Bring Back Dueling!

David Harsanyi, senior editor at The Federalist, argues:
The great Democrat, Andrew Jackson, supposedly participated in six duels with much success. No less an American hero, young Abraham Lincoln was almost involved in a duel before honor was restored.

Is Donald Trump a more honorable man than Abraham Lincoln? I think not. Right now, the leading candidate in the GOP race is celebrated by his fans for his vulgarity and eagerness to attack the dignity of others. People confuse this incivility — and he’s not alone — as a statement against political correctness. It isn’t. That would entail using ideological or cultural rhetoric that others have deemed morally unacceptable. Not calling a rival candidate a “pussy.”

Yet, the more personal and boorish his invective gets, the more Trump fans are awestricken. The belief that tough-guy Trump is a “fighter” propels his candidacy, even though pampered scions of wealth rarely have to fight for anything. And his success will only produce others who’ll ape this strategy.

I think we can all agree dueling would be a much-needed corrective.

As part of his argument, Harsanyi offers a brief discussion of dueling history in the US and links to sites with more, including a duel between women, two famous dueling grounds, the Code Duello and the Project Gutenberg text for “The Code of Honor; Or Rules for the Government of Principals and Seconds in Duelling," written by a South Carolina governor.

Whatever you think of this suggestion, I am greatly amused by the thought of Cruz and Trump squaring off with rapiers at Weehawken.


raven said...

The challenged party customarily has the choice of weapons IIRC.

so it will be instructive as to who, picks what.

Oakshotte's book has some very interesting passages from the saga's about dueling, and the various favored weapons.

Grim said...

In American dueling tradition, the written codes have generally prescribed pistols as the only acceptable weapon. Nothing else is considered appropriately democratic.

Which is a pity, of course, for those of us who have invested significant time in the blade -- but that's the point, after all.

Grim said...

Lincoln's duel -- or near duel -- involved a sword, though. As I recall the story, it was the display he made of the length of his arms plus a broadsword that convinced his opponent it would be wise to reconcile.

Ymar Sakar said...

As I recall the story, it was the display he made of the length of his arms plus a broadsword that convinced his opponent it would be wise to reconcile.

The way I heard it, it was their seconds that convinced the parties involved that Lincoln was not the author of the libel charge, thus no honor was at stake.

Perhaps the sight of cold steel restored some rationality to hot heads as well.

Pistols were favored in the past for a few reasons. The shot would lose velocity and killing force after a certain distance, and the bullet's accuracy was insufficient to reliably hit vital organs or targets like the neck.

These days, it would be different.

The ancients always preferred wrestling.

Anonymous said...

Dueling can be described as giving someone the honor of killing you for insulting you. I also have heard that the choice of weapons was given to the challenged even in the United State. My favorite tale of which involved a former Nantucket Whaler who had moved down South and had argued with a man, who demanded satisfaction. He learned that he could choose the weapon, and asked for harpoons at thirty paces. When told that those were not ranged weapons, he took one he kept for a momento and put it into a tree at range. The challenge was withdrawn, and he was never bothered with such matters again.

Grim said...

I haven't heard the story, but there is a story from Europe along similar lines: a scientist challenged to a duel arrived with a pair of sausages. One of them, he explained, had been treated with a horrible parasite that would produce a most painful death. So if the other gentleman would choose his sausage, the two of them would eat...

Still, the point of the thing is really to reinforce a kind of equality. The institution forces those who treat others with contempt to face those others in a fair contest, with their butt on the line. The pistols are characteristically American because they make the contest extremely fair in most cases, removing advantages of height or weight or (for the pistols of the day) special training.

We could even restore the duel contingent on the use of flintlock pistols, expecting the same benefits at quite limited costs.

E Hines said...

And there's this duel, over a bird:

A big city lawyer went duck hunting in rural South Dakota. He shot and dropped a bird, but it fell into a farmer's field on the other side of a fence.

As the lawyer climbed over the fence, an elderly farmer drove up on his tractor and asked him what he was doing. The litigator responded, "I shot a duck and it fell in this field, and now I'm going to retrieve it." The old farmer replied, "This is my property, and you are not coming over here."

The indignant lawyer said, "I am one of the best trial attorneys in the United States and, if you don't let me get that duck, I'll sue you and take everything you own.

The old farmer smiled and said, "Apparently, you don't know how we settle disputes in SD. We settle small disagreements like this with the "Three Kick Rule."

The lawyer asked, "What is the Three Kick Rule?"

The Farmer replied, "Well, because the dispute occurs on my land, first I kick you three times and then you kick me three times and so on back and forth until someone gives up."

The attorney quickly thought about the proposed contest and decided that he could easily take the old codger. He agreed to abide by the local custom. The old farmer slowly climbed down from the tractor and walked up to the attorney. His first kick planted the toe of his heavy steel-toed work boot into the lawyer's groin and dropped him to his knees. His second kick to the midriff sent the lawyer's last meal gushing from his mouth. The lawyer was on all fours when the farmer's third kick to his rear end sent him face-first into a fresh cow pie.

The lawyer summoned every bit of his will and managed to get to his feet. Wiping his face with the arm of his jacket, he said, "Okay, Now it's my turn."

The old farmer smiled and said, "Naw, I give up. You can have the duck."

Eric Hines