“ Some clip in the latter portion of September I received hints that designs were in agitation in the Western state improper and unfriendly to the peace of the Union, and that the premier mover in these was Aaron Burr ” ( Commager 195 ) . These words from Thomas Jefferson sum up Burr ’ s actions in the West. Life began traveling downhill for Burr when he lost the presidential race to Jefferson by one ballot. Burr served as Vice President for the term, but lost the election for a 2nd term. A dissension with Alexander Hamilton led to a affaire d’honneur in which Burr killed Hamilton. The public wanted Burr hanged for slaying, so he moved west of the Appalachians, where he began to do problem, or at least program to make so. Aaron Burr ’ s actions in the West made him a treasonist to the United States.
Both New York and New Jersey had warrants out for Burr ’ s apprehension at the clip he went west to seek to salve his political calling ( Chidsey 29 ) . He went to Blennerhasset Island on the Ohio River, place of Harman Blennerhasset. Burr became friends with the Blennerhasset household, and would subsequently utilize their island as the central office for his actions. Burr continued south, and met General James Wilkinson at Fort Massac. Wilkinson was the dominating officer of the full US Army, so Burr wanted his support, and got it. As an added fillip that Burr was incognizant of, Wilkinson was involved with the Spanish authorities. Through Wilkinson, Burr got a fashionable flatboat and a personal escort of 10 genitalias and a sergeant. These were the beginnings of the ground forces he planned to utilize against Spain, and so the United States ( Chidsey 36 ) .
Burr in secret continued to garner support in the West. On September 23, 1806, Wilkinson told the Spaniards on the Sabine River that if they did non go forth the country instantly, he would process against them. They cooperated and left, giving Burr and Wilkinson their first triumph in their personal war against Spain. This was the first measure in Burr ’ s faithless program. His program continues in the undermentioned extract from a missive to Wilkinson.
“ Burr ’ s program of operation is to travel down quickly from the Falls, on the fifteenth of November [ 1806 ] , with the first five hundred or a 1000 work forces, in light boats now building for that intent ; to be at Natchez between the fifth and fifteenth of December, there to run into you ; there to find whether it will be expedient in the first case to prehend on or base on balls by Baton Rouge ” ( Chidsey 153 ) .
Thingss appeared to be traveling swimmingly for Burr, but people shortly started calculating out what he was making. In October 1806, President Jefferson had a cabinet meeting in which he wrote a missive warning the Western provinces to “keep Burr purely watched” ( Chidsey 70 ) . The president sent John Graham to follow Burr and do certain he was non making anything illegal. Graham interviewed Mr. Blennerhasset, who told him everything he knew about Burr. On October 21, Wilkinson wrote Jefferson a missive stating he discovered a “secret, baleful secret plan to oppress and loot New Orleans and rend the West off from the East.” President Jefferson told the universe by publishing a announcement on November 27, which said that certain Americans “are cabaling and band togethering together to get down and put on pes, provide and fix the agencies of a military expedition or endeavor against the rules of Spain” ( Daniels 343 ) . Burr, recognizing his hopes of constructing an imperium were gone, surrendered in January 1807. ( Chidsey 70-77 )
Burr ’ s instance reached the Supreme Court, where his test began on August 17 ( Chidsey 124 ) . Chief Justice Marshall acquitted Burr because his actions did non suit the definition the Constitution gave for lese majesty. Article 3, Section 3 of the Constitution reads, “ Treason against the United States, shall dwell merely in imposing War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort ” ( Commager 144 ) . Marshall ’ s logical thinking was that, because an official war did non take topographic point, Burr could non hold been guilty of imposing war or assisting an enemy in a war against the United States.
Aaron Burr was highly lucky to hold avoided a sentence. Had Marshall adhered to a loose building of the fundamental law, he would hold convicted Burr because he tried to get down a war. Treason in this state of affairs is similar to slay. If a individual is caught seeking to slay person, that individual still be convicted of slaying, albeit of a lesser grade. Just because Burr ne’er really attacked anyone does non intend he was non a treasonist. The American Heritage Dictionary defines lese majesty as “ Violation of commitment toward one ’ s country. ” Ex-Vice President Aaron Burr was guilty of lese majesty because he built a reserves to get down war in the United States.
- Chidsey, Donald Barr. The Great Conspiracy: Aaron Burr and His Strange Behaviors in the West. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc. , 1967.
- Commager, Henry Steele. Ed. Documents of American History. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1948.
- Daniels, Jonathan. Ordeal of Ambition: Jefferson, Hamilton, Burr. New York: Doubleday & A ; Company, Inc. , 1970.