DEAD: ON THIS DATE
Alexander Hamilton aged 49 or 47)
First Secretary of the Treasury and Founding Father of the United States
Alexander Hamilton (January 11, 1755 or 1757 – July 12, 1804) was an American statesman and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He was an influential interpreter and promoter of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the founder of the nation’s financial system, the Federalist Party, the United States Coast Guard, and the New York Postnewspaper. As the first Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton was the main author of the economic policies of George Washington’s administration. He took the lead in the Federal government’s funding of the states’ debts, as well as establishing a national bank, a system of tariffs, and friendly trade relations with Britain. His vision included a strong central government led by a vigorous executive branch, a strong commercial economy, a national bank and support for manufacturing, and a strong military.Thomas Jefferson was his leading opponent, arguing for agrarianism and smaller government.
DEATH: The duel began at dawn on July 11, 1804, along the west bank of the Hudson River on a rocky ledge in Weehawken, New Jersey. Coincidentally, the duel took place relatively close to the location of the duel that had ended the life of Hamilton’s eldest son, Philip, three years earlier. After the seconds had measured the paces, Hamilton, according to both William P. Van Ness and Burr, raised his pistol “as if to try the light” and had to wear his glasses to prevent his vision from being obscured. Hamilton also refused the hairspring set of dueling pistols (needing less trigger pressure) offered by Nathaniel Pendleton.
Vice President Burr shot Hamilton, delivering what proved to be a fatal wound. Hamilton’s shot broke a tree branch directly above Burr’s head. Neither of the seconds, Pendleton nor Van Ness, could determine who fired first, as each claimed that the other man had fired first.
Soon after, they measured and triangulated the shooting, but could not determine from which angle Hamilton had fired. Burr’s shot hit Hamilton in the lower abdomen above the right hip. The bullet ricocheted off Hamilton’s second or third false rib, fracturing it and causing considerable damage to his internal organs, particularly his liver and diaphragm, before becoming lodged in his first or second lumbar vertebra.: The biographer Ron Chernow considers the circumstances to indicate that, after taking deliberate aim, Burr fired second, while the biographer James Earnest Cooke suggests that Burr took careful aim and shot first, and Hamilton fired while falling, after being struck by Burr’s bullet.
The paralyzed Hamilton, who knew himself to be mortally wounded, was ferried to the Greenwich Village home of his friend William Bayard Jr., who had been waiting on the dock. After final visits from his family and friends and considerable suffering, Hamilton died at two o’clock the following afternoon, July 12, 1804, at Bayard’s home at what is now 80–82 Jane Street. Gouverneur Morris gave the eulogy at his funeral and secretly established a fund to support his widow and children. Hamilton was buried in the Trinity Churchyard Cemetery in Manhattan.