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Memoirs of Aaron Burr, Complete by Matthew L. Davis

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[Frontispiece: A. Burr]





"I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him."



* * * * *

Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1836, by


in the Clerk's Office of the Southern District of New-York.

* * * * *


During a period of forty years I was intimately acquainted with
Colonel Burr, and have reason to suppose that I possessed his entire
confidence. Some time after his return from Europe in 1812, on
different occasions, he suggested casually a wish that I would make
notes of his _political life_. When the Memoirs and Correspondence of
Mr. Jefferson were published, he was much excited at the statements
which were made in his Ana respecting the presidential contest in
Congress in 1801.

He procured and sent me a copy of the work, with a request that I
would peruse the parts designated by him. From this time forward he
evinced an anxiety that I would prepare his Memoirs, offering me the
use of all his private papers, and expressing a willingness to explain
any doubtful points, and to dictate such parts of his early history as
I might require. These propositions led to frequent and full
conversations. I soon discovered that Colonel Burr was far more
tenacious of his _military_, than of his professional, political, or
moral character. His prejudices against General Washington were
immoveable. They were formed in the summer of 1776, while he resided
at headquarters; and they were confirmed unchangeably by the injustice
which he said he had experienced at the hands of the
commander-in-chief immediately after the battle of Long Island, and
the retreat of the American army from the city of New-York. These
grievances he wished to mingle with his own history; and he was
particularly anxious to examine the military movements of General
Washington on different occasions, but more especially at the battle
of Monmouth, in which battle Colonel Burr commanded a brigade in Lord
Stirling's division. I peremptorily refused entering upon any such
discussion; and, for some time, all communication on the subject

Colonel Burr, however, renewed the conversation relative to his
Memoirs, and agreed that any thing which might be written should be
confined to himself. With this understanding I frequently visited him,
and made notes under his dictation. I never asked him a question on
any subject, or in relation to any man or measure, that he did not
promptly and willingly answer. On his part there was no desire of
concealment; nor did he ever express to me a wish to suppress an
account of any act of his whole life. So far as I could judge, his
only apprehensions were that "_kind friends_," as he sometimes termed
them, by attempts at explanation, might unintentionally misrepresent
acts which they did not understand.

I devoted the summer of 1835 to an examination of his letters and
papers, of which there is an immense quantity. The whole of them were
placed in my hands, to be used at my discretion. I was authorized to
take from among them whatever I supposed would aid me in preparing the
contemplated book.

I have undertaken the work, aware of the delicacy and responsibility
of the task. But, if I know myself, it has been performed with the
most scrupulous regard to my own reputation for correctness. I have
aimed to state facts, and the fair deductions from them, without the
slightest intermixture of personal feeling. I am very desirous that a
knowledge of Mr. Burr's character and conduct should be derived from
his miscellaneous correspondence, and not from what his biographer
might write, unsupported by documentary testimony. With this view many
of his private letters are selected for publication.

I entertain a hope that I shall escape the charge of egotism. I have
endeavoured to avoid _that_ ground of offence, whatever may have been
my literary sins in other respects. It is proper for me, however, in
this place, and for a single purpose, to depart from the course
pursued in the body of the work. It is a matter of perfect notoriety,
that among the papers left in my possession by the late Colonel Burr,
there was a mass of letters and copies of letters written or received
by him, from time to time, during a long life, indicating no very
strict morality in some of his female correspondents. These letters
contained matter that would have wounded the feelings of families more
extensively than could be imagined. Their publication would have had a
most injurious tendency, and created heartburnings that nothing but
time could have cured.

As soon as they came under my control I mentioned the subject to
Colonel Burr; but he prohibited the destruction of any part of them
during his lifetime. I separated them, however, from other letters in
my possession, and placed them in a situation that made their
publication next to impossible, whatever might have been my own fate.
As soon as Colonel Burr's decease was known, with my own hands I
committed to the fire all such correspondence, and not a vestige of it
now remains.

It is with unaffected reluctance that this statement of facts is made;
and it never would have been made but for circumstances which have
transpired since the decease of Colonel Burr. A mere allusion to these
circumstances will, it is trusted, furnish ample justification. No
sooner had the newspapers announced the fact that the Memoirs of
Colonel Burr were to be written by me, than I received letters from
various quarters of the country, inquiring into the nature of the
revelations that the book would make, and deprecating the introduction
of individual cases. These letters came to hand both anonymously and
under known signatures, expressing intense solicitude for suppression.

Under such circumstances, am I not only warranted in these remarks,
but imperiously called upon to make them? What other mode remained to
set the public mind at ease? I have now stated what must for ever
hereafter preclude all possibility for cavil on one part, or anxiety
on the other. I _alone_ have possessed the private and important
papers of Colonel Burr; and I pledge my honour that every one of them,
so far as I know and believe, that could have injured the feelings of
a female or those of her friends, is destroyed. In order to leave no
chance for distrust, I will add, that I never took, or permitted to be
taken, a single copy of any of these letters; and, of course, it is
quite impossible that any publication hereafter, if any should be made
of such papers or letters, can have even the pretence of authenticity.


New-York, November 15th, 1836.

* * * * *



Ancestors of Burr; his father's birth; preparations for the ministry;
the Rev. Aaron Burr visits Boston; his account of the celebrated
preacher Whitefield; is married in 1752; Nassau Hall built in
Princeton in 1757; the Rev. Aaron Burr its first president; letter
from a lady to Colonel Burr; from his mother to her father; death of
his parents; sent to Philadelphia, under the care of Dr. Shippen; runs
away when only four years of age


Burr is removed to Stockbridge, and placed under the care of Timothy
Edwards, his uncle and guardian; Edwards removes to Elizabethtown,
New-Jersey; Judge Tappan Reeve is employed in the family as a private
tutor to Burr; runs away to New-York at ten years of age; enters
Princeton College in 1769, in the thirteenth year of his age; his
habits there; an awakening in college in 1771-72; his conversation
with Dr. Witherspoon on the subject; selections from his compositions
while a student


Burr's college friends; letters of William Paterson to Burr; he
graduates in 1772, when sixteen years of age; remains in college to
review his studies; amusing anecdote relative to Professor S. S.
Smith, in the Cliosophic Society, while Burr was acting as president;
letter from Timothy Dwight; from Samuel Spring; correspondence with
Matthias Ogden and others, in cipher; anecdote respecting visit to a
billiard-table; enters the family of Joseph Bellamy, D. D. for the
purpose of pursuing a course of reading on religious topics; in 1774
determines to study the law; letter from Timothy Edwards


Removes to the family of Judge Reeve; amusing letter from Matthias
Ogden; to Ogden; from Jonathan Bellamy; from Ogden; from Lyman Hall to
the Rev. James Caldwell


Battles of Lexington and Bunker's Hill; Burr visits Elizabethtown,
and, in company with his friend Ogden, joins the army under Washington
before Cambridge; great disappointment and mortification at witnessing
the irregularities in the camp, and the want of a police; letter from
Roger Sherman to General David Wooster; from James Duane to General
Montgomery, announcing his appointment as a brigadier-general in the
continental army; General Montgomery's answer; Burr sickens in camp;
hears of General Arnold's intended expedition against Quebec;
volunteers as a private; forms a mess, and marches from Cambridge to
Newburyport with knapsack and musket; letters from Dr. James Cogswell,
Peter Colt, &c. to dissuade him from proceeding with the expedition;
efforts of his guardian to prevent him from marching; sufferings on
the march through the wilderness; escape from drowning in passing the
rapids; on arriving at the Chaudiere, is despatched by Arnold to
Montgomery with information; places himself under the protection of a
Catholic priest, who furnishes him with a guide; the guide becomes
alarmed; Burr is secreted for some days in a convent; arrives in
safety at Montgomery's headquarters; is appointed one of his
aid-de-camps; the plan of attack upon Quebec changed; Judge Marshall's
explanation of the reasons for the change; Burr's opinion on the same
subject; the attack made on the night of the 31st of December, 1775;
General Montgomery, Captains McPherson and Cheeseman, and all in
front, except Burr and a French guide, killed; Colonel Campbell orders
a retreat.


Resolve of Congress to erect a monument to the memory of General
Montgomery; procured by, and executed under the superintendence of Dr.
Franklin in Paris; erected in front of St. Paul's Church, in the city
of New-York, in 1789; Arnold takes command; Burr acts as brigade
major; Arnold resolves on demanding a surrender of Quebec, and that
Burr shall be the bearer of a sealed message; refuses, without first
reading its contents; after reading, considers it unbecoming an
American officer, and declines delivering it; receives complimentary
letters for his intrepidity in the attack; letter from Ogden; army
moves to the mouth of the Sorel; Burr determines on leaving it, which
Arnold forbids, but he persists; in Albany is notified that General
Washington wishes him to come to New-York; reports himself to the
commander-in-chief, who invites him to join his family; letter from
Ogden informing him that General Washington wishes him to take up his
residence at headquarters; joins Washington's family, but soon becomes
discontented; on the suggestion of Governor Hancock, accepts the
appointment of aid-de-camp to Major-general Putnam; letter to Ogden;
reasons for quitting Washington's family; letter from Paterson to
Burr; to Paterson


Some account of Mrs. Coghlan, daughter of Major Moncrieffe of the
British army; her residence in General Putnam's family; her removal to
the family of General Mifflin; her allusions, in her memoirs, to a
young American officer (Colonel Burr) with whom she had become
enamoured; letter of General Putnam to Miss Moncrieffe; Burr's
character for intrigue; destruction of confidential papers, improper
for public inspection; letter from Theodore Sedgwick to Burr; from
Ogden; to T. Edwards; from Ogden; General Putnam ordered to take
command on Long Island in the place of General Green; Burr reports to
Putnam unfavourably of the state of the army, but proposes to beat up
the enemy's quarters; is opposed to an action, considering it likely
to prove disastrous; battle on the 27th of August, 1776; Burr presses
upon Putnam and Mifflin the necessity of an immediate retreat; council
of war, and retreat ordered; General McDOUGALL has charge of the
embarcation of the troops from Brooklyn on the night of the 29th; Burr
assists him; his conduct this night inspires General McDOUGALL with a
confidence in him for vigilance and intrepidity which was never
afterward diminished; the retreat effected in good order; Burr is in
favour of an immediate evacuation of the city of New-York; on the 15th
of September the British land on Manhattan Island; General Washington
orders a retreat, which the enemy endeavour to intercept; in the
confusion, General Silliman's brigade is left behind, and General Knox
conducts it to a small fort (Bunker's Hill) in the suburbs of the
city; Burr discovers the perilous situation of the brigade, and
recommends Knox to retreat; Knox refuses, and denies the
practicability; Burr induces the officers and men of the brigade to
place themselves under his command, and, after some skirmishes, he
conducts them with trifling loss to the main army; Samuel Rowland to
Commodore Morris on this subject; certificate of the Rev. Hezekiah
Ripley, chaplain of General Silliman's brigade, respecting their
retreat under the command of Colonel Burr; also of Isaac Jennings and
Andrew Wakeman, and a letter from Nathaniel Judson, in relation to the
same affair


Letter from Colonel Burr to Mrs. Edwards; the British army move from
Brunswick to Princeton; General Washington crosses the Delaware;
letter to Ogden; Burr ordered by General Washington, through Putnam,
to proceed to Norwalk, Fairfield, and other places on the Sound, to
"settle a line of intelligence," &c.; on his return to camp, July
21st, 1777, is appointed by Washington a lieutenant-colonel in
Malcolm's regiment; Burr to Washington; joins his regiment in the
Clove, Orange county; the British come out from New-York, 2000 strong,
on a marauding party; Burr marches his regiment thirty miles in the
afternoon and evening to attack them; before morning captures their
picket-guards by surprise; the enemy retreat, leaving their plunder
behind them; statement of this affair by Judge George Gardner and
Lieutenant Hunter, with other details respecting Burr; Putnam orders
him to join Parsons's brigade with his regiment, for the purpose of
re-enforcing Washington; on the second day of his march, is ordered by
General Varnum to halt and defend the bridge at Pompton against the
British; in November, is stationed with his regiment, in advance of
the main army, at White Marsh, in Pennsylvania; goes into winter
quarters at Valley Forge; by the advice of General McDOUGALL, he is
ordered by Washington to take command of a strong body of militia,
posted to defend the Gulf near Valley Forge, all his senior officers
having been withdrawn for the purpose of giving him the command; an
intended mutiny suppressed by his promptitude and intrepidity; is of
the Lee and Gates party, opposed to Washington; misunderstanding with
Lord Stirling; letter from Lord Stirling; letter to him


Letter from Malcolm to Burr; battle of Monmouth, June 28t; arrest and
trial of General Lee; Burr dissatisfied with Washington's orders to
him during the action, in which he commanded a brigade;
Lieutenant-colonel Dummer, under his immediate command, killed; Burr's
horse shot under him; his health greatly impaired by fatigue and
exposure previous to and during the action; ordered by Washington, the
day after the battle, to proceed to Elizabethtown to watch the
movements of the enemy; several notes of Lord Stirling to him on the
subject; joins his regiment; ordered by the Baron de Kalb to West
Point; the legislature of New-York adopt rigid measures in regard to
the tories; Governor Clinton applies to the commander-in-chief to
appoint a confidential continental officer to take charge of them,
&c.; General Washington designates Colonel Burr; letter from Robert
Benson to Burr on the subject; proceedings of the Board of
Commissioners for defeating Conspiracies, transmitted in their letter
to Burr; letter from Theodore Sedgwick; from General Lee; Burr to
Washington, asking a furlough on account of ill health, without pay;
from Washington, granting the furlough, but ordering the pay; Burr
declines accepting it on these conditions, and joins his regiment at
West Point; letter from Mrs. Montgomery to Burr; ordered by General
McDOUGALL to take command of a brigade at Haverstraw, his seniors
having been withdrawn for the purpose; ordered by McDOUGALL to take
command of the lines in Westchester; letter to McDOUGALL, detailing
the arrangement of his pickets, outposts, &c.; to McDOUGALL; from
Major Platt; from McDOUGALL


Letter from Burr to McDOUGALL; from Paterson; from Major Platt; to
McDOUGALL; from McDOUGALL; from Platt; from McDOUGALL; from General
Putnam; from McDOUGALL; from Samuel Young, Esq., of Westchester, to
Commodore Morris, detailing Burr's military career on the lines


Letter from Burr to General Washington resigning his command; from
Washington; from Mrs. General Montgomery; from Paterson; from
McDOUGALL; at the request of General McDOUGALL, Burr consents, at
great hazard, to be the bearer of a verbal confidential communication
to General Washington; amusing incident at Townsend's iron-works, in
Orange county, on this expedition; in July, 1779, the British under
Tryon land at East Haven; Burr, although confined to a sick-bed,
arises, sallies forth, takes command of the students in the college
green, and checks for a time the advance of the enemy; Colonel Platt's
account of Burr's military life


Description of Burr's person and manner; anecdote illustrative of his
tact at correcting an ill-timed expression to a lady; his first
acquaintance with Mrs. Prevost, subsequently his wife; letter from Mr.
Monroe, late President of the United States, to Mrs. Prevost; General
Washington to Mrs. Prevost; from Paterson; from Colonel Troup; the
same; from Paterson; to Paterson; from Troup; from Major Alden; from
Paterson; from Troup; to Troup; from Troup; the same; the same; from
Peter Colt; the same; from Troup; the same


Letter from Paterson to Burr; the same; from Troup; Burr commences the
study of the law with Paterson, on the Rariton; removes to Haverstraw
to study with Thomas Smith; capture of Andre; Mrs. Arnold's confession
to Mrs. Prevost of her own guilt; scene with Mrs. Arnold at the house
of Colonel Morris in 1779-80; Burr leaves Haverstraw, and goes to
Albany to prepare for admission to the bar; letter to Major Alden;
from Thomas Smith; from Mrs. Prevost; the same; the same; from Major
Alden; to Mrs. Prevost; to Chief Justice Morris; to Mrs. Prevost;
Character of Philip Van Rensselear


Burr applies to the Supreme Court for admission; the bar objects to
his examination; objections overruled; admitted as an attorney on the
19th January, 1782, and as counsellor on the 17th of April, 1782;
commences the practice of law in Albany; letter from Major Popham; to
Mrs. Prevost; Burr married to Mrs. Prevost, July, 1782; letter from
Mrs. Burr; from Judge Hobart; from Mrs. Burr; the same; Burr removes
to New-York; elected a member of the legislature; his opposition in
that body to what was termed the Mechanics' Bill, produces great
excitement; threatened riot on the subject, Series of letters between
Mr. and Mrs. Burr


Series of letters between Mr. and Mrs. Burr continued from pages
275-285--Federal Constitution adopted; Burr nominated and defeated on
the Assembly ticket of "the Sons of Liberty," in opposition to the
Federal ticket; he supports Judge Yates in opposition to George
Clinton for the office of governor; Clinton elected; soon after
tenders Burr the office of attorney-general; he takes time to
deliberate; his letter to Governor Clinton, agreeing to serve; is
appointed attorney-general, September, 1789; commissioners appointed
by the legislature to report on revolutionary claims against the
state; Burr one of them; letters to and from Mrs. Burr; letter to his
daughter Theodosia; from Dr. Benjamin Rush; to Theodosia


Report of the commissioners, in pursuance of the act entitled An act
to receive and state accounts against the state, drawn by Burr;
appointed senator of the United States, 1791; caution in
correspondence; sales of the public lands by "the commissioners of the
land office," of which board Burr was a member; great dissatisfaction
as to those sales; subject brought before the Assembly with a view to
the impeachment of the board; Burr exonerated from censure; assembly
approve the conduct of the commissioners; anecdote of Melancton Smith
and General Hamilton; Burr, during his first session in the United
States Senate, with the sanction of the secretary of state (Mr.
Jefferson), is employed in examining the records of the department; is
prevented from proceeding, by order of President Washington; Mr.
Jefferson to Burr on the subject; contested election between Clinton
and Jay for governor; canvassers differ as to the legality of certain
votes; apply to Rufus King and Burr for advice; King and Burr differ
in opinion; Burr proposes to decline giving advice; Mr. King objects;
in consequence, they give separate and conflicting opinions; Burr
becomes zealous in support of that which he has given; seven of the
canvassers decide on destroying the votes of Otsego, Clinton, and
Tioga counties; four object; statement of the case; opinion of Mr.
King; opinion of Mr. Burr; letter from Jonathan D. Sargeant; subject
of the canvassers taken up by the legislature; protest of the
minority; reasons assigned to the legislature by the majority in
vindication of their conduct, drawn by Burr; Assembly approve the
conduct of the majority; letter from Burr to Jacob De Lamater,
explaining his own course in the contested election between Clinton
and Jay


Burr appointed a judge of the Supreme Court; declines, but Governor
Clinton does not report the fact until called upon by a resolution of
the legislature; chairman of the Senate Committee to answer the
president's speech, the first session of his membership; reports the
answer next day, which is adopted without opposition; defeats a bill
to increase the standing army by his single objection; letters to Mrs.
Burr; series of letters to his daughter Theodosia; teaches his slaves
to read and write; letters from one of them


Burr's manner of speaking; Albert Gallatin appointed a senator of the
United States; objections to the legality of his appointment; Burr
ardent in support of Gallatin; note of John Taylor, of Virginia, to
Burr, on the subject of replying to Rufus King; Senate decide against
Gallatin; Burr offers resolutions against sending an envoy
extraordinary to England, in 1794, and against selecting a _judge_ for
the station; votes against John Jay; discontents of the Democratic
party with General Washington for continuing Gouverneur Morris in
France; certain members of Congress recommend Colonel Burr to fill the
station; appoint Mr. Madison and Mr. Monroe to notify the president of
their wishes; General Washington refuses to make the appointment, but
agrees to nominate Mr. Monroe; Burr's opposition to Jay's treaty;
proposes amendments, which are rejected; letter to Thomas Morris;
detail of legislative proceedings in procuring the charter of the
Manhattan Company; Burr's conduct on the occasion; his duel with John
B. Church, Esq.; letter of Burr to -----, giving a history of his
transactions with the Holland Land Company; his daughter married; Miss
Burr to Joseph Alston; letter from Alston to Miss Burr on early
marriages; contested election in New-York in 1800; Burr a candidate
for the office of Vice President; a tie vote with Mr. Jefferson



The grandfather of Colonel Aaron Burr, the subject of these memoirs,
was a German by birth, and of noble parentage. Shortly after his
arrival in North America, he settled in Fairfield, Connecticut, where
he purchased a large tract of land, and reared a numerous family. A
part of this landed estate remained in the possession of his lineal
descendants until long after the revolutionary war. During Colonel
Burr's travels in Germany, in the year 1809, various communications
were made to him, orally and in writing, by different branches of the
Burr family, some of whom were then filling high and distinguished
scientific and literary stations.

His father, the Rev. Aaron Burr, was born in Fairfield, on the 4th day
of January, 1715, and was educated at Yale College. In a manuscript
journal which he kept, and which has been preserved, he says, "In
September, 1736, with many fears and doubts about my qualifications
(being under clouds with respect to my spiritual state), I offered
myself to trials, and was approved as a candidate for the ministry. My
first sermon was preached at Greenfield, and immediately after I came
into the Jerseys. I can hardly give any account why I came here. After
I had preached for some time at Hanover, I had a call by the people of
Newark; but there was scarce any probability that I should suit their
circumstances, being young in standing and trials. I accepted of their
invitation, with a reserve, that I did not come with any views of
settling. My labours were universally acceptable among them, and they
manifested such great regard and love for me, that I consented to
accept of the charge of their souls.

"A.D. 1738-39, January the 25th, I was set apart to the work of the
ministry, by fasting, prayer, and imposition of hands. God grant that
I may ever keep fresh upon my mind the solemn charge that was then
given me; and never indulge trifling thoughts of what then appeared to
me of such awful importance. The ministers who joined in this solemn
transaction were Mr. Dickinson, who gave the charge, and Mr. Pierson,
who preached. Mr. Dickinson, who presided at this work, has been of
great service to me by his advice and instruction, both before and
since my ordination.

"In November, 1739, I made a visit to my friends in New-England, and
again in March, 1740. In the following August gust I was in a
declining state of health, and by the advice of my physicians visited
Rhode Island. From thence I proceeded to Boston. On the 19th of
September I heard Mr. Whitefield preach in Dr. Colman's church. I am
more and more pleased with the man. On the 21st, heard him preach in
the Commons to about ten thousand people. On Monday, visited him, and
had some conversation to my great satisfaction. On the 23d, went to
hear him preach in Mr. Webb's church, but the house was crowded before
Mr. Whitefield came. The people, especially the women, were put into a
fright, under a mistaken notion that the galleries were falling, which
caused them to hurry out in such a violent manner, that many were
seriously injured and five killed. The same day, Mr. Whitefield
preached at Mr. Gee's church. In the evening he preached at Dr.
Sewall's church. On Saturday I went to hear him in the Commons; there
were about eight thousand hearers. He expounded the parable of the
prodigal son in a very moving manner. Many melted into tears. On the
4th of October, being on my return to New-Jersey, I arrived at
Fairfield, where I remained two days with my friends."

In the year 1748, Governor Belcher, of New-Jersey, by and with the
approbation of his Majesty's Council, granted a charter to the college
of New-Jersey, subsequently known as Nassau Hall. This college was
opened in Newark, the students living in private families. The Rev.
Aaron Burr was appointed the first president. In the year 1754 or
1755, the trustees commenced erecting the college in Princeton; and in
1757 it was so far completed that the students, about seventy in
number, were removed to the building.

In, June, 1752, President Burr, being then in his 38th year, was
married to Esther Edwards, the daughter of Jonathan Edwards, a
distinguished metaphysician and divine. He was the second president of
Princeton College, being called to that station on the decease of his
son-in-law, President Burr. Thus, the father of Colonel Aaron Burr,
and the grandfather on his mother's side, were, in succession, at the
head of that seminary of learning.

President Burr was alike celebrated for his eloquence and piety; but,
withal, he possessed no inconsiderable degree of eccentricity. His
courtship and marriage partook of it. Miss Edwards, after the
preliminaries were arranged, was brought to New-Jersey to be married.
The occurrence created much conversation, and gave rise to some
newspaper commentary. The following is extracted from the New-York
Gazette of the 20th of July, 1752.

"A letter to a gentleman from his friend, dated

"July 7th, 1752


"As you are a known and peculiar votary to the state of celibacy, I
judged it would do you no disservice to acquaint you of a late
occurrence, which sufficiently evidences, that after the most mature
consideration, some of our wisest and best men do prefer the
endearment of the nuptial bed.

"About eight days since, the Rev. Aaron Burr, president of the College
of New-Jersey, was married to a daughter of the renowned Mr. Jonathan
Edwards, late of Northampton. She is a young lady of about twenty-one.
Her person may be called agreeable; her natural genius seems to be
sprightly, and, no doubt, is greatly improved by a very virtuous
education. In short, she appears to be one every way qualified to make
a man of sense and piety happy in the conjugal relation. As to the
courtship or marriage, I shall not descend to particulars; but only
observe, in general, that, for some centuries, I suppose there has not
been one more in the patriarchal mode.

"I hope, sir, that this instance, both as to matter and form, will
have its genuine influence upon you, and as well bear a part in
convincing you that wedlock is incomparably preferable to the roving
uneasiness of the single state, as to direct you, when you are
choosing your mate, that, instead of acting the modern gallant, wisely
to imitate this example, and endeavour to restore courtship and
marriage to their original simplicity and design.


At different times Colonel Burr received friendly anonymous and other
communications, recommending to him the practice of a religious life.
It is a remarkable fact, that in almost every such instance he is
referred to the letters of his mother. From a communication to him,
written by a lady, the following is extracted. If it should meet her
eye, as it probably will, it is hoped that she will pardon this
freedom. Her name is suppressed, and will not be known, unless through
her own instrumentality.

"My Dear Sir,

"I trust the purity of the motives by which I am actuated will find an
apology in your bosom for the liberty I assume in addressing you on a
subject which involves your eternal interest.

"Here, in the wilds of -----, I have found an extract of a letter,
written by your inestimable mother nearly sixty years ago, of which
you are the principal subject; and a transcript of which I shall
enclose for your perusal. Perhaps you will think me a weak,
presumptuous being; but permit me, dear sir, to assure you, this does
not proceed from a whim of the moment. It is not a mere transient gust
of enthusiasm. The subject has long been heavy on my mind. I have more
than once resolved to converse with you freely; to tell you how my own
feelings were affected relative to your situation; but my faltering
tongue refused to obey the impulse of my soul, and I have withdrawn
abruptly, to conceal that which I had not confidence to communicate.
But meeting (I believe providentially) with this precious relic has
determined me. I will write, and transmit it to you. I am too well
convinced of the liberality of your sentiments; but I still believe
you retain an inherent respect for the religion of your forefathers.

"I have often reflected on your trials, and the fortitude with which
you have sustained them, with astonishment. Yours has been no common
lot. But you seem to have forgotten the right use of adversity.
Afflictions from Heaven 'are angels sent on embassies of love.' We
must improve, and not abuse them, to obtain the blessing. They are
commissioned to stem the tide of impetuous passion; to check
inordinate ambition; to show us the insignificance of earthly
greatness; to wean our affections from transitory things, and elevate
them to those realities which are ever blooming at the right hand of
God. When affliction is thus sanctified, 'the heart at once it humbles
and exalts.'

"Was it philosophy that supported you in your trials? There is an hour
approaching when philosophy will fail, and all human science will
desert you. What then will be your substitute? Tell me, Colonel Burr,
or rather answer it to your own heart, when the pale messenger
appears, how will you meet him--'undamped by doubts, undarkened by

"The enclosed is calculated to excite mingled sensations both of a
melancholy and pleasing nature. The hand that penned it is now among
'the just made perfect.' Your mother had given you up by faith. Have
you ever ratified the vows she made in your behalf? When she bade you
a long farewell, she commended you to the protection of Him who had
promised to be a father to the fatherless." The great Augustine, in
his early years, was an infidel in his principles, and a libertine in
his conduct, which his pious mother deplored with bitter weeping. But
she was told by her friends that 'the child of so many prayers, and
tears could not be lost;' and it was verified to her happy experience,
for he afterward became one of the grand luminaries of the church of
Christ. This remark has often been applied to you; and I trust you
will yet have the happiness to find that 'the prayers of the
righteous' have 'availed much.'

"One favour I would ask: when you have done with this, destroy it,
that it may never meet the eye of any third person. In the presence of
that God, before whom the inmost recesses of the heart are open, I
have written. I consulted him, and him only, respecting the propriety
of addressing it to you; and the answer he gave was, freedom in
writing, with a feeling of the deepest interest impressed upon my

"Z. Y"

"To Col. A. BURR."


"Princeton, Nov. 2, 1757.

"Honoured Sir,

"Your most affectionate, comforting letter, by my brother, was
exceedingly refreshing to me, although I was somewhat damped that I
should not see you until spring. But it is my comfort in this
disappointment, as well as under all my afflictions, that God knows
what is best for me and for his own glory. Perhaps I depended too much
on the company and conversation of such a near, and dear, and
affectionate father and guide. I cannot doubt but all is for the best,
and I am satisfied that God should order the affair of your removal as
shall be for his glory, whatever comes of me. Since I wrote my
mother's letter, God has carried me through new trials, and given me
new supports. My little son [1] has been sick with the slow fever ever
since my brother left us, and has been brought to the brink of the
grave. But I hope, in mercy, God is bringing him up again. I was
enabled to resign the child (after a severe struggle with nature) with
the greatest freedom. God showed me that the child was not my own, but
his, and that he had a right to recall what he had lent whenever he
thought fit; and I had no reason to complain, or say God dealt hard
with me. This silenced me. But how good is God! He hath not only kept
me from complaining, but comforted me, by enabling me to offer up the
child by faith. I think, if ever I acted faith, I saw the fullness
there was in Christ for little infants, and his willingness to accept
of such as were offered to him. 'Suffer little children to come unto
me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God,' were
comforting words. God also showed me, in such a lively manner, the
fullness that was in himself of all spiritual blessings, that I said,
Although all streams were cut off, yet, so long as my God lives, I
have enough. He enabled me to say--'Although thou slay me, yet will I
trust in thee.' In this time of trial I was led to enter into a
renewed and explicit covenant with God, in a more solemn manner than
ever before, and with the greatest freedom and delight. After much
self-examination and prayer, I did give up myself and children to God
with my whole heart. Never, until now, had I a sense of the privilege
we are allowed in covenanting with God! This act of my soul left my
mind in a quiet and steady trust in God. A few days after this, one
evening, in talking of the glorious state my dear departed must be in,
my soul was carried out in such longing desires after this glorious
state, that I was forced to retire from the family to conceal my joy.
When alone, I was so transported, and my soul carried out in such
eager desires after perfection, and the full enjoyment of God, and to
serve him uninterruptedly, that I think my nature would not have borne
much more. I think I had that night a foretaste of Heaven. This frame
continued, in some good degree, the whole night. I slept but little;
and when I did, my dreams were all of heavenly and divine things.
Frequently since I have felt the same in kind, though not in degree.
Thus a kind and gracious God has been with me in six troubles, and in
seven. But, oh! Sir, what cause of deep humiliation and abasement of
soul have I, on account of remaining corruption which I see working,
especially pride! Oh, how many shapes does pride cloak itself in!
Satan is also busy shooting his darts; but, blessed be God, those
temptations of his that used to overthrow me, as yet, have not touched
me. Oh to be delivered from the power of Satan as well as sin! I
cannot help hoping the time is near. God is certainly fitting me for
himself; and when I think it will be soon that I shall be called
hence, the thought is transporting.

"Your dutiful and affectionate daughter,

"Esther Burr."

Such were the parents of Colonel Aaron Burr. Of the natural
guardianship and protection of both he was deprived before he had
reached the third year of his age. He was born on the 6th of February,
1756, in Newark, State of New-Jersey. His father died in August, 1757,
and his mother the year following, leaving two children, Aaron, and
his sister Sarah. She subsequently became the wife of Judge Tappan
Reeve, of Connecticut. On the decease of his father, Colonel Burr
inherited a handsome estate.

In the year 1760 Aaron was sent to Philadelphia, under the care of an
aunt and Dr. Shippen. For the family of the doctor he entertained a
high degree of respect. He frequently spoke of them in the kindest
terms, and recurred to this early period of his history with emotions
of gratitude for their care and protection.

Boswell, in his Life of Johnson, remarks that, "In following so very
eminent a man from his cradle to his grave, every minute particular
which can throw light on the progress of his mind, is interesting."
Johnson himself, in the Life of Sydenham, says "There is no instance
of any man, whose history has been minutely related, that did not, in
every part of life, discover the same proportion of intellectual

These high authorities are now quoted in justification of some of the
details which will be given in the progress of this work, and which,
in themselves, may appear trifling and unimportant. When Aaron was
about four years old, he had some misunderstanding with his preceptor,
in consequence of which he ran away, and was not found until the third
or fourth day after his departure from home; thus indicating, at a
tender age, that fearlessness of mind, and determination to rely upon
himself, which were characteristics stamped upon every subsequent act
of his life.


1. Col. Burr, at that time about twenty months old.


In 1761 he was removed to Stockbridge, in Massachusetts, and placed in
the family of Timothy Edwards, his mother's eldest brother. In 1762
his maternal uncle, Timothy, removed to Elizabethtown, New-Jersey.
Aaron and his sister Sarah remained in the family until the former
entered college, and the latter became the wife of Judge Reeve. A
private tutor was employed for them in the house of Mr. Edwards. For a
considerable portion of the time, Judge Reeve was engaged in that

When about ten years old, Aaron evinced a desire to make a voyage to
sea; and, with this object in view, ran away from his uncle Edwards,
and came to the city of New-York. He entered on board an outward-bound
vessel as cabin-boy. He was, however, pursued by his guardian, and his
place of retreat discovered. Young Burr, one day, while busily
employed, perceived his uncle coming down the wharf, and immediately
ran up the shrouds, and clambered to the topgallant-mast head. Here he
remained, and peremptorily refused to come down, or be taken down,
until all the preliminaries of a treaty of peace were agreed upon. To
the doctrine of unconditional submission he never gave his assent.

In 1769 Burr entered Princeton College; where, owing to his extreme
youth and smallness of stature, he was forced to commence with the
sophomore, although, upon examination, he was found qualified to enter
the junior class. This was a source of extreme mortification to him,
and especially as he had been prepared, and was every way qualified,
to enter the preceding year. From his infancy Burr was of a slender
frame, and appeared to be delicately formed; but exhibited great
muscular strength, and was able to endure excessive fatigue of body
and mind.

Previous to entering college, young Burr had formed extraordinary
notions of the acquirements of collegiates; and felt great
apprehension lest he should be found inferior to his classmates. He
was therefore, at first, indefatigable as well as systematic in his
studies. He soon discovered that he could not pursue them after dinner
with the same advantage that he could before. He suspected that this
was owing to his eating too abundantly. He made the experiment, and
the result convinced him that his apprehensions were well founded. He
immediately adopted a system of regimen, to which, in some degree, he
adhered through life. So abstemious was he during the greater part of
the first year after his entrance into college, that it operated
powerfully upon him, and he was supposed to be in bad health. He was
in the habit of studying sixteen or eighteen hours of the twenty-four,
until the period of examination arrived, when he discovered that the
progress he had made was so much beyond his associates, that he formed
an opinion as contemptuous as it had been exalted of his college
friends. The effect of this was ultimately very injurious upon his

During the last year that he remained in college, he passed a life of
idleness, negligence, and, in some measure, of dissipation. He applied
himself but little to his studies, and was in the constant pursuit of
pleasure. He graduated, however, when only sixteen years of age, with
a reputation for talents, and receiving the highest academic honours
the faculty could bestow.

In the year 1771-72, there was in the college what was termed, in
religious phraseology, "an awakening." A large portion of the
collegians became converted. It was only a short time before Burr
graduated, and in the midst of his hilarity and amusements. He was
frequently appealed to by his associates, and threatened with the most
terrific consequences if there was not an inward as well as an outward
change. From his infancy Burr's education had been strictly moral; and
strong impressions had been made upon his mind as to the existence of
a Deity, and the accountability of man. Yet this awakening did not
seem to him right in all its parts. He determined, therefore, to have
a free and full conversation with Dr. Witherspoon, the then president
of the college, on the subject. The result of that conversation in
some measure tranquillized young Burr. The Rev. Dr. assured him that
it was not true and rational religion, but fanaticism, that was
operating upon his friends.

Among the papers preserved by Colonel Burr are the originals of a
number of essays or orations, written and read by him, in conformity
with the regulations of the college, while yet a student. They are
without dates; but, as he graduated in 1772, they must have been
composed when he was of an age between thirteen and sixteen. A few of
them are here inserted, as exhibiting his manner of writing, and the
maturity and tone of his mind. The opinions which he formed, while yet
in college, as to public speaking and the selection of language, he
appears never to have changed. The style which he then recommended
seems ever after to have been his model.

* * * * *

_Read in College, by Aaron Burr.--On Style._

"I have often observed, that it is very common for those who are
ambitious of excelling in composition, to study swelling words,
pompous epithets, and laboured periods. This is often practised,
especially by young writers. It is, however, generally condemned as a
fault, and sometimes too by those who practise it themselves. An
elegant simplicity of language is what every one should strive to
obtain. Besides the arguments which are usually offered on this head,
there is one very important one, which is commonly not much attended

"It is the business of every writer to acquire command of language, in
order that he may be able to write with ease and readiness, and, upon
any occasion, to form extempore discourses. Unless he can do this, he
will never shine as a speaker, nor will he ever make a figure in
private conversation. But to do this, it is necessary to study
simplicity of style. There never was a ready speaker, whose language
was not, generally, plain and simple; for it is absolutely impossible
to carry the laboured ornaments of language, the round period, or the
studied epithet, into extempore discourses; and, were it possible, it
would be ridiculous. We have learned, indeed, partly from reading
poetry, and partly from reading vicious compositions, to endure, and
too often to admire, such stiff and laboured discourses in writing;
but if it were even possible for a man to speak in the same pompous
diction in which Browne has written his vulgar errors, he would
certainly be very disagreeable. This reason, among others, may be
assigned for it; that however such false ornaments may please for a
time, yet, when a long and steady attention is required, we are tired
and disgusted with every thing which increases our labour, and diverts
the attention from the subject before us. A laboured style is a labour
even to the hearer. A simple style, like simple food, preserves the
appetite. But a profusion of ornament, like a profusion of sweets,
palls the appetite and becomes disgusting. A man might as soon think
of filling his stomach with sweetmeats, as going through a long debate
filled with pompous epithets and sounding language. If we have any
doubt of its being ridiculous, let us only suppose a man arguing an
abstruse subject in metaphysics, in the blank verse of Milton, or the
exact rhymes of Pope. The absurdity is the same, only different in
degree. I would not be understood to cut off an extempore speaker from
sublime expressions; because I do not suppose these to be inconsistent
with simplicity of style. I really doubt if there be any such thing as
sublimity of style, strictly speaking. But, indeed, rather believe
that the sublime depends upon the thoughts, which are the more sublime
by being clearly and simply expressed, This, however, is not material
at present. It is certainly impossible for a speaker to carry laboured
periods into his extempore discourses: it is no less certain, that in
general, a simple style is to be preferred, and that he would be
ridiculous and disagreeable if he could do it; and as extempore
speaking is a great object, which we ought to have in view in the
formation of our style, this may be used as one argument why we should
study a simple style."

_The Passions_.

"Amid the variety of literary pieces which have in all ages been
ushered into the world, few, if any, afford greater satisfaction than
those that treat of man. To persons of a speculative nature and
elegant taste, whose bosoms glow with benevolence, such disquisitions
are peculiarly delightful. The reason, indeed, is obvious; for what
more necessary to be learned and accurately understood? what more near
and interesting? and, therefore, what more proper to engage the
attention? Well may I say, with our ethic poet,

"'The proper study of mankind is man.'

"If we take a view of the body only, which may be called the shell or
external crust, we shall perceive it to be formed with amazing nicety
and art. How are we lost in wonder when we behold all its component
parts; when we behold them, although various and minute, and blended
together almost beyond conception, discharging their peculiar
functions without the least confusion. All harmoniously conspiring to
one grand end.

"But when we take a survey of the more sublime parts of the human
frame; when we behold man's internal make and structure; his mental
faculties; his social propensions, and those active powers which set
all in motion--the passions,--what an illustrious display of
consummate wisdom is presented to our admiring view! What brighter
mark--what stronger evidence need we of a God? The scanty limits of a
few minutes, to which I am confined, would not permit me, were I equal
to the task, to enter into a particular examination of all man's
internal powers. I shall therefore throw out a few thoughts on the
passions only.

"Man's mental powers, being in their nature sluggish and inactive,
cannot put themselves in motion. The grand design then of the passions
is, to rouse them to action. These lively and vigorous principles make
us eager in the pursuit of those things that are approved by the
judgment; keep the mind intent upon proper objects, and at once awake
to action all the powers of the soul. The passions give vivacity to
all our operations, and render the enjoyments of life pleasing and
agreeable. Without them, the scenes of the world would affect us no
more than the shadowy pictures of a morning dream.

"Who can view the works of nature, and the productions of art, without
the most sublime and rapturous emotions? Who can view the miseries of
others, without being dissolved into compassion? Who can read human
nature, as represented in the histories of the world, without burning
to chastise the perpetrators of tyranny, or glowing to imitate the
assertors of freedom? But, were we of a sudden stripped of our
passions, we should survey the works of nature and the productions of
art with indifference and neglect. We should be unaffected with the
calamities of others, deaf to the calls of pity, and dead to all the
feelings of humanity. Without generosity, benevolence, or charity, man
would be a groveling, despicable creature. Without the passions, man
would hardly rank above the beasts.

"It is a trite truth, that the passions have too much influence over
our sentiments and opinions. It is the remark of a late author, that
the actions and sentiments of men do as naturally follow the lead of
the passions, as the effect does the cause. Hence they are, by some,
aptly enough, termed the principles of action. Vicious desires will
produce vicious practices; and men, by permitting themselves to think
of indulging irregular passions, corrupt the understanding, which is
the source of all virtue and morality. The passions, then, if properly
regulated, are the gentle gales which keep life from stagnating; but,
if let loose, the tempests which tear every thing before them. Too
fatal observation will evince the truth of this.

"Do we not frequently behold men of the most sprightly genius, by
giving the reins to their passions, lost to society, and reduced to
the lowest ebb of misery and despair? Do we not frequently behold
persons of the most penetrating discernment and happy turn for polite
literature, by mingling with the sons of sensuality and riot, blasted
in the bloom of life? Such was the fate of the late celebrated Duke of
Wharton, Wilmot, earl of Rochester, and Villers, duke of Buckingham,
three noblemen, as eminently distinguished by their wit, taste, and
knowledge, as for their extravagance, revelry, and lawless passions.
In such cases, the most charming elocution, the finest fancy, the
brightest blaze of genius, and the noblest burst of thoughts, call for
louder vengeance, and damn them to lasting infamy and shame.

"A greater curse cannot, indeed, befall community, than for princes
and men in eminent departments to be under the influence of
ill-directed passions. Lo Alexander and Cesar, the fabled heroes of
antiquity, to what lengths did passion hurry them? Ambition, with look
sublime, bade them on, bade them grasp at universal dominion, and wade
to empire through seas of blood! But why need I confine myself to
these? Do not provinces, plundered and laid waste with fire and sword;
do not nations, massacred and slaughtered by the bloody hand of war;
do not all these dreadful and astonishing revolutions, recorded in the
pages of history, show the fatal effects of lawless passions?

"If the happiness of others could not, yet surely our own happiness
should induce us to keep our passions within the bounds of reason; for
the passions, when unduly elevated, destroy the health, impair the
mental faculties, sour the disposition, embitter life, and make us
equally disagreeable to others and uneasy to ourselves. Is it not,
then, of moment, that our passions be duly balanced, their sallies
confined within proper limits, and in no case suffered to transgress
the bounds of reason? Will any one deny the importance of regulating
the passions, when he considers how powerful they are, and that his
own happiness, and perhaps the happiness of thousands, depends upon
it? The regulation of the passions is a matter of moment, and
therefore we should be careful to fix them upon right objects, to
confine them within proper bounds, and never permit them to exceed the
limits assigned by nature. It is the part of reason to sooth the
passions, and to keep the soul in a pleasing serenity and calm: if
reason rules, all is quiet, composed, and benign: if reason rules, all
the passions, like a musical concert, are in unison. In short, our
passions, when moderate, are accompanied with a sense of fitness and
rectitude; but, when excessive, inflame the mind, and hurry us on to
action without due distinction of objects.

"Among uncivilized nations, the passions do, in general, exceed all
rational bounds. Need we a proof of this? Let us cast our eyes on the
different savage tribes in the world, and we shall be immediately
convinced that the passions rule without control. Happy it is, that in
polished society, the passions, by early discipline, are so moderated
as to be made subservient to the most important services. In this
respect, seminaries of learning are of the utmost advantage, and
attended with the most happy effects. Moreover, the passions are
attended with correspondent commotions in animal nature, and,
therefore, the real temper will, of course, be discovered by the
countenance, the gesture, and the voice. Here I might run into a
pleasing enumeration of many instances of this; but, fearing that I
have already trespassed upon your patience, shall desist. Permit me,
however unusual, to close with a wish. May none of those unruly
passions ever captivate any of my audience."

_An Attempt to search the Origin of Idolatry._

"It is altogether impossible to fix exactly the period when idolatry
took its rise. Adam, coming immediately from the hands of God, had
experienced too many manifestations of his power and goodness to be
unacquainted with him, and must have preserved the purest idea of him
in his own family, which, most probably, continued in the branch of
Seth till the deluge. The posterity of Cain, on the contrary (the pure
idea of God gradually wearing away, and by loose men being connected
with sense), fell into idolatry, and every other crime, which brought
on the deluge; a period about which Moses has said but little, and
from what he has said we can draw no just conclusion with respect to
the idolatry of those times.

"A certain author, being persuaded that idolatry did not take its rise
till after the deluge, gives a very singular account of its origin.
According to him, atheism had spread itself over the world. This
disposition of mind, says he, is the capital crime. Atheists are much
more odious to the Divinity than idolaters. Besides, this principle is
much more capable of leading men into that excessive corruption the
world fell into before the deluge. The knowledge of a God, of whatever
nature he is conceived, and the worship of a Deity, are apt, of
themselves, to be a restraint upon men. So that idolatry was of some
use to bear down the corruption of the world. It is therefore
probable, that the horrid vices men were fallen into before the
deluge, proceeded only from their not knowing nor serving a God. I am
even of opinion (continues he) that the idolatry and polytheism after
the deluge derived their origin from the atheism and impiety that
reigned before it. Such is the temper of men, when they have been
severely punished for any crime, they run into the opposite extreme. I
conjecture (concludes the same author) this was the case with men
after the deluge. As they reckoned that this terrible judgment, which
carried such indications of Divine wrath, was sent for the punishment
of atheism, they ran into the opposite extreme. They adored whatever
seemed to deserve their worship.

"It is true, indeed, that idolatry is capable of furnishing a curb
against irregularity of manners; but this author has conjectured,
without foundation, that atheism reigned universally before the
deluge. He ought, at least, to have excepted the posterity of Seth.

"However idolatry might have reigned before the deluge, it is certain
that the knowledge and worship of the true God were again united in
the family of Noah; and as long as the children and grandchildren of
that patriarch made but one family, in all probability, the worship of
the true God was little altered in its purity. Noah being at the head
of the people, and Shem, Ham, and Japheth witnesses of God's vengeance
on their contemporaries, is it probable that they, living in the midst
of their families, would suffer them to depart from the truth? We read
of nothing that can incline us to this belief. Various have been the
conjectures concerning the authors of idolatry. Some believe it was
Serug, the grandfather of Terah, who first introduced idolatry after
the deluge. Others maintain it was Nimrod, and that he instituted the
worship of fire among his subjects, which continues even to this day
in some places in Persia. Others assert that Ham was the author of it,
and then his son Canaan; and it is most probable that the unfortunate
sons of an accursed father were the first who, following the
propensity of their own heart, sought out sensible objects to which
they might offer a superstitious worship. As the two sons of Ham,
Canaan and Mizraim, settled, the one in Phoenicia, and the other in
Egypt, it is probable that these were the first nurseries of idolatry;
and the sun, being looked upon as the purest image of the Creator, was
the first object of it. It is not probable that men would choose
beings like themselves for the first objects of their adoration.
Nothing could be more capable of seducing than the beauty and
usefulness of the sun, dispensing light and fertility all around. But,
to conclude, we must not imagine that all idolatry sprang from the
same country. It came by slow degrees, and those who made the first
advances towards this impiety, did by no means carry it to that
extravagant height to which it afterwards arrived."


In college, young Burr formed intimacies which ripened into lasting
friendship. The attachment between him and Colonel Matthias Ogden, of
New-Jersey, was both ardent and mutual; and, it is believed, continued
during the life of the latter. Colonel Knapp says, "Samuel Spring, D.
D., late of Newburyport, was in college with Colonel Burr, and part of
their college life was his chum. The doctor was a student of mature
age, and had a provisitorial power over Burr in his daily duties. He
has often spoken of his young friend with more than ordinary feeling.
He, in fact, prophesied his future genius, from the early proofs he
gave of intellectual power in the course of his college life."

At Princeton, Burr enjoyed the counsel and advice of the late William
Paterson, subsequently one of the judges of the Supreme Court of the
United States. To be thus early in life honoured with the respect and
esteem of such a man as Judge Paterson, was highly flattering. Their
correspondence commenced in 1772, and continued until the decease of
the judge. Extracts from his letters to Colonel Burr will be given
occasionally. He says, in a letter dated

"Princeton, January 17th, 1772.

"Dear Burr,

"I am just ready to take horse, and therefore cannot have the pleasure
of waiting on you in person. Be pleased to accept of the enclosed
notes on _dancing_. If you pitch upon it as the subject of your next
discourse, they may, perhaps, furnish you with a few hints, and enable
you to compose with the greater facility and despatch. To do you any
little services in my power will afford me great satisfaction, and I
hope you will take the liberty (it is nothing more, my dear Burr, than
the freedom of a friend) to call upon me whenever you think I can.

"When I shall be here again is uncertain--perhaps not before vacation.
Forbear with me while I say _that you cannot speak too slow_. Your
good judgment generally leads you to lay the emphasis on the most
forcible word in the sentence; so far you act very right. But the
misfortune is, that you lay too great stress upon the emphatical word.
Every word should be distinctly pronounced; one should not be so
highly sounded as to drown another. To see you shine as a speaker
would give great pleasure to your friends in general, and to me in
particular. I say nothing of your own honour. The desire of making
others happy will, to a generous mind, be the strongest incentive. I
am much mistaken if such a desire has not great influence over you.
You are certainly capable of making a good speaker. Exert yourself. I
am in haste.

"Dear Burr, adieu.


Another letter, dated

"Princeton, October 26th, 1772.

"Dear Burr,

"Our mutual friend, Stewart, with whom I spent part of the evening,
informed me you were still in Elizabethtown. You are much fonder of
that place than I am, otherwise you would hardly be prevailed upon to
make so long a stay. But, perhaps, the reason that I fear it, makes
you like it. There is certainly something amorous in its very air. Nor
is this a case any way extraordinary or beyond belief. I have read
(and it was in point, too) that a flock of birds, being on the wing,
and bending their flight towards a certain town in Connecticut,
dropped down dead just as they were over it. The people were at first
fairly at a loss to account for this phenomenon in any natural way.
However, it was at length agreed on all hands that it was owing to the
noisomeness of the atmosphere, the smallpox at that time being very
rife in the place. I should never have given credit to the report, had
it not come from so good a quarter as that of New-England. For my
part, I always drive through Elizabethtown as quickly as possible,
lest the soft infection should steal upon me, or I should take it in
with the very air I breathe.

"Yesterday I went to hear Mr. Halsey, and there, too, I saw his young
and blooming wife. The old gentleman seems very fond of his rib, and,
in good sooth, leers very wistfully at her as she trips along by his
side. Some allowance, however, must be made; he is in the vale of
life; love is a new thing to him, and the honey-moon is not yet over.
'They are amorous, and fond, and billing,
Like Philip and Mary on a shilling.'
I have promised to pay him a visit; Stewart, or some of the tutors, I
believe, will accompany me, and I hope you will too.

"Since commencement I have been at a Dutch wedding, and expect to be
at one or two more very shortly. There was drinking, and singing, and
fiddling, and dancing. I was pleased extremely. Every one seemed to be
in good-humour with himself, and this naturally led them all to be in
good-humour with one another.

"When the itch of scribbling seizes me, I hardly know when to stop.
The fit, indeed, seldom comes upon me; but when it does, though I sit
down with a design to be short, yet my letter insensibly slides into
length, and swells perhaps into an enormous size. I know not how it
happens, but on such occasions I have a knack of throwing myself out
on paper that I cannot readily get the better of. It is a sign,
however, that I more than barely esteem the person I write to, as I
have constantly experienced that my hand but illy performs its office
unless my heart concurs. I confess I cannot conceive how I got into so
scribbling a vein at present. It is now past eleven o'clock at night,
and besides being on horse the greater part of the day, I intend to
start early to-morrow for Philadelphia. There I shall see the races,
and the play, and, what is of more value far than all, there, too, I
shall see Miss -----, you know who.

"The enclosed letter to Spring I commit to your care. I should have
sent it before, as I wrote it immediately after you left this place,
but I really thought you were in New-England long ere now. I know not
his address; perhaps he is at Newport, perhaps he is not. If, on
inquiry, you find that the letter is wrongly directed, pray give it an
envelope, and superscribe it anew. If he is still at Newport, it
would, perhaps, more readily reach him from New-York than from any
part of New-England that you maybe at. I have said that if I am
mistaken in directing the within letter, you should cover it and give
it the proper address. Do, dear Burr, get somebody who can write at
least a passable hand to back it, for you give your letters such a
sharp, slender, and lady-like cast, that almost every one, on seeing
them, would conclude there was a correspondence kept up between my
honest friend Spring and some of the female tribe, which might,
perhaps, affect him extremely in point of reputation, as many people
suppose that nothing of this kind can be carried on between unmarried
persons of the two sexes without being tinged with love; and the
rather so, since the notion of Platonic love is, at the present day,
pretty generally, and I believe justly too, exploded. Platonic love is
arrant nonsense, and rarely, if ever, takes place until the parties
have at least passed their grand climacteric. Besides, the New-England
people, I am told, are odd, inquisitive kind of beings, and, when
pricked on by foolish curiosity, may perhaps open the letter, which I
do not choose should be common to every eye.

"You gave me some hopes that you would see my good friend Reeve before
you returned. If you do, make him my respectful compliments, and tell
him that I fully designed to write him, but that business prevented,
that laziness hindered, that--in short, tell him any thing, so it does
not impeach my affection, or lead him to think I have entirely
forgotten him. I am,

"Dear Burr yours sincerely,


In a letter to Dr. Spring, dated October 5, 1772, speaking of the
commencement, Judge Paterson says:--"The young gentlemen went through
their exercises in a manner passable enough. The speakers were all
tolerable--none of them very bad nor very good. Our young friend Burr
made a graceful appearance; he was excelled by none, except perhaps by
Bradford. Linn, too, was pretty generally approved; but, for my part,
I could not forbear thinking that he took rant, and rage, and madness
for true spirit--a very common mistake."

For some months after Burr graduated (1772), he remained in college,
reviewing his past studies, and devoting his time to general
literature. Possessed of an ample income, having access to the college
library, and continuing, from time to time, as his correspondence
shows, to supply himself with scientific and literary productions, his
mind was greatly improved during this period. It is true he continued
to indulge in amusements and pleasures; but, sleeping little, seldom
more than six hours, he found ample time for study.

In the college there was a literary club, consisting of the graduates
and professors, and still known as _The Clio-Sophic Society_. Dr.
Samuel S. Smith, subsequently president of the college, was then
(1773) a professor. With him young Burr was no favourite, and their
dislike was mutual. The attendance of the professors was expected to
be regular. The members of the society in rotation presided over its
deliberations. On a particular occasion it was the duty of young Burr
to take the chair. At the hour of meeting he took his seat as
president. Dr. Smith had not then arrived; but, shortly after the
business commenced, he entered. Burr, leaning on one arm of the chair
(for, although now sixteen years of age, he was too small to reach
both arms at the same time), began lecturing Professor Smith for his
non-attendance at an earlier hour, remarking that a different example
to younger members was expected from him, and expressing a hope that
it might not again be necessary to recur to the subject. Having
finished his lecture, to the great amusement of the society, he
requested the professor to resume his seat. The incident, as may well
be imagined, long served as a college joke.


New-Haven, March, 1772.


By a poor candle, with poor eyes and a poorer brain, I sit down to
introduce a long wished-for correspondence. You see how solicitous I
am to preserve old connexions; or, rather, to begin new ones.
Relationship, by the fashionable notions of those large towns, which
usurp a right to lead and govern our opinions, is dwindled to a formal
nothing--a mere shell of ceremony. Our ancestors, whose honesty and
simplicity (though different from the wise refinements of modern
politeness) were perhaps as deserving of imitation as the insincere
coldness of the present generation, _cousin'd_ it to the tenth degree
of kindred. Though this was extending the matter to a pitch of
extravagance, yet it was certainly founded upon a natural, rational
principle. Who are so naturally our friends as those who are born
such? I defy a New-Yorker, though callous'd over with city politeness,
to be otherwise than pleased with a view of ancient hospitality to
relations, when exercised by a person of good-breeding and a genteel

Now, say you, what has this to do with the introduction of a
correspondence? You shall know directly, sir. The _Edwardses_ have
been always remarkable for this fondness for their relations. If you
have the least inclination to prove yourself a true descendant of that
respectable stock, you cannot fail of answering me very soon. This
(were I disposed) I could demonstrate by algebra and syllogisms in a
twinkling; but hope you will believe me without either. I never asked
for many connexions in this way; and was never neglected but once, and
that by a Jersey gentleman, to whom I wrote and received no answer. I
hope the disease is not epidemical, and that you have not determined
against any communication with the rest of the world. It was a
mortification, I confess; for I am too proud to be denied a request,
though unreasonable, as many of mine are--therefore, I insist upon an
answer, at least, and as many more as you can find in your heart to
give me; promising, in return, as many by tale, though without a large
profit. I shall not warrant their quality.

Your sincere friend,



Newport, May 15th, 1772.


It is a little strange to me that I have not heard any thing of you
since your examination. I don't know but you are dissatisfied, since
you are so backward to write; however, I will, if possible, keep such
thoughts out of my mind till I hear from you in particular. If you are
let down a peg lower, you may tell me of it. If you are permitted to
live in college, you may tell me of it; and if you are turned out, you
may tell me of it. If you passed examination, and have a syllogism to
speak at commencement, _if you are able to make it_, I suppose you may
tell me of that likewise; or, if you are first in the class, you may
tell me, if you will only do it softly; indeed, you may tell me any
thing, for I profess to be your friend. Therefore, since you can trust
me so far, I expect you will now write, and let me know a little how
matters are at present in college. In particular, let me know the
state of the society (Cliosophic); and if I owe any thing to it, do
you pay it, _and charge it to your humble servant_.

I hope you will write the first opportunity, as I trust you have got
some very good news to tell me concerning the college in general, and
yourself in particular. I have nothing particular to write. It is very
pleasant to me where I am at present.

The study of divinity is agreeable;--far more so than any other study
whatever would be to me. I hope to see the time when you will feel it
to be your duty to go into the same study with a desire for the
ministry. Remember, that was the prayer of your dear father and
mother, and is the prayer of your friends to this time--that you
should step forth into his place, and make it manifest that you are a
friend to Heaven, and that you have a taste for its glory. But this,
you are sensible, can never be the case if you remain in a state of
nature. Therefore, improve the present and future moments to the best
of purposes, as knowing the time will soon be upon you when you will
wish that in living you had lived right, and acted rationally and like
an immortal.

Your friend,


In 1806-7 great excitement was produced, in consequence of Colonel
Burr writing in cipher to General Wilkinson, In this particular he
seems to have had peculiar notions. However innocent his
correspondence, he was, apparently, desirous at all times of casting
around it a veil of mystery. The same trait was conspicuous in his
political movements and intercourse. This has been one of the weak
points in Colonel Burr's character. He was considered a mysterious
man; and what was not understood by the vulgar, was pronounced selfish
or ambitious intrigue. Even his best friends were, often dissatisfied
with him on this account. Acting upon this principle of mystery at
every period of his life, he has corresponded with one or more
individuals in cipher. While yet a student in college, the letters
between his sister and himself are frequently written in cipher. So,
also, much of his correspondence with his most intimate friend,
Matthias Ogden, and with others in 1774 and 1775, is in cipher. Many
of these letters, thus written, are now in existence. To those,
therefore, acquainted with the character and peculiarities of Colonel
Burr, the fact of his writing a letter in cipher would not be
considered as any thing extraordinary; because it was a habit which he
had adopted and pursued for more than thirty years preceding the
period when this excitement was thus produced.

Before Burr left Princeton, and while lie was indulging himself in
pleasures and amusements, he accidentally visited a billiard-table. He
engaged in play, and, although he had never before seen the game, he
was successful, and won about half a Joe. On returning home with his
gains, he reflected on the incident with great mortification, and
determined never again to play; which determination he adhered to
through life. Colonel Burr not only abstained from playing at
billiards, but with equal pertinacity he refused to play at any game
for the purpose of acquiring money.

Although he had been somewhat tranquillized by his conversation with
Dr. Witherspoon on the subject of the awakening in college in 1772,
yet he was not entirely at ease. In consequence of which he came to a
resolution not to enter upon the concerns of life until this point was
more satisfactorily settled in his own mind. He concluded, therefore,
to visit and consult the Rev. Joseph Bellamy, a venerable and devoted
friend of his late father, and to whom he was known by reputation.

Joseph Bellamy, D.D., was an eminent preacher and theological writer
of Connecticut, and intimate friend of Colonel Burr's relative, the
famous Jonathan Edwards, with whose particular opinion he fully
agreed. He was celebrated in his days, before the establishment of
theological seminaries, as an instructor of young men preparing for
the ministry. The late Governor Wolcott used to speak of him with the
highest respect for his talent and moderation. He died in 1790.

In the autumn of 1773, Burr visited him at Bethlehem, in Connecticut,
and was received by his aged friend in a most kind and affectionate
manner. His advice, and the use of his library, were promptly
tendered. Burr commenced a course of reading on religious topics, and
was thus occupied from sixteen to eighteen hours a day. His habits
were those of great abstinence, and a recluse. His conversations with
the reverend divine were encouraged and indulged in with freedom, and
his inquiries answered. Here he remained until the spring of 1774,
when, to use his own language, he "came to the conclusion that the
road to Heaven was open to all alike." He, however, from that time
forward, avoided most studiously all disputation on the subject of

An impression has been created that Colonel Burr was placed by his
guardian under Dr. Bellamy, for the purpose of studying divinity. This
is an error. His visit to the Rev. Dr. was not the result of a
conference or communication with any person whatever; but the volition
of his own mind, and for the purpose already stated. In fact, after
Burr entered college, his studies and his future pursuits in life
appear to have been left entirely under his own control. Whether this
arose from indolence on the part of his guardian, or from pertinacity
in young Burr, is uncertain; perhaps a little of both, united with the
great confidence which his uncle reposed in his judgment and talents.

In the spring of 1774, while he yet resided at Dr. Bellamy's, he
contemplated studying law; but was undecided whether he should read
with Pierpont Edwards, or with his brother-in-law, Tappan Reeve, and
upon this subject he wrote his guardian, who replies, in a letter

"Stockbridge, February 11th, 1774.

"Whether you study law with Mr. Reeve or your uncle Pierpont is a
matter of indifference with me. I would have you act your pleasure
therein. I shall write to your uncle upon it, but yet treat it as a
matter of doubt. Your board I shall settle with Dr. Bellamy myself. I
will send you cash to pay for your horse very soon. You may expect it
in the forepart of March. If I had known of this want of yours sooner,
I would have paid it before this.

"Your affectionate uncle,



In May, 1774, he left the Rev. Mr. Bellamy's, and went to the house of
his brother-in-law, Tappan Reeve, where his time was occupied in
reading, principally history; but especially those portions of it
which related to wars, and battles, and sieges, which tended to
inflame his natural military ardour. The absorbing topics of taxation
and the rights of the people were agitating the then British colonies
from one extreme to the other. These subjects, therefore, could not
pass unnoticed by a youth of the inquiring mind and ardent feelings of
Burr. Constitutional law, and the relative rights of the crown and the
colonists, were examined with all the acumen which he possessed, and
he became a Whig from reflection and conviction, as well as from

At this period, Burr's most intimate and confidential correspondent
was Matthias Ogden, of New-Jersey, subsequently Colonel Ogden, a
gallant and distinguished revolutionary officer. He writes to Burr,

"Elizabethtown, August 9th, 1774.


"I received yours by Mr. Beach, dated Sunday. I am not a little
pleased that you have the doctor (Bellamy) so completely under your
thumb. Last Saturday I went a crabbing. Being in want of a thole-pin,
I substituted a large jackknife in its stead, with the blade open and
sticking up. It answered the purpose of rowing very well; but it seems
that was not the only purpose it had to answer; for, after we had been
some time on the flats, running on the mud, as the devil would have
it, in getting into the boat I threw my leg directly across the edge
of the knife, which left a decent mark of nearly four inches long, and
more than one inch deep. It was then up anchor and away. Our first
port was Dayton's ferry, where Dr. Bennet happened to be, but without
his apparatus for sewing, to the no small disadvantage of me, who was
to undergo the operation. Mrs. Dayton, however, furnished him with a
large darning-needle, which, as soon as I felt going through my skin,
I thought was more like a gimlet boring into me; but, with the help of
a glass of wine, I grinned and bore it, until he took a few stitches
in the wound. So much for crabbing.

"I was at New-York about a fortnight since, on my way to Jamaica, Long
Island. The object of this journey you understand. I stayed at Mr.
Willett's three days, and then went to Colonel Morris's, and spent two
days there very agreeably. Nothing occurred worth relating, unless it
be some transactions of the greatest fool I ever knew.

"Mr. Elliot, collector of New-York, Mr. and Mrs. Delancey and
daughter, dined there on Sunday. Witherspoon [1] was led in with a
large bag tied to his hair, that reached down to the waistband of his
breeches, and a brass locket hanging from his neck below his stomach.
He was turned round and round by each of the company: was asked where
he got that very neat bag, and the valuable locket? He readily
answered, they were a present from Lady Kitty, who was violently in
love with him, and he expected to marry her in a short time. He is so
credulous that any child might impose on him. I told him that I came
from Lord Stirling's, and that he might write by me to Lady Kitty.
Accordingly, he wrote a long letter and gave me, which I opened there,
and, by desire of Colonel Morris, answered it, when I got to New-York,
in Lady Kitty's name, informing him that he must tell Mr. Morris to
provide himself with another tutor, as she intended marrying him
without fail the first of September, which I suppose he will as
sincerely believe as he does his existence.

"Yours affectionately,



Litchfield, August 17th, 1774.


Before I proceed any further, let me tell you that, a few days ago, a
mob of several hundred persons gathered at Barrington, and tore down
the house of a man who was suspected of being unfriendly to the
liberties of the people; broke up the court, then sitting at that
place, &c. As many of the rioters belonged to this colony, and the
Superior Court was then sitting at this place, the sheriff was
immediately despatched to apprehend the ringleaders. He returned
yesterday with eight prisoners, who were taken _without resistance_.
But this minute there is entering the town on horseback, with great
regularity, about fifty men, armed each with a white club; and I
observe others continually dropping in. I shall here leave a blank, to
give you (perhaps in heroics) a few sketches of my unexampled valour,
should they proceed to hostilities; and, should they not, I can then
tell you what I would have done.

The abovementioned _sneaks all gave bonds for their appearance_, to
stand a trial at the next court for committing a riot.

Yours affectionately,


On the 11th of September, 1774, he again writes Ogden:--

I wrote you last Thursday, and enclosed one of the songs you desired,
which was all I could then obtain. Miss -----, the fountain of melody,
furnished me with it. I knew that she, and no one else, had the notes
of the enclosed song. I told her I should be glad to copy them for a
most accomplished young gentleman in the Jerseys. She engaged to bring
them the first time she came in town, for she lives about two miles
from here. I this day received it, precisely as you have it. You may
depend upon its being the work of her own hands. If this don't deserve
an acrostic, I don't know--sense, beauty, modesty, and music. Matter

Pray tell me whether your prayers are heard, and a good old saint,
though a little in your way, is yet in Heaven. But remember, Matt.,
you can never be without plague, and when one gets out of the way, a
worse, very often, supplies its place; so, I tell you again, be
content, and hope for better times.

I am determined never to have any dealings with your friend Cupid
until I know certainly how matters will turn out with you: for should
some lucky devil step in between my friend and----, which kind Heaven
grant may never be; in such a case, I say, I would choose to be
untied, and then, you know, the wide world is before us.

Yours sincerely,


Burr again writes him, dated

Litchfield, February 2d, 1775.

I sent you a packet by N. Hazard, and from that time to this I have
not had the most distant prospect of conveying a letter to you.
However, I have written a number of scrawls, the substance of which
you shall now have.

The times with me are pretty much as usual; not so full of action as I
could wish; and I find this propensity to action is very apt to lead
me into scrapes. T. B. has been here since I wrote you last; he came
very unexpectedly. You will conclude we had some confab about Miss
-----. We had but little private chat, and the whole of that little
was about her. He would now and then insinuate slyly what a clever
circumstance it would be to have such a wife, with her fortune.

T. BURR, [2] by his kindness to me, has certainly laid me under
obligations, which it would be the height of ingratitude in me ever to
forget; but I cannot conceive it my duty to be in the least influenced
by these in the present case. Were I to conform to his inclination, it
could give him pleasure or pain only as the consequence was good or
bad to me. The sequel might be such as would inevitably cause him the
most bitter anguish; and, in all probability, would be such if I
should consult his fancy instead of my judgment. And who can be a
judge of these consequences but myself? But even supposing things
could be so situated that, by gratifying him, I should certainly be
the means of his enjoying some permanent satisfaction, and should
subject myself to a bare probability of misery as permanent, would it
not stagger the most generous soul to think of sacrificing a whole
life's comfort to the caprice of a friend? But this is a case that can
never happen, unless that friend has some mean and selfish motive,
such as I know T. Burr has not. I can never believe that too great
deference to the judgment of another, in these matters, can arise from
any greatness of soul. It appears to me the genuine offspring of
meanness. I suppose you are impatient for my reply to these
importunities. I found my tongue and fancy too cramped to say much.
However, I rallied my thoughts and set forth, as well as I was able,
the inconveniences and uncertainty attending such an affair. I am
determined to be very blunt the next time the matter is urged.

I have now and then an affair of petty gallantry, which might
entertain you if you were acquainted with the different characters I
have to deal with; but, without that, they would be very insipid.

I have lately engaged in a correspondence of a peculiar nature. I
write once, and sometimes twice a week, to a lady who knows not that
she ever received a line from me. The letters, on both sides, are
mostly sentimental. Those of the lady are doubtless written with more
sincerity, and less reserve, than if she knew I had any concern with
them. Mr. ----- received a letter from Miss -----. He is very little
versed in letter-writing, and engaged, or rather permitted, me to
answer it, not thinking thereby to embark in a regular correspondence,
but supposing the matter would thus end. I have had many scruples of
conscience about this affair, though I really entered into it not with
any sinister view, but purely to oblige----. I should be glad to know
your opinion of it. You will readily observe the advantage I have over
-----. He is of an unsuspicious make, and this gives me an opportunity
(if I had any inclination) to insert things which might draw from her
secrets she would choose I should be ignorant of. But I would suffer
crucifixion rather than be guilty of such an unparalleled meanness. On
the contrary, I have carefully avoided saying any thing which might
have the least tendency to make her write what she would be unwilling
I should see.



On the 12th of March, 1775, Burr writes Ogden:--

I have received your and Aaron's [3] letters. I was a little
disappointed that you did not send an acrostic; but I still entertain
some secret hope that the muse (who, you say, has taken her flight)
will shortly return, and, by a new and stricter intimacy, more than
repay the pains of this momentary absence. Your happiness, Matt., is
really almost the only present thing I can contemplate with any
satisfaction; though I, like other fools, view futurity with
partiality enough to make it very desirable; but I must first throw
reason aside, and leave fancy uncontrolled. In some of these happy
freaks I have endeavoured to take as agreeable a sleigh-ride as you
had to Goshen; but I find it impracticable, unless you will make one
of the party; for my imagination, when most romantic, is not lively or
delusive enough to paint an object that can, in my eyes, atone for
your absence. From this you will conclude that the news you heard of
me at Princeton is groundless. It is so far from being true, that
scarce two persons can fix on the same lady to tease me with. However,
I would not have you think that this diversity of opinion arises from
the volatility of my constitution, or that I am in love with every new
or pretty face I see. But, I hope, you know me too well to need a
caution of this nature. I am very glad to hear of -----'s downfall.
But, with all that fellow's low-lived actions, I don't more sincerely
despise him than I do certain other narrow-hearted scoundrels you have
among you. Mean as he is, he appears to me to have (or rather to have
had) more of something at bottom that bordered on honour, than some
who will pass through life respected by many. I say this, not so much
to raise him above the common standard of d--ls, as to sink them below
it. My idea of a d--l is composed more of malice than of meanness.

Since I commenced this letter I have passed through a scene entirely
new. Now, as novelty is the chief and almost only ingredient of
happiness here below, you'll fancy I have had some lucky turn. I think
it quite the reverse, I assure you. I have serious thoughts of leaving
the matter here, that you may be on the rack of curiosity for a month
or so. Would not this be truly satanic? What would be your conjectures
in such a case? The first, I _guess_, that I was sadly in love, and
had met with some mortifying rebuff.

What would you say if I should tell you that ----- had absolutely
professed love for me? Now I can see you with both hands up--eyes and
mouth wide open; but don't be over scrupulous. Trust me, I tell you
the whole truth. I cannot at present give you any further particulars
about the matter, than that I felt foolish enough, and gave as
cautious a turn to it as I could, for which I am destined to suffer
her future hostility.

Last week I received a letter from T. Edwards, which I fear may prove
fatal to the dear project of the 15th of April. He intends to be
hereabout the middle of that month. Supposing he should come here the
13th of April, what could I do? Run off and leave him? Observe the
uncertainty of all sublunary things. I, who a few months ago was as
uncontrolled in my motions as the lawless meteors, am now (sad
reverse!) at the beck of a person forty miles off. But all this
lamentation, if well considered, is entirely groundless, for (_between
you and me_) I intend to see you at Elizabethtown this spring. But
even supposing I should fail in this--where is this sad reverse of
fortune?--this lamentable change? Is it not a very easy matter to fix
on another time, and write you word by T. Edwards?

I have struck up a correspondence with J. Bellamy (son to the famous
divine of that name). He has very lately settled in the practice of
the law at Norwich, a place about seventy miles S. E. of this. He is
one of the cleverest fellows I have to deal with. Sensible, a person
of real humour, and is an excellent judge of mankind, though he has
not had opportunity of seeing much of the world. Adieu.



Norwich, March 14th, 1775.

To do justice to circumstances, which you know are of the greatest
importance in order to form a true estimate of what a person either
says or does, it is indispensably necessary for me to tell you that it
not only rains very generously, but that it is as dark as it was
before light was created. It would be ridiculous to suppose that you
need information that nothing but the irresistible desire of writing
could possibly keep me at home this evening.

I had received your February favour only just time to laugh at it
once, when the melancholy news that Betsy Devotion, of Windham, was
very dangerously sick, banished every joyous thought from my heart.
This Betsy you may remember to have heard mentioned near the name of
Natty Huntington, who died last December; and a very angel she was
too, I assure you. You see I speak of her in the _past_ sense, for she
has left us; and her friends are sure she is not less an angel _now_
than she was ten days ago. Very certain I am, that if a natural
sweetness of disposition can scale Heaven's walls, she went over like
a bird. But I believe we must leave _her_ and all the rest of our
departed friends to be sentenced by a higher Board.

"Transports last not in the human heart;
But all with transports soon agree to part."

If nature, in spite of us, did not take care of herself, we could not
but be perfectly wretched. Philosophy is the emptiest word in the
dictionary. And you may observe, wherever you find them, that those
persons who profess to place all their reliance upon it, under every
affecting circumstance of life, do but make use of the term as a mask
for an iron heart. "But" (as the devil said on another occasion) "put
forth thine hand, and touch his bone, and his flesh, and he will curse
thee to thy face." They have as little fortitude as anybody when
sufferings pinch home upon them.

Thus have I relieved a heart that perhaps felt a little too full; and
if it is at the expense of my _head_, I have nevertheless the
consolation that it will be received only as the overflowings of my
present feelings.

"When and where shall I see you again?" somebody once asked me. The
Lord only knows. Perhaps at the election at Hartford. If we can meet
_there_--there will be time for notice. But, happen as it may, be
assured that I am your most sincere friend,


"Stick my compliments in for him," says Hannah Phelps, a jolly girl of


Elizabethtown, March 18th, 1775.

Since we last saw each other, the 15th of April has been my mark, but
the receipt of yours of the 12th has blotted it from my memory, for
which nothing could atone but the expectation of seeing you here
nearly as soon.

I read with pleasure your love intrigues; your anonymous
correspondence with Miss -----, &.c., and, with as much seriousness,
the part relative to ----, Thaddeus Burr's overtures, &c.

_Steadily_, Aaron. Money is alluring, and there is a pleasure in
gratifying a friend; but let not a fortune buy your peace, nor sell
your happiness. Neither be too much biased by a friend, or any one's
advice, in a matter of so great consequence to yourself. Perhaps she
is worthy your love, and, if I could think she was, I would not say a
single thing to discourage you. Be cautious, Aaron; weigh the matter
well. Should your generous heart be sold for naught, it would greatly
hurt the peace of mine. Let not her sense, her education, her modesty,
her graceful actions, or her wit, betray you. Has she a soul framed
for love? For friendship? But why need I advise a person of better
judgment than myself? It is not advice, my friend; it is only caution.
You have a difficult part to act. If you reject, she curses: if you
pity, she takes it for encouragement. Matters with me go on smoothly.

I am now making up a party to go to the Falls, to be ready against you
come. My best regards to Mr. and Mrs. Reeve. I remain happy in the
enjoyment of -----'s love, and am,

Your unfeigned friend,


After the decease of President Burr, Lyman Hall was intrusted by the
executors with the collection of sundry debts due to the estate. A
removal, and his various avocations, prevented his performing that
duty with the necessary promptitude. In consequence, the heirs were
exposed to loss. A friend of the family, the Rev. James Caldwell, of
New-Jersey, wrote him on the subject, and his answer is so honourable,
that it is deemed only an act of justice to an upright man to record
it here. It is another instance of the integrity in private life of
those patriots that planned and accomplished the American Revolution.
It will be seen that Mr. Hall was a member of the Congress of 1775
from the State of Georgia.

Philadelphia, 17th May, 1775.


Since I saw you, and afterwards Mr. Ogden, in Georgia, I have written
to my attorneys and correspondents in Connecticut, to give me all the
information they could obtain respecting the affairs and concerns of
the late President Burr, left in my hands; which I had delivered over,
before I left that colony in 1759, into the hands of Thaddeus Burr, of
Fairfield; but no satisfactory answer can as yet be obtained. One
debt, indeed, has been discovered, of about forty pounds New-York
currency; but the bond on which it is due is as yet concealed.

On the whole, I find that it is not in my power to redeliver those
securities for moneys which I was once in possession of; nor have I
received the moneys due on those which were good; but am determined
that I will make just satisfaction to the claimant heirs (orphans) of
the late President Burr. It is, I know, my indispensable duty, and I
have for that purpose brought a quantity of rice to this city, the
avails of which, when sold, shall be appropriated to that use. I
should be glad that you, or Mr. Ogden, the executor, could be here to
transact the business, and, on a settlement, give me a power of
attorney, properly authenticated, to recover any part of those moneys
I can find due when I shall arrive in Connecticut, to which I propose
going as soon as the Congress rises. As I am in Congress, I cannot see
you directly; but, if liberty can be obtained, shall wait on you or
Mr. Ogden, or both, in my way to New-York, in a few days; but I think
Mr. Ogden, the executor, if it will suit, had better come here and
settle it. I mention him because I suppose he is the proper person to
discharge me, and give me a power of attorney.

I am, reverend sir,

With esteem, yours,


The Rev. JAS. CALDWELL, _Elizabethtown_


1. A relative of President Witherspoon.

2. Uncle to Colonel Aaron Burr.

3. Subsequently Governor Ogden, of New Jersey, and brother of Matthias


In his retirement at the house of his brother-in-law (Judge Reeve),
Burr was aroused by the shedding of his countrymen's blood at
Lexington on the 19th of April, 1775. Immediately after that battle,
he wrote a letter to his friend Ogden, requesting him to come on to
Litchfield and arrange for joining the standard of their country.
Ogden wrote for answer that he could not make the necessary
arrangements. The battle of Bunker's Hill (on the 16th of June, 1775)
followed in rapid succession; whereupon he started for Elizabethtown,
New-Jersey, to meet Ogden, and aid him in preparations for the journey
to Cambridge, where the American army was encamped.

Burr had been reading those portions of history which detailed the
achievements of the greatest military men and tacticians of the age in
which they lived. His idea of discipline and subordination was formed

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