At dawn, on the eleventh day of July, 1804, the duel took place. The two men, with their seconds, met on the Jersey shore at Weehawken, opposite New York. Hamilton had said he would not fire the first round; he did not wish to kill his enemy. They measured paces. At the given word, Burr fired. Hamilton fell. Burr hastened away in a boat. He was soon condemned as a murderer, and fled for his life.
Hamilton was carried to his barge. He was placed on a cot, and borne to the house of a friend. A long line of citizens followed the almost lifeless body. They wept and wrung their hands. All felt that he must die. His wife and children were summoned; and, in a few hours, Alexander Hamilton breathed his last.
On the day of his funeral the business houses in New York City were closed. The flags on the ships in the harbor were hung at half-mast, and the bells of the churches were muffled and tolled.
A vast procession followed the hero to his grave. His war horse, with empty saddle, draped in black, walked behind the casket. Then came regiments of soldiers. Then the president and the students of Columbia College marched together, because the "orphan boy of Nevis" had been an honored student of Columbia College, when it was King's College. Behind the students marched the many societies, who wished to do honor to the dead; and all over the country there was mourning for the great financier, the soldier, the lawyer, and the statesman, Alexander Hamilton.
Ministers in their pulpits deplored his loss. One said: "Alexander Hamilton was a man on whom nature seemed to impress the stamp of greatness.
"He was the hero whose first appearance in the field conciliated the esteem of Washington; the statesman whose genius impressed itself upon the constitution of his country; the patriot whose integrity baffled the closest scrutiny, and the counsellor who was at once the pride of the bar and the admiration of the court.
"The name of Hamilton raises in the mind the idea of whatever is great, whatever is splendid, whatever is illustrious in human nature.
"Wherever Alexander Hamilton was, the friendless had a friend, the fatherless a father, and the poor man an advocate."
The newspapers were banded in black. Each paid loving tribute to the dead. Even those that had often opposed him hastened now to praise him.
"Americans!" said the Charleston Courier, "in Alexander Hamilton, you have lost your champion, your counsellor, and your guide.
"Who is there in the ancient or the modern world that has surpassed him? If we look to his life, we shall find more to praise and less to censure than in almost any other.
"The head that guided your guides—that clearest head that ever conceived, and that sweetest tongue that ever uttered, the dictates of wisdom—lies mouldering to clay; yet the deeds this great man wrought will live forever."
"The name of Hamilton will not die," said one newspaper, "until that dark day shall come when the name of Washington will also be remembered no more."
"No country ever deplored a greater man," said another.
"Behold!" said another, "a Washington and a Hamilton meet again in gladness and triumph."
The dust of the illustrious statesman lies in Trinity Churchyard, at the head of busy Wall Street. On a bluff of Manhattan stands the "Grange," once his country home, removed a short distance from where it then stood. But the thirteen trees still flourish where he planted them in remembrance of the thirteen states he had helped to unite into one great nation.
They tower high above the trees around them. It was thus, too, that the fame of Alexander Hamilton arose above that of other men.
Like Cain, who slew his brother, Aaron Burr, who slew America's greatest statesman, became a wanderer on the earth. The name of Hamilton sounded in his ears wherever he went.
"Ah, the slayer of Hamilton!" exclaimed an English lord, and cooly turned his back.
"I always have a miniature of Hamilton hanging over my mantle piece," replied a French statesman whose favor he sought.
"By the death of Hamilton you have forfeited the right of citizenship," said a consul as he refused him passports.
Wearied with his treatment in Europe, Burr returned to New York city.
His old friends shunned him and strangers who heard his name refused to clasp his hand.
At last, when very old and very poor, he died; and the event served only to renew the universal praise of Alexander Hamilton.