A Patriot's Legacy Gone Wrong
by Andrea Stout-Moran
A Patriot's Legacy Gone Wrong
by Andrea Stout-Moran
Canto I The Glove
With his pale face flushed and his bold jaw taut,
The enraged statesman Burr, the room did cross,
And before the slandering aggressor
Burr heatedly stood and stared at this cur.
The livid man of a towering five foot and six.
Panted with rage, on dueling his mind fixed.
Fiercely raising his arm, high in the air
He stood poised, Hamilton without a pra'er.
-- I now address those faint of heart,
Before I continue, you might depart --
Down, came the fist, clutching that bold white glove!
It whipped the poor Ham, and could have drawn blood!
The challenge was offered -- both men unnerved.
The article, its purpose being served,
Fluttered down to the floor, and waited,
As Burr spoke of how he'd been baited.
As what Ham accepted, would be his bane.
For now the glove had been raised yet again.
Finding itself back in the possession
Of Burr, the duel was now in progression.
(A note to my reader, be not mistook --
This canto by my mind was cooked
None seem to know what truly occurred
But that a formal challenge was offered.)
Canto II The Duel
That cold morning in the mid of July
Hudson was crossed to Weehawken Isle
By five men in two boats, prepared to fight.
...But keep it hush hush -- they hadn't the right.
Though 'twas coercion that moved Hamilton,
'Twas too late to halt what had now begun.
The second of Ham, was judge Pendleton
And when they drew lots, it was he who won.
With this bit of luck, he chose where and when
Perhaps 'twas all in Ham's favor again!
Sadly no, as we must never forget.
He stood on that ledge, his mind long dead set.
Ham, oh, poor Ham, in the ground would soon lie!
Yet the poor silly sap wished that none die!
Written the night before, was Ham's decision,
To throw away fire, his intention,
And Burr, unaware, remained embittered.
Thus he did shoot to kill, when given word.
'Twas heard "BANG! BANG!" as they fired their rounds
Ham faced death with those despicable sounds.
Two bullets found, one in a leafy scion
One clump of lead, though, now lodged in Ham's spine.
Held in the arms of his dear Pendleton,
Who called "Doctor!" in hopes death had not won.
As Hosack observed the sad, haunting, gore,
Gasped Ham: "This is a mortal wound, Doctor."
And with that one last panting heave done,
They did witness the end of Hamilton.
And heavy hearted, carried the pulseless man
When suddenly, was it the ghost of Ham?!
Oh... Nay... 'Twas simply Ham -- heart beating 'gain.
Being quite frail, to speak he must have strained.
Said he: "Take care of that pistol; it is ... still cocked"
And as they crossed Hudson they all talked.
To those who this give hope, 'tis now derailed
See, within one day his heart once again failed.
A solemn statement issued to the press
From the seconds -- Pendleton and VanNess.
'Twas an announcement containing the tale
Of Burr's quenched desire and how Ham failed,
Of the strictures they had followed that morn'
And the blend cedar and Ham's round formed
Accused of murder, Burr would now flee
From both New York and his home, New Jersey.
'Twas with this event, one must indeed agree,
The infamous Burr earned his legacy.
Canto III The Deserter
South Carolina, home of his Daughter,
Kind Theodosia now hosted Burr.
Burr would return to D.C. soon after.
His end came "not with a bang, but a whimper"
And so the shunned ex-Vice President
Now packed his bags as to the West he went.
Of what happened next, we cannot be sure
For 'twas the subject of many rumors.
Said Burr: I plan a grand expedition,
Said foes: Nay, he plans a grand secession!
For these two theories, two ideas clear:
To take Mexico was his new career,
And all else being merely a façade
Or to steal the west, the plan of a cod.
Even George Morgan, Burr's dear old close friend,
Feared he meant to force the Union to end.
And Merry, a British ambassador,
Wrote to London, of what Burr asked for:
Funds to effect western separation!
Though we must note, for he had just begun,
We do not know if 'twas all a fat fib --
If plans for Mexico were to soon jib.
Whatever the case, people did not trust
There was no thing on Burr's mind but land lust.
Jefferson received many a report
Of the dealings of Burr he ought to thwart.
Of this proposal do not be too fond
For all too many were signed as Anon
Jefferson, however remained outraged
With Burr's actions and what he may of arranged.
He, unlike Marshall, placed ev'ry confidence
In the anonymous correspondence.
Though the scripts were not all so devious.
From Gen Wilkinson was proof copious
In the mind of Jeff., who had been restrained
In assumptions based epistles thus far.
Now, he had begun credit the bizarre.
And so did he write to the congress at large,
On thoughts that Burr of the west did take charge.
The general opinion of people,
Was now that Burr was most contemptible.
Though 'tis essential to see neutrally.
Who was left to look but abusively?
Federalists, he had defied to oft',
(Burr not being a man who's thoughts spoke soft.)
Democrats still begrudged him his mulish stunt
Where he'd refused to yield to Jefferson.
In the election of eighteen-hundred
When it took Ham to get to the courts' head.
It had been a tie for presidency,
And Burr would not relent candidacy.
In this we see quite an obvious sign,
That Burr's actions to himself were malign.
Though even in this, we find legacy --
The twelfth amendment sprouts so readily.
Canto IV The Arrest
Aaron Burr, ever the opportunist,
Had bought a pathway to rouse colonists --
The acreage was bought from the Spanish
With intent to gain all Spain relinquished
Whether by force, conforming with the plan,
That scheme, for Mexico, which he began,
Or through drawn and grueling payment
To procure Mexico, still as he meant.
An associate through the arrangement,
Burr'd pegged Wilkinson, which he would repent.
Wilkinson -- coward and mole that he was
To protect his extremity gave cause
For both Jefferson and the Spanish state
With Aaron Burr to be quite irate.
While one may wish this to prove him noble,
I assure you, his purse was quite stable.
That summer of eighteen hundred and six
Their boats and schemes Jefferson would transfix
Not once, nor twice, but three times halted!
At Lexington, by Clay extricated;
At Adams, the folk by bias enraged
At Alabama encased in a cage
Er ... after several attempts to decamp.
But the last arrest Burr could not revamp.
Arrested by a young man named Toulmin,
Who was a minister to Great Britain,
In Virginia he found himself then,
It became clear Burr was snared yet again.
Though he would claim this was without reason
Burr was anon arrested for treason.
Others would note, had it not been for Jeff,
Burr, to his devices, might have been left.
The only error in such assumptions,
Is that unknown are now Burr's intentions.
Canto V Trial for Treason
The United States versus Aaron Burr
'tis a noted case to which I refer.
Left behind a federal legacy
That of both Burr and Judge Marshall jointly.
Previous to Burr being accused
Treason's meaning was not yet decided.
Even though the branches slowly struggled
The government joined for the road ahead.
Jefferson, uneasy at first and slow,
Marshall feared him to be in-apropos.
While he did provide the mole's document
'Twas but a copy, of no real content.
The witnesses, one bribed, one a drunkard
Meant things for Prosecutor Hay were quite hard.
Marshall, cautious, knew the verdict's purport.
Concerned, he formed laws for common support:
One must commit a direct act of war;
There must be two witnesses if not more.
Of the three called as witness to the stand:
Morgan was denied-- Burr had been jocund
When he'd been at George Morgan's home to dine.
As for Eaton, the state had paid off his fines,
When he offered the knowledge he had gained.
And lastly, it came down to Wilkinson
With the "truths" he offered, he was undone:
A letter was coded, called a "copy"
'Twas in Wilks' pen, evidence was shoddy.
And he, a man of no shame, a Spanish spy;
'Twas hard to discern if all was not lies.
When given a chance to speak for himself,
Burr spoke of acting for the country's wealth,
Fears brought on for no reason but Wilk's
Desire to profit from great panics.
Explaining his fleeing did not mean guilt,
Only belief that other's trust would wilt
As they heard Jefferson's claims against him.
Noting prosecutor's case was slim,
Burr also complained of his mistreatment.
While time with military captors spent.
As time has passed, it seems not much has changed.
For such great mistreatment is still arranged.
This story no worse than Guantanamo,
And Burr, much more quickly was he let go.
Few were sure that these prisoners deserved,
But for Cheney, who’s judgment had not swerved.
But still, actions of Burr took their affect,
Those Civil Liberties some did protect.
They, like Marshall, questioned treason’s meaning.
Then on Obama they were a-leaning.
Until the politician relented --
Grounds for closing Gitmo were presented.
'Twas Burr's actions that made his legacy,
Without effort, only wished to be free.
But they set precedent for the future,
Whether he explored or was a traitor.
Canto VI: Beneath the Gossip
In his noble actions Burr was humble,
Perhaps why is prestige did crumble.
But to those called him family, friend,
Burr, with compassion always did defend.
And for the Fairfields, impoverished,
In Boston they fought financial anguish.
Their children were with their grandmother
In a cold New York winter they hungered.
Burr, having heard the sad, poignant tale
Could not bare but for his efforts to avail.
So he sold his gold watch for the children
And through the cold winter they did fend.
His daughter, from him, gained education,
Known for her wit throughout the nation.
In the arts and foreign language immersed,
Theodosia was an esteemed Burr.
With his daughter's education we see,
Burr's intent that all women should be free.
A follower of Mary Wollstonecraft,
Burr supported women where others laughed.
With education, his aims did not end,
But also their rights he hoped to amend.
When elected into New York's Senate,
A Bill for their suffrage he did submit.
Canto VII: The Deathbed
Guilty or not, forever shunned was he,
No longer wanted by society.
He outlived his loved ones, they passed on
Even the daughter he'd doted upon.
On his deathbed he lay, eight decades old
And told the side that had never been told:
He denied ever wishing to destroy
This union of states -- it was all a ploy.
Perhaps an expansionist at his core,
His only wish steal Mexico before.
Perhaps these were the words of such a man
Weary of being cursed throughout the land.
A complex man was the Vice President
Abhorred by Jeff, and on his way he went.
So many titles had he earned by then,
Traitor, expansionist, father, soldier, friend
Radical, Lawyer and man all along.
Is this the tale of a Patriot gone wrong?
We never may know, but can still ponder:
Who was the true Aaron Burr, I wonder?