Aaron Burr.

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

. (page 53 of 64)
Online LibraryAaron BurrTrial of Aaron Burr for treason : printed from the report taken in short hand (Volume 1) → online text (page 53 of 64)
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There was not.

Mr. Burr said that enterprises by individuals are law-
ful and customary in cases of war; and asked whether
there were not preparations making in Philadelphia now
for that purpose. Preparations are making at New York,
as to gun-boats and fortifications. The merchants of
Liverpool, in expectation of war, build ships for priva-
teers, and if there be no war, they convert them into

Mr. Mac Rae. Are not the preparations going on open-
ly at New York? Has any commander been appointed
independent of the government? No.

Mr. Burr. Did I not say that I had never seen Lieu-
tenant Jones? I do not recollect that, but you spoke
highly of him.

Mr. Hay. When he proposed to make you an admiral,
did not the thought strike you, how he was to accomplish

Mr. Botts denied that Commodore Truxtun had said
that Mr. Burr had promised to make him an admiral.

Commodore Truxtun. Mr. Burr told me he wished to
make or see me one ; I do not particularly recollect which
was his expression.

Mr. Hay. From what quarter of the world was the
expedition by sea to go? I do not know. I did not ask
him where it was to go from.

Did you not understand that you were to command
the expedition by sea? I declined the offer, and asked
no questions particularly on the subject.

Mr. Botts. Can ships be built secretly in a corner?

PETER TAYLOR was next sworn.

Mr. Hay asked him to state everything he knew con-
cerning the assemblage on Blannerhassett's island.

Mr. Botts objected to this mode of examination ; and
though he was willing to accommodate Mr. Hay so far
as to let the witness tell his story in his own way, yet he
would not consent to his introducing completely il-
legal testimony; he had no objection to the witness


stating what Mr. Burr had said, or the facts which hap-
pened on the island, though both were, strictly speaking,
improper evidence ; but he would not agree to his speak-
ing of the declarations of Mr. and Mrs. Blannerhassett.

Mr. Burr said he waived the objection at present.

Mr. Hay. This witness will directly prove the con-
nection of Burr with Blannerhassett, and with the assem-
blage on the island.

Peter Taylor. The first information I had upon this
subject, was from Mrs. Blannerhassett, when Mr. Blanner-
hassett and Mr. Alston were gone down the river. The
people got much alarmed concerning this business, and
Mrs. Blannerhassett sent me to Lexington after Mr.
Blannerhassett, with a letter to prevent Mr. Burr from
coming back with him to the island. I went to Chilico-
the, but I did not find Mr. Blannerhassett there, and I
then went on to Cincinnati. I was directed to call at
Cincinnati, at Mr. John Smith's, where I would find Mr.
Blannerhassett. I called at Mr. Smith's store, where I
saw his son. I asked if Mr. Smith was at home, he said
yes. I said I wanted to speak to him. His son went
and told him a man wanted to see him. When Mr. Smith
came out, I inquired for Mr. Burr and Blannerhassett, to
see whether he could give any account of them. He al-
lowed he knew nothing of either of them. He allowed I"
was much mistaken in the place. I said no, this was
the right place ; " Mr. John Smith, storekeeper, Cincin-
nati." Says I, " Don't you recollect a young man who
came here some time ago for Mr. Burr's top -coat ?" [great
coat]. I said: "Sir, I have lived with Mr. Blannerhas-
sett for three years." When Mr. Smith heard me talk so
he knew me, and took me upstairs to talk with me. He
wanted to know the news up our way. I told him the
people had got alarmed. I told him that everything was
in agitation ; that they talked about new settlements of
lands, as they told me. He seemed surprised. He asked
what was said about General Wilkinson ? I said I knew
nothing about it. He asked me if I would carry a letter
from him to Blannerhassett ? I told him I would carry
anything so as it was not too burdensome; so he sat
down and wrote a letter. He asked whether 1- wished to
drink? for he charged me not to go to any tavern, lest


they should be asking me questions. He gave me liquor
and I drank; and then he showed me a stable, and told
me to go and get my horse fed by the ostler, but not to
go into the tavern. I asked him where' I should find Mr.
Burr and Blannerhassett ? He said he expected they
were at Lexington. I told him I supposed af Mr. Jour-
don's. He said that was the very house. When I got
to Lexington it was Saturday about one o'clock. Mr.
Jourdan happened to be in the street and knew me. He
said : " Peter, your old master, as you call him, is not in
town." But he said, before I asked him, he expected
him either that night or to-morrow early. He asked me
what news in our parts? and I told him. I asked him
what I was to do with my horse ? He said that he was
to be put at the livery stable. He then went upstairs and
he opened a door, and made a motion with his hand, I
suppose to Mr. Burr. I went in, and there was Mr. Burr.
Mr. Burr wanted to know the news in our parts. I began
to tell him, that my business was to prevent Mr. Burr
from going back to the island.

Did you know Mr. Burr at that time? I did not.
He had bee'n on the island three times; but I did not
see him. When I told Mr. Burr that, says he, " I am the
very man involved in this piece of business ; and you
ought to tell me all you know." I said, " If you come
up our way, the people will shoot you." I told him it
was my sincere opinion, that it was not safe for him to
come up our way. I told him that I heard several de-
clare, that they had rather shoot him than let it alone,
if they had a good chance. He seemed surprised, that
they should have such a thing in their heads. I told
him, I could not tell why; and then I told him all about
the land-settlement, but the people said all that was a
fib, and that he had something else in view. Then Mr.
Burr asked me what letters I had ? I said, two ; one
was from Mrs. Blannerhassett, and the other from John
Smith, of Cincinnati. He asked me if he might open
the letter from John Smith to Blannerhassett, for he
expected it was for him ? I told him I supposed it made
no difference between him and Blannerhassett, and he
might. He broke the seal open, and showed me there
was a letter enclosed for himself. He asked me about


my wife. I asked him whether I might not go about the
town. He said I might, and then I went downstairs and
left the opened letter with him. 1 then went to Mr.
Jourdan, and asked him whether I was to stay at his
house, or go to a tavern ? He said I was to go to a tav-
ern, and he would pay for me. Mr. Jourdan wished me
to go next day to Millersburg, after the saddle-bags left
there by Mr. Blannerhassett. I told him I would, and
I did go. I left Mrs. Blannerhassett's letter with Mr.
Jourdan, expecting Blannerhassett to get there before
me. I got back on Monday by one o'clock ; and then
Mr. Blannerhasset was come and preparing to go home.
We started and came ten miles that night. We stopped
at a tavern. I went to see after the horses, and he went
into the house. There were people in the house who
wanted to know his name. He told them his name was
Tom Jones. He came out and told me the people in
the house had asked, and he had told them his name was
Tom Jones, and I must mind and not make no mistake,
but call him Tom Jones too. So he passed by that
name till we got to the Mudlicks. He then told me
he was known there, and I must call him by his own

When did these things happen? All this was in
October, 1806, I believe. He then began to inquire for
young men that had rifles ; good orderly men, that
would be conformable to order and discipline. He
allowed that Mr. Burr and he and a few of his friends, had
bought eight hundred thousand acres of land, and they
wanted young men to settle it. He said he would give any
young man who would go down he river, one hundred
acres of land, plenty of grog and victuals while going
down the river, and three months' provisions after they
had got to the end ; every young man must have his
rifle and blanket. I agreed to go myself, if I could carry
my wife and family, but he said he must have further
consultation upon that. When I got home I began to
think, and asked him what kind of seed we should carry
with us? He said we did not want any; the people had
seeds where we were going.

Mr. Wirt. Of what occupation were you on the
island? A gardener.


Mr. Wirt. I put this question that the jury might
understand his last observation.

I urged that subject to him several times ; at last he
made a sudden pause and said, " I will tell you what,
Peter, we are going to take Mexico ; one of the finest
and richest places in the whole world." He said that
Mr. Burr would be the king of Mexico, and Mrs. Alston,
daughter of Mr. Burr, was to be the queen of Mexico,
whenever Mr. Burr died. He said that Mr. Burr had
made fortunes for many in his time, but none for him-
self; but now he was going to make something for him-
self. He said that he had a great many friends in the
Spanish territory ; no less than two thousand Roman
Catholic priests were engaged, and that all their friends
too would join, if once he could get to them; that the
Spaniards, like the French, had got dissatisfied with their
government, and wanted to swap it. He told me that
the British also were friends in this piece of business, and
that he should go to England, on this piece of business,
for Mr. Burr. He asked me if I would not like to go to
England. I said I should certainly like to see my friends
there, but would wish to go for nothing else. I then
asked him what was to become of the men who were
going to settle the lands he talked about ? Were they to
stop at the Red River, or to go on ? He said, " Oh, by
God, I tell you Peter, every man that will not conform
to order and discipline, I will stab ; you'll see how I'll fix
them ;" that when he got them far enough down the
river, if they did not conform to order and discipline, he
swore by God he'd stab them. I was astonished ; I told
him I was no soldier, and could not fight. He said it
made no odds ; he did not want me to fight ; he wanted
me to go and live with Mrs. Blannerhassett and the
children, either at Natchez or some other place, while he
went on the expedition. I talked to him again, and told
him the people had got it into their heads, that he
wanted to divide the union. He said Mr. Burr and he
could not do it themselves. All they could do was to
tell the people the consequence of it. He said the peo-
ple there paid the government upwards of four hundred
thousand dollars a year, and never received any benefit
from it. He allowed it would be a very fine thing if


they could keep that money among themselves on this
side the mountains, and make locks, and build bridges,
and cut roads. About two weeks after I got home, he
sent me to Dr. Bennett's, of Mason county, with a letter.
He wanted to know if Doctor Bennett wouldn't sell him
the arms belonging to the United States which were in his
charge? If he could sell them and keep himself out of
danger, he'd give him a draft upon his friend in Kentucky
for payment; if he could not sell them without bringing
himself into a hobble, he must send him word where they
were kept, and he would come and steal them away in
the night. I delivered the letter. He gave me direc-
tions to get it back and burn it, for it contained high
treason. I was not to give the letter to Doctor Bennett,
until the, doctor promised to deliver it back, for me to
burn it ; for that it contained high treason. I did burn it ;
the doctor was present.

The doctor read the letter, and said he was unacquaint-
ed with the plot, and couldn't join in it.

Mr. Hay. Were you not on the island when the peo-
ple were there ? Yes.

When did the boats leave the island ? It was contem-
plated to sail on the 6th of December ; but the boats
were not ready ; they did not come till the loth (Sun-
day). Mr. Knox and several other men were with him,
and they sailed on the Wednesday night following.

How many boats were there ? Four.

How many men from the boats came ashore ? About

What did the men do who did not belong to the boats ?
Some were packing meat ; and some were packing
other things.

Mr. Mac Rae. Who went off on Wednesday night?
Mr. Blannerhassett and Mr. Tyler, and the whole of the

At what time in the night? About one o'clock.

Did all that came down to the island go away ? All
but one, who was sick

Mr. Hay. Had they any guns? Some of them had ;
some of the people went a-shooting. But I do not know
how many there were.

Mr.. J. M. Sheppard(& juryman). What kind of guns ;


rifles or muskets? I can't tell whether rifles or muskets.
I saw no pistols but what belonged to Blannerhassett

Was there any powder or lead ? They had powder,
and they had lead both ; I saw some powder in a long
small barrel, like a churn ; but I was so employed I
could not notice particularly. Some of the men were
engaged in running bullets; but I do not know how

Mr. Mac Rae. What induced them to leave the island
at that hour of the night ? Because they were informed
that the Kenawa militia were coming down there.

Did you carry some boxes to the boats? I carried-
half a bushel of candles and some brandy ; several boxes
were carried, but I knew not what they contained, and a
great many things besides, of which I knew nothing.

Mr. Hay. Were you on the island when they went
off? Yes. They held a council at the foot of the pier,
to determine which was the best way to go. Mr. Blan-
nerhassett said that they had better go together ; if he
went in a canoe, he would be an easy prey. I said to
them, " best stick together ;" and so they determined to
stick together. They went off in great haste.

Why did they go in a body? I suppose for security.

Mr. Wick ham. You saw General Tupper and Mr.
Woodbridge that night? Yes.

Was Mr. Burr there? No ; I did not see him.

Did you understand whether he were in that part of
the country at that time? I understood not ; never saw
him on the island.

WEDNESDAY, August iQth, 1807.

GENERAL JOHN MORGAN was then sworn, and gave the
following testimony : Some time in August last, about
this time twelvemonth, my father put a letter into my
hands, signed Aaron Burr, in which he said that himself
and Colonel Dupiester would dine with him the following
day. My father requested me and my brother to go and
meet Mr. Burr ; which we did, about seven miles distant.
After a few words of general conversation, Mr. Burr ob-
served to me, that the union of the states could not pos-
i. 16


sibly last ; and that a separation of the states muse
ensue as a natural consequence, in four or five years.
Mr. Burr made many inquiries of me, relative to the
county of Washington ; particularly the state of its
militia; its strength, arms, accoutrements, and the char-
acter of its officers. These conversations continued some
trnie, besides other things which I can not recollect, be-
cause I did not expect to be called upon in this way.
After traveling some miles we met one of my workmen,
a well-looking young man. Mr. Burr said he wished he
had ten thousand such fellows. At my father's table,
during dinner, Mr. Burr again observed, that the separa-
tion of the union must take place inevitably, in less than
five years. Shall I give the answers that were made?

Mr. Wirt. Perhaps it may serve to connect your nar-
rative better.

I recollect that it was my father who answered him,
" God forbid !" Mr. Burr in the course of conversation at
the dinner-table, observed that with two hundred men he
could drive the president and congress into the Potomac;
and with four or five hundred he could take possession of
the city of New York. After dinner, he walked with me to
my brother's, about one mile distant ; and in the course of
the walk spoke of military men, and asked me if either of
my brothers had a military turn ? He said he should like
to see my brother George at the head of a corps of grena-
diers ; he was a fine, stout-looking fellow. These circum-
stances induced me to speak to my father; I warned him
to beware of Mr. Burr, and told him that in the course
of that night Mr. Burr would attempt to have an inter-
view with him, and would make a requsition of my brother
Tom to go with him ; and that I suspected something
was going on, but what I did not know. The next morn-
ing I rode with Mr. Burr to the town of Washington,
'about nine or ten miles. We had a good deal of conver-
sation, principally on military affairs ; on the state of the
militia; the necessity of attending to military discipline.
He told me the effect it had in New York ; that in New
York the militia were in good order, which was brought
about by the influence and exertionsof asingle individual
(Colonel Swartwout). Mr. Burr asked me, if I thought
I could raise a regiment in Washington county ; or


whether I could raise one with more facility in Ne\v

Mr. Wirt. You have lived in New Jersey? Yes.

At Washington we took a walk, Mr. Burr, Colonel
Dupiesterand myself, down the town ; and I pointed out
to him the house where Mr. Bradford lived, who had been
at the head of the western insurrection. He inquired
about Mr. Bradford. (He was at Baton Rouge.) I told
him his son was in town, and Mr. Burr expressed a wish
to see him. Mr. Burr mentioned to me that he met with
several who had been concerned in the western insurrec-
tion ; and particularly a major in the North-Western Ter-
ritory (whose name I do not recollect) who had told him,
that if he were ever engaged in another business of the
kind, he pledged himself it should not end without blood-
shed. He said that he was a fine fellow. It was on these
circumstances that I advised my father to apprise the
president of the United States, that something was going

Mr. Hay. Which way did he go ? I saw him leave
Washington for Wheeling.

Mr. Wirt. Were the separation of the union and mili-
tary affairs the predominant subject of his conversations?
Our conversation was very general and mixed, never
very long ; but these seemed to be the leading subjects.

Mr. Hay. Do you recollect anything he said about
Bradford's qualifications for conducting such an enter-
prise ? I recollect it well. He said that Bradford was
very incompetent to such an undertaking ; and that in
such a case there ought to be the utmost confidence in
the leader.

Mr. Wirt. At what time in the month of August
was this visit ? Somewhere between the 2Oth and 25th.

Mr. Hay. Perhaps the date of this letter (from the
prisoner to your father) may show. This letter is dated
on the 2 1st.

Mr. Parker (one of the jury.) Did he approve'or con-
demn that sentiment of the major's which you have
quoted ? I do not recollect.

Did he make any further remarks respecting him ?
He only said that he was a fine fellow, or words to that
effect ; that he was very fit for business of that kind.


Mr. Burr. You spoke of a letter from me to your
father. Do you know whether he wrote me some
time before, a letter of invitation to his house ? Yes ;
he had written about a year before to you at Pittsburg.
That letter is yet unsealed, in my brother Tom's bureau.

Do you remember that it was communicated to me,
and that that was the cause of my coming to visit him?
Not by myself or my brother in my hearing.

Do you remember the manner in which I introduced
the subject you allude to. Was it in the course of a
lively conversation ? Was there anything very serious
in it? You only mentioned it in a lively or careless

Did your father communicate to you, next morning,
our night's conversation ? Yes.

Before we rode ? No.

Do you recollect of my having made several inquiries
also about the seminaries of learning; and of one that
was projected in your neighborhood, and of my suggest-
ing the necessity of encouraging it ? You spoke much,
too, on that subject.

Did I seem to know anything of Bradford, before you
told me? You seemed to know a good deal about the

Did you not tell me that Bradford was a noisy fellow ?
I did not. I have no objections to give my opinion
of Mr. Bradford. I mentioned him to you as a mere

Did I seem to know that Bradford lived at Washing-
ton, before you mentioned it and pointed out his house?
You did not seem to know it.

Who were at dinner at your father's ? My father,
mother, wife, sister, Colonel Dupiester, Mr. T. Ewell, and
my brother Tom.

COLONEL MORGAN was then sworn and was proceed-
ing, when

Mr. Burr remonstrated against this kind of evidence,
consisting of conversations and previous declarations.
He did not mean to interrupt the inquiry, but to prevent
the time of the court from being wasted. Some desul-
tory conversation ensued upon this point, when


The Chief Justice said that he understood the same
objections would hereafter apply as well to the consid-
eration as to the introduction of testimony ; that these
objections might be hereafter urged ; and that it was im-
possible for the court to know the nature of the evidence
before it was introduced.

Mr. Hay. If the gentlemen will only have a little
patience, they will find that other circumstances will come
out to prove the materiality of this testimony, and will
also prove the most perfect connection between the. dif-
ferent parts of the conspiracy. This witness will prove
what was the state of the prisoner's mind in August

Mr. Lee. I hope, then, the jury will distinctly under-
stand, that they are not to infer from the court's declin-
ing to interfere on the present occasion, that everything
which drops from the witness is to pass without objec-
tion, which may be made at any time.

Colonel Morgan (the father of the witness). There has
been a long acquaintance between Mr. Burr and myself.
He had introduced to my notice two of his nephews,

by the name of , and a third, by .the name of

Edwards, Pierrepont Edwards's son. I had received
many civilities from him, and had received many
civil letters from Mr. Burr, from New York, in conse-
quence of my civilities to those gentlemen. After these
things had passed, I had formed such a*i attachment to
him, that I never should have forgotten it, had not this
late business taken place. About three years ago, Mr.
Burr was under considerable, and, as I thought, unjust
persecution. I had then a youngerson (who is now here)
studying law at Pittsburg. I wished to make him known
to Mr. Burr, and in consequence of my friendship for him,
and of the great rage of persecution against him, I invited
him in that letter to come to see me at Morganza. In
all probability, I should have done the same thing, from
the attachment which I had conceived for him. Mr.
Burr, however, had left Pittsburg before my letter
reached it, and it remains now in my son's bureau at
Pittsburg. On the 24th of last August, I received a
letter from Mr. Burr, dated at Pittsburg, informing me
'.hat he should dine with me next day.


Here Mr. Hay handed the letter to Colonel Morgan,
who said that the letter was dated on the 2ist, and that
he had not for some time seen it, as he had enclosed it
to the President of the United States, as introductory to
his communication to him.

This letter was handed to me by a man who called
himself Count Willie, one of his attendants. I believe
my son did not call on me that evening ; but next morn-
ing I informed him, that from my great affection for Mr.
Burr, if I was able, I should certainly go and meet him ;
and I requested my son and his brother to do it, with
a letter of introduction, explanatory of their names and
their intention. What conversation took place between
him and my son I know not. Mr. Burr mentioned to me
in conversation, Colonel Dupiester, as one of the first
military characters of the age. I shall pass over the
conversation and incidents during dinner. After dinner
I spoke of our fine country. I observed that when 1
first went there, there was not a single family between
the Alleghany mountains and the Ohio ; and that by and
by we should 'have congress sitting in this neighborhood,
or at Pittsburg. We were allowed to sport these things
over a glass of wine. " No, never," said Mr. Burr, " for

Online LibraryAaron BurrTrial of Aaron Burr for treason : printed from the report taken in short hand (Volume 1) → online text (page 53 of 64)