Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How to "Preserve Your Honor" by Having a Duel

Over the past few months, I have read a lot about the "tradition" of challenging someone who has "insulted" you by challenging them to a duel. It was considered to be part of the "honor code." If a "challenge" was offered, you had to respond or your "manhood" would take a hit. If you are as curious as I was about this topic, you can read some of the rules for dueling. If you understand the "honor code" of the time, you have a better idea of why Jacob Spears felt he had to defend his honor with a duel after Thomas Probert told him "not to show his backside."

Jacob Spears
The last two posts discussed the powerful men who served on the prosecution and defense teams for the trial of Thomas Probert. The whole tragedy of the death of Jacob Spears was the result of what Jacob perceived as an "insult" and the need to "defend his honor." Imagine my surprise when further research showed that five years after the trial, two attorneys involved in the trial were about to have a duel of their own!

The Honorable William E. Simms (Prosecution) challenged the Honorable Garrett Davis (Defense) to a duel over comments made by Davis and reported in a newspaper article published in the Paris Citizen. According to an article in The Cincinnati Enquirer published on June 14, 1859, the "challenge" resulted from this incident:
The Cincinnati Enquirer, June 4, 1859, p. 2.

You can read a rather lengthy exchange of letters that were published on June 17, 1859 in the Louisville Courier. The article  discussed a "Difficulty Between Capt. Wm. E. Simms and the Honorable Garrett Daivs. What's fascinating to me is that, in an effort not to break the law in Kentucky, they both agreed to hold the duel in Cincinnati.

The Cincinnati Enquirer, June 21, 1859, p. 4.

Luckily for all concerned, cooler heads eventually prevailed. With the mediation of several "friends" and representatives of the two men, the complaint was eventually withdrawn. The Louisville Daily Courier published the following resolution to the "difficulty" in its June 23, 1859 edition:

Ironically, Garrett Davis later signed legislation forbidding duels as a means of resolving differences in Kentucky. Even today when the Governor of Kentucky is sworn in, part of the oath requires that he/she swear that they have not and never will participate in a duel. "The times they are a'changin'." Bob Dylan

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