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On this argument: I observe, that he, who alleges it, gives up the former arguments of course. If a man fights to avoid the shame of not fighting, he does not fight, to punish, repair, or prevent an injury. If the disgrace of not fighting, is his vindication for fighting, then he is not vindicated by any of these considerations; nor by that of delicate honor, nor by any thing else. The real reason, and that on which alone he ultimately relies for his justification is, that if he does not fight, he shall be disgraced ; and that this disgrace is attended with such misery, as to necessitate and to justify, his fighting.
In alleging this reason, as his justification, the duellist gives up, also, the inherent rectitude of duelling and acknowledges it to be in itself wrong. Otherwise he plainly could not need, nor appeal to, this reason, as his vindication. The misery of this disgrace, therefore, is according to his declaration, such as to render that right, which is inherently, and which, but for this misery, would still be wrong, or sinful.
This is indeed a strange opinion. God has, and it will not often be denied that he has, prohibited certain kinds of conduct to men. These he has absolutely prohibited. According to this opinion, however, he places men by his providence in such circumstances of distress, that they may lawfully disobey his prohi. bitions ; because otherwise, they would endure intolerable misery. Has God, then published a law, and afterwards placed men in such circumstances, as to make their disobedience to it lawful? How unreason-, ably, according to this doctrine, have the scriptures charged Satan with sin. His misery, as exhibited by them, is certainly more intolerable than that, which is here' professed, and of course will warrant him to pursue the several courses, in which he expects to lessen it. This is the present plea of the duellist; Satan might make it with double force.
Had the Apostles bethought themselves of this argument, they might, it would scem, have spared
themselves the scorn, the reproach, the hunger, the nakedness, the persecution, and the violent death, which they firmly encountered, rather than disobedi. ence to God. Foolishly indeed must they have gone to the stake and the cross, when they might have found a quiet refuge from both in the mere recollec. tion, that the loss of reputation was such extreme distress, as to justify him who was exposed to this evil, in any measures of disobedience, necessary in his view to secure his escape.
What an exhibition is here given of the character of God? He has published a law, which forbids homicide, a law universally acknowledged to be just and particularly acknowledged to be just in the very adoption of this argument. At the same time it is in this argument averred, that he often places his crea. tures in such circumstances, that they may lawfully disobey it. Of these circumstances every man is considered as being his own judge. If then any man judge that his circumstances will justify his disobe. dience, he may according to this argument lawfully disobey. If the argument were universally admitted, how evident is it, that every man would disobey every law of God, and yet be justified ?. Obedience would therefore vanish from men, the law become a nullity, and God cease to govern and be unable to govern his creatures. This certainly would be a most ingenious method of annihilating that law, every jot and tittle of which he has declared shall stand though to fulfil it heaven and earth pass away. On the same ground might every man, in equal dis
, tress, seek the life of him who occasioned it however innocently'; and hazard his own. But poverty, disappointed ambition and a thousand other misfortunes, involve men in equal sufferings; as we continually see by the suicide which follows them. Of these mis- . fortunes, generally, men, either intentionally, or unintentionally, are the causes. He, therefore who causes them, may, on this ground, be lawfully put to death
by the sufferer. What boundless havoc would this doctrine make of human life; and how totally would it subvert every moral principle?
How different was the conduct of St. Paul, in sufferings, inestimably greater than those here alleged? Being reviled, says he, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; being defamed, we entreat. Thus he acted, when, as he declares in the same passage, he was hungry, and thirsty, and naked, and buffeted, and had no certain dwelling place.
But what is this suffering? It is nothing but the anguish of wounded pride. Ought, then, this imperious, deceitful, debasing passion to be gratified at the expense of murder, and suicide? Ought it to be gratified at all? Is not most of the turpitude, shame, and misery, of man the effect of this passion only? Angels by the indulgence of this passion lost heaven; and the parents of mankind ruined a world.
But a good name is by the scriptures themselves asserted to be an invaluable possession. It is. But what is a good name in the view of the scriptures? It is the result of wisdom and virtue; not of folly and sin; a plant brought down from the heavens, which will flourish, and blossom, and bear fruit forever.,
But is not the esteem of our fellow men an inestimable enjoyment? And have not wise men, in every age of the world, given this as their opinion? The esteem let me ask of what men? The esteem of banditti is cer. tainly of no value. The character of the men is, therefore, that which determines the worth of their esteem. The esteem of wise and good men is undoubtedly a possession, of the value alledged; particularly, because it is given only to wise and good conduct. If you covet esteem then, merit it by wisdom and virtue; and you will of course gain the blessing. By folly and guilt you can gain no applause, but that of fools and sinners; while you assure yourself of the contempt and abhorrence of all others.
I shall conclude this part of the discussion with the following summary remarks..
Duelling is eminently absurd, because the reasons, which create the centest, are generally trivial. These are almost always trifling affronts, which a magnanimous man would disdain to regard. A brave and meritorious officer in the British army was lately killed in a duel, which arose out of the fighting of two dogs.
As an adjustment of disputes, it is supremely absurd. If the parties possess equal skill, innocence and crime are placed on the same level; and their interests are decided by a game of hazard. A die would better terminate the controversy; because the chances would be the same, and the danger and death would be avoided. If the parties possess unequal skill, the concerns of both are committed to the decision of one; deeply interested; perfectly selfish; enraged; and precluded by the very plan of adjustment from doing that, which which is right, unless in doing it, he will consent to suffer an incomprehensible evil. To avoid this evil he is by the laws of the controversy, justified in doing to his antagonist all the future injustice in his power. Never was there a more improper judge; nor a more improper situation for judging. To add to the folly, the very mode of decision involves new evils; so that the injustice already done can never be redressed; but by doing other and greater injustice.*
*This, however, is beyond a doubt the real fate of the subject. Duel lifts profefs to fight on equal terms: and make much parade of adjufling the combat fo as to accord with these terms. But all this is mere profeffion. Loft of those, who defign to become duellifts, apply themselves with great affiduity to booting with pistols at a mark placed at the utmost ufual fighting diance. In this manner they prove, that they intend to avail themselves of their fuperior fill, thus laboriously acquired, to decide the combat against their antagonists. It makes not the leaft difference, whether the advantage confifts in better arms, a better pofition, an earlier fire, or a more skillful hand. In each cafe the advantage lies in the greater probability which it furnifbes one of the combatants of fuccefs in the duel. Superior skill ensures this probability and is therefore, according to the profeffions of duellifts an unfair and iniquitous advantage.
Finally, it is infinite folly, as in every duel, each party puts his soul, and his eternity, into extreme hazard, voluntarily; and rushes before the bar of God, stained with the guilt of suicide, and with the design of shedding violently the blood of his fellow men.
The guilt of duelling involves a train of the most solemn considerations. An understanding, benumbed by the torpor of the lethargy, only would fail to discern them; a heart of flint to feel them; and a conscience vanquished, bound and trodden under foot, to regard them with horror.
Duelling is a violation of the laws of man. Submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, is equally a precept of reason and revelation. The government of every country is the indispensable source of protection, peace, safety, and happiness, to its inhabitants; and the only means of transmitting these blessings, together with education, knowledge, and religion, to their children. It is therefore a good, which cannot be estimated. But without obedience to its laws, no government can continue a moment. He, therefore, who violates them, contributes voluntarily to the destruction of the government itself, and of all the blessings which it secures.
The laws of every civilized country forbid duelling, and forbid it in its various stages by denouncing against it severe and dreadful penalties; thus proving, that the wise and good men of every such country have with one voice, regarded it, as an injury of no common magnitude. The duellist, therefore, openly and of system, attacks the laws, and the peace, and the happiness, of his country ; loosens the bonds of socicty; and makes an open war on his fellow-citizens, and their posterity.
At the same time, he takes the decision of his own controversies out of the hands of the public, and constitutes himself his own judge, and avenger. His arm he makes the umpire of all his concerns; and in