American Emperor by David O. Stewart
Hardcover edition of American Emperor is Like New condition
“Talk about a page turner! David O. Stewart has written a riveting account of Aaron Burr's swashbuckling adventures in the American West.”
—Douglas Brinkley, author of The Wilderness Warrior, Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America
"A fresh, vivid exploration of the exploits and trial of Aaron Burr (1756–1836), the most notorious figure of the early American republic. . . Stewart works the miracle of making even early-19th-century legal opinions and argument accessible and vital to modern readers. Two parts adventure story and one part courtroom thriller, Burr’s saga unfolds in “a North America of possibilities, not certainties,” . . . The author . . . lays out this complicated story with admirable clarity, while also explaining the long-term significance of its outcome for individual rights, the judiciary and the stability of the young nation. A persuasive, engaging examination."
—Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2011) (STARRED REVIEW)
"True rogues are more common in fiction than in life . . . . It's easier to invent such a person than to be one. Aaron Burr managed it, and David Stewart explains how. . . . Stewart does a fine job of conveying the restlessness, resentment and unmoored fancies that prevailed among the men who had gone west to make their fortune while France, England and Spain continued to jockey for position in the New World. American Emperor delivers a colorful narrative of the schemes that carried Burr from one reckless venture to the next."
—Joyce Appleby, Washington Post, December 18, 2011
This vivid biography portrays Aaron Burr, the third vice president, as a daring and perhaps deluded figure who shook the nation’s foundations in its earliest, most vulnerable decades.
In 1805, the United States was not twenty years old, a largely unformed infant. The government consisted of a few hundred people. The immense frontier swallowed up a tiny army of 3,300 soldiers. Following the Louisiana Purchase, no one even knew where the nation’s western border lay. Secessionist sentiment flared in New England and beyond the Appalachians.
Burr had challenged Jefferson, his own running mate, in the presidential election of 1800. Indicted for murder in the dueling death of Alexander Hamilton in 1804, he dreamt huge dreams. He imagined an insurrection in New Orleans, a private invasion of Spanish Mexico and Florida, and a great empire rising on the Gulf of Mexico, which would swell when America’s Western lands seceded from the Union. For two years, Burr pursued this audacious dream, enlisting support from the General-in-Chief of the Army, a paid agent of the Spanish king, and from other Western leaders, including Andrew Jackson. When the army chief double-crossed Burr, Jefferson finally roused himself and ordered Burr prosecuted for treason.
The trial featured the nation’s finest lawyers before the greatest judge in our history, Chief Justice John Marshall, Jefferson’s distant cousin and determined adversary. The case became a contest over the nation’s identity: Should individual rights be sacrificed to punish a political apostate who challenged the nation’s very existence? In a revealing reversal of political philosophies, Jefferson championed government power over individual rights, while Marshall shielded the nation’s most notorious defendant. By concealing evidence, appealing to the rule of law, and exploiting the weaknesses of the government’s case, Burr won his freedom.
Afterwards Burr left for Europe to pursue an equally outrageous scheme to liberate Spain’s American colonies. Finding no European sponsor during four nomadic years, he returned to America and lived to an unrepentant old age.
American Emperor’s vivid account of Burr’s tumultuous life offers a rare and eye-opening description of the brand new nation struggling to define itself.