November 3, 2014 / by admin / American History / No Comments

Duel with the Devil: The True Story of How Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Teamed Up to Take on America's First Sensational Murder Mystery

Duel with the Devil: The True Story of How Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Teamed Up to Take on America's First Sensational Murder Mystery

Paul Collins

Language: English

Pages: 263

ISBN: 2:00209698

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Duel with the Devil is acclaimed historian Paul Collins’ remarkable true account of a stunning turn-of-the-19th century murder and the trial that ensued – a showdown in which iconic political rivals Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr joined forces to make sure justice was done. Still our nation’s longest running “cold case,” the mystery of Elma Sands finally comes to a close with this book, which delivers the first substantial break in the case in over 200 years.
In the closing days of 1799, the United States was still a young republic. Waging a fierce battle for its uncertain future were two political parties: the well-moneyed Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, and the populist Republicans, led by Aaron Burr. The two finest lawyers in New York, Burr and Hamilton were bitter rivals both in and out of the courtroom, and as the next election approached—with Manhattan likely to be the swing district on which the presidency would hinge—their animosity reached a crescendo. Central to their dispute was the Manhattan water supply, which Burr saw not just as an opportunity to help a city devastated by epidemics but as a chance to heal his battered finances.

But everything changed when Elma Sands, a beautiful young Quaker woman, was found dead in Burr's newly constructed Manhattan Well. The horrific crime quickly gripped the nation, and before long accusations settled on one of Elma’s suitors, handsome young carpenter Levi Weeks. As the enraged city demanded a noose be draped around the accused murderer’s neck, the only question seemed to be whether Levi would make it to trial or be lynched first.

The young man’s only hope was to hire a legal dream team. And thus it was that New York’s most bitter political rivals and greatest attorneys did the unthinkable—they teamed up.

At once an absorbing legal thriller and an expertly crafted portrait of the United States in the time of the Founding Fathers, Duel with the Devil is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction.

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the shining brass pumps installed along the thoroughfare; the rills that splashed out were good for cooling off, as well as for putting out fires or washing up. But few people were foolish enough to drink from the public pumps. For Manhattanites, as it happened, boiling coffee in a tin biggin was an excellent idea—because otherwise, a cup of the stuff might kill you. The destruction and deforestation of the war had once nearly caused local wells to run dry, and the explosive growth of the

what I could,” the husband remembered. “I saw a man walking towards the well—and in a little time the cries stopped and I went to bed.” Lispenard’s Meadow was not a place where neighbors asked too many questions. “Did you go to the well the next morning to make any examination?” “No,” Van Norden said bluntly. But William Lewis, another cartman whose property line ran near the well, had done just that. Examining the ground along a property wall and fence the next morning, he found strange new

to implicate Levi—someone who knew that the Rings faced ruin if the husband’s adultery with the missing girl became public. “Did you ever speak of this noise which you and your wife heard in the night to anybody else?” Watkins was asked. Why, yes, the blacksmith recalled—there was one other person he had told. “Croucher,” he said. THE GRAYING cloth merchant, who was sitting among the crowd in the courtroom, now seemed to shrink back into the darkness of the falling night. “When did you

1800. 36 stabbed a good Samaritan: Albany Centinel, 9 March 1798. 37 made a point of passing an act demanding it: NYCA, 3 March 1800. 38 counterfeiting Manhattan Bank currency: NYWM, 19 April 1800. 39 a $350 check drawn upon the Manhattan Bank account of Washington Irving’s brother: NYCA, 21 March 1800. 40 Yes, said Arnetta Van Norden: William Coleman, Report of the Trial of Levi Weeks, 50. 41 one of the other cartmen: Collections of the New-York Historical Society for the Year 1885, 246.

the Trial of Levi Weeks, 52. 18 a doomed attempt a few years earlier … needed to sell three thousand one-dollar tickets: GNDA, 27 June 1796. 19 behemoth balloon sporting French and American flags: “Balloon to Be Seen,” NYDA, 27 August 1796. 20 workshop was destroyed by a strong windstorm: Massachusetts Mercury (Boston), 27 September 1796. The following spring, after bickering with his partner, museum promoter Gardiner Baker (see Baker’s letter on page 2 of NYDA, 14 November 1796), aeronautical

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