Attendance at historic sites in Paterson, Weehawken, and Morristown has jumped, but it’s the monument at the duel site that attracts the most attention, marking the sensational ending to a great American life. Hamilton actually died one day after the duel, in the home of his good friend William Bayard Jr. in New York.
Every year, Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner attends the city’s annual Celebrate Hamilton event on July 11. “Each year it gets bigger and bigger,” he said. “The play has renewed interest in the area.” That renewed interest, Turner believes, encourages historical learning. “Hamilton is a great historical figure, and we often forget because most Americans aren’t dedicated students of history,” he said. “It’s nice to have something that comes along that reminds us of the great history we have.”
Lauren Sherman, chair of the Weehawken Historical Commission, said, “I’ve heard of people taking selfies at the monument and some girls crying. Because of the musical, he’s now cool.”
One group of young people with long selfie sticks posing in front of the monument last week were happy to share their thoughts on Hamilton’s legacy.
“He’s the father of modern banking,” said Jim Furman, who is from Manhattan but was visiting friends in Union City. “He’s legend.”
Hamilton is known as “the father of modern banking” because his most impactful contribution to this country was perhaps the establishment of a central bank, which he believed to be necessary to establish stable national credit and promote business. He was like the responsible parent who co-signs his daughter’s credit card just to ensure she goes out into the real world with good credit.
Amy Zhang, also from Manhattan, talked about her admiration for Lin Manuel Miranda. “He’s a genius,” she said. “I haven’t seen the play, but the soundtrack is amazing, and I love his character. It’s surreal to be standing here, at this rock where Hamilton laid his head down, shot.” According to Sherman, the tidbit about Hamilton’s head, explained on the plaque, was not added until the memorial was moved to the top of the ridge overlooking the Hudson in the late 1850s.
Memorial drew duelers
The original memorial was built in 1806 at a cost of $750 and consisted of various images along with a rock and a plaque.
But there was a problem.
“The memorial, instead of honoring the men, it started to draw more duelists,” Sherman said. Dueling was illegal in New York at the time, making the shore of Weehawken a prime location for such activity. But duels were outlawed in New Jersey in 1845.
Sherman said that the memorial started coming apart early on. “People were taking pieces of the monument with them. By 1821, there wasn’t much left other than this plaque with the engraving.”
She said after dueling was outlawed in New Jersey, people still came to the grounds to settle disputes by duel, using cork instead of bullets.
Ren held his lightsaber, poised to strike. “I could kill you right now. But there is another way.” Breathing hard, Rey looked up in disgust at the man looming above her. “You’re a monster.” “No. You need a teacher.” He was beseeching and insistent all at once. “I can show you the ways of the Force!” Slowly she shook her head. “The Force?” […] A long moment passed, in which Ren sensed a change in the air, a change in her.
Then she opened her eyes and attacked, viciously.