Page:Henry Adams' History of the United States Vol. 1.djvu/293

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
280
Ch. 10.
HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES.

bitter a hatred as his superficial temper could feel against the whole Virginia oligarchy. Any suggestion that Burr held scruples of conscience in regard to the Federalist judiciary would border on satire, for Burr's conscience was as elastic as his temper; but he made grave inquiries as to the law, and hinted doubts calculated to alarm the Virginians. Had he been content to affect statesmanship, Breckinridge could have afforded to ignore his demonstrations; but the behaviour of General Armstrong, the democratic senator from New York, and the accidental absence of Senator Bradley of Vermont unexpectedly threw into Burr's hands the power to do mischief. Armstrong failed to appear at Washington, and his vote was lost. Breckinridge's motion for a committee of inquiry was carried, January 19, only by fifteen against thirteen votes; and no sooner had his committee, with all practicable speed, reported a Bill for the repeal of the Judiciary Act of 1801, than it appeared that the Senate was tied, fifteen to fifteen, with Armstrong and Bradley absent, and the Vice-President controlling the fate of the Bill. Burr lost no time in giving a first warning to the Virginians. Dayton of New Jersey, a Federalist, but an intimate friend of the Vice-President, moved January 27 to recommit the Bill to a select committee, and Burr's casting vote carried the motion.

That Breckinridge and his friends were angry at this check need not be said; but they were forced to wait several days for Bradley's return, before