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making trips into the countryside, and to Staten Island to see the British encampment-and perhaps occasionally in the streets of Elizabethtown they passed a boy on his way to the grammar school where he was preparing himself for college; a boy who had just come from the West Indies, whose name was Alexander Hamilton.
But Timothy Edwards had sold his house and returned to Stockbridge; Aaron must decide about the future, and of course it had always been expected of him that he would enter the ministry. All his relatives urged him to do so, and in May, 1772, his friend Samuel Spring had written to say that "the study of divinity is agreeable-far more so than any other study would be to me. I hope to see the time when you will feel it your duty to go into the same study with a desire for the ministry. Remember, that was the prayer of your dear father and mother, and is the prayer of your friends to this time that you should step forth into his place, and make it manifest that you are a friend to Heaven, and that you have a taste for its glory. But this, you are sensible, can never be the case if you remain in a state of nature. Therefore, improve the present and future moments to the best of purposes, as knowing the time will soon be upon you when you will wish that in living you had lived right, and acted rationally, and like an immortal."
And so, in the fall of 1773, Aaron packed himself off to Bethlehem, in Connecticut, to undertake the study of theology with the venerable Reverend Joseph Bellamy, an old friend and pupil of his grandfather, Jonathan Edwards. But after several months
spent in discussions with his reverend tutor―during which he showed no "remorse of conscience at wearing your high holiday coat every day"-Aaron realized that he was not destined to become a friend to Heaven, in so far as such friendship involved his entry into the ministry, and that whatever glory he might incline to was not of a celestial nature. There was that, moreover, in the harsh, exclusive religion of his ancestors which did not satisfy his quite frankly sceptical mind; "the road to Heaven," he felt convinced, "was open to all alike"; and in the spring of 1774 he took his leave of the Reverend Joseph Bellamy.
It was inevitable, then, that he should turn to the law; and after a brief consideration of his cousin, Pierrepont Edwards, as a suitable teacher, he went instead, in May, 1774, to Litchfield, to place himself under the instruction of his brother-in-law, Tapping Reeve. Mr. Reeve was already acquiring that reputation in his profession which was to bring more than a thousand pupils to his school, including such men as Oliver Wolcott, Uriah Tracy and John C. Calhoun; Litchfield was an acknowledged centre of liberalism and religious toleration, where, as one learns from Mr. McLaughlin's Matthew Lyon, "the Blue Laws were relaxed; surplices, organs and table at the west end of the church were no longer abominations in the eyes and ears of the people. The penal statutes against Quakers, and proscriptive of prayer books and the observance of Christmas, were a dead letter in the town of Litchfield."
And Litchfield was the home of Aaron's dear sister Sally.
But there were other attractions at Litchfield. There were a great many pretty girls there at Litchfield and in other places which he visited during the following months. At Fairfield, for instance, where he had a violent flirtation with Miss Dorothy Quincy of Boston who was summering there, and who complained that her chaperon would not permit her to spend a moment alone in the company of Mr. Burr, whom she found "a handsome young man with a pretty fortune"-and she engaged at the time to John Hancock! Aaron Burr was to have, during his long life, a number of interesting associations with the fair sex-some of them innocent, some of them less so and it was not extraordinary that this captivating young law student of eighteen, whose influence on women was almost invariably to be exhilarating, should find himself actively engrossed in the affairs of his swiftly expanding heart.
In fact, it was difficult to escape from the girls; they insisted on falling in love with him of their own accord, and then pestering him about it. "The news you heard of me at Princeton was groundless," Aaron wrote to Matthias Ogden in March, 1775. "It is so far from being true that scarce two persons can fix on the same lady to tease me with." They already had him engaged, evidently. "However, I would not have you think that this diversity of opinion arises from the volatility of my constitution, or that I am in love with every new or pretty face I see. But I hope you know me too well to need a caution of this nature.