Burr Conspiracy Trial (1807)

Never has an American trial produced such an impressive set of key players:

the defendant-- Aaron Burr, founding father, Vice President, and slayer of Alexander Hamilton in their famous duel three years earlier; the trial judge--John Marshall, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court (and the most important justice in history); the force behind the prosecution--Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and president of the United States; defense attorneys--Edmund Randolph and Luther Martin, both delegates to the Constitutional Convention and among the most prominent men of the day; prosecutors-- Charles Lee, former Attorney General, and William Wirt, future presidential candidate.

       The high-stakes treason trial of Aaron Burr came at an unstable time, both in Europe and in America. The American and French revolutions worried traditional European powers, Great Britain and Spain, who were determined to keep the radical new doctrine from undermining the power of their royalty. Meanwhile, Napoleon's empire-building produced sustained military conflict on the Continent.

The United States seemed on the verge of a war with Spain, even as the Administration struggled to preserve neutrality....