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Aaron Burr

 

1756-1836

 

Revolutionary War Colonel - Vice President

 

 


Edited A.C. Image Copyright© 2001 by VirtualologyTM

 

Aaron Burr, statesman, born in Newark, New Jersey, 6 February, 1756; died on Staten Island, New York, 14 September, 1836. His mother was Esther Edwards, the flower of the remarkable family to which she belonged, celebrated for her beauty as well as for her superior intellect and devout piety. In the truest sense, Aaron Burr was well born. Jonathan Edwards, his grandfather, illustrious as divine and metaphysician, had been elected to succeed his son-in-law as president of Princeton, but died of a fever, resulting from inoculation for small-pox, before he had fairly entered upon his work. Mrs. Burr, his daughter, died of a similar disease sixteen days later. The infant Aaron and his sister Sarah, left doubly orphaned, were placed in charge of their uncle, the Rev. Timothy Edwards, of Elizabethtown (now Elizabeth), New Jersey A handsome fortune having been bequeathed to them by their father, their education was conducted in a liberal manner; a private tutor was provided, Tapping Reeve, who afterward married his pupil, Sarah Burr, and became judge of the Supreme Court of Connecticut. A bright, mischievous boy, and difficult to control Aaron was still sufficiently studious to be prepared to enter Princeton at the age of eleven, though he was not admitted on account of his extreme youth. He was very small, but strikingly handsome, with fine black eyes and the engaging ways that became a fascination in his maturer life.

In 1769 he was allowed as a favor to enter the sophomore class, though only in his thirteenth year. He was a fairly diligent student and an extensive reader, and was graduated with distinction in September, 1772. Stories of wild dissipation during his College course are probably exaggerations. Just before his graduation the College was profoundly stirred by religious excitement, and young Burr, who confessed that he was moved by the revival, resorted to Dr. Witherspoon, the president, for advice. The doctor quieted his anxiety by telling him that the excitement was fanatical. Not entirely satisfied, he went in the autumn of the next year to live for a while in the family of the famous theologian, Dr. Bellamy, of Bethlehem, Connecticut, with the ostensible purpose of settling his mind with regard to the claims of Christianity. The result was a great surprise to his friends, if not to himself; he deliberately rejected the gospel and adopted the infidelity then so rife in Europe and America. The form of unbelief accepted by him was that of Lord Chesterfield, along with his lordship's peculiar views of morality. Here is probably the key to a comprehension of Burr's entire life. He resolved to be a "perfect man of the world," according to the Chesterfieldian code.

Most of the next year (1774) he passed in Litchfield, Connecticut, where he began the study of the law under Tapping Reeve, who had married his sister. At the beginning of the revolution, in 1775, Burr hastened to join the patriot army near Boston. He had a genuine passion for military life, and was singularly qualified to excel as a soldier. Here, fretted by inaction, he resolved to accompany Col. Benedict Arnold in his expedition to Quebec. Against the expostulations of all his friends and the commands of his uncle, Timothy, he persisted in his determination. Out of the memorable hardships and disasters of that expedition young Burr came back with the rank of major and a brilliant reputation for courage and ability. Soon after his return he became a member of General Washington's family. From some cause the place did not please him, and after about six weeks he withdrew from Washington's table and accepted an appointment as aide to General Putnam.

This incident was extremely unfortunate for him. During their brief association Burr contracted prejudices against Washington, which grew into deep dislike, and Washington got impressions of Burr that ripened into settled distrust. In July, 1777, Burr was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel, with the command of his regiment, the colonel preferring to remain at home. In September, while occupying the house near Ramapo Pass, of which a representation is here given, he defeated the enemy near Hackensack and drove them back to Paulus Hook. At Monmouth he distinguished himself at the head of a brigade.

While Burr's command lay in Orange County, New York, he became acquainted with Mrs. Theodosia Prevost, an intelligent and accomplished lady living at Paramus, widow of an English officer who had recently died in the West Indies. She was ten years his senior and had two sons. In March, 1779, after four years of service, he resigned his commission on account of broken health. In the autumn of 1780, his health having improved, Burr resumed the study of law, first with Judge Patterson, of New Jersey, and afterward with Thomas Smith, of Haverstraw, New York On 17 April, 1782, he was admitted to the bar in Albany, the rule that required three years spent in study having been in his ease relaxed on account of his service as a soldier. Now, at the age of twenty-six, he took an office in Albany and almost immediately commanded a large practice. Being at last in a condition to warrant this step, he married Mrs. Prevost, 2 July, 1782, and at once began housekeeping in Albany in handsome style.

In the first year of his marriage his daughter, Theodosia, was born, the only child of this union. In the latter part of the next year, just after the British had evacuated the City, he returned to New York and devoted himself to his profession for eight years, having during that period twice served as a member of the New York legislature. He stood among the leaders of the bar, with no rival but Alexander Hamilton. Obtaining possession of Richmond Hill, a fine New York mansion with ample grounds, he dispensed a liberal hospitality. Talleyrand, Volney, and Louis Philippe were among his guests.

In 1788, just after the adoption of the constitution, Burr entered the arena of politics as a candidate of the anti-federal party, though he was not distinctly identified with those who nominated him, and soon afterward he was appointed by Governor Clinton attorney general, an office which he held for two years. In 1791 he was elected to the United States senate over General Philip Schuyler, to the great surprise of the country and the keen disappointment of Hamilton, Schuyler's son-in-law. The federalists had a majority in the legislature, and Schuyler was one of the pillars of the federal party. The triumph of Burr under these circumstances was mysterious. For six years he served in the senate with conspicuous ability, acting steadily with the Republican Party.

Mrs. Burr died of cancer in 1794. Among the last words he ever spoke was this testimony to the wife of his youth: "The mother of my Theo was the best woman and finest lady I have ever known." After her death the education of his daughter engrossed a large share of his attention. In 1797 the tables turned, and his defeated antagonist, General Schuyler, was almost unanimously elected to his seat in the senate. Burr was shortly afterward made a member of the New York assembly. Into the presidential contest of 1800 he entered with all his energy. The republicans triumphed; but between the two highest candidates there was a tie, each receiving seventy-three votes, which threw the election into the House of Representatives. In connection with this affair, Burr was charged with intriguing to defeat the public will and have himself chosen to the first office, instead of Jefferson. After a fierce struggle of seven days, the house elected Jefferson president and Burr vice-president.

He was then forty-five years old and at the top of his fortune. His daughter had made a highly satisfactory marriage, and his pecuniary prospects were improved. In 1801, just before entering upon his duties as vice-president, he was a member of a convention of the state of New York for revising its constitution, and was made chairman by unanimous vote. But a great change was at hand. Near the close of his term of office as vice-president, Burr, finding himself under a cloud with his party, sought to recover his popularity by being a candidate for the governorship of New York, but was defeated by Morgan Lewis. In this contest Alexander Hamilton had put forth his utmost energies against Burr. Though the relations of these political leaders had remained outwardly friendly, they had long been rivals, and Hamilton had not hesitated to express in private his distrust of Burr, and to balk several of his ambitious projects. In the gubernatorial canvass Hamilton had written concerning his rival in a very severe manner, and some of his expressions having got into the newspapers, Burr immediately fastened upon them as ground for a challenge. A long correspondence ensued, in which Hamilton vainly sought to avoid extremities. At length the challenge was accepted, and the parties met on the bank of the Hudson, at Weehawken, New Jersey, at seven o'clock A. M., 7 July, 1804.

At the first fire Hamilton fell mortally wounded. But Burr's shot was more fatal to himself than to his foe; he left that "field of honor" a ruined man. The tragedy aroused an unprecedented excitement, before which Burr felt it wise to fly. The coroner's inquest having returned a verdict of murder, he escaped to South Carolina and took refuge in the home of his daughter. Though an indictment for murder was obtained against him, the excitement subsided, and he was left unmolested. After a season he ventured to Washington, and completed his term of service as vice-president. Though his political prospects were now blasted and his name execrated, his bold and resolute spirit did not break. Courage and fortitude were the cardinal virtues of his moral code, and his restless mind was already employed with new and vast projects.

Early in 1805 he turned his course toward the great west, then a new world. From Pittsburgh he floated in a boat, specially built for him, down to New Orleans, stopping at many points, and often receiving enthusiastic attention. After some time spent in the southwest, he slowly returned to Washington, where he sought from the president an appointment suitable to his dignity. Foiled in this effort, he turned more earnestly to his mysterious western projects. His purpose seems to have been to collect a body of followers and conquer Texas--perhaps Mexico--establishing there a republic of which he should be the head. With this he associated the hope that the western states, ultimately falling away from the union, would cast in their lot with him, making New Orleans the capital of the new nation. As a rendezvous and refuge for his followers, he actually bought a vast tract of land on Washita river, for which the sum of $40,000 was to be paid. It was a wild scheme, and, if not technically treasonable, was so near to it as to make him a public enemy. Events had advanced rapidly, and Burr's plans were nearly ripe for execution, when the president, who had not been ignorant of what was maturing, issued a proclamation, 27 October, 1806, denouncing the enterprise and warning the people against it. The project immediately collapsed. On 14 January, 1807, Burr was arrested in Mississippi territory, and, having escaped, was again arrested in Alabama, whence he was conveyed to Richmond, Virginia Here was held the memorable trial for treason, beginning 22 May, 1807, and lasting, with some interruptions, for six months. In the array of distinguished counsel, William Wirt was pre-eminent for the prosecution and Luther Martin for the defense. Burr himself took an active part in the case. On 1 September the jury returned a verdict of not guilty on the indictment for treason, and some time afterward the prisoner was acquitted, on technical grounds, of the charge of misdemeanor.

Though Burr was now free, his good name was not restored by the issue of the trial, and he soon sailed for England, still animated by new schemes and hopes. After various adventures in that country, he was expelled as an "embarrassing" person, and went to Sweden. Having spent some time in Copenhagen and various cities of Germany, he reached Paris in February, 1810. Here, kept under government surveillance, and refused permission to return to the United States, he was reduced to the severest pecuniary straits. Returning again to England, he was obliged to remain there in desperate extremities for a year and a half.

At last he got away in the ship "Aurora," and reached Boston in May, 1812. Disguised under the name of Arnot, as well as with wig, whiskers, and strange garments, the returning exile entered the City in a most humiliating plight. The government prosecutions still hung over his head, and some of his creditors had executions against him, which might throw him into a prison. He ventured to New York, however, reaching that place four years after leaving it. He soon opened an office in Nassau Street, old friends rallied around him, and the future began to brighten somewhat, when he was stunned by the information that his only grandchild, Theodosia's son, aged eleven, was dead. A still more crushing blow soon came. The daughter, who was his idol, perished at sea while on a voyage from Charleston to New York in January, 1813.

Burr was now fifty-seven years old. Shunned by society, though with a considerable practice, he lived on for twenty-three years. At the age of seventy-eight he married Madame Jumel, widow of a French merchant, who had a considerable fortune. The union soon proved unhappy, owing to Burr's reckless use of his wife's money, and they finally separated, though not divorced. In his last days Burr was dependent on the charity of a Scotch woman, a friend of former years, for a home. He died at Port Richmond, Staten Island, and his remains lie, according to his request, in the cemetery at Princeton, near those of his honored father and grandfather.

In person, Burr was small, often being spoken of as " little Burr," but his appearance and manners were fascinating. In his ease the finest gifts of nature and fortune were spoiled by unsound moral principles and the absence of all genuine convictions. His habits were licentious. He was a master of intrigue, though to little purpose. He was a respectable lawyer and speaker, but lacked the qualities of a statesman. Dauntless resolution and cool self-possession never forsook him. On the morning of his duel with Hamilton he was found by a friend in a sound sleep. Though a skeptic, he was not a scoffer. In his last hours he said of the holy Scriptures : "They are the most perfect system of truth the world has ever seen."

--His daughter, Theodosia Burr, born in New York City in 1783; died at sea in January, 1813, was one of the most highly accomplished and brilliant of American women. Her father, to whom she was an object of pride as well as passionate affection, devoted himself to informing her mind and training her character in accordance with his own ideal of womanhood. In her tenth year she read Horace and Terence in the original Latin, spoke French, and was studying the Greek grammar. He was as careful of her physical as of her mental education, and sought to develop the independence of thought and self-reliance that was universally discouraged at the time in the training of girls. After her mother's death, in 1794, Theodosia became mistress of her father's house and the companion of his leisure hours.


Edited A.C. Image Copyright© 2001 by VirtualologyTM

On 2 February, 1801, she married Joseph Alston, a wealthy and talented young planter of South Carolina, who in after years became governor of his native state.  The devotion of Theodosia to her father approached idolatry; through all the disasters of his career she clung to him with unshaken fidelity. She and her husband were cognizant of her father's scheme to become emperor of Mexico, her son was to be the heir to the throne, and when Burr was brought to trial at Richmond his daughter was there, and, by the power of her beauty and intellectual graces, did much to stay the torrent of popular indignation and secure a favorable verdict. Her eloquent letters to Mrs. Madison, Sec. Gallatin, and other old friends of Burr paved the way for his return to New York after four years of exile and poverty. Before his arrival Theodosia's son and only child died, in his eleventh year. In consequence of this blow she was prostrated by a nervous fever; but, eager to see her father once more, she embarked at Charleston for New York, 29 December, 1812, on a pilot-boat called the "Patriot." A storm soon arose, and raged along the coast, in which the "Patriot" probably foundered off Hatteras. Nothing was ever heard of the vessel again. This event completed the tragedy of the Burr family. The accompanying portrait of Theodosia represents her at the age of nineteen. See " Life of Aaron Burr," by Samuel L. Knapp (New York, 1835);"Memoirs, with Selections from his Correspondence" (2 vols., 1837-'8), and "Private Journal" during his residence abroad, with selections from his correspondence (2 vols., 1838), both edited by Matthew L. Davis; and "Life and Times of Aaron Burr," by James Par-ton (New York, 1858). -- Edited Appleton's Cyclopedia American Biography Copyright© 2001 by VirtualologyTM

 

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Aaron Burr
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BURR, Aaron, clergyman, born in Fairfield, Connecticut, 4 January, 1716; died 24 September, 1757. He belonged to a Puritan family that for three generations had given to church and state men of eminence. He was graduated at Yale in his nineteenth year, having gained one of the three Berkeley scholarships, which entitled him to maintenance at the College for two years after graduating. While pursuing his post-graduate studies he was converted, and at once turned his attention to theology. 

At the age of twenty-two he became pastor of the Presbyterian church in Newark, New Jersey, where he soon acquired a commanding reputation as a pulpit orator. Here he also established a school for boys, which proved highly successful. He prepared for his pupils a Latin grammar known as the "Newark Grammar" (1752), which was long in use at Princeton. In later years he published a small work on the "Supreme Deity of Our Lord Jesus Christ" (new ed., 1791), with an occasional sermon. 

In 1748, at the age of thirty-two, he became president of the College of New Jersey, but without interrupting his pastoral service. In the summer of 1752 he married Esther, daughter of Jonathan Edwards, of Stockbridge, Massachusetts. In the autumn of 1756 he resigned his charge at Newark and removed to Princeton, where he died from overwork. He left two children, Sarah, born 3 May, 1754, and Aaron. As scholar, preacher, author, and educator, President Burr was one of the foremost men of his time. To his more solid qualities were added a certain grace and distinguished style of manner, which re-appeared in his son. Though nominally the second president of Princeton, he was practically the first, since the former. Jonathan Dickinson, only served for a few months. He was in a true sense its founder, and the College may be said to be his monument. Six of its presidents are buried in Princeton by his side.

--His son, Aaron Burr, statesman, born in Newark, New Jersey, 6 February, 1756; died on Staten Island, New York, 14 September, 1836. -- Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, by Louis Klos - Upper St. Clair High School, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

Aaron Burr

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Aaron Burr, Jr. (February 6, 1756 – September 14, 1836) was an American politician, Revolutionary War hero, and adventurer. He served as the third Vice President of the United States (1801–05), under Thomas Jefferson.

A formative member of the Democratic-Republican Party with a political base in New York, Burr served in the New York State Assembly (1784–85, 1798–1801), as New York State Attorney General (1789–91), United States Senator (1791–97), and for one term as vice president under Jefferson. A candidate for President in 1800, Burr tied Jefferson with 73 electoral votes, making him eligible for one of the Nation's two highest offices and sending the election into the U.S. House of Representatives. After 36 ballots, Jefferson was elected President and Burr elected Vice President. As Vice President, Burr was president of the Senate, and in this role presided over the impeachment trial of Samuel Chase.

During an unsuccessful campaign for governor of New York in 1804, Burr was often referred to in published articles written by Alexander Hamilton, a long-time political rival and son-in-law of Philip Schuyler, the first U.S. senator from New York, whom Burr defeated in Schuyler's bid for re-election in 1791. Taking umbrage at remarks made by Hamilton at a dinner party and Hamilton's subsequent failure to account for the remarks, Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel on July 11, 1804, at the Heights of Weehawken in New Jersey, at which he mortally wounded Hamilton. Easily the most famous duel in U.S. history, it had immense political ramifications. Burr was indicted for murder in both New York and New Jersey (though these charges were either later dismissed or resulted in acquittal), and the harsh criticism and animosity directed towards him brought about an end to his political career in the East, though he remained a popular figure in the West and South. Further, Hamilton's untimely death would fatally weaken the remnants of the Federalist Party.

After Burr left the vice presidency at the end of his term in 1805, he journeyed into what was then the West, particularly the Ohio River Valley and the lands acquired in the Louisiana Purchase. Burr was preparing to lead a filibuster into Spanish possessions in Mexico in case of war with Spain, which would have been perfectly legal and at the time was very possible. Due to the power of rumur and the sullying of Burr's name by means of claims as far-fetched as Burr's desire to secede from the United States and form his own monarchy in the western half of North America, Burr was arrested in 1807 and brought to trial on charges of treason, for which he was acquitted.[1] After several years in self-imposed exile in Europe, Burr returned to practicing law in New York City and lived a largely reclusive existence until his death.

 Early life

Burr was born in Newark, New Jersey, to the Rev. Aaron Burr, Sr., who was a Presbyterian minister and the second president of the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University; his mother, Esther Edwards, was the daughter of Jonathan Edwards, the famous Calvinist theologian. The Burrs also had a daughter, Sarah, who married Tapping Reeve. Aaron and his sister were of English ancestry.

In 1772, he received his A.B. in theology at Princeton University, but changed his career path two years later and began the study of law in the celebrated law school conducted by Reeve, at Litchfield, Connecticut. His studies were put on hold while he served during the Revolutionary War, under Generals Benedict Arnold, George Washington (for two weeks), and Israel Putnam.

 

Military service

During the Revolutionary War, Aaron Burr took part in General Benedict Arnold's invasion of Canada (1775) where they went on an arduous trek of over 500 miles in the freezing cold of winter. At a battle in Maine, an injured Burr was helped to get off the battlefield by a former Princeton College classmate, Samuel Spring. Upon arriving before the Battle of Quebec (1775), Burr was sent up the St. Lawrence River to make contact with General Richard Montgomery, who had taken Montreal, and escorted him to Quebec. Montgomery promoted Burr as captain and made him an aide-de-camp. Although Montgomery was killed while attempting to capture the city of Quebec during a fierce snow storm on December 31, 1775, Burr distinguished himself with brave actions against the British.

Burr's courage made him a national hero and earned a place on Washington's staff in Manhattan, but he quit after two weeks because he wanted to return to the battlefield. Never hesitant to voice his opinions, Burr may have set Washington against him; however, rumors that Washington then distrusted Burr have never been substantiated.

General Israel Putnam took Burr under his wing; by his vigilance in the retreat from lower Manhattan to Harlem, Burr saved an entire brigade (including Alexander Hamilton, who was one of its officers) from capture. In a stark departure from common practice, Washington failed to commend Burr's actions in the next day's General Orders (the fastest way to obtain a promotion in rank). Although Burr was already a nationally known hero, he never received a commendation. According to Burr's stepbrother Matthew Ogden, Burr was infuriated by the incident, which may have led to the eventual estrangement between him and Washington.[2][3]

On becoming a lieutenant colonel in July 1777, Burr assumed virtual leadership of Malcolm's Additional Continental Regiment. There were approximately 300 men under Colonel William Malcolm command. The regiment successfully fought off continuous nighttime raids into central New Jersey by English troops sailing over from Manhattan, crushing those forces. During the harsh winter encampment at Valley Forge, Burr was put in charge of a small contingent guarding the "Gulph," an isolated pass commanding the approach to the camp, and necessarily the first point that would be attacked. Burr enforced discipline there, successfully defeating a mutiny by some of the troops.

On June 28, 1778 at the Battle of Monmouth, his regiment was decimated by British artillery, and in the day's terrible heat, Burr suffered a heat stroke from which he would never quite recover. In January 1779, Burr was assigned to the command of the lines of Westchester County, a region between the British post at Kingsbridge and that of the U.S. about 15 miles (24 km) to the north. In this district there was much turbulence and plundering by the lawless elements of both Whigs and Tories, and by bands of ill-disciplined soldiers from both armies. Burr established a thorough patrol system, rigorously enforced martial law, and quickly restored order.

He resigned from the Continental Army in March 1779 due to bad health and renewed his study of law. Though technically no longer in the service, he remained active in the war: he was assigned by General Washington to perform occasional intelligence missions for Continental generals such as Arthur St. Clair, and on July 5, 1779, he rallied a group of Yale students at New Haven along with Capt. James Hillhouse and the Second Connecticut Governors Foot Guard in a skirmish with the British at the West River. The British advance was repulsed, having to enter New Haven from Hamden.

Despite these activities, Burr was able to finish his studies and was admitted to the bar at Albany in 1782. He began to practice in New York City after the British evacuated the city the following year. He lived in Richmond Hill, Manhattan, an area just outside of Greenwich Village.

 

Marriage

In 1782, Aaron Burr married Theodosia Bartow Prevost, the widow of James Marcus Prevost (see The Hermitage), a British army officer who had died in the West Indies during the Revolutionary War. They moved to New York City, where Burr's reputation as a brilliant trial lawyer was well known. They had two daughters who survived birth, only one of whom grew to adulthood, named Theodosia, after her mother. The marriage lasted until the elder Theodosia's death from stomach cancer twelve years later. Born in 1783, his daughter Theodosia became widely known for her education and accomplishments. She married Joseph Alston of South Carolina in 1801, and bore a son who died of fever at ten years of age. She died either due to piracy or in a shipwreck off the Carolinas in the winter of 1812 or early 1813.

In 1833, at age 77, Burr married again, this time to Eliza Bowen Jumel, the extremely wealthy widow of Stephen Jumel. When she realized her fortune was dwindling from her husband's land speculation, they separated after only four months. The divorce between Burr and Jumel was finalized on September 14, 1836, the day of Burr's death.

 

Legal and early political career

Burr served in the New York State Assembly from 1784 to 1785, but became seriously involved in politics in 1789, when George Clinton appointed him New York State Attorney General. He was commissioner of Revolutionary War claims in 1791, and that same year was elected to the United States Senate over the incumbent, General Philip Schuyler, and served there until 1797.

While Burr and Jefferson served during the Washington administration, the Federal Government was resident in Philadelphia. They both roomed for a time at the boarding house of a Mrs. Payne. Her daughter Dolley, an attractive young widow, was introduced by Burr to James Madison, whom she subsequently married.

Although Hamilton and Burr had long been on good personal terms, often dining with one another[citation needed], Burr's defeat of General Schuyler, Hamilton's father-in-law, probably drove the first major wedge into their friendship. Nevertheless, their relationship took a decade to reach a status of enmity.

As a U.S. senator, Burr was not a favorite in President George Washington's eyes. He sought to write an official Revolutionary history, but Washington blocked his access to the archives, possibly because the former colonel had been a noted critic of his leadership, and possibly because he regarded Burr as a schemer. Washington also passed over Burr for the ministry to France. After being appointed commanding general of U.S. forces by President John Adams in 1798, Washington turned down Burr's application for a brigadier general's commission during the Quasi-War with France. Adams wrote, "By all that I have known and heard, Colonel Burr is a brave and able officer, but the question is whether he has not equal talents at intrigue."[4] Hamilton, who by then despised Burr, still had Washington's ear at this time. Burr is said to have despised Washington "as a man of no talents and one who could not spell a sentence of common English." However, Washington's wartime strategies may have colored Burr's opinion of the General. (Sources: Schachner; Lomask.)

Bored with the inactivity of the new U.S. Senate, Burr ran for and was elected to the New York State Assembly, serving from 1798 through 1801. During John Adams' term as President, national parties became clearly defined. Burr loosely associated himself with the Democratic-Republicans, though he had moderate Federalist allies, such as Sen. Jonathan Dayton of New Jersey. Burr quickly became a key player in New York politics, more powerful in time than Hamilton, largely because of the Tammany Society, later to become the infamous Tammany Hall, which Burr converted from a social club into a political machine to help Jefferson reach the presidency. In 1799, Burr founded the Bank of the Manhattan Company, which in later years evolved into the Chase Manhattan Bank and later JPMorgan Chase.

In 1800, New York presidential electors were to be chosen by the state legislature as they had been in 1796 (for John Adams). The state assembly was controlled by the Federalists going into the April 1800 legislative elections. In the city of New York, assembly members were to be selected on an at-large basis. Burr and Hamilton were the key organizers for their respective parties in Republican slate of assemblymen for New York City elected, gaining control of the legislature and in due course giving New York's electoral votes to Jefferson and winning the 1800 presidential election for him. This drove another wedge between Hamilton and Burr. Burr became U.S. Vice President during Jefferson's first term (1801-1805).

During the French Revolution, French diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, in need of sanctuary to escape the Terror, stayed in Burr's home in New York City but also spent much time at Hamilton's house. When Burr, after the Hamilton duel and treason trial, traveled Europe in an attempt to recoup his fortunes, Talleyrand refused him entrance into France. Talleyrand was an ardent admirer of Alexander Hamilton and had even once written: "I consider Napoleon, Fox, and Hamilton, the three greatest men of our epoch, and if I were forced to decide between the three, I would give without hesitation the first place to Hamilton. He had divined Europe."

 

Vice Presidency

Because of his influence in New York City and the New York legislature, Burr was asked by Jefferson and Madison to help the Jeffersonians in the election of 1800. Burr sponsored a bill through the New York Assembly that established a water utility company that also allowed the Democratic-Republicans to create a bank for Jefferson's campaign. Another crucial move was Burr's success in getting his slate of New York City and nearby Electors to win election, thus defeating the Federalist slate, which was chosen and backed by Alexander Hamilton. This event drove a further wedge between the former friends.

Burr is known as the father of modern political campaigning. He enlisted the help of members of Tammany Hall, a social club, and won the election. He was then placed on the Democratic-Republican presidential ticket in the 1800 election with Jefferson. At the time, state legislatures chose the members of the U.S. Electoral College, and New York was crucial to Jefferson. Though Jefferson did win New York, he and Burr tied for the presidency with 73 electoral votes each.

It was well understood that the party intended that Jefferson should be president and Burr vice president, but the responsibility for the final choice belonged to the House of Representatives. The attempts of a powerful faction among the Federalists to secure the election of Burr failed, partly due to opposition by Alexander Hamilton and partly due to Burr himself, who did little to obtain votes in his own favor. He wrote to Jefferson underscoring his promise to be vice president, and again during the voting stalemate in the Congress wrote again that he would give it up entirely if Jefferson so demanded. Ultimately, the election devolved to the point where it took 36 ballots before James A. Bayard, a Delaware Federalist, submitted a blank vote. Federalist abstentions in the Vermont and Maryland delegations led to Jefferson's election as President, and Burr’s moderate Federalist supporters conceded his defeat.

Upon confirmation of Jefferson’s election, Burr became Vice President of the United States, but despite his letters and his shunning of any political activity during the balloting (he never left Albany) he lost Jefferson's trust after that, and was effectively shut out of party matters. Some historians conjecture that the reason for this was Burr's casual regard for politics, and that he didn't act aggressively enough during the election tie. Jefferson was tight-lipped in private about Burr, so his reasons are still not entirely clear. However, Burr's even-handed fairness and his judicial manner as President of the Senate were praised even by some of his enemies, and he fostered some time-honored traditions in regard to that office. Historian Forrest MacDonald has credited Burr's judicial manner in presiding over the impeachment trial of Justice Samuel Chase with helping to preserve the principle of judicial independence that was established by Marbury v. Madison in 1803. It was written by one Senator that Burr had conducted the proceedings with the "impartiality of an angel and the rigor of a devil."

Burr's farewell in March 1805 moved some of his harshest critics in the Senate to tears. However, except for short quotes and descriptions of the address, which defended America's system of government, it was never recorded in full.

 

Duel with Alexander Hamilton

When it became clear that Jefferson would drop Burr from his ticket in the 1804 election, the Vice President ran for the governorship of New York instead. Burr lost the election, and blamed his loss on a personal smear campaign believed to have been orchestrated by his own party rivals, including New York governor George Clinton. Alexander Hamilton also opposed Burr, due to his belief that Burr had entertained a Federalist secession movement in New York. But Hamilton, Burr felt, went too far at one political dinner, where he said that he could express a "still more despicable opinion" of Burr. After a letter regarding the incident written by Dr. Charles D. Cooper was published in the Albany Register, Burr sought an explanation from Hamilton.

Instead Hamilton responded casually by educating Burr on the many possible meanings of despicable, enraging and embarrassing Burr. Burr then demanded that Hamilton recant or deny anything he might have said regarding Burr’s character over the past 15 years, but Hamilton, having already been disgraced by the Maria Reynolds scandal and ever mindful of his own reputation and honor, did not. Burr responded by challenging Hamilton to personal combat under the code duello, the formalized rules of dueling. Both men had been involved in numerous duels in the past, though most had never reached the dueling field. Hamilton's eldest son, Philip, had died in a duel in 1801.

Although still quite common, dueling had been outlawed in New York, and the punishment for conviction of dueling was death. It was illegal in New Jersey as well, but the consequences were less severe. On July 11, 1804, the enemies met outside of

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