CHAPTER XIV
JEFFERSON OR BURR

1. PREMONITORY MURMURS

THE Republicans had won. But an unprecedented situation had arisen. Jefferson and Burr were tied in the number of votes received. Owing to the peculiarities of the Constitution, the electors of the various States had cast their ballots for two men, without differentiating between them as to which was to be designated President and which Vice-President.

As early as November, Madison had perceived the possibilities, but refused to believe that any danger could arise out of the anomalous situation.1 Jefferson had correctly gauged the situation also, and seemed to have taken certain precautions, which, however, did not prove effective. On December 2nd, Peter Freneau was writing him that one South Carolinian elector had been expected to vote for George Clinton instead of Burr, to insure the Presidency to Jefferson, but that he had failed to do so.2

Jefferson himself was still confident on December 12th that his plans had not wholly gone astray, notwithstanding South Carolina's defection. He had other strings to his bow. On that date he was informing Thomas Mann Randolph that "it was intended that one vote should be thrown away [in South Carolina] from Colo. Burr. It is believed Georgia will withhold from him one or two. The votes will stand probably T. J. 73, Burr about 70, Mr. Adams 65."3

Nevertheless, to dispel certain small doubts, he wrote a very canny and carefully worded congratulatory letter to his runningmate on December 15th. "It was badly managed," he told Burr, "not to have arranged with certainty what seems to have been left to hazard. It was the more material, because I understand several of the high-flying federalists have expressed their hope that the two republican tickets may be equal, and their determination in that case to prevent a choice by the House of Representatives (which they are strong enough to do), and let the government devolve on a president of the Senate." Under the Constitution, in case of a tie, the choice of a President was to be decided by a majority of the House of Representatives, voting as States, from the two highest candidates.

-188-

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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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