CHAPTER XXIV
THE STAGE IS SET

1. CONVICTED IN ADVANCE

IN Washington, the President of the United States was jubilant. Burr was at last in his power, and he was determined that he should not escape this time. He proclaimed exultantly that

Burr has indeed made a most inglorious exhibition of his much overrated talents. He is now on his way to Richmond for trial."1 But the following day, with a fine inconsistency, he was informing an anonymous correspondent, "No man's history proves better the value of honesty. With that, what might he [ Burr] not have been!"2

Since Wilkinson's vague alarms had come to trouble his ears the preceding November, he had steadily increased his already overabundant spleen toward the man who had made him President. He became judge, prosecutor and jury, all in one. He had tried the question of Burr's guilt in the public eye before his capture; he had given the impression that he had in his possession the most irrefutable proofs of his treason and convicted him accordingly. He had utilized every resource of the Government to achieve his purpose -- to blacken the name of Aaron Burr forever -- whether the means were legal or illegal; and now, during the course of the ensuing trial, he injected himself into what was a judicial proceeding in a way that bespoke the most vindictive persecution and interference with the orderly processes of the law of the land. It is indeed a strange episode in the life of an otherwise great figure in American history. A philosopher displaying spleen, passion and enmity; a democrat acting the tyrant; a scientist rearing a structure of hate on the flimsiest premises; the ardent prophet of the Bill of Rights tearing every constitutional guaranty of personal liberty to shreds; the disciple of the Enlightenment adopting the Jesuitical doctrine that the end justifies the means!

Had Jefferson been sincerely convinced of Burr's guilt, and that the nation was in danger of subversion, his course might at least be understandable, if not wholly to be approved. But the record casts serious doubts on Jefferson's own convictions, no matter what he pretended to the public. His first Proclamation made no mention

-387-

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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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