Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the laws of God and their country, the adjudication of their own disputes, and the retribution of their own injuries. What should hinder a man of this character from indulging, or executing, revenge in any case: especially in a case of this importance The rectitude of revenge is a prime principle of his creed : a principle, to which he adheres with such tenacity, and uniformity, as, in a better cause, would do honour to the most exemplary Christian. He does not come to the consideration of this subject with doubts concerning the rectitude, or a conviction of the sinfulness, of revenge; but with a determination, long since established, and never called in question, that it is right: a determination, to which, he gives the extensive and commanding influence of a Maxim. From the indulgence, and the execution, of revenge he is restrained, therefore, by no moral consideration whatever. On the contrary, it is sanctioned by the very first principles of his Morality. Of course, it becomes his boast; and is regarded by him as a part of his moral worth ; as the ornament, and glory, of his character. It is evident, then, that there is nothing to hinder him from the indulgence of this passion in any case; especially in a case, to which he attaches this high importance. Should it be said, that the injury in question is not considered as being of such magnitude ; but that the laws, prescribed by duellists to themselves, compel a man of honour to resent injuries, which they themselves esteem small, in this manner: I answer; that the injury, how insignificant soever it may be in reality, is still such in the estimation of duellists, as to subject the challenger, unavoidably, to this exposure, and to all the evils, by which it is followed. In this view only it is regarded by him: and all the resentment, all the feelings of revenge, naturally flowing from an injury of this magnitude, will be awakened in his breast. In the mind of the Challenged the same emotions will be roused, of course, by the challenge itself. The challenge, in his view, infers the same obligation on his part to expose his own iife; and either to lose it, or destroy that of his antagonist. Against his antagonist, therefore, all that hostility will be excited in his mind, which is the natural result of such an injury. Now, let me ask any man of common candour, whether it is credible, that in two men, thus circumstanced, strong feelings of revenge will not of course be kindled 2 They are men, not only wrathful and revengeful in their nature, but glorying in the indulgence of wrath and revenge. They openly declare the exercise of these passions, in this extreme manner, to be right, honourable to themselves, and ornamental to the human character. For this very exercise of these passions they esteem themselves superior to other men; style themselves “brave,” “men of honour,” and “gentlemen;” and name others “cowards,” “scoundrels,” and “rascals.” Is it possible, that, habitually entertaining these opinions, and habitually indulging these passions, they should not exercise them, peculiarly, on such an occasion ? I well know, that duellists profess themselves to be free from these passions in cases of this kind; and declare, that they proceed to these horrible rencounters with entire coolness and good nature. These professions, however, have not the most distant claim to credit. All men, who feel themselves exposed to the censures of mankind, endeavour to rebut them in the best manner, in their power. Fair professions are the most obvious means of rebutting them. In the same manner the bully conceals his cowardice, and the hypocrite his irreligion; and both have as good claims to be believed, as the duellist. Cool, indeed, he may be in some instances; that is, not agitated by fear : but everything in his situation, and in his conduct, proves, that he is angry, and revengeful. 6. Duellists take the utmost pains to prepare themselves for this dreadful employment. In places, where duelling is generally practised, it has become a regular employment; and may be fairly considered as a branch of the regular education of children and youths, to acquire skill and adroitness in the art of destroying human life by this species of violence. Children, at a very early period, employ themselves daily, and yearly, through long periods of time, in shooting with pistols; and acquire skill by this practice, just as penmanship is acquired; with as much coolness, and with as much success. Men also, who have not received this education in early life. employ the sober years of maturer age in learning the same horrid art. To excel in it, is regarded by the adept himself, and his fellows, as an attainment of high distinction. To be able to split a ball upon the edge of a knife, or extinguish a candle, with a pistol ball, at the distance of the utmost goal of duelling, is, in the view of these men, to have arrived at glory, not a little resembling that of Turenne, or Marlborough. In all this conduct is seen, with the slightest glance, a deliberate design, a cold-blooded system, of taking away the life of man with the hand of violence: a design, a system, begun in childhood, and cherished, cultivated, and perfected, through every succeeding period. What dupe of credulity can be so absolutely blind to the whole nature of evidence, as not to see, in this conduct, designs equally hostile against human life, more deliberate, and certainly not less guilty, than those of the professed assassin 2 7. The Duellist takes away the life of his neighbour without a Cause. In this respect, the murderer in the appropriate sense, nay, the professed assassin, can, in many instances at least, more speciously justify himself, than the duellist. The murderer attacks his victim under the domination of furious passion; at the moment, when he has lost the possession of reason, and conscience, and the consequent government of himself; under the consciousness of a real and intense injury; or with the hope of delivering himself from a persecutor. Brutus expected to free his country from a Tyrant: and Charlotte Corde, to deliver hers from another. These, I acknowledge, are far from being solid or justifying reasons; yet they are specious. They are such, as, in the moment of provocation and bitterness, would have great weight, and go far, in the phrenetic mind of a man violent ly in a passion, towards vindicating him to himself. But the duellist is roused to battle by a contemptuous look, a slight word, or some other wound, given to mere pride. All these and the like things are perfectly harmless, if passed by with serenity and self-possession. At the worst, they are mere expressions of the opinion, which the provoking person entertains of our character; an opinion, which, if we are faithful to ourselves, can do us no harm; and which usually merits nothing but disregard, contempt, or pity. This the duellist has ample time to investigate, and to know : for the very manner of executing his resentment postpones the execution beyond the ordinary period of violent passion. Every duellist must confess, unless he will acknowledge his whole life to be a paroxysm of rage, that the seasons, in which he acquires the skill of directing surely the weapons of death; in which he determines to become a professed duellist; in which he settles the principles; and learns the rules of his profession; in which he fixes in his mind the proper causes of a challenge, the proper motives for fighting, and the proper modes of conducting it; are not seasons of violence and provocation. He will confess that the time of his future life, independently of the little periods of actual combat, which he spends in avowedly professing his deliberate intention of acting as a duellist on every occasion, which he thinks a proper one, is not a time of agitation, wrath, and partial insanity. Nor is the duellist more happy with respect to the Final Cause of his conduct, or the End, which he expects to accomplish by this species of controversy. Reparation for an injury received is commonly alleged as this end. But the death of his Antagonist furnishes no such reparation. His neighbour's loss of life lessens in no manner, nor degree, any injury, which he has received from him; and cannot possibly restore to him lost property, or lost reputation. The fact, that he has challenged, and killed, a man, will make him neither richer, nor more honourable, nor more happy. He may, indeed, acquire honour in the opinion of a few men, as foolish, unprincipled, and abandoned, as himself. But the good opinion of these men is disgrace. In the view of every wise and good man he renders himself deeply shameful, and supremely guilty. He may, perhaps, enjoy what men of furious passions sometimes call happiness; viz. the fell pleasure, found by such men in revenge. That revenge is sweet to the taste of a bad man, I am not disposed to question. But it is bitter and dreadful in the end. Let the duellist remember, that God hath said, To me belongeth vengeance and recompense: that He has forbidden us to avenge ourselves ; or to bear any grudge against our neighbour: subjoining this solemn and authoritative reason, Vengeance is mine, I will repay it. Let him read, and ponder, the parable of the Servant, who owed ten thousand talents; and, when he finds that servant thrust into prison and delivered over to the tormentors, as his final and irrevocable doom ; let him ask himself; What will become of him, who, instead of imprisoning his fellow-servant, puts him to a violent death, and sends him into eternity, with all his sins upon his head 2 Then let him further ask, whether the pleasure of revenge is sufficiently great to balance the immense hazard, which he incurs for the sake of this gratification ? In the mean time, a duel, allowing that it should terminate in the death of him who gave the provocation, alters not, in the least, the state of the supposed injury, nor of him who received it. If he has been charged with cowardice, and is really a coward; he will still remain so. If he is not; the charge will not make him a coward. If he has been charged with lying, and has really lied ; he will still remain a liar; unless he becomes an honest man by repentance and reformation. If he has not lied; the charge can never seriously affect his reputation, nor persuade a single sober man to believe him a liar. Men, in this country at least, have usually little to fear from such charges as these. If they will be faithful to themselves; if they will exhibit the virtues, which are denied to them, on all such occasions, as call them into exercise; and renounce, or avoid, the opposite vices; the world, bad as it is, will almost always discern their true character; and will most generally do justice to it. Sometimes, I acknowledge, they may, even while they exercise a good degree of patience, smart under the lash of unmerited censure. These seasons, however, can rarely be of long continuance: and, while they last, will, to a wise man, in most cases, be eminently profitable, by teaching him to moderate the inordinate attachment, so commonly, so foolishly, and so dangerously indulged, to the applause of mankind. This is one, and in my view the chief, exercise of that love to the world, which the Scriptures declare to be incompatible with love to God. The effectual mortification of this attachment, strange as it may seem to the duellist, would yield him more serene, unmingled, and enduring pleasure, than all that, which has been found in all the gratifica

« AnteriorContinuar »