The Pursuit of Aaron Burr and the Judiciary
By Joseph Wheelan
(Carroll & Graf, Hardcover, 9780786714377, 336pp.)
Publication Date: February 1, 2005
List Price: $26.00*
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Generations of Americans have known Thomas Jefferson as one of our unambiguously great presidents, a man of honor and optimism unencumbered by pettiness and spite; and so they have known Aaron Burr, his greatest adversary, as a traitorous would-be destroyer of that distinguished legacy. In Jefferson’s Vendetta, Joseph Wheelan examines one of the eminent political rivalries in our history, set against the backdrop of postcolonial Virginia, and discovers a truth vastly different from what is taught in high schools and universities. Here is Burr, the flawed but gifted politician who made powerful enemies because his charm and skill rivaled Jefferson’s own, and who trusted the fairness of American democracy too deeply to rebut the wild criticisms aimed at him by slanderers in the U.S. government. Supreme Court chief justice John Marshall is also presented, who knew that he and his weakened federal judiciary could be redeemed by a few shrewdly considered words—or condemned by miscalculated ones—during America’s first “trial of the century.” Lastly, in vivid detail, is Jefferson, whose obsessive crusade to destroy Burr was undone by one mammoth but historically overlooked miscalculation. Eight pages of illustrations are featured in this detailed account of an historic reversal of roles.