Seth Kaller, Inc.

Inspired by History

Other Revolutionary and Founding Collection Highlights Offerings


Aaron Burr in Debt to Manhattan Company Bank He Founded
Click to enlarge:
Select an image:

Aaron Burr founded the Manhattan Company in 1799, purportedly to bring clean water to Manhattan to combat a yellow fever epidemic, though only 5% of its capital was used for that purpose. Burr included in its charter a clause allowing surplus capital to be used for banking operations; 95% of the $2,000,000 raised was employed competing with the Bank of New York (founded by Alexander Hamilton in 1784) and the N.Y. branch of the Bank of the United States.

Although Burr earned large fees from his law practice, he spent lavishly, and debt negotiations took much of his time. Between 1799 and 1802, Burr borrowed $61,440 from the Manhattan Company. (In December 1800, Alexander Hamilton wrote that Burr, then the Vice President-elect, “is bankrupt beyond redemption except by the plunder of his country.”) This 1802 summary shows Burr’s total debt to the Company of $64,908.63. Against this, Burr had assigned as security nine mortgages and a promissory note of $5,500 - still $7,000 less than the debt.

AARON BURR. Manuscript Document (not Burr’s hand, but an original written at the time). Account of Debts to the Manhattan Company, ca. July 20, 1802. 2 pp. 8 x 13 in.

Inventory #24702      



July 20

To amount overdrawn-his Note of $44,500 and $7000, founded on real estate, having been charged to his account



Interest on $45,943 69/100 from Decr 28, 1801, the account being then so much overdrawn, to July 20, 1802.



Interest on $7000 from February 16, the note of that amount then falling due & debited, to July 20, 1802






To 1 note due Jan 4, 1802, but remaining unpaid, endorsed by Lawrence & Dayton



Interest thereon from Jan 4 to July 20, 1802



To 1 Note due Feb. 10, 1802, but remaining unpaid, endorsed by Marinus Willett



Interest thereon from Feb. 10. To July 20, 1802    



To 1 note due Feb. 15, 1802, but remaining unpaid, endorsed by Joseph Browne, and secured otherwise by real estate



Interest thereon from Feb. 15. to July 20, 1802



Total Debit

$ 64,908.63


Interest calculated to July 20, 1802, at the rate of 6 pr Cent per Annum


Historical Background

After selling its water system to the city in 1808, the Manhattan Company continued as a bank. In 1955, it merged with Chase National Bank to become Chase Manhattan, which in 2000 became part of J. P. Morgan Chase.

Aaron Burr Jr. (1756-1836) was the third Vice President of the United States, serving during Jefferson’s first term, through March 4, 1805. He graduated from Princeton University in 1772, at age 16. His first public service was as a Continental Army officer, where he distinguished himself at the Battles of Quebec, New York, and Monmouth. While Vice President, on July 11, 1804, Burr fatally wounded Alexander Hamilton in a duel. With his political fortunes in decline, Burr is reputed to have formed a conspiracy to establish a private army and set up an empire from portions of Mexico (then belonging to Spain) and/or Louisiana (a U.S. territory). Burr was brought to trial on August 3, 1807, with Chief Justice John Marshall presiding, and acquitted on September 1. Following the trial, he lived in Europe in self-imposed exile for four years, then returned to New York to practice law. In 1833, Burr married wealthy widow Eliza Jumel, but his mismanagement of her assets led them to separate after only four months of marriage, and their divorce was finalized on the day of his death.

Jonathan H. Lawrence (1763-1844) and Jonathan Dayton (1760-1824) were partners in a New York City mercantile firm that they established in 1796 with Francis Childs and continued until 1807. Lawrence was born in New Jersey and became a prominent and wealthy merchant. He served in the New Jersey militia during the Revolutionary War and established several businesses in New York City after the war. Dayton was also born in New Jersey and attended the College of New Jersey (Princeton) before leaving in 1775 to fight in the Revolutionary War at age 15. After the war, he studied law and divided his time between land speculation, law, and politics. He represented New Jersey in the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, where he was the youngest person to sign the Constitution.  He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1791 to 1799, the last four years as Speaker of the House. He represented New Jersey in the U.S. Senate from 1799 to 1805.

Marinus Willett (1740-1830) served in the militia during the French and Indian War and had taken part in the expedition to Fort Ticonderoga. As a New York Son of Liberty, he helped confiscate arms from an arsenal and captured British stores at Turtle Bay in the East River. Willett was appointed captain in the Continental Army and participated in the Invasion of Canada and the Siege of Quebec. After a series of posts throughout New York, in April 1781 he was made a colonel of the New York militia and assigned to the Mohawk Valley. Most of his efforts involved fighting local Loyalists and their Indian allies. In February 1783, Washington instructed Willett to take Fort Ontario back from the British, but Willett retreated upon determining that he had lost the element of surprise. The fort would remain in British hands until 1796, after the signing of Jay’s Treaty. Willett maintained his political alignment with Governor George Clinton and later served in the New York State Assembly, Sheriff of New York County (1784-1787, 1791-1795), and the forty-eighth Mayor of New York City (1807-1808).

Purchase Item Ask About This Item Add to Favorites