Challenge. This word, which is now, except in a legal sense, used chiefly to imply a provocatory summons to mortal combat, seems originally to have conveyed within itself the idea of an appeal, of an exception taken, or a claim asserted, and a disinclination to submit to some decisicn or arbitrament, rendered or about to be rendered, and removal of the subject matter of dispute to some other court or tribunal. Thus, in ancient times, the duello was never the mode of settlement of an angry personal dispute; but it was the trial of a solemn cause before the actual court and in the presence of God. The challenger took exception to the truth of the allegation made against him by his adversary or opponent, and removed the adjudication of the cause, by appeal of challenge, from the human court of law, before which it was pending, to the divine court of equity, which was believed directly to interfere in the event of wagers by battle, and to give the strong arm and the sharp sword to the righteous party. In the same sense, when a jury is challenged, whether by the array or by the poll, exception is taken to the fairness of the impanelling of the whole jury, or to the partiality of the individual juror; and, having taken exception, the person accused by his challenge removes the adjudication of his cause from that entire jury, or from that individual as part of it, to some other, by whom he believes he can have a fair trial, which he denies that he can as it is at present constituted.
Challenges to jurors are either to the array, which is to the whole panel, and founded upon some error or partiality on the part of the officer summoning them, or to the polls or individual jurors separately. The latter may be either peremptory or for cause. A certain number of peremptory challenges is allowed in criminal cases, for which no reason need be assigned; but for others legal cause must be given, the sufficiency of which will be determined by the court, or may be referred to triers, if depending upon disputed matters of fact. The want of statutory qualification, defect of age or mental capacity, bias or partiality for or against a party, a definite opinion formed or expressed upon the case, and relationship by blood or affinity to a party, are causes of challenge; and in capital cases conscientious scruples against the death penalty. - A challenge as a preliminary to a duel is forbidden by the laws of most of the United States, and in the American army by the articles of war. Any officer or soldier sending a challenge to another officer or soldier, or accepting a challenge if sent, incurs the penalty, if a commissioned officer, of being cashiered; if a non-commissioned officer or soldier, of suffering corporal punishment.
Any officer who knowingly or willingly suffers any person whatsoever to go forth to fight a duel, is punishable as a challenger, and seconds are not distinguished from principals. The punishment is at the discretion of the court martial, of which if any member is challenged by a prisoner, that member withdraws, and the court is closed to determine upon the relevancy or validity of the challenge. If the challenge is disallowed, the member resumes his seat. - Challenge is also a hunting term, used of hounds or beagles, when, at first finding the scent of their game, they presently open cry; the huntsmen then say they challenge. - Challenges are also used at the polls to prevent illegal voting. Any bystander can challenge a vote and demand that the person offering it be put upon oath. But this duty is usually assigned to persons selected by each party to attend the polls and watch the voters.