Digital History>eXplorations>The Duel: Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr>Run Up to the Duel>Primary Sources

Alexander Hamilton

Written between June 27 and July 4, 1804 in a statment to be made public:

I was certainly desirous of avoiding this interview [duel], for the most cogent reasons—


1. My religious and moral principles are strongly opposed to the practice of Duelling and it would ever give me pain to be obliged to shed the blood of a fellow creature in a private combat forbidden by the laws.

2. My wife and Children are extremely dear to me, and my life is of the utmost importance to them, in various views.

3. I feel a sense of obligation towards my creditors; who in case of accident to me, by the forced sale of my property, may be in some degree sufferers. I did not think myself at liberty as a man of probity, lightly to expose them to this hazard.

4. I am conscious of no ill-will to Col Burr, distinct from political opposition, which, as I trust, has proceeded from pure and upright motives.

Lastly, I shall hazard much, and can possibly gain nothing by the issue of the interview.

But it was, as I conceive, impossible for me to avoid it. There were intrinsick difficulties in the thing, and artificial embarrassments from the manner of proceeding on the part of Col. Burr.

Intrinsick – because it was not to be denied, that my animadversions on the political principles character and views of Col Burr have been extremely severe, and on different occasions I, in common with many others, have made very unfavourable criticisms on particular instances of the private conduct of this Gentleman.

In proportion as these impressions were entertained with sincerity and uttered with motives and for purposes, which might appear to me commendable, would be the difficulty (until they could be removed by evidence of their being erroneous), of explanation or apology. The disavowal required of me by Col Burr, in a general and indefinite form, was out of my power…. Besides that Col Burr appeared to me to assume, in the first instance, a tone unnecessarily preemptory and menacing, and in the second positively offensive. Yet I wished, as far as might be prafticable, to leave a door open to accommodation….

It is not my design, by what I have said to affix any odium on the conduct of Col Burr, in this case. He doubtless has heard of animadversions of mine which bore very hard upon him; and it is probable that as usual they were accompanied with some falsehoods. He may have supposed himself under a necessity of acting as he has done. I hope the grounds of his proceeding have been such as ought to satisfy his own conscience.

I trust at the same time, that the world will do me the Justice to believe, that I have not answered him on light grounds, or from unworthy inducements. I certainly have had strong reasons for what I may have said, though it is possible that in some particulars, I may have been influenced by misinstruction or misinformation. I t is also my ardent wish that I may have been more mistaken than I think I have been, and that he by his future conduct may shew himself worthy of all confidence and esteem, and prove an ornament and blessing to his country.
As well because it is possible that I may have injured Col Burr, however convinced myself that my opinions and declarations have been well founded, as from my general principles and temper in relation to similar affairs – I have resolved, if our interview is conducted in the usual manner,and it pleases God to give me the opportunity, to reserve and throw away my first fire, and I have thought even of reserving my second fire – and thus giving a double opportunity to Col Burr to pause and reflect.

It is not however my intention to enter into any explanations on the ground. Apology, from principle I hope, rather than Pride, is out of the question.

Copyright Digital History 2016