1807, August 3: Spencer Roane worked in the Virginia State Capitol for years. In 1807, the same building hosted his arch-rival John Marshall presiding over the treason trial of former Vice President Aaron Burr.
The Capitol, designed by statesman-philosopher Thomas Jefferson, is the centerpiece on the Square. It is the first public building in the New World designed as a monumental classical temple. America’s oldest English-speaking representative assembly has been meeting here since 1788. This assembly, meeting at the Capitol, ratified the U.S. Bill of Rights in December 1791, causing them to go into effect throughout the nation.
For many years both Federal and Virginia courts met in the Capitol. Lawyer and orator Patrick Henry argued important cases here. In 1807 the “Great Chief Justice” John Marshall presided over the treason trial of Aaron Burr in a Federal circuit court meeting at the Capitol. His precedent-setting rulings established an American legal definition of treason, in effect to this day.