Kurt's Historic Sites

Burr Feature

Aaron Burr

Interment LocationVisitedSequence in Graves I Have Visited
Princeton, NJJune 12, 20044th Vice President visited

Photographed April 23, 2010.

“Pardon me, is that Aaron Burr, sir?” Why, dear visitor, it is for sure. That gravestone sticking up beside the row of box tombs signifies the final resting place of the ally-turned-antagonist from the twenty-first century musical phenomenon, Hamilton. Long before he was a Broadway character that landed actor Leslie Odom, Jr. a Tony Award, Burr was a Continental Army officer, a senator, a vice president, a duelist, a defendant in a treason trial, and an exile. Although his was not the titular role in the musical, he arguably is main character material and could make a captivating subject for an HBO miniseries, following in the footsteps of John Adams.

Burr was the sitting vice president in July 1804 when he engaged in his infamous duel with political rival Alexander Hamilton in Weehawken, New Jersey. After the former Treasury secretary succumbed to the mortal wounds inflicted upon him in that contest, Burr fled south to avoid legal jeopardy. He later went back to Washington and presided over the senate before his term expired in early 1805. During his brief return, he suggested that the body eliminate its “previous question” motion, which functioned to immediately end floor debate and bring the measure that was being discussed to a vote. Burr regarded the rule as a redundant component of a rulebook that was too busy. When the upper chamber was in session in 1806, its members heeded the former vice president’s advice and eliminated the previous question motion. Decades later, senators began exploiting its absence by stalling votes in efforts to kill legislation and other proposed actions. The unintended ramifications of Burr’s recommendation could give him claim to the title “Father of the Filibuster.”

Photographed April 23, 2010.
Photographed June 12, 2004.

Those who wish to visit the man who dropped the ten-dollar Founding Father can find him in Princeton, New Jersey, within Princeton Cemetery’s Presidents Plot — so named for the collegiate heads buried there. I initially saw Vice President Burr’s tombstone in 2004 after my father and I strolled over from the final resting place of White House couple Frances and Grover Cleveland. As my first three vice presidential burial sites were those of John Adams, Martin Van Buren, and Chester A. Arthur, this marked the first time I visited the grave of a VP who did not also serve as president. In 2010 my father and I returned to Princeton Cemetery so I could visit the interment site of John Witherspoon, one of the 56 members of the Second Continental Congress who signed the Declaration of Independence. I lament that on that second excursion I still bypassed Burr’s grandfather, theologian Jonathan Edwards.

The inscription on Burr’s worn tombstone lists his name, his date of birth, and his date of death. It also notes his service in the Continental Army during the American Revolution and his term as vice president.

Photographed April 23, 2010.

Fast Facts

Born: February 6, 1756 in Newark, New Jersey

Spouses: Theodosia Bartow Burr (m. 1782-1794); Eliza Jumel Burr (m. 1833-1836)

Military Rank: Lieutenant Colonel — Continental Army

Political Affiliation: Democratic-Republican Party

Vice Presidential Term: 1801-1805 under Thomas Jefferson

Died: September 14, 1836 in Staten Island, New York

Age: 80

Last Words: “‘Madame.”

Interment: Princeton Cemetery, Princeton, New Jersey

"The excessive heat and occasional fatigues of the preceding campaign, have so impaired my health and constitution as to render me incapable of immediate service. I have, for three months past, taken every advisable step for my recovery, but have the mortification to find, upon my return to duty, a return of sickness, and that every relapse is more dangerous than the former. I have consulted several physicians; they all assure me that a few months retirement and attention to my health are the only probable means to restore it. A conviction of this truth, and of my present inability to discharge the duties of my office, induce me to beg your Excellency’s permission to retire from pay and duty till my health will permit, and the nature of service shall more particularly require my attention, provided such permission can be given without subjecting me to any disadvantage in point of my present rank and command, or any I might acquire during the interval of my absence."
- Aaron Burr

asking for temporary leave of his commission as lieutenant colonel in a letter to General George Washington, sent from Elizabethtown, New Jersey, dated October 24, 1778

Sources Consulted

Binder, Sarah A. “The History of the Filibuster.” April 22, 2010. Transcript. From Brookings Institution. https://www.brookings.edu/testimonies/the-history-of-the-filibuster/.

Bomboy, Scott. “Is Aaron Burr really the father of the filibuster?” Constitution Daily (blog). Constitution Center. April 5, 2021. https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/is-aaron-burr-really-the-father-of-the-filibuster.

Burr, Aaron. Aaron Burr to George Washington, October 24, 1778. Letter. From National Archives, Founders Online. Accessed January 16, 2022. https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-17-02-0561.

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