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The Conspiracy And Trial Of Aaron Burr
No one who met him ever forgot him. His charm captivated beautiful women, his eloquence moved the United States Senate to tears, his political skills carried him to the very threshold of the White House. Yet while still Vice President he was indicted for murder, and was already dreaming the dreams of empire that would bring him to trial for treason. After a century and a half, historians still cannot decide whether he was a traitor, a con man, or a mere adventurer. Now, a distinguished writer enters the controversy with an account of
February 1966 | Volume 17, Issue 2
To the end he protested that his strange schemes were never intended to be detrimental to the United States. In 1833, at the age of seventy-seven, he married a woman to whom his name had been linked by gossip forty years before. As Mme. Jumel, the wife of a successful French wine merchant for twenty-eight years, Eliza Bowen had attained a certain respectability. Now she was reputed to be one of the wealthiest widows in New York. They had been married barely a year before Mme. Jumel sued him for divorce on the charge of adultery. Burr had laid his hands on large sums of her money to invest in the Texas land schemes of a beautiful young woman named Jane McManus. The decree was granted, on the testimony of a housemaid, the day Burr died. The end had come, after a series of strokes, at a hotel on the Staten Island shore to which friends had carried him on a stretcher—partly becaues he loved the sea breezes and partly to escape the persecution of clergymen who wanted to take the credit for the deathbed conversion of the wickedest man alive.
In a batch of Burr papers that turned up recently in the possession of the New-York Historical Society appear the court records of a proceeding for perjury brought against the housemaid who testified to his adultery. With Aaron Burr, in small things as in great, one can never be quite sure.