Aaron Burr.

Trial of Aaron Burr for treason : printed from the report taken in short hand (Volume 1) online

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Burr ; and a copy of the letter from Belknap was trans-
mitted to the department of state.

Mr. Wirt.' Was there any conversation between you
and the prisoner, in which you spoke of the odium at-
tached to the name of usurper?

Mr. Eaton. That conversation was excluded by the
opinion of the court, as relating to the central project.

Mr. Hay. Did you mean to state that the honorable
indemnity proposed to you by the prisoner was to be in-
cluded in this plan ?

Mr. Eaton. I understood it to be included in the
perpetual rank and emolument to be assigned me. In
his conversations he declared that he should erect a per-
manent government, of which he was to be the chief;
and he repeated it so often that I could not have mis-
understood him.

Mr. Martin. Do you recollect when you arrived in
Washington ?

Mr. Eaton. I said that I did not recollect particularly.
But the principal part of these conversations must have
been between the middle of February and the latter end
of March, 1806. I arrived here in the latter end of
November, 1805, at Philadelphia; and in December,


went to New England, and afterwards returned ; these
conversations happened after my return.

Do you recollect any particular conduct of yours,
calculated to put an end to Mr. Burr's importunities?
Yes. At some of our last interviews, I laid on his table
a paper containing the toast which I had given to the
public, with an intention that he should see it, but I do
not know that he did see it, but I believe it : " The
United States ; palsy to the brain that should plot to
dismember, and leprosy to the hand that will not draw
to defend our union."

Where was that toast drunk? I can not say. This
question was made to me from authority. It was sent
with other toasts I had corrected, to a paper at Spring-
field. I laid this paper on Mr. Burr's table.

Was it drunk at any distant place? At Philadelphia?
I do not recollect. I thought at first it was at Phila-
delphia, but on reflection, it could not have been there ,
but I had received many hospitalities throughout the
union; many of my toasts were published ; and in the
hurry of passing and repassing, I have completely for-

Mr. Burr. Do you recollect when you left Washing-
ton ? About the $th or 6th of April.

Can you not be certain where this toast was drunk ?
At Washington or at Philadelphia ? I am not certain
when or where it was drunk, but I am certain it was
not at Washington, because I gave another there when
called upon.

Did you say that all these conversations happened
between the middle of February and the last of March ?
No ; I did not say so. I said the principal part of these
conversations passed in that interval.

Mr. Burr. Did you sSy the paper containing that toast
was laid on my table in March? I can not tell; it can
not be material ; from that time our intercourse became
less frequent ; you expressed some solicitude to keep me
at your house.

You say that this toast was printed at Springfield? I

Have you in your possession a paper containing that
toast ? I have not here.


Mr. Martin. Did you transmit the toast for publica-
tion, and to what printer? I do not recollect dis-

You mentioned something about a communication
which you made to the president, through the postmas-
ter-general. Look at that paper. Is that your signature?
- It is; and I must give a short account of that paper.
I went to Springfield, about twenty-five miles distant
from my place of residence. Mr. Granger was there ; I
went to see him ; on my arrival there, in the evening, I
understood that he had gone out of town to his seat in
the country ; but that he had taken notes concerning
those transactions. Next morning I went to his house ;
he put into my hands notes which he had got from Mr.

Whom were the notes written by? By Mr. Granger;
they were subscribed by him, if I have a correct recollec-
tion. [Mr. Eaton then mentioned that the notes on the
first two pages were drawn up by Mr. Granger from con-
versations which had passed between Mr. Granger and Mr.
Ely, on certain communications made to Mr. Ely by Mr.
Eaton, respecting Mr. Burr's plans; that he had seen
Mr. Ely at Northampton, at the session of the court of
common pleas, at the time when they had first heard of
the building of boats on the Ohio. The notes on the
'last page, in Mr. Granger's writing, and subscribed by
himself, were from subsequent conversations between him
and Mr. Granger.]

How many days' traveling is it by the stage from Spring-
field to Washington? Not more than five.

Mr. Burr. You spoke of accounts with the govern-
ment. Did you, or the government, demand money?
They had no demand on me ; I demanded money of

Did they state in account a balance against you ? I
expended money for the service of the United States,
when employed las consul at Tunis, an accountof which
being presented to the accounting officers of the treasury,
they, I was told, had no legal discretion to settle it. As
there was no law to authorize this adjustment, I did refer
to the congress of 1803-4. A committee had reported
on my claims, favorably, as I supposed ; then my accounts
I. 35


were left ; when I went, however, to the coast of Barbary,
and when I returned after eighteen months, I renewed
my claim to the congress. I found that new difficulties
had occurred to prevent an adjustment. Leaving out
the sums I had advanced, the government had a consid-
erable balance against me. Some comments were made
by a member from New York, which I thought deroga-
tory to my character ; but the balance was in my favor.
The last session of congress left them to the accounting
officers to settle according to equity. It has been since
settled and paid.

Mr. Martin. Did not Mr. Burr confine his plans to at-
tack the Spanish provinces, for the most considerable
part of the time, to the event of a war with Spain ? Not
for the most considerable part of the time, but for some

Mr. Martin asked him some questions relative to his
having seen him accompanied by his step-daughter and
another lady and a gentleman, at Georgetown and Alex-
dria, about the time he had spoken of; and whether he
had given the toast then, when together in the same
room ? He admitted that he had seen him when so ac-
companied, but was not positive when or where the toast
was given.

Mr. Martin. What balance did you receive ? That is
my concern, sir.

Mr. Burr. What was the balance against you ?

Mr. Eaton (to the court). Is that a proper question ?

Mr. Burr. My object is manifest ; I wish to show the
bias which has existed on the mind of the witness.

Chief Justice saw no objections to the question.

Mr. Eaton. I can not say to a cent or a dollar ; but I
have received about ten thousand dollars.

Mr. Burr. When was the money received ? About
March last.

You mentioned Miranda. Where did you understand
he was gone to ? On the benevolent project of revolu-
tionizing the Spanish provinces.

What part of them ? Caraccas. I had some reason
too to know something of that project ; because I too'
was invited to join in that. He too was to have been an
emperor ; he might have been troublesome to us ; and


of course when I asked you what was to be done with
him, you observed " hang him."

Did you understand that I was to do all at once ; to
execute the central project too, as well as that in the
west? I have no objection to answering that; but it
will be nothing in your favor. When Mr. Burr was
, speaking of a central revolution, not much was said about
his revolution in the west. Had the other been effected,
I doubt much whether you would have been willing to
have separated that part.

You spoke of a command ? You stated, what I have
already mentioned, that you were assured, from the ar-
rangements which you had made, that an army would be
ready to appear, when you went to the waters of the
western country. I recollect particularly the name of
Ephraim Kibby, who had been a ranger in General
Wayne's army. You asked me about his spirit. You
gave me to understand that his brigade was ready to join
you, and that the people also in that country were ready
to engage with you in the enterprise. You spoke of
your riflemen, your infantry, your cavalry. It was with
the same view, you mentioned to me that that man
[pointing to General Wilkinson, just behind him] was to
have been the first to aid you ; and from the same views
you have perhaps mentioned me.

Mr. Martin objected to the witness interposing his
own opinions in this manner.

Mr. Hay. Some allowance is to be made for the feel-
ings of a man of honor.

Mr. Eaton, bowing, apologized to the court for the
warmth of his manner.

Mr. Burr. You spoke of my revolutionizing the wes-
tern states. How did you understand that the union
was to be separated? Your principal line was to be
drawn by the Alleghany mountains. You were persuaded
that you had secured to you the most considerable citi-
zens of Kentucky and Tennessee ; but expressed some
doubts about Ohio ; I well recollect that, on account of
the reason which you gave that they were too much of
a plodding, industrial people to engage in your enter-

How was the business to be effected? I understood


that your agents were in the western country ; that the
army and the commander-in-chief were ready to act at your
signal ; and that these, with the adventurers who would
join you, would compel the states to agree to a separa-
tion. Indeed, you seemed to consider New Orleans as
already yours, and that from this point you would send
expeditions -into the other provinces; make conquests,
and consolidate your empire.

Was it after all this that you recommended me to the
president for an embassy ? Yes ; to remove you, as you
were a dangerous man, because I thought it the only
way to avert a civil war.

Did you communicate this to me, and what did I say?
Yes ; you seemed to assent to the proposition.

What had become of your command ? That I had
disposed of myself.

Did you understand that you had given me a definite
answer? No ; after you had developed yourself, I deter-
mined to use you, until I got everything out of you ; and
on the principle that, " when innocence is in danger, to
break faith with a bad man is not fraud but virtue."

Did you think that your proposition, as to a foreign
embassy, which was so incompatible with my own plans,
would be received by me with indifference, had I aban-
doned the project? You seemed to me to want some
distinguished place : as to the mode you were indifferent :
and you seemed to acquiesce in the plan of a foreign

Mr. Hay.-r- You said that you received about ten thou-
sand dollars from the government, in consequence of a law
passed for the purpose. The act of congress did not
give you a definitive sum. The act of congress gave
the accounting officers the power of settling with me, on
equitable principles, under the inspection of the secre-
tary of state, under whose department I had served ;
and the settlement was accordingly made.

COMMODORE TRUXTUN was then sworn.

Mr. Hay. Were you present when the court delivered
its opinion? I was. I know nothing of overt acts, trea-
sonable designs or conversations, on the part of Mr. Burr.

Here Mr. Hay, the attorney for the United States,


seemed to doubt whether the evidence of the commo-
dore applied to this charge, and to be indisposed to ex-
amine him.

Mr. Wickham then observed that he would put two
questions to him. 1st. Whether he had not frequent
and considerable conversations with Mr. Burr, con-
cerning the Mexican expedition? 2nd. Whether in any
of those conversations he ever heard him say anything
of a treasonable design?

Mr. Hay objected to his examination at this time,
and Mr. Wickham insisted on it.

Mr. Wirt contended that the attorney had the right
to examine the witness or not, at this time, as he
thought proper ; that the court would recollect, that
there were two indictments against the prisoner ; the
one for high treason, now in discussion before the court,
and the other for a misdemeanor (under the act of con-
gress) for preparing an expedition against the Spanish
provinces ; that the witnesses were summoned promis-
cuously to support both charges ; that the attorney
could not ascertain what witnesses supported each in-
dictment without inquiring of themselves ; and what he
now asked the witness, ought to be considered merely
as an inquiry to which of the two indictments his evi-
dence related ; and that his evidence was deemed very
material on the second indictment, though not on the

Mr. Hay said that on reflection he had no doubt the
testimony of Commodore Truxtun would have a direct
bearing on the subject now before the court, when con-
nected with the other evidence in the cause ; that it
would appear that there was an intimate connection be-
tween the two projects, the seizure of New Orleans and
the attack on Mexico ; he would therefore examine him
now and propound this question. Have you not had
several conversations with the accused concerning the
Mexican expedition ? About the beginning of the
winter of 1805-6, Mr. Burr returned from the western
country to Philadelphia. He frequently, in conversation
with me, mentioned the subject of speculations in west-
ern lands, opening a canal and building a bridge. Those
things were not interesting to me in the least, and I did


not pay much attention to them. Mr. Burr mentioned
to me that the government was weak, and he wished me
to get the navy of the United States out of my head ;
that it would dwindle to nothing; and that he had
something to propose to me that was both honorable
and profitable; but I considered this as nothing more
than an interest in his land speculations. His conver-
sations were repeated frequently. Some time in July,
1806, he told me that he wished to see me unwedded
from the navy of the United States, and not to think
more of those men at Washington ; that he wished to
see or make me (I do not^recollect which of those two
terms he used) an admiral ; that he contemplated an ex-
pedition to Mexico, in the event of a war with Spain,
which he thought inevitable. He asked me if the
Havana could be easily taken in the event of a war? I
told him that it would require the co-operation of a
naval force. Mr. Burr observed to me, that that might
be obtained. He asked me if I had any personal knowl-
edge of Carthagena and La Vera Cruz, and what would
be the best mode of attacking them by sea and land ? I
gave him my opinion very freely. Mr. Burr then asked
me if I would take the command of a naval expedition ?
I asked him if the executive of the United States were
privy to, or concerned in the project ? He answered
emphatically that he was not. I asked that question,
because the executive had been charged with a knowl-
edge of Miranda's expedition ; I told Mr. Burr that I
would have nothing to do with it ; that Miranda's pro-
ject had been intimated to me, but I declined to have
anything to do with such affairs. He observed to me,
that in the event of a war, he intended to establish an
independent government in Mexico ; that Wilkinson,
the army, and many officers of the navy would join. I
told Mr. Burr that I could not see how any officer of
the United States could join. He said that General
Wilkinson had projected the expedition, and he had ma-
tured it ; that many greater men than Wilkinson would
join, and that thousands to the westward would join.

Mr. Hay. Do you recollect having asked him whether
General Wilkinson had previously engaged in it ? He
said yes, and many greater men than Wilkinson.


Mr. Hay. I will ask you whether, at that time, you
were in the service of the United States ? I was declared
not to be.

Mr. Hay. I do not wish to hurt your feelings, but
merely to show to the jury the state you were in.

Commodore Truxtun. Mr. Burr again wished me to
take a part, and asked me to write a letter to General
Wilkinson ; that he was about to despatch two couriers
to him. I told him that I had no subject to write about,
and declined writing. Mr. Burr said that several officers
would be pleased at being put under my command. He
spoke highly of Lieutenant Jones, and asked me if he had
sailed with me ? I told him that he had not, and that I
could give him no account of Mr. Jones, having never
seen him to my knowledge. He observed that the ex-
pedition could not fail ; that the Mexicans were ripe for
revolt; that he was incapable of anything chimerical, or
that would lead his friends into a dilemma. He showed
me the draught of a periauger or kind of boat that plies
between Paulus-Hook and New 'York, and asked my
opinion of those boats, and whether they were calculated
for the river Mississippi and the waters thereof ; and I
gave him my opinion that they were. He asked me
whether I could get a naval constructor to make several
copies of the draught? I told him I would. I spoke to
a naval constructor and delivered it to him, but as he could
not finish them as soon as Mr. Burr wished, the draught
was returned to him. Mr. Burr told me that he intended
those boats for the conveyance of agricultural products
to market at New Orleans, and in the event of a war, for
transports. I knew, and informed him, that they were
not calculated for transports by sea, nor for the carrying
of guns ; but having determined to have nothing t'o do
with the Mexican expedition, I said very little more to
him about those boats ; but I very well recollect what I
said to him in our last conversation towards the end of
July. I told him that there would be no war. He was
sanguine there would be war. He said, however, that if
he was disappointed as to the event of war, he was about
to complete a contract for a large quantity of land on the
Washita ; that he intended to invite his friends to settle
it ; that in one year he would have a thousand families


of respectable and fashionable people, and some of them
of considerable property ; that it was a fine country, and
that they would have a charming society, and in two years
he would have doubled the number of settlers ; and being
on the frontier, he would be ready to move whenever a
war took place. I have thus endeavored to relate the
substance of the conversations which passed between us
as well as I can recollect. Though it is very possible
that I have not stated them, after such a lapse of time,

Mr. MacRae. Was it in your first conversation that
he told you, that you should think no more of those men
at Washington ? It was in several.

Was it not in July, that he told you that he wished to
see you unwedded from the navy of the United States,
and to make you an admiral ? That conversation hap-
pened in July. He wished to see or make me an ad-
miral ; I can not recollect which.

Mr. Hay. Did not those conversations take place
after it was declared that you were no longer in the ser-
vice of the United States? They did.

In answer to a question by Colonel Carrington, one of
the jury, he again stated that the latter conversation was
in July.

Mr. Martin. Was it not to the event of a war with
Spain that these conversations related ? All his conver-
sations respecting military and naval subjects, and the
Mexican expedition, were in the event of a war with
Spain. I told him my opinion was, that there would be
no war, and he seemed to be confident that there would
be war.

Mr. MacRae. Did he mention General Eaton in any
of those conversations? He mentioned no person but
General Wilkinson and Lieutenant Jones.

Mr. Hay. Had you not expressed your dissatisfaction
at the declaration of your not being in the service of the
Uniteti States ? I had. The misunderstanding between
the secretary of the navy of the United States and my-
self took place in March, 1802.

On cross-examination, the commodore further stated,
that he had had several (he did not know how many)
conversations with Mr. Burr ; and that as well as he


could recollect, it was about the latter end of July, that
he informed him that he was about concluding a bargain
for the Washita lands, and wished also to see him un-
wedded from the navy of the United States. He added,
Mr. Burr said, that after the Mexican expedition, he
intended to provide a formidable navy, at the head of
which he intended to place me ; that he intended to es-
tablish an independent government, and give liberty to
an enslaved world. I declined his propositions to me at
first, because the president was not privy to the project.
He asked me the best mode of attacking the Havana,
Carthagena, and La Vera Cruz, but spoke of no partic-
ular force.

Mr. Burr. Do you not recollect my telling you of
the propriety of private expeditions, undertaken by
individuals in case of war ; and that there had been such
in the late war, and that there was no legal restraint on
such expeditions?

Mr. /foj objected to this question as improper.

Mr. Burr insisted on its propriety, and that the gen-
tlemen for the prosecution had set an example far be-
yond it. .

Commodore Truxtun. You said that Wilkinson, the
army, and many of the officers of the navy would join,
and you spoke highly of Lieutenant Jones.

Mr. Burr. Had I not frequently told you, and for
years, that the government had no serious intention of
employing you, and that you were duped by the Smiths?
and do you not think that I was perfectly correct in that
opinion ? Yes ; I know very well I was.

Were we not on terms of intimacy ? Was there any
reserve on my part, in our frequent conversations ; and
did you ever hear me express any intention or sentiment
respecting a division of the union ? We were very inti-
mate. There seemed to be no reserve on your part. I
never heard you speak of a division of the union.

Did I not state to you that the Mexican expedi-
"tion would be very beneficial to this country? You

Had you any serious doubt as to my intentions to set-
tle those lands? So far from that, I was astonished at
the intelligence of your having different views, contained


in newspapers received from the western country after you
went thither.

Would you not have joined in the expedition if sanc-
tioned by the government ? I would most readily get out
of my bed at twelve o'clock at night, to go in defense ol
my country at her call, against England, France, Spain,
or any other country.

Mr. Hay. Did the prisoner speak of commercial spec-
ulations ? He said they might be carried on to advantage.

Did he, in his conversations, speak of commercial
establishments, in which he or his friends were to have
an interest? He spoke of settling that country, and
sending produce therefrom to different parts of the world,
New Orleans particularly.

Mr. Wirt. Did he speak of an independent empire
in Mexico, having an advantageous connection with this
country? I understood him so.

Mr. Mac Rae. Did he wish to fill your mind with
resentment against the government? I was pretty full
of it myself, and he joined me in opinion.

Mr. Wirt. On what subject did Burr wish you to
write to General Wilkinson ? General Wilkinson and
myself were on good terms, and he wished me to corre-
spond with him ; but I had no subject for a letter to him,
and therefore did not write to him.

Mr. Hay. Suppose we were to have a war with
Spain, would not New Orleans be a proper place from
whence to send an expedition against the Spanish prov-
inces ? Is it not more proper for that purpose, than any
other place in the western parts of the country? Cer-
tainly it is ; but large ships can not come up to New
Orleans ; small craft or vessels must take the expedition
down the river.

Mr. Parker one of the jury. Did you understand for
what purpose the couriers spoken of were to be sent by
Mr. Burr to General Wilkinson ? I understood from him,
that there was an understanding between himself and
General Wilkinson, about the Mexican expedition.

Mr. Parker. Was this expedition only to be in the
event of a war with Spain? Yes; in all his conversa-
tions with me he said that this expedition was to take
place only in the event of a war with Spain.


Mr. Parker. Was there no proposition made to you
for such an expedition, whether there was war or not?

Online LibraryAaron BurrTrial of Aaron Burr for treason : printed from the report taken in short hand (Volume 1) → online text (page 52 of 64)