It’s hard to talk about this song without a big spoiler, so if you’ve never heard it and want to be surprised, go listen now before reading any further. I’ll give you a little white space as a safety buffer.
Back or you’ve heard the song before? Before listening, did you have any idea that three years before the famous Hamilton-Burr duel, Alexander Hamilton’s 19-year old son Philip died dueling in the very same spot with the very same pistols? It’s a crazy story, and one to be filed under “Lesson Not Learned, Dad.”
This song does a good job of presenting the history so no need to go into lots of detail here. To recap, Philip Hamilton and his friend Richard Price confronted a lawyer named George Eacker for criticizing Alexander Hamilton in a speech, which led to them challenging him to a duel. Eacker and Price dueled first. Each fired at each other once, missed, and said the 18th Century equivalent of “It’s all good, man.” But in the duel with Philip the following day, Eacker shot and killed him.
In a twist from the musical, Eacker didn’t shoot before the count of 10. Instead, at the count of 10 both young men just stared at each other for about a minute, seemingly unsure what to do. Eventually Eacker lifted his pistol and when Philip did the same, Eacker shot him. In other accounts, Eacker shot as Philip was clearly pointing his pistol at the sky in the dueling move known as delope. (Delope is French for “throwing away” and signified that you were throwing away your first shot in a duel in an effort to end the conflict without bloodshed.) Either way, it appears that we don’t need to feel the musical Hamilton is too unfair in its portrayal of Eacker’s character.