Updated: Jan 21
concerning the lives of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr
Historic Ferry Tour Reservations Information
Prior to the Weehawken Reenactment of the Duel on Sunday July 11, 2004:
There was a ferry boat tour of Historic Places in New York harbor.
It was in a positive light toward both Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr
This tour was open to the public at a discounted cost of $18.00.
Students and Senior Citizens will receive a 10 % discount.
The tour ran from 10:00 am until noon on Friday, July 9, 2004.
Members chatted with authors, museum personnel and
other experts on board with Fox TV and WCBS camera crews.
The cruise was an outstanding success!
We thank Arthur Imperitore for donating the wonderful cruise boat at substantial discount to the ABA.
Order of sites
(Click on blue letter link to view one page landmark description)
1. Weehawken by Willie Demontreux and Lauren Sherman
Weehawken, which may mean, ''End of the Palisades' or 'Place of Gulls'-no one knows for sure--dates its incorporation as a Township from 1859. But its written history began in 1609, when Henry Hudson, on his third voyage to the new world, sailed up what was then called The North River on the Half Moon and weighed anchor in Weehawken Cove. The back of the Sheraton Hotel overlooks this spot today. One of Hudson's crew members recorded that the river was so full of fish, one could walk across the river on the backs of the fishes. A bit of hyperbole, perhaps? The earliest residents of the area were the Lenni Lenape Native Americans. They were displaced by the Dutch, who came to settle the area in the early part of the 1600's. In 1658, Governor Stuyvesant of New Amsterdam negotiated a deal for land with them. This transferred territory comprised the township of Bergen, "by the great rock above Wiehacken," then taking the sweep of what was west of the Hudson and east of the Hackensack Rivers extending down to the Kill von Kull in Bayonne. The English eventually forced the Dutch out as they settled Manhattan Island and surrounding areas. In 1752 Weehawken was given a grant for its first ferry service; the ferry house was north of Hoboken, and was primarily used for farm produce. During the revolutionary war, Weehawken's Palisades were used as a lookout for the patriots to check on the British, who were in situated in New York and controlled the surrounding waterways. In fact, in July of 1778, Lord Stirling, in a letter to Aaron Burr, asked, on behalf of General Washington, that Burr employ several persons to "go to the Bergen heights, Weehawk, Hoebuck or other heights to observe the motions of the enemy's shipping" and to gather any other possible intelligence. Most early habitation was along the top of the cliffs, or Palisades, since much of the sea level areas were marshland. Early descriptions speak of the dense foliage and forests along the top of the Palisades and excellent land for growing vegetables and orchard fruits. Early documented inhabitants included a Captain Deas, whose "cozy home at Dea's Point, was located upon a knoll or elevation near the river and may have overlooked the infamous dueling grounds, a grassy shelf about 20' above sea level and attached to the Palisades. This ledge, long gone, hosted 18 documented duels and many unknown between the years 1798-1845, the most famous being that between General Alexander Hamilton, first Secretary of the Treasury, and Colonel Aaron Burr, sitting third Vice President of the US, which took place in 1804. Weehawken became the playground of the rich during the middle to late 1800's. The wealthy built homes along the top of the Palisades. Here they might flee from the sweltering heat of New York, and breathe the fresh air of the heights. A series of wagon lifts, stairs, and even an elevator designed by famed Frenchman, Gustave Eiffel, were put in place along the Palisades to accommodate the tourists and summer dwellers. Despite becoming a transportation hub with the ferry, an early toll road, the Hackensack Plank Road, which was a main artery from Weehawken up to Hackensack, and the West Shore Railroad which came during the early 1870's,Weehawken remained a sleepy, suburban-like town, little changed, until the advent of the Lincoln Tunnel in 1937. In the late 1950s and early 60's, Weehawken saw its modes of transit change from ferry, train and trolley to an ever increasing concentration of buses and cars chugging through the Lincoln Tunnel tubes. However, everything old is new again. Since the late 1980's, the ferry returned in the form of the NY Waterway, based in Weehawken. Ridership continues to grow and new ferry stops are being added up and down the Jersey coast from Ft. Lee to Bayonne. The light rail system, running alongside the still spectacular Palisades, as the Railroads once did, brings these 2 older forms of transit, full circle.
2. The Grange
Thomas Fleming opens his book Duel talking about Alexander Hamilton at the Grange: ”Alexander Hamilton welcomed the year 1804 at his country estate, The Grange, seven miles north of New York City, on the two hundred foot high ridge known as Harlem Heights. Not long after he arose, a bone chilling rain began sluicing out of a gray sky. The two story house, with its high porches and four rectangular chimneys (two of them fakes for symmetry), had been designed by John McComb, creator of New York’s City Hall and other distinguished buildings. From the front porch, which faced south, there was a magnificent view of New York City, its immense harbor, and the mighty Atlantic beyond Sandy Hook. Through the floor-to-ceiling bay windows of the elegant octagonal dining room there was an equally compelling view of the Harlem River valley, turbulent Hell Gate, and the swift-flowing East River. From similar windows on the other side of the parlor, Hamilton surveyed the broad Hudson River and its majestic western bluffs, the Palisades. Beyond stretched the vast American continent, peopled by a scant four million Americans and perhaps a million Indians.”
On the Sunday before his famous Duel with Aaron Burr, (two hundred years ago from yesterday) Alexander Hamilton played on the grass of the Grange with his children and wife Eliza, before returning to his Cedar Street townhouse on Monday, and traveling by boat (about where we are right now) to Weehawken on Wednesday.
The Hamilton Historical Society web site tells us that McComb also designed Gracie Mansion, the New York City Mayor’s residence. The Grange was built in 1802. In 1889, it was moved several hundred yards away to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. In 1924 JP Morgan purchased the house for the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society. In 1962 Congress authorized purchase as a national memorial, and in 1988 Congress funded restoration.
3. Richmond Hilll by Lyman Coddington
About three blocks north of today’s Manhattan entrance to the Holland Tunnel is the former site of Richmond Hill. This was Aaron Burr’s stately residence from 1791 until shortly after the duel with Alexander Hamilton. At that time, the property was on the Hudson River shore. But due to subsequent landfill, the site is now about 500 yards inland, roughly bound by today’s Varick, Charlton, MacDougal, and King streets.
Burr acquired Richmond Hill from the Trinity Church parish after John and Abigail Adams occupied it. The Adamses lived there from June 1789 until August 1790, while Adams was vice-president, before the capital moved from New York to Philadelphia. At that time Richmond Hill was a mile north of the city proper. “Never did I live in so delightful a spot,” Adams said. Abigail wrote to a friend that:
On one side we see a view of the city and of Long Island. The river [is] in front, [New] Jersey and the adjacent country on the other side. You turn a little from the road and enter a gate. A winding road with trees in clumps leads to the house, and all around the house it looks wild and rural as uncultivated nature. . . . You enter under a piazza into a hall and turning to the right hand ascend a staircase which lands you in another [hall] of equal dimensions of which I make a drawing room. It has a glass door which opens into a gallery the whole front of the house which is exceedingly pleasant. . . .There is upon the back of the house a garden of much greater extent than our [Massachusetts] garden, but it is wholly for a walk and flowers. It has a hawthorne hedge and rows of trees with a broad gravel walk.
Built in 1760 by Sir Abraham Mortier, Commissary to the British army, Richmond Hill also served very briefly as George Washington’s headquarters during the battle for New York in 1776.
During Burr’s tenure, visitors were frequent and entertainment was lavish. Mrs. Burr was ill and could not participate in these events, so their precocious teenage daughter, Theodosia, presided as hostess. Hamilton on visits was sometimes accompanied by his daughter, Angelica, who went horseback riding with Theodosia. Other guests included such French visitors to the United States as the statesman Maurice de Talleyrand; historian and philosopher Constantin-Francois de Volney; Napoleon’s youngest brother, Jerome Bonaparte; and aristocrat Louis-Phillipe, who later became king of the French. Other guests included Dr. David Hosack, who later attended the dying Alexander Hamilton, and Colonel Brant, the celebrated Indian chief. Andrew Jackson claimed that at Burr’s table he drank the finest wine he ever tasted.
Burr had difficulty supporting his lifestyle on the meager salaries he received as United States senator, New York State attorney-general, and vice-president. He supplemented the income from public office with legal work and land investments, but he obviously did not have enough time to expend on these activities to augment his income sufficiently. He was nonetheless able to improve the mansion and grounds of Richmond Hill. Among other things, Burr widened his part of a brook into a body of water known as Burr’s pond. His expensive entertaining undoubtedly contributed to Burr’s being forced, first, to sell off some of the surrounding lands; and second, many of the prized furnishings of the mansion. Burr then mortgaged the property itself.
After Burr’s trial for treason in 1807, (where he was found not guilty), what remained of Richmond Hill was bought for a pittance by John Jacob Astor, and resold by him as separate lots at an enormous profit.
King George II chartered Elizabethtown, New Jersey in 1740, calling it “the free borough of the town of Elizabeth.” It was the colony’s oldest English Community. In the1770’s, thanks to a prosperous leather-treatment industry, it was a prosperous village of 800, and already a century old.
There were 400 buildings mostly of weathered gray cedar shingles on five tree-lined streets. Windmills were dispersed among the salt meadows outside of town. There were two churches: the red brick St. John’s Anglican Church (for the pro English citizens), and the wooden First Presbyterian Church.
An old stone arch bridge spanned the Elizabeth River, near the courthouse with belfry and the militia’s parade ground. Swedish botanist Peter Kalm, visited and wrote “ In and about the town are many gardens and orchards, and it might be said that Elizabethtown is situated in a garden.”
In this idyllic setting at the same time in 1773 were two handsome and brilliant boys. Aaron Burr had grown up here and spent the summer here after graduating Princeton at age 17. Certainly, he met Alexander Hamilton who had just arrived from the West Indies and New York City.
The prep school for Princeton was The Elizabethtown Academy, headed by Francis Barber. One of its founders was Tapping Reeve. After Aaron’s parents deceased while he was two years old, he lived here with his Uncle Timothy Edwards, who hired Reeve to tutor Aaron Burr before Aaron attended Princeton. Reeve later married Aaron’s older sister Sally and established America’s first Law School in Litchfield, CT. Their only son, Aaron’s nephew, was Aaron Burr Reeve. Reeve and Edwards sat on the Board of Visitors while Alexander Hamilton attended The Elizabethtown Academy for six months before attending Columbia then known as King’s College. Elizabethtown Academy occupied a two- story building with a cupola on the grounds of the First Presbyterian Church.
Alexander was befriended by William Livingston who retired from his NY law practice to build a sprawling mansion called Liberty Hall on the outskirts of Elizabethtown and devote full time to radical politics. Livingston made Hamilton his protégé. Liberty Hall became the unofficial headquarters of the NJ Revolution, and Livingston became first governor of the new state. Hamilton corresponded with daughter Kitty Livingston. Were Aaron and Alexander at the same Teen hang outs in Elizabethtown? Absolutely!
Elizabethtown is mentioned again by Ron Chernow in connection with President elect George Washington in 1789. Washington rode from Mount Vernon to Elizabethtown, and boarded a barge to New York City for his inauguration. At Wall Street, Gov George Clinton welcomed him to dinner and a 13-gun salute. Hamilton had also invited Washington to dinner, but Washington wished to convey that he would be the leader of all the people.
Have you heard the expression “Washington Slept Here”? Well, on April 24, 215 years and 77 days ago today, “Washington Cruised Here” just as we are cruising here right now!
Alexander Hamilton died in Manhattan, and Aaron Burr died on Staten Island at age 80.
On July 2, 1776, The Howe brothers landed “32,000 fully equipped, highly trained, thoroughly professional British and Hessian soldiers, more than the entire population of Philadelphia, on Staten Island… making it the most costly British overseas deployment ever until that time.” Burr and Hamilton could see this from lower Manhattan where they were both stationed. Who were the Howe brothers? Admiral Richard Lord Howe, commander of all British forces in America and General William Howe, in charge of the ground troops. It was they who sent 15,000 dragoons across the Narrows to attack Brooklyn in August.
On September 11, (911) Benjamin Franklin and John Adams met Admiral Howe at Billop’s Point at the southwestern tip of Staten Island for a peace conference. At the three-hour meeting, Howe said that if the colonies could not give up “independency” negotiation was impossible, and that the Declaration of Independence had changed everything. Franklin said, “Forces have been sent out and towns have been burnt.” It was too late for any peace that required allegiance to the king.
Ten years earlier, at age ten, Aaron Burr ran away from home. He took the ferry to Staten Island, and became a cabin boy on a ship about to sail. But his Uncle Timothy found him, so Aaron climbed the mast and refused to come down unless he would not be punished. Although Timothy was strict, he and Aaron had a good relationship. 10 years after the war, when Timothy went bankrupt nephew Aaron satisfied his guardian’s creditors at ten shillings on the pound.
When Col. Burr was at Valley Forge in 1777 he planned an expedition against the British posts on Staten Island, because he was familiar with it from his childhood. He asked Washington for 200 men of his own regiment, but Washington gave the expedition to Lord Stirling and the marquis de la Fayette. Lafayette asked Washington if Hamilton could lead a battalion, but Washington refused that too, saying he could not afford to give up Hamilton.
As an attorney in 1801, Hamilton prepared the will for Robert Randall who set up a retirement home for merchant sailors, called Sailor’s Snug Harbor on Staten Island.
At age 78 Aaron Burr suffered a stroke, and was moved from Jersey City to the John Jay mansion at the Battery that had become a boarding house. When that was to be demolished, his relative Judge Ogden Edwards suggested that Burr be moved to the Hotel St. James at Port Richmond on Staten Island, close to the judge’s house. Overlooking this very harbor from his second floor room, he died on September 14,1836, and was buried with his father and grandfather at Princeton, New Jersey.
6. King George III by Helena or Diane for Becky
King George the third ruled England from 1760 to 1820, the longest reign of any of the male monarchs, although his latter years were marred by illness and an inability to rule.
At the tip of Manhattan and the southern point on Broadway lies the area we still today call Bowling Green. Perhaps many of you are familiar with the subway station there. A huge statue in the likeness of King George III on horseback was erected there on the Green. He was wearing the clothing of the Romans. The huge statue was set upon a marble base. It was made out of lead, the same material used to make ammunition, and painted with gold. A solid iron fence surrounded it.
On Aug. 23, 1775 Ron Chernow tells us King George III issued a royal proclamation that his American subjects had “proceeded to open and avowed rebellion.” He was determined to break the resistance of the colonists.
In July of 1776, Captain Hamilton and his artillery company were posted nearby at the Battery, and Major Burr had just finished six weeks service on Washington’s staff. Burr now lived there too with General Putnam’s family at the corner of Broadway and the Battery.
The Continental Congress endorsed the Declaration of Independence. George Washington gathered his troops and declared “the United Colonies of America were free and independent states”. With this, Patriots tore down the statue of King George III, and cut off its head. Two tons of lead were then sent to Litchfield, CT where Aaron Burr had just finished his year of Law School, and where his sister Sally lived. She was most likely one of the Litchfield women who melted the statue down and turned it into bullets.
The organizer of this activity had just signed the Declaration of Independence. He was Continental Congress member Oliver Wolcott Sr., who had just returned to Connecticut from Philadelphia, and knew what the army needed. It was Oliver Wolcott Jr., who became Treasury Secretary after Alexander Hamilton some eighteen years later. And Oliver Wolcott Jr. was at the William Bayard house, as Hamilton lay mortally wounded on July 11 and 12, 1804. On Saturday July 14, Wolcott was one of eight pallbearers. (So was Bayard.)
Brother Frederick Wolcott saw his father chop up the statue with a wood axe and remembered as an old man how the “girls had a frolic in running the bullets and making them up into cartridges.” This occurred in a special shed that was erected in an apple orchard adjoining the Wolcott house that now serves as the town library. The Wolcott and Sally Burr Reeve’s house are still directly across the street from each other!
To show how important the lead bullet cartridges for muskets were in those days, an exact account of requisitions was kept. When Oliver Wolcott Sr. passed away, his papers showed how all 42,088 cartridges were dispersed:
Mrs. Marvin - 6058. Ruth Marvin- 11,592. Laura – 8378. Mary Ann and Colonel Perley Howe - 10,790. Frederick - 936. Mrs. Beach – 1802. Sundry persons - 2182. Litchfield Militia – 50. Col. Wigglesworth – 300.
Ron Chernow tells us “One wit predicted that the king’s soldiers ‘will probably have melted majesty fired at them.’ ” As they did indeed!
Thanks also to Becky Martin of the Litchfield Historical Society for contributing to this article.
7. Battle of Brooklyn by Prof. William Parry
In August of 1776, General George Washington defended the American cause against General William Howe of the British Army in the Battle of Long Island (or the Battle of Brooklyn). This was the first and largest engagement of the Continental and British armies in the Revolutionary War. Howe’s army, which was based on Staten Island, numbered 32,000, including 5,000 German mercenaries (Hessians). It was backed by his brother, Admiral Richard Howe, with 10 ships-of-the-line, 20 frigates, and 400 other supply ships and transports anchored in New York Bay. Washington had about 20,000 troops, but no ships and no soldiers as well trained. Since Washington didn't know if the British were going to attack Manhattan or Brooklyn, he left 3,600 troops on Long Island, spaced along a hilly, forested ridge that runs through Brooklyn. If the English fleet had been able to move up the East River and cut off communication between New York and Brooklyn, the Brooklyn troops would have been killed.
But Washington had, first, The Battery, a line of artillery in lower Manhattan commanded by General Knox; and second, a bit of luck because the winds of New York Harbor prevented Howe from sailing warships up the East River. Washington quickly reinforced Brooklyn by ferrying more troops to the Brooklyn side of the River. Rather than face Knox's artillery at the Battery, on August 22, 1776, Howe sent 88 ships, across the narrows where the Verrazano Bridge now stands, to land in Gravesend Bay. The troops’ march to battle went through several modern-day Brooklyn streets, including South Shore Road, Flatbush Avenue, and Kings Highway. In Prospect Park, is "Battle Pass" and a monument to the Americans who cut down a huge oak tree to slow down the British attackers.
A Maryland regiment of 400 men was reduced to 9 survivors while continually attacking a vastly superior British army outposted in the strategically positioned Old Stone House that some of us visited yesterday. Their valiant efforts distracted the British and bought Washington time to rally his remaining troops. The Brooklyn neighborhood of Carroll Gardens is named after Charles Carroll, Maryland's signer of the Declaration of Independence, in honor of the Maryland men who gave their lives at the Battle of Brooklyn.
Four days later, Washington realized that he had positioned his troops in a trap. Aside from a flanking maneuver through what was called Jamaica Pass, the British drove northward near Brooklyn's western shoreline. Washington decided it was time to leave Brooklyn. He knew the British should not discover his retreat. The winds in Washington’s early favor then turned to rain and fog, which helped to cover his withdrawal across the East River. When the British later arrived at Brooklyn Heights, they reportedly found nothing more than some rusted buckets.
Aaron Burr, as aide-de-camp to American General Israel Putnam, realized early that American troops and defenses could not hold against the invading British. He was at Putnam’s side when Howe’s forces came ashore and forced the Americans to fall back in disarray, and he was in the thick of the action when Washington’s troops retreated to Manhattan under General McDougal's command during the rainy August night. Hamilton was not in the Long Island engagement, but was stationed during that time in the Bayard’s Hill redoubt in Manhattan, from which he and Burr were to retreat when the British came ashore in Manhattan in September. The British loss in the Battle of Long Island was 400, and the Americans nearly 2,000. The British occupied Brooklyn and Manhattan for the next 7 years until the treaty formally ending the Revolutionary War was signed.
One interesting footnote concerns 21 year old Captain Nathan Hale. Less than a month after the Battle of Long Island, Washington needed intelligence on British movements. Hale landed on Long Island disguised as a school teacher, but was caught as a spy. General Howe had him hung near the present intersection of East Broadway and Market Streets, where he reportedly said “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Note script was revised on board by Old Stone House Board representative Prof. William John Parry. Troop numbers vary.
8. Grass Fort read by Antonio Burr
This site description is taken word for word from The Life and Times of Aaron Burr by James Parton, 1858 pages 86 & 87:
It was on that eventful Sunday September the 15, 1776, when the British landed on Manhattan island, and the American army fled before them to Harlem, that Major Burr most distinguished himself. He was in rear of retreating troops; as was also Captain Alexander Hamilton, with his company of New York artillery. Hamilton lost all his baggage and one gun that afternoon, but conducted his men gallantly and safely away. As Major Burr with two horsemen, was riding toward Richmond Hill, on his way to Harlem, he came upon a small sod fort, called Bunker’s Hill, (or Bayard’s Hill) nearly on what is now Grand Street. To his astonishment he found that a great part of an American brigade, left in city by one of the numerous mistakes inevitable on such a day, had taken refuge in this structure.
The British, it must be remembered, landed on the East River side of the island, nearly four miles above the Battery, with the intention to cut off the retreat of the Americans, and General Knox, who commanded this brigade, supposed that the enemy were already masters of the island, and that escape by flight was impossible. Major Burr rode up to fort and asked who commanded there.
General Knox presenting himself, Burr inquired what he was doing there, and why he did not retreat. The general replied that the enemy were already across the island, and that he meant to defend the fort. Burr ridiculed the idea of defending a place which was not bomb proof, and which contained neither water nor provisions. With one howitzer, he exclaimed, the enemy will knock it to pieces in four hours. He maintained that there was no chance but retreat, and urged the general to lead out his men. (pause) Knox declared it would be madness to attempt it, and refused to stir. While this debate was waxing warm, the officers of the brigade gathered round, eager to hear what was said. To them Burr addressed himself with the vehemence demanded by the occasion. He told them that if they remained where they were, they would all be prisoners before night, or hung like dogs. He said it was better for half the corps to fall fighting its way through the enemy’s lines, than for all to be taken and rot in a dungeon. He added that he knew the roads of the island perfectly and would lead them safely to the main body of the army, if they would place themselves under his direction. The men agreed to follow him, and they marched out, Burr riding in advance, on the side where an attack was to be feared, and returning at intervals to reassure the terrified troops. When they had gone two miles on their way, firing was suddenly heard at the right. Shouting to his men to follow him, Burr galloped directly to the spot where the firing had issued, and soon discovered that it was a small advance-guard of the enemy, consisting of a single company, who, on seeing the Americans, fired and fled. Burr and his two horsemen rode furiously after them, and killed several of the fugitives. Galloping back, he found the troops had taken a wrong road, and were in sore trepidation. He guided them through a wood, riding from front to rear, and from rear to front, encouraging them by his words, and still more by his cool, intrepid demeanor. With the loss of a few stragglers, for the march was of the swiftest, he led the brigade to the main body. He was ever after regarded by those troops as their deliverer from British prison-ships.
This brilliant feat of the young Aid-de-camp became the talk of the army. Soon after, on the surrender of Fort Washington, another brigade was, by a similar accident, left behind; and of 2500 men that fell into the hands of the enemy, not 500 survived the treatment they received as prisoners. Applauded by his comrades, Burr was not mentioned in the dispatches of the commander-in-chief (George Washington); which, then and always, he regarded as an intentional slight.
9. POW ships
Willard Randall tells us that in April, 1778 while on Washington’s staff, Alexander Hamilton drafted “A Treaty and convention for the Exchange and accommodation of Prisoners of War.” The British held Continental Army soldiers prisoners on ships in the East River. A New York Times book forum late last year corrected the location from Kips Bay to Wallabout Bay near the present Brooklyn Navy Yard. The writer uses a Latin name Tanatopsis, just as Hamilton and Burr’s colleagues did 200 year ago when they wanted to publish anonymously. He described for moderator Robert Whalen and me a source for Wallabout Bay. From another source, NYFreedom.com we are told:
“The greatest suffering in the cause of American liberty was endured in the prison ships in Wallabout Bay. Estimates of the dead from the prison ships exceed 11,000 -- nearly triple the 4,400 Americans who died in all the battles of the revolution. The Americans were taken prisoner during the Battle of Long Island, the retreat from New York, and especially at the fall of Fort Washington. Others were captured on ships. With the available buildings on land overflowing with prisoners, the British anchored old ships in the bay to serve as prisons. The Jersey, the most notorious ship, housed as many as 1,000 men. The starving and freezing men suffered from small pox and many other diseases. The Americans could obtain their freedom by pledging loyalty to the king. Few did. Each morning, the bodies were carried from the ship and buried in shallow trenches on the Brooklyn shore. The martyrs are honored by a monument in nearby Fort Greene Park.
Robert Whalen also discussed the slave ships arriving from Africa to New York ten years later. Young attorneys Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton would go to the docks as volunteer workers for the Manumission Society, whose charter Hamilton wrote. As the ships would arrive, both sued for freedom of the slaves they could help. They won 34 of 36 cases, and then set up schools to teach black children their rights. John Jay was also active here. In 1785 Burr was the New York assemblyman who was inactive for the most part except that he introduced legislation to outlaw slavery in New York. The assembly bill wanted NY to gradually stop slavery. Burr tried to amend the bill to say No we immediately abolish all slavery now. It failed that time, but passed at a future session.
10. The Hermitage by Dr. Henry Bishoff
Some 20 miles to the northwest of here across the Hudson and into then rural Bergen County in the hamlet of Hopperstown (now Ho-Ho-Kus) just north of Paramus stood the Hermitage. A two story stone home built about 1760, it became the home of Theodosia Bartow, a fifth generation American, and Captain James Marcus Prevost, a Swiss-born officer in the British Royal American Regiment. He fought in the French and Indian War and was wounded in the battle of Ticonderoga. With the outbreak of the Revoutionary War in 1776, James Marcus was recalled back into service and became the second in command to his brother General Augustine Prevost in the successful 1779 British campaign in Georgia and the Carolinas.
Meanwhile Theodosia, 29, took charge of the Hermitage with 5 children, a mother and a teenage half-sister. They faced survival amidst guerilla warfare in heavily contested Bergen County from late 1776 into the early 1780s. Additionally, Theodosia had to fight against the ongoing threat of confiscation of her home. Her strong, resourceful efforts included a welcome to the Hermitage for leading Patriot officer and government officials.
In September 1777, when Aaron Burr aged 21, in command of Malcolm's regiment stationed to the north of the Hermitage in Suffern, New York, made a successful attack on a British picket outside of Hackensack, he stopped in Paramus a Patriot post coming and going. Since a cousin of Theodosia, Capt. John Watkins, was in Burr's regiment, he probably met Theodosia at this time.
Burr's stay in Suffern was short for he and his regiment were ordered to winter in Valley Forge where Hamilton was also present. Late in the following spring, after leaving Valley Forge, the Continental Army engaged the British regulars in the important battle of Monmouth as both armies were heading north. In that battle in 92 degree heat both Burr and Hamilton had their horses shot from under them. Burr suffered from heat prostration. Nevertheless, he was ordered to spy on British movements in and around New York in preparation for the arrival of the first French naval fleet of the war. Meanwhile, Hamilton continued north with Washington and the army. In mid-July there was a four day encampment in Paramus and Hopperstown. Here Washington accepted an invitation from Theodosia Prevost to make the Hermitage his headquarters. While here Washington dispatched Lafayette and Hamilton to meet with Vice Admiral d Estaing whose fleet had just arrived off of Sandy Hook.
Before leaving, Hamilton had the opportunity together with other of Washington's aides de camp and other officers to enjoy Theodosia's hospitality. As James McHenry wrote: "At Mrs. Prevost's we found some fair refugees from new York who were on a visit to the lady of the Hermitage. With them we talked and walked and laughed and danced and gallanted away the leisure hours of four days and four nights, and would have gallanted and danced and laughed and talked and walked with them till now had not the general given orders for our departure."
While Hamilton remained with Washington as the Continental Army moved across the Hudson River to Westchester County, Burr was put in charge of bringing leading Tory's down the Hudson under a truce flag to the British in New York City. Theodosia and her half-sister, having obtained permission from General William Alexander to visit relatives in New York, were passengers on one of Burr's trips down the Hudson. Over five days Theodosia and Aaron had a chance to get to know each other. Through autumn 1788, Burr, in ill health, spent some time recuperating at the Hermitage. He then received command of the Westchester line, brought discipline to these troops and engaged in a number of skirmishes.
However, illness continued to plague him, and Washington agreed to his retirement from the army. Burr would then study law, continue to visit the Hermitage and to engage in extended correspondence with Theodosia. After the death of her husband, James Marcus during a campaign in Jamaica, Theodosia 35 with five children married Aaron 25 at the Hermitage in 1782. The couple then left for Albany where Burr established a law office before moving to New York City after the British evacuation in 1783. Here he and Hamilton rose in the legal profession and in politics in the new nation.
11. Wall St. Offices
Hamilton and Burr were considered the two best attorneys in New York if not the United States. Both studied the same courses- Burr visited General Schuyler’s library. Burr studied with Robert Troup, and then Troup with Hamilton. Both were allowed to take the Bar exam with less than three years of law school because they had fought in the War. They started practicing law in Albany in late 1782. Hamilton was active in Poughkeepsie and Philadelphia in government service. By December, 1783 Alexander, Eliza and baby son Philip moved to 57 Wall Street. Aaron, Theodosia and baby daughter Theodosia along with the Prevost children moved to 3 Wall Street. “Ver Plank’s house with 115’ of frontage” These were happy times for Aaron Burr, but 11 years later, Theodosia would die of stomach cancer. Ron Chernow describes Burr's and Hamilton's life together in the 1780's by quoting Commodore Truxton who said “I always observed in both (Burr and Hamilton) a disposition when together to make time agreeable… at the houses of each other and of friends.” Hamilton said Burr and he were “always on good terms. We set out in the practice of law at the same time and took opposite political directions. Burr beckoned me to follow him and I advised him to come with me. We could not agree.” sometimes they worked together on cases and at other times they were opposed.
Burr said “Law is whatever is boldly asserted and plausibly maintained.”
General Erastus Root said “”As a lawyer and as a scholar Burr was not inferior to Hamilton. His reasoning powers were at least equal. Their modes of argument were very different. Hamilton was very diffuse and wordy. His words were so well chosen, and his sentences so finely formed into a swelling current, that the hearer would be captivated. The listener would admire, if he was not convinced. Burr’s arguments were generally methodized and compact. I used to say of them, when they were rivals at the bar, that Burr would say as much in half an hour as Hamilton in two hours. Burr was terse and convincing, while Hamilton was flowing and rapturous. They were much the greatest men in this State, and perhaps the greatest men in the United States.”
They each made about $10,000 a year in salary, and invested in land for profit or loss. Both borrowed and spent lavishly. Frenchman LeGuen lent to both of them. Hamilton wrote that by 1801 Burr was $80,000 in debt, half being a mortgage on Richmond Hill. Hamilton’s speculation in upstate land instead of Manhattan property also caused him problems. Had they practiced law alone, they would have been financially secure, but the government service they performed was not economically rewarding for them. However both escaped the fate of Robert Morris. After substantially funding the American revolution, he found himself in debtors prison.
The summer of 1804 changed Burr’s life. Had he not dueled, he might have proceeded with plans described by Richard Cote in his book Theodosia.
Aaron Burr wanted his daughter Theodosia, her husband congressman and future (1812) SC Gov. Joseph Alston, and his grandson baby Aaron Burr Alston (Gampy) to visit him for the summer like they did in ’02 and ’03, to restore health from the hot South Carolina weather. Did anyone hear the Jeopardy show answer a few weeks ago about how Theodosia and Joseph Alston made Niagara Falls a popular honeymoon spot by gong there?
Burr’s education of Theodosia had made her the best-educated young lady of early America. Burr was for women’s rights, and kept a picture of Mary Wollstonecraft with him for 50 years. Dolley Madison was so impressed with hoe Theodosia was educated that she appointed Aaron Burr guardian of her son before Aaron Burr introduced her to James Madison. Burr had opened a girls's school at 30 Partition Street headedby Madame de Senate.
Although he sold part of Richmond Hill, he kept four acres, and Joseph purchased a tract called Montalto near Richmond Hill, which he planned to develop as their summer residence. Vice President Aaron Burr was campaigning for NY governor. Here is what he wrote to his daughter in late winter1804 inviting them to spend the summer with him again. It shows how he wanted to accommodate his family after his wife.
“You take Richmond Hill; bring no horses or carriage. I have got a nice, new, beautiful little chariot, made purposely to please you. I have also a new coachee, very light, on an entirely new construction, invented by the vice president. Now these two machines are severally adapted to two horses, and you may take your choice of them. Of horses I have five; three always and wholly at your devotion, and the whole five occasionally. Harry and Sam are both good coachmen, either at your orders. Of servants there are enough for family purposes. Eleanore, however, must attend you, for the sake of the heir apparent. You will want no others, as there are at my house Peggy, Nancy, and a small girl of about eleven. Mr. Alston may bring a footman. Anything further will be useless; he may , however bring six or eight of them if he like. The cellars and garrets are well stocked with wine, having had a great supply last fall. I shall take rooms (a house, etc.) in town, but will live with you as much or as little as you may please and as we can agree, but my establishment at Richmond Hill must remain, whether you come or not. Great part of the summer I shall be off eight or ten days at a time, but no long journeys. You will have to ride every day or two to Montalto to direct the laying out of the grounds etc. In this way you cannot without wanton extravagance, expend more than four hundred dollars. If you insist on bringing your horses, there is now room for them, and plenty of provender. You ought to come by water, but not to be swindled again by taking a cabin. Bring your Ada (a black nursemaid) if you please to finish her education.”
In January he wrote to Peggy Gallatin, one of his servants at Richmond Hill “to assure you that I am in perfect health… that I have had no duel or quarrel with anybody, and have not been wounded or hurt.” Peggy later wrote to Aaron Burr asking if he would send her to school, and he did. But in April, the election campaign turned incredibly vicious and personal, and he wrote to Theodosia that he lost the race for governor. The summer visit did not proceed, and his June and July became occupied with Hamilton instead of his own family.
Theodosia did not enjoy the three week stage coach ride from South Carolina to New York, but in 1812, when she came to visit her father for a last time, she traveled by ship that was lost at sea. Every day Aaron would come down to these docks to await the Patriot that never arrived. It was said to be captured by pirates.
13. Tontine Coffee House read by Stuart Johnson
The old Tontine Coffee House was located at the northwest corner of Wall and Water Streets. The Tontine Coffee house is where the NY Stock Exchange was organized. Duel author Thomas Fleming notes that Alexander Hamilton and his Federalist friends met there on January 2, 1804 to talk about dueling. Ron Chernow reports that six months later, “When a handwritten notice of Hamilton’s death went up at the Tontine Coffee House, the city was transfixed with horror.” It was here that 335 merchants and stockbrokers met to second the New York City common council decision to close all businesses, and for all boats to lower their flags to half mast. Everyone in the City was asked to wear a black armband for 30 days.
The City Museum tells us “Some historians date the birth of the New York Stock Exchange to the issuance of bonds by Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in 1790; others claim that the exchange came into existence on May 17, 1792, at the Merchants' Coffee House at the southeast corner of Wall and Water Streets, when twenty-four stock brokers and merchants signed the "Buttonwood Agreement." This set of rules relating to securities transactions was named after the buttonwood, or sycamore tree under whose branch dealers and brokers had previously met. In 1793, the locus of business moved into the Tontine Coffee House, diagonally across from the Merchants' Coffee House. Street trading also continued at this time.”
Just as the City Tavern, or Merchants Coffee House in Philadelphia was a gathering place for political leaders such as Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton, so was the Tontine Coffee House in New York. Since it was already the accepted place for merchants and bankers to meet socially at around noontime, it became a regular meeting place for business and trading.
The Tontine Coffee Hous