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The Treason Trial Of Aaron Burr

970 words - 4 pages

In the months between and including May and September, in 1807, Aaron Burr was tried by the Supreme Court in Virginia on the count of treason against the United States. During the period of 1804 to 1807, Burr allegedly committed several overt acts, which are actions, that may be innocent in themselves, but in combination with the intentions and results of that act, become criminal actions. The trial was about treason, which the Constitution defines as "levying war against [the United States], or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid or comfort," (Art. III, Sect. 3) and the prosecution must prove that Burr committed the overt act with the testimony of two witnesses, for the treason conviction to stand. In this trial, Burr's actions outside of the state of Virginia have no bearing on the overt act of assembling troops to levy war against the United States, and therefore the majority of his admissible actions occurred on Blennerhasset's Island in Virginia. (Doc 108) Although the prosecution made a strong case for Burr's guilt, the differentiation between his intentions and his actions, his background as an American patriot and the lack of concrete evidence, one must conclude that Aaron Burr is not guilty of treason. He perhaps was even the victim of a larger governmental conspiracy to rid him of all prestige, honor and legacy.The prosecution tried to prove that Burr used his power to assemble an army of men to conquer New Orleans, then Mexico and eventually found a new nation composed of the Western American states and Mexico. The fault in their argument is that his actions do not necessarily point directly towards this conclusion. It is true that Burr wrote letters and even discussed a new war with Spain and the formation of a new nation, but this does not constitute treason for "individuals may meet together and traitorously determine to make dispositions to bring forces into the field, and levy war against their country; this is a conspiracy, but not treason." (Doc 108) Therefore, even if Burr intended to eventually enact his plan, the simple act of planning it does not constitute treason. But even the true intentions of Burr remain unclear, for he had recently purchased 400,000 acres of land in the Western states and perhaps he assembled these men to settle it. (Doc 33) His actions of enlisting men, arming them and supplying them does not constitute treason because the overt act remains innocent without confirmation of intent to harm the United States.The case against Aaron Burr made him out to be an evil, anti-American who wanted nothing but personal power. In actuality Burr was something of a patriot, a loyal believer in democratic society and politics. Before his trial for treason, Burr was a Revolutionary colonel, a New York politician and finally the Vice President of the United States. Now how...

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