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The Trial in American Life$
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Robert A. Ferguson

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780226243252

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226243283.001.0001

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The Punishing of Aaron Burr

The Punishing of Aaron Burr

(p.79) Chapter Three The Punishing of Aaron Burr
The Trial in American Life
University of Chicago Press

Unresolved communal anxieties magnify courtroom events, and no trial illustrates this phenomenon better than the first one to capture the national imagination, the trial of Aaron Burr for high misdemeanor and treason in 1807. Held in the Circuit Court of the United States in the District of Virginia, the trial would have been notorious anyway given the personality at the center of it. Burr, fifty-one years old, had been a Revolutionary War hero, a senator of the United States, and, three years before, the country's third vice president. Presiding was John Marshall, U.S. Chief Justice. Around him, arguing the case, were the principal lawyers of the Virginia bar, men with national reputations and connections that allowed Virginia to dominate the executive branch of the federal government for a quarter of a century. An even greater personality loomed just beyond the courtroom. Burr's prime accuser and the man who orchestrated the prosecution was the president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. This chapter discusses the politics of Burr's trial and the related concept of public justice.

Keywords:   Aaron Burr, Civil War, treason, Virginia, John Marshall, public justice, Thomas Jefferson, politics, prosecution

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