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of poor innocent creatures, and can he view it in the light of a crime when he kills but an additional one in single combat !
In placing the subject so minutely before us, with unavoidable repetitions, we must not fail to renew our expression of unqualified aversion for the practice of duelling. Whether the crime be attached to old or young, we consider it in the same light as we do bloodshed in war-both-both are ungodly and barbarous. Most earnestly do we wish that war and duelling should cease, for they are abominations in the sight of the great Founder of our religion. Our principal aim throughout these remarks has been this—if we must make a distinction between the man who kills many men on the field of battle, under the sanction of fighting for national rights, and him who kills one man in a duel, under the provocation of a personal insultif we must punish the duellist, and reward murderers by wholsale-let us punish the delinquents with some show of justice.
If individuals cannot retain their position in society under the brand of cowardice, as the refusal to accept the challenge is called ; let not the civil authorities seize on the young and inexperienced for examples—let them bring to the bar those who are high in trust and character. This impartiality will terrify the young, and deter them from the like offences.
The shock to a community is great, when one with whom they had so recently been familiar falls in a duel; yet owing to prejudice how different is the sensation when the soldier falls on the field of battle-gloriously, as the term is-as if the dead man cared a rush for the glory. No-the glory alights on his friends, for so it is decreed by civilisation; and it is with a sort of exultation that we hear of the brave man's death; and if we can but sing a requiem over his grave—such as was sung over the grave of Sir John Moore—we are quite content to " leave him alone in his glory.” But he that kills another in a duel, if the community can be worked up to the point of arresting the criminal, can have no lenity shown him; his crime is punished with death on the gallows.
Men are very much perplexed with all this, for the truth is for ever intruding, that death by the pistol ball, when both parties are on an equality, and death by a cannon ball, in war, are precisely the same—no sophistry can prove a difference, and no one, in the eye of equity and common sense, can be called a murderer, in the legal sense of the term, for having killed a man in a duel, when he that kills a dozen on the field of battle is applauded and rewarded for his bravery. It comes to thisit is murder when a man fights and kills' another in defence of his own or his friend's honour, but it is bravery when he fights and slays many men in defence of the honour of his countrymen! Because the law chooses to call one act murder and the other act bravery, is that satisfactory to a reasonable creature ? It is not.
But if we must consider it a crinie-as undoubtedly we must —to destroy life in a duel, then the crime ought to stand against a man until he has been arraigned and tried for his life, when, if acquitted, he may be supposed innocent. If he gives himself up to the laws, then we must imagine him to be absolved of the crime; but until he does give himself up to justice, he is certainly a proscribed man, and liable, at any moment, to be arrested. "Can a criminal of this kind be capable of holding trust or office whilst he is thus subject to be brought before the bar as a murderer!
Where is the difference in the crime itself, whether the criminal, by connivance of friends or by neglect of the authorities, can elude justice, or be condemned and hung ? The crime in both events stands against him, and whether it were committed fifty years ago, or but yesterday, the law can take cognizance of it. If duelling must be thought a crime, then it matters not with the law whether he who committed it escape or not. The law can put its iron finger on him at any interval of time. If he live unmolested and has most sincerely repented, that does not weaken the claims of the law against his particular case. If he ought to be hung for the murder at the moment, he is just as liable to be punished with the gallows fifty years after the act. His penitence is between himself and his God-his crime is between the laws and the commonwealth; and distance of time is no mitigation of the crime or the punishment. If those whose feelings were outraged by the crime were all swept from the face of the earth, the crime would remain and always be subject to the laws.
To show still further the absurdity of making a distinction between war and duelling--making one a crime punishable by death on the gallows, and the other a meritorious act—let us put the question in a nev, shape. Suppose that in a moment of political excitement, a duellist should be elected to a high office, must we suffer him—one who may have fought duels and killed his man-to retain his high station ? Must he have the power of punishing other men-particularly young men—for the crime of which he is still liable to be punished himself? Why should we wink at this man's offences, and allow him to pursue others with all the rigour of the law?' If we wish to show our horror of the crime, why not prosecute him? When the berries on a tree are of a poisonous nature, what do we gain by lopping off
a few of the young branches? We should cut down the tree at once.
But if we could not bring one high in office to justice, without the fear of producing civil war—for the life and honour of such a man are considered by his partisans as of more consequence than if he were a private citizen or a cadet—at least, he should not be allowed to make a mockery of the laws by inflicting punishment on those over whom he has control. It should be considered that the younger culprits but endeavoured to obtain distinction as he had done.
If the commander in chief of an army or navy had killed a fellow-creature in a duel, he would feel great reluctance when called upon to punish a young man for the same offence. He would in this case be obliged to consider it a crime of a black dye, or why punish it so rigorously? He would be reminded by the still, small voice of conscience, that justice had but slumbered in his case, and that if she were to awaken he would be the first to be dismissed from his office, if not dealt with more severely. He would therefore be very lenient, and duels go free of punishment.
It may be said that in a case of this kind, by his oath of office a man is compelled to punish a duellist whether he have been one himself or not. Certainly a man should not shrink from his duty, be it what it may, but we do say that if he is thus obliged by his oath to dismiss and punish any one for a crime of which he knew he had himself been guilty, and that the knowledge of it might have caused the young culprit to follow his example—then the honour and dignity—the moral and religious feelings of this superior officer should at once oblige him to resign his commission. If there were none to condemn him, his own voice should do it.
What a mockery of justice it would be to put a drunkard at the head of a temperance society, a thief on the bench, or an atheist in a Christian pulpit; and yet, with our confused notions of duelling and war, of crime and no crime, we are constantly liable to the disgrace of having a duellist--for whom we have such horror, and who is subject to death on the gallows-made not only commander in chief over all our armies and navies, but president of the United States !
Let us suppose a case-an extreme case it should be considered—let us suppose for a moment that General Jackson had once or twice in his life killed a man in duel, after some trumpery dispute about honour or fame. Being commander in chief of the army and navy, he had the right of dismissing an officer from the service at pleasure. Would he have dared to do a thing of this kind ? No-to be consistent he would have said —"I do not consider the crime as heinous, either VOL. XXII.---NO. 43.
before God or man, and for two reasons—the first is, that though I call myself a moral and religious man, yet I have shed blood in a duel and I do not find myself the less entitled on that account to hold the high rank I now do, or to go to the altar and partake of that sacrament which says, thou shalt not kill.
“ The second reason is, that the majority of this moral and religious nation do not consider the crime as a heinous one, certainly not as deserving of dismissal from office or of reprehension, either in young or old, or they would not have chosen me to preside over the whole of these United States. They knew I had killed a man in a duel because the fact was notoriously public. Does it not become me, therefore, if I am called upon to dismiss a young man from the service for duelling, to withdraw from my high station? I must not only dismiss myself from the presidency, and froin being the commander in chief, but from the holy communion also. As a man of honour and uprightness, as well as religion, could I cashier another, when, by so doing, I acknowledge the enormity of the crime and point out what should be its punishment--dismissal!
"I cannot lay the flattering unction to my soul and say that committing the sin twenty years ago has made a difference in its nature. To be sure I have had sufficient time to make my peace with an offended Majesty, but the crime itself remains to be punished on earth. I am not sure, however, that I have repented, for what sin is there in killing one man, when I have peen instrumental in slaying hundreds ?
“But there are still other motives for showing clemencythis is the first time that I am thus publicly called upon to inflict summary punishment, and I ought not to execute it with all the rigour of my prerogative, because the act would serve as a precedent. To be consistent I must pursue the same course with all in the same predicament in future. I must view it likewise in another light. Suppose that when strongly iniportuned to dismiss a young naval officer for killing his antagonist in a duelthe very crime I had been guilty of myself
, and which was still unwhipped of justice-suppose I had yielded to the voice of the people, and set the young man adrift without the means of gaining a livelihood, what would be the consequence? Why, that the very community which three or four years before had been so clamorous in demanding justice, would be the first to plead for pardon and reinstatement ! Time would have brought them to their senses, and their reason convinced them that the severity had not only failed in checking the evil, but that it was absurd to punish some for duelling and reward others who had slain men in war.
“But it may be that my secretary, through whom the appeal for pardon must come, will throw obstacles in the way of a
reinstatement, notwithstanding the respectability of the petitionsigned by the very men who entreated me to dismiss the young officer. What is to be done in a case of this kind. Trembling for my popularity-for I am constantly in dread that my own duels will be remembered against me-I must try and sosten down the doubts of my obdurate secretary,-I must suggest a reinstatement, provided the young man does not claim his back pay.
“To be sure this is rather scandalous, and most unbecoming such a government as ours, for the fact will come before an astonished world that we have been bribed to a reinstatement by the arrearages of this poor young man. If we saw fit to restore him to his former rank, why withhold his paltry wages ? Ah! little does the peaceful, unambitious citizen know to what meannesses and injustice we are driven to keep this system of war and duelling so adroitly balanced that they may not tear us to pieces. Look at this monstrous absurdity-here am I, as the commander in chief of all the army and navy, compelled in one instance to dismiss a young officer for a crime for which I am myself liable to be punished ; shortly after I am compelled to reinstate him; then I am told that I must not restore the youth to his rank unless he give up his back pay. I advise him to agree to give up the pay, and privately tell him to appeal to congress for the money—they will at once see the justice of the appeal. This is one of the blessed effects of the crooked policy of war; the shedding of blood is not the only thing which renders it hateful, but it begets meanness, injustice, and absurdities."
We perceive, therefore, in this supposititious case, that we may have a duellist at the head of our government, and, this being granted, what a farce it would be to see him strike a young officer's name from the roll for a misdemeanour or crime of which he had been guilty himself? Let us, therefore, strive, by every means in our power, to root out the unsound principles which the vile passions of ages have planted so deeply in our breasts—the righteousness of war. Let us view it as we do duelling, and enlist all our humane and Christian feelings in its extirpation. If the law of nations, as it now stands, cannot point out a mode by which our differences with foreign nations may be settled, then let a new congress of nations meet, and suggest a more efficient code, for, as civilization and Christianity advance, new points of difference will arise, and there must be new laws to regulate them. Surely something could be suggested by which the spilling of human blood might be avoided. If wars were to cease, we should hear no more of duelling, for the latter ever waits upon the former. It is worse than foolish to hope for reform by now and then dismissing a