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I have considered as involved in the general crime of murder, or as acts of disobedience to this precept, are actually of this general nature. They are not, indeed, all marked with the same malignity as the crime usually known by this name. But they all partake of the same nature, and are either murder in the proper sense, or steps which lead directly to it; seeds, impregnated with that very poison which, more perfectly concocted in the future growth of the plant, becomes so rank and so fatal to the life of man.
Finally: I hesitate not to pronounce that unkindness, which, especially when exercised towards inferiors and dependents, wears upon the spirits, and often breaks the hearts of our fellow creatures, to be a crime of the same nature.
In order to shorten human life, it is not necessary to use a bludgeon, nor a pistol. Servants may be easily brought to an untimely grave by stinting them with respect to their necessary food, clothes, lodging, or fuel; or by a repetition of tasks unreasonably burdensome. A delicate and susceptible child may be easily driven into a consumption by parental coldness, fretfulness, severity, the denial of necessary indulgences, or the exaction of undue compliances. Mere conjugal indifference may easily break the heart of an affectionate wife. Faithless friendship may destroy at once the life of a friend. Ungrateful subjects have shortened the life of an affectionate ruler by their ingratitude merely. Rulers have, probably, in millions of instances, put their subjects to death, without any immediate violence, by the gradual but sure operations of a comprehensive and hard-handed oppression.
From these observations it is evident, that murder, in the proper sense, is begun in unkindness; and that unkindness is begun in the early and unrestrained indulgence of human passions. This indulgence, therefore, parents, and all other guardians of children, are bound faithfully to restrain from the beginning. The first tendencies towards cruelty, the first evidences of an unfeeling disposition, should be repressed, discouraged, and, as far as may be, destroyed. Tenderness, on the contrary, a spirit of general benevolence, and an active, affectionate beneficence to others, should be cultivated in every child with care, sedulousness, and constancy, resembling that with which an impassioned florist watches, nurses, and cherishes a choice flower, procured with great expense from a distant climate, his own favourite possession, pre-eminent for its fragrance and beauty, and regarded by him as the pride and boast of the country in which he lives.
THE LAW OF GOD.
THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT,
THOU SHALT NOT KILL
EXODUS XX. 13.
In the preceding Discourse from these words I proposed to point out,
I. Thuse instances in which life may be lawfully taken away, agreeably to scriptural erceptions under this law;
II. Some of those instances in which life is destroyed in contradiction to this law.
The first of these heads I discussed at that time; and made several observations under the second. The remaining subjects included in this division, are duelling, suicide, and drunkenness. The first of these, viz. duelling, shall be the topic of immediate investigation.
That duelling is a violation of the command in the text, is evident,
1. From the words of the precept itself ; • Thou shalt not kill.'
I have already observed, that these words contain a command entirely absolute, without either condition, or exception. I also observed, that, as this is a command of God, man cannot, without impious presumption, attempt to limit it; and that no other exceptions therefore can be made to it, beside those which God himself has made. But God has made no exception which the most ingenious mind can so construe, as to render it, even in the most remote degree, favourable to duelling. As this assertion will neither be denied nor doubted, it will only be necessary to add, that this precept stands in full force against duelling; and that every duel is a gross violation of its whole authority.
Nor is this all; duelling is a violation of this precept of the very worst kind ; superior in its guilt to most other crimes of the same nature, and inferior to none. For,
2. A duel is always the result of a design to take away human life.
I say always. It is not, however, my intention to deny, that there may be exceptions to this general declaration. But these are probably as few as to any general rule concerning human conduct. The challenge originally contains a proposition to kill, or to be killed. It is accepted with an acceptation of killing, or of being killed. Each of the combatants also takes his aim at the seat of life, and intends to destroy his antagonist, if he can. No pretence therefore is more unfounded, than that duellists do not design to kill each other.
3. Duelling always involves efforts to destroy life.
The weapons used in it are always the proper instruments of death ; and they are used with the utmost skill and care which the parties possess, for the direct purpose of producing this dreadful catastrophe.
4. Men are put to death in duels with more deliberation than in almost any
other case whatever. The challenger has always ample opportunity to deliberate, before he gives the challenge. This opportunity also, it is reasonably supposed, he extends as far as he pleases, both because the case is of the utmost importance to himself, and because he manages it according to his own choice. To him it is entirely optional, whether he will fight at all; and, when he has determined this point, at what time he shall give the challenge. Whatever time, therefore, he chooses to take for consideration, he actually takes; and this he himself will not deny to be a sufficient time. During this period, also, the
subject, being of the highest importance, and necessarily making the strongest impressions, must be often, if not always, in his mind; must therefore be viewed in its various lights, and must receive all the examination which such a mind is capable of giving to subjects of the highest consequence. Of course, a duel is invariably the result, if it be not the challenger's own fault, of the most ample deliberation. It must be his own fault also if this deliberation be not cool and thorough. All these observations, it is to be remembered, are applicable with the same force to the person challenged.
5. Duelling is, probably, always perpetrated with a spirit of revenge.
I say probably always. For that this is usually the fact no sober man can doubt for a moment. To me it seems inconceivable, that any man, whatever may have been his feelings in the earlier parts of this transaction, should go into the field, and employ himself in the several measures adopted by duellists for the purpose of taking away each other's lives, and not be under the influence of predominating passions. These passions can be no other than batred and revenge. If we trace this subject with even a moderate degree of attention, from its commencement to its close, it will, I think, be impossible for us to adopt any other opinion. The challenger receives, or at least believes himself to have received, an injury (of what kind is a matter of perfect indifference) sufficiently great to demand of him the exposure of his own life to probable destruction, and the death, so far as he is able to compass it, of the injurer. Now, let me ask, and let every sober man answer the question, whether an injury, felt to be of this magnitude, was ever regarded, or can possibly be regarded, by such men as duellists always are, without strong feelings of wrath and revenge?
revenge? Duellists, every one knows, are men pre-eminently proud, haughty, insolent, and proverbially irritable ; jealous to an extreme of what they call their own rights; disdaining to have them determined, as those of other men are, by tribunals of justice. They regard the forgiveness of injuries, and all the peaceful and gentle virtues of man, with supreme contempt; and claim to themselves, in opposition to the laws of God and their country, the adjudication of their own disputes, and the retribution of their own injuries. What shonld hinder a man of this character from indulging or exe