On this day in 1807, former Vice President Aaron Burr was arrested for treason. Yes, he is the same Aaron Burr who killed Alexander Hamilton on 1804. Hamilton frequently expressed his contempt of Burr’s character; in retaliation Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel. While it is still debated if Burr meant to kill Hamilton (please see the Pulitzer prize winning book Founding Brothers for more information), Burr fled Washington D.C. to escape the political fall out.
He spent his time in New Orleans and Virgina before contacting U.S. General James Wilkinson. General Wilkinson was a Spanish agent, and the two concocted a plan. Again, these details can be hazy. Their plans range range from an independent republic in the American Southwest to a seizure of Spanish territory for the same purpose. Either way, Burr led a group of well-armed colonists on a march towards New Orleans. U.S. authorities started to investigate, and this is when General Wilkinson turned on his co-conspirator.
Burr was arrested on February 19th 1807. While tried, Burr was not convicted. According to the Constitution his acts were not “overt,” and therefore, technically, not treason. After being acquitted he traveled to Europe for a few years before returning to New York City. And we think modern politicians were bad…