Most disputes die, and no one shoots,” states a lyric in “Hamilton,” the blockbuster musical that opens at Omaha’s Orpheum Theater on Tuesday. But sometimes the shots in old-time duels could indeed be deadly. A pistol shot by Aaron Burr famously took the life of Alexander Hamilton in 1804.
Midlanders may be surprised that since the 1840s, the Iowa Constitution stated that no individual could be elected to public office in Iowa if he had participated in a duel. Apparently no occasion ever arose to invoke the measure. In 1992, Iowans approved a ballot measure, 57% to 43%, to remove the provision from the constitution. At the time, a total of 28 states, though not Nebraska, had similar bans on duelists.
“Hamilton” memorably describes our country as “a great unfinished symphony.” Part of our national story is how the Hamilton-Burr confrontation helped spur duelist bans, including in the Midwest.