Duel, a premeditated combat between two persons, with deadly weapons, for the purpose of deciding some special difference. Single combats are of ancient date. Many are recorded in the Iliad; and the story of David and Goliath shows that duels were known to the Hebrews and other Asiatics, as they were also to the Arabs of the time of Mohammed. T. Manlius Torquatus fought with a gigantic Gaul in the war of 361 B. C. The barbarians who overran the Roman empire gave to single combats a new character, starting with the idea that the wager of battle is an appeal to the decision of God, and that success is a proof of right; hence the ordeal was accompanied with religious solemnities. Tacitus mentions it among the Germans, and it was formally legalized by Gundebald, king of the Bur-gundians, about 500. During the middle ages duels multiplied greatly, and as a judicial ordeal were approved by jurists and churchmen, and patronized by monarchs. The laws of the time show the excessive prevalent abuse of the ordeal. By the truce of God of 1041, duels were not permitted between Wednesday and Monday, the days intervening being sacred to Christ's passion. Louis IX. tried to restrain duels, and succeeded in reducing their number.
Philip the Fair framed laws against them in 1296 and 1303, but in 1306 allowed them in criminal cases which could he reached in no other way. In 1315 Louis X. restored the judicial ordeal in civil cases. In 1386 Jacques Legris was accused of violence to a lady. He denied the crime, was forced to the ordeal of battle, was overcome, and being adjudged guilty was hanged but subsequently another person confessed that he was the criminal. This made a profound impression, and caused the abolition of the judicial ordeal. It was not formally abolished in some other countries for many years; but from this time it practically ceased. - The duel is no longer an appeal to the judgment of God, but is an attempt to secure satisfaction for an injury, especially for an insult. This idea owes its prevalence largely to Francis I., who laid down the principle "that the lie was never to be put up with without satisfaction, but by a base-born fellow;" and lies were divided into 32 classes, each having its own mode of satisfaction.
Duelling at this time became a custom in France, whence it spread all over Europe, becoming especially popular in England and Ireland. In 1560 the states general prayed Charles IX. to punish duelling, and he issued an ordinance, which is the basis of the laws of Henry IV. and Louis XIV. This law, however, was ineffective. When Henry III. died, one of his courtiers, L'Isle Marivaux, swore not to survive him, and threw a challenge into the air; another lord picked it up, and sent him to join his master. Henry IV. fought not in person but by deputy, although he was constrained to legislate against duelling in 1602. But he practically nullified his law by granting thousands of pardons. Duelling in France reached its height under Louis XIII. Two gentlemen held each the other's left hand, and with the right stabbed each other with daggers. Two others in a close room cut each other's throat. In this reign several edicts were issued against duelling, and, thanks to Richelieu, were not a dead letter, as was seen in the beheading of Francois de Montmorency, count de Bouteville, in 1627. Louis XIV. opposed duelling, and lessened its frequency. Under the regency it revived, and Louis XV. could do little against it.
Saint-Evremond and Saint-Foix, and especially the duke de Richelieu, were noted duellists. Under the next reign there were many duels, one of the most famous being that of the count d'Artois, afterward Charles X., with the duke de Bourbon-Conde. The first tendency of the revolution was to suppress duelling. It was looked upon as aristocratic, and the life of every man was said to belong to his country. When the reaction commenced duelling was revived, because of the ascendancy of the military class. Napoleon was averse to duelling, but had to tolerate it, even while expressing his contempt for duellists. The most celebrated duels in France since the revolution were between Gen. Gour-gaud and Count Segur, Col. Pepe and Lamar-tine, Bugeaud and Dulong, Armand Carrel and Emile de Girardin (in which the former lost his life), Thiers and Bixio, and Proudhon and Felix Pyat. Since 1837 duellists and their seconds are liable to the criminal law in France for any homicide resulting from the duel, but much discretionary power is left to the prosecuting magistrate.
There have been female duels in France; a celebrated one was fought under the regency between Madame de Nesle and the countess de Polignac, for the possession of the duke de Richelieu. Duelling is still common in France, having raged in the latter part of the second empire chiefly among journalists. - In Spain the duel, though common, has been less frequent than in France. Charles V. issued an edict in 1519 for its suppression, but his conduct in his dispute with Francis I. nullified his edict. On March 12, 1870, Prince Enrique de Bourbon, brother of the king consort and infante of Spain, was killed in a duel with the duke de Montpensier. - Duels were favored by the northern races. In Denmark women were not allowed champions as in other countries, but were compelled to do their own fighting, though certain advantages were permitted them. In Norway this species of combat was held in high honor, but in Sweden it was nominally forbidden under severe penalties. Gustavus Adolphus was especially opposed to duelling, and once prepared a gallows for that party who should survive a particular combat; yet he offered the "satisfaction of a gentleman " to an officer whom he had struck. In Germany duelling is much less in vogue than in France, excepting among students in the universities.
In Austria the ancient laws inflicting long imprisonment upon those who kill or maim their antagonists are still in force. Tribunals of honor for military men have existed in Prussia since 1843, for reconciling the contending parties when it can be done without prejudice to the military code of honor. If reconciliation is impossible, the duel takes place; if no injury is done, the imprisonment never exceeds six months; and if it prove fatal, never more than four years. Among the students of the German universities duels are fought with swords, and the combatants wear a complete defensive armor, consisting of thickly padded gauntlet and breastplate, the head and face only being exposed. These duels are rarely fatal, but often result in disfiguring cuts on the head and face. Russia has known little of the duel; but Russians have shown a readiness to fight in single combat quite equal to their steadiness in the battle field. The Poles have proved themselves stanch duellists, and the judicial combat was frequent in independent Poland. The Netherlands have closely imitated France, both in duelling and in attempts to suppress it. - It has been asserted that single combats were introduced into England by the Normans. They are said to have instituted the wager of battle, from which duelling proceeded, and which it is believed was unknown to the Saxons. Yet Lappenberg asserts that "William the Conqueror speaks of the judicial combat as a known English custom." It was not formally abolished until the last year of the reign of George III.; and as late as 1774 it was defended by some of the greatest men of England. In the reign of James I. there were many duels, one of the most noted of which was between Lord Bruce and Sackville, afterward earl of Dorset, in which the former was killed.
A sermon delivered by Chillingworth before Charles I. contains a warm expostulation against duelling. Cromwell was a foe to the practice. After the restoration it became more common, from the spread of French ideas. Some of the English duels of that time were in keeping with its loose morality. The duke of Buckingham killed Lord Shrewsbury; Lady Shrewsbury, on whose account the duel was fought, attending the duke as a page, and then passing the night with her lover. In Anne's reign, the duel between the duke of Hamilton and Lord Mohun, in which both fell, caused much feeling, from its political character, and the atrocities that marked it. Duels became more numerous as society became more orderly, and many of the most distinguished Englishmen took part in them. William Pul-teney, leader of the opposition, fought Lord Hervey. Wilkes was engaged in two duels. Throughout the reign of George III. duels were frequent; among those who fought in England were Charles James Fox, Sheridan, Pitt, Canning, Castlereagh, the duke of York, the duke of Richmond, Sir F. Burdett, and Lord Camel-ford; the last named was the great duellist of the time, and fell in a duel in 1804. During the reigns of George IV., William IV., and Victoria, there were some noted duels, among which was that between the duke of Wellington and Lord Winchelsea, in 1829, the duke challenging the earl because of the latter's reflections on his conduct at the time he determined upon emancipating the Roman Catholics. The duke fired at his antagonist, who fired in the air, and then apologized.
In 1835 Benjamin Disraeli challenged Morgan O'Connell. Among the most conspicuous duels in England of late years was that between the earl of Cardigan and Capt. Tuckett in 1840. - Ireland is that part of the British empire in which duelling has always been most in vogue. In the latter part of the last century there was scarcely an Irishman of note who had not been "out," and many of them had fought often. Grattan, Curran, Lord Clare, Flood, Burrowes, Barrington, Toler, and many others, men of high positions, were among the Irish duellists of those times. In 1815 Daniel O'Connell fought with and killed Mr. D'Esterre, a member of the Dublin corporation, which the former had stigmatized as a "beggarly" body. In Scotland duels have not been so common as in Ireland. In 1822 James Stuart, known by his work on the United States, killed Sir Alexander Boswell in a duel, which grew out of gross newspaper attacks on the former. Stuart was tried and acquitted. Francis Jeffrey, who was of counsel for the defence, went almost the entire length of upholding duelling, and boldly assumed that the man who slew another under the circumstances that caused Stuart to slay Boswell was not guilty of murder in any sense.
The court, while it charged that killling in a duel was murder, declared that there was no evidence of malice on the part of Stuart, and praised his conduct on the ground; and when the acquittal was given, the court congratulated him on the result. It is a singular fact that Boswell, when a member of parliament, took the principal part in getting two old Scotch statutes against duelling repealed, one of which made the mere fighting of a duel, though it should have no evil result, punishable with death. - The first duel in America took place in 1621, at Plymouth, between two serving men. They were sentenced to be tied neck and heels together for 24 hours, but a portion of the punishment was remitted. In 1728 a young man named Woodbridge was killed in a duel on Boston common, by another young man named Phillips. They fought without seconds, in the night and with swords. Phillips got on board a man-of-war and escaped to France. A great sensation was caused, and a new and severe law against duelling was enacted. There were some duels in the revolution, the most noted being those between Charles Lee and John Laurens, in which the former was wounded, and between Cadwalader and Conway, in 1778, in which the latter received a shot in the head from which he recovered.
Button Gwinnett, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, was killed in a duel with Gen. Mcintosh, in May, 1777. In 1785 Capt. Gunn challenged Gen. Greene twice, and threatened a personal assault when the latter refused to meet him. Greene wrote to Washington, acknowledging that if he thought his honor would suffer from his refusal he would accept the challenge. Washington approved of his course. Alexander Hamilton was killed in a duel with Aaron Burr in 1804, the latter being vice president and the former the leader of the opposition. This duel is allowed the first place in the history of American private combats. Next stands that between Capts. Barron and Decatur, the latter being killed and Barron severely wounded. Henry Clay and John Randolph fought in 1826. Andrew Jackson killed Charles Dickinson in a duel, and was engaged in other "affairs." Thomas II. Benton killed a Mr. Lucas, and had other duels. In 1841 Henry Clay was on the eve of fighting with William R. King, then a senator from Alabama. Mr. Cilley of Maine fought with Mr. Graves of Kentucky in 1838, near Washington, and the former was killed. This duel caused nearly as much excitement as that between Hamilton and Burr. Both parties were members of congress.
Formerly duels were very common in the United States navy, and valuable lives were lost. Richard Somers, who is said to have been a mild man, fought three duels in one day. In 1830 President Jackson caused the names of four officers to be struck from the navy roll because they had been engaged in a duel. In the northern states public opinion has always been against duelling; yet at the beginning of the century duelling was common there, and several duels were fought in New England, while the "code of honor" was in full force in New York and New Jersey. Five shots were exchanged between De Witt Clinton and John Swartwout in 1802; and a challenge passed between Mr. Clinton and Gen. Dayton of New Jersey in 1803. Duels have been not infrequent in the different parts of British America. - By the common law, when one of the parties to a duel is killed, the survivor and the seconds are guilty of murder; and the participation in a duel, either as principal or second, where there is no fatal result, is regarded as a misdemeanor. Many of the states have modified this rule; in some the killing of a man is punishable with death, in others a term of imprisonment with forfeiture of political rights is substituted.
Some states require certain officers of state to make oath either that they have not within a certain time been, or will not be, concerned in a duel; and in nearly all the duellist and his abettors are disqualified from holding office or exercising the elective franchise for life, or for a term of years, according to the issue of the duel. In the American naval and military service, an officer implicated in a duel with another, either as principal or second, is liable to be cashiered; and an equally stringent provision exists in the British service. - See J. G. Millingen, "The History of Duelling " (2 vols., London, 1841); Lorenzo Sabine, "Notes on Duels and Duelling, with a preliminary Historical Essay" (12mo, Boston, 1855).