American Minute with Bill Federer
He intentionally fired into the air, but his political rival, the sitting Vice-President Aaron Burr, took deadly aim and fatally shot Alexander Hamilton in a duel JULY 11, 1804.
Alexander Hamilton was born in the British West Indies on the Island of Nevis, either in the year 1755 or 1757, and grew up on the Island of St. Croix.
Just a few years earlier, in 1751, 19-year-old George Washington had accompanied his older half-brother Lawrence on a trip to the not too distant Island of Barbados.
Since Alexander Hamilton’s parents were not legally married, he was not permitted to attend the Anglican academy, resulting in him being tutored at a private school by a Jewish headmistress.
Hamilton worked for merchants till, at the age of 17, he sailed to Massachusetts in 1772 to attend Elizabethtown Academy.
He was studying at Columbia College in New York when the Revolutionary War started.
Alexander Hamilton fought in the Battle of White Plains and the Battle of Trenton.
He served four years as aide-de-camp to General George Washington.
Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, Alexander Hamilton led a bayonet attack at night capturing Redoubt No. 10 which helped the Continental Army win the Battle of Yorktown, October 19, 1781.
During the Revolution, Alexander Hamilton wrote “The Farmer Refuted,” February 23, 1775, stating:
“The Supreme Being gave existence to man, together with the means of preserving and beautifying that existence … and invested him with an inviolable right to personal liberty and personal safety …”
“The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records.
They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the Hand of the Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power …”
“Good and wise men, in all ages … have supposed that the Deity, from the relations we stand in to Himself, and to each other, has constituted an eternal and immutable law, which is indispensably obligatory upon all mankind …
This is what is called the law of nature … dictated by God himself.”
In 1781, Hamilton helped U.S. Superintendent of Finance Robert Morris start the Bank of North America, the first private commercial bank in the United States.
It served as the nation’s first de facto central bank, bringing stability to the fledgling nation’s finances after the fiat Continental currency became worthless, as the saying went, “not worth a continental.”
This was vital to allow the United States to carry on international trade, as well as to project strength which discouraged other countries from restarting hostilities.
Franklin and Jefferson were among the Bank’s founding shareholders.
The Bank later merged to form the First Bank of the United States.
Meanwhile, in February of 1784, John Hancock, Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and Henry Knox, helped found The Massachusetts Bank (Bank of America).
In June of 1784, Hamilton also founded The Bank of New York (Mellon) to provide money for the city’s shipping industry.
The Bank also loaned money to the Federal government to pay salaries of the U.S. Congress.
In 1792, the Bank of New York, the Bank of North America, and the First Bank of the United States were the first shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, which moved in 1796 to Wall Street.
Alexander Hamilton helped write the U.S. Constitution, stating at the Constitutional Convention, June 22, 1787:
“Take mankind as they are, and what are they governed by? Their passions.
There may be in every government a few choice spirits, who may act from more worthy motives.
One great error is that we suppose mankind is more honest that they are.”
After the Constitution was written, Hamilton helped convinced the States to ratify it by writing The Federalist Papers with James Madison and John Jay.
Of the 85 Federalist Papers, Hamilton wrote 51.
Alexander Hamilton wrote of the Constitution in his Letters of Caesar, 1787:
“Whether the New Constitution, if adopted, will prove adequate to such desirable ends, time, the mother of events, will show.
For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system, which, without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests.”
(Ford, Paul L., Essays on the Constitution of the United States, Historical Printing Club, Brooklyn, 1892, pg 245).
In 1789, Alexander Hamilton became the first Secretary of the U.S. Treasury — his statue is at the south entrance of the Treasury building in Washington, DC.
In 1790, Hamilton proposed The First Bank of the United States assume the role as the nation’s central bank.
It covered the Revolutionary War debt of the states, established a mint, and imposed a federal excise tax.
In 1790, Hamilton pushed Congress to have ships, called Revenue Cutters, to collect revenue, confiscate contraband, and guard the coasts from piracy.
This was the beginning of the U.S. Coast Guard, which freed almost 500 Africans from slavery.
Being opposed to slavery, Hamilton and John Jay founded the New York Manumission Society which successfully helped pass legislation in 1799 to end New York’s involvement in the slave trade.
In 1799, after the death of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton served as Senior Officer of the United States Army during a threatened war with France.
Hamilton condemned the French Revolution’s attempt to overthrow Christianity, as it was:
“… (depriving) mankind of its best consolations and most animating hopes, and to make a gloomy desert of the universe …
The praise of a civilized world is justly due to Christianity; — war, by the influence of the humane principles of that religion, has been stripped of half its horrors.
The French renounce Christianity, and they relapse into barbarism; – war resumes the same hideous and savage form which it wore in the ages of Gothic and Roman violence.”
“Facts, numerous and unequivocal, demonstrate that the present era is among the most extraordinary which have occurred in the history of human affairs.
Opinions, for a long time, have been gradually gaining ground, which threaten the foundations of religion, morality, and society.
An attack was first made upon the Christian revelation, for which natural religion was offered as the substitute.
The Gospel was to be discarded as a gross imposture, but the being and attributes of God, the obligations of piety, even the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments, were to be retained and cherished.”
(Lodge, Henry Cabot, The Works of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 8, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1904, pg 425-426.)
Hamilton began organizing The Christian Constitutional Society, writing to James Bayard, April 16, 1802:
“Let an association be formed to be denominated ‘The Christian Constitutional Society,’ its object to be first: The support of Christian religion; second: The support of the United States.”
Hamilton, back in 1775, had quoted Sir William Blackstone that the Law of Nature was “dictated by God himself,” and in 1798, he had written:
“Americans rouse — be unanimous, be virtuous, be firm, exert your courage, trust in Heaven, and nobly defy the enemies both of God and man!”
(Hamilton, John C., The Works of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 7, John F. Trow, New York, 1851, pg 676.)
In 1780, Alexander Hamilton married Elizabeth Schuyler, the daughter of Revolutionary War General Philip Schuyler who had served in the Continental Congress.
Elizabeth Hamilton co-founded New York City’s first private orphanage.
General Philip Schuyler became the first U.S. Senator from New York.
Aaron Burr had fought in the Revolution, was elected to the New York State Assembly, 1784-1785, and was appointed New York State Attorney General.
In 1791, Burr ran a campaign to unseat Senator General Philip Schuyler, Hamilton’s father-in-law.
When Burr won, it created a political rift with Hamilton.
In 1796, Burr lost in his bid to become the President of the United States, running against both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
Originally, in Presidential elections, the candidate receiving the most electoral votes was elected President, and the candidate receiving the second most votes was elected Vice-President.
Witnessing the beginning stages of the formation of political parties, George Washington warned in his Farewell Address, 1796, of the divisive “danger of Parties”:
“And of fatal tendency … to put, in the place of the delegated will of the Nation, the will of the party; -often a small but artful and enterprising minority … by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the Power of the People and to usurp for the themselves the reins of Government; destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion …
I have already intimated to you the danger of Parties in the State … Let me .now … warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of Party, generally.
This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its roots in the strongest passions of the human mind …
Domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension … has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.”
Hamilton organized the first political party, the “Federalists.”
Jefferson organized the second political party of anti-Federalists, eventually called the “Democratic-Republicans.”
Federalists wanted a stronger centralized government to insure a stable currency and provide for a navy and national defense.
The anti-Federalist Democratic-Republicans wanted a weaker centralized government to prevent a repeat of the abuse of power experienced under King George III.
Meanwhile, New York badly needed a clean water supply to prevent malaria outbreaks.
Under the pretense of establishing a water company, Aaron Burr solicited investors, but secretly he changed the company’s charter in 1799 to found the Bank of the Manhattan Company (JP Morgan Chase).
This allowed him to compete with Hamilton’s Bank of New York.
In September 1799, John Church, whose wife was the sister Hamilton’s wife, accused Burr of taking a political bribe from the Holland Company to influence state legislators to allow aliens to own land in New York.
Burr challenged John Church to a duel where both fired and missed.
In the Presidential election of 1800, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr received the same number of electoral votes – 73.
Alexander Hamilton used his influence to cause a vote to switch in favor of Jefferson, thus dashing Burr’s ambitions to be President.
Burr instead became Vice-President.
In 1801, a supporter of Burr named George Eacker spoke at Columbia University, denigrating Hamilton.
Alexander Hamilton’s 19-year-old son, Philip Hamilton, ran into George Eacker outside a play at New York’s Park Theater.
Defending his father’s honor, their encounter became a screaming, hostile confrontation, ending with the challenge of a duel.
They met on November 22, 1801, and, using John Church’s pistols, they fired at each other, resulting in George Eacker killing Philip Hamilton.
Burr was responsible for using the New York social club Tammany Hall, named for the Lanape Indian Chief Tamanend, for political purposes.
It became a notorious Democrat political machine know for graft and corruption.
When Jefferson was running for reelection in 1804, Hamilton threatened to withdraw from the Federalist Party if it considered any support of Burr.
When it became clear that Jefferson was not going to have Burr as his running-mate for a second term, Burr decided to run for Governor of New York.
Alexander Hamilton again used his influence to have Burr defeated.
Hamilton considered Burr a political opportunist, declaring: “I feel it is a religious duty to oppose his career.”
Aaron Burr took offense, and as both had been involved in duels before, he challenged Hamilton to a duel.
Considered the most infamous duel in American history, they met on the morning of July 11, 1804, at the dueling grounds near Weehawken, New Jersey, the same location where Hamilton’s son, Philip was killed in a duel 3 years earlier.
Using John Church’s pistols, Hamilton intentionally fired into the air.
Burr took deadly aim, then shot and mortally wounding Hamilton in the stomach.
Hamilton requested Episcopal minister Dr. John Mason give him the Lord’s Supper, but Dr. Mason refused as his church principle was to “never to administer the Lord’s Supper privately to any person under any circumstances.”
Dr. Mason did, though, affirm that the Lord’s Supper was not a requirement for salvation, to which Hamilton replied his request was a testimony of his faith:
“I have a tender reliance on the mercy of the Almighty, through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The duel ended Hamilton’s life and ended Burr’s career, as he was immediately ostracized from American politics.
Burr, now out of politics, contrived of a plan to take control over part of the Louisiana Territory and Mexico.
When his plan came to light, Burr was indicted on charges of conspiracy and treason in 1807.
He fled the United States in 1808 and lived in Europe for several years.
Burr was mentioned in a negative light in the popular 1863 novel, The Man Without a Country, written by Edward Everett Hale.
In the novel, the fictitious unpatriotic protagonist, Philip Nolan, had developed a friendship with the traitorous Aaron Burr.
Alexander Hamilton had previously warned:
“Liberty is a gift of the beneficent Creator to the whole human race …
Civil liberty … cannot be wrested from any people, without the most manifest violation of justice.”
Self-Educated American Contributing Editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.
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