Some people may remember Aaron Burr as the man who fought a duel with Alexander Hamilton in which Hamilton was killed. This ended up costing Burr his political career, but Burr was to end up in much greater trouble years later. . .
Burr’s colorful story began in 1756, when he was born in Newark, New Jersey. After the death of both parents, Aaron (only 2 years old) and his sister moved in with their famous grandparents, Jonathan Edwards and his wife, Sarah. After graduating from Princeton, he became an officer in the American Revolution, fighting under famous generals Israel “Old Put” Putnam and Benedict Arnold. Like Arnold, he resented the lack of forthcoming recognition for his exploits in battle. During this time, he married a British officer’s widow ten years his senior with five children.
Afterwards, he began his career in politics, serving as New York’s attorney general and senator, one of his achievements being the abolition of slavery in New York. Coming in 4th the first time he ran for president, Burr was more successful the second time around, coming in 2nd and becoming Jefferson’s vice president. Jefferson had his hands full with Burr, especially after the duel with Hamilton. After Burr was forced to resign in the furor that resulted, he left for New Orleans, part of the newly acquired Louisiana territory, where he planned to lead an army to fight with Mexico over some of its territory. Two generals planned to help him, one being future president Andrew Jackson. The other general reported to Jefferson about Burr’s “traitorous” actions. Oddly, both Burr and the general were receiving payoffs from Spain, which ruled Mexico.
Whether Burr meant to get part of the Southwest to secede from the Union or to add territory to the U.S. is unclear, but regardless, he was arrested and brought before the Supreme Court to stand trial for treason, a charge which carried the death penalty. Although acquitted, he was forced to flee the United States for Europe due to his extreme unpopularity. After trying unsuccessfully to persuade France and Britain to help establish a new nation in the American Southwest, the incorrigible Burr eventually returned to his law practice in New York, a disappointed and broken man. But what had he been thinking?!