Alexander Hamilton Papers

Nathaniel Pendleton’s Narrative of the Events of June 22, 1804

Nathaniel Pendleton’s Narrative of the Events
of June 22, 18041

On Saturday the 22d of June, General Hamilton, for the first time, called on Mr. P. and communicated to him the preceeding correspondence.2 He informed him that in a conversation with Mr. V. N. at the time of receiving the last letter,3 he told Mr. V. N. that he considered that letter as rude and offensive, and that it was not possible for him to give it any other answer than that Mr. Burr must take such steps as he might think proper. He said farther, that Mr. V. N. requested him to take time to deliberate, and then return an answer, when he might possibly entertain a different opinion, and that he would call on him to receive it. That his reply to Mr. V. N. was, that he did not perceive it possible for him to give any other answer than that he had mentioned, unless Mr. Burr would take back his last letter and write one which would admit of a different reply. He then gave Mr. P. the letter hereafter mentioned of the 22d of June, to be delivered to Mr. V. N. when he should call on Mr. P. for an answer, and went to his country house.4

The next day General Hamilton received, while there, the following letter.5

New-York Evening Post, July 16, 1804.

1On July 26, 1804, in a letter to William Bard, a New York City businessman, Pendleton explained why he became H’s representative in the negotiations leading up to the duel between H and Aaron Burr and H’s second when the duel took place. Pendleton wrote: “… altho I know I suffered a more keen anguish from the agency I had in the causes that preceded it, yet I feel now that it was impossible for me to have declined, or even to have hesitated for a moment whether I would decline it. You know that besides the love, the admiration and respect I always had for the amiable qualities, the Sublime talents the generous spirit of that man, I was under particular obligations to him for particular acts of kindness, and of late also much more in the habits of confidence with him than any other man in New York” (ALS, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York).

The excerpt printed above is part of Pendleton’s complete narrative of the events and correspondence leading up to the duel, which was printed in the New-York Evening Post on July 16, 1804. In the newspaper the following statement preceded the narrative: “The shocking catastrophe which has recently occurred, terminating the life of Alexander Hamilton, and which has spread a gloom over our city that will not be speedily dissipated, demands that the circumstances which led to it, or were intimately connected with it, should not be concealed from the world. When they shall be truly and fairly disclosed, however some may question the soundness of his judgment on this occasion, all must be ready to do justice to the purity of his views, and the nobleness of his nature. It will only here be added, that the authenticity of the documents and the accuracy of the information which we have at last obtained, are beyond any question; and must put an end to all mistake or misrepresentation.

“The following is the correspondence that passed between General Hamilton, and Colonel Burr, together with an explanation of the conduct, motives and views of General Hamilton, written with his own hand the evening before the meeting took place and only to have been seen in the deplorable event that followed.”

4The Grange, in upper Manhattan.

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