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New York State Historical Association - Research Library
Burr - Hamilton Duel Collection
1793-1828 (bulk 1804)
0.5 Cubic feet(one 16.5 x 10.5 x 2 in. clamshell box + one 23 x 17.5 x 1.5 in. clamshell box)
This finding aid was made available electronically through a Regional Bibliographic Data Bases (RBDB) grant from the South Central Regional Library Council, Ithaca, N.Y.
Coll. No. 268
Scope and Content Note
The Burr - Hamilton Duel Collection comprises the correspondence that passed between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr and their seconds before the historic duel. The exchange of letters by the four participants -- Burr, Hamilton, Van Ness, and Pendleton -- preceding the duel took place from June 18 - July 9, 1804. Further correspondence and statements made after the duel, from July 11, 1804 to Mar. 5, 1805, by Burr, Van Ness, and Pendleton are also included in the collection. Included among them are eye-witness accounts of the duel by Van Ness and Pendleton, the only living witnesses of the duel besides Burr himself. Also added to this collection are letters by Aaron Burr, 1793-1828, and documents pertaining to Burr, none of which concern the duel.
The documents in this collection are of the following types (indicated in the collection inventory by abbreviations):
AD - Autograph Document
ADS - Autograph Document Signed
ADf - Autograph Draft
ADfS - Autograph Draft Signed
AL - Autograph Letter
ALS - Autograph Letter Signed
DS - Document Signed
Letters by Aaron Burr -- to Alexander Hamilton: # 1, 3, 4; to William P. Van Ness: # 8, 9, 14, 18, 19.
Letters by Alexander Hamilton -- to Aaron Burr: # 2, 5; to William P. Van Ness: #7.
Letters by William P. Van Ness -- to Alexander Hamilton: #6; to Nathaniel Pendleton: # 10, 15, 17, 20, 22, 32. Statements by Van Ness: # 25, 26, 28, 29, 30.
Letters by Nathaniel Pendleton: to William P. Van Ness, # 13, 31, 23. Statements by Pendleton: # 16, 24.
Series 1. Correspondence and Statements Pertaining to the Duel. June 18, 1804 - March 5, 1805. Folders 1-35.
Item level description.
Series 2. Documents by and about Aaron Burr Which Do Not Pertain to the Duel. 1793 - 1828. Folders 36-37.
Item level description.
A political rivalry developed between Aaron Burr (1756-1836), Vice President of the United States from 1801 to 1805, and Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804), Secretary of the Treasury from 1789 to 1795, when Hamilton repeatedly used his influence to oppose Burr's ambitions, often attacking his motives and character. A reference printed in the
Albany Register of April 24, 1804, at the time of Burr's defeat for governor of New York, led to the fateful correspondence which culminated in the tragic "interview" (their euphemism for a duel) at Weehawken, N.J.
Between the dates of June 18 and July 9, 1804, an extensive communication by correspondence took place between Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and their appointed seconds, Nathaniel Pendleton for Hamilton and William P. Van Ness for Burr, in an attempt to resolve the confrontation initiated by Burr's reaction to Hamilton's statement that appeared in the Albany Register. During the course of the correspondence, both men declined to resolve the dispute when such opportunities arose. Hamilton's long practice of criticizing and vilifying Burr had finally exhausted Burr's patience. Hamilton felt he would destroy his own reputation if he refuted a position he believed to be based on truth. Burr demanded an apology of all derogatory remarks Hamilton had ever made about him. Both men refused to make the statements which would have enabled them to defuse the confrontation. On the day of July 11, 1804, Burr, Hamilton, and their seconds crossed the Hudson River from New York in boats and held their now famous duel at a site near Weehawken, N.J. In the duel, Burr shot and killed Hamilton.
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