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Senator Burr’s Not-So-Impartial Opinion on the 1792 NY Gubernatorial Election
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AARON BURR. Pamphlet. An Impartial Statement of the Controversy, Respecting the Decision of the Late Committee of Canvassers. Containing, the Opinions of Edmund Randolph, Esq. Attorney General of the United States, and Several Other Eminent Law Characters. New York: Thomas Greenleaf, 1792. 46 pp. [2 blank] With the elegant ownership signature of “John McKesson, 1792,” Clerk of the 16th New York State Legislature (1792–1793).

Inventory #23406       Price: $2,800

In the 1791 U.S. Senate election, Philip Schuyler had run for reelection as the Federalist candidate. Aaron Burr, then Attorney General of New York, was the moderate Democratic-Republican candidate. Simmering intra-party rivalries, Federalist opposition to Schuyler personally, as well as opposition to his son-in-law Hamilton’s policies led to Burr’s victory.

Next, in New York’s 1792 race for governor, Democratic-Republican incumbent George Clinton was opposed by the Federalist Chief Justice John Jay. Jay won the popular vote. New York state law, however, required that the sheriff of each county deliver all cast ballots to the Secretary of State for the votes to be certified. Earlier in the year, the term of Otsego County’s sheriff had expired, and no successor had been appointed in his place. Clintonians argued that because the sheriff’s office was vacant, Otsego’s votes could not be counted.

The question was arbitrated by New York’s U.S. Senators, Rufus King and Aaron Burr. Burr, who owed his political success to the Clinton faction in New York politics—but denied having been influenced thereby—supported the Clinton position with a learned legal opinion. The election canvassers agreed, and threw out Otsego’s votes.

With the votes of Otsego and two other counties disqualified, Clinton won a razor-thin victory. This pamphlet prints the opinions of Aaron Burr and Rufus King, the Certificate of the Canvassers, the outraged protests of a minority [Messrs. Jones, Roosevelt, and Ganesvoort], and the opinions of a number of lawyers, including Attorney General Edmund Randolph.

John McKesson (1734-1798) graduated from Princeton and practiced law in Manhattan. He “was one of the most active Americans in the State of New York during the Revolutionary War.… He was appointed Secretary of the Provincial Convention which met in New York the 20th of April, 1775, for the purpose of choosing delegates to represent the colony in the Continental Congress.” Thereafter, he was secretary at the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Provincial Congresses, May 1775 to May 1777, and the first Clerk of the Assembly of New York from 1777 through 1794. Additionally, he served as secretary at the State Convention on the ratification of the Federal Constitution.

*This item is also being offered in part II of The Alexander Hamilton Collection

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