American history tells me that Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton had a famous duel in the early 1800s. I also understand that dueling was outlawed in D.C. in the 1830s and then it faded from American culture.
My question is this:
Is formal (and legal) dueling still conducted in other countries and cultures as a means of settling a dispute?
This sounds like a very acceptable thing as long as there is a method of assuring that both parties are willing and not under duress. This would drastically cut the belligerent asshole number down from most crowded places.
Thanks folks. The question came to mind after having read a recently published article by Lawrence Knutson of the Associated Press. Mr. Knutson based his article upon a soon to be published book by Roger Kennedy entitled “Burr, Hamilton, and Jefferson, A Study in Character”, as well as the article by Joanne B. Freeman entitled “Dueling as Politics” in the William and Mary Quarterly.
I found the topic to be rather interesting and I just wondered if maybe this kind of thing still takes place in other parts of the world.
Staying on the right side of the copyright police,
I remember learning that dueling was already illegal when Burr and Hamilton fought. Burr could have been charged with murder (Hamilton died, didn’t he?) but he wasn’t. It must be nice to have friends in high places.
“I had a feeling that in Hell there would be mushrooms.” -The Secret of Monkey Island
Dueling was illegal in most places at the time Burr and Hamilton got it on.
They had to go to New Jersey for the duel, where it was still allowed.
Here’s an interesting piece of information about the duel. Hamilton cheated. What makes it even funnier is that he probably lost because of it. He rigged his own gun so that it would go off when 1/10 of a pound of pressure was put on the trigger, opposed to the normal 4 pounds of the same gun which Burr was given. Because the pressure needed to fire was so light, Hamilton’s gun went off when he was turning around and aiming. The bullet went a foot or two about Burr’s head. After that, it was an easy shot for Burr.
I don’t know who first said “everyone’s a critic,” but I think it’s a really stupid saying.
Interesting that so many states appear to have prohibitions against dueling written in to their constitutions. California’s constitution states:
A criminal penalty was added in 1855, and was codified in 1872, preventing not only dueling and acting as a second or delivering a challenge, but also prohibiting making fun of someone for not dueling and leaving the state to fight a duel. (Interestingly, the anti-dueling statutes were repealed here four years ago as “obsolete.”)
One of the more famous duels in California, ironically enough, was between a Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court and a U.S. Senator, in 1859, in San Francisco. The judge, David Terry, killed the Senator, David Broderick. “Pistols at ten paces,” as it were.
I also found this a very interesting question, in light of Montana’s vigilate and “wild west” history, so I went and looked it up. Unlike the other states mentioned, duelling is apparently not illegal in Montana:
The problem, of course, is that it IS illegal to kill people in Montana (under general homocide laws) and to wound them (under general assault laws), so while the duel itself would not be illegal, the result arguably would be. Of course, the defense might be something like assumption of risk or an estoppel argument. Anyway, the act itself is apparently okay. So does anyone want to engage in a duel with water pistols? You’d have to come out here, but I’d be glad to slap your face, in keeping with the etiquette of duelling.
While dueling itself is no longer a specifically prohibited crime, certainly if you wounded someone you would be charged with assault and battery, and if you killed them you would be charged with murder. It would NOT be a defense to criminal charges that the other party was a willing participant.
Hey Connie, you had me worried there at first when I saw this thread! I thought you were callin’ me out!
I think it’s a Cecil-worthy question too. I bet there is nowhere in Western civilization where dueling to the death is still legal, or practiced, but I’ve been in a couple of and seen a few more fistfights. Isn’t that sort of like wimp dueling? And, by the way, writers of the past (Twain, Hemingway, Crane, Faulkner, etc.) have their characters getting in fistfights regularly. Was fighting more common in the past than it is now?
It’s too early in the morning for me to do hard research (lazy, I know, forgive me), but it seems to me that most “civilized” cultures have proscribed duelling for some centuries, but tended to look the other way–especially for the “noble” classes; hence the odd times and places. Also, wasn’t there frequently a sort of gentleman’s agreement that by merely showing up and firing your pistols in the air (or fencing until someone got a scratch), honor would be satisfied and they could all go out to breakfast? I admit you’ld have to be pretty trusting!
The reference above to the duel fought by a U.S. Senator brings to mind an interesting corollary: members of Congress are immune from certain laws when travelling to and from sessions of Congress according to the United States Constitution. How does that apply to dueling?