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The Anti-Dueling Movement

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Chapter Summary

On 11 July 1804, former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and Vice-President Aaron Burr met in Weehawken Heights, New Jersey to settle a dispute of honor by fighting a duel. Hamilton was fatally wounded in the exchange of pistol shots and died. Sermons condemning dueling as a folly against God and a scourge against civilized society began to be preached across the country. Ministers of various denominations took up this issue and helped to form anti-dueling associations in the years following the Hamilton-Burr duel. The anti-dueling ministers reasoned that if they were successful in accomplishing their goal of societal mediation, then the culturally accepted practice of dueling would elicit public indignation, thus hastening its demise. The battle to end the social custom of dueling was in essence a rhetorical battle in which the opponents of the code duello sought to symbolically manage the public's perception of the dueling.

Keywords: anti-dueling movement; code duello; Hamilton-Burr duel; societal mediation



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