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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;

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984. BURR (Aaron), Relations with Jefferson.—
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984. BURR (Aaron), Relations with Jefferson.—

Colonel Burr, the Vice President,


Page 112
called on me in the evening [January 26th, 1804], having previously asked an opportunity
of conversing with me. He began by recapitulating
summarily, that he had come to New
York a stranger, some years ago; that he
found the country in possession of two rich
families (the Livingstons and Clintons); that
his pursuits were not political, and he meddled
not. When the crisis, however, of 1800 came
on, they found their influence worn out, and
solicited his aid with the people. He lent it
without any views of promotion. That his being
named as a candidate for Vice-President
was unexpected by him. He acceded to it with
a view to promote my fame and advancement,
and from a desire to be with me, whose company
and conversation had always been fascinating
to him. That since, those great families
had become hostile to him, and had excited
the calumnies which I had seen published.
That in this Hamilton had joined, and had even
written some of the pieces against him. That
his attachment to me had been sincere, and was
still unchanged, although many little stories had
been carried to him, and he supposed to me also,
which he despised; but that attachment must
be reciprocal or cease to exist, and, therefore,
he asked if any change had taken place in mine
towards him; that he had chosen to have this
conversation with myself directly, and not
through any intermediate agent. He reminded
me of a letter written to him about the time of
counting the votes (say February, 1801),
mentioning that his election had left a chasm in
my arrangements; that I had lost him from my
list in the Administration, &c. He observed,
he believed it would be for the interest of the
republican cause for him to retire; that a disadvantageous
schism would otherwise take
place; but that were he to retire, it would be
said he shrunk from the public sentence, which
he never would do; that his enemies were using
my name to destroy him, and something was
necessary from me to prevent and deprive
them of that weapon, some mark of favor from
me which would declare to the world that he
retired with my confidence.

I answered by recapitulating to him what had
been my conduct previous to the election of
1800. That I had never interfered directly or
indirectly with my friends or any others, to
influence the election either for him or myself;
that I considered it as my duty to be merely
passive, except that in Virginia, I had taken
some measures to procure for him the unanimous
vote of that State, because I thought any
failure there might be imputed to me. That in
the election now coming on, I was observing
the same conduct, held no councils with anybody
respecting it, nor suffered any one to speak to
me on the subject, believing it my duty to leave
myself to the free discussion of the public,
that I do not at this moment know, nor have
ever heard, who were to be proposed as candidates
for the public choice, except so far as
could be gathered from the newspapers. That
as to the attack excited against him in the
newspapers, I had noticed it but as the passing
wind; that I had seen complaints that Cheetham,
employed in publishing the laws, should
be permitted to eat the public bread and
abuse its second officer; that as to this, the
publishers of the laws were appointed by the
Secretary of State, without any reference to
me; that to make the notice general, it was
often given to one republican and one federal
printer of the same place; that these federal
printers did not in the least intermit their
abuse of me, though receiving emoluments from
the government, and that I never thought it
proper to interfere for myself, and consequently
not in the case of the Vice-President. That as
to the letter he referred to, I remembered it,
and believed he had only mistaken the date at
which it was written; that I thought it must
have been on the first notice of the event of
the election of South Carolina; and that I had
taken that occasion to mention to him, that I
had intended to have proposed to him one of
the great offices, if he had not been elected;
but that his election in giving him a higher station
had deprived me of his aid in the Administration.
The letter alluded to was, in fact,
mine to him of December the 15th, 1800. I
now went on to explain to him verbally, what I
meant by saying I had lost him from my list.
That in General Washington's time, it had been
signified to him that Mr. Adams, the Vice-President,
would be glad of a foreign embassy; that
General Washington mentioned it to me, expressed
his doubts whether Mr. Adams was a
fit character for such an office, and his still
greater doubts, indeed his conviction, that it
would not be justifiable to send away the
person who, in case of his death, was provided
by the Constitution to take his place; that it
would moreover appear indecent for him to be
disposing of the public trusts, in apparently
buying off a competitor for the public favor. I
concurred with him in the opinion, and, if I
recollect rightly, Hamilton, Knox, and Randolph
were consulted and gave the same opinions.
That when Mr. Adams came to the Administration,
in his first interview with me, he mentioned
the necessity of a mission to France,
and how desirable it would have been to him if
he could have got me to undertake it; but that
he conceived it would be wrong in him to send
me away, and assigned the same reasons General
Washington had done; and, therefore, he should
appoint Mr. Madison, &c. That I had myself
contemplated his (Colonel Burr's) appointment
to one of the great offices, in case he was not
elected Vice-President; but that as soon as that
election was known, I saw it could not be done,
for the good reasons which had led General
Washington and Mr. Adams to the same conclusion;
and therefore, in my first letter to
Colonel Burr, after the issue was known, I
had mentioned to him that a chasm in my arrangements
had been produced by this event.
I was thus particular in rectifying the date of
this letter, because it gave me an opportunity
of explaining the grounds on which it was
written, which were, indirectly an answer to
his present hints. He left the matter with me
for consideration, and the conversation was
turned to indifferent subjects. I should here
notice, that Colonel Burr must have thought
that I could swallow strong things in my own
favor, when he founded his acquiescence in
the nomination as Vice-President, to his desire
of promoting my honor, the being with me,
whose company and conversation had always
been fascinating with him, &c.—
The Anas. Washington ed. ix, 204. Ford ed., i, 301.
(Jan. 1804)