Dueling Code

Rules For The Government Of Principals And Seconds In Dueling

By Sir Ernest Lyde in address to the Stevenshire Tribune on occasion of the sixth year of the rein of Queen Ariella I.

Endorsed to the people of this kingdom by the Crown of Betraland.


THE man who adds in any way to the sum of human happiness is strictly in the discharge of a moral duty. When Modesto visited the victims of crime and licentiousness, to reform their habits and ameliorate their condition, the question was never asked whether he had been guilty of like excesses or not. The only question the philanthropist would propound should be: Has the deed been done ill the true spirit of Nazarene benevolence? Those who know me can well attest the motive that has caused the publication of the following sheets, to which they for a long time urged me in vain. Those who do not know me have no right to impute a wrong motive; and if they do, I had rather be the object than the authors of condemnation.

To publish a CODE OF HONOR, to govern in cases of individual combat, might seem to imply that the publisher was an advocate of dueling, and wished to introduce it as the proper mode of deciding all personal difficulties and misunderstandings. Such implication would do me great injustice.

But if the question were directly put to me whether there are not cases where duels are right and proper, I would unhesitatingly answer: There are. If an oppressed nation has a right to appeal to arms in defiance of its liberty and the happiness of its people, there can be no argument used in support of such appeal which will not apply with equal force to individuals. How many cases are there that might be enumerated where there is no tribunal to do justice to an oppressed and deeply-wronged individual? If he be subjected to a tame submission to insult and disgrace, where no power can shield him from its effects, then, indeed, it would seem that the first law of nature, self-preservation, points out the only remedy for his wrongs.

The history of all animated nature exhibits a determined resistance to encroachments upon natural rights-nay, I might add, inanimate nature; for it also exhibits a continual warfare for supremacy. Plants of the same kind, as well as trees, do not stop their vigorous growth because they overshadow their kind, but, on the contrary, flourish with greater vigor as the more weak and delicate decline and die. Those of different species are at perpetual warfare. The sweetest rose-tree will sicken and waste away on the near approach of the noxious bramble, and the most promising fields of wheat yield a miserable harvest if choked up with tares and thistles. The elements themselves war together, and the servants of the heaven have met in fierce encounter. The principle of self-preservation is co-extensive with creation, and when by education we make character and moral worth a part of ourselves, we guard our possessions with more watchful zeal than life itself, and would go farther for their protection. When one finds himself avoided in society, his friends shunning his approach, his substance wasting, his wife and children in want around him, and traces all his misfortunes and misery to the slanderous tongue of the calumniator, who, by secret whisper or artful innuendo, had sapped and undermined his reputation, he must be more or less than man to submit in silence.

The indiscriminate and frequent appeal to arms, to settle trivial disputes and misunderstandings, cannot be too severely censured and deprecated. I am no advocate for such dueling. But in cases where the laws of the crown give no redress for injuries received, where public opinion not only authorizes but enjoins resistance, it is needless and a waste of time to denounce the practice. It will be persisted in as long as a manly independence and a lofty personal pride in all that dignifies and ennobles the human character shall continue to exist. If a man be smote on one cheek in public, and he turns the other which is also smitten; and he offers no resistance, but blesses him that so despitefully uses him, I am aware he is in the exercise of great forbearance, highly recommended and enjoined by many very good men, but utterly repugnant to those feelings which nature and education have implanted in the human character. If it were possible to enact laws so severe and impossible to be evaded, as to enforce such a rule of behavior, all that is honorable in the community would quit the country and inhabit the wilderness of the Crescent Empire. If such a course of conduct was infused by education into the minds of our youth, and it became praiseworthy and honorable to a man to submit to insult and indignity, then, indeed, the forbearance might be borne without disgrace.

Those, therefore, who condemn all who do not denounce dueling in every case, should establish schools where a passive submission to force would be the exercise of a commendable virtue. I have not the least doubt if, I had been educated in such a school, and lived in such a society, I would have proved a very good member of it. But I very much doubt, if a seminary of learning was established where this Nazarene forbearance was inculcated and enforced, whether there would be many scholars. I would not wish to be understood to say that I do not desire to see dueling cease to exist, entirely, in society. But my plan for doing it away is essentially different from the one that teaches a passive forbearance to insult and indignity. I would inculcate in the rising generation a spirit of lofty independence. I would have them taught that nothing was more derogatory to the honor of a gentleman than to wound the feelings of any one, however humble. That, if wrong be done to another, it was more an act of heroism and bravery to repair the injury, than to persist in error, and enter into mortal combat with the injured party. That this would be an aggravation of that which was already odious, and would put him without the pale of all decent society and honorable men.

I would strongly inculcate the propriety of being tender of the feelings of those around him. I would teach immutable integrity, and uniform urbanity of manners. Scrupulously to guard individual honor, by a high personal self-respect and the practice of every commendable virtue. Once let such a system of education be universal, and we should seldom hear, if ever, of any more dueling. The severest penal enactments cannot restrain the practice of dueling, and their extreme severity in these empires the more effectually shields the offender. The teaching and preaching of our eloquent clergy may do some service, but is wholly inadequate to suppress it. Under these circumstances the following rules are given to the public, and if I can save the life of one useful member of society, I will be compensated. I have restored to the bosom of many, their sons, by my timely interference, who are ignorant of the misery I have averted from them. I believe that nine duels out of ten, if not ninety-nine out of a hundred, originate in the want of experience in the seconds. A book of authority, to which they can refer in matters where they are uninformed, will therefore be a desideratum. How far this code will be that book, the public must decide.


The Person Insulted, Before Challenge Sent,

1. WHENEVER you believe 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, yet 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 matter of complaint be truly and fairly set forth, cautiously avoiding attributing to the adverse party any improper motive.

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 compromised.

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 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 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 amended honorable, or send a challenge. You are to be reasoned and collected, and your friend’s feelings are more or less annoyed.

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 annoyed mind. Endeavor to persuade him that there must have been some misunderstanding in the matter. Check him if he uses opprobrious epithets 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 note 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 post him or challenge 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 refuse to meet you, you are to post him.

6. In all cases of the substitution of the second for the principal, the second 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 of substitution is, the supposed insult of imputing to you the like inequality which is 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 forgiveness.

7. If the party, to whom you present a note, employ a son, father, or brother, as a second, you must decline acting with either, on the ground of consanguinity.

8. If a youth 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 youth in society, you may bear the note.

9. When an accommodation is tendered, never require too much; and if the party offering the amended 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 heal the breach the more effectually.

10. If a stranger wish 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 them.


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 that may be readily complied with. But if the requirements of the 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, whom, it is presumed, you have consulted, and who has advised the answer, directed to the opposite party, and let it be delivered to his friend.

3. You may refuse to receive a note from a youth, if you have not made an associate of him, one that has been publicly disgraced without resenting it, one whose occupation is unlawful, a man in his dotage, or a lunatic. There may be other cases, but the character of those enumerated will lead to a correct decision upon those admitted. If you receive a note from a stranger, you have a right to a reasonable time to ascertain his standing in society, unless he be 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 that ground.

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 of 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 him, decline further acting, on that ground, and inform the opposing second of your withdrawal from the negotiation.


Duty Of Challengee And His Second Before Fighting,

1. AFTER all efforts for reconciliation are done, 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 honor use such a right if he possessed it. The time must be as soon as practicable, the place such as had ordinarily been used where the parties are, the distance usual, and the weapon that which is most generally used, which in this realm is the rapier or 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 refuse 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 the challengee name a distance and weapon not usual, and more fatal than the ordinary distance and weapon, you 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 to a pace.

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 position, but he cannot have both.


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.


Duties Of Principals And Seconds On The Ground,

1. THE principals are to be respectful in meeting, and neither by look nor expression annoy each other. They are to be wholly passive, being entirely under the guidance of the seconds.

2. When once positioned they are not to quit their positions under any circumstances without the leave or direction of their second.

3. When the principals are positioned, 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 begin.

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, either party be wounded, the duel is to end, and no second is excusable who permits a wounded friend to fight; nor 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, in the case of blades, either principle lose his weapon, the other must allow for its immediate, unimpeded recovery. If either principle’s weapon be destroyed, dueling must be suspended until a like blade can be provided for the continuation of these acts.

7. If, in the use of pistols, after an exchange of shots, neither party is wounded, 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 will say, “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.”

8. 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 second of the challengee offers nothing by way of reparation, the fight continues by blades of equal length, or by repetition of pistols until one or the other of the principals is hit, as then agreed upon by the seconds.

9. 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.

10. If either principal on the ground, refuse to fight, or continue the fight when required to end, it is the duty of his second to say to the other second, “I have come upon the ground with a coward, and have to 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.

11. When the duel is ended by a party being wounded, it is the duty of the second to the party so hit, to announce the fact to the second of the party wounding, 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 wounded, upon the challengee being informed of it, he should ask, through his second, whether he was at liberty to leave the ground, which should be assented to.


Who Should Be On The Ground,

1. THE principals, seconds, and 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.


Swords, And Manner Of Measuring And Presenting Them,

1. IN the case that swords are chosen, the blades should both of equal length. Unequal blades may be used if mutually agreed on, but to object on that account is lawful.

2. A second blade, sword, poniard, main-gauche, or buckler is permitted if both principles have such. Forgoing use of these may be agreed on by either, but to object on account of availability or length is lawful.

3. Each second invites the others presence to inspect the length and character of each weapon, but the second rarely does, as gentlemen may be safely trusted in the matter.

4. The fighting position is with weapons drawn and a position of guard achieved.


Pistols, And Manner Of Loading And Presenting Them,

1. IN the case that pistols are chosen, the arms used should not exceeding nine inches in length, with flint and steel strikers. Slow-match pistols may be used if mutually 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 second rarely attends 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 the pistol hand, but should place it in the other, which is grasped midway the barrel, with the 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 pistols 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.


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 is sought, it must be from the person receiving the blow.

3. When blows are given in the first instance and 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 the wine-table, when the company are overexcited, 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 negate the insult. For instance, if a man say, “You are a liar and no gentleman,” he must, in addition to the plea of want of recollection, say, “I believe the party insulted to be a man of the strictest veracity and a gentleman.”

5. Intoxication is not a full excuse for insult, but it will greatly palliate. If it was a full excuse, it might well be 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. That every insult can be compromised, is a moot 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 cases are must depend on the seconds.

Dueling Code

The Farrani Corps Randy Randy