I'm reading Stephen E. Ambrose's "Undaunted Courage", and in pg. 50, he writes (emphasis mine):

On December 5, 1800, Lewis was promoted to captain. That month the states selected their delegates to the Electoral College. In February 1801, those delegates created a political crisis when the count came out seventy-three votes each for Jefferson and his running mate, Aaron Burr, with sixty-five votes for Adams. The tie threw the election into the House of Representatives, where another deadlock followed, as the Federalist caucus decided to back Burr. In other words, the Federalists would not accept the outcome of the election, in which the people's choice of Jefferson was clear.

So intense was the partisanship of the day, so much did the Federalist hate and fear Jefferson, that they were ready to turn the country over to Aaron Burr. Had they succeeded and made Burr the president, there would almost certainly be no republic today. Fortunately for all, Hamilton was smart enough and honest enough to realize that Jefferson was the lesser evil. He used his influence to break the deadlock. On the thirty-sixth ballot, February 17, 1801, Jefferson was chosen president and Burr was elected vice-president.

Ambrose doesn't offer any clarification of his claim that had Burr been chosen as president, there would be no republic today. Why would Burr's presidency have led to the end of the USA?

  • 4
    Welcome to the site and an upvote for a pretty good question. Only one caution: "Why would the election of Aaron Burr have led to the end of the USA?" is a "subjective" question that the site doesn't like. The "objective" (and acceptable) version is, "Why did Stephen Ambrose [or some other noted historian] believe that..."The reason is "Aaron Burr would have..." is an opinion (and frowned upon here), but "Stephen Ambrose believes that Aaron Burr would have..." is a FACT (about Stephen Ambrose).
    – Tom Au
    May 4, 2013 at 17:50

1 Answer 1


Presumably he is referring to the Burr conspiracy:

The Burr conspiracy in the beginning of the 19th century was a suspected treasonous cabal of planters, politicians, and army officers allegedly led by former U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr. According to the accusations against him, Burr’s goal was to create an independent nation in the center of North America and/or the Southwest and parts of Mexico.

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    Obviously, a man unstable and unscrupulous enough to go along with such a scheme would not have made a good president. Whether he would have been bad enough to flounder the young USA is a distinct possibility but we cannot be 100% sure. May 5, 2013 at 7:00
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    But this was all after Burr had been defeated. As President, his goals would have been very different than they were after a defeated candidate.
    – Oldcat
    Oct 22, 2014 at 20:47

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