Part 9 out of 9
United States belongs to the consul, to whom all wishing for that
protection must apply.
TO MR. M'RAE.
Paris, October 29, 1810.
Mr. Burr presents compliments. Having addressed himself to Mr. Russell
for a certificate of citizenship, has been informed by him that the
business of granting certificates was transferred to the consul. He
therefore repeats the request to Mr. M'Rae. If a personal attendance
be deemed necessary, Mr. Burr will wait on Mr. M'Rae for the purpose
at any hour he may be pleased to appoint.
FROM MR. M'RAE.
Paris, October 29, 1810.
Mr. M'Rae answers to Mr. Burr's note of this morning, that his
knowledge of the circumstances under which Mr. Burr left the United
States renders it his duty to decline giving Mr. Burr either a
passport or a permis de sejour. If, however, the opinion Mr. M'Rae has
formed and the determination he has adopted on this subject be
erroneous, there is a remedy at hand.
Although the business of granting passports and permis de sejour
generally is confided to the consul, the charge des affaires
unquestionably possesses full authority to grant protection in either
of those forms to any person to whom it may be improperly denied by
TO MR. RUSSELL.
Paris, November 1, 1810.
On receipt of Mr. Russell's note, Mr. Burr applied to the consul; a
copy of his reply is herewith enclosed. It cannot be material to
inquire what are the _"circumstances"_ referred to by the consul, nor
whether true or false. Mr. Burr is ignorant of any statute or
instruction which authorizes a foreign minister or agent to inquire
into any circumstances other than those which tend to establish the
fact of citizen or not. If, however, Mr. Russell should be of a
different opinion, Mr. Burr is ready to satisfy him that no
circumstances exist which can, by any construction, in the slightest
degree impair his rights as a citizen, and that the conclusions of the
consul are founded in error, either in point of fact or of inference.
Yet, conceiving that every citizen has a right to demand a certificate
or passport, Mr. Burr is constrained to renew his application to Mr.
Russell, to whom the consul has been pleased to refer the decision.
FROM MR. RUSSELL.
Paris, November 4, 1810.
Without subscribing to the opinion of Mr. M'Rae with regard to the
appeal that lays from the erroneous decisions of the consul to the
charge d'affaires, Mr. Russell has no objection to judging the case
which Mr. Burr has presented to him.
The man who evades the offended laws of his country, abandons, for the
time, the right to their protection. This fugitive from justice,
during his voluntary exile, has a claim to no other passport than one
which shall enable him to surrender himself for trial for the offences
with which he stands charged. Such a passport Mr. Russell will furnish
to Mr. Burr, but no other.
In the winter of 1810 and 1811, being cut off from remittances from
America, it appears from his journal that he suffered sad privations
from the want of money.
In his diary of November 23, he writes--"Nothing from America, and
really I shall starve. Borrowed three francs to-day. Four or five
little debts keep me in constant alarm; all together, about two
December 1, 1810. "----- came in upon me this morning, just as I was
out of bed, for twenty-seven livres. Paid him, which took literally my
last sous. When at Denon's, thought I might as well go to St.
Pelasgie; set off, but recollected I owed the woman who sits in the
passage two sous for a segar, so turned about to pursue my way by Pont
des Arts, which was within fifty paces; remembered I had not wherewith
to pay the toll, being one sous; had to go all the way round by the
Pont Royal, more than half a mile."
His journal for a year is filled with similar details, and would be a
melancholy narration were it not that it exhibits him under every
vicissitude, suspected and watched by the French government,
misrepresented by the representatives of his own country, treated with
almost universal coldness and neglect, cut off from all communication
with America, without money, without occupation, and without any
reasonable hope of a termination of his troubles, uniformly composed,
firm, and cheerful. Not a discontented or fretful expression is to be
found in his voluminous memoranda.
At length, in July, 1811, a ship being about sailing in ballast for
America, with Napoleon's permission, Colonel Burr, through the
influence of the Duc de Bassano, received permission to leave Paris.
He arrived at Amsterdam on the 3d of August; and after a month's
delay, apparently from the capricious tyranny of the French
authorities, he sailed for America in the ship Vigilant on the 20th of
September; and, escaping from the toils of one of the great
belligerants, he fell into the power of the other, and was on the next
day captured by an English frigate and carried into Yarmouth.
The Vigilant and the effects of her passengers were taken possession
of by the government for trial in the admiralty; and as Burr had paid
for passage to America, and was reduced very low in funds, he was
obliged to remain in England. He continued in England from the 9th of
October, 1811, till the 6th of March, 1812, when he sailed for America
in the ship Aurora, and arrived in New-York, via Boston, on the 8th of
June, 1812, just four years after his departure from America. During
his second sojourn in England he enjoyed the society and friendship of
Bentham and Godwin; but the latter could not alleviate his pecuniary
distress, and the former was probably never fully aware of it. The
diary contains a protracted record of privations, sometimes
threatening absolute and hopeless want, but endured throughout with
undisturbed and characteristic fortitude and gayety. He seems to have
missed the attentions and society which he found on his first visit to
London, and the following extract from his journal of 26th March,
1812, shows that he left England without feeling affection or regret.
"I shake the dust off my feet. Adieu, John Bull! Insula
inhospitabilis, as you were truly called 1800 years ago."
1. It is highly probable that portions of Colonel Burr's journal, with
his correspondence while in Europe, may hereafter be published in a
single volume, as a separate and distinct work.
2. Joseph Alston, son-in-law of Colonel Burr.
Immediately after Colonel Burr's arrival in the city of New-York, he
opened an office and commenced the practice of law. The high and
distinguished reputation with which he had retired from the bar in
1801 secured to him, on his return, an extensive and profitable
business. A few individuals of the profession, under the influence of
former prejudices, some of them hereditary, and as ancient as the 4th
of July, 1776, endeavoured to throw impediments in his way; but these
efforts were of short duration, and productive of but little effect.
In general, he was courteously, if not kindly received, by gentlemen
of the profession. In reference to this subject it was his request,
that while no individual should be censured, the name of his friend,
Colonel Robert Troup, should be recorded as meriting and receiving his
most grateful acknowledgments. It has been seen that their intimacy
was formed while they were yet but boys, at a period and under
circumstances "that tried men's souls." On Burr's opening his office,
Colonel Troup, having abandoned the practice of law, generously
tendered him the use of his library until it should be required for
his (Troup's) own son; which, to Burr, was a most acceptable kindness,
as he was destitute of the means of supplying even his most pressing
wants. His prospects, for the moment, were cheering and auspicious.
But they were soon "o'er-clouded with wo."
In his daughter (Mrs. Alston) and her son were centred all his hopes,
all his affections, all the ties that bound him to this life. The
following appears to have been the first letter, after his arrival in
the United States, that Burr received from his son-in-law Alston.
FROM JOSEPH ALSTON.
July 26, 1812.
A few miserable weeks since, my dear sir, and in spite of all the
embarrassments, the troubles, and disappointments which have fallen to
our lot since we parted, I would have congratulated you on your return
in the language of happiness. With my wife on one side and my boy on
the other, I felt myself superior to depression. The present was
enjoyed, the future was anticipated with enthusiasm. One dreadful blow
has destroyed us; reduced us to the veriest, the most sublimated
wretchedness. That boy, on whom all rested; our companion, our
friend--he who was to have transmitted down the mingled blood of
Theodosia and myself--he who was to have redeemed all your glory, and
shed new lustre upon our families--that boy, at once our happiness and
our pride, is taken from us--_is dead_. We saw him dead. My own hand
surrendered him to the grave; yet we are alive. But it is past. I will
not conceal from you that life is a burden, which, heavy as it is, we
shall both support, if not with dignity, at least with decency and
firmness. Theodosia has endured all that a human being could endure;
but her admirable mind will triumph. She supports herself in a manner
worthy of your daughter.
We have not yet been able to form any definite plan of life. My
present wish is that Theodosia should join you, with or without me, as
soon as possible. My command here, as brigadier-general, embarrasses
me a good deal in the disposal of _myself._ I would part with
Theodosia reluctantly; but if I find myself detained here, I shall
certainly do so. I not only recognise your claim to her after such a
separation, but change of scene and your society will aid her, I am
conscious, in recovering at least that tone of mind which we are
destined to carry through life with us.
I have great anxiety to be employed against Quebec, should an army be
ordered thither, and have letters prepared asking of the president a
brigade in that army. From the support which that request will have,
if not obtained now, I doubt not it will be at the first increase of
the military force, which, if the war be seriously carried on, must be
as soon as Congress meet. Then, be the event what it may, I shall at
least gain something. Adieu.
Yours, with respect and regard,
The effect upon Burr of this blow may be imagined by those who have
noticed his constant and unceasing anxiety for his grandson, Aaron
Burr Alston. In his intercourse, however, with the world, and in his
business pursuits, there was a promptitude and an apparent
cheerfulness which seemed to indicate a tranquillity of mind. But not
so in his lone and solitary hours. When in the society of a single
friend, if an accidental reference was made to the event, the manly
tear would be seen slowly stealing down his furrowed cheek, until, as
if awakening from a slumber, he would suddenly check those emotions of
the heart, and all would again become subdued, calm, dignified.
During this autumn (1812) Theodosia's health continued to be
precarious. Deep-settled grief, in addition to her protracted disease,
was rapidly wasting her away. She continued to correspond with her
father; but at length, in November, it was determined that she should
join him in New-York. A few short extracts of letters will unfold and
close this melancholy tale.
FROM TIMOTHY GREEN.
Charleston, S. C., December 7, 1812.
I arrived here from New-York on the 28th ult., and on the 29th started
for Columbia. Mr. Alston seemed rather hurt that you should conceive
it necessary to send a person here, as he or one of his brothers would
attend Mrs. Alston to New-York. I told him you had some opinion of my
medical talents; that you had learned your daughter was in a low state
of health, and required unusual attention, and medical attention on
her voyage; that I had torn myself from my family to perform this
service for my friend. He said that he was inclined to charter a
vessel to take her on. I informed him that I should return to
Charleston, where I should remain a day or two, and then proceed to
Georgetown (S. C.) and wait his arrival.
Georgetown, S. C., December 22, 1812.
I have engaged a passage to New-York for your daughter in a pilot-boat
that has been out privateering, but has come in here, and is refitting
merely to get to New-York. My only fears are that Governor Alston may
think the mode of conveyance too undignified, and object to it; but
Mrs. Alston is fully bent on going. You must not be surprised to see
her very low, feeble, and emaciated. Her complaint is an almost
incessant nervous fever. We shall sail in about eight days.
FROM JOSEPH ALSTON TO THEODOSIA.
Columbia, S. C., January 15, 1813.
Another mail, and still no letter! I hear, too, rumours of a gale off
Cape Hatteras the beginning of the month! The state of my mind is
dreadful. Let no man, wretched as he may be, presume to think himself
beyond the reach of another blow. I shall count the hours till noon
to-morrow. If I do not hear then, there will be no hope till Tuesday.
To feelings like mine, what an interval! May God grant me one word
from you to-morrow. Adieu. All that I have left of heart is yours. All
my prayers are for your safety and well-being.
January 19, 1813.
Forebodings! wretched, heart-rending forebodings distract my mind. I
may no longer have a wife; and yet my impatient restlessness addresses
her a letter. To-morrow will be three weeks since our separation, and
not yet one line. Gracious God! for what am I reserved?
FROM JOSEPH ALSTON TO COL. BURR.
Columbia, January 19, 1813.
To-morrow will be three weeks since, in obedience to your wishes,
Theodosia left me. It is three weeks, and not yet one line from her.
My mind is tortured. I wrote you on the 29th ult., the day before
Theo. sailed, that on the next day she would embark in the privateer
_Patriot_, a pilot-boat-built schooner, commanded by Captain
Overstocks, with an old New-York pilot as sailing-master. The vessel
had dismissed her crew, and was returning home with her guns under
deck. Her reputed swiftness in sailing inspired such confidence of a
voyage of not more than five or six days, that the three weeks without
a letter fill me with an unhappiness--a wretchedness I can neither
describe nor conquer. Gracious God! Is my wife, too, taken from me? I
do not know why I write, but I feel that I am miserable.
Charleston, January 31, 1813.
A call of business to this place for a few days occasioned your letter
of the 20th not to be received till this morning. Not a moment is lost
in replying to it. Yet wherefore? You ask of me to relieve your
suspense. Alas! it was to you I looked for similar relief. I have
written you twice since my letter of December 29. I can add nothing to
the information then given. I parted with our Theo. near the bar about
noon on Thursday, the last of December. The wind was moderate and
fair. She was in the pilot-boat-built schooner Patriot, Captain
Overstocks, with an experienced New-York pilot, Coon, as
sailing-master. This vessel, the same which had been sent by
government last summer in pursuit of Commodore Rodgers's squadron, had
been selected as one which, from her reputed excellence and swiftness
in sailing, would ensure a passage of not more than five or six days.
From that moment I have heard nothing of the schooner nor my wife. I
have been the prey of feelings which you only can imagine. When I
turned from the grave of my boy I deemed myself no longer vulnerable.
Misfortune had no more a blow for me. I was wrong. It is true, I no
longer feel, I never shall feel as I was wont; but I have been taught
that there was still one being in whom I was inexpressibly interested.
I have in vain endeavoured to build upon the hope of long passage.
Thirty days are decisive. My wife is _either captured or lost_. What a
destiny is mine! and I live under it, engage in business, appear to
the world as though all was tranquil, easy. 'Tis so, but it cannot
endure. A short time since, and the idea of capture would have been
the source of painful, terrible apprehension; it now furnishes me the
only ray of comfort, or rather of hope, that I have. Each mail is
anticipated with impatient, yet fearful and appalling anxiety. Should
you hear aught relative to the object of this our common solicitude,
do not, I pray, forget me.
FROM JOSEPH ALSTON.
February 25, 1813.
Your letter of the 10th, my friend, is received. This assurance of my
fate was not wanting. Authentic accounts from Bermuda and Nassau, as
late as January 30, connected with your letter from New-York of the
28th, had already forced upon me the dreadful conviction that we had
no more to hope. Without this victim, too, the desolation would not
have been complete. My boy--my wife--gone, both! This, then, is the
end of all the hopes we had formed. You may well observe that you feel
severed from the human race. She was the last tie that bound us to the
species. What have we left? In surviving the 30th of June  I
thought I could meet all other afflictions with ease, yet I have
staggered under this in a manner that I am glad had not a witness.
Your letter of January 28 was not received till February 9. The Oaks,
for some months visited only at intervals, when the feelings the world
thought gone by were not to be controlled, was the asylum I sought. It
was there, in the chamber of my wife, where every thing was disposed
as usual; with the clothes, the books, the play-things of my boy
around me, that I sustained this second shock, doubled in a manner
that I could not account for. My son seemed to have been reanimated,
to have been restored to me, and to have just perished again with his
mother. It was the loss of both pressing upon me at the same moment.
Should it be my misfortune to live a Century, the 30th of June and the
10th of February are so impressed upon my mind that they will always
seem to have just passed. I visited the grave of my boy. The little
plans we had all three formed rushed upon my memory. Where now was the
boy? The mother I cherished with so much pride? I felt like the very
spirit of desolation. If it had not been for a kind of stupefaction
and confusion of mind which followed, God knows how I should have
borne it. Oh, my friend, if there be such a thing as the sublime of
misery, it is for us that it has been reserved.
You are the only person in the world with whom I can commune on this
subject; for you are the only person whose feelings can have any
community with mine. You knew those we loved. With you, therefore, it
will be no weakness to feel their loss. Here, none knew them; none
valued them as they deserved. The talents of my boy, his rare
elevation of character, his already extensive reputation for so early
an age, made his death regretted by the pride of my family; but,
though certain of the loss of my not less admirable wife, they seem to
consider it like the loss of an ordinary woman. Alas! they know
nothing of my heart. They never have known any thing of it. Yet, after
all, he is a poor actor who cannot sustain his little hour upon the
stage, be his part what it may. But the man who has been deemed worthy
of the heart of _Theodosia Burr_, and who has felt what it was to be
blessed with such a woman's, will never forget his elevation.
This distressing correspondence between Colonel Burr and Governor
Alston was continued during the year 1813; but the unfortunate
Theodosia was never again heard of, except in idle rumours and
exaggerated tales of her capture and murder by pirates. These reports,
it is believed, were without foundation. The schooner on board which
she had taken passage probably foundered, and every soul perished in a
heavy gale which was experienced along our whole coast a few days
after her departure from Georgetown.
Colonel Burr, on his return to the United States, mingled but little
in society. He only knew those who first recognised him. In the
ordinary conflicts of the political parties of the day he seemed to
feel but little interest, and rarely interfered. From them he sought
neither honour nor emolument. He pursued his profession, however, with
great ardour and some success; but was continually embarrassed, and
sometimes experienced great difficulty from the pressure of his old
debts. The following extract will afford some general idea of his
TO JOSEPH ALSTON.
New-York, October 16, 1815.
I have found it so difficult to answer that part of your letter which
regards myself and my concerns, that it has been deferred, though
often in my mind. At some other time I may give you, in detail, a
sketch of the sad period which has elapsed since my return. For the
present, it will suffice to say that my business affords me a decent
support. If I had not been interrupted in the career which I began, I
should, before this, have paid all my debts and been at ease.
My old creditors (principally the holders of the Mexican debts) came
upon me last winter with vindictive fury. I was held to bail in large
sums, and saw no probability of keeping out of prison for six months.
This danger is still menacing, but not quite so imminent. I shall
neither borrow nor receive from any one, not even from you. I have
determined not to begin to pay unless I see a prospect of paying all.
When any great political question agitated the country, such as a
presidential election, Mr. Burr seemed to feel it his duty to express
his opinion to those whom he supposed confided in his discernment or
his patriotism. On these occasions he spake with great freedom and
boldness. Many of his letters exhibit all that sagacity and talent for
which he was so pre-eminently distinguished. It has been seen by the
extract from Blennerhassett's private journal, that he did not
complain in 1807 of any act done by General Andrew Jackson. The
following will show that he remained under the influence of similar
feelings in 1815.
TO GOVERNOR JOSEPH ALSTON.
New-York, November 20, 1815.
A congressional caucus will, in the course of the ensuing month,
nominate James Monroe for President of the United States, and will
call on all good republicans to support the nomination.
Whether we consider the measure itself, the character and talents of
the man, or the state whence he comes, this nomination is equally
exceptionable and odious.
I have often heard your opinion of these congressional nominations.
They are hostile to all freedom and independence of suffrage. A
certain junto of actual and factitious Virginians, having had
possession of the government for twenty-four years, consider the
United States as their property, and, by bawling "Support the
Administration," have so long succeeded in duping the republican
public. One of their principal arts, and which has been systematically
taught by Jefferson, is that of promoting state dissensions, not
between republican and federal--that would do them no good--but
schisms in the republican party. By looking round you will see how the
attention of leading men in the different states has thus been turned
from general and _state_ politics. Let not this disgraceful domination
Independently of the manner of the nomination and the location of the
candidate, the man himself is one of the most improper and incompetent
that could be selected. Naturally dull and stupid; extremely
illiterate; indecisive to a degree that would be incredible to one who
did not know him; pusillanimous, and, of course, hypocritical; has no
opinion on any subject, and will be always under the government of the
worst men; pretends, as I am told, to some knowledge of military
matters, but never commanded a platoon, nor was ever fit to command
one. "_He served in the Revolutionary War!_"--that is, he acted a
short time as aid-de-camp to Lord Stirling, who was regularly
********. Monroe's whole duty was to fill his lordship's tankard, and
hear, with indications of admiration, his lordship's long stories
about himself. Such is Monroe's military experience. I was with my
regiment in the same division at the time. As a lawyer, Monroe was far
He never rose to the honour of trying a cause of the value of a
hundred pounds. This is a character exactly suited to the views of the
To this junto you have twice sacrificed yourself, and what have you
got by it? Their hatred and abhorrence. Did you ever know them to
countenance a man of talents and independence? Never--nor ever will.
It is time that you manifested that you had some individual character;
some opinion of your own; some influence to support that opinion. Make
them fear you, and they will be at your feet. Thus far they have
reason to believe that you fear them.
The moment is extremely auspicious for breaking down this degrading
system. The best citizens of our country acknowledge the feebleness of
our administration. They acknowledge that offices are bestowed merely
to preserve power, and without the smallest regard to fitness. If,
then, there be a man in the United States of firmness and decision,
and having standing enough to afford even a hope of success, it is
your duty to hold him up to public view: that man is _Andrew Jackson_.
Nothing is wanting but a respectable nomination, made before the
proclamation of the Virginia caucus, and _Jackson's_ success is
If this project should accord with your views, I could wish to see
_you_ prominent in the execution of it. It must be known to be _your_
work. Whether a formal and open nomination should now be made, or
whether you should, for the present, content yourself with barely
denouncing, by a joint resolution of both houses of your legislature,
congressional caucuses and nominations, you only can judge. One
consideration inclines me to hesitate about the policy of a present
nomination. It is this--that Jackson ought first to be admonished to
be passive: for, the moment he shall be announced as a candidate, he
will be assailed by the Virginia junto with menaces, and with
insidious promises of boons and favours. _There is danger that Jackson
might be wrought upon by such practices_. If an open nomination be
made, an express should be instantly sent to him.
This suggestion has not arisen from any exclusive attachment to
Jackson. The object is to break down this vile combination which rules
and degrades the United States. If you should think that any other man
could be held up with better prospect of success, name that man. I
know of no such. But the business must be accomplished, and on this
occasion, and by you. So long as the present system prevails, you will
be struggling against wind and tide to preserve a precarious
influence. You will never be forgiven for the crime of having talents
Exhibit yourself, then, and emerge from this state of nullity. You owe
it to yourself, you owe it to me, you owe it to your country, you owe
it to the memory of the dead.
I have talked of this matter to your late secretary, but he has not
seen this letter.
Your secretary was to have delivered this personally, but has changed
his course on hearing that Jackson is on his way to Washington. If you
should have any confidential friend among the members of Congress from
your state, charge him to caution Jackson against the perfidious
caresses with which he will be overwhelmed at Washington.
New-York, December 11, 1815.
A copy of the preceding went under cover to Dr. Wragg. Since that date
things are wonderfully advanced, as your secretary will write or tell
you. These will require a written message (letter) from yourself and
others (or yourself alone, but three names would look more formal),
advising Jackson what is doing; that communications have been had with
the Northern states, requiring him only to be passive, and asking from
him a list of persons in the Western states to whom you may address
FROM JOSEPH ALSTON.
Charleston, February 16, 1816.
Your letter of the 20th of November, entrusted to Mr. Phillips, was
received through the postoffice about the middle of last month. It
was, of course, too late, had circumstances been ever so favourable,
to be acted upon in the manner proposed. Had it even been received,
however, in due season, it would have found me utterly incapable of
exertion. On my way to Columbia, in November, I had another severe
attack of illness, which rendered absolutely impracticable either the
immediate prosecution of my journey or my attendance during the
session of the legislature. As soon as I was able to bear the motion
of a carriage, I was brought by short stages to this place, where I
have been confined ever since. Yesterday was the first time for two
months that I have been out of the house. So much for the miserable
remnant of myself.
With regard to the subject of your letter of the 20th of November, I
fully coincide with you in sentiment; but the spirit, the energy, the
health necessary to give practical effect to sentiment, are all gone.
I feel too much alone, too entirely unconnected with the world, to
take much interest in any thing. Yet, without the smallest solicitude
about the result, I shall certainly not fail to discharge my public
duty, whenever the opportunity occurs, by giving a very strong and
frank expression of my opinion on the subject suggested.
Vanderlyn, I perceive from the papers, has returned to New-York.
Nothing, I trust, has prevented his bringing back the portrait  you
left with him. Let me again entreat you to use your influence with him
in procuring me a good copy. I received some days since, through the
kindness of Mr. John B. Prevost, a miniature, which appears to have
been taken from Vanderlyn's portrait. The execution is good, but in
expression it is by no means equal to the portrait. There was a small
portrait of Natalie which you took with you, of which, if Vanderlyn
embraces that kind of painting in his present plan, I should be glad
also to obtain of him a copy. The original picture, I think, was the
best portrait I ever saw.
In this depressed state of mind and debilitated state of body Governor
Alston remained until summer, when he died. Whatever may have been
appearances to the contrary, it is highly probable that, after the
death of his son and wife, he never enjoyed happiness. Their loss
continually preyed upon him. To Colonel Burr, and, it would seem, to
him alone, he unbosomed himself. All his letters breathe a deep and
settled gloom, bordering on despondency--a gloom which time could not
subdue or change.
FROM WILLIAM A. ALSTON.
Rosehill, near Georgetown, October 4, 1916.
It was enjoined on me, and my brother John A. Alston, verbally, by our
late brother Joseph Alston, to send a certain trunk to you, which he
never had the courage to open, containing, as he said, some things
that belonged to your daughter Theodosia; and to send a certain
collection of other articles (of dress, I believe), that had also been
hers, to the eldest daughter of Mr. J. B. Prevost. Pray point you out
the way, sir, in which our trust is to be executed.
In his will, of which a copy shall be sent you if desired, my brother
has given all demands up to you that he had against you. Very
WILLIAM A. ALSTON.
P. S. These are alone the words relating to you in the will: "To my
father-in-law, Aaron Burr, I give, devise, and bequeath all demands I
may have against him, whether by judgment or otherwise."
The trunk and other articles above referred to were subsequently
transmitted to Colonel Burr. Among the private papers of Theodosia
there are some fragments and scraps of much interest. In the summer of
1805 she was dangerously ill, and she appears, from the following
letter, to have been greatly depressed in mind.
FROM THEODOSIA TO JOSEPH ALSTON.
August 6, 1805.
Whether it is the effect of extreme debility and disordered nerves, or
whether it is really presentiment, the existence of which I have been
often told of, and always doubted, I cannot tell; but something
whispers me that my end approaches. In vain I reason with myself; in
vain I occupy my mind, and seek to fix my attention on other subjects
; there is about me that dreadful heaviness and sinking of the heart,
that awful foreboding, of which it is impossible to divest myself.
Perhaps I am now standing on the brink of eternity; and, ere I plunge
in the fearful abyss, I have some few requests to make.
I wish your sisters (one of them, it is immaterial which) would select
from my clothes certain things which they will easily perceive
belonged to my mother. These, with whatever lace they find in a large
trunk in a garret-room of the Oaks house, added to a little satinwood
box (the largest, and having a lock and key), and a black satin
embroidered box, with a pincushion; all these things I wish they would
put together in one trunk, and send them to Frederic, with the
enclosed letter. I prefer him, because Bartow's wife would have little
respect for what, however trifling it may appear, I nevertheless deem
I beg Sister Maria will accept of my watch-ring. She will find a
locket which she gave me, containing the hair of her mother; she had
better take it. If the lace in my wardrobe at the Oaks will be of any
use to Charlotte, I beg she will take it, or any thing else she
wishes. My heart is with those dear amiable sisters, to give them
something worth preserving in recollection of me; but they know that a
warm friendship is all I have to give.
Return to mamma the eagle she gave me. Should an opportunity to
Catharine Brown ever occur, send her a pearl necklace, a small diamond
ring, a little pair of coral tablets, which are among my trinkets at
the Oaks. I pray you, my dear husband, send Bartow's daughter some
present for me, and to himself and Frederic a lock of my hair. Return
Natalie the little desk she gave me, accompanied by assurances of my
affectionate recollection, and a ring of my hair. Remember me to
Sally, who is truly amiable, and whom I sincerely esteem.
I beg, also, you will write immediately to New-York, for warding some
money for the comfortable support of _Peggy_ until my father can
provide for her. Do not permit grief at the loss of me to render you
forgetful of this, for the poor creature may expire of want in the
mean time. I beg this may be attended to without delay.
To you, my beloved, I leave our child; the child of my bosom, who was
once a part of myself, and from whom I shall shortly be separated by
the cold grave. You love him now; henceforth love him for me also. And
oh, my husband, attend to this last prayer of a doting mother. Never,
never listen to what any other person tells you of him. Be yourself
his judge on all occasions. He has faults; see them, and correct them
yourself. Desist not an instant from your endeavours to secure his
confidence. It is a work which requires as much uniformity of conduct
as warmth of affection towards him. I know, my beloved, that you can
perceive what is right on this subject as on every other. But
recollect, these are the last words I can ever utter. It will
tranquillize my last moments to have disburdened myself of them.
I fear you will scarcely be able to read this scrawl, but I feel
hurried and agitated. Death is not welcome to me. I confess it is ever
dreaded. You have made me too fond of life. Adieu, then, thou kind,
thou tender husband. Adieu, friend of my heart. May Heaven prosper
you, and may we meet hereafter. Adieu; perhaps we may never see each
other again in this world. You are away, I wished to hold you fast,
and prevented you from going this morning. But He who is wisdom itself
ordains events; we must submit to them. Least of all should I murmur.
I, on whom so many blessings have been showered--whose days have been
numbered by bounties--who have had such a husband, such a child, and
such a father. Oh pardon me, my God, if I regret leaving these. I
resign myself. Adieu, once more, and for the last time, my beloved.
Speak of me often to our son. Let him love the memory of his mother,
and let him know how he was loved by her. Your wife, your fond wife,
Let my father see my son sometimes. Do not be unkind towards him whom
I have loved so much, I beseech you. Burn all my papers except my
father's letters, which I beg you to return him. Adieu, my sweet boy.
Love your father; be grateful and affectionate to him while he lives;
be the pride of his meridian, the support of his departing days. Be
all that he wishes; for he made your mother happy. Oh! my heavenly
Father, bless them both. If it is permitted, I will hover round you,
and guard you, and intercede for you. I hope for happiness in the next
world, for I have not been bad in this.
I had nearly forgotten to say that I charge you not to allow me to be
stripped and washed, as is usual. I am pure enough thus to return to
dust. Why, then, expose my person? Pray see to this. If it does not
appear contradictory or silly, I beg to be kept as long as possible
before I am consigned to the earth.
[Directed--"_My husband_. To be delivered after my death. I wish this
to be read _immediately_, and before my burial."]
Although Colonel Burr seldom interfered in the politics of his own
country, yet he continued to feel a deep and abiding interest in the
emancipation of South America. He was constantly projecting some
measure which in his opinion was calculated to promote this object. He
encouraged the friends of freedom in that benighted land. He
corresponded with those who were connected with any enterprise
favouring the revolution, and consulted and advised with all who
visited the United States, and sought his advice on the subject. The
following letter will show the wishes of distinguished Mexicans in the
FROM GENERAL TOLEDO.
New-York, September 20, 1816.
Although I have not the honour of knowing you personally, the
reputation of your talents and good wishes for the cause of America
have made your name familiar among us; and since this will dispense
the accustomed forms of introduction, I dare present to your
consideration the actual state of our revolution, our evils, and the
remedies which we believe may be applied to them.
It is six years since that, almost simultaneously, the standard of
liberty was raised by different provinces of Spanish America, and the
cry of independence was heard from the territory of Mexico to the
extremities of Chili. The inhabitants, determined to resist their
European oppressors, formed themselves in groups under the name of
armies, and placed at the head of them persons of the first
reputation. Hundreds of battles have been fought, decided solely by
dint of valour, without the assistance of military art or skill; the
youth and most illustrious families have been sacrificed, and even
entire populations have disappeared in a struggle so just, but
unfortunately conducted with inaptitude or marked with cruelty.
I, among others, have been honoured with the confidence of the command
of the Mexican troops; and at the close of so many sacrifices we have
only come to a knowledge of the character of the people and of
ourselves. Both are well disposed, and there is only wanting, to
complete our wishes, that these dispositions be directed with
calculation and wisdom for the public good.
My voyage to this country has for its object not only to obtain the
means for continuing the war, but to seek the person best capable of
employing them. This is the desire of that people; and I can assure
you that their wish and mine would be satisfied at the same time, if
we should have the fortune of your assuming the management of our
political and military affairs in the dangerous crisis in which we
I hope that, in behalf of the cause of America and of humanity, you
will accept this offer, which I have the honour to make you in the
name of that people, and
I am, sir,
With the greatest respect and consideration,
JOSE ALVAREZ DE TOLEDO.
The invitation of General Toledo was not accepted. Colonel Burr,
however, continued to act with his accustomed zeal in behalf of the
South American patriots; and in 1819 the Republic of Venezuela granted
him the following commission:--
Republic of Venezuela, Palace of the Governor, Angostura, October 9,
John Baptiste Arismendi, of the Order of Liberators,
Captain-general of the Armies, and Vice-president of the State, &c.,
Whereas Aaron Burr, citizen of the United States of North America, has
proved, to the satisfaction of this government, his ardent love for
the cause of liberty and independence, and his desire to be actively
employed in its service, as one most worthy of a freeman and a
philanthropist, and most glorious for an American who has fought for
the rights of his native land:
Therefore, in compliance with his (noble) praiseworthy wishes, and in
fulfilment of a duty imposed upon me by the absence of the president
of the republic in the territory of New Grenada, and impressed with
the necessity of rendering assistance to all other countries of South
America and Mexico now contending against the civil and religious
tyranny of the Spanish government,
I hereby authorize the above-named Aaron Burr (without violation of
established laws and customs) to raise troops for sea and land
service, to aid this government or any other now struggling in the
same cause against the despotism of Spain; provided that, in thus
contending against the common enemy, he conform to established
ordinances, the laws of nations, and the acknowledged usages among
countries that aspire to emancipation and liberty.
And I declare that, it not being possible to organize _gratuitously_
naval or land expeditions in all parts of the country, the property
taken from the enemy being insufficient to defray the expenses, this
republic and any other that may be benefited or assisted by the said
Aaron Burr shall hold their funds responsible for any debts contracted
by him in the premises.
Therefore, that he may proceed with that order which the exigence of
the case requires, the _"commissioned"_ (A. B.) shall render an
account, and advise of all contracts entered into by him in the
fulfilment of his commission, in order that they may be examined and
approved in anticipation (of payment). But it will be understood that
the government is unable at this time to pay its troops regularly; and
the latter will not be justified in relying on any thing more than a
bare subsistence or an occasional provision, more or less, according
to circumstances. This notice to be given to _all_ enlisting under his
banners. This measure is rendered necessary, lest the good faith of
the government should be compromised. An account of all military
stipends will be kept by the government, that they may be liquidated
in proportion to the increase of its resources. The republic exacts
this service only during the continuance of the war. At its
termination each soldier shall receive as a bounty a landed estate of
the value of five hundred dollars; and all officers shall be paid in
proportion, in conformity with the provisions of the law, or the
decree for the division of national property, in addition to the
personal rights with which the gratitude of Venezuela constitutionally
recognises the services performed in its cause.
And that the above-named Aaron Burr may legally exert himself in
favour of the emancipation and liberty of Venezuela and New Grenada,
and all other countries of South America and Mexico now contending
against the arbitrary and oppressive power of Spain, without in any
manner giving offence to friendly or neutral powers, so long as they
shall preserve their amity and neutrality, I grant to him this
commission, signed with my hand, sealed with the provisional seal of
the republic, and countersigned by the secretary of state and foreign
affairs, in the place, day, month, and year above named.
J. BAPTISTE ARISMENDI.
JUAN G. ROSCW, Secretary of State and F.A.
It was thus that Colonel Burr was employed after his return from
Europe until near the close of his life. During his leisure hours, if
any such he had, his mind was occupied for several years in directing
the education of two young ladies (Misses Eden) who were his wards,
and for whom, in a protracted lawsuit, he had recovered a valuable
estate. His regular and constant correspondence with these ladies,
pointing out their errors, their improvements, and the studies which
they were to pursue from day to day, was to them invaluable, and well
calculated to "teach the young idea how to shoot." Copies of these
letters are preserved, and it was originally intended to have
published portions of them in this work, but no space remains. They
would form a pleasing and interesting treatise on female education.
Although Colonel Burr's pecuniary means were limited, yet he was not
destitute. He had an annual income of a few hundred dollars, in
addition to his half-pay as a colonel in the revolutionary army. For
two or three years before his death he suffered under the effects of a
paralysis. Much of the time he was in a measure helpless, so far as
locomotion was concerned. His general health, however, was tolerably
good, by using great precaution in his diet. He had long abstained
from the use of either tea or coffee as affecting his nervous system.
His mind retained much of its vigour, and his memory, as to events of
long standing, seemed to be unimpaired. Few octogenarians had as
little of what is termed the garrulity of age as Colonel Burr. He
never was a great talker, and in the decline of life retained much of
that dignified sedateness which had characterized his meridian. When
visited by strangers he received them with courtesy, unless his pride
became awakened by a suspicion that the visit was one of idle or
impertinent curiosity. On such occasions his manner was formal, cold,
repulsive. Under sufferings of body or mind he seldom complained; but,
during the last year of his life, he became more restive and
impatient. The friends of his youth had gone before him. All the ties
of consanguinity which could operate in uniting him to the world were
severed asunder. To him there remained no brother, no sister, no
child, no lineal descendant. He had numbered four-score years, and was
incapable, from disease, of moving abroad, or even dressing himself.
He therefore became restless, and seemed anxious for the arrival of
the hour when his eyes should be closed in everlasting sleep. At
length that hour came, and his mortal career terminated without a
struggle on Wednesday, the 14th of September, 1836, in the
eighty-first year of his age, on Staten Island, Richmond county, state
of New-York, whither he had been removed for the benefit of pure air
during the warm season. In conformity with his wish, his body was
removed to Princeton, New-Jersey. The New-York Courier and Enquirer of
the 19th of September gives the following account of his funeral.
_From the Courier and Enquirer._
"On Friday morning, the 16th of September, the body of the late
Colonel Aaron Burr was put on board a steamboat at Staten Island, and
conveyed, with a number of his friends and relatives, from New-York to
Amboy. Here it, with the followers, was received by the railroad cars
and taken to Hightstown, nine miles from Princeton. A hearse and
carriage having been previously prepared, the remains, with the
friends of the departed, proceeded immediately to Princeton College,
where the body was deposited until the hour of interment should
arrive--half past three o'clock.
"At the appointed hour, the professors, collegians, and citizens
having assembled, the ceremony commenced by a prayer to the Throne of
Grace. It was succeeded by a most eloquent, appropriate, and judicious
sermon, delivered by the president of the college; after which the
procession was formed on the college green, and proceeded to the
burying-ground under an escort of the military, accompanied by martial
music. He was interred with the honours of war. The firing over the
grave was performed by a well-disciplined infantry corps, designated
as the Mercer Guards. The professors and students of the college, and
some of the clergy and citizens, united with the relatives and friends
of the deceased in the procession.
"The interment was in the college burying-place, near the tombs of his
ancestors, in his native state, under the superintendence of the
fathers of that seat of learning where the budding of his mighty mind
first displayed itself, where it was cultivated and matured, and where
the foundation was laid for those intellectual endowments which he
afterward exhibited on the great theatre of life. He has shed a halo
of literary glory around Nassau Hall. Through a long pilgrimage he
loved her as the disciplinarian of his youthful mind. He vaunted that
he was one of her earliest and most attached sons. He joyed in her
success and sorrowed in her misfortunes. In this her last act of
respect to his memory, she has repaid those kind feelings in which he
indulged during a long life; and heartless must be the friend of the
deceased who remembers not with gratitude this testimony of regard for
the giant mind of him who must fill a large space in the history of
his country. Peace be to his manes."
_Extract from the Minutes of the Cliosophic Society._
"The Cliosophic Society having this morning received the mournful
intelligence of the decease of Colonel Aaron Burr, formerly
Vice-president of the United States, an eminent member, and one of the
founders of our institution, would, in consideration of his eminence
and talents, as well as the zeal with which he has promoted the
interests of our association, pay to his memory a tribute of respect
expressive of our admiration of his greatness and regret at his
demise. Be it therefore
_"Resolved,_ That the efforts of this individual in behalf of our
society during her infant struggle, and the affectionate interest
which he has at all times manifested for her success, claim from us an
expression of condolence for his loss and gratitude for his services.
"2d. That the whole society follow his remains to the grave as
"3d. That, as a feeble testimony of our respect, the members wear
crape on the left arm for the space of thirty days.
"4th. That these resolutions be published in the Princeton Whig,
New-York Courier and Enquirer, New-York Gazette, Commercial
Advertiser, United States Gazette, and United States Telegraph."
1. The day on which his son died.
2. The portrait of Theodosia.