An Act for the Prevention of Duels recommended. [Sept. 1807.]
The daily increase of Dueling is certainly of the most prominent and alarming features of the times; and perhaps few things could, with greater advantage to the interests of Society at large, employ the attention of the Legislature at the present moment: nor could the great Council of the Nation, in the intervals of the momentous points which employ their deep and serious consideration, pass any Act that would be more popular than one which would effectually put a stop to this barbarous custom.
As your wide-spread Miscellany has perhaps a larger circulation than almost any other periodical publication of the day, and has therefore a chance of falling into the hands of a great many Members of both Houses of Parliament, and particularly of such of them as have the real welfare of their country and the happiness of society sincerely at heart, allow a humble individual, who is actuated solely by the above motive, to offer, through the medium of your interesting and useful Miscellany, a hint on the above subject.
Since the warmest advocate for this savage custom has never pretended to support it on the ground of its being consistent with either the laws of God or Man (which are very well known to be directly against it, though they have hitherto unhappily been unable to restrain it); it may appear unnecessary to argue the point, which has been so often done by more able hands, upon these grounds; it will perhaps be more effectual, if some more efficacious restraint can be pointed out to curb this growing evil than has hitherto been called into action. This, Sir, I cannot help thinking might be accomplished, by suggesting a more severe law against this practice than any at present in existence.
So long ago as the year 1803, and in the very beginning of it, a law passed in America to restrain this pernicious custom; and it may be curious to know, what has been the effect of that law, and whether or not has tended to produce the effect intended, or whether it has failed in its object.
In a periodical publication for March, 1803, I find the following account of this law:
“An ‘Act to prevent Dueling’ passed last session in the Assembly of North Carolina, by which it is enacted, that no person sending or accepting a challenge or fighting a duel, though no death ensues, shall ever after be eligible to places of trust, honor, or profit in this State, any pardon or reprieve notwithstanding; and shall further be liable to be indicted, and on conviction before any of the Courts, shall forfeit and pay the sum 100l. to the use of the State. And if any fight a duel by which either of the parties shall be killed, the survivor on conviction thereof shall suffer Death without benefit of Clergy! And their seconds or abettors shall be considered accessories before the fact, and shall likewise suffer Death!! – This act, adds the reporter, reflects great credit on the wisdom and enlightened policy of the legislature of North Carolina”
I must own, Mr. Urban, that my humble opinion perfectly coincides with that of the reporter of the above Act; for I think it is extremely just that the man who had violated all laws human and divine, by acting deliberately in a manner that was perfectly repugnant to them, should never afterwards be allowed to hold any place of trust, &c. as being no longer fit to be considered trust-worthy: I also think the punishment of the fine of 100l.for violating the laws of society, a very fit remuneration for such an unjustifiable act. And as nothing can be more equitable than that “he who sheds man’s blood” in an unjust and unlawful manner, should have “his blood likewise shed by man;” therefore the punishment of Death, notwithstanding pardon, &c. is the due punishment for this high act of delinquency. And to make this sufficiently powerful, all seconds, aiders, or abettors, should suffer the same penalty. I have only, Sir, to add, that if all these pains and penalties are still ineffectual to restrain this crime, let the parties fight with a rope about their necks; and the party who did not die by the hands of his honorable antagonist, should be finished by those of the common hangman!!!
Yours, &c. Thomas Comber.
Obituary, with Anecdotes, of remarkable Persons. [Sept. 1807.]
18. Shot in a duel by Lieut. Heazle, in the neighborhood of Stroud, Gloucestershire, Lieut. Delmont. The Coroner’s Jury, after a minute investigation, which occupied eight hours, returned a verdict of Willful Murder against Lieut. Heazle, the challenger, and Lieut. Sergeaunt, of the 61st Regiment of Foot, who was the only second in this unfortunate affair. Lieut. D. was shot in the back, before, it is supposed, he had time to turn round, on pacing from his antagonist to the allotted space. The ball, which was discharged from a horse-pistol, went through his body, and afterwards perforated his arm. He continued sensible till the last; and freely forgave his antagonist. The cause of the quarrel was an aspersion supposed to be passed upon the character of a female with whom Lieut. H. was acquainted. The remains of Lieut. D. were interred at Stroud. The funeral procession was conducted with the strictest propriety and decorum. The pall was supported by the officers upon the recruiting service in the place, followed by the chief mourners in cloaks; the medical gentlemen who attended the deceased, and assisted at the dissection of the body; the military parties in the town; fix gentlemen in the neighborhood, in deep mourning; and the Coroner closed the procession. There was no firing over the grave, nor did any musket accompany the procession; but, on entering and departing from the church, a solemn dirge was performed upon the organ. An immense concourse of spectators attended to witness the solemnity; and the windows were crowded with people of all ranks, whose feelings were expressed by their tears and lamentations. The deceased was only 21 years of age, and universally esteemed for his amiable disposition, and gentlemanly manners: his premature death is most sincerely deplored. He was the son of a gentleman in London, who reached Stroud about half an hour after his dissolution; and whole distress of mind upon this truly melancholy occasion was aggravated in no small degree by the circumstance of having lost another promising son, a short time since, in a similar way, at the Island of Malta, where he was serving with his regiment.