[HAMILTON, ALEXANDER & BURR, AARON] Legal document signed by Alexander Hamilton and with the secretarial signature of Aaron Burr on the dismissal of the critical New York land tract dispute Burr v. Angerstein.
[New York:] In Chancery, 12 November 1802. One page manuscript document in the hand of Burr's legal clerk, secretarially signed "A.Burr" above the genuine signature "A.Hamilton." Docketed on verso in another hand "Burr vs. Angerstein/D. Order/Feb. 8. 1803." 8 x 7 1/8 inches (21 x 18.5 cm). The document formerly framed and evenly toned with some lighter areas around border, old mounting across header, small pinhole in left margin and two very short tears at right margin, overall highly presentable.
THE DISMISSAL OF THE CASE WHICH GREATLY FUELED THE FIRE OF ANIMOSITY BETWEEN BURR AND HAMILTON. This important legal document reads in full: "In Chancery/A. Burr vs. J.J. Angerstein/On motion of the Complainant & with consent of Mr. Hamilton, counsel for the deft. It is ordered that this bill be dismissed/A. Burr/A. Hamilton of Counsel for the Defendent/12 Nov 1802." The history of this case is rooted in the "Macomb Tract," the million plus acres in northern New York released for sale after the American Revolution and sold in 1792 to the fur trader and land speculator Alexander Macomb who divided it into large parcels for resale. Through agents, a large tract was sold to Englishman John Julius Angerstein, the wealthy chairman of Lloyd's of London, who bought his tract under the stipulation that his title to the land, clouded because Englishmen could not own American soil, would be cleared by proposed legislation allowing aliens to own land outright. Enter Senator Aaron Burr, who did attempt to pass this legislation but when it failed entered into an agreement to buy Angerstein's land himself (with a substantial penalty for default), seeking out several partnership arrangements, all of which fell through in a complicated comedy of errors. Ultimately, Angerstein attempted to collect the default penalty from Burr, who discredited Angerstein's claim. Disgusted, Angerstein brought suit against him, retaining Burr's nemesis Alexander Hamilton as counsel, and despite Burr's attempts to block the proceedings, in 1799 the lawsuit Angerstein v. Burr was finally brought forth. Angerstein was eventually awarded the 24,000 pound penalty (approximately $80,000) but this was negotiated to half that amount, the debt settled by Burr being forced to relinquish other valuable lands he possessed. The present document represents Hamilton's acceptance of Burr's debt payment plan on behalf of Angerstein, and the case was fully dismissed in February 1803 (this date docketed on the verso).
Burr's enmity towards Hamilton must have been intensified by the financially disastrous outcome of these proceedings. During the period of the suit, the contentious presidential election of 1800 had taken place, with Hamilton frequently using Burr's debts against him to promote the Federalist cause, surely deepening the rift between them.
This document is of the utmost rarity: we trace no similar example in commerce that names both Burr and Hamilton, let alone a document with such evocative undercurrents pointing to Burr's animosity towards Hamilton, all of which set the stage for the infamous 1804 duel that resulted in Hamilton's death.
The text of this document printed in The Law Practice of Alexander Hamilton, volume IV, p. 176; See also HERR, CHARLES. The Brown Tract: The Hamilton-Burr Duel Connection, 2013, in The Adirondack Almanac.
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