It’s a good thing that it isn’t fashionable to duel anymore. Every little argument on the internet would turn into “How dare you impugn my honor, sir! I demand satisfaction! Pistols! At dawn!” But I guess there would be a lot less ridiculous arguing on the internet if that were the case.
Duels were fought during a time when no one wanted to interfere with a disagreement to the point that they just gave weapons to the aggressors and shoved them at one another and whoever was alive at the end was in the right.
On this day in history in 1804, dueling was illegal in many states, including New York and New Jersey, though New Jersey was much more laid back about prosecuting the crime. That is why both the Vice President of the United States and a former Secretary of the Treasury boarded a boat and sailed separately across the river to Weehawken, bound for a popular dueling ground below the picturesque Palisades.
|Looks like a nice place to get shot. Or to shoot someone.|
photo by Seidenstud, via wikipedia
Their political animosity had been broiling for several years, with rude comments and backstabbing and political victories on either side. The last straw came in the form of a letter which was published in a newspaper. This letter included several remarks made to someone in confidence, which expressed the former Secretary of the Treasury’s opinion that the Vice President was a dangerous man who should not hold political office. The Vice President demanded satisfaction, and so the two men faced each other in a duel.
Neither man intended to kill the other. The former Secretary of the Treasury did not even intend to fire at his opponent, and instead was planning to face him merely to show that he was not a coward, since he did not agree with the practice. The Vice President was a horrible shot, and even if he had gone there that morning planning to kill someone, he would never have expected to.
|It's all about the Hamiltons, baby|
Alexander Hamilton died the next day at the home of a friend. Aaron Burr fled to South Carolina, and was later charged with the murder in two states, but both cases were dismissed before they went to trial. You might recognize Hamilton’s name from the ten dollar bill, but you probably don’t recognize Burr’s name, unless you watched television during the 90s.