Aaron Burr.

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

. (page 64 of 64)
Online LibraryAaron BurrTrial of Aaron Burr for treason : printed from the report taken in short hand (Volume 1) → online text (page 64 of 64)
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country, parties struggle for power ; the popular endea-
voring to crush the unpopular party. Hence the danger
of departing from correct principles, which in such a
struggle are too often disregarded. I have now gone
through every point which I meant to submit to the
consideration of the court. The importance of the
question is very great, not only as it concerns my client,
but every man in this country. I will only observe to
the counsel, that, as I have endeavored to support they
must oppose my arguments, on abstract principles, which
must be tested by reason and truth. These principles
must be just and true at all times, and in all places, with-
out reference to particular persons or circumstances, and
are intimately connected with the public liberty and
happiness. If the principles for which I have conten-
ded be correct, this prosecution can not succeed ; it
appears to my judgment, that if they be disregarded, and
the doctrines supported by the gentlemen on the other
side prevail, these will be the consequences :

First. If a man can be indicted as being present, for
overt acts committed by others, when he was absent in
a different state and district, the constitution of the
United States, which was so ably and carefully drawn up
in order to secure and perpetuate the freedom of the


people of this country, will be a dead letter. A citizen
may be seized by military force, dragged from one end
of the continent to the other, tried far from his family
and friends, where he is a stranger, at a place where he
never was,' and among people whom he never saw; nay

Secondly. He is to be tried without any notice in the
indictment of the real nature of the charge against him,
or where the war was which he is accused of levying.
The indictment against him states that he did the act
himself, when in truth he was hundreds of miles distant
from the scene of action, and the act charged against him
was done by others.

Thirdly. The doctrine of the cruel Jefferies is to be
applied against him. He is to be tried for an act done
by another, without producing a record of the convic-
tion of that other, for whose alleged guilt he is to suffer.

Fourthly. The law of treason, and the rules concern-
ing it, as heretofore universally considered, are totally
misunderstood. A new definition of treason is adopted.
The levying of war may be secret, without arms, without
force, without any overt act.

All these arguments will apply not to this case only,
but to every case that may happen in any part of the
United States. These will be the certain consequences
of the doctrines contended for by the gentlemen on the
other side, if sanctioned by this court. Will they seri-
ously contend for doctrines that will expose all the
people of this country more to the dangers of construc-
tive treason, to greater oppression and hardships, than
the people of any other country have ever been subjected
to ? Certainly they will not. The records of this trial
will be a monument of an attempt to establish principles
that must infallibly introduce slavery. The attempt can
not succeed. But while I thus speak of the principles
themselves, God forbid that I should make the smallest
reference to the conduct of the government, or the mo-
tives of the gentlemen on the other side. 1 disclaim all
personal allusions, which must be without reference to
the merits at a)l times, and frequently tend to substitute
invective for argument. I believe the government will
disclaim all agency in the business, and that if they wish


the accused to be convicted, still they only wish him to
be convicted according to law.

Will gentlemen advance doctrines which the govern-
ment will disclaim ? If, indeed, it were possible that
they wished to conduct the prosecution on principles
that would destroy the liberties of their country, those
which they have advocated would certainly produce that
dreadful effect ; for it is obvious they have a direct ten-
dency to root out and destroy every principle of free-
dom ; but I trust they will never be sanctioned in this



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