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stores, and arrest the persons engaged in the expedition. *
Congress assembled on the 1st of December, while this proclamation was fresh in the minds of all, and while tidings were daily looked for of revolt and outrage in the west and south. The next day, the president sent his message to Congress.* The first part treated entirely of " foreign relations," and whilst speaking of them he noticed "the criminal attempt of certain private individuals, to decide for their country the question of peace or war, by commencing active and unauthorized hostilities," which he had "by proclamation, as well as by special orders, promptly and efficaciously appeased." In allusion to Burr and his expedition, he further says: "In a country whose Constitution is derived from the will of the people, directly expressed by their free suffrages; where the principal executive functionaries, and those of the legislature, are renewed by them at short periods; where, under the character of juries, they exercise in person the greatest portion of the judiciary powers; where the laws are consequently so framed and administered as to bear with equal weight and favor on all, restraining no man in the pursuits of honest industry, and securing to every one the property which that acquires; it would not be supposed that any safeguards could be needed against insurrection or enterprise, on the public
* The distinguished Henry Clay made his entrance into the Senate this session, and at an early day took an active part in advocating and defending plans and projects for internal improvements.
peace or authority. The laws, however, aware that these should not be trusted to moral restraints only, have wisely provided punishment for these crimes when committed. But would it not be salutary to give also the means of preventing their commission? Where an enterprise is meditated by private individuals against a foreign nation, in amity with the United States, powers of prevention, to a certain extent, are given by the laws; would they not be as reasonable and useful, where the enterprise preparing is against the United States? While adverting to this branch of law, it is proper to observe, that in enterprises meditated against foreign nations, the ordinary process of binding to the observance of the peace and good behavior, could it be extended to acts done out of the jurisdiction of the United States, would be effectual in some cases, where the offender is able to keep out of sight every indication of his purpose, which could draw on him the exercise of the powers now given by law."
The president also spoke in high terms of the success of Lewis and Clarke's expedition, and asked for moderate appropriations with reference to exploring some of the principal rivers in the valley of the Mississippi. In view of the near approach of the time when the slave-trade was to be abolished, his language was: "I congratulate you, fellow-citizens, on the approach of the period at which you may interpose your authority, constitutionally, to withdraw the citizens of the United States from all further participation in those \iolations of human rights, which have been so long continued on the unoffending inhabitants of Africa, and which the morality, the reputation, and the best interests of our country, have long been eager to proscribe. Although no law you may pass can take prohibitory effect till the first day of the year 1808, yet the intervening period is not too long to prevent, by timely notices, expeditions which cannot be completed before that day." The prosperous state of the finances was pointed out ;* the employment of the surplus revenue on internal improvements was spoken of; and a "constitutional enumeration of federal powers" was suggested. After expressing some doubts as to the prospect of peace with foreign powers, the president concluded with various recommendations, looking to the event, whatever it might be, especially the fortifying exposed places and organizing the militia so as to render it promptly effective.
The next day, the president informed Congress that negotiations were in progress with the British government, and recommended a temporary suspension of the non-importation act. In accordance with this recommendation, a bill was passed authorizing the president to suspend this act at his discretion, to the second Monday in the succeeding December.
On the 16th of January, Congress called upon the president for information respecting Burr's movements, and
* The receipts into the treasury to the last of September, amounted to $15,000,000 of which $2,700,000 Ltd been paid on account of the claims under the LouLiana convention, and more than $5,000,000 on account of the debt, exclusive of interest
the steps taken by the administration to counteract his treasonable projects. On the 22d, Mr. Jef- 1807, ferson responded to this call in a long and carefully written message, giving an account of what had transpired in relation to Burr's undertakings, and the measures which had been adopted by the authorities in the emergency. The president having stated in this message, that one of the persons arrested by General Wilkinson had been liberated by habeas corpus, the Senate, on the next day, with singularly hot haste, passed a bill, "suspending the writ of habeas corpus for three months," and immediately communicated it to the House, in confidence, with a request for their speedy concurrence. Messrs. Giles, J. Q. Adams, and Smith, were the committee who advised and carried through this piece of legislation; and the Senate of the United States, usually held to be the conservative portion of the legislature, asked the House of Representatives to agree to place the liberty of the citizens of the entire Union in the hands of Thomas Jefferson, because Aaron Burr,"with about ten boats, navigated by about six hands each, without any military appearance" had passed down the Ohio, determined to overthrow and destroy the government of this great Bepublic, and, to build up for himself, an empire upon its ruins!
The message of the Senate was received on the 26th of January, and it met in the House the fate it deservedly merited. The House refused to keep the proceedings secret, and on the very first reading of the bill it was rejected by a majority of one hundred and thirCn. IV.]
teen against nineteen, a singular contrast to the unanimity with which it had been passed by the Senate, both Houses being agreed in their devotion to republican doctrines. Mr. Tucker, endeavoring to make the best of the matter, states that, "in truth, the bill passed the Senate in a moment of surprise, under the belief that it was necessary to prevent the escape of public offenders; and it affords a good practical illustration of the propriety of the rule which forbids hasty enactments."* The House resented the attempt so warmly, that a series of resolutions, directing the introduction of a bill "more effectually to secure the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus to persons in custody of the United States," was, at a later period of the session, rejected by a majority of two only.
Into the particulars respecting "Burr's conspiracy," we need not enter. He had purchased some boats on the Ohio, and was building others, and was also engaging men to navigate them, and accompany him on some enterprise down that river. Avowedly, his intention was to found a settlement at Washita, in Louisiana; but his known audacity and fondness for intrigue, the extent and nature of the preparations he was making, his broken character and fortunes, .and what appeared to be intimations of a widely different object, incautiously given by some of his associates, led to the suspicion, if not belief, as we have intimated above, that he
* "Life of Jefferson" voL ii., p. 218. See also Benton's "Abridgement of the Debates of Congress" Tol iii., pp. 504-15; 520-42. Vol. Ul —11
hoped either to seize upon New Orleans, and to erect as much of the valley of the Mississippi as he could acquire into an independent government; or to in vade Mexico, and enrich himself by land piracy, and a foray into that wealthy colony of Spain.
At Natchez, whilst on his way to New Orleans, he was cited to appear before the supreme court of the Mississippi Territory. But his projects, whatever they were, had been enveloped in such a web of secrecy, that it was found impossible to obtain evidence sufficient to convict him, and he was discharged Soon afterwards, however, hearing that several persons, who were under suspicion of being his accomplices, had been arrested at New Orleans and other places, he privately left Natchez, but was apprehended on the River Tombigbee, and was conveyed as a prisoner to Richmond, on the 26th of March, 1807. The next day, he was arrested there by the marshal, on the charge of fitting out an expedition against the territories of Spain, and after an examination by Chief Justice Marshall, was admitted to bail, in the sum of $10,000.
The pernicious effects of party spirit were strikingly exemplified in connection with the trial of Aaron Burr. "It became a favorite object with the federal party," says Mr. Tucker, "to obtain Burr's acquittal, and even to maintain his innocence, for the sake of thwarting the measures of the executive, and oS proving the president vindictive and tyrannical. The other side felt the ikir dignation which the schemes imputed to Burr would naturally excite, heightened by the desire of counteraatdiyj their adversaries." As for the president himself, his biographer's exculpatory statements are more severe in condemnation of his course than any thing which was adduced by his most violent opponents. "Mr. Jefferson," he says, w could neither be blind nor insensible to this misplaced zeal or its cause, and it produced a reaction in his bosom, to which, however natural, and excusable in the great bulk of his party, it is to be wished that he had been superior. He felt so much anxiety to frustrate what he seemed to regard as an unprincipled determination in the federalists to screen a state criminal, and a party bias in the judges, merely because that criminal was now his enemy, that he kept up a regular correspondence with the United States Attorney, Mr. Hay, concerning the prosecution, and gave his counsel freely throughout its whole progress. There is indeed, much connected with this project and its prosecution, on which we cannot look back without regret, and even mortification."*
ARREST OF AARON BURR.
The trial began on the 22d of May, in the circuit court at Richmond, before Judges Marshall and Griffin. John Baker, Benjamin Botts, John Wickham, Edmund Randolph, and Luther Martin, and at a subsequent day Charles Lee, appeared as counsel for Burr; and to oppose them were Csesar A. Rodney, (attorney-general in the place of Breckenridge, since the begin
* Tucker's "Life of Jefferton," voL ii., p. 230. As an offset to the president's course, Mr. Tucker mentions "the indecorum" on the part of the chief justice, in dining with a large party, where Burr himself was one of the guests.
ning of the year,) George Hay, (with whom Jefferson corresponded so sedulously,) Alexander M'Rae, and William Wirt. Burr also chose to act as his own counsel in the case, and his keen and subtle intellect was constantly exercised in directing and guiding the defence.
Much delay occurred in the selection of a grand jury. It was not easy to find impartial men qualified for that function; and after all, it is questionable, whether some of the jurors were not prepossessed with the belief in the prisoner's guilt. For a whole month the examination of witnesses in the preliminary trial proceeded, and time was wasted in interlocutory motions, discussions concerning the evidence that should go to the grand jury, the competency of the court to summon the president of the United States, as well as to compel the production of papers, and similar schemes for delaying and wearying out the jury and the court.
The case of Dr. Erick Bollman, and Samuel Swartwout, who had been arrested and committed to prison on a charge of treason in being concerned in Burr's conspiracy, had come up in February preceding, on which occasion the chief justice delivered his opinion upon the construction of the law of treason as defined by the Constitution. On the 21st of February, the prisoners were discharged from custody. Bollman, having been called on as a witness on the part of the United States, Mr. Hay, in open court, and by order of the president, tendered him a pardon, which he indignantly refused, asserting his innocence of any act requiring a pardon.
Mr. Jefferson, we are sorry to say, was disposed to make very short work with poor Dr. Bollman Writing to Mr. Hay, he says: "You ask what is to be done if Bollman finally rejects his pardon, and the judge decides it to have no effect? Move to commit him immediately for treason or misdemeanor, as you think the evidence will support; let the court decide where he shall be sent for trial; and on application I will have the marshal aided in his transportation, with the executive means." On the conviction of Burr, Hay was instructed to have a host more, "whose agency has been so prominent as to mark them as proper objects of pnnishment," committed; but, "as to obscure offenders, and repenting ones, let them lie for consideration." He further tells his correspondent that he has found up a new witness, whose evidence might tend to prove that "the most clamorous defenders of Burr, are all his accomplices;" and to fix upon Luther Martin "misprision of treason at least," and so to "put down that unprincipled and impudent federal bulldog." "Shall we move to commit Luther Martin as particeps criminis with Burr?" he asks; and in a P. S., "Will you send me a half dozen blank subpoenas ?"* Truly, the publication of Mr. Jefferson's correspondence places him in a very strange position for the president of the United States to occupy.
The grand jury, on the 23d and 24th
* Mr. Martin repaid the president's denunciations with interest It is related of him, that it was one of his common expressions when stigmatizing any person with the strongest terms of opprobrium, to say that he was "as great a scoundrel as Tom Jeffersoa"
of June, pronounced Burr, with Herman Blennerhasset, General Dayton, and Smith, guilty of high treason and misdemeanor. Burr was then committed to prison, but on the representation of his counsel, that the prisoner's health was likely to be affected by confinement in the jail, and that his counsel could not have free communication with him there, the court allowed him to be removed to the public house he had previously occupied, and to be placed under a guard. This and other indulgences granted him, says Mr. Tucker, gave great scandal, at the time, to most of the republican party. On the other hand, Mr. Davis, Burr's friend and biographer, states, that " a description of the outrages and cruelty which he endured, would fill volumes;" but so far as appears, they were not particularly hard to bear, especially the luxuries of the table, the society of his daughter, etc.
Burr was put on his trial on the 3d of August, the court having adjourned to that day. From the 5th to the 16th, it was engaged in obtaining a
jury, (no easy task, for "party feelings had taken so strong a hold, that almost every person called seemed to have made up his mind, from rumors and newspaper statements,") and discussing points of law. On the 17 th, the treason case was opened; and the examination of the witnesses called by the government commenced.
The charges against him were, that he had excited insurrection, rebellion, and war, on the 10th of December, 1806, at Bleonerhasset's Island, in Virginia; and that he had also traitorously
AARON BURR'S TRIAL.