BURR-HAMILTON DUEL. Dueling, used as a means of settling questions of honor, received national attention on 11 July 1804 in Weehawken, New Jersey, with the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. The confrontation between Burr and Hamilton began in the early 1780s with their competition at the New York state bar and continued during the presidential election of 1800, in which Burr ran for vice president as a Republican. He tied with presidential candidate Thomas Jefferson; however, the Federalist votes in the House of Representatives kept the election in a deadlock until Hamilton's influence gave the presidency to Jefferson, and the vice presidency to Burr, thereby allowing Hamilton to thwart any of Burr's ambitions for further political office.
When Burr failed to get the Republican nomination for the governorship of New York in 1804, he solicited Federalist aid, causing Hamilton to denounce Burr as "a man of irregular and unsatiable ambition … who ought not to be trusted with the reins of the government." An agitated Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel, to which Hamilton agreed, although he issued a letter stating that
compliance with the duel would prevent him from seeking further political involvement, an ironic publication since Hamilton was mortally wounded in the duel. One of the seconds reported that Hamilton had not intended to fire any shots, although both pistols discharged and Hamilton fell. Burr remained a fugitive from the law in both New York and New Jersey, becoming involved in various land schemes, before being acquitted of treason in 1807.
Kennedy, Roger G. Burr, Hamilton, and Jefferson: A Study in Character. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
See alsoDueling .
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