Biography and History

Aaron Burr was born in Newark, New Jersey on February 6, 1756, to Aaron Burr, a theologian and second president of the College of New Jersey, and Esther Edwards Burr, daughter of famous revivalist pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards. The younger Burr’s parents died before he was three, and he was raised by his maternal uncle, Timothy Edwards. Burr entered the College of New Jersey at age thirteen, and graduated in 1772 with distinction. After graduation, he studied theology privately before switching his concentration to law.

Burr interrupted his studies when he enlisted in the American army attacking Boston in 1775. He rose quickly through the ranks because of his skills on the battlefield, but did not get along well with George Washington. Although promoted to Washington’s secretarial staff, Burr transferred to the staff of Washington’s second-in-command, Israel Putnam, to avoid conflicts with the general. Burr was successful under Putnam, valiantly leading troops in combat and securing important camps, such as in Brooklyn Heights and later at the battle of Monmouth Courthouse in New Jersey in 1778.

Burr resigned from the army in 1779 due to poor health, which was aggravated by the high temperatures and humidity at Monmouth. He continued to study law after leaving the army and recovering from illness, and became a member of the bar of New York in 1782. He married Theodosia Prevost in the same year, with whom he had one child, Theodosia Burr. Professionally, Burr entered a rivalry with Alexander Hamilton, another prominent lawyer in New York.

Burr began his political career in 1784 when he was elected to the state assembly. He continued in politics to serve in the United States Senate and ultimately as Vice President of the United States under Jefferson. He was a controversial character in Albany and Washington D.C., not siding clearly with any single faction and repeatedly being accused of self-interested legislation, political conspiracy, and generally unfair and dishonest practices, some of which can be confirmed. Burr’s political career was thus tumultuous and he found himself regularly in and out of favor with the ruling powers. He ultimately lost his second candidacy for Vice President when he alienated Republican leadership with sympathies for the Federalists. In the same year, he lost a bid for the governorship of New York.

Burr blamed much of his political downfall on Alexander Hamilton and his compatriots. After failing to force Hamilton to apologize for statements made against Burr in the gubernatorial race, Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel. When Burr killed the prominent politician, popular opinion cast him as a cold-blooded murderer, and warrants were put out for his arrest in New York and New Jersey. Burr fled to Philadelphia and then the South to escape capture.

On these travels, Burr began dreaming of a new nation formed in the Southwest. Burr believed that conflict between Americans and the Spanish could encourage an occupation of Mexico, allowing a new nation to form. One of his allies in these plans, however, revealed the scheme to President Jefferson, and Burr was indicted for treason. He was acquitted by John Marshall, whose narrow interpretation of the Constitution’s definition of treason was influenced by the justice’s dislike of and disagreements with Jefferson.

In Burr’s later life, he lived abroad, attempting to gain support for his plan for a new nation in the Southwest. Upon returning to the United states in 1812, he began again to practice law in New York. He remarried to a wealthy widow, who divorced him for adultery. He died on September 14, 1836, the same day the divorce was granted.

Source: From the finding aid for C0081

Biography and History

Aaron Burr was born in Newark, New Jersey, on February 6, 1756, to Aaron Burr, a theologian and second president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), and Esther Edwards Burr, daughter of famous revivalist pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards. The younger Burr's parents died before he was three, and he was raised by his maternal uncle, Timothy Edwards. Burr entered the College of New Jersey at age thirteen, and graduated in 1772 with distinction. After graduation, he studied theology privately before switching his concentration to law.

Burr interrupted his studies when he enlisted in the American army attacking Boston in 1775. He rose quickly through the ranks because of his skills on the battlefield, but he did not get along well with George Washington. Although promoted to Washington’s secretarial staff, Burr transferred to the staff of Washington's second-in-command, Israel Putnam, to avoid conflicts with the general. Burr was successful under Putnam, valiantly leading troops in combat and securing important camps, such as in Brooklyn Heights and later at the battle of Monmouth Courthouse in New Jersey in 1778.

Burr resigned from the army in 1779 due to poor health, which was aggravated by the high temperatures and humidity at Monmouth. He continued to study law after leaving the army and recovering from illness, and became a member of the bar of New York in 1782. He married Theodosia Prevost in the same year, with whom he had one child, Theodosia Burr. Professionally, Burr entered a rivalry with Alexander Hamilton, another prominent lawyer in New York.

Burr began his political career in 1784 when he was elected to the state assembly. He continued in politics to serve in the United States Senate and ultimately as Vice President of the United States under Jefferson. He was a controversial character in Albany and Washington, D.C., not siding clearly with any single faction and repeatedly being accused of self-interested legislation, political conspiracy, and generally unfair and dishonest practices, some of which can be confirmed. Burr's political career was thus tumultuous, and he found himself regularly in and out of favor with the ruling powers. He ultimately lost his second candidacy for Vice President when he alienated Republican leadership with sympathies for the Federalists. In the same year, he lost a bid for the governorship of New York.

Burr blamed much of his political downfall on Alexander Hamilton and his compatriots. After failing to force Hamilton to apologize for statements made against Burr in the gubernatorial race, Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel. When Burr killed the prominent politician, popular opinion cast him as a cold-blooded murderer, and warrants were put out for his arrest in New York and New Jersey. Burr fled to Philadelphia and then the South to escape capture.

On these travels, Burr began dreaming of a new nation formed in the Southwest. Burr believed that conflict between Americans and the Spanish could encourage an occupation of Mexico, allowing a new nation to form. One of his allies in these plans, however, revealed the scheme to President Jefferson, and Burr was indicted for treason. He was acquitted by John Marshall, whose narrow interpretation of the Constitution’s definition of treason was influenced by the justice's dislike of and disagreements with Jefferson.

In Burr's later life, he lived abroad, attempting to gain support for his plan for a new nation in the Southwest. Upon returning to the United states in 1812, he began again to practice law in New York. He remarried to a wealthy widow, who divorced him for adultery. He died on September 14, 1836, the same day the divorce was granted.

Source: From the finding aid for C0089