Jane McManus Cazneau (1807-1878)

Photo: Seth Tillett   Materials: Cotton and leather corset, cane boned with trapunto and coffee dyed books

Photo: Seth Tillett
Materials: Cotton and leather corset, cane boned with trapunto and
coffee dyed books

The Loves of Aaron Burr:
Portraits in Corsetry & Binding

Jane McManus Cazneau (1807-1878)

On or about the 4th of July in 1833, seventy-six year old Aaron Burr married fifty-five year old Eliza Jumel at her home on Harlem Heights. Within the
year Burr is flatteringly accused of adultery. Towards undoing their poor
idea of matrimony, his single request is that he be allowed to choose the
co-respondent as someone whose provenance would flatter. 

He chose twenty-six year old Jane McManus, “A born insurrecto and a terror with her pen,” Jane’s high intelligence and dark-hued beauty disarmed most people and he liked that. The McManus's, of Troy, New York, intermarried with and adapted to the local Mahicans, whom Burr admired and fought alongside in the War for Independence. The tribe’s customary democratic structure
and policies toward property rights and suffrage became the ballast of his Tammany Society and the basis for safeguarding their rights, and the rights of the common Revolutionary soldier, her father for instance, from their removal by Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists. And she liked that.

While Jane never emphasized her race in print, it was a likely source of her ambitions. In 1831, she and Burr were working together toward the McManus family acquiring large patents of land in Mexican Texas. Advocating alongside Burr for the annexation of Mexico, she and her family proceeded to buy and attempted to settle the disputed territory with indentured immigrants and free blacks. Jane's financial partner backs out leaving her to seek funds from other investors, Burr amongst. 

Jane McManus Portrait+Front.jpg

That his “Conspiracy” of 1804, far from being treason, is now Andrew Jackson’s government’s policy is insufficient to reward his perseverance towards winning the West. Not at all long after marrying Madame Jumel, his Eliza intercepts a letter from Jane to Burr seeking funds, from which she divines they’re speculating in these land deals with her money & without her consent.  She thinks hard on what's going on without her consent. Legend has it that the bride met her husband the next morning at breakfast with
a carpet beater. Suffice to say he left with egg on his face and bloodied,
his wardrobe strewn into a snow bank.  

Madame as a woman scorned files immediately for divorce on the grounds
of adultery, choosing Alexander Hamilton, Jr. as her counsel, Jane McManus as Co-respondent, and using Burr's own servant as the incriminating witness against him. Eliza turns accusations against Jane into the kind of slander Hamilton's father aimed at Burr, who she will accuse of robbing her money. The Divorce decree becomes final the very day of Burr's death.

Madame Jumel would use Burr's name as a matter of convenience when it suited her ends. Jane McManus, publicly humiliated and thwarted in her pioneering of Texas, took a dozen journalistic pen names toward regaining an economic footing. Her writing career embraced the revolutions in the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico and advocated American annexation.  Writing for The New Yorker, The Daily Plebeian, The Workingman’s Advocate The New York Sun and The Democratic Review, about the expansion of commerce and democracy, she alternately urged African Americans to move further South toward escaping the obdurate racism of North America. 

Democratic Jane would coin the term Manifest Destiny to characterize the annexation and filibustering that ultimately would create the contours of the American West, while her Tory opposition would restyle Manifest Destiny into an Imperialism profiteering from the gruesome genocide of very indigenous American people Jane McManus had been seeking to empower.

Had he lived long enough, Burr would likely have been proud of the last of the women writers he’d mentored. In an end to parallel that of Burr's daughter, Theodosia, Jane was lost at sea on December 10, 1878 off a tramp steamer
in the Bermuda Triangle.

Hudson, Linda S. Mistress of Manifest Destiny: A Biography of Jane McManus
Storm Cazneau. Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 2001.

The Loves Of Aaron Burr:
Portraits in Corsetry & Binding
The Film 

Drawing connections between her own interpretive work
and the historic corsets exhibited in

Fashioning the Body: An Intimate History of the Silhouette
Camilla Huey will speak on the changing architectural, structural, and functional forms
of corsets, corset-making, materials, and methodologies. The artist employs these forms in her unique approach to analyzing portraits of nine 18th- and 19th-century women. Through ephemera, fetishism, material culture, and texts, the artist invites the audience
to follow both design and historic research as she explores biographical narrative.
She will bring selected works from her exhibition,

The Loves of Aaron Burr: Portraits in Corsetry & Binding

Preview May 7, 6pm Bard Graduate Center
38 West 86th Street, New York City 10024
$25 RSVP 

The Premiere of
The Loves of Aaron Burr: Portraits in Corsetry & Binding Film
with select works from the exhibition at the Morris-Jumel Mansion. Manhattan's oldest house the very place where the lives of these women, filming and exhibition took place.
A reception and screening with discussion to follow.
View the works of 
Yinka Shonibare, MBE, Colonial Arrangements before.

Premiere May 14, 6pm Morris-Jumel Mansion
65 Jumel Terrace, New York City 10032
$25 RSVP 

Camilla Huey (artist/couturière) has exhibited artwork at the Bard Graduate Center
and the Morris-Jumel Mansion in New York City. Her exhibit, 
The Loves of Aaron Burr: Portraits in Corsetry & Binding, paid homage to the women who surrounded and influenced this controversial founding father.