Aaron Burr.

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

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as a witness or not ; that this was the object in taking all
the testimony which had been collected ; that his affidavit
was therefore general; but that the man, after finding
that he was to be summoned as a witness, had revolved
the subject in his own mind, and recollected many cir-
cumstances which had not before occurred to him.

Mr. Burr. We have a right to coerce this paper. If
gentlemen will not surrender it, I may at all events avail
myself of their refusal. My object is to prove such a
diversity between the statements of the witness at differ-
ent times, as may destroy all faith in his recollection.

Mr. Hay. Then, sir, although I might retain this
paper, the gentlemen are welcome to make all the use of
it they can. Take it.

Mr. Burr then proceeded. When you said that all had
guns, did you mean to say that all in the circle, or all of
them together, without exception, had arms ? There were
seven or eight who had guns, and there were other arms ;
but there might be more men than guns.

How many were in the circle? I did not count them.

What kind of guns had they ? Rifles and short guns.

Did you see any guns with bayonets? I saw none.

Mr. Mac Rae. W 7 hen did you see most arms? in the
day, or in the night? I saw more arms in the day; but
it was in the night that I saw most armed men.

Mr. Parker (one of the jury). Why did you think that
all of them had arms? Because I was with them almost
all night. In the day, I saw some of them shooting at
marks ; and I saw other arms at that time lying upon the


Mr. Wickham. Did you see them all with arms at
once? No.

How many arms did you see in the whole, or at any
one time and place together? I can not tell.

Did you know the men who had arms ? I did not.

Did you know the names of the other men ? No.

Would you know any of them if you saw them ? I
would not. They are all strangers to me.

How could you distinguish the arms seen in the day-
time, from those seen late in the enening, or at night ?
I can not answer.

PETER TAYLOR was then called, and

Mr. Hay asked him whether he had not seen Mr. Burr
on the island? He answered that he had not.
Mr. Burr. If gentlemen have now done with the
overt act, or when they have done, I will thank them to
inform me ; for then we shall have some considerations
to offer to the court.

Mr. Hay. We have other additional testimony to
offer on this very point ; the assemblage of men on the

MAURICE P. BELKNAP was then called, but did not

WILLIAM LOVE was then sworn.

Mr. Hay. Were you on Blannerhassett's island ?
Yes ; but I was not there at the time when Colonel
Tyler's boats arrived there. I was then at Marietta ;
and it was on Sunday that I went down in a skiff with
two barrels of salt.

How many boats were at the island? Four.

How many men ? I can not tell you ; but I suppose
about between twenty and twenty-five belonging to Col-
onel Tyler's boats. When I arrived at the island, Blan-
nerhassett met me.

Did you see any arms ? I saw the men and rifles. I
know that Mr. Blannerhassett took away with him one
brace of horse pistols and a brace of pocket pistols and a
a dirk. Some fusees were put in the boat; but not more
than three or four, all belonging to him.


And what arms had Tyler's men? Pistols, dirks, and
rifles, they brought there ; but all were not armed with
rifles. I know not whether they were armed with differ-
ent things. Some of the men had guns, some had dirks.
Being, as how, Mr. Blannerhassett's servant, that is his
groom, I went down to the river with him.

Did you see Taylor and Allbright there ? I knew
Peter Taylor very well. I saw him there the morning
of the day I went away ; and I saw Allbright also. I saw
Mr. Woodbridge too.

What time did you set sail ? We were the last to em-
bark ; and we started between twelve and one, as well as
I can recollect. We parted with General Tupper in the
greatest friendship, so I understood from others. I do
not know that I saw him. I was the last man who went
into the boat.

Did you see the prisoner on the island? I never saw
Mr. Burr on the island. I first saw him at Natchez about
two and a half years ago.

What took place after you left the island? That night
was very cold. The next morning we stopped and
made fires. Mr. Blannerhassett and Colonel Tyler went
ashore and called the company together; and the best I
could make oufwas, I understood that the Governor of
Ohio had uttered state-warrants against Mr. Blannerhas-
sett and Tyler ; and that they wanted to make their
escape as fast as possible. I went down with the party
to Bayou Pierre, where

Mr, Burr expressed a wish that the attention of the
witness should be at present confined to the transactions
on the island. He said that gentlemen ought to confine
themselves to evidence of the overt act ; that they would
submit the question to the court ; that it would be too
late to discuss the question, whether the evidence ought
to be submitted to the jury, after it should have been all

Mr. Martin. Gentlemen had better confine them-
selves to facts within the district of Virginia. When
they travel beyond the district, we shall have some im-
portant questions to bring forward. We shall object to
the production of such evidence.

Mr. Hay acquiesced for the present in this arrangement.


Mr. Burr. Were not some of Mr. Blannerhassett's
clothes put up in the boats? Yes.

Did you not assist in putting those things in the
boats? Yes.

Were not his books put in boxes and trunks? None
that I ever saw.

How long had you lived with Blannerhassett? Ten
or twelve days before we started.

How many guns had the party ? I do not know ;
many of the young men that came down with Tyler were
out a-gunning.

Did you see anything like a military appearance ?
The men were in a state of preparation to defend them-
selves, because they expected people from the mouth
of the Kenawa to attack Blannerhassett and the island.
And to the best of my opinion, they did not mean to be
killed, without some return of the shot. It was said at
Marietta, that the people of Kenawa were to attack
them ; and I suppose they would have done their best
to defend themselves. I should be sorry if a man slapped
me on my face without returning the blow.

Was there no disturbance among the party on the
island? None; I did not part from my friends in
England more comfortably than in parting with the peo-
ple on the island.

Were they in fear of being attacked when they
first met together? Not till Tyler's boats came down.
I do not recollect to have seen General Tupper there.

Mr. Parker (one of the jury). Did you ever see all the
men with arms? I can not say When I got to the
mouth of Cumberland river I saw a chest of arms

Mr. Mac Rae. Were any chests of arms put into the
boats when you left the island ? Not that I know. They
might or might not have been put on board without my
seeing them. Many things were put into the boats before
I got in.

Mr. Parker. Had you no conversation with Blanner-
hassett about the expedition ? Only that if I did not
choose to go with him he would recommend me to some
traveling gentleman as a servant ; or, if I went to the
.Washita, he would make me a present of a piece of land.


Mr. Burr. Did you see any arms but those belonging
to Blannerhassett ? I did not.

Did you see any guns presented? I did not.

Were they mostly young gentlemen who came in the
boats? They looked like young gentlemen in that

Mr. Wirt. Why did they go away in the night?
They were afraid of being taken by warrants issued by
the governor of Ohio.

Mr. Mac Rae. Was the chest which you saw opened
at the mouth of Cumberland, the same as those that you
saw go from the island ? No.

What did you think of this business ? I understood
the object of the expedition was to settle Washita lands.

Mr. Hay. What kind of looking men were they?
They looked like gentlemen such as live upon their own

Did they look like men used to work ? They did not.

When did you see Mr. Blannerhassett that night down
at the beach ? Late that night ; it was a very cold night,
raining and feezing; it was generally expected that the
people would come and destroy Blannerhassett's house.

Mr. Parker (one of the jurymen). Did you see any
bullets run ? Yes ; but I do not know how many. I
was a servant in the house, but could not mind my own
business and other people's too.

DUDLEY WOODBRIDGE was next sworn.

Mr. Hay. Were you on the island when the boats
left it ? I slept there that night.

Mr. Wirt. What party do you mean ? I allude to
the four boats with Comfort Tyler, Mr. Smith, and others.

Were you at the boats? I passed them about dusk.

Did you see any of the men ? I came to the island
about dusk. I saw five or six standing about the boats.
I went directly up from the landing to the house, and
saw fifteen or twenty men in one of the rooms of Mr.
Blannerhassett's house.

Had they any arms in their hands when you saw them ?
I recollect to have seen no arms, but two pair of pistols
on the bureau of the room where I slept, which were gone
in the morning.


Mr. Hay. Had you no communication with Mr. Burr
or Mr. Blannerhassett about this expedition? Will you
inform us what you know on this subject? About the
beginning of September or last of August, Mr. Blanner-
hassett (with whom I had been connected in commercial
business for six or eight years past, under the firm of
Dudley Woodbridge and Company) called with Mr. Burr
at our counting-house at Marietta. Mr. Blannerhassett
observed that Mr. Burr wished us to purchase a quantity
of provisions. I am not positive that Mr. Burr was pres-
ent when he first mentioned the subject, but I think he
was. Mr. Burr then went into an inquiry about the
prices of different kinds of provisions, and the expense of
boats best calculated to carry provisions up and down
the river. After his making a number of inquiries and
receiving such information as I could give him, he left a
memorandum of such provisions as he wanted, and of the
boats which he wished to have built. They were to be
on the Schenectady model, such as are used on the Mo-
hawk fiver. The number ordered was fifteen ; only
eleven were completed.

What were their dimensions? Principally ten feet
wide and forty feet long; five were to be ten feet longer.

What provisions were ordered ? Pork, flour, whiskey,
bacon and kiln-dried meal ; but no article was purchased
but pork, the prices in our market being much higher
than those limited in the memorandum. I immediately
made a contract with Colonel Barker to build the boats,
and proceeded to make arrangements for purchasing pro-
visions. The boats were built up the Muskingum, about
seven miles above Marietta, and were to be delivered on
the 9th of December. On that morning when 'they were
to be brought down (the Qth of December), I saw some
six or eight armed men of the militia going to take
possession of the boats. I set off for Blannerhas-
sett's island, but met Mr. Blannerhassett, Comfort
Tyler, Mr. Smith, and some young men from Belpre'
going up to take down the boats. I informed them
of the proceedings at Marietta, and advised Mr.
Blannerhassett not to go up. After some consultation
he determined not to go up, and returned to the island.
I went back to Marietta to get some money and papers


and returned that evening to the island after getting
the papers.

Mr. Hay. On what terms was the contract for the
boats made? I made the contract for the boats with
Mr. Burr, and agreed to take a draft on New York.
When Mr. Blannerhassett handed me the draft, I
expressed my dissatisfaction at the long sight at which it
was drawn (being ninety days), observing that it would
not become due until after the time in which the boats
and provisions were to be delivered, and that I wished
to run no hazard. Mr. Blannerhassett with some warmth
asked me if I doubted Mr. Burr's honor? When I
repeated that I wished to run no risk, he said that he
would guarantee the draft and be answerable himself;
and that in the event of its not being paid, I might
charge it to him. The draft was drawn by Mr. Burr on
Mr. Ogden of New York. These were the boats which
Smith, Tyler, Blannerhassett, and the young men were
going up to receive.

Mr. Hay. Do you recollect where the boats were to
be delivered by the contract ? Colonel Barker undertook
to bring them, but there was no contract to deliver them
at any particular place.

Mr. Parker. Did you say that it was the Qth day
of December that the boats were to go away? The
boats were to be delivered on the gth, but those that
were at the island went away on the roth, When Colo-
nel Barker was bringing them to Marietta, they were
taken by General Buel, as I understood by order of the
Governor of Ohio.

Mr. Mac Rae. State what occurrences took place on
the islancl ? I arrived about dusk, and immediately
inquired about Mr. Blannerhassett. I stated to him that
I was ready to adjust our partnership concerns, and that I
had brought down the money and papers for that purpose.
We went upstairs ; we were two hours engaged in the
business; after settling which I set off to go across the
river home, and met Mr. Belknap at the shore. He
asked me to go back with him, that he had business to
do. I returned with him. We both went to bed at nine
o'clock at night, where I remained, and did not, as the
witness Peter Taylor states, go to the shore with the


party when they went off. His saying that I was there
then is a mistake, as this gentleman [Mr. Belknap] can

Mr. Hay. State to the court and jury, for whom the
boats were built. Was the contract made for the com-
pany ? Yes ; it may be so considered ; but it was not
particularly specified. Mr. Blannerhassett first introduced
the subject and Mr. Burr then spoke. As to the use for
which these boats were intended, Mr. Blannerhassett
made some communications to me respecting it. Shall I
now state to the court these communications? [He was
requested to proceed.] Late in August or early. in Sep-
tember, Mr. Blannerhassett mentioned to me, that he
had embarked in an enterprise with Mr. Burr ; that Gen-
eral Eaton and some others were engaged in it ; and that
the prospects were flattering. Our first conversation
lasted but a few minutes. The next week I was at the
island, when he went into further particulars. From
what he stated, the inference I drew was, that hisobject
was Mexico. He did not positively say so, but I inferred
it from several circumstances, particularly from a map of
that country which he showed me. He spoke highly of
the country ; stated its advantages, wealth, fertility, and
healthiness. He asked me if I had a disposition to join ?
I evaded his question, but could not forbear telling him
that I preferred my situation to an uncertainty (which
was the same as declining it). On the way up to Marietta
he observed, that he did not wish me to say anything
about his conversations on this subject. This is the sub-
stance of my testimony.

Mr. Hay. Do you recollect any further details of the
plan or object of the expedition ? I do not.

Mr. Hay. What became of the boats and the pork
you purchased ? The pork was taken and sold by order
of the president or government ; it was sold, as I
understood, by General Buel. The boats, or a part
of them, were afterwards fitted out by the government
for transports to convey troops from Marietta to St.

Mr. Burr. Do you recollect that I told you, that
I wanted the description of boats used in the Mo-
hawk river ; and were they not made for shoal water, and


to go up the stream ? You did. The boats were to be
calculated for shallow water.

Mr. Burr. You know Mr. Blannerhassett well. Was
it not ridiculous for him to be engaged in a military en-
terprise ? How far can he distinguish a man from a
horse? Ten steps? He is very near-sighted. He can
not know you from any of us, at the distance we are now
from one another. He knows nothing of military affairs.
I never understood that he was a military man.

What became of his library? Part of it was carried
down by Mrs. Blannerhassett ; the residue was left
behind, and has been- since sold.

Do you recollect when I was at Marietta ? Was it not
about the last of August or first of September? I left
Philadelphia about the middle of August, and on my re-
turn, I saw you about the time you mention. I have
never heard that you have been there since.

What became of the draft on Mr. Ogden for two thou-
sand dollars? It was paid.

What of quantity pork did you purchase for me ?
About one hundred barrels.

At what price ? It cost about twelve and was charged
at thirteen dollars per barrel.

What became of it? I stored it in Mr. Green's cellar,
adjoining our store; it was taken and sold by General
Buel, by order of the government, as already mentioned ;
that is as I understood.

To whom did you consider the pork as belonging when
seized? Whose loss was it ? Yours or mine? It may
hereafter become a dispute.

What were the boats estimated to be worth ? Colonel
Barker's bill for the eleven boats, amounted to twelve
or thirteen hundred dollars.

Mr. Martin. W T ere you at any time that evening on
the water's side, with Mr. or Mrs. Blannerhassett? I was

Mr. Wirt. You were asked, sir, about Mr. Blanner-
hassett's military talents ? Permit me to ask you what
were his pecuniary resources ; what was the state of his
money matters ? I believe they are not as great as was gen-
erally imagined. I gave him six thousand dollars for one
half of his profits of our business ; he had about three


thousand dollars in stock in our company's concern. His
fortune is much less than is generally understood. He
had not over five or six thousand dollars in the hands of
his agent at Philadelphia. His island and improvements
cost about forty or fifty thousand dollars. It would not,
however, sell for near that sum, except to a person of
the same cast with Mr. Blannerhassett. After building
his house, his property, exclusive of the island and five
negroes, amounted probably to seventeen thousand

Mr. Coleman (a juror). Explain again, if you please,
in what did that property consist, and how much money
could he command? He had nine thousand dollars in
my hands in stock and profits already stated, and about
one thousand dollars on another account, and the money
in his agent's hands, besides his island and negroes.

Had he no foreign funds ? I think he had none. They
were invested in American stock some years before.

What -was the amount of property he had in these
funds ? I believe the property left him by his father
amounted to twenty thousand pounds sterling, which he
vested in British three per cent, stock.

Mr. Wirt. Is he esteemed a man of vigorous talents ?
He is; and a man of literature. But it was mentioned
among the people in the country, that he had every kind
of sense but common sense ; at least he had the reputa-
tion of having more of other than of common sense.

What are his favorite pursuits? Chemistry and

Mr. Hay. Was Mr. Burr to have returned to the
island. I believe so ; I expected him to have returned
in about two months, the time for the delivery of the

Had you received any money from Burr before the
presentation of the draft by Blannerhassett? The
draft was at so long a sight, that I objected to letting
the property out of my hands, till I was secured by the
responsibility of Mr. Blannerhassett. The balance over
the two thousand dollars (the amount of the draft on
Ogden) was to be paid by Mr. Burr on his return. He
was to return in two months and to complete the pay-
ment when the property was delivered.


Did Mr. Blannerhassett bring you the draft ? He did ;
but Burr made the contract with me.

Do I understand you correctly in supposing that Mr.
Burr contracted to pay two thousand dollars in one
draft, and the balance on his return ? You do.

Mr. Lee. How many acres of land are in the island ?
Mr. Blannerhassett owned about one hundred and eighty
acres, which was about half of the island, and cost him
about five thousand dollars ; but with the house and all,
cost him forty or fifty thousand dollars, as already ob-

Mr. Hay. Was not one of the boats fitted up for Mrs.
Blannerhassett and family? One of the large boats
was. Mr. Blannerhassett had taken a keel boat, belong-
ing to the firm, up to Colonel Barker's to be fitted up for
his family: but by Colonel Barker's advice, he concluded
to have one of the large boats prepared for that purpose
on account of its superior accommodation. This was
accordingly done.

Had not the delivery of the boats been interrupted
by the armed men, would they not have been delivered
to Blannerhassett ? I suppose they would have been
delivered at Marietta, where he would have received

Mr. Martin. Was not the contract made by Mr. Burr
with your firm ? It was.

Do you understand that Mr. Burr has received any con-
sideration for this sum of two thousand dollars thus paid ?
I do not know.

Mr. Wirt. If the deliverey of these boats had not
been prevented, would they not have been delivered to
Blannerhassett or Burr? They would have been deliv-
ered to either. The company contracted for them.

Mr. Hay. If delivered to Mr. Blannerhassett, would
you not have considered yourself as delivering them to
one of Burr's associates ? I can not say what I should
have thought.

Mr. Burr. How came you to suppose yourself autho-
rized to deliver the boats to Blannerhassett, since I gave
the draft ? I should in any event have considered myself
justified in delivering the boats to him, as he guaranteed
the payment for them, and he had property to a larger


amount in my hands; and besides these considerations,
early in September Blannerhassett had mentioned to me
his having joined Mr. Burr.

Mr, Baker. Did you make any stay upon the beach,
on the night of their departure ? I did not, for I returned
immediately to the house with Mr. Belknap. <

Mr. Botts. Were the people peaceable on that night ?

Did you hear any noise like that of war, the roaring of
cannon or the rattling of small arms? None.

Mr. Wirt. Did you hear any alarm in the evening
about the militia from the Ohio side ? There was some
alarm in the evening.

Mr. Parker. Did Mr. Burr leave the island before Mr.
Blannerhassett communicated to you his being joined
with him ? I do not precisely recollect the time of the
communication ; but I knew that Blannerhassett had con-
nected himself with him in the same enterprise, and I
would therefore have delivered the boats to him.

Mr. Co/eman. Was Mr. Blannerhassett's determination
to go away the effect of your having told him of the
armed men going to take the boats? That information
might have operated with other circumstances.

Mr. Parker. Did you see the president's proclamation
on that day ? No ; that was Wednesday, and it came
next Friday by the mail. It was handed to me by the
postmaster. I did not hear of its being sent otherwise.
I might have heard of it before, but I am not absolutely

Mr. Mac Rae. Did you hear anything of it before ?
I do not recollect distinctly. I believe that the printer
at Marietta, who had been at Pittsburg, had brought
some information about a proclamation ; I have some
idea that he might have mentioned that he had seen it.

Mr. Hay. Did you hear anything of a state warrant ?
No. I did hear that the legislature of the state of
Ohio were sitting with closed doors, in consequence of
something communicated by Mr. Graham, and it was
probable that the boats would be stopped, and that they
would suppress the enterprise.

Mr. Wickham. Did you understand that Blannerhas-
sett's boats or the people on the island would be taken ?


I did not suppose that they would go to Virginia; but
that they would only stop the boats that were built pursu-
ant to his contract up the Muskingum.

Mr. Hay. What was the cause of .his precipitate flight ?
Did you hear any particular observations from any of
the party on the island? Mr. Blannerhassett told me
that he would go off in three or four hours ; and I heard
Comfort Tyler say, that he would not resist the consti-

Online LibraryAaron BurrTrial of Aaron Burr for treason : printed from the report taken in short hand (Volume 1) → online text (page 55 of 64)