Aaron Burr.

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

. (page 54 of 64)
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in less than five years you will be totally divided from
the Atlantic states." Mr. Burr entered into some argu-
ments to prove why it should and must be so. The first
reason was, the produce of the sale of the western lands
being carried to the Atlantic states, and that the people
to the west should not be tributary to them. He said
that our taxes were very heavy ; and demanded why
we should pay them to the Atlantic parts of the country ?
By this time I took an opportunity to observe, " God for-
bid ! " I hoped that no such thing would ever happen, at
least in my time. This observation terminated the con-
versation as to that particular point. It then turned
upon the weakness and imbecility of the federal govern-
ment.

Mr. Wirt. Who started that subject ? Mr. Burr
started it. I don't recollect saying anything on the sub-
ject; but began to think that all was not right. He said
that with two hundred men, he could drive congress,
with the president at its head, into the river Potomac ;



TESTIMONY OF COLONEL MORGAN. 567

or that it might be done ; and he said with five hundred
men, he could take possession of New York. He
appealed to Colonel Dupiester if it could not be done ;
he nodded assent. There was a reply made to this by
one of my sons, that he would be damned if they could
take our little town of Cannonsburg with that force.
Some short time after this, Mr. Burr went out from the
dining-room to the passage, and beckoned to my son
Thomas. What their conversation was, I can not say.
Soon after a walk was proposed to my son's mill, and the
company went. When they returned one (or both) of
my sons came to caution me, and said, " You may
depend upon it, Mr. Burr will this night open himself to
you. He wants Tom to go with him." After the usual
conversation, Mr. Burr went upstairs, and as I thought
to go -to bed. Mrs. Morgan was reading to me (as is
.usual, when the family have retired), when about eleven
o'clock, and after I had supposed he had been an hour
in bed, she told me that Mr. Burr was coming down, and
as she had heard my son's conversation, she added,
"You'll have it now." Mr. Burr came down with a can-
dle in his hand. Mrs. Morgan immediately retired. Mr.
Burr took his seat by me. He drew from his pocket a
book. I suppose it was a memorandum book. After
looking at it, he asked me if I knew a Mr. Vigo, of Fort
Vincent, a Spaniard. I replied, yes ; I knew him ; I had
reasons to know him. One was that I had reasons to
believe that he was deeply involved in the British con-
spiracy in 1788, as I supposed, the object of which was
to separate the states ; and which General Neville and
myself had suppressed. I called it a nefarious thing to
aim at the division of the states. I was careful to put
great emphasis on the word " nefarious." Mr. Burr find-
ing what kind of man he had to deal with, suddenly
stopped, thrust into his pocket the book which I saw
had blank leaves in it, and retired to bed. I believe I
was pretty well understood. The next morning Mr.
Burr and Colonel Dupiester went off before breakfast,
without my expecting it, in company with my son ; and
from that time to this, I have not seen him but in this
place. I well remember some explanatory circumstances
My son agreed with me that I should apprise the presi



563 TRIAL OF AARON BURR.

dent of our impressions, and point out a mode by which
Mr. Burr might be followed step by step.

Mr. Mac Rae. After your son's observation about the
town ofCannonsburg and the subsequent conversation,
did the prisoner draw any comparison between the peo-
ple of the eastern and western country ? He said, "Keep
yourself on this side of the mountain, and you'll never be
disturbed." By which I understood that there was an
attempt to be made to effect a disunion. There is one
more circumstance which I must state to the court. The
Sunday after the judge of our circuit court dined with me.
I requested him to mention the circumstances to General
Neville, and invited him to come the following Sunday to
dinner, with Judges Tilghman and Roberts, for I had
business of the first importance to communicate. The
court being longer engaged than was expected, t&ey did
not dine with me on that day ; but they did on the follow-
ing Sunday. These gentlemen wrote a joint letter to
the president, informing him of my communications to
them.

Mr. Burr. What sort of a book was the one I had in
my hand ? It was a small book like this. [A pocket-
book.]

Was it bound ? It was not so large as this ; I do not
recollect whether it was bound, as it would not be very
polite in me to take particular notice of such things when
gentlemen are at my own house.

When you spoke of a nefarious plan, to what transac-
tion did you allude ? To Vigo's plan, which I conceived
was intended to dissever the union.

Who were present when Judge Tilghman saw you ?
General Neville and Judge Roberts and my son.

Was there any other from Pittsburg ? None.

Your conversation at dinner, then, was jocular about
the moving of congress to Pittsburg ? Was not part of
the conversation jocular? My manner might have been
jocular, but not my meaning.

Did you not once live on the Mississippi, or go to that
country with a design to settle there r I did, with the
approbation of my country, in order to take up and dis-
tribute lands to all my countrymen to the west of the
Mississippi.



TESTIMONY OF THOMAS MORGAN. 569

Did you acquire any lands there ? I am told I have
a right to some lands there.

Where was it that you lived on the Mississippi ? At
New Madrid.

On which side of the Mississippi? The west.

In the Spanish territories? With the approbation of
the Spanish government.

How long did you live there ? About forty days. I
went from 'that place to New Orleans, where I detected a
British spy.

In what year? In 1788.

GENERAL MORGAN was then called in at the request of
the prisoner.

Mr. Burr. In what state of mind was your father
when General Neville and Judge Tilghman were there?
He had lately had a fall which had done him consider-
able injury.

I mean as to his capacity. Did you not make some
apology to Judge Tilghman for the state of his mind ?
I did tell Judge Tilghman that my father was old and
infirm ; and like other old men, told long stories, and was
apt to forget his repetitions.

Mr. Mac Rae. What did the prisoner say ? When
Mr. Burr said that with two hundred men he could drive
the president and congress into the Potomac, I must con-
fess that I felt myself hurt and replied with some warmth,
" I'll be damned, sir, if you could take the little town of
Cannonsburg with that force." Mr. Burr replied, " Con-
fine yourself to this side of the mountain, and it is an-
other thing."

Do you recollect whether anything were said concern-
ing the people on the eastern and western sides of the
Alleghany? He answered, "Confine yourselves on this
side of the mountain, and it is another thing."

Mr. Baker objected to this examination by Mr. Mac
Rae as improper.

Mr. Burr. Do you recollect that the probability of a
Spanish war was mentioned ? It was a general subject
of conversation between Mr. Burr and myself.

THOMAS MORGAN was next sworn ; his evidence was as



570 TRIAL OF AARON BURR.

follows : On the evening of the 2ist of August, my father
received a letter from Pittsburg by the hands of some
person, the signature of which was Aaron Burr. In that
letter the writer Communicated his intention of dining
with my father on the following day ; he also mentioned
that he should take the liberty of introducing a friend.
My father requested my brother and myself to meet him,
which we accordingly did. Nothing of importance oc-
curred during our ride, in my presence. Mr. Burr rode
generally with my brother, Colonel Dupiester was often
with myself, and sometimes we were promiscuously to-
gether. Whilst we were at and after dinner, Mr. Burr
emphatically, as I thought, confidently, and with great
earnestness, said that we (meaning the people of the
west) would be separated in five years from the Atlantic
states ; the Alleghany mountains to be the line of divi-
sion. He said that great numbers were not necessary to
execute great military deeds ; all that was wanting was
a leader, in whom they could place confidence, and who
they believed could carry them through. This conver-
sation occurred during dinner. He said that with five
hundred men New York could be taken ; and that with
two hundred, congress could be driven into the Potomac
river. To the last observation, my brother, I think, in-
dignantly replied : " By God ! sir, with that force you
can not take our little town of Cannonsburg." Mr. Burr's
reply to this observation was, " Confine yourself to this
side of the mountain, and I'll not contradict you;" or
words to that effect. Mr. Burr withdrew from the room
where we dined, and on reaching the door leading into
the entry invited me, by a nod, to go with him. When
we had arrived at the back door of the entry, out of hear-
ing of any other person, Mr. Burr inquired what my pur-
suits were. I informed him that I was studying the law.
He then said he was sure I could not find employment
for either body or mind; but he did not further explain
himself. He said that there were, or asked if there were
not, a number of young men in Pittsburg similarly situa-
ted. ' He said that under our government there was no
encouragement for talents; that John Randolph had de-
clared on the floor of congress, that men of talents were
dangerous to the government. He asked me how or



TESTIMONY OF JACOB ALLBRIGHT. 57!

whether I would like a military expedition or enterprise ?
(I can not recollect which, but it was some such expres-
sion.) My answer was, " It would entirely depend upon
the object or cause for which I was to fight." I think
previously, or certainly soon after, he said, " I wish you
were on your way with me." After asking Mr. Burr
concerning a young man (Mr. Duer) living at New Or-
leans, with whom I had a slight acquaintance, he said he
was doing well ; and he then spoke of Duer's brother, of
whom I knew nothing, who was also doing well, as a law-
yer, but he had much rather be at the head of a military
corps. Mr. Morgan then proposed to state the steps
which his father had taken to defeat Mr. Burr's projects,
when he was stopped by the court.

Mr. Burr. Had you ever spoken to me before ?
Never.

Did you not mention, with some complaints, the neg-
lect which your education had received? No.

Did you not complain about wasting your time? I
'recollect nothing on that subject, but your remark, that
I could not surely find employment for either body or
mind.

Mr. Wirt. Do you recollect your answer to Mr. Burr's
observation, that he would like to see you on your way
with him ? I do not recollect except what I have stated
already. Here our conversation ended.

Mr. Hay. Do you recollect when you said that your
liking a military life would depend on the object or cause
in which you were engaged, whether anything more was
said by Mr. Burr? No.

JACOB ALLBRIGHT was then called and sworn.

Mr. Hay. Our object is to prove by his testimony
the actual assemblage of men on Blannerhassett's island,
and it goes of course to prove the overt act.

Jacob Allbright. The first I knew of this business was,
I was hired on the island to help to build a kiln for dry-
ing corn ; and after working some time, Mrs. Blanner-
hassett told me that Mr. Blannerhassett and Mr. Burr
were going to lay in provisions for an army for a year.
I went to the mill, where I carried the corn to be ground
after it had been dried. I worked four weeks on that



572 TRIAL OF AARON BURR.

business in the island. Last fall (or in September) after
Blannerhassett had come home (he had been promising
me cash for some time), I stepped up to him. He had
no money at the time, but would pay me next day or
soon. Says he, " Mr. Allbright you are a Dutchman."
But he asked me first and foremost, whether I would not
join with him and go down the river? I told him I did
not know what they were upon ; and he said " Mr.
Allbright, we are going to settle a new country." And I
gave him an answer that I would not like to leave my
family. He said he did not want any families to go
along with him. Then he said to me, " You are Dutch-
man, and a common man ; and as the Dutch are apt to
be scared by high men, if you'll go to New Lancaster,
where the Dutch live, and get me twenty or thirty to go
with- us, I will give you as many dollars." New Lancas-
ter was some distance off. I went home then, and gave
him no answer upon that. In a few days after, the boats
came and landed at the island. The snow was about two
or three inches deep, and I went out a-hunting. I was
on the Ohio side ; I met two men ; I knew they belonged
to the boats, but I wanted to find out ; and they asked
me whether I had not given my consent to go along with
Blannerhassett down the river? As we got into a con-
versation together they named themselves Mr. Burr's
men, belonging to the boats, landed at the island. When
they asked me whether I had not consented to go'down
with Blannerhassett, I put a question to them. I told
them I did not know what they were about ; and one of
the gentlemen told me, they were going to take a silver
mine from the Spanish. I asked the gentlemen whether
they would not allow that this would raise war with
America ? They replied, no. These were only a few
men ; and if they went with a good army, they would
give up the country and nothing more said about it. I
had all this conversation with the two men. These men
showed me what fine rifles they had, going down the
river with them. Then I went to the island and Blan-
nerhassett paid me off in Kentucky notes. People, how-
ever, didn't like these notes very well, and I went over to
the bank at Kanawa to change them. I got two of the
notes changed ; and one, a ten-dollar note, was returned



TESTIMONY OF JACOB ALLBRIGHT. 573

to my hand for which I wished to get silver from Blan-
nerhassett. I went to the island the day the proclama-
tion came out. But before I went to Blannerhassett's
house, I heard he was not at home, but at Marietta. I
went on the Virginia side, where I met three other men
belonging to the boats, with three complete rifles. They
made a call upon me to take them to the island in my
canoe, and I accepted [excepted or refused] to it ; but
afterwards I carried the third man, who stood close by my
canoe, over to the island. After being some time on the
island, I went down to the four boats. Blannerhassett
was not at home yet ; and I met some of the boat people
shooting at a mark. They had a fire between the bank
and boats. I saw this in the day time.

Mr. Hay. How many boats were there ? Four.

I waited at the house till Blannerhassett came home.
He appeared very much scared. One of the boatmen
came up to him for something, and he told him, " Don't
trouble me ; I have trouble enough already." He went
up to his chamber, and I saw no more of him. I asked
an old gentleman who was there, and with whom I was
well acquainted, to go up to his chamber and change my
note for silver. He did go, and brought me silver. By
and by I heard that they were going to start that night.
Thinks I, " I'll see the end of it." This was the night
of the very day that Blannerhassett got back from
Marietta. He got back before night. When night came
on, I was among the men, and also in the kitchen; and
saw the boatmen running bullets. One of them spoke
out to the others," Boys, let's mould as many bullets as we
can fire twelve rounds." After that,*I saw no more till
after twelve o'clock at night. Then Blannerhassett came
down from the chamber, and called up some of his ser-
vants ; he had four or five trunks. There were not
Crusty hands enough to carry them to the boats ; and
some person called out my name, and asked me to help
them ; and I carried one of the trunks and moved along
with them. When we got down, some person, I don't
particularly know who, but think it was Blannerhassett
himself, asked me to stand by the trunks till they were
put in the boats. When the last of them went off, I saw
men standing in a circle on the shore. I went up to



574 TRIAL OF AARON BURR.

them ; perhaps they were five or six rods fVom me. The
first thing that I noticed, was their laying plans and con-
sulting how Blannerhassett and Comfort Tyler should get
safe by Galliopolis. One Nahum Bennett [perhaps Bent]
was called forward, and when he came, Blannerhassett
asked him whether he had not two smart horses?
Nahum Bennett answered no ; he had but one. Then
Blannerhassett told him to go to Captain Dennie, and
get his sorrel horse ; and Nahum Bennett told him that
the sorrel horse had no shoes on ; and Blannerhassett
said the roads were soft, and would not hurt the horse.
Blannerhassett told Nahum Bennett to meet him and
Comfort Tyler with the horses somewhere about Gal-
liopolis ; Bennett inquired how he was to find him out;
should he inquire for him ? " No." " Have you no
friends there?" " No." Mrs. Blannerhassett then
came forward, and she told Blannerhassett and Comfort
Tyler, that they must take a canoe and get into it before
they got to Galliopolis, and sail down 'the stream of the
Ohio ; for nobody would mind a couple of men going
down the stream. She said " she'd" pay for the canoe.
Blannerhassett told Nahum Bennett to take the two
horses and pass round Galliopolis before day, and then
they might surround [go round] Galliopolis. After that
a man by the name of Tupper laid his hands upon Blan-
nerhassett, and said, "Your body is in my hands, in the
name of the commonwealth." Some such words as that
he mentioned. When Tupper made that motion, there
were seven or eight muskets levelled at him. Tupper
looked about him. and said, " Gentlemen, I hope you
will not do the like." One of the gentlemen who
was nearest, about two yards off, said, " I'd as
lieve as not." Tupper then changed his speech,
and said he wished him to escape safe down the
river, and wished him luck. Tupper before told
Blannerhassett he should stay and stand his trial. But
Blannerhassett said no ; that the people in the neigh-
borhood were coming down next day to take him, and
he would go. Next day after I saw the Wood county
militia going down. The people went off in boats that
night about one.

All? All but one, who was a doctor. All belonging



TESTIMONY OF JACOB ALLBRIGHT. 575

to the boats had some kind of arms. Some of the boats
were on the shore and some not.

Mr. Hay. How many men were there in all ? About
twenty or thirty ; I did not, however, count them. Every
man belonging to the boats that I took notice of had
arms.

Mr. Coleman (one of the jury). What day, month, or
year was this ? In the fall of the year. I don't ^recol-
lect the month or particular time, but there was snow on
the ground.

Mr. Hay. Do you recollect whether it snows in Sep-
tember ? I do not know.

Mr. Sheppard (one of the jury). Was Tupper a mag-
istrate or officer ? I know not.

Where had Blannerhassett been ? In Kentucky.

Mr. Wirt. Had you seen Mr. Burr on the island ?
Yes.

Was he there before Blannerhassett went to Kentucky ?
He was.

Did you speak of the boats under the command of
Tyler? I did.

Did the boats quit the island at the time of hearing
about the proclamation ? Yes.

Did the Wood county militia go there next day ? Yes.

Mr. Parker (one of the jury). Did you hear Peter
Taylor give advice ? I did not.

Mr. Parker. Did you see Peter Taylor converse with
Blannerhassett that night? I do not recollect; I was
busy about the boats.

How long did Aaron Burr remain on the island ? I do
not recollect.

How long had he been there before the departure of
the boats ? To this question he first answered that he
did not know; and that Mr. Burr never returned back to
the island ; but after some reflection he said that he had
been there about six weeks before the departure of the
boats.

Mr. Sheppard (one. of the jury). How long was Blan-
nerhassett absent? I don't know. I did not live on the
island.

Mr. Burr. Was that Mr. Tupper called General Tup-
per ? He was.



576 TRIAL OF AARON BURR.

Did you know General Tupper? Yes.

Is that the gentleman ? [pointing to General Tupper,
who was present in court]. Yes.

When the muskets were levelled at him did they seem
to have a mind to hurt him ? Yes. A gentleman near
me said, " I'd as lieve shoot as not."

You said differently on a former occasion. Don't you
recollect making a statement in which nothing was said
about levelling guns at him ? and that it looked like ex-
ercising? I do not.

A desultory conversation here ensued between the op-
posite counsel.

Mr. Burr professed that it was his intention to degrade
the witness by invalidating his credibility.

Mr. Hay said that it was very probable, if this man had
at different times stated what seemed to be contradictory,
he did it through ignorance ; and Mr. Burr insisted that
an error through ignorance might be as injurious to him
as an error through immorality; he cared not which ; that
the consequences to him were in both cases the same.

Mr. Burr. Have you not been examined before ?
Yes.

By whom ? By 'Mr. Jackson.

Had he not printed questions in his hand ? He had a
paper in his hand.

Did he set down your answers ? Yes.

How long after the guns were pointed at General Tup-
per, before the men went to their boats ? I do not recol-
lect. Anything that I am not certain of I can not speak to.

Was Mrs. Blannerhassett there when the guns were
pointed ? Yes.

Was Tupper inside of the circle? Yes.

Was she too? I don't recollect.

Did you see Mr. Woodbridge there? I don't know
him. He lived in the state of Ohio.

How long did you work with Blannerhassett? Six
weeks.

At what time was it that you saw me there ? I do not
recollect.

Mr. Burr. The counsel for the United States know,
I presume, this circumstance, and have testimony to as-
certain it.



TESTIMONY OF JACOB ALLBRIGHT. 577

Mr. Hay. We have not, as far as I am informed.

Mr. Burr. If they have no objection, I will state when
I was on the island.

Mr. Hay said he had not.

Mr. Burr then said that it was on the last day of Au- '
gust and the first of September that he was on the
island.

Were the boats in the stream or close to the land,
when General Tupper wished them good luck? In
shore.

Mr. Anthony (one of the jury). Did you see any pow-
der? No.

Mr. Hay. Were you in the boats? I was not.

Mr. Burr. Where does General Tupper live? In
Marietta.

Does he not belong to the state of Ohio? Yes.
. When did you first know him ? Last fall.

Mr. Parker. Where did you live before you went to
work on the island ? About a mile from the island.

Mr. Burr then asked the clerk for the statement which
he had taken of Allbright's testimony, when it was sub-
mitted to the court on a former occasion on the motion
for binding himself in a higher bail.

The clerk handed him the copy, and the prisoner pro-
ceeded with the examination.

Mr. Burr. You said before that the men who raised
their muskets against General Tupper were not in earn-
est ? That was a piece of my opinion. I did not know
whether they were in earnest, as there was no quarrel
'among them, and no firing afterwards.

o o

Mr. Carrington (one of the jury) reminded him of an
expression of one of the party : "I had as lieve as not
shoot," which showed that they were in earnest.

Mr. Burr. I beg the court to call on the prosecution
for the deposition of this witness, taken before John G.
Jackson.

Mr. Hay said that he would not let gentlemen have
access to his portfolio when they pleased; that he must
be satisfied by reasons assigned or required by the order
of the court before he produced it.

The Chief Justice was not satisfied that the court had
a right to call for the affidavit.

I. 37



578 TRIAL OF AARON BURR.

Mr. Wickham said it was obvious that there were cer-
tain suspicions attached to the credibility of the witness ;
and that it was their desire to compare his present testi-
mony with his former affidavit.

Mr. Hay observed that Mr. Jackson might not have
taken down the testimony of the witness in his language,
but couched it in his own ; hence there might be an ap-
parent variation between the present evidence and the
affidavit but that there was no real variance ; that the
object of Mr. Jackson's taking his affidavit was merely to
ascertain whether he were possessed of any useful infor-
mation, and to know whether he ought to be summoned



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