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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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Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Code Duello

Alistair Flush, Military Historian

Despite what Mr. Phineas Pollyphus says about starting at the beginning, with the Federalists and other political leanings, the rest of the Superhero Historians have made the correct choice in letting me first describe the Code Duello. That is, the rules for a duel. After all, this topic is about a duel. Mr. Pollyphus, or Political Pigeon, can talk politics all he wants after I get done here.

You may notice that I am the Military Historian, yet the Code Duello is not strictly a military topic. Well, this month leaves me a little bit short on topics, so I volunteered to discuss this part of the duel between Hamilton and Burr. Let’s not waste anymore time.

The Code Duello was written up in Ireland in the year 1777. It was adopted throughout Ireland, England, and the United States. Although, duels in the United States varied a bit from the Irish version. A version for the United States was written by John Wilson, Governor of South Carolina, in 1838, but since this duel took place in 1804, it was still based on the Irish version. The Code Duello had 25 total rules. These rules included: who could apologize when, when a duel would be fought, and where a duel would be fought.

Duels were all about keeping your honor. A person would challenge another person to a duel after being insulted. At this point the challenged party could either apologize or accept the duel. The challenged party would choose the weapons, location, and the time for the duel. Each participant would then act through a person called a “second.” The second’s main job was to try and resolve the duel peacefully. Apologies could be offered after a round of missed shots. Although, the person who made the initial insult had to be the first to apologize. After two rounds of shots apologies could come in any order.

Duels were common back in those days and the chances of injury were small. Both Burr and Hamilton had been in duels before they met in 1804. The pistols used were very inaccurate. Since honor could be restored with little chance of injury, duels were often undertaken.

A few interesting facts about the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. First, it was considered dishonorable to take longer than three seconds to fire your shot. After the duel on July 11, 1804, there are conflicting accounts of the time lapse between shots fired. Aaron Burr may have taken more than three seconds to fire a response. Second, it was considered dishonorable to miss on purpose. Alexander Hamilton may have missed on purpose. This is taken from a letter he wrote the night before the duel: “I have resolved, if our interview is conducted in the usual manner, and it pleases God to give me the opportunity, to reserve and throw away my first fire, and I have thoughts even of reserving my second fire.”

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