History[ edit ] Early history and Middle Ages[ edit ] Depiction of a judicial combat in the Dresden codex of the Sachsenspiegel early to midth century , illustrating the provision that the two combatants must "share the sun", i.
Single combat Commemorative poster for the fourth centennial of the Disfida di Barletta, the Challenge of Barletta , fought on 13 February between 13 Italian and 13 French knights all shown wearing full plate armour.
In Western society, the formal concept of a duel developed out of the medieval judicial duel and older pre-Christian practices such as the Viking Age holmgang. In Medieval society, judicial duels were fought by knights and squires to end various disputes. Judicial combat took two forms in medieval society, the feat of arms and chivalric combat.
The battle was fought as a result of a slight or challenge to one party's honor which could not be resolved by a court. Weapons were standardized and typical of a knight's armoury, for example longswords, polearms etc. The parties involved would wear their own armour, one knight may choose to wear full plate armour, whilst another wears chain mail. The duel lasted until the other party was too weak to fight back.
In early cases, the defeated party was then executed. These type of duels soon evolved into the more chivalric pas d'armes , or "passage of arms", a type of chivalric hastilude that evolved in the late 14th century and remained popular through the 15th century. A knight or group of knights tenans or "holders" would stake out a travelled spot, such as a bridge or city gate, and let it be known that any other knight who wished to pass venans or "comers" must first fight, or be disgraced.
If a lady passed unescorted, she would leave behind a glove or scarf, to be rescued and returned to her by a future knight who passed that way. The Roman Catholic Church was critical of dueling throughout medieval history, frowning both on the traditions of judicial combat and on the duel on points of honor among the nobility. Judicial duels were deprecated by the Lateran Council of , but the judicial duel persisted in the Holy Roman Empire into the 15th century.
Renaissance early modern period[ edit ] During the early Renaissance , dueling established the status of a respectable gentleman , and was an accepted manner to resolve disputes. Dueling remained highly popular in European society, despite various attempts at banning the practice. The first published code duello , or "code of dueling", appeared in Renaissance Italy.
The first formalized national code was France 's, during the Renaissance. In , a code of practice was drawn up for the regulation of duels, at the Summer assizes in the town of Clonmel , County Tipperary , Ireland. A copy of the code, known as 'The twenty-six commandments', was to be kept in a gentleman's pistol case for reference should a dispute arise regarding procedure.
Despite these efforts, dueling continued unabated, and it is estimated that between and , French officers fought 10, duels, leading to over deaths.
The cultivated art of politeness demanded that there should be no outward displays of anger or violence, and the concept of honour became more personalized. By the s the practice of dueling was increasingly coming under attack from many sections of enlightened society, as a violent relic of Europe's medieval past unsuited for modern life. As England began to industrialize and benefit from urban planning and more effective police forces , the culture of street violence in general began to slowly wane.
The growing middle class maintained their reputation with recourse to either bringing charges of libel , or to the fast-growing print media of the early nineteenth century, where they could defend their honour and resolve conflicts through correspondence in newspapers.
Influential new intellectual trends at the turn of the nineteenth century bolstered the anti-dueling campaign; the utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham stressed that praiseworthy actions were exclusively restricted to those that maximize human welfare and happiness, and the Evangelical notion of the "Christian conscience" began to actively promote social activism.
Individuals in the Clapham Sect and similar societies, who had successfully campaigned for the abolition of slavery , condemned dueling as ungodly violence and as an egocentric culture of honour.
Between and the Civil War , the US Navy lost two-thirds as many officers to dueling as it did in combat at sea, including naval hero Stephen Decatur. Many of those killed or wounded were midshipmen or junior officers. Despite prominent deaths, dueling persisted because of contemporary ideals of chivalry , particularly in the South , and because of the threat of ridicule if a challenge was rejected.
Firstly, unlike their counterparts in many continental nations , English duelists enthusiastically adopted the pistol, and sword duels dwindled. Also, the office of 'second' developed into 'seconds' or 'friends' being chosen by the aggrieved parties to conduct their honour dispute.
These friends would attempt to resolve a dispute upon terms acceptable to both parties and, should this fail, they would arrange and oversee the mechanics of the encounter. The Anglican Church was generally hostile to dueling, but non-conformist sects in particular began to actively campaign against it. By , dueling had declined dramatically; when the 7th Earl of Cardigan was acquitted on a legal technicality for homicide in connection with a duel with one of his former officers,  outrage was expressed in the media, with The Times alleging that there was deliberate, high level complicity to leave the loop-hole in the prosecution case and reporting the view that "in England there is one law for the rich and another for the poor" and The Examiner describing the verdict as "a defeat of justice".
Dueling also began to be criticized in America in the late 18th century; Benjamin Franklin denounced the practice as uselessly violent, and George Washington encouraged his officers to refuse challenges during the American Revolutionary War because he believed that the death by dueling of officers would have threatened the success of the war effort.
However, the practice actually gained in popularity in the first half of the nineteenth century especially in the South and on the lawless Western Frontier. Dueling began an irreversible decline in the aftermath of the Civil War. Even in the South, public opinion increasingly came to regard the practice as little more than bloodshed.
Prominent 19th-century duels[ edit ] Main article: Army and to become the seventh president , fought two duels, though some legends claim he fought many more. On May 30, , he killed prominent duellist Charles Dickinson , suffering himself from a chest wound which caused him a lifetime of pain. Jackson also reportedly engaged in a bloodless duel with a lawyer and in came very near dueling with John Sevier. Jackson also engaged in a frontier brawl not a duel with Thomas Hart Benton in On September 22, , future President Abraham Lincoln , at the time an Illinois state legislator , met to duel with state auditor James Shields , but their seconds intervened and persuaded them against it.
O'Connel offered D'Esterre's widow a pension equal to the amount her husband had been earning at the time, but the Corporation of Dublin, of which D'Esterre was a member, rejected O'Connell's offer and voted the promised sum to D'Esterre's wife themselves.
The memory of the duel haunted him for the remainder of his life. One duellist is said to have been shot down and killed with his second.
In , American writer Mark Twain , then a contributor to the New York Sunday Mercury , narrowly avoided fighting a duel with a rival newspaper editor, apparently through the intervention of his second, who exaggerated Twain's prowess with a pistol. Virchow, being entitled to choose the weapons, chose two pork sausages, one infected with the roundworm Trichinella ; the two would each choose and eat a sausage. The last known fatal duel in Ontario was in Perth, in , when Robert Lyon challenged John Wilson to a pistol duel after a quarrel over remarks made about a local school teacher, whom Wilson married after Lyon was killed in the duel.
Victoria, BC was known to have been the centre of at least two duels near the time of the gold rush. Duel by pistols, Sloane was fatally injured and Liverpool shortly returned to the US.
The fight originally started on board the ship over a young woman, Miss Bradford, and then carried on later in Victoria's tent city. Muir, took place around , but was moved to an American island near Victoria. Military establishments in most countries frowned on dueling because officers were the main contestants. Officers were often trained at military academies at government's expense; when officers killed or disabled one another it imposed an unnecessary financial and leadership strain on a military organization, making dueling unpopular with high-ranking officers.
Germany the various states of the Holy Roman Empire has a history of laws against dueling going back to the late medieval period, with a large amount of legislation Duellmandate dating from the period after the Thirty Years' War.
Prussia outlawed dueling in , and the law was inherited by the Reichsstrafgesetzbuch of the German Empire after During that period, a duel was legal in cases where " Olympic dueling Pistol dueling as an associate event at the London Olympic Games In the late 19th and early 20th century, pistol dueling became popular as a sport in France. The duelists were armed with conventional pistols, but the cartridges had wax bullets and were without any powder charge; the bullet was propelled only by the explosion of the cartridge's primer.
The pistols were fitted with a shield that protected the firing hand. Pistol dueling was an associate non-medal event at the Summer Olympics in London. After World War II , duels had become rare even in France, and those that still occurred were covered in the press as eccentricities. Duels in France in this period, while still taken seriously as a matter of honour, were not fought to the death.
The challenge, written in formal language, laid out the real or imagined grievances and a demand for satisfaction. The challenged party then had the choice of accepting or refusing the challenge. Grounds for refusing the challenge could include that it was frivolous, or that the challenger was not generally recognized as a "gentleman" since dueling was limited to persons of equal social station.
However care had to be taken before declining a challenge, as it could result in accusations of cowardice or be perceived as an insult to the challenger's seconds if it was implied that they were acting on behalf of someone of low social standing.
Once a challenge was accepted, if not done already, both parties known as "principals," would appoint trusted representatives to act as their seconds with no further direct communication between the principals being allowed until the dispute was settled. The seconds had a number of responsibilities of which the first was to do all in their power to avert bloodshed provided their principal's honour was not compromised.
This could involve back and forth correspondence about a mutually agreeable lesser course of action, such as a formal apology for the alleged offense. In the event that the seconds failed to persuade their principals to avoid a fight they then attempted to agree on terms for the duel that would limit the chance of a fatal outcome, consistent with the generally accepted guidelines for affairs of honour. The exact rules or etiquette for dueling varied by time and locale but were usually referred to as the code duello.
In most cases the challenged party had the choice of weapons with swords being favored in many parts of continental Europe and pistols in the United States and Great Britain. It was the job of the seconds to make all of the arrangements in advance, including how long the fight would last and what conditions would end the duel.
Often sword duels were only fought until blood was drawn, thus severely limiting the likelihood of death or grave injury since a scratch could be considered as satisfying honour. In pistol duels the number of shots to be permitted and the range were set out.
Care was taken by the seconds to ensure the ground chosen gave no unfair advantage to either party. A doctor or surgeon was usually arranged to be on hand.
Other details often arranged by the seconds could go into minute details that might seem odd in the modern world, such as the dress code duels were often formal affairs , the number and names of any other witnesses to be present and whether or not refreshments would be served. Islands in rivers dividing two jurisdictions were popular dueling sites; the cliffs below Weehawken on the Hudson River where the Hamilton-Burr duel occurred were a popular field of honour for New York duellists because of the uncertainty whether New York or New Jersey jurisdiction applied.
Duels traditionally took place at dawn, when the poor light would make the participants less likely to be seen, and to force an interval for reconsideration or sobering-up.
For some time before the midth century, swordsmen dueling at dawn often carried lanterns to see each other. This happened so regularly that fencing manuals integrated lanterns into their lessons. An example of this is using the lantern to parry blows and blind the opponent.
To first blood, in which case the duel would be ended as soon as one man was wounded, even if the wound was minor. Until one man was so severely wounded as to be physically unable to continue the duel. In the case of pistol duels, each party would fire one shot. If neither man was hit and if the challenger stated that he was satisfied, the duel would be declared over. If the challenger was not satisfied, a pistol duel could continue until one man was wounded or killed, but to have more than three exchanges of fire was considered barbaric and, on the rare occasion that no hits were achieved, somewhat ridiculous.
However, doing so, known as deloping , could imply that your opponent was not worth shooting. This practice occurred despite being expressly banned by the Code Duello of The offended party could stop the duel at any time if he deemed his honour satisfied. In some duels, the seconds would take the place of the primary dueller if the primary was not able to finish the duel. This was usually done in duels with swords, where one's expertise was sometimes limited. The second would also act as a witness.