Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Notes on a Conversation with Benjamin Hichborn, 2 January 1804

Notes on a Conversation with Benjamin Hichborn

1804. Jan. 2. Colo. Hitchborne of Mass. reminding me of a letter he had written me from Philadelphia pending the Presidential election, sais he did not therein give the details. that he was in company at Philada with Colo. Burr & Genl. Sam. Smith (when the latter took his trip there to meet Burr, & obtained the famous letter from him) that in the course of the conversn on the election, Colo. Burr said ‘we must have a President, & a constnal one in some way.’ ‘how is it to be done, says Hitchborne, mr Jefferson’s friends will not quit him, & his enemies are not strong enough to carry another’ ‘why, sais Burr, our friends must join the federalists, and give the president.’ the next morning at Breakfast Colo. Burr repeated nearly the same, saying ‘we cannot be without a president, our friends must join the federal vote.’ ‘but, says Hitchborne, we shall then be without a Vicepresident; who is to be our Vicepresident?’ Colo. Burr answered ‘mr Jefferson.’

MS (DLC: TJ Papers, 113:19521); entirely in TJ’s hand; follows, on same sheet, Notes on a Conversation with Matthew Lyon, 31 Dec. 1803.

For the 5 Jan. 1801 letter Hichborn wrote TJ from philadelphia, see Vol. 32:399-400.

On 16 Dec. 1800, Aaron burr wrote Samuel smith from New York: “It is highly improbable that I shall have an equal number of Votes with Mr. Jefferson, but if such should be the result every Man who knows me ought to know that I should utterly disclaim all competition.” By 29 Dec., however, Burr had changed his position. Writing Smith from Trenton, Burr declared that a friend had asked “whether if I were chosen president, I would engage to resign.” Although he made no reply to the gentleman, to Smith he noted, “I should not.” Smith met Burr in Philadelphia the first weekend in January, before he received the 29 Dec. letter. He was surprised to learn directly from Burr that he would accept the presidency if chosen by the House (Kline, Burr description begins Mary-Jo Kline, ed., Political Correspondence and Public Papers of Aaron Burr, Princeton, 1983, 2 vols. description ends , 1:471, 478-9, 483-4).

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