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On this day in 1804, two men who had been a critical part of the founding of the U.S. met to settle an old argument.
Those who knew the two men knew that the conflict was inevitable. Yet on paper they were more likely to have been comrades than combatants. In fact, during the Revolutionary War, one of them had ridden through rain and darkness, penetrating British lines to save his entrapped and brilliant comrade.
Yet after the country was founded, these two clever, powerful men found themselves constant competitors. The competition probably reached its high point in the presidential election of 1800. The vote resulted in a tie. Both contenders, Jefferson and Aaron Burr were founders of the same political party. So the power to choose who would be president rested with the founder of the opposition Federalist Party - one Alexander Hamilton. He would pick the next president.
Hamilton had lectured and written about the dangers of the populist attitudes of his former cabinet adversary, Jefferson. But he feared more the political savvy of Aaron Burr, a man more his ideological equal. So he threw the election to Jefferson, assuming that Jefferson's "folly" as president would later leave the game open to Hamilton. Thus, the brilliant Burr decided to seek revenge on the genius Hamilton (with both assuming that the Renaissance man, Jefferson would shoot himself in the political foot shortly).
After almost four years of nearly constant bickering Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel on the banks of the Hudson River in Weehawken, N.J. Hamilton's seconds failed to account for the midsummer reflection of the morning sun off the river. So, badly positioned and blinded by sunlight, Hamilton was mortally wounded by the man who once saved his life by riding through the rain.
The U.S. banking system and New Jersey real estate values have never fully recovered. To celebrate go over to a pub in Lincoln Harbor (that's in Weehawken, if you failed geography) for a couple of shots.
More interesting facts about this duel can be found in our earlier article, Republicrats.
Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.