Jefferson's Vendetta: The Pursuit of Aaron Burr and the Judiciary

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9780786714377: Jefferson's Vendetta: The Pursuit of Aaron Burr and the Judiciary

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.

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About the Author:

Joseph Wheelan, a graduate of the University of Wyoming and University of Colorado, Denver, was for twenty-six years an editor and reporter for the Associated Press and the Casper Star-Tribune (Wyoming). Author of Jefferson's War, also available from Carroll & Graf, he lives in North Carolina with his wife, Pat.

From Publishers Weekly:

Thomas Jefferson is depicted here as a venal and vindictive opportunist who, during his second term as president, attempted to abuse the federal judicial system to persecute his one-time vice-president and chief political rival, Aaron Burr. Conversely, Wheelan, a former editor and reporter with the AP, renders Burr as a complex, flawed politico who stood in the dock charged, excessively, with treason after a misguided attempt to conquer Spain's holdings in North America and establish a rival American republic. The man Wheelan shows running interference between these two founding lions is the only true hero in the narrative: Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall. Partisans for either Jefferson or Burr may debate Wheelan's portrayal of their respective heroes, but they are bound to come out agreeing with the author that Marshall—whom Jefferson hated with a ferocity rivaled only by his feelings against Burr—seized and saved the day during the trial. Burr was acquitted in 1807 thanks to Marshall's strictly interpreting the Constitution's definition of treason, ensuring through his opinion that similar unfounded charges could never again be used by a president against a political enemy. Wheeler (Jefferson's War: America's First War on Terror, 1801–1805) offers an elegantly written and smartly conceived revisionist history that is sure to engage and entertain.
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