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Consensual Dueling: Bring Back Single Combat

by | Jun 13, 2024

josh harrison single combat 005

I happen to think that consensual dueling has many positive aspects for civilized societies that would make our lives better.

Politicians especially liked to take part in these martial contests, the possibilities in the contemporary milieu are delightful.

For those who characterize this is as murder/suicide, you’re wrong. Murder begins where self defense ends. Honor is a gift a man gives to himself.

Jane is one of my favorite contemporary commentators on history from a liberty perspective.

Her Pearl Harbor controversy essay was a first rate exposition in the now online Liberty magazine (RIP RW Bradford).

Historians and others have struggled to explain the prevalence of dueling. To begin with, dueling was more prominent in the South, especially after the 1804 duel between Burr and Hamilton. That mortal combat (which took place in New Jersey) seems to have troubled people in the North, and public opinion there turned away from acceptance.

That was not the case in the South, however. So why?

First, the South was simply more violent, some historians say. While dueling per se was conducted among the elite, there was a noticeable tendency toward what historian Troy Kickler calls “wielding of bowie knives and the finger-gouging of eyes” among the more common people. [4] (Don’t even ask me about eye-gouging; you can look it up if you wish.)

Second, during this period, protecting one’s honor helped men distinguish themselves from the people they considered “beneath” them. A gentleman’s “power to command himself as well as others,” writes Harry L. Watson, “set him apart completely from those who allegedly lacked these attributes the most: poor whites, slaves, and women, who were known as the ‘weaker sex.’”[5]

Third, politicians were especially prone to dueling because of the personal nature of politics before the Civil War, says C. A. Harwell Wells.  Furthermore, he writes, “By participating in a duel, specifically a duel with a political opponent, a politician displayed to his followers that he valued his principles more than his life.” [6] 


Dueling: A Gentleman’s Duty or a Nasty Habit?

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Bill Buppert

Bill Buppert

Bill Buppert is the host of Chasing Ghosts: An Irregular Warfare Podcast and a contributor over time to various liberty endeavors. He served in the military for nearly a quarter century and contractor tours after retirement on occasion and was a combat tourist in a number of neo-imperialist shit-pits around the world.

He can be found on twitter at @wbuppert and reached via email at

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