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The story of the US 10-dollar

Hamilton-Burr duel

The guy on the US ten-dollar bill is, of course, Alexander Hamilton and he was killed in a duel by Vice President Aaron Burr.

Hamilton was a revolutionary war hero and leading architect of the new American government. He co-authored the Federalist Papers, considered one of the most important contributions to American political thought. As Washington’s right-hand man and the first US Secretary of the Treasury, he formulated an economic policy that got the then-new nation on its feet.

Aaron Burr was a colonel in the Continental Army and briefly served – as Hamilton did – with Washington at Valley Forge. In the election of 1800, he was in a deadlock with Thomas Jefferson for the presidency, with 73 votes each. The election went to the House of Representatives to be decided. There Federalist votes kept the election deadlocked until the 36th ballot, when Hamilton’s influence gave the presidency to Jefferson. Burr, a Republican, became vice president.

Many at the time thought that the political mudslinging of Burr by Hamilton may have cost him the election. The animosity between the two men would continue until July 1804 when Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel, and as was customary, was accepted.

The fateful day came on July 11, 1804 at Weehawken, New Jersey. Vice President Aaron Burr and former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton faced off, and Hamilton was mortally wounded. He was dragged from the duelling area and died the next day. While the nation mourned, Burr returned to complete his term as vice president but his success in the duel proved to be to his detriment. There was some talk of murder charges being brought against him, but as the rules of the duel were followed, no indictment was carried forward. He would later go on to be charged for treason for his ill-fated attempt to establish his own empire in the South.

Aaron Burr
Aaron Burr (1756-1836) served as US Vice President from 1801-05. He disliked Hamilton, accusing him of competing for political positions and the favours of married women in New York’s high society. Aaron Burr biography
Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) was mortally wounded in a duel with Aaron Burr. Hamilton disliked Burr because the orphan Burr came from a relatively privileged background while he was the unacknowledged illegitimate son of a Jamaican planter. Alexander Hamilton biography

US 10 Dollar bill, featuring Alexander Hamilton

Story submitted by John Nelson