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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  January 14, 2012 8:00pm-9:00pm EST

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c-span2's booktv. .. a few years ago he published a book called 1787 about the summer in which the nation was created, a wonderful book. couple of ago he published
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another wonderful book about andrew johnson's impeachment, one of the great trials of american history. and we are happy to have him here at the public library talking about that. now we are doubly happy, and doubly happy to have them here with "american emperor" his wonderful book about aaron burr and the various conspiracies that deal with alexander hamilton, the alleged attempt to separate from the united states to western part of the united states and the great trial presided over by john marshall. is also there is an event in the book that i think you need to read about, page 67 actually in which the first proto- aronberg i tried to separate florida from the spanish and create an independent empire. rubin mcdaniel, and samuel. they lasted about a week.
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[laughter] before the spanish showed up and chase them away, but the book is full of great stories. david stewart has become a great popular of history. in some academic languages, popular history is not thought of very highly but it has become a great art form in the hands of people like david mccullough and edward morris and david stewart and some academic historians have become great popular historians like david hackett fischer, barry strauss in the library, for instance john sperling. it's about narrative, it's about telling a story because that is what makes him popular but in the hands of a master like david stewart it's much more. it's about telling us what's important about our history. it's about human character and what it has to do with the
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story, and usually told with some sympathy for the human character as difficult, as odd are the odd as they may be, as aaron burr was end with the right amount of color, the kind of color that we all see in the most interesting characters in our daily lives. i should say not quite as colorful as perhaps aaron burr but i think it's gore vidal as historical fiction. [laughter] and, then every great historian has a unique talent and david stewart with his training as a lawyer, brings to history what i think of as a forensic attitude toward the evidence, and this can be distinguished from an argumentative attitude that many academic historians take. it's a genuine concern with where the evidence leads us and when motives are mixed as they clearly are in this story, it's a particularly great quality to
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have, so the question that david will answer for us tonight, this book answers and i hope the talk will answer, was aaron burr, was he a traitor or was he merely another western adventure? or maybe a little bit of both? david stewart. [applause] state thank you very much and thank you all. it's a treat to be back here in this wonderful building. on a somewhat racy day. and to have the opportunity to talk about aaron burr which is always fun. i was interested in doing this story because i read very good histories by good historians about burr going west after the duel with hamilton and the
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historians would say something like whatever he was up to, and it seemed to me that the man who had been the third vice president of the united states, he really ought to have an idea what he was up to. direct to be a reference, there ought to be an account and of course there was this big trial the head he had which i will talk about. and so i set out in pursuit of that story and i found a remarkable story, one part adventure tale and one part thriller. but before i get into that i want to cover a little background so we are we are all sort of starting at the start with this adventure, which is the united states, this happens in -- the country is not yet 20 years old under the constitution. we don't really know how things are going to turn out. we don't know how the government is going to work.
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we have had some basic problems. the election in 1796 had an odd outcome. under the constitution, the states chose electorates and voted for president. each had two votes and whoever got to the highest number of votes was president and whoever came in second was vice president. so, john adams was elected president and then his opponent, thomas jefferson, was elected vice president. sort of odd. then the election of 1800, they didn't want to have that happen again, so all the republicans, that was jefferson jefferson's party, voted a straight for jefferson and burr who was his vice presidential candidate. so the result was that burr and jefferson ended up in a tie.
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there was no winner. so under the constitution the election went into the house of representatives and in the house of representatives, the federalist decided they liked burr better than they like jefferson and they would vote for burr. but there were 35 ballots in the house of representatives. it took a week for the house to choose a president. really a constitutional crisis where burr sends a note and says, i want you to vote for me in the logjam breaks. now, that is not only a symptom of how new we were or how the constitution just was not working. we still have the electoral college. he will fix that. but, it also gives you some sense for why thomas jefferson might not have liked ehrenberg very much and that is one of the undertones of the story.
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jefferson and heard never got along. they were very different people but after the 1800's, after that election, jefferson was never going to do anything for burr and in fact he was going to lay him back. now the other thing, another feature of this of course was there was secession. it was not at all clear the united states was going to remain the united states. just a year before, 1904, there have been a secession movement in new england and some of the leaders had come to burr and asked him to join them to lead new york out of the union. there have been a secession movement in the west. the west of the time was kentucky and tennessee and mississippi, ohio, the lands over the appalachian mountains and they had in the 1780s and early 1790s flirted with seceding in becoming really a state of spain because they wanted to send their goods
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through new orleans which was controlled by spain and spain was not allowing american goods through. there was an act of active secession movement then. indeed, and the 1790s, there were two rebellions in pennsylvania. there was the whiskey rebellion and the freezer billion. both rebellions were led by people who didn't want to pay taxes. this is an american staple. politics hasn't changed a whole lot. but it was shocking to find the letter that jefferson wrote and he actually broke the sentiment twice in 1804, when he wrote really the difference of the prospect of secession. he said whether we remain in one confederacy or form into atlantic and mississippi confederacies, i believed not very important to the happiness of either part. that was the western confederacy will be as much our children as those of the eastern and i feel myself as much identified with that country in future time as
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with this. imagine if president obama were to say of california well, if they want to go their own way that's okay. i will still think well of them. but it was not only a question whether we would stay together. it was really a question as to what the united states was at this time. of course, i've got this map appears 1805 and we have got the original 13 states along the atlantic coast and the mountains aren't shown there but on the other side of amounts you have ohio and kentucky and tennessee and the various territories and then two years before in 1803 we had purchased the louisiana territory from the french. now this was a wonderful transaction, not the least of its virtues i found was the creative lawyering that was done to close the deal, because nobody knew the western boundary of the louisiana territory.
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there were no maps. so the french simply went to the united states. everything that spain had needed to france. so they just said whatever spain gave us, we are giving you. so the western boundary shown there rather crisply, really was not known. but also, you could see those gray areas on the map. that is florida which was spanish held, new spain which included texas and all the way up to california, unclaimed territory and of course down to mexico. these rowland said many americans thought really ought to be part of the united states and direct of conversations about trying to annex those. or canada or cuba. americans had a rather expansive view of what the united states might become so we were either going to become really big or maybe break up. it was a very confusing time. is important to keep in mind that how it was going to turn
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out was by no means predetermined. so into this fluid situation we find aaron burr. burr came from a very distinguished family, not a wealthy family but they distinguish one. his father was president of the college of new jersey which is now princeton university. his grandfather had been president of the same college and his grandfather was jonathan edwards, the great theologian who told us that we were all sinners in the hands of an angry god, rather unsettling. burr is a very young man, still a teenager, ran off to join the continental army when it was camped in front of boston. he joined an expedition into canada, in the dead of winter, one of the most difficult and unsuccessful expeditions in american military history. he won great distinction although he was a small, slight man and it turned out he was extremely tough and hard and. and he had a real military
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disposition. and by the age of 21, he was a colonel in the hot metal army. and he commanded a regiment in the battle of mountainous -- monmouth and men that served with him decades thereafter viewed him with great all and respect. he had been a wonderfully successful brave and courageous officer. he resigned from the army after four years. his health had been compromised by a variety of mishaps. but the military experience really took with burr. he was there is like a man of action, not of men of ideas. he fancied himself a military figure. he was always referred to as colonel burr and his attitudes tended to be quite military. after practicing law, very successfully, he was a smart fellow and a good lawyer. i will come back to that. he went into politics, became
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attorney general of new york. he came united states senator for new york and in 1796 election he finished fourth. he got 30 boats and then of course in the 1800 election he was in a tie was with jefferson became a third-place president. and ambitious man, and being vice president of course he thought he would be president. our first vice presidents, john adams and -- became president so why wouldn't aaron burr? he also though was a different sort of person. i don't mean to make, be too flippant but in many ways he is the bad way the founding. he had a different take on the great figures we tend to mythologize, the leaders of that era, something that i probably participated in some of the myth
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making myself but burr knew them and he didn't think they were such hot stuff. he thought george washington was sort of. he thought alexander hamilton was really unprecedented bull and he was a poor, which was unacceptable in his behavior. and he thought thomas jefferson was a coward. he and his personal life made some unconventional choices. he married a woman 10 years older than he. certainly not the custom at the time. she was a widow at the time of the british officer. that was a controversial thing to do. in fact when they had started keeping company together the british officer was still alive. he did somewhat conveniently for the marriage pass passed away of a passed away of a tropical
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favor and burr was no way accountable for that, but he was always in his life and advocate of women's rights, thought women were at least the equal of men, balanced if not superior's. he educated his daughter the way and a young the young man was within education was often described as the best educated woman in america. could speak latin and converse comfortably with everyone. he also was an avid ladies man. his wife died when he was 37 and he did not remarry until he was 77. which gave him 40 years of bachelorhood. which she took advantage of. one of his longtime friends said after his death, it was remarkable that colonel burr achieved as much as he did in view of all the time he spent pursuing women. and it's very difficult to capture over the century the
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charisma of an individual, but people found him a magnetic president. as i said he was a small man. he was not flamboyant. he was not noisy. alexander hamilton would walk into a room and sort of take charge and tell his story in aloud voice and if he had enough to drink he would jump on the table and start singing. that was not burr's style. burr was reserved that there was a charisma. there was an intensity, and obvious intelligence but also about burr there was always a sense of mystery, sense of secret, and a sense of danger. which people reacted to very strongly. as a lawyer played in his life he used to instruct his colleagues, things written remained and he lived by that motto. he left very few written
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records. his elected correspondences to volumes. they are still working on madison up to about 50. he was a very different type of personality. 1804 bless aaron burr's very bad here. i want to apologize, meant to show you theodosia. this is theodosia burr his daughter. 1804 went very badly for burr and if number of ways. first he learned he was not going to be a candidate for vice president in 1804 election. jefferson had been dropped from the ticket. this couldn't have been a terrible surprise but it certainly was a disappointment. burr decided what he would do was rebuild his political fortunes, established his bona fides by running for government of new york. which he did in that year and he got the. he lost rather badly. while soaking over that, he
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learned of some very rude remarks that a man made about by alexander hamilton during that campaign. he sent hamilton a note demanded that he retract remarks or explain them. hamilton wrote a rather mouthed response. things evolve from there and he ended up fighting the famous dual in new jersey. it ended very badly for hamilton. he died. i always love this illustration. i put it in the book. is the illustration all the books about the dual for 100 years. it was in the books i read about as a boy and what i love about it is hamilton is grabbing his head even though he was shot in the torso so it's not terribly accurate.
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although plainly hamilton lost the duel it's hard to say that burr one of because he really was ruined by the duel. he was indicted for murder in new york state. he was also indicted for murder in new jersey and he had to flee into philadelphia to avoid arrest. so you have a sitting vice president of the united states under indictment for murder in two states and on the lam from the law. this was a remarkable turn of events, and aaron burr understood that his political future was pretty much over as a conventional political figure. and he decided to turn his attention to the west. as an american tradition when your life goes south, you go west. so when he left office as vice president in 1805, he made a six-month journey down the ohio and mississippi rivers. this map which i hope you can
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see, the dotted line is his outward bound, outward trip which follows the reverse and a solid line is when he had to go through the forest basically to get home. it was a zigzag as you can see. he called on a great many important men, middling men during this trip. he dropped in on to future presidents, andrew jackson and william henry harrison, several senators, couple of militia generals. he was always interested in militia general's. he most often went to see see cotton in the army veterans. he had at the end of the revolution, we have not paid our soldiers very well through the war, and as compensation, we offered the officers land out west. it was really a roman tradition from the classical days. and many of them moved out
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there. so burr would look them up and they all remembered him fondly. now because he had been such a young man during the revolution, they were often older than he and he was really talking to their sons much more than he was talking to them and recruiting them, or an expedition he wanted to leave. he also recruited an irish pictures -- patry tip who will come into the story again. he was sort of ichabod crane figure. he owned an island in the ohio river. and had a legacy that he was frittering away and aaron burr could always help people like that. back, the most important person he connected with was this gentleman, james wilkinson who is the general in chief of the army. now our army at that time was a rather pathetic operation.
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it had been 5000 men. jefferson didn't like the army so he cut it back to 3000. wilkinson was a general in chief basically because nobody else really cared to care to be part of it. soldiers were rather ragtag group. they were poorly paid, poorly supplied, spread out across the frontier. and wilkinson was a rather remarkable figure. he was at the time he was general in chief at the army a general in the army of the king of spain and 420 or period he received bribes from spain. in return for the bribes, he was special agent number 13. i always like that. it sounds like maxwell smart. [laughter] he wrote reports on american politics and american military events. it's not clear the spanish actually got much value for what they paid him. that was often the experience with wilkinson.
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indeed, theodore roosevelt who wrote history, wrote a book and sent in all her history. there is no more distant coble -- despicable character. in one of his reports and i'm trying to keep an open mind about wilkinson he tells a spanish about the lewis and clark expedition and encourages them to intercepted and arrest lewis and clark and haul them off to mexico. then he tells them about the daniel boone settlement on the missouri river and encourages the spanish to break it up and send them all back to kentucky. if you are going to sell out louis clark and daniel ben, you are just a bad guy. it really pushed me over the edge. there is an episode in the handover of the louisiana purchase which will give you a feel for wilkinson's personality. he was a florid hard drinking guy. he had few military achievements. he was court-martialed with some regularity. he was always exonerated. it was said of him that he had
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never won a battle or lost an investigation. [laughter] and that the handover of the louisiana territory, they had a formal ball, and of course most of the residents in new orleans in that area were french-speaking people. they were called creoles. they were not at all happy to have the united states taking over their land. it was a foreign country. people, they will were nabbed no longer going to speak french to their government. so at this ball, the band was alternating between french and american songs to keep everybody happy. but wilkinson got liquored up and he demanded to american songs in a row. he was the man in charge. now what is particularly odd about the story this story is the second american song was
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britannia, which you have to believe was chosen just because it could annoy the french, not because it really was very american. when that was done, the french broke out in a spontaneous chorus of lamar say as at yes at which point a brawl workout and after they were done beating each other up, wilkinson led the americans out of the hole and triumph. all that was missing was humphrey bogart and ingrid bergman. but it does give you a flavor for what wilkinson was. he came across the many people as a buffoon. i am sure saab i thought of him that way. and it turned out wilkinson was a very dangerous position. wilkinson and burr to reach an agreement. and that agreement, the content of which was the subject of much
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lying, much inquiry, and still disputation today was what drove the story. but if i go back here, burr dropped in on wilkinson here in the ohio river at fort messick on the way down and then when he was coming back up it goes way out of his way to see wilkinson again in st. louis. now during this journey, burr tells, follows a certain narrative in his leaders. we have a number of accounts of what he would say. because of course he never explained himself afterwards. you don't get a memoir from aaron burr. it certainly sounded like he was telling them they should rebel. he also told them that the
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separation of the western rest of the country was inevitable. he didn't tell them to do it. he just said it was inevitable. he said that a war with spain was highly desirable so we can get all those two spanish lands. he also talked about mexico with the romantic lyrical way. you have to appreciate how americans view to mexico at the time. mexico is producing two-thirds of the world silver. there was tremendous wealth coming out of mexico. but of course it was the a colony of the spanish king, so america has this view of mexico is sort of a cross between a penal colony and el dorado. which isn't also oppressed people who needed to be liberated. you might even export democracy to them. it was a powerful force in american imagination. it still is.
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burr told people that mexico was there for the taking and americans should do it. underlying all of this message, the clear message that thomas jefferson was a -- that burr could take him and that they should go off on their own. now, the question i posed at the beginning, which is what was he up to, is not an easy question, because basically it describes in all of the various conversations that have come to light today five different purposes for his expedition. and i try not to call it a conspiracy because of the so public. it wasn't much of a conspiracy. a couple of times, don't think
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he really meant it that he did say at a couple of times. he said with 200 men, he could conduct a two-day probe congress and take over. now he i think was carried away on an adrenaline high or had been drinking too much. i don't think he ever really meant that. he never really tried it. somewhat more often though he talked about there being an insurrection in new orleans by the creoles. and that they would welcome him there and they would secede as with the rest of the louisiana territory. often, he talked about leading a private invasion of mexico and florida. he also said if the united states were to go to war, with spain, which he thought was exactly what the united states should do, it would be his privilege and honor to lead american troops in such an
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invasion. now, of course that wasn't going to happen. president jefferson was never going to let aaron burr lead american troops but there were malicious. the mississippi militia, the louisiana militia, the tennessee militia. maybe he might've been able to get himself into a position of power. he was the most eminent man who would cross the appalachian mountains in the country, but he was. he had his president. maybe he could've made it happen. and, there was one other thing he said, which was, he would lead a settlement of this territory called the bastrop track. much of american land development from that era was essentially a cascading series. people sowed the land they didn't own. they sold land they had never seen. they resold it, they mortgaged it, they sold it without telling
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people. was a scandal that happened over and over. and the backdrop track, burr for a song fired a flimsy interest and said he would lead a settlement of that. high don't think aaron burr ever meant to live in this particular been rather remote part of the country. his only virtue was that it was close to the spanish border where perhaps one could provoke a war. now, all of these different plans that eon schools for his conversational partners occur under the backdrop of this expectation that the west shall secede. and the historians, who do express an opinion, not all of them say they can't be garrett out, some say burr was a
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complete traitor. he meant to lead a secession of the west, and he should have been hanged. and there are those who say you know, he was really a misunderstood guy. he was just going to settle the bastrop tract. my view is, that aaron burr meant all of the things that he said. he really wasn't sure exactly what he could get away with. what would be possible. i think he meant to organize this expedition to lead these men down there and just see what could happen. and i found myself trying to piece it together thinking and i end up with cinematic images unfortunately no doubt that many of you will note that marlon brando is a leader at the motorcycle gang that takes over a small california town and they terrorize the town.
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halfway through this sweet young thing says to brando, what are you rebelling against? and he says, what have you got? and i think that captures a bit bid where burr was at that moment. he was looking to make something happen. it was audacious, it was outrageous. i don't want to dismiss it though as frivolous. i think some people do. he had such a fire of ambition inside of him which was not seen because he was such a research fellow, but his behavior shows it. his career had ended. he was 49 years old. and he wanted to leave his name in history. this was the best way he could think to do it. fame for his generation was not the sort of flimsy celebrity
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hook that we think of today. it was the recognition of your character, their quality is a person. and that is how he thought of it. and he wanted to do great things. i think he also impart wanted to get back at jefferson. it played a big role in his bad outcome. indeed, burr met with the ambassador from britain and he told him that he was going to leave this expedition. he was going to take over new orleans and invade mexico and florida. he asked that a british fleet be sent to new orleans to meet him there. and he said this would have course would result in the dissolution of the united states. he didn't seem unhappy about that. and of course if it had worked, there would be no jefferson memorial on the tidal basin.
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on expedition was finally launched an 1806 in the second half and it was an epic botch. burr have build boats for more than 1000 men. he had votes built on deaver pennsylvania, marietta, ohio, in louisville, in the and the wabash river and indiana and clearly expected huge outpouring of men who had already signed up. and remember there were only 2000 men in our army. if he had 1200 men in boats going down the mississippi river he would have controlled every territory he passed. he would have been the greatest force for hundreds of miles. but something's broke against him. the recruits were scared off by a huge development.
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first, his attorney and kentucky in kentucky became suspicious of him. a local newspaper in frankfurt started running stories come exposing burr's plans. at least 50% of the newspaper wrote was fantasy but 50% was pretty accurate. not so bad actually as the journalism world goes. and the prosecutor tried to summon a grand jury to hear testimony and bring charges against burr. finally he was able to get a grand jury there and presented his evidence. the grand jury came back and said aaron burr is a fine human being and i think our -- we think our prosecutor should go home. but, his reputation took a hit. at the same time a man named william heaton who burr had tried to recruit, who was a military figure, issued an affidavit back east at the time,
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describing all of burr's outrageous plans including he might lead a coup d'état in washington. this was not just an invasion of mexico perhaps. maybe this was in fact egregious activity. then-president jefferson finally finally -- himself. jefferson has been receiving reports from the west for 16 months that aaron burr is up to no good, that he is raising -- and trying to lead a secession of the western part of the country can jefferson has done nothing. he hasn't lifted a finger. this is one more reason i think why burr thinks jefferson is -- but finally jefferson issues a proclamation and he does not named burr but he says there are people out in the west were thinking of doing bad things and americans should not be part of it. this confirmation of events frankly turns off people who are
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going to join his expedition. a number of them still do get off but only 100. they leave from blender hassett island here in the ohio island which will become important again. and, they make their way down the river and burr is not with them. he is off with andrew jackson trying to get jackson to join them in jackson won't because he is troubled by some of these reports. and burr goes down to the cumberland river from national -- nashville and join somewhere the cumberland runs into the ohio. there happens to of these dramatic moments in this event. burr is joining is meant for the first time. many of them have not met him. they gather on the river shore and circle around him. he goes round the circle and shakes hands with them and
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greets them, and then steps forward to say a few words, but in that period of time, sort of news when 11100 guys show up in votes and land on the shore there. some of the people in the surrounding farms had gathered on the shore as well. so burr gestures at the other people and says, i can't really tell you why we are here. and that is it. now, i was personally astonished that the 100 guys got back in the boats and kept going. he can't tell them why they are there. and during the trial, marshall pointed this moment very specifically and says you know if all he was doing was settling the bastrop tract he could've said so. there was something else he was up to. they continue down the river, and so they get to prune spurt
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which is just above natchez, and then things finally fall apart. the only way he burr can succeed now from this small group of men is his wilkinson joins them and brings the army over with him. that it appears was their plan. wilkinson is out here in the western part of orleans territory faced off against the spaniards. there was a border dispute going on there. this was a perfect opportunity. burr expected him to do a survey wanted him to do it and wilkinson did not know. he received a letter while he was out there called the -- in code, the famous letter and it says glory awaits us. we must all go out and meet our faith. mexico and louisiana are there for the taking, various words like that.
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bud wilkinson receives the letter and doesn't do what burr expects him to an apache decides instead of being a double agent he will now be a triple agent. so he double crosses burr. this way he will learn the gratitude of the spaniards. he will say i stop an invasion of the spanish story. he will burn the gratitude of jefferson saying i stop a secession. the secession. here is off to new orleans. he arrest all of the people who were with burr. of course he knows who they are because he was part of the week. he stands trial and declares marshall law, suspense that courts. and went burr is obtained he is in fear for his life. fears that wilkinson will have him killed. so he is brought in front of a grand jury in mississippi.
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they present evidence against him. at the grand jury he comes back and refuses to bring any charges against burr and so burr is a fine manner. you are angry that her government is wasting its time by trying to prosecute him. i think there is an element here of people in that part of the country who thought invading mexico was a heck of an idea and they didn't see anything wrong with it. burr was held on bail it and though they had not brought charges. he jumped bail, fled to the east through the force of what is now alabama and was finally arrested there by army troops, was brought back to stand trial for treason. now, he ends up in front of john marshall, the justice of the united states, our finest judge ever, in an amazing trial. it was our first trial of the
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century. every century in america has a dozen trials each century. this was our first. we had the former vice president of the united united states on l for treason. imagine what cnn and "fox news" would do with that today. he faced capital punishment. he faced the gallows. he assembled the legal dream team. some of his defense lawyers have been delegates of the constitutional convention. some have been attorney general of the united states. one with the finest trial lawyer in richmond in and then of course there was burr who was the best of lawyer and the room, except for the judge. the prosecutors were no slouch as. one of the prosecutors would become attorney general of the united united states for 12 years and there were critical legal issues at stake. the constitutional definition of treason was very important, of course central to the case.
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the founders of the country, the framers when they wrote the constitution had been very troubled by the use of treason by english kings as oppression against their enemies. so it's the only crime that -- in the constitution. it has to be there levying war against the government government are giving aid and comfort and there have to be two witnesses who present evidence of an overt act of treason, spelled out. also an issue in the case, not directly with burr but the confederates was the meaning of the habeas corpus clause which is a requirement that when somebody like wilkinson arrest people without due process to to you get to go before a judge and test the evidence against you. chief justice marshall insisted the habeas corpus clause had to be applied even in the case of
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treason. the last 10 years with those litigation over the men held at guantánamo, chief justice marshall holding in the burr case was -- in those cases also the question of executive privilege. burr was not a passive defense lawyer. the first thing you did was attack. he subpoenaed the records of president jefferson relating to his expedition. president jefferson said wait a second, in the president. and chief justice marshall responded with a motion that kept the presidents and said yes of course he is the president. but he is not above the law. he had to produce his record and the court would decide whether they had to be produced by the defendant and that is the law still today. i just on the news before i came over here the government,
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congress is subpoenaing records of the solyndra firm from the white house. i am sure they won't be fighting over executive privilege as we did in the nixon impeachment case in the clinton impeachment case and every case like this. it all started with aaron burr, chief justice marshall. now the case itself went on because the indictment was so badly written. i authority describe to you how two different grand juries out west acquitted burr, would not bring charges against him. president jefferson became convinced it was not a good idea to try aaron burr.west but entrust the convention. so, they wanted to bring a case in virginia because virginia would be jefferson's people. jeffersonian republicans who would in fact want to convict burr and when they pick the jury, they can't get neutral
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jurors. after days of trying to pick a jury burr frenemies says i will just take the next and one of the man who was sworn in as attorney says you can't take me. i think he should be hanged. and burr says well, i don't care. and the reason he didn't care because he was trying to case to the judge. and a jury in virginia was going to fry him. what he needed to do was win with the judge. and the indictment was written in order to get the case in virginia. they claim the treason happened and blender hasid island. there was a reason i was talking about that island. well, blender has said island was the western edge of west virginia.
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burr was not there. it was a rookie mistake and it made it on answerable after 14 witnesses. chief justice marshall shut down the prosecution case and sent the case to the jurors. that didn't stop the lawyers from speaking at extraordinary length. one of the lawyers, luther martin of maryland who was reputed for, well reputed for drinking brandy throughout the trial day, had a bigger than mug that he always kept filled and would sit throughout. he gave an argument on a motion that lasted for 14 hours. i will speak for less. on the final motions, he spoke for three days which was 21 hours. and the people who watched him were amazed. he did repeat himself.
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they were sort of board. but they said, justice energy and his strength as remarkable as was the fact that he never got force. one of the prosecutors gave a speech that really lived in american oratory for 100 years thereafter. schoolchildren were forced to embrace the speech in which the prosecutors contrasted the innocent glen or hasid with his evil burr. in fact he compared support to the serpent in the garden of eden. as metaphors go it's not the one you want to have applied to you. and i just want to read a brief passage because we don't get oratory like this in in the courts any more. the conquest was not typical. innocence is ever simple and credulous. such was the state of eden when the serpent entered its hours. the prisoner burr whining himself into the open in him practice heart of the
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unfortunate. little difficulty in changing the native character of that hard and the objects of its affections. he infuses into at the fire of his own courage, daring and desperate thirst for glory, and art are panting for great enterprises for all the storm and bustle and hurricane of life. that is tough. but the jury under the instructions given to them by chief justice marshall under the evidence that was presented would not convict so they returned a verdict. now the customary verdict even then was guilty or not guilty. those were the choices. this jury though was so frustrated that they couldn't convict, that they returned a verdict that read, the defendant was not proved to be guilty under this indictment by any evidence submitted to us. i have never really seen a
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verdict like that before. and the best that the burr never made it to the trial. their reports as to what they said to him. which were buried in diplomatic archives for 75 years. there was correspondence between burr and wilkinson which neither was willing to produce. they both said, and this was a remarkable bit of kabuki drama, that it would be wrong to disclose another man's private correspondence. is a gentleman they would be unable to do that. was sort of mutual deterrence. they both kept on, held onto those letters and they have never come to light. burr's competitor to refuse to testify against him. we do have a count of one of his confederates who is arrested by wilkinson and sent easton taken from prison to meet with president jefferson and told jefferson what burr intended which according to him was to
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take baton rouge, sees the ships in new orleans harbor and invade mexico. not sure how you seize the ships without taking control of the city, so it sounds a lot like he was leading an insurrection. burr himself describes some of his intentions. several years later when he was in europe, after the verdict, he went off and exiled to europe. and he tried to persuade the british to bankroll him, the liberation expedition to south america. the british were not willing to do so. but it is a fascinating episode. he even speaks spanish. while he is in london he starts taking spanish lessons. i wonder what he was thinking. he then ended up in paris and he tried to talk napoleon into underwriting him and he
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submitted a memorandum to the polian and that describes his intent as well. and his trent tensions as i said for a matrix to take it it private force downriver, probably sees baton rouge and west florida. he expected an insurrection by the french-speaking people in new orleans and then he would be greeted as a liberator. he would seize the ships in new orleans and lead an invasion of mexico and if all went well, they would be a new empire spanning the gulf of mexico from the florida keys all the way around to central america. and of course the west, which he would never actually try to have secede directly, would be very encouraged to join any country that controlled new orleans because that was the key to their trade to their prosperity. but as i said this was not
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carved in stone. if there was something else he could do, he would have done that as well. now, this is not just an amazing adventure story although it is. we have one last image here. this is burr when he comes back. he comes back from europe and the practice lob rather quietly and rather desperately for another 20 plus years. there were real consequences of what burr try to do. not all of the consequences were intended by him. his failure actually had the effect of reinforcing the union, making secession unattractive. he invited the dissolution of the nation most americans have declined the invitation. illegal principles i have talked about established in chief justice marshall's opinion slip with us today. the meaning of treason, the
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importance of habeas corpus, executive privilege but also and more important than any of them, is the principle that even if you are a former high official of the government accused of treason, even if you are despised throughout the country, you are entitled to a fair trial. you are entitled to every right that the law would give any defendant. the courts will not e. stampeded by political pressure. but where subfor actually excelled was in his geopolitical vision, his military vision. the lands that he craved really were there for the taking. he knew whoever took them would live for generations as a hero and that is what happened. andrew jackson took florida in 1818. that was part, big part of his claim to become president. sam houston had the glory of leading texas independence.
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became the founding father of that country. zachary taylor and winfield scott led the invasion of mexico that burr had intended. zachary taylor became president when phil scott he came a candidate for president based on that achievement. indeed one of the symmetrical moments in history happens in 1835 just a year before burr dies when he reads the newspaper of the independence of texas, and he proclaims, i was right. i was only 30 years too soon. what was treason in me is patriotism now. it was far too late however for aaron burr. thank you very much. i would be happy to take questions. [applause]
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>> yes, my question had to do with wilkinson. at the time of the lewis and clark expedition, which went to the northwest, there was also another expedition i went to the southwest. that exhibition -- that trip actually, they were captured by the spanish. did wilkinson have anything to do with that? >> yes, you are describing expedition by zebulun pikas which wilkinson commissioned and there is a very fine book, it's not an easy book to read but a book by a fellow in the 50s, where he has got a couple of chapters about that, and it is clearly his view that pike was supposed to find the invasion
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route that wilkinson wanted to follow went to mexico. and that was the purpose of the trip. now, he never actually proves the case, and i don't know if it's true or not. i left it out of the book because i couldn't make up my mind and it ended up not mattering because pike got arrested. he actually spent a terrible winter in the mountains in the rockies and almost froze to death. so it ended up being sort of a nonevent in american history although it did get the pikes peak invented. >> years ago i read a fascinating story, conspiracy story, about how meriwether lewis was on the way back to d.c., to give some testimony. there is a conspiracy that part of that was to damage wilkinson and burr and it was through


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