The Vice-President Who Murdered the Secretary of the Treasury


Aaron Burr v Alexander HamiltonOn February 19, 1807, Vice-President Aaron Burr was arrested in Alabama on charges of treason.

Burr was born in Newark, New Jersey on February 6, 1756. His father was the president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) and his mother was the daughter of the well-known theologian Jonathan Edwards. Burr entered Princeton at the age of 13 and graduated with honors four years later.

After the Revolutionary War, Burr settled in New York. There, he became involved in politics and began a life-long feud with Alexander Hamilton, who became Secretary of the Treasury. In the Presidential election of 1800, Burr and Thomas Jefferson tied in Electoral College votes but Jefferson was elected President partly because of Hamilton’s influence in the House of Representatives. Burr then became Vice-President.

After a duel that killed Alexander Hamilton in 1804, Burr began concocting plans to set up a grand empire in the west that included the conquest of Mexico and the separation of the trans-Appalachian states from the Union. Although arrested for treason, Burr was acquitted after Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that acts of treason must be attested by two witnesses.

After a trip to Europe to try and re-gain his fortune, Burr returned to New York where he spent the rest of his life as a successful attorney. He died on September 14, 1836.

Do you ever wonder what your 1800 ancestor would have thought about the election and about Burr’s subsequent murder of Hamilton?

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