Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Memoirs of Aaron Burr, Complete by Matthew L. Davis

Part 10 out of 17

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.9 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

_twenty_ votes, and on no _party_ question did they command, during
the whole session, more than _twenty-three_ votes.

In December, 1788, a bill for carrying into operation the federal
constitution being under consideration, a proposition was made to
choose United States senators; but the federalists having a majority
in the Senate, and the anti-federalists a majority in the House of
Assembly, no compromise between the parties could be effected, and
consequently no senators were chosen.

The following persons may be considered as constituting the strength
of the Schuyler, now federal party, in the assembly of 1788-89:--

Brockholst Livingston, of the city of New-York. William W. Gilbert, "
" Alexander Macomb, " " Richard Harrison, " " Nicholas Hoffman, " "
John Watts, Jun., " " Nicholas Low, " " Gulian Verplanck, " " Comfort
Sands, " " Philip Van Cortlandt, Westchester county. Philip
Livingston, " " Nathaniel Rockwell, " " Walter Seaman, " " Jonathan
Horton, " " John Younglove, Albany county. Henry K. Van Rensellaer, "
" Stephen Carman, Queen's county. Whitehead Cornwell, " " Peter
Vandervoort, King's county. Aquilla Giles, " " Abraham Bancker,
Richmond county. John C. Dongan, " " Samuel A. Barker, Dutchess

It will be observed, that all the above Schuyler or federal members,
with the exception of _two_ from Albany and _one_ from Dutchess
county, were elected as representatives from the Southern District.

Having stated the origin and progress of the great political parties
in the State of New-York, as they appear from the public records, it
may be proper to add that Colonel Burr belonged to what was termed by
Mr. Livingston "the violent whig party." By that party, while the
tories were disfranchised, Mr. Burr was elected in 1784 to represent
the city and county of New-York in the legislature. By that party, in
1789, he was appointed attorney-general of the state. By that party,
in 1791, he was appointed a senator of the United States. By that
party, in 1792, he was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court. By that
party, subsequently, he was elected a member of the Assembly and a
member of the Convention to revise the Constitution of the State, of
which convention he was president; and by that party, in 1800, he was
elected vice-president of the United States.

It is not intended to discuss the policy, the humanity, or the justice
of the several measures proposed or adopted in relation to the tories
by "_the violent whigs_," or by those whigs who wished "_to soften the
rigour of the laws against the loyalists_." The historical facts have
been given, and the sources from whence they were derived specified.
The feelings and opinions of "_the violent whigs_," are expressed by
the legislature of the state on the 9th of February, 1784, and by
Governor George Clinton at the opening of that session in the city of
New-York. They say--" While we recollect the general progress of a war
which has been marked with cruelty and rapine; while we survey the
ruins of this once flourishing city and its vicinity; while we
sympathize in the calamities which have reduced so many of our
virtuous fellow-citizens to want and distress, and are anxiously
solicitous for means to repair the wastes and misfortunes which we
lament, we cannot hearken to these petitions."

On the other hand, the sentiments and views of those whigs who wished
"_to soften the rigour of the laws against the loyalists_" are to be
found in the following extracts of letters.


"Passay, 9th April, 1783.

"The tories will doubtless cause some difficulty; but that they have
always done; and as this will probably be the _last time_, we must
make the best of it. A universal, indiscriminate condemnation and
expulsion of those people would not redound to our honour, because so
harsh a measure would partake more of vengeance than of justice. For
my part, I wish that all, except _the faithless and cruel_, may be
forgiven. That exception would indeed _extend to very few_; but even
if it applied to the case of one only, that one ought, in my opinion,
to be saved."


"Passay, 12th September, 1783.

"Europe hears much, and wishes to hear more of divisions, seditions,
violences, and confusions among us. The tories are generally and
greatly pitied; _more, indeed, than they deserve_. The indiscriminate
expulsion and ruin of that whole class and description of men would
not do honour to our magnanimity or humanity, especially in the
opinion of those nations who consider, with more astonishment than
pleasure, the terms of peace which America has obtained."


1. See Life of Hamilton, Vol. I., p. 316

2. Jay's Works, Vol. I., p. 128.


It has been seen that the Livingstons were of the Schuyler party
during the revolutionary war, and that they continued so until the
year 1787, when, in common with their political friends, they were the
warm and ardent champions of the Federal Constitution. After its
adoption, and the organization of the government under it, they soon
became dissatisfied. The cause of that dissatisfaction has been
differently explained. On the one hand it was said that they were
alarmed at the doctrines of those who had been called to administer
the government, and at the assumption of powers not delegated by the
people. That they apprehended the government was verging towards a
_consolidated national_, instead of a _federal_ government of states.

On the other hand it was alleged that the family were disappointed and
disgusted at the neglect which they experienced from General
Washington. That, as Robert R. Livingston had been, in the state
convention which adopted the Constitution, one of its most splendid
and efficient supporters, he and his connexions anticipated his
appointment to some exalted station; but that, while he was passed by
unnoticed, his colleagues in that body, John Jay and Alexander
Hamilton, had both received distinguished appointments--the one as
Chief Justice of the United States, and the other as Secretary of the
Treasury. Whatever may have been the cause of this change, it is
certain that they soon abandoned the federal, and united their
political destiny with the anti-federal party. Although these
gentlemen, as politicians, were acting in concert with Mr. Burr, yet
there was no cordiality of feeling between them. In their social
intercourse, however, the most perfect comity was observed; and as
they were in a minority, struggling to break down a party haughty,
proscriptive, and intolerant beyond any thing that the American people
had beheld, they zealously united their efforts in effecting the
revolution of 1800.

Soon after the adoption of the new constitution, the anti-federal
party were recognised by a name more descriptive of their principles
and their views. They assumed the title of democrats. They considered
themselves anti-consolidationists, but not anti-federalists. They knew
that a section of the dominant party were the friends of a splendid
national government. That they were the advocates of a system, by
means of which all power would have concentrated in the general, and
the state governments been reduced to the level of mere corporations.
Against this system the democrats reasoned and contended with unabated
zeal. They were the early, unflinching, and faithful champions of
state rights_.

From the year 1790 until 1800, the democratic and federal parties were
alternately triumphant, both in the city and in the state of New-York.
In the former, the result of an election was frequently decided by the
operations of some local or exciting topic. No decisive contest took
place between the parties previous to 1800, founded on any great or
controlling principle of government. But, during the years 1798 and
1799, the whole country was agitated from one extreme to the other.
Revolutionary France was convulsed, and, in the midst of her
convulsions and sufferings, was daily committing the most cruel and
wanton excesses towards her own citizens, while she was offering
taunts and insults to foreign nations. The federal party seemed to
sigh for a war with France. Pretending that they apprehended a French
invasion, a large standing army was raised. At the head of this army,
second in command to General Washington, was placed General Alexander
Hamilton. To support the army and other useless extravagant
expenditures, a land tax and an _eight per cent._ loan was found
necessary. To silence the murmurs of an oppressed people, a sedition
law was enacted. Such were some of the fruits of the elder Mr. Adams's

In the autumn of 1799 and the winter of 1799-1800, the interesting and
vital question was presented to the American nation:--Will you sustain
this administration and these measures, and thus rivet chains upon
yourselves and your posterity? Or will you calmly, but firmly and in
union, resort to the constitutional remedy (the ballot-boxes) for
relief from wrongs and oppressions which, if permitted to endure, must
terminate in the horrors of intestine war? Here was a question of
principle; and, it is believed, a question which was to decide the
character of the government. Each party felt that it was a mighty
struggle, decisive of its future political influence, if not of its

The elections in the state of New-York were held in the month of
April. In the year 1799 the federalists had a majority in the city of
more than nine hundred. During the summer, it was universally conceded
that on the state of New-York the presidential election would depend,
and that the result in the city would decide the fate of the state.
That this opinion was as universal as it was true, cannot be more
distinctly exhibited than by the following extract of a letter from
Mr. Jefferson to Mr. Madison, dated 4th March, 1800.

"In New-York all depends on the success of the city election, which is
of twelve members, and of course makes a difference of twenty-four,
which is sufficient to make the two houses, joined together,
republican in their vote. * * * * * * Upon the whole, I consider it as
rather more doubtful than the last election (1796), in which I was not
deceived in more than a vote or two. * * * * * * In any event, we may
say, that if the city election of New-York is in favour of the
republican ticket, the issue will be republican; if the federal ticket
for the city of New-York prevails, the probabilities will be in favour
of a federal issue, because it would then require a republican vote
both from New-Jersey and Pennsylvania to preponderate against
New-York, on which we could not count with any confidence."

Reference has been made to the conflicting factions of which the
democratic party was now composed. The Clinton section, the Livingston
section, and the Burr section. The first and last were apparently the
same, but not so in reality. Colonel Burr's commanding talents had
acquired for him an influence in the ranks of the democratic party in
other states, which created some jealousy in the Clinton family, the
younger and collateral branches of which were extremely hostile to
him. The ambition of Burr, sustained by a daring spirit and
unconquerable perseverance, awakened the apprehensions of Governor
George Clinton lest he should be supplanted. The governor was a man of
great sagacity and shrewdness. But these two sections, or, perhaps,
more properly, the heads of them, united in their opposition to the

During the winter of 1800, the efforts of Colonel Burr to bring about
a concert in action of these discordant materials were unceasing. With
his own personal friends he had no difficulty, for it was ever one of
his characteristics to secure inviolable the attachment of his
friends. They were of the most ardent and devoted kind. Confiding in
his patriotism and judgment, and feeling that he was incapable of
deceiving them, they seemed willing, at all times and under all
circumstances, to hazard their lives and fortunes in his support. They
were generally young men of gallant bearing and disinterested views.
No sordid calculations were made by them. No mercenary considerations
influenced their conduct. They beheld in Colonel Burr a patriot hero
of the revolution, who had commingled with their fathers in the
battle-field, and who had perilled every thing in his country's cause.
Such were his friends, and such their zeal in his behalf. It was here
that Colonel Burr was all-powerful, for he possessed, in a pre-eminent
degree, the art of fascinating the youthful. But with all this tact
and talent, he was credulous and easily deceived. He therefore often
became the dupe of the most worthless and unprincipled.

Mr. Burr held frequent private meetings with his most intimate and
confidential friends. At all these meetings it is believed the success
of the democratic party was the only question under consideration. No
local or personal interests were permitted to be discussed. The
triumph of the party, as a whole, was the great object. By his
adherents, it was deemed indispensable that he should be a member of
the legislature to be chosen in April, which body was to appoint the
presidential electors. While, on the other hand, it was considered not
less necessary that he should be free to act at the polls in the city
of New-York during the election. How was this to be effected? After
much conference and deliberation it was resolved that he should be
elected from Orange county, if the arrangement could be made, and the
execution of the plan was intrusted principally to Peter Townsend,
Esquire, of Chester, who, with the aid of other influential friends,
accomplished it.

The next question was, Of whom shall the assembly ticket for the city
be composed? On the suggestion of Colonel Burr, the names of certain
distinguished individuals, venerable in years, and respected for their
services, for months before the election were put in circulation as
candidates; and, among others, Governor George Clinton and General
Horatio Gates. At length the nominating committees were chosen; but so
general had been the conversations as to suitable candidates, that
very little diversity of opinion prevailed in the formation of the

The following persons were nominated: George Clinton, Horatio Gates,
Samuel Osgood, Henry Rutgers, Elias Nexsen, Thomas Storm, George
Warner, Philip I. Arcularius, James Hunt, Ezekiel Robins, Brockholst
Livingston, and John Swartwout.

In this ticket the three sections of the democratic, but at this
election designated the _republican party,_ are fully represented.
Governor Clinton at the head of one section, Brockholst Livingston
representing another, and General Gates, well known to be the personal
and political friend of Colonel Burr. This ticket being nominated by
the committee, the difficulty was to procure their consent to stand as
candidates. A majority of them had no expectation of success. They
considered the contest as a forlorn hope, and shrank from being set up
as targets to be shot at. Governor Clinton, General Gates, Brockholst
Livingston, and others, had repeatedly declared their fixed
determination not to permit their names to be used.

A sub-committee was appointed to wait upon the candidates, and obtain
permission to present their names for approval to a general meeting of
citizens to be convened for that purpose. The sub-committee consisted
of Aaron Burr, David Gelston, John Swartwout, John Mills, and Matthew
L. Davis. After various communications and much persuasion, _nine_ of
the candidates consented, some of them conditionally. But Governor
Clinton, General Gates, and Brockholst Livingston were for a time
immoveable. At length Colonel Burr induced Judge Livingston to agree
that he would serve, if Governor Clinton and General Gates consented
to serve. The sub-committee next waited upon General Gates, and
Colonel Burr appealed to him in the most mild and persuasive language.
After much importunity he yielded, provided Governor Clinton was also
a candidate.

No terms can give a correct idea of the scenes between Governor
Clinton and the sub-committee, for they had an interview with him on
three different days. The last was at the house of Colonel Burr, where
Mr. Clinton met the committee by appointment. He never did consent to
stand, but pledged himself to Colonel Burr and the committee that he
would publish nothing in the newspapers, reserving to himself the
right (which he subsequently exercised) of stating in conversation
that his name was used without his authority or permission. Thus it is
evident, that but for the matchless perseverance of Colonel Burr, the
ticket, as it stood, never could have been formed, and, when formed,
would have been broken up, and the republican party discomfited and

An imperfect sketch of the scene at the house of Colonel Burr was
published in the year 1802, in a pamphlet under the signature of
_Aristides_. The following is extracted from it. The note of reference
here given is also extracted. Its correctness was never publicly
denied by either of the gentlemen named. There exists no longer any
reason for concealment on the subject; and it is therefore now
admitted that this _note_ was written from memorandums made at the
time by the author of this volume.


"Governor Clinton, however, remained unmoved by the most earnest
solicitations; and, with matchless firmness, resisted the arguments of
Mr. Burr, who forcibly asserted that it was a right inherent in the
community to command the services of an individual when the nature of
public exigences seemed to require it. He was inflexible to the last,
and then was nominated and elected without a distinct expression of
his approbation. Justice, however, induces me to acknowledge, that the
reasons he assigned for the reluctance with which he acted were
plausible and potent.

"He explicitly declared that he had long entertained an unfavourable
opinion of Mr. Jefferson's talents as a statesman and his firmness as
a republican. That he conceived him an accommodating trimmer, who
would change with times, and bend to circumstances for the purposes of
personal promotion. Impressed with these sentiments, he could not,
with propriety, he said, acquiesce in the elevation of a man destitute
of the qualifications essential to the good administration of the
government; and added other expressions too vulgar to be here
repeated. 'But,' said he, with energy, 'if you, Mr. Burr, was the
candidate for the presidential chair, I would act with pleasure and
with vigour.'"

It is so notorious that these were Governor Clinton's sentiments, that
it is scarcely necessary to produce authority to prove it. To remove,
however, every doubt in the reader's mind, I will refer him to Mr.
David Gelston, Mr. John Mills, Mr. John Swartwout, or Mr. Matthew L.
Davis, in whose presence these sentiments, and many others more
disrespectful, if possible, were uttered. It was at the house of Mr.
Burr, who, anticipating the evil consequences that at that critical
moment would result from such conduct in Governor Clinton, insisted,
before he left the house, that he should promise his friends to desist
from using such language previous to or during the election. This was
very reluctantly complied with on the part of Mr. Clinton.

"Notwithstanding this, they were continually reiterated by his son,
who publicly and loudly animadverted upon the character of Mr.
Jefferson with the most vulgar severity. Similar sentiments were
certainly entertained by all Governor Clinton's connexions, as their
conduct during the election clearly evinced. Mr. Dewitt Clinton,
through the whole contest, never appeared at the poll, but observed
the most shameful indfference and inactivity."

The nomination of a ticket having been made and approved at a public
meeting over which Anthony Lispenard presided, its effect upon both
parties was tremendous. The character and standing of the candidates
seemed a presage of victory. It elated, and gave life and vigour to
the republicans, while it paralyzed and depressed the federalists.

Never before or since has a ticket been presented to the citizens of
New-York composed of men combining such talents, patriotism,
experience, and public services, as the republican assembly ticket for
the year 1800.

Those who possess a knowledge of the character of Colonel Burr know
what were his qualifications for execution. The plan of the campaign
having been opened, it only remained to be executed. In the
performance of this duty, all Mr. Burr's industry, perseverance, and
energy were called into operation. Nor were the federal party idle or
inactive. They possessed wealth and patronage. Led on to the contest
by their talented chieftain, General Hamilton, whose influence in
their ranks was unbounded, they made a desperate but ineffectual
resistance to the assaults upon their political citadel. If defeated
here, their power was gone, and the administration of the government
lost. Both General Hamilton and Colonel Burr exerted themselves
personally at the polls during the three days of election. They
repeatedly addressed the people, and did all that men could do. They
frequently met at the same polls, and argued, in the presence of large
assemblages, the debatable questions. Their deportment towards each
other and towards their opponents was such as comported with the
dignity of two of the most accomplished and courtly gentlemen of the
age in which they lived.

The polls of the election opened on the morning of the 29th of April,
and finally closed at sunset on the 1st of May. Immediately after, the
inspectors commenced counting and canvassing the ballots. Sufficient
progress was made during the night to render it, in a great measure,
certain that the republican ticket had succeeded; and on the 2d of May
this result was announced, the average majority being about 490. All
doubt as to the presidential vote of the state of New-York was now
removed, unless the federal party, in their expiring agonies, could
devise some plan by which the will of the people, thus clearly
expressed, should be defeated. Such apprehensions were entertained,
and, it was soon discovered, not entertained without good reason.

In both branches of the legislature elected in 1799 the federalists
had a majority. The time of service of the members would expire on the
1st of July, 1800. After the nomination of the republican assembly
ticket, but previous to the election in April, 1800, it was suspected
that certain federalists had in contemplation a project to render the
city election null and void if the republicans succeeded. When the
polls were closed, therefore, discreet and intelligent men were placed
at them to guard, if it should be found necessary, the inspectors from
committing, inadvertently, any errors, either in canvassing or making
their returns. Every movement, subsequently, of leading federal
gentlemen was narrowly and cautiously watched. The result of the
election was announced on the 2d of May. On the 3d of May, in the
evening, a select and confidential federal caucus was held. On the 4th
a letter was written to William Duane, editor of the Aurora, stating
that such a caucus had been held the preceding night, and that it was
determined by the caucus to solicit Governor Jay to convene the
existing legislature forthwith, for the purpose of changing the mode
of choosing electors for president, and placing it in the hands of the
people by districts. The effect of such a measure would have been to
neutralize the State of New-York, and, as the result finally proved,
would have secured to the federal party their president and
vice-president. This letter was published in the Aurora of the 6th of
May, and called forth the denunciations of those federal papers whose
conductors were not in the secret. The author of the letter was
assailed as a _Jacobin_ calumniator, and the whole story was
pronounced a vile fabrication. One of the New-York city papers
reprinted the letter, and thus closes its commentary on it:--"Where is
the American who _will not detest the author of this infamous lie_? If
there is a man to be found who will sanction this publication, he is
worse than the worst of Jacobins!"

What effect, if any, was produced by this immediate exposure of the
caucus proceedings, it is not necessary now to inquire. It is
sufficient to say that the development was, in all its parts,
literally correct, and the subject is here introduced for the twofold
purpose of showing, _first_, the vigilance, promptitude, and
arrangement of the republican party of that day; and, _second_, the
means to which certain desperate federalists were willing to resort
for the purpose of retaining power. That the representations contained
in the publication of the Aurora were strictly true, is now matter of
recorded history.

In the life of John Jay, vol. i., p. 412, the letter addressed to the
governor on this subject is published. It bears date _one day_ after
the publication in the Aurora, but before the paper reached the city
of New-York. The author of the work, after some preliminary remarks,
Says--"These details will explain the proposal made in the following
letter, which was received by the governor _from one of the most
distinguished federalists in the United States_." [1]


New-York May 7, 1800.


You have been informed of the loss of our election in this city. It is
also known that we have been unfortunate throughout Long Island and in
Westchester. According to the returns hitherto, it is too probable
that we lose our senator for this district.

The moral certainty, therefore, is, that there will be an anti-federal
majority in the ensuing legislature; and the very high probability is,
that this will bring Jefferson into the chief magistracy, unless it be
prevented by the measure which I shall now submit to your
consideration; namely, the immediate calling together of the existing

I am aware that there are weighty objections to the measure; but the
reasons for it appear to me to outweigh the objections; and, in times
like these in which we live, it will not do to be over scrupulous. It
is easy to sacrifice the substantial interests of society by a strict
adherence to ordinary rules.

In observing this I shall not be supposed to mean that any thing ought
to be done which integrity will forbid; but merely that the scruples
of delicacy and propriety, as relative to a common course of things,
ought to yield to the extraordinary nature of the crisis. They ought
not to hinder the taking of a legal and constitutional step to prevent
an atheist in religion and a fanatic in politics from getting
possession of the helm of state.

You, sir, know in a great degree the anti-federal party; but I fear
you do not know them as well as I do. 'Tis a composition, indeed, of
very incongruous materials, but all tending to mischief--some of them
to the overthrow of the government, by stripping it of its due
energies; others of them to a revolution after the manner of
Bonaparte. I speak from indubitable facts, not from conjectures and
inferences. In proportion as the true character of the party is
understood, is the force of the considerations which urge to every
effort to disappoint it; and it seems to me that there is a very
solemn obligation to employ the means in our power.

The calling of the legislature will have for object the choosing of
electors by the people in districts; this (as Pennsylvania will do
nothing) will ensure a majority of votes in the United States for a
federal candidate. The measure will not fail to be approved by all the
federal party, while it will, no doubt, be condemned by the opposite.
As to its intrinsic nature, it is justified by unequivocal reasons of
_public safety_.

The reasonable part of the world will, I believe, approve it. They
will see it as a proceeding out of the common course, but warranted by
the particular nature of the crisis and the great cause of social

If done, the motive ought to be frankly avowed. In your communication
to the legislature, they ought to be told that temporary circumstances
had rendered it probable that, without their interposition, the
executive authority of the general government would be transferred to
hands hostile to the system heretofore pursued with so much success,
and dangerous to the peace, happiness, and order of the country. That
under this impression, from facts convincing to your own mind, you had
thought it your duty to give the existing legislature an opportunity
of deliberating whether it would not be proper to interpose, and
endeavour to prevent so great an evil, by referring the choice of
electors to the people distributed into districts.

In weighing this suggestion, you will doubtless bear in mind that
popular governments must certainly be overturned; and, while they
endure, prove engines of mischief, if one party will call to its aid
all the resources which vice can give, and if the other (however
pressing the emergency) confines itself within all the ordinary forms
of delicacy and decorum.

The legislature can be brought together in three weeks, so that there
will be full time for the object; but none ought to be lost.

Think well, my dear sir, of this proposition; appreciate the extreme
danger of the crisis; and I am unusually mistaken in my view of the
matter if you do not see it right and expedient to adopt the measure.

Respectfully and affectionately yours.

Mr. Jay's biographer adds--"On this letter is the following
endorsement in the governor's hand, _Proposing a measure for party
purposes which I think it would not become me to adopt_."


1. As there were but _few_ of "the most distinguished federalists in
the United States" residing at that time in the city of New-York, the
intelligent reader will form his own conclusions as to the source from
whence it emanated.


During the summer of 1800 General Hamilton prepared for the press his
celebrated pamphlet, entitled--"A letter from Alexander Hamilton,
concerning the public conduct and character of John Adams, Esq.,
president of the United States." It was the design of the author of
this pamphlet that it should be privately printed, and circulated in
South Carolina only a few days before the election, for the purpose of
preventing Mr. Adams from getting the vote of South Carolina, but
securing it to Mr. Pinckney, who was the federal candidate for the
vice-presidency. The consequence would have been to place Mr.
Pinckney's electoral vote higher than Mr. Adams's, and thus, if the
federal party succeeded, Mr. Pinckney would have been elected
president and Mr. Adams vice-president. Colonel Burr ascertained the
contents of this pamphlet, and that it was in the press. Its immediate
publication, he knew, must distract the federal party, and thus
promote the republican cause in those states where the elections had
not yet taken place. Arrangements were accordingly made for a copy, as
soon as the printing of it was completed; and when obtained, John
Swartwout, Robert Swartwout, and Matthew L. Davis, by appointment, met
Colonel Burr at his own house. The pamphlet was read, and extracts
made for the press. Mr. Davis was charged with forwarding these
extracts to William Duane, editor of the Aurora, and to Charles Holt,
editor of the Bee, printed in New-London, which was accordingly done,
and the extracts immediately published. [1]

The effect of this sudden and unexpected explosion was such as might
have been anticipated. It rent the federal party in twain. The
publication, from time to time, of extracts, and the excitement which
was produced throughout the country by them, at length compelled Mr.
Hamilton to authorize the publication of the entire pamphlet; and
accordingly, in October, as the electors were to be chosen in
November, it was advertised for sale in the Daily Gazette. The editor
of the paper explained that it was not the intention of General
Hamilton to give publicity to this letter at the time it was made
public; but that extracts from it by some unknown means had found
their way to the public, and therefore the whole was now given.

Further evidence of the vigilance and efficiency of Colonel Burr in
promoting the revolution of 1800 is deemed unnecessary. It is most
solemnly believed that the overthrow of the federal party at that time
would not have been accomplished but through his zeal, sagacity, and
industry. His friends, therefore, have ascribed to him, and not
without some foundation, the election of Mr. Jefferson to the

Governor Jay having refused to comply with the wishes of "one of the
most distinguished federalists in the United States," as proposing a
measure for party purposes which he (Governor Jay) thought it would
not become him to adopt, the legislature did not convene until the
fourth day of November, 1800, and on the sixth they proceeded to the
choice of electors for president and vice-president. The republican
ticket prevailed. It was composed of the following, persons:--

Isaac Ledyard, of Queen's County.

Anthony Lispenard, of New-York.

P. Van Courtlandt, of Westchester

James Burt, of Orange.

Gilbert Livingston, of Dutchess.

Thomas Jenkins, of Columbia.

[continued list of Republican electors]

Peter Van Ness, of Columbia.

Robert Ellis, of Saratoga.

John Woodworth, of Rensellaer.

J. Van Rensellaer, of Albany.

Jacob Eacker, of Montgomery, and

William Floyd, of Suffolk.

The vote stood:--

Republican. Federal.
In the Senate 18 24 In the Assembly 64 39

Thus, on joint ballot, the republican majority was nineteen; and
consequently, as the city of New-York elected _twelve_ members, if the
federalists had succeeded in the city, they would have had, in joint
ballott, a majority of from six to ten.

As a part of the history of this election, the following letter and
extracts from letters are here inserted.


Washington, December 15, 1800.


Although we have not official information of the votes for president
and vice-president, and cannot have until the first week in February,
yet the state of the votes is given on such evidence as satisfies both
parties that the two republican candidates stand highest. From South
Carolina we have not even heard of the actual vote, but we have
learned who were appointed electors, and with sufficient certainty how
they would vote. It is said they would withdraw from yourself one
vote. It has also been said that a General Smith, of Tennessee, had
declared that he would give his second vote to Mr. Gallatin, not from
any indisposition towards you, but extreme reverence to the character
of Mr. Gallatin. It is also surmised that the vote of Georgia will not
be entire. Yet nobody pretends to know these things of a certainty,
and we know enough to be certain that what it is surmised will be
withheld, will still leave you four or five votes at least above Mr.
Adams. However, it was badly managed not to have arranged with
certainty what seems to have been left to hazard. It was the more
material, because I understand several high-flying federalists have
expressed their hope that the two republican tickets may be equal, and
their determination in that case to prevent a choice by the House of
Representatives (which they are strong enough to do), and let the
government devolve on a president of the Senate. Decency required that
I should be so entirely passive during the late contest, that I never
once asked whether arrangements had been made to prevent so many from
dropping votes intentionally as might frustrate half the republican
wish; nor did I doubt, till lately, that such had been made.

"While I must congratulate you, my dear sir, on the issue of this
contest, because it is more honourable, and, doubtless, more grateful
to you than any station within the competence of the chief magistrate,
yet, for myself, and for the substantial service of the public, _I
feel most sensibly the loss we sustain of your aid in our new
administration. It leaves a chasm in my arrangements which cannot be
adequately filled up. I had endeavoured to compose an administration
whose talents, integrity, names, and dispositions should at once
inspire unbounded confidence in the public mind, and ensure a perfect
harmony in the conduct of the public business. I lose you from the
list,_ and am not sure of all the others. Should the gentlemen who
possess the public confidence decline taking a part in their affairs,
and force us to take persons unknown to the people, the evil genius of
this country may realize his avowal that 'he will beat down the
administration.' The return of Mr. Van Benthuysen, one of your
electors, furnishes me a confidential opportunity of writing this much
to you, which I should not have ventured through the postoffice at
this prying season. We shall, of course, see you before the fourth of
March. Accept my respectful and affectionate salutations."

The letter is, in a great measure, incomprehensible. It indicates
nothing but Mr. Jefferson's extreme terror and apprehension lest he
should be disappointed in his anticipated elevation to the presidency.
It displays the _tact_ of the ostrich, and the _sincerity_ of a
refined Jesuit. What does Mr. Jefferson mean by the declaration that
he had formed a cabinet, of which Mr. Burr was to be a member? What
when he says--_"I lose you from the list?_' Can any man believe that
Mr. Jefferson expected to be elected president, but that Colonel Burr
would be defeated; and that, acting upon such a state of facts, he had
already selected the members of his administration, and that Mr. Burr
was one of them? The supposition is absurd; but, without such a
supposition, what becomes of the truth of Mr. Jefferson's declaration
when he says--"I feel most sensibly the loss we sustain of your aid in
our new administration. _It leaves a chasm in my arrangements_ which
cannot be adequately filled up?" If this letter is carefully read and
analyzed, its object may be comprehended. It was written a few weeks
before the balloting was to take place in Congress. Mr. Jefferson
expresses doubt as to the vote Mr. Burr will receive, but considers it
certain that he will have "four or five votes at least above Mr.
Adams." Four days after this letter he writes in a very different tone
to a friend.


"Washington, December 19, 1800.


"Mrs. Brown's departure for Virginia enables me to write
confidentially what I would not have ventured by the post at this
prying season. The election in South Carolina has, in some measure,
decided the great contest. Though, as yet, we do not know the actual
votes of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Vermont, yet we believe the votes to
be, on the whole, Jefferson, 73; Burr, 73; Adams, 65; Pinckney, 64.
Rhode Island withdrew one from Pinckney. There is a possibility that
Tennessee may withdraw _one_ from Burr, and Burr writes that there may
be one vote in Vermont for Jefferson. But I hold the latter
_impossible_, and the former _not probable_; and that there will be an
absolute parity between the two republican candidates. This has
produced great dismay and gloom on the republican gentlemen here, and
exultation in the federalists, who openly declare they will prevent an
election, and will name a president of the Senate _pro tem._ by what,
they say, would only be a _stretch_ of the constitution. The prospect
of preventing this is as follows. Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee,
Kentucky, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and New-York can be counted on for
their vote in the House of Representatives, and _it is thought, by
some, that BAER of Maryland and LINN of New-Jersey will come over._"

The preceding extract shows that Mr. Jefferson entertained no doubt
"that there would be an absolute parity between the two republican
candidates," notwithstanding his doubting remarks on that subject to
Colonel Burr. Hopes were also entertained "that Mr. Baer of Maryland
and _Linn of New-Jersey would come over._" Reference will hereafter be
made to these two states. The result of the electoral vote was as Mr.
Jefferson anticipated. _Seventy-three_ republican and _sixty-five_

Although the ballots for president and vice-president had not been
examined officially, yet it was well known that there was a tie
between Mr. Jefferson and Colonel Burr.

On the 5th of February, 1801, Mr. Bayard, in the House of
Representatives, offered a resolution declaring that, in case of a
tie, the house would continue to ballot until a choice of president
was made. It was referred to a select committee, and, on the 10th, it,
with other rules to govern the house during the balloting, was
adopted. The Senate passed a resolution that the ballots should be
opened with closed doors. William H. Wells, of Delaware, of the
Senate, and John Nicholas, of Virginia, and John Rutledge, of South
Carolina, of the House of Representatives, were appointed tellers.

On the 11th of February the ballots were opened. During the
performance of this ceremony a most extraordinary incident occurred.
As it is known to but few now living, and never been publicly spoken
of, it has been deemed proper to record it here, as a part of the
history of that exciting contest.

The Aurora of the 16th of February, 1801, remarks, that "the tellers
declared that there was some informality in the votes of Georgia; but,
believing them to be true votes, reported them as such." No
explanation of the nature of this informality was given; nor is it
known that any has ever been given since. Had it been announced at the
time, there can be no doubt it would have proved fatal to the election
of Mr. Jefferson. Whether the interest of our country would or would
not have been thereby promoted, is not a question for discussion here.

By the Constitution of the United States at that time it was provided,
Art. 2, sect. 1, "The electors shall meet in their respective states,
and vote by ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not be
an inhabitant of the same state with themselves. And they shall make a
list of all the persons voted for, and of the number of votes for
each, _which list they shall sign, and certify_, and transmit, sealed,
to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the
President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the
presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open _all the
certificates_, and the votes shall then be counted. The person having
the greatest number of votes shall be the president, if such number be
_a majority of the whole number of electors appointed_; and if there
be more than one who have such majority, and have an equal number of
votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately choose, by
ballot, one of them for president; and if no person have a majority,
then from the _five highest_ on the list the said house shall, in like
manner, choose the president. But, in choosing the president, the
votes shall betaken by states, and a majority of all the states shall
be necessary to a choice."

From the above extract it will be seen that the Constitution is
imperative as to the _form_ and _manner_ in which the electoral
returns are to be made. The ceremony of opening was performed in the
presence of the two houses. The package of a state having been opened
by the vice-president, it was handed by him to the tellers. Mr.
Jefferson was the presiding officer. On opening the package endorsed
Georgia votes, it was discovered to be totally irregular. The
statement now about to be given is derived from an honourable
gentleman, a member of Congress from the state of New-York during the
administration of Mr. Jefferson, and yet living in this state. He says
that Mr. Wells (a teller on the part of the Senate) informed him that
the envelope was blank; that the return of the votes was not
authenticated by _the signatures of the electors, or any of them,
either on the outside or the inside of the envelope, or in any other
manner_; that it merely stated in the inside that the votes of Georgia
were, for Thomas Jefferson _four, and for Aaron Burr _four_, without
the signature of any person whatsoever. Mr. Wells added, that he was
very undecided as to the proper course to be pursued by the tellers.
It was, however, suggested by one of them that the paper should be
handed to the presiding officer, without any statement from the
tellers except that the return was informal; that he consented to this
arrangement under the firm conviction that Mr. Jefferson would
announce the nature of the informality from the chair; but, to his
utmost surprise, he (Mr. Jefferson) rapidly declared that the votes of
Georgia were _four_ for Thomas Jefferson and _four_ for Aaron Burr,
without noticing their informality, and in a hurried manner put them
aside, and then broke the seals and handed to the tellers the package
from the next state. Mr. Wells observed, that as soon as Mr. Jefferson
looked at the paper purporting to contain a statement of the electoral
vote of the state of Georgia, his countenance changed, but that the
decision and promptitude with which he acted on that occasion
convinced him of that which he (a federalist) and his party had always
doubted, that is to say, Mr. Jefferson's decision of character, at
least when his own interest was at hazard. Mr. Wells further stated,
that if the votes of Georgia had not been thus counted, as it would
have brought all the candidates into the house, Mr. Pinckney among the
number, Mr. Jefferson could not have been elected president.

The same honourable member of Congress further stated, that some few
years after receiving the above information from Mr. Wells, he became
intimately acquainted with John Nicholas, who was one of the tellers
referred to, and who had removed from Virginia into the western part
of the State of New-York. Mr. Nicholas gave to the honourable member
the same statement in substance, not knowing that it had been
previously derived from Mr. Wells. Mr. Nicholas was a warm personal
and political friend of Mr. Jefferson, and declared that he never felt
so astounded in his life as when he discovered the irregularity. He
claimed some credit for the adroit manner in which he had managed Mr.
Rutledge, so far as to obtain his consent to hand the paper to Mr.
Jefferson without public explanation from the tellers, and which was
effected by a conciliatory appeal to the magnanimity of the member
from South Carolina.

The whole number of electoral votes given at the election in 1800 was
_one hundred and thirty-eight_: necessary to a choice, _seventy_. Mr.
Jefferson and Mr. Burr had each, according to the return made,
seventy-three. Georgia gave _four _votes. If that number had been
deducted from Jefferson and Burr, as illegally returned, of which
there is no doubt, they would have had only _sixty-nine_ votes each;
consequently they would not have had, in the language of the
Constitution, "a majority of the whole number of electors appointed,"
and the candidates out of which a choice of president must be made
would have been Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Burr, Mr. Adams, and Mr. Pinckney.
The federal members would then have said to the republicans, We will
unite with you in the choice of either of the gentlemen presented to
the house except Mr. Jefferson; and if the government is to be brought
to a termination by our failure to elect a president, the
responsibility will be on you. And is it to be believed, that in such
a case the _doubtful_ members who were sighing for office, if any such
there were, would have rejected the suggestion in toto?

The balloting continued from the 11th until the 17th of February
inclusive. _Nine_ states were necessary to a choice. On the first
ballot Mr. Jefferson had _eight_, Mr. Burr _six_, and _two_ states
were divided. At every ballot the same result was announced, until the
_thirty-sixth_ ballot, which was given on the 17th of February, when
Mr. Jefferson was declared duly elected, _ten_ states having voted for

On the first ballot Mr. Jefferson received New-York, New-Jersey,
Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia, and

Mr. Burr received New-Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island,
Connecticut, Delaware, and South Carolina --_six_.

Divided, Vermont and Maryland--_two_.

On the final ballot Mr. Jefferson received New-York, New-Jersey,
Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee,
Maryland (_four_ votes and _four_ blanks), Vermont (_one_ vote and
_one_ blank)--_ten_.

Mr. Burr received New-Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and

Delaware _blank_, South Carolina _no vote_.

During the balloting _one hundred and six_ members of the House of
Representatives were present. Of this number _fifty-one_, on the first
ballot, voted for Mr. Jefferson; and on no subsequent vote was that
number increased. The election was effected by the states of Maryland
and Vermont giving their vote, instead of remaining _equally divided_,
and thus having no vote; and that change was produced in Maryland by
Mr. Craick, Mr. Dennis, Mr. Baer, and Mr. Chew Thomas voting _blank_,
and Mr. Lewis R. Morris, of Vermont, in like manner voting blank,
leaving Mr. Matthew Lyon the sole representative of the state.

Previous to the balloting, Mr. Burr addressed to General S. Smith, of
Baltimore, a member of the House of Representatives, the following
letter. It will be seen by the date, that as soon as Colonel Burr
supposed that there was a probability of a tie, he constituted General
Smith his proxy to declare his sentiments.


"New-York, 16th December, 1800.

"It is highly improbable that I shall have an equal number of votes
with Mr. Jefferson; but, if such should be the result, every man who
knows me ought to know that I would utterly disclaim all competition.
Be assured that _the federal party can entertain no wish for such an
exchange_. As to my friends, they would dishonour my views and insult
my feelings by a suspicion that I would submit to be instrumental in
counteracting the wishes and the expectations of the United States.
And I now constitute you _my proxy to declare these sentiments_ if the
occasion should require." [2]

Baltimore, February 28, 1801.

Sir--Many of the citizens of Baltimore, who have just now heard of
your arrival among them, beg leave to congratulate you and themselves
upon the success of the late election of President and Vice-president
of the United States. They, in a particular manner, appreciate that
patriotism which disclaimed competition for the presidential chair
with that other eminent character who has finally been called to
it--as setting a just value upon the will of the people.

By order of the meeting.


To Aaron Burr, Vice-president elect of the United States of America.


1. Mr. Tucker, in his life of Jefferson, ascribes the defeat of the
federal party in South Carolina to General Hamilton's pamphlet. Its
premature publication, no doubt, contributed largely to produce this

2. The effect of this letter upon public opinion may be judged of by
the following, among other testimonials which might be inserted.


This contest in Congress produced, almost immediately, strong feelings
of dissatisfaction between some of the friends of Mr. Jefferson and
Colonel Burr. Jealousies and distrust had previously existed. Mr.
Jefferson was anxious that Mr. Madison should be his successor in
office. The Clinton and Livingston families were prepared to unite in
a crusade against Colonel Burr; the chieftains of each section hoping
to fill the station from which he was to be expelled. General Hamilton
was in favour of the election of Mr. Jefferson, as opposed to Colonel
Burr. The result afforded him a triumph, and be was prepared, when
opportunity should present, to prostrate his late successful opponent.
Such was the state of parties, and such the feelings of leading and
distinguished partisans, when Colonel Burr entered upon the
vice-presidency, on the fourth of March, 1801. He was hemmed in on
every side by political adversaries, ready for the onset so soon as it
should be deemed expedient to make it. Every movement, every
expression at the convivial board or in the social circle, and every
action, was carefully watched and noted for future use, if, by the
exercise of ingenuity and misrepresentation, such expression or action
could be so tortured as to operate injuriously to him. These several
sections, each acting within its own sphere, impelled by conflicting
motives, were untiring in their efforts to accomplish the great
object--the ruin of the vice-president. They combined wealth, talents,
and government patronage.

The following short extracts from letters, written as early as 1794
and 1795, will show what were the wishes of Mr. Jefferson (so far as
any reliance can be placed on professions) in relation to Mr. Madison.


"Monticello, December 28, 1794.


"I do not see in the minds of those with whom I converse a greater
affliction than the fear of your retirement; [1] but this must not be,
_unless to a more splendid and more efficacious post_. [2]

There I should rejoice to see you; I hope I may say, I shall rejoice
to see you. I have long had much in my mind to say to you on that
subject; but double delicacies have kept me silent. I ought, perhaps,
to say, _while I would not give up my own retirement for the empire of
the universe_, how I can justify wishing one, whose happiness I have
so much at heart as yours, to take the front of the battle which is
fighting for my security."


"Monticello, April 27, 1795.


"In mine, to which yours of March the twenty-third was an answer, I
expressed my hope of the only change of position I ever wished to see
you make, and I expressed it with entire sincerity, because there is
not another person in the United States who, being placed at the helm
of our affairs, my mind would be so completely at rest for the fortune
of our political bark. The wish, too, was pure, and unmixed with any
thing respecting myself personally. * * * * * *

"If these general considerations were sufficient to ground a firm
resolution never to permit myself to think of the office (president),
or be thought of for it, the special ones which have supervened on my
retirement still more insuperably bar the door to it. My health is
entirely broken down within the last eight months; _my age requires
that I should place my affairs_ in a clear state; these are sound, if
taken care of, but capable of considerable dangers if longer
neglected; and, above all things, the delights I feel in the society
of my family, and in the agricultural pursuits in which I am so
eagerly engaged. _The little spice of ambition which I had in my
younger days has long since evaporated, and I set still less store by
a posthumous than present name_."

It is a remarkable fact, that, previous to the balloting in Congress,
all parties and sections of parties concurred in the opinion that the
election would finally be determined, as it was, by New-York,
New-Jersey, and Maryland. These _three_ states would render the
election of Colonel Burr certain; _two_ of them could elect Mr.
Jefferson. The vote, of New-York was to be decided by _Theodorus
Bailey_, of Dutchess county, and _Edward Livingston_, of the city of
New-York; the vote of New-Jersey by Mr. _Linn_, and the vote of
Maryland by Mr. _Dent_ or Mr. _Baer_.

In the Commercial Advertiser of the thirteenth of February, 1801, a
paper opposed to the election of Colonel Burr, there is published an
extract of a letter from a member of Congress, dated Washington,
February 10, which states that, upon the second ballot, it is expected
that New-York, New-Jersey, and Maryland will vote for Mr. Burr.

On the sixth of February, 1801, a leading and influential republican
member of Congress writes to his correspondent a letter, from which
the following is extracted:--

"I have not time to answer your letter as fully as I could wish, as it
would have been my desire to communicate to you not only facts, _but
some of the reasons which have induced us to adopt the steps we have
heretofore taken_. But, at all events, it is important that you should
have an immediate knowledge of the present situation of affairs.

"It is reduced to moral certainty, so far as any reliance can be
placed on the solemn determinations of men, that either Mr. Jefferson
will be chosen, or that there will be no choice made. The republican
majorities of eight states (including _Linn_ [3] of New-Jersey, and
the New-York representation, [4] the republican half of Maryland,
including Mr. Dent, [5] and Lyon of Vermont, are _pledged_ to
persevere in voting for Mr. Jefferson to the end, be the consequence
what it will."

Colonel Burr, soon after his election, gave his enemies an opportunity
to cavil. It would be impossible to enter into all the details
connected with this subject; but the principal charges which were made
against the vice-president, and assigned as reasons for opposing his
renomination, will be briefly presented. The replies to or
explanations of them, by the parties implicated, will also be given.

Late in November, 1801, when Mr. Burr was on his way to Washington to
take his seat in Senate as vice-president, he was addressed by certain
citizens of Baltimore, on which occasion he remarked, "Time will not
allow me to return you a written answer, but I must be permitted to
state my disapprobation of the mode of expressing public sentiment by
addresses." This gave offence to some, and, by the artful and
designing, was misrepresented. Mr. Burr, during the years 1798 and
1799, had beheld, with mortification and disgust, the adulatory, if
not sycophantic addresses presented to President Adams. This reproof,
therefore, of his friends, evinced his natural independence of
character as well as the purest republican notions.

In the month of January, 1802, a bill to repeal what was termed by the
republicans the federal midnight judiciary act, was pending before the
Senate. On the 27th of January, a motion was made to refer the bill to
a committee for the purpose of amendment. On this motion the votes
were, _ayes_, 14; _noes_, 14. The vice-president, Colonel Burr, was in
the chair. He said--"I am for the affirmative, because I never can
resist the reference of a measure where the Senate is so nicely
balanced, and when the object is to effect amendment that may
accommodate it to the opinions of a large majority, and particularly
when I can believe that gentlemen are sincere in wishing a reference
for this purpose. Should it, however, at any time appear that delay
only is intended, my conduct will be different."

This decision afforded the enemies of Colonel Burr an opportunity to
break ground more openly against him. He was now charged with aiding
the federal party in their efforts to embarrass the administration,
and with the design of defeating the wishes of the American people. As
yet, the charge of intriguing and negotiating with the federalists to
obtain the presidency in opposition to Mr. Jefferson had not been
made. The allies had not yet sufficiently poisoned the public mind
against the vice-president, nor had they subsidized the requisite
number of presses for carrying on the work of destruction. While the
grand assault was meditating, and these _feints_ were carrying on
against the vice-president, he was constantly receiving approbatory
letters from intelligent and well-informed citizens, many of whom
cowered beneath the storm when, in the height of its fury, it burst
upon the victim. From among a number the following are selected:--


Philadelphia, 3d February, 1802.[6]


On the judiciary question, I wrote my sentiments to Mr. Wilson
Nicholas early in the session. I am sorry our friends have taken so
peremptory a position, as the very circumstance of having taken it
will render it difficult to move them. I cannot concur with them in
the policy or expediency of the measure. The business of the court
will not allow me to give my reasons in detail, but you shall have my

1. There never was a case in which a party could be more justified in
expressing their resentment, on account of the manner of passing the
act; the manner of organizing the courts; the nature of the opposition
to the repeal, denying its constitutionality, and menacing a civil

2. The repeal would be constitutional, from a review of the
principles, and terms of the constitution itself; of the peculiar
situation of the country ; its growing population ; its extending
prospects; its increasing wants, pursuits, and refinements, &c.; of
the analogy to the Judiciary Institution of England, where independent
of the legislature is not within the policy or provision of the
statutes relative to the commissions of the judges; of the analogy to
the Judiciary Institutions of the sister states, which have all been
subject to legislative interference occasionally. In Pennsylvania
particularly, the constitution declares that the judges shall hold
their commissions during good behaviour; yet it expressly authorizes
the legislature to abolish the Court of Common Pleas, &c.; and of the
precedents in the existing act of Congress, which is an exercise of
the power _sub modo_.

3. But notwithstanding the indignation I feel, in common with our
friends, at the manner of passing the Circuit Court act; and
notwithstanding my perfect conviction that Congress has the power of
repealing the act, I think the repeal would be impolitic and
inexpedient. If it would be impolitic acting on party principles, it
would be inexpedient of course; but I mean, also, that it would be
inexpedient on account of the use that Pennsylvania (and I presume the
same as to other states) has derived from the institution:

1st. _It is impolitic_.

The republicans are not agreed on the constitutionality of the repeal.
The people at large have imbibed strong prejudices on the subject of
judicial independence. The repeal would be ascribed to party
animosity; and if future amendments should be made, it would be
considered as a personal proceeding, merely to remove the present
judges: the hazard of loss in public opinion is greater than the hope
of gain. There is a mass of the community that will not be fermented
by the leaven of party passions. By persons of this description, the
motive and effect will be strictly analyzed and purified. The mere
resuscitation of the old system will either expose the administration
of justice to inconceivable embarrassments, or demonstrate the motive
to be abstractedly a party one, by calling for an immediate reform.
The clamour of the federalists will at least have a reasonable

2. _It is inexpedient_.

The mere repeal will reinstate a system which every man of common
sense and candour must deprecate. It will entirely destroy
institutions susceptible of being modelled into a form economical as
well as useful. It will deprive some states of tribunals which have
been found highly advantageous, to the despatch of business. I allude
particularly to Pennsylvania. In this state justice, as far as
respects our state courts, is in a state of dissolution, from the
excess of business and the parsimony of the legislature.

With this view of the subject you will perceive that I think--_First_,
There ought not to be a total repeal. _Second_, There ought to be

If, however, a repeal should take place, I am clearly of opinion that
it would be unjustifiable to make any provision for the ex-judges. On
this point and on the introduction of amendments I will, if you desire
it, amplify by a future post.

The zealous republicans are exciting some intemperance here, in
opposition to a memorial from our bar, which, you will perceive, is
confined to the operation of the law in this state as a matter of
fact, and not to any controversy of a constitutional or political

I shall be anxious to hear from you as often as you can spare a
moment, and particularly while the judiciary bill is pending.

Yours, with great regard,



February 17, 1802.


Permit me to thank you most sincerely for the vote you gave in favour
of Mr. Dayton's motion to refer the judiciary bill to a select
committee; not because I am by any means satisfied it is not best that
bill should pass, but because I earnestly desire that republicanism
should on every occasion display the spirit of conciliation, as far as
can be done without the destruction of principle. I am every day more
and more satisfied that the cause is more endangered by the want of
such displays than by every thing besides. The fate of parties in and
about Congress will ultimately be determined by the great body of the
well informed in the middle walks of life. It is happy, in some
respects, that these are generally so far from the scene of action as
to be tolerably free from the blinding influence of those passions
which the scene itself is calculated to excite. They wish for every
thing that tends to convince the great public that republicanism,
instead of being hostile, is friendly to moderation and harmony. Shall
we not do well to mark with great care and precision the sunken rocks
and shoals on which self-denominated federalism has dashed itself to
pieces? Among these I would enumerate their too eager and violent
pursuit of their object. Had they been patient and accommodating, the
eyes of the public would have been still hoodwinked, until habit,
gradually acquired, would have rendered an expensive monarchy the most
agreeable government. But, thank Heaven, they, by overacting, exposed
their own feelings and designs. Will not the same pertinacity and
precipitation endanger the better--the opposite cause? It is a
prevalent idea among us middling people, that a good government must
be a moderate one; and we are exceedingly apt to judge of the spirit
of the government from the spirit of our rulers. Every thing
non-conciliating bears in its very front strong symptoms of a
tyrannical spirit.

I am, sir, the more gratified by your moderation because (though I am
ashamed to avow it) I have heard you was too impetuous. Pardon my
mistake; and suffer me to entreat you to encourage a steady pursuit of
republican measures in that way which will convince the bystanders
that the actors are uniformly and irresistibly urged to pursue them by
cool conviction, resulting from a candid, extensive, and philanthropic
survey of the great object. Passion and caprice very illy become so
awfully sublime an object as that for which well-informed republicans

With sentiments of respect, your obedient servant,



Philadelphia, 3d April, 1802.


The judiciary storm has passed away for the present. I perceive,
however, that an effort is making to improve the old system without
increasing the number of judges; and we are once more unanimous at the
bar of Philadelphia in rejoicing that Paterson, and not Chase,
presides in our circuit. I had begun an outline of courts and
jurisdictions agreeably to your wish; but I lost the hope of its being
adopted when finished, so I abandoned the labour. Perhaps it may be
worth while to renew the scheme, with a view to a future session.

There are some rumours of jealousy and dissatisfaction prevailing
among the republican leaders, in the executive as well as the
legislative departments of the federal as well as of our state
government. It will be disgraceful, indeed, if the rumours axe true.
Very sincerely yours,


Such were the sentiments and views of many of the most pure and
intelligent of the republican party in relation to a repeal of the
judiciary act of 1800. The preceding letters express the opinions
entertained by thousands who were opposed to federal men and federal
measures, but who wanted time for reflection; and yet, when Colonel
Burr voted to recommit the repealing bill for the purpose of
ascertaining whether it could not be rendered more satisfactory, the
conspirators cried aloud, _Crucify him--crucify him_.

The plot now began to thicken. During the year 1801, a Scotchman by
the name of Wood was employed to write "_A History of John Adams's
Administration_." Ward & Barlas, booksellers in New-York, were the
proprietors of the copyright, and printed 1250 copies. William Duane,
editor of the Aurora, furnished the author a portion of his materials,
and became the agent to negotiate with a London bookseller for the
publication of an edition in England. In the summer or autumn of 1801
Colonel Burr was informed of the progress of the work, and procured a
copy before it was ready for publication. On examining it, he came to
the conclusion that it was calculated to do the republican party more
injury than good. It abounded with misrepresentations, errors, and
libels. Mr. Burr, through a friend, agreed to pay a stipulated sum for
the suppression of the work, under the most solemn assurance that no
copy or copies would be permitted to go into the hands of any third
person, but that the whole edition should be delivered to the agent
who was to pay the money. Before the time of payment arrived, it was
ascertained that a copy or copies had been parted with, and would not
be returned. The contract was, therefore, never carried into effect.
Pending this negotiation, Mr. Duane, through Wood or Ward & Barlas,
was made acquainted with the arrangements which were in progress.
Cheetham, the editor of the American Citizen, was also informed of
what was doing. This was considered a most favourable opportunity for
assailing the vice-president, and charging him with the design of
suppressing the History of John Adams's Administration for the purpose
of keeping the people in ignorance of the wrong doings of the federal
party. Although the assailants had a full view of the whole ground,
yet the attack was commenced by innuendoes, indicating ignorance of
the true state of facts. The charge operated most injuriously upon the
republican character of Colonel Burr. The injury was irreparable, and
the attacks continued with unexampled malignity.

This brief statement, it is hoped, will be found sufficiently explicit
to be intelligible. And now for the conduct of Mr. Duane on the
occasion. His object, and the object of his employers, was
accomplished; but whether a short development of the whole case will
or will not add to his fame, the reader must determine.

On or about the 27th of February, 1802, the editor of the Aurora, in
his paper, states that a curious fact has lately been brought to light
in New-York; that Wood had completed his engagement with Ward & Barlas
to furnish a history of John Adams's Administration, and that 1250
copies were printed, but suppressed at the desire of some person. Mr.
Duane then animadverts with harshness, and expresses a wish to get a
clew to the names of the person or persons who suppressed the work.

On the 31st of May, 1802, the Aurora states that the American Citizen
and the Evening Post have commenced a warfare, of which Mr. Burr is
the object; that the principal matter of charge is the suppression of
Wood's History of John Adams's Administration; and then adds--"We are
fully possessed of one side of the subject, and have perused the
suppressed book attentively."

On the 12th of July, 1802, the Aurora says--"So far as it relates to
Mr. Burr, my opinions have been uniform and reiterated to his
particular friends, that if the motives for the suppression of the
book were not _satisfactorily explained to the public_, his standing
with the republican interest was gone."

During the period between February and July, 1802, the Aurora
reprinted the slanders of Cheetham against Mr. Burr in relation to the
suppressed book, and continued, from time to time, his own attacks
upon the vice-president. While thus _publicly_ giving currency to
these calumnies, would it be believed (if asserted) that Mr. Duane was
_privately_ writing Colonel Burr, and approving of his conduct in
suppressing the work? One of his letters on this subject is deemed
sufficient to a right understanding of the case. It will now be given
without comment. * * * * *


Thursday, April 15, 1802.


I think it fortunate that the pamphlet of Mr. Wood has not yet been
published, and that it would be much more so if it were not ever to
see the light. It has disappointed my expectations of finding in it at
least some useful reflections and reasonings, however little novelty
there might be in the facts. But, even in the narration of facts, I
find numerous errors, and not a few misrepresentations of things
notorious to every man who has attended with understanding to the
course of public affairs. There is in it a _something_, too, of a
character very different from what was represented to me; the adoption
of the story of Hamilton [7] and Lafayette, if it is not the effect of
an indifference to accuracy, or a coldness in pursuit of truth, is
something much worse, and at least is suspicious: there is more of the
same kind of matter, and less attention to the influence and views of
such characters, than the subject required. I consider it, upon the
whole, as a hasty, crude, and inconsistent production, calculated
rather to produce evil than the least good--as it would be attributed
to the republicans, with all its faults and inconsistencies, and a
credit assumed from it as a party confession of merit, in a particular
character, which is not founded, at least in the way stated in the
pamphlet. Were some parts of it omitted, and false statements
rectified, it might not do any harm; and perhaps it might be found
advisable to adopt some plan of that kind, making a careful _record of
the omissions_ to insert any future _misrepresentations_, and a like
record of such _additions_ or _alterations_. This might be very easily
done by printing the pages anew which contain the exceptionable parts,
and, if necessary, substituting reflections or anecdotes, founded in
fact, in their places. This might be done at a small expense. The
thing, thus corrected, published; and, if any effort should be made to
misrepresent, credit would be derived even by the defence, and the
exposure of the motives for suppressing the misstatements.

This I have thought proper to write you, and I hope will, in its
object and motives, find with you an excuse for doing so.

I am, with respect, your obedient servant,



1. Mr. Madison was then a member of Congress.

2. President of the United States.

3. Appointed by Mr. Jefferson supervisor of internal revenue for the
state of New-Jersey.

4. Edward Livingston and Theodorus Bailey; the former appointed United
States district attorney for the district of New-York; the latter
subsequently appointed postmaster of the city of New-York, and removed
from the country, a distance of nearly one hundred miles, to take
charge of the office. Cheetham, editor of the _American Citizen,_ some
time after Mr. Livingston's appointment, in referring to him,
says--"Should Mr. Burr's _confidential friend ever become dangerous,
we will show what he has been and what he is_."

5. Appointed United States marshal for the Potomac district of

6. This letter is dated _seven_ days after Mr. Burr's casting vote in
the Senate.

7. The story here referred to is thus related by Wood in his history:
"In the year 1780, he (Hamilton) was promoted to the rank of colonel,
and at the siege of Yorktown commanded the attack on one of the
redoubts, the capture of which decided the fate of Lord Cornwallis and
his army. The conduct of Mr. Hamilton on this occasion was truly
honourable, and, in the history of his life, ought to weigh against
several of those scars that have since stained his character. Previous
to the attack, the Marquis de Lafayette proposed to General Washington
to put to death all the British troops that should be found in the
redoubts, as a retaliation for several acts of barbarity committed by
the royal army. The steady and nervous mind of Washington, which was
ever known to yield to the virtuous prejudice of compassion, gave his
assent to the bloody order. But Mr. Hamilton (the tenderness of whose
feelings has led him into error), after the redoubts were subdued,
took the conquered under his protection, and proved to his enemies
that Americans know how to fight, but not to murder." [General
Hamilton, in a letter referring to this same story, says--"Positively
and unequivocally, I declare that no such or similar order, or any
intimation or hint resembling it, was ever by me received or
understood to have been given."


Colonel Burr's silence under these reiterated attacks, with such means
of defence as his enemies knew that he possessed, encouraged and
imboldened them to make other and more daring assaults. He was now
charged, in general terms, with intriguing for the presidency, in
opposition to Mr. Jefferson; with endeavouring to obtain federal
electoral votes, and thus to defeat Mr. Jefferson and promote his own
elevation; with having entered into terms and conditions with federal
members of Congress in the winter of 1800; and with having committed
himself to, that party, in the event of success through their
instrumentality. These slanders were countenanced and circulated in
whispers by men high in authority, until the political integrity of
Colonel Burr was so far ruined as to render any defence, on his part
or on the part of his friends, useless and unavailing. The hireling
press now boldly entered upon specific charges; naming the parties
with whom Colonel Burr or his friends had negotiated, and the agents
whom the vice-president had employed to effect his purposes. These
details were given in a manner so circumstantial, as, by their
audacity, seemingly to command confidence. The slanders were
circulated with industry and rapidity, while the contradictions rarely
met the public eye, except through the medium of a federal press,
which publication, with the already prejudiced republican, was
construed as evidence of the truth of the charge. The principal
instances of specific cases will now be presented as briefly as

The presidential electors of the state of New-Jersey were federal. Dr.
Samuel S. Smith, president of Princeton College, was an elector. The
Hon. Jno. B. Prevost, son of Mrs. Burr by her first husband, was
married to the daughter of Dr. Smith. This circumstance rendered
plausible a story invented and propagated by the calumniators of
Colonel Burr. They boldly charged that "_Dr. Smith, of New-Jersey, was
secretly to have voted for Mr. Burr, and thus made him President of
the United States_." To this charge Dr. Smith replied as follows :--


Princeton, July 29, 1802.


In your paper of Monday, July 26, under the article entitled _A View
of the Political Conduct of Aaron Burr, Esq_., by the author of the
_Narrative_, I observe some very gross misrepresentations, which I
conceive it to be a duty that I owe to Mr. Burr, the New-Jersey
electors, and myself, to declare to be absolutely false. Mr. Burr
never visited me on the subject of the late election for president and
vice-president--Mr. Burr never conversed with me a single second on
the subject of that election, either before or since the event. No
project or plan of the kind mentioned in that paper was proposed or
hinted at among the electors of New-Jersey. I am assured that Mr. Burr
held no intrigue with them on that occasion, either collectively or
individually. They were men above intrigue; and I do not know that he
was disposed to use it. At their meeting, they unanimously declared
that a fair and manly vote, according to their sentiments, was the
only conduct which was worthy of their own characters or of their


It was next charged that Colonel Burr had sent, at his own expense,
special agents to different states, previous to the choice of
electors, with the view of influencing their selection, and to promote
his own elevation to the exclusion of Mr. Jefferson. The agents named
were Mr. Abraham Bishop, of New-Haven, and Mr. Timothy Green, of
New-York. It was asserted that Mr. Bishop was Mr. Burr's agent at
Lancaster, Pennsylvania, during the session of the legislature that
appointed the presidential electors.

In August, 1802, Mr. Bishop published a full and explicit refutation
of the charge. He denied that Mr. Burr sent him to Lancaster, or that
he went there for any purposes personally or politically regarding
that gentleman. The publication of Mr. Bishop is not readily to be
found; but he is still living, and subsequently was appointed by Mr.
Jefferson collector of the port of New-Haven.

In relation to Mr. Green, it was alleged that he was sent to Columbia,
South Carolina, for similar purposes, and that he "_corresponded with
the vice-president on the subject of the then approaching election,
under cover to John Swartwout_." The replies of Mr. Green and Mr.
Swartwout were as follows:--

"New-York, October 11, 1802,


"In the _American Citizen_ of this day you have made a publication, to
which you have affixed your names. In this you have stated, 1st, That
Timothy Green, of this city, was despatched as an agent to Columbia,
the seat of government of the state of South Carolina, by the
vice-president. 2dly, That he was the eulogist and intercessor for the
vice-president. 3dly, That he sent the vice-president despatches
regularly, addressed to Mr. John Swartwout, of this city, under cover.

"Now, as you have been most egregiously imposed upon by some
disorganizing person, it is your duty and mine that the public be
immediately furnished with both what were and what were not my
inducements and motives in making a journey in November, 1800, to
Columbia, and of my conduct while there. For this purpose you will
please to insert in your paper of to-morrow the following corrections
to your statement:--

"1st, I aver that I never went on any message of a political nature to
Columbia, in South Carolina, or to any other place for the
vice-president or any other person; neither was I ever requested or
desired by the vice- president or by any other person to go to
Columbia, in South Carolina, or any other place, on any political or
electioneering mission, of any name or nature whatsoever. On the
contrary, my journey to Columbia, in South Carolina, in the year of
our Lord 1800, and my engagements until my return in 1801, was wholly
unsolicited by any person (except my debtors in South Carolina), and
were solely of a commercial nature, and for which I had been preparing
eight months before.

"2dly, That I never wrote a letter to the vice-president of a
political nature; neither did I write him any information relative to
the presidential election in South Carolina, neither did I ever
enclose a letter, directed to the vice-president, in a letter or cover
directed to Mr. John Swartwout.

"3dly, That my letters to Mr. Swartwout while in South Carolina were
unsolicited, and written solely with the motive to relieve the minds
of my friends from the anxiety necessarily attendant on a state of
suspense, while an important event is hourly expected to take place.

"4thly, That I never was in the habit of eulogizing public men,
neither did I vary from my usual manners while in South Carolina. I
had no occasion to intercede for the election of Colonel Burr: all the
fear I had while there was lest a compromise should take place, as the
political parties were nearly balanced in the state legislature. This
I did, as far as in my power, conscientiously endeavour to prevent;
knowing that, if union and good faith were not inviolably preserved
among the constitutional republicans, our past, present, and future
exertions would be unavailing.



"New-York, October 13, 1802.


"In your seventh letter addressed to Aaron Burr, Esq., Vice-president
of the United States, published in the American Citizen of the 11th
instant, I notice the following paragraph, viz.:--

"Meantime, Sir, you had your eye on South Carolina; you despatched an
agent, Mr. Timothy Green, of this city, to Columbia, the seat of
government of that state. It was questionable whether South Carolina
would give you a single vote. At that period you were scarcely known
in the state. Mr. Green was at Columbia at least two months. He, was
your eulogist; your intercessor; he sent you despatches regularly;
they were addressed to Mr. John Swartwout, of this city, under cover,
and by him communicated to you.

"You will please to inform the public, through the medium of your
paper, that the above paragraph, so far as relates to my receiving
letters under cover, or communications from Timothy Green for Aaron
Burr, is utterly destitute of truth.


In a pamphlet entitled "A View of Aaron Burr's Political Conduct," it
was charged that "Mr. Burr, while in the city of New-York, carried on
a negotiation with the heads of the federal party at Washington with a
view to his election as President of the United States. A person was
authorized by them to confer with him on the subject, who accordingly
did so. Mr. Burr assented to the propositions of the negotiator, and
referred him to his confidential friend to complete the negotiation.
Mr. Burr stated that, after the first vote taken in the House of
Representatives, New-York and Tennessee would give in to the

To this Colonel Burr replied, in a letter to _Governor Bloomfield_, of
New-Jersey, under date September 21, 1802:--

"You are at liberty to declare from me that all those charges and
insinuations which aver or intimate that I advised or countenanced the
opposition made to Mr. Jefferson pending the late election and
balloting for president; that I proposed or agreed to any terms with
the federal party; that I assented to be held up in opposition to him,
or attempted to withdraw from him the vote or support of any man,
whether in or out of Congress; THAT ALL SUCH ASSERTIONS AND

In the pamphlet already referred to, and various newspaper
publications, it was alleged that General Hamilton had personal
knowledge of Colonel Burr's negotiations with the federalists. On the
13th of October, 1802, the editor of the New-York Evening Post
(William Coleman) states that he is authorized to say that General
Hamilton, at a dinner at Edward Livingston's, declared that he had no
personal knowledge of any negotiation in reference to the presidency
between Colonel Burr and any person whatever.

It will be recollected that Colonel Burr, in his letter to Governor
Bloomfield, denied the charge of "having proposed or agreed to any
terms with the federal party." The person named as being the agent of
the federalists, with authority to confer with Colonel Burr, was David
A. Ogden, Esq., of the city of New-York, who was intimately connected
with General Hamilton in professional business. Dr. Peter Irving was
at that time the proprietor and editor of a highly respectable daily
journal (Morning Chronicle) published in the city of New-York. The
facts in relation to this charge are developed in the following


"New-York, November 24, 1802.


"Though I have not the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with you, I
flatter myself that the contents of this letter will preclude the
necessity of an apology for addressing you.

"It has been asserted in various publications that Mr. Burr, during
the late election for president and vice-president, entered into
negotiations and agreed to terms with the federal party, or with
certain individuals of that party, with a view to advance himself to
the office of president to the exclusion of Mr. Jefferson. Mr. Burr,
in a letter to Governor Bloomfield, dated the 21st of September last,
declared that all such allegations were false and groundless; and the
charges have been renewed in more recent publications, which point to
you by name as the person through whom such negotiations were carried
on and terms concluded. It has now become interesting to a great
portion of the community to be informed how far these assertions and
charges have been authorized by you, or are warranted by your
knowledge of facts.

"Having received frequent anonymous communications for the Morning
Chronicle relative to these matters, and being unwilling to occupy the
paper with vague and unsubstantial conjectures or remarks on a subject
of such importance, I am induced to apply directly to yourself as an
authentic source of information. I do this with the more confidence,
from a persuasion that you can have no wish to suffer false reports to
circulate under the authority of your name for mere party purposes;
and that, in the actual posture of things, you cannot be averse to
declare publicly and explicitly your agency, if any, in the business.
I take the liberty, therefore, of requesting your written declaration
to the points above stated, together with any circumstances you may be
pleased to communicate tending to establish the truth or falsehood of
the charges in question.

"I have the honour to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,



New-York, November 24, 1802.


"Though I did not conceive it to be incumbent upon me, or in itself
proper to notice a publication in a newspaper in which my name was
used without my permission or knowledge, yet I have no objection to
reply to an inquiry which comes in the shape of that contained in your
letter, and from a person of your standing in society.

"I declare that my journey to the city of Washington, in the year
1800, was purely on private business, and without any understanding or
concert whatever with Colonel Burr, whom I met at the stage-office on
his way to Trenton, not having had before the least intimation of such
a meeting; and that I was not then or at any time charged by him with
any commission or errand of a political nature. In the course of our
journey, no political conversation took place but of a general nature
and in the presence of the passengers.

"When about to return from the city of Washington, two or three
members of Congress, of the federal party, spoke to me about their
views as to the election of president, desiring me to converse with
Colonel Burr on the subject, and to ascertain whether he would enter
into terms. On my return to New-York I called on Colonel Burr, and
communicated the above to him. He explicitly declined the explanation,
and did neither propose nor agree to any terms. I had no other
interview or communication with him on the subject; and so little was
I satisfied with this, that in a letter which I soon afterward wrote
to a member of Congress, and which was the only one I wrote, I
dissuaded from giving support to Colonel Burr, and advised rather to
acquiesce in the election of Mr. Jefferson, as the less dangerous man
of the two to that cause with which I believed the public interest to
be inseparably connected.

"There are no facts within my knowledge tending to establish the truth
of the charges specified in your letter.

"With due respect, I am, sir, your obedient servant,



It was then boldly asserted that Edward Livingston was "the
confidential friend" to whom Mr. Ogden was referred "to complete the
negotiation;" whereupon Mr. Burr made a call upon Mr. Livingston, to
which the following reply was given:--


"In consequence of certain insinuations lately circulated, I think it
proper to declare that you did not, in any verbal or written
communication to me, during the late presidential election, express
any sentiment inconsistent with those contained in your letter to
General Smith, [1] which was published, or evincing any desire that
the vote of the state should be transferred from Mr. Jefferson to

"I am, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,


"The Vice-president of the United States."

In the hope of giving some support to these, calumnies, Mr. William S.
Pennington, of New-Jersey, addressed a letter to the editors of the
American Citizen, in which he asserted that General John Swartwout had
written to Robert Williams, of Poughkeepsie, pending the election,
recommending or countenancing the support of Mr. Burr for president to
the exclusion of Mr. Jefferson. To this General Swartwout replied:--


"The false colouring given by the relation of one William S.
Pennington, in a letter to Denniston & Cheetham, which appeared in the
American Citizen of the 22d inst., and their subsequent malicious
remarks, oblige me once more to ask pardon for obtruding myself on the
public attention.

"I declare, on my honour, that I did not at any time advise the
election of Mr. Burr as president of the United States to the
exclusion of Mr. Jefferson; nor did I ever write to any person or
persons to that effect; and I hereby authorize Mr. Robert Williams to
publish any letter or letters he may have received from me on the
subject of the late presidential election. I am induced to contradict
the base slanders of those exclusive patriots by a regard to truth
only, and not from a conviction that it would have been either
dishonourable to me, or disadvantageous to the country or the
republican party, to have promoted the election of Mr. Burr to the
presidential chair.


"New-York, January 23."

The principal specifications, intended as explanatory of the general
charge against Colonel Burr of intriguing for the presidency, have now
been given. The replies of the parties implicated accompany them. A
whole generation has passed away since these scenes occurred, and yet
the time has not arrived when they can be calmly reviewed with
impartiality and free from prejudice. They may serve, however, as
beacon-lights for those who are now figuring or may hereafter figure
on the great political theatre of our country. Through life, Colonel
Burr committed an error, if he did not display a weakness, in
permitting his reputation to be assailed, without contradiction, in
cases where it was perfectly defensible. His enemies took advantage of
the sullen silence which he was known to preserve in regard to
newspaper attacks. Under these attacks he fell from the proud eminence
he once enjoyed to a condition more mortifying and more prostrate than
any distinguished man has ever experienced in the United States.

Different individuals, to gratify different feelings, have ascribed
this unprecedented fall to different causes. But one who is not
altogether ignorant of the springs of human actions; whose
partialities and prejudices are mellowed by more than threescore years
of experience; who has carefully and laboriously, in this case,
examined cause and effect, hesitates not in declaring that, from the
moment Aaron Burr was elected vice-president, his doom was unalterably
decided, if that decision could be accomplished by a combination of
wealth, of talent, of government patronage, of favouritism and
proscription, inflamed by the worst passions, and nurtured by the hope
of gratifying a sordid ambition. The contest in Congress fixed his
fate. Subsequent events were only consequences resulting from
antecedent acts.

In the progress of this work no desire has been evinced, none is felt
to screen Colonel Burr from censure where it is merited. But the man
who can read, unmoved, the evidence which has already been presented
of the injustice done him in the charge of having intrigued and
negotiated with the federal party for the presidency, must possess
more of philosophic than of generous or magnanimous feelings. It would
seem that the task of recording the presidential contest in Congress,
in the spring of 1801, was now brought to a close. But not so. There
yet remains another and imposing view to be presented. Whatever may
have been the wishes of Colonel Burr, it is certain that they were so
far under his own control as to prevent him from entering into any
negotiation, bargain, or intrigue to obtain the presidency. There is
not the slightest evidence of any such attempt on his part, while
there is strong, if not conclusive proof to the contrary. Can as much
be said in favor of his great competitor on that occasion? This is the
view that remains to be taken. But, before presenting the testimony in
the case, some explanation is necessary as to the manner in which it
was first obtained and subsequently made public.

In the year 1804, a suit was instituted by Colonel Burr against James
Cheetham, editor of the American Citizen, for a libel, in charging him
with intriguing for the presidency. This suit was commenced by Mr.
Burr with reluctance, and only to gratify personal friends. It
progressed tardily, impediments having been thrown in the way of
bringing it to trial by the defendant, and probably the cause not
sufficiently pressed by the complainant. In 1805 or 1806, some persons
who were really desirous of ascertaining not only the truth or falsity
of the charge, but whether there was any foundation for it, determined
on having a _wager-suit_ placed at issue on the records of the court,
and then take out a commission to examine witnesses. Accordingly, the
names of _James Gillespie_, plaintiff, and _Abraham Smith_, defendant,
were used. The latter at the time being a clerk in the store of
Matthew L. Davis, then in the mercantile business, trading under the
firm of Strong & Davis.

It was universally believed, that if there were two men in Congress
that could unfold the whole negotiation if any had taken place, those
two men were James A. Bayard, of Delaware, and Samuel Smith, of
Baltimore. The former, a federal gentleman of high standing, the sole
representative of a state in the Congress of 1800, and thus
possessing, at any moment, the power of deciding the contest in favour
of Mr. Jefferson. The latter, a political and personal friend of Mr.
Jefferson, and the very individual whom Colonel Burr had previously
selected as his proxy to declare his sentiments, in case there was a
tie between Mr. Jefferson and himself. A commission was accordingly
taken out, and, on the 3d of April, 1806, Mr. Bayard and Mr. Smith
were examined. No use, however, was made of these depositions until
December, 1830, being a period of nearly twenty-five years.

On the publication of Mr. Jefferson's writings, the sons of the late
James A. Bayard felt that the memory of their father had been
wrongfully and unjustly assailed in two paragraphs in the fourth
volume of this work. The first of these paragraphs, on the 28th of
January, 1830, was read in the United States Senate by the Hon. Mr.
Clayton, of Delaware, General Samuel Smith and Edward Livingston both
being members of the Senate and present. He read the following:

"_February 12, 1801_. Edward Livingston tells me that Bayard applied
to-day or last night to General Samuel Smith, and represented to him
the expediency of coming over to the states who vote for Burr; that
there was nothing in the way of appointment which he might not
command, and particularly mentioned the secretaryship of the navy.
Smith asked him if he was authorized to make the offer. He said he was
authorized. Smith told this to Livingston and W. C. Nicholas, who
confirms it to me," &c.

Mr. Clayton then called upon the senator from Maryland (Mr. Smith) and
the senator from Louisiana (Mr. Livingston) to disprove the statement
here made by Mr. Jefferson.

Mr. Smith, of Maryland, rose and said "that he had read the paragraph
before he came here to-day, and was, therefore, aware of its import.
He had not the most distant recollection that Mr. Bayard had ever made
such a proposition to him. Mr. Bayard, said he, and myself, though
politically opposed, were intimate personal friends, and he was an
honourable man. Of all men, Mr. Bayard would have been the last to
make such a proposition to any man; and I am confident that he had too
much respect for me to have made it under any circumstances. I never
received from any man any such proposition."

Mr. Livingston, of Louisiana, said, "that as to the precise question
which had been put to him by the senator from Delaware, he must say,
that having taxed his recollection as far as it could go on so remote
a transaction, he had no remembrance of it."

The sons of the late Mr. Bayard, not yet being satisfied as to the
other paragraph, resolved on an investigation of the subject, and with
this view one of them wrote the following letter. [2]


Wilmington, March 8, 1830.


In the fourth volume of Mr. Jefferson's Writings, lately published by
his grandson, page 521, under the head of a note made April 15, 1806,
occurs the following paragraph, after the detail of a conversation
held with you about a month previously:--

"I did not commit these things to writing at the time, but I do now,
because, in a suit between him and Cheetham, he has had a deposition
of Mr. Bayard taken which seems to have no relation to the suit, nor
to any other object than to calumniate me. Bayard pretends to have
addressed to me, during the pending of the presidential election in
February, 1801, through General Samuel Smith, certain conditions on
which my election might be obtained; and that General Smith, after
conversing with me, gave answers from me. This is absolutely false. No
proposition of any kind was ever made to me on that occasion by
General Smith, or any answer authorized by me. And this fact General
Smith affirms at this moment."

Mr. Jefferson supposes this deposition to have been made in your suit
against Cheetham. I have some reason to think he is mistaken as to the
precise case in which it was made. However this may be, I am anxious
to procure a copy of it, as returned with the commission under which
it was taken.

If I may not be considered as trespassing too far on your time and
attention, will you permit me to ask whether the deposition referred
to by Mr. Jefferson is still in existence? In what case it was taken?
And whether a copy of it can be procured?

I have the honour to be, respectfully,

Your obedient servant,


Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest