Rules of the Duel - No Night Challenges

Today marks the anniversary of Alexander Hamilton’s death in a duel with Aaron Burr. He was shot on the July 11th, 1804, but I believed he actually died on the 12th.

In 1804, dueling was still alive and well in the United States and still followed the European rules. I found a cool link to these rules on a PBS site.

My favorite one is:

Rule 15. Challenges are never to be delivered at night, unless the party to be challenged intend leaving the place of offense before morning; for it is desirable to avoid all hot-headed proceedings.

This seems very sensible. No sense in killing someone over something said while under the influence of a good bottle of Claret! However, I might have extended this rule a bit further as Hamilton’s inflammatory statements about Burr were supposedly said at a dinner party. Furthermore, Burr didn’t hear about them directly, but through letters from another gentleman who had been in attendance.  Hamilton said he didn’t recall the incident so refused to issue an apology.

Who knows if the actual slights occurred? Burr was probably spoiling for a fight as Hamilton had been instrumental in his defeat for President of the United States in 1800 and then  later for Governor of the State of  New York. This seems to be a case of "damned if you do, damned if you don’t." If Hamilton apologized, his honor would have been besmirched for something he may not (or may) have said. If he didn’t apologize…well the rest is history.

A much younger Alexander Hamilton has a cameo role in LeChevalier where he serves as artillery captain under George Washington and is asked to help clear out Philadelphia in advance of the British invasion. (He did serve as an artillery captain under Washington) I wrote him as a much more appealing character than I think many history books lead us to believe. Everybody has two sides to their character and it's too easy to get lost in the melodrama of the historic and personal events that surround his life.


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