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Dueling was a traditional means of settling points of honor by armed confrontation between two aggrieved gentlemen. Swords and later pistols were the usual weapons of choice. The practice evolved from “judicial combat” of the Middle Ages when disputes were supervised by legal authorities and it was assumed that divine providence had selected the victor.

Rules for dueling in Europe were formalized in 1777 in the Code Duello; modifications were later made for engagements in America. Usually an offended party would extend a challenge and, if accepted, each participant would select a second. The second sought to resolve matters short of armed confrontation; if unsuccessful, the seconds were in charge of making arrangements for the duel. The death of one’s opponent was not necessarily the point; one’s honor could be preserved by firing a shot or drawing blood. Most governments and religious organizations opposed dueling, but the practice remained popular among politicians, military officers and aristocrats.

Those who refused a duel were often “posted,” meaning a notice was posted in a public place or published in a newspaper which described the declining party’s cowardly actions.

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