Here is a historical moment showing a Kentucky connection in one of the Aaron Burr treason trials. The blog post is a book review found at George Mason University's History News Network. Burr was stopped in Kentucky and a young Henry Clay was able to convince the grand jury there was no grounds for the indictment of treason. Click on the post for information to order the book.
Why Burr's Treason Trial Is Relevant Today
By Peter Charles Hoffer
Mr. Hoffer is Distinguished Research Professor, Department of History, University of Georgia. He is the author of The Treason Trials of Aaron Burr (paperback, 2008).
In the next year, the public opinion will have occasion to revisit President George W. Bush’s attempts to ferret out and punish suspected terrorists. The president made it clear, before any trials at law occurred, that he thought the detainees were guilty. Some of the initiatives taken by his appointees, for example Department of Justice in-house rulings on the use of torture, have already been exposed to the public criticism. The prison camp at Guantanamo may or may not be disbanded, depending on who wins the presidential election this November. While much of the present controversy stems from 9/11, the basic questions of the relationship between the presidency and the High Court, and presidential pre-judgment of suspected threats to national security, has a precedent in the first years of our Republic. Before and during the treason trials of Aaron Burr, President Thomas Jefferson adopted a stance strikingly similar to that of President Bush.
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Burr was nowhere near New Orleans, nor did he have an army at hand. Instead, he was defending himself in a Kentucky federal court against the charge of treason. Young Henry Clay spoke for Burr, and convinced a grand jury that there was no grounds for an indictment. Burr then gathered up a small band of friends and on a handful of flatboats began to travel to lands on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi that he had bought for development. But Jefferson’s land was long and those who would help him eager to catch and detain Burr. When he arrived near Natchez, he once again had to defend himself against a charge of treason. Again a grand jury refused to find a true bill.