Aaron Burr

Aaron Burr was born in 1756 in New Jersey. He was the son of Aaron Burr, Sr. — the second president of Princeton as well as the grandson of Jonathan Edwards. He graduated at 16 from the College of New Jersey [which later became Princeton University] as a student of theology. He eventually switched his career track to study law.

Burr began his military service as a volunteer around 1775. He served as a volunteer during Benedict Arnold's "March to Quebec" [September 13 — November 9, 1775]. He is actually credited with trying to evacuate the body of General Richard Montgomery after he was killed in action during the invasion. He joined the staff of George Washington in 1776 when he was sent to New York City. He and General Washington apparently did not get along and he left a few weeks later. On June 22 he became an aide-de-camp to General Putnam eventually seeing action in the Battle of Long Island and the evacuation of New York City. He was commissioned Lieutenant Colonel of Malcolm's Regiment on January 4, 1777. He was stationed at Orange County, New York, essentially the commander of the Regiment at the age of 21!

He spent the winter of 1777-1778 at Valley Forge where he was almost involved with the Conway Cabal. After evacuating with the army on June 19, 1778, he commanded a brigade during Monmouth. After the action there, he openly supported General Charles Lee — whom Washington had reprimanded upon finding him retreating from battle. Burr commanded his regiment following the Monmouth Campaign in Westchester County, New York.

Aaron Burr resigned on March 3, 1779 citing ill health. By the fall of the following year, he resumed his career as a student of law. In 1782, he married Mrs. Theodosia Bartow Prevost, the widow of a British officer who was also ten years older than him. They had one daughter, Theodosia, in 1783, who subsequently died at sea in 1813. Aaron Burr and his wife were married for twelve years, when she passed away.

Burr was a very successful attorney. He moved to New York in 1783 and shared a practice with Alexander Hamilton. He desired a career in the political arena, but his attempts always met with failure. His success finally came when the New York Governor, George Clinton named him Attorney General in 1789. He was elected a senator in 1791. He served six years and later won a seat in the state legislature when he was not re-elected to the Senate. After the loss of his seat in the legislature in 1799, he began to organize the Democratic Party in New York City. The group became a political powerhouse that could ensure the election of a democratic President. The ticket was to be Thomas Jefferson as President and Aaron Burr as Vice-President. The wrangling of the "politicos" ended in a draw — both men received seventy-three electoral votes each. Jefferson and Burr were not really fond of one another and in New York — Alexander Hamilton decided to use his weight and influence to support Thomas Jefferson — who was elected. As Vice President, Aaron Burr presided over the Senate and he eventually was nominated in 1804 to the governorship of New York, but lost to Republican Morgan Lewis. Each loss he blamed on Alexander Hamilton's political and personal machinations. On July 11, 1804 — Burr and Hamilton met at ten paces at Weehawken. Both fired and Hamilton fell, mortally wounded. Burr stayed in his position in Jefferson's administration.

Burr later was charged with treason in a conspiracy regarding capitalization on a possible war with Spain. He eventually was acquitted after a trial in 1807. He sailed to England in 1808 hoping to gain support for a revolution in Mexico. He was ordered out of the country and traveled in Europe to Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Paris. There he tried to garner support from Napoleon. This failed, leaving him so penniless he couldn't even travel home. He eventually sailed by French ship in 1811 but it was captured by the British and he was detained in England until May 1812. He finally returned to the United States to pursue his law practice back in New York.

In 1833, he married again, this time to the widow of Stephen Jumel. When she realized her fortune was dwindling from her husbands land speculation, they separated after only four months. During the month of their first anniversary, she sued for divorce which was granted the day he died: September 14, 1836.

Courtesy National Center for the American Revolution/Valley Forge Historical Society

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