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Publisher's Summary

In 1805 and 1806, Aaron Burr, former vice president of the newly formed American republic, traveled through the Trans-Appalachian West gathering support for a mysterious enterprise, for which he was arrested and tried for treason in 1807. This book explores the political and cultural forces that shaped how Americans made sense of the uncertain rumors and reports about Burr's intentions and movements, and examines what the resulting crisis reveals about their anxieties concerning the new nation's fragile union and uncertain republic.
Burr was said to have enticed some people with plans to liberate Spanish Mexico, others with promises of land in the Orleans Territory, still others with talk of building a new empire beyond the Appalachian Mountains. The Burr Conspiracy was a cause célèbre of the early republic - with Burr cast as the chief villain of the Founding Fathers - even as the evidence against him was vague and conflicting. Rather than trying to discover the real intentions of Burr or his accusers - Thomas Jefferson foremost among them - James E. Lewis Jr. looks at how differing understandings of the Burr Conspiracy were shaped by everything from partisan politics and biased newspapers to notions of honor and gentility.
©2017 Princeton University Press (P)2017 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By D. Littman on 11-24-17

an unusual, fascinating history book

This is more a work of historiography than history, or a mixture of the two, but that shouldn't scare the reader away. No one really knows what Aaron Burr was up to in those few years after the duel with Hamilton and his trial for treason during the second term of the Jefferson Administration. provides us with all of the scattered surviving "evidence," primary & secondary, as well as interpretations of what angle the producers of that evidence might have been taking. Along the way, Lewis provides a fascinating window on early 19th century United States, its journalism, its mails, its military, the conflict between the president & the Supreme Court as seen in the Burr trial. So you shouldn't be disappointed that Lewis, too, does not provide the definitive answer to the mystery. And in the end, it doesn't matter. The book has a great narrative drive, and the narrator is terrific.

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By Mickey on 11-15-17

A complete misnomer

The author states in the introduction that he will not retell the story of the Burr Conspiracy, but will focus instead on communication around that time. And that's what he does in pedantic over-explanatory detail. There is no context to what Burr did or didn't do, no background on any if the people mentioned, and nothing even resembling a structure.

I would say this book is aimed at academics rather than the general population, but I'm not sure that is even the case. It reads more like someone's collected notes for background on a book they intend to write, not a finished work.

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