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AMELIA EARHART
On July 2, 1937, Amelia Earhart flew away from a town called Lae in the South Pacific. Earhart was attempting to circumnavigate the globe. After taking off from Lae, she disappeared. The Superhero Historians will investigate her life, her final flight, and the possible outcomes to that flight.
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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Corrections

Pierce Hawking, The Founding Father

Upon reviewing some of our entries, we noticed spelling errors.  We want to apologize for those errors.  We check over everything we write, but because we are new to this computer program we skipped a necessary step when editing the posts.  Superhero Historians prides itself on being accurate and error free.

Jason
President, Superhero Historians

By: Pierce Hawking, The Founding Father
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Friday, October 27, 2006

November’s Topic

Pierce Hawking, The Founding Father

Join us next month as the Superhero Historians discuss the 1919 Chicago White Sox.  Learn about how they gambled away the World Series.  Find out what happened as a result of the scandal that renamed the team the Black Sox.

Thank you for visiting.

Jason
President, Superhero Historians

By: Pierce Hawking, The Founding Father
Topic: 1919 CHICAGO WHITE SOX SCANDAL
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Shots at Ten Paces

Alistair Flush, Military Historian

Alright, pay attention. I’ll keep it short and sweet. The actual duel. There are varying accounts, depending on what version of the duel you read. Both “seconds” had versions of what happened. It’s essential to keep in mind that not only did they want to let people know what happened, but they wanted to protect their people in the process. Burr was still alive, you see, so Van Ness wanted to guard his reputation.

Here are the agreed upon facts: each man fired a shot, Hamilton missing and Burr hitting. A delay between shots existed. Finally, after hitting Hamilton, Burr desired to speak with him. Van Ness wouldn’t let him in order to keep Burr out of legal trouble, but it is clear that Burr felt regret.

Here is the main question: who fired first? Each version differs to cover a political backside… if you know what I mean. If Hamilton doesn’t fire first, but holds his fire and gets shot, he is a hero. If Burr fires second after being missed by Hamilton, he is within his honor according to the Code Duello. Hamilton is the one that complicates things. First, he wrote the night before the duel that he would throw away his shot, another term for “miss.” Then Hamilton asks for time before the duel to practice his aim. This seems silly if you are planning on wasting your shot. Lastly, in the boat on the way back to New York, a hurtin’ Hamilton comes to and tells those around him to watch his pistol because it’s still loaded. We know it’s not loaded because there were definitely two shots, but Hamilton thought it was still loaded. Then there is that little thing about Burr’s regret. If you intend to shoot a man, do you show regret? Maybe. Or maybe he meant to only wound Hamilton. It was common in duels to shoot for hips in order to just cause a flesh wound. Remember that Burr just missed the hip. The shot ricocheted off Hamilton’s rib, causing the fatal wound.

So what happened on July 11, 1804? Did Burr hit Hamilton first causing Hamilton to squeeze his trigger and send a shot? Did Hamilton shoot first and miss on purpose or on accident? Due to political legacy and ongoing political ploys of the day, we will probably never know the full truth.

By: Alistair Flush, Military Historian
Topic: HAMILTON - BURR DUEL
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Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Doctor

Dean Dillopolis, People Historian

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Hey people, thanks for tuning in.  In most duels, each person could bring their own doctor.  However, both Burr and Hamilton agreed that one would be enough for their duel.  They decided on Dr. David Hosack, Hamilton’s personal doctor.  While Dr. Hosack didn’t witness the shooting, his back was turned for legal reasons, he did tend to Hamilton at the site in Weehawken, and then was at his side when he died the next day.

Dr. Hosack was a teacher at Columbia College’s medical school.  He had also treated Hamilton’s various stomach problems for years.  Due to this long professional relationship, the Dr. was sure to take care of his wounded patient.  In the boat ride back to New York, Hosack tended to Hamilton.  He checked his pulse, noting it was normal, and rearranged his legs to try and get more circulation.  The flip side of this long relationship would be emotions.  It is reported by the Dr. that Hamilton was the only one keeping his composure as they landed in New York, the rest were visibly upset over their friend’s condition.  They weren’t the only ones upset.  Dr. Hosack received a letter from Burr asking about Hamilton’s condition.  Burr also wanted to know when Hosack would be home so he could call on him again to find out more.

The picture of Dr. Hosack was painted by John Trumball.

By: Dean Dillopolis, People Historian
Topic: HAMILTON - BURR DUEL
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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Hamilton’s “Second”

Dean Dillopolis, People Historian

Alexander Hamilton chose Nathaniel Pendleton as his “second” for the duel.  Pendleton had distinguished himself in several battles during the Revolutionary War in the South.  After the war he put roots in Georgia and became a federal judge.  In 1796 he resigned his judgeship, due to the Yazoo River land deal, and moved to New York.  Hamilton helped his friend get contacts in New York’s legal circles.  This land deal involved the sale of land, what is Alabama and Mississippi today.

If you have been reading Rhonda’s posts, you will also see Pendleton there.  He delivered and accepted the letters between Burr and Hamilton.  During the receipt of these letters, it became clear to Pendleton that the duel would happen.  He went to great lengths to stop the duel.  He met with Burr’s “second” Van Ness to attempt a settlement.  He tried to get Burr to take back his second letter and rewrite it asking Hamilton for a specifics about his insult from the Dr. Cooper letter.  Pendleton even withheld a letter written by Hamilton on June 22.  Van Ness found out about this letter from Hamilton personally and asked Pendleton for it. 

Although Nathaniel Pendleton showed incredible loyalty to Hamilton, it was a mistake to choose him as a second.  Pendleton did not know that Hamilton had been smearing Burr for over a decade.  In his willingness to prevent the duel, Pendleton agreed that Hamilton would make a large apology covering any instance of insult against Burr.  A blanket apology was not politically possible.  This assured dueling on the grounds at Weehawken.

By: Dean Dillopolis, People Historian
Topic: HAMILTON - BURR DUEL
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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Welcome to Weehawken

Barley Hugg, Location Historian

Weehawken, NJ… famous dueling grounds for over a century. Many duels were fought in Weehawken, including Philip Hamilton’s duel. Dueling was illegal in both New York and New Jersey, but the spot in Weehawken provided privacy for those who wanted to shoot it out.

The actual dueling took place on a wooded ledge about twenty feet above the Hudson River. Duelists from New York City rowed a boat across the river to meet in Weehawken. You wonder if they stopped along the way to scoop up some fish to eat. After all, you don’t want to duel on an empty stomach. Anyway, both Hamilton and Burr rowed across with their “seconds” and Dr. Hosack the morning of July 11, 1804. Burr’s party arrived first, as they arranged, and cleared away some brush from the ledge. Hamilton got to choose the standing positions, since he was challenged by Burr. I guess the challenged party gets to choose most everything, at least that’s something! Apparently, Hamilton chose a bad position that would have put the glare of the sun in his eyes.

Modern day Weehawken is right by the Lincoln Tunnel and straight across from 42nd Street in New York City. You can visit it! See Weehawken on a map by clicking here!

By: Barley Hugg, Location Historian
Topic: HAMILTON - BURR DUEL
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Monday, October 23, 2006

Philip Hamilton

Alistair Flush, Military Historian

Alexander Hamilton’s son, Philip Hamilton, was killed in a duel on November 23, 1801. George I. Eacker was the shooter. This outcome devastated the Hamilton family.

The duel resulted from a speech that Eacker gave, in which he told his audience that Alexander Hamilton would forcefully take power from Thomas Jefferson, if he could. Some critics even compared Hamilton to Napoleon. Napoleon had made himself First Consul for life following the French Revolution. Philip Hamilton and his friend, Richard Price, confronted Eacker about his speech. This resulted in two duels. First Price and Eacker dueled with no injury but full honor restored. The following day Philip Hamilton was not so lucky.

Some interesting notes for you: Philip’s duel used the same pistols and the same location, Weehawken, as his father’s duel. The Democratic-Republicans called Hamilton America’s Napoleon, but they backed the French Revolution to a large degree. Napoleon would figure into United State’s politics a lot during this time. Thomas Jefferson bought the Louisiana Territory from him for $15 million, while Federalists like Hamilton expected Napoleon to attack America. At the time there was much debate over siding with England or siding with France. Federalists sided with England, they saw the Louisiana Purchase as Jefferson helping France fund the war against England.

By: Alistair Flush, Military Historian
Topic: HAMILTON - BURR DUEL
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Blogging, 1800 Style

Dorothy Duckinsie, Invention / Things Historian

Okay, let’s talk about blogs. I know you’re asking, “What do blogs have to do with the Hamilton and Burr duel?” Well, not much, but there is a real similarity between the newspapers and brochures of that time and blogs of today.

Remember when Rhonda talked to you about The Federalist Papers? How about Thomas Paines’ Common Sense? I bet you’ve heard of that. The Federalist Papers, as you know, were a series of articles while Common Sense was a pamphlet, written by Thomas Paine, arguing against British rule in the American Colonies. Both of these documents were published anonymously. Thomas Paine even donated the copyright for Common Sense to the American Colonies. Imagine that? He didn’t see one cent after the pamphlet sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Why do I bring up these two documents? Because they are similar to blogs of today. While those documents argued politics, there are many blogs of today that argue politics. A lot of blogs even argue politics using fake names!

Now, remember when Dean talked about newspapers printing nasty articles about Burr? Well, that was because newspapers were openly for one party or the other, right? Blogs of today can be like that too! Many politicians of the day wrote letters or articles and published them through newspapers like “The Evening Post.” The editors of these papers took up political positions and ran stories on that position for days in a row. This is not unlike blogs of today. “The Evening Post” was a Federalist newspaper, backed by Federalist money while the “American Citizen” was a Democratic-Republican newspaper.

The printing press is to the late 1700’s as the Internet is to 2000. The printing press made getting out information and views easier for anyone. It was vital to keep the public informed to news and also in swaying opinion. Ben Franklin, friend of the Superhero Historians, helped make printing big, by having a “network” of printing presses stretching through the colonies. The British attempted to keep a hold on printing, but they could not do it. Thomas Jefferson, Hamilton’s political rival, said “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be. ... When the press is free and every man can read, all is safe.” Freedom of the press is still one of the greatest rights in the United States. The printing press gave freedom for many to spread their ideas, blogs of today offer the same opportunity.

By: Dorothy Duckinsie, Invention / Things Historian
Topic: HAMILTON - BURR DUEL
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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Hamilton Writes Back

Rhonda Rodentilly, Document Historian

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Hi everyone, welcome back.  Last time I spoke with you, we talked about Burr’s letter to Hamilton.  If you need a refresher on that, just scroll down.  This time around, I’ll go over Hamilton’s response to that first letter.  Hamilton’s letter is a bit longer than Burrs’, so I put just the last page up because it has his signature.  I get the feeling that Hamilton was a wordy type fellow.

Here is what the letter reads:

Sir:

I have maturely reflected on the subject of your letter of the 18th Instant, and the more I have reflected, the more I have become convinced that I could not without manifest impropriety make the avowal or disavowal which you seem to think necessary.

The clause pointed out by Mr. Van Ness is in these terms: “I could detail to you a still more despicable opinion which General Hamilton has expressed of Mr. Burr.” To endeavor to discover the meaning of this declaration, I was obliged to seek in the antecedent part of the letter for the opinion to which it referred, as having been already disclosed. I found it in these words: “Genl. Hamilton and Judge Kent have declared in substance that they looked upon Mr. Burr to be a dangerous man, and one who ought not to be trusted with the reins of Government.” The language of Dr. Cooper plainly implies that he considered this opinion of you, which he attributes to me, as a despicable one; but he affirms that I have expressed some other still more despicable; without, however, mentioning to whom, when or where. ‘Tis evident that the phrase “still more despicable” admits of infinite shades from very light to very dark. How am I to judge of the degree intended. Or how should I annex any precise idea to language so vague?

Between Gentlemen despicable and still more despicable are not worth the pains of a distinction. When, therefore, you do not interrogate me as to the opinion which is specifically ascribed to me, I must conclude that you view it as within the limits to which the animadversions of political opponents, upon each other, may justifiably extend; and consequently as not warranting the idea of it which Dr. Cooper appears to entertain. If so, what precise inference could you draw as a guide for your future conduct, were I to acknowledge that I had expressed an opinion of you, still more despicable than the one which is particularized? How could you be sure that even this opinion had exceeded the bounds which you would yourself deem admissible between political opponents?

But I forbear further comment on the embarrassment to which the requisition you have made naturally leads. The occasion forbids a more ample illustration, though nothing would be more easy than to pursue it.

Repeating that I can not reconcile it with propriety to make the acknowledgment or denial you desire, I will add that I deem it inadmissible on principle, to consent to be interrogated as to the justness of the inferences which may be drawn by others, from whatever I may have said of a political opponent in the course of a fifteen years competition. If there were no other objection to it, this is sufficient, that it would tend to expose my sincerity and delicacy to injurious imputations from every person who may at any time have conceived that import of my expressions differently from what I may then have intended, or may afterwards recollect.

I stand ready to avow or disavow promptly and explicitly any precise or definite opinion which I may be charged with having declared to any gentleman. More than this can not fitly be expected from me; and especially it can not reasonably be expected that I shall enter into an explanation upon a basis so vague as that which you have adopted. I trust upon more reflection you will see the matter in the same light with me. If not, I can only regret the circumstances and must abide the consequences.

The publication of Dr. Cooper was never seen by me ‘till after the receipt of your letter.

Sir, I have the honor to be,

Your Obt. Servt. 

A. HAMILTON

Aaron Burr, Esqr.

These letters are dated June 20, 1804, two days after Burr made his opening move.  Honestly, this letter reads almost like a comedy routine.  Hamilton seems to have a little fun with Burr’s lack of specifics.  He even explains that Dr. Cooper has the same opinion about Burr being “despicable.” Hamilton is almost asking Burr why he isn’t mad at Dr. Cooper.  Then he seems to have real fun with Burr, stating that the term “more despicable” could have many ranges to it and how could he apologize when he was unsure of that range of insult.  Hamilton keeps everything on a political scale, seeing insults between political opponents as something to be taken in stride.  Since the phrase “more despicable” is not specific, Hamilton questions Burr on why he is so sure that it is even an insult.  I can just imagine the look on Burr’s face when he got this letter.  As you will see, in Burr’s next letter, he wasn’t amused.

These letters serve to really define the differences between Hamilton and Burr.  Hamilton viewed a lot of things through the lens of politics.  Since he and Burr were political rivals, he saw nothing wrong in exchanging words against the other.  Burr viewed things less politically.  Perhaps that is why he showed less loyalty to one political party over the other.  Perhaps that is why he served as vice president without much complaint or unfairness.

Again, thank you to the New York State Historical Society for the use of these letters.

By: Rhonda Rodentilly, Document Historian
Topic: HAMILTON - BURR DUEL
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Friday, October 20, 2006

Burr’s Politics

Phineas Pollyphus, Political Historian

Aaron Burr spent a lifetime in the military, in law, and in politics, but is definitely most remembered for the Hamilton duel. That is sort of a cruel fate for someone who gave so much time in support of his country, but it might have ended up that way because of how Burr held himself while serving his country. So let’s talk more politics. We all know Hamilton as the main guy when it came to the Federalist Party. A strong central government is what Hamilton wanted. A very strong central government. But what did Burr stand for?

Even before there were political parties in the United States, the politicians who formed this country held very strong political beliefs. In New York, where both Hamilton and Burr lived, the political beliefs broke for either Hamilton or Governor Clinton. Hamilton, as we should all know was for a strong central government. Clinton believed that New York was fine on its own. Burr accepted the position of attorney general of New York, under Clinton, even after campaigning for the Federalists. To a man like Hamilton, who had strong ideas and stuck to them, this switch was a sign of weakness. He believed Burr lacked strength of character. This belief may have been true, as Burr seemed to go towards any political party which looked the best for him at that time.


By: Phineas Pollyphus, Political Historian
Topic: HAMILTON - BURR DUEL
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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Burr’s “Second”

Dean Dillopolis, People Historian

During a duel, each participant has a second. This person is there to assist and also try to resolve the conflict without gunshots. Aaron Burr’s second was a lawyer named William P. Van Ness. You can see Van Ness helping Burr on Rhonda’s post, the letter is in his handwriting. To fully understand Van Ness’ loyalty to Burr, we need to go back a bit from the duel.

Van Ness came to the rescue of Burr by writing a pamphlet entitled: An Examination of the Various Charges Exhibited Against Aaron Burr...And A Development of the Character and Views of His Political Opponents. This pamphlet was in response to numerous newspaper articles demeaning Burr, even charging that he tried to steal the presidential election. Back then, newspapers were openly for one party or the other. So these slurs were printed in pro Democratic-Republican papers. Remember that the Democratic-Republicans were opposite of the Federalist party. Burr ignored most of these articles, letting his supporters write articles of their own, until he had enough and got Van Ness to write his pamphlet. The pamphlet was a tremendous success for Burr. The pamphlet even attacked President Jefferson.

On a side note, Washington Irving, author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, wrote articles backing Burr. He wrote them under the fake name Jonathon Oldstyle and they were published in his brother’s paper The Morning Chronicle.

By: Dean Dillopolis, People Historian
Topic: HAMILTON - BURR DUEL
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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Political Decline

Phineas Pollyphus, Political Historian

Oh yes, let’s talk politics. I knew when I woke up this morning that we would talk politics, could smell it in the air. The duel, yes it’s about honor and all that, like Alistair said, but let’s dig deeper. “Peel the onion a bit,” as they say. Underneath honor is… can you guess? I’ll give you a hint, starts with “P” and ends in “olitics.” Ha ha. Hamilton took the duel because of politics. That’s right. Politics to Hamilton was also about greatness. Both greatness of the country and his greatness. Now, that doesn’t sound as bad as it seems. Many great leaders need to have a large desire for greatness. As long as that desire is not bigger than their commitment to what matters, it is okay. Hamilton had this great desire, keeping the title of “General” in private life and living in his big house The Grange, but he also did what he truly believed to be right politically.

By July 11, 1804, Alexander Hamilton was in serious decline politically. The Federalist Party, which Hamilton founded, had been in serious trouble since the Alien and Sedition Acts and the Presidential Election of 1800. President John Adams lost due to a number of factors, one of them being a split in the Federalist Party. That split was helped along by Hamilton. We’ll get into that later. So here is Alexander Hamilton, his political career, once great, now in decline. He is working like crazy as a lawyer, he is falling out of favor with the Federalist Party, and his party is falling out of favor with the country. His political rival, Thomas Jefferson, is now President of the United States with Aaron Burr as his Vice President. Part of the reason he cannot turn the duel down is because he thought it would hurt him even more politically. He didn’t think he could afford that. So he dueled.

Just so you know, Hamilton and Jefferson were both in George Washington’s cabinet. Jefferson being the Secretary of State and Hamilton being the Secretary of the Treasury. Washington considered himself unattached to any political party, but he mostly sided with Hamilton’s Federalist policies like the national bank. Jefferson opposed these policies. George Washington went on to become a hero of the Federalist Party, while Thomas Jefferson became a foe and founded the Jeffersonian Republican Party. The Federalists believed in a strong central government, while the Jeffersonian Republicans wanted a less powerful central government and more state’s rights.

By: Phineas Pollyphus, Political Historian
Topic: HAMILTON - BURR DUEL
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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Please Mr. Postman

Rhonda Rodentilly, Document Historian

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Before their scheduled duel, Burr and Hamilton sent each other a number of letters to try and patch things up.  This first letter, sent to Hamilton from Burr, is a reaction to the straw that broke Burr’s back.  For a long time, Hamilton and Burr had a personal grudge.  It was all due to politics, of course, but one supposed insult sent Burr looking for the duel.  By the way, don’t worry, Phineas will deal with a lot of their political falling out and all that.  Sorry, I just am excited to get back to the letters.  Anyway, Hamilton made a bad remark about Burr at a private dinner party.  This insult was written down in a letter from Dr. Charles D. Cooper to Philip Schuyler.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, the letter was then published in The Albany Register on April 24, 1804.  So, only a couple of months before the duel.  This first letter, pictured above, was mailed with the offending newspaper article on June 18, 1804.  The letter is in the handwriting of Burr’s second, Van Ness.

The letter reads:

Sir:

I send for your perusal a letter signed Ch. D. Cooper which, though apparently published some time ago, has but very recently come to my knowledge. Mr. Van Ness, who does me the favor to deliver this, will point out to you that clause of the letter to which I particularly request your attention.

You must perceive, Sir, the necessity of a prompt and unqualified acknowledgement or denial of the use of any expressions which could warrant the assertions of Dr. Cooper.

I have the honor to be,

Your Obt. Servt. 

A. BURR

General Hamilton

Special thanks to the New York State Historical Association for making this letter available to The Superhero Historians.

By: Rhonda Rodentilly, Document Historian
Topic: HAMILTON - BURR DUEL
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Ready, Aim, Fire!

Dorothy Duckinsie, Invention / Things Historian

Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr dueled using flintlock pistols. The flintlock was invented around the mid 1500’s and used up through 1800’s. That’s about 300 years, wow! Let’s talk about how the flintlock works. A piece of flint is held in place by the gun’s striker, when the gun is cocked and the trigger pulled, the flint strikes forward very quick and hits what they called the “frizzen.” The frizzen is over the firing pan, which is primed with gun powder. Flint, which is harder than metal, creates a spark and ignites the gun powder. The spark continues through a small hole and ignites the powder behind a lead ball, or the shot. The shot is fired from the gun. Incidentally, this is where we get terms like “flash in the pan,” or “half cocked” from.

Now the flintlock pistols used in the duel were owned by Hamilton’s brother in-law, John Barker Church. Funny enough, Church dueled Burr earlier using the same pistols. Nobody was hurt. Hamilton’s son, Philip, also dueled using the guns. Unfortunately, he was killed.

They were made by Wogdon gunsmiths in London in 1797. The pistols also contained a hair trigger. Usually the shooter had to put about twenty pounds of pressure on the trigger to fire. With the hair trigger set, they only needed one pound of pressure. Burr is the one who challenged Hamilton. As a result, Hamilton chose the weapons. It is thought that Burr did not know about the hair trigger. When Hamilton’s second, Pendleton, gave him the pistol, he asked if he should set the hair trigger. Hamilton is said to have responded, “Not this time.”

The guns used .54 caliber balls as ammunition. That’s big ammo. Any direct hits would cause great injury and probably death. However, the guns were very hard to shoot with accuracy. Hamilton’s death resulted in the .54 ball glancing off of his rib and into vital organs.

Thankfully, dueling is not done anymore.

By: Dorothy Duckinsie, Invention / Things Historian
Topic: HAMILTON - BURR DUEL
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Monday, October 16, 2006

The Federalist Papers

Rhonda Rodentilly, Document Historian

Hi. Let’s talk about The Federalist Papers. What are The Federalist Papers? Well, they are actually 85 different articles written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. These articles, published in New York City newspapers during the years of 1787 and 1788, pushed to have the United States Constitution accepted by the government. They call it “ratified.” Though the exact numbers are argued about, Alexander Hamilton wrote most of the articles, probably 51, while John Jay wrote the least, 5. Bet you can figure out how many James Madison wrote… that’s right, 29. These numbers were confirmed by James Madison.

Each writer used the fake name Publius instead of their real name. This was pretty common practice. Benjamin Franklin wrote a bunch of articles using fake names like Anthony Afterwit and Silence Dogood. He actually pretended that Silence Dogood was a woman!

The most famous of the articles spoke about the separation of powers in government, checks and balances in government, guarding against “factions” that have an interest that harm the rights of the whole community, and even an argument against The Bill of Rights. Back then it was common for people to be opposed to a specific Bill of Rights. People thought that if you listed the rights of the people, the government might interpret those rights as the only rights that the people could have. They thought of a Bill of Rights as something between a king and his subjects.

This is important to the duel because of the big political rivalry between the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans. Alexander Hamilton was a Federalist. Even James Madison, co-author of the Federalist Papers, became a political rival of Alexander Hamilton’s. But you’ll get into that a little later with Phineas.

Just so you know, James Madison became the 4th President of the United States, while John Jay became the 1st Chief Justice of the United States.

By: Rhonda Rodentilly, Document Historian
Topic: HAMILTON - BURR DUEL
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