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The smallness of the fine arises from the fact that such disturbers of the peace are in general very poor, and unable to pay a fine, it being a very rare thing to find a man of character and property guilty of an outrage of this kind. Meantime the innocent person goes unavenged, for this trivial punishment has not wiped away the stain and disgrace of the blow.
The law, so equitable when property is concerned, offers no relief to a man thus publicly assaulted and defamed-at least the law as it is now administered. The most flagrant case on record has never cost the aggressor more than a few hundred dollars and a month's imprisonment in a pleasant room, with every comfort around him. No one will pretend to say that this sort of punishment ever degraded a man in his own eyes, still less in those of the cominunity. If one of our personal friends were thus assaulted and defamed, his person polluted by a blow, and his reputation injured by the foulest slanders, should we be satisfied with such penalties as the law exacts ?. No, we should not—and yet, as Christian people, holding bloodshed in abhorrence, what are we to do?
The law is defeated on this important point--the punishment should be imprisonment at hard labour during the term of confinement-imprisonment with the shaved head and the coloured dress of the criminal. This, for a longer or shorter period, should be the desert of a man guilty of such enormities, and severe as this might seem, it would not meet the offence fully, for still it would fall short of the injury done to the innocent.
That the parties might be placed on equal terms, the miscreant who laid violent hands on a defenceless man should receive, publicly, as many lashes as he inflicted blows on his victim. This would be strict justice. But far be it from us to encourage such a brutal practice as that of public whipping, except in the single case where one man has struck another. Ifa man strike another, being aware of the penalty, he courts the punishment, and should suffer; blow for blow is strict justice, and in our opinion it is the only method that can reach the offence.
We repeat again, never may the brutal practice of public whipping be resorted to, excepting when the culprit has struck a defenceless man. Never may we see the flesh of a fellow being scourged in this way for any other offence. Never again may we hear of so terrible, so horrible-may we say—so hellish a punishment as that of inflicting three hundred lashes on the bare skin of a poor young creature, for the slight offence-while under the influence of rum-of merely attempting to strike an officer !
Such a shock has this dreadful case of military flogging given to all Christendom, that the name of the officer who inflicted it will ever be associated with the cruelty; and future ages will only remember him as the perpetrator of one of the most brutal acts of barbarity on record.
We refer to this atrocious outrage to show one of the bad effects of war; to show the fiendish severity of the discipline and the brutality which it engenders. Nature revolts at such deeds; humanity is outraged by them. We on this side of the water most deeply sympathized with the poor sufferer. Curses loud and deep might well follow the monster who in cold blood stood by and directed the strength and the number of the lashes.
The worst of human passions are fostered by the rigid discipline kept up in the army and navy. The most trifling disobedience of orders, the slightest inattention to forms and ceremonies, are ignominiously punished; and desertion, -that fault which can only attach itself to physical weakness, and for which great lenity should be shown-ihat fault which, in the eye of the civil law would be so justly and leniently considered,—is punished by death!
It is not for us at this present moment to bring to view all the mean, dastardly practices which are engendered by this passion for war; those of enlistment and impressment, are too prominent to escape notice. But this question urges itself on our notice peremptorily, and must be answered. Is it for purposes like these that we are educating our sons? Ye rich and powerful ! are the hearts of your children to be thus hardened and perverted ; are they to be trained to regard the common soldier as a beast of the field ? Ye
poor and powerless! is this to be the hard fate of your offspring ?
But to return to our enquiry into the nature and similarity of war and duelling. It is our intention to prove that both are unchristian and unnecessary. Equally criminal as they are in the eye of the Almighty, yet to the amazement of posterity it will be found that the advocates and encouragers of war—of this murdering by the wholesale—are infinitely more numerous than the advocates and instigators of duels. Therefore, as there is a greater abhorrence of the latter crime—and most unaccountable is it that this should be the case--let us bend all our efforts towards abolishing, first, this practice; let us unite in getting rid of the lesser evil, and then attack the greater-war.
If there were a law such as we have suggested, which should condemn a man to hard labour among criminals, or send him to the whipping post, when he committed an outrage on a defenceless person, we should furnish a strong corrective to a fruitful source of duels. As the law now stands, if a cowardly fellow strike a man of less personal strength than himself--and he that descends to this savage mode of revenge always takes care that he is an overmatch for his victim-what is the injured party to do? He is probably a stranger and unconnected, he depends on his character for his daily bread, his disgrace has gone forth, and his reputation is blighted. No man, however innocent he may be, can ever have his tranquillity, his peace of mind restored, or resume his station in society with the same lofty feelings that he formerly possessed. He knows that the small penalty which falls on the ruffian does not wipe out the stain on his honour-he knows too well that the penalty is exacted as a debt due to the commonwealth for an infringement of the laws. The fine and imprisonment are to satisfy the insulted laws, and not to soothe the feelings or restore the character of the injured man.
When to an assault is added defamation, the defamer, even when found guilty, is not compelled, as he should be, to make a public acknowledgment of his guilt. The only mode by which the injured party could be restored to his former standing and healthful feelings, would be the public confession of the aggressor and slanderer acknowledging that he had basely calumniated the complainant. This would prevent many a coward from wreaking his malice on the unwary, for however superior he might be in personal strength, he would hesitate in his villany when the punishment was so nearly equol to the offence. At present it is a mere mockery to prosecute a man of this kind; he laughs at the penalty.
The municipal law, therefore, does not furnish sufficient protection; for the punishment inflicted does not meet a case of gross outrage. The consequence is that men have made laws of their own, by which they endeavour to redress their own grievances. This law is called the code of honour, respected by all men of nice, quick feelings; respected even by legislators themselves.
When one man commits an act of violence against another, the feelings of a whole community are outraged by it, but still the merits of the case are not strictly enquired into, nor is judgment consulted. Instead of forcing the disgrace of the blow to rest on him who strikes, this very community, who feel so indignant and scandalised, take great pains to inform the sufferer that they consider him as having lost caste by the touch of a ruffian. It is they—this very community—that oblige the injured party to resort to this chivalrous law, this code of honour, that he may wipe out the stain which they say he has received.
It is one of the many anomalies and paradoxes of civilisation, that there is no disgrace in being struck by one very far inferior. In the army and navy, if a subaltern strike a superior officer, the former is immediately punished, and no stain rests on the other. Nor in private life does a man consider himself as contaminated when struck by one very far inferior. A gentleman of high standing in society can bear, without vexation, a blow from a servant. Among citizens, therefore, the superior escapes unmolested, because no stain results froni the outrage. The case is very different, however, if a man, moving in the same society with a hot-headed brute, receive a a blow from him.
One, therefore, has not only to endure the indignity of the blow-rendered disgraceful to him only by the perverted judg. ments of those who hold the reins of fashion-but he has also to violate the laws of God and man by putting his own life in jeopardy. He is compelled to jeopard his own life in two ways; he must either be killed on the ground by the bullet of his adversary, or if that adversary is killed by his bullet he must be hung as a murderer—for to kill a man in single combat is considered as murder in the first degree, and punishable by an ignominious death!
In our apprehension it is the community that should be charged with the mischief and misery that result from duels. In the eye of sober reason the disgrace of a blow should rest on the assailant. The man who strikes another in a cowardly way should be immediately disgraced, and be considered as for ever unworthy of coming within the pale of civilisation. If we would but view the subject in this light-and we pray that the time may soon come when it shall be so considered no man, when thus cowardly assaulted, would think of risking his precious life in a bloody contest with one whose ungentlemanly and malignant act had placed him so very far beneath the consideration of a man of honour. How shocking will it appear to future ages that the foolish rules of society were so binding, that an honourable man, and a professor of Christianity, too, was forced to consider himself on an equality with a ruffian and a coward !
But the mischief and misery do not end with the fatal termination of a duel. One would naturally conclude that the community--they who first compelled the injured party to resort to this barbarous mode of avenging himself-would stand by him and protect him in case he destroyed his enemy; but this is not the case. The very men who exacted this of him, turn their backs the moment he has gratified their bloodthirstiness. They not only desert him, but, as if for the first moment seeing the enormity of the crime, they raise a hue and cry and force the slumbering authorities to active and unrelenting persecution. No sooner is a complaint preferred than the officers of justice—who, by the way, look on with indifference at all sorts of crime until an informer rouses them-leave no means unessayed to bring the poor goaded creature to punishment. Should he be taken and handed over to the law, the community looks on his ignominious death without horror. This is a true outline of a duel and its consequences. Is it not expected that a duel is to end in the death of one or both of the parties—is it not known that pistol bullets will destroy life, and that the gallows will destroy life too ? How unjust and perverse, therefore, are the rules of society, that first compel a man to make use of a pistol and then bring him to punishment for the effect which it produces.
And here let us stop to enquire how it is that a great defect in the laws is so entirely overlooked. Here are acts of daily occurrence which inevitably lead to disorder and bloodshed; the officers, who are the guardians of the law, are surely competent to arrest crime in its incipient state. Must they, for instance, wait until an informer tells them that a challenge has been given when they know it of their own knowledge ? Must they be told that a man has been selling liquor without license, or that he deals in unlawful commodities, or that he keeps a disorderly house-must they wait until all this is told to them before they can put out their hand and arrest the evils in their very commencement ? Surely no odium can attach itself to an officer in doing that which he is by his oath compelled to do. Many a father, many a brother, and many a wife, have it in their power to prevent a duel by giving intormation to the civil authorities, and would do it if the slow finger of scorn did not at the moment press more heavily on their breast than the apprehension of the swift bullet, or the trial and condemnation in prospect.
Why, let us ask again, must there be an informer when the affair is public? and, to return to the minor case, why should an officer remain inert until a third party complains ? Do we not know that nothing renders a gentleman so odious as to turn informer, glaring and pernicious as the vice of which he complains may be. Very few care to run the risk, and so the vice spreads. This subject should be carefully examined, as the reasons now given for the necessity of an informer are not worth considering. The officers themselves, as in duty bound, should enquire into the facts and arrest the evil at once. A gentleman is very willing to answer questions when put to him legally; but he dreads the consequences of having volunteered to break up illegal haunts. Many an injured man who has been compelled by the foolish rules of society to send a challenge, would gladly enter into bonds to keep the peace—if legally required to do so-if it could be done without his being privy or accessory to it.
But let us return to the main question. What would have VOL. XXII.- NO. 43.