American Emperor: Aaron Burr's Challenge to Jefferson's America by David O. Stewart, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
American Emperor: Aaron Burr's Challenge to Jefferson's America
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American Emperor: Aaron Burr's Challenge to Jefferson's America

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by David O. Stewart
     
 

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Dreaming of an American Empire, Aaron Burr made President Thomas Jefferson tremble.

No adventure in American history has been like Aaron Burr’s. A canny and charismatic politician who rose to become third vice president of the new United States, Burr seemed to throw it all away in 1805 and 1806 in an extraordinary attempt to lead a secession of the

Overview


Dreaming of an American Empire, Aaron Burr made President Thomas Jefferson tremble.

No adventure in American history has been like Aaron Burr’s. A canny and charismatic politician who rose to become third vice president of the new United States, Burr seemed to throw it all away in 1805 and 1806 in an extraordinary attempt to lead a secession of the American West.

American Emperor traces Burr from the threshold of the presidency in the contested election of 1800, through his duel with Alexander Hamilton, and then across the American West as he schemed with foreign ambassadors, the traitorous general-in-chief of the army, and future presidents, including Andrew Jackson.

His immense ambition was matched by his undisguised contempt for Thomas Jefferson, a president he thought ineffective and unwise. The indecisive Jefferson finally had Burr arrested and charged him with treason. Burr led his own legal defense in an historic treason trial before Chief Justice John Marshall, winning an acquittal and freedom.

American Emperor plays out in a youthful America bursting with promise and danger. While Jefferson is celebrated for concluding the Louisiana Purchase, it was Burr who imagined a new nation—a new empire—stretching from Florida around the Gulf of Mexico to Central America, and who pointed the way to later American expansion.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Eschewing recent attempts to rehabilitate Aaron Burr (1756–1836), a brilliant member of the revolutionary generation but remembered mostly as Jefferson's vice-president who killed Alexander Hamilton in an 1804 duel, D.C. lawyer and historian Stewart (Impeached: The Trial of Andrew Johnson) concentrates on the dramatic years of Burr's life that followed. His career in ruins, in 1806 Burr led an armed band down the Mississippi intending to detach western states from the Union and conquer Spanish-ruled Texas and Florida. Among his raffish coconspirators was Gen. James Wilkinson, commander of the U.S. Army, governor of Louisiana, and a paid Spanish agent. With matters well advanced, Wilkinson thought better of it and betrayed the plot. There followed an extensive pursuit and spectacular treason trial during which a vindictive President Jefferson schemed and failed to convict Burr. Great men behaving badly make for entertaining reading, so readers may roll their eyes, but will keep turning the pages of this meticulous, almost day-by-day account of a plot so bizarre that it's hard to believe it actually happened. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
Advance Praise for American Emperor

“A proven storyteller, David O. Stewart takes us on a wonderful journey back to a fascinating chapter of American life: the challenges and controversies embodied in Aaron Burr. American Emperor is a great tale.”
—Jon Meacham, author of American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House

“A luminous portrait of Aaron Burr as well as the first high-definition picture of an endlessly baffling, infuriating, and mesmerizing life.”
—Patricia O’Toole, When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt after the White House

“Aaron Burr is the American Lucifer, a figure of immense talents and heroic qualities whose voracious ambition thrust him into a position as adversary to the goodness around him. David Stewart captures this tale in all its drama, treachery, and historical dimension. This is a truly absorbing narrative.”
—Robert W. Merry, author of A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent

“The generation of the Founders produced some intriguing characters, but Aaron Burr has to be the most charismatic, quixotic, and mysterious. David Stewart brings the scheming, brilliant Burr to life in this lively but also judicious portrait of grand and unfulfilled ambition.”
—Evan Thomas, author of The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898

“With remarkable evenhandedness and superb pacing, David O. Stewart has given us a real Aaron Burr and a real Thomas Jefferson in a gripping narrative about a political adventure that might have changed the history of the United States and Mexico.”
—Thomas Fleming, author of Duel: Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton and the Future of America

“Stewart’s sympathetic but unapologetic study of the enigmatic Burr…transcends its subject in exposing the frailty of early America’s westward ambitions. Highly recommended for readers of Revolutionary-era biographies and early U.S. history.” Library Journal

“A fresh, vivid exploration of the exploits and trial of Aaron Burr… Two parts adventure story and one part courtroom thriller… A persuasive, engaging examination of the post-political career of a shadowy and much-maligned figure from the era of the Founders.” –Kirkus Reviews (Starred)

“Great men behaving badly makes for entertaining reading…[this book] will keep [readers] turning the pages of this meticulous, almost day-by-day account of a plot so bizarre that it’s hard to believe it actually happened.” Publishers Weekly

“Stewart strives admirably to sort through the maze of facts and speculations about the nature of the conspiracy and Burr’s place in it. This is also a personality study of Burr, in whom Stewart sees an extraordinary combination of talent, vision, arrogance, and insatiable ambition….readers should enjoy this account of a dangerous episode that threatened our young republic.”Booklist

American Emperor offers a compelling, provocative portrait of Aaron Burr….a skilled historian and a splendid storyteller, Stewart makes the most of the episode and its…cast of characters.”Kansas City Star

"American Emperor" is a rousing book (who can turn down a quixotic rebellion?) with a cast of characters that could slip comfortably into a three-volume melodrama of the 19th century.“ —Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Thoughtful, stylishly written and splendidly researched…. Adds valuable dimensions to our appreciation of the world we inherited from the Founders.… A page-turner as well!” —Washington Independent Review of Books

“A rattling tale… While most readers know the broad outlines of the Aaron Burr story…, the tale still retains ample suspense. I won’t spoil the ending.” Christian Science Monitor

Library Journal
While most assessments of the life of Aaron Burr (1765–1836) center on the disputed presidential election of 1800 and his deadly duel with Alexander Hamilton in 1804, Stewart (The Summer of 1787) provides an outstanding account concerned primarily with Burr's suspicious western exploits thereafter and his subsequent trial for treason. Burr's trial played out on a national stage, included an impressive cast of characters from Chief Justice John Marshall to the traitorous Gen. James Wilkinson, and ultimately provided federal courts with a procedural definition of treason. Drawing on his experience in constitutional law, attorney Stewart explains how such an iconic character, standing outside the reign of power, could provoke "generations of speculation and wonder." His gripping narrative reveals a founder driven by ambition, with a passion for expansion into Central and South American. VERDICT Stewart's sympathetic but unapologetic study of the enigmatic Burr, most recently given a full biography in Nancy Isenberg's Fallen Founder, transcends its subject in exposing the frailty of early America's westward ambitions. Highly recommended for readers of Revolutionary-era biographies and early U.S. history. [See Prepub Alert, 4/25/11.]—Brian Odom Pelham P.L., AL
Kirkus Reviews

A fresh, vivid exploration of the exploits and trial of Aaron Burr (1756–1836), the most notorious figure of the early American republic.

In 1800, Burr came within one electoral vote of becoming president of the United States. Instead, as originally intended, he became Thomas Jefferson's vice president, serenely presiding over the Senate while under indictment for the murder of Alexander Hamilton in a duel, an unpleasantness with which Stewart (Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln's Legacy, 2009, etc.) rapidly dispenses in satisfying detail. Dumped by Jefferson in 1804 and frozen out of national political influence, Burr turned to a fantastic scheme. In league with the odious Gen. James Wilkinson, commander of America's tiny army and a lavishly paid secret agent for the Spanish crown, Burr undertook to assemble a private army and redraw the map of North America by uniting the Spanish Floridas, Mexico and whatever American states and territories west of the Appalachians wished to join him, into a new nation under his own leadership. Burr's men were headed downriver for New Orleans when he was betrayed by Wilkinson, arrested and packed off to Richmond to stand trial for treason. Jefferson desperately wanted this conviction and actively meddled in the prosecution's trial strategy, but the presiding judge was Chief Justice John Marshall, a political foe determined to insist on due process for the widely despised defendant. A practicing attorney, Stewart works the miracle of making even early-19th-century legal opinions and argument accessible and vital to modern readers. Two parts adventure story and one part courtroom thriller, Burr's saga unfolds in "a North America of possibilities, not certainties," where borders shifted frequently. The author makes it all sound plausible and lays out this complicated story with admirable clarity, while also explaining the long-term significance of its outcome for individual rights, the judiciary and the stability of the young nation.

A persuasive, engaging examination of the post-political career of a shadowy and much-maligned figure from the era of the Founders.

Joyce Appleby
American Emperor delivers a colorful narrative of the schemes that carried Burr from one reckless venture to the next. Of inestimable value in following his frenzied recruitment of allies are Stewart's thumbnail sketches of "Leading Characters" at the front of the book.
—The Washington Post

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781439157183
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
10/25/2011
Pages:
432
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author


David O. Stewart has practiced law in Washington, D.C., for more than a quarter of a century, defending accused criminals and challenging government actions as unconstitutional. He has argued appeals all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and was law clerk to Justice Lewis Powell of that Court. Having defended an impeachment trial before the United States Senate, Stewart is currently writing a book on the Andrew Johnson impeachment trial of 1868.

Visit the author's website at www.davidostewart.com.

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