Aaron Burr (1800, Democratic-Republican)
- Opponent: Thomas Jefferson
- State: New York
- Running Mate: N/A
Background and Education: Aaron Burr was born on the 6th February 1756 in Newark, New Jersey. His father Aaron Burr Sr. was a Yale-educated minister who helped found what would become Princeton University. His mother Esther was a noted diarist from an extremely religious family. Burr also had a sister named Sarah. Senior and Sarah died within a year of one another.
At only thirteen, Burr attended Princeton as a sophomore, graduating at the age of sixteen. He was originally set to have a ministerial career studying theology, but switched to law. Burr’s studies were interrupted by the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, but he completed his legal studies after serving.
Personal Life: Aaron Burr married Theodosia Bartow Prevost in 1782. She was the widow of a British officer but had begun an affair with the ten years younger Burr whilst her husband was still alive. They had two children together, Theodosia and Sally, the latter of whom died young. Burr and Theodosia were very much in love. She was unusually well-educated for the time and Burr had a progressive view on women’s rights. Theodosia died after twelve years of marriage, devastating Burr.
Burr wed the extremely wealthy widow Eliza Jumel in 1833, but they were poorly matched and soon separated. Her divorce lawyer was Alexander Hamilton Jr.
Burr had many children, legitimate, illegitimate and adopted, but he was closest to Theodosia. He educated her to the best level available and like her mother, Theodosia was a very intelligent young woman. She married and had a son named for her father. Theodosia sadly died after the ship she was on sank. Burr was devastated.
Pre-Election Career: Burr volunteered for military duty after heading about the shots at Lexington-Concord. He was sent to serve under Benedict Arnold in Canada. After General Montgomery was killed in the Battle of Quebec, Burr was credited with leading the attempted evacuation of his body. In 1776, he was sent to NYC to work on Washington’s staff. It was there that he met Alexander Hamilton. Burr’s stint with Washington didn’t last long and he was sent away. Like many others, he survived the brutal winter at Valley Forge. Burr saw action in some prominent battles but was unpopular for his support of General Charles Lee.
Poor health forced Burr to resign on the 3rd March 1779. He continued his law studies and was called to the bar in 1782. Sharing a practice with Hamilton, Burr became a prominent and successful lawyer. He was a member of the state legislature, New York attorney-general and Senator. Burr and Hamilton’s relationship soured when Burr beat Hamilton’s father-in-law, incumbent Philip Schuyler, to a Senate seat.
Burr ran for the Presidency in 1796 but came fourth. After losing his Senate seat in 1797, Burr became more involved in state politics. He founded a bank and did so by tricking the state. This again angered the Federalist Hamilton.
Election: Once again, Burr ran in 1800. Incumbent Adams was deeply unpopular so it was extremely likely he wouldn’t win. The fight between Burr and Jefferson ended in a tie so the House of Representatives had to make the deciding vote. Hamilton, no friend of Jefferson, believed that Jefferson at least had principles. He thought that it was far too dangerous for Burr to be President. He used all the power he had to ensure Jefferson won the election. Jefferson did and Burr, coming second, was VP. This killed the Hamilton-Burr relationship forever.
Later Years: Jefferson believed Burr had plotted to take the Presidency for himself and thus never trusted him. Like many Vice Presidents, Burr had no political influence or power. He was unpopular with party leaders but was universally praised for his excellent conduct in presiding over the Senate.
Due to his unpopularity, Burr was not nominated for the Vice Presidency in 1804. He ran for Governor of New York, replacing the new VP candidate George Clinton. Burr’s infamy did not help his case and he lost. Burr was angered by the belief that Hamilton had further besmirched his name. A war of words- and letters- begun. After the refusal of an apology from both sides, it was decided that they would partake in an illegal duel.
On the 11th July 1804, the two headed to Weehawken in northern New Jersey. The absolute facts of the duel are disputed, but Hamilton was shot in the hip area and collapsed. Burr and his party fled, whilst Hamilton was hurried back to New York. Hamilton died the next day. Burr stayed with friends whilst indictments were put out. He returned to DC to finish his term; no trial was ever pursued.
Widely loathed, Burr headed to the Louisiana Territories. He attempted to get people to move into an unmade settlement on land he had on lease. Worried that a war with Spain was possible, Burr and his men carried weapons. When Jefferson heard of this, he thought that Burr was attempting an insurrection. Burr was arrested and brought to court on treason charges. The charges were clearly completely trumped up and were a result of a personal vendetta. Jefferson attempted to sway the result, but the fair trial proved Burr to be innocent.
Burr spent four years abroad in Europe. He was nearly completely broke and moved around a lot to avoid creditors. His attempts to raise funds and push for the liberation of the Spanish colonies failed. He then returned home in 1812, relying on charity from friends in order to get by. Burr returned to law and was moderate in his success, never returning to his former glory.
At the grand age of 77, Burr married a wealthy widow named Eliza Jumel. This was not the love match he had with Theodosia- it was solely about money. Jumel realised this fairly quickly as her fortune started to dwindle and the pair separated after a few months. To rub salt in the wound, Jumel hired Alexander Hamilton Junior as her divorce lawyer. Burr moved into a boarding house and lived frugally.
Aaron Burr died on the 14th September 1836 aged 80, the day that his divorce was finalised. He died in a boarding house from stroke complications. Burr was not buried with Theodosia, but with his beloved father in his home of Princeton, New Jersey.
Appearance and Character: Aaron Burr was a small man with a receding hairline in later years. He was known as a very handsome man whose dark eyes and charisma made him as popular. Burr was a charismatic man who was very popular with the ladies, as evidenced by his two marriages and many lovers. He was a very intelligent man, but was very passive and avoided taking sides. Burr could be abrasive and pompous, making him an enemy of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton.
Charles C. Pinckney (1804 & 1808, Federalist)
- Opponent: Thomas Jefferson/James Madison
- State: South Carolina
- Running Mate: Rufus King
Background and Education: Charles Cotesworth Pinckney was born on the 25th February 1746 in Charleston, South Carolina. The middle child of eight, Pinckney’s father Charles Pinckney Sr. was a prominent judge and his mother Eliza Lucas was an agricultural businesswoman. When Pinckney was seven, his father was called to work in the U.K. Pinckney would spend the next twenty years there, studying at English schools and matriculating at Oxford. He spent several months after graduation studying chemistry, military leadership and botany.
Personal Life: Pinckney married twice. His first wife was Sarah Middleton, who he married in 1773. Middleton was a member of a prominent political family. They had three daughters who lived past birth. Middleton died in 1784. Pinckney remarried in 1786 to a woman named Mary Stead.
Pre-Election Career: After fifteen years in England, Pinckney returned to South Carolina in 1769. His education and family status allowed him to be elected to South Carolina’s provincial assembly. He then became an attorney-general in 1773.
Despite his mother’s family’s loyalist history, Pinckney was a Patriot. He would serve in both the South Carolina Congress and Senate during the Revolutionary War. Pinckney would be a leading force in South Carolina and was involved in some key battles. He was a close friend and colleague of George Washington. In 1780, Pinckney was captured following the Siege of Charleston. He spent nearly two years as Prisoner of War. Pinckney ended the war as a Brigadier General.
After the war, Pinckney continued to work in the South Carolina legislature. He emerged as a leader in the Constitutional Convention, advocating for a powerful centralised government. Furthermore, Pinckney stated that Senators should not be paid. This was not adopted. When he arrived back home, Pinckney staunchly defended the Constitution.
Washington courted Pinckney for many positions in his administration, but Pinckney rejected him. In 1796, he finally accepted the role of Minister to France. The French were in the middle of a Revolution and rejected Pinckney’s credentials. He then moved on to The Netherlands.
Pinckney returned to France the following year as part of a special mission. He, alone with John Marshall and Elbridge Gerry, were sent there for peace talks. The French Foreign Minister refused to speak to them and told them he only would if they gave him a bribe. The terms of the peace deal also included a very large loan. When the terms of the deal reached the US, there was fury. War was looming, so it seemed, and Pinckney was dragged back into the army.
In 1800, Pinckney was the unsuccessful VP pick for the Federalist Party.
Elections: Pinckney was the runner up in two consecutive elections. In 1804, he was essentially a paper candidate against the hugely popular Thomas Jefferson. With a booming economy and the Louisiana Purchase under his belt, Jefferson won in a landslide. Pinckney won only 27.2% of the popular vote and only two states, Connecticut and Delaware.
In 1808, Pinckney squared up against Jefferson’s protege, James Madison. Jefferson was disliked in New England due to his embargo act, so Pinckney won Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire and Massachusetts along with a few electoral districts. Nevertheless, Jefferson’s popularity rubbed off on Pinckney and he won. Pickney got 32.4% this time.
Later Years: Pinckney spent his remaining years semi-retired in South Carolina. He spent his time doing legal work and joining scholarly organisations. Pinckney died on the 16th August 1825 aged 79, having remained a moderate Federalist until the very end.
Appearance and Character: Charles C. Pinckney was a broad fellow with a chubby face and large stomach. Like many men at the time, he wore a powdered white wig. We do not know much of his personality, but he was a professional and well-educated man. Pinckney was a talented soldier with genuine patriotism.
DeWitt Clinton (1812, Federalist)
- Opponent: James Madison
- State: New York
- Running Mate: Jared Ingersoll
Background and Education: DeWitt Clinton was born on the 2nd March 1769 in Little Britain, New York. He was the third son and child of James Clinton, a prominent politician, and Mary DeWitt. His father would have thirteen children overall- seven with his first wife Mary DeWitt and six with his second wife Mary Gray. James Clinton’s father Charles was also a prominent soldier. He was also the brother of George Clinton, a Governor of New York and Vice President.
Clinton was educated at a local school before he attended the College of New Jersey (later Princeton). He then switched to Princeton. Clinton gained strong Enlightenment views during his education. He graduated college in 1786.
Personal Life: DeWitt Clinton’s first marriage was in 1796. He married a Quaker named Maria Franklin and they had ten children. She brought a lot of wealth and property to the marriage. Maria Clinton died in 1818 after 22 years of marriage. Clinton didn’t wait around and married Catharine Jones one year later. We know very little of both Maria and Catharine. His son George would have a fairly glittering legal and mayoral career. Five of his children would survive their father.
Pre-Election Career: Clinton studied law under a man named Samuel Jones upon graduation. A year later his uncle George gave him the job of private secretary. Clinton was an avowed anti-Federalist in the same vein of his uncle. He was anti-British and cautious of the bloody French Revolution. After being admitted to the bar in 1790, Clinton studied law. He twice failed to win election to the New York State Assembly. Clinton finally won a seat in 1797 and became a State Senator one year later.
Clinton ascended to the US Senate in 1802 but lasted a year as he disliked DC. He was Mayor of New York for years and held simultaneous positions such as Lieutenant Governor of the state.
Election: Clinton was the Federalist’s candidate for the election of 1812. His opponent was James Madison. The main issue was the War of 1812, with various regions having opposite views on it. Whilst Madison had won fairly handily four years previously, it was a closer victory this time around. Clinton had a very good showing and was the Federalists’ strongest election candidate. He won 89 electoral votes to Madison’s 128 and got 47.6% of the vote. Clinton won his home state of New York but Madison nabbed Pennsylvania.
Later Years: In 1810, Clinton had been given the role of Canal Commissioner. For nearly fifteen years, Clinton spearheaded the creation of the Erie Canal. He helped plot the route, get funding from the legislature and oversaw the entire operation. In 1824, his political opponents had him fired. The public were so angered that he was voted Governor of New York easily the next year after he’d retired.
Clinton spent ten years as Mayor of New York and eight as Governor. He became an elder statesman whose dedication to the Erie Canal made him very popular with the citizens of the state. Clinton was also hugely interested in science and published a paper on it in 1814, entitled ‘An Introductory Discourse.’
On the 11th February 1828, Clinton died suddenly in Albany, aged 58. He was still Governor of New York at the time. Clinton had squandered his wives’ fortunes and left the family in dire financial straits. His family was so poor that they could not afford to bury him, even after he was given a state funeral. In 1844, Clinton was finally laid to rest at the Green-Wood Cemetery in west Brooklyn.
Appearance and Character: DeWitt Clinton was a broad faced man with a large forehead, long face and dark brown hair. He could be standoffish and cold to those who did not know him, but he was a dedicated public servant. Clinton was very popular with New Yorkers, especially due to his work with the Erie Canal. He badly mismanaged his finances, but he did not profit from his political career.
Rufus King (1816, Federalist)
- Opponent: James Monroe
- State: New York
- Running Mate: John E. Howard
Background and Education: Rufus King was born on the 24th March 1755 in Scarborough, Maine. Scarborough was part of Massachusetts at the time. His parents were Richard King and Isabella Bragdon. His father was a prosperous merchant whose business and home was attacked by a jealous mob. King received his education at a top independent boarding school before attending Harvard and graduating in 1777.
Personal Life: King married Winthrop descendent Mary Alsop in 1786. They had seven children, with five sons making it to adulthood. Mary King was renowned for being extremely beautiful, gregarious and outgoing. Many were in awe of her. The Kings had a very happy marriage and upon Mary’s 1819 death, King remarked that he could not find a better person.
King’s numerous descendants include some famous names such as Archibald Gracie III and his son, Isabella Beecher Hooker and a number of others.
Pre-Election Career: King started to study for the bar when he decided to volunteer for the Revolutionary War. Unlike their father, Richard King’s sons were all Patriots. King served as a major for a short time before returning to Massachusetts to continue his studies.
Elected to the state legislature in 1783, King joined the Continental Congress one year later. On the 21st February 1787, he introduced the resolution that called for a new Constitution to be written in Philadelphia. A disciple of Alexander Hamilton, King was an ardent Federalist who believed in a strong central government. He was an extremely eloquent speaker and was essential to getting Massachusetts to draft the Constitution.
After moving to New York, King became a member of the state assembly before serving as Senator for seven years. In 1796, King was sent to the U.K. as the US Ambassador. He enjoyed good relations with his host nation and created an atmosphere of friendship with the help of his wife Mary. As a Federalist, he was generally pro-Britain.King decided to return home in 1803. He ran for the Senate again in 1804 but failed to win re-election. In 1804 and 1808, he was Charles C. Pinckney’s running mate in their failed attempts to unseat James Madison.
After a decade of political failure, King was elected Senator once again. He would serve for twelve years in this instance, bringing his royal level of Senate service to 19 years. King would be the last Federalist Senator due to the party fracturing and combusting.
Election: The Federalists put King up as their candidate in 1816. James Monroe, close friend and protégée of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, was the Democratic-Republican candidate. The Democratic-Republicans had overseen a peace that ended the War of 1812 and had adopted several Federalist policies. Jefferson and Madison were still personally popular. King did not campaign, as was convention, and the Federalists did not put up much of a fight.
King won three states to Monroe’s 16, 30.9% to Monroe’s 68.2% and 34 electoral votes to Monroe’s 183. He would be the last Federalist presidential candidate.
Later Years: King continued his Senate role. He would be supported by Federalists and Democratic-Republicans. John Quincy Adams chose King to be Ambassador to the U.K. once again. Unfortunately, ill health forced King to return home a year later.
Though a slaveholder in his youth, King became a passionate abolitionist in later life. He managed to ban slavery in the Northwest Territory and was a huge opponent of the Missouri Compromise. King opposed Irish immigration as he believed them to be undesirable people.
On the 29th April 1827, King died aged 72. He is buried with Mary in Grace Church Cemetery in Queens, New York.
Appearance and Character: Rufus King was a portly man who seemed handsome as a youth. He was a popular, genial man who enjoyed hosting parties with his wife. King is credited with improving relations with Britain. Despite being a slaveholder in his early years, King later deeply opposed the practice. He did have his prejudices though, as he was anti-Irish.