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ought to have been taken at a premium, was taken at a discount, and vice versâ: so that they damaged unfairly the reputation of one to whom they wished well.
It may be thought superfluous to warn any one against an excess of self-distrust. But in truth, there is the more danger of this, from the very circumstance that men are not usually warned against it, and fancy themselves quite safe from it. We should remember,-besides all other distrust,—to distrust our own self-distrust.
• The most tolerable sort of revenge is for those wrongs which
there is no law to remedy.'
This is the ground taken by those who advocate, or palliate, the practice of duelling. The arguments for and against this view, are given in a little work entitled The Southlanders.
On the one side it was contended that the appeal to single combat does not take place in cases where the law of the land provides adequate redress, but in those only where it either cannot or will not afford any, or any but such as would be a mere mockery to the feelings of the sufferer. A man, they urge, does not challenge any one for robbing him of his purse, or for firing his barn, but for injuries of quite a different description, far more grievous to one moving in a certain circle of society, but which the law either refuses to take cognizance of at all, or for which it provides such redress as would aggravate the evil by rendering the sufferer ridiculous. Now a man resigns to the community his natural right of personal self-defence, on the implied condition that the community shall protect him; and in cases, therefore, where it either cannot, or will not, fulfil this condition, his original natural right remains unimpaired. Thus, when a man is suddenly assaulted by a robber, he is free to defend his person and property as well as he can; and on the same principle, when the injury is of such a character as the law will not, or cannot, defend him from, he is left to guard his own honour with his own hand.
• As to the evils resulting from duels, they observed that it is most unfair not to take into account—though to calculate would be impossible—the immense amount of evils prevented, and which there is reason to suppose would take place, but for the apprehension of a duel. The insolence, the falsehood, the slander, the base and the overbearing conduct, which are daily kept in check in many thousands of persons by the recollection that there is such a thing as being called out' for such behaviour, is what no one can compute with any approach to accuracy; these being preventive and negative effects, and therefore incapable of being calculated, and liable to be underrated.
On the other hand, it was maintained that the practice tended to defeat the very end proposed, and to lower (instead of raising, as was pretended) the tone of manners in the society. 'If, they said, there were no such custom, then, any one, whether man or woman, who transgressed the rules which public opinion had sanctioned in the circle of society in which he or she moved, would at once be excluded from that circle. And the apprehension of this exclusion,—of thus losing caste, and being sent to Coventry, which is the ultimate penalty that such a society can inflict for a breach of its rules,—would be the best preventive of any violation of them,—the best preservative of the tone of the society, that it is possible to attain. If, under such a system, any one insulted another, he would be regarded as an ill-mannered brute, and excluded from good company: a woman who displayed levity of conduct would be at once excluded from reputable society: any one, man or woman, who should bring rash imputations against a neighbour, would be shunned as a slanderer: and so of the rest. But under the system of duelling, society offers an alternative ; the only effect of which, as far as it operates, is unmixed evil. Instead of saying, absolutely, you must abstain from brutal insolence of demeanour, on pain of being excluded from our circle, it says, you must either abstain from insolence, or be ready to expose your life; instead of requiring a woman to abstain from levity of conduct, and defamatory language, on pain of forfeiting the countenance of respectable people, it proposes the alternative of either observing those rules, or the being prepared to encounter the ordeal. And the result is, that those who possess personal intrepidity will often be enabled to transgress with impunity those rules of good society, which the duelling system professes to enforce. Nay more; the system tends to invest with a certain degree of dignity, arising from our admiration of personal courage, such conduct as would otherwise excite only unmitigated abhorrence and contempt. An insolent man, for instance, if by his insolence he braved no danger but that of expulsion from good company, would be simply despised: but since he also (under the other system) braves the danger of death, he obtains some degree of honour for his intrepidity. And though some may be deterred from such conduct by the fear of a challenge, others, on the contrary, may be encouraged to it by a desire of displaying valour; especially if they have reason to think, from what they know of the other party, that a challenge will not ensue, and that they shall enjoy their triumph unmolested.
1 This ordeal is described in the book alluded to.
"Moreover, the magnitude of the injuries which one person actually can do to another, is infinitely enhanced by the system of duels, because every affront offered is thus made to carry with it an imputation on one's personal courage, which can only be wiped out by the exposure of life. If, for instance, I am a man of uniform and scrupulous veracity, and some illmannered ruffian gives me the lie, then, supposing duels unknown, the attack recoils entirely on the assailant. He is incapable of proving his charge—my life refutes it, and the only result is, that he, not I, is set down as a liar, for having falsely called me a liar. But under the other system, I must go out and expose my life, or else I am disgraced—disgraced, not as a liar (for that imputation, perhaps, is disbelieved after all), but as a coward, for not daring to risk my life in defence of my honour. And thus a person, who otherwise might have been incapable of doing me any serious hurt at all, has it in his power to propose to me at his pleasure, the alternative of hazard to my life and violence to my conscience, or ignominy. A venom is thus added to the sting of the most contemptible insect.
So much,' said they, for the protection thus provided for us against injuries the most painful to the feelings! Great part of the disgrace attaching to the authors of such injuries is removed; the injuries are probably rather increased than diminished in frequency; and in the pain they inflict, they are undoubtedly aggravated tenfold. With regard to the supposed
necessity for a person's thus vindicating his own honour in certain cases, on the ground that the parties have no common authority to appeal to, this they flatly denied. The public opinion of the society they belong to, is that common authority. And that it is so, and is competent to decide effectually, is proved, they urged, by the very existence of duelling; for the duel itself is enforced by nothing else but public opinion. I am obliged, it is said, to challenge a man who has affronted me, because there is no authority to appeal to that will compel him to redress the injury. But what, then, compels him to accept the challenge ? Nothing, but the knowledge that if he refused it, society would reject him as disgraced. Then, why should not society at once pronounce on him this sentence of disgrace for the affront itself, unless he makes a satisfactory submission ? If he defies public opinion, and does not care for disgrace, he need not accept the challenge: if he does care for public opinion, then let the disgrace attach at once to the offering of the affront, instead of to the refusal of the challenge. It is manifest that those who have the power to propose the alternative, of either suffering disgrace or fighting, must have the power to discard the latter part of the alternative. Let society, therefore, but do its duty, and it is plain that it may, by a proper exertion of the power which it has, and which it actually exercises even now, restrain, and restrain much more effectually, without duelling, the very evils which duelling professes to remedy.''
ESSAY V. OF ADVERSITY.
TT was a high speech of Seneca (after the manner of the 1 Stoics), that the 'good things which belong to prosperity are to be wished, but the good things that belong to adversity are to be admired '—Bona rerum secundarum optabilia, adversarum mirabilia." Certainly, if miracles be the command over nature, they appear most in adversity. It is yet a higher speech of his than the other (much too high for a heathen), • It is true greatness to have in one the frailty of a man, and the security of a God'— Vere magnum, habere fragilitatem hominis, securitatem Dei.' This would have done better in poesy, where transcendencies are more allowed; and the poets, indeed, have been busy with it--for it is in effect the thing which is figured in that strange fiction of the ancient poets, which seemeth not to be without mystery ;5 nay, and to have some approach to the state of a Christian, 'that Hercules, when he went to unbind Prometheus (by whom human nature is represented), sailed the length of the great ocean in an earthen pot or pitcher, lively describing christian resolution, that saileth in the frail bark of the flesh through the waves of the world. But to speak in a mean, the virtue of prosperity is temperance, the virtue of adversity is fortitude, which in morals is the more heroical virtue. Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament, adversity is the blessing of the New, which carrieth the greater benediction, and the clearer revelation of God's
i Sen. Ad Lucil. 66.
? Sen. Ad Lucil. 53. 3 Poesy. Poetry.
Musick and Poesy
To quicken you.'-Shakespere. 4 Trancendencies. Flights; soarings. 5 Mystery. A secret meaning ; an emblem.
• Important truths still let your fables hold,
And moral mysteries with art enfold.'-Granville. 6 Apollod. Deor. Orig. II. 7 Mean. Medium,
• Temperance, with golden square, Betwixt them both can measure out a mean.'--Shakespere.