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Last Letter of Alexander Hamilton

On this day, one of the most fateful duels in history took place. This was the final encounter between two American founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, and Aaron Burr. Throughout their years, the two men have had multiple disagreements that culminated in this duel. As they prepared for this encounter, Alexander knew that there was a chance he would not survive and sent a letter to his wife Eliza that captures the somber tone of this encounter.

Letter to a Beloved Wife

Hamilton and Burr have long had a rocky relationship that goes back to 1791, when Burr defeated Hamilton’s father-in-law, Gen. Philip John Schuyler in an election for the U.S. Senate. Since then, the two tried to hamper the other’s political career. This was because Alexander considered Aaron a dangerous man and believed he should not hold office. Alexander was said to have said this both to colleagues and in private letters. When Aaron found out, the two began a letter-writing correspondence where the two attempted to discuss things. Burr wrote a letter to Alexander, demanding he retract his statements or face him in a duel. Although Hamilton opposed the idea of a duel as his son died in a duel, Alexander accepted the demand and the two met at Weehawken in New Jersey. 

When the duel happened, burr managed to land a shot on Hamilto’s abdomen, right above his hip, injuring his spine and liver. Meanwhile, Alexander missed his shot, leading to speculation whether he was trying to throw the duel or simply missed. Whatever the reason, Alexander died on July 12, 1804, surrounded by friends and family.

However, before the duel, Alexander understood that he might not survive the encounter and wrote to his wife, Eliza where he declares his love to her, but also expresses remorse for his mistakes such as having an affair with another woman.

July 10, 1804

My Beloved Eliza,

This letter, my very dear Eliza, will not be delivered to you unless I shall first have terminated my earthly career, to begin, as I humbly hope, from redeeming grace and divine mercy, a happy immortality. If it had been possible for me to have avoided the duel, my love for you and my precious children would have done it. But it was not possible, without sacrifices which would have rendered me unworthy of your esteem. I need not tell you of the pangs I feel from the idea of quitting you and exposing you to the anguish which I know you would feel. Nor could I dwell on the topic lest it should unman me. The consolations of religion, my beloved, can alone support you; and these you have a right to enjoy. Fly to the bosom of your God and be comforted. With my last idea; I shall cherish the sweet hope of meeting you in a better world. Adieu best of wives and best of women. Embrace all my darling children for me.

Ever yours A. H.

Alexander Hamilton, Former Secretary of the Treasury

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