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Of Crimes and Punishments
Cesare Beccaria

Of Duelling.

From the necessity of the esteem of others have arisen single combats, and they have been established by the anarchy of the laws. They are thought to have been unknown to the ancients, perhaps because they did not assemble in their temples, in their theatres, or with their friends, suspiciously armed with swords; and, perhaps, because single combats were a common spectacle, exhibited to the people by gladiators, who were slaves, and whom freemen disdained to imitate.

In vain have the laws endeavoured to abolish this custom by punishing the offenders with death. A man of honour, deprived of the esteem of others, foresees that be must be reduced either to a solitary existence, insupportable to a social creature, or become the object of perpetual insult; considerations sufficient to overcome the fear of death.

What is the reason that duels are not so frequent among the common people as amongst the great? not only because they do not wear swords, but because to men of that class reputation is of less importance than it is to those of a higher rank, who commonly regard each other with distrust and jealousy.

It may not be without its use to repeat here what has been mentioned by other writers, viz. that the best method of preventing this crime is to punish the aggressor, that is, the person who gave occasion to the duel, and to acquit him who, without any fault on his side, is obliged to defend that which is not sufficiently secured to him by the laws.


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