Up to the Duel
a letter to Burr, Dr. Charles D. Cooper wrote that Hamilton "...has
come out decidedly against Burr; indeed when he was here he spoke
of him as a dangerous man, and who ought not to be trusted."
then asked William P. Van Ness to deliver a note to Hamilton.
Van Ness’s account follows.
the afternoon of 17th June last I received a Note from Col
requesting me to call on him the following morning which
did. Upon my arrival he observed that it had of late been
stated to him that Genl Hamilton had at various times and
upon various occasions used language and expressed opinions
injurious to his reputation, that he had for some time felt
the necessity of calling on Genl Hamilton for some explanation
of his conduct, but that the statements which had been made
to him, did not appear sufficiently authentic to justify
measure. That a Newspaper had however very recently been
put into his hands in which he perceived a letter signed
[Dr. Charles Cooper] containing information, which he thought
demanded immediate investigation. Urged by these circumstances
and justified by the opinion of his friends, he said, that
he had determined to write Genl Hamilton a Note upon the
which he requested me to deliver. I assented to his request,
and on my return to the City which was at 11 O clock the
morning, I delivered to Genl Hamilton the Note which I received
from Col Burr for that purpose & of which the following
is a Copy.
responded to Burr’s challenge with these words:
- The language of Doctor Cooper affirms that I have expressed
some opinion "still more despicable," without however
mentioning to whom, when, or where. 'Tis evident, that the
"still more despicable" admits of infinite shades,
from very light to very dark. How am I to judge of the degree
trust, on more reflection, you will see the matter in the same
light with me. If not, I can only regret the circumstance, and
must abide the consequences.
responded to Hamilton’s note as follows:
The common sense of Mankind affixes to the epithet adopted
Dr. Cooper the idea of dishonor. The question is not whether
he has used it with grammatical accuracy, but whether you
uttered expressions derogatory to my honor.
letter has furnished me with new reasons for requiring a definite
Burr prepared an apology that he asked Hamilton to accept.
H [General Hamilton] being apprised that expressions are ascribed
to him impeaching the honor & affecting the private reputation
of A B [Aaron Burr] and perceiving that reports to this effect
have been widely disseminated feels it due to his own honor
as also to that of a gentleman that traduced under the sanction
of his name to remove all such injurious expressions.
G H frankly & explicitly disclaims & disavows the use
of any expressions tending to impeach the honor of A B. He feels
the sincerity & candor of his own character injured by a
charge of the kind, & while he regrets that his expressions
have been misrepresented or misconstrued, he can only account
for this effect by supposing that language he may have employed
in the warmth of political discourse has been understood, or
represented in a latitude entirely foreign from his sentiments
or his wishes.
If G H has on any occasions uttered such expressions he feels
a propriety in fully & explicitly with drawing them as the
ebullitions of party feelings which may have escaped him in
the heat of political discourse but which he is conscious are
unmerited & regrets having employed.
Hamilton's statement - written between June
27 and July 4, 1804 to be made public in the event of his
of the two - Hamilton or Burr - provoked the duel?
do you think Hamilton was
unwilling to issue the apology that Burr requested?
the duel, Hamilton wrote two letters to his wife.
do these letters suggest about Hamilton’s state of
mind prior to the duel?
they suggest that Hamilton was willing to shoot Burr?