More from Fallen Founder, the life of Aaron Burr:
“[Thomas] Jefferson may have lost his objectivity with regard to Burr's case, but he certainly had not lost his desire to win. In the weeks leading the grand jury's May 22 meeting, he redoubled his energies. The federal government sent out agents to find witnesses, collect depositions, and round up anyone who might testify against Burr, whether or not that person was a credible witness. The administration spent nearly $100,000 in the attempt to convict Burr, a sizable sum for a president who had long opposed a strong central government. Jefferson relied on executive privilege when he sent Hay a batch of blank pardons, and urged the prosecutor to give complete immunity to any of Burr's so-called "accomplices" who could be persuaded to testify against him.
Burr was not deterred. He launched into a speech justifying his criticism of the president. "Surely" it is an established principle, sir," he said, "that no government is so high as to be beyond the reach of criticism." In an attempt to destroy a man, vigilance was necessary. Burr went on to cite violations of the law, reminding the court that his "friends had been every where seized by the military authority; a practice truly consonant with European despotisms." Burr's allies in New Orleans had been dragged before tribunals, and forced to give testimony; Burr's own papers and property had been unlawfully seized, and his letters stolen from the post office. Speaking in the third person, Burr went on: An "order had been issued to kill him, as he was descending the Mississippi." All the while the government looked the other way. And now Burr remarked, with undisguised irony, "nothing seemed too extravagant to be forgiven by the amiable morality of this government.
Just as Jefferson had done, Wirt, a future U.S. attorney general, had twisted the rule of law in contending that Burr's guilt was so irrfutable that bringing him to trial was superfluous.
Wickham could hardly believe what he had heard Wirt say. Did he really mean that "the acquittal of Colonel Burr will be a satire on the government"? It was a sad day when the president's handpicked prosecutor confessed "that the character of the government depended on BUrr's guilt."
The court then issued Burr's subpoena to Jefferson. The president complied, up to a point; he gave Hay permission to hand over Wilkinson's letter and any other documents pertaining to Burr's case, though he reserved the right to withhold any information considered confidential.