July 11, 1804
Who Lives, Who Dies,
Who Tells The Story.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.”
“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.”
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.
“Give me the steady, uniform, unshaken security of constitutional freedom. Give me the right to be tried by a jury of my own neighbors, and to be taxed by my own representatives only. What will become of the law and courts of justice without this? The shadow may remain, but the substance will be gone. I would die to preserve the law upon a solid foundation; but take away liberty, and the foundation is destroyed.” Alexander Hamilton
Benjamin Moore’s account of events: CLICK HERE
The account by the Library of Congress
by Jenna Lee,