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Author Topic: The Hamilton/Burr Duel
hobsen
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Since the thread on "Obamacare" seems a poor place to discuss the fundamentals of ethics, does anyone wish to comment on this historical example.

For the facts, Alexander Hamilton agreed to a duel with Aaron Burr, and Burr killed him.

1) Was Hamilton an honorable man or a fool?

2) Burr was charged with murder in New York and New Jersey, but fled to South Carolina. Was running away honorable, and should he have been convicted and hanged?

3) And what difference does it make to either man two centuries later? Either who won, or what laws or moral codes were broken?

[ August 02, 2009, 06:02 PM: Message edited by: hobsen ]

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0rnery
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Ethics? Pffft... Clinton/Palin Duel!

I don't condone animal fights, but what two consenting adults agree to participate in, is OK with me. UFC for example.

[ August 02, 2009, 06:59 PM: Message edited by: 0rnery ]

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PSRT
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To the men 200 years later? Not a bit of difference. They're dead. Acting ethically isn't about posthumous benefit.
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Greg Davidson
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Before I give my answer, which one was the Democrat?


[Wink]


(That's a joke, if any of you are irony impaired)

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The Drake
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Funny, I'm just now reading about this. I'll post back in when I know more.
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TommySama
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I'd agree people should be allowed to kill each other if they both agree to it (provided they provide someone to clean up after). However, that is an immature practice that should at least be discouraged. Killing is only justified (IMO) if it is in self defense or an accident from self defense. Killing someone over pride is a bull**** reaction based on a male dominant society that places more importance on power than reality. "I killed him, therefore he was wrong." pride is bullshiiiiit. It's good to be happy about your accomplishments, but If you can't accept you're wrong just ****in deal with it yourself.
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Pyrtolin
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There's a little more detail to the duel as I recall- by the point in time that they took part in it, dueling was mostly a formal ritual to vent frustration. Both parties would intentionally shoot into the ground, call it done, and get back to life.

Hamilton private pledged ahead of time to follow that convention and throw away his shot, Burr seemed more intent on an actual duel.

Hamilton was supposed to have the first shot, but the seconds both had their backs turned, so there's no strong record of exactly what happened. What's known of the duel for sure is that two shots were fired- Hamilton's which went high and wide, Burr's which mortally wounded Hamilton, and they were fired in close succession, without a three count from the seconds which was supposed happen between shots.

It's still a mostly open question as to whether Hamilton shot first, but high and Burr either misintrpreted it or didn't care, or Burr actually shot first and Hamilton accidentally fired as he fell.

That bit of context throws a fair bit of a ruffle into the ethics of the situation.

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KnightEnder
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I still feel like you are one of my college professors and you are trying to get me to realize for myself something you don't want to just come out and tell me?

Hamilton could have been both an honorable man and a fool. Depending on the time and codes of honor at that time and his skill versus that of Aaron Burr. (Anybody else get that peanut butter commercial stuck in their head whenever this comes up? [Smile] )

2. This also depends on factors which I'm not educated enough to comment. What was the law in the state they fought? What was the code of honor then?

3. Since they are both long dead and buried I can't see how it could possibly matter to either of them. I can see how it would matter to their heirs and history, but not them personally. And even if they did care how history would remember them if we are on the same tangent we were on the other thread in the long long long run nobody will be alive to know what the Earth was much less remember what either of them did.

In a shocking turn of events I have to agree with Ornery. If two grown men, equally matched choose to fight to the death I see know reason to stop them or punish the one that lives.

I also agree with Tommy that "winning" a duel has no relevance on who was correct in the argument that precipitated the duel.

KE

[ August 02, 2009, 10:13 PM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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hobsen
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People have accused me of being a pedant, but I was trying to get at what benefits PSRT thinks come from acting ethically. So far as I can see, for someone who expects neither consciousness nor survival after death, the moment of death creates a sort of moral singularity. In the all too common case in which a jealous husband shoots his wife and then himself, his planned suicide means he can at most get a transient satisfaction from the murder. (Not to mention the many cases in which the police arrive at the scene of such a projected murder/suicide to find the perpetrator sitting on the floor crying his eyes out.) But if the husband has nothing much to gain by shooting his wife, he has nothing much to gain by not shooting her either. So what difference should which he chooses make to him?

Glad you agree with Ornery on something, KE.

[ August 02, 2009, 10:41 PM: Message edited by: hobsen ]

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hobsen
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The detailed Wikipedia account notes both duelists had vast responsibilities.
quote:
Further, Hamilton's untimely death would fatally weaken the fledgling remnants of the Federalist Party which, following the death of George Washington (1732-1799) five years earlier, was left without a strong leader.
Thus the result of the duel gave the Democratic-Republicans more freedom to appoint judges, and so created legal precedents which govern our courts today.

And Burr's flight left the United States effectively without a Vice President, at a time when the law had not yet designated anyone else to replace a President who died.

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Viking_Longship
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I wonder if we would not have a more civil discourse if we had not done away with dueling?
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KnightEnder
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VL,

I think certainly that dueling would improve the discourse locally. However, the advent of the Internet would kill the practice. Too cost prohibitive to travel all over the country shooting every coward with a PC. [Frown] No matter how satisfying it might be or how much they might need it.

(I was just reading a story about Andrew Jackson killing a guy named Dickson in a duel because Dickson had insulted Jackson's wife, among other things. Some of us were born in the wrong century. [Wink] )

Speaking of how the Internet changes things and an example of what I'm talking about: My youngest has been "going steady" (or whatever they call it nowadays) with a girl from Connecticut for over two months now, and being a teenage girl she tells him whenever any guy hits on her or flirts with her. (She likes it when he gets jealous.) Which of course drives my son crazy. I've got him to channel his anger into the weight room and into beating the hell out of the heavy bag. But other than that I really don't know what to tell him? Other than channel his anger and to try not to let it get to him. Because there really is "nothing he can do" about it. And I point out that if she really cared about him she wouldn't be putting him through such hell. Of course he doesn't see it that way. Hopefully when school starts back the appeal of real live girls in the flesh will put an end to this long distance Internet relationship.

KE

[ August 03, 2009, 10:07 AM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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PSRT
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quote:
but I was trying to get at what benefits PSRT thinks come from acting ethically.
If that is your goal, then you should just ask? I did answer this question in a different thread, though. http://www.ornery.org/cgi-bin/ubbcgi/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=6;t=013377;p=0&r=nfx

My point in the thread this devolved from is that, if you believe there is no point to acting ethically in one instance, because hundreds or thousands of years the benefit is gone, then to be consistent you should be applying that same logic to all situations. Since you seem to care about your grandchildren, you clearly don't.

[ August 03, 2009, 10:19 AM: Message edited by: PSRT ]

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hobsen
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Are you saying that - to put the argument in an extreme form - someone who does not care that the sun will at last go out should not care about nuclear war next week either?
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KnightEnder
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Hobsen,

I think to me and PSRT it sounded like "that" is what you were saying? "Countries fall anyway so why bother protecting the women and children?" ?


KE

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Mormegil
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Dueling is stupid, whether it's a fist fight or with guns. If you feel someone needs a beating or needs to be dead, why give them a chance to do the same to you? If they are so horrible that they ought to be dead, why engage in a scenario that might end with you dead and your enemy victorious?
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hobsen
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Putting women and children first usually makes sense. But people do better to think through the circumstances at hand rather than following traditional practices or worrying about what others think of them.
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