Claiming the tournament jousting tradition of medieval knights as its origin, the CODE DUELLO was still an important feature in the concept of a gentleman in the early 1800s. The duel was a more satisfying course for defending one’s honor than a court of law, and was the ingrained code by which a gentleman lived.
Both Hamilton and Burr had challenged others before their own confrontation. In July, 1797, Burr effected a reconciliation which avoided a duel between Alexander Hamilton and James Monroe. Burr himself fought a duel with Hamilton’s brother-in-law, John Barker Church, in September, 1799.
In November of 1801, Hamilton’s oldest son, Philip, was killed in a duel brought about in a political quarrel with one George Eacker, an event which drove Hamilton’s oldest daughter insane.
Even though it was illegal, dueling did not go out of fashion until after the Civil War.