Located near the New Jersey bank of the Hudson River the clearing was bordered by several large trees and spanned ten paces. Fading shadows crossed the clearing as dawn approached.
Four men stood in the clearing at the four points of the compass, watching each other. A solitary man stood off to the side, with his back turned, pointedly not witnessing the events unfolding behind him.
Just as the sun broke over Manhattan Island and reflected on the dawn-calm waters of the Hudson, the man facing north raised his weapon and fired it into the air. Through the smoke-filled air in front of him he saw the flash of his opponents’ weapon, heard the report, then lowered his pistol.
Alex fell to the ground as he struck his abdomen with his fist and broke the pouch of ox blood secured under his blouse. Nathaniel, his Second, ran to his side and pressed his hand on Alex’s stomach.
“He is sorely wounded, sir. Bring his carriage,” said the Second. “This affair is ended.”
The other Second quickly positioned the carriage next to Alex and stood back. The solitary man, assisted by Alex’s Second, with much difficulty, maneuvered Alex to the carriage. He then sat in the back next to Alex as the Second climbed onto the drivers’ seat and hurried off towards the boat waiting in the river.
“I wasn’t trying to shoot him. I swear,” said the opponent, in despair. “I was raising my pistol to shoot into the air, just as he did.”
“It went off to soon,” said his Second. “I could see you raising your arm, but then the pistol fired.”
“Let’s return to New York to await news of his health,” the shooter said as he climbed unsteadily into his own carriage taking his place next to his Second, who shook the reins, guiding the horses away from the clearing and towards the river to catch the first ferryboat of the morning returning to New York,
“We are alone now, Alex. You can sit up,” said the man next to him. “Be more comfortable.”
“No, Thomas. Let’s do this right. Take no chances. Too much rides on our deception being perfect,” objected Alex. “Take me to the hospital as planned. You will attend to me through the night and then announce my demise tomorrow morning.”
“You are right, as usual, Alex. How is it that you are always right? Stay where you are until we reach the boat to take us across to New York.”
The two Seconds had provided a fast boat to return to New York should either of their charges be wounded as a result of the duel. If neither was harmed, they would return via the ferryboat. They hoped this would increase the wounded man’s chance of survival.
Arriving at a small pier on Manhattan Island they transferred Alex from the boat to a waiting carriage. His Second, drove the horse and carriage towards the hospital with all haste and did not stop until they were at the hospital entrance. When they arrived, he brushed the orderlies aside and he the doctor moved Alex inside to a first-floor room.
“This man has been wounded. Bring me some bandages and clean hot water. Quickly,” commanded the doctor to the nurses and orderlies inside the hospital entryway.
Alex looked at the doctor, whispering as though in great pain, “Thomas, don’t let any of the nurses or orderlies too close. They cannot inspect my “wound.””
“Don’t worry, Alex. I have them so afraid of me they dare do nothing to warrant my wrath,” said Dr. Thomas Morrow, with a smile. He then positioned himself between Alex and the doorway. He motioned for the nurse to place the bandages and hot water on the table next to the bed before dismissing her. With a few quick strokes of his scalpel he cut away Alex’s shirt, and cleaned the blood from his chest. He quickly poured a little of the ox blood from the pouch onto a bandage, soaking it through, before fastening it over the “wound.”
Dr. Morrow left the room and addressed the hospital staff. “Mr. Hamilton has been shot. The bullet struck his lower left abdomen and passed out his back. I fear it may have hit an organ or vein as there is a copious amount of blood. I have applied a compress to stop the bleeding. There is no more to do at this time. We will now have to wait to see if he survives the day.”
The next afternoon Dr. Morrow told an orderly to “send word to Mr. Burr that Mr. Alexander Hamilton passed into the care of his Maker at 2:00 PM. May God rest his soul.”
Nathaniel Pendleton, Alex’s Second from the night before, and Thomas placed Alex on a litter and carried him out of the hospital to a long black carriage waiting immediately outside the hospital doorway. They laid him in the back of the carriage and covered him with a portion of an overlarge bulky blanket before hastening off in the direction of the undertaker. Five blocks from the hospital Nathaniel turned into an alley and slowed. Unseen, Alex rolled from the back-right side of the carriage and entered an open door leading to a cellar located under a dry goods store. Dr. Marrow hurried to the back of the carriage and re-arranged the blanket covering the corpse of a vagrant Nathaniel had placed there prior to going to the hospital to retrieve Alex and the doctor. Nathaniel and Dr. Marrow continued down the alley and a few minutes later arrived at the undertakers. They unloaded the body, keeping it covered and carefully placed it in the prepared coffin, nailing it shut. Dr. Marrow informed the undertaker that the deceased was Mr. Alexander Hamilton and he died by an “accidental” pistol shot, and while in the vicinity of the shooting he did not witness the actual deed and thus could not testify as to who was at fault. The funeral would be the next day and they left instructions that the family did not wish the casket to be opened under any circumstance.
Alex was sitting in the dark in one of the well-appointed chairs under the dry goods store. Late afternoon, he guessed as the cellar door opened, and Madison descended the stairs.
“All went well, I assume, Alexander?” Madison asked.
“Perfectly, James. I am now dead and can disappear from the public eye, indeed, from all eyes, except the Organizations’. I just wish we could have used Eliza in our venture.”
“We have been through that, Alex. Her family is too well connected, and any little mistake would ruin everything.”
“I know, but I caused her so much pain while alive, I wish we could spare her my death,” Alex said sadly.
“Elizabeth is strong. She has the children. She will be fine, eventually.”
Just then Nathaniel and Dr. Thomas Morrow opened the cellar door and entered.
“It’s all set. The burial will be tomorrow at Trinity. We purchased a large monument to be placed over the grave to assure no one will disturb “you.””
“Nathaniel, well done on setting the hairspring on Burr’s pistol so it would fire prematurely. Well done, indeed. I owe you my life, once again. Now, to business. Have you recruited the officers I recommended and is our vetting process working?
“Yes,” said Nathaniel. “I made very general inquiries of them and if they seemed amenable I sent them to Mr. Madison for further interviews.”
“And once I was assured of their trustworthiness I sent them to Jay for further indoctrination,” added Madison.
They reviewed their plans all evening and through the night, only ending in the pre-dawn darkness. They all knew the plan by heart, but kept trying to find fault, any fault with the actions that appropriately initiated their master plan with a pistol shot two days before. Outside of Nathaniel, Dr. Morrow and Madison and Jay, no one on Manhattan island knew of the scheme. In all likelihood no one would have believed the enormity of their plan, or the unusual origin.
Several years prior, when the war was over, and the treaty signed, Jay returned from Europe. No one was aware he carried a confidential letter from George III to Alexander Hamilton. He was sworn not to open it, or even acknowledge to anyone he carried such a letter. He knew the representatives of King George held Hamilton in high esteem, even higher than Washington. They knew it was Hamilton, the brilliant Hamilton, who organized the newly formed government and it was only to him they could trust this secret.
Jay sought out Alex at the Fraunces, their usual tavern, and moved him to a secluded corner before proffering the letter for his review. Alex read the letter several times, occasionally stopping mid-sentence to ask John if he knew of any of the contents, to which Jay just shook his head.
“Let’s go someplace more private,” said Alex. “The cellar should be empty this time of night.”
Jay paid their tab, as usual, and they left together, as usual. They walked the dozen or so blocks, foregoing a carriage, and entered the cellar through the old door in the alley. The door looked old but was in fact thick oak with well greased hinges which make no noise when opened or closed. Closing and bolting the heavy door effectively muffled all sound in and out of the room. With no windows in the room they were truly isolated from the world outside. Bypassing the more comfortable chairs they sat in two of the straight back chairs at the long table and lit one of the three table oil lamps.
Alex withdrew the letter from his blouse and spread it on the table for Jay to read. As he read, Jay kept looking at Alex in disbelief.
“You are sure of the authenticity of this letter, John?”
“Absolutely,” said Jay. “The head of the King’s delegation gave it to me in private, making me swear to deliver it to you only, again, in private. I have now done so and now having read it, understand the need for such secrecy. King George is informing you of the existence of a secret organization dedicated to the preservation of the English Crown and urging us to form one here.”
“Apparently, he, or more likely Lord Shelburne, realized the futility of continued hostility between the United States and Britain and the future advantages of having a stable government on this side of the Atlantic. He described a secret organization created long ago dedicated to preserving the crown, but more importantly the rule of law, while being above the law. He strongly suggests we create a parallel organization to protect our country from all threats, both foreign and domestic.”
Jay said, “But he practically gave us the plans for his own organization. Does he trust you that much?”
Alex was quiet for a long moment before saying, “No one on this continent knows, but Lord Shelburne made a secret trip to Virginia during the war when I was there fighting his troops. He and I met in a secluded glen north of Yorktown. He knew the war was over and wanted to understand our plans after a treaty was signed. I couldn’t tell anyone as it would be considered treason. I told him how we would create a strong central government with elected leadership and a centralized banking system. I shared my vision of our United States becoming a world power of manufacturing and trade, a republic of laws, order and justice. He offered some advice to assure our success, but I never imagined the Brits had devised an organization such as described in this letter, much less maintained it in secrecy for well over a hundred years.”
Alex forced his memory into the back recesses of his mind, refocusing his attention on the present, as Nathaniel said, “Alexander, when do we expand our membership and include civilians as well as the militia?”
“Patience, Nathaniel. Once the militia is securely entrenched we will expand our organization. We must maintain both absolute secrecy and security. For now, only military personnel have the discipline and dedication we can trust. Eventually, we will expand our corps to include bankers, industrialists and even politicians. We must have representation in all aspects of our society. Further, each member of our organization must be proven to be incorruptible beyond any doubt. The development of our organization will require years, if not decades of manipulating the public political puppets that the world will believe are running our country. As long as they continue moving our country in the right direction, we will let them make laws and implement their policies and apparently govern. When they stray, we will be in place to correct them, and they will never know.”
“Our operatives of the Star Alliance will be dedicated to the preservation of the U.S. Constitution, which defines public laws and order, but more importantly, to assure the grievances put forth in our Declaration of Independence are never again imposed on the people of the United States of America. It does not matter who is trying to subvert our declared purpose, our organization will deal with them with whatever actions or force are required to do so.”
“It is clearly stated in our Declaration that “new Guards shall be provided for the future security of our nation.” We, gentlemen, above and beyond the Constitution, are that Guard.”
“Our Charter was publicly stated in the Declaration that:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Alex slowly turned to face each man in the room, building the tension and anticipation. Finally, he said, “We successfully manipulated congress to create the Military Academy two years ago. It is now time to assume control as it will be the school and incubator of many of our members for years to come.”
Turning to face Madison he said, “James, you are sure of the dedication of Jonathan Williams to command the academy?”
“Yes, Alex. He is completely dedicated to our cause and absolutely trustworthy. It was a stroke of genius for you to manipulate Jefferson into choosing him.”
“Jefferson is so idealistic manipulating him is child’s play. It is Pinckney we need to watch. Should he be elected our task will be much more difficult. Have we done enough to assure Jefferson wins the election?”
“Yes, Alex,” replied Jay. “Jefferson’s overwhelming victory is assured.”
“Well done. Now, we successfully manipulated Congress to acquire Louisiana. Our next step is to add all the territory from Tennessee to the Pacific Ocean as part of the United States. Our man on the Lewis and Clarke expedition is assuring us the reports being submitted will encourage further acquisitions until our goal is met. I suggest we adjourn this session. We all have assignments and I must relocate to my new residence and start my reclusive life. Gentlemen, until we meet again in one month’s time, good day.”