Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Ghost of Aaron Burr

By the time Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton met on an open field to duel the two men had been political and personal enemies for over a decade. 

This fight ended Burr’s political career. After the duel, Burr became very bitter. It is for this reason that many state his ghost still haunts the New York area.

Alexander Hamilton was a Federalist and Aaron Burr was a Republican. These two men first clashed in 1791 when Burr was elected to the U.S. Senate. His opponent was Hamilton’s powerful father-in-law Philip Schuyler. 

Then in 1800, Hamilton wrote a highly critical piece about President John Adams. This piece was meant for private eyes only, but Burr published it. This caused great embarrassment for Hamilton and caused a rift in the Federalist Party.

When Burr and Thomas Jefferson tied in balloting for the presidency Hamilton lobbied Congress aggressively to vote for Jefferson. His campaign had little effect, but Jefferson did emerge the winner. Burr then became the third vice-president. 

By 1804 the feud between these two became violent.

When it became clear that President Jefferson was going to drop Burr from the ticket for his second term in 1804, Burr decided to run for governor of New York. 

Burr turned his back on the Republican Party and ran as an Independent instead. Hamilton waged a campaign to try and convince New York’s Federalists not to support Burr’s bid. But again his campaign failed. Burr’s bid for governor failed as well.

By this point, the two men hated each other. 

In April of 1804, the Albany Register published a letter from Dr. Charles D. Cooper in which he told Philip Schuyler that Hamilton had given a speech where he stated that Burr was “a dangerous man, one who ought not be trusted with the reins of government.” 

Burr in April sent a request to Hamilton asking him if he had actually said this. In a round of heated letters, Hamilton neither denied nor admitted this statement.

Since Burr did not get the apology that he was seeking he challenged Hamilton to a duel. Hamilton had no choice but to accept to save face. 

Duels by this time had been outlawed by the states of New York and New Jersey but Burr for some reason felt his challenge would revive his waning political career. 

The two men faced each other on the morning of July 11th outside Weehawken, New Jersey. Each man fired a shot-- Hamilton hit the ground mortally wounded--he died the next day.

Burr walked away unscathed at least this is what he thought initially. He was charged with murder, he then fled to visit his daughter in South Carolina. * 

Later he returned to Washington to complete his term as vice-president. The charges against him were eventually dropped, but he never again held elective office. 

In 1807 he was charged with treason, he had attempted to create a new country in the center of North America--including the Southwest and parts of Mexico, but he was acquitted. 

Not surprising, Burr is considered one of Americas most controversial Founding Fathers.

Burr’s ghost is seen in several locations. The Morris-Jumel mansion located in northern Manhattan is one of these places. 

In 1833, at the age of 77, Burr married one of America’s wealthiest widows, Eliza Jumel. But it wasn’t long before Eliza realized that her new husband’s land speculation deals were draining her fortune. 

The two separated just four months after they married. Their divorce was finalized on September 11, 1836, the same day that Aaron Burr died. His ghost is only one of several spirits that are seen at the Morris-Jumel home. **

Another area that Burr’s ghost is seen is in New York City’s West Village. Several witnesses have stated that they have observed him wandering through the streets in the Village. One restaurant, located on Barrow Street called One If By Land, Two If By Sea has laid claim to his ghost.

Many accounts state this restaurant is located in what was once Burr’s Carriage House. Actually, this Carriage House wasn’t built until after Burr sold the property. 

Employees over the years have encountered Burr’s ghost in the basement of this structure. It is said he likes to trip people as they walk down the stairs. Several workers have quit after this happened to them.

After the duel, Burr first fled to New Hope, Pennsylvania. It was here he found a safe haven in a private residence. Today this house is known as the Aaron Burr House. Burr’s spirit has been seen in this home, now a Bed and Breakfast, over the years.

*  I wrote another post about the ghost of Aaron Burr’s daughter Theodosia Burr Alston here.

** The Morris-Jumel house has a fascinating history. It is stated that Eliza killed her first husband for his money--her ghost also haunts this mansion. Her story is told here.

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