Mr Burr’s respectful Compliments. He requests Dr. Hosack to inform him of the present state of Genl. H. and of the hopes which are entertained of his recovery.
Mr. Burr begs to know at what hours of the [day] the Dr. may most probably be found at home, that he may repeat his inquiries. He would take it very kind if the Dr. would take the trouble of calling on him as he returns from Mr. Bayard’s.
Aaron Burrs inquires about Alexander Hamilton’s condition following their duel the previous day. Hamilton had been mortally wounded by Burr’s shot, and would succumb to his injuries on July 12.
This letter, my very dear Eliza, will not be delivered to you, unless I shall first have terminated my earthly career; to begin, as I humbly hope from redeeming grace and divine mercy, a happy immortality.
If it had been possible for me to have avoided the interview, my love for you and my precious children would have been alone a decisive motive. But it was not possible, without sacrifices which would have rendered me unworthy of your esteem. I need not tell you of the pangs I feel, from the idea of quitting you and exposing you to the anguish which I know you would feel. Nor could I dwell on the topic lest it should unman me.
The consolations of Religion, my beloved, can alone support you; and these you have a right to enjoy. Fly to the bosom of your God and be comforted. With my last idea; I shall cherish the sweet hope of meeting you in a better world.
Adieu best of wives and best of Women. Embrace all my darling Children for me.
July 4. 1804
On July 11, 1804 Alexander Hamilton was mortally wounded in duel with Aaron Burr, and would succumb to his wound the following day. This letter to his wife was written in the days prior, during which he noted his other reflections on the upcoming “interview.”
On my expected interview with Col Burr, I think it proper to make some remarks explanatory of my conduct, motives and views.
I am certainly desirous of avoiding this interview, for the most cogent reasons.
1 My religious and moral principles are strongly opposed to the practice of Duelling, and it would even give me pain to be obliged to shed the blood of a fellow creature in a private combat forbidden by the laws.
2 My wife and Children are extremely dear to me, and my life is of the utmost importance to them, in various views.
3 I feel a sense of obligation towards my creditors; who in case of accident to me, by the forced sale of my property, may be in some degree sufferers. I did not think my self at liberty, as a man of probity, lightly to expose them to this hazard.
4 I am conscious of no ill-will to Col Burr, distinct from political opposition, which, as I trust, has proceeded from pure and upright motives.
Lastly, I shall hazard much, and can possibly gain nothing by the issue of the interview.
But it was, as I conceive, impossible for me to avoid it. There were intrinsick difficulties in the thing, and artificial embarrassments, from the manner of proceeding on the part of Col Burr.
Intrinsick—because it is not to be denied, that my animadversions on the political principles character and views of Col Burr have been extremely severe, and on different occasions, I, in common with many others, have made very unfavourable criticisms on particular instances of the private conduct of this Gentleman.
In proportion as these impressions were entertained with sincerity and uttered with motives and for purposes, which might appear to me commendable, would be the difficulty (until they could be removed by evidence of their being erroneous), of explanation or apology. The disavowal required of me by Col Burr, in a general and indefinite form, was out of my power, if it had really been proper for me to submit to be so questionned; but I was sincerely of opinion, that this could not be, and in this opinion, I was confirmed by that of a very moderate and judicious friend whom I consulted. Besides that Col Burr appeared to me to assume, in the first instance, a tone unnecessarily peremptory and menacing, and in the second, positively offensive. Yet I wished, as far as might be practicable, to leave a door open to accommodation. This, I think, will be inferred from the written communications made by me and by my direction, and would be confirmed by the conversations between Mr van Ness and myself, which arose out of the subject.
I am not sure, whether under all the circumstances I did not go further in the attempt to accommodate, than a pun[c]tilious delicacy will justify. If so, I hope the motives I have stated will excuse me.
It is not my design, by what I have said to affix any odium on the conduct of Col Burr, in this case. He doubtless has heared of animadversions of mine which bore very hard upon him; and it is probable that as usual they were accompanied with some falshoods. He may have supposed himself under a necessity of acting as he has done. I hope the grounds of his proceeding have been such as ought to satisfy his own conscience.
I trust, at the same time, that the world will do me the Justice to believe, that I have not censured him on light grounds, or from unworthy inducements. I certainly have had strong reasons for what I may have said, though it is possible that in some particulars, I may have been influenced by misconstruction or misinformation. It is also my ardent wish that I may have been more mistaken than I think I have been, and that he by his future conduct may shew himself worthy of all confidence and esteem, and prove an ornament and blessing to his Country.
As well because it is possible that I may have injured Col Burr, however convinced myself that my opinions and declarations have been well founded, as from my general principles and temper in relation to similar affairs—I have resolved, if our interview is conducted in the usual manner, and it pleases God to give me the opportunity, to reserve and throw away my first fire, and I have thoughts even of reserving my second fire—and thus giving a double opportunity to Col Burr to pause and to reflect.
It is not however my intention to enter into any explanations on the ground. Apology, from principle I hope, rather than Pride, is out of the question.
To those, who with me abhorring the practice of Duelling may think that I ought on no account to have added to the number of bad examples—I answer that my relative situation, as well in public as private aspects, enforcing all the considerations which constitute what men of the world denominate honor, impressed on me (as I thought) a peculiar necessity not to decline the call. The ability to be in future useful, whether in resisting mischief or effecting good, in those crises of our public affairs, which seem likely to happen, would probably be inseparable from a conformity with public prejudice in this particular.
On July 11, 1804, Alexander Hamilton was mortally wounded in his duel (“interview”) with Aaron Burr. In this entry, he states his intention to deliberately miss:
"…I have resolved…to reserve and throw away my first fire, and I have thoughts even of reserving my second fire—and thus giving a double opportunity to Col Burr to pause and to reflect.”
By the election of 1800, the nation’s first two parties were beginning to take shape. The Presidential race was hotly contested between the Federalist President, John Adams, and the Democratic-Republican candidate, Thomas Jefferson. Because the Constitution did not distinguish between President and Vice-President in the votes cast by each state’s electors in the Electoral College, both Jefferson and his running mate Aaron Burr received 73 votes.
According to the Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, if two candidates each received a majority of the electoral votes but are tied, the House of Representatives would determine which one would be President. Therefore, the decision rested with the lame duck, Federalist-controlled House of Representatives. Thirty-five ballots were cast over five days but neither candidate received a majority. Many Federalists saw Jefferson as their principal foe, whose election was to be avoided at all costs. But Alexander Hamilton, a well-respected Federalist party leader, hated Burr and advised Federalists in Congress that Jefferson was the safer choice. Finally, on February 17, 1801, on the thirty-sixth ballot, the House elected Thomas Jefferson to be President.
The tie vote between Jefferson and Burr in the 1801 Electoral College pointed out problems with the electoral system. The framers of the Constitution had not anticipated such a tie nor had they considered the possibility of the election of a President or Vice President from opposing factions - which had been the case in the 1796 election. In 1804, the passage of the 12th Amendment corrected these problems by providing for separate Electoral College votes for President and Vice President.
For more information about the Electoral College, please visit the Federal Register’s U.S. Electoral College webpage.
Electoral vote tally, 2/1/1801, Records of the U.S. Senate
In 1806, the third vice president of the United States was indicted for treason against his own country. Aaron Burr, vice president under Thomas Jefferson, was a political adventurer who allegedly schemed to form a new nation out of the West. The indictment, dated November 25, 1806, notes that “Aaron Burr, late of the City of New York and vice president of the said United States did … prepare for a military expedition against the dominions of the King of Spain…”
On July 11, 1804, Alexander Hamilton was mortally wounded during a duel with Aaron Burr and died the following day, July 12. Believed to be written on July 1, 1804, just days before he died, Hamilton’s statement is an explanation of his financial circumstances “if an accident should happen to me.” Five years after Hamilton’s untimely death, his widow, Elizabeth Hamilton, submitted this statement with a petition to Congress asking for a pension based on her husband’s military service as Lieutenant Colonel in the Revolutionary war.