The Bastrop Tract
This web page describes the Bastrop Tract.
Aaron Burr purchased it in 1806.
He never had the deed, but had a contract to buy it, and expected to.
It contained 350,000 acres in northern Louisiana and Arkansas.
Roger Kennedy's book has an excellent map of it.
Here it is on mapquest:
This is a picture of Baron de Bastrop who sold it to him:
This picture hangs in the Snider Museum, Bastrop, LA.
Roger Kennedy has an excellent account of the purpose of the land.
In the deed was a restriction that the land was not to be used for crops like cotton.
It could not be used as a giant southern plantation. It was perfect for wheat.
Burr's followers planned to settle lands out west that might need occupation after a war with Spain.
But if War did not occur, they would all settle Bastrop.
The Bastrop land was considered the most fertile land around, and is still used for farming today,
as shown in this picture below.
As historians know, Burr tried 21 years earlier in 1785 to completely abolish slavery in New York.
He was an elected assembly man, and made that radical motion,
but the other assembly men would not vote for it.
He was not reelected, but eventually slavery was abolished in New York.
Burr never got along with Jefferson, who wanted freedom, but not for slaves.
When Burr left as Jefferson's vice president and purchased the Bastrop land,
it shocked the plantation owners who supported Jefferson.
They needed their slaves to work for them, and to give them three votes for each five slaves they owned.
(This kept Virginians Madison and Monroe in power for years.)
The plantation owners told Jefferson they could not allow Burr to have a free zone for slaves in the South.
They knew that slaves would join Burr, and own and farm their own land instead of staying enslaved.
(Their success in stopping Burr led to the underground railroad,
where slaves had to escape to the north, and not just to Louisiana and Arkansas.)
(And it eventually led to the civil war.)
Jefferson ordered the military to arrest Burr.
At Blennerhassett Island, the militia raided the house and wine cellar.
They missed Burr, but got drunk, and destroyed the mansion.
When Burr heard that Jefferson wanted him arrested for treason,
he went to the nearest court and was found innocent.
But Jefferson and Wilkinson wanted Burr hanged.
His trial where he was found innocent is another story.
A visit to Bastrop puts everything in perspective.
As you cross the Mississippi at Vicksburg, imagine Aaron sailing down it,
longing to lead brave pioneers and escaped slaves to the Bastrop tract.