| This Country of Ours|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Stories from the history of the United States beginning with a full account of exploration and settlement and ending with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The 99 chapters are grouped under 7 headings: Stories of Explorers and Pioneers, Stories of Virginia, Stories of New England, Stories of the Middle and Southern Colonies, Stories of the French in America, Stories of the Struggle for Liberty, and Stories of the United States under the Constitution. Ages 10-14 |
JEFFERSON—ABOUT AN AMERICAN WHO WANTED TO BE A KING
 WHEN Jefferson had been chosen President, another man named Aaron
Burr had run him very close. And when the final choice fell on
Jefferson Aaron Burr became Vice-President. He was much disappointed
at not becoming President, and a few years later he tried to be
elected Governor of New York. But again, someone else was chosen,
and Burr was again very much disappointed, and he began to blame
Alexander Hamilton, who for many years had been his constant rival,
for all his failure. So he challenged Hamilton to fight a duel.
In those days duels were still common, for people had not come to
see that they were both wicked and foolish. Hamilton did not want
to fight, but he knew people would call him coward if he did not.
He was not brave enough to stand that. So he fought.
Early one July morning the two men met. Burr took steady
aim and fired, Hamilton, firing wildly into the air, fell forward
Hamilton had been selfish and autocratic, and many people disliked
him. Now when they heard of his death, they forgot that. They only
remembered how much the nation owed to the man who had put their
money matters right. The whole country rose in anger against Burr,
and called him a murderer.
Seeing the outcry against him becoming so great Burr fled
Philadelphia. But even there, people looked at him askance, so he
decided to go for a tour in the West.
His travels took him to Marietta, Ohio, the little town which had
been founded by Rufus Putnam; then to Cincinnati and Louisville,
and so southward till he reached New Orleans.
There he began to have secret meetings with all the chief men, for
Burr was now full of a great idea.
He had failed to get into power in the United States, and his
failure had made him bitter. He had killed the man who, he thought,
was his greatest enemy. And that, instead of helping him, had caused
the people to cast him out altogether. Now he determined to own
an empire for himself, and have nothing more to do with the United
States. He had in fact made up his mind to divide the West from
the East, and make himself Emperor of the West under the title of
Aaron I. The Empire was to be kept in the family, and his beautiful
daughter Theodosia was to be Queen after him; but it was gravely
debated whether her husband could take the title of King or not.
The mad scheme grew daily. Burr's plan was suddenly to seize both
President and Vice-President. Then having the heads of government
in his power he would next lay hands on the public money and
the navy. He would take what ships he wanted, burn the rest, and,
sailing to New Orleans, he would proclaim his empire. But Burr dare
not let every one know his real intentions, and so he gave out that
he meant to lead an expedition against Mexico.
As time went on hundreds of people knew of his conspiracy. It was
talked of everywhere. But Jefferson paid no heed. He did not believe
that Burr meant any treason against the Union. So the conspirators
went on building boats, and arming men, undisturbed.
But things did not go so smoothly as Burr had hoped. He had expected
to get help from Britain, and he got none.
 He had expected help
from Spain, and he got none. Still he went on with his scheming. He
had even written out his Declaration of Independence it was said,
when suddenly the end came. One of Burr's friends betrayed him and
at length President Jefferson woke up to what was going on.
At once he issued a proclamation declaring that a conspiracy against
Spain was being carried on, and commanding all officers of the
United States to seize the persons engaged in the plot. No name
was mentioned in the proclamation, but Burr knew his plot was
discovered. Once more he had failed; and he fled. He changed clothes
with a boatman on the Mississippi, and vanished into the forest.
For a month no one knew where he was, for beneath the battered white
felt and homespun clothes of a river boatman no one recognised the
Meanwhile Burr was slowly making his way east hoping to reach the
coast, and get away in some ship. He had still many friends, and
one night he stopped at a cottage to ask his way to the house of
one of these friends. In the cottage were two young men. One of
them, named Perkins, looked keenly at the stranger. It seemed to
him that his face and clothes were not in keeping, and his boots
looked too smart for the rest of his get up.
After the stranger had gone he still thought about it. Then suddenly
he said, "That was Aaron Burr. Let us go after him and arrest him."
The other man, however, laughed at him, and refused to stir. So
Perkins went off alone to find the sheriff, and soon the two were
riding posthaste after the stranger.
When they reached the house to which Burr had asked the way
Perkins stayed outside with the horses, and the sheriff went into
the house. He was going to arrest a bold bad man, and it would be
a great feather in his cap. So in he marched feeling very firm and
grand, expecting to find a terrible ruffian of a fellow. But instead
terri-  ble ruffian the sheriff found a pleasant, delightful
gentleman, and a brilliant talker. So the poor sheriff's heart
failed him. He really could not arrest this charming gentleman,
and instead he stayed to hear him talk.
Meanwhile out in the cold Perkins waited with the horses, and as
the hours went past and the sheriff did not return he guessed what
had happened. But he was not going to be done out of his capture.
So he went off to the captain of the fort, and told him of his
discovery. The captain was not so easily charmed as the sheriff,
and before the next evening Burr found himself a prisoner in the
There he remained for about three weeks; then he was sent to
Richmond, Virginia, to be tried.
It was a journey of about a thousand miles, and in those days
there were of course no railways and even few roads. A great part
of the way led through pathless forest and wilderness, and the whole
journey had to be done on horseback. But Perkins undertook to see
the thing through, and with a guard of nine men they set off.
It was a toilsome march. They had to carry food with them, and as
often as not had to sleep in the open air. They swam their horses
over rivers, and picked their way through swamps, while hostile
Indians hung about their track. Every day was the same, but still
day after day they pushed on.
Once Burr tried to escape. They were riding through a small town in
South Carolina where he knew that he had many friends. So suddenly
he leapt from his horse crying out, "I am Aaron Burr, a prisoner.
I claim your protection."
But as quick as lightning Perkins was off his horse too, and with
a pistol in either hand he stood before Burr.
"Mount," he said; "get up."
The two men glared at each other.
 "I will not," replied Burr defiantly, heedless of the pistols.
Perkins had no wish to shed blood. Burr was not a very big man.
For an instant Perkins measured him with his eye. Then throwing
his pistols down, without a word he seized his prisoner, and lifted
him into his saddle, as if he had been a child. And almost before
the townspeople had realised what had happened the company was well
on its way again.
The trial was long and exciting. Most people believed Burr guilty
of treason, but it was difficult to prove. So in the end he was
The American people, however, would have nothing more to do with
him. The law might say he was innocent, but nevertheless they
felt he was a traitor. So he was hunted and hounded from place to
place, and at length changing his name he slipped on board a ship
and sailed for Europe.
But even there he found no peace. He was turned out of England,
and looked upon with suspicion in France. He was often penniless
and in want, and after four years of unhappy wandering he returned
He found that he and his misdeeds were well nigh forgotten. No one
took any notice of him. So taking no more part in public life he
quietly settled down in New York.
Under all the blows of fortune Burr never bowed his head. For
although every one else might think him a traitor his beautiful
daughter Theodosia believed in him and loved him. He as passionately
loved her, and in all his wanderings he carried her portrait with
But now the worst misfortunes of his life overtook him. For a few
weeks after he landed in America Theodosia wrote to tell him that
her little boy had died. This was a great grief to Burr, for he
loved his grandson only a little less than his daughter.
 The worst was still to come, however. Theodosia set out from Carolina
to visit her father. But the ship in which she sailed never came
to port. It was never heard of again, and all on board were lost.
Now at length Burr's head was bowed. Life held nothing more for
him, and he cared no longer to live. But death passed him by. So
for more than twenty years he lived, a lonely forsaken old man. He
was eighty years old when he died.
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