Making Sense of the Burr Conspiracy. Presented by James E. Lewis, Jr. Wednesday, October 3, 2018, 5:30 PM, VCU Cabell Library, Room 303

October 3, 2018

One of the most celebrated and controversial trials of the nineteenth century took place in Richmond in 1807. The defendant was Aaron Burr—Revolutionary War hero, slayer of Alexander Hamilton, and former vice president of the United States. The most important of the charges against him was treason. How had Burr come to that point? How had the conflicting rumors and reports of Burr’s sketchy activities in the American west in the two years before his trial produced a sense of crisis in the new nation? Why it did so many Americans fear that their government and country were in jeopardy? This talk highlights the various political and cultural forces that shaped the conspiracy, the broader sense of national crisis, and the dramatic trial that led to a surprising outcome.

James E. Lewis, Jr. is a leading historian of the American Revolution and early American republic, and a member of the faculty of Kalamazoo College in Michigan. He is the author of numerous books, most recently The Burr Conspiracy: Uncovering the Story of an Early American Crisis (Princeton University Press, 2017), as well as histories of John Quincy Adams, the Louisiana Purchase, the diplomatic history of the United States and the Spanish Empire, the fraught “Revolution of 1800” in the electoral hijinks between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, and many other subjects; two of his previous books have been named Choice Outstanding Academic Books.

The Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Virginia funds this annual lecture. The national organization was founded in 1783 by a group of Revolutionary officers, with George Washington as its first president.