On This Day

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On This Day

October 15, 1860

 

 

 

How a little girl’s “beauty advice” to Abraham Lincoln may have shaped the future (& face) of America.

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“If you let your whiskers grow, I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you. You would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.”

11-year-old Grace Bedell of Westfield, NY writing to then-candidate Abraham Lincoln during his presidential campaign. Shortly after, Lincoln started growing a beard and he had a full beard on the day of his inauguration several months later.
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“Some three months ago, I received a letter from a young lady here; it was a very pretty letter, and she advised me to let my whiskers grow, as it would improve my personal appearance; acting partly upon her suggestion, I have done so; and now, if she is here, I would like to see her.”

President-Elect Lincoln during a brief stop in Westfield, NY on the way to his inauguration celebration in 1861.
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Guided By Grace?

Grace wrote the letter in Oct 1860, just weeks before Election Day.

In his response to Grace, Lincoln asked whether he might be made fun of for suddenly growing a beard; he was!

The beard likely didn’t impact his victory, BUT it did affect his appearance as the 16th President and his legacy.

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Pres. Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden have one thing going for both of them this Election Day — NO facial hair. Researchers say beards are perceived as a sign of masculinity and self-confidence, yet no sitting president has sported facial hair in over a century.

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October 13, 1792

“May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.”

The cornerstone of the White House was laid.

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Not A Natural White

“…a quality of toughness without brittle hardness.”

A description of the unusual sandstone used to the build the White House. The stone was not *naturally* white - but "light gray or tan, and is streaked or clouded with buff, yellow, or red colors that give it a warm tone," according to the U.S. geographical survey.
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Why “White” House?

  • The Contrast: Traditionally, buildings of the era were constructed in red brick.
  • The “White Wash”: The original sandstone weathered poorly so after the British burned parts of the White House in the War of 1812, repairs incl. white-washing & painting the exterior.
  • The Style: Irish-born architect modeled the White House from a famous, grand mansion in Ireland.
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“The Seat Of The Empire”

  • Pres. Washington chose the location of the “executive mansion”, strategically near rivers (& his home in Mt. Vernon).
  • Maryland & Virginia each gave a little land to create the District of Colombia.
  • D.C. straddles the North & South, “harnessing” wealthy southern states to help pay the federal gov’t’s war debt.
  • What’s inside:  28 fireplaces, 132 rooms, & 35 bathrooms. The President’s residence has 6 levels.

 

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Whoever "wins the White House" this year will follow a tradition of every U.S, president since Pres. John Adams, the first inhabitant, in 1800 - a full 8 years after construction began. Adams wrote the line on the front of our card stack in a letter to his wife Abigail a day after moving in.

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On This Day

September 17, 1787

U.S. Constitution Signed

Today honors America’s founding document – the world’s longest surviving written government charter.

 

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“It is at all times difficult to draw with precision the line between those rights which must be surrendered, and those which may be preserved;”

George Washington submitting the final draft of the Constitution to the Continental Congress, Sept. 17, 1787. He highlighted the challenge of bringing states together with different "habits, and particular interests" but credited "concessions", "mutual deference" and the spirit of friendship for the final product.
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Constitutional Convention

  • Who: 55 delegates attended the Convention, but only 39 signed.
  • When: Written during four-month Convention (May 25 – Sept 17, 1787).
  • Where: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • Why: Created “a new form of government” ~ divided power between the states with a federal government with executive, judicial, & legislative branches.
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WHAT IS CELEBRATED

  • 1940: Congress designated “I Am An American Day” as the 3rd Sunday in May to honor new citizens.
  • 1952: Congress moved date to Sept. 17th, naming it “Citizenship Day.”
  • 2004: Congress designated Sept. 17th *BOTH* “Constitution Day & Citizenship Day” to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution and “recognize all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens.”

 

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DID YOU KNOW?

  • The first ten amendments are known as the the Bill of Rights.
  • The Constitution has been amended 27 times, most recently in 1992, adding one of the original amendments that didn’t make the cut in 1791, regarding federal lawmaker pay.
  • Only one amendment was repealed. In 1933, the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment, and put an end to Prohibition.
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THE NEXT AMENDMENT? In 2019 Congress held the first hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment in 36 years. The amendment, passed by Congress in 1972 would have made gender equality a fundamental right, but ultimately, it was not added to the Constitution. See our source page for more.

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September 11, 2001

Why We Never Forget

What to Always Remember

What To Know:
America’s War On Terror

 

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“Jules, this is Brian—listen, I’m on an airplane that’s been hijacked. If things don’t go well, and it’s not looking good, I just want you to know I absolutely love you, I want you to do good, go have good times, same to my parents and everybody, and I just totally love you, and I’ll see you when you get there. Bye, babe. I hope I call you.”

Brian Sweeney calling his wife Julie from United Flight 175
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1 Hour & 17 Minutes

8:46 a.m.: American Flight 11 crashes into WTC’s North Tower

9:03 a.m.: United Flight 175 crashes into WTC’s South Tower

9:37 a.m.: American Flight 77 crashes into Pentagon

10:03 a.m.: United Flight 93 crashes near Shanksville, PA

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THE VICTIMS

Nearly 3,000 people died on Sept. 11

  • 2,753 in New York (including 343 firefighters & 23 police)
  • 184 at the Pentagon
  • 40 aboard Flight 93

Approximately 500 police officers, firefighters, EMTs and paramedics have since died from 9/11 related illnesses in NYC alone.

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THE TERRORISTS

  • 15 of 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. Others from Egypt, UAE (2), Lebanon (1) and Egypt (1).
  • 9/11 mastermind & al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. in 2011.
  • Trial for five men accused of helping plot the attacks, incl. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, is set for January 2021. They were captured in Pakistan & are held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
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THE AFTERMATH

  • October 7, 2001: Pres. Bush announced attacks on al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan by the U.S. with allies
  • 2003: U.S. & allies invaded Iraq.
  • Since 9/11, more than 2.7M U.S. service members have fought in the “War on Terror.” More than 5,400 killed in action, nearly half in Afghanistan. Tens of thousands injured.
  • The post 9/11 wars estimated to have cost American taxpayers $6.7T.
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THE LATEST

  • February: US & Taliban signed an “agreement for bringing peace” that *could* lead to the full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
  • Sept. 10: Pres. Trump: “a lot of progress” in Afghanistan, referencing no U.S. deaths since early Feb. (4 U.S. soldiers killed in action *so far* this year). Pres. Trump spoke about lower troop levels in Afghanistan, and said the U.S. military is “pretty much out” of Iraq & Syria.
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“The start of these talks marks a historic opportunity for Afghanistan to bring an end to four decades of war and bloodshed… Immense sacrifice and investment by the United States, our partners, and the people of Afghanistan have made this moment of hope possible.”

Sec. of State Pompeo will travel to Qatar this wknd for peace talks btwn Taliban & Afghan gov't. Questions remain about road ahead & if peace is possible.
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Wreaths Across America is encouraging Americans to wave a flag for one minute at four significant times on the 19th anniversary of Sept. 11 following a tradition started by 3 American women in Maine. It's an incredible story ~ Learn more on our source page.

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On This Day

September 7, 1813



 

Congress officially recognized the namesake of “Uncle Sam.”

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Was Uncle Sam Real?

  • Although best known from the U.S. Army’s “I Want You” posters of World War I, the origins of Uncle Sam date back to the War of 1812.
  • New York meat packer Samuel Wilson fed hungry troops. His meat barrels of beef & pork were stamped with a “U.S.” but soldiers called it “Uncle Sam’s.”
  • Sep 7, 1961: Congress recognized Wilson as “the progenitor of America’s national symbol of Uncle Sam.”
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How You See Him:

  • Over the years, many artists shaped Uncle Sam’s look, which began as a “congenial, folksy, older man.”
  • Cartoonist Thomas Nast popularized him with white beard and stars & stripes suit.
  • Artist James Montgomery Flagg’s 1917 “I Want You For The U.S. Army” depiction showed him stern and muscular. The famous poster was used during both World War I and World War II.
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Thomas Nast

  • German-born American raised in New York City during mid-19th century.
  • Known as one of the first political cartoonists.
  • Popularized the donkey as the symbol for the Democratic Party and the elephant as the symbol for the Republican Party.
  • Also credited with creating the modern image of Santa Claus.
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Why does Uncle Sam remain popular? Here's one theory: "Uncle Sam is rolling up his sleeves. He's going to go pound on somebody." Does that fit your image of America? Read more on why Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty both compete for the leading role for American symbolism.

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Why (and how) Labor Day became a federal holiday.

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“Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

The U.S. Department of Labor on the significance of Labor Day.
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ORIGINS

  • Holiday’s founder debated, but labor unions advocated for it for many years before the movement gained steam.
  • 1880s: Celebrated first as a local or state holiday. First Labor Day parade took place in NYC. 23 states celebrated it before it became a federal holiday.
  • 1894: Pres. Cleveland made it a holiday to celebrate the “nobility” of work and givie the working man “a reasonable amount of rest and recreation.”
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“Lager beer kegs … mounted in every conceivable place.”

One description of the first Labor Day Parade in New York City, which took place in 1882. Some ten thousand labor union workers were present. to celebrate their trades. The parade ended with speeches, cigars, and (ahem) beverages.
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“Of course you can wear white after Labor Day, and it makes perfect sense to do so in climates where September’s temperatures are hardly fall-like… The true interpretation is ‘wear what’s appropriate—for the weather, the season, or the occasion.'”

The Emily Post Institute's take on the "no white after Labor Day rule". The rule's origins aren't entirely clear, but it likely originated among wealthy urban dwellers in the early 1900s.
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This year is the 126th year Labor Day will be celebrated as a federal holiday. It's one of only ten and the last one of the 19th century. Veterans Day, Columbus Day, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday became federal holiday during the 20th century. Some believe the federal gov't should make Election Day a federal holiday

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On This Day

August 28, 1963

“I have a dream…”

Hundreds of thousands of Americans participate in one of the most prominent rallies in U.S. history, and hear one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous speeches.

One of the most well-known lines wasn’t in his written remarks.

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Backstory

  • March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom: Full name reflects the initial goal of promoting economic equality along with racial equality.
  • Goal: Place pressure on the Kennedy admin. to develop legislation later known as the 1964 Civil Rights Act. 
  • Much debate occurred about who would talk, when, and for how long. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke last.
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“I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reportedly had no references to "a dream" in his prepared remarks, but ad-libbed these remarks in 1963, marking 100 years since the Emancipation Proclamation.
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“I turned to somebody standing next to me and I said, ‘These people don’t know it, but they’re about to go to church.'”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s attorney, Clarence Jones, said he heard gospel singer, Mahlia Jackson, yell to King during a pause for audience applause, "Tell them about the dream, Martin. Tell them about the dream’." Jones' says King drew upon his experience and themes he used as a preacher to improvise the rest of the speech.
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The crowd and speakers reflected Americans of different races and backgrounds. Paralleling the news cycle of this past week, MLK Jr. spoke about police brutality, civil unrest and the relationship between white and black Americans. Read or listen to his speech on our source page.

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100 Years Ago Today

Congress ratified the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote.

A look back in U.S. history at WHO got the right & WHEN

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1776: America’s Beginnings

  • On July 4, 1776, the American colonies declared independence from Great Britain, but the first presidential election wasn’t held until in 1789.
  • In most states, the right to vote was limited initially to land owners (mostly white men).
  • For many years voting rights were dictated largely by the Constitution and state laws until Congress first began to weigh in via federal legislation in 1957.
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1870: Post Civil War

  • The 15th Amendment granted all citizens the right to vote regardless of race or prior enslavement.
  • At the time, the term “citizens” was expanded to include African American men – NOT Native American men.
  • However, for the next nearly 100 years, states used other ways to limit voting, like literacy tests & requiring voters to pay to vote (poll taxes).
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1920: Women

  • Nearly 80 years after the women’s voting movement unofficially began in 1840, the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote in 1920.
  • Due to existing state laws at the time, the right was initially limited to mostly white women.
  • The U.S. wasn’t the first. New Zealand became the first country to grant all women the right to vote in 1893.
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1924: Native Americans

  • The Indian Citizenship Act granted Native Americans citizenship, and thus, the right to vote.
  • However, states were still free to impose limits on the right to vote for many years.
  • In 1962, New Mexico became the last state to grant Native Americans voting rights.
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1950s and 1960s:
Civil Rights Movement

  • The movement led to federal action securing the right to vote for African Americans & others by outlawing state-imposed barriers restricting voting.
  • In 1964, Congress passed the 24th Amendment, prohibiting poll taxes.
  • In 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, banning literacy tests. Most African Americans in the South were not registered to vote until this time.
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DID YOU KNOW? It wasn't until the passage of the 23rd Amendment in 1961 that DC residents were allowed to vote in presidential elections. Ten years later, during the wake of the Vietnam War in 1971, Congress passed the 26th Amendment, lowering the voting age to 18. Traditionally the voting age was 21.

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On This Day

August 11 1911

Duke Kahanamoku

The “father of surfing” sets a world-record, bursting onto the international scene on road to Olympic gold, and bringing Hawaii’s native sport along with him.

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“Out of the water, I am nothing. Surfing is the greatest thrill of my life.”

Duke Kahanamoku began his swimming career when he broke the world record for the 100-yard freestyle at an amateur swim meet on August 11, 1911. The three-time Olympic gold medal swimmer is even credited with introducing the flutter kick. Despite his prowess in the pool, his real love was his surfboard. Many credit him with bringing surfing from Hawaii into the mainstream and onto the "mainland."
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Outside of the water, Kahanamoku's career expanded to acting in Hollywood film to politics. He served as Honolulu's sheriff for over 25 years and Honolulu’s official greeter welcoming the famous to the island.

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On This Day

July 28, 1868

After the states ratified the 14th Amendment, it officially became part of the
U.S. Constitution.

Here’s how it continues to shape American civil liberties

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BACKGROUND

  • After the Civil War, Congress passed three constitutional amendments:
  • 1865: 13th Amendment outlawed slavery.
  • 1866: Congress passed the 14th Amendment, inspired by the question of whether freed slaves were American citizens. States ratified in 1868.
  • 1870: 15th Amendment gave Black men the right to vote.
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“All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the United States …No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens … nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

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WHAT IT MEANS

Citizenship: All persons born in the U.S. are U.S. citizens.

Equal Protection: State gov’t must apply laws fairly and equally to all people.

Due Process: State gov’t must follow certain procedures before it deprives an individual of a right.

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Equal Protection Clause: Big Supreme Court Cases

  • 1896: The court allowed segregation, ruling separate facilities for Black people can be “equal.
  • 1954: The court overruled that decision, finding that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal” & ending segregation in public schools.
  • 1967 & 2015: The court prohibited states from passing laws outlawing interracial & same-sex marriages.
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The Due Process Clause:
Big Supreme Court Cases

  • Major legal cases related to the 14th Amendment aren’t limited to race.
  • 1936: The court ruled confessions obtained by torture are not voluntary and, therefore, inadmissible at trial.
  • 1973: The court ruled states cannot deny a woman her fundamental “right to privacy” to obtain an abortion without certain procedural safeguards.
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Former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson said the 14th Amendment provides "the courts with the opportunity to override the will of the people when the will of the people discriminates against a segment of our society." The 14th amendment is the longest & potentially "most complex" in the U.S. Constitution: read why

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June 23, 1904

An unexpectedly mysterious (and delightful) invention bursts onto the world stage:

The ice cream cone.

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Full Disclaimer

No one knows with 100% certainty who invented the ice cream cone.

  • FOR YEARS, however, the commonly-believed date was June 23, 1904.
  • The inventor: An original foodie, Charles E. Menches.
  • A twist? Others who claim to have invented the ice cream cone *also* appeared at the 1904 St. Louis Fair.
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The Story Goes…

Charles observed a girl(s) using baked goods for ice cream as a serving bowl.

He took a cake, rolled it around his finger, and filled it with ice cream.

“It is from the time of the Fair that the edible ‘cornucopia,’ a cone made from a rolled waffle, vaulted into popularity in the United States.” Library of Congress

 

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Something To Consider:

“The average American consumes more than 23 pounds of ice cream per year.”

The International Dairy Foods Association
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An Italian patented an ice cream cone concept in 1903 but it described "edible cups with handles." Charles and Frank Menches also claimed to have invented the hamburger. Read more about the heated controversy over "who owns the cone" on our source page.

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On This Day

July 11, 1804

The Duel

Alexander Hamilton

Aaron Burr

Who Lives, Who Dies,
Who Tells The Story.

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Who & What

Who: Aaron Burr was Vice President of the United States under Pres. Jefferson. Alexander Hamilton was a “Founding Father,” the first U.S. Treasury Secretary and a powerful political figure. Both veterans of the Revolutionary War.

What: A duel. Dueling was illegal in New York and New Jersey, but NJ had a reputation for more leniency.

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Where & When

Where: Weehawken, New Jersey (across the Hudson River from New York City) in the early hours of July 11th, 1804

When: Each man left New York City from separate docks at 5 a.m.. Four men rowed them across the Hudson River.

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Why?

  • No one knows why specifically.
  • Over the years, their political differences put them on a collision course. Hamilton supported Jefferson who defeated Burr for the presidency. Hamilton also supported Burr’s opponent for NY governor.
  • Reportedly one particularly bad insult by Hamilton about Burr at a dinner sparked the face-off, but the exact comment remains a mystery.
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The Night Before

“But you had rather I should die inno⟨c⟩ent than live guilty. … God’s Will be done. The will of a merciful God must be good.”

Alexander Hamilton to his wife, Elizabeth (Eliza) the night before his duel to Aaron Burr, where he insinuates he doesn’t want to kill Burr. Conflicting accounts exist of who shot first and whether Hamilton missed on purpose.
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The Day After

  • Alexander Hamilton dies at 2 pm on July 12th.
  • Benjamin Moore, Episcopal bishop of New York delivered communion to him before his death.
  • Moore wrote an account that evening, relaying Hamilton said before he died: “I have no ill will against Col. Burr. I met him with a fixed resolution to do him no harm. I forgive all that happened.”
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“Let those who are disposed to justify the practice of duelling, be induced, by this simple narrative, to view with abhorrence that custom which has occasioned in irreparable loss to a worthy and most afflicted family: which has deprived his friends of a beloved companion, his profession of one of its brightest ornaments, and his country of a great statesman and a real patriot.”

Benjamin Moore
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Burr continued to serve as VP until 1805 and was never convicted for the crime. 200 years later, a Broadway musical "Hamilton" put the two men back in the spotlight again in their former home of New York City. Hamilton, the musical, just debuted on Disney's streaming service.

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