Abbildungen der Seite

revelation was to re-seal man with the image of his Maker; to recal him to a just sense of his dignity and worth as the child and heir of eternity; to apprise him of his stewardship; to imbue him with a subdued reverence of that breath of God, that inspiration of the Almighty, which awakens within him the sacred mystery of life, with its conscious individuality, and its onward and endless destiny, and its felt relationship and responsibility to his brother man and his Maker God. Taught by the Bible, man feels that his life is a hallowed thing, an inviolable mystery, the gift of God, his capital upon the improvement of which depends bliss or bankruptcy forever.

And this gift of life, with what an eye does God in heaven look down upon it!--How his thunders mutter vengeance when the lawless and unanointed meddle with it !-How high he has built those walls around it, and planted cherubim there, each with his flaming sword; and when those walls are scaled, and man dies by man, what a wo-tortured wretch is the murderer--what a scathed desolation is his bosom--what a laboring, frenzied giant his conscience: it seems as if every fiend in the pit came by turns and by groups to hoot and chatter about his foul deed, and foredate his doom, and blacken the darkness of his despair.

The present is deemed a suitable time to call upon Christian people to consider the barbarous and bloody custom of dueling, and their duty in relation to it. The law relative to Murder is a divine law; it is a part of that revelation which the ministry is appointed to enforce; and when a practice contravening that law obtains in society, the Christian minister does not step out of his sphere when he remonstrates against it. This it is my present

purpose to do, by showing that the duel is murder, by the law of God and of man; and that it is murder invested with all those circumstances which can render it coldblooded and atrocious.

1. The law of God in relation to this custom is too clear to require comment. God has said, thou shalt not kill; and the fearful sanction of this law is aimed against the duelist, not only when he succeeds in killing his antagonist, but in view of the principles which lead him to the field. There is murder in the heart, though the conflict may be bloodless. Every duel begins in murder. It originates in a state of heart, which the Saviour declares exposes to the judgment denounced against murder.

2. The fighting of a duel is murder, by the settled principles of human law. “Murder” (says Blackstone)" is committed when a person of sound memory and discretion killeth any reasonable creature in being, with malice aforethought, either express or implied.

express or implied. Express malice is, when one with a sedate, deliberate mind, and formed design, doth kill another. This takes in the case of deliberate dueling, where both parties meet with an intent to murder." “A party killing another in a deliberate duel,” (says Russell on Crimes,)“is guilty of murder; for whenever two persons in cold blood meet and fight on a precedent quarrel, and one of them is killed, the other is guilty of murder, and cannot help himself by alleging that he was first struck by the deceased; or that he had often declined to meet him, and was prevailed upon to do it by his importunity; or that it was his intent only to vindicate his reputation; or that he meant not to kill, but only to disarm his adversary. He has deliberately engaged in an act highly unlawful, in defiance of the laws, and he

must at his peril abide the consequences.” “In all possible cases,”(says Foster,)“ deliberate homicide, upon a principle of revenge, is murder. No man under the protection of law is to be the avenger of his own wrongs.” Such are the principles of English law, and they are responded to by the common sense of civilized man. And whatever may be the plea of the duelist who has killed his antagonist, and however he may elude the arm of justice, he has committed an act which can be described only by those terms which are employed by every civilized nation under heaven to define the crime of murder.

3. Dueling is murder rendered more atrocious by the deliberation with which it is perpetrated. In a large proportion of instances the crime of malicious homicide is committed in the heat and hurry of exasperated passion, under circumstances that partially suspend reason and prevent reflection. Often too the offenders are ignorant and half savage men, whose passions have never been restrained and tamed amid the bland influences of refined society. Not so with the duelist. His whole affair, from beginning to end, is a measured, deliberate business. They are professed gentlemen, who engage in these affairs of honor.

There must be no bluster, no outbreaking of rude and vulgar passion. They must be calm as a summer morning--cool and collected as in the ordinary intercourse of society-from the first note to the last shot, there must be a studied suppression of all unseemly and unusual excitement. Both the challenging and challenged party have ample time to reflect upon the character and probable consequences of their intended meeting. They have hours, and if they please, days, to think of what they are about to do. Besides, the men who sustain the so-called code of honor, are not ignorant ruffians; they know their duty to society—they lay claim to civility and good breeding. What then must be the degree, the depth, the impulsive power of that malice, which urges these men to mortal combat? There is some palliation for the fanatic, who deeming his country wronged, plants bis infernal machine in the path of the oppressor. There is the semblance of a plea for the highwayman, or the pirate, who kills for his bread. It is not all malice that directs the stiletto of the hired assassin. But it is malice, bitter as wormwood, and cold as the last chill of death, that freezes into firmness the purpose and the nerve of the duelist.

4. The duelist contracts the double guilt of murder and suicide. By the same act he wantonly puts in jeopardy his own life and his neighbor's. He takes all the appropriate steps to effect his own destruction, by placing himself before the deadly weapon of his enemy, and inviting him to kill him if he can: and on his part he employs his weapon and his skill to compass the death of his adversary; and whatever may be the issue of the conflict, in the

eye of justice and of God, each of the combatants is at once a murderer and a suicide.

5. The duelist is frequently a murderer under pretexts eminently hypocritical. The alleged reason for calling a man into the field is, in many, if not most cases, not the real reason. Who does not know this? How often has the duelist been known to wait and watch, for months and years, to find a pretext for a quarrel, that under cover of the so-called code of honor, he might glut his vengeance, or despatch for ever a successful rival. His envy, his cherished grudge, leads him to put himself in the way of insult, and he longs to be insulted, that he may have an opportunity of murdering the man he hates, without losing

entirely his standing as an honorable man in society. A large proportion of the duels which have disturbed the public peace in this country, have, in fact, been the deadly settlement of old and cherished feuds, under the merest pretences imaginable. The actors, though professedly vindicating impeached honor, were in reality gratifying a long settled purpose of revenge and death.


Frequently the murderous hypocrite will use unwearied endeavors to provoke the man he hates, to challenge him, that he may have the advantage of choice of weapons, distance, &c., and that he may seem to the public the hated and the better man, compelled in self-defence to take up the weapons of death. Political considerations often prompt the duelist. It has been affirmed that several times in the history of our country, duels have been got up for the express purpose of taking off leading and influential party men.

Such is the abominable hypocrisy of no small portion of the men who claim to be paragons of honor and magnanimity: mere dastards, who clothe their murders with the pomp and circumstance of the duel, only that they may save themselves from the elevation of the gallows and the attentions of the hangman.

The hypocrisy of duelists is scarcely less striking in another aspect. --The code by which they are governed is the code of honor.--It is a system that contemplates those nice and delicate questions which arise among very highminded and very honorable men. The laws of the land may do for the vulgar and gross people, but not for honorable men. They are not discriminating and nice enough to weigh and determine questions in which the exquisite sensibilities of these gentlemen are concerned. And yet this code by which they are regulated, and which teaches

« ZurückWeiter »