5 Things You Might Not Know About the Hamilton Burr Duel

On July 11, 1804, Aaron Burr fatally shot one of our nation's founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, in a duel that took place in New Jersey. To mark the anniversary of the deadly dual, we've put together five interesting facts you may not know about the most famous duel in American history...


Burr Once Stopped Hamilton from Dueling with a Different Founding Father. # Artist's depiction of Burr's shot on Alexander Hamilton. Image source: WikiCommons Though Burr clearly bears the historical burden of murdering George Washington's right-hand man, Hamilton himself was no saint. In 1792, Hamilton made a run at James Monroe, the man who would later become America's fifth president. Hamilton believed Monroe had outed his cover-up of an affair to the media and challenged Monroe to a duel of his own. Monroe asked Burr to act as the intermediary, responsible for making arrangements between the two camps. However, Burr felt both men were being ridiculous and dragged out proceedings until everyone had cooled down. Little did he know then that twelve years later, he would be the one firing at Hamilton.

Burr's Second Wife Hired Hamilton's Son to File Divorce Proceedings. Talk about some colonial-era reality TV—this would be a season finale cliffhanger! When Burr's second wife, Eliza Jumel, filed for divorce after just two years of marriage, she hired the son of the man Burr had murdered to represent her. Jumel suspected Burr had been cheating on her and that he had attempted to take some of her assets (she was a wealthy widow). Hamilton Jr. gladly took on the case, which was highly publicized in newspapers at the time. Burr died the day his divorce was finalized: September 14, 1846. 


The Same Set of Pistols Killed Hamilton's Other Son, Philip, Just Three Years Before His Dad Died. The pistols used in the Hamilton-Burr duel belonged to Hamilton's brother-in-law. But Alexander was not the first Hamilton to borrow them—in 1801, Hamilton's son, Philip, used the pistols in a duel against George Eacker that took place near where his father would duel Burr three years later. Philip was just 19-years-old at the time of his death, and though Alexander took it hard, he remained civil and professional with Eacker until his own death on July 11, 1804. 

Those Pistols are Now Owned By JP Morgan Chase # Pistols used by Burr and Hamilton during their 1804 duel. Image source: WikiCommons Aaron Burr was one of the founding members of The Manhattan Company—the organization that is today known as JP Morgan Chase. Burr, a Democratic-Republican living in New York City, found it difficult to secure any funding from the Federalist run banks of NYC. So, he started The Manhattan Company seemingly as a way to provide fresh water to New York's residents, but really as a way to establish a Democratic-Republican bank in New York. Hamilton, a Federalist, fell for the rouse and supported Burr, only to be made to look like a fool for doing so. This was the beginning of their rivalry. In 1930, JP Morgan Chase acquired the two pistols used by Burr and Hamilton in their duel, and today they can be seen on display at the company's headquarters in NYC.

Burr Faced Murder Charges in Two States But Was Never Convicted. Dueling was illegal in both New York and New Jersey at the time of the duel in 1804. However, New Jersey was much more "forgiving" of those who chose to engage in the archaic manner of settling disputes, which is why Burr and Hamilton crossed the Hudson the morning of July 11, 1804, to Weehawken, New Jersey. After Hamilton died, both New York and New Jersey sought to charge Burr—who had quickly fled to Philadelphia and later England—with murder. Neither state ever ended up pursuing the charges and Burr later returned to New York where he died.

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