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MEMOIRS OF AARON BURR.
WITH MISCELLANEOUS SELECTIONS
FROM HIS CORRESPONDENCE.
BY MATTHEW L. DAVIS.
“I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.”
IN TWO VOLUMES
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Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1836, by
MATTHEW L. DAVIS,
in the Clerk’s Office of the Southern District of New-York.
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CONTENTS OF THE SECOND VOLUME.
Colonel Burr’s study of the law; shortness of his study; different opinions respecting his law learning; his definition of law; his manner of preparing causes and of conducting suits; his maxim for sluggards; tendency to mystery in his practice; fondness for surprising an opponent; an illustration of this remark; his treatment of associate counsel; nice discrimination in the selection of professional agents; their various characteristics; the same acuteness displayed in politics; anecdote on this subject that occurred during the contested election in 1800; great coolness and presence of mind in civil as well as military life; an example in the death of Mr. P.; commenced practice at the close of the revolution under the most favourable auspices; multiplication of his papers; condensation a peculiar trait in his mind; never solicited a favour from an opponent; a strict practitioner; character of his mind; manner of speaking; accorded to General Hamilton eloquence; an incident in relation to Hamilton and Burr in the cause of Le Guen _vs_. Gouverneur and Kemble; letter from John Van Ness Yates explanatory of Chief Justice Yates’s notes on that occasion; the effect he produced as a speaker; his display of extraordinary talents on his trial at Richmond; his legal opinions on various important occasions; a letter from him evincing his great perseverance when nearly eighty years of age
A brief history of the rise of political parties in the state of New-York; the city of New-York the rendezvous of the tories, from which they communicated with the British ministry during the war; feelings of the whigs on this subject; Joseph Galloway, of Philadelphia, sails in 1778 for England; his correspondence with the loyalists extensive; extracts from various letters written during the war of the revolution, viz., from the Reverend Bishop Inglis, from Isaac Ogden, from Daniel Cox, during the year 1778; from John Potts, from Daniel Cox, from Isaac Ogden, from Daniel Cox, from Thomas Eddy, from Bishop Inglis, from John Potts, from Bishop Inglis, from Isaac Ogden, from Bishop Inglis, from Isaac Ogden, from Daniel Cox, during the year 1779; from Charles Stewart, David Sproat, and James Humphrey, Jun., printer, in 1779, in which General Arnold’s _tory sympathies_ are alluded to; from Bishop Inglis, John Potts, and Christopher Sower; from David Ogden, with the plan of a constitution for the government of the American colonies after the whigs are conquered
Defeat of General Schuyler as a candidate for the office of governor of the state of New-York, in opposition to George Clinton, in 1777; commencement of the Clinton and Schuyler parties; defeat of General Schuyler as a candidate for Congress in 1780; “a supreme dictator” proposed; opposition of Hamilton to the project; the Clinton and Schuyler parties continued to exist until the adoption of the federal constitution; in 1779 a law passed disfranchising tories; in 1781 an act confirmatory of this law; first session of the legislature after the war held in the city of New-York, in 1784; petitions of the tories rejected; Robert R. Livingston’s classification of parties in the state; suit of Mrs. Rutgers vs. Waddington for the recovery of the rent of a building occupied by Waddington in the city of New-York during the war; the mayor’s court, James Duane and Richard Varick presiding, decide against Mrs. Rutgers; great excitement and public meetings; Waddington compromises the claim; in 1786 and 1787, sundry laws restricting the privileges of the tories, through the instrumentality of General Hamilton are repealed; the tories unite with the Schuyler party; the strength of the Schuyler party in the legislature elected from the tory counties; names of the members in 1788, 89; to which of the political parties Colonel Burr belonged; letters from John Jay on the subject of proscribing the tories
The Livingstons were of the Schuyler party; subsequently of the federal party; their change; reasons assigned; the federalists triumph in the city of New-York at the election of 1799; Mr. Jefferson’s opinion as to the effect of the city election in 1800; the several factions of the democratic party unite in this contest, through the arrangements of Burr; the character of his friends; he is elected to represent Orange county; the manner in which the city ticket for 1800 was formed; great difficulty to obtain Governor Clinton’s consent to use his name; interview of a sub-committee with the governor; his denunciation of Jefferson; Burr’s and Hamilton’s efforts at the election; success of the democratic party; apprehensions that the federalists intended to change the result by fraud; a federal caucus held on the evening of the 3d of May, 1800; letter to Duane, editor of the Aurora, stating that the caucus had decided to request Governor Jay to convene the legislature, and change the mode of choosing presidential electors; federal printers deny the charge; the letter to Jay, published in his works, thus proving the correctness of the Aurora’s statement
General Hamilton’s pamphlet on the conduct of John Adams; Colonel Burr ascertains that it is in the press; as soon as printed, a copy obtained, and extracts sent to the Aurora and the New-London Bee; Hamilton thus compelled to make the publication prematurely; presidential electors chosen; letter from Jefferson to Burr; Jefferson to Madison; tie vote between Jefferson and Burr; rules for the government of the House of Representatives during the election; informality in the votes of Georgia; constitutional provision on the subject; statement of the case by Mr. Wells, of Delaware, and Mr. Nicholas, of Virginia; balloting commenced on the 11th, and continued until the 17th of February, 1801, when, on the 36th ballot, Mr. Jefferson was elected president; letter from Burr to General S. Smith, constituting him (Smith) his proxy to declare his sentiments in the event of a tie vote
Mr. Burr’s political position on being elected vice-president; letters from Mr. Jefferson to Mr. Madison; the doubtful states in Congress on the presidential question; the doubtful persons; their appointment to office by Mr. Jefferson; address to Colonel Burr by certain republicans at Baltimore, on his way to Washington in 1801; his answer, disapproving of such addresses; casting vote, as vice-president, on the bill to repeal the midnight judiciary act; effects of this vote; letter from A. J. Dallas on the subject; from Nathaniel Niles; from A. J. Dallas; Wood’s history of John Adams’s administration; suppression by Burr; attacks upon Burr by Cheetham and Duane; private letters from Duane approving of Burr’s conduct
Effect of Burr’s silence under these attacks; allegation that Dr. Smith, of New-Jersey, as a presidential elector, was to have voted for Burr; denial of Dr. Smith; Timothy Green charged with going to South Carolina as the political agent of Burr; denial of Green; General John Swartwout charged with being concerned in the intrigue; denial of Swartwout; Burr charged with negotiating with the federalists; denial of Burr, in a letter to Governor Bloomfield; David A. Ogden said to have been the agent of the federal party or of Burr in this negotiation; letter from Peter Irving to Ogden, inquiring as to the fact; answer of Ogden, denying the charge; Edward Livingston represented as Burr’s “confidential friend” on the occasion; denial of Livingston; Burr, in the year 1804, commences a suit against Cheetbam for a libel; wager-suit between James Gillespie and Abraham Smith, and a commission taken out to examine witnesses, April, 1806; transactions in the United States’ Senate on the 18th January, 1830, in relation to Mr. Jefferson’s charge against Mr. Bayard; letter from R. H. Bayard to Burr; from Burr to Bayard; from Burr to M. L. Davis; from Davis to Burr; from General S. Smith to R. H. and J. A. Bayard; from R. H. Bayard to Burr
Letter from Judge Cooper to Thomas Morris; ditto; from James A. Bayard to Alexander Hamilton; from George Baer to R. H. Bayard; interrogatories to James A. Bayard, in Cheetham’s suit; answers to said interrogatories by Mr. Bayard; interrogatories to Bayard in the suit of Gillespie _vs_. Smith; answers thereto; reasons why Mr. Latimer was not removed from the office of collector of Philadelphia; answer of Samuel Smith to interrogatories in the suit of Gillespie _vs_. Smith
Effect of the attacks upon Burr; power of the press in corrupt hands; Mr. Jefferson’s malignity towards Burr; his hypocrisy; false entries in his Ana of conversations said to have been held with Burr; letter to Theodosia; ditto; ditto; to Joseph Alston; Theodosia to Joseph Alston; to Theodosia; ditto; to Joseph Alston; to Theodosia; to Thomas Morris; from P. Butler; to Joseph Alston; to Theodosia; from Thomas Jefferson; to Theodosia
Letter to Joseph Alston; from D. Phelps, from Joseph Brandt (Indian chief); from William P. Van Ness; to Theodosia; to Barnabas Bidwell; to Joseph Alston; to Theodosia; from Charles Biddle; from Marinus Willett; from John M. Taylor; from Mrs. *****; to Theodosia; ditto
Letter to Theodosia; ditto; to Joseph Alston; from Charles Biddle; from John Coats; to Theodosia; from C. A. Rodney; to Theodosia; ftom C. A. Rodney; from Uriah Tracy; from General Horatio Gates; from David Gelston; to Theodosia; ditto; from Midshipman James Biddle; from John Taylor, of Caroline
Letter from Theodosia to Joseph Alston; ditto; from A. Burr to Joseph Alston; to Natalie; Theodosia to Joseph Alston; to Joseph Alston; ditto; to Theodosia; to Joseph Alston; ditto; to Theodosia; ditto; to Dr. John Coats; from Theodosia; to Theodosia; from Theodosia; to Theodosia; ditto; ditto
Letter to Theodosia; ditto; from Theodosia; to Theodosia; from Theodosia; from Charles Biddle; from John Taylor, of Caroline; from Pierce Butler; to Theodosia; ditto; from Theodosia; from Theodosia; ditto; to Theodosia; ditto; from Theodosia; to Theodosia; ditto; to Charles Biddle; from Midshipman James Biddle
Note from Mr. Madison; from J. Wagner to Mr. Madison; from Samuel A. Otis; letter from George Davis; from Charles Biddle; from Robert Smith; from Robert G. Harper; from J. Guillemard; from John Vaugham; from John Dickinson; to Charles Biddle; to Theodosia; to Peggy (a slave); to Theodosia; to Joseph Alston; to Charles Biddle; ditto; to Natalie Delage Sumter; to Theodosia; to A. R. Ellery; to Theodosia; to Thomas Sumter, Jun.; to Charles Biddle; to F. A. Vanderkemp; to W. P. Van Ness; to Theodosia; to Mrs. *****; to Theodosia; to Miss —-; to Theodosia
Letter from Charles D. Cooper, which produced the duel between General Hamilton and Colonel Burr; correspondence between the parties, with explanations by W. P. Van Ness, second of Colonel Burr; statement of what occurred on the ground as agreed upon by the seconds; explanations of the correspondence, &c., by Nathaniel Pendleton, second of General Hamilton; remarks on the letter which Mr. Van Ness refused to receive; account of General Hamilton’s wound and death, by Dr. Hosack; remarks by General Hamilton on his motives and views in meeting Colonel Burr; death of Hamilton; oration by Gouverneur Morris; letter from Colonel Burr to Theodosia, dated the night before the duel; same date to Joseph Alston
Letter to Joseph Alston; to Theodosia; from John Swartwout; to Theodosia; ditto; to Joseph Alston; to Theodosia; ditto; journal for Theodosia; to Joseph Alston; to Theodosia; to Joseph Alston; to Theodosia; to Joseph Alston; to Theodosia
Letter to Theodosia; ditto; trial of Judge Chace before the United States’ Senate; Burr presides; acquittal; letter to Theodosia; ditto; an account of the effect of Burr’s speech on taking leave of the Senate; letter to Joseph Alston; to Theodosia; journal of his tour in the Western country; letter to Joseph Alston
Burr’s early views against Mexico; letter from General Miranda to General Hamilton, in April, 1798 on the subject of an expedition, in conjunction with Great Britain, against South America; from Miranda to Hamilton, in October, 1798, announcing the arrangements made with the British; from Miranda to General Knox, same date, on the same subject; General Adair’s statement of Burr’s views; grant of lands by the Spanish government to Baron Bastrop; transfer of part of said grant to Colonel Lynch; purchase from Lynch by Burr; the views of Burr in his Western expedition, as stated by himself; he is arrested on the Tombigbee; the cipher letter; transported to Richmond; trial and acquittal of Burr; testimony of Commodore Truxton; Dr. Bollman’s treatment by Mr. Jefferson
Excitement produced against Burr by Jefferson, Eaton, and Wilkinson; Senate of the United States pass a bill suspending writ of Habeas Corpus; House rejects the bill on the first reading, _ayes_ 113, nays 19; extracts from Blennerhassett’s private journal; official Spanish documents, showing that General Wilkinson, after he had sworn to Burr’s treasonable designs, despatched his aid, Captain Walter Burling, to Mexico, demanding from the viceroy for his service to Spain, in defeating Burr’s expedition against Mexico, the sum of _two hundred thousand dollars_; sundry letters of Burr to Theodosia, while imprisoned in Richmond on the charge of treason
Burr sails for England on the 7th of June, 18O8; arrives in London on the 16th of July; makes various unsuccessful efforts to induce the British ministry to aid him in his enterprise against South America; receives great attention from Jeremy Bentham; continues his correspondence with Bentham after his return to the United States; visits Edinburgh; experiences great courtesy; introduced to M’Kenzie and Walter Scott; returns to London; the ministers become suspicious of him; his papers are seized, and his person taken into custody for two days, when he is released, but ordered to quit the kingdom; leaves England in a packet for Gottenburgh; travels through Sweden, Germany, &c.; Bourrienne’s (French minister at Hamburgh) account of Burr, and Burr’s account of Bourrienne; arrives in Paris on the 16th of February, 1810; endeavours to induce Napoleon to aid him in his contemplated expedition, but is unsuccessful; asks a passport to leave France, and is refused; presents a spirited memorial to the emperor on the subject; Russell, charge d’affaires, and M’Rae, United States consul at Paris, refuse him the ordinary protection or passport of an American citizen; in July, 1811, obtains permission from the emperor to leave France; sails from Amsterdam on the 20th of September; is captured next day by an English frigate, and carried into Yarmouth; remains in England from the 9th of October, 1811, until the 6th of March, 1812; arrives in New-York, via Boston, on the 8th of June, after an absence of four years
Colonel Burr, on his return to New-York in 1811, resumes the practice of law; prejudices against him; kindness of Colonel Troup; letter from Joseph Alston to Burr, announcing the death of Aaron Burr Alston; effect upon Burr; Theodosia’s health precarious; Timothy Greene despatched to bring her to New-York; letter from Greene; letter from Greene, stating that he is to sail for New-York in a few days, on board a schooner with Theodosia; letter from Alston to Theodosia, expressing apprehensions for her safety; from Alston to Burr on the same subject; from Alston to Burr, abandoning all hope of his wife’s safety; Theodosia supposed to have perished in a gale of wind early in January, 1813; from Burr to Alston in relation to his private affairs; Burr expresses his opinions on great, but not on minor political questions; letter from Burr to Alston, denouncing the nomination of Monroe for president, and recommending General Jackson; Alston replies, concurring in sentiment with Burr, but ill health prevents his acting; Alston’s death; letter from William A. Alston to Burr, explanatory of his late brother’s will so far as Burr is interested; from Theodosia to her husband, at a moment when she supposes that death is approaching; Burr’s continued zeal in favour of the South American States; letter from General Toledo to Colonel Burr in 1816, soliciting him to take command of the Mexican forces; Burr commissioned by the Republic of Venezuela in 1819; Burr’s pursuits after his return from Europe; superintends the education of the Misses Eden; his pecuniary situation; state of his health; paralytic; manner of receiving strangers; restive and impatient at the close of his life; death; conveyed to Princeton for interment; an account of his funeral; proceedings of the Cliosophic Society
MEMOIRS OF AARON BURR.
Colonel Burr’s study of the law  has been already briefly noticed. He brought to that study a classic education as complete as could, at that time, be acquired in our country; and to this was added a knowledge of the world, perhaps nowhere better taught than in the camp, as well as a firmness and hardihood of character which military life usually confers, and which is indispensable to the success of the forensic lawyer. He was connected in the family circle with _two eminent jurists, who were at hand to stimulate his young ambition, and to pour, in an almost perpetual stream, legal knowledge into his mind, by conversation and by epistolary correspondence. The time he spent in his studies preparatory to his admission would be considered short at the present day; but (to use the language of another) “it is to be recollected that at that time there were no voluminous treatises upon the mere routine of practice to be committed to memory, without adding a single legal principle or useful idea to the mind, and which only teach the law student, as has been said of the art of the rhetorician, ‘how to name his tools.’ Burr, fortunately for his future professional eminence, was not destined to graze upon this barren moor. He spent his clerkship in reading and abstracting, with pen in hand, Coke and the elementary writers, instead of Sellon and Tidd; and learnt law as a science, and not as a mechanical art.”
On the other hand, it has been said “that Colonel Burr was not a deep-read lawyer; that he showed himself abundantly conversant with the general knowledge of the profession, and that he was skilful in suggesting doubts and questions; but that he exhibited no indications of a fondness for the science, nor of researches into its abstruse doctrines; that he seemed, indeed, to hold it and its administration in slight estimation. The best definition of law, he said, was ‘_whatever is boldly asserted and plausibly maintained_.’ This sarcasm was intended full as much for the courts as for the law administered by them.”
If Colonel Burr may have been surpassed in legal erudition, he possessed other qualifications for successful practice at the bar which were seldom equalled. He prepared his trials with an industry and forethought that were most surprising. He spared no labour or expense in attaining every piece of evidence that would be useful in his attacks, or guard him against his antagonist. He was absolutely indefatigable in the conduct of his suits. “He pursued (says a legal friend) the opposite party with notices, and motions, and applications, and appeals, and rearguments, never despairing himself, nor allowing to his adversary confidence, nor comfort, nor repose. Always vigilant and always urgent, until a proposition for compromise or a negotiation between the parties ensued. ‘Now move slow (he would say); never negotiate in a hurry.’ I remember a remark he made on this subject, which appeared to be original and wise. There is a saying, ‘Never put off till tomorrow what you can do to-day.’ ‘This is a maxim,’ said he, ‘for sluggards. A better reading of the maxim is–_Never do to-day what you can as well do to-morrow_; because something may occur to make you regret your premature action.'”
I was struck, says the same friend, in his legal practice, with that tendency to mystery which was so remarkable in his conduct in other respects. He delighted in surprising his opponents, and in laying, as it were, ambuscades for them. A suit, in which I was not counsel, but which has since passed professionally under my observation, will illustrate this point in his practice. It was an ejectment suit, brought by him to recover a valuable tenement in the lower part of the city, and in which it was supposed, by the able lawyers retained on the part of the defendant, that the only question would, be on the construction of the will. On the trial they were surprised to find the whole force of the plainfiff’s case brought against the authenticity of an ancient deed, forming a link in their title, and of which, as it had never, been questioned nor suspected, they had prepared merely formal proof; and a verdict of the jury, obtained by a sort, of _coup-de-main_, pronounced the deed a forgery. Two tribunals have subsequently established the deed as authentic; but the plaintiff lived and died in the possession of the land in consequence of the verdict, while the law doubts, which form the only real questions in the case, are still proceeding, at the customary snail’s pace, through our courts to their final solution.
To be employed as an assistant by Mr. Burr was not to receive a sinecure. He commanded and obtained the constant and unremitted exertions of his counsel. It was one of the most remarkable exhibitions of the force of his character, this bending every one who approached him to his use, and compelling their unremitted, though often unwilling, labours in his behalf. His counsel would receive notes from him at midnight, with questions which were sent for immediate replies.
He showed nice discrimination in his selection of his professional assistants. When learning was required, he selected the most erudite. If political influence could be suspected of having effect, he chose his lawyers to meet or _improve_ the supposed prejudice or predilection. Eloquence was bought when it was wanted; and the cheaper substitute of brow-beating, and vehemence used when they were equivalent or superior. In nothing did he show greater skill than in his measurement and application of his agents; and it was amusing to hear his cool discussion of the obstacles of prejudice, or ignorance, or interest, or political feeling to be encountered in various tribunals, and of the appropriate remedies and antidotes to be employed, and by what persons they should be applied.
Equal discrimination and acuteness was displayed in his political movements. An anecdote which occurred in the contested election of 1800 will exemplify this remark. Funds were required for printing, for committee-rooms, &c. The finance committee took down the names of leading democrats, and attached to each the sum they proposed to solicit from him. Before attempting the collection, the list, at Colonel Burr’s request, was presented for his inspection. An individual, an active partisan of wealth, but proverbially parsimonious, was assessed one hundred dollars. Burr directed that his name should be struck from the list; for, said he, you will not get the money, and from the moment the demand is made upon him, his exertions will cease, and you will not see him at the polls during the election. The request was complied with. On proceeding with the examination, the name of another wealthy individual was presented; he was liberal, but indolent; he also was assessed one hundred dollars. Burr requested that this sum should be _doubled_, and that be should be informed that no labour would be expected from him except an occasional attendance at the committee-rooms to assist in folding tickets. He will pay you the two hundred dollars, and thank you for letting him off so easy. The result proved the correctness of these opinions. On that occasion Colonel Burr remarked, _that the knowledge and use of men consisted in placing each in his appropriate position_.
His imperturbable coolness and presence of mind were displayed in his civil as well as in his military life. Against most of the vicissitudes of a trial he guarded by his forethought and minuteness of preparation. I was present myself, says the legal friend already referred to, when he received with great composure a communication which would have startled most men. Mr. P. had long been an inmate of his house; he had been connected with him in many respects and for many years. Colonel Burr and two other lawyers were discussing a proposed motion in a chancery suit in which P. was the plaintiff, the colonel himself having, an interest in the result. P. was then out of town. A letter was brought in and handed to the colonel, which, telling us to proceed with our debate, he carefully read, and then placed it, in his customary manner, on the table, with the address downwards. Our discussion proceeded earnestly for ten minutes at least, when the colonel, who had listened with great attention, asked, in his gentlest tone, “What effect would the death of P. have on the suit?” We started, and asked eagerly why he put the question. “P. is dead,” he replied, “as this letter informs me; _will the suit abate?_” The colonel was himself ill at the time, and unable to leave his sofa; and even if there was some affectation in his demeanour, there was certainly remarkable collectedness.
Colonel Burr commenced the practice of his profession at the close of the revolution, under the most favourable auspices; and may be said at one bound to have taken rank among the first lawyers of the day, and to have sustained it until he became vice president, at which time, it is believed, he had no superior at the bar, either in this state or in the Union, nor even an equal, except General Hamilton.
The eclat which Burr, yet a beardless boy, had acquired by his adventurous march under Arnold to Canada, through our northeastern wilds, then a trackless desert; his gallant bearing at Quebec and Monalouth; his efficient services in the retreat of our army from Long Island and New-York; and his difficult and delicate command on the lines of Westchester, followed him to private life, gathered around him hosts of admirers and friends among our early patriots, particularly the youthful portion of them, and no doubt essentially aided him in making his successful professional _debut_. The name of the chivalrous aid-de-camp who supported in his youthful arms the dying hero of Quebec was familiar in the mouths of men, and from one end of the continent to the other he was eulogized for his military prowess. Such were the cheering auspices under which he sheathed his sword when his physical energies would permit him no longer to wield it.
“He was indefatigable,” says another legal friend, “in business, as he had been in his previous studies, and no lawyer ever appeared before our tribunals with his cause better prepared for trial, his facts and legal points being marshalled for combat with all the regularity and precision of a consummate military tactician. No professional adversary, it is believed, has ever boasted of having broken or thrown into confusion the solid columns into which he had formed them, or having found void spaces in their lengthened line, or to have beaten him by a _ruse de guerre_ or a surprise.
“He never heeded expense in completing his preparations for trial; and, while laborious himself to an uncommon degree, he did not stint the labours of others, so far as he could command or procure them. Every pleading or necessary paper connected with his causes was in tile first place to be multiplied into numerous copies, and then abstracted or condensed into the smallest possible limits, but no material point or idea was by any means to be omitted. His propensity to concision or condensation was a peculiar trait in his mind. He would reduce an elaborate argument, extending over many sheets of paper, to a single page. Had he written the history of our revolution, which he once commenced, he would probably have compressed the whole of it in a single volume.”
In his professional practice, he never solicited from an opponent any favour or indulgence any more than he would have done from an armed foe; but, at the same time, rarely withheld any courtesy that was asked of him, not inconsistent with the interest of his clients. He was a strict practitioner, almost a legal _martinet_, and so fond of legal technicalities, that he never omitted an opportunity of trying his own skill and that of opposite counsel in special pleas, demurrers, and exceptions in chancery, notwithstanding the risk of paying costs sometimes, though rarely incurred, and of protracting a cause.
The labour of drawing his pleadings and briefs, however, at least after his return from Europe in 1812, always devolved upon others; and, with marginal notes of all the authorities which had been consulted, from the year books downward, which were sometimes in law French and law Latin, to the last reports in England and some half a dozen of our states, in which may be properly called law English, were submitted to his critical acumen; his thousand doubts, suggestions, hints, and queries, which would start from his mind like a flash, and for a moment seem to throw into inextricable confusion what had been laboriously, and perhaps profoundly studied, at last would most generally be adopted without material alterations or additions.
Colonel Burr’s mind cannot be said to have been a comprehensive one. It was acute, analytical, perspicacious, discriminating, unimaginative, quick to conceive things in detail, but not calculated to entertain masses of ideas. He would never have gained celebrity as an author; but as a critic, upon whatever subject, his qualifications have rarely been surpassed, though in literary matters and the fine arts they were only exhibited in conversation. His colloquial powers were impressive and fascinating, though he generally seemed a listener rather than a talker; but never failed to say a proper thing in the proper place.”
As a public speaker, his ideas were not diffuse enough; or rather, he appeared to lack fluency to make a long, and what is called an elaborate argument upon any matter, however grave or momentous. In a cause in which he was employed as associate counsel with General Hamilton, an incident occurred, in relation to Chief Justice Yates, not unworthy recording. It speaks a language that cannot he misunderstood, and is demonstrative of the influence which he had over the feelings as well as the minds of his hearers. It was the celebrated case of Le Guen vs. Gouverneur and Kemble, one of the most important, in regard to the legal questions and amount of property involved, which at that day had been brought before our tribunals, and in which case he completely triumphed. Only a short period previous to his decease Colonel Burr remarked, that on this occasion he had acquired more money and more reputation as a lawyer than on any other during his long practice at the bar. A letter was addressed to Thurlow Weed, Esq., requesting him to apply to the Hon. John Van Ness Yates, son of the late chief justice, and ascertain whether the incident, as reported, was founded on fact. To that letter Mr. Weed received the following answer.
JOHN VAN NESS YATES TO THURLOW WEED.
Albany, July 8th, 1837.
After some difficulty in finding my father’s notes of the argument in the case of Le Guen vs. Gouverneur and Kemble, I have ascertained that the account you showed me, given in the letter of M. L. Davis, Esq., is in the main correct. My father’s notes of General Hamilton’s argument are _very copious_. Those of Colonel Burr’s are _limited_, in this way–“Burr for plaintiff, I. The great principles of commercial law which apply to this case are”–then follows a hiatus of some lines. After which, as follows:–
“II. The plaintiff”–another _hiatus_.
“III. !!!!!” and this concludes all I can find.
Hamilton’s eloquence was (if I may be allowed the expression) _argumentative_, and induced no great elevation or depression of mind, consequently could be easily followed by a note taker. Burr’s was more _persuasive_ and _imaginative_. He first enslaved the _heart_, and then led captive the, _head_. Hamilton addressed himself to the _head_ only. I do not, therefore, wonder that Burr engrossed all the faculties of the hearer. Indeed, I have heard him often at the bar myself, and always with the same effect. I do not recollect, in conversation, any particular allusion of my father’s to Burr’s argument in the case of Le Guen _vs_. Gouverneur and Kemble; but I have frequently heard him say, that of all lawyers at the bar, Burr was the most difficult to follow in the way of taking notes. Yet Burr was very _concise_ in his language. He had no pleonasms or expletives. Every word was in its proper place, and seemed to be the only one suited to the place. He made few or no repetitions. If what he said had been immediately committed to the press, it would want no correction.
J. V. N. YATES.
Colonel Burr’s style of speaking at the bar was unique, or peculiarly his own; always brief; never loud, vehement, or impassioned, but conciliating, persuasive, and impressive; and when his subject called for gravity or seriousness, his manner was stern and peremptory. He was too dignified ever to be a trifler; and his sarcasm, sometimes indulged in, rarely created a laugh, but powerfully told upon those who had provoked it. His enunciation was slow, distinct, and emphatic; perhaps too emphatic; and this was pronounced, by his early and devoted friend, Judge Paterson,  a fault in his mode of speaking while a youth, and seems never to have been fully corrected, as he did that of rapid utterance, attaining the true medium for public speaking in this respect. He spoke with great apparent ease, but could not be called fluent, although he never appeared at a loss for words, which were always so chaste and appropriate that they seemed to, have been as carefully selected before they fell from his lips as if they had been written down in a prepared speech and committed to memory. His manner was dignified and courteous; his self-possession never for an instant forsook him. He never appeared hurried or confused, or betrayed the slightest embarrassment for want of ideas to support his argument, or language in which to clothe it; and possessed a memory so well disciplined as never to forget any thing in the excitement of the legal forum which in the retirement of his study he had intended to use. He has frequently been heard to say that he possessed no oratorical talents; that he never spoke with pleasure, or even self-satisfaction, and seemed unconscious of the effect which he produced upon the minds of his audience.
Colonel Burr accorded the palm of eloquence to General Hamilton, whom he frequently characterized as a man of strong and fertile imagination, of rhetorical and even poetical genius, and a powerful declaimer. Burr’s ruling passion was an ardent love for military glory. Next to the career of arms, diplomacy, no doubt, would have been his choice, for which not only his courtly and fascinating manners, but every characteristic of his mind peculiarly adapted him. It is idle now to speculate upon what he might have been had Washington yielded to the importunities of Madison, Monroe, and others, and appointed him minister to the French republic. Our country, before which he then stood in the original brightness of his character, would have been honoured in the choice, both at home and abroad, and his own destiny, at least, would have been widely different.
Notwithstanding oratory was not his forte, and he never spoke in public with satisfaction to himself, still many anecdotes are told of him which would show that the effect of his speeches were sometimes of unequalled power. It is said, that at the close of his farewell address to the Senate of the United States on his retirement from the vice-presidency, there was scarcely a dry eye to be seen among his grave auditors, many of whom were his bitter political adversaries. His manner of speaking was any thing but declamatory, and more resembled an elevated tone of conversation, by which a man, without any seeming intention, pours his ideas in measured and beautiful language into the minds of some small select circle, dislodging all which they may have previously entertained upon a particular subject, and fixing his own there, by the power of a seeming magical fascination, which he could render, when he chose, almost irresistible. To judge him by his success as a public speaker, few men could be called more eloquent.
As a monument of his legal knowledge and talents, his trial at Richmond may be referred to. The two volumes of Reports which contain it exhibit on almost every page the impress of his great mind, in its singular acuteness and perspicacity, and great powers of analysis and argument. On that trial were engaged some of the ablest lawyers of our country, and he manifestly took the lead of them all. But the abilities which he displayed, hour by hour, and day by day, through that long protracted contest, in which the verdict sought for by those who then wielded the political destinies of our country was an ignominious death, were no less remarkable than his unshaken firmness and high moral elevation of deportment, struggling as he was for honour and for life.
_Fiat Justicia ruat coelum_, was the motto of Chief Justice Marshall on the trial of Colonel Burr. He was acquitted, but his acquittal was not owing to the clemency or partiality of his judges. His acuteness as a lawyer, and the adroitness with which he managed his defence, contributed greatly, no doubt, in saving him from becoming a victim, though his innocence of the charge of treason which had been brought against him could hardly have effected that acquittal. Here, then, his talents have done some good to his country, even if it be of a negative character. They saved it from a stain of blood, which would have been as indelible as is that of Admiral Byng upon the escutcheon of England.
After Colonel Burr’s return from Europe in 1812, he was engaged in several important causes, in which he was preeminently successful. His legal opinion in the great steam-boat cause aided in breaking up that monopoly. He was originally employed in the important land trial of Mrs. Bradstreet, and in the Eden causes, involving a large amount of property in the city of New-York, and turning upon some of the nicest points of the most difficult branch of the law of real property: he triumphed over almost the entire force of the New-York bar, backed by powerful corporations and individuals of great wealth, which they profusely lavished in a long-protracted contest. He commenced the Eden suits in opposition to an opinion which bad been given by General Hamilton, Richard Harrison, and other members of the profession of high standing, and on the faith of which opinions the parties in possession of the lands had purchased and held them at the time the suits were commenced.
Had Colonel Burr assiduously pursued the study of law through life, like Marshall, Kent, and others, it is not easy to conjecture to what elevated point he might have risen; but such was not his destiny; the bent of his genius, which had received its inclination at the stirring period of the world when he entered into active life, was military. But to show his persevering industry in his practice as a lawyer, and his power of enduring fatigue, even when almost an octogenarian, the following letter, written by him, is inserted.
Albany, March, 1834.
Germond’s, Wednesday Evening.
Arrived this evening between 6 and 7 o’clock, having been _forty-five_ hours in the stage without intermission, except to eat a hearty meal. Stages in very bad order–roads excellent for wheels to Peekskill, and thence very good sleighing to this city. The night was uncomfortable; the curtains torn and flying all about, so that we had plenty of fresh air.
The term was closed this day. Nelson will hold the Special Court to-morrow morning–have seen both Wendell and O’Connor this evening–all ready–came neither fatigued nor sleepy.
1. For the remarks which I am now about to present to the reader I am principally indebted to two highly intelligent members of the bar. _Either_ of whom is fully competent to a development of Colonel Burr’s legal character; and _neither_ of whom would be disqualified by any prejudices in his _favour_. These gentlemen, it is believed, entertained different views as to the Practical value of that species of reading which is necessary to form what is by some termed “a truly learned lawyer.”
2. Colonel Burr’s brother-in-law, Judge _Tappan Reeve_, and his uncle, _Pierpont Edwards_.
3. see Vol. I., Ch. III.
Before entering upon the details connected with the election of 1800, a brief history of the rise and progress of political parties in the State of New-York is deemed necessary. By the Constitution adopted during the revolutionary war, the state was divided into four districts, viz., The Southern, the Middle, the Eastern, and the Western. In the Southern District was included the counties of Richmond (_Staten Island_), Kings, Queens, and Suffolk (_Long Island_), New-York (_Manhattan Island_), and Westchester. These six counties, from the autumn of 1776 until the summer of 1783, were in a great measure in the possession of the British forces, and those portions of them which were nominally within the American lines were generally inhabited by tories and refugees. Lord North, or the most unrelenting of his followers, were not as much opposed to American independence as were the tories of the united provinces. The city of New-York became the rendezvous of the most intelligent and influential of this class. From this point they communicated with the British premier, through their correspondents in London. Many of them that were in exile from their late homes in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Connecticut, left their families behind them, under the protection of the whigs. By this arrangement facilities were afforded for ascertaining the position, resources, and movements of the rebel armies. These facilities were not neglected, and the information thus obtained was promptly communicated to the British commander-in-chief in New-York, and to the ministry in England. The whigs felt that ingratitude was returned for their hospitality, and, in consequence, they became daily more incensed against the tories.
It is believed that the war would have terminated in 1780 or 1781, if the British minister and his military commanders in America had not been constantly led into errors by the opinions and advice of the refugees, but especially those residing in the city of New-York. Entertaining such views, the suffering whigs, in their most trying hours, consoled themselves with the hope and belief that, when the struggle should terminate and the country become independent, their oppressors and persecutors would no longer be permitted to remain among them. These were the predominant feelings of the men who were perilling their lives and enduring every species of privation and hardship for the freedom of their native land.
During the year 1778, Joseph Galloway, formerly of Philadelphia, sailed for England. His correspondence was extensive, and he became the depository of all the grievances of the American loyalists. He was the medium of communication between them, Lord North, and Lord George Germain. He possessed, in a high degree, the confidence of those who were the conscience keepers of the king. Among the correspondents of Mr. Galloway may be enumerated William Franklin, former governor of New-Jersey, Daniel Cox, and David Ogden, members of his majesty’s council in New-Jersey, the Rev. Dr. Inglis, subsequently bishop of Nova Scotia, and Isaac Ogden, counsellor at law of New-York, John Potts, a judge of the Common Pleas in Philadelphia, John Foxcroft, postmaster general of North America, &c., &c. None of Mr. Galloway’s correspondents exhibited a more vindictive spirit than the Rev. Bishop Inglis. These letters were private and confidential, excepting so far as, the ministry were concerned, for whose use most of them were intended. None of them, it is believed, have ever heretofore found their way into print. They are now matters of history. They are well calculated to develop the secret designs of the tories, and, at the same time, they afford the strongest view that could be given of the patriotism, the sufferings, and the untiring perseverance of the sons of liberty in those days. Some extracts will now be made from the original manuscripts, for the purpose of showing, in a limited degree, the cause, and thus far justifying the hostile feelings of the whigs towards the refugees.
The _Rev. Bishop Inglis_, under date of the 12th December, 1778, says–“Not less than sixty thousand of the rebels have perished by sickness and the sword since the war began, and these chiefly farmers and labourers. I consider it certain that a famine is inevitable if the war continues two years longer; nay, one year war more will bring inexpressible distress on the country with regard to provisions, and this will affect the rebellion not less than the depreciation of their pasteboard dollars. The rebellion, be assured, is on the decline. Its vigour and resources are nearly spent, and nothing but a little perseverance and exertion on the part of Britain is necessary to supress it totally. Butler and Brandt’s forces, Indians and loyalists, I am told, amount to five or six thousand men. They have distressed and terrified the rebels more since last spring than the whole royal army.
_Isaac Ogden_, under date 22d November, 1778, says–“Thus has ended a campaign (if it deserve the appellation) without anything capital being done or even attempted. How will the historian gain credit who shall relate, that _at least_ twenty-four thousand of the best troops in the world were shut up within their own lines by fifteen thousand, _at most_, of poor wretches, who were illy paid, badly fed, and worse clothed, and scarce, at best, deserved the name of soldiers?”
_Daniel Cox_, under date of 17th December, 1778, says–“Ned Biddle has declined his seat in Congress. The truth is, he means to do more essential service in the assembly, which has ordered the general sense of the people to be taken respecting the present constitution of Pennsylvania. Joe Reed is elected, and accepted the honour of being president and commander-in-chief of the state.”
_John Potts_, under date 1st March, 1779, says–“An opinion prevails here that government (the British) will adopt the mode of devastation. If that should really take place, adieu to all the hopes of the friends of government ever again living in America. Be assured that, should government be restored by such means, her friends would find it impossible to travel this country without a guard to prevent assassination. This is not only my opinion, but the real sentiments of every friend to government. I have conversed with none, except some of the violent tories, indeed, of New England, _who seem to partake of the savage temper of our countrymen_.” G—- N—- has said, in a confidential letter to a friend of his, “that government wish to get rid of this country, and is only at a loss how to do it without leaving it in a situation to injure her.”
_Daniel Cox_, 28th February, 1779, says–“At any rate, I see absolute ruin attend us poor attainted loyalists should the colonies be given up, or this place (New-York) be evacuated. I once fondly imagined neither would happen. I wish that our old friend, the Black Prince,  could have the direction here again, and have the glory of conducting the future operations to a happy conclusion. I think he is more calculated for it than somebody  else, who, though he may possess zeal and honesty, wants head.”
_Isaac Ogden_, 8th March, 1779, says–“Admiral Gambier is ordered from this station, to the universal joy of all ranks and conditions. I believe no person was ever more generally detested by navy, army, and citizen, than this penurious old reptile.”
_Daniel Cox_, 10th April, 1779, says–“In an open letter to me, Mrs. Cox speaks of the increasing depreciation of the continental money, under the allegory of an old acquaintance of mine lying in a deep consumption. Should Great Britain be really treating, and give us up, there must be an end to her glory. But such a misfortune I can never believe her subject to, unless from her own folly and internal factions of the accursed opposition.”
_Thomas Eddy_, under date 5th month, 3d, 1779, says–“From accounts received by last packet of the determined resolution of government to pursue the war in America with vigour, I am led to believe that the leaders in the rebellion must give up before fall. Indeed, when I consider the dissatisfaction universally prevalent caused by the badness of their money, I should not be surprised if such an event would take place as soon as General, Clinton opens the campaign.”
_Bishop, Inglis_, 14th May, 1779, says–“Remonstrate loudly to those in authority against treating with the Congress–treating with them is establishing them, and teaching the Americans to look up to them for deliverance and protection. We have been guilty of a fatal error in this from the beginning; we now see and feel the consequences. This should teach us wisdom and better policy. Though we should conquer the rebels, yet, if an accommodation is settled with the Congress, I shall consider the colonies as eventually lost, and that in a little time, to Great Britain.”
_John Potts_, 15th May, 1779, says–“In my last I mentioned some sanguine hopes which I could not help entertaining, from the prospect of an election to be held in the beginning of April, for a new convention, as they call it, in Pennsylvania. Those hopes are now totally destroyed by the efforts of Joe Reed  and the violent party. Their artful cry of tory against the party in favour of the convention raised a flame too great to be withstood, and procured more than twelve thousand signers to petitions against that measure, in consequence of which the assembly rescinded the resolution for holding the election.”
“The person to whom I alluded in my last letter is the woman whom I mentioned to you last fall as so truly enterprising. She has brought three messages through the winter. From her I have this much further to assure you, that great preparations are making at Pittsburgh for the reception of troops.
“The friends of government all agree that they will be content to risk for ever every future hope and prospect of being restored to their estates, provided Great Britain will but secure her own authority fully before any terms are listened to; and, when that is acknowledged and established, then grant terms as liberal as she pleases, consistent with good government and future security.”
_Bishop Inglis_, 3d September, 1779, says–“General Tryon made two or three descents on the coast of Connecticut, and burnt the towns of Fairfield and Norwalk. He was accompanied by a large body of refugees, who were extremely useful, and behaved with a resolution and intrepidity which did them great honour. Had the descents on Connecticut _been longer continued and carried on more extensively, the most salutary consequences might be apprehended_.
“The delusive notion of treating with Congress, I find, still prevails in some degree among you. Yet nothing could be more destructive to the interest of government. Treating with them would be confirming their usurpation. The loyalists, universally dread this above all things. However they may differ in opinion on other points, they are unanimous and united in this; and where so many are perfectly agreed in a matter which is level to all understandings, it must be the evident dictate of truth and reason.”
_Isaac Ogden_, 20th September, 1779, says–“You may well ask what we are doing here. Our army is now (including the garrison from Rhode Island) at least twenty-four thousand men, a number sufficient to march through the whole continent; but what do numbers avail when they are cooped up in this dastardly manner? A want of knowledge of the country, a want of enterprise, or a want of something else, God only knows what, has prevented any and every attempt to interfere with the enemy. It is not a want of sufficient force, neither is it because it was impracticable. These are facts that the warmest of the rebels acknowledge. Their force is really despicable when compared to the army here. How is General Vaughan? I sincerely wish to see him at the head of the army here, as he is the only general that has been here that would listen to the advice of the American loyalists.”
_Bishop Inglis_, 6th of November, 1779, says–“We have now within our lines upward of twenty-six thousand effective men, as I have been informed. Such a force, if led out and exerted with judgment and spirit, could not be resisted by the rebels–it must bear down all opposition. It is reported that Sir Henry Clinton is appointed sole commissioner, with authority to choose five assistants as a counsel, and that he is vested with power to treat with Congress, &c. It may be very proper to have a commissioner here, vested with extensive powers; but as to any hopes of treating with Congress about an accommodation, be assured they are visionary. Congress have done enough to dissipate all such fond expectations, unless their independence is acknowledged; and I should be heartily sorry if a measure so dishonourable to the nation, as treating with the Congress in any respect, were adopted. Insult and obstinacy is all that can be expected from them.
“With respect to the rebellion, I am clearly of opinion that it daily declines. Washington is the man to whom the army look for redress and support. He is _now_ in America what Monk was in England in 1659. I wish I could say in every respect. Were he equally disposed, he might effect as sudden and total a revolution, here as honest George Monk did then in England.”
_Isaac Ogden_, 16th December, 1779, says–“There is an anecdote of General Grey that I have lately heard and believe to be true, though the fact cannot now be fully ascertained. Just before the battle of Brandywine, an officer was despatched home by General Howe. General Grey undertook to give him his instructions how to demean himself on his arrival in London, &c. A copy of these instructions was found by a countryman, and delivered to Joe Shippen (Secretary _Joe_,) who now has them in Philadelphia. A gentleman here has seen them. As he related them to me, you have them. ‘You will first go to Lord George Germain; he will ask you such and such question; you will answer them _so and so_. You will then be sent to Lord North, who will ask you these questions; you will thus answer them. You will then be sent to the king, who will also ask you, &c.; you are also to give him these answers. You will then be examined by the queen. She is a sensible woman. You must answer with caution, but, of all things, be careful that you say nothing that will condemn the conduct of General Howe.’ Some pains are taken to procure this paper from Mr. Shippen; if it can be obtained, you will have it.”
_David Ogden_, 3d December, 1779, says–“What gives me great concern is the fear of a dishonourable peace being made with the rebels. My fears arise from what I am told many of the officers in the army give out that America can never be conquered; and the sooner it is given up, and independence admitted by the crown and parliament, the better for Great Britain; and I am also informed that they have wrote to that purpose to their friends in England. What effect this may have on your side of the Atlantic, backed by the anti-ministerial party with you, enemies to monarchy and the great supporters of the rebellion in America, time must show; but I am persuaded that the present ministers will never give the least countenance to the independence of America. The laying the country waste has been called cruelty by the favourers of the rebellion, and said to be below the character of Britons; but in cases of rebellion, it has always, by the most civilized nations, been held justifiable, and no history affords an instance of calling it cruelty. The great mercy shown the rebels since the commencement of the rebellion is esteemed to be the greatest cruelty, as the lives of many thousands would have been preserved by a vigorous, exertion of the king’s troops to distress the rebels wherever they marched, having a strict regard not to injure the loyalists.”
_Daniel Cox_, 7th December, 1779, says–“Should you see Joe Reed’s late speech to the assembly of Pennsylvania, you would imagine they felt no shock from the Georgia defeat. 
If but common means are actively employed and properly conducted, the rebellion must be crushed totally next campaign. I doubt not every effort in the power of Congress, both abroad and at home, will be made to carry themselves through another year; but, if you are successful at home, they must go to the devil. For God’s sake, therefore, do not be frightened nor give us up; all must go right if You are but firm.”
Reference has already been made to General Arnold’s treason during the summer of 1780.
From the private correspondence of Mr. Galloway, it appears, that as early as the autumn of 1778 Arnold was considered by the refugees as “_lenient_,” if not friendly to them, and in this light was represented to the British ministry.
_Charles Stewart_, under date of the 17th December, 1778, says–“General Arnold is in Philadelphia. It is said that he will be discharged, being thought a _pert tory_. Certain it is that he associates mostly with those people, and is to be married to Miss Shippen, daughter of Edward Shippen, Esq.”
_David Sproat_, 11th January, 1779, says–“You will also hear that General Arnold, commandant in Philadelphia, has behaved with lenity to the tories, and that he is on the eve of marriage to one of Edward Shippen’s daughters.”
_James Humphreys, Jun_. (printer), 8th of April, 1779, says–“General Arnold has been accused by the council of sundry misdemeanors. He has insisted upon a trial by a court martial, and was triumphantly acquitted. The Congress, however, have thought proper to remove him from his command in the city of Philadelphia, he being of too lenient a disposition to answer their cruel purposes.”
This correspondence also develops the conflicting views which were taken by the tories as to the operations of the British army. So far as it had any influence, it was calculated to embarrass the ministry. Only two very short extracts will be given on this subject. The dividing point between the northern and the southern tories was whether the main army should take possession of Hudson’s river, or the isthmus between Newcastle and Chesapeake Bay.
_Bishop Inglis_, May 14th, 1779, says–“I am still of opinion that taking possession of Hudson’s river should be the first object. When that is done, which will effectually divide the rebel forces, circumstances should determine whether our operations should be directed eastward or westward.”
_John Potts_, December 17th, 1778, says–“If government means to pursue this matter, she must spare men enough to take possession of the isthmus between Newcastle and Chesapeake Bay, and, by clearing that country of rebels, procure sufficient provision and forage for the whole British force in America. That country can also supply the fleet with a great quantity of naval stores. The whole trade of Maryland and Pennsylvania will be destroyed, and a great part of Virginia. The interior of that peninsula is better disposed towards the British government than any other country in the middle colonies. If possession of Rhode Island and this place (New-York) is retained, and that post taken, America has no access to sea from any intermediate port but Egg Harbour, which will then be scarcely an object. This is your plan, excepting the possession of Philadelphia and Bordentown, and, as the troops would not be dispersed too much, would, for that reason, be more eligible.”
During the winter of 1778–79, the tories had it in contemplation to establish a regular corps for the purpose of plundering the whigs. About this period Colonel Burr took command of the lines in Westchester. His opinion of this system of warfare is expressed in a letter to General McDougall from which the following is extracted–“Colonel Littlefield, with the party, returned this morning. Notwithstanding the cautions I gave, and notwithstanding Colonel Littlefield’s good intentions, I blush to tell you that the party returned loaded with plunder. Sir, till now I never wished for arbitrary power. I could gibbet half a dozen _good_ whigs with all the venom of an inveterate tory.” 
Let the reader compare the above _whig_ sentiment with the following _tory_ arrangement:–
_Christopher Sower_, 1st March, 1779, says–“An association is signing here (New-York), according to which the loyalists are to form themselves into companies of fifty men each; choose their own officers; to have the _disposal_ of all prisoners by them taken; to make excursions against the rebels, plunder them, sell the spoil, appoint an agent to receive the money, and to divide it among them in equal shares.” 
In the autumn of 1779 the refugees in New-York formed a board of delegates from the several provinces. In reference to it, _Daniel Cox_, December 7th, 1779, says–“I have lately brought about a general representation of all the refugees from the respective colonies, which now compose a board, called the board of refugees, and of which I have the honour at present to be president. We vote by colonies, and conduct our debates in quite a parliamentary style.”
_Christopher Sower_, the 5th of December, 1779, says–“The deputies of the refugees from the different provinces meet once a week. Daniel Cox, Esq., was appointed to the chair, to deprive him of the opportunity of speaking, as he has the gift of saying little with many words.”
Only one more extract will be given from the correspondence of Mr. Galloway, and that relates to the doings of this board of refugees. Among their labours, the manner of bringing the war to a speedy termination, and the formation of a constitution for the British provinces, engrossed their attention. No comments will be made on the plan; but it will not be found unworthy a careful perusal. Although presented as the individual suggestion of Mr. Ogden, it is evident, from other portions of the correspondence, that it was not unadvised, and, to the American reader, is now an amusing document.
_David Ogden_, 3d December, 1779, says–“When America submits to the crown of Great Britain, which I take as a matter certain, and will soon happen if proper measures are not neglected–pray, will not a constitution and government, in a manner something similar to the following, be most for the honour, security, peace, and interest of Great Britain, and also for the happiness and safety of America, and most compatible to the spirit and genius of both?
“That the right of taxation of America by the British parliament be given up. That the several colonies be restored to their former constitutions and forms of government, except in the instances after mentioned. That each colony have a governor and council appointed by the crown, and a house of representatives to be elected by the freeholders, inhabitants of the several counties, not more than forty nor less than thirty for a colony, who shall have power to make all necessary laws for the internal government and benefit of each respective colony that are not repugnant or contradictory to the laws of Great Britain, or the laws of the American parliament, made and enacted to be in force in the colonies for the government, utility, and safety of the whole. That an American parliament be established for all the English colonies on the continent, to consist of a lord lieutenant, barons (to be created for that purpose), not to exceed, at present, more than twelve, nor less than eight from each colony, to be appointed by his majesty out of the freeholders, inhabitants of each colony; a house of commons, not to exceed twelve nor less than eight, from each colony, to be elected by the respective houses of representatives for each colony, which parliament, so constituted, to be three branches of legislature of the northern colonies, and to be styled and called the Lord Lieutenant, the Lords, and Commons of the British Colonies in North America. That they have the power of enacting laws, in all cases whatsoever, for the general good, benefit, and security of the colonies, and for their mutual safety, both defensive and offensive, against the king’s enemies, rebels, &c.; proportioning the taxes to be raised in such cases by each colony. The mode for raising the same to be enacted by the general assembly of each colony, which, if refused or neglected, be directed and prescribed by the North American parliament, with power to levy the same. That the laws of the American parliament shall be in force till repealed by his majesty in council; and the laws of the several legislatures of the respective colonies to be in force till the same be repealed by his majesty, or made void by an act and law of the American parliament. That the American parliament have the superintendence and government of the several colleges in North America, most of which have been the grand nurseries of the late rebellion, instilling into the tender minds of youth principles favourable to republican, and against a monarchical government, and other doctrines incompatible to the British constitution.
“A constitution and government something similar to the above, I am convinced, from the knowledge I have of the temper and spirit of the inhabitants of the colonies, will be most acceptable to them in general (it being what they wish for), and will also be conducive to establish a continued and lasting peace and harmony between Great Britain and the colonies. The Congress, no doubt, as it will deprive them of their power, will oppose the same by every artifice, as well as every other plan of accommodation that will lessen their grandeur and consequence. I am therefore persuaded that the Congress had best be altogether disregarded in any overtures of accommodation to be made or proposed, and all treaties with them absolutely refused, either directly with them, or indirectly through the courts of France and Spain, as men void of faith, or even common justice–deceivers of the people, and enemies to the public weal and happiness of mankind. And to facilitate a submission instead of a treaty, proceed with the army against the rebels with vigour and spirit, and issue a proclamation containing a constitution for North America, and a pardon to all who lay down their arms and take the oath of allegiance to his majesty and his government, _excepting_, as necessary examples of justice,
“_First_. The several members of the Continental Congress who have been elected and served as members thereof since the declaration of Independence.
“_Second_. All governors, presidents of the supreme executive councils or of other councils, or of any of the colonies, acting under the Congress, or any new and usurped form of government.
“_Third_. All those who have been by his majesty appointed of his council in any of the colonies, and since taken an active part in the civil or military department under the Congress or under any establishment of the rebel government.
“_Fourth_. All judges who have, since the rebellion, passed sentence of death against any of his majesty’s liege subjects, for any supposed or real crime, committed or pretended to be committed against any law enacted or made by the Congress, or by any of the usurped or pretended legislatures of the colonies, making the fact or facts criminal for which he, she, or they were condemned to suffer death.
“_Fifth_. All commissaries and others who have seized and sold the estates of any of his majesty’s liege subjects, under any pretence whatsoever, unless it was done by the consent and orders of the rightful owner, leaving all such to the mercy of his majesty, to be granted to those only whose conduct merits mercy, and hold up the same in the proclamation, if any should issue.
“Will it not be proper as well as just to have the estates of the rebels who are gone out of the king’s lines among the rebels forfeited, confiscated, and sold by commissioners to be appointed for that purpose, and the moneys arising on the sales to be applied to the use of the refugees, to compensate for their sufferings by the rebels in ease of the parliamentary donations? Will not the perfidy of France and Spain justify Great Britain in proposing and entering into an alliance with the courts of Russia, Prussia, and other powers, to unite against France and Spain, the common disturbers of public tranquillity; take and divide among them all their islands in the West Indies?”
1. Lord North.
2. General Vaughan.
3. Sir Henry Clinton.
4. The Hon. Joseph Reed, whom the British attempted to bribe through the agency of Mrs. Ferguson.
5. Referring to the discomfiture at Savannah of the combined forces of France and the United States; the former under the command of Count D’Estaing, the latter commanded by General Lincoln.
6. See Vol. I., Ch. XIII.
7. See Vol. I., Ch. IX.
8. On the back of Mr. Sower’s letter Mr. Galloway has made, in his own handwriting, this endorsement–“Mr. Sower is a German refugee at New-York, and a person of the greatest influence among the Germans in Pennsylvania.”
The extracts which have been given from the correspondence of Mr. Galloway present, in a point of view sufficiently clear and distinct, the unquestionable hostility of the tories towards the whigs; the manner in which they wished the British ministry to conduct the contest; the punishment they would have inflicted upon the rebels if they had been successful, and the form in which they would have subsequently governed the country. These views are deemed a sufficient reason for the feelings of the whigs; a justification of those legislative disqualifications of the tories which were adopted by the State of New-York during the war of the revolution, and cause for the patriotic determination that the refugees should not be protected or permitted to remain in the land which they had so zealously struggled to enslave.
At a very early period after the declaration of Independence, parties were formed among the whigs. In the State of New-York, at the first election, in 1777, for governor under the new Constitution, General Schuyler was presented in opposition to George Clinton, but was defeated. With that defeat it is believed commenced political heart-burnings and collisions which, although at times smothered, were never extinguished. Schuyler was a man of great boldness and sagacity. He was personally unpopular, yet he possessed a commanding influence over the mind of those with whom lie commingled or was in any manner connected; an ascendancy which, in a measure, was to be ascribed to the force of intellect.
On the 12th of September, 1780, General Schuyler was a candidate for Congress. At that time the members were chosen by the legislature. Each house, viva voce, named a candidate. The two branches then met together and compared their nominations. If they both designated the same individual, he was declared to be chosen. If not, they proceeded as one body to a ballot, and the person having a majority of all the votes given was duly elected. The house almost unanimously nominated General Schuyler, the vote being for Schuyler, thirty-one, for Ezra L’Hommidieu seven. The senate nominated L’Hommidieu. In joint ballot, notwithstanding the vote Schuyler had received in the house, L’Hommidieu was chosen. For some reason not then explained, there was a sudden and extraordinary change of opinion in the legislature in relation to General Schuyler.
About this period, certain individuals were for the appointment of a “Supreme dictator, with all the powers conferred by the Roman people.” A convention was to be held at Hartford, consisting of delegates from the five New-England states and the state of New-York, for the purpose, among other objects, of devising more efficient measures for the supply of the army. Judge Hobart, Egbert Benson, and General Schuyler were the delegates. “It was for a contemplated by the legislature to give them instructions to propose that a dictator should be appointed, for which a majority in the more popular branch were believed to be favourable. This ‘mad project,’ as Colonel Alexander Hamilton designated it, was communicated to him by General Schuyler in a letter of the 16th of September, 1780.” 
The scheme was opposed with great ardour and perseverance by Governor George Clinton, Ezra L’Hommidieu, and others; but, through the influence of the former, in a great measure, the “mad project” was defeated. Here again the party lines were drawn between Governor Clinton and General Schuyler. It is highly probable that the plan for appointing a “supreme dictator” was a principal cause for the change of opinion respecting General Schuyler in the legislature on the 12th of September, and contributed to defeat his election to Congress.
From this period until the adoption of the Federal Constitution, the Clinton and the Schuyler parties continued to exist. In the ranks of the latter there was great concert in action. On an examination of the legislative journals from 1777 to 1788, it will be seen, that with General Schuyler were the Jays, the Livingstons, the Van Rensellaers, and the Bensons, and that they almost uniformly voted together.
And now of the tories. In the year 1779 some of them, who had removed from Albany within the British lines, petitioned the legislature for leave to return, which petition was rejected. At the same session an act was passed requiring all counsellors and attorneys, before they could be permitted to practice in any court, to produce evidence of their attachment to the liberty and independence of the United States. On the 20th of November, 1781, a special act was passed on the same subject, confirmatory of what bad been done in 1779.
The first session of the legislature after the revolutionary war was held in the city of New-York. It was convened by proclamation of the governor on the 6th of January, 1784, and continued its sitting until the 12th of May following. In the first month of the session, numerous petitions were presented by the tories, praying to be relieved from their banishment, and to be permitted a residence within the state. The legislature perceived that, if they did not act promptly, their tables would be covered with these memorials. Therefore, in the language of Governor Clinton at the opening of the session, the assembly said–
“While we recollect the general progress of a war which has been marked with cruelty and rapine; while we survey the ruins of this once flourishing city and its vicinity; while we sympathize in the calamities which have reduced so many of our virtuous fellow-citizens to want and distress, and are anxiously solicitous for means to repair the wastes and misfortunes which we lament,” we cannot hearken to these petitions. They were referred to a select committee, which committee in a few days reported against granting their prayer, and the house instantly, without a division, agreed to the report. This was on the 9th of February, 1784.
On the 11th of February, 1784, the assembly passed a resolution directing that the names of those persons that had been attainted should be communicated to the governors of the several states; requesting to be supplied, in like manner, with “a list of the persons proscribed or banished by their respective states, in order that thereby the _principles of federal union_ may be adhered to and preserved.” In the senate this resolution was permitted to sleep.
Chancellor Robert R. Livingston, in a letter to John Jay dated the 25th of January, 1784, thus speaks of parties at this period. “Our parties are, first, the tories, who still hope for power, under the idea that the remembrance of the past should be lost, though they daily keep it up by their avowed attachment to Great Britain; secondly, the violent whigs, who are for expelling all tories from the state, in hopes, by that means, to preserve the power in their own hands. The third are those who wish to suppress all violence, to soften the rigour of the laws against the loyalists, and not to banish them from that social intercourse which may, by degrees, obliterate the remembrance of past misdeeds.”
On the 8th of March, 1784, Peter Yates and three hundred others petitioned the legislature to prevent those persons who had joined or remained with the enemy during the late war from returning, and to prohibit such as have remained from being eligible to any office of profit or trust. On the 31st of the same month strong resolutions were introduced into the house, and adopted by both branches, against the tories, declaring, among other things, “That as, on the one hand, the rules of justice do not require, so, on the other, the public tranquility will not permit, that such adherents who have been attainted should be restored to the rights of citizenship.”
In May, 1784, the legislature passed an act entitled “An act to, preserve the freedom and independence of this state, and for other purposes.” The object of this law was to prohibit the tories from holding any office. The Council of Revision returned the bill, with objections to its passage, one of which was, “that so large a portion of the citizens remained in parts of the _Southern District_ which were possessed by the British armies, that in most places it would be difficult, and in many _absolutely impossible_, to find men to fill the necessary offices, even for _conducting_ elections, until a new set of inhabitants could be procured.”
This bill of disfranchisement, notwithstanding the objections of the Council of Revision, was passed by more than two thirds of both branches, and thus became a law. Such were the feelings of the “violent whigs;” such the policy of the first legislature after the termination of the war. But, unfortunately, among those who had fought the battles of the revolution, there were some who doubted the capacity of the people for self-government, while there were others who sought power and influence at the hazard of principle. The Schuyler party were in the minority. The Clinton party, designated by Chancellor Livingston as the “violent whigs,” were uncompromising on the question of banishing the tories, who were numerous, especially in the Southern District. It seemed probable, therefore, if restored to citizenship, that they would amalgamate with the _third_ party, or that class of whigs “who wished to suppress all violence, and to soften the rigour of the laws against the royalists.”
In March, 1783, the legislature passed an act entitled “An act for granting more effectual relief in cases of trespass.” The object of this act was to enable the whigs at the termination of the war to recover from the tories rent for any landed estate they might have occupied; and in cases of suit for such rent, the act declares “that no defendant or defendants shall be admitted to plead in justification any military order or command whatsoever for such occupancy.”
Under this statute an action was commenced by Mrs. Rutgers against Mr. Waddington, in the Mayor’s Court of the City of New-York, for the recovery of rent for the occupancy of a brewhouse and malthouse, the property of the said Mrs. Rutgers. The cause was argued on the 29th of June, 1784, James Duane as Mayor, and Richard Varick as Recorder, presiding. On the 27th of August the court gave judgment “that the plea of the defendant was good for so much of the time as he held under the British commander-in-chief; because, in the opinion of the court, a liberal construction of the law of nations would make it so.” As this decision involved a great principle, and would materially affect the whigs whose property had been occupied by the tories during the war, it produced great excitement.
A meeting of the whigs was convened on the 13th of September, 1784. A committee was appointed, and an address to the people of the state prepared and published by them. That committee consisted of Melancton Smith, Peter Ricker, Jonathan Lawrence, Anthony Rutgers, Peter T. Curtenius, Thomas Tucker, Daniel Shaw, Adam Gilchrist, Junr., and John Wiley. Of this committee Melancton Smith was the life and soul. He was the author of the address–a clear, able, and unanswerable exposition of the case. It states the determination of Mrs. Rutgers to carry it up to the Supreme Court, and, if defeated there, to the Senate, which, with the judges of the Supreme Court, constituted the Court for the Correction of Errors. Having reference to the contemplated proceedings, the address closes as follows:–
“Preparatory to such an event, we exhort you to be cautious, in your future choice of senators, that none be elected but those on whom, from long and certain experience, you can rely as men attached to the liberty of America, and firm friends to our laws and constitution; men who will spurn at any proposition that has a tendency to curtail the privileges of the people, and who, at the same time that they protect us against _judicial tyranny_, have wisdom to see the propriety of supporting that necessary independence in courts of justice, both of the legislature and people.
“Having confined ourselves to constitutional measures, and now solemnly declaring our disapprobation of all others, we feel a freedom in sounding the alarm to our fellow-citizens. If that independence, which we have obtained at a risk which makes the acquisition little less than miraculous, was worth contending for against a powerful and enraged monarch, and at the expense of the best blood in America, surely its preservation is worth contending for against those _among ourselves who might impiously hope to build their greatness upon the ruins of that fabric which was so dearly established_.
“That the principle of decision in the case of Rutgers _vs_. Waddington is dangerous to the freedom of our government, and that a perseverance in that principle would leave our legislature nothing but a name, and render their sessions nothing more than an expensive form of government, the preceding remarks must evidence.
“Permit us, on this occasion, earnestly to entreat you to join us in watchfulness against every attempt that may be used, either violently and suddenly, or _gently_ and _imperceptibly, to effect a revolution_ in the _spirit_ and _genius_ of our government; and _should there be among us characters to whom the simplicity of it is offensive_, let our attention and perseverance be such as to _preclude the hopes of a change_.”
Here again the party lines of 1777 are distinctly marked. Melancton Smith, Jonathan Lawrence, &c., were of the Clinton party, while Mr. Duane and Mr. Varick were attached to the Schuyler interest.
In October, 1784, the case of Rutgers _vs_. Waddington was brought before the legislature, and on the 27th of that month the assembly
_Resolved_, That this adjudication is subversive of all law and good order; because, if a court instituted for the _benefit and government of a corporation_ may take upon themselves to dispense with a law of the state, all other courts may do the like: therefore,
_Resolved_, That it be recommended to the honourable the Council of Appointment, at their next session, to appoint such persons to be mayor and recorder of the city of New-York as will govern themselves by the known laws of the land.
Subsequently Waddington compromised the claim against him; but the law in similar cases became operative, and remained so until its repeal by the legislature. In the following session, March, 1785, an unsuccessful attempt was made to repeal the act of 1781, disqualifying tory counsellors and attorneys; some modification, however, of other laws of a similar character was effected. In April, 1786, the repealing act passed; and the restriction on the tory lawyers being removed, they were permitted to practise in the several courts of the state. During the same month, “an act for the payment of certain sums of money” was amended by adding a clause, “restoring to the rights of citizenship, on taking the oath of abjuration and allegiance,” all such persons as had been disfranchised by the third clause of the act entitled “An act to preserve the freedom and independence of this state,” passed the 12th of May, 1784. During this session the Schuyler party had the ascendence, and on all questions having a political aspect the names of Alexander Hamilton, Richard Varick, C. Livingston, Nicholas Bayard, David Brooks, James Livingston, &c., will be found on the same side.
On the 10th of March, 1787, Mr. Hamilton asked leave, which was granted, to bring in a bill to repeal the act entitled “An act for granting relief in case of certain trespasses.” This was the act under which the suit had been commenced against Waddington, and which case produced so much excitement in the summer and autumn of 1784. Mr. Hamilton’s bill passed; but, lest there should be some forgotten statute that might restrict or limit the political privileges of the tories, it was deemed expedient, on the 13th of April, to introduce and pass an act under the imposing title of “An act to repeal all laws of this state inconsistent with the treaty of peace.” As its provisions met every possible case, the tories were now placed on a footing with the whigs. All they wanted was leaders. The rank and file they already possessed.
The Schuyler party sought allies. The tories were numerous, especially in the Southern District. The Clinton party, designated by Chancellor Livingston, in his letter to John Jay, as the “_violent whigs_,” were uncompromising on the question of banishing the tories from the state. It seemed probable, therefore, that, sooner or later, if restored to citizenship, they would amalgamate with that class of whigs who wished to suppress “all violence, and to soften the rigour of the laws against the royalists.”
The effect of these legislative measures on the tories was anticipated by both friends and foes. Chancellor Livingston, in January, 1784, had said that there were three parties in the state:–
_First_. The tories.
_Second_. The violent whigs.
_Third_. Those who wished ” to soften the rigour of the laws against the royalists.”
The Council of Revision, composed of Robert R. Livingston, Justice Morris, and Judge Hobart, had solemnly placed on record their opinion, that, in some portions of the Southern District “it would be difficult, and in many _absolutely impossible_, to find whigs to fill the necessary offices even for _conducting_ elections.” Under such circumstances it was evident that the _first_ and _third_ parties must amalgamate, and such was the result.
In January, 1788, the legislature met, and directed the call of a State Convention, to whom was to be submitted the Federal Constitution, as adopted by the General Convention held in Philadelphia in May, 1787. During this session the same party lines continued to be visible, although the respective parties had now assumed, or were designated by new names. The Schuyler was called the Federal party, and the Clinton the anti-Federal party; thev were composed, however, of the same individuals, with very few exceptions. The great, and almost the only strength which the federal party possessed in the state was in the Southern District. Here the acquisition of the tories rendered their power and influence irresistible. From this district, composed of the counties of Westchester, New-York, Richmond, King’s, Queen’s, and Suffolk, the federalists had in the Assembly, during the session of 1788-89, _twenty_ votes, and on no _party_ question did they command, during the whole session, more than _twenty-three_ votes.
In December, 1788, a bill for carrying into operation the federal constitution being under consideration, a proposition was made to choose United States senators; but the federalists having a majority in the Senate, and the anti-federalists a majority in the House of Assembly, no compromise between the parties could be effected, and consequently no senators were chosen.
The following persons may be considered as constituting the strength of the Schuyler, now federal party, in the assembly of 1788-89:–
Brockholst Livingston, of the city of New-York. William W. Gilbert, ” ” Alexander Macomb, ” ” Richard Harrison, ” ” Nicholas Hoffman, ” ” John Watts, Jun., ” ” Nicholas Low, ” ” Gulian Verplanck, ” ” Comfort Sands, ” ” Philip Van Cortlandt, Westchester county. Philip Livingston, ” ” Nathaniel Rockwell, ” ” Walter Seaman, ” ” Jonathan Horton, ” ” John Younglove, Albany county. Henry K. Van Rensellaer, ” ” Stephen Carman, Queen’s county. Whitehead Cornwell, ” ” Peter Vandervoort, King’s county. Aquilla Giles, ” ” Abraham Bancker, Richmond county. John C. Dongan, ” ” Samuel A. Barker, Dutchess county.
It will be observed, that all the above Schuyler or federal members, with the exception of _two_ from Albany and _one_ from Dutchess county, were elected as representatives from the Southern District.
Having stated the origin and progress of the great political parties in the State of New-York, as they appear from the public records, it may be proper to add that Colonel Burr belonged to what was termed by Mr. Livingston “the violent whig party.” By that party, while the tories were disfranchised, Mr. Burr was elected in 1784 to represent the city and county of New-York in the legislature. By that party, in 1789, he was appointed attorney-general of the state. By that party, in 1791, he was appointed a senator of the United States. By that party, in 1792, he was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court. By that party, subsequently, he was elected a member of the Assembly and a member of the Convention to revise the Constitution of the State, of which convention he was president; and by that party, in 1800, he was elected vice-president of the United States.
It is not intended to discuss the policy, the humanity, or the justice of the several measures proposed or adopted in relation to the tories by “_the violent whigs_,” or by those whigs who wished “_to soften the rigour of the laws against the loyalists_.” The historical facts have been given, and the sources from whence they were derived specified. The feelings and opinions of “_the violent whigs_,” are expressed by the legislature of the state on the 9th of February, 1784, and by Governor George Clinton at the opening of that session in the city of New-York. They say–” While we recollect the general progress of a war which has been marked with cruelty and rapine; while we survey the ruins of this once flourishing city and its vicinity; while we sympathize in the calamities which have reduced so many of our virtuous fellow-citizens to want and distress, and are anxiously solicitous for means to repair the wastes and misfortunes which we lament, we cannot hearken to these petitions.”
On the other hand, the sentiments and views of those whigs who wished “_to soften the rigour of the laws against the loyalists_” are to be found in the following extracts of letters.
JOHN JAY TO GOVERNOR WILLIAM LIVINGSTON. 
“Passay, 9th April, 1783.
“The tories will doubtless cause some difficulty; but that they have always done; and as this will probably be the _last time_, we must make the best of it. A universal, indiscriminate condemnation and expulsion of those people would not redound to our honour, because so harsh a measure would partake more of vengeance than of justice. For my part, I wish that all, except _the faithless and cruel_, may be forgiven. That exception would indeed _extend to very few_; but even if it applied to the case of one only, that one ought, in my opinion, to be saved.”
JOHN JAY TO ROBERT R. LIVINGSTON.
“Passay, 12th September, 1783.
“Europe hears much, and wishes to hear more of divisions, seditions, violences, and confusions among us. The tories are generally and greatly pitied; _more, indeed, than they deserve_. The indiscriminate expulsion and ruin of that whole class and description of men would not do honour to our magnanimity or humanity, especially in the opinion of those nations who consider, with more astonishment than pleasure, the terms of peace which America has obtained.”
1. See Life of Hamilton, Vol. I., p. 316
2. Jay’s Works, Vol. I., p. 128.
It has been seen that the Livingstons were of the Schuyler party during the revolutionary war, and that they continued so until the year 1787, when, in common with their political friends, they were the warm and ardent champions of the Federal Constitution. After its adoption, and the organization of the government under it, they soon became dissatisfied. The cause of that dissatisfaction has been differently explained. On the one hand it was said that they were alarmed at the doctrines of those who had been called to administer the government, and at the assumption of powers not delegated by the people. That they apprehended the government was verging towards a _consolidated national_, instead of a _federal_ government of states.
On the other hand it was alleged that the family were disappointed and disgusted at the neglect which they experienced from General Washington. That, as Robert R. Livingston had been, in the state convention which adopted the Constitution, one of its most splendid and efficient supporters, he and his connexions anticipated his appointment to some exalted station; but that, while he was passed by unnoticed, his colleagues in that body, John Jay and Alexander Hamilton, had both received distinguished appointments–the one as Chief Justice of the United States, and the other as Secretary of the Treasury. Whatever may have been the cause of this change, it is certain that they soon abandoned the federal, and united their political destiny with the anti-federal party. Although these gentlemen, as politicians, were acting in concert with Mr. Burr, yet there was no cordiality of feeling between them. In their social intercourse, however, the most perfect comity was observed; and as they were in a minority, struggling to break down a party haughty, proscriptive, and intolerant beyond any thing that the American people had beheld, they zealously united their efforts in effecting the revolution of 1800.
Soon after the adoption of the new constitution, the anti-federal party were recognised by a name more descriptive of their principles and their views. They assumed the title of democrats. They considered themselves anti-consolidationists, but not anti-federalists. They knew that a section of the dominant party were the friends of a splendid national government. That they were the advocates of a system, by means of which all power would have concentrated in the general, and the state governments been reduced to the level of mere corporations. Against this system the democrats reasoned and contended with unabated zeal. They were the early, unflinching, and faithful champions of state rights_.
From the year 1790 until 1800, the democratic and federal parties were alternately triumphant, both in the city and in the state of New-York. In the former, the result of an election was frequently decided by the operations of some local or exciting topic. No decisive contest took place between the parties previous to 1800, founded on any great or controlling principle of government. But, during the years 1798 and 1799, the whole country was agitated from one extreme to the other. Revolutionary France was convulsed, and, in the midst of her convulsions and sufferings, was daily committing the most cruel and wanton excesses towards her own citizens, while she was offering taunts and insults to foreign nations. The federal party seemed to sigh for a war with France. Pretending that they apprehended a French invasion, a large standing army was raised. At the head of this army, second in command to General Washington, was placed General Alexander Hamilton. To support the army and other useless extravagant expenditures, a land tax and an _eight per cent._ loan was found necessary. To silence the murmurs of an oppressed people, a sedition law was enacted. Such were some of the fruits of the elder Mr. Adams’s administration.
In the autumn of 1799 and the winter of 1799-1800, the interesting and vital question was presented to the American nation:–Will you sustain this administration and these measures, and thus rivet chains upon yourselves and your posterity? Or will you calmly, but firmly and in union, resort to the constitutional remedy (the ballot-boxes) for relief from wrongs and oppressions which, if permitted to endure, must terminate in the horrors of intestine war? Here was a question of principle; and, it is believed, a question which was to decide the character of the government. Each party felt that it was a mighty struggle, decisive of its future political influence, if not of its existence.
The elections in the state of New-York were held in the month of April. In the year 1799 the federalists had a majority in the city of more than nine hundred. During the summer, it was universally conceded that on the state of New-York the presidential election would depend, and that the result in the city would decide the fate of the state. That this opinion was as universal as it was true, cannot be more distinctly exhibited than by the following extract of a letter from Mr. Jefferson to Mr. Madison, dated 4th March, 1800.
“In New-York all depends on the success of the city election, which is of twelve members, and of course makes a difference of twenty-four, which is sufficient to make the two houses, joined together, republican in their vote. * * * * * * Upon the whole, I consider it as rather more doubtful than the last election (1796), in which I was not deceived in more than a vote or two. * * * * * * In any event, we may say, that if the city election of New-York is in favour of the republican ticket, the issue will be republican; if the federal ticket for the city of New-York prevails, the probabilities will be in favour of a federal issue, because it would then require a republican vote both from New-Jersey and Pennsylvania to preponderate against New-York, on which we could not count with any confidence.”
Reference has been made to the conflicting factions of which the democratic party was now composed. The Clinton section, the Livingston section, and the Burr section. The first and last were apparently the same, but not so in reality. Colonel Burr’s commanding talents had acquired for him an influence in the ranks of the democratic party in other states, which created some jealousy in the Clinton family, the younger and collateral branches of which were extremely hostile to him. The ambition of Burr, sustained by a daring spirit and unconquerable perseverance, awakened the apprehensions of Governor George Clinton lest he should be supplanted. The governor was a man of great sagacity and shrewdness. But these two sections, or, perhaps, more properly, the heads of them, united in their opposition to the Livingstons.
During the winter of 1800, the efforts of Colonel Burr to bring about a concert in action of these discordant materials were unceasing. With his own personal friends he had no difficulty, for it was ever one of his characteristics to secure inviolable the attachment of his friends. They were of the most ardent and devoted kind. Confiding in his patriotism and judgment, and feeling that he was incapable of deceiving them, they seemed willing, at all times and under all circumstances, to hazard their lives and fortunes in his support. They were generally young men of gallant bearing and disinterested views. No sordid calculations were made by them. No mercenary considerations influenced their conduct. They beheld in Colonel Burr a patriot hero of the revolution, who had commingled with their fathers in the battle-field, and who had perilled every thing in his country’s cause. Such were his friends, and such their zeal in his behalf. It was here that Colonel Burr was all-powerful, for he possessed, in a pre-eminent degree, the art of fascinating the youthful. But with all this tact and talent, he was credulous and easily deceived. He therefore often became the dupe of the most worthless and unprincipled.
Mr. Burr held frequent private meetings with his most intimate and confidential friends. At all these meetings it is believed the success of the democratic party was the only question under consideration. No local or personal interests were permitted to be discussed. The triumph of the party, as a whole, was the great object. By his adherents, it was deemed indispensable that he should be a member of the legislature to be chosen in April, which body was to appoint the presidential electors. While, on the other hand, it was considered not less necessary that he should be free to act at the polls in the city of New-York during the election. How was this to be effected? After much conference and deliberation it was resolved that he should be elected from Orange county, if the arrangement could be made, and the execution of the plan was intrusted principally to Peter Townsend, Esquire, of Chester, who, with the aid of other influential friends, accomplished it.
The next question was, Of whom shall the assembly ticket for the city be composed? On the suggestion of Colonel Burr, the names of certain distinguished individuals, venerable in years, and respected for their services, for months before the election were put in circulation as candidates; and, among others, Governor George Clinton and General Horatio Gates. At length the nominating committees were chosen; but so general had been the conversations as to suitable candidates, that very little diversity of opinion prevailed in the formation of the ticket.
The following persons were nominated: George Clinton, Horatio Gates,