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[To Aaron Burr]
My dear Friend,
Watkins was kind enough to deliver me yours of the 8th of December, written, I presume, at Paramus. I almost envy you the happiness you have enjoyed. From the first moment of my acquaintance with Mrs. Prevost and her sister, I conceived an admiration for them both, which is much increased by the opinion you entertain of them. How, then, am I flattered by their polite manner of mentioning my name. To whom am I indebted but to you, my friend, for this unmerited favour? Surely these ladies saw nothing in me at Governor Livingston's which was worthy of remembrance, unless a terrible noise, which some people call laughter, could be worth remembering. With the best intention, therefore, to serve me, you have done me an injury, Aaron. I shall be afraid to see our favourites in the spring, because I shall fall infinitely short of their ideas of cleverness. Pray, do you recollect the opinion which Judge Candour solemnly pronounced upon us both, in a court of reason held at the Indian King? Why, then, will you expose my weakness by ascribing to me imaginary excellences? If you persist in such cruel conduct, sir, I will make you feel the weight of my resentment, by publishing to the world the purity of my esteem for your public and private character.
I am happy to find our plan of studying together appears more and more rational to you. It really does to me, and I hope we shall follow it. Since you left Philadelphia, some circumstances have turned up which render my office so disagreeable to me that I am determined to resign. Vous pouvez compter sur moi. Besides the disgust I have taken, I am led to it by ambition, which has a small share of influence over me as well as you.
But I am desirous of a change in our plan, which I request you to think of seriously. I am inclined to believe it would be best for us to study the law with Mr. Stockton, at Princeton. This, I know, will surprise you; but your surprise will be lessened when you hear my reasons.
The practice of Connecticut differs so materially from the practice of New-York and New-Jersey, that we should lose time by being with Mr. Osmer. For, after being eighteen months or two years with him, it would be necessary to continue nearly the same time in another office, to get a competent knowledge of the practice. This is a matter of consequence, especially as it is my object to qualify myself for practice as soon as possible.
I have the highest opinion of Mr. Osmer, and, did I intend to follow the law in Connecticut, there is no man I would sooner study with. I believe he would ground us well in the knowledge of the dead-letter of the law; but I wish to have the practice and the theory accompanying each other. Mr. Stockton has been polite enough to make me an offer, and has promised to spare no pains to instruct me. He would be glad to instruct you likewise; for I have heard him express himself of you in the most friendly manner. I propose to lodge at some substantial farmer's house, about a mile from the main road, and have made a solemn league and covenant with my own mind to seclude myself from the pleasures of the world. This I know I can do. And have you not as much philosophy as I have?
It is true, Mr. Stockton has unmarried daughters, and there is a number of genteel families in and near Princeton. But why should we connect ourselves with any of them, so as to interrupt our studies? They will be entitled to a civil bow from us whenever we meet them; and, if they expect more, they will be disappointed. Indeed, l shall take care to inform them of my intentions, and if they afterwards complain of my want of politeness in not visiting them, it will give me little uneasiness.
I entreat you, my dearest and best friend, to reflect on this matter, and favour me with your answer without a moment's loss of time. My happiness, and my improvement in the law, depend entirely upon pursuing my studies with you. The change I now propose is conformable to the sentiments and wishes of all my friends, particularly of Chancellor Livingston, who is certainly a judge.
I forgot to mention that Mr. Stockton is universally allowed to be one of the best speakers we ever had in this part of the continent, and it will therefore be in his power to teach us the eloquence of the bar, which may be considered as a capital advantage.
I have communicated my sentiments on this subject more fully to our mutual friend, Colonel Wadsworth, who will deliver you this letter, than I have to you in writing. He will explain them to you, and, I am sure, will give you his own with the utmost candour and sincerity. I have left several messages at the house Dr. ----- lodges when he is in town; but cannot get an answer, and see little prospect of getting your money unless you write him a dunning letter. I shall leave one for him to-morrow, and will endeavour to have the affair settled this week.
I write this at my lodgings, where I have not a single newspaper. Colonel Wadsworth will leave town in the course of an hour; and, if I can find time, I will go to the office and collect all I can find. There have been none, however, since you left town, which are worth reading. Wadsworth will tell you all the news I have, which is, that old Roger Sherman is metamorphosed, by some strange magical power, into a very honest man.
God bless you, and may Dom. Tetard soon have the pleasure of drinking a glass of wine with us both, in his house at Kingsbridge. I mean, after the British gentry have left it. I should have written to you before, but I have been waiting these three weeks past for Colonel Wadsworth to leave Philadelphia. He will inform you of the cursed slavish life I lead at the treasury office. I am obliged to attend it even on Saturday nights, which places me below the level of a negro in point of liberty. Pray present my best respects to Tetard, and assure him of my wishes to serve him at all times, and on all occasions.
- Project Gutenberg's Memoirs of Aaron Burr, Volume 1., by Matthew L. Davis, 1836