The Honor of Dueling: We had a better and more honest society when fighting to the death was important

I often talk about the books I keep right next to my reading chair. The Federalist Papers and The Anti-Federalist Papers are a few that I look at often as I think about Constitutional applications to modern society and the vast history of human achievement that brought us all to this point in history. Because of my study of those books, I think of the American Constitution as the most outstanding philosophy for a mass society ever put to paper. It could have only occurred under the unusual circumstances of America’s creation and early evolution. But with those books, I have another one that I glaze through several times a week just for the pleasure of it. Of course, I’ve read it many times, but the frequent visits to its contents have a nobility to them that I get nowhere else. John Lyde Wilson’s little guidebook for dueling was written in 1838 called The Code of Honor. Wilson had been governor of South Carolina and felt a guidebook for dueling needed to be put to paper because so many people had gunfights to solve personal matters. Wilson, like President Jackson, would eventually feel dueling to the death to be an unfortunate thing to do. But, they also understood the premise of the personal possession of the concept of the words “I” and “My.” In their time, “my reputation” had meaning, significant meaning, and it was worth fighting to the death to defend it. Understanding this little nuance of intellectual philosophy helps to understand the premise of the American Constitution as it was written at the time to reflect this necessity of protecting personal virtue. 

As I have pointed out in Ayn Rand’s work, specifically her dystopian novel, Anthem, the word “I” was pushed entirely out of their culture and replaced strictly with “we,” and society devolved along the known Vico Cycle to the point where they had to discover the light bulb once again, literally. In that future society, The Council of Candle Makers ran everything. The nature of that collective-based society was to do everything for the greater good as interpreted by those in charge of that interpretation. All personal needs and values are surrendered to the mass of culture in general, which means that the direction of the entire society gets dumbed down to the weakest links of social discourse instead of the best and brightest. That is why those societies always fail, as they are in our present time. Ayn Rand provided significant warnings about these collective philosophies because she came from the Soviet Union as a young woman and saw up close and personal the results. As the last century evolved, we watched communism spread through most of the Asian world coming out of Russia, and it is to this day, the influence is seeking to conquer the West. China is not shy about their statements, and they have bought off many of our political class with stolen wealth to do precisely as Ayn Rand warned about in her book Anthem. That is why there is more of an emphasis on “teams” and “teambuilding” over individual development. Such emphasis is a process in erasing individual effort for the good of the whole, and it is the biggest challenge of our present time.

Clearly, to achieve their goals, the foreign and domestic forces that are the enemies of our Constitutional law desire to “progress” beyond such a concept into a world of global governance ruled by the United Nations. Study history, as I often do. You can see the apparent path of achievement by the international governing class that has been trying to undermine the American Constitution since it was written. English nobility was never crazy about the Magna Carta in their society. They indeed found it preposterous that the American colonies Declared Independence from them during the Revolution and that a new country was formed in the wake. Among the aristocracies of Europe, they never understood the concept of “I” and “My” to the level that it developed in the vacuum of power, when people were far from their overly controlling governments, how people tended to evolve into personal virtue instead of concern for collective based reasoning. And it was in such a breakaway environment some of the best forms of government have ever been created by mankind, starting with the democracy that was invented in pirate societies in the Caribbean then evolving into the Republic of America. In both cases, pirates helped topple the powers of Europe, first with John Paul Jones during the Revolution, then when England tried to take New Orleans during the War of 1812, it was Jean Lafitte who joined with Andrew Jackson to defeat the British forces, who were much more superior. The unregimented individualism of America, with all its variety and creativity, continued to win out over the old forces of collectivism from Europe eventually Asia, time and time again. And that attitude then went on to create the greatest economy the world has ever seen, and it still outpaces all the ruthless mechanisms to bring it under the control of Europe and Asia to this present day. 

Much of that magic came from discovering and protecting the self that the American Constitution afforded people everywhere, including the European concept of slavery. Free people simply outperformed those under the team concept of collective-based societies. Dying for the Queen or an emperor did not match the efforts of gunfighting for the right to a good life and all that could be built with it under the premise of the self. And when the honor of that self was questioned, it meant more to the people who wrote the Constitution to defend their honor to the death than to surrender that concept over to mass society and the bureaucracy of an administrative state which we find ourselves in now. Clearly, we were a better society of law, order, and economy when we fought to the death to preserve our individual honor than when we punt that honor to lawyers and governments to fight on our behalf. We have found that corruption tends to seep into such a society at a maddening pace because there is no individual honor to check it at the door. Without any fear of individual judgment and death by dishonor, there is nothing to keep a criminal class from rising out of chaos and forming right under our noses since honor and personal satisfaction of all concepts of the word “I” have been abandoned in favor of collective rule. When the criminals seek to hide their actions behind the “team” concept, there is no mechanism to identify the evil as individual achievement. Therefore, nobody is ever punished for committing the crime. The crimes then become collective-based because individual judgment can’t be applied to mass culture. That is how criminals are flourishing and why they see to it their best strategy of getting rid of the American Constitutional altogether and thinking of it as archaic. Yet looking back over history, it is clear that we were a better society when individuals could call on each other to have a duel to the death if the value of “I” and “My” needed to be defended. History shows us that protecting “we” has no meaning if the value of personal responsibility is surrendered in the process. And with that in mind, perhaps we should bring back dueling in America and worldwide. I think we would find the behavior of the criminal class that seeks to hide their malice behind rules and regulations under the protections of inefficient mass governments suddenly at a severe disadvantage. 

Rich Hoffman

Click to buy The Gunfighter’s Guide to Business

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