Countless writings have recounted Burr’s healthy appetite for the fairer sex. Matthew Livingston Davis, a man who was “intimately acquainted with Colonel Burr,” “possessed his entire confidence,” and went on to compile Burr’s memoirs (which many aptly call more a defense than a diary), says–in those same memoirs–“it is truly surprising how any individual could have become so eminent as a soldier, as a statesman, and as a professional man, who devoted so much time to the other sex as was devoted by Colonel Burr.”
This “devotion” has remained a key part of our fascination with Aaron Burr. Check out The Milwaukee Journal’s fascinating (and rather cheeky) summation from 1943 of his love life–including a brief bit with the Margaret Moncrieffe of our play–after the jump.
Tom Thumb, Aaron Burr High in the List of Charmers:
Here Are More Men Who Caused Masses of Women to Go Ga-Ga Over Them
by Kirk Bates (of the Journal Staff)
(The Milwaukee Journal – September 20, 1943 – pulled from Google’s wonderful digitizing of our universe)
…There was one American politician, however, who was a genuine glamor boy with no holds barred. He was Aaron Burr, Revolutionary officer, distinguished lawyer. United States senator, slayer of Alexander Hamilton—greatest secretary of the treasury until Mellon—and vice-president of the United States.
Burr was a romantic devil, so handsome and charming a fellow that few women couldresist him. When he was only 18, a girl in Litchfield vowed her love for him. A little later an heiress wanted to marry him. He was shortly in the continental army, where he was as reckless in war as he was in love.
SHE FELL IN LOVE
As a young officer he was assigned to entertain Margaret Moncrieff, daughter of a British major, a girl who had somehow got behind he American lines. She fell in love with him and the Americans had a hard time to get her to return to her British father. Years later, when she had long been the wife of an Englishman named Coghlan, she wrote Burr a letter that showed her youthful passion was by no means dead.
In 1777 Burr was serving with an outfit on the west bank of the Hudson, opposite Westchester county. The British were holding Westchester. In their midst lived Theodosia Prevost, attractive wife of a British major. Aaron loved her passionately and would have soldiers row him and his horse across the river. Then he would gallop to her house, spend a few hours and ride back through the British territory to the river and the soldiers waiting to row him back to his own side again. He thought seeing Theodosia well worth the great risk.
Maj. Prevost did the decent thing under the circumstances and died before the war ended. Burr, as soon as he could decently do so, married the widow. She bore a daughter that became the delight of his life.
There are some biographers who claim Burr was true to Theodosia while she lived, and there are others who claim his admiration and desires encompassed all of womankind. But there are no biographers who claim Aaron Burr was a man of strict morality.
When Burr was a United States senator he lived in Philadelphia at Mrs. Payne’s lodging house. Mrs. Payne’s daughter, the recently widowed Dorothy Todd, was a vivacious creature at the establishment. Soon Burr and Dorothy were quite deeply enmeshed in an affair, an affair that Burr didn’t want to conclude by matrimony. So he brought over to the house the pedantic James Madison, then 47 years old and rapidly climbing the political ladder. Madison was captivated by the charming widow and married her. She will ever after be famous in our history as Dolly Madison.
A BASE LIE
The claim was often made that Burr was the father of Martin Van Buren, the eighth president of the United States. The story has no foundation and was based upon the fact that Burr stayed often at the inn at Kinderhook, N.Y., operated by the elder Van Burens and that Martin when he grew up, was said to be as smart as Aaron Burr.
Once, traveling by stage coach from Jersey City to Philadelphia, Burr found the only other occupant a woman of high standing and of a family that hated Aaron Burr. Yet so great was his charm that before the coach arrived in Philly, the lady had volunteered to become his mistress.
A circumstance that greatly added to Bur’s reputation as a libertine and, consequently, blackened his character, was his failure to destroy the love letter sent him by scores of women. Many of them were scented, all were tender in thought. The sentimental Burr kept them all, an iron bound trunk full of them, and a friend whom he had trusted to destroy them, read them instead and wrote a lot about them in a book.
Burr’s duel with Alexander Hamilton ended his political career as surely as it did Hamilton’s. He went to England and there continued his ways, sinking into genuine depravity. When he was an old man he returned to New York and set up a law office. He had his last great romance—and second marriage—at 78.
ROMANCE AT 78
Mme. Jumel was a Rhode Island native, whose second husband had been a wealthy Frenchman. She brought M. Jumel to this country, where he died. As a widow she went to the aged Burr for legal advice. She was many years younger and captivated the old blade.
Burr pressed her to marry him, and she did, breaking the heart of a young woman with whom Burr was having an affair at the time. He went to live with his wife at the luxurious Jumel mansion. But the place was not destined to be a happy love nest. Mrs. Burr accused her bridegroom of flirting with country girls in the neighborhood. She carried a horse pistol and announced that she was going to shoot “the old … “ She didn’t, though, and they separated. Burr died less than two years later at 80.