This was originally contributed to the Searoom Mailing list
by Ken Stickney.
The most important and comprehensive of these works for the English-speaking
world was undoubtedly the Irish code duello "adopted at the Clonmel Summer
Assizes, 1777, for the government of duellists, by the gentlemen of Tipperary,
Galway, Mayo, Sligo and Roscommon, and prescribed for general adoption
THE TWENTY-SIX COMMANDMENTS
The first offence requires the first apology, though the retort may have
been more offensive than the insult. Example: A tells B he is impertinent,
etc. B retorts that he lies; yet A must make the first apology, because
he gave the first offence, and (after one fire) B may explain away the
retort by subsequent apology.
But if the parties would rather fight on, then, after two shots each (but
in no case before), B may explain first and A apologize afterwards.
N.B. The above rules apply to all cases of offences in retort not of
a stronger class than the example.
If a doubt exists who gave the first offence, the decision rests with the
seconds. If they will not decide or cannot agree, the matter must proceed
to two shots, or to a hit if the challenger requires it.
When the lie direct is the first offence, the agressor must either beg
pardon in express terms, exchange two shots previous to apology, or three
shots followied by explanation, or fire on till a severe hit be received
by one party or the other.
As a blow is strictly prohibited under any circumstances among gentlemen,
no verbal apology can be received for such an insult. The alternatives,
therefore, are: The offender handing a cane to the injured party to be
used on his back, at the same time begging pardon, firing until one or
both are disabled; or exchanging three shots and then begging pardon without
the proffer of the cane.
N.B. If swords are used, the parties engage until one is well blooded,
disabled, or disarmed, or until, after receiving a wound and blood being
drawn, the aggressor begs pardon.
If A gives B the lie and B retorts by a blow (being the two greatest offences),
no reconciliation can take place till after two discharges each or a severe
hit, after which B may beg A's pardon for the blow, and then A may explain
simply for the lie, because a blow is never allowable, and the offence
of the lie, therefore, merges in it. (See preceding rule.)
N.B. Challenges for undivulged causes may be conciliated on the ground
after one shot. An explanation or the slightest hit should be sufficient
in such cases, because no personal offence transpired.
But no apology can be received in any case after the parties have actually
taken their ground without exchange of shots.
In the above case no challenger is obliged to divulge his cause of challenge
(if private) unless required by the challenged so to do before their meeting.
All imputations of cheating at play, races, etc., to be considered equivalent
to a blow, but may be reconciled after one shot, on admitting their falsehood
and begging pardon publicly.
Any insult to a lady under a gentleman's care or protection to be considered
as by one degree a greater offence than if given to the gentleman personally,
and to be regarded accordingly.
Offences originating or accruing from the support of ladies' reputations
to be considered as less unjustifiable than any others of the same class,
and as admitting of slighter apologies by the aggressor. This is to be
determined by the circumstances of the case, but always favourably to the
No dumb firing or firing in the air is admissable in any case. The challenger
ought not to have challenged without receiving offence, and the challenged
ought, if he gave offence, to have made an apology before he came on the
ground; therefore children's play must be dishonourable on one side or
the other, and is accordingly prohibited.
Seconds to be of equal rank in society with the principals they attend,
inasmuch as a second may either choose or chance to become a principal
and equality is indispensable.
Challenges are never to be delivered at night, unless the party to be challenged
intends leaving the place of offence before morning; for it is desirable
to avoid all hot-headed proceedings.
The challenged has the right to choose his own weapons unless the challenger
gives his honour he is no swordsman, after which, however, he cannot decline
any second species of weapon proposed by the challenged.
The challenged chooses his ground, the challnger chooses his distance,
the seconds fix the time and terms of firing.
The seconds load in presence of each other, unless they give their mutual
honours that they have charged smooth and single, which shall be held sufficient.
Firing may be regulated, first, by signal; secondly by word of command;
or, thirdly at pleasure, as may be agreeable to the parties. In the latter
case, the parties may fire at their reasonable leisure, but second presents
and rests are strictly prohibited.
In all cases a misfire is equivalent to a shot, and a snap or a non-cock
is to be considered a misfire.
Seconds are bound to attempt a reconciliation before the meeting takes
place or after sufficieint firing or hits as specified.
Any wound sufficient to agitate the nerves and necessarily make the hand
shake must end the business for that day.
If the cause of meeting be of such a nature that no apology or explanation
can or will be received, the challenged takes his ground and calls on the
challenger to proceed as he chooses. In such cases firing at pleasure is
the usual practice, but may be varied by agreement.
In slight cases the second hands his principal but one pistol, but in gross
cases two, holding another case ready charged in reserve.
When the second disagree and resolve to exchange shots themselves, it must
be at the same time and at right angles with their principals. If with
swords, side by side, with five paces' interval.
No party can be allowed to bend his knee or cover his side with his left
hand, but may present at any level from the hip to the eye.
None can either advance or retreat if the ground is measured. If no ground
be measured, either party may advance at his pleasure, even to the touch
of muzzles, but neither can advance on his adversary after the fire, unless
the adversary steps forward on him.
N.B. The seconds on both sides stand responsible for this last rule
being strictly observed, bad cases having occurred from neglecting it.
N.B. All matters and doubts not herein mentioned will be explained and
cleared up by application to the Committee, who meet alternately at Clonmel
and Galway at the quarter sessions for that purpose.
CROW RYAN, President.
JAMES KEOGH. AMBY BODKIN, Secretaries. --from The Duel: A History
of Duelling, Robert Baldick, Chapman and Hall Ltd., London, 1965; Hamlyn
Publishing Group Ltd., London, 1970. ISBN 0 600 32837 6
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