Monday, July 12, 2010

This Week in American History- The Duel

Even in our greatest scandals we are exceptional. Alexander Hamilton was one of our most important Founding Fathers - George Washington's Aide-de-camp and a Revolutionary War hero, our First Secretary of the Treasury and, thus, the savior and architect of America's political economy and one of the framers of the Constitution. Aaron Burr was a scoundrel and a rogue, but also the Vice President during Thomas Jefferson's first term and very nearly the President as he and Jefferson finished in a dead heat during the Presidential election. He was also a Revolutionary War hero. When he was ousted from the Jefferson administration for the second term, he joined forces with a group whose goal was secession from the union of the New England states. To carry out this plan, Burr needed to win the Governorship of the State of New York. To make a long story short, Hamilton was the leader of a group who foiled this attempt. He called Burr "a dangerous man and one who ought not to be trusted with the reins of the government." These remarks somehow got into print and Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel at Weehawken, New Jersey. Hamilton strongly disapproved of dueling but felt he could not in honor decline the challenge. Hamilton's supporters claim that his honor also forbade him to shoot and they claimed that he fired his shot into the air. Burr, however, shot straight and hit Hamilton, who died 30 hours later. Burr became a fugitive and traitor, but that is a story for another day.

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