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Overview

Given the station of his birth, no man seemed a less likely candidate for disgrace than Aaron Burr, Jr. He was the son of a college president and the grandson of a renowned theologian, and his birthright seemed secure for a position of intellectual and moral leadership.

Students of American history, political science, government, and legal and social history can now trace the precipitous path of Burr's career as he climbed to national prominence and then fled the country in exile. The correspondence, books, journals, and legal papers included in this collection vividly portray Burr's early years in the military, as a New York lawyer, his major role in the formation of the Jeffersonian party, and his subsequent rise to the position of Vice President of the United States. The collection also depicts his fall from power and provides valuable insight into the duel with Alexander Hamilton, which destroyed his promising career.

Among the many topics available for intensive research into Burr's life are:

 

  • his participation in an expedition down the Mississippi to stage an assault on Spain's colonies and allegedly on U.S. territories, which led to charges of treason
  • his parallel careers as politician and land speculator
  • accounts of his four-year self-imposed exile in Europe after his duel with Hamilton, years during which he vainly fought to liberate Spain's colonies
  • unique correspondence with widows, orphans, and spinsters during the last two decades of his life when, after the tragic loss of his family, he exchanged letters with these strangers to create a new "family"

The more than 45,000 pages in this collection also represent a new source for the study of New York state and local history, territorial expansion in the new republic, and women's history. Burr's journals for the years 1808-1812 offer a fascinating record of intellectual and social life in Great Britain and Europe during the Napoleonic era.

This collection was co-sponsored by the New York Historical Society and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

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