I tried to get tickets after I saw this New York Times piece, but no luck.
“I am not throwing away my shot” is just an awesomely perfect refrain: it refers to ‘reserving and throwing away’ the shot in a pistol duel: deliberately firing into the ground in order to make a merely symbolic gesture of courage. It was early American custom to fire until satisfaction: this could mean until one duelist was unable to continue, or until the mutual exchange of volleys had so spooked one of the parties that they acquiesced, usually through their second, to whatever half-hearted apology was offered. Death was very rarely the result: most opponents would be satisfied with whatever face-saving injury they managed to inflict or sustain in the first three volleys, especially because of the legal and social repercussions of committing a murder in a country that viewed dueling as a European extravagance.
More honor could be lost by stubbornly refusing to accept a negotiated settlement and thus killing a man than might have been at stake in the original insult. The desire to maintain decorum even in the midst of violence required participants to restrain their rage or bloody-minded vengefulness. Today we see a similar judgment in the opprobrium heaped upon those who ‘kick a man while he’s down.’ A defeat suffered with aplomb is better than a victory sullied by distasteful displays of man’s base instincts. However, Alexander Hamilton supposedly did “throw away his shot” in the duel with Aaron Burr:
I have resolved, if our interview is conducted in the usual manner, and it pleases God to give me the opportunity, to reserve and throw away my first fire, and I have thoughts even of reserving my second fire.
Thus Hamilton claimed that he would take at most one or two shots at Burr. His first shot was a deliberate miss. Since Burr’s responding shot killed him, we can’t know what he would have done for the second round. The noted traitor Burr is said to have responded to the allegation that Hamilton never intended to fire upon him with a laconic, “Contemptible, if true.”
Previously: Hamilton Mixtape. I cannot wait for this album!
(Video autoplays, so I’ve placed it below the “read more…”)