Letters of the Law

This letter was written to Donald F. Paine, in care of the Tennessee Bar Journal, regarding his November 2007 review of Professor Nancy Isenberg's book, Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr.

I take issue, respectfully, with you (and Nancy Isenberg) on your review and fulsome appraisal of Aaron Burr. I agree that he was an outstanding lawyer, but believe he fully deserved the charge of treason against him, and like many patriots of the day, consider him devious, overly ambitious, and a calculating politician. When both Hamilton, who did not "deserve killing," and his erstwhile (Burr's) friend, Jefferson, considered him devious and untrustworthy (as did John Adams), there must be something there, amounting to a serious defect in character. Isenberg made great efforts to remake his character, but I, for one, do not count him one of the nation's great founders.

He did little in the making of the Constitution; less in its ratification, and conspired to grasp the presidency from Jefferson instead of accepting the vice-presidency before attempting filibusters to take over Western and frontier parts of the new, expanded United States to put himself in power. True, Jackson accepted in some measure his approaches " "interesting," yes, but a rogue and not a hero.

" Harry W. Wellford, Memphis,
U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit
(1982-2001)