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» Aaron Burr's Law Studies—and Distractions

Aaron Burr's Law Studies—and Distractions

Burr and William Paterson were classmates at the College of New Jersey. Paterson had become a lawyer and then the attorney-general for the State of New Jersey. Colonel Robert Troup was one of Burr’s fellow military officers and had been an aide-de-camp to General Horatio Gates.

I am at the Hermitage, my dear Burr, and cannot forbear writing you a few lines. . . . Mrs. Prevost informs me that there is the most flattering prospect of your soon being reinstated in your health. The intelligence gives me real pleasure, and the more so, because, until Mrs. Prevost told me, I had no idea of your disorder being so rooted and dangerous. May health soon revisit you, my good friend; and when it does, may it continue with you for years. I am pleased with the hope of seeing you in Jersey early in the spring. I shall be this way again in March, when perhaps I shall meet you at this place. I write this standing in the midst of company. I am called off to court, and therefore, for this time, adieu.

Before leaving central Jersey to meet with Burr, Troup wrote:

The Miss Livingstons have inquired in a very friendly manner about you, and expect you will wait upon them when you pass this way. Since I have been here, I have had an opportunity of removing entirely the suspicion they had of your courting Miss De Visme. They believe nothing of it now, and attribute your visits at Paramus to motives of friendship for Mrs. Prevost and the family. . . . The girls here think . . . handsome, genteel, and sensible, and say positively he is no longer engaged to Miss Shippen. He has frequently spoken to them in raptures, latterly of Miss De Visme, and once declared he was half in love with her. I have taken care to touch this string with the greatest delicacy. . . .

Present my most respectful compliments to Mrs. Prevost and the family, and also the ladies on the hill. Miss Susan Livingston desires her compl[i]ments to you and the two families. So do Susan and Eliza Baskenridge.

Susan Livingston subsequently married John Jay. In 1780, Judith Livingston married John Watkins, Theodosia's cousin and an officer with Burr in Malcolm's Regiment.

Burr and Troup ultimately decided to pursue their legal studies with Thomas Smith, a lawyer then living in the Hudson River town of Haverstraw, New York. Smith had previously practiced in New York City, and he was the brother of William Smith, who had served as attorney-general in New York before the war. Burr had met Thomas Smith when he stopped at Haverstraw while escorting William Smith to the British under the truce flag in 1778. Troup had studied briefly with Thomas Smith before he entered the army. On March 1, 1781, Thomas Smith wrote to Burr:

As it is your object to fit yourself as soon as possible for admission to the bar, without Submitting to the drudgery of an attorney's office, in which the advancement of the student is but too often a secondary consideration, I should cheerfully devote a sufficient part of my time to lead you through the practice of the law in all its parts; and make no doubt, with close application on your part, I should be able in a short time to introduce you to the bar, well qualified to discharge the duties of the profession, with honour to yourselves, and safety to your clients.

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