This Day in Founder's History

This Day In Founding Fathers History – 22 January

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    This Day In Founding Fathers History – 22 January AbbyMcGinnis


This Day In Founding Fathers History – 22 January 2013

On this day in 1807, President Jefferson exposed the plot by Aaron Burr in a special message to Congress: He describes how he first gained knowledge of the plot: “…little has been given under the sanction of an oath, so as to constitute formal and legal evidence. In the state of the evidence, delivered sometimes too under the restriction of private confidence, neither safety nor justice will permit the exposing names, except that of the principal actor, whose guilt is placed beyond question…I received intimations that designs were in agitation in the western country, unlawful and unfriendly to the peace of the Union; and that the prime mover in these was Aaron Burr, heretofore distinguished by the favor of his country.” Jefferson then describes how he went about gathering intelligence of the conspirators and their plot and what evidence had come to light: “It appeared that he [Burr] contemplated two distinct objects…One of these was the severance of the Union of these States by the Alleghany mountains; the other, an attack on Mexico…By letters from General Wilkinson…I received the important affidavit…by these it will be seen that of three of the principal emissaries of Mr. Burr, whom the general had caused to be apprehended, one had been liberated by habeas corpus, and the two others…have been embarked by him for our ports in the Atlantic States, probably on the consideration that an impartial trial could not be expected during the present agitations of New Orleans…As soon as these persons shall arrive, they will be delivered to the custody of the law, and left to such course of trial…” 1

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In 1779 on this day, loyalist Claudius Smith “Cowboy of the Ramapos” was hanged. Smith was a Tory outlaw in the neutral area of lower New York during the Revolutionary War. Outlaws with sympathies to both sides stalked the area, with locals fearing for their safety. Smith’s headquarters were two caves in the Ramapo Mountains. A main road ran through the valley below, allowing Smith and his gang ample opportunity to loot from passersby. Smith was once jailed for stealing oxen, but his followers freed their leader. In October of 1778, Major Nathaniel Strong was found dead, after a group of armed men broke into Strong’s house and shot him. Strong’s widow testified she heard her husband say it was Claudius Smith. Governor Clinton put a bounty of $1,200 on Smith’s head and $600 on those of Smith’s sons Richard and James. Smith fled to Long Island to evade capture; however, Major Jesse Brush learned of Smith’s new residence and he and several cohorts concocted a plan to capture him. They were successful, turning Smith over to the authorities and claiming their reward. At his trial, Smith was indicted on three charges of theft for the burglaries of three residences, but not for the murder of Major Strong. The verdict was guilty and he was sentenced to hang on this day in 1779. 2

1 “Special Message to Congress on the Burr Conspiracy, Thomas Jefferson,” Miller Center, University of Virginia,
2 “Cowboy of the Ramapos – The Legend of Claudius Smith,” The Monroe Historical Society,


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