Burr, Aaron (1756–1836)

Author:Dennis J. Mahoney

Page 278

Aaron Burr of New York served as a Continental Army officer during the Revolutionary War and later practiced law in Albany and New York City. He was elected four times to the legislature and was for two years state attorney general before serving a term in the United States SENATE (1791?1797). He organized the New York Republican party and was the first person to use the Tammany Society for political purposes.

In 1800 Burr was nominated for vice-president on the Republican ticket. Under the ELECTORAL COLLEGE system as it then existed, Burr received the same number of votes as his party's presidential nominee, THOMAS JEFFERSON. The HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES took thirty-six ballots to break the tie and elect Jefferson President, and did so only after ALEXANDER HAMILTON interceded with Federalist congressmen.

After his term as vice-president ended in 1805, Burr became involved in a bizarre intrigue, generally supposed to have had as its object the creation of a separate nation southwest of the Appalachian Mountains. His expedition was thwarted, and Burr and several of his confederates were tried for TREASON. President Jefferson personally directed the prosecution and publicly proclaimed the conspirators guilty. In EX PARTE BOLLMAN AND SWARTOUT (1807) the Supreme Court released two of Burr's lieutenants on a writ of HABEAS CORPUS, refusing to extend the constitutional definition of treason to include conspiracy to commit the offense. A few months later Burr himself was tried before JOHN MARSHALL, sitting as circuit judge, and was acquitted on procedural grounds. The acquittal was the occasion of a renewed Jeffersonian assault against Marshall and the...

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