CHAPTER VIII
THE POLITICIAN EMBARKED

1. PREVIEW

MEANWHILE politics had been steadily growing more exacerbated and party lines more sharply delimited in New York State. The Federal Constitution had been fought over and adopted in 1787. Governor George Clinton had been its bitterest opponent, preferring the prestige and power of a semi-independent State. Names were being called, in spite of the unanimity with which George Washington had been elected President. Already the lines were being drawn for the agrarian revolt under Jefferson and others.

The situation in New York was rather peculiar. Under the State Constitution of 1777 it was comparatively easy for the few with power, influence and wealth to rule the many. It could not in any modern sense of the term be considered a democracy. Nor, for that matter, could the political set-up of any other State in the newly formed United States.

The government consisted of a Governor, a bicameral Legislature -- the Assembly, 70 members elected annually, and the Senate, 24 members chosen for terms of four years. These were the nominal government; actually there were two other bodies specified in the Constitution that held as much, if not more, of real power. The Council of Revision, composed of the Governor, the Chancellor and Judges of the Supreme Court, was vested with veto power over all legislation, subject to be overridden by a two-thirds vote of each branch of the Legislature. The Council of Appointment was even more curious. It consisted of four Senators nominated and appointed by the Assembly, who, together with the Governor, appointed all state officials with the exception of the Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, and State Treasurer. The patronage was enormous, ranging from Supreme Court Judges down to justices of the peace and auctioneers. It can readily be seen what a powerful and flexible weapon this Council could be in the hands of unscrupulous politicians.

Suffrage was heavily restricted. To be permitted to vote for members of the Assembly there were property qualifications -- to

-93-

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Aaron Burr: A Biography
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments x
  • Illustrations xi
  • Chapter I - Ancestral Voices 1
  • Chapter II - Childhood 14
  • Chapter III - College Years 21
  • Chapter IV - Swords and Bullets 32
  • Chapter V - The War Goes On 53
  • Chapter VI - Prelude to Life 69
  • Chapter VII - Chiefly Legal 84
  • Chapter VIII - The Politician Embarked 93
  • Chapter IX - The Gentleman from New York 102
  • Chapter X - Intermediate Years 115
  • Chapter XI - Party Growth 132
  • Chapter XII - Burr Stoops to Conquer 145
  • Chapter XIII - The Second American Revolution 167
  • Chapter XIV - Jefferson or Burr 188
  • Chapter XV - Vice-President Burr 210
  • Chapter XVI - The Last Struggle for Power 236
  • Chapter XVII - Tragic Duel 246
  • Chapter XVIII - The Impeachment of Justice Chase 261
  • Chapter XIX - Backgrounds for the Conspiracy 270
  • Chapter XX - Western Journey 296
  • Chapter XXI - Never to Return 320
  • Chapter XXII - The Man Hunt Starts 344
  • Chapter XXIII - Dictatorship in New Orleans 364
  • Chapter XXIV - The Stage Is Set 387
  • Chapter XXV - Tried for Treason 396
  • Chapter XXVI - On Trial 424
  • Chapter XXVII - Man without a Country 449
  • Chapter XXVIII - Failure in France 471
  • Chapter XXIX - Declining Years 496
  • Notes 519
  • Bibliography 547
  • Index 555
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