John Marshall and the Constitution: A Chronicle of the Supreme Court

By Edward S. Corwin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
THE TRIAL OF AARON BURR

WHEN, on March 30, 1807, Colonel Aaron Burr, late Vice-President of the United States, was brought before Chief Justice Marshall in the Eagle Tavern at Richmond on the charge of treason, there began the greatest criminal trial in American history and one of the notable trials in the annals of the law.

"The Burr Conspiracy" still remains after a hundred years an unsolved enigma. Yet whether Burr actually planned treason against the United States in the year of grace 1806 is after all a question of somewhat restricted importance. The essential truth is that he was by nature an adventurer who, in the words of Hamilton, "believed all things possible to daring and energy," and that in 1806 he was a bankrupt and a social outcast to boot. Whether, therefore, his grandiose project of an empire on the ruins of Spanish dominion in Mexico involved also

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