the-constitution-and-a-duel-what-do-they-have-in-common-1Now that we have passed Labor Day, America is now in full campaign mode for the the upcoming constitutionally-mandated biannual elections. And it is today — September 17th, Constitution Day — that we celebrate the 227th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. Our Constitution secures our God-given freedoms that were set forth in the Declaration of Independence, and today we add yet another year to our unsurpassed record as the longest ongoing constitutional republic in the world.
the-constitution-and-a-duel-what-do-they-have-in-common-2A Founding Father who exerted great influence in our constitutional government was Alexander Hamilton. As a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and one of its thirty-nine signers, he played what would be considered a minor role in the debates of the Convention itself. However he (along with John Jay and James Madison) became one of the three men most responsible for the adoption and ratification of the Constitution through the writing and publication of a series of articles which became known as The Federalist Papers.
the-constitution-and-a-duel-what-do-they-have-in-common-3Hamilton’s career was distinguished, including his service not only as a military aide to General George Washington and his own rise to a military general under Washington, but also as America’s first Secretary of the Treasury under President Washington. But notwithstanding such achievements, he is perhaps best known today today for his duel with Aaron Burr.

In the election of 1800, Hamilton worked against the re-election of incumbent president John Adams. When Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson tied in the vote for president, as required by the Constitution, the contest was sent to the House of Representatives for them to choose a winner. Hamilton strongly supported Jefferson over his fellow-New-Yorker Burr. [1]
the-constitution-and-a-duel-what-do-they-have-in-common-4(By the way, during that election cycle in 1800, a number of ministers preached and published pulpit sermons against Jefferson, including Hamilton’s good friend, the Rev. John Mitchell Mason.)

In 1802, Hamilton urged the formation of a “Christian Constitutional Society” whose two-fold goal was “1st, the support of the Christian religion; 2nd, the support of the Constitution of the United States.” The purpose of the society was to elect to office those who supported Christianity and the Constitution. Hamilton saw an intrinsic relation between Christianity, the Constitution, and a strong and safe America, and he never viewed the Constitution as a secular document. He openly declared:

For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system which without the finger of God [Luke 11:20] never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests. [2]

Hamilton’s dream for his Christian Constitutional Society never came to pass. In 1804, he was shot down by Burr in a duel spurred by Burr’s frustration of Hamilton having thwarted so many of his political ambitions. [3] (Burr was an egotistic and ambitious man who actually tried to build an empire for himself in what is now Mexico [4]). The Rev. Mason attended Hamilton in the hours after he was shot. After Hamilton’s death, he released a pamphlet that included Hamilton’s personal account of the duel as well as Hamilton’s repeated affirmation of his firm personal reliance on God for his salvation.

As we celebrate our great Constitution, let us not forget those who helped shape it and secured to us the blessings we enjoy today — leaders such as Alexander Hamilton!
 


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[1] Appletons’ Cyclopedia of American Biography. 6 vols. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1889, s.v. “Hamilton, Alexander.” See also, Dictionary of American Biography. 21 vols. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1932, s.v. “Hamilton, Alexander.”

 

[2] Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison and Other Men of Their Time, The Federalist and Other Contemporary Papers on the Constitution of the United States, E.H. Scott, editor (New York: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1894), p. 646, Alexander Hamilton to Mr. Childs, Wednesday, October 17, 1787.

 

[3] Dictionary of American Biography. 21 vols. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1932, s.v. “Hamilton, Alexander.” See also,  Appletons’ Cyclopedia of American Biography. 6 vols. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1889, s.v. “Hamilton, Alexander.”
[4] Miller Center, “Aaron Burr (1801-1805)” (at: http://millercenter.org/president/jefferson/essays/vicepresident/1823) (accessed September 17, 2014). See also, Aaron Burr – United States V. Aaron Burr
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