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   Chapter 101 1807).

Formation of the Union By Albert Bushnell Hart Characters: 2651

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


[Sidenote: Burr's schemes.]

The election of 1804 was the last attempt of Aaron Burr to re-enter public life. His private character, already sufficiently notorious, had been destroyed by the murder of Hamilton, and he was a desperate man. In 1805 Burr went West, and was well received by many prominent men, including General Wilkinson, the senior officer of the United States army, and Andrew Jackson, then a lawyer in Nashville, Tennessee. His purposes were vague: he planned the establishment of a colony on the new Western lands; he had relations with certain Spanish adventurers who wished the independence of Mexico; he hinted at securing the secession of the Western States, with the aid of the British government. His chief purpose seems to have been to head a revolution in the newly acquired Louisiana.

[Sidenote: Burr's expedition.]

To the rumors that Burr had some desperate and treasonable intention Jefferson paid no attention. In December, 1806, Burr mustered a party of men at Blennerhasset's Island, in the Ohio River, and with them floated down the river. Twice attempts were made by local authorities to stop him and prosecute him, but he was allowed to continue, with about a hundred men, till in January, 1807, while on the lower Mississippi, he learned from a newspaper that the President had iss

ued a proclamation directing his capture. He abandoned his men, and shortly afterwards fell into the hands of the authorities, and was sent to Washington for trial.

[Sidenote: Wilkinson's treachery.]

[Sidenote: Burr's Trial.]

Meanwhile steps had been taken to prevent the expected rising in Louisiana. Wilkinson was then on the extreme western frontier. He received a cipher message from Burr, and after waiting for some hours to make up his mind, concluded to betray him, sent the letters to the government, went to New Orleans, and there arrested several of Burr's adherents, by military authority. The danger to the Union had been slight, the laxity on Jefferson's part unpardonable. Having Burr in his power, he now relentlessly pursued him with a prosecution for treason. The trial was held in Richmond, Chief Justice Marshall presiding, and ended on Sept. 1, 1807. The indictment had set forth the mustering of the men at Blennerhasset's Island: since the only acts which could be called treasonable had occurred elsewhere, the court declared the evidence insufficient, and there was nothing for the jury to do but to bring him in not guilty. The President had shown that he could use force, if necessary; and the courts had again shown their independence of the President. Burr disappeared from public notice.

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