The Treason Trial of Aaron Burr
This work covers a landmark case in American constitutional history, one in which Aaron Burr, an ex-vice president, was accused by President Jefferson of treason – specifically, of plotting to separate the Western states from the Union. In 1806-07, the law of a young nation was still being created, and eloquent lawyers on both sides were primed for the task. In this eminently readable book, Newmyer lays out the bedrock ideological issues at stake: the US definition of treason, the rights of criminal defendants, and the meaning of “separation of powers.” And you can’t beat the high drama of a courtroom filled with fiery, combative attorneys arguing a death penalty case, or the all-star cast. There was the father of machine politics, Burr, and his antagonist, President Jefferson, who appears here in an inglorious passage as vindictive, paranoid and not averse to illegal action by the executive branch. The third major player was John Marshall, early in his career at the Supreme Court, but already a learned yeoman judge who would honorably begin the heavy lifting of sorting out what we refer to as “the intent of the Founders.” Written by a noted Constitutional scholar; recommended.