Imágenes de páginas

tions, furnished by duelling since the beginning of time. Let the duellist also remember, that in this very act of attempting to destroy his neighbour's life, he more grossly injures his own character, than ten thousand charges, such as those, which he thus furiously resents, could possibly do. In the view of every man of sober reflection, he brands upon his character the stamp of murder, the blackest mark of infamy, which can be worn by Inlan. But it will be replied to these observations by the duellist, that the anguish, which he suffers, is such, as he cannot possibly bear; and that there is no way, in which he can render life even supportable under such an imputation on his character, without taking the life of the slanderer. This plea has been often seriously made. I will therefore examine it. In the First Place, The allegation, contained in it, is untrue. The anguish, complained of, might be easily supported, without the death of its Author. There are no words, which more frequently delude those, who use them, than can and cannot, possible and impossible. We often say, and believe, that we cannot do that, which we merely will not; and frequently pronounce that conduct to be impossible, which is only very disagreeable. The Apostles, and the Christian Martyrs of every age, were, in many instances, possessed of as much understanding. and sensibility, and therefore understood the nature of the injuries, which they received, as well, at least, as the duellist in question; and felt them as deeply. Yet they bore slanders more gross, more frequently repeated, more extensively believed, and continued through a much longer duration. They bore them, also, without repining, often without complaining, and always without sinking. Women, also, of extreme delicacy, and exquisite sensibility, have sustained, not with patience only, but with fortitude also, the most brutal accusations. Certainly a man, who boasts so much of his firmness of character, as a duellist always does, must be ashamed of possessing less hardihood, than women and Christians. Secondly. This anguish, chiefly, is voluntarily created by himself. It is nothing but the pain of wounded pride: a passion ‘more injurious to his peace, and more hostile to his moral character, than the slander, which he feels so deeply : a passion, which, if he were a wise and good man, he would use every hopeful exertion to mortify and subdue. Independently of the feelings, occasioned by this passion, the slander, of which he complains, would do him very little harm. But he has been called a coward. So have thousands and millions of others, who regarded the imputation only with sport. But he has been called a liar. So have vast numbers of the best men, who have ever lived; who, though not insensible of the slander, have nevertheless passed quietly on through life in much the same manner, as if it had never been uttered. Were the duellist possessed of the same spirit; he would feel as little anguish from this source as they felt. The whole difference between him and them, is created, both foolishly and sinfully, by his own pride. Thirdly. The murderer, in the appropriate sense, can usually make the same plea in his own behalf; and with more force. It cannot be doubted, that in the hour of extreme provocation and abuse; such abuse, as awakens, for the first time, the dreadful purpose of murder; an agitation must be felt, and an anguish suffered, far more intense, than that, which is ordinarily experienced by the duellist. He has made it a part of his general system, and a deliberate purpose, to destroy human life. To a mind, thus prepared, no event of this nature can come wholly unlooked for; or be, as in the other case, a matter of mere and absolute surprise. A mind, thus circumstanced, can hardly suffer, in the same degree, from the very same provocation. But the provocations, usually given to the duellist, are injuries far inferior, in their degree, to those, which ordinarily excite in the human breast a purpose, so new to it, and so horrible, as murder. The Duellist has been disciplined to this object; and comes to it with the cool feelings of a veteran. The murderer is a raw adventurer, who has never seen this terrible object in a near view before. He is, therefore, urged to the conflict by extreme provocatives only ; with intense agitation; and with an impelling anguish, sufficiently great to overcome his dread and horror. Fourthly. The laws of the land provide, in the mean time, a reasonable reparation for all those injuries, which the wisdom of Le

gislators has thought it proper, or been able, to redress; and at least as ample reparation for him, as for his fellow-citizens. With this reparation he is bound to be contented, until the Legislature shall provide further redress. If he has a right to adjudicate his own cause, and redress his own injuries; every other citizen has the same right. But if this pretended right were to be universally exercised, government would be at an end. Anarchy, the real box of Pandora, would empty all its miseries upon mankind; and the nation be converted into a band of murderers. He, who, in this plainest of all cases, will not submit to the ordinances of man for the Lord's sake, will certainly receive the condemnation, which He has threatened. Fifthly. There are innumerable other cases, in which greater injuries are done to mankind, than those which are done to the duellist, and in their nature far more distressing. Those, who have suffered them, have therefore, according to this argument, a right to relieve themselves of their distress, by taking away the lives of those, who have occasioned it. My neighbour, for example, has ejected me from my farm by an injurious lawsuit; and left me and my family beggars. He has accused me, as a merchant, of negligence, fraud, or bankruptcy; and by bringing my creditors suddenly upon me, has not only stripped me of my property, but precluded me from acquiring any more. He has negligently brought the small-pox into my family; and has thus produced the death of my child. He has impeached my Christian character; and has thus procured my excommunication from the Church of Christ. All these injuries are incomparably greater than those, which usually occasion duels. But who, that has any conscience, or any common sense, will say, that lam warranted, for any, or all, of them, to put my neighbour to death 2 Who does not see, that, were these and other injuries, of a similar nature, to be retributed in this manner, a nation would be converted into banditti, and their country into a field of blood 8. The Duellist acts against the most powerful and persuasive reasons; unanswerably obliging him to abstain from this guilly conduct. In the first place, He most wickedly exposes his own life to destruction. On this subject I shall not dwell at present, beVol. IV. 24

cause I expect to consider the subject of suicide in the succeeding discourse. Secondly. He wickedly deserts the duties, which he owes to his family and friends. If he has parents; he owes them reverence: gratitude; strong affection; filial care in sickness, and old age. support if they need it; and the innumerable consolations. which that evil day so affectingly demands, and which none but a child is either able or willing to give. Particularly, he owes them that exquisite enjoyment, which is found in the affectionate, virtuous, and amiable, conduct of our beloved offspring. If he has a Wife; he owes her all that provision for her wants, and for her comfort; the consolations in sickness, and in sorrow ; the kindness and tenderness; the faithful and affectionate attention to her happiness; which he has engaged in the marriage covenant: a covenant, involving, substantially, the same obligations with those of an oath. If he has Children; he owes them sustenance, education in knowledge, business, and religion; his instructions, and his government; his example, and his prayers. But all these duties, required by the Infinite Authority of God, and in the two last cases voluntarily assumed also by himself, he basely deserts; and, by entering the field of slaughter, cuts them off from the possibility of receiving, and himself from the power of performing, them. At the same time, he leaves them all buried, through life, in the hopeless agonies of remembering, and feeling, that he voluntarily went as an or to the slaughter; died as a fool dieth ; and in the combined perpetration of Suicide and Murder, entered, without a prayer, and without a hope of forgiveness, into the presence of his Judge. But should he, (a thing which he has no right to expect,) survive the conflict; he survives only to present to his Parents a son, to his wife a husband, and to his children a father, blackencd with the guilt of cold, deliberate, murder. In the mean time, he has tempted his neighbour to the same enormous sin; and entailed upon his family and friends, also, the same tremendous evils. Thirdly. He does incalculable and irreparable injuries to his Country. He weakens the Government of his country by practically adopting a principle, which, if right in him, would be

equally right in all others; and which, if adopted by them, would destroy social order in a moment: viz. that an individual is to be his own Judge in his own cause. He injures his country, also, by robbing it of the services, and life, of one of its members; in all probability, more important, as the case may be, and has been, to its safety and welfare, than those of millions, like himself. Finally he injures his country boundlessly, as well as irreparably, in contributing by his opinions, and example, to authorize, extend, and perpetuate, the same baleful iniquity in his fellow-men.


1. The observations, made in this Discourse, present to us one of the strongest examples of human depravity. Life, to man, is his all. On it every thing is suspended, which man can call his own: his enjoyments, his hopes, his usefulness, and his salvation. Our own life is to us, therefore, invaluable. As we are most reasonably required to love our neighbour as ourselves; his life ought, in our estimation, to possess the same value. In conformity to these views, mankind have universally regarded those, who have violently deprived others of life, with supreme abhorrence, and branded their names with singular infamy. Murderers have been punished, in every age and country, with the most awful expressions of detestation, with the most formidable array of terror, and with the most excruciating means of agony. On the heads of murderers, at the same time, mankind have heaped curses without bounds. The City of Refuge; nay, the Altar itself, a strong tower of defence to every other criminal; has lost its hallowed character, at the approach of a murderer; and emptied him out of its sacred recesses into the hands of the Avenger of blood. God hath said, A man that doeth violence to the blood of any person, he shall flee to the pit : let no man stay him. In solemn response, the world has cried, Amen. But all these sentiments, all these rights, all the obligations of this law, the Duellist has violated. Nay, he has violated them in cold blood; with the deliberation of system; in the season of serenity; in the tranquility of the closet. This violation

« AnteriorContinuar »