- Nov 2001
- Posts: 2718
Posted: 4/16/2010 12:21:52 PM EST
THE CODE OF HONOR;
RULES FOR THE GOVERNMENT
PRINCIPALS AND SECONDS
by John Lyde Wilson
RULES FOR PRINCIPALS AND SECONDS IN DUELLING.
CHAPTER I. The Person Insulted, Before Challenge Sent
1. Whenever you believe that you are insulted, if the insult be in
public and by words or behavior, never resent it there, if you have
self-command enough to avoid noticing it. If resented there, you offer
an indignity to the company, which you should not.
2. If the insult be by blows or any personal indignity, it may be
resented at the moment, for the insult to the company did not originate
with you. But although resented at the moment, you are bound still to
have satisfaction, and must therefore make the demand.
3. When you believe yourself aggrieved, be silent on the subject, speak
to no one about the matter, and see your friend, who is to act for you,
as soon as possible.
4. Never send a challenge in the first instance, for that precludes all
negotiation. Let your note be in the language of a gentleman, and
let the subject matter of complaint be truly and fairly set forth,
cautiously avoiding attributing to the adverse party any improper
5. When your second is in full possession of the facts, leave the whole
matter to his judgment, and avoid any consultation with him unless
he seeks it. He has the custody of your honor, and by obeying him you
cannot be compromitted.
6. Let the time of demand upon your adversary after the insult, be as
short as possible, for he has the right to double that time in replying
to you, unless you give him some good reason for your delay. Each
party is entitled to reasonable time, to make the necessary domestic
arrangements, by will or otherwise, before fighting.
7. To a written communication you are entitled to a written reply, and
it is the business of your friend to require it.
SECOND'S DUTY BEFORE CHALLENGE SENT.
1. Whenever you are applied to by a friend to act as his second, before
you agree to do so, state distinctly to your principal that you will be
governed only by your own judgment,––that he will not be consulted after
you are in full possession of the facts, unless it becomes necessary
to make or accept the amende honorable, or send a challenge. You are
supposed to be cool and collected, and your friend's feelings are more
or less irritated.
2. Use every effort to soothe and tranquilize your principal; do not see
things in the same aggravated light in which he views them; extenuate
the conduct of his adversary whenever you see clearly an opportunity to
do so, without doing violence to your friend's irritated mind. Endeavor
to persuade him that there must have been some misunderstanding in the
matter. Check him if he uses opprobrious epithet towards his adversary,
and never permit improper or insulting words in the note you carry.
3. To the note you carry in writing to the party complained of, you are
entitled to a written answer, which will be directed to your principal
and will be delivered to you by his adversary's friend. If this be not
written in the style of a gentleman, refuse to receive it, and assign
your reason for such refusal. If there be a question made as to the
character of the note, require the second presenting it to you, who
considers it respectful, to endorse upon it these words: "I consider the
note of my friend respectful, and would not have been the bearer of it,
if I believed otherwise."
4. If the party called on, refuses to receive the note you bear, you are
entitled to demand a reason for such refusal. If he refuses to give
you any reason, and persists in such refusal, he treats, not only your
friend, but yourself, with indignity, and you must then make yourself
the actor, by sending a respectful note, requiring a proper explanation
of the course he has pursued towards you and your friend; and if he
still adheres to his determination, you are to challenge or post him.
5. If the person to whom you deliver the note of your friend, declines
meeting him on the ground of inequality, you are bound to tender
yourself in his stead, by a note directed to him from yourself; and if
he refuses to meet you, you are to post him.
6. In all cases of the substitution of the second for the principal,
the seconds should interpose and adjust the matter, if the party
substituting avows he does not make the quarrel of his principal
his own. The true reason for substitution, is the supposed insult of
imputing to you the like inequality which if charged upon your friend,
and when the contrary is declared, there should be no fight, for
individuals may well differ in their estimate of an individual's
character and standing in society. In case of substitution and a
satisfactory arrangement, you are then to inform your friend of all the
facts, whose duty it will be to post in person.
7. If the party, to whom you present a note, employ a son, father or
brother, as a second, you may decline acting with either on the ground
8. If a minor wishes you to take a note to an adult, decline doing so,
on the ground of his minority. But if the adult complained of, had made
a companion of the minor in society, you may bear the note.
9. When an accommodation is tendered, never require too much; and if
the party offering the amende honorable, wishes to give a reason for his
conduct in the matter, do not, unless offensive to your friend, refuse
to receive it; by so doing you may heal the breach more effectually.
10. If a stranger wishes you to bear a note for him, be well satisfied
before you do so, that he is on an equality with you; and in presenting
the note state to the party the relationship you stand towards him,
and what you know and believe about him; for strangers are entitled
to redress for wrongs, as well as others, and the rules of honor and
hospitality should protect him.
CHAPTER II. The Party Receiving a Note Before Challenge.
1. When a note is presented to you by an equal, receive it, and read it,
although you may suppose it to be from one you do not intend to meet,
because its requisites may be of a character which may readily be
complied with. But if the requirements of a note cannot be acceded to,
return it, through the medium of your friend, to the person who handed
it to you, with your reason for returning it.
2. If the note received be in abusive terms, object to its reception,
and return it for that reason; but if it be respectful, return an answer
of the same character, in which respond correctly and openly to all
interrogatories fairly propounded, and hand it to your friend, who, it
is presumed, you have consulted, and who has advised the answer; direct
it to the opposite party, and let it be delivered to his friend.
3. You may refuse to receive a note, from a minor, (if you have not
made an associate of him); one that has been posted; one that has
been publicly disgraced without resenting it; one whose occupation is
unlawful; a man in his dotage and a lunatic. There may be other cases,
but the character of those enumerated will lead to a correct decision
upon those omitted.
If you receive a note from a stranger, you have a right to a reasonable
time to ascertain his standing in society, unless he is fully vouched
for by his friend.
4. If a party delays calling on you for a week or more, after the
supposed insult, and assigns no cause for the delay, if you require it,
you may double the time before you respond to him; for the wrong cannot
be considered aggravated; if borne patiently for some days, and the time
may have been used in preparation and practice.
Second's Duty of the Party Receiving a Note Before Challenge Sent.
1. When consulted by your friend, who has received a note requiring
explanation, inform him distinctly that he must be governed wholly by
you in the progress of the dispute. If he refuses, decline to act on
2. Use your utmost efforts to allay all excitement which your
principal may labor under; search diligently into the origin of the
misunderstanding; for gentlemen seldom insult each other, unless
they labor under some misapprehension or mistake; and when you have
discovered the original ground or error, follow each movement to the
time of sending the note, and harmony will be restored.
3. When your principal refuses to do what you require of hi, decline
further acting on that ground, and inform the opposing second of your
withdrawal from the negotiation.
CHAPTER III. Duty of Challenger and His Second Before Fighting.
1. After all efforts for a reconciliation are over, the party aggrieved
sends a challenge to his adversary, which is delivered to his second.
2. Upon the acceptance of the challenge, the seconds make the necessary
arrangements for the meeting, in which each party is entitled to
a perfect equality. The old notion that the party challenged, was
authorized to name the time, place, distance and weapon, has been long
since exploded; nor would a man of chivalric honor use such a right, if
he possessed it. The time must e as soon as practicable, the place such
as had ordinarily been used where the parties are, the distance usual,
and the weapons that which is most generally used, which, in this State,
is the pistol.
3. If the challengee insist upon what is not usual in time, place,
distance and weapon, do not yield the point, and tender in writing what
is usual in each, and if he refuses to give satisfaction, then your
friend may post him.
4. If your friend be determined to fight and not post, you have the
right to withdraw. But if you continue to act, and have the right to
tender a still more deadly distance and weapon, and he must accept.
5. The usual distance is from ten to twenty paces, as may be agreed on;
and the seconds in measuring the ground, usually step three feet.
6. After all the arrangements are made, the seconds determine the giving
of the word and position, by lot; and he who gains has the choice of the
one or the other, selects whether it be the word or the position, but he
cannot have both.
CHAPTER IV. Duty of Challengee and Second After Challenge Sent.
1. The challengee has no option when negotiation has ceased, but to
accept the challenge.
2. The second makes the necessary arrangements with the second of the
person challenging. The arrangements are detailed in the preceding
CHAPTER V. Duty of Principals and Seconds on the Ground.
1. The principals are to be respectful in meeting, and neither by look
or expression irritate each other. They are to be wholly passive, being
entirely under the guidance of their seconds.
2. When once posted, they are not to quit their positions under any
circumstances, without leave or direction of their seconds.
3. When the principals are posted, the second giving the word, must
tell them to stand firm until he repeats the giving of the word, in the
manner it will be given when the parties are at liberty to fire.
4. Each second has a loaded pistol, in order to enforce a fair combat
according to the rules agreed on; and if a principal fires before the
word or time agreed on, he is at liberty to fire at him, and if such
second's principal fall, it is his duty to do so.
5. If after a fire, either party be touched, the duel is to end; and no
second is excusable who permits a wounded friend to fight; and no second
who knows his duty, will permit his friend to fight a man already hit.
I am aware there have been many instances where a contest has continued,
not only after slight, but severe wounds, had been received. In all such
cases, I think the seconds are blamable.
6. If after an exchange of shots, neither party be hit, it is the
duty of the second of the challengee, to approach the second of
the challenger and say: "Our friends have exchanged shots, are you
satisfied, or is there any cause why the contest should be continued?"
If the meeting be of no serious cause of complaint, where the party
complaining had in no way been deeply injured, or grossly insulted, the
second of the party challenging should reply: "The point of honor being
settled, there can, I conceive, be no objection to a reconciliation, and
I propose that our principals meet on middle ground, shake hands, and
be friends." If this be acceded to by the second of the challengee, the
second of the party challenging, says: "We have agreed that the present
duel shall cease, the honor of each of you is preserved, and you will
meet on middle ground, shake hands and be reconciled."
7. If the insult be of a serious character, it will be the duty of
the second of the challenger, to say, in reply to the second of the
challengee: "We have been deeply wronged, and if you are not disposed
to repair the injury, the contest must continue." And if the challengee
offers nothing by way of reparation, the fight continues until one or
the other of the principals is hit.
8. If in cases where the contest is ended by the seconds, as mentioned
in the sixth rule of this chapter, the parties refuse to meet and be
reconciled, it is the duty of the seconds to withdraw from the field,
informing their principals, that the contest must be continued under the
superintendence of other friends. But if one agrees to this arrangement
of the seconds, and the other does not, the second of the disagreeing
principal only withdraws.
9. If either principal on the ground refuses to fight or continue the
fight when required, it is the duty of his second to say to the other
second: "I have come upon the ground with a coward, and do tender you
my apology for an ignorance of his character; you are at liberty to post
him." The second, by such conduct, stands excused to the opposite party.
10. When the duel is ended by a party being hit, it is the duty of the
second to the party so hit, to announce the fact to the second of the
party hitting, who will forthwith tender any assistance he can command
to the disabled principal. If the party challenging, hit the challengee,
it is his duty to say he is satisfied, and will leave the ground. If the
challenger be hit, upon the challengee being informed of it, he should
ask through his second, whether he is at liberty to leave the ground
which should be assented to.
CHAPTER VI. Who Should Be on the Ground.
1. The principals, seconds, one surgeon and one assistant surgeon to
each principal; but the assistant surgeon may be dispensed with.
2. Any number of friends that the seconds agree on, may be present,
provided they do not come within the degrees of consanguinity mentioned
in the seventh rule of Chapter I. 3. Persons admitted on the ground, are
carefully to abstain by word or behavior, from any act that might be
the least exceptionable; nor should they stand near the principals or
seconds, or hold conversations with them.
CHAPTER VII. Arms, and Manner of Loading and Presenting Them.
1. The arms used should be smooth-bore pistols, not exceeding nine
inches in length, with flint and steel. Percussion pistols may be
mutually used if agreed on, but to object on that account is lawful.
2. Each second informs the other when he is about to load, and invites
his presence, but the seconds rarely attend on such invitation, as
gentlemen may be safely trusted in the matter.
3. The second, in presenting the pistol to his friend, should never
put it in his pistol hand, but should place it in the other, which is
grasped midway the barrel, with muzzle pointing in the contrary way to
that which he is to fire, informing him that his pistol is loaded and
ready for use. Before the word is given, the principal grasps the
butt firmly in his pistol hand, and brings it round, with the muzzle
downward, to the fighting position.
4. The fighting position, is with the muzzle down and the barrel from
you; for although it may be agreed that you may hold your pistol with
the muzzle up, it may be objected to, as you can fire sooner from that
position, and consequently have a decided advantage, which ought not to
be claimed, and should not be granted.
CHAPTER VIII. The Degrees of Insult, and How Compromised
1. The prevailing rule is, that words used in retort, although
more violent and disrespectful than those first used, will not
satisfy,––words being no satisfaction for words.
2. When words are used, and a blow given in return, the insult is
avenged; and if redress be sought, it must be from the person receiving
3. When blows are given in the first instance and not returned, and the
person first striking, be badly beaten or otherwise, the party first
struck is to make the demand, for blows do not satisfy a blow.
4. Insults at a wine table, when the company are over-excited, must be
answered for; and if the party insulting have no recollection of the
insult, it is his duty to say so in writing, and negative the insult.
For instance, if the man say: "you are a liar and no gentleman," he
must, in addition to the plea of the want of recollection, say: "I
believe the party insulted to be a man of the strictest veracity and a
5. Intoxication is not a full excuse for insult, but it will greatly
palliate. If it was a full excuse, it might be well counterfeited to
wound feelings, or destroy character.
6. In all cases of intoxication, the seconds must use a sound discretion
under the above general rules.
7. Can every insult be compromised? is a mooted and vexed question. On
this subject, no rules can be given that will be satisfactory. The old
opinion, that a blow must require blood, is not of force. Blows may be
compromised in many cases. What those are, much depend on the seconds.