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Founding Brothers

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Short version: On the morning of July 11, 1804 Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton were rowed across the Hudson River in separate boats to a spot near Weehawken, New Jersey. Using the customs of the code duello, they exchanged pistols and shot at each other. Hamilton was hit in the side and died the next day. Burr was unhurt but his reputation suffered enough to make him wish he were.

The following will be a more comprehensive version of, "the interview at Weehawken", as it was called.

Colonel Aaron Burr, the vice president of the United States in 1804, left home on Wednesday July 11, 1804 for an "appointment with destiny". He and William Van Ness, his devoted supporter sailed, toward the New Jersey Palisades.

Just north of Richmond Hill, in present-day Wall Street, (General) Hamilton was boarding a small boat with two oarsmen, his physician, Dr. David Hosack, and a devotee Nathaniel Pendleton.

The two men are opposites. One born poor became rich, the other born an aristocrat. Many things about the two are contrasting. It is noted that Hamilton had always striven to being the best and proving himself worthy. The day before, he shows his attitudes towards the duel by writing in his diary that he will throw away his first fire, and maybe his second to give Burr a chance to rethink the duel.

The duel was called an interview at the time because duels were illegal. They used elusive language to make sure no one could get in trouble legally. So the duel is known by many as "The Interview at Weehawken". Hamilton secretly did not follow by the rules of the already illegal duel. His gun was equipped with a hair-trigger to allow for easier firing, fortunately Burr never found out.

The story skips over the most dramatic part, because of its disputability, to which it will return later.

Hamilton is hit with one of two shots fired. The wound is fatal and both Dr. Hosack and Hamilton know it. Hamilton does not die immediately so he is brought back over the river to a friend, James BayardÐŽ¦s house, where he soon died. Burr is escorted off the scene by Van Ness to protect him legally, though he wants to aid Hamilton.

The funeral in two days is a very big event in the city. The people and media came to a consensus that Burr murdered Hamilton in cold blood. They portray him as an awful criminal and completely destroy his political career.

The four or five seconds that were skipped are still highly debated. The Hamiltonian story is that Burr fired first, Hamilton who was hit instinctively flinched and fired into the air. BurrÐŽ¦s story is more believable, since it was agreed upon by both sides that there was about a four second interval between shots, so the shot caused by flinching doesnÐŽ¦t fit.

The Burr story is as followsÐŽXHamilton fired first at Burr, intentionally missing, after about four/five seconds Burr reacted, firing and hitting Hamilton, who immediately fell to the ground. The book concludes that what really happened in that four/five second interval will never be known. The Hamiltonian version, though, which almost certainly was wrong, would dominate the history books at the time.

But why had Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel? On June 18, 1804 there a verbal exchange between Hamilton and Burr, which was started by the latter party. Burr called attention to an article published in the Albany Register that reminded people of how Hamilton insulted Burr a few years earlier. It is not known what Hamilton said about Burr, though. Therefore Hamilton could have denied it, but instead he went on the offensive. Burr responded by asking for a general apology from Hamilton on all his past slander. Hamilton responded, because of PendletonÐŽ¦s suggestion, that he does not remember slandering him. Burr now did not accept this explanation, saying that a full apology was now necessary. Hamilton tried to exit this issue honorably, but Burr continued to ask for a full apology. It then became inevitable that a duel would occur. Both men amended their wills, made their last dealsÐŽXall just in case. Hamilton was meditative and regretful before the event.

After Hamilton died he was treated as a martyr for the Federalists, while Burr became a despised villain.

After the interview, people started to despise duels (much more than before) and those who disagreed with the duel used the Burr v. Hamilton one as another reason not to allow them. They quickly lost their prestige and status as an activity that aristocrats partook in and instead became regarded as something done by insecure men. This aftermath helped the Burr Hamilton duel become more memorable as the duel that stopped duels.

Hamilton and Burr had a history of political disputes before that time and these help put the resulting duel in context. Hamilton had at one point called Burr the Catiline of America. Catiline was a "'"malevolent destroyer of a Republican government"'", called so because of a person named Catiline in Rome who had such a mischievous quality.

Burr truly was in a sense a Catiline since he supported, or rather did not repudiate, a plot to make Massachusetts and New York secede from the unionÐŽXsomething that fortunately never occurred. Burr was a man who would be open to both sides, then show his loyalty to the one that would give the most spoils. Another example of this quality was when he was vice president for the Republicans under Jefferson, realized he would not be chosen to be vice president a second time, because of lack of loyalty, and decided to switch parties and run for governor of New York under their (Federalist) name. Burr did not make decisions based on character and morals, but rather based on what he would receive out of the decisions.

By the summer of 1804 both Hamilton and Burr dropped off the face of history. Burr because he had alienated Jefferson and the Republican party, and Hamilton because he was dead. Meanwhile, the Federalist party was losing steam, even in its own state.

Chapter 2: The Dinner

JeffersonÐŽ¦s account is as follows: One dayÐŽXmid-June of 1790 he found Alexander Hamilton outside of WashingtonÐŽ¦s office. Both were members of WashingtonÐŽ¦s cabinetÐŽXJefferson was secretary of state and Hamilton was secretary of treasury. Hamilton was somber and haggard, a mood unlike his personality.

The reason for this mood was because his financial plan for recovery of public credit was trapped in congressional gridlock. Congressman James Madison managed to block its approval

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