Aaron Burr arrested for treason - HISTORY
Year
1807

Aaron Burr arrested for treason

Aaron Burr, a former U.S. vice president, is arrested in Alabama on charges of plotting to annex Spanish territory in Louisiana and Mexico to be used toward the establishment of an independent republic.

In November 1800, in an election conducted before presidential and vice-presidential candidates shared a single ticket, Thomas Jefferson and his running mate, Aaron Burr, defeated Federalist incumbent John Adams with 73 electoral votes each. The tie vote then went to the House to be decided, and Federalist Alexander Hamilton was instrumental in breaking the deadlock in Jefferson’s favor. Burr, because he finished second, became vice president.

During the next few years, President Jefferson grew apart from his vice president and did not support Burr’s renomination to a second term in 1804. A faction of the Federalists, who had found their fortunes drastically diminished after the ascendance of Jefferson, sought to enlist the disgruntled Burr into their party. However, Alexander Hamilton opposed such a move and was quoted by a New York newspaper saying that he “looked upon Mr. Burr to be a dangerous man, and one who ought not to be trusted with the reins of government.” The article also referred to occasions when Hamilton had expressed an even “more despicable opinion of Burr.” Burr demanded an apology, Hamilton refused, so Burr challenged his old political antagonist to a duel.

On July 11, 1804, the pair met at a remote spot in Weehawken, New Jersey. Hamilton, whose son was killed in a duel in 1801, deliberately fired into the air, but Burr fired with intent to kill. Hamilton, fatally wounded, died in New York City the next day. The questionable circumstances of Hamilton’s death effectively brought Burr’s political career to an end.

Fleeing to Virginia, he traveled to New Orleans after finishing his term as vice president and met with U.S. General James Wilkinson, who was an agent for the Spanish. The exact nature of what the two plotted is unknown, but speculation ranges from the establishment of an independent republic in the American Southwest to the seizure of territory in Spanish America for the same purpose.

In the fall of 1806, Burr led a group of well-armed colonists toward New Orleans, prompting an immediate investigation by U.S. authorities. General Wilkinson, in an effort to save himself, turned against Burr and sent dispatches to Washington accusing Burr of treason. On February 19, 1807, Burr was arrested in Alabama for treason and sent to Richmond, Virginia, to be tried in a U.S. circuit court.

On September 1, 1807, he was acquitted on the grounds that, although he had conspired against the United States, he was not guilty of treason because he had not engaged in an “overt act,” a requirement of treason as specified by the U.S. Constitution. Nevertheless, public opinion condemned him as a traitor, and he spent several years in Europe before returning to New York and resuming his law practice.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Tiger Woods apologizes for extramarital affairs

On this day in 2010, professional golfer Tiger Woods gives a televised news conference in which he apologizes for his marital infidelities and admits to “selfish” and “foolish” behavior. The 34-year-old Woods, one of the greatest players in the history of golf as well as one of ...read more

Solzhenitsyn reunited with family

Alexander Solzhenitsyn awaits reunion with his family after exile from Russia. Publication of The Gulag Archipelago, a detailed history of the Soviet prison system, prompted Russia to exile the 55 year-old author. One of Russia’s most visible and vocal dissidents, Solzhenitsyn ...read more

Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066

Ten weeks after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, authorizing the removal of any or all people from military areas “as deemed necessary or desirable.” The military in turn defined the entire West Coast, home to the ...read more

Copernicus born

On February 19, 1473, Nicolaus Copernicus is born in Torun, a city in north-central Poland on the Vistula River. The father of modern astronomy, he was the first modern European scientist to propose that Earth and other planets revolve around the sun.Copernicus was born into a ...read more

Yarborough wins fourth Daytona 500

Driver Cale Yarborough wins his fourth Daytona 500 on this day in 1984. In the history of the 200-lap, 500-mile race, which was first run at Florida’s Daytona International Speedway in 1959 and is considered one of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR)’s ...read more

Donner Party rescued

On this day in 1847, the first rescuers reach surviving members of the Donner Party, a group of California-bound emigrants stranded by snow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.In the summer of 1846, in the midst of a Western-bound fever sweeping the United States, 89 people–including ...read more

Marines invade Iwo Jima

On this day, Operation Detachment, the U.S. Marines’ invasion of Iwo Jima, is launched. Iwo Jima was a barren Pacific island guarded by Japanese artillery, but to American military minds, it was prime real estate on which to build airfields to launch bombing raids against Japan, ...read more

South Vietnamese coup unsuccessful

Dissident officers move several battalions of troops into Saigon on this day with the intention of ousting Gen. Nguyen Khanh from leadership.General Khanh escaped to Dalat with the aid of Air Vice Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky, commander of the South Vietnamese Air Force, who then ...read more

Chicago Seven sentenced

The Chicago Seven (formerly the Chicago Eight–one defendant, Bobby Seale, was being tried separately) are acquitted of riot conspiracy charges, but found guilty of inciting riot.The eight antiwar activists were charged with the responsibility for the violent demonstrations at the ...read more

Patrick Roy gets 300th win as NHL goalie

On this day in 1996, Colorado Avalanche goaltender Patrick Roy earns his 300th win in the National Hockey League. Roy retired from hockey in 2003 with 551 career wins, a record that still stands.Patrick Roy, a native of Quebec City, Canada, was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens ...read more

FDR signs Executive Order 9066

On this day in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, initiating a controversial World War II policy with lasting consequences for Japanese Americans. The document ordered the removal of resident enemy aliens from parts of the West vaguely identified as ...read more

Rescuers reach Donner Party

The first rescuers from Sutter’s Fort reach the surviving remnants of the Donner emigrant party at their snowbound camp in the high Sierra Nevada Mountains.The events leading up to the Donner party tragedy began the summer before, when 89 emigrants from Springfield, Illinois, set ...read more

Thomas Alva Edison patents the phonograph

The technology that made the modern music business possible came into existence in the New Jersey laboratory where Thomas Alva Edison created the first device to both record sound and play it back. He was awarded U.S. Patent No. 200,521 for his invention–the phonograph–on this ...read more

Amy Tan’s birthday

Novelist Amy Tan is born on this day in 1952 to Chinese immigrants who came to Oakland in 1949.Tan studied English at San Jose State and Berkeley. Although she planned an academic career, she grew bored with university life and turned to technical writing, business writing, and ...read more

Bob Hope marries Dolores Reade

On this day in 1934, the legendary comic actor and entertainer Bob Hope marries Dolores Reade in Erie, Pennsylvania. Their marriage would last until Hope’s death 69 years later, making it by far one of Hollywood’s most enduring unions.Born Leslie Townes Hope in 1903 near London, ...read more

Tornadoes strike the Southeast

On this day in 1884, an astonishing series of 37 tornadoes sweeps across the Southeast United States. The twisters, which came at a time in which there was no warning system in place to alert area residents, killed 167 people and injured another 1,000.The tornadoes began early in ...read more

Francis Preston Blair, Jr., born

On this day in 1821, Union General Francis Preston Blair Jr. is born in Lexington, Kentucky. The colorful Blair was instrumental in keeping Missouri part of the Union during the early stages of the Civil War.Blair’s father served as an advisor to several presidents. His namesake ...read more