"Among the other party leaders who have been mentioned,-Jefferson, Madison, Gallatin, Marshall,-not one was dishonest. The exaggeration or equivocations that Jefferson allowed himself, which led to the deep-rooted conviction of Marshall that he did not tell the truth and must therefore be dangerous, amounted to nothing when compared with the dishonesty of a corrupt man. Had the worst political charges against Jefferson been true, he would not have been necessarily corrupt. The self-deception inherent in every struggle for personal power was not the kind of immorality which characterized Colonel Burr. Jefferson, if his enemies were to be believed, might occasionally make misstatements of fact; yet he was true to the faith of his life, and would rather have abdicated his office and foregone his honors than have compassed even an imaginary wrong against the principles he professed. His life, both private and public, was pure" (Adams, 132-3).My comments:
"His associates, like Madison, Gallatin, and Monroe, were men upon whose reputations no breath of scandal rested. [A questionable statement. Burr intervened for Madison to prevent a duel and for Gallatin when Federalists attempted to exclude him from serving in Congress. Neither of these were instances of “scandal,” but largely because Burr prevented them from becoming so.] The standard of morality at Washington, both in private society and in politics, was respectable. For this reason Colonel Burr was a new power in the government; for being in public and in private life an adventurer of the same school as scores who were then seeking fortune in the antechambers of Bonaparte and Pitt, he became a loadstone for every other adventurer who frequented New York or whom the chances of politics might throw into office. The Vice-President wielded power, for he was the certain centre of corruption."
"A government restricted to keeping the peace, which should raise no taxes except for that purpose, seemed to be simply a judicature and a police. Jefferson gave no development to the idea further than to define its essential principles, and those which were to guide his Administration. Except the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798, this short passage was the only official gloss ever given to the Constitution by the Republican party; and for this reason students of American history who would understand the course of American thought should constantly carry in mind not only the Constitutions of 1781 and of 1787, but also the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, and the following paragraph of Jefferson's first Inaugural Address:—
'I will compress them within the narrowest compass they will bear, stating the general principle, but not all its limitations. Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none; the support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against anti-republican tendencies; the preservation of the general government in its whole Constitutional vigor, as the sheet-anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad; a jealous care of the right of election by the People,—a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided; absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority,—the vital principle of republics, from which there is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism; a well-disciplined militia,—our best reliance in peace and for the first moments of war, till regulars may relieve them; the supremacy of the civil over the military authority; economy in the public expense, that labor may be lightly burdened; the honest payment of our debts, and sacred preservation of the public faith; encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid; the diffusion of information, and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of public reason; freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus; and trial by juries impartially selected;—these principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and the blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment; they should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety' (Adams, 138-9).
Not only did Jefferson later continue to show complete support for Wilkinson, whom Jefferson also knew was an agent for the Spanish government (having been in their pay since the 1780's), but he went after Burr with such a vengeance that it has for two centuries perplexed historians. Jefferson not only personally directed the prosecution against Burr (improperly meddling in a trial where he had a personal stake) -- directing strategy, supplying witnesses, and literally ordering the prosecutors to continue even when their case clearly was falling apart -- but he went after Chief Justice John Marshall for his ruling on treason which led to Burr's acquittal, attempting to obtain the interest of his party in impeaching him. None of these facts is disputed even by Jefferson's advocates.
Easy to say because of the view of him that has stuck that he planned to invade and become emperor of Mexico. This just begs the question, as the assertion does not prove the fact, and there is no proof of the fact. [Note that I say there is no proof that "he planned to invade and become emperor." I am not saying that Burr did not plan an expedition that contained a contingency to march on Mexico if the U.S. went to war with Spain (which was deemed very likely at the time). He did not plan to do so without a war or without permission from the government. More on this at a later time.]
The evidence for Burr-as-emperor (or Burr-as-traitor) involves what he said to foreign consuls to whom he owed no allegiance. His statements to his fellow Americans about his intentions show the complete contrary. If one is to judge Burr's credibility, one needs to look backward in time when he stood on his reputation, not beyond when all opinion was turned against him: