In 1804, the "Cooper letter" is published in the Albany Register newspaper.
The Cooper Letter by Eric LippsIn private correspondence, Dr. Charles D. Cooper to President Hamilton's father-in-law Philip Schuyler expresses a venomously hostile opinion of Burr, then seeking the governorship of New Jersey, and claims to describe "a still more despicable opinion which President Hamilton has expressed of Mr. Burr" at a political dinner. When Burr learns of the letter, he will immediately demand an explanation, stating that "political opposition can never absolve gentlemen from the necessity of a rigid adherence to the laws of honor and the rules of decorum".
Hamilton's response will not help matters. "How such a gentleman as Mr. Burr can complain of the private opinions of others, made known to him, when he has taken it upon himself to deliver first from the concealment of an alias and then openly attacks upon this Administration and upon its President assaults of the most inflamed character, I cannot comprehend". His next words will prove fateful: "As to his remarks on honor and decorum, one cannot discern from his record in the matter of the so-called Cicero letters, or indeed from any other source, by what right he is fit to question others".
Matters steadily worsen over the following weeks, with both Burr and Hamilton claiming that "honor must be satisfied" between them. Both men have a history of dueling, and Hamilton's friends and advisers, in particular, try desperately to prevent such a contest between the pair, arguing that for a president to duel would be "injurious to the dignity and indeed the security of the nation, regardless of the result".