The Duel: The Parallel Lives of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr


In curiously parallel lives, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr were both orphaned at an early age. Both were brilliant students who attended college? one at Princeton, the other at Columbia-and studied law. Both were young staff officers under General George Washington, and both became war heroes. Politics beckoned them, and each served in the newly formed government of the fledgling nation. Why, then, did these two face each other at dawn in a duel that ended with death for one...

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In curiously parallel lives, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr were both orphaned at an early age. Both were brilliant students who attended college? one at Princeton, the other at Columbia-and studied law. Both were young staff officers under General George Washington, and both became war heroes. Politics beckoned them, and each served in the newly formed government of the fledgling nation. Why, then, did these two face each other at dawn in a duel that ended with death for one and opprobrium for the other?

Judith St. George's lively biography, told in alternating chapters, brings to life two complex men who played major roles in the formation of the United States.

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Editorial Reviews

Well researched and organized, the book offers insights into the personalities, lives, and times of Burr and Hamilton. A fine choice . . .
Horn Book
St. George employs the dual biography format with facility and flair, bringing these two historical figures to life.
Children's Literature - Leigh Geiger
The prologue sets the stage for a duel between two unknown men in July 1804. With the reader's curiosity aroused, the author returns to 1755 and begins to weave the tale of two separate lives and how they intersected on that fateful day in 1804. St. George does an excellent job of highlighting the similarities in the lives of these two men who became arch enemies. She titles each of the nine chronological chapters with a role that both men shared at approximately the same time in their lives. We learn that they were both orphaned at an early age, studied at the same school, and shared many of the same experiences as patriots, heroes, lawyers, and politicians. In less than ninety pages, St. George manages to present two detailed biographies that outline the ambitious, arrogant personalities, family lives, and prominent historical roles of both men. While the sentence structure and vocabulary are carefully chosen for the mid-grade reader, St. George does not shy away from presenting the intricacies and ugly reality of politics in this era. She also manages to introduce many interesting details that are generally not included in stories about these two men. Readers will learn not only about the culture and politics of this era, but also, for example, about Hamilton's naval creations—lighthouses and ships for monitoring the US coastline—which later became the Coast Guard. They will learn about Aaron Burr's love interest, who was discovered to be a British spy. This well-researched book includes an excellent bibliography and a fairly thorough index. It would be useful in a school setting, not only as a dual biography but also as an introduction to life, culture, and the politicalsystem in the United States in the late 1700s. Reviewer: Leigh Geiger, Ph.D.
VOYA - Karen Sykeny
This comparative biography covers the lives of two prominent figures in early American history, showing the similarities and differences of two men whose lives, in many ways, ended at the same time. Their stories are told in narrative format covering the background of two men, one with privilege and connections and the other of low birth and only his intellect to raise his prospects in life. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect and period of their lives and the influences each man had on America's development as a nation. Hamilton and Burr were contemporaries who shared many similarities such as both being orphans, patriots of the American Revolution, war heroes, lawyers, politicians, and prominent men of New York State. They ended up, however, as bitter enemies in one of the most famous duels in history. There are enough details in this biography to really bring these two historically important figures to life for young readers. Family, careers, and political beliefs are all covered. Interesting and unique details usually skipped over in history class are also included, such as Hamilton's creation of custom services, lighthouses, and ships to monitor the coast, which later became the United States Coast Guard. This biography should be purchased in school and public libraries because of its excellent coverage in a succinct manner for young readers. It is well researched and even uses some primary sources, which helps readers get a real sense of who Hamilton and Burr really were and the impact their lives had on American history. Reviewer: Karen Sykeny
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9–Early in the morning on June 11, 1804, Aaron Burr shot and killed Alexander Hamilton. Both men were prominent citizens of the infant United States of America–Burr, indeed, was the vice president–but while Hamilton was lionized, Burr was vilified for the rest of his life. Interestingly, this marked the parting of ways in two lives that were remarkably similar. Both men had been orphaned young; both were excellent, driven students; both men had served on the staff of General George Washington during the Revolutionary War; both were lawyers in New York City; and both were deeply involved in politics. In the course of 25 years, their life paths crossed time and again, culminating in a tragic duel, as senseless as it was damaging for both parties. St. George does an excellent job of presenting the stories of the two men, informed by particulars that give a sense of character as well as of the historical milieu. Readers who like historical fiction will find this equally intriguing and approachable. The nine chapters, chronologically organized and compellingly written, move along smoothly to the inevitable, but still distressing, end. Similar in content to Dennis Brindell Fradin’s excellent Duel! Burr and Hamilton’s Deadly War of Words (Walker, 2008), St. George’s book has a bit more background on both men. Given its illustrative content, Fradin’s title will move better with younger readers, but most collections could use both volumes.–Ann Welton, Helen B. Stafford Elementary, Tacoma, WA
Kirkus Reviews
This briskly paced, concise dual biography of Burr and Hamilton highlights the remarkable parallels the men shared: Both were orphaned at a young age; both attended the same New Jersey academy; both were brilliant students, attending college and earning law degrees; both were heroes in the American Revolution; both served on George Washington's staff; both would play prominent roles in the fledgling United States government. St. George effectively demonstrates how similar Burr and Hamilton were in personality-deeply driven, ambitious, arrogant men who proved to be thin-skinned when it came to the nastiness endemic to political and professional competition. Their lives were intertwined for 25 years in war, in legal practice, in business dealings and as bitter political rivals. The parallel narratives alternate smoothly, with a silhouette of the subject clearly indicating transitions. The author's ability to lucidly explain the political intricacies of the time is impressive, revealing to readers that politics were as ugly, if not uglier, in the nation's earliest days as they are now. (Biography. 12 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670011247
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 6/25/2009
  • Pages: 112
  • Sales rank: 793,544
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 1040L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Judith St. George has published dozens of successful nonfiction books for children, including the Caldecott Medal-winning So You Want to Be President? and the historical Turning Point series, including You’re On Your Way, Teddy RooseveltStand Tall, Abe Lincoln; and Take the Lead, George Washington. You can visit her online at

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 31, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Great History Lesson!

    What an amazing story of two great men who had so much in their life to offer. One respected, one not. Both powerful. One greedy. Both intellegent. Two men, one duel, one dead.
    Great for 5th grade and up.

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  • Posted May 18, 2010

    The Duel

    The Duel by Judith St. George brings history life. It brought us through Aaron Burr's and Alexander Hamilton's life. This page turning book ranges from their child life and an exciting conspiracy to set up a new country that was led by Aaron Burr. By the end of the book one man will be dead and the other on the run because of a fatal duel between the two. What made this book so good was that you felt that you were in Hamilton's and Burr's shoes.
    She also does a good job of transitioning from Burr's life to Hamilton's life; other times when I have read books like that it was often confusing and hard to follow. Overall this was a very good book, but the only negative thing about this book was the length. I believe that this book will appeal to readers of all ages. Others books that Judith St. George has also written other historical books, like Crazy Horse and The White House. I would rate this book a 4 out of 5.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

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