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Louisiana Anthology

John C. Millingen.
“Code of Duelling Established in France.”



New Orleans Duelling Oaks

We have seen that France has ever held out an example in duelling; and the rules which were established in that country, at various periods, to regulate these hostile meetings, have generally been considered as precedents in other countries; more especially on the continent of Europe.

The French admit three sorts of offences:

  1. First: A simple offence.
  2. Second: An offence of an insulting nature.
  3. Third: An offence with personal acts of violence.

In these cases they have established the following rules, which, indeed, so long as duelling is tolerated, may be considered most judicious, and such as should regulate the arrangement of all quarrels.

Rule 1.
If in the course of a discussion, an offence is offered, the person who has been offended is the injured party. If this injury is followed by a blow, unquestionably the party that has been struck is the injured one. To return one blow by another of a more serious nature,— severely wounding, for instance, after a slap in the face, — does not constitute the person who received the second blow, however severe it may have been, the party originally insulted. In this case, satisfaction may be demanded by the party that was first struck. Such a case must be referred to the chances of a meeting.
Rule 2.
If an insult follows an unpolite expression, — if the aggressor considers himself offended, or if the person who has received the insult, considers himself insulted , — the case must also be referred to a meeting.

Rule 3.
If, in the course of a discussion, during which the rules of politeness have not been transgressed, butt in consequence of which, expressions have been made use of which induce one of the party to consider himself offended, the man who demands satisfaction cannot be considered the aggressor, or the person who gives it the offender. This case must be submitted to the trial of chance.
Rule 4.
But if a man sends a message without a sufficient cause, in this case he becomes the aggressor; and the seconds, before they allow a meeting to take place, must insist upon a sufficient reason being manifestly shown.
Rule 5.
A son may espouse the cause of his father, if he is too aged to resent an insult, or if the age of the aggressor is of great disparity; but a son cannot espouse the quarrel of his father if he has been the aggressor.
Rule 6.
There are offences of such a galling nature, that they may lead the insulted party to have recourse to acts of violence. Such acts ought invariably to be avoided, as they can only tend to mortal combat.
Rule 7.
The offended party has the choice of arms.
Rule 8.
When the offence has been of a degrading nature, the offended has the right to name both the arms and duel.
Rule 9.
When the offence has been attended by acts of violence, the offended party has the right to name his duel, his arms, the distance, and may insist upon the aggressor not using his own arms, to which he may have become accustomed by practice; but in this case the offended party must also use weapons in which he is not practised.
Rule 10.
There are only three legal arms; the sword, the saber, the pistol. The saber may be refused even by the aggressor, especially if he is a retired officer; but it may be always objected to by a civilian.
Rule 11.
When a challenge is sent, or a meeting demanded, the parties have a mutual right to the name and address of each other.
Rule 12.
The parties should immediately after seek their seconds, sending to each other the names and addresses of their seconds.
Rule 13.
Honor can never be compromised by the offending party admitting that they were in the wrong. If the apology of the offending party is deemed sufficient by the seconds of the offended; if the seconds express their satisfaction, and are ready to affirm this opinion in writing; or if the offender has tendered a written apology, considered of a satisfactory nature; in such a case the party that offers to apologize ceases to be the offender; and if his adversary persists, the arms must be decided by drawing lots. However, no apology can be received after a blow. An amicable arrangement of a quarrel should take place before the parties meet on the ground, unless circumstances prevent a prior interview. Howbeit, if when upon the ground, and even when armed, one of the parties thinks proper to apologize, and the seconds of the offended party are satisfied, it is only the party that tenders the apology upon whom any future unfavorable reflections can be cast.
Rule 14.
If the seconds of the offending party come to the ground with an apology, instead of bringing forward their principal, it is only to them that blame can be attached, as the honor of their principal was placed in their hands.
Rule 15.
No challenge can be sent by collective parties. If any body or society of men have received an insult, they can only send an individual belonging to it, to demand satisfaction. A message collectively sent may be refused; but the challenged party may select an antagonist, or leave the nomination to chance.
Rule 16.
All duels should take place during the forty-eight hours that have succeeded the offence, unless it is otherwise stipulated by the seconds.
Rule 17.
In a duel with pistol or saber, two seconds to each combatant are indispensable; one will suffice when the sword is used.
Rule 18.
It is the duty of the seconds to decide upon the necessity of the duel, and to state their opinions to their principals. After having consulted with them in such a manner as not to allow any chance of avoiding a duel to escape, they must again meet, and exert their best endeavors to settle the business amicably. If they fail in this attempt, they must then decide upon arms, time, place, distance, and mode of fighting; and at the same time they must endeavor to come to some arrangement regarding any difficulties that might arise, when the parties are on the ground.
Rule 19.
Seconds are not witnesses; and each second should have a witness.
Rule 20.
No second or witness shall become a principal on the spot. Any insult received by them constitutes a fresh offence.
Rule 21.
The seconds should not remain more than ten minutes on the ground without a combat.
Rule 22.
The seconds in a duel with swords, may request that the offended party shall be allowed to ward off a lunge with the left hand. This, however, may be refused by the seconds of the aggressor.
Rule 23.
The seconds of the aggressor may, if they think proper, refuse to fire by signal, if the aggressor had not struck his antagonist.
Rule 24.
The seconds must determine whether the combatants in sword duels shall be allowed to take breath.
Rule 25.
The seconds will also decide (without acquainting their principals of this decision), whether the parties are to be separated after the first wound. In this arrangement they will be guided by the nature of the quarrel.
Rule 26.
They will also decide whether a fencing-glove, or any other article to wrap round the hand, is to be allowed; a string, or common glove, are always allowed.
Rule 27.
The seconds are never to let their principals know that they are of opinion that the nature of the insult received is such as to render a mortal combat necessary.
Rule 28.
The seconds may refuse the sword, if the principal is unable to use it from any infirmity, unless the offended party has received a personal injury.
Rule 29.
The second of a person blind of one eye, may object to the pistol, unless the aggressor has struck him.
Rule 30.
The sword or saber may be declined by the seconds of a person with only one leg or arm.
Rule 31.
The seconds of a young man shall not allow him to fight an adversary above sixty years of age, unless this adversary had struck him; and in this case his challenge must be accepted in writing. His refusal to comply with this rule is tantamount to a refusal to give satisfaction, and the young man’s honor is thereby satisfied.
Rule 32.
If any unfair occurrence takes place in a duel, it is the duty of the seconds to commit the circumstance to paper, and follow it up before the competent tribunals, when they are bound -n honor to give true evidence.
Rule 33.
It is the ditty of seconds to separate the combatants the very moment that the stipulated rules are transgressed.
Rule 34.
A father, a brother, a son, or any relative in the first degree, cannot serve as a second fox or against his relative.
Rule 35.
In sword duels the seconds will mark the standing-spot of each combatant, leaving a distance of two feet between the points of their weapons. The standing ground to be drawn for by lots.
Rule 36.
The swords must be measured to ascertain that they are of equal length; in no instance must a sword with a sharp edge or a notch be allowed.
Rule 37.
The combatants will be requested to throw off their coats, and to lay bare their breasts, to show that they do not wear any defence that could ward off a thrust. A refusal to submit to this proposal is to be considered a refusal to fight.
Rule 38.
The offended party can always use his own weapons, if they are considered of a description fitting the combat. If, on comparing arms, the swords should be found to differ, the choice must be decided by chance, unless the disproportion is of a material nature.
Rule 39.
When the hand is wrapped up in a handkerchief, an end of it is not allowed to hang down. Should the party refuse to draw it up, the seconds may insist that he throws it off altogether, and is only allowed a sword-knot. If fencing gloves are allowed, and one party declines their use, the other is not to be deprived of them; but if only one glove has been brought to the ground, it cannot be used.
Rule 40.
When the combatants are on the ground, the seconds are to explain to them all the stipulated arrangements, that they may not deviate from them on plea of ignorance. This being done, the signal of attack is given in the word “Allez”; but if before this signal the parties have already crossed swords, the signal is not necessary; but the first who advanced without it is liable to censure.
Rule 41.
The seconds shall hold a sword or a cane, bearing the point downward, and, standing close to each combatant, be prepared to stop the combat the moment that the rules agreed upon are transgressed.
Rule 42.
Unless previously stipulated, neither of the combatants shall be allowed to turn off the sword of his adversary with the left hand; should a combatant persist in thus using his left hand, the seconds of his adversary may insist that the hand shall be confined behind his back.
Rule 43.
In a sword duel the combatants are allowed to raise themselves, to stoop, to vault to the right or to the left, and turn round each other.
Rule 44.
When one of the combatants exclaims that he is wounded, or a wound is perceived by his second, the combat is to be stopped. With the consent of the wounded man the combat may be renewed.
Rule 45.
If the wounded man, although the combat is ordered to be stopped, shall continue to press upon his adversary with precipitation; this act is tantamount to his desire to continue the conflict, but he must be stopped and reprimanded. If, under similar circumstances, the combatant that is not wounded continues to press on his antagonist, although ordered to stop by the seconds, he must be immediately checked by them, and considered as having infringed the stipulated rules.
Rule 46.
When a second raises his sword or cane, it must be considered as the signal to stop; in such cases, the other second shall cry out “stop,” when the parties must recede one step, still remaining in guard.
Rule 47.
In pistol duels, the nearest distance should be fifteen paces. The sight of the pistol should be fixed, and not more than fifteen lines difference be allowed in the length of the barrel. It is also desirable that the barrel should not be rifled, and that the pistols should be of a similar description.
Rule 48.
The stand of each combatant to be decided by lot.
Rule 49.
It is desirable that the same pair of pistols be used by both parties.
Rule 50.
The seconds shall load the pistol with most scrupulous care, and in the presence of each other. If one pair of pistols is used, each second will use a similar charge, by allowing the other to try the charge with a ramrod, or by loading in the presence of four witnesses.
Rule 51.
The combatants must be placed on the ground by their respective seconds; if thirty-five paces have been fixed upon, the offended party has the right to the first fire; if only fifteen paces are marked, the first fire must be decided by drawing lots.
Rule 52.
The seconds have a right to ascertain that the principals do not carry any defense about their persons. A refusal to submit to this examination is to be considered as a refusal to fight.
Rule 53.
The seconds of both parties shall stand together; having taken their ground, they first command, “Make ready,” which is followed by the word “Fire.”
Rule 54.
A miss-fire is considered a shot, unless stipulation to the contrary has been made.
Rule 55.
If one of the party is wounded, he may fire upon his antagonist, but not after the expiration of two minutes.
Rule 56.
When both parties have fired without effect, the pistols are to be re-loaded, in the same manner as before.
Rule 57.
In the pistol duel d’volonte, the seconds are to mark out the ground, at a distance of thirty-five to forty paces; two lines are then to be traced between these two distances, leaving an interval of from twenty to fifteen paces, thus each combatant can advance ten paces.
Rule 58.
The ground being taken, one of the seconds, .drawn by lot, gives the word, “March.”
Rule 59.
The combatants then advance upon each other, if they think proper, holding their pistols vertically while advancing; but they may level the weapons and take aim on halting, although they may not fire at the time, but continue to march on unto the line of separation, marked with a cane, or a handkerchief, where they must stop and fire. But, although one of the parties may thus advance to the limits, his antagonist is not obliged to move on, whether he has received the fire of his antagonist, or reserved his own.
Rule 60.
The moment one of the combatants has fired, he must halt upon the spot, and stand firmly, to receive the fire of his adversary, who is not, however, allowed more than one minute to advance and fire, or to fire from the ground he stands on.
Rule 61.
The wounded party is allowed one minute to fire upon his antagonist, from the moment he is hit; but if he has fallen on the ground, he will be allowed two minutes to recover.
Rule 62.
In this form of duel, a pair of pistols may be allowed each combatant; but this is only allowed when one of the parties has received a blow. In these cases, a pistol of a different pair is to be given to each combatant. The affair cannot be considered terminated, unless the four pistols have been discharged.
Rule 63.
When four pistols are used, if one of the party is wounded, the contest must cease, and the wounded man not be allowed to fire, as it is evident that his antagonist who might remain with a loaded pistol, would have an unfair advantage over him, in a cool, deliberate fire.
Rule 64.
When one of the parties is wounded, the affair must be considered ended, even though the wounded party should express his wish to proceed, unless the seconds consider him in a fit state to continue the combat.
Rule 65.
In the pistol duel called a marche interronpre, a distance of forty-five or fifty paces is measured, and two lines are traced and marked between the distance of fifteen to twenty paces; thus the combatants may advance fifteen paces.
Rule 66.
On the word “March,” the combatants may advance in a zigzag step, not exceeding two paces. They may take aim without firing, and, while advancing, stop when they choose, and advance again; but once having fired, both parties must halt on the spot.
Rule 67.
The combatant who has not fired may now fire, but without advancing, and the party who has fired must firmly stand the fire of his antagonist, who for that purpose is allowed half a minute; if he allows a longer time to elapse, he must be disarmed by the seconds.
Rule 68.
In the pistol duel called a ligne parallel, two parallel lines are traced by the seconds, fifteen paces from each other, and from thirty-five to twenty-five paces in length.
Rule 69.
The combatants are placed at the extremity of each line, fronting each other.
Rule 70.
The seconds stand behind their principals, in a situation that may not expose them to the fire of the parties. The signal is given by the word “March.”
Rule 71.
The combatants then advance, not upon each other, but in the direction of the line that has been traced for them; and therefore, whether one of the adversaries has advanced or not, he will find himself placed fifteen paces from the other.
Rule 72.
The champion who fires must stop; but he may halt without firing, take aim, and continue to advance.
Rule 73.
In the pistol duel called au signal, the signal is to be given by the second of the offended party, by three claps on the hand, three seconds being counted between each clap, which will take up nine seconds; or two seconds which will take up six seconds. In other cases the seconds draw lots for giving the signal.
Rule 74.
The combatants, when they have received their arms, are to walk, but to keep the muzzles of their pistols pointing to the ground; at the first signal they will raise their arms, take aim at the second signal, and fire simultaneously at the third.
Rule 75.
If one of the combatants fires before the third signal, or half a second after it, he is to be considered as a dishonorable man, and, if his antagonist is killed, an assassin. And if he fires before the signal without effect, his opponent has a right to take as much time as he thinks proper, to level at him and shoot him.
Rule 76.
If one of the parties has fired agreeably to the stipulated signal, and his antagonist has dishonorably reserved his fire, it is the duty of the seconds, at all risk and peril, to rush upon him and disarm him. In this case, the party who has observed the rules, has a right to demand another duel of a different form.
Rule 77.
The second who is to give the signal, should warn the combatants of the nature of the signal, in a loud and audible voice, in the following words: “Recollect, gentlemen, that honor demands that you should only fire upon the third signal being given; that you are not to raise your arm until the first signal, and not to fire until the third. I am now going to give the signals, which will consist of three claps of the hand.”
Rule 78.
In the duel with sabers, the seconds should endeavor to have it fought with short sabers, these arms being less fatal than long ones.
Rule 79.
The ground taken, the antagonists are to be placed opposite each other, at the distance of one foot from their saber points.
Rule 80.
In general these duels are fought with cuffgloves; but, otherwise, the parties may wrap a handkerchief round their hand and wrist, provided that no end is allowed to hang down.
Rule 81.
In regiments, the regimental saber is to be the one selected, provided that they are of the same length, and mounted in the same manner. The same precautionary steps are to be adopted as in the sword duel, to ascertain that no defence is worn by either party.
Rule 82.
The signal of “Allez” having been given, the combatants advance upon each other, and either give point or cut; vaulting, advancing, or retreating at pleasure.
Rule 83.
To strike an adversary when disarmed, to seize his arm, his body, or his weapon, is a foul proceeding. A combatant is disarmed when his saber is either wrenched from him or dropped.
Rule 84.
In sabre duels in which the point of the arm is not to be used, sabers without a point are to be chosen. To give point and kill an adversary by the infringement of this rule, is to be considered an assassination. These duels should always be considered as terminated on the first loss of blood.

In addition to these regular duels, the French have what they call duels exceptionnels; in which cases, which are of very rare occurrence, the combat may take place either on foot or on horseback, with carbine, musket, or pistol; but no one is obliged in honour to accept such challenges, and the conditions of the combat are to be specified in writing before it can take place.

In the combat on horseback the seconds are also to be mounted, and the combatants placed at twenty-five paces’ distance from each other; with the carbine, at sixty paces; with the musket and on foot, at one hundred paces, and advance to sixty: the parties fire and reload at will, until they reach the limits pointed out.

In many instances the French place the combatants back to back, to face about and fire at the given signal.

Duels are occasionally fought in which only one pistol is loaded; in which case it is no easy matter to procure a second. The following is the murderous practice: — Arrived on the ground, the seconds of the parties withdraw at least to a distance of fifty paces from the spot fixed upon for the assassination. They load one pistol, but prime them both; they then beckon the combatants to come for their pistols. The second who is to load the weapons, and who has been selected by lot, gives them to the other second, who places them in the hands of the principals, the choice having been also decided by chance; the second holding both pistols behind his back, and the parties crying right or left. This being done, the two seconds who had delivered the arms, and who are armed themselves, advance within three paces of the combatants; the other seconds stand at a distance of twenty paces.

The seconds then read to the combatants the stipulation of the meeting, and give to each of them the end of a handkerchief to hold, after having made them strip off their coats, and ascertained that they wear no defence.

The signal is given by one clap of the hand: if the party having the unloaded pistol fires before the signal, or rather burns priming, his adversary has a right to blow out his brains; but if the lucky drawer of the loaded pistol fires before the signal, and kills his antagonist, he is an assassin, and the seconds are bound to prosecute him before the competent tribunals.

The French practise another mode of duelling with pistols, which may be considered as less calculated to cause a fatal result. This they call Duel a marche non interrompue et a ligne parallele.

Arrived on the ground, two parallel lines of thirty -five paces in length are traced at a distance of twenty-five paces: the standing is drawn by lot, as well as the choice of arms, which must be unknown to the parties. The combatants are then placed by their seconds at the extremity of each line, facing each other. At the word “March,” the combatants advance on the traced line; in following which they cannot approach each other nearer than twenty-five paces. They are not allowed to halt, but must advance simultaneously : they are also to fire without stopping, and, after firing, to march on to the extremity of their line. If one of the parties is wounded before firing, he has only the time to fire which his opponent may take in reaching the limits prescribed. If neither of the parties are hit, the duel must terminate without further proceedings.

The preceding rules, which are founded upon long experience, in this fatal practice, have been sanctioned by twenty-five general officers, eleven peers of France, and fifty officers of rank. The Minister of War, who could not, consistently with his public duties, affix his signature to the document, gave his approbation in an official letter, and the majority of the prefects equally sanctioned the regulation.



In the choice of a second, if physical courage be a requisite quality, and experience is equally desirable, a moral courage is still more precious; for, even after the meeting, seconds may find themselves vested with the character of a judge, and the avenging jurors of a victim, if one of the parties has transgressed the adopted rules which were to regulate the combat.

A second may be considered as the confessor of his friend, who places an implicit reliance on his advice; he therefore can never divulge the communications thus made to him. There are instances where an offended person will urge his second to insist upon a hostile meeting; and not unfrequently the principal may express a wish to avoid the dangers of the conflict, provided his honour is not at stake. If such proposals do not coincide with the second’s ideas of honour, he should withdraw; but never divulge the secrets of the friend who unbosomed himself in confidence, and avowed sentiments of revenge, hatred, or perhaps pusillanimity.

While the second has the right to differ in opinion with the friend who consults him, the offended person has also the unquestionable right to thank him for his advice, which his feelings prompt him to decline. It is therefore obvious that it is the duty of a second to weigh most maturely the nature of the case, and to advise his friend to adopt the same mode of proceeding which he himself would follow under similar circumstances.

Frequently an apology is offered by a second. If it is considered of a satisfactory nature, no disinclination should be manifested in accepting it. This, however, should not be considered a rule; since, in many cases, troublesome persons will wantonly offend, under the impression that an apology will be sufficient to exempt them from further responsibility.

It should be an established rule amongst seconds, never to allow a duel to be fought between a debtor and creditor when the former is the aggressor; and, in a quarrel arising from pecuniary affairs, the debtor must liquidate his obligations before he can be allowed to peril his creditor’s life. On these occasions the seconds must state in writing their objections to the duel, to protect the character of the parties; the case is different if it is the creditor who challenges the debtor.

Seconds should never allow their friends to fight with a fencing-master, unless the latter has been struck by the aggressor. With fencing-masters the pistol must be the chosen wea pon.

Instances are known where the principals have expressed a desire to load their own pistols; in such cases, when both parties have acceded to the request, they are to prime and load in the presence of the seconds of their adversaries, and the charge of powder is to be determined.

It has been stated in the regulations, that two seconds may be considered sufficient in a sword duel, but that four should be present at a duel with pistol or sabre. The reason of this distinction arises from the following circumstances: in case of a slight wound, which is frequently inflicted by the sword, it is more probable that two seconds will come to an amicable arrangement than four; and that, where there is no minority of opinion, the particulars of the meeting will more probably be kept secret in the interests of all parties: moreover, the rules of a sword meeting are generally known and recognised. With pistol or sabre the case is different, and the mode of fighting varies materially; it therefore requires that a greater number of persons should be present, to bear witness as to the fairness of the transaction.

In a sword duel it should be stipulated whether the parties have a right to turn off the weapon with the left hand; if this permission is not granted, most unquestionably the act must not be allowed: but as a combatant may mechanically, nay instinctively, use his left arm without any dishonourable intention, it would be advisable that this mode of parrying a lounge were permitted to both combatants.

In the selection of arms, it has been said, that a cripple who has struck another person should be obliged to use the weapon which the offended party has thought proper to name. This is but just; the advantage would be on the side of the cripple, who, unable to use a sword, has perhaps studied pistol practice; and a man who is able to strike another must be considered able to hold a sword.

When one of the parties is wounded, it is the imperative duty of the seconds to stop all further hostility; but a combat should only be stopped at the command of the seconds. Instances are on record where one of the parties has exclaimed to the other, “You are wounded;” thus throwing him off his guard, and availing himself of his perturbation to press upon him. In such cases, if the verbal command of the seconds is not sufficient to check the dishonourable combatant, it is their duty, at all risk and peril, to rush upon him and forcibly disarm him; and it is therefore desirable that seconds should be armed.

Now-a-days, seconds rarely provoke each other. Justice and urbanity should be their guides; and, in the event of seconds differing, it is always advisable to call in an arbiter, who should in general be selected from amongst experienced and elderly military men.

It is of great importance that seconds should insist on a simultaneous fire. A duellist makes the following calculation: — If I fire first, and kill or severely wound my antagonist, I am rid of him: if I have been unfortunate in the selection of arms, my antagonist very probably, from motives of generosity, will not return the fire; for when a man knows that he is safe, and that his fire, if it missed, would only expose him to further danger, he will frequently be inclined to terminate the affair; while, at the same time, a generous and brave man feels a natural repugnance in firing at a defenceless person, and will therefore feel disposed to fire in the air, or, what is more conclusive, give up his pistol to his second, and he experiences a sense of gratification in so doing, whether he is the aggressor or the offended party. But although these generous sentiments, or these prudential motives, may induce a principal not to return a fire if his antagonist has fired before the signal, the latter becomes a criminal, and the seconds are in duty bound to prosecute him; since it has been already stated, that, if one of the parties fire before the appointed signal, his adversary has the unquestionable right to take a deliberate aim and blow his brains out. In such cases of dishonourable breach of the stipulated arrangements, it would be desirable that the jury should be guided by an established code, whether the treacherous combatant was successful or not in the perfidious attempt to assassinate his opponent.

The duties of a second are of such vital importance, that a celebrated fencing-master used frequently to say, “It is not the sword or the pistol that kills, but the seconds.”

With the safeguard of these precautionary regulations, although duelling is alike inconsistent with humanity and reason, there are many French writers who still advocate its necessity; such is Jules Janin, who speaks of it in the following terms: “The man is lost in the world of cravens, who has not the heart to risk his life; for then, cowards, who are numberless, affect courage at his expense. The man is lost in this world, in which opinion is everything, who will not seek to obtain a good opinion at the sword’s point. The man is lost in this world of hypocrites and calumniators, who will not demand reparation sword in hand for the calumnies and the malicious reports to which he has been exposed. Slander stabs more keenly than steel; it crushes with greater certainty than a pistol bullet. I would not wish to live twenty-four hours in society, constituted as it is at present, without the protection of the duel.”

“A duel makes of every one of us a strong and an independent power, and constitutes out of each individual life the life of all; it grasps the sword of justice, which the laws have dropped, punishing what no code can chastise, — contempt and insult. Those who have opposed duelling are either fools or cowards; and those who have both condemned and advocated the practice, are on both sides sophists and mendacious. It is to duelling alone that we owe the remains of our civilization.”

The following are the opinions of Walsh on the same subject: “In questions which appertain to our habits and customs, more wisdom will be found in the drawing-room than in schools. The hand that can best hold a sword will often be found to handle the pen with equal ability when the terrible question of the point of honour and the duel is discussed, a question which has cost France as much ink as blood.”

“The honour of a gentleman tells him that he cannot expect from a martial race a patience and endurance under insult which is foreign to its character. The French will ever refer to the sword as to their origin. When the executioner stands behind their adversary, they are excited instead of being restrained, and dare a double death. If we maturely weigh this matter, will it not be found that a duel is the last vestige of that personal magistracy which social magistracy gradually destroyed, but which it is sometimes called upon to acknowledge — Duelling, so deplorable in many points of view, has however been useful to our epoch; since it has preserved civilization from the inroads of brutal vulgarity with which it was threatened during our revolution, and the confusion of all grades. Let us appeal to our conscience; and can we affirm that pugilism would not have been introduced into our senate, had not duel ling, as master of the ceremonies of civilization, protected it from brutality?”

Chatelain’s remarks on this subject are also worthy of quotation: “It is a long time since the controversy on duelling was exhausted: all that has as yet resulted from the discussion is, that its adversaries have triumphantly de monstrated the barbarity of the custom; nevertheless, duelling has not been discontinued, but has, as in former times, exercised its fatal influence, and levied from society an annual tribute of blood and tears. Philosophy has exerted its best endeavours, and has triumphed in the presence of reason; but receded before the tyranny of prejudice, and the tenacity of custom. What resources, then, are left to those who would still strive in the cause of humanity to exert themselves further? The coercive influ ence of the law has been found as ineffectual as the persuasive power of reason; how, then, shall we stem the tide of opinion? For three centuries, legislation and philosophy have been unsuccessful; therefore, since we must submit to an irresistible evil, let us seek to limit its sphere of action. Let us trace rules which shall not be infringed, and define the exigences of the point of honour, by warning sensible men against an exaggeration of susceptibility, and by determining on invariable rules the duties of seconds, whose inexperience on these occasions may become so fatal, but whose wisdom and firmness may in many cases prevent the most calamitous results.”


  1. Aggressor. This is a very judicious rule. An aged man may grievously offend another, skreening himself by his age and infirmities; and he, therefore, should be made personally responsible for his conduct, and obliged to make a most humble apology, if he cannot afford what, unfortunately, is considered personal satisfaction.
  2. Choice of Arms. This is a point of such vital importance, that it is impossible to be too careful in ascertaining coolly and deliberately from which of the parties the insult originated. — Millingen’s Note.
  3. Arms and duel. To name a duel, refers to time and place. — Millingen’s Note.
  4. Seconds. This is a point of great importance. It sometimes happens that a man who has insulted another will select as his second some notorious ruffian, who will, to use the common expression, “fix a quarrel” on him, and endeavor to fight for his principal. Not long ago a fellow advertised himself in the public papers to fight for any person who might require his services. — Millingen’s Note.
  5. Seconds. This rule is of importance. Forty-eight hours may be considered a fair time to reflect upon the painful necessity of a hostile meeting; and there is in general reason to suppose, that a challenge sent long after a provocation, has been the result of the interference of busy friends. — Millingen’s Note.
  6. Witness. Such an arrangement will frequently prevent fatal duels. — Millingen’s Note.
  7. String. Sword-knot. — Millingen’s Note.
  8. Sword-knot. This is an important precaution, since a considerable advantage will be obtained over an adversary, if the point of his sword should be caught in the end of the handkerchief that hangs down. — Millingen’s Note.
  9. Witnesses. The trial by ramrod is an uncertain mode, as the depth of the charge will vary according to the wadding; a regular powder- measure is the only method that can ensure a fair proceeding; and, in loading by measure, great care must be taken that the measure is given from hand to hand. I have known a measure thrown upon the grass, (purposely or not, I cannot presume to say,) and it was taken up quite wet by the other party's second, who, had he not perceived the circumstance, would have loaded his friend’s pistol with damp powder. — Millingen’s Note.
  10. Received a blow. There is much judicious consideration in thus allowing great advantage to the person who has received a blow, as it may tend to render hasty subjects more cautious, not only from the just apprehension of their affording considerable advantage to their opponent, but of rushing into a quarrel of a desperate character. — Millingen’s Note.
  11. Sword. I cannot agree with this conclusion; a swordsman may so provoke a cripple, that the latter, generally irascible, may so far forget himself as to strike his offender: in such cases, a pistol meeting, without taking aim, is the fairest mode of proceeding. — Millingen’s Note.

Text prepared by:


Millingen, J. G. The History of Duelling: Including, Narratives of the Most Remarkable Personal Encounters That Have Taken Place from the Earliest Period to the Present Time. Vol. 1. London: R. Bentley, 1841. Web. Internet Archive. 11 December 2007. <https:// archive.org/ details/ historyof duellin01 milluoft> .

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