CHAPTER I
ANCESTRAL VOICES

1. RESPECTABLE BURRS

I HAVE never known, in any country," declared John Adams, second President of the United States, "the prejudice in favor of birth, parentage and descent more conspicuous than in the instance of Colonel Burr."1

The phraseology of the testy old man, reminiscing publicly in the year 1815, was singularly inept, for neither his own context nor the facts themselves disclose that Aaron Burr's meteoric rise, nor, for that matter, his as precipitous fall, was in anywise influenced by a general public preoccupation with the incidence of "birth, parentage and descent."

Nevertheless the major premise remains intact. Ii would be difficult, in that early period of American history, to discover another whose lineage, on either branch of the convergent family tree, was as proudly intellectual, as earnestly God-fearing, as solid and substantial in the things of the world, as that of Aaron Burr.

The first paternal Burr of whom there is any authentic public record was a certain Jehue, who migrated with Winthrop's fleet in 1630 to the bleak and uninviting shores of Massachusetts for the greater glory of God and the possible enhancement of his own economic status.

There is no reason to doubt that he found satisfaction on both counts, for he very early occupied a solid niche in the affairs of that theocratic Colony. In Roxbury, where he first settled, he was appointed Overseer of Roads and Bridges; when, seized with restlessness and lured by the reports of broad, fertile acres, he pushed on to Agawam, in the newly established Colony of Connecticut, he was soon its Tax Collector, probably the first. When he finally removed to Fairfield, in the same Colony, he was chosen Town Commissioner and representative in the General Court. In short, by the time he died in 1672 he had placed the name of Burr on a very respectable basis indeed.

Nor did his descendants let him down. They increased and multiplied in accordance with the Biblical injunction, and they steadily and uninterruptedly added new laurels to the family

-1-

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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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