Return to Tradition: The Advantages of Dueling by Bill Buppert

“Amateurs train until they get it right. Pros train until they can’t get it wrong.”

– variously attributed to Pelé, Stephen Hillier, and others

“The amateur seeks excellence. The professional seeks adequacy.”

– Jeff Cooper

Bring back dueling. Yesterday.

As most know who visit this blog, I am not asking for a law or permission but the decriminalization of the affaire d’honneur; the gaining of satisfaction by challenging dishonorable scalawags to put their money where their myths are.

“While dueling may seem barbaric to modern men, it was a ritual that made sense in a society in which the preservation of male honor was absolutely paramount. A man’s honor was the most central aspect of his identity, and thus its reputation had to be kept untarnished by any means necessary. Duels, which were sometimes attended by hundreds of people, were a way for men to publicly prove their courage and manliness. In such a society, the courts could offer a gentleman no real justice; the matter had to be resolved with the shedding of blood.”

So as then and now, single combat was a primal answer to wringing justice from bad situations.

“The first rule of dueling was that a challenge to duel between two gentleman could not generally be refused without the loss of face and honor. If a gentleman invited a man to duel and he refused, he might place a notice in the paper denouncing the man as a poltroon for refusing to give satisfaction in the dispute.

But one could honorably refuse a duel if challenged by a man he did not consider a true gentleman. This rejection was the ultimate insult to the challenger.”

The modern twist would be more accurate weapons but the dishonored party could have the ability to choose more intimate  and close-quarters weapons if he chose. The defendant in the challenge could always shirk his honor and insist he will not rise to the challenge. That in itself would address some satisfaction to the aggrieved and dishonored party. The market will provide some unique solutions from training salons to escrowed and refereed single combat to weapons specifically tailored to the duel.

I have often thought that not only is dueling an unfairly maligned tradition but one whose application today could stiffen the spine of estrogen nation and put more of a “point” to affairs of honor.  The increasing feminization of society and the rampant overpopulation of metrosexual males blanch at the prospect but it puts the edge to the question.

The Germans even practiced a form that rarely led to death or serious injury in Academic fencing.

I can think of several instances in my own life where this would have resolved a difficulty.  Manners are the lubricant of civilization and alas, they are quickly perishing in America with the resultant coarseness, rudeness and cultural illiteracy that pervades the country today.  Part of this is a result of the loss of classical education, a complete lack of historical knowledge and the increasing prevalence of women of both sexes held high as the enviable male paradigm.  We are a nation with a surfeit of males but fewer men.  Men should know what they are about and have an idea of their measure under arduous or dangerous circumstances.

Some have served in the military; some participate in adventure sports and some in dangerous professions (like firefighters not cops).  Being a cop is one of the safest occupations in America outside of the self-induced pathologies of over-eating, alcoholism and suicide.

Imagine, if one would, that the tens of thousands assaulted and hundreds murdered by the state-sponsored police hordes infesting America were subject to be “called out” by surviving friends and family members. Since the state refuses to sunder the evil trifecta of officer safety, qualified immunity and police unions that make them Murder Inc. across the country, think of the braking mechanism on poor police behavior a potential meeting to seek satisfaction would render over time. I’ve always wondered where are the husbands and male relatives of all these women raped, assaulted, maimed and killed by the statist police in America?

The concept of honor is a dying creed so I expect very few adherents will step forward to advocate for the renewal of dueling as a dispute resolution mechanism. One may even see the emergence of “catch and release” duels in which the object is less than lethal but painful nonetheless.  The Southron will surprise everyone, as they are the first to step in the breech.

Honor would be a necessary preamble to even champion dueling.  Guns or swords?  Let’s make both available as a choice for consenting combatants.  This is consensual violence, both parties must agree to the terms and conditions before stepping off.  While you are at it, take a look at the many tomes of sword-fighting texts available from the Renaissance era in Europe during the high era of fighting salons.  The pity is there are hundreds more which have yet to be translated from the Latin, Italian, German or French into English.

I would again commend your attention to the excellent book, The Compleat Gentleman by Brad Miner.

The duel was the last resort of a process of what we now call ‘conflict resolution’.

I recommend taking a look at Charles Moore’s review of Pistols at Dawn by John Campbell.

He relates the story of two political rivals:

In only one of the eight stories (which also include Gladstone vs Disraeli and Heath vs Thatcher) were “pistols at dawn” literally employed. Exactly 200 years ago, in the middle of the Napoleonic wars, Britain launched a military and naval expedition to Walcheren in Holland. It failed. George Canning, the foreign secretary, sought covertly to blame his rival, Lord Castlereagh, and to have him removed from the War Office.

When Castlereagh discovered what was going on, he wrote to Canning: “You continued to sit in the same Cabinet with me, and to leave me not only in the persuasion that I possessed your confidence and support as a colleague, but you allowed me to… proceed in the Execution of a new Enterprise of the most arduous and important nature, with your apparent concurrence… You were fully aware that if my situation in the government had been disclosed to me, I could not have submitted to remain one moment in office, without the entire abandonment of my private honour and public duty. You knew I was deceived, and you continued to deceive me.” Castlereagh demanded “satisfaction”, by which he meant a duel. The two men met on Putney Heath. Both missed with their first shots, but Castlereagh insisted on a second round and wounded Canning in the thigh, without doing him serious injury.

John Campbell considers the Granita deal about the succession a “devil’s bargain”. He quotes the view of Thomas Grenville, in 1812: “When two men ride a horse, one must ride behind.” He is surely right, but the Brown/Blair story does illustrate the difficulties with which politics is saddled if there is no accepted code of honour.

The form of the duel – with its pointless deaths, inherent injustice and absurd pride – seems to us against reason and morality. But it did answer a problem that always confronts human society: how can one settle a dispute between essentially equal parties?”

I love the idea of this being available to settle political disputes and would hope the modern violence broker (a more correct term for what a politician essentially is) would flock to this. But alas, most of today’s empty suits, especially in Mordor, are moral and craven cowards whose physical courage is challenged by shouting and a real threat would have them cowering and filling their pants. But imagine if an aggrieved constituent could call out the politician(s) who spend so much time shearing the Helots across the fruited plain.

Dueling would put a finer point to Heinlein’s axiom on the polite society. Manners would have teeth again.

“In a duel, man to man, sword against sword, it can be a lack of skill that gets you killed. Often as not, though, it’ll be a matter of luck, or if it goes on too long, then it’ll be the man who tires first that tends to die. In the end it’s about staying power. They should put that on headstones, “Got tired.”

― Mark Lawrence, Prince of Thorns

20 thoughts on “Return to Tradition: The Advantages of Dueling by Bill Buppert”

  1. Pingback: Buppert: Return to Tradition – The Advantages of Dueling | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  2. Dueling would not solve it, as the article stated the winner may be due to superior skill or ability, that individual would likely call for a duel knowing he has the upper hand. The result being bullies, either physical or cultural or everyday interactions, having another means to escape or evade responsibility for their behavior knowing if they got called out for a duel, they would likely win. Neither would there be bonafide justice or accountability in that in the wrong individual being killed, it is the cultural bullies and everyday bullies in our society that need to be held accountable, not those unable to win a fight.

    What is needed is the bonafide moral use of force (NOT to be confused with the immorality of wrongful violence) for the purpose of making people accountable for their behavior. This is exemplified by the old west code or legal standard of “they needed killing” People laugh or joke about that statement, at one time it was the truth and a genuine legal defense. The old west didn’t suffer the arrogance of fools and their abuse of others, mess with someone by any means and you would have to stand behind your behavior with your life. “if” your death was questioned, most people would simply say “they needed killing” They’d likely state the reason and that was the end of the matter other than the lesson to others who may contemplate the same wrongful behavior and what you’d get for your actions.

    what this means is no formal setup, you genuinely wrong someone and they will seek accountability on their terms, not yours. As the saying goes “an armed society is a polite society” They may shoot you when they know they can do so and is morally correct to do so in terms of your ass needing it.

    Reinstate this as well as remove the legal horrors an individual will face for the proper use of force, when people understand they can no longer hide behind the law and get away with their behavior, that being exemplified by the saying “some people are alive only because it’s ‘illegal’ to kill them” Right now as was stated in the article, people know they can get away with their behavior because they know they can hide behind the law, the courts and lawsuits or even prosecution are no real deterrent. It takes years and financial means likely beyond the ability of the average person to bring an injury into the courts and ‘maybe’ win, that’s IF you can afford an attorney, IF you can get an attorney to take your case, IF you can prove standing, and IF you can win. Too many “IF’s” for that to represent a bonafide means of justice for the average individual, more so it represents the appearance of as a means of mollifying the average individual into thinking they have a means of redress of injury or grievance. More so nowadays the courts represent something entirely different. Re-institute the ability of the average individual to put a gun in someone’s face and tell them “either stop what you are doing or you will be shot for your behavior” and/or “put right what you’ve done or you will be shot for it” and you will see society clean up it’s act in a damned big hurry.

    1. Unlikely in the extreme since the person who demands satisfaction does not have the choice of weapons. Any skill he might have is destroyed if his opponent decides upon battle axes rather than pistols, etc.

    2. The aggrieved party calls out the offender, the one called out chooses the means. You must consider abilities in toto when calling for blood.

      I read an account several years ago of a large blacksmith who was called out by a diminutive aristocrat in Antebellum Louisianna. After much fretting over the matter and his lack of martial skill, he settled on sledgehammers in six feet of water. This so surprised and amused the offended party that they cancelled the duel and became life long friends. So you see, there remains unconventional methods to resolve conventional matters.

      1. The aggrieved party calls out the offender, the one called out chooses the means.

        I would suggest that the market may employ variants on this but this appears to be a good standard model. This may even be a subset of Dispute Resolution Organizations (DRO) that host these occasions for consenting combatants.

        What a great story…

  3. Hello Bill, fine work as always.

    As one of the aforementioned Southrons, and being of a certain age, I can confirm your assessment of our overall willingness to engage when slighted.

    My own take on the matter is that a gentleman’s response should be kept in proportion to the offence, word for word, and deed for deed, with an eye toward amicable resolution if the other party will apologize and make amends.

    Failing that, then have at the bastard.

    I also believe that some offences, like say, physically attacking another man’s children or female relations (even if you have taken her to wife) are so deplorable that they release not just you as the family member, but any mere by-stander from all perceived social, moral or legal obligations to maintain the peace.

    Yes, I am talking about murder. Unashamedly so. The species as a whole would benefit were this a more common occurrence.

  4. An instant Court, held by the injured before witnesses can leave or forget, as described in RAH The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, resulting in acquittal or airlock-cycling, is affordable justice. Don’t walk around without money if you plan on being offensive or don’t have a local guide.

  5. “Re-institute the ability of the average individual to put a gun in someone’s face and tell them “either stop what you are doing or you will be shot for your behavior” and/or “put right what you’ve done or you will be shot for it” and you will see society clean up it’s act in a damned big hurry.”

    There it is, in a nutshell. Absolutely fantastic comment, sir.

    People used to be civil. You didn’t have to like someone, but you’d at least be courteous, and could expect the same. That was how men and women were. It also helped that they were able to do as proscribed above, but that was many years ago, certainly well before my time. I’m certainly not the type to go about preaching brotherly love or singing kumbaya, but good Lord above our modern society could benefit immensely from some simple damned civility and courtesy. It doesn’t cost a dime either. A simple “Hello” or a damned “Thank you”. Good Lord, my father never hit me, but if I acted the way some of my contemporaneous “Young Men” act nowadays (and my father were still alive) I’d be black and blue all over and deserving of every bruise.

    1. That’s a good point too: do we get to duel with women if they act like assholes? Equal rights after all. And they are not lacking in their capacity for evil by any means.

    2. I carry a sidearm 24/7. I am also polite to all and sundry, because I am armed and because I am a cililized human being.

  6. I’ve long thought dueling would be an appropriate cultural institution for dealing with loudmouths who spew slanderous venom and then hide behind the skirt of the State. I’m thinking of the Anthony Wiener types, the Bill Maher types, and the numerous uncouth Left wing blowhards who have said despicable and obscene things about Sarah Palin and her daughters. Her husband should be able to obtain satisfaction, with his peers bearing witness. Andrew Jackson comes to mind.

  7. Bill this right here is the beginning of the return to rightful liberty, and one of the great and noble aspects of Abolition of the state: “…In such a society, the courts could offer a gentleman no real justice; the matter had to be resolved with the shedding of blood.”

    How true that is. It speaks volumes to self determination not reserved to just in matters of honor settled in the finality of blood, but dignity in the entire sphere of our lives.

    It sets the tone for every endeavor, makes our every activity a venue on a personal level worthy of the idea and pursuit of liberty.

    It also separates the tyrant from men of virtue and principles for everyone to witness free of the filters tyranny creates to disguise the truth of how it is evil and corrupt men who institute illegitimate power, no matter its form of state or commerce.

    Something warms the cockles of my soul where dueling is superlative means of not only defending ones honor, but a direct call out of cowards and crooks who deem themselves beyond the reach of proper suitable justice of trespass against my liberty.

    Be one hell of a target rich environment if it begins now.

    Maybe that is what armed revolution against tyrants and their tyranny really is. One big righteous duel of honor. Defense proper of the dignity of liberty.

  8. The notion that actions and slander occur in a vacuum wherein an offending party (or institution) can do and say as they want with a confidence that no retribution will occur both amazes and amuses me.

    I believe that being a Southerner is the source of my amusement.

  9. Pingback: RRND - 07/27/15 - Thomas L. Knapp -

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