Page images
PDF
EPUB

a

a pistol from his pocket, and shoot his assailant dead on the spot ? Much is said in the speech before us, of character being dearer than property, while it is lawful to defend our property with arms. We more than doubt the propriety of taking away life in defence of property. It was forbidden by the laws of Moses ; and if our own life is not put in peril by the robber, we should be inclined to dispute the right which is thus arro gated on the ground of self-defence. If, however, any positive injury is done to our good name, there are various remedies within our power. But how is our character to be restored, or the stain of calumny effaced, by imbruing our hands in another's blood ? It has been said, (we think by Adam Smith,) that our courage is appealed to as the test of our purity and honour. But, independently of the questionable nature of this appeal, history* and observation both attest that some of the most cowardly braggadocios have been noted duellists. And in truth, little courage is necessary to induce a man to engage in a duel. A coward may be found mean enough to decline a challenge, not from any principle of virtue, but merely from a regard to his own safety ; but such instances are rare.

The smile and approbation of the world are naturally too dear to the heart, and its frown and displeasure are too appalling, to allow of a man's consulting his personal safety, if he is actuated by no higher principle, in the event of a challenge. The man who has built all his hopes and prospects on his worldly reputation, whose thoughts seldom lead him to look beyond the present state of existence, and whose views are limited to the narrow scene that surrounds him, feels himself necessitated to fight. But he is the man of true courage, who, influenced by an imperious sense of duty, and recollecting that he is forbidden to tamper either with his own life or with the life of his brother, calmly refuses to engage in what his conscience tells him is rebellion against his Maker, and, while he feels the bitterness of that scorn which he is sure to encounter, appeals from the judgement of men to the tribunal of God.

It is alleged by Mr. Jeffrey respecting Duelling, that however • awkward, however imperfect, however unequal and immoral • a remedy it may appear, yet, that in point of historical fact,

it has come as a corrective to greater immoralities, and a pre• ventive of greater crimes, – that it has superseded the atrocity of private assassination; and the history of those nations where it prevails most and least, is affirmed to present an ob

vious and conclusive testimony' to the fact, that it affords ó a

[ocr errors]

See an anecdote of the second Villiers duke of Buckingham, in Smollett's Travels. Vol. I. pp. 260, 1.

remedy for these crimes, and a preventive to these atrocities. In Spain, Portugal, and Italy, it is said, assassinations are daily occurring, poisonings, stabbings, the basest and most cruel murders.' Now we must be allowed to remark, that there can be no greater mistake than to confound a casual sequence

a with a direct consequence. Granting that assassinations became less frequent during the sixteenth century, may not this fact be attributed to the improvement which then took place in the science of government, to the introduction of liberal sentiments through the increase of knowledge, the wider diffusion of religious and moral principles,-in short, to that glorious flood of light which then burst upon Europe, and roused it from the sleep of ages ? Nay, we may turn the argument of Mr. Jeffrey against himself, and maintain that the very fact, that poisonings and stabbings still prevail in Spain, Portugal, and Italy, proves that Duelling is not the preventive of assassination. Duelling is not more strictly prohibited there than in England; but the dark night of superstition has long brooded over those unhappy countries, and the “ dark places of the earth are full « of the habitations of cruelty." We rejoice that the morningstar of liberty is already rising upon the mountains of Spain and Portugal; and we trust that, ere long, the empire of Christi anity extending itself over the whole world, will banish not only the stiletto, but, in the practice of duelling, the last relic of barbarism.

We allow that some instances may be found in the page of history, in which a blood-thirsty villain has preferred the termination of a deadly feud by honourable combat, to private assassination. But how numerous are the examples upon re

. cord, of men possessed of feelings too noble to suffer them to perpetrate assassination, who have not scrupled to commit vir, tually the same crime, when that crime was disguised in the garb of honour! When Henry III. of France desired Crillon to assassinate the Duke de Guise, he refused, but offered to engage him in single combat.

But we are told by Mr. Jeffrey, that to Duelling we are indebted, not only for the polish and refinement that belong to

the members of our upper society, but for what is a great • deal more valuable; not only for the high and general esteem

in which courage and intrepidity are held, but also for the • universal diffusion of fairness, manliness, forbearance, and

handsome conduct'among all the gentlemen in the land. We will not deny that it may operate as some restraint upon the evil passions, or that it may, to a certain extent, be a protection against insults which the law cannot redress. In these plausible apologies there is at least the semblance of truth.

J

But we hope better things of England and of Englishmen, than to imagine that all those virtues which have been enumerated, are nourished and supported, merely or chiefly, by the dread of chastisement. It is not upon the true gentleman, that such a motive as this can operate; but only upon him who is wanting in all those high and generous feelings which consti tute that honourable character. And are there not many belonging to this latter class, who, trusting to their own good fortune, or to the steadiness of their aim, are upon all occasions ready to take or to give offence, and then to support their ma lignity or rudeness with their pistols? Is there no method by which the tone of society may be preserved, but one which shocks every unsophisticated feeling of the heart,-which visits a hasty word or an involuntary smile with the punishment due only to the darkest crime, too often spreading desolation and mourning through a whole family, rending asunder the firmest and the fondest ties, rudely breaking up the closest and most endearing connexions?

But this is not a question of expedience or utility. It is one upon which a doubt cannot be entertained by the follower of Christ; for, in the Law of God, we behold it stamped with the uncompromising characters of murder. It is a practice which Christianity cannot for one moment tolerate. She leaves the palliations and apologies of the world to the men of the world, and tells them in reply, that the friendship of the world is enmity with God. The opinion of men in rebellion against their Maker, can never be a rule of conduct to the Christian. The esteem of his fellow men is grateful and desirable; but, if he beheld the universe arrayed in favour of a practice which Christianity prohibits, like Abdiel, he will be found" faithful "amidst the faithless," and will prove that he does not, like the duellist," love the praise of men more than the praise of "God."

Mr. Jeffrey employs considerable time and much ingenuity in proving, that, since in a duel, such as the one in which Sir A. Boswell fell, there was no malice, so, the survivor could not be legally convicted as a murderer. We cannot, indeed, agree with the paradoxical and unaccountable Rousseau, in regarding Duelling as the offspring of revenge; and we are inclined to think that Mr. Jeffrey established his point in the present case, so far as the law of the land is concerned. But if Mr. Jeffrey meant to say that the successful duellist is not guilty of murder before God,-if he meant to say that the absence of malice justifies this unequivocal breach of the seventh commandment, he greatly errs. Instead of quoting the authorities of Johnson, Ferguson, Lord Kaimes, and others, he might at once, and

with the greatest propriety, have introduced into court, the '1 mouldering and forgotten volumes of Lessius, Molinar, Escor.is bar, Reginaldus, Filiutius, and Baldellus. In the writings of these and other Jesuitical casuists, he would have found how the end sanctifies the means,--how it is unlawful to engage in se a duel from motives of revenge, but how it is allowable thus to defend our honour. He would have there learned the grands secret of directing the intention. But we stop short. We fear, that, in the case of duelling, the lesson would be superfluous is it for the argument which runs through the whole of his eloquent and most powerful address, is founded upon the self-same principle. Fortunately, however, the fallacy and absurdity of this defence of the practice of Duelling, have been long ago exposed and refuted by no feeble pen. In the 7th and 14th of the “ Lettres Provinciales” is contained one of the most forcible and unanswerable exposures of this doctrine, that ever came, from the pen of man. In the former of those two letters, all the apologies and palliations of the Jesuitical writers are laid bare, and held up to scorn, by the application of ridicule unmingled with levity, and sarcasm unstained by malice. In the other letter, Pascal throws aside the weapon of ridicule, and no longer able to restrain his. indignation, pours the full tide, of his impassioned eloquence, yet tempered by the expostu-, lations of his tender spirit, against those who ventued to defend the nefarious practice of Duelling. We cannot refrain : from quoting a few sentences from this admirable Writer, the sublime Pascal,'-a man in whom lofty genius, comprehensive

-a intellect, and inimitable taste were so blended with the most elevated devotion and solid piety, that it must ever be the matter of regret, that the superstition of his age, operating, upon a frame too feeble to sustain the feverish excitement of his lofty spirit, so soon withdrew him from the world, and buried him in the retirement of the cloister. After reprobating the injustice and wickedness of Duelling, he thus addresses its defenders, the Jesuits. Where are we, my fathers? Are

• . they priests who speak thus ? Are they Christians? Are they • Turks? Are they men? Are they demons? And are these the • mysteries revealed by the Lamb to those of his Society ?* Or

are they abominations suggested by the Dragon to his fol• lowers ?'

After a most beavtiful description of the two kingdoms which divide the world, the kingdom of Christ, and the kingdom of Satan, he thus proceeds: Jesus Christ has sent into the • Church, which is his empire, such laws as seem good to his

eternal wisdom and the Devil has sent into the world, which

[ocr errors]

1

* Alluding to the denomination of the Jesuits—the Society of Jesus.'

is his kingdom, such laws as he pleased. Jesus Christ has ⚫ made it an honour to suffer; the Devil, not to suffer. Jesus Christ has commanded those who receive a blow, to turn the other cheek; the Devil has taught men to kill in order to avoid a blow. Jesus Christ has declared those happy who participate in his ignominy; and the Devil declares those wretched who live in ignominy. Jesus Christ has said, "Wo unto you • "when all men shall speak well of you;" and the Devil says, Wo to those whom the world regards not with esteem !'

Again: It is said, "Honour is dearer than life: but it is. permitted to kill in defence of life; therefore we are per"mitted to kill in order to defend our honour." What, my fathers, because the moral derangement of mankind has made them prefer this false honour to the life which God has given them to serve him withal, shall murder committed in its defence be held justifiable? It is in itself a dreadful evil, to prefer such honour to life; and yet, shall this vicious attachment, which would stain the holiest actions if done with a view to such an end, be held to be a justification of the most • criminal?'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Once more: 'Has not Escobar said, that when a man allows him to live who has given him a blow, he lives without honour? Yes, my fathers, without that honour which the Devil, out of his proud spirit, has transmitted to his proud children. This is the honour which has ever been idolised by those who possess the spirit of the world. It is to preserve that glory of which the Devil is the true distributor, that men sacrifice their life by the fury of those duels to which they abandon themselves, their honour by the ignominy of the punishments to which they expose themselves, and their salvation by the peril of a future Judgement.'

Art. VII. A Letter to the Honourable James Abercromby, M. P. By John Hope, Esq. 8vo. Edinburgh. 1822.

IN noticing the trial of Mr. Stuart, we have already animadverted on the licentiousness of a part of the public press in Scotland, and also on the encouragement which this has given to the continuance of the practice of Duelling. Events have subsequently occurred, which tend still further to illustrate the magnitude of those evils.

We purposely abstained from alluding to the Parliamentary inquiry which is about to be instituted into the conduct of the Law-officers of the Crown in Scotland, in regard to their alleged support of the offensive Newspapers. But we cannot repress our indignation at the attempts which have been made, and are still making, to over-awe those who, in discharge of a

« EelmineJätka »