construction
of that language.
My ostracism is enlivened by a constant succession of visitors from
New-York and New-Jersey. Swartwout and Bunner have just now come in,
and I have not been a day without some _one, two_, or more. They stay
generally two or three days with me, and I am privileged to take them
with me wherever I dine. Major Powell, the friend of Miss Keene, and
the lover of her mother, returned lately from Europe and died here
last week. He has left an estate of ten or twelve thousand guineas per
I met Miss Sumter (overtook meaning) at Wilmington last winter, and
thence to Baltimore we rode together in the stage. She is a frank,
sensible, amiable girl. May make a very interesting companion. I was
so much pleased with her, that I went several times to see her (two
miles), though I visited no lady. I took her to General Van Ness's,
where I made her at home. She plays on the piano in a style which may
be called superior, and has a most uncommon fine voice, which has been
Pittsburg, April 30, 1805.
Arrived in good order yesterday. Find my boat and hands ready. The
water high and weather fine. Shall set off in two hours. Have
therefore no time to give any account of my journey hither. My boat
is, properly speaking, a floating house, sixty feet by fourteen,
containing dining-room, kitchen with fireplace, and two bedrooms;
roofed from stem to stern; steps to go up, and a walk on the top the
whole length; glass windows, &c. This edifice costs one hundred and
thirty-three dollars, and how it can be made for that sum passes my
I find that Frankfort will be better than Cincinnati; so address to
me, Frankfort, Kentucky, to the care of the Honourable John Brown.
On the 30th of April, 1805, Colonel Burr and Gabriel Shaw, who had
accompanied him from Philadelphia, left Pittsburg in their boat. At
this period Colonel Burr commences, for the amusement of his daughter,
a journal of his adventures, which contains some interesting details
explanatory of the then situation of the western country. Extracts
from this journal will be made. On the 2d of May they stopped at a
little village on the north bank called M'Intosh. The next day "went
on shore in the skiff (letting the ark float on) to see the town of
_Wieling_, sometimes erroneously spelled _Wheeling_; a pretty, neat
village, well situated on the south bank, containing sixty or eighty
houses, some of brick, and some of a fine free stone found in the
vicinity. Saw several well-dressed women, who had the air of fashion
and movements of _vous autres_ on the coast."
On the morning of the 5th reached Marietta, on the north side,
"containing about eighty houses; some that would be called handsome in
any village on the continent. After breakfast" (says Colonel Burr)
"came in several gentlemen of the town to offer me civilities and
hospitalities. We have been walking several miles to see the mounds,
parapets, squares, and other remains of unknown antiquity which are
found in this neighbourhood. I am astonished and confounded; totally
unsatisfied with the conjectures of others, and unable to repose on
any plausible one of my own. I shall continue to write to you
journal-wise, but, having no copy, you must preserve the sheets, as I
may wish to refer to them for facts and dates."
Arrived at Cincinnati on the 11th May, by the course of the river
estimated to be 310 miles from Marietta. "Meeting here with General
Dayton and several old army acquaintance, remained the whole day." In
the evening started "for Louisville, which is at the rapids or falls
of the Ohio. There it is proposed to take land, to ride through part
of Kentucky, visit Lexington and Frankfort, and meet the ark again at
the mouth of the Cumberland, which empties into the Ohio about fifty
miles before its junction with the Mississippi."
Lexington (Kentucky), May 23, 1805.
My journal has grown too big to be sent by mail. I have, therefore,
only to assure you of my health and safety, without entering into any
of those details which you will see anon. Shaw is with me. To-morrow
we pursue our journey by land to Nashville in Tennessee, and thence
down the Cumberland to Eddyville, where we expect to find our boat,
and intend to go from that place to Orleans in ten days.
Arrived at Nashville on the 29th of May. "One is astonished at the
number of sensible, well-informed, and well behaved people which is
found here. I have been received with much hospitality and kindness,
and could stay a month with pleasure; but General Andrew Jackson
having provided us a boat, we shall set off on Sunday, the 2d of June,
to navigate down the Cumberland, either to Smithland at its mouth, or
to Eddyville, sixty or eighty miles above, at one of which places we
expect to find our boat, with which we intend to make a rapid voyage
down the Mississippi to Natchez and Orleans.
"Left Nashville on the 3d of June in an open boat. Came down the
Cumberland to its mouth, about 220 miles, in an open boat, where our
ark was in waiting. Reached Massac, on the Ohio, sixteen miles below,
on the 6th. Here found General Wilkinson on his way to St. Louis. The
general and his officers fitted me out with an elegant barge, sails,
colours, and ten oars, with a sergeant, and ten able, faithful hands.
Thus equipped, I left Massac on the 10th of June, Shaw in company.
"On the 17th arrived at Natchez, being by water, as estimated, nearly
eight hundred miles from Massac. Natchez is a town of three or four
hundred houses; the inhabitants traders and mechanics, but surrounded
by wealthy planters, among whom I have been entertained with great
hospitality and taste. These planters are, many of them, men of
education and refinement; live as well as yours, and have generally
better houses. We are now going through a settled country, and, during
the residue of my voyage to Orleans, about three hundred miles, I
shall take breakfast and dinner each day at the house of some
gentleman on shore. I take no letters of introduction; but, whenever I
hear of any gentleman whose acquaintance or hospitalities I should
desire, I send word that I am coming to see him, and have always met a
most cordial reception.
"Edward Livingston was married about a fortnight ago to Madame Moreau,
_veuve_, lately from St. Domingo, rich in beauty and accomplishments.
I hear so many pleasant things of Orleans, that I should certainly (if
one half of them are verified on inspection) settle down there were it
not for Theodosia and her boy; but these will control my fate.
"On the 25th of June reached New-Orleans. The lady of your laughing
friend is a charming woman. She was a widow from St. Domingo; _sans
argent et sans enfants_. Without a single good feature, she is very
agreeable. She is nearly the size and figure of Lady Nesbet. Fair,
pale, with jet black hair and eyes--little, sparkling black eyes,
which seem to be made for far other purposes than those of mere
vision. Ph. Jones is to be married in a few days to a pretty little
American, Miss Brown. The inhabitants of the United States are here
called Americans. I have been received with distinction.
"The mark of attention with which I have been most flattered is a
letter from the holy sisters, the Ursuline nuns, congratulating me on
my arrival. Having returned a polite answer to this letter, it was
intimated to me that the saints had a desire to see me. The bishop
conducted me to the cloister. We conversed at first through the
grates; but presently I was admitted within, and I passed an hour with
them greatly to my satisfaction. None of that calm monotony which I
expected. All was gayety, _wit_, and sprightliness. Saint A. is a very
accomplished lady. In manners and appearance a good deal like Mrs.
Merry. All, except two, appear to be past thirty. They were dressed
with perfect neatness; their veils thrown back. We had a repast of
wine, fruit, and cakes. I was conducted to every part of the building.
All is neatness, simplicity, and order. At parting, I asked them to
remember me in their prayers, which they all promised with great
promptness and courtesy--Saint A. with earnestness.
"This city is larger than I expected, and there are found many more
than would be supposed living in handsome style. They are cheerful,
gay, and easy. I have promised to return here next fall. I go on the
10th instant (July) by land to Kentucky, and thence, probably, to St.
Louis. _A la sante Madame_ Alston, is generally the first toast at
every table I have been. Then we say some evil things of Mr. Alston.
_Encore_, adieu. I will ask Saint A. to pray for thee too. I believe
much in the efficacy of her prayers. _Le pauvre_ A.B.A., I can find
nothing here to send him.
"Arrived at Nashville on the 6th August. You now see me safe through
the wilderness, though I doubt (hussey) whether you knew that I had a
wilderness to pass in order to get here. Yes, about four hundred and
fifty miles of wilderness. The hospitality of these people will keep
me here till the 12th instant, when I shall partake of a public
dinner, given not to the vice-president, but to A.B. I shall be at
Lexington on the 19th. I have directed Bradley's new map of the United
States to be sent to you; this will enable you to trace my route, and
I pray you to study the map attentively.
"I am still at Nashville (August 13th). For a week I have been
lounging at the house of General Jackson, once a lawyer, after a
judge, now a planter; a man of intelligence, and one of those prompt,
frank, ardent souls whom I love to meet. The general has no children,
but two lovely nieces made a visit of some days, contributed greatly
to my amusement, and have cured me of all the evils of my wilderness
jaunt. If I had time I would describe to you these two girls, for they
deserve it. To-morrow I move on towards Lexington.
"I ought to tell you how I came hither. It was thus: I embarked in a
little schooner at the mouth of the Bayou St. Jean on Lake
Ponchartrain, and landed on the opposite side of the lake about ten
miles below the mouth of the Chefonti, a traverse of about twenty-five
miles, which I made in six hours. Took a guide, and went on next
morning in a footpath; crossed the Chefonti about four miles above its
mouth, and then turned northerly; crossed the 31st degree of latitude
at forty-two miles from the Mississippi. Note; this line has been
actually run, and marked with great accuracy by commissioners on the
part of the United States and of Spain, as the north bound of the
Floridas and the south bound of the United States, till it strikes the
St. Mary's. You will see on the map. Continued on to Natchez. From the
mouth of the Chefonti to Natchez by this route is about one hundred
and forty miles. I was four days from New-Orleans to Natchez. Passed
near a week in the vicinity of Natchez, and saw some tears of regret
when I left it; but I am _now_ to give you the route; my journal will
give you the incidents.
"The path from Natchez, going northward, keeps east of the Yazoo, and,
I think, nearly on the dividing ridge between the waters of the Yazoo
and those of the Tombigbee or Tambeckbee; a vile country, destitute of
springs and of running water--think of drinking the nasty
puddle-water, covered with green scum, and full of animalculae--bah! I
crossed the Tennessee; how glad I was to get on the waters of the
Tennessee; all fine, transparent, lively streams, and itself a clear,
beautiful, magnificent river. I crossed it, I say, forty miles below
the muscle shoals, and three hundred and sixty above its mouth,
reckoning by the meanders of the river. Thence to Nashville through
the town of Franklin. On the map you will see laid down a road from
Nashville to Natchez as having been cut by the order of the minister
of war. This is imaginary; there is no such road.
"Arrived at Lexington on the 20th August, 1805. Left it for Frankfort,
distant twenty-two miles, on the 31st. I am magnificently lodged at
the house of John Brown, who married your old friend and neighbour
Miss Mason, who is, you know, the sister of _my friend_, the priest
(John Mason). She has two fine boys; the youngest, now four, I find
something like A.B.A., and, of course, amuse myself with him a great
deal. Mrs. Brown is still handsome, and speaks of you with attachment
"My plans for the two next months are now made up, or rather imposed
on me by letters received since I last wrote you, and by my previous
engagements. On the 1st of September I leave this for St. Louis. My
route is to Louisville, 55 miles; Vincennes, on the Wabash, 150 miles;
Kaskaskias, on the Mississippi, 150 miles; St. Louis, 75 miles. These
distances are probably inaccurate, but St. Louis is called 450 miles
from this. I propose to be at Cincinnati on the 1st of October; at
Chilicothe and Marietta from the 7th to the 15th; at Pittsburg about
the 20th, and at Bedford till the 1st of November. If by that time I
should hear nothing from you, shall take measures for going by land or
water to Theoville, so that you see it must be late in November before
I can see you.
"Arrived at Louisville (Falls of the Ohio) on the 2d of September,
being sixty miles on my way to the Missouri. I have now again one
hundred and fifty miles of wilderness to encounter. I will be at
Berkeley Springs by the 20th of October, where I hope to meet you and
Mari. Address to me at the city of Washington."
TO JOSEPH ALSTON.
Washington, November 29, 1804.
I came to Berkeley as was proposed. You were not there; no letter from
you. I sent a messenger to Washington city for intelligence, and
waited his return in unpleasant suspense. At the termination of six
days my messenger returned with letters advising that you would be at
Hillsborough, whither I resolved immediately to go, but thought it
best to take Washington in my way, in the hope of other letters. You
were all at the Oaks, and no movement spoken of. You were to go alone
to the legislature. Wife and child to be left at the Oaks.
Though oppressed with important engagements, I would nevertheless set
off with the stage of this day for Georgetown and the Oaks if I could
have been assured of finding preparations ready made for the
contemplated journey of Theodosia and the boy; but as you may have
left home without attending to this point, it seemed probable that I
might make a fruitless journey of nine hundred miles; fruitless,
except the pleasure of passing one day at the Oaks, and even this with
the alloy of your absence. My course will, therefore, be now to
Philadelphia, where I have made appointments, and either at that place
or this shall wait your reply, and we must endeavour to arrange our
plans with precision. Address me at this place.
My solicitude about the health of Theodosia is no way relieved by the
sort of recovery of which she advises me. The boy, too, has a relapse
of the ague, a disease of all others the most fatal to the infant
constitution. Great God! what sacrifices do you make, and to what end?
These solicitudes poison all my enjoyments, and often unfit me for
business. Being apprized from recollection of our personal
communications last autumn, and of our correspondence last winter, of
the engagements and ties which will prevent you, at least for some
months, from leaving South Carolina, I determine, at any sacrifice, to
rescue Theodosia and son.
There will be no war with Spain unless we shall declare it, which is
not expected. England continues a course of malevolence, which will
still continue and be borne. France, more courteous in words, under
the pressure of her own affairs. Affectionately,
The letters and extracts from the journal of Colonel Burr, which have
been given in the preceding part of this chapter, sufficiently
indicate that he was actively employed in travelling during the year
1805. From January, 1806, until August following, his time was
principally spent in the cities of Washington and Philadelphia. During
this period his correspondence  is voluminous, but in no manner
develops any other views than such as relate to land speculations.
Commodore Truxton, on the trial at Richmond, swore that Colonel Burr,
in the latter end of July, 1806, informed him that he was about
concluding a bargain for the Washita lands. In August Mr. Burr
commenced his western tour. In the summer and autumn, and during that
tour, he was brought before two different grand juries in Kentucky and
discharged. So far as any testimony was produced, it went to prove an
intention of settling the Washita lands. On the 3d of March, 1807, he
was arrested, by order of the government, on a charge of treason, in
the Tombigbee country, and transported to Richmond, Virginia, for
1. There was something prophetic in this prediction; for a few hours
afterward, in the House of Representatives, Messrs. Nicholson and
Randolph were betrayed into a violence of conduct which was noticed in
_Editor of the Washington Federalist_.
2. Portions of the letters to and from Colonel Burr are interesting;
many highly amusing; but the space yet remaining in which these
memoirs are to be closed renders it absolutely necessary to exclude
them from the work.
A separation of the South American provinces from the government of
Spain had long been anticipated. As early as the year 1796, while John
Jay was governor, Colonel Burr had various conversations with him on
the subject of these provinces. In these conversations Colonel Burr
expressed his views in reference to South America, which, he said, he
could revolutionize and take possession of. Governor Jay replied that
the boldness of the project would contribute to its success;
expressing his opinion that it was not impracticable. From this period
until 1805, Mr. Burr's mind seemed to have been constantly engaged in
reflecting on the feasibility of the measure, and the proper period
for carrying it into operation.
As matter of history connected with this subject, but not generally
known, it may not be improper to refer to an occurrence as early as
the year 1797, 98. About this period General Miranda was in the United
States. He formed an acquaintance with Generals Hamilton, Knox, and
other distinguished Americans. To these gentlemen he communicated his
project of revolutionizing South America. From the United States he
proceeded to England, and presented himself to the British ministry.
They entered into his views. The proposition was, that the United
States should furnish ten thousand troops, and, in that event, the
British government agreed to supply the necessary funds and ships to
carry on an expedition. As soon as Miranda had completed his
arrangements with the British minister, he addressed a letter to
General Alexander Hamilton, dated April 6th, 1798, in which he
"This, my dear and respectable friend, will be handed to you by my
countryman Don -----, who is charged with despatches of the highest
importance for the President of the United States. He will tell you,
_confidentially_, all that you wish to know on this subject. It
appears that the moment of our emancipation approaches, and the
establishment of liberty on all the continent of the New World is
confided by Providence to us. The only danger which I foresee is the
introduction of French principles, which would poison our liberty in
its cradle, and would finish by destroying yours."
So far did these arrangements advance, that Miranda again wrote
General Hamilton, under date of the 19th of October, 1798:----
"Your wishes are, in some sort, already accomplished, seeing that it
has been agreed here on one side not to employ in the operations on
land English troops; seeing that the auxiliary land forces are to be
exclusively American, while the naval force shall be purely English.
Every thing is smooth, and we wait only for the fiat of your
illustrious president to depart like lightning."
On the same day (October 19th) General Miranda wrote General Knox as
"I cannot express to you, my dear general, with what pleasure I heard
of your nomination  in the continental army of the United States of
America. It would appear that your _wishes_ are at length
_accomplished_, and that every possible circumstance is united, at
this moment, in our favour. Would to God that Providence would endow
us with sufficient wisdom to make the most advantageous use of these
At this time Mr. Adams, senior, was president of the United States,
and declined entering into the arrangement. It is believed that no
reply was made to the letter addressed to the president. Two questions
here present themselves to the inquiring mind.
Was there any connexion between this plan of Miranda for the invasion
of Mexico, and the raising of an army in the year 1798, under the
pretext of resisting an attack upon this country by France?
Was the policy adopted by President Adams on that occasion any way
connected with the imbittered warfare which subsequently ensued
between Mr. Adams and Mr. Hamilton? These are questions for the
consideration of speculative politicians, but not for discussion in
It has been seen that Mr. Burr was actively engaged during the years
1805 and 1806 in traversing the western country. In his latter days
Colonel Burr had no longer any motive for concealment; nor did he
evince the least desire to suppress the facts in relation to any of
his acts, even where the promulgation of those facts was calculated to
affect his moral character. According to his representations, repeated
at a time and under circumstances the most solemn  and impressive,
his views were twofold: viz., _First_. The revolutionizing of Mexico;
and, _Second_, A settlement on what was known as the Bastrop lands.
Burr, from early manhood, had a turn for speculation, and frequently
entered into large contracts for the purchase and sale of lands.
At this period (1806) the difficulties with Spain in relation to the
Mississippi and the right of deposite at New-Orleans created an
opinion that a Spanish war was inevitable. Such a war would have been
popular with the western people. Of these opinions and these feelings
Burr took advantage, and undoubtedly, by innuendoes or otherwise,
induced some to believe that his arrangements for the invasion of
Mexico were with the knowledge, if not the approbation of the
Previous to the cession of Louisiana to the United States, Baron P.N.
Tut Bastrop contracted with the Spanish government for a tract of land
exceeding thirty miles square near Nachitoches. By the terms of the
contract he was, within a given period of time, to settle upon these
lands two hundred families. Subsequently Colonel Charles Lynch made an
arrangement with Bastrop for an interest in this contract. Burr
purchased from Lynch nearly four hundred thousand acres, and
Nachitoches. On the trial at Richmond this purchase was established,
and the actual payment to Lynch by Burr of five thousand dollars was
General Adair possessed the confidence of Colonel Burr in relation to
his western movements in a greater degree than any other individual.
Burr was introduced to Adair by General Wilkinson. In a letter dated
March, 1807, General Adair says, and there is no doubt truly says--"So
far as I know or believe of the intentions of Colonel Burr (and my
enemies will agree I am not ignorant on this subject), they were to
prepare and lead an expedition into Mexico, predicated on a war
between the two governments; without a war he knew he could do
nothing. On this war taking place he calculated with certainty, as
well from the policy of the measure at this time as from the positive
assurances of Wilkinson, who seemed to have the power to force it in
his own hands. This continued to be the object of Colonel Burr until
he heard of the venal and shameful bargain made by Wilkinson at the
Sabine river; this information he received soon after the attempt to
arrest him in Frankfort. He then turned his attention altogether
towards strengthening himself on the Washita, and waiting a more
favourable crisis. I thought the first of these objects honourable and
worthy the attention of any man; but I was not engaged in it, my
political as well as private pursuits forbidding me from taking a part
until it was over; nor did I ever believe, notwithstanding Wilkinson's
swaggering letters to me on that subject, which may be seen, that a
war would take place."
The grant of the Spanish government to Bastrop amounted to 1,200,000
acres. Six tenths of this grant was conveyed to Colonel Lynch, and cost
him about one hundred thousand dollars. As the time within which two
hundred families were to be settled on the land was rapidly drawing to a
close, Lynch conveyed one half his right to Burr for fifty thousand
dollars. In this purchase many private citizens of worth and
respectability were interested. The two projects, however, became in
some degree blended. The great object of Burr was the conquest of
Mexico. With this view he conferred with General Wilkinson, who was
ardent in the cause. Wilkinson's regular force, about six hundred men,
was intended as a nucleus, around which the followers of Burr were to
form. They were the only disciplined corps that could be expected. As
Wilkinson was the American commander-in-chief, and stationed upon the
borders of Mexico, he possessed the power, and was pledged to strike the
blow whenever it should be deemed expedient. This commencement of the
war would thus have been apparently under the sanction and authority of
the American government, and would have drawn to the standard of Burr
numerous volunteers from the western states. Such, undoubtedly, was the
plan; and Burr entertained no suspicion of Wilkinson's treachery towards
him until his interview with Swartwout. As soon as he made that
discovery, in the language of General Adair, "he turned his attention
towards strengthening himself on the Washita, and waiting a more
Daniel Clarke, of New-Orleans, entered into the Mexican project. He
engaged to advance fifty thousand dollars; but subsequently, from
disappointments, he was unable to fulfil his contract. General
Wilkinson detailed to Colonel Burr all the information he possessed
respecting that country, and pointed out the facilities which would
probably be afforded by the inhabitants in effecting a revolution.
Without Wilkinson's troops, Burr declared most solemnly, a short time
before his death, that he would not have made the attempt on Mexico;
that he was perfectly aware the men he would collect, so far as it
respected military operations, would be at first little better than a
Colonel Burr had repeated conferences on the subject with Mr. Merry,
the British plenipotentiary resident in the United States. Mr. Merry
communicated to his government the project of Mr. Burr. Colonel
Charles Williamson, the brother of Lord Balgray, went to England on
the business, and, from the encouragement which he received, it was
hoped and believed that a British naval squadron would have been
furnished in aid of the expedition. At this juncture Mr. Pitt died.
Wilkinson must have heard of the death of the premier late in the
spring or early in the summer of 1806. From this moment, in Mr. Burr's
opinion, Wilkinson became alarmed, and resolved on an abandonment of
the enterprise at the sacrifice of his associates.
On the suggestion of Wilkinson, Mexico was twice visited by Daniel
Clark. He held conferences and effected arrangements with many of the
principal militia officers, who engaged to favour the revolution. The
Catholic bishop, resident at New-Orleans, was also consulted, and
prepared to promote the enterprise. He designated three priests, of
the order of Jesuits, as suitable agents, and they were accordingly
employed. The bishop was an intelligent and social man. He had been in
Mexico, and spoke with great freedom of the dissatisfaction of the
clergy in South America. The religious establishments of the country
were not to be molested. Madame Xavier Tarjcon, superior of the
convent of Ursuline nuns at New-Orleans, was in the secret. Some of
the sisterhood were also employed in Mexico. So far as any decision
had been formed, the landing was to have been effected at Tampico.
During the year 1806 Colonel Burr was at the house of General Andrew
Jackson for some days. Repeated and detailed conversations were held
between them in relation to the expedition. Subsequently, General
Jackson addressed a letter to Colonel Burr, in which he alluded to
rumours that were afloat of his having hostile designs against the
United States; adding that, if this were true, he would hold no
communication on the subject; but, if untrue, and his intentions were
to proceed to Mexico, he (Jackson) would join and accompany him with
his whole division. To this the proper answer was given.
About the same time Colonel Burr wrote Senator John Smith, of Ohio, on
the subject of these rumours, in which letter he says--"If Bonaparte,
with all his army, was in the western country for the purpose of
accomplishing that object, they would never again see salt water." It
may be proper to state here that Colonel Burr's whole force at no time
exceeded _one hundred and thirty men_.
This is a brief, but it is believed to be a true and faithful account
of Colonel Burr's views and projects during the years 1805 and 1806.
In the progress of these transactions many individuals were
implicated. While the promulgation of their names might tend to
gratify an idle curiosity, it could be productive of no possible good.
(The charge of treason, now that the storm has blown over, is so
perfectly ridiculous, that one who investigates the subject will be
astounded that it ever gained credence. It originated with the most
corrupt and unprincipled, and was countenanced, propagated, and
sustained by the most malignant.) When the charge of treason was first
spread abroad, Colonel Burr appeared to be deserted and abandoned by
his confidential and devoted friends. Even his son-in-law, Governor
Alston, seemed to shrink from the consequences of an intercourse with
him. All those who were in any manner connected with the contemplated
expedition disclaimed the idea of treasonable designs, averring that,
if such were the views of Colonel Burr, they had been deceived. And
what does all this prove? Does it not demonstrate that if his object
was a separation of the Union, that object was to be accomplished
without the knowledge or aid of his friends and associates? Can any
thing place the charge in a more ridiculous point of view?
Colonel Burr was arrested as a traitor on the Tombigbee river,
Mississippi territory, and transported to Richmond, where he arrived
on the 26th of March, 1807. He was bailed until the 22d of May, when
the court was to convene. A description of the outrages and cruelty
which he endured would fill volumes. A calm and dispassionate detail
of the means which were adopted by Mr. Jefferson to obtain an
opportunity of shedding his blood, under colour of law, would be
revolting to the philanthropist and the patriot, while it would not
change public opinion of this philosopher.
In October, 1806, Mr. Swartwout delivered to General Wilkinson a
letter from Burr, written in cipher. That letter Wilkinson _altered_,
and then deciphered it. The forgery was detected before the grand
jury, and he compelled to acknowledge the fact, although he had sworn
to the translation as being correct in all its parts. Notwithstanding
Mr. Jefferson's knowledge that Wilkinson was a Spanish pensioner,
which fact Mr. Derbigny had stated to Secretary Gallatin in a letter,
and subsequently swore to its truth; and notwithstanding his perjury
before the grand jury, yet did the president sustain and countenance
the general as a fit instrument for his purposes.
Other arrests were made during this military reign of terror, _viz._,
Generals Adair and Dayton, Blennerhassett, Swartwout, Alexander,
Smith, Bollman, Ogden, &c. Burr and Blennerhasset alone were brought
to trial. On the 22d of May, 1807, came on the cause of Aaron Burr
before the Circuit Court of the United States, Judge Marshall
presiding. No indictment was found by the grand jury until the 25th of
June, when two bills were presented against Burr; one for treason, and
the other for a misdemeanour. On the 30th of June he was committed to
the penitentiary for safe keeping until the third day of August. From
the 5th until the 17th of August the court was engaged in obtaining a
jury and discussing points of law. On that day the treason case was
opened, and an examination of witnesses on the part of the government
commenced. Colonel Burr had more than thirty witnesses in attendance,
but deemed it unnecessary to call any of them.
On the 1st day of September, 1807, the jury retired, and in a short
time returned with the following verdict, which was read by Colonel
Carrington, their foreman.
"We of the jury say that Aaron Burr is not proved to be guilty under
this indictment by any evidence submitted to us. We therefore find him
This verdict was objected to by Colonel Burr as informal. He observed
that, whenever a verdict is informal, the court will either send back
the jury to alter it, or correct it itself; that they had no right to
depart from the usual form, &c. Mr. Hay thought the verdict ought to
be recorded as found by the jury, which was substantially a verdict of
acquittal; and that no principle of humanity, policy, or law forbade
its being received in the very terms used by the jury.
Mr. Martin said that it was like the _whole play_, "Much ado about
Nothing;" that this was a verdict of acquittal; that there was nothing
to do but to answer the question of guilty or not guilty; that it was
the case with every jury in every instance; they had or had not
evidence before them.
Colonel Carrington, one of the jury, observed, that it was said among
themselves that, if the verdict was informal, they would alter it;
that it was, in fact, a verdict of acquittal.
The court then directed that the verdict should remain as found by the
jury; and that an entry should be made on the record of "_Not
On the 9th of September a jury was empannelled to try Colonel Burr on
the indictment for misdemeanour, which consisted of seven counts; the
substance of which were, that Aaron Burr did set on foot a military
enterprise, to be carried on against the territory of a foreign
prince; _viz._, the province of Mexico, which was within the territory
of the King of Spain, with whom the United States were at peace.
After the prosecution had examined some of their witnesses, and the
court had decided that the testimony of others was not relevant, the
district attorney, Mr. Hay, made a motion that the jury be discharged.
To this motion Colonel Burr objected, insisting upon a verdict. This
was on the 15th of September. The court being of opinion that the jury
could not in this stage of the case be discharged without the consent
of the accused, and that they must give a verdict, they accordingly
retired, and very soon returned with a verdict of "_Not Guilty_."
Previous to the trial for treason it was industriously circulated that
Commodore Truxton had most honourably repelled Colonel Burr's
advances, and pointed out the infamy which awaited him. He was
subpoenaed on the part of the United States, and on his examination
said--"That Colonel Burr told him (some time in July, 1806) that he
contemplated an expedition to Mexico in the event of a war with Spain,
which he thought inevitable. He asked me if the Havannah could be
easily taken in the event of a war. I told him that it would require
the co-operation of a naval force. Mr. Burr observed to me that _that_
might be obtained. He asked me if I had any personal knowledge of
Carthagena and La Vera Cruz, and what would be the best mode of
attacking them by sea and land. I gave him my opinion very freely. Mr.
Burr then asked me if I would take the command of a naval expedition.
I asked him if the executive of the United States were privy to or
concerned in the project. He answered _emphatically_ that he was not:
I asked that question because the executive had been charged with a
knowledge of Miranda's expedition. I told Mr. Burr that I would have
nothing to do with it; that Miranda's project had been intimated to
me, but I declined to have any thing to do with such affairs. He
observed to me that, in the event of a war, he intended to establish
an independent government in Mexico; that Wilkinson, the army, and
many officers of the navy would join. I told Mr. Burr that I could not
see how any officer of the United States could join. He said that
General Wilkinson had projected the expedition, and he had matured it;
that many greater men than Wilkinson would join, and that thousands to
the westward would join. I told Colonel Burr that there would be no
war. He was sanguine there would be war. He said, however, that if he
was disappointed as to the event of a war, he was about to complete a
contract for a large quantity of land on the Washita; that he intended
to invite his friends to settle it; that in one year he would have a
thousand families of respectable and fashionable people, and some of
them of considerable property; that it was a fine country, and that
they would have a charming society, and in two years he would have
double the number of settlers; and, being on the frontier, he would be
ready to move whenever a war took place."
On his cross examination Commodore Truxton added "that he was very
intimate with Colonel Burr; that in their conversations there appeared
to be no reserve; that he never heard Colonel Burr speak of a division
of the Union; that Burr said his Mexican expedition would be
beneficial to the United States; that, so far from doubting Burr's
intention to settle the Washita lands, he was astonished at hearing he
had different views, which accounts were contained in newspapers
received from the western country."
From among numerous instances of Mr. Jefferson's idea of _honour_ and
_morality_, as practised by him and by his order pending that trial,
only one will be selected as a _sample_. Dr. Erick Bollman, the friend
of Lafayette, was arrested by the order of Wilkinson as a
co-conspirator with Burr. He was called as a witness on the part of
the United States; and in open court, the district attorney, Mr. Hay,
by order of Mr. Jefferson, tendered him a pardon, which he indignantly
refused, asserting his innocence of any act requiring a pardon.
Immediately after the trial, he published, under his own signature, an
account of what occurred between himself and the president. From that
publication, which was never controverted, sufficient will be
extracted to show Mr. Jefferson's _feelings_ and _principles_.
Bollman says, "In the month of December, 1806, I was seized and
arrested at New-Orleans by order of General Wilkinson, but in the name
of the United States. When I arrived at Charleston, Annapolis, and
Washington, the newspapers represented Colonel Burr as being at the
head of two thousand men, and they were ringing at the same time with
reports of his _pretended treason._
"These circumstances occasioned in my mind great indignation with
regard to the reports just mentioned, and great solicitude lest
General Wilkinson's conduct and Burr's situation might lead to
occurrences which Colonel Burr would deprecate, and which
involuntarily would put him in the wrong.
"I therefore requested an interview with the president of the United
States for two decided objects. 1st, To remove from his mind the false
impressions he had received with regard to treason. 2d, To endeavour
to convince him that the interests of the United States would be best
consulted by going to war with Spain, and giving countenance to the
expedition which Colonel Burr had planned.
"It appeared to me that this step might do some good, could do no
harm, and, in my situation, ought to be attempted. I saw the
president, together with Mr. Madison; and having first, when
questioned on that point, declared to the former that I had no
_personal motives_ for this interview, spoke to them to the effect
just mentioned. The day after the interview I received the following
note from the president, the original of which, in _his own
handwriting_, now remains in my possession:--
"'The communications which Doctor Bollman made yesterday to Thomas
Jefferson were certainly interesting; but they were too much for his
memory. From _their complexion and tendency_, he presumes that Doctor
Bollman would have no objection to commit them to writing, in all the
details into which he went yesterday, and such others as he may have
then omitted, Thomas Jefferson giving him _his word of honour_ that
they shall never be used against himself, and _that the paper shall
never go out of his hand_.'
January 25, 1807.
"I immediately complied with the president's request; and considering
the communication, in conformity with the tenour of his note, _as
strictly confidential_, I had no motive to be unusually guarded, or to
weigh every expression with more than ordinary care. The paper,
containing nearly twenty pages, was hardly finished, when I
immediately sent it to the president. I borrowed it from him some time
afterward when in prison, in order to take a copy, and then returned
"The whole of it goes to the two points above mentioned, _viz_., to
disprove treason, and to show the expediency of war. It can give no
other ideas to an unbiased reader, unless one or two expressions,
improperly used, and for which the allowance ought to be made, that
the English is not my native tongue, are singled out, are considered
disconnectedly with what precedes and follows, and construed in a
"The president had given _'his word of honour'_ that this paper should
not be used against myself; and yet _on it_ was predicated the
pretended necessity of a _pardon_ for my personal safety. The attorney
for the district (Mr. Hay), in open court, when offering me the patent
pardon, referred to it. Nay, when I indignantly refused that pardon,
he reminded me of the _horrors of an ignominious fate_, in order, if
possible, to change my determination. Is a paper not used against me
when, on account of its contents being misunderstood, I am thus
assailed with the _tender of a badge of infamy?_ Is _life_, in Mr.
Jefferson's opinion, _all_; and _character_ and _reputation_, which
alone can render it desirable, _nothing_? The great inquest of the
nation, after hearing a great variety of testimony, and particularly
that of General Wilkinson, _by an opinion nearly unanimous on my
subject, have absolved me from guilt!_ No indictment has been
preferred against me, though they have indicted various gentlemen in
different parts of the United States. Was it, then, becoming the first
magistrate of the Union, whom I had approached with some degree of
confidence, and with regard to whom neither my conduct nor my language
have ever been unfriendly--was it becoming in _him_, in a measure, to
forestall the opinion of the grand jury, and to stigmatize me as a
"The paper was never to get out of the president's hands, but it is
_now_ in the hands of the attorney for the Virginia district. On the
23d of June, an occurrence of which the prints have taken no notice,
the grand jury came into court. Their foreman stated that one of the
witnesses had mentioned to him an important paper, written by another
witness, which was in the possession of Mr. Hay, and of which they
wished the delivery. Mr. Hay replied, that this referred to my letter
to the president, which was in his possession, but that he did not
consider himself warranted to give it to the grand jury. He also
declared it to be his firm persuasion that the paper was written in my
own handwriting; it has further appeared that he had occasioned
General Wilkinson to read it. Through him he had brought what is
falsely stated to be its contents insidiously before the grand jury.
General Wilkinson, when before that body, and, of course, on his oath,
did assert that he knew the paper in Mr. Hay's hands; that it was my
handwriting and my signature.
"The history of the proposed pardon will have flown over Europe, and
the impression of treachery to a friend--this more detestable, more
odious crime than any infraction of the laws of the country, because
essentially fraught with turpitude, will be blended with my name in
the minds of men who may never see _this_ letter. And if all this
injury could be inflicted by Mr. Jefferson without _ill will_, merely
from want of consideration, under the disturbing influence of _passion
and resentment against Colonel Burr_, notwithstanding his mature age
and the dignity of his station, it will amount to strong proof, at
least, that I, in my humble sphere and with a more youthful
imagination, may have become warmed with the beautiful prospect of the
emancipation of an enslaved kingdom; a project which Mr. Jefferson
himself approved of and connived at when planned, not by Colonel Burr,
but by Miranda; and that I may have engaged in it without meaning any
harm to the United States or their president.
"But since the measure of the pardon has proved abortive and
ridiculous, and since the fact of his breach of the '_word of honour_'
can no longer be denied, their tone is changed. As usual, I am abused,
not for the wrong I did, but for the wrong which has been committed
upon me. They insinuate, among other things, that at Washington I had
_obtained promises_ from Mr. Jefferson, and had _agreed_ with him, for
a pardon; that I refused it at Richmond, in order to have a pretext
for withholding testimony, on the ground that it would criminate
myself, though it is well known that such promise, such agreement
never took place; and that before the grand jury, during an
examination of upward of two hours, I answered, _without a single
exception, every question that was asked me_.
"When party spirit and passion go so far, it would be improper to
remain silent; and should what I have said in my defence operate to
the prejudice of Mr. Jefferson or wound his feelings, it is not my
1. In July, 1798, Generals Hamilton, Pinckney, and Knox were appointed
major generals in the standing army raised that summer, _nominally_,
for the purpose of repelling a French invasion, at a moment when
France had not a ship of war on the ocean, and while British squadrons
were hovering on her whole coast.
2. On the 10th of June, 1835, Dr. Hosack, the friend and physician of
Colonel Burr, supposed that he could not continue but a few days,
perhaps a few hours. Mr. Burr was so informed, and was then asked by
M.L. Davis whether at any time he had contemplated a separation of the
Union. His reply was--"No; I would as soon have thought of taking
possession of the moon, and informing my friends that I intended to
divide it among them." While making the reply his indignation seemed
to be aroused.
The excitement produced by Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Eaton, and Mr. Wilkinson
in relation to Burr's movements, exceeded any thing that can be well
imagined. That grave and dignified body, the Senate of the United
States, were _terrified_, or they were _used_ for the purpose of
_terrifying_ the good people of the country. On the 22d of January,
1807, Mr. Jefferson sent a message to Congress developing the
treasonable designs of Burr and his associates. On the 26th, with the
aid of General Wilkinson, a second message was transmitted on the same
subject; and, by _accident_, about the same time that this message of
the president was received by the House of Representatives, that
honourable body received a message from the Senate also, announcing
that they had passed a "_bill for suspending the writ of habeas
corpus_," and asking the concurrence of the house. This was carrying
the _farce_ too far, and a motion was therefore made and adopted to
reject the bill on its _first reading_. Ayes 113; nays 19. Thus the
bill was rejected.
During the years 1806 and 1807 Herman Blennerhassett kept a private
journal, in which are recorded the principal incidents arising out of
his connexion with Colonel Burr. Portions of it are interesting and
amusing. The entries confirm in every particular the statements of
Truxton, Bollman, and others, and repudiate the idea of treasonable
designs. That journal, having been transmitted from England, is before
me. From it a few brief extracts will be made. It appears that in
December, 1805, Blennerhassett addressed a letter to Colonel Burr,
expressing a wish to participate in any speculation in the western
country that might present itself to Burr. A Spanish war was hourly
anticipated, and Blennerhassett proposed to join Burr in any
expedition that might be undertaken against the Spainish dominions.
In August, 1806, in consequence of this overture, Burr visited
Blennerhassett at his house on the Ohio, and the next day rode with
him to Marietta, and there they separated, Burr being on his way to
Chilicothe. From Marietta to Blennerhassett's was about fifteen miles.
Some time after Burr returned to Blennerhassett's. Burr said that an
expulsion of the Spaniards from the American territory or an invasion
of Mexico would be pleasing to the administration; if it could be
accomplished without an open formal war, which would be avoided as
long as possible, from parsimony on the one hand and the dread of
France on the other.
Blennerhassett tendered his services to Burr generally. Blennerhassett
states that General Jackson and others were to join, and that the
general was in readiness to march whenever he should think himself
authorized by the position of the government.
"The vivacity of Burr's wit, and the exercise of his proper talents,
now (at Richmond) constantly solicited here, in private and public
exhibition, while they display his powers and address at the levee and
the bar, must engross more of his time than he can spare from the
demands of other gratifications; while they display him to the eager
eyes of the multitude, like a favourite gladiator, measuring over the
arena of his fame with firm step and manly grace, the pledges of easy
"August 17, 1807. This led me to praise a pamphlet, _Agrestis_, which
Alston yesterday brought me, being two letters on Wilkinson's
proceedings at New-Orleans, which, for its arrangement and strength,
as well as for the imagery of the language, I observed would not be
unworthy of a Curran; at the same time inquiring who was the author.
Alston said that was not known. I then repeated the question to
Colonel M'Kee, who said it was a friend of ours; at least, Mr. Alston
was suspected. I mention this trifling occurrence for the sake of
observing that Alston was now silent, thereby appropriating to himself
the merit of the book, which his _wife_, I have no doubt, might
produce. To suppose Alston  the author would be preposterous."
"August 23, 1807. My revery was soon broken in upon by the appearance
of Mr. Douglas with a stranger. I should rather have said by two
apparitions; for it was now near nightfall, and Douglas no sooner
appeared than he turned on his heel, saying, 'Colonel Duane, sir,' and
ran down stairs. The surprise of this interruption the stranger, whom
I had never before seen, did not suffer to endure long enough to allow
me to invoke the angels and ministers of grace for my protection. I
was already within the grasp of this Gabriel of the government. He
seized my hand, and bade me dismiss my surprise, however natural it
might be, on his appearance before me. I handed him a chair, and said
'I had lived long enough in this country to be surprised at nothing it
could produce or exhibit, but yet desired to learn from what cause I
had the favour of this visit.' 'Having heard Mr. Douglas observe,'
said he, 'that you would be pleased to see me--' 'Sir, Mr. Douglas has
made a mistake; he must have meant somebody else.' 'No matter,'
continued he; 'having known and seen your present situation, I could
not as a man, as an Irishman' (here he digressed to show me how he
both was and was not an Irishman), 'I would not leave this town
(Richmond) without warning you of the sacrifice now preparing to
appease the government by your friends, of which you are destined to
be the victim. You cannot desire any other key to my meaning than the
course the defence has this week taken. But if you think the
government will not cease to pursue that justice they possess the
means of ensuring, and suspect, as you ought, the designs of those you
have too long thought your friends, it might yet appear no better on
my part than a nominal service to give you these cautions: I have
therefore sought you, not to tender you words, but deeds. The only
return on your part will be that care of yourself which will find a
shield in _my honour_' (here he very awkwardly struck his breast, and
grinned a ghastly smile), 'and that confidence I can _command_ in the
government whose good faith is not misplaced in the zeal I have
testified to serve it.' To this harangue he added violent
protestations of his wishes to serve me, saying, that for that purpose
he would put off his journey back to Philadelphia, which otherwise was
irrevocably fixed for Wednesday, and would now, or at any time
hereafter, go to Washington for me, where _nothing he should ask would
be refused him_. In thanking him for the frankness and zeal with which
he cautioned me against my friends and a negligence of my safety, I
assured him I was not afraid to meet the prosecution, as I expected I
should before my arrival here, without counsel or friends; but, from
present appearances, I was more curious than interested to learn what
were those means the said government possessed of ensuring justice.
Finding by his answer that he was now disposed to allure me into a
confession of having written certain papers in the hands of the
prosecutors, I told him, the warmth of his offers to serve me could
not make me forget either his situation or my own with relation to the
government; that I cared not what writings should be charged upon me;
that I should admit none till fairly proved, which, if any such should
ever appear, I would justify, if necessary, on the scaffold. He now
summed up the objects of his mission, whatever produced it, with abuse
of Burr, Tyler, and Smith, _acknowledging that he had been served
gratis by Burr in the most handsome manner_; that the others were more
concerned against the government than I was; but swearing that he
believed, if I did not follow his advice, they would make a scapegoat
sacrifice of me for their deliverance."
"August 25, 1807. I asked Alston, 'Would you wish to see my notes of
what passed between Duane and me?' 'Yes,' said he, 'very much.' I then
read to him the minutes I had taken on Sunday evening, with which he
seemed highly pleased, and said they ought to be published. To this I
told him I could not accede. * * * * * * I informed him that Duane had
intimated that government had got possession of one of his letters to
me. 'One of my letters,' cried he; 'I never wrote to you but two upon
business of a private nature; and, by G--d, any other letter they can
have of mine must be a forgery.' 'To be sure,' said I; 'or, at all
events, from the favourable course things are now likely to take, such
a letter could do no harm.' 'But what did the rascal,' continued he,
'state to be the purport of the letter?' 'Nothing more,' said I, 'than
that you and myself were equally involved in all Colonel Burr's
projects. He then abused Duane, and repeated his wish that my notes
"September 13, 1807. I visited Burr this morning. He is as gay as
usual, and as busy in speculations on reorganizing his projects for
action as if he had never suffered the least interruption. He observed
to Major Smith and me, that in six months our schemes could be all
remounted; that we could now new model them in a better mould than
formerly, having a better view of the ground and a more perfect
knowledge of our men. We were silent. It should yet be granted, that
if Burr possessed sensibility of the right sort, with one hundredth
part of the energies for which, with many, he has obtained such
ill-grounded credit, his first and last determination, with the
morning and the night, should be the destruction of those enemies who
have so long and so cruelly wreaked their malicious vengeance upon
"September 16, 1807. I was glad to find Burr had at last thought of
asking us to dine with him, as I was rather curious again to see him
shine in a _partie quarrie_, consisting of new characters. We
therefore walked with him from court; Luther Martin, who lives with
him, accompanying us. * * * * * The dinner was neat, and followed by
three or four sorts of wine. Splendid poverty! During the chit-chat,
after the cloth was removed, a letter was handed to Burr, next to whom
I sat. I immediately smelt musk. Burr broke the seal, put the cover to
his nose, and then handed it to me, saying--'This amounts to a
disclosure!' I smelt the paper, and said, 'I think so.' The whole
physiognomy of the man now assumed an alteration and vivacity that, to
a stranger who had never seen him before, would have sunk full fifteen
years of his age. 'This,' said he, 'reminds me of a detection once
very neatly practised upon me at New-York. One day a lady stepped into
my library while I was reading, came softly behind my chair, and
giving me a slap on the cheek, said, "Come, tell me directly, what
little French girl, pray, have you had here?" The abruptness of the
question and surprise left me little room to doubt the discovery had
been completely made. So I thought it best to confess the whole fact;
upon which the inquisitress burst out into a loud laugh on the success
of her artifice, which she was led to play off upon me from the mere
circumstance of, having smelt musk in the room.' I have given this
anecdote a place here only to convey an idea of that temperament and
address which enables this character to uphold his ascendency over the
sex. After some time Martin and Prevost withdrew, and we passed to the
topics of our late adventures on the Mississippi, in which Burr said
little, but declared he did not know of any reason to blame General
Jackson, of Tennessee, for any thing he had done or omitted. But he
declares he will not lose a day after the favourable issue at the
Capitol (his acquittal), of which he has no doubt, to direct his
entire attention to setting up his projects (which have only been
suspended) on a better model, 'in which work,' he says, 'he has even
here made some progress.'"
"September 20, 1807. I found Burr, just after a consultation with his
counsel, secretly writhing under much irritation at the conduct of
Judge Marshall, but affecting an air of contempt for his alleged
inconsistencies, as Burr asserted he (the judge) did not, for the last
two days, understand either the questions or himself; that he had
wavered in his opinions before yesterday's adjournment, and should, in
future, be put right by _strong language_. I am afraid to say _abuse_,
though I think I could swear he used that word. I learned from Major
Smith to-day a confirmation of what Colonel de Pestre had also
mentioned to me, that Burr sets off immediately for England after his
liberation to collect money for reorganizing his projects."
"September 22, 1807. I have seen a complete file of all the
depositions made before the grand jury in Burr's possession. It must
be confessed that few other men in his circumstances could have
procured these documents out of the custody of offices filled by his
inveterate enemies. Burr asserted to-day, in court, that he expected
documents that would disqualify Eaton as a witness."
"September 26, 1807. Wilkinson, in his examination, confessed that he
had altered the cipher letter, and sworn that there were no
"Of Dudley Woodbridge,  it must not be concealed from those who may
have access to these _notes_ that, although he is reputed to have
given a fair, candid, and to us an advantageous testimony, _he has not
yet told the whole truth, having suppressed my communication to him of
our designs being unequivocally against Mexico_, which I suppose he
kept back because he embraced and embarked in the plan on the first
mention of it to him, though he afterward receded from it upon his own
reflections or counsel of others. Such is the address with which
ingratitude and dishonesty are made to pass in the garb of integrity,
like towcloth under fine muslin."
"October 8, 1807. I called on Burr this morning, when he at last
mentioned to me, during a short tete-a-tete, that he was preparing to
go to England; that the time was now auspicious for him, and he wished
to know whether I could give him letters. I answered that I supposed,
when he mentioned England, he meant London, as his business would
probably be with people in office; that I knew none of the present
ministry, nor did I believe I had a single acquaintance in London. He
replied, that he meant to visit every part of the country, and would
be glad to get letters to any one. I said I would think of it, that I
might discover whether I had any friends there whom it would be an
object worth his attention to know, and took leave. We can only
conjecture his designs. For my part, I am disposed to suspect he has
no serious intent of reviving any of his speculations in America, or
even of returning from Europe if he can get there."
After Colonel Burr's return to the United States from Europe, he
received several letters from Blennerhassett; in two of them he refers
to a suit which he commenced against General Andrew Jackson, in Adams
county, Mississippi territory, for a balance due Burr. In reply to an
inquiry made on the subject under date of the 4th of October, 1812, he
says, "I allude to an account between yourself and Andrew Jackson, in
his own handwriting, on which appears a balance in your favour of
$1726 62," &c. He then speaks of other papers, and adds, "As to the
manner in which I obtained the papers, it happened to be discovered
that the portmanteau you left with me, to be transmitted to Mr.
Alston, which lay at my disposal in the house of Mr. Harding, near
Natchez, was broken open by his servants. On this discovery I called
for the portmanteau, found the lock torn off, and some papers tumbled
and abused, which had seemingly been all opened. I observed and took
out the above document. The rest, with a silk tent, await the
disposition of your orders."
In another letter, in a paroxysm of passion, he threatens the
publication of a book, which he says is to be entitled,
"A review of the projects and intrigues of Aaron Burr during the years
1805, 1806, and 1807, involving therein, as parties or privies, Thomas
Jefferson, A. Gallatin, Dr. Eustis, Governor Alston, Daniel Clark,
Generals Wilkinson, Dearborn, Harrison, Jackson, and Smith, and the
late Spanish ambassador Yrujo, exhibiting original documents and
correspondence hitherto unpublished. Compiled from the notes and
private journal kept during the above period by Herman Blennerhassett,
It has been seen that General Wilkinson _altered_ the letter written
in cipher by Colonel Burr, and then swore that the translation was a
true copy of the original. This alteration was for the purpose of
establishing _treasonable_ designs in Burr and his associates, to
which fact the general had also sworn. But while he was thus urging
the charge of _treason_ at home, he had to give his Spanish employers
a different account of the movements and object of Burr. Accordingly,
after the trial at Richmond, General Wilkinson despatched Captain
Walter Burling, his aid, to demand of the vice-king of Mexico the
repayment of his expenditures and compensation for his services to
Spain in defeating Burr's expedition against Mexico. The modesty of
this demand, being only about _two hundred thousand dollars_, is
worthy of notice. The development of this fact places in a new point
of view Mr. Jefferson's confidential friend (General Wilkinson)--that
friend whom he recommended to Congress on the 22d of January, 1S07, as
having acted "with the _honour of a soldier and the fidelity of a good
citizen_." The documents are presented without comment.
_State of Louisiana, City of New-Orleans_.
Before me, William Young Lewis, notary public in and for the city of
New-Orleans, duly commissioned and sworn, this day personally appeared
Richard Raynal Keene, Esq., attorney and counsellor at law of this
city, who delivered to me, the said notary, and requested the same to
be annexed to the current records of my office, the following
documents, _to wit_:--
_First_. A certificate of the vice-queen of Mexico, dated at Madrid on
the twenty-fourth day of January, eighteen hundred and sixteen.
_Second_. A letter from the said Richard R. Keene to the Reverend Dr.
Mangan, dated at Madrid on the twenty-first day of July, eighteen
hundred and twenty-one.
_Third_. The reply of the Reverend Dr. Mangan to the aforesaid letter,
dated at Madrid on the twenty-third day of July, eighteen hundred and
All of which said documents I have accordingly annexed to my current
register, there to remain and serve as the case may be, after having
marked the same _ne varietur_, to identify them with this act.
Done and passed at New-Orleans, this twenty-fourth day of December,
eighteen hundred and thirty-six, in presence of William T. Lewis and
Gustavus Harper, both of this city, witnesses, who have hereunto
signed their names with said, and me the said notary. Signed, Richard
R. Keene, William T. Lewis, Gustavus Harper.
W. Y. Lewis, Not. Pub.
_Certificate of the Vice-queen_.
"Whereas his excellency, the Marquis of Campo-Sagrado, minister of
war, has been pleased to accede to the request of Richard Raynal
Keene, colonel of the royal armies, addressed to him under date of the
12th instant, with the view of obtaining my declaration respecting the
mission sent by the Anglo-American brigadier, James Wilkinson, to my
late husband, Don Jose Yturrigaray, lieutenant-general of the royal
armies in Mexico, during the period of his command as viceroy in that
country; now, for the purpose required, I do declare and certify,
that, having accompanied my said husband to Mexico, and stayed there
with him during the time of his command as viceroy in that country, to
wit, from the year 1802 to the year 1808, I recollect perfectly well
the aforesaid mission, which was carried into effect by a person of
the name of Burling; and although I cannot now undertake to relate all
the details of that mission, nevertheless my memory enables me to
state that, in substance, the exposition made by Keene to the minister
of war, of the artifices and stratagems resorted to by Wilkinson on
that occasion, through his confidential agent, is just and true. The
interested views manifested by Wilkinson _in his reclamation of large
sums of money for his alleged disbursements_ in counteracting the
hostile plans of the American vice-president, Burr, against Mexico,
appeared to the viceroy to be no less incompatible with the rights of
his majesty than they were _irreconcilable to the honour of an officer
and patriot_ of a foreign state. The viceroy, therefore, did not give
a single ducat to Burling, but took immediate steps for having him
removed from the country.
This is what I declare, in compliance with the requisition of his
excellency the minister of war. Madrid, January 24, 1816.
MARIA INES JAUREGUI DE YTURRIGARAY.
Madrid, July 21, 1821.
I send you an exposition of the vice-queen Donna Maria Ines Jauregui
de Yturrigaray, of the 24th January, 1816, relative to the intrigue
which the brigadier Wilkinson attempted to carry into effect in 1806
or 1807, through the agency of Mr. Burling, for the purpose of getting
money from the vice-king of Mexico. The vice-queen told me, in the
different conversations I had with her on this subject, that you
enjoyed the full and entire confidence of her husband, and that he,
besides speaking with you unreservedly about this affair, commissioned
you to interpret the letter which Wilkinson sent him through Mr.
Burling, the said letter having been written in English. The
vice-king, had he not died suddenly, would have given me the same
exposition which his widow gave me. It being then, in some sort, a
matter of justice that you should give your declaration relative to
the aforesaid exposition of the vice-queen, I therefore pray you to do
I will merely add that, in one of my conversations with the vice-king,
he told me that, in the aforesaid letter, Wilkinson, in speaking of
his service rendered in frustrating what he called the invasion of
Mexico by the ex-vice-president, Mr. Burr, likened himself to
_Leonidas in the pass of Thermopylae_. Be assured, reverend sir, of my
RICHARD RAYNAL KEENE,
Colonel in the service of H. C. M.
Rev. Dr. MANGAN, _Rector of the Irish College in Salamanca._ Madrid,
July 23, 1821
MY DEAR SIR,
I have carefully read the exposition you enclosed me in your esteemed
favour of the 21st instant, of the former vice-queen of Mexico, La
Senora Donna Maria Ines Jauregui de Yturrigaray, relative to the
famous embassy of General Wilkinson to her husband Don Joseph de
Yturrigaray, viceroy of Mexico.
As his excellency was pleased to make use of me as interpreter in the
interview he granted Mr. Walter Burling, the bearer of a letter from
the aforesaid General Wilkinson, and commissioned by him to manifest
to the viceroy the importance of his embassy, I candidly confess that,
to the best of my recollection, the exposition of the vice-queen is
perfectly correct, for the object of the famous embassy of Mr. Burling
was to display to the viceroy _the great pecuniary sacrifices_ made by
General Wilkinson to frustrate the plan of invasion meditated by the
ex-vice-president, Mr. Burr, against the kingdom of Mexico, and to
solicit, in consideration of such important services, a pretty round
sum of _at least two hundred thousand dollars_.
I cannot help observing that the viceroy, Don Joseph de Yturrigaray,
received this communication with due contempt and indignation, bidding
me to tell Mr. Burling that General Wilkinson, in counteracting any
treasonable plan of Mr. Burr, did no more than comply with his duty;
that he (the viceroy) would take good care to defend the kingdom of
Mexico against any attack or invasion, and that he did not think
himself authorized to give one farthing to General Wilkinson in
compensation for his pretended services. He concluded by ordering Mr.
Burling to leave the city of Mexico, and had him safely escorted to
the port of Vera Cruz, where he immediately embarked for the United
This is, believe me, the substance (as far as I can recollect) of the
famous embassy of General Wilkinson to the viceroy of Mexico, Don
Joseph de Yturrigaray, who certainly was not mistaken in the passage
he mentioned to you of Leonidas, as I recollect well that General
Wilkinson, after displaying in a pompous style the great difficulties
he had to encounter to render Mr. Burr's plan fruitless, concluded by
affirming--"_I, like Leonidas, boldly threw myself in the pass_," &c.
I return you the original exposition of the vice-queen, Donna Maria
Ines Jauregui de Yturrigaray, and remain yours,
PATRICK MANGAN, Rector of the Irish College of Salamanca.
RICHARD R. KEENE, Colonel in the service H. C. M.
I hereby certify that the foregoing is a true copy of the originals
annexed to my current register. In witness whereof I grant these
presents, under my hand and seal, at New-Orleans, this 26th day of
WILLIAM Y. LEWIS, Not. Pub.
The following short extracts from the letters of Colonel Burr to his
daughter, while he was imprisoned in Richmond, will serve to show the
state of his mind under circumstances thus oppressive and mortifying.
"Richmond, March 27, 1807.
"My military escort having arrived at Fredericksburgh on our way to
Washington, there met a special messenger, with orders to convey me to
this place. Hither we came forthwith, and arrived last evening. It
seems that here the business is to be tried and concluded. I am to be
surrendered to the civil authority to-morrow, when the question of
bail will be determined. In the mean time I remain at the Eagle
"April 26, 1807.
"Your letters of the 10th and those preceding seemed to indicate a
sort of stupor; but now you rise into phrensy. Another ten days will,
it is hoped, have brought you back to reason. It ought not, however,
to be forgotten that the letter of the 15th was written under a
paroxysm of the toothache.
"You have read to very little purpose if you have not remarked that
such things happen in all democratic governments. Was there in Greece
or Rome a man of virtue and independence, and supposed to possess
great talents, who was not the object of vindictive and unrelenting
persecution? Now, madame, I pray you to amuse yourself by collecting
and collating all the instances to be found in ancient history, which
you may connect together, if you please, in an essay, with
reflections, comments, and applications. This I may hope to receive
about the 22d of May. I promise myself great pleasure in the perusal,
and I promise you great satisfaction and consolation in the
"May 15, 1807.
"Respecting the approaching investigation, I can communicate nothing
new. The grand jury is composed of twenty democrats and four
federalists. Among the former is W. C. Nicholas, my vindictive and
avowed personal enemy--the most so that could be found in this state
The most indefatigable industry is used by the agents of government,
and they have money at command without stint. If I were possessed of
the same means, I could not only foil the prosecutors, but render them
ridiculous and infamous. The democratic papers teem with abuse against
me and my counsel, and even against the chief justice. Nothing is left
undone or unsaid which can tend to prejudice the public mind, and
produce a conviction without evidence. The machinations of this
description which were used against Moreau in France were treated in
this country with indignation. They are practised against me in a
still more impudent degree, not only with impunity, but with applause;
and the authors and abettors suppose, with reason, that they are
acquiring favour with the administration."
"June 3, 1807.
"Still waiting for Wilkinson, and no certain accounts of his approach.
The grand jury, the witnesses, and the country grow impatient. It is
an ungracious thing, and so deemed, after having for six months been
branded as a traitor; after directing that Burr and his followers
should be attacked, put to death, and their property seized; after all
the violations of law and constitution which have been practised, that
government should now say it has not proof!
"Busy, busy, busy from morning till night--from night till morning,
yet there are daily amusing incidents; things at which you will laugh,
also things at which you will pout and scold."
"June 18, 1807.
"On Saturday morning General Wilkinson, with ten or eleven witnesses
from New Orleans, arrived in Richmond. Four bills were immediately
delivered to the grand jury against Blennerhassett and Burr; one for
treason and one for misdemeanour against each. The examination of the
witnesses was immediately commenced. They had gone through thirty-two
last evening. There are about forty-six. General Eaton has been
already examined. He came out of the jury-room in such rage and
agitation that he shed tears, and complained bitterly that he had been
questioned as if he were a villain. How else could he have been
questioned with any propriety?
"Poor Bollman is placed in a most awkward predicament. Some days ago
Mr. Hay, the district attorney, in open court tendered him a pardon
under the great seal and with the sign manual of _Thomas Jefferson_.
Bollman refused to receive it. Hay urged it upon him. Bollman said
that no man could force on him such a badge of infamy. Hay insisted
that he was a pardoned man, whether he would or not; and this question
will, probably, also come before the court in argument to-day or
"June 22, 1807.
On Friday Mr. Hay complained that Burr had so constantly occupied the
court for the four weeks past with his extraordinary motions, that he
(Mr. Hay) could not get an opportunity of making one on his part; he
therefore gave notice that he should, at the first interval, move for
leave to send to the grand jury interrogatories for their instruction,
to be put to the witnesses, in order that the _whole truth_ might come
"Burr said it was a thing without example, and which the court could
not permit without his assent; but he thought there was reason in the
proposal of Mr. Hay, and that he should cheerfully assent, with the
condition only that he (Burr) should also send interrogatories, to be
put to the same witnesses, the better to extract the _'whole truth.'_
"The court said that it certainly could not be permitted to Mr. Hay to
send interrogatories, being against usage and reason; but as Mr. Burr
had assented, there seemed to be no objection that both parties should
send in interrogatories; and such permission was granted, whereupon
Mr. Hay withdrew his motion."
"June 24, 1807.
"While we were engaged to-day in the argument of the question for an
attachment against Wilkinson, the grand jury came into court with
bills against Blennerhassett and myself for treason and misdemeanour.
Two bills against each of us. These indictments for treason are
founded on the following allegations: that Colonel Tyler, with twenty
or thirty men, stopped at Blennerhassett's Island on their way down
the Ohio; that though these men were not armed, and had no military
array or organization, and though they did neither use force nor
threaten it, yet, having set out with a view of taking temporary
possession of New-Orleans on their way to Mexico, that such intent was
treasonable, and therefore a war was levied on Blennerhassett's Island
by _construction_; and that, though Colonel Burr was then at Frankfort
on his way to Tennessee, yet, having advised the measure, he was, _by
construction of law_, present at the island, and levied war there. In
fact, the indictment charges that Aaron Burr was on that day present
at the island, though not a man of the jury supposed this to be true.
"This idea of _constructive war_ is, by this jury, carried far beyond
the dictum advanced by Judge Chace in the case of Fries; for Chace
laid down that the actual exertion of force, in a hostile or
traitorous manner, was indispensable to establish treason. Yet the
opinions of Chace in this case were complained of by the whole
republican party, and condemned by all the lawyers of all parties in
Philadelphia, as tending to introduce the odious and unconstitutional
doctrine of _constructive treason_.
"Out of fifty witnesses who have been examined before the grand jury,
it may be safely alleged that thirty at least have been perjured.
"I beg and expect it of you that you will conduct yourself as becomes
my daughter, and that you manifest no signs of weakness or alarm."
June 30, 1807.
"Of myself you could expect to hear nothing new; yet something new and
unexpected was moved yesterday. The counsel for the prosecution
proposed to the court that Aaron Burr should be sent to the
penitentiary for safe keeping, and stated that the governor and
council had offered to provide me with an apartment in the third story
of that building. This is extremely kind and obliging in the governor
and his council. The distance, however, would render it so
inconvenient to my counsel to visit me, that I should prefer to remain
where I am; yet the rooms proposed are said to be airy and healthy."
July 3, 1807.
"I have three rooms in the third story of the penitentiary, making an
extent of one hundred feet. My jailer is quite a polite and civil
man--altogether unlike the idea one would form of a jailer. You would
have laughed to have heard our compliments the first evening.
"_Jailer_. I hope, sir, it would not be disagreeable to you if I
should lock this door after dark.
"_Burr_. By no means, sir; I should prefer it, to keep out intruders.
"_Jailer_. It is our custom, sir, to extinguish all lights at nine
o'clock; I hope, sir, you will have no objection to conform to that.
"_Burr_. That, Sir, I am sorry to say, is impossible; for I never go
to bed till twelve, and always burn two candles.
"_Jailer_. Very well, sir, just as you please. I should have been glad
if it had been otherwise; but, as you please, sir.
"While I have been writing different servants have arrived with
messages, notes, and inquiries, bringing oranges, lemons, pineapples,
raspberries, apricots, cream, butter, ice, and some ordinary
"July 6, 1807.
"My friends and acquaintance of both sexes are permitted to visit me
without interruption, without inquiring their business, and without
the _presence of a spy_. It is well that I have an antechamber, or I
should often be gene with visitors.
"If you come I can give you a bedroom and parlour on this floor. The
bedroom has three large closets, and it is a much more commodious one
than you ever had in your life. Remember, no agitations, no
complaints, no fears or anxieties on the road, or I renounce thee."
"July 24, 1807.
"I want an independent and discerning witness to my conduct and to
that of the government. The scenes which have passed and those about
to be transacted will exceed all reasonable credibility, and will
hereafter be deemed fables, unless attested by very high authority.
"I repeat what has heretofore been written, that I should never invite
any one, much less those so dear to me, to witness my disgrace. I may
be immured in dungeons, chained, murdered in legal form, but I cannot
be humiliated or disgraced. If absent, you will suffer great
solicitude. In my presence you will feel none, whatever may be the
_malice_ or the _power_ of my enemies, and in both they abound."
"July 30, 1807.
"I am informed that some good-natured people here have provided you a
house, and furnished it, a few steps from my _townhouse_. I had also
made a temporary provision for you in my townhouse, whither I shall
remove on Sunday; but I will not, if I can possibly avoid it, move
before your arrival, having a great desire to _receive you all in this
mansion_. Pray, therefore, drive directly out here. You may get
admission at any time from four in the morning till ten at night.
Write me by the mail from Petersburgh, that I may know of your
[On this letter is endorsed, in Theodosia's handwriting, "_Received on
our approach to Richmond. How happy it made me!_"]
The following was written after Theodosia had left Richmond and
returned to South Carolina.
"Richmond, September 28, 1807.
"It is impossible to predict when this business may terminate, as the
chief justice has gradually relaxed from former rules of evidence, and
will now hear any thing, without regard to distance of time or place.
Wilkinson has been examined, and had partly gone through the
cross-examination when we closed on Saturday. _He acknowledged, very
modestly, that he had made certain alterations in the letter received
from me, by erasures, &c., and then swore it to be a true copy._ He
has not yet acknowledged the substitution of names."
"October 9, 1807.
"Major Bruff, who was produced as a witness on my behalf, deposed
that, in a conversation with Dearborn and Rodney, the
attorney-general, in March last, he accused Wilkinson of several
crimes, and gave the names of witnesses who would establish the
charges. Those gentlemen replied that General Wilkinson _had_ stood
very low in the estimation of the President, but that his energetic
conduct at New-Orleans had raised him in estimation; that he now stood
very high, and that the president would support him; that if the
government should now prosecute Wilkinson, or do any thing to impair
his credit, Burr would escape, and that was just what the federalists
and the enemies to the administration wished."
"October 23, 1807.
"After all, this is a sort of drawn battle. The chief justice gave his
opinion on Tuesday. After declaring that there were no grounds of
suspicion as to the treason, he directed that Burr and Blennerhassett
should give bail in three thousand dollars for further trial in Ohio.
This opinion was matter of regret and surprise to the friends of the
chief justice, and of ridicule to his enemies--all believing that it
was a sacrifice of principle to conciliate _Jack Cade_. Mr. Hay
immediately said that he should advise the government to _desist from
further prosecution_. That he has actually so advised there is no
1. At this period Blennerhassett was at war with both Colonel Burr and
Alston, on the subject of their pecuniary transactions.
2. Former mercantile partner of Blennerhassett, and contractor for
building Burr's boats on the Muskingum.
On the 7th of June, 1808, Colonel Burr sailed from New-York on board
the British packet for England, via Halifax. The personal and
political prejudices which the influence of power and the death of
Hamilton had excited against him; rendered, as he conceived, a
temporary absence from this country desirable; and, at the same time,
believing that the political situation of Europe offered opportunities
for accomplishing the object he had long contemplated, of emancipating
the Spanish American colonies from the degrading tyranny of Spain, it
was his design to solicit the aid of some European government in such
an undertaking. With these views he embarked for England.
During his residence in Europe he regularly corresponded with his
daughter, Mrs. Alston, and also kept a private diary; but probably
from the apprehension that his papers were at all times subject to the
supervision of the government police, his memoranda are in a great
measure restricted to occurrences private and personal. An amusing
volume  _might_ be made of these daily records of his privations
and personal adventures during his protracted and forced residence in
Europe, but the limits of the present work compel us to pass hastily
over this period of his life.
He arrived in Falmouth on the 15th, and in London on the 16th July;
and on the same day, with characteristic promptitude, he presented his
letters of introduction, and, among others, to John Reeves, Esq., then
in the department of the secretary of state, through whom he seems to
have hoped to gain access to the ministry.
During the next three months he made, through Mr. Reeves and others,
various unsuccessful efforts to approach the government; but there
were two obstacles in his way, both of which were insuperable. The
Spaniards were then in the commencement of their noble resistance to
the invasion of Napoleon, and the enthusiasm of the British nation in
favour of the Spanish patriots, as well as the policy of the British
government, were absolutely opposed to any scheme for separating the
colonies from Spain. But, in addition to this obstacle, Colonel Burr,
from the moment of his landing in England, was an object of suspicion
and distrust to the government. The alien-bill was then in stern
operation, and apprehensions were entertained of the emissaries of
France; and it is not to be doubted that the same hostility which, as
we shall see, openly displayed itself in the conduct of the United
States' agents towards Colonel Burr in France, had been excited to
misrepresent and anticipate him in his negotiations with the British
government. After various interviews, that led to nothing, with Mr.
Canning, Lord Mulgrave, and Lord Melville, on the 6th November, 1808,
the following communication from A. Merry put an end to all hopes of
assistance in his plans from the English ministry:--
Sunday morning, November 6.
Although I could not see Mr. Canning yesterday, from his being gone
into the country, to stay till Tuesday morning, for the recovery of
his health, I conversed with another person of nearly equal authority,
who told me he was sure that what you proposed to me yesterday could
never be consented to, pointing it out in every way to be
impracticable. I beg you to excuse the haste in which I write, and
believe me to be, dear sir,
Your most faithful humble servant,
In private life in England Colonel Burr received much attention, and
from no one more than _Jeremy Bentham_, with whom he formed a warm and
intimate friendship. In a letter to his daughter of the 8th September,
1808, he speaks of Mr. Bentham:--"I hasten to make you acquainted with
Jeremy Bentham, author of a work entitled 'Principles of Morals and
Legislation' (edited in French by Dumont), and of many other works of
less labour and research. You will well recollect to have heard me
place this man second to no one, ancient or modern, in profound
thinking, in logical and analytic reasoning. On the 8th of August I
received a letter from him, containing a most friendly invitation to
come and pass some days with him at a farm (where he passes the
summer) called Barrowgreen, near Gadstone, and twenty miles from
London. I was not tardy in profiting of this invitation. He met me at
the gate with the frankness and affection of an old friend. Mr.
Bentham's countenance has all that character of intense thought which
you would expect to find; but it is impossible to conceive a
physiognomy more strongly marked with ingenuousness and philanthropy.
I have passed twelve days there, and shall return to-morrow, to stay
most probably till he returns to town. His house in the city, which I
now occupy solely and exclusively--[N. B. Three servants in the house
at my command]--is most beautifully situated on St. James's Park, with
extensive gardens, and built and fitted up more to my taste than any
one I ever saw. In his library I am now writing."
The friendship of Mr. Bentham was uniform and constant; and if it did
not preserve his friend from severe pecuniary privations and distress
in Colonel Burr's second residence in England, it was because the
extent of these privations was industriously and ingeniously concealed
from him. "The benevolent heart of J. B." (Burr remarks in his diary,
when apprehending an arrest for debt) "shall never be pained by the
exhibition of my distress." Bentham, long after Burr's return to the
United States, continued to correspond with him.
With William Godwin Mr. Burr also formed an intimate and friendly
acquaintance. In a visit to Edinburgh in the winter of 1809, he seems
to have been treated with great distinction; and his diary is
sprinkled with the names of visitors the most distinguished in rank,
fashion, and letters of the Scottish metropolis. He writes to his
daughter 12th February, 1809: "Among the literary men of Edinburgh I
have met M'Kenzie, author of the Man of Feeling, and Scott, author of
the Minstrel. I met both frequently, and from both received civilities
and hospitality. M'Kenzie has twelve children--six daughters, all very
interesting and handsome. He is remarkably sprightly in company,
amiable, witty--might pass for forty-two, though certainly much older.
Scott, with less softness than M'Kenzie, has still more animation;
talks much, and very agreeably."
While in Edinburgh Colonel Burr was informed by Lord Justice Clarke
that Lord Melville had mentioned in a letter that it would be
necessary for Mr. Burr to return to London. The government began now
to evince great distrust of him. He seems at one time, and before he
had abandoned all hope of receiving assistance in his political
schemes, to have resolved to resist the operation of the alien bill,
by claiming the rights of a British subject. He probably suggested
this singular claim at the instance of his friend Reeves. The ground
he took was that, having been born a British subject, he had a right
to reassume his allegiance at pleasure; or rather that it was
indefeasible, and never could be parted with. The claim appears to
have caused some sensation among the crown lawyers. It was certainly
unfounded and injudiciously asserted. Lord Liverpool pronounced it
monstrous; and it probably increased the suspicion and distrust
On the 4th April, 1809, the government took active measures against
him. He writes in his journal of that day--"Having a confused
presentiment that something was wrong, I packed up my papers and
clothes with intent to go out and seek other lodgings. At one o'clock
came in without knocking four coarse-looking men, who said they had a
state warrant for seizing me and my papers, but refused to show the
warrant. I was peremptory, and the warrant was produced, signed
'Liverpool,' but I was not permitted to read the whole. They took
possession of my trunks, searched every part of the rooms for papers,
threw all the loose articles into a sack, called a coach, and away we
went to the alien office. Before going I wrote a note to Reeves, and
on our arrival sent it in--waited one hour in the coach--very cold,
but I refused to go in. Wrote in pencil to Reeves another note. He
came out. We had a little conversation. He could not then explain, but
said I must have patience. After half an hour more orders were that I
must go with one of the messengers to his house. On this order I first
went into the office to see Brooks, the under secretary, whom I knew
[you may recollect the transaction in July, which must have fixed me
in his memory]. He did not know me--none of them knew me--though every
devil of them knew me as well as I know you. Seeing the measure was
resolved on, and having inquired of the sort of restraint to which I
was doomed, I wrote a note to Koe, which Brooks took to show to Lord
Liverpool for his approbation to forward it--arrived at my prison, 31
Stafford Place, at four." In two days, however, he was released, and
his papers returned unopened; but he was informed he must leave the
kingdom. Some days afterward, as he still lingered, a message was
conveyed to him:--"Lord Liverpool expects you to leave London
to-morrow, and the kingdom in forty-eight hours." And on the 24th
April, 1809, he sailed from Harwich in his B. M. packet Diana for
On leaving England Mr. Burr seems to have been undetermined as to his
future movements. He was unwilling to renounce the projects which had
carried him to Europe; and all hope of assistance from England being
ended, he looked next for aid to Napoleon, whose policy, from the
resistance of Spain and the preponderancy of the British navy, was now
in favour of the independence of the Spanish American colonies. He
finally resolved to wait in Sweden till he received advices from
America, and then proceed to Paris to communicate with the emperor.
We must pass over his residence in Sweden, and his subsequent tour
through Germany to Paris, during the whole of which period he kept a
journal. He visited Hamburgh, Hanover, Saxe-Gotha, Weimar, and
Frankfort; and, though travelling without letters or introduction, it
appears from his itinerary that he was everywhere treated with
distinction and attention. At Hamburg, where he arrived the 20th
November, 1809, De Bourrienne, since known as the author of the
Memoirs of Bonaparte, was the French minister. It will be amusing,
perhaps, to compare the following extracts from De Bourrienne's work
with a brief memorandum from Colonel Burr's diary, showing in what
light they reciprocally regarded each other.
"At the height of his glory and power, Bonaparte was so suspicious
that the veriest trifle sufficed to alarm him. I recollect that about
the time the complaints were made respecting the _Minerva_
(newspaper), Colonel Burr, formerly vice-president of the United
States, who had recently arrived at Altona, was pointed out to me as a
dangerous man, and I received orders to watch him very closely, and to
arrest him on the slightest ground of suspicion if he should come to
Hamburgh. Colonel Burr was one of those in favour of whom I ventured
to disobey the orders I received from the restless police of Paris. As
soon as the minister of the police heard of his arrival at Altona, he
directed me to adopt towards him those violent measures which are
equivalent to persecution. In answer to these instructions, I stated
that Colonel Burr conducted himself at Altona with much prudence and
propriety; that he kept but little company, and that he was scarcely
spoken of. Far from regarding him as a man who required watching;
having learned that he wished to go to Paris, I caused a passport to
be procured for him, which he was to receive at Frankfort; and I never
heard that this dangerous citizen had compromised the safety of the
state in any way." _Bourrienne's Memoirs of Napoleon,_ vol. iv., p.
In his journal of November 24, Burr writes:--
"I learn that A. B. is announced in the Paris papers in a manner no
way auspicious. Resolved to go direct to the French minister, to see
if he had any orders to give or refuse me passports. Sent in my name,
but did not get out of my carriage; after some minutes the servant
returned, saying his excellency was then much engaged, but would be
glad to see me at three. At three, to minister's; begged to call
tomorrow at twelve. November 25. At twelve, the minister's; was at
once received; he is the transcript of our _Mari_,  only fifteen
years older, but marked with the same characters. His reception was
courteous, but with a mixture of surprise and curiosity. At once
offered me passports to any frontier town, but has no authority to do
more. Passports to go to Paris must come from Paris, and to that end I
must write. Advises that I direct reply to be transmitted to Mayence.
Asked me to dine, at his country-house tomorrow."
At Mayence, however, he found no passport; and he was detained in
suspense there and at Frankfort for a month, before permission could
be obtained to go to Paris.
On the 16th February, 1810, he arrived in Paris.
He commenced here a long and most vexatious and wearisome course of
attendance on the minister of foreign relations and other high
officers of state, endeavouring in vain, by personal solicitations and
memorials, to obtain an audience of the emperor and an answer to his
propositions. He attended the levees of the Duc de Cadore, the Duc de
Rovigo, Jerome Bonaparte, King of Westphalia; but uniformly failed in
his efforts, and was turned off with unmeaning professions. He records
in his diary, with gratitude, the friendly attentions of Volney,
Denon, and the Duc de Bassano; but, with these exceptions, he seems to
have been treated with great coolness, even by those to whom his
hospitality had been freely tendered in America. He always suspected
that the alienation and immutable discountenance of the emperor were
to be ascribed to the representations of _Talleyrand_ and the
representatives of the United States in France.
Several months neglect and inattention at length discouraged him, and
he resolved to return home; but, on applying for a passport to the
United States, he was informed by the police that he could not have a
passport to go out of the empire. "Me voila [he writes in his
journal], prisonier d'Etat! et presque sans sous." This event changed
the course of his solicitations; and for the next year we find him,
having abandoned all projects of ambition, limiting himself to
solicitation for permission to go home, and without success. A
memorial which he addressed to Napoleon sets forth in these manly
terms the harshness and injustice of his treatment.
"While in Germany last winter I saw in the _Moniteur_ an expression of
your majesty's assent to the independence of the Spanish American
colonies. Believing that I could be useful in the execution of that
object, I hastened to Frankfort, and there addressed myself to your
majesty's minister, Monsieur Hedouville, who, at my request, wrote to
the minister of exterior relations, stating my views, and asking a
passport if those views should be deemed worthy of your majesty's
attention. A passport was transmitted to me. On the day of my arrival
in Paris I announced myself to the Duc de Cadore, and on the day
following had an audience, in which I explained, as fully as the time
would admit, the nature of my projects and the means of execution.
Further details were added in subsequent conversations had with one of
the chiefs of that department. Afterward, at the request of the Duc de
Cadore, they were reduced to writing, of which memoir one copy was
delivered to the Duc de Cadore and another to the Duc de Rovigo, to be
submitted to your majesty's perusal. After the lapse of some weeks,
having received no reply, nor any intimation that my views accorded
with those of your majesty, being here without occupation and without
the means of support, I asked a passport to return to the United
States, where not only the state of the country, but my personal
concerns, demand my presence. This passport has been refused; for
nearly four months I have in vain solicited. The only answer I receive
is--'His majesty has not signified his assent.'
"After conduct so frank and loyal on my part, it is with reason that I
am hurt and surprised at this refusal. Not only did the motives of my
visit and my conduct since my residence in France deserve a different
return; at all times I have deserved well of your majesty and of the
French nation. My home in the United States has been always open to
French citizens, and few of any note who have visited the United
States have not experienced my hospitalities. At a period when the
administration of the government of the United States was hostile to
France and Frenchmen, they received from me efficient protection.
These, sire, are my crimes against France!
"Presuming that a proceeding so distressing and unmerited--so contrary
to the laws of hospitality, to the fame of your majesty's magnanimity
and justice, and to that of the courtesy of the French nation, must be
without your majesty's knowledge, and that, amid the mighty concerns
which weigh on your majesty's mind, those of an individual so humble
as myself may have escaped your notice, I venture to intrude into your
presence, and to ask either a passport to return to the United States,
or, if in fact your majesty, with the expectation of rendering me
useful to you, should wish a further delay, that I may be informed of
the period of that delay, that I may take measures accordingly for my
This memorial passed without notice.
The following correspondence between Colonel Burr and Mr. Jonathan
Russell, then Charge d'Affaires at Paris, and Mr. M'Rae, American
Consul at Paris, will show the conduct of representatives of the
United States to an American citizen in want and in a foreign land.
TO MR. RUSSELL.
Paris, October 25, 1810.
Mr. Burr presents respectful compliments. As a citizen of the United
States, he requests of Mr. Russell an official certificate to that
effect, and will have the honour of calling for the purpose at any
hour which he may be pleased to name. The fact of Mr. Burr's
citizenship being sufficiently known to Mr. Russell, it is presumed
that other proof will be deemed unnecessary.
FROM MR. RUSSELL.
Paris, October 25, 1810.
In reply to Mr. Burr's note of this morning, Mr. Russell begs leave to
inform him that the province of granting passports to citizens of the