On this day in 1804—“A fine cool day,” according to one young diarist—Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr met in Weehawken, New Jersey for the duel that would put the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury six feet under.
History.com recaps it:
According to Hamilton’s “second”–his assistant and witness in the duel–Hamilton decided the duel was morally wrong and deliberately fired into the air. Burr’s second claimed that Hamilton fired at Burr and missed. What happened next is agreed upon: Burr shot Hamilton in the stomach, and the bullet lodged next to his spine. Hamilton was taken back to New York, and he died the next afternoon.
Few affairs of honor actually resulted in deaths, and the nation was outraged by the killing of a man as eminent as Alexander Hamilton. Charged with murder in New York and New Jersey, Burr, still vice president, returned to Washington, D.C., where he finished his term immune from prosecution.
Don’t get any ideas, Joe Biden.
After a couple hundred years, the ceaseless rush of history had pretty well worn the event down to a piece of trivia, the punchline of a Got Milk commercial. (Literally.)
But then Lin-Manuel Miranda came along and convinced a nation to reevaluate this particular founding father as a tragic figure.
What I’m saying is, there’s still hope for James Garfield to eclipse the fat orange cat who loves lasagna.