I made a comment the other day that in a more civilized time, I could call out an offending party, challenge them to a duel of sabers and kill them. Apparently, I was wrong (depending on whose rules you were using). The French had a lot of rules for duels. They are outlined below, in what the French called, a ‘trial by chance’. French rules called for an end of the duel at first blood. Therefore it’s incumbent to make the first blood wound fatal… French rules made a lethal wound unlikely.
Thus, there is no particular desire on my part to deal with French rules. Polish dueling rules (more on the order of “Butch Cassidy rules) seem to fit my personal interests more, but I think that you’d have to travel to Poland to execute the plan and that’s unwieldy.
Watching the confirmation hearings in the US Senate yesterday, I think that some of the conversation would have been more metered and possibly muted if Judge Kavanaugh could have called them out on the field of honor (I know, there isn’t any honor in the Senate) and we’d see who the cowards are. There was a time when cowardice was looked down on. I suspect that all that has changed in many circles today.
Since many females now comport themselves as men, they’d be subject to the same rules as men. There are historic references to Russian women dueling in the 1800’s. When I read that, I could only say – yes, of course.
Three weapons were authorized for dueling: pistol, saber and sword. In the late 1800’s, saber was considered to be the most lethal, so there were ways for the offending party to weasel out of it. Today, with advanced pistol technology and ammunition, it’s a different story as I’d opt for .460 S&W to end the argument one way or another.
Today, lawsuits have taken the place of dueling, but they don’t address the issue of immediate satisfaction unless you’re dueling with a lawyer… They also take up time that courts need to prosecute illegal aliens. So lawsuits are out.
The popularity of Star Wars and light saber dueling might bring the practice back into legal standing. Maybe? If so, there are a couple of people I want to slap with a glove.
Taking up the French Rules
For the French there were three types of offenses: A simple offense, an insult, or an offense that involved an act of violence.
If any of the above offenses were committed, the following rules applied. Here they are in their entirety, submitted for your review.
Rule 1. If, in the course of a discussion, an offence is offered, the person who has been offended is the injured party. If this injury is followed by a blow, unquestionably the party that has been struck is the injured one. To return one blow by another of a more serious nature—severely wounding, for instance, after a slap in the face—does not constitute the person who received the second blow, however severe it may have been, the party originally insulted. In this case, satisfaction may be demanded by the party that was first struck. Such a case must be referred to the chances of a meeting.
Rule 2. If an insult follows an impolite expression—if the aggressor considers himself offended, or if the person who has received the insult, considers himself insulted—the case must also be referred to a meeting.
|In the graphic (above) a saber is set against a sword.
Dissimilar weapons were discouraged in formal dueling.
Rule 3. If, in the course of a discussion, during which the rules of politeness have not been transgressed, but in consequence of which, expressions have been made use of which induce one of the party to consider himself offended, the man who demands satisfaction cannot be considered the aggressor, or the person who gives it the offender. This case must be submitted to the trial of chance.
Rule 4. But if a man sends a message without a sufficient cause, in this case he becomes the aggressor; and the seconds, before they allow a meeting to take place, must insist upon a sufficient reason being manifestly shown.
Rule 5. A son may espouse the cause of his father, if he is too aged to resent an insult, or if the age of the aggressor is of great disparity ; but a son cannot espouse the quarrel of his father if he has been the aggressor.
Rule 6. There are offences of such a galling nature, that they may lead the insulted party to have recourse to acts of violence. Such acts ought invariably to be avoided, as they can only tend to mortal combat.
Rule 7. The offended party has the choice of arms.
Rule 8. When the offence has been of a degrading nature, the offended has the right to name both the arms and the duel, which refers to the time and place.
Ride 9. When the offence has been attended by acts of violence, the offended party has the right to name his duel, his arms, the distance, and may insist upon the aggressor not using his own arms, to which he may have become accustomed by practice ; but in this case the offended party must also use weapons in which he is not practised.
Rule 10. There are only three legal arms; the sword, the saber, the pistol. The saber may be refused even by the aggressor, especially if he is a retired officer ; but it may be always objected to by a civilian.
Rule 11. When a challenge is sent, or a meeting demanded, the parties have a mutual right to the name and address of each other.
Rule 12. The parties should immediately after seek their seconds, sending to each other the names and addresses of their seconds.
Rule 13. Honor can never be compromised by the offending party admitting that they were in the wrong. If the apology of the offending party is deemed sufficient by the seconds of the offended; if the seconds express their satisfaction, and are ready to affirm this opinion in writing; or if the offender has tendered a written apology, considered of a satisfactory nature; in such a case the party that offers to apologize ceases to be the offender; and if his adversary persists, the arms must be decided by drawing lots. However, no apology can be received after a blow. An amicable arrangement of a quarrel should take place before the parties meet on the ground, unless circumstances prevent a prior interview. Howbeit, if when upon the ground, and even when armed, one of the parties thinks proper to apologize, and the seconds of the offended party are satisfied, it is only the party that tenders the apology upon whom any future unfavorable reflections can be cast.
Rule 14. If the seconds of the offending party come to the ground with an apology, instead of bringing forward their principal, it is only to them that blame can be attached, as the honor of their principal was placed in their hands.
Rule 15. No challenge can be sent by collective parties. If any body or society of men have received an insult, they can only send an individual belonging to it, to demand satisfaction. A message collectively sent may be refused ; but the challenged party may select an antagonist, or leave the nomination to chance.
Rule 16. All duels should take place during the forty-eight hours that have succeeded the offence, unless it is otherwise stipulated by the seconds.
Rule 17. In a duel with pistol or saber, two seconds to each combatant are indispensable; one will suffice when the sword is used.
Rule 18. It is the duty of the seconds to decide upon the necessity of the duel, and to state their opinions to their principals. After having consulted with them in such a manner as not to allow any chance of avoiding a duel to escape, they must again meet, and exert their best endeavors to settle the business amicably. If they fail in this attempt, they must then decide upon arms, time, place, distance, and mode of fighting ; and at the same time they must endeavor to come to some arrangement regarding any difficulties that might arise, when the parties are on the ground.
Rule 19. Seconds are not witnesses; and each second should have a witness.
Rule 20. No second or witness shall become a principal on the spot. Any insult received by them constitutes a fresh offence.
Rule 21. The seconds should not remain more than ten minutes on the ground without a combat.
Rule 22. The seconds in a duel with swords, may request that the offended party shall be allowed to ward off a lunge with the left hand. This, however, may be refused by the seconds of the aggressor.
Rule 23. The seconds of the aggressor may, if they think proper, refuse to fire by signal, if the aggressor had not struck his antagonist.
Rule 24. The seconds must determine whether the combatants in sword duels shall be allowed to take breath.
Rule 25. The seconds will also decide (without acquainting their principals of this decision), whether the parties are to be separated after the first wound. In this arrangement they will be guided by the nature of the quarrel.
Rule 26. They will also decide whether a fencing-glove, or any other article to wrap round the hand, is to be allowed; a string, or common glove, are always allowed.
Rule 27. The seconds are never to let their principals know that they are of opinion that the nature of the insult received is such as to render a mortal combat necessary.
Rule 28. The seconds may refuse the sword, if the principal is unable to use it from any infirmity, unless the offended party has received a personal injury.
Rule 29. The second of a person blind of one eye, may object to the pistol, unless the aggressor has struck him.
Rule 30. The sword or saber may be declined by the seconds of a person with only one leg or arm.
Rule 31. The seconds of a young man shall not allow him to fight an adversary above sixty years of age, unless this adversary had struck him ; and in this case his challenge must be accepted in writing. His refusal to comply with this rule is tantamount to a refusal to give satisfaction, and the young man’s honor is thereby satisfied.
Rule 32. If any unfair occurrence takes place in a duel, it is the duty of the seconds to commit the circumstance to paper, and follow it up before the competent tribunals, when they are bound in honor to give true evidence.
Rule 33. It is the duty of seconds to separate the combatants the very moment that the stipulated rules are transgressed.
Rule 34. A father, a brother, a son, or any relative in the first degree, cannot serve as a second for or against his relative.
Rule 35. In sword duels the seconds will mark the standing-spot of each combatant, leaving a distance of two feet between the points of their weapons. The standing- ground to be drawn for by lots.
Rule 36. The swords must be measured to ascertain that they are of equal length; in no instance must a sword with a sharp edge or a notch be allowed.
Rule 37. The combatants will be requested to throw off their coats, and to lay bare their breasts, to show that they do not wear any defence that could ward off a thrust. A refusal to submit to this proposal is to be considered a refusal to fight.
Rule 38. The offended party can always use his own weapons, if they are considered of a description fitting the combat. If, on comparing arms, the swords should be found to differ, the choice must be decided by chance, unless the disproportion is of a material nature.
Rule 39. When the hand is wrapped up in a hand kerchief, an end of it is not allowed to hang down. Should the party refuse to draw it up, the seconds may insist that he throws it off altogether, and is only allowed a sword- knot. If fencing-gloves are allowed, and one party declines their use, the other is not to be deprived of them ; but if only one glove has been brought to the ground, it cannot be used.
Rule 40. When the combatants are on the ground, the seconds are to explain to them all the stipulated arrangements, that they may not deviate from them on plea of ignorance. This being done, the signal of attack is given in the word “Go” (allez); but if before this signal the parties have already crossed swords, the signal is not necessary; but the first who advanced without it is liable to censure.
Rule 41. The seconds shall hold a sword or a cane, bearing the point downward, and, standing close to each combatant, be prepared to stop the combat the moment that the rules agreed upon are transgressed.
Rule 42. Unless previously stipulated, neither of the combatants shall be allowed to turn off the sword of his adversary with the left hand; should a combatant persist in thus using his left hand, the seconds of his adversary may insist that the hand shall be confined behind his back.
Rule 43. In a sword duel the combatants are allowed to raise themselves, to stoop, to vault to the right or to the left, and turn round each other.
Rule 44. When one of the combatants exclaims that he is wounded, or a wound is perceived by his second, the combat is to be stopped. With the consent of the wounded man the combat may be renewed.
Rule 45. If the wounded man, although the combat is ordered to be stopped, shall continue to press upon his adversary with precipitation; this act is tantamount to his desire to continue the conflict, but he must be stopped and reprimanded. If, under similar circumstances, the combatant that is not wounded continues to press on his antagonist, although ordered to stop by the seconds, he must be immediately checked by them, and considered as having infringed the stipulated rules.
Rule 46. When a second raises his sword or cane, it must be considered as the signal to stop; in such cases, the other second shall cry out ” stop,” when the parties must recede one step, still remaining in guard.
Rule 47. In pistol duels, the nearest distance should be fifteen paces. The sight of the pistol should be fixed, and not more than fifteen lines difference be allowed in the length of the barrel. It is also desirable that the barrel should not be rifled, and that the pistols should be of a similar description.
Rule 48. The stand of each combatant to be decided by lot.
Rule 49. It is desirable that the same pair of pistols be used by both parties.
Rule 50. The seconds shall load the pistol with most scrupulous care, and in the presence of each other. If one pair of pistols is used, each second will use a similar charge, by allowing the other to try the charge with a ramrod, or by loading in the presence of four witnesses.
Rule 51. The combatants must be placed on the ground by their respective seconds ; if thirty-five paces have been fixed upon, the offended party has the right to the first fire ; if only fifteen paces are marked, the first fire must be decided by drawing lots.
Rule 52. The seconds have a right to ascertain that the principals do not carry any defense about their persons. A refusal to submit to this examination is to be considered as a refusal to fight.
Rule 53. The seconds of both parties shall stand together ; having taken their ground, they first command, “Make ready,” which is followed by the word “Fire.”
Rule 54. A miss-fire is ‘considered a shot, unless stipulation to the contrary has been made.
Rule 55. If one of the party is wounded, he may fire upon his antagonist, but not after the expiration of two minutes.
Rule 56. When both parties have fired without effect, the pistols are to be re-loaded, in the same manner as before.
Rule 57. In the pistol duel à volonté, the seconds are to mark out the ground, at a distance of thirty-five to forty paces; two lines are then to be traced between these two distances, leaving an interval of from twenty to fifteen paces,. thus each combatant can advance ten paces.
Rule 58. The ground being taken, one of the seconds, . drawn by lot, gives the word, ” March.”
Rule 59. The combatants then advance upon each other, if they think proper, holding their pistols vertically while advancing ; but they may level the weapons and take aim on halting, although they may not fire at the time, but continue to march on unto the line of separation, marked with a cane, or a handkerchief, where they must stop and fire. But, although one of the parties may thus advance to the limits, his antagonist is not obliged to move on, whether he has received the fire of his antagonist, or re served his own.
Rule 60. The moment one of the combatants has fired, he must halt upon the spot, and stand firmly, to receive the fire of his adversary, who is not, however, allowed more than one minute to advance and fire, or to fire from the ground he stands on.
Rule 61. The wounded party is allowed one minute to fire upon his antagonist, from the moment he is hit; but if he has fallen on the ground, he will be allowed two minutes to recover.
Rule 62. In this form of duel, a pair of pistols may be allowed each combatant; but this is only allowed when one of the parties has received a blow. In these cases, a pistol of a different pair is to be given to each combatant. The affair cannot be considered terminated, unless the four pistols have been discharged.
Rule 63. When four pistols are used, if one of the party is wounded, the contest must cease, and the wounded man not be allowed to fire, as it is evident that his’ antagonist, who might remain with a loaded pistol, would have an unfair advantage over him, in a cool, deliberate fire.
Rule 64. When one of the parties is wounded, the affair must be considered ended, even though the wounded party should express his wish to proceed, unless the seconds consider him in a fit state to continue the combat.
Rule 65. In the pistol duel called à mar cite interrompre, a distance of forty-five or fifty paces is measured, and two lines are traced and marked between the distance of fifteen to twenty paces; thus the combatants may advance fifteen paces.
Rule 66. On the word “March” the combatants may advance in a zigzag step, not exceeding two paces. They may take aim without firing, and, while advancing, stop when they choose, and advance again; but once having fired, both parties must halt on the spot.
Rule 67. The combatant who has not fired may now fire, but without advancing, and the party who has fired must firmly stand the fire of his antagonist, who for that purpose is allowed half a minute ; if he allows a longer time to elapse, he must be disarmed by the seconds.
Rule 68. In the pistol duel called à ligne parallèle, two parallel lines are traced by the seconds, fifteen paces from each other, and from thirty-five to twenty-five paces in length.
Rule 69. The combatants are placed at the extremity of each line, fronting each other.
Rule 70. The seconds stand behind their principals, in a situation that may not expose them to the fire of the parties. The signal is given by the word “March.”
Rule 71. The combatants then advance, not upon each other, but in the direction of the line that has been traced for them ; and therefore, whether one of the adversaries has advanced or not, he will find himself placed fifteen paces from the other.
Rule 72. The champion who fires must stop; but he may halt without firing, take aim, and continue to advance.
Rule 73. In the pistol duel called au signal, the signal is to be given by the second of the offended party, by three claps on the hand, three seconds being counted between each clap, which will take up nine seconds; or two seconds which will take up six seconds. In other cases the seconds draw lots for giving the signal.
Rule 74. The combatants, when they have received their arms, are to walk, but to keep the muzzles of their pistols pointing to the ground; at the first signal they will raise their arms, take aim at the second signal, and fire simultaneously at the third.
Rule 75. If one of the combatants fires before the third signal, or half a second after it, he is to be considered as a dishonorable man, and, if his antagonist is killed, an assassin. And if he fires before the signal without effect, his opponent has a right to take as much time as he thinks proper, to level at him and shoot him.
Rule 76. If one of the parties has fired agreeably to the stipulated signal, and his antagonist has dishonorably re served his fire, it is the duty of the seconds, at all risk and peril, to rush upon him and disarm him. In this case, the party who has observed the rules, has a right to demand another duel of a different form.
Rule 77. The second who is to give the signal, should warn the combatants of the nature of the signal, in a loud and audible voice, in the following words: “Recollect, gentlemen, that honor demands that you should only fire upon the third signal being given; that you are not to raise your arm until the first signal, and not to fire until the third. I am now going to give the signals, which will consist of three claps on the hand.”
Rule 78. In the duel with sabers, the seconds should endeavor to have it fought with short sabers, these arms being less fatal than long ones.
Rule 79. The ground taken, the antagonists are to be placed opposite each other, at the distance of one foot from their saber points.
Rule 80. In general these duels are fought with cuff-gloves; but, otherwise, the parties may wrap a handkerchief round their hand and wrist, provided that no end is allowed to hang down.
Rule 81. In regiments, the regimental saber is to be the one selected, provided that they are of the same length, and mounted in the same manner. The same precautionary steps are to be adopted as in the sword duel, to ascertain that no defence is worn by either party.
Rule 82. The signal of “Allez,” “Go,” having been given, the combatants advance upon each other, and either give point or cut; vaulting, advancing, or retreating at pleasure.
Rule 83. To strike an adversary when disarmed, to seize his arm, his body, or his weapon, is a foul proceeding. A combatant is disarmed when his saber is either wrenched from him or dropped.
Rule 84. In saber duels in which the point of the arm is not to be used, sabers without a point are to be chosen. To give point and kill an adversary by the infringement of this rule, is to be considered an assassination. These duels should always be considered as terminated on the first loss of blood.
Hooper, George W. and John Lyde Wilson, Down the River, 1874