DUELLING: THE PROGRESS OF OPINION.
Avruotrust the Court and the Government may feel disposed to offer passive resistance to the agitation now directed against duel- ling, it is palpable that public feeling upon the subject is rapidly assuming a tone by which this impediment must be overborne. Amidst conflicting views of the nature of the crime, no suggestions reach us but such as are accompanied by an earnest call for mea- sures towards its suppression, and which point at the same time to the strong opportunities of the present moment.
Our correspondent, " A Hater of Bullies," whose proposed re- medy we inserted a fortnight back, complains that we have taken a half-sided view of the question in proposing to abolish duelling by the infliction of penalties "before any thing has been devised to supply its place " : but this impression can only have resulted from a half-sided interpretation of our remarks. We had already noticed his own suggestion ; but apart from this, the very penalties which we recommended would carry by their enactment a sufficient com- pensation for the right of slaughter which they are intended to abolish. It was proposed that any person holding a commission in her Majesty's service who should engage, hereafter, either as prin- cipal or second in a duel, should be subject to dismissal and be in- capacitated from holding employment under the Crown ; and if we may suppose that to a soldier, or other officer, every grievance would seem slight compared with that of being deprived for ever of the honour of defending his sovereign and his country, it will be plain that in the risk of forfeiting that honour an overmastering reason is furnished to him to decline a challenge, and that the existence of this reason would be sufficient to throw popular odium of the strongest kind upon those who might offer the slightest dis- respect to one whose hands were thus tied, while it would also fall with like severity upon one who holding a commission should 'wantonly insult those to whom he is unable to offer satisfaction. "Cure society," exclaims our correspondent, "of its toleration of insolent behaviour; teach it to take part with the insulted; and duels will fall of themselves." It is not easy to see how a much more efficient schooling of society could be contrived than in the course which be condemns. It must be remembered, too, that in this case the penalties applied to the individual confer distinction upon the class ; showing that, in the eye of the Sovereign, the lives of its members are too valuable to be risked in a personal quarrel. The whole scheme as stated by us amounts to an honourable pro- hibition; and if this distinction could be extended not only to all holding the Royal commission but to the members of both Houses of the Legislature, we believe that it would cause no discontent, and that duelling, thus extinguished among the really fashionable, would very soon be abandoned by their imitators.
But enough of these points. The great fact stands plainly out, that a loathing of the vice is daily increasing ; that its suppression is called for ; and that the difficulty, if there is a difficulty, consists not in finding a remedy but in selecting the best. Discussion in Parliament would have drawn forth the views of the class most interested, and would have rendered the task an easy one : but neither from the Throne, from the Ministers, from the Peers, Temporal or Spiritual, nor from the Lower House, comes one word of congratulation upon the improved tone of the popular mind, or the slightest hint that it will be turned to good account Public opinion, hitherto favourable to the degrading and impious practice, at length inclines to the other side, and has made itself distinctly heard; but, apparently, it is yet wanting in force to overcome the inertia of the Government. Sufficient strength for this will perhaps not be accumulated until another fatality take place, when the barbarous privilege will be swept away by a burst of indignation, instead of being subdued, as it should have been, with the calm resolution that befits the accomplishment of a moral end. Meanwhile, however, much good has been attained by the manifestations of changed feeling which have occurred. Up to the present time, even those by whom duelling has been
most condemned have been divided as to the party by whom the deepest responsibility should be borne. The immediate actors, the Government, and the community at large, have all had to bear a portion of the sin; and to the last the heaviest degree of guilt has rightly been affixed. Circumstances are now altered ; and it is impossible to avoid the conclusion, that if the remedies which have been proposed, and not impugned, be now wholly slighted, it will be by the present advisers of the Crown, when life is next sa- crificed, that the deepest accountability must be sustained. It is possible that the Queen may feel strongly upon the point, despite the indifference of the Minister ; and if such be the case, the ne- cessary practical measures may yet be adopted. The Association for the Discouragement of Duelling have convened a meeting to consider the propriety of presenting a memorial to her Majesty ; and this step, if resolved upon, will put the matter in its true position.