For March 26 1812, Aaron Burr finally is board ship a ship leaving London after having borrowed monies, called in favours and sold many of his possessions to pay for the passage. His entry in his private journal reads:
March 26, 1812. Really on board, mes enfans and thus far on my way to you. But what a job it has been! Let me give you an historical sketch of the day.
Rose this morning at 5, and by the time breakfast was ready, Castella came in. Got a porter to carry my sacks and writing-case, and set off at 8 for the stage-house, to be sure to be in good season. Arrived there I was told, to my utter dismay, that the stage had gone at 8, the hour having been changed, of which Graves was ignorant. Went with Castella to Graves's. No other stage would go till i. Castella recom- mended that we should take a post-chaise which would cost about 3 guineas ; but not having a quarter of that sum, and Graves not proposing to advance any more, that project was given up. Castella, indeed, offered to lend me so much ; but he is so poor, and having a wife and two children, that 1 could not in conscience take it, especially as Graves said that the wind was ahead, and that the ship could not possibly move. So agreed to take the stage at i. Castella would have been one of the party, but had an appointment on business ten miles in the country. Called and passed an hour at Godwins'. That family does really love me. Fanny, Mary, and Jane, also little William ; you must not forget, either, Hannah Hopwood, la peintresse 1 . At 1 1 to Graves's again. Took luncheon, and at 1/2 p. 12 to the stage-house. Started at i, and arrived at 5 at Gravesend. The ship had sailed with the first ebb at noon. The Alien Office was shut. First we hunted up the officer of that department, and having got my passport arranged and my sack and writing case examined by a custom-house officer, went out to hunt for ways and means to get on. The boatmen asked 4 guineas to put me on board. On such occasions they always combine to fleece a stranger, and will make one pay 4 or 5 guineas to be put on board a ship not ^ mile off. At length, however, Graves found a man who was not in the plot, who offered to put me on board for 2 guineas, and to return i guinea if the ship would be found within twelve miles. To this I agreed, and to get the means was obliged to draw an order on poor Castella for 3 guineas. I embarked just after sunset, the wind strong at S. W. and very chilling. I had no greatcoat, and was nearly perished. Got down the twelve miles and heard that the ship was at least ten miles lower down. On promises of some grog got the boatman to stop at a little tavern on the river-side to warm myself. I was so benumbed that I could not get out of the boat, nor even walk without help. Found a good fire and a good dish of tea. As we were going out to the boat, the coxswain addressed me, " Now, sir, you recollect that our bargain was to have 2 guineas if the ship should not be more than twelve miles, and more according to the distance." " Oh, yes," said another of the boatmen, "that was the bargain, and the gentleman must recollect it." " Two guineas for twelve miles, and so in proportion," the other boatmen echoed. Now nothing could be more impudently false; for, to prevent any after-explanation, I called the men into the tavern where I was at Gravesend, and made them repeat over distinctly my bargain, in the presence of Graves and the landlord ; but I had no alternative but to submit to any imposition the boatmen might please to practice. I told them I would satisfy them if they pulled smartly, for I was apprehensive that the ship would get under weigh about midnight, when the tide of ebb would make again. Bought a bundle of straw for 9 pence, which took on board our little wherry, and made me a bed in the bottom of the boat. The boatmen lent me their greatcoats, which I had not before thought to ask, and I found myself well secured against the chilling winds. In five minutes I was sound asleep, and was unconscious of anything till I was waked to get into the Aurora just at midnight, having come about twenty-seven miles in this open boat. After some parleying, I got off for 3 guineas, being exactly all I had. The first thing I learned on getting on board was, that some of the London tide-waiters, seeing the quantity of my baggage, and that it had passed without examination, concluded that there must be treasures of a seizable nature, followed the ship after she moved from Gravesend, then came on board with hatchets and chisels, broke open every one of my trunks and boxes, and rummaged to the bottom, but found not the smallest article to gratify their rapacity.
The only thing of that description which are still in my possession are your half-dozen pair of silk stockings, which, fortunately, I had in my pocket. This event has consoled me a little for the articles sold and left ; for had the cambric, the ribbons, or one of the watches been found among my things, they would undoubtedly have been seized and forfeited. These custom-house harpies, then, did me no other mischief than that of spoiling six trunk-locks, injuring the boxes, and putting the things in utter disorder. The Captain says he stood over them the whole time to see that they stole nothing.
All hands were abed and asleep when I got on board. The Captain and mate got up, and also Captain Nicholls, an American mariner, who is passenger. They made me a great fire, and, after talking an hour, have all turned in, so that I have the cabin to myself; and, as I had three hours of sound sleep on board the boat, and have nothing to call me up early in the morning, I have devoted this hour to you, to show you the conclusion of my English travels. I hope never to visit the country again, unless at the head of fifty thousand men. I shake the dust off my feet; adieu, John Bull ! Insula inbospitabilis 1 , as it was truly called 1800 years ago. Poor D. M. R. called on me, and staid about three hours last evening ; that is, Wednesday evening, at my Clerkenwell quarters. He parted from me in a state of despondency little short of desperation. I cannot think of him without pain. There never was a man of more genuine honesty and honor. Our two captains, Potter and Nicholls, expect to find war with England by the time we arrive in the United States. Indeed, they are seriously alarmed lest war should be declared before we get home, and thus we be exposed to capture. But I have no such apprehensions. I believe that our present administration will not declare war. If the British should hang or roast every American they can catch, and seize all their property, no war would be declared by the United States under present rulers. When Porter's war resolutions first came, I considered them mere empty unmeaning wind ; and thus all the subsequent measures are merely to keep up the spirits and coherence of the party till the elections should be over; those elections for state legislatures which will decide the next presidential election. But J. Madison & Co. began this game too soon, and I doubt whether all the tricks they can play off will keep up the farce till the month of May. I treat their war-prattle as I should that of a bevy of boarding-house misses who should talk of making war ; show them a bayonet or a sword, and they run and hide. Now at some future day we will read this over, and see whether I know those folks. I did not dare write such things while on shore, for I never felt perfectly secure against another seizure. Captain Potter only, of all on board this ship, knows me ; so far, at least, as I am informed. I came on board under the name of Arnot, and am so called. It will be very wonderful if this secret should be kept during the whole passage.