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Hamilton, Hip Hop, and the Culture of Dueling
Some thoughts on honor, performance, and expensive signaling.
[This is a pre-final draft (longer, with more citations) of a book chapter that appeared in Lisa Tucker’s edited volume, Hamilton and the Law. If it’s truncated in your email app, just click “see more” or whatever to see it, or head over to Substack to read it in full.]
On July 11, 1804, Alexander Hamilton died at the hands of sitting Vice President Aaron Burr, in a duel conducted outside Weehawken, New Jersey. Hamilton’s famous end, of course, hangs over the entire Hamilton musical; though Lin-Manuel Miranda may have taken some minor liberties with history, this event really happened.
Most Hamilton viewers are probably vaguely familiar with the custom of dueling, though many may not realize that it was a relatively recent import to North America at the time of Hamilton’s death. But although it was a recent import, it had caught on with amazing speed and completeness. Dueling existed as a class-privileged method of protecting reputational capital, supported by a body of custom that functioned outside of, and in many ways superior to, law. A party who was insulted could issue a challenge that, if he (and it was –almost-- always a he) was of sufficient rank, could not be ignored by the challenged party without ostracism and social and possibly financial ruin. In the early 19th century, partly as a reaction to the Hamilton/Burr duel, an anti-dueling movement sprang up, which stressed libel law and other alternatives in preference to duels, and which altered some state constitutions to provide that duelists and their seconds would be ineligible for public office. This movement also, according to some scholars, led to restrictions on weapons carriage that remain relevant in Second Amendment law to this day. Yet vestiges of the custom of dueling occasionally surface, including one famous event during the 2004 presidential election, and its most significant survivor is perhaps the “gangsta” culture of honor-linked violence that exists in the urban hip-hop world, something that makes the musical Hamilton especially interesting.
Dueling in America
As William Oliver Stevens notes in his magisterial Pistols at Ten Paces: The Story of the Code of Honor in America, the culture of dueling was a late import to the American colonies. Although on the Continent dueling was something of a replacement for the joust with roots in the 16th Century, and English gentlemen had begun to engage in duels early in the 18th Century, it wasn’t until the Revolutionary War that the practice really caught on in the colonies. As Stevens writes: “The Pilgrim Fathers of New England and their successors regarded the practice with religious abhorrence. So did the Quakers of Pennsylvania. The Dutch of New York seem to have taken small interest in the code duello. As for the fine English gentlemen who came to Jamestown, they had plenty to worry about in the problem of just keeping alive for a considerable time after their landing on the marshy island in the James River. Some of them did plot a cold-blooded assassination of Captain John Smith, but that was not exactly cricket according to the code of honor.”
It wasn’t until the last quarter of the Eighteenth Century that dueling became the done thing in North America, as a combination of colonist sons returning from education at Eton and Oxford, and British and Continental military men over for the war brought the culture of duels and dueling with them. “Despite service regulations,” Stevens notes, “the duel was not only condoned but actually encouraged in the British and French officer corps. Any commissioned officer who declined a challenge, or refused to issue a challenge when the occasion arose, would have been forced to resign by the contempt of his brother officers.”
Likewise, although the criminal law made no exception for duels, public opinion meant that duelists were almost never charged with murder and, if they were, were almost never convicted. The code of dueling existed, by common consent, outside the otherwise applicable rules of society, under its own strictures and conventions. Dueling went from something largely alien to American culture, to a fixture, in a surprisingly short time.
At the time of Hamilton’s duel, and for nearly 100 years thereafter, the culture of dueling changed little in its basic outlines. It was always a custom limited to the gentry; despite America’s formally classless character, a gentleman was under no obligation to respond to a challenge from those viewed as low-class (though an aggrieved lower-class challenger might respond by simply gunning the “offender” down with no further ado; honor-based violence of a less structured kind was so common that the formalities of the duel were often defended as a civilizing influence). Certain words or phrases carried special weight: “The language of insult between gentlemen usually required a specific term, unmistakably from the lips of the insulter, such as rascal, coward, liar, scoundrel to bring things to the brink of gunfire.” And while words could be cured by an apology or reconciliation, which a duelists’ seconds were honor-bound to seek, a blow generally could not be addressed except by violence.
A challenged party generally had the choice of weapons, which in America usually involved pistols, though occasionally duels were fought with rifles at greater distances, or with other implements. (Swords, which were the European weapon of choice, were less favored in America, though sometimes employed.) The use of large-caliber smoothbore firearms, usually at short range, meant that the fatality rate for American duels was considerably higher than that on the Continent. A duel with swords could be stopped at “first blood,” something far less practical when gunfire was being exchanged.
Occasionally, the challenged party could use his choice of weapons to defuse the situation by demanding something absurd. Stevens reports one case in which a man “challenged by Speaker Carlisle of Congress, named Boston common as his place and clapboards as his weapon.” In another instance, Kentucky Sen. John J. Crittenden responded to a challenge from Senator Rusk of Texas with a proposal to “fight across the Rio Grande with field howitzers.” He added, “As I do this entirely for your satisfaction, I shall require you to furnish the howitzers with a suitable supply of powder and ball . . . The meeting to take place at some healthy season to be agreed on by our seconds, and due notice of the time and place of the meeting to be given to the Army of Occupation, and General Scott and Taylor invited to attend with all the officers under their command.”
Likewise, challenged over a publication in his newspaper, Tennessee editor (and later Governor) Parson Brownlow accepted a challenge and “stipulated that the scene should be the nastiest hogpen in the vicinity of Knoxville, the weapons to be dung forks. The idea was that the two should ply each other with dung, and the one who stuck it out longer in the pen would be the winner.” As Stevens observes, “This appealed to the Tennessee sense of humor. Everybody laughed as the story went around, and nothing more was heard from the challenger.”
These outcomes, however, were more exceptions than the rule. In general, the giving and receiving of challenges was in deadly earnest. Social pressure in favor of the dueling code was very strong, such that failing to give a challenge when insulted, or failing to accept a challenge when received, was essentially unthinkable. One who failed to go along with the code was likely to be stigmatized as a coward, a stigma that carried real-world consequences. Not only was a man with such a reputation likely to face additional, and worse, insults, such a reputation meant social exclusion, with serious consequences for one’s own marriage prospects or those of one’s children, and often had serious financial implications as well. As Joanne Freeman observes, “’Character assassination’ set the tone of political debate; to destroy a man’s character was to destroy his reputation, and to destroy his reputation was to crush the very foundations of his public career.”
Sometimes the two duelists were reluctant participants, swept along by social pressure that they were unable to resist, even together. In one case two midshipmen (dueling was particularly widespread in the Navy, and especially among the lower ranks of officers) argued about leaving the ventilation scuttle open at night. Though the two youths thought nothing of it, their compatriots felt differently: The next day they were informed by a lieutenant that they had used language that no officer and gentlemen could tolerate with honor. “The result: Two chums, much against their will, felt compelled to face each other across ten paces with pistols. At the fire one fell, crippled for life. . . . Many of these deadly encounters involved boys in the Service who had been devoted friends up to the time some careless, jesting word, uttered often in liquor, compelled them under the existing code to try to kill each other.” And the toll was high: “It appears from such encounters as can be identified that two thirds as many officers were killed by dueling as were slain in all the naval battles between 1798 and the Civil War. Twenty percent of those engaged in naval duels were killed, five times the rate of mortality of the Federal army in the Civil War.”
To modern ears this sounds absurd, but the custom of dueling was widely accepted, and had many defenders. On the one hand, it was held to promote courage, which in a sense it did, as the social pressures meant that one might face death at any time. Simply to function as a member of polite society thus required a degree of courage that few display today. (Though from a Darwinian perspective, the effect was probably the opposite, selectively removing those with the courage to face death from the gene pool, but in this pre-Darwin era the participants in and advocates of dueling can be forgiven for missing this consequence).
In addition, it was a time when third-party sources of reputational capital, ranging from credit rating agencies, to a “neutral” press, to political parties, were weak or nonexistent, and libel suits were rare and disfavored, making individual reputations vital. Defending one’s reputation under such conditions was serious business, serious enough that such defense might extend to lethal force.
On the other hand, many defended the formalities of dueling as a restraint on violence. With on-the-spot violence in response to perceived slights being astoundingly common by modern standards, many saw the dueling code as a civilizing influence: It imposed a cooling-off period, and seconds were charged with seeking a reconciliation. Such reconciliations often happened, and the argument was that without the code, thoughtless violence would be more common, and more deadly. (It may have also been thought that pistols at dawn outside of town were less likely to kill or injure innocent third parties than pistols fired on the street or in a crowded barroom).
At any rate, by the time of the Hamilton/Burr duel, the dueling code had taken hold, both on the elites themselves and on society in general. This gave the whole affair a momentum of its own, eventually claiming Hamilton’s life and, despite his short-term dueling victory, Burr’s political career. (As fellow duelist Andrew Jackson told Burr later, Hamilton dead was a more formidable political adversary than Hamilton alive.)
As such affairs go, the Hamilton/Burr duel would have to be categorized as rather optional. There was no face-to-face encounter, no episode of Hamilton calling Burr a scoundrel or a puppy in front of witnesses, no disrespectful blow. Instead, the duel was built up out of Burr’s outrage and insecurity at having lost the New York governor’s race, and of Hamilton’s feeling that he could not disregard the challenge without losing face and thus political support.
The “insult” of which Burr complained came via the ambiguous words of a third party, Charles Cooper, who in a piece of correspondence published in a Federalist newspaper assured his correspondent that he “could detail . . . a still more despicable opinion which General Hamilton had expressed of Mr. Burr.” As Joanne Freeman notes, “Though Cooper only hinted at a personal insult, Burr seized on this remark as a provocation for an affair of honor and demanded an explanation from Hamilton.”
But there was more to it than personal honor. Dueling, Freeman maintains, was a part of the overall political system at the time. With political parties still in their infancy, politics remained highly individualized, revolving around leaders with strong personalities. It was not uncommon to see a losing party’s representative, or a supporter, challenge a member of the winning party. By doing so, the loser removed some of the stain of defeat, and re-established himself as a contender, one willing to fight and take risks. And frequently – mostly, even – this was accomplished without actual bloodshed.
As Freeman describes:
For twentieth-century onlookers far removed from the culture of honor, the duel was a ritual of violence whose purpose was to maim or kill an adversary. But to early national politicians, duels were demonstrations of manner, not marksmanship; they were intricate games of dare and counter-dare, ritualized displays of bravery, military prowess, and, above all, willingness to sacrifice one’s life for one’s honor. Each man’s response to the threat of gunplay bore far more meaning than the exchange of fire itself. Politicians considered themselves engaged in an affair of honor from the first “notice” of an insult to the final acknowledgment of “satisfaction,” a process that sometimes took weeks or even months. Regardless of whether shots were fired, these ritualized negotiations constituted an integral part of a duel.
Such exchanges between politicians were far more strategic than the run-of-the-mill challenge and response. Freeman notes that between 1795 and 1807 there were sixteen such affairs of honor in New York City, “most of them heretofore unrecognized because they did not result in a challenge or the exchange of fire.” She continues: “These duels did not result from a sudden flare of temper; politicians timed them strategically, sometimes provoked them deliberately.”
And yet they were not wholly artificial, either. Although we associate the phrase “the personal is political” with the 1960s, it would not have seemed strange to leaders of the early Republic. With parties still too weak to offer a meaningful institutional imprimatur, politicians had to resort to what today is called “personal branding.” Among other things, that meant demonstrating to their supporters important traits of firmness, integrity, and manliness. In modern parlance, this was a form of “expensive signaling.” The willingness to risk death or crippling in a duel was a demonstration that a politician genuinely possessed these characteristics, rather than manufacturing a convincing-but-false simulacrum thereof.
Freeman’s description of the times sounds unexpectedly like the present: “Without the anonymity and formal alliances offered by membership in an institutionalized party, political interaction revolved around the identities and aspirations of individual politicians. Factional alliances and personal friendships were often indistinguishable. An attack on a political measure was an attack on an individual, and an attack on an individual demanded a personal defense. A politician’s private identity and his public office were thus inseparably linked.” When the personal is political, and when personal slurs must be answered with violence or at least the serious threat thereof, then political disputes are particularly likely to turn into causes for a duel.
That, in fact, is what happened with Hamilton and Burr. The challenge to Hamilton, however attenuated the insult, was helpful to Burr: “Men who did not abide by these rules were neither gentlemen nor leaders . . . . A means of empowering oneself while deposing one’s foes, of asserting one’s merit while remaining self-righteously defensive, the code of honor was a powerful political tool. It was an indirect form of combat, functionally adapted for a society that feared and condemned open ambition and factional politics.”
Thus, Burr’s challenge – which persisted after much back-and-forth among the pair’s seconds – left Hamilton in an awkward spot. The details are well described elsewhere, but the upshot was, as Freeman notes, that Burr thought he could salve his wounded reputation, redeem his honor, and possibly subject Hamilton to dishonor, via a duel. He had started the process twice with Hamilton only to have Hamilton turn him aside with an apology; a third apology would brand Hamilton in many eyes (including, crucially, those of many of Hamilton’s own supporters) as a coward. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, a failure to challenge would have cost Burr political support, as his own followers lost faith in his character as a “man of the sword.”
In the end, the duel had to take place, with Hamilton composing a long and lawyerly defense of his participation in a ritual that, he said, he generally disapproved of. But at the core, Hamilton’s reasons for participating were the same as Burr’s: Had he backed down, he would have ended his political career. Thus, when John Quincy Adams, many years later, put down the cause of Hamilton’s assent to the duel as “AMBITION,” he wasn’t entirely wrong.
It’s true that Hamilton seemed to protest too much. As Thomas Fleming notes, “When General Hamilton acquired his principled opposition to dueling, he did not say. Four months earlier, he seemed to show no hesitation to use the threat of a duel to track down the old slander about conspiring to give America a king. He never made a public statement condemning dueling, even after his son Philip’s death. He did not make the slightest effort to rescue his friend Robert Troup from humiliation in his clash with Colonel William Stephens Smith. On the contrary, Hamilton’s comments seemed to approve of Smith’s menacing style.”
But as Fleming also notes, with regard to Adams’ characterization, “There is some truth in this reduction, but it is inadequate as an explanation of why General Hamilton chose to risk his life.” Hamilton was torn between his vision of himself as a soldier, past and future, and his growing, and to Fleming genuine, Christian faith. “Anyone who has given some thought to the journey of the human soul can summon compassion for this divided, tormented man. Hamilton was, like most of us, absorbed, even obsessed with the things of this world. Faith had invaded his soul without warning.”
But in the end, it was the world that won, as it so often does. Despite his faith, Hamilton was no doubt correct that his future prospects would have been dim had he declined the duel. In a world where courage was viewed as the supreme virtue, and political power was reserved for “men of the sword,” Hamilton would have had to abandon all hope of a secular career had he followed his Christian instincts. Some might view such a withdrawal from a sinful world as virtuous, but Hamilton was a politician, not a monk. When things came to a point, he couldn’t abandon his constituency, or let his constituency abandon him. To be seen as a man of the sword, he was forced to actually be a man of the sword. (As a friend told Governeur Morris upon Hamilton’s death, “If we were truly brave, we would not accept a challenge. But we are all cowards.”)
But the problem with “expensive signaling” is the flipside of its virtue: that it is expensive. When you have a gang tattoo inscribed on your face to demonstrate your commitment to the thug life, it is a convincing signal because it imposes immediate real-world costs in terms of employment and associations. Likewise, when you live by the dueling code, your signaling as a man of the sword is credible, because you place your life at genuine risk: Expensive signaling, indeed. In Hamilton’s case, the price of this signaling turned out to be his life. In Burr’s case, it turned out to be his political career. Though both politicians thought that they had to go ahead with the duel in order to maintain their political viability, both wound up losing it: In Hamilton’s case, because he was dead, and in Burr’s case because he had killed Hamilton.
The latter is the more surprising, or at least it was to Burr. Both Hamilton and Burr were experienced politicians. Each concluded, after considerable time for reflection, that a duel was in his interest. Hamilton’s calculation, since it was contingent on his survival, was obviously flawed. Burr, on the other hand, clearly thought that winning the duel would be to his advantage. But in fact, as Andrew Jackson later told him, Hamilton dead turned out to be a more dangerous political adversary than Hamilton alive.
At the time, many politicians went on to successful careers after killing an adversary in a duel. Brockholst Livingston, then a judge on the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, had six years earlier killed Federalist James Jones. Burr perhaps anticipated a similar reaction. If so, he was very wrong. Instead, the reaction was “grief and rage at Vice President Burr.” There was even talk of burning Burr’s townhouse, and sending another mob to do the same to his country estate at Richmond Hill. Despite a public letter from both Hamilton and Burr’s seconds, concluding that “We conceive it proper to add that the conduct of the parties in that interview was perfectly proper as suited to the occasion,” public sentiment only grew more angry. Even newspapers that had been friendly to Burr denounced him, in no modest terms. And even the anti-Hamilton newspaperman James Cheetham wrote that this “national loss [was] the inevitable and deplorable effect of a long premeditated and predetermined system of hostility on the part of Mr. Burr and his confidential advisers.”
The extent of anger over Hamilton’s death seemed to surprise everyone, even Hamilton’s friends, for Hamilton “had never been a popular figure with the masses.” But although Burr and Hamilton may have regarded each other as politicians, to the public as a whole they – and particularly Hamilton – were Founders, which by 1804 was taking on deeper meaning. To see a Founder gunned down, particularly upon such an attenuated claim of insult, was more than the public was able to bear.
Consistent with Joanne Freeman’s theory of political strategy in dueling, rumors circulated that Burr’s challenge had come after Burr and his backers had met in secret with a list of four or five political enemies, including New York Governor DeWitt Clinton, before Burr had chosen Hamilton. And rather than dismissing the matter as an affair between gentlemen, the law enforcement apparatus of New York creaked into action, with a coroner’s jury interrogating Burr associates about the duel, and imprisoning those who refused to testify. The uproar wasn’t limited to New York, but spread to Philadelphia.  Fearing prosecution (or mob violence), Burr decamped to the estate of Major Pierce Butler, at St. Simon Island in Georgia, to wait out the public outrage while his allies worked to tamp down the threats of prosecution.
After things had cooled down, Burr set out to return to Washington, and his reception along the way prefigured the change in the dueling culture that was to come: While he remained reviled in the North, the leading figures of Society in the South felt differently: “On his journey he passed through Petersburg, Virginia. Here in contrast with the storm of curses that drove him out of his state, he was given a public dinner. To Virginians the duel with Hamilton was only evidence of Burr’s mettle and gentlemanly spirit.”
After Hamilton’s death, America saw the first stirrings of an anti-dueling movement. Though some (including Benjamin Franklin) had opposed the custom from its introduction, post-Hamilton serious voices spoke for its eradication. Yale President Timothy Dwight sermonized against dueling, calling it a sin. So did a preacher named Lyman Beecher, father to Henry Ward Beecher, calling for good Christians to refuse to vote for a man who had ever participated in a duel. According to Beecher, America’s very egalitarianism made dueling more of a curse: “In Europe, only gentry pretend to the code. Here, where every man is as good as another, each feels it his duty to defend his honor at the point of a pistol.”
He continued: “Dueling is a great national sin. With the exception of a small section of the Union [New England] the whole land is defiled with blood. From the lakes of the North to the plains of Georgia is heard the voice of lamentation and woe; the cries of the widow and fatherless. This work of desolation is often performed by men in office; by the appointed guardians of life and liberty. On the floor of Congress challenges have been threatened if not actually given. . . . We are murderers, a nation of murderers, while we tolerate and reward the perpetrators of the crime.”
Beecher was not wrong about the involvement of lawmakers in dueling. As Stevens writes:
Although the code was outlawed by the statute books of New York and New Jersey, there were not a few meetings in the first decade of the century, as we have seen in an earlier chapter. How little weight the existing law had on the consciences of gentlemen is indicated by the legal eminence of the principals and seconds concerned in this story. Burr and Hamilton were the most prominent lawyers of the state. Van Ness was not so well known in public life, but Pendleton had been Chief Justice of Georgia and the first federal district judge of that state. To these distinguished gentlemen of the law, an anti-dueling proviso had no more influence than the Prohibition Amendment had on their successors in a later age. Pendleton and Van Ness prided themselves on the fact that everything had been done according to the most correct procedure.
Along with Beecher and Dwight, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney tried to rally the Society of the Cincinnati to end dueling. But as Stevens notes, “He stood practically alone. Not even the prestige of his name could sway public opinion in South Carolina.”
In the North, dueling became much less common and less popular after Hamilton’s death. In the South and West (and, as mentioned earlier, in the Navy) it became, if anything, more widespread. Nor did laws intended to stop the practice have much effect. Numerous states enacted anti-dueling statutes, notwithstanding that dueling was already illegal under the common law; some required political officeholders to swear an oath that they had never participated in a duel. Others, often via amendments to their state constitutions, made duelists and their seconds ineligible for public office. None of this, as C.A. Harwell Wells notes, made much of a difference:
By the 1820s, every Southern state had adopted laws or constitutional provisions intended not merely to punish duelists, but to strike at the internal and external pressures that led many men to duel. The laws made illegal insults likely to provoke violent reactions. They forbade men from issuing challenges to duels. They banned seconds from even carrying challenges, much less arranging duels. For convicted duelists, the law promised not only criminal punishment but official ostracism – exclusion from public office – a ban that would tarnish any duelist’s claim to be a “gentleman.” If the laws had worked as designed, conflict would have been avoided or channeled into the judicial system.
The laws did not work as designed. The Tennessee Supreme Court briefly limited the appeal of dueling by disbarring lawyers who participated in duels, even in other states, but this had only short-term effects, and dueling continued unabated throughout the South and most of the West until after the Civil War.
It wasn’t until after the Civil War, in fact, that dueling began to decline. The experience of such a large, protracted, and bloody war made the ritualized violence of the duel seem absurdly tame by comparison. “The sheer carnage of the war destroyed the romantic notions attached to arranged combat. By the end of the war, nearly one million of the South’s adult white males had served in the Confederate Army. Over a quarter of them had died in the war, including many of its putative aristocrats.”
In addition, the culture changed, from an emphasis on aristocratic honor to something more like what Deirdre McCloskey terms “bourgeois dignity,” which was upheld more by steady habits, prudent finances, and reliability – the sort of things upheld by Founder Benjamin Franklin, who himself was notably opposed to dueling – than to the more brash practices of the aristocracy. That is not least because the antebellum aristocracy found itself sharply reduced after the war. As Wells notes, “A society without an aristocracy is not one where dueling is likely to flourish.” It was the cultural change, not the laws and statutes enacted decades earlier, that brought dueling to an end.
Some vestiges survived. As late as the time when I was in high school, the notion that an insult might be answered by a ritualized fistfight out behind the gym still had some currency, and any aficionado of classic cinema knows that even sophisticated adult characters played by actors like Cary Grant might engage in fisticuffs if sufficiently provoked. Nowadays, however, this custom is essentially extinct.
Though I doubt the 19th Century duelists would be gratified by this observation, the closest thing to the dueling code surviving today is probably the culture of violence in response to “disrespect” that grips the world of urban street gangs. Part of this is influence – much of the violent culture in the South, a product of Scots-Irish culture brought over by one set of immigrants from Britain who dominated the culture of the southeastern (and much of the western) parts of the United States, was impressed on African-Americans who lived with that culture for generations, and then carried it with them in their migrations out of the South. And some of it is probably inherent – as Thorsten Veblen noted, and Tom Wolfe updated to the culture of the late 20th Century, “at the very bottom of the class system, down below the ‘working class’ and the ‘honest poor,’ there was a ‘spurious aristocracy,"’a leisure class of bottom dogs devoted to luxury and aristocratic poses.” This spurious aristocracy of pimps and drug dealers lives out a culture of honor and shame, respect and violence, that the antebellum ruling class would have recognized, to its undoubted horror.
It seems unlikely that dueling will spread from this class to the political class of today, though the political class of today offers cause for concern. While the differences with Hamilton’s era are many, in some ways the similarities are growing: As trust in institutions like political parties, news media organizations, and government itself declines, politics seems at the moment to be becoming more personal, as it was in the early days of the Republic. While this may not lead to a resurgence of the politically-oriented dueling that claimed Hamilton’s life and Burr’s career, it may lead to new manifestations of the need for politicians to prove themselves to their followers, and for followers to wage war on behalf of their chosen leaders. Perhaps, in fact, the social media wars of today are an example of that phenomenon.
If so, they represent an improvement: Social media combat occasionally ends careers, but generally doesn’t cost lives. Then again, looking around at today’s political class may plausibly give rise to at least a faint nostalgia for the era of duelling.
 For more on the Hamilton Burr Duel and the events leading up to it, see Thomas Fleming, Duel (1999).
 See Joanne B. Freeman, How Hamilton Uses History: What Lin-Manuel Miranda included in his portrait of a heroic, complicated Founding Father—and what he left out, Slate, November 11, 2015, available at http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2015/11/how_lin_manuel_miranda_used_real_history_in_writing_hamilton.html.
 William Oliver Stevens, Pistols at Ten Paces: The Story of the Code of Honor in America 140 (1940) reports two instances of women dueling, one at a bridge in Buffalo, New York over causes unknown, and one in Georgia in 1817 over “the love of a swain.” One girl was seriously wounded, “and the other carried off her beau in triumph to the bonds of matrimony.”
 See, e.g., Tenn. Const. Art IX sec. 3: “Any person who shall, after the adoption of this Constitution, fight a duel, or knowingly be the bearer of a challenge to fight a duel, or send or accept a challenge for that purpose, or be an aider or abettor in fighting a duel, shall be deprived of the right to hold any office of honor or profit in this state, and shall be punished otherwise, in such manner as the Legislature may prescribe.” This provision was added in the constitutional convention of 1834.
 Stevens, id.
 Id. at 9. Stevens does note that Smith himself had “fought and slain in one day three Turkish champions, one after another,” but this was while he was in the service of the Emperor Rudolf of Austria, in single combat between the lines of two opposing armies. “In all three instances,” Stevens reports, “Smith lopped off the head of the vanquished and held it up to view, amid the applause of the onlookers on both sides.” This was, however, not a duel, as Stevens notes, since there was no personal grudge or affront, but something more like “the combats narrated in Homer.”
 Id. at 12-13.
 Fleming, at 287.
 Stevens, 140-141.
 Id. at 141.
 One can see (hear?) an echo of this in modern times in the hit country song The Coward of the County, sung by Kenny Rogers. The hero of the song, a young man named Tommy, takes his imprisoned father’s advice to “turn the other cheek” instead of getting in fights, and is widely regarded as contemptible and “yellow.” He gains the respect of the County after beating (and possibly killing) the “Gatlin boys” who assaulted his girlfriend.
 Joanne B. Freeman, History As Told By The Devil Incarnate: Gore Vidal’s Burr, in Mark C. Carnes, Novel History: Historians And Novelists Confront America’s Past (And Each Other) 29 (2001).
 Stevens at 65-67.
 Id. at 71.
 Stevens at 148.
 Joanne Freeman, Dueling as Politics: Reinterpreting the Burr-Hamilton Duel, 53 Wm. & Mary Q. 289 (1996). In his novel, Burr, Gore Vidal characterizes the insult as a charge of incest between Burr and his daughter Theodosia, but that is entirely an invention of Vidal’s, as he admits. Gore Vidal, Burr: The Historical Novel, in Carnes, supra, at 39, 42 (“What could have made the unflappable Burr so angry that he would call out Hamilton? According to my intuition, only a charge of incest.”) “Intuition” can make for a great novel, but it is not historical fact. Neither is Vidal’s assertion that dueling “pretty much out of fashion by 1804,” when in fact, as Stevens notes it persisted throughout most of the 19th Century.) Id.
 Id. at 294.
 Id. at 295.
 Id at 296.
 Id. at 310-11.
 Thomas Fleming, Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Future of America 303 (1999).
 Fleming, at 331.
 Though Fleming suggests that one reason for Hamilton’s lengthy epistle was to ensure that Burr was destroyed one way or another: “[O]ne suspects another darker motive in the divided Hamilton’s moral posture. If he was killed, he wanted his death to destroy Burr as a political and military leader. It would have taken a year of prayer and fasting to scour hatred of Aaron Burr from General Hamilton’s soul. The ongoing animosity is all too visible in his repeated insistence on good reasons for his attacks on the vice president, in his declaration that his conscience was clear, and in his pious hope that Burr’s was in the same pristine condition. No matter how often Hamilton declared he had no personal enmity toward Aaron Burr, the General’s loathing for the man only becomes more apparent.”
 Stevens at 148.
 Id. At 340.
 Id. At 341.
 Stevens, at 159.
 Fleming, at 340.
 Id. at 343.
 Stevens at 161.
 Stevens, 163-64.
 Id. at 160-61.
 Id. at 164.
 C.A. Harwell Wells, The End of the Affair: Anti-Dueling Laws and Social Norms in Antebellum America, 54 Vand. L. Rev. 1805, 1830 (2001).
 Id. at 1834.
 Id. at 1838-39.
 Deirdre N. McCloskey, Bourgeois Dignity (2010).
 Wells at 1839.
 Tom Wolfe, Mau-Mauing The Flak-Catchers ___. ()