Memoirs of Aaron Burr, Volume 1.
Matthew L. Davis
Part 6 out of 9
esteemed it a real trait of your affection, a sympathy in the
feelings, the anxiety of your Theo., who had every fear for your
health; more than you would allow her to express.
The garden wall is begun. I fear the front pavement will not answer
your intention. I write you again tomorrow. Much love awaits thee.
FROM MRS. BURR.
New-York, 25th September, 1785.
Your dear letter of Saturday morning has just reached me. I was
relieved, delighted, till the recollection of the storm you have since
weathered took place. How have you borne it? Ten thousand fears alarm
me. I pursued thee yesterday, through wind and rain, till eve, when,
fatigued, exhausted, shivering, thou didst reach thy haven, surrounded
with inattention, thy Theo. from thee. Thus agitated, I laid my head
upon a restless pillow, turning from side to side, when thy kindred
spirit found its mate. I beheld my much-loved Aaron, his tender eyes
fixed kindly on me; they spake a body wearied, wishing repose, but not
sick. This soothed my troubled spirit: I slept tolerably, but dare not
trust too confidently. I hasten to my friend to realize the delightful
vision; naught but thy voice can tranquillize my mind. Thou art the
constant subject of love, hope, and fear. The girls bewail the
sufferings of their dear papa; the boys wish themselves in his place;
Frederick frets at the badness of the horse; wishes money could put
him in thy stead. The unaffected warmth of his heart delights me. If
aught can alleviate thy absence, 'tis these testimonies of gratitude
and affection from the young and guileless to the best of parents.
They feel the hand that blesses them, and love because they are
blessed. Thy orders shall be attended to. Mamma joins in the warmest
assurances of sincere affection. Theodosia and Sally in perfect
health. Beyond expression,
FROM MRS. BURR.
New-York, 27th September, 1785.
I have counted the hours till evening; since that, the minutes, and am
still on the watch; the stage not arrived: it is a cruel delay. Your
health, your tender frame, how are they supported! Anxiety obliterates
every other idea; every noise stops my pen; my heart flutters with
hope and fear; the pavement from this to Cape's  is kept warm by
the family; every eye and ear engrossed by expectation; my mind is in
too much trepidation to write. I resume my pen after another
messenger, in vain. I will try to tell you that those you love are
well; that the boys are very diligent; Ireson gone to Westchester. My
new medicine will, I flatter myself, prove a lucky one. Sally
amazingly increased. Fream at work at the roof. He thinks it too flat
to be secured. The back walls of the house struck through with the
late rain. M.Y. still at Miss W. You must not expect to find dancing
on Thursday night. I should think it a degree of presumption to make
the necessary preparations without knowing the state of your health.
Should this account prove favourable, I still think it best to delay
it, as the stage is very irregular in its return. That of Saturday did
not arrive till Sunday morning; it brought an unfavourable account of
the roads. Thus you probably would not partake, nor would I wish
spectators to check my vigilance, or divide that attention which is
ever insufficient when thou art the object. O, my Aaron, how impatient
I am to welcome thy return; to anticipate thy will, and receive thy
loved commands. The clock strikes eleven. No stage. My letter must go.
I have been three hours writing, or attempting to write, this
imperfect scrawl. The children desire me to speak their affection.
Mamma will not be forgot; she especially shares my anxiousness. Adieu.
TO MRS. BURR.
Albany, October 30th, 1785. I have received your two affectionate
letters. The enclosed was intended to have been sent by the stage
which I met on my way up; but, by untoward accidents (needless to
detail), yet lies by me. My disorder has left me almost since I left
The person with whom I had business had gone from this place before my
arrival, so that I should have been, ere this, on my return, but that
I have suffered myself to be engaged in two land causes (Van Hoesen
and Van Rensselaer), which begin to-morrow, and will probably last the
whole week. I am retained for Van Hoesen, together with J. Bay and P.
W. Yates. Such able coadjutors will relieve me of the principal
burden. You may judge with what reluctance I engaged in a business
which will detain me so long from all that is dear and lovely. I dare
not think on the period I have yet to be absent. I feel it in some
sort a judgment for the letters written by the girls to N.W.
Your account of your health is very suspicious; you are not particular
enough; you say nothing of the means you use to restore yourself;
whether you take exercise, or how you employ your time.
I shall probably leave this on Sunday next; my horse will not take me
home in three days. I fear I shall not see you till Wednesday morning
of next week; perhaps not even then, for I am engaged to attend the
court at Bedford on Tuesday of next week. You shall hear again by the
Will not these continued rains deprive us of the pleasure of the
promised visit of the W.'s? How is it possible you can write me such
short letters, having so much leisure, and surrounded with all that
can interest me? Adieu.
TO MRS. BURR.
Albany, 2d November, 1785.
I have lived these three days upon the letters I expected this
evening, and behold the stage without a line! I have been through the
rain, and dark, and mud, hunting up every passenger to catechise them
for letters, and can scarce yet believe that I am so totally
Our trial, of which I wrote you on Sunday, goes on moderately. It will
certainly last till twelve o'clock on Saturday night; longer it
cannot, that being the last hour of court. Of course, I leave this on
Sunday; shall be detained at Westchester till about Thursday noon, and
be home on Friday. This is my present prospect; a gloomy one, I
confess; rendered more so by your unpardonable silence. I have a
thousand questions to ask, but why ask of the dumb?
I am quite recovered. The trial in which I am engaged is a fatiguing
one, and in some respects vexatious. But it puts me in better humour
to reflect that you have just received my letter of Sunday, and are
saying or thinking some good-natured things of me. Determining to
write any thing that can amuse and interest me; every thing that can
atone for the late silence, or compensate for the hard fate that
Since being here I have resolved that you in future accompany me on
such excursions, and I am provoked to have yielded to your idle fears
on this occasion. I have told here frequently, within a day or two,
that I was never so long from home before, till, upon counting days, I
find I have been frequently longer. I am so constantly anticipating
the duration of this absence, that when I speak of it I realize the
whole of it.
Let me find that you have done justice to yourself and me. I shall
forgive none the smallest omission on this head. Do not write by the
Monday stage, or rather, do not send the letter you write, as it is
possible I shall leave the stage-road in my way to Bedford.
1. Major Popham, fifty-four years after the date of this letter,
attended as a pall-bearer the funeral of Colonel Burr, the friend of
2. Mrs. Prevost's son.
3. The unfortunate Mrs. Alston, of whom much will be said hereafter.
FROM MRS. BURR
New-York, August, 1786.
Your letter was faithfully handed us by the boy from Hall's. Bartow
has enclosed the papers. Those you mentioned to me on the night of
your departure I cannot forward, as I have forgot the names of the
parties, and they cannot guess them in the office from my description,
I hope the disappointment will not be irreparable.
If you finish your causes before court is over, cannot you look at us,
even should you return to the manor? The two girls followed you to the
stagehouse, saw you seated and drive off. Frederick's tooth prevented
his attendance. My heart is full of affection, my head too barren to
express it. I am impatient for evening; for the receipt of your dear
letter; for those delightful sensations which your expressions of
tenderness alone can excite. Dejected, distracted with out them;
elated, giddy even to folly with them; my mind, never at medium,
claims every thing from your partiality.
I have just determined to take a room at aunt Clarke's till Sally
recovers her appetite; by the advice of the physician, we have changed
her food from vegetable to animal. A change of air may be equally
beneficial. You shall have a faithful account, I leave town at six
this evening. All good angels attend thee. The children speak their
love. Theodosia has written to you, and is anxious lest I should omit
sending it. Toujours la votre,
TO MRS. BURR.
Albany, August, 1786.
Your letter of Thursday evening was stuffed into one of the office
papers, so that I did not find it for half an hour after I received
the packet, during all which time I had the pleasure of abusing you
stoutly. But I had only prepared myself for the most delightful
surprise. I apologized with great submission.
Why are you so cautiously silent as to our little Sally? You do not
say that she is better or worse; from which I conclude she is worse. I
am not wholly pleased with your plan of meat diet. It is recommended
upon the idea that she has no disorder but a general debility. All the
disorders of this season are apt to be attended with fevers, in which
case animal diet is unfriendly. I beg you to watch the effects of this
whim with great attention. So essential a change will certainly have
visible effects. Remember, I do not absolutely condemn, because I do
not know the principles, but am fearful.
Every minute of my time is engrossed to repair the loss of my little
book. Thank the boys for their attention to the business I left them
in charge. I wish either of them had given me a history of what is
doing in the office, and you of what is doing in the family. The girls
I know to be incorrigibly lazy, and therefore expect nothing from
them. The time was--but I have no leisure to reflect.
TO MRS. BURR.
Albany, August, eleven o'clock at night, 1786.
I have this day your letter by my express. I am sorry that you and
others perplex yourselves with that office nonsense. Am too fatigued
and too busy to say more of it. We began our Catskill causes this
morning, and have this minute adjourned to meet at seven in the
morning. We shall be engaged at the same disagreeable rate till
Saturday evening. I think our title stands favourably; but the jury
are such that the verdict will be in some measure hazardous. I have
judgment for Maunsel against Brown, after a laboured argument. Inform
him, with my regards.
Since writing thus far, I have your affectionate letter by the stage,
which revives me. I shall not go to the manor. But, if I succeed in
our causes, shall be obliged to go to Catskill to settle with the
tenants, make sales, &c. Of this you cannot know till Tuesday evening.
I am wrong to say that I shall not go to the manor. I am obliged to
attend a Court of Chancery there. The chancellor had gone hence before
my arrival. I cannot be home till Thursday evening. I hope your next
will be of the tenour of the last. Your want of cheerfullness is the
least acceptable of any token of affection you can give me. Good
angels guard and preserve you.
FROM MRS. BURR.
New-York, November, 1787.
What language can express the joy, the gratitude of Theodosia? Stage
after stage without a line. Thy usual punctuality gave room for every
fear; various conjectures filled every breast. One of our sons was to
have departed tomorrow in quest of the best of friends and fathers.
This morning we waited the stage with impatience. Shrouder went
frequently before it arrived; at length returned--_no letter._ We were
struck dumb with disappointment. Bartow set out to inquire who were
the passengers; in a very few minutes returned exulting,--a packet
worth the treasures of the universe. Joy brightened every face; all
expressed their past anxieties; their present happiness. To enjoy was
the first result. Each made choice of what they could best relish.
Porter, sweet wine, chocolate, and sweetmeats made the most delightful
repast that could be shared without thee. The servants were made to
feel _their lord was well_, are at this instant toasting his health
and bounty; while the boys are obeying thy dear commands, thy
Theodosia flies to speak her heartfelt joys:--her Aaron safe, mistress
of the heart she adores; can she ask more? has Heaven more to grant?
"_Plus que jamais a vous_," dost thou recollect it? Do I read right? I
can't mistake; I read it everywhere; 'tis stamped on the blank paper;
I sully the impression with reluctance; I know not what I write. You
talk of long absence. I stoop not to dull calculations; thou hast
judged it best; thy breast breathes purest flame. What greater
blessing can await me? Every latent spark is kindled in my soul. My
imagination is crowded with ideas; they leave me no time for
utterance; _plus que jamais_; but for Sally, I should set out
to-morrow to meet you. I must dress and visit to-morrow. I have heard
nothing of the W.s. Our two dear pledges have an instinctive knowledge
of their mother's bliss. They have been awake all the evening I have
the youngest in my arms. Our sweet prattler exclaims at every noise,
There's dear papa, and runs to meet him. I pursue the medicine I began
when you left us, and believe it efficacious. Exercise costs me a
crown a day; our own horse disabled by the nail which penetrated the
joint. I have grown less, and better pleased with myself; feel
confident of your approbation. W. hastens the first assembly. F.
feigns herself lame, that she may not accompany M., who submits to
every little meanness, and bears all hints with insensibility. Has
called here once. Clement sailed on Monday.
Your remark on the shortness of my letters is flattering. This is the
last you shall complain of. My spirits and nerves coincide in asking
repose. Your daughter commands it. Our dear children join in the
strongest assurances of honest love. Mamma will not be forgotten.
Sweet sleep attend thee. Thy Theo.'s spirit shall preside. I wish you
may find this scrawl as short at reading as I have at writing. I am
surprised to find myself obliged to enclose it. Adieu.
FROM MRS. BURR.
New-York, Wednesday, November, 1787.
My health is better. As I fondly believe this the most interesting
intelligence I can give thee, I make it my preamble. What would I not
give to have but those four small words from thee? Though I had but
little hope, I found myself involuntarily counting the passing hours.
My messenger met the stage at the door. I need not relate his success.
I fancy many ills from the situation of your health when you left
home, and pray ardently they may prove merely fanciful. I have still
three tedious days to the next stage, when a line of affection shall
repay all my anxieties. Ireson returned to-day. The poor boys have
really been models of industry. They write all day and evening, and
sometimes all night, nor allow themselves time to powder.
I feel as though my guardian angel had forsaken me. I fear every thing
but ghosts. Tell me, Aaron, why do I grow every day more tenacious of
thy regard? Is it possible my affection can increase? Is it because
each revolving day proves thee more deserving? Surely, thy Theo.
needed no proof of thy goodness. Heaven preserve the patron of my
flock; preserve the husband of my heart; teach me to cherish his love,
and to deserve the boon.
TO MRS. BURR.
Poughkeepsie, 28th June, 1788.
This afternoon the stage will pass through this place. Your letters
will not come to me till the morning, so that I can only thank you for
them, and the kind things they contain, by anticipation. I have
already read them in the same way, and therefore do thank you for
them, _de plein coeur_. I have a convenient room for my business in
one house, board at a different house, and bad lodgings at a third
house. This is, indeed, not so convenient an arrangement as might be
wished; but I could not procure these different accommodations at less
than three houses in this metropolis and seat of government.
As the boys will wish to know something of the progress of business
here, tell them that the cause of Freer and Van Vleeck has been this
day put off by the defendants, on payment of costs, on an affidavit of
the want of papers. In Noxon's cause I have a verdict for thirty-four
pounds. The evidence clearly entitled Mr. Livingston to three or four
hundred pounds, and so was the charge of the judge; but landlords are
not popular or favoured in this county. I am now going to court to
defend an action of trespass, in which I have been employed here; and
shall try Mr. Lansing's cause to-morrow, which will close my business
here. With how much regret I shall go further from home. Kiss our dear
TO MRS. BURR.
Poughkeepsie, 29th June, 1788.
I have sat an hour at the door watching the arrival of the stage. At
length it comes, and your dear packet is handed to me just in season
to be acknowledged by Mr. Johnstone. He will tell you of the further
progress of my business and my intended movements. I go this evening
to Rhinebeck. How wishfully I look homeward. I like your industry, and
will certainly reward it as you shall direct.
My time is much engrossed. My health perfectly good. You say nothing
of yours; but your industry is a good omen. You can write to me by
Monday's stage, directed to be forwarded to me from Rhinebeck. I shall
be then at Kingston. Much love to the smiling little girl. I received
her letter, but not the pretty things. I continually plan my return
with childish impatience, and fancy a thousand incidents which render
it more interesting. Reserve your health and spirits, and I shall not
TO MRS. BURR.
Albany, August 7th, 1788.
Oh Theo.! there is the most delightful grove--so darkened with
_weeping willows_, that at noonday a _susceptible_ fancy like yours
would mistake it for a bewitching moonlight evening. These
sympathizing willows, too, exclude even the prying eye of curiosity.
Here no rude noise interrupts the softest whisper. Here no harsher
sound is heard than the wild cooings of the gentle dove, the gay
thresher's animated warbles, and the soft murmurs of the passing
brook. Really, Theo., it is _charming_.
I should have told you that I am speaking of Fort Johnson, where I
have spent a day. From this _amiable_ bower you ascend a gentle
declivity, by a winding path, to a cluster of lofty oaks and locusts.
Here nature assumes a more august appearance. The gentle brook, which
murmured soft below, here bursts a cataract. Here you behold the
stately Mohawk roll his majestic wave along the lofty Apalachians.
Here the mind assumes a nobler tone, and is occupied by sublimer
objects. What _there_ was tenderness, _here_ swells to rapture. It is
The windings of this enchanting brook form a lovely island, variegated
by the most sportive hand of nature. This shall be yours. We will
plant it with jessamines and woodbine, and call it Cyprus. It seems
formed for the residence oL the loves and the graces, and is therefore
yours by the best of titles. It is indeed most _charming_.
But I could fill sheets in description of the beauties of this
romantic place. We will reserve it for the subject of many an amusing
hour. And besides being little in the habit of the sublime or
poetical, I grow already out of breath, and begin to falter, as you
perceive. I cannot, however, omit the most interesting and important
circumstance; one which I had rather communicate to you in this way
than face to face. I know that you was opposed to this journey to Fort
Johnson. It is therefore with the greater regret that I communicate
the event; and you are not unacquainted with my inducements to it.
In many things I am indeed unhappy in possessing a singularity of
taste; particularly unhappy when that taste differs in any thing from
yours. But we cannot control necessity, though we often persuade
ourselves that certain things are our choice, when in truth we have
been unavoidably impelled to them. In the instance I am going to
relate, I shall not examine whether I have been governed by mere
fancy, or by motives of expediency, or by caprice; you will probably
say the latter.
My dear Theo., arm yourself with all your fortitude. I know you have
much of it, and I hope that upon this occasion you will not fail to
exercise it. I abhor preface and preamble, and don't know why I have
now used it so freely. But I am well aware that what I am going to
relate needs much apology _from_ me, and will need much _to_ you. If I
am the unwilling, the unfortunate instrument of depriving you of any
part of your promised gayety or pleasure, I hope you are too generous
to aggravate the misfortune by upbraiding me with it. Be assured (I
hope the assurance is needless), that whatever diminishes your
happiness equally impairs mine. In short, then, for I grow tedious
both to you and myself; and to procrastinate the relation of
disagreeable events only gives them poignancy; in short, then, my dear
Theo., the beauty of this same Fort Johnson, the fertility of the
soil, the commodiousness and elegance of the buildings, the great
value of the mills, and the very inconsiderable price which was asked
for the whole, have _not_ induced me to purchase it, and probably
never will: in the confidence, however, of meeting your forgiveness,
TO MRS. BURR.
Albany, 26th October, 1788.
I wrote you a few hours ago, and put the letter into the postofflce.
Little did I then imagine how much pleasure was near at hand for me.
Judge Hobart has this minute arrived, and handed me your letter of
Monday. I cannot thank you sufficiently for all the affection it
contains. Be assured it has every welcome which congenial affection
The headache with which I left New-York grew so extreme, that finding
it impossible to proceed in the stage, the view of a vessel off
Tarrytown, under full sail before the wind, tempted me to go on board.
We reached West Point that night, and lay there at anchor near three
days. After a variety of changes from sloop to wagon, from wagon to
canoe, and from canoe to sloop again, I reached this place last
evening. I was able, however, to land at Rhinebeck on Thursday
evening, and there wrote you a letter which I suppose reached you on
My business in court will detain me till Saturday of this week, when I
propose to take passage in sloop. I have just drunk tea with Mrs.
Fairlie, and her daughter, five days old. Thank Bartow for the papers
by Judge Hobart. When I wrote him this evening I had not received
TO MRS. BURR.
Albany, November, 1788.
I received your affectionate letter just as I was going into court,
and under the auspices of it have tried with success two causes. The
bearer of this was my client in one of them, and is happy beyond
measure at his success. Business has increased upon my hands since I
came here. My return seems daily more distant, but not to be regretted
from any views but those of the heart.
I hope you persevere in the regular mode of life which I pointed out
to you. I shall be seriously angry if you do not. I think you had best
take less wine and more exercise. A walk twice round the garden before
breakfast, and a ride in the afternoon, will do for the present, and
this will be necessary to fit you for the journey to Long Island.
A Captain Randolph will call with Mr. Mersereau: _c'est un soldat et
honnete homme, donnez eux a boire._ They will answer all your
TO MRS. BURR.
Albany, 23d November, 1788.
I thank you for your obliging letter of the 19th. It is not, indeed,
so long as I had hoped, but your reason for being concise is too
ingenious not to be admitted. I have, however, a persuasion that you
are at this moment employed in the same manner that I am; and in the
hope that your good intentions will not be checked by either want of
health or want of spirits, I venture to expect a much longer letter by
the coming post.
Your account of the progress of the measles is alarming. I am pleased
to find that you yet keep your ground. It persuades me that,
notwithstanding what you have written, you do not think the hazard
very great. That disorder hath found its way to this city, but with no
unfavourable symptoms. It is not spoken of as a thing to be either
feared or avoided.
I have no prospect of being able to leave this place before this day
week, probably not so soon. You must, by return of post, assure me
that I shall find you in good health and spirits. This will enable me
to despatch business and hasten my return. Kiss those who love me.
TO MRS. BURR.
Albany, 26th November, 1788.
The unusual delay of the post deprives me of the pleasure of hearing
from you this evening. This I regret the more, as your last makes me
particularly anxious for that which I expected by this post.
I am wearied out with the most tedious cause I was ever engaged in.
To-morrow will be the eighth day since we began it, and it may
probably last the whole of this week. Write me whether any thing calls
particularly for my return so as to prevent my concluding my business
here. I am at a loss what to write until I have your answer to my
letters, for which I am very impatient.
From the commencement of the year 1785 until the year 1788, Colonel
Burr took but little part in the political discussions of the day. In
the year 1787 the opinion had become universal that the states could
not be kept together under the existing articles of confederation. On
the second Monday in May, 1787, a convention met in Philadelphia for
the avowed purpose of "_revising the Articles of Confederation_," &c.
On the 28th of September following, that convention, having agreed
upon a "_new constitution_," ordered that the same be transmitted to
the several legislatures for the purpose of being submitted to a
convention of delegates, chosen in each state, for its adoption or
In January, 1788, the legislature of New-York met, and warm
discussions ensued on the subject of the new constitution. These
discussions arose on the question of calling a state convention.
Parties had now become organized. The friends of the new constitution
styled themselves _federalists_. Its opponents were designated
_anti-federalists_. The latter denied the right of the general
convention to form a "new constitution," and contended that they were
limited in their powers to "revising and amending the Articles of
Confederation." The former asserted that the general convention had
not transcended its powers.
Colonel Burr, on this point, appears to have assumed a neutral stand;
but, in other respects, connected himself with what was termed the
anti-federal party. He wished amendments to the constitution, and had
received, in common with many others, an impression that the powers of
the federal government, unless more distinctly defined, would be so
exercised as to divest the states of every attribute of sovereignty,
and that on their ruins ultimately there would be erected a splendid
_national_ instead of a _federal_ government.
In April, 1788, Colonel Burr was nominated by the anti-federalists of
the city of New-York as a candidate for the assembly. The feelings of
that day may be judged of by the manner in which the ticket was
headed. It was published in the newspapers and in handbills as
"The sons of liberty, who are again called upon to contend with the
_sheltered aliens_, who have, by the courtesy of our country, been
permitted to remain among us, will give their support to the following
"_William Deming, Melancton Smith, Marinus Willet, and Aaron Burr._"
The federalists prevailed by an overwhelming majority. The strength of
the contending parties was in the ratio of about seven federalists (or
tories) for one anti-federalist (or whig). Such were the political
cognomens of the day. The federalists styled their opponents
_anti-federalists_. The anti-federalists designated their opponents
In April, 1789, there was an election for governor of the State of
New-York. The anti-federal party nominated George Clinton. A meeting
of citizens, principally federalists, was held in the city of
New-York, and Judge Robert Yates was nominated in opposition to Mr.
Clinton. Mr. Yates was a firm and decided anti-federalist. He was
known to be the personal and political friend of Colonel Burr. At this
meeting a committee of correspondence was appointed. Colonel Hamilton
and Colonel Burr were both members of this committee.
In their address recommending Judge Yates they state, that
Chief-justice Morris or Lieutenant-governor Van Courtlandt were the
favourite candidates of the federal party; but, for the sake of
harmonizing conflicting interests, a gentleman (Mr. Yates), known as
an anti-federalist, had been selected, and they respectfully recommend
to Mr. Morris and Mr. Van Courtlandt to withdraw their names, and to
unite in the support of Mr. Yates. This address was signed by
Alexander Hamilton as chairman. Mr. Clinton, however, was re-elected.
This support of Judge Yates did not diminish Governor Clinton's
confidence in the political integrity, or lessen his respect for the
talents, of Colonel Burr. A few months after the election the governor
tendered to him the office of attorney-general of the state. At first
he hesitated about accepting the appointment; but, on the 25th of
September, 1789, addressed his excellency as follows:--
TO GOVERNOR GEORGE CLINTON.
In case the office you were pleased to propose should be offered to
me, I have, upon reflection, determined to accept it; at least until
it shall be known upon what establishment it will be placed. My
hesitation arose not from any dislike to the office, but from the
circumstances which I took the liberty to suggest in our conversation
on this subject.
I have the honour to be
Your excellency's obedient servant,
On the receipt of the above note, Governor Clinton nominated Colonel
Burr to the council of appointment as attorney-general of the state,
and the nomination was confirmed. This office was rather professional
than political. It was, however, at the time, highly important, and
imposed the most arduous duties upon the incumbent. Under the new
constitution of the United States, after the organization of the
government, many intricate questions arose. To discriminate between
the claims upon the respective states and those upon the federal
government, often required close investigation and no inconsiderable
degree of legal astuteness. The claims of individuals who had been in
the service of the state during the war of the revolution, or who had
otherwise become creditors, were now presented for adjustment. There
were no principles settled by which their justice or legality could be
tested. All was chaos; and the legislature was about to be overwhelmed
with petitions from every quarter for debts due, or for injuries
alleged to have been sustained by individuals who had been compelled
to receive depreciated money, or whose private property had been taken
for public use. In this dilemma the legislature passed an act
authorizing the appointment of commissioners to report on the subject.
The commissioners were Gerard Bancker, treasurer, Peter T. Curtenius,
state auditor, and Aaron Burr, attorney-general.
During the period that Colonel Burr was attorney-general, the seat of
government was in the city of New-York. His official duties,
therefore, seldom required his absence from home, when his private
business, as a professional man, would not have rendered that absence
necessary. His correspondence, although more limited, lost none of its
interest, and miscellaneous selections from it are therefore
TO MRS. BURR.
Albany, 21st October, 1789.
MY DEAREST THEODOSIA,
I have this moment received your letter of Sunday evening, containing
the account of your alarming accident and most fortunate rescue and
escape. I thank Heaven for your preservation, and thank you a thousand
times for your particular and interesting account of it.
I left my sloop at Kinderhook on Monday morning, and came here that
day in a wagon. I wrote you on the passage, and attempted to leave the
letter at Poughkeepsie, but the wind not permitting us to stop, I went
on board a Rhinebeck sloop, and there found Mrs. Peter R. Livingston,
who offered to take charge of my letter.
I am relieved from much anxiety by your management of certain
arrangements; I am glad M. W. is content. Mrs. Witbeck met with an
accident a little similar to yours; but she lost only her cap and
I am delighted to find that you anticipate as a pleasure that by this
post you may write as much as you please. If you set no other bound to
your pen than my gratification, you will write me the history every
day, not of your actions only (the least of which will be
interesting), but of your thoughts. I shall watch with eagerness and
impatience the coming of every stage. Let me not be disappointed; you
have raised and given confidence to these hopes. We lodge at a neat,
quiet widow's, near the Recorder Gansevoort's. Sill invited us very
TO MRS. BURR.
Albany, 24th October, 1783.
With what pleasure have I feasted for three days past upon the letters
I was to receive this evening. I was engaged in court when the stage
passed. Upon the sound of it I left court and ran to the postoffice;
judge of my mortification to find not a line from your hand. Surely,
in the course of three days, you might have found half an hour to have
devoted to me. You well knew how much I relied on it; you knew the
pleasure it would have given me, and the disappointment and chagrin I
should feel from the neglect. I cannot, will not believe that these
considerations have no weight with you. But a truce to complaints. I
will hope that you have written, and that some accident has detained
Your misfortunes so engrossed me, that I forgot to inquire about
Augustine's horses; and to give a caution, which I believe is
needless, about the blank checks. Do not part with one till you see it
filled up with sum and date. T. P. is apt to make mistakes, and once
lost a check which was by accident detected before it was presented
for payment. This is my fourth letter. Perhaps I write too much, and
you wish to give me an example of moderation.
TO MRS. BURR.
Albany, 28th October, 1789.
The history of your sufferings, this moment received, is truly
unexpected and affecting. My sympathy was wholly with your unfortunate
left hand. The distressing circumstances respecting your face must
certainly be owing to something more than the mere misfortune of your
burn. I cannot help feeling a resentment which must not be in this way
expressed. I am sure your sufferings might have been prevented. I had
promised myself that they were at an end many days ago.
Forgive my splenetic letter by the last post. I cannot tell you how
much I regret it. When I was complaining and accusing you of neglect,
you were suffering the most excruciating pain; but I could not have
imagined this unfortunate reverse. Impute my impatience to my anxiety
to hear from you. I am pleased at the gayety of your letter. Do not
think a moment of the consequences which you apprehend from the wound.
Let me only hear that you are relieved from pain, and I am happy. This
is my fifth letter. Frederick is the laziest dog in the world for not
having written me of your situation.
Yours, truly and affectionately,
TO MRS. BURR.
Claverack, 27th June, 1791.
I have just arrived here, and find Mr. B. Livingston about to return
to New-York. He informs me that he left home on Saturday, and sent you
word that he was to meet me here. It was kind in him. I cannot say as
much of the improvement you made of his goodness.
It is surprising that you tell me nothing of Theo. I would by no means
have her writing and arithmetic neglected. It is the part of her
education which is of the most present importance. If Shepherd will
not attend her in the house, another must be had; but I had rather pay
him double than employ another. Is Chevalier still punctual? Let me
know whether you are yet suited with horses, and how?
In your letters, speak of Brooks and Ireson's attendance. I wish you
would often step into the office, and see as many as you can of the
people who come on business. Does young Mr. Broome attend? Other and
more interesting questions have been made and repeated in my former
letters; I will therefore, at present, fatigue with no more
FROM MRS. BURR.
New-York, 30th June, 1791.
My letter missed the post yesterday not from my neglect. It waited for
Brooks's packet, which was not ready till the mail was gone. Mr. B.
Livingston just handed me the one you intrusted to him. I was the more
pleased with it, as he accompanied it with the most favourabie account
of your health I have received since your absence, and promises to
forward this in the afternoon.
The Edwardses dine with me; they had taken lodgings previous to their
arrival, in consequence of a report made them by the little Bodowins
(who were at Mrs. Moore's last winter), that my house was too small
and inconvenient to admit of a spare bed. I esteem it a lucky escape.
It would have been impossible for me to have borne the fatigue.
Charlotte is worn out with sleepless nights, laborious days, and an
anxious mind. Hannah constantly drunk. Except William, who is a mere
waiter, I have no servant.
My guests are come to dinner. I have solicited them, and shall again,
to stay here; but, if they positively decline it, I will go to
Frederick. I will steal a moment after dinner to add another page.
The person Mr. Livingston expected to forward my letter by did not go,
nor could I hear of an opportunity, till, this moment, Mr. Williams
offered to take charge of this. I had arranged every thing to set out
for Frederick this morning, when a mortification was found to have
taken place on Charlotte's child, and she could not be moved. As I had
carted every thing on board, which I assure you was no small piece of
business, I sent Natie with the three younger children, and kept
Louise and Theo to go with me, whenever this disagreeable event is
Theo never can or will make the progress we would wish her while she
has so many avocations. I kept her home a week in hopes Shepherd would
consent to attend her at home, but he absolutely declined it, as his
partners thought it derogatory to their dignity. I was therefore
obliged to submit, and permit her to go as usual. She begins to
cipher. Mr. Chevalier attends regularly, and I take care she never
omits learning her French lesson. I believe she makes most progress in
this. Mr. St. Aivre never comes; he can get no fiddler, and I am told
his furniture, &c. have been seized by the sheriff. I don't think the
dancing lessons do much good while the weather is so warm; they
fatigue too soon. I have a dozen and four tickets on hand, which I
think will double in value at my return. As to the music, upon the
footing it now is she can never make progress, though she sacrifices
two thirds of her time to it. 'Tis a serious check to her other
acquirements. She must either have a forte-piano at home, or renounce
learning it. For these reasons I am impatient to go in the country.
Her education is not on an advantageous footing at present. Besides,
the playfellows she has at home makes it the most favourable moment
for her to be at liberty a few weeks, to range and gain in health a
good foundation for more application at our return, when I hope to
have her alone; nay, I will have her alone. I cannot live so great a
slave, and she shall not suffer. My time shall not be an unwilling
sacrifice to others; it shall be hers. She shall have it, but I will
not use severity; and without it, at present, I can obtain nothing;
'tis a bad habit, which she never deserves when I have her to myself.
The, moment we are alone she tries to amuse me with her improvement,
which the little jade knows will always command my attention; but
these moments are short and seldom. I have so many trifling
interruptions, that my head feels as if I had been a twelvemonth at
sea. I scarcely know what I speak, and much less what I write.
What a provoking thing that I, who never go out, who never dress
beyond a decent style at home, should not have a leisure moment to
read a newspaper. It is a recreation I have not had since you left
home, nor could I get an opportunity by water to send them to you.
Albany will be a more favourable situation for every conveyance. But I
don't understand why your lordship can't pay your obeisance at home in
this four week vacation. I think I am entitled to a reason.
Brooks attends regularly. Ireson from six to twelve, and from two to
six, as punctual as possible. I should have made the office more my
business had I known it would have been agreeable to you. I shall be
attentive for the future. Bartow is here every morning. Most people
either choose to wait for him, or call at some appointed hour when he
can be here. Mr. Broome is here every day.
God knows the quality of this epistle; but the quantity I am certain
you won't complain of. 'Tis like throwing the dice--a mere game at
hazard; like all gamblers, I am always in hopes the last will prove a
lucky cast. Pray, in what consists the pleasure of a familiar
correspondence? In writing without form or reflection your ideas and
feelings of the moment, trusting to the partiality of your friend
every imperfect thought, and to his candour every ill-turned phrase.
Such are the letters I love, and such I request of those I love. It
must be a very depraved mind from whom such letters are not
Neither the packet you left at Kingston, nor the money and greatcoat
by Colonel Gausbeck, have yet reached me. I wish you could have passed
that leisure four weeks with me at Frederick's. How pleasant such a
party would have been. How much quiet we should have enjoyed.
I was interrupted yesterday by the death of Charlotte's child. Though
a long-expected event, still the scene is painful. The mother's tears
were almost too much for me. I hope nothing new will occur to impede
my journey. I set off to-morrow morning.
I am not so sick as when I wrote you last, nor so well as when you
left me. I confess I have neglected the use of those medicines I found
relief from. The situation of my family has obliged me to neglect
myself, nor can I possibly use them at Frederick's. We shall be too
crowded. I will nevertheless take them with me. I live chiefly on ale.
I buy very good for one dollar per dozen. I have had twenty-one dozen
of your pipe of wine bottled. I think it very good.
I thank you for your remembrance per post of 30th June. It was
acceptable, though short. How is it possible you had nothing more to
write? I know the head may be exhausted, but I was in hopes the heart
never could. I am surprised at your not getting my letters. I fear
several have either gone to Albany or are lost. I shall, from this
day, keep the dates. I wrote you last Sunday--so did Ireson.
You can have no idea how comfortable the house seems since the small
tribe have left it. A few weeks' quiet would restore my head. It
really wants rest. You can't know how weak it is. I cannot guide a
single thought. Those very trifling cares were ever more toilsome to
me than important matters; they destroy the mind. But I am beginning
another sheet; I am sure you must be tired of this unconnected medley.
I will bid you adieu.
Theo. has begun to write several letters, but never finished one. The
only time she has to write is also the hour of general leisure, and,
when once she is interrupted, there is no making her return to work. I
have nothing more to write, except that I am yours affectionately,
TO MRS. BURR.
Albany, 17th July, 1791.
I returned yesterday from Johnstown, worn down with heat, fatigue, and
bad fare. It is some small consolation that these tedious journeys are
not wholly unproductive.
At Johnstown I was very unexpectedly and agreeably surprised by your
letter of the 21st June, which was addressed to me at Kingston. It had
been intrusted to an Irishman, whom I at length met pretty much by
accident. It informs me of the villany of Frederick's servants, and of
his wanting a rib. The latter I have equally at heart with you, and
never lose sight of it; but, really, the big mother will not do; the
father is not much better--reputable and rich, but coarse and
On my return to this place I found your letter of Wednesday morning. I
fear the bad road near Pelham will discourage you from riding. As you
are likely to make considerable use of it, would it not be worth while
to have a few days' work done on it? About an hour after the receipt
of the last-mentioned letter, I was made happy by the receipt of that
of the 10th instant, which came by sloop. You seem fatigued and
worried, your head wild and scarcely able to write, but do not name
the cause. Whatever it may have been, I am persuaded that nothing will
so speedily and effectually remove such sensations as gentle exercise
(or even if it is not gentle) in the open air. The extreme heat of the
weather, and the uncommon continuance of it, have, I fear, interrupted
your good intentions on this head, especially as you are no friend to
riding early. I wish you would alter this part (if it is any part) of
your system. Walking early is bad on account of the dew; but riding
can, I think, in such weather, be only practised with advantage early
in the morning. The freshness of the air, and the sprightliness of all
animated nature, are circumstances of no trifling consequence. I have
no letter from you by the last post, which put me almost out of
humour, notwithstanding the receipt of the three above mentioned
within forty-eight hours, of which, however, the latest is a week old.
I hope Theo. will learn to ride on horseback. Two or three hours a day
at French and arithmetic will not injure her. Be careful of green
I have been persuaded to undertake a laborious piece of business,
which will employ me diligently for about ten days. The eloquence
which wrought upon me was principally money. I am now at wages. What
sacrifices of time and pleasure do I make to this paltry
object--contemptible indeed in itself, but truly important and
attractive as the means of gratifying those I love. No other
consideration could induce me to spend another day of my life in
objects in themselves uninteresting, and which afford neither
instruction nor amusement. They become daily more disgusting to me; in
some degree, perhaps, owing to my state of health, which is much as
when I left New-York. The least fatigue brings a slight return of
Your exercise, your medicine, and your reading are three subjects upon
which you have hitherto dwelt only in prospect. They must be all, in
some degree, within your power. I have a partiality for the little
study as your bedroom. Say a word of each of these matters in your
Continue and multiply your letters to me. They are all my solace in
this irksome and laborious confinement. The six last are constantly
within my reach. I read them once a day at least. Write me of all I
have requested, and a hundred things which I have not. You best know
how to please and interest.
FROM MRS. BURR.
Pelham, 23d July, 1791.
I have just now received your welcome letter of the 17th inst. The
pleasure imparted by so flattering a testimony of your good-will, was
tempered with a large portion of alloy in the confession of your ill
health. I was apprehensive travelling in the heat and bad
accommodations would check your recovery. Do return home as soon as
possible; or, rather, come to Pelham; try quiet, and the good air, and
the attention and friendship of those who love you. You may command
Bartow's attendance here whenever it suits you, and you have a
faithful envoy in Frederick, who will go post with your commands as
often as you wish. It is, indeed, of serious consequence to you, to
establish your health _before you commence politician_: when once you
get engaged, your industry will exceed your strength; your pride cause
you to forget yourself. But remember, you are not your own; there are
those who have stronger claims than ambition ought to have, or the
public can have.
Why did you undertake that very laborious task you mention? 'Tis
certain I have a great pleasure in spending money, but not when it is
accompanied with the unpleasant reflection of sacrificing your health
to the pursuit.
Theo. is much better; she writes and ciphers from five in the morning
to eight, and also the same hours in the evening. This prevents our
riding at those hours, except Saturday and Sunday, otherwise I should
cheerfully follow your directions, as I rise at five or six every day.
Theo. makes amazing progress at figures. Though Louisa has worked at
them all winter, and appeared quite an adept at first, yet Theo. is
now before her, and assists her to make her sums. You will really be
surprised at her improvement. I think her time so well spent that I
shall not wish to return to town sooner than I am obliged. She does
not ride on horseback, though Frederick has a very pretty riding horse
he keeps for her; but were she to attempt it now, there would be so
much jealousy, and so many would wish to take their turn, that it
would really be impracticable. But we have the best substitute
imaginable. As you gave me leave to dispose of the old wheels as I
pleased, I gave them as my part towards a wagon; we have a good plain
Dutch wagon, that I prefer to a carriage when at Pelham, as the
exercise is much better. We ride in numbers and are well jolted, and
without dread. 'Tis the most powerful exercise I know. No Spring
seats; but, like so many pigs, we bundle together on straw. Four miles
are equal to twenty. It is really an acquisition. I hope you will see
our little girl rosy cheeked and plump as a partridge. I rejoice with
you at the poor major's return. I grow lazy, and love leisure; and,
above all, the privilege of disposing of my own time with quiet and
retirement when it suits me. I have also made choice of the little
study for my own apartment; but with so large a family, and so few
conveniences, there can be no place of retirement. The vacation hours
of school, and Sunday, there is a constant hurlyburly, and every kind
of noise, though it is really much better than I feared. I take all
things as philosophically as I know how; provided I have no real evil
to struggle with, I pass on with the tumult. I am now writing in the
midst of it. The variety of sounds almost dim my sight; but I write
on, and trust to good luck more than reflection, I find so much to say
that I need not hesitate for matter, though I might for propriety of
speaking. My spirits are better: as to industry, it is of a very
flighty kind, and so variegated that it will not bear description. It
required some attention to get matters _en train_: it was like moving.
My disorder I have not, nor am not able to attend to; 'tis attended
with so many disagreeable circumstances that it is not practicable at
present; but my general health is greatly improved, and my head much
relieved. The hint you give respecting a rib for Frederick is more
elating than I can express. You say nothing of B. That part of my
petition was not less interesting. I humbly pray your honour may take
into consideration the equity and propriety of my prayer, and grant me
not only a hearing, but deign to give due consideration to the prayer
of your humble petitioner, being confident she will find grace and
mercy from your tribunal, with a full grant of all your endeavours to
reinstate her in that desired tranquillity whose source is in your
breast, to that happiness which is suspended on your will.
The heat and drought exceed all recollection. The town is extremely
unhealthy. It is fortunate we are here. There is always air--never
heat enough to incommode one. I am certain the child would have
suffered in town; she was much reduced; her voice and breast were
weak. Adieu. I think you must be tired before this. Attend to
yourself. If you love us, you will. You will for your
FROM MRS. BURR.
Pelham, 27th July, 1791.
I have lost some of your letters, and I make no doubt some of mine
have met the same fate; for this reason I am discouraged trusting any
more to the stage. I am obliged to wait with all the patience I can
command till the boat returns from town. I have no prospect at present
of forwarding this. I write to repeat my thanks for yours of the 17th.
It is the last I have received. I read it frequently, and always with
new pleasure. I was disappointed at not having a line from you by the
Saturday's mail. It is not fair to stand on punctilio, when you know
the disadvantages attending my situation here. You ought to be doubly
attentive _pour me soulager_. It is not so practicable to send some
miles from home twice a week as you imagine.
Poor Dr. Wright had his house two days ago burnt to the ground, and
all the furniture, with every article of clothing both of themselves
and the children. She is very disconsolate, and much to be pitied. We
certainly see the old proverb very often verified. "That misfortunes
never come singly," that poor little woman is a proof. They talk of a
general war in Europe; in that case _le moulin_ will be an object. We
wait your return to determine all things. The Emperess of Russia is as
successful as I wish her. What a glorious figure will she make on the
historical page! Can you form an idea of a more happy mortal than she
will be when seated on the throne of Constantinople? How her ambition
will be gratified; the opposition and threats of Great Britain, &c.
will increase her triumph. I wish I had wit and importance enough to
write her a congratulatory letter. The ladies should deify her, and
consecrate a temple to her praise. It is a diverting thought, that the
mighty Emperor of the Turks should be subdued by a woman. How enviable
that she alone should be the avenger of her sex's wrongs for so many
ages past. She seems to have awakened Justice, who appears to be a
sleepy dame in the cause of injured innocence.
Am I dreaming, or do you leave home again before you go to
Philadelphia? Tell all your intentions; I love to plan and arrange.
Our blind state here is one of our most vexatious evils; that state of
uncertainty damps every view, and converts our most pleasing hopes
into the most disappointing reflections.
Hy! ho! for the major.  I am tired to death of living in a nursery.
It is very well to be amused with children at an idle hour; but their
interruption at all times is insupportable to a person of common
reflection. My nerves will not admit of it. You judge right as to the
roads on the Neck.
Theodosia is quite recovered, and makes great progress at ciphering. I
cannot say so much in favour of her writing. I really think she lost
the last month she went to Shepherd. She has not improved since last
spring. She is sensible of it, is the reason she is not very desirous
to give you a specimen. We now keep her chiefly at figures, which she
finds very difficult, particularly to proportion them, and place them
straight under each other.
I will conclude my scrawl in the hope that Frederick will be able to
forward it for me. Adieu. Remember to answer all my questions, and to
take all my prayers in serious consideration. Be attentive to your
health, and you will add to the happiness of your
TO MRS. BURR.
Albany, 31st July, 1791.
At length expectation is gratified, and my hopes--even my wishes,
fulfilled. Your letters of the 16th and 23d came both by the last
post. Their ease, their elegance, and, above all, the affection they
contain, are truly engaging and amiable. Be assured that petitions so
clothed and attended are _irresistible_.
I anticipate with increasing impatience the hour of leaving this
place, and am making every possible exertion to advance it. The delay
of two days at Red Hook is indispensable, but will cost me much
I finished on Monday last, tolerably to my own satisfaction, and I
believe entirely to that of my employers, the business so often
mentioned to you. I received in reward for my labour many thanks,
twenty half joes, and promises of more of both of these articles.
The last post is the only one I have missed since I left Esopus. I was
in court upon a trial which gave me not a moment's intermission till
ten o'clock that evening. Though I do not pay you in quality and
manner (for yours are, without flattery, inimitable), I believe I am
nothing in arrear in number or quantity. The present is indeed a poor
return for your two last; but though you miss of the recompense in
this sheet, you will find it in the heart of your
TO MRS. BURR.
Philadelphia, 27th October, 1791.
I have this day received your letter dated Sunday morning. It came,
not by Mr. Sedgwick, but by the post, and was not put into the
postoffice until Tuesday. It was therefore wicked of you not to add a
line of that date. I am surprised to find that you had not received my
letter from Brunswick. The illness I then wrote you of increased the
next day, so that I did not arrive in town until Sunday. I am still at
Miss Roberts's, and unsettled, but hope to be to-morrow in tolerable
winter-quarters. I have had some trouble on that head, as well because
I am difficult to please, as because good accommodations are difficult
I receive many attentions and civilities. Many invitations to dine,
&c. All of which I have declined, and have not eaten a meal except at
my own quarters. You see, therefore, how little amusement you are to
expect. I called at Mrs. L.'s (the elder), but have not seen either
her, or as yet called to see her daughter. I have no news of Brooks,
and am distressed by his delay, having scarcely decent clothes. I
prudently brought a coat, but nothing to wear with it, and the
expectation of Brooks has prevented me from getting any thing here.
Send me a waistcoat, white and brown, such as you designed. You know I
am never pleased except with your taste.
I wrote you the day after my arrival here, but it being past the post
hour, kept it till Tuesday; made a small addition, and gave it to Mat.
to carry to the office. He put it into his coat-pocket (I suppose with
his pocket-handkerchief, which you know be has occasion to flourish
along the street). On the day following, with a face of woe, he told
me he had lost the letter, but had concealed it from me in hopes to
have found it. I hope it may fall into good-natured hands, and so got
eventually into the postoffice. It was short and stupid; unusually so,
which perhaps vexed me the more for the loss. Be assured you have
nothing to regret.
This letter can have nothing to recommend it but good-will and length,
though the latter, without some other merit, ought to condemn it; and
it would, I am sure, with any but you, who will give the best
construction to any thing from your
TO MRS. BURR.
Philadelphia, 30th October, 1791.
I am at length settled in winter-quarters. The house stands about
twenty yards back from the street, and is inhabited by two widows. The
mother about seventy, and the daughter about fifty. The latter,
however, has her home in the country, and comes to town occasionally.
The old lady is deaf, and upon my first coming to take possession of
my lodgings, she with great civility requested that I would never
attempt to speak to her, for fear of injuring my lungs without being
able to make her hear. I shall faithfully obey this injunction. The
house is remarkably quiet, orderly, and is well furnished. They have
never before taken a person to board, and will take no other.
The honour which I have always done to your taste, and which indeed it
merits, ought to have assured you that your advice requires no
apology. I shall adopt your ideas about the wheels. If at the same
time you had caused the commission to be executed, you would have
added civility to good intentions.
Theodosia must not attempt music in the way she was taught last
spring. For the present, let it be wholly omitted. Neither would I
have her renew her dancing till the family are arranged. She can
proceed in her French, and get some teacher to attend her in the house
for writing and arithmetic. She has made no progress in the latter,
and is even ignorant of the rudiments. She was hurried through
different rules without having been able to do a single sum with
accuracy. I would wish her to be also taught geography if a proper
master can be found; but suspend this till the arrival of the major.
It is remarkable I that you should find yourself so soon discouraged
from writing, because you had written one letter before you had
received one. I had written you two before the receipt of your first.
But I shall in future expect two or three for one, as the labour of
business will prevent my writing frequently.
Remember the note to be put in the bank on Wednesday. If Bartow should
not arrive, send Strong for Willet. Adieu.
TO MRS. BURR.
Philadelphia, 14th November, 1791.
I recollect nothing of the letter I wrote to you, and which is
referred to in yours of the 9th. You have no forgiveness to ask or to
receive of me. If it was necessary, you had it even at the moment I
read your letter. You mistake the nature of my emotions. They had
nothing of asperity; but it is useless to explain them. I did it
partially in a letter I wrote soon after that which I sent you in
answer to yours. It was not such a letter as I ought to have written,
or you would have wished to receive; I therefore retained it. In what
way, or to what degree, I am affected by your letter of the 9th, will
not be told until we meet. Be assured, however, that I look forward to
that time with impatience and anticipate it with pleasure. It rests
wholly with you, and your conduct on this occasion will be a better
index to your heart than any thing you can write.
I enclose you a newspaper of this evening, containing a report by Mr.
Jefferson about vacant lands. When you have perused it, send it to
Melancton Smith. Take care, however, to get it back and preserve it,
as it is one of Freneau's. I send you also three of Freneau's papers,
which, with that sent this morning, are all he has published. I wish
them to be preserved. If you find them amusing, you may command them
TO MRS. BURR.
Philadelphia, 14th November, 1791.
I am to-day in much better heart than at any time since I left
New-York. John Watts took me yesterday a long walk, and, though
fatigued, I was not exhausted. He takes every occasion to show me
friendship and attention. I see no reason for your delaying to make a
visit here. The roads are good and the season fine. If you do not
choose to come directly to my lodgings, which are commodious and
retired, I will meet you either at Dr. Edwards's, two miles from the
Red Lion, or at the Red Lion, which is twelve miles from this city.
Your first stage will be to Brunswick, your second Trenton, and your
I expressed myself ill if I led you to believe that I wished any
evidence or criterion of Theodosia's understanding. I desire only to
promote its growth by its application and exercise. Her present
employments have no such tendency, unless arithmetic engages a part of
her attention. Than this, nothing can be more useful, or better
advance the object I have in view. Other studies, promising similar
advantages, must, perhaps, for the reasons you mention, be for the
I hope this weather will relieve you from the most depressing of all
diseases, the influenza. Exercise will not cure, but will prevent the
return of it. I prescribe, however, what I do not practice. You have
often wished for opportunities to read; you now have, and, I hope,
improve them. I should be glad to know how your attention is directed.
Of the success I have no doubt.
To the subject of politics, which composes a part of your letter, I
can at present make no reply. The _mode_ of communication would not
permit, did no other reasons oppose it.
I have no voice, but could undoubtedly have some influence in the
appointment you speak of. For the man, you know I have always
entertained much esteem; but it is here said that he drinks. The
effect of the belief, even of the suspicion of this, could not be
controverted by any exertion or influence of his friends. I had not,
before the receipt of your letter, heard of his wishes on the subject
you mention. The slander, if slander it be, I had heard often and with
TO MISS THEODOSIA BURR. 
Philadelphia, 1st December, 1791.
Enclosed in Bartow's last letter came one which, from the handwriting,
I supposed to be from that great fat fellow, Colonel Troup. Judge of
my pleasure and surprise when I opened and found it was from my dear
little girl. You improve much in your writing. Let your next be in
Why do you neither acknowledge nor answer my last letter? That is not
kind--it is scarcely civil. I beg you will not take a fortnight to
answer this, as you did the other, and did not answer it at last; for
I love to hear from you, and still more to receive your letters. Read
my last letter again, and answer it particularly.
TO MRS. BURR.
Philadelphia, 4th December, 1791.
I fear I have for the present deprived you of the pleasure of reading
Gibbon. If you cannot procure the loan of a London edition, I will
send you that which I have here. In truth, I bought it for you, which
is almost confessing a robbery. Edward Livingston and Richard Harrison
have each a good set, and either would cheerfully oblige you.
To render any reading really amusing or in any degree instructive, you
should never pass a word you do not understand, or the name of a
person or place of which you have not some knowledge. You will say
that attention to such matters is too great an interruption. If so, do
but note them down on paper, and devote an hour particularly to them
when you have finished a chapter or come to a proper pause. After an
experiment of this mode, you will never abandon it. Lempriere's
Dictionary is that of which I spoke to you. Purchase also Macbeau's;
this last is appropriated to ancient theocracy, fiction, and
geography; both of them will be useful in reading Gibbon, and still
more so in reading ancient authors, or of any period of ancient
If you have never read Plutarch's Lives (or even if you have), you
will read them with much pleasure. They are in the City Library, and
probably in many private ones. Beloe's Herodotus will amuse you.
Bartow has it. You had better read the text without the notes; they
are diffuse, and tend to distract the attention. Now and then they
contain some useful explanation. After you have read the author, you
will, I think, with more pleasure read the notes and remarks in course
You expressed a curiosity to peruse Paley's Philosophy of Natural
History. Judge Hobart has it. If you read it, be sure to make yourself
mistress of all the terms. But, if you continue your Gibbon, it will
find you in employment for some days. When you are weary of soaring
with him, and wish to descend into common life, read the Comedies of
Plautus. There is a tolerable translation in the City Library. Such
books give the most lively and amusing, perhaps much the most just
picture, of the manners and degree of refinement of the age in which
they were written. I have agreed with Popham for his share in the City
The reading of one book will invite you to another. I cannot, I fear,
at this distance, advise you successfully; much less can I hope to
assist you in your reading. You bid me be silent as to my
expectations; for the present I obey. Your complaint of your memory,
even if founded in fact, contains nothing discouraging or alarming. I
would not wish you to possess that kind of memory which retains with
accuracy and certainty all names and dates. I never knew it to
accompany much invention or fancy. It is almost the exclusive blessing
of dullness. The mind which perceives clearly adopts and appropriates
an idea, and is thus enlarged and invigorated. It is of little moment
whether the book, the time, or the occasion be recollected.
I am inclined to dilate on these topics, and upon the effects, of
reading and study on the mind; but this would require an essay, and I
have not time to write a letter. I am also much prompted to convince
you, by undeniable proof, that the ground of your complaint does not
exist except in your own apprehensions, but this I reserve for an
interview. When I am informed of your progress, and of the direction
of your taste, I may have something further to recommend.
There is no probability of an adjournment of Congress during the
holydays, or for any longer time than one day. The possibility of my
being able to leave the business of Congress, and make a visit to
New-York, diminishes daily. I wish much to see you, and, if you are
equally sincere, we can accomplish it by meeting at Trenton. I can be
there on Friday night, but with much greater convenience on Saturday
noon or forenoon, and stay till Monday morning at least. Congress
adjourns every week from three o'clock on Friday until eleven o'clock
on Monday following. If, therefore, you write me that you will be at
Trenton at the times above mentioned, you may rely on seeing me there:
I mean at Mrs. Hooper's. This, though very practicable at present,
will not long be so, by reason of the roads, which at present are
good. If you make this trip, your footman must be on horseback; the
burden will be otherwise too great, and I must have timely notice by
letter. Mr. and Mrs. Paterson have invited you to make their house
your home at Brunswick.
Mat. laughs at your compliments, as you know he does at every thing. I
expect Theodosia's messages to be written by herself. I inquire about
your health, but you do not answer me.
TO MRS. BURR.
Philadelphia, December 13th, 1791.
I regret the disappointment of the Trenton visit, but still more the
occasion of it. Are you afflicted with any of your old, or with what
Tell Bartow that I have this evening received his letter by Vining,
who arrived in town last Monday. Beg him never again to write by a
private hand about business when there is a post. After the lapse of
five or six days without an answer, he should have sent a duplicate.
You have herewith the note for 4500 dollars.
I was charmed with your reflections on the books of two of our eminent
characters. You have, in a few words, given a lively portrait of the
men and their works. I could not repress the vanity of showing it to a
friend of _one_ of the authors.
The melancholy news of the disasters of our western army has engrossed
my thoughts for some days past. No public event since the war has
given me equal anxiety. Official accounts were received from General
Sinclair on Sunday. The reports which preceded, and which have
doubtless reached you before this time, had not exaggerated the loss
or the disgrace. No authentic estimate of the number of the killed has
yet been received; I fear it will not be less than eight or nine
hundred. The retreat was marked with precipitation and terror. The men
disencumbered themselves even of their arms and accoutrements. It is
some small consolation to have learned that the troops which fled to
Fort Jefferson have received a supply of provisions, and are secure
from any attack of the savages.
I approve, and hope at some time to execute, your plan of literary
repose. Tell Bartow to send a deed for me to execute to Carpenter,
pursuant to our contract. Pray attend to this; you will see that it
may be a little interesting to me.
TO MRS. BURR.
Philadelphia, 15th December, 1791
The post which arrived this afternoon (Thursday) brought the mail
which left New-York on Tuesday, and with it your sprightly and
engaging letter of the 12th. I thank you for your attention to my
friend, and still more for the pleasure you express at his visit. Your
"nonsense" about Voltaire contains more good sense than all the
strictures I have seen upon his works put together.
Next to your own ideas, those you gave me from Mr. J. were most
acceptable. I wish you would continue to give me any fugitive ideas or
remarks which may occur to you in the course of your reading; and what
you call your rattling way is that of all others which pleases me the
In short, let the way be your own, and it cannot fail to be
acceptable, to please, and to amuse.
I enclose this evening's paper. It contains _Strictures on Publicola_,
which you, perhaps, may find worth reading.
From an attentive perusal of the French Constitution, and a careful
examination of their proceedings, I am a warm admirer of the essential
parts of the plan of government which they have instituted, and of the
talents and disinterestedness of the members of the National Assembly.
TO MRS. BURR.
Philadelphia, 18th December, 1791.
Mr. Learned arrived yesterday with your letter of the 15th. He
appeared pleased with your attentions, which you know gratified me.
I cannot recollect what hint I gave to Major P. which could have
intimated an expectation of seeing you in New-York during the _current
year_; unless, indeed, some of those wishes which I too often cherish
should have escaped me. We shall have no intermission of business
during the holy-days. If I should find it at any time practicable to
absent myself for a few days, it will most probably be about the
middle of next month. You have indeed, in your last letter, placed
yourself before me in the most amiable light; and, without soliciting,
have much more strongly enticed me to a visit. But for the present I
must resist. Will it not be possible for you to meet me at Trenton,
that we may travel together to New-York? If you assent to this, I will
name a day. Yet do not expose your health. On this subject you leave
me still to apprehension and conjecture.
Your account of Madame Genlis surprises me, and is a new evidence of
the necessity of reading books before we put them into the hands of
children. Reputation is indeed a precarious test. I can think at
present of nothing better than what you have chosen.
I am much in want of my maps of the different parts of North America.
It will, I believe, be best to send them all, carefully put up in a
box which must be made for the purpose. You may omit the map of
New-Jersey. The packing will require much care, as many are in sheets.
Ask Major P. for the survey he gave me of the St. Lawrence, of
different parts of Canada, and of other provinces, and send them also
forward. They may be sent by the Amboy stage, taking a receipt, which
transmit to me.
You would excuse the slovenliness, and admire the length of this
scrawl, if you could look into my study, and see the file of
unanswered, and even _un_perused letters; bundles of papers on public
and on private business; all soliciting that preference of attention
which Theodosia knows how to command from her
TO MRS. BURR.
Philadelphia, 27th December, 1791.
What can have exhausted or disturbed you so much? You might surely
have given some hint of the cause. It is an additional reason for
wishing you here. If I had, before I left New-York, sufficiently
reflected on the subject, I would never have consented to this absurd
and irrational mode of life. If you will come with Mr. Monroe, I will
see you to New-York again; and if you have a particular aversion to
the city of Philadelphia, you shall stay a day or two at Dr.
Edwards's, ten miles from town, where I can spend the greater part of
You will perhaps admire that I cannot leave Congress as well as
others. This, if a problem, can only be solved at a personal
You perceive that I have received your letter of the 18th. It was
truly acceptable, and needed no apology. I do not always expect
letters of wit or science; and I beg you will write wholly without
restraint, both as to quantity and manner. If you write little, I
shall be glad to receive it; and if you write more, I shall be still
more glad; but when you find it a troublesome or laborious occupation,
which I have the vanity to hope will never happen, omit it. I take,
and shall continue to use, this freedom on my part; but I am for ever
obliged to put some restraint on myself, for I often sacrifice the
calls of business to the pleasure of writing to you.
27th December, at night.
This evening I am suffering under a severe paroxysm of the headache.
Your letters, received to-night, have tended to beguile the time, and
were at least a temporary relief. I am now sitting with my feet in
warm water, my head wrapped in vinegar, and drinking chamomile tea,
and all hitherto to little purpose. I have no doubt, however, but I
shall be well to-morrow. As I shall not probably sleep till morning,
and shall not rise in season to acknowledge your kind letters, I have
attempted this line. I am charmed with your account of Theodosia. Kiss
her a hundred times for me.
The reports of my style of life are, I should have thought, too
improbable to be related, and much too absurd to gain belief, or even
I have been these three weeks procuring two trifles to send you; but
am at length out of all patience with the stupidity and
procrastination of those employed; especially as the principal article
is a piece of furniture, a personal convenience, which, when done,
will not cost five dollars. The other is something between a map and a
picture. Though they will not arrive at the season I wished, they will
at any season be tokens of the affection of
TO MRS. BURR.
Philadelphia, 2d January, 1792.
My Dear Theodosia,
Mr. Trumbull is good enough to engage to deliver this. You have long
known and admired the brilliancy of his genius and wit; I wish you
also to know the amiable qualities of his heart.
TO MRS. BURR.
Philadelphia, 19th February, 1792.
Yesterday I received your truly affectionate letters; one dated
Thursday evening, the other without date.
You may expect a host of such falsehoods as that about the Indian war.
I have not been offered any command. When the part I take in the bill
on that subject shall be fully known, I am sure it will give entire
satisfaction to my friends.
It will not do for me at present to leave this place. I shall
therefore expect you here; and if you cannot spare the time to come
here, I will meet you either at Princeton or Trenton (preferring the
latter) any evening you shall name. Saturdays and Sundays, you know,
are our holydays. I can with ease be at Trenton at breakfast on
Saturday morning, or even on Friday evening, if thought more eligible.
But I expect this letter will pass you on your way here. My rooms at
No. 130 South Second-street are ready to receive you and Mrs. A., if
she chooses to be of the party. But the tenour of your last induces me
to think that you intend a very short visit, or rather, that you will
come express. Arrange it as you please, provided I see you somewhere
I have a letter from Witbeck of a later date than that by Strong, and
of much more satisfactory tenour. I believe he will not disappoint the
expectations of my friends. He requests that some persons in New-York
may write to him and others in and about Albany, giving an account of
the expectations in Ulster, Dutchess, and the Southern District, and
naming persons who may be corresponded with.
My lodgings are on the right hand as you come. Drive directly up a
white gate between two lamps, and take possession. If I should be out,
the servant will know where, and will find me in a few minutes. Do not
travel with any election partisan (unless an opponent).
TO MISS THEODOSIA BURR.
Albany, 5th August, 1792.
MY DEAR THEO.,
I have received your letter, which is very short, and says not one
word of your mamma's health. You talk of going to Westchester, but do
not say when or how.
Mr. and Mrs. Witbeck and their daughter talk very much about you, and
would be very glad to see you.
See what a letter I have got from little Burr,  and all his own
work too. Before I left home I wrote him a letter requesting him to
tell me what I should bring him; and in answer, he begs me to bring
mamma and you. A pretty present, indeed, that would be!
FROM DR. BENJAMIN RUSH.
Philadelphia, 24th September, 1792.
This letter will be handed to you by Mr. Beckley. He possesses a fund
of information about men and things. The republican ferment continues
to work in our state; and the time, I think, is approaching very fast
when we shall universally reprobate the maxim of sacrificing public
justice and national gratitude to the interested ideas of
stock-jobbers and brokers, whether in or out of the legislature of the
Your friends everywhere look to you to take an active part in removing
the monarchical rubbish of our government. It is time to speak out, or
we are undone. The association in Boston augurs well. Do feed it by a
letter to Mr. Samuel Adams. My letter will serve to introduce you to
him, if enclosed in one from yourself. Mrs. Rush joins me in best
compliments to Mrs. Burr, with
TO MISS THEODOSIA BURR.
Westchester, 8th October, 1792.
--I rose up suddenly from the sofa, and rubbing my head--"What book
shall I buy for her?" said I to myself. "She reads so much and so
rapidly that it is not easy to find proper and amusing French books
for her; and yet I am so flattered with her progress in that language,
that I am resolved that she shall, at all events, be gratified.
Indeed, I owe it to her." So, after walking once or twice briskly
across the floor, I took my hat and sallied out, determined not to
return till I had purchased something. It was not my first attempt. I
went into one bookseller's shop after another. I found plenty of fairy
tales and such nonsense, fit for the generality of children of nine or
ten years old. "These," said I, "will never do. Her understanding
begins to be above such things;" but I could see nothing that I would
offer with pleasure to _an intelligent, well-informed girl of nine
years old_. I began to be discouraged. The hour of dining was come.
"But I will search a little longer." I persevered. At last I found it.
I found the very thing I sought. It is contained in two volumes
octavo, handsomely bound, and with prints and registers. It is a work
of fancy, but replete with instruction and amusement. I must present
it with my own hand.
1. Major Prevost, who was a widower, and whose children were left in
the care of Mrs. Burr while he made a voyage to England.
2. In the ninth year of her age.
3. Nephew of Colonel Burr
The correspondence in the last chapter between Mr. and Mrs. Burr has
been selected and published that the world may judge him as husband
and parent, so far as his letters afford a criterion. As literary
productions they cannot fail to interest and amuse.
On the 8th day of March, 1790, the legislature passed an act
appointing Gerard Bancker, treasurer, Peter Curtenius, auditor, and
Aaron Burr, attorney-general, a board of commissioners to report on
the subject of the various claims against the state for services
rendered, or injuries sustained, during the war of the revolution. The
task was one of great delicacy, and surrounded with difficulties. On
Colonel Burr devolved the duty of making that report. It was performed
in a masterly manner. When presented to the house, notwithstanding its
magnitude, involving claims of every description to an immense amount,
it met with no opposition from any quarter. On the 5th of April, 1792,
the report was ordered to be entered at length on the journals of the
assembly, and formed the basis of all future settlements with public
creditors on account of the war. In it the various claimants are
classified; legal and equitable principles are established, and
applied to each particular class. The report occupies eighteen folio
pages of the journals of the assembly. An extract from it is made, as
justly meriting a place in this work.
The said report is in the words and figures following:----"The
treasurer, the auditor, and the attorney-general, pursuant to the act
entitled _An act to receive and state accounts against this state_,
did forthwith, after the passing of the said act, give such notice of
their appointment and duties, and of the times and places for the
execution thereof, and of the period by the said act limited for
receiving and auditing claims, as is directed by the said act. And do
herewith transmit to the legislature their report upon the accounts
and claims against the state, which have been thereupon exhibited.
"The anxiety of the commissioners to render the execution of this
trust useful and acceptable has occasioned a delay of some weeks; if
their success in this attempt has been in any degree proportioned to
their attention to the subject, it will furnish their excuse; indeed,
when the legislature shall have seen the number, the variety, and
intricacy of the matters which have been submitted to the
consideration of the commissioners, it is hoped that a further apology
will be thought unnecessary.
"The commissioners have endeavoured to reduce these various demands
into classes, in such manner as to present to the legislature, in one
view, all which have appeared to depend on similar principles.
Notwithstanding their utmost attention to this object, they have found
it necessary to report on a considerable number of single cases. As
the authority under which they have acted required of them a state of
facts, together with their opinion thereupon, whenever there was a
want of uniformity either in the facts submitted or in the principles
to be applied in the determination, they have thought that strict
justice could not be done to the merit of the claim without a separate
discussion, though this has tended to lengthen the report beyond what
could have been wished, and to a degree which perhaps may in some
instances be thought prolix, yet the commissioners supposed it of
moment that their investigation should be not only satisfactory to
themselves, but that it should be apparent to the citizens upon whose
claims they have pronounced, that each hath received a distinct
attention, and that demands substantially different from each other
have not been inconsiderately blended. If the perusal of the
proceedings now submitted shall give an impression of this kind, it
will, in the opinion of the commissioners, tend to produce a more
cheerful acquiescence in the determination of the legislature, when
that determination shall reject the demand, and prevent a revival of
claims which shall now be extinguished. The commissioners have thought
that these were desirable objects, and have therefore been cautious of
generalizing, so as to destroy real distinctions, or suppress a fact
even of the lightest importance.
"In order to preserve uniformity in their opinions, the commissioners
have adopted certain principles, from which the hardship of any
particular case hath not induced them to depart. The most general and
important of these are,
"_First_. Where any species of claims is barred by an act of the
legislature, they have considered the act as a bar to their
investigation, farther than to ascertain it to be unquestionably
within the meaning of the law. This principle will be found to extend
to all claims for pay and rations alleged to be due for militia
service; to most of the demands against forfeited estates; to all
claims for property sequestered, when the sequestration was warranted
by the resolutions of the convention and the authority of the
commissioners; to all claims of payment of state agents' notes, and to
some other particular cases, which will appear in the report. In
support of this principle the commissioners have considered, that to
sanction by their opinion the admission of claims against the spirit
and letter of the statute would be an impeachment of the wisdom of
those laws; would be arrogating an authority not exercised by, or
permitted to, any court of law or equity, and would open a door to the
importunate and perhaps least deserving class of citizens, while
others, having similar demands, had withdrawn them from a spirit of
submission to the laws, by which these demands were precluded. The
commissioners have been confirmed in the propriety of their ideas by a
reflection that, if it shall for any reasons seem expedient to the
legislature to repeal or suspend the limitation of these or any of
those statutes, the avenues to redress will at once be open through
the ordinary officers of the state, without farther legislative
interposition; and that the opportunities of recompense would then be
notorious and equal; but that the redress, if any should be obtained
through the medium of the commissioners, would be partial in its
operation, and to the exclusion of those who with equal merits had
acquiesced in the known laws.
"_Second._ In the cases of claims for services done and supplies
furnished during the war, when the demand, though originating under
the authority of this state, is properly against the United States,
the opinion of the commissioners is against the allowance of any
recompense, because those claims should more properly be preferred to
Congress; and for that this state can have no credit with the United
States for payment or assumptions after the 1st day of October, 1788.
"And that, therefore, the claimants having neglected to exhibit their
demands within the period during which this state could without loss
have assumed them, cannot complain if they are now referred to the
proper tribunal. Payments by the state were in such cases, at all
times, of favour, and not of right.
"_Third._ All claims for the subsistence and services of the levies
and militia, or other troops, composing a part of the continental
army, or destined to join the army, and moving to such places of
destination, or under the command or orders of a continental officer,
and all claims for supplies and services beforehand for such troops,
are considered as proper against the United States only, and are
classed accordingly; the commissioners have been led to a more strict
attention to this distinction by the reasons just before mentioned,
and are warranted by the practice of the continental commissioners for
settling accounts, in declaring that such accounts and demands were
proper against the United States.
"Principles of more limited operation, and other remarks, will appear
in those parts of the report to which they apply.
"Explanatory of particular parts, and of the general form of the
report, it may be proper to observe,
"That where the claim or account appears, upon the face of it, to be
evidently against the United States only, or for other reasons
palpably inadmissible, the commissioners have thought it would have
been superfluous to state the proof, and have therefore, in those
cases only, given such abstracts of the claim or account as suffice to
render the exception apparent.
"In giving their opinion, the commissioners have not detailed all the
reasons which led to it, but have given a summary of such as appeared
to them most conclusive; and, as well in this as in stating the facts,
have aimed at as much brevity as appeared to them to consist with
perspicuity. If they shall be found in any instances obscure, a
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