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“ position of my affairs. It was my youth (I was only sixteen) " that made this conduct appear extraordinary, for I began “ early to be sensible of what advantage it is to observe an “ exact regularity in domestic concerns. Such a propensity, “ in my opinion, is a very happy presage, either for a soldier “ or a statesman.”
Without being influenced by the example of foolish, or vicious companions, young men may be disposed to live agreeably and well with their equals. Before they leave their academy, they should be acquainted with those rules for the regulation of the manners and tempers of grown gentlemen, which are called laws of honour. It is not necessary to enter 'here into moral or religious discussions on duelling, for this subject has already been exhausted by able and popular writers”. It is said, that this feudal custom was revived and brought again into fashion in Europe, by the high spirited, but romantic emperor Francis the First, who sent a cartel of defiance to Charles the Fifth, giving him the lie, and challenging him to single combat ; the example of the chivalrous monarch, probably, did but contribute with many other more permanent causes, to prolong the use of this barbarous mode of deciding disputes. Of the impossibility of reconciling the practice of duelling with the spirit and precepts of Christianity all, who are instructed in the principles of our religion, must be aware. That the code of morals and the modern code of honour are not compatible, all who live in fashionable society, or who are dependent upon the opinion of numbers for their fame or fortune, must be equally sensible. Not only our religion and morality, but our laws on this point are in direct opposition with our customs; and, as it usually happens in such a contest, the laws have been worsted, and have been compelled to a compromise. Evasion of their authority is at least connived at; and in many cases it is thought shameful, to do what is strictly lawful; and honourable to do what is absolutely illegal and contradictory to Christianity. This is a Gordian knot, which none attempt to untie, but which most gentlemen think themselves at liberty to cut with the sword. The causes, which have hitherto supported duelling, and by which, in the present state of our laws and manners, it will probably continue to be countenanced, have been stated with much perspicuity in a modern work on legislation. The liberty, the property, and the purse, of every British subject are fully protected by our laws; but every man is left to be the guardian of his own honour. If a man in business be called a rogue or a villain ; if any insult be offered to him, which injures his mercantile credit, he is entitled in a court of justice to pecuniary compensation. But if a gentleman be affronted, the law takes no cognizance of his complaint, and the language of his feelings is unintelligible in the courts. At the same time he is forbidden by the law of the land to vindicate his own cause. By the articles of war, an officer in the army loses his commission, who sends a challengeb; but an officer is disgraced for ever in the army, who refuses, upon what is thought a proper occasion, to fight a duel: and beside being disgraced, he is in fact turned out of the army ; his fellow officers refuse to mess with him, and he is obliged to sell or to give up his commission. Nay more, in a late remarkable instance it appeared in a court of law, that the crown (perhaps properly) preferred the laws of honour to the laws of the land. In course of time perhaps these inconsistencies between our laws and customs may be reconciled, and we may have a court of honour, as well as of equity. In the mean time only provisional and preventive measures can be recommended. Young men should be educated to think it creditable to their discretion and humanity, to keep out of quarrels; and they should be taught not to think it a proof of spirit, to be forward on every trivial occasion to demand the satisfaction of a gentleman; a phrase, which means in other words the chance of losing their own lives, or of killing their antagonists: The bullying character should be held up to the detestation and ridicule of youth. The stage and the common sense of mankind have done much, perhaps more than has been effected, in this case, even by the pulpit. At the time when the Rivals was first acted, it was nearly damned by the offence, which the Irish part of the audience took at the character of Sir Lucius O’Trigger, and when the play was first published, the author was obliged to apologize for Sir Lucius in the preface ; but since that time, the Hibernian promptitude to duelling has so much diminished, that it has ceased to be a characteristic reproach or ridicule. Even in the county of Galway, which was formerly famous for such fighting gentlemen as Blue-BlazeDevil-Bob, Nineteen-Duel-Dick, Hair-Trigger-Pat, and Feather-spring-Ned, these formerly honourable agnomens would no.longer be cited with triumph by ancient families; they are sinking fast into oblivion. There is no longer a class of men, who make a profession of duelling, though every now and then instances among fashionable loungers, or red-hot politicians, of men, who, unable to keep their tempers, or to acquire notoriety by any better means, signalize themselves by firing shots at one another, in hopes of filling a paragraph in the newspapers of the day. These exhibitions will also in process of time become ridiculous. Men who can reason, will not be content to relinquish their mental advantages, and to suffer their differences with fools to be adjusted by the insolent Gothic method of throwing the sword into the scale. All who have any share in national education should point this out with the keenness of ridicule, as well as with the force of truth. Young officers, who live continually together, and who find so many occasions where their interests, tastes, or opinions clash, must fight or be fought every day of the week, and every hour of the day, if they cannot command their tempers, and if they cannot unite real firmness with ease and gentleness of manner. The best character a young man can establish on going into the army is that of being determined to fight in a proper cause, but averse to quarrel for trifles. It may with great pleasure be observed, that of late years the gentlemen of the army discourage a quarrelsome temper, whenever it appears in a young man on his first coming into a regiment; quarrels are now frequently adjusted by the opinion of the corps, instead of being left entirely to the passions of individuals. As gentlemen of the army have acquired more taste for literature, and consequently more means of employing themselves, duels have become more rare. The life of an officer, except on a march or on the field of battle, is an idle life; and therefore unless he has, independently of his profession, means of occupation, he is exposed, from mere idleness, to get into frequent disputes. It has been observed, that officers of the navy are less apt to fight duels than gentlemen of the army, merely because they are more constantly employed by the daily duties of their profession`.
2 Bacon-Charge touching Duelling, Vol. II, p. 362. Sully's Memoirs, Vol. IV, p. 296. Richardson, Rousseau, Hawkesworth, Adventurer, No. LXIV, Paley, Gisborne, and others."
a “ Traités sur la Legislation Civile et Penale, par M. J. Bentham; publié en “ François par M. Dumont de Geneve, d'après les manuscrits qui lui ont été “ confiés par l'auteur.”
• Duelling is not mentioned in the naral articles of war; but when captain M‘Namara was tried for having shot colonel Montgomery in a duel, he thus addressed the jury:
“ Gentlemen, I am a captain in the British navy. My character you can “ only hear from others; but to maintain any character in that station, I must be “ respected. When called upon to lead others into honourable dangers, I must “ not be supposed to be a man, who had sought safety, by submitting to what
custom has taught others to consider as a disgrace. I am not presuming to “ urge any thing against the laws of God, or of this land. I know, that in the “ eye of religion, and reason, obedience to the law, though against the general “ feelings of the world, is the first duty, and ought to be the rule of action; “ but in putting a construction upon my motives, so as to ascertain the quality " of my actions, you will make allowances for my situation.”
Courier, April 23, 1803.
Next to the art of living well with equals and superiors, the art of commanding and attaching inferiors is necessary to officers. Before a military man's education is finished, he should have general ideas at least upon this subject. To give as few orders as possible, and to see them punctually obeyed; never to
< See the Appendix for observations on this subject in a letter from a captain in the navy, who has supplied many valuable hints for this chapter.