Monday, January 24, 2011

Surrendered into the Hands of His Enemies

In 1801, after Jefferson's inauguration, Burr "succeeded in obtaining for [his friend, John Swartwout,] the marshalship of New York," but "[n]o sooner did the news of this arrangement reach the ears of De Witt Clinton than [Clinton] remonstrated, and in a few days drew from President Jefferson a letter addressed to Governor [George] Clinton [De Witt's father], which in effect surrendered Burr into the hands of his enemies" (Henry Adams, History of the USA during the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson, 156). [Hereafter: Adams, HATJ.]

On September 30, 1756, when Burr was eight months old, he fell very ill. His mother wrote in her journal that "a violent Fever seized him" and the doctor "was affraid the Child would not live till morn." She exclaimed: "O God made me submit! He made me say the Lord gave, and the Lord may take, and I will bless his name -- He shewed me that he had the first right, that the Child was not mine[;] he was only lent, and I could freely return him and say Lord do as seemeth good in thy sight" (The Journal of Esther Edwards Burr: 1754-57, p. 228-9).

On September 24, 1757, Aaron Burr, Sr. died. On November 2, 1757, when Burr was about 20 months old, Esther wrote that her son had fallen ill again:

My little Son has been sick with [the] slow Fever ever since my Brother left us, and has been brought to the Brink of the Grave but I hope in mercy God is bringing off him [sic] back again -- and I was innabled to Resighn the Ch[ild] (after a severe strugle with nature) with the gre[a]test freedom -- God shewed me that the Child w[as] not my own but His, and that he had a right to recall what he had lent when ever he thought fit, and I had no reason to complain or say God was hard with me. This silenced me. But O how good is God! He not only kept me from complaining but comforted me by ennabling me to offer up the Child by Faith, I think if ever I acted [with] Faith. *** He enabled me to say that altho' thou slay me yet will I trust in thee -- In this time of tryal I was lead to enter into a renewed and explissit Covenant [wi]th <...> God <...> in a more solemn manner than ever before with the greatest freedom and delight, after much self examminnation and prayer I did give my self and Children to God with my whole Heart. ***  [A] few days after this one Eve in talking of the glorious state my dear departed Husband must be in, my soul was carried out in such longing desires after this glorious state that I was forced to retire ... to conceal my joy. ***  I think dear Sir I had that Night a foretaste of Heaven. ***  This was about the time that God called me to give up my Child" (Diary of Esther Burr, 295-6).
  Esther's father, Jonathan Edwards, died March 22, 1758 of smallpox (after taking the vaccine), and Esther herself died of the same disease on April 7. The infant Burr and his sister, Sally, were sent to live with the family of Dr. William Shippen in Philadelphia. Esther's mother journeyed there that summer to take the children back to Massachusetts, but contracted dysentery and died in October. Young Burr and Sally remained with the Shippens until their mother's youngest brother, Timothy, married and was able to take them in March 1760.

After Jefferson's inauguration, "[w]hile Jefferson withheld from Burr all sign of support, De Witt Clinton and Ambrose Spencer, acting in unison with the President, detached the Livingstons from Burr's interest," and during the summer and fall, "the State and city offices [in New York] were taken from the Federalists and divided between the Clintons and Livingstons, until the Livingstons were gorged; while Burr was left to beg from Jefferson the share of national patronage which De Witt Clinton had months before taken measures to prevent his obtaining" (158, Adams, HATJ).

James Cheetham (!) "was servile in his devotion to DeWitt Clinton" and concocted defamatory stories about Burr, calling him "an 'intriguing and inexplicable man,' and in the same breath explain[ing] how utterly transparent the vice president was."

"Jefferson backed Cheetham: the president was no longer neutral, having chosen sides among the factions vying for power in New York." He "could have -- and should have -- investigated [Cheetham's] charges [against Burr]. But he did not" (Isenberg, Fallen Founder, 243, 244).

Aaron Burr to Jeremy Bentham, January 23, 1809, Edinburgh:

"I have got on pretty well here, and with rather more discretion than usually falls to my lot, not having said or done, publicly, more than twenty outrageously silly things. Avoiding all ugly, naughty topics. From any man, save one, if I cannot vanquish, I can escape. In the hands of that one, I am just what Theodosia is in mine. This was perceived after the first two hours; and seeing no retreat, nor anything better to be done, I surrendered, tame and unresisting, to be disarmed, stripped,  hacked, hewed, dissected, skinned, turned inside out, at the will and mercy of the operator. Much good may it do him." (M.L. Davis, ed., Private Journal of Aaron Burr, 1:169)

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