Last state to ban dueling?

What was the last US state to ban duelling? Has every state actually banned dueling or does one have some obscure, unrepealed law lurking about on the books?


Why not? There are already laws which allow people to consent to what would otherwise be an assault (see, oh, just about any NFL game you want).

There are also laws that authorise the use of lethal force, for example by a police officer in the line of duty, or a house-owner defending his or her family from an armed intruder.

So legislatures can authorise individuals to consent to force being applied to them, and can authorise individuals to use lethal force, if the individual meets the legal requirements.

If the Legislature has decided to permit duelling with lethal weapons, provided both parties strictly follow the legal requirments set out in the statue, on what basis would a court strike it down?

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It doesn’t mention which states.

The last legal duel fought in South Carolina took place on 5 July 1880.

If that’s any help.

I call bullshit on the claim that “some American states have laws which establish procedures for legal duelling”. If they do, I want to see them.

Historically, if you plugged somebody during a duel, you were always vulnerable–at least in theory–to murder charges. The problem was, because the practice was so widely accepted, that prosecutors didn’t usually bother to indict, and if they did juries wouldn’t usually convict–they would accept the defendant’s claim of self-defense.

When states considered anti-duelling legislation, therefore, they had two objectives–to specifically rule out self-defense in such cases, and to ban the activites antecedent to a duel–the giving and accepting of challenges, the acting as second, the exchange of fire even if no one was injured, and so forth.

There may well be states which don’t have such laws on the books today–states which entered the Union late, or where duelling never became a problem, may never have seen the need to enact them. But that’s a far cry from “establishing procedures for legal duelling”, and I assure you that if you plug somebody today in any one of the 50 states, “We were fighting a duel” isn’t going to get you off the hook.

You can read the federal anti-duelling law, which applies to the District of Columbia, here.

Here is an account of a duel which took place at Cedar Bluff, Alabama on 10 August 1889. The report begins about halfway down the page.

There is a site which mentions this as the last documented duel in the US but I’m unsure of the accuracy of this claim.

The Mississippi Code of 1972 specifically spells out penalties for dueling, including possible fine of up to $1 K and/or six months jail. The Code goes on further to note that anyone convicted of dueling, or conspiring to duel, will be disqualified from holding public office; whether this dueling takes place within the State or elsewhere.

I’m not sure when this was originally enacted; some of the language in it makes me think it was fairly long ago.

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I found this cite of the State Constitution which also seems to prohibit dueling (see Section 19). This was adopted in November 1890.

As for Texas:

Dueling was specifically outlawed when the Republic of Texas was founded in 1836, stating that anyone killing another in the course of a duel will be charged with murder and if convicted will be executed. Likewise anyone issuing a challenge of duel or assisting in a duel can be imprisoned. These criminal laws were carried over when Texas became a US state in 1845. The state constitution of 1845 also states that anyone who has dueled is banned from holding public office with the oath of office for legislators containing a specific oath that they have never participated in a duel.

Still there were dozens of famous duels in Texas well after these laws were enacted.