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    Written by: Michael Dalby 7/1/2011 12:41 PM 

    On July 11, 1804, Former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton was mortally wounded in a pistol duel with Vice President Aaron Burr.

    It was the New York governor's race of 1804 that pushed these two rivals to violence. In that election, candidate Aaron Burr turned his back on the Republican party and ran as an independent. The prospect of Burr leading New York so mortified Hamilton (a Federalist who despised and mistrusted Burr as “a man of irregular and insatiable ambition”) that he tried to convince New York Federalists not to support Burr. At the polls, Burr would be crushingly defeated. Shortly therafter, a letter was published in a leading newspaper of the day that had been written by an attendee of a dinner party that had also included Hamilton. The forceful comdemnations that the former Treasury Secretary had made against Burr within that small intimate gathering had now become the talk of the town. Outraged, Burr subsequently challenged his rival to a duel that was accepted.

    After Hamilton's and Burr's seconds tried without success to settle the matter amicably, the two political enemies met on the dueling grounds at Weehawken, New Jersey on the morning of July 11. Each fired a shot from a .56 caliber dueling pistol. Burr was unscathed; Hamilton fell to the ground mortally wounded and died in agony the next day.

    Instead of reviving Burr's political career, the duel helped to end it. Burr was charged with two counts of murder. After his term as vice president ended, he would never hold elective office again. 


    George Keithley’s play, The Best Blood of the Country. Lewiston, NY: Mellen Poetry Press, 1993.PS3561.E378 B46 1993.

    David Nevin’s Treason. New York: Forge, 2001.

    Charles J. Nolan, Jr.’s Aaron Burr and the American Literary Imagination. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1980. PS169.B85 N6 1980.

    Anya Seton’s My Theodosia. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press, 2007.

    Gore Vidal’s Burr: A Novel. New York: Random House, 1973.


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