While many people know about the rivalry between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr and Hamilton’s unfavorable opinion of Burr as a public and private man, it is less known that they were on the same legal team in the scandalous trial of Levi Weeks in 1800. Weeks was accused of murdering his girlfriend, Elma Sands, by throwing her down a well, in what is today SoHo, in December 1799. Weeks retained Burr, Hamilton and Henry Brockholst Livingston, all well-known lawyers to defend him. Weeks was acquitted after only a few minutes of jury deliberation. With strong public sentiment against the verdict, Weeks left New York for Mississippi where he became a builder and architect. His Auburn Mansion in Natchez, Mississippi is National Historic Landmark. Burr and Hamilton would engage in a duel in Weehawken a little over four years later in July 1804. The portrait is of Aaron Burr.
Mention Weehawken and Aaron Burr and most people will think of the duel with Alexander Hamilton, July 11, 1804, but Aaron Burr has earlier history to the New Jersey township. On July 6, 1778, while New York City was occupied by the British during the Revolutionary War, General William Alexander (also known as Lord Stirling), at the direct request of none other than George Washington, sent Colonel Burr a letter requesting him to provide surveillance on the “motions of the enemy’s shipping” in Weehawken, Hoboken and Bergen Heights. This is the letter:
“General Washington desires me to state that he wishes you would employ three, four, or more persons, to go to Bergen heights, Weehawk, Hoebuck, or any other heights thereabout, convenient to observe the motions of the enemy’s shipping, and to give him the earliest intelligence thereof; whether up the river particularly. In short, everything possible that can be obtained.”