The Duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr
The animosity between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr had roots in their past that included the following:
- The two men were rival political leaders in New York, Burr the Republican and Hamilton the Federalist
- Hamilton had prevented Burr from possibly becoming president in the disputed Election of 1800
- Hamilton had maneuvered to deny Burr the governorship of New York in 1804
- The feud became intensely personal with an exchange of insults; Burr dredged up a long-forgotten sexual indiscretion of Hamilton`s while Hamilton reacted by publicly attacking Burr`s character.
Burr issued a challenge for a duel after learning of Hamilton`s disparaging remarks. Hamilton was personally opposed to dueling
, especially since the recent death of his son in such a confrontation.
Nevertheless, early on the morning of July 11, 1804, the two men crossed the Hudson River and met on the heights near Weehawken, New Jersey. The two exchanged pistol shots; Hamilton was hit in the stomach with the bullet lodging in his spine. He lingered for 30 hours, then expired and left behind his wife, seven children and a host of debts.
Hamilton supporters have argued the he purposely fired into the air; Burr apologists on the other hand maintain that Hamilton simply missed his target.
Burr was still vice president at the time of the duel, but clearly his political career was finished. Hamilton`s aristocratic views had precluded his becoming a popular figure, but news of his death deeply shocked the nation.