Two hundred years ago, if Donald Trump insulted Texan Ted Cruz' wife, and Cruz called Trump a sniveling coward - it would have been on at the crack of dawn - or whenever their seconds thought would be an appropriate time to fight a duel.
Popzette.com wrote a shortened version of this story, but I like the long version.
Here it is:
AN AFFAIR OF HONOR
What if Trump and Cruz Fought a Duel?
(1518 word, third edit, needs an ending - 3-24-2016)
Donald Trump just insulted Ted Cruz’s wife as publicly as a person can be insulted these days - on Twitter.
Cruz responded by angrily shaking his finger at TV cameras and saying, "Donald, you're a sniveling coward and leave Heidi the hell alone."
Trump responded by accusing Cruz of having no less than five affairs with mistresses.
If wife-slandering and using the c word spanks of Andrew Jackson and Charles Dickinson in 1806, or the level of hate between two powerful men smells like Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr in 1804, you are remembering your history correctly.
A hundred years ago, publicly insulting someone’s wife or calling a man a coward would have left a gentleman with no recourse - a duel was an affair of honor, and the best way to settle scores.
“Gentleman” might be a stretch when applied to Trump or Cruz, but a hundred years ago, if two politicians had insulted each other the way those two guys are, it would have been on: Pistols at paces or swords. Definitely not a Twitter battle. With no apologies forthcoming, they would have dueled and one of them might have died.
Dueling is as old as David and Goliath, but it was the fighting Irish who codified the practice of dueling and points of honor in 1777, in what was called the Code Duello.
Reading this code is like untangling Shakespeare or any kind of legalese, but if you can figure it out, the Code Duello is very specific on all points.
Rules 10 and 11 apply specifically to Cruz v. Trump:
Rule 10. Any insult to a lady under a gentleman's care or protection to be considered as, by one degree, a greater offense than if given to the gentleman personally, and to be regulated accordingly.
Rule 11. Offenses originating or accruing from the support of ladies' reputations, to be considered as less unjustifiable than any others of the same class, and as admitting of slighter apologies by the aggressor: this to be determined by the circumstances of the case, but always favorable to the lady.
In essence, if someone insults a gentleman’s chick, the gentleman should react with greater vengeance and more furious anger than if the insult was aimed at the gentleman.
The code was drawn up by gentlemen, for gentlemen, and was accepted throughout Europe and Great Britain and even in America - with local variations and evolutions based on changing times and tastes.
Before he was the seventh president of the United States, Andrew Jackson was a proud Tennessean and a scrapper, married to “the love of his life,” the former Miss Rachel Donelson Robbards - a divorcee, which was beyond scandalous among the upper classes of that time.
Jackson was not hesitant to take up a pistol to settle a score and his duels are numbered at anywhere from five to a hundred.
But his duel against a Tennessee lawyer named Charles Dickinson was witnessed and recorded, according to History.com:
Jackson and Dickinson were rival horse breeders and southern plantation owners with a long-standing hatred of each other. Dickinson accused Jackson of reneging on a horse bet, calling Jackson a coward and an equivocator. Dickinson also called Rachel Jackson a bigamist. (Rachel had married Jackson not knowing her first husband had failed to finalize their divorce.) After the insult to Rachel and a statement published in the National Review in which Dickinson called Jackson a worthless scoundrel and, again, a coward, Jackson challenged Dickinson to a duel.
Dickinson insulted Jackson’s wife - like Heidi Cruz, "the love of his life" - and called him a coward, and it was on.
According to Rule 16, they could have used swords or pistols, although swords were considered Old School in the early 19th Century.
Rule 16. The challenged has the right to choose his own weapon, unless the challenger gives his honor he is no swordsman; after which, however, he can decline any second species of weapon proposed by the challenged.
Dickinson was the challenged and a top marksman, so he chose pistols.
The where and how was determined by Rule 17:
Rule 17. The challenged chooses his ground; the challenger chooses his distance; the seconds fix the time and terms of firing.
And that’s how it went down. On May 30, 1806, Jackson and Dickinson and their seconds met at Harrison’s Mills on the Red River in Logan, Kentucky - Dickinson’s home turf. They stood 24 paces from each other (24 x 30” = 60 feet) and fired pistols.
Jackson took a bullet to the chest which broke ribs, but he stayed standing. Some say Jackson’s first shot was a misfire, which, according to the Code meant the duel was over.
Rule 20. In all cases a miss-fire is equivalent to a shot, and a snap or non-cock is to be considered as a miss-fire.
But Jackson fired a second shot, which killed Dickinson and silenced any talk of bigamy - but maybe not of cowardice.
Jackson ran for president in 1829, but the murder by dueling of another American did not affect his performance. The guy insulted Jackson’s wife and called him a coward, a scoundrel and an equivocator.
Of course he popped a cap in him. That is what a gentleman did.
The painter Manet, the writer Alexander Pushkin, Shakespeare contemporary Ben Johnson - all were involved in duels over the centuries. Declaration of Independence signer Button Gwinnett was killed in a duel, and Abraham Lincoln narrowly avoided a duel when he apologized to a fellow Illinois state official he had slurred in a newspaper.
But the most famous duel was former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton squaring off against Aaron Burr in July of 1804.
The hatred between these two ran deep. When Burr ran for governor of New York, Hamilton went after him like Donald Trump going after Cruz and everyone else - and Burr challenged Hamilton to an affair of honor.
According to some historians, Hamilton had no intention of shooting Burr, which would have been an affront to Rule 13:
Rule 13. No dumb shooting or firing in the air is admissible in any case. The challenger ought not to have challenged without receiving offense; and the challenged ought, if he gave offense, to have made an apology before he came on the ground; therefore, children's play must be dishonorable on one side or the other, and is accordingly prohibited.
Whether Hamilton engaged in children’s play or he just missed, he paid the ultimate price with a bullet to the gut. Hamilton died a day later, causing shock and outrage across the country.
Think of President Obama’s kindly, surfing, fly-fishing Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner getting killed by Eliot Spitzer. Kind of like that. Burr was accused of murder, arrested for treason for another act, fled to Europe, then returned to America when the heat was off and stayed out of prison.
Dueling was never illegal in America, but the acceptance of it faded by the time of the Civil War.
But that was then and this is now. The enmity between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz is every bit as heated as what went down between Jackson and Dickinson, and Hamilton and Burr.
Trump insulted Cruz’ wife in front of the whole country.
Cruz called Trump a coward, just as publicly.
These guys do not like each other, history is at stake, and they are slapping each other with the perfumed glove of Twitter and social media.
Should they throw down?
Preposterous, you say? Can that word even be applied to the 2016 presidential campaign?
Inconceivable? I don’t think you are using that word correctly.
If Trump and Cruz did decide to duel, and they followed that code laid down in 1777, this is how it would go down:
Rule 1. The first offense requires the first apology, though the retort may have been more offensive than the insult. Example: A tells B he is impertinent, etc. B retorts that he lies; yet A must make the first apology because he gave the first offense, and then (after one fire) B may explain away the retort by a subsequent apology.
Trump was guilty of the first offense - insulting Cruz’ wife, so he would be required to apologize. We all know how good Trump is at that, so on to Rule 2.
The Code Duello is very specific on the roles of the seconds - loading pistols, for example:
Rule 18. The seconds load in presence of each other, unless they give their mutual honors they have charged smooth and single, which should be held sufficient.
But there isn’t a lot of criteria on how to choose your second:
Rule 14. Seconds to be of equal rank in society with the principals they attend, inasmuch as a second may either choose or chance to become a principal, and equality is indispensible. (sic)
Should Cruz and Trump meet in an affair of honor: who would be their seconds?
Trump would probably tap one of his sons - maybe Eric the elephant hunter who seems comfortable around weapons.
Cruz could have a lottery, sell tickets, and increase his war chest by millions.
ALTERNATIVE STEVE HAWK ENDING
Close with a speculation on how the duel would go down. Who's the better shot? Cruz, of course. Texas and all that.
Trump will brag in advance that he's a sharpshooter, the best you've ever seen, fantastic with a handgun, amazing.
And then when he's on the ground, bleeding out, he'll deny that he's been hit.
ALTERNATIVE JEFF GALBRAITH ENDING
Cruz should totally duel him. Even if just with paintball pistols. They do make dueling sets of these, I checked.