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I hold such an essay peculiarly proper at this juncture, when some of them are about to embark on long voyages, in which even good-natured people, being tacked together like man and wife, are somewhat apt to grow peevish and quarrel
In the first place, I will make one general observation, that, at this busy time, when our country has need of men, lives are of more value to the community than at other periods. In time of peace, so many regiments are reduced, and the duties of an officer so easily performed, that if one fall, and another be hanged for killing him, there will speedily be found two proper young men ready to mount guard, and shew a good leg on the parade, in their
But, at present, from the great increase of the establishment, there is rather a scarcity, in proportion to the demand, of men of military talents, and military figure; especially when we consider
that the war is now to be carried on against so genteel a people as the French, to whom it will be necessary to shew officers of the most soldier-like appearance and address.
This patriotic consideration will tend to relax the etiquette formerly established, for every officer to fight a duel within a few weeks of the date of his commission, and that, too, without the purpose of resenting any affront, or vindicating his honour from any aspersion, but merely to shew that he could fight. Now, this practice being unnecessary at present, as preferment goes on briskly enough by the fall of officers in the course of their duty, may very properly, and without disparagement to the valour of the British
army, be dispensed with ; so, it is to be agreed and understood, that every officer in the new-raised regiments, whose commissions bear date on or posterior to the 1st of January 1778, is, ipso facto, to be held and deemed of unquestionable courage and immaculate honour.
As to the measure of affront which may justify a challenge, it is to be remembered, that the officers of the above-mentioned corps have been obliged, in levying their respective quotas, to engage in scenes of a very particular kind; at markets, fairs, country-weddings, and citybrawls, amongst a set of men and women not remarkable for delicacy of language, or politeness of behaviour. We are not, therefore, to wonder if the smooth enamel of the gentleman has received some little injury from the collision of such coarse materials; and a certain time may fairly be allowed for unlearning the blunt manners and rough phraseology which an officer in such situations was forced to assume.
Therefore the identical words which, a campaign or two hence, are to be held expiable only by blood, may, at present, be done away by an explaňation; and those which an officer must then explain and account for at the peril of a challenge, are now to be considered as mere colloquial expletives, acquired by associating with such company as frequent the places above described.
As, notwithstanding all these allowances, some duels may be expected to take place, it is proper to mention certain regulations for the conduct of the parties, in the construction of which I have paid infinitely more regard to their honour than to their safety.
In fighting with the sword, a blow, or the lie direct, can scarcely be expiated but by a thrust through the body ; but any lesser affront may be wiped off by a wound in the sword arm; or, if the injury be very slight, any wound will be sufficient. In all this, it is to be noted, that the receiving of such a wound by either party constitutes a reparation for the affront; as it is a rule of justice peculiar to the code of duelling, that the blood of the injured atones for the offence he has received, as well as that of the injurer for the offence he has given.
In affairs decided with pistols, the distance is, in like manner, to be regulated
, by the nature of the injury. For those of an atrocious sort, a distance of only twenty feet, and pistols of nine, nine-anda-half, or ten-inch barrels, are requisite; for slighter ones, the distance may be
, doubled, and a six or even five-inch barrel will serve. Regard, moreover, is to be had to the size of the persons engaged ; for every stone above eleven, the party of such weight may, with perfect honour, retire three feet.
I read, some time ago, certain addresses to the Jockey Club, by two gentlemen who had been engaged in an affair of honour; from which it appeared, that one of them had systematized the art of duelling to a wonderful degree. Among other things,