Jefferson's Vendetta: The Pursuit of Aaron Burr and the Judiciary

By McDonald, Robert M. S. | The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, April 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Jefferson's Vendetta: The Pursuit of Aaron Burr and the Judiciary


McDonald, Robert M. S., The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography


Jefferson's Vendetta: The Pursuit of Aaron Burr and the Judiciary * Joseph Wheelan *New York: Carroll & Graf, 2005 * viii, 344 pp. $26.00

Joseph Wheelan's vivid and engaging Jefferson's Vendetta retells the familiar story of the trial and acquittal of Aaron Burr, accused of treason in 1807 for allegedly conspiring to conquer and establish an empire in the western United States and Spanish Mexico. Although Wheelan admits that Burr at least intrigued to lead an army against Spain, he champions Chief Justice John Marshall's narrow definition of treason, which resulted in Burr's acquittal. At the same time, he takes issue with President Thomas Jefferson's efforts to convict Burr "at whatever cost" (p. 183).

Given Jefferson's willingness to take shortcuts in the case against Burr, this is reasonable enough. After all, the third president crafted a reputation as a man who cared at least as much about pursuing proper means as achieving noble ends. Rather than attempting an even-handed approach, however, Wheelan's book takes the form of an anti-Jefferson indictment. The result is that the actions of Jefferson emerge as "sinister" (p. 79), "relentless," "motivated by corrosive hatred" (p. 184), and full of "malice" (p. 243) toward Burr. Jefferson, according to Wheelan, "was able to contrive treason . . . without a shred of solid evidence" (p. 285).

Wheelan overstates his case by glazing over the fact that Jefferson had good reasons to think darkly of Burr. The New Yorker's ambition nearly prompted him to usurp the presidency in 1801; in addition, in 1778 he undermined George Washington as commander of the Continental Army, and in 1804 he shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. And then there is the fact that, although Jeffersonians failed to prove it in court, we now know that Burr probably was guilty of treason. Wheelan concedes this (p. 120), but he is unwilling to acknowledge Jefferson's good intuition or to contextualize Jefferson's zealous prosecution of Burr, who stood ready to exploit the shakiness of the union that tied together the United States.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Jefferson's Vendetta: The Pursuit of Aaron Burr and the Judiciary
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.