A-Z of Aaron Burr Treason Trial

The trial of Aaron Burr for treason in 1807 has few rivals in American history for
dramatic appeal and for its colorful cast of characters. The accused traitor had been
Vice President during the fi rst administration of Thomas Jefferson. In the summer
of 1804, Burr killed his rival Alexander Hamilton in a duel, an event that effectively
ended Burr’s career in national politics. Three years later, he was on trial, charged
with the capital crime of treason by the government headed by Jefferson, his former
partner in political offi ce. Presiding over the trial was John Marshall, Chief Justice
of the United States, the President’s distant cousin and political foe. Finally, there
was James Wilkinson, general of the army, once Burr’s associate and at trial his chief
accuser. With these principal players, the trial in the U.S. Circuit Court at Richmond
was as much high political and personal drama as it was a judicial proceeding.

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