The Aaron Burr Treason Trial

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Considered more of a personal vendetta then a legitimate case, the Aaron Burr Treason Trial cultivated how judges and lawmakers defined treason based on the Constitution and what executive power the president has when a part of law case that still hold true in America today. Before being tried for treason, Burr was the vice president in the first Jefferson Administration and he killed his rival Alexander Hamilton in a duel that ultimately destroyed any chance of Burr continuing in politics. As a result, Burr started to accumulate men and supplies as he led expeditions out West near Spanish territories to start anew and rebuild his name. However, because his intentions were made unclear and one of his co-conspirators, General Wilkinson, was attempting to save his own skin, he turned on Burr and reported him to President Jefferson for committing treason or levying against the United States by conspiring “to establish a separate confederacy composed of Western states and territories.” Immediately after receiving the decoded cipher from Wilkinson, Jefferson issued a proclamation of conspiracy and Wilkinson declared martial law and collected suspects and witness that could be used against Burr, such as Erick Bollman and Samuel Swartwout. Both were held in custody, and in fear that the Supreme Court would let Burr’s associates free; Jefferson had Senator William Branch Giles of Virginia propose a bill to suspend the suspend the constitutional right of habeas corpus for three months. While passed quickly in Senate, it was rejected in the House. As one of the founding fathers and writer of the Declaration of Independence, it seemed out of character for Jefferson to disregard both law and logic in regards to Burr’s case. His atte... ... middle of paper ... ...in camera, would make the final decision as to whether they should be turned over.” Burr’s trial set the standard that in a checks and balances system, the president is not above the law and must abide by the court. The Aaron Burr Treason Trial was one of the cases that helped set precedent on how the judicial and executive branch interactive. While there was much tension between Jefferson and the judicial branch, judges, such as Marshall, attempted to be as fair and true to the law as possible even in the face of attempted impeachment. The Burr trial also enforced that the Constitution defines treason narrowly, and indictments must prove that the accused is actively levying war or working with the enemy. Although American law was still fumbling its way through during the Jeffersonian era, cases like the Burr trial are what helped mold the law to what it is today.

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