Four American Patriots  by Alma Holman Burton

Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr

When all danger of war was over, Hamilton began again to practice law.

He withdrew more and more from public life. It is said that in the trial of his cases the great lawyer was almost always successful.

Sometimes he spoke many hours, but no one wished to leave the court-room until he had finished his speech.

Now, all this time Aaron Burr had been rising in power. He was crafty and revengeful; he did what he could to blacken the character of Hamilton. When the term of John Adams drew to a close, Aaron Burr became a candidate for President against Thomas Jefferson, of Virginia.

Hamilton used his great influence against the election of Burr. He thought him a man without honor, and therefore unfit for the high office to which he aspired.

When Jefferson was elected, Burr was very angry; he said that Hamilton had caused his defeat.

Then, when Burr wished to be governor of New York, he was defeated again. He was more angry than ever; he laid all the blame of failure on Hamilton; he brooded over his evil thoughts.

How might he get rid of this powerful man who stood in his way? He decided to kill him; but he said he would not, like a common murderer, kill him in the night; he would challenge him to fight a duel.

It is said that Burr trained his hand at shooting targets until he never missed his mark. When he was sure that he would not fail he sent a challenge to Hamilton.

In those days a duel was a common way to settle disputes. Hamilton had lost a dear son in a duel. He thought the custom of dueling was wrong; yet he knew very well that, if he did not accept the challenge, he would be called a coward.

"If war should ever break out again," he said, "who would trust a man in command, if he had ever been called a coward?"

And so he accepted Burr's challenge, but he asked that the duel be put off until he had finished his cases in that term of court. He did not wish others to suffer loss if he died.

The days went by; the great lawyer pleaded his cases, and attended to all his duties as usual.

Once, at a public dinner, when urged to sing his favorite song, he arose to his feet and sang the patriotic verses, one by one.

Just across the table sat Aaron Burr. His eyes were fixed on the glowing face of the singer. He whispered to himself: "It is the last time that the people of this nation shall listen to the voice of Alexander Hamilton."