George I. Eacker (c. 1774 – January 4, 1804) was a New York lawyer. He is best known for having fatally shot Philip Hamilton, the eldest son of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, in a duel on November 23, 1801, in Weehawken, New Jersey.
George I. Eacker
|Born||c. 1774 |
|Died||January 4, 1804 (aged 29–30)|
|Education||Columbia College (1793)|
Anna Margaret Finck
Early life and educationEdit
Eacker was born in Palatine, New York. He was the son of Jacob Eacker, who fought in the American Revolution and served as a county judge and a member of the New York State Assembly, and Anna Margaret Finck, daughter of Andreas Finck. He had one younger brother, Jacob I., and four sisters.
He attended a preparatory school in Schenectady, New York, and graduated from Columbia College in 1793. He then studied law under Henry Brockholst Livingston, a future Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Eacker was admitted to the New York bar at 21. He soon built his practice in Manhattan into a lucrative business, which allowed him to take a house on Wall Street and to employ a married couple as his valet and housekeeper. He gained popularity in New York City's well-to-do social circles as a lawyer, Freemason, cavalry captain, and fire brigade inspector.
For an unknown offense in 1798, which the historian Eric Henry Monkkonen interprets as an earlier duel or conflict, Eacker appeared in court and paid a recognizance, likely as a bond for good behavior.
Duels with Price and Philip HamiltonEdit
Eacker was selected in 1801 to deliver the Fourth of July oration at an Independence Day celebration held in New York City by a brigade of the New York State Militia, the Tammany Society, and two of the city's labor organizations: the Mechanics' Society and Coopers' Society. The Tammany Society, better known as Tammany Hall, was a Democratic-Republican Party political organization that Aaron Burr had built into a political machine. In politics, Eacker was known to be aligned with Burr.
According to a supporter, the speech that Eacker delivered was commended by "nearly everybody" except for partisans who were "blinded... to every virtue" by "party spirit, which at that time was very bitter." Some accounts questioned whether the speech was critical of Alexander Hamilton, as was later characterized. According to a 19th-century historian who relied on Eacker's younger brother as a source, the speech was entirely patriotic and did not name or allude to Hamilton.
On November 20, 1801, a Friday night, Eacker attended a play at the Park Theatre with his fiancée Harriet Livingston, a daughter of Walter Livingston and Cornelia Schuyler. Philip Hamilton, the eldest son of Alexander Hamilton, and Stephen Price approached or entered Eacker's box together and loudly ridiculed him. Eacker called them "damned rascals." In response to that insult, as was then common, both challenged Eacker to a duel.
At the same location on the following day, Eacker fatally shot the 19-year-old Hamilton in a second duel. Hamilton refused to raise his pistol to fire after he and Eacker had counted ten paces and faced each other. Hamilton followed his father's instructions to reserve his fire. Eacker, determined to fire second, did not shoot. After a minute, Eacker finally raised his pistol, and Hamilton did the same. Eacker shot and struck Philip above his right hip. The bullet went through his body and lodged in his left arm. In what may have been an involuntary spasm, Hamilton fired his pistol in the air.
In a letter to Rufus King, Robert Troup wrote of Alexander Hamilton, "Never did I see a man so completely overwhelmed with grief as Hamilton had been." Nevertheless, he was said to be civil and professional in his later relationship with Eacker. Hamilton would die in a duel with Aaron Burr only a few years later, on July 11, 1804, on the same dueling ground in Weehawken.
Death and legacyEdit
Eacker died on January 4, 1804. His death was attributed to consumption, or tuberculosis. According to Eacker's brother, the prolonged illness began in January 1802 on a bitterly cold night when Eacker fought a raging fire with his brigade and contracted a severe cold that "settled upon his lungs" until his death.
In popular cultureEdit
Eacker appears as a minor character in the 2015 Broadway musical Hamilton in which the musical number "Blow Us All Away" dramatizes his duel with Philip Hamilton. The role of Eacker originated on Broadway by a member of the show's ensemble, Ephraim M. Sykes, who also appears as Eacker on the original cast recording.
- "Philip Hamilton's Duel". The Duel. American Experience. PBS/WGBH. 2000. Archived from the original on July 11, 2015.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
- Fleming, Thomas J. (1999). Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Future of America. Basic Books. pp. 1–22. ISBN 978-0-465-01736-2. Excerpt at "Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and the Future of America (excerpt)". Washington Post. March 31, 2000.
- Winfield, Charles H. (1874). History of the County of Hudson, New Jersey: From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time. New York: Kennard & Hay Stationery M'fg and Printing Co. pp. 203–206.
- Simms, Jeptha Root (1882). The Frontiersmen of New York: Showing Customs of the Indians, Vicissitudes of the Pioneer White Settlers, and Border Strife in Two Wars. Vol. 1. Albany, N.Y.: Geo. C. Riggs. pp. 414–420. ISBN 978-5-87803-765-5.
|volume=has extra text (help) Excerpt at "The Frontiersmen of New York". Three Rivers: Hudson, Mohawk, Schoharie.
- Frothingham, Washington, ed. (1892). "Town of Palatine". History of Montgomery County: Embracing Early Discoveries, the Advance of Civilization, the Labors and Triumphs of Sir William Johnson, the Inception and Development of Manufactures, with Town and Local Records, Also Military Achievements of Montgomery Patriots. Syracuse, N.Y.: D. Mason & Co. pp. 326–327.
- Columbia University (1888). Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates of Columbia College (originally King's College) in the City of New York, 1754–1888. p. 67.
- Monkkonen, Eric H. (2001). Murder in New York City. University of California Press. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-520-22188-8.
- Eacker, George I. (1801). An Oration, Delivered at the Request of the Officers of the Brigade of the City and County of New-York, and of the County of Richmond: Before Them, and the Mechanic, Tammany, and Coopers' Societies, on the Fourth of July, 1801, in Commemoration of the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of American Independence. William Durell.
- Golway, Terry (2014). Machine Made: Tammany Hall and the Creation of Modern American Politics. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-87140-375-9.
- "To Alexander Hamilton from Benjamin Rush, 26 November 1801". Founders Online. National Archives. Archived from the original on June 15, 2018.
- Dawson, Henry B., ed. (October 1867). "The Duels Between — Price and Philip Hamilton, and George I. Eacker". The Historical Magazine, and Notes and Queries, Concerning the Antiquities, History and Biography of America. 2nd. Vol. II no. 4. Morrisania, N.Y. pp. 193–204.
- Lamb, Martha J.; Harrison, Mrs. Burton (1877). History of the City of New York: Its Origin, Rise, and Progress. Vol. III. New York: A. S. Barnes Co. pp. 477–478.
|volume=has extra text (help)
- King, Rufus (1897). King, Charles R. (ed.). The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King: Comprising His Letters, Private and Official, His Public Documents, and His Speeches. Vol. IV (1801–1806). G. P. Putnam's Sons. p. 28.
|volume=has extra text (help)
- Reynolds, Cuyler (1911). Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs: A Record of Achievements of the People of the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys in New York State, Included Within the Present Counties of Albany, Rensselaer, Washington, Saratoga, Montgomery, Fulton, Schenectady, Columbia and Greene. Lewis Historical Publishing Company. pp. 302–303.
- Historical Papers and Addresses of the Lancaster County Historical Society. 1909. pp. 227–228.