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Alexander Hamilton

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Alexander HamiltonAlexander Hamilton

    • Born : January 11, 1755, Nevis, British West Indies
    • Died: July 12, 1804, Weehawken, New Jersey, U.S.

Noted American politician, statesman, writer, lawyer and soldier. He was an influential delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention and one of the principal authors of the Federalist Papers, which explained and described the need for the U.S. Constitution. He was the first Secretary of the Treasury for the United States and established the First Bank of the United States.

His life ended abrupty in a dual with Aaron Burr on July 12 1804.  The transcript below was taken from the newspapers of that time, describing the tragedy.


The Sprig of Liberty, Gettysburg, PA
July 27 1804 Page 3

It is with infinite regret that we have received the following melancholy information:

From our Correspondents, N. York, July 11,

The greatest man in America has fallen in a duel! - Yes - Hamilton! The pride of every true American! Is by this time, no more!

Early this morning he and colonel Burr, settled an affair of honour at Hoboken. Hamilton fell the first shot, without touching his antagonist, tho' they fired nearly at the same instant.

Gen. Hamilton was taken over to Col. Bayard's place, at Greenwich, where, an hour since he was supposed to be breathing his last! He was shot just under the ribs, and the ball lodged in his body. He bled profusely both from the wound and from the mouth. He did not speak till nearly half over the river, when in a very faint tone he said he could not live, and expressed a wish to see his family.

The agitation which this affair has produced in this city is indescribably great. The cause of the duel is not known. Numerous letters beside the foregoing were received in town this morning, confirmatory of this afflicting event. As far as we could learn none of them state the particular subject of dispute - Phil. Gaz.

Extract of a letter to the Editor of the Aurora, dated at New York, July 11, 1804

"Burr and Hamilton have this morning fought a duel, general Hamilton is wounded, and is said mortally! That he is wounded there can be no doubt, but of the nature of the wound I know nothing. He now lies in the neighborhood of the state prison.

"At present I am left to conjecture only as to the cause of the duel. I presume that Burr has made some demand of his negociation for the presidential chair, with which Hamilton would not comply,"

General Alexander Hamilton, it appears died on Thursday at half past two o'clock, and his remains were interred on Saturday morning, with all the solemnity that was suitable to the loss of such a man. Mr. Gouverneur Morris performing the ceremony of his funeral oration. In this city, among the general's friends, there were shown on Saturday many testimonials of sincere grief, and we make no doubt that by hundreds his death is most sincerely and deeply deplored. - Aurora

The Sprig of Liberty, Gettysburg, PA
August 3 1804 Page 1

Alexander Hamilton, late Major-General in the American army, and formerly Secretary of the Treasury of the U. States, on the 12th of this month, died; having fallen a victim to the barbarous and detestable practice of dueling. Of the causes of this disgraceful transaction we know nothing further than what appears in the following, which we copy from a Baltimore paper: -

Extract of a letter from New York to a gentleman in Philadelphia, dated July 12, 1804

A short time previously to the late election, a letter was published in Albany, written by one, _______, in which it was stated that general Hamilton, in conversation had declared that Mr. Burr was a dangerous man, and ought not to be trusted. This letter was republished in New York. About a fortnight ago Colonel B., wrote to general H. wishing to know whether he had ever declared any thing like that attributed to him. The general answered that he had no recollection of the conversation alluded to, nor were any particular words attributed to him, in the letter, and that he could not therefore undertake to say whether he had or had not held such a conversation; but that if col. B., would specify any particular conversation or state any particular words, that he, general H., would either avow or disavow them. Colonel B., replied, that it was not in his power to specify the particular conversation alluded to, but insisted that general H. should declare whether he ever had, in any conversation whatever, made use of any words derogatory to his character. To this sort of demand general H. declared he did not think himself bound to answer, but again expressed his willingness at once frankly to avow or disavow any particular conversation which might be specified. Colonel B. was not satisfied, and declared that unless general H. gave him a direct answer, he must fight him.

The general declared it was improper in colonel B. to make such a demand of him, and that he could give no other answer to it than he had already given, and must therefore accept the challenge. But as the court was then s(..?..)ing, and his services had been engaged in several important causes, he did not feel himself at liberty to fight, until after the court should rise; that he would then, after devoting a few days to the arrangement of his private affairs, inform colonel B. of the time of meeting. This took place a fortnight ago; the general went through the business of the court as usual, and after it had (..?..)len, arranged all his private affairs, and on Monday last made his will. On Tuesday, he attended at his office as usual, gave one or two elaborate opinions, and was apprarently in good spirits; yesterday morning, very early, he went out to meet colonel B. attended by ________, as his second, to whom, on their way, he declard that he should not fire at colonel B. as he had not the most (..?..) wish to kill him. At the first fire, general H. fell, & declared he was a dead man.

The splendid preparations made for his funeral, attest that the friends of the General held him in no common estimation; and the sympathy of all classes in New-York (as we learn from public papers) prove that death has generally sealed the tongue of political animosity. It is with much pleasure we can say, that Mr. Coleman, the editor of the New York Evening Post, has treated the affair with the utmost propriety; keeping party distinctions out of view, and giving vent to feelings alone suitable to the occasion. Would that we could say as much for other federal editors; who, reguardless of that decorum which is due to the obsequies of the dead, have already begun to make invidious comparisons, and ungenerous reflections. Such conduct deserves to be reprobated in the severest terms that our language affords; and the authors of it ought to be reproved by every Christian. Among such vindictive editors are Chauncy and Goodrich, at Philadelphia and Yundt and Brown, at Baltimore.

In stating his death, we desire to be distinctly understood. We entertain the same opinion of General Hamilton now that we ever did. For his genius and talents we admire him; for his courage we honor him; for his revolutionary services, we respect him; but for his aristocratic principles, we dislike him. He was superior to Burr in this; that he openly avowed his principles, and never deviated from them. As a luminary of law, we accord to him the need of praise; but as a statesman, he was not of that class which is favorable to liberty, and therefore we do not think him a great one. Having no personal knowledge of him, we can feel no other sentiment than that of regret, that so accomplished a man should be weak enough to accept a challenge, or so fearful of the world's scorn as to fight a duel. We will not feign a weeping sorrow which we do not feel, yet in truth, we are more sorrowful than indifferent. To others we leave the talk of praising him. We wish neither to make a God nor a Demon of him. He was a man, of strong mind, clear perceptions, and vigorous faculties. Of his morals, let the world judge.

Let his virtues live after him;
Let his faults be buried in his grave.

He has left a widow and 8 children behind him, to deplore their own destiny. About two years since the General's son, Philip, fell in a similar way. There is nothing said in the newspapers that we have seen, relative to Mr. Burr. This duel, we resume, will close the circle of his expectations of public employment forever. That we have not laws to punish him, is to be regretted. But there is a national sentiment which can inflict upon him a dreadful chastisement; which can drive him from popular esteem and affection; and stripping him of all his honors, leave him naked and friendless, exposed to the bleak and piercing blasts of scorn and abhorrence. The second officer of our government, a duelist! Gracious God! Have we then a Barbarian to preside in our national council! Will our senators in future sit under his presidency? Will they not express, at the next session of congress, their detestation of this honorable man killer? If something of the kind is not done, we shall then think it vain to attempt to check the diabolical practice.

The Sprig of Liberty, Gettysburg, PA
August 17, 1804 Page 1 and 2

The Late Duel

From the New York Evening Post, Thursday Evening, July 12, 1804

Mr. Coleman

The public mind being extremely agitated by the melancholy fate of that great man, Alexander Hamilton, I have thought it would be grateful to my fellow-citizens, would provide against misrepresentation, and perhaps, be conducive to the advancement of the cause of Religion, were I to give a narrative of some facts which have fallen under my own observation, during the time which elapsed between the fatal duel and his departure out of this world.

Yesterday morning, immediately after he was brought from Hoboken to the house of Mr. B yard, at Grenwich, a message was sent informing me of the sad event, accompanied by a request from General Hamilton, that I would come to him for the purpose of administering the holy communion. I went, but being desirous to afford time for serious reflection, and conceiving that under existing circumstances, it would be right and proper to avoid every appearance of precipitancy in performing one of the most solemn offices of our religion, I did not then comply with his desire. At one o'clock I was again called on to visit him. Upon my entering the room and approaching his bed, with the utmost calmness and composure he said, "My dear sir, you perceive my unfortunate situation, and no doubt have been made acquainted with the circumstances which led to it. It is my desire to receive communion at your hands. I hope you will not conceive there is any impropriety in my request."

He added, "It has for some time past been the wish of my heart, and it was my intention to take an early opportunity of uniting myself to the church, by the reception of that holy ordinance." I observed to him, that he must be very sensible of the delicate and trying situation in which I was then placed: that however desirous I might be to afford consolation to a fellow mortal in distress; still, it was my duty, as a minister of the Gospel, to hold up the law of God as paramount to all other law: and that, therefore, under the influence of such sentiments, I must unequivocally condemn which had brought him to his present unhappy condition. He acknowledged the propriety of these sentiments, and declared that he viewed the late transaction with sorrow and contrition. I then asked him, "Should it please God to restore you to health, sir, will you never be again engaged in a similar transaction? And will you employ all your influence in society to discountenance this barbarous custom?" His answer was "That, sir, is my deliberate intention."

I proceeded to converse with him on the subject of receiving the communion; and told him that with respect to the qualifications of those who wished to become partakers of that holy ordinance, my enquiries could not be made in language more expressive than that which was used by our church. "Do you sincerely repent of your sins past? Have you a lively faith in God's mercy thro' Christ, with a thankful remembrance of the death of Christ? And are you disposed to live in love and charity with all men?" He lifted up his hands and said, "With the utmost sincerity of heart I can answer those questions in the affirmative. I have no ill will against Col. Burr. I met him with a fixed resolution to do him no harm. - I forgive all that happened." I then observed to him, that the terrors of the divine law were to be announced to the obdurate and impenitent, but that the consolations of the Gospel were to be offered to the humble and contrite heart; that I had no reason to doubt his sincerity and would proceed immediately to gratify his wishes. The Communion was then administered, which he received with great devotion, and his heart afterwards appeared to be perfectly at rest. I saw him again this morning, when with his last faltering words he expressed a strong confidence in the mercy of God through the intersession of the Redeemer. I remained with him until two o'clock this afternoon, when death closed the awful scene. - he expired without a struggle, and almost without a groan.

By reflecting on this melancholy event, let the humble believer be encouraged ever to hold fast that precious faith which is the only source of true consolation in the last extremity of nature. Let the infidel be persuaded to abandon his opposition to that gospel which the strong, inquisitive, and comprehensive mind of Hamilton embraced, in his last moments, as the truth from heaven. Let those who are disposed to justify the practice of dueling, be induced, by this simple narrative, to view with abhorrence that custom which has occasioned an irreparable loss to a worthy and most afflicted family; which has deprived his friends of a beloved companion, his profession of one of its brightest ornaments, and his country of a great statesmen an a real patriot.

With great respect, I remain
Your friend and ferv'r
Benjamin Moore


From the American Citizen - General Hamilton's Funeral

On Saturday last the remains of this gentleman were interred, accompanied with military honours, in the family vault, Trinity church yard. Although the period which elapsed between his death and his funeral was but short, yet the lively recollection of his revolutionary services, his acknowledged superior genius, his transcendant talents, his private worth, his sterling integrity, and the amiable frankness of his heart, excieted in our citizens an uncommon cordiality and vigor to testify their high sense of these virtues by every demonstration of respect. There was a very general suspension of business and the streets were uncommonly crowed with spectators.

The procession left the house of John B. Church, esq., about twelve o'clock, and was two hours reaching Trinity Church.

The pall was supported by

General Matthew Clarkson,
Oliver Wolcott, esq.,
Richard Harrison, esq.,
Abijah Hammond, esq.,
Josiah Ogden Hoffman, esq.,
Richard Varick, esq.,
William Bayard, esq., and
Judge Lawrence

On the top of the coffin was the general's hat and sword. His gray horse dressed in mourning, was led by two black servants dressed in white, and white turbans trimmed with black. The genera;'s boots and spurs, reversed, were borne by the horse.

The four young sons of the deceased, John B. Church, esq., Washington Morton, esq., Mr. Malcom, &c, followed the corpse as mourners.

The following was the further order of the procession:

The Artillery,
The 6th regiment of Militia
Flank Companies,
Cincinnati Society.
A numerous train of Clergy of all Denominations,
The Corpse with Pall-Bearers
The general's horse, appropriately dressed,
The children and relatives,
Physicians,
Governeur Morris, the funeral orator, in his carriage,
The gentlemen of the bar,
The lieutenant governor of the state in his carriage,
Corporation of the City of New York,
Resident agents of foreign powers,
Officers of our army and navy,
Military and naval officers of foreign powers,
Militia officers of the state,
The various officers of the respective Banks,
Chamber of Commerce and Merchants,
Wardens of the Port, and Masters of vessels in the harbor,
The President, professor, and Students of Columbia College,
Tammany Society,
Mechanic Society
Marine Society
Citizens in general,

The Military marched with arms reversed and exhibited a very splendid spectacle. Thus formed the procession, which was numerous, extensive and respectable, moved, with solemn step, accompanied with the awful tolling of the Bells and the firing of minute guns from the battery, through Beckham, Pearl and Whitehall streets, and up Broadway to Trinity Church, where the Military halted, opened to the right and left, and came to order with reversed arms. The rear of the procession marched through the avenue, thus formed, to the front of Trinity church where Mr. Morris was to deliver the funeral oration to the immense comcourse of assembled and anxious spectators.

Within the elegant portico of this venerable temple, was erected, a stage covered with a carpet, and furnished with two chairs; one for the orator, who sat in the middle, the other for Mr. John B. Church, a relative, and executor of the deceased. Around the stage upon the ground, stood the afflicted relatives and associates of the general; the members of the Cincinnati; the clergy, and all who could with decency approach it. The scene was impressive and what added unspeakably to its solemnity was, the mournful group of tender boys, the sons, the once hopes and joys of the deceased, who, with tears gushing from their eyes, sat upon the stage, at the feet of the orator, bewailing the loss of their parent! It was too much, the sternest powers, the bloodiest villain could not resist the melting scene. I wish I could go on, and describe the sensations I felt, and those which were manifest on every countenance.

When all things were arranged, and the din of arms and the bustle of the crowd had subsided, the orator rose and approached the front of the stage, under which the corpse of general Hamilton was placed, and addressed the audience to the following effect:

"Fellow Citizens,

If on this sad and solemn occasion, I should endeavour to move your commiseration, it would be doing justice to that sensibility which has been so generally and so justly manifested. Far from attempting to excite your emotions I must try to repress my own, and yet I fear that instead of the language of a public speaker, you will hear only the lamentations of a bewailing friend. But I will struggle with my bursting heart, to pourtray that heroic spirit which has flown to the mansions of bliss.

Students of Columbia - he was in the ardent pursuit of knowledge in your academic shades, when the first sound of the American war called him to the field. A young and unprotected volunteer, such was his zeal, and so brilliant his services that we heard of his name before we knew his person. It seemed as if God had called him suddenly into existence, that he might assist to save a world.

The penetrating eye of Washington soon perceiving the manly spirit which animated his youthful bosom. By that excellent judge of man he was selected as an aid, and thus he became early acquainted with and was a principal actor in the most important scenes of our revolution.

At the siege of York, he pertinaciously insisted - and obtained the command of a forlorn hope. He stormed the redoubt; but let it be recorded that not one single man of the enemy perished. His gallant troops emulating the heroism of their chief, checked the uplifted arm, and spared a foe no longer resisting. Here ended his military career.

Shortly after the war, your fever - no, your discernment called him to public office. You sent him to the convention at Philadelphia; he there assisted in forming the constitution which is now the bond of our union, the shield of our defence, and the source of our prosperity. In signing that compact he expressed his apprehension that it did not contain sufficient means of strength for its own preservation; and that in consequences we should share the fate of many other republics and pass through a march to despotism. We hoped better things. We confided in the American people; and above all we trusted in the protecting providence of the Almighty. On this important subject he never concealed his opinion. He disdained concealment. Knowing the purity of his heart, he bore it as it were on his hand, exposing to every passenger its utmost recesses. This generous indiscretion subjected him to censure from most representation. His speculative opinions were treated with deliberate designs; and yet you all know how strenuous, how unremitting were his efforts to establish and to preserve the constitution. If then, his opinion was wrong, pardon, oh! Pardon that single error, in a life devoted to your service.

At the time when our government was organized, we were without funds, though not without resources. To call them into action and establish order in the finances, Washington sought for splendid talents, for extensive information, and, above all he sought for sterling incorruptible integrity all these he found in Hamilton. The system then adopted has been the subject of much animadversion. If it be not without a fault, let it be remembered that nothing human is perfect - recollect the circumstances of the moment, recollect the conflict of opinion; and above all remember that the minister of a republic must bend to the will of the people. The administration which Washington formed was one of the most efficient, one of the best that any country was ever bless with. And the result was in rapid advance in power and prosperity of which there so example to any other age or nation. The part which he bore is universally known.

His unsuspecting confidence in professions which he believed to be sincere, led him to trust too much to the undeserving. This exposed him to misrepresentation. He felt himself obliged to resign. The care of arising family, and the narrowness of his fortune made it a duty to return to his profession for their support. But though he was compelled to abandon public life, never, no, never for a moment did he abandon the public service. He never lost fight of your interest - I declare to you, before the God in whole presence we now so especially assembled, that in his most private and consideration were your freedom and happiness.

You will remember the state of things which again called forth Washington from his retreat to lead forth armies. You know he asked for Hamilton to be his second in command. That venerable sige well knew the dangerous incidents of military profession, and he felt the hand of time pinching life at its source. It was probable that he would soon be removed from the scene, and that his second would succeed to the command. He knew, by experience, the importance of that place - and the thought the sword of America might safely be confided to the hand which now lies cold in that coffin. Oh! My fellow citizens remember this solemn testimonial, that he was not ambitious. Yet he was charged with ambition; and wounded by the imputation, when he laid down his command, he declared, by the proud independence of his soul, that he never would accept of any office, unless in a foreign war he should be called on to expose his life in defence of his country. This determination was immovable. It was his fault that his opinions and resolutions could not be changed. Knowing his own firm purpose, he was indignant at the charge that he sought for place or power. He was ambitious only of glory, but he was deeply solicitous for you. For himself he feared nothing, but he feared that bad men might by false professions, acquire your confidence and abuse it to your ruin.

Brethern of the Cincinati - There sits our chief! Let me still be our model. Like him, after long and faithful public service, let us cheerfully perform the social duties of private life. Oh! He was mild and genile. In him there was no offence, no guile. His generous hand and heart were open to all.

Gentlemen of the bar - You have lost your brightest ornament. Cherish and imitate his example while like him, with justifiable, with laudable zeal you pursue the interests of clients, remember like him, the eternal principles of justice.

Fellow citizens - You have long witnessed his professional conduct and felt his unrivalled eloquence. You know how well he performed the duties of a citizen - you know that he never courted your favor by adulation or the sacrifice of his own judgement. You have seen him consending against you, and favoring your dearest interest, as if were in spite of yourselves; and you now feel and enjoy the benefits resulting from the firm energy of his conduct. Bear this testimony to the memory of my departed friend. I charge you to protect his fame. It is all he has left - all that these poor orphan children will inherit from their father. But my countrymen, that fame may be a rich treasure to you also. Let it be the test by which to examine those who solicit your favor. Disregarding professions, view their conduct, and on a doubtful occasion, ask, Would Hamilton have done this?

You all know how he perished. On this last scene, I cannot, I must not dwell. It might excite emotions too strong for your better judgement. Suffer not your indignation to lead to any act which might again offend the insulted majesty of the laws. On his part, as from his lips, though with my voice - for his voice you will hear no more, - let me entreat you to respect yourselves.

And now ye ministers of the everlasting God, perform your holy office, and commit these ashes of our departed brother to the bottom of the grave!"


The Sprig of Liberty, Gettysburg, PA
January 31 1805

The result of the late trial at New York of Messrs. Pendleton and Van Ness, the seconds in the duel between Mr. Burr and Mr. Hamilton, has created considerable sensation in that city. The sentence according to the dueling law of New York, to which defendants were subjected being a dissrenchsemen (sp?); for twenty years, a question has arisen whether the law is not unconstitutional, and the affirmative is very ably maintained by the editor of the American Citizen, with whom we perfectly agree on the subject.

 


 


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