American Emperor

Aaron Burr's Challenge to Jefferson's America


Chapter 1: The Dark star of the Founding

In early 1800, at the dawn of a new century, Aaron Burr was on every short list of men who could become president of the United States. He was the most prominent northern leader of the republican party, which was poised to win the national elections that fall. As an emerging political star, he seemed fated to shape the infant republic as it struggled for its place in a world of warring monarchies and despotisms.

Burr had reached this extraordinarily favorable position by measured steps. From an early age, Burr preferred to advance on his own careful terms, beholden to no one. He had been just old enough to join the fight for independence from Britain.  In 1776, when the Continental Congress issued the Declaration of Independence, the twenty-year-old Burr served as a lieutenant colonel in the Continental Army.  When General George Washington picked him as a personal aide, Burr swiftly lateraled into another assignment, out from under the great man’s shadow.  When the Constitutional Convention met in 1787 to create a new government, Burr avoided the highly charged debates, building his New York law practice and local political standing.  When the new Congress convened in 1789 and George Washington assembled the first government under the Constitution, Burr served in the New York State government. Yet by 1800, Burr was a leading contender for the highest national offices.  Read Complete Excerpt (PDF)