(Opinion) Dueling

This one might be easier for fans of the smash hit Broadway show "Hamilton," as its subject, Alexander Hamilton, was one of the authors of the Federalist Papers, along with James Madison and John Jay. These three men penned the papers to rouse public support of the new system of government proposed in the Constitution.

Everyone seems to believe that the United States is more divided now than it has ever been. Whether this is true or not — it’s not — it is clear that America needs a method of solving conflicts quickly and indisputably. Arguments on Twitter haven’t been working, so there is only one good alternative: dueling.

Dueling is a tradition with its roots in the founding of the United States. In addition to the famous Hamilton-Burr duel, one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence named Button Gwinnett, was killed in a duel with his political rival, preventing him from seeing the Revolutionary War through to its end. James Monroe almost beat Aaron Burr to killing Alexander Hamilton. Later on, Andrew Jackson became the first and only U.S.  president to have killed someone in a duel.

Duels can work for a variety of conflicts. Someone defames you in front of a crowd? Duel. A classmate refuses to stop talking during lectures? Duel. Your professor wants to give you homework over break? Duel.

The best application of dueling would be in politics, of course. Instead of hoping Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., allows for a vote, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., can challenge him to a duel in order to get legislation onto the floor of the Senate. The new Democrats could fight Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her support on climate change measures. Everyone would finally get to express their feelings towards Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in a productive manner.

This would demonstrate to their constituents that they care about their roles as lawmakers. Their approval ratings might even go up.

Anyone with any knowledge of the American legal system is well aware of just how convoluted it is. Currently, getting a hearing can take months or even years. A duel would bypass all of that waiting, offering much swifter recourse. Duels could be used for both civil and criminal issues, clearing up at least some of the backlog.

The court system doesn’t work for everyone. Those with more money are far more likely to prevail in a court of law, as they are able to afford whole teams of high-caliber attorneys. A duel levels the playing field as people fight for something that cannot be bought or sold: honor. In Europe, it was far from common for nobles to duel one another, but in the United States and Canada, the lack of a gentry class early on allowed for the tradition to extend throughout society. A large portion of the early American duelists were judges, politicians and newspaper editors for this very reason.

It would also provide an alternative for people who are going to fight, anyway. Sometimes, people are too mad to think straight or wait for due process to take its course. A duel would allow people to do so in a more regulated setting.

The code duello is a set of rules that govern duels, and was first conceived in Italy. In the U.S., there was a different variation of the code duello, but all of them provide a set of rules that participants in a duel must abide by in order to maintain their honor. Even as two men prepared to kill one another, they were expected to remain courteous at all times with their opponent.

Originally, duels were fought with swords, then moved on to pistols, though other weapons were frequently used. Guns make the most sense nowadays, but other weapons could be used, like knives or sticks. The intention doesn’t have to be to kill, just to force your opponent into submission.

So much fuss has been made over the past few years about “American culture” and “celebrating our heritage.” Here’s a way to honor American history without the racism or expensive monuments.

Perhaps the most important reason for reclaiming dueling as an American tradition is that it would force people to think before they act. Instead of going around insulting people, those inclined towards rudeness would have to consider if they are willing to engage in a fight  — potentially to the death — over their words. One would no longer be able to be casually defamatory. For those complaining ad nauseum about a lack of civility in today’s discourse, here is a means of solving that issue.

Unfortunately, dueling is illegal in many places in the U.S. and a number of Southern states banned lawmakers from engaging in duels in an attempt to cut down its popularity.

Opinions columnist

Sally is a senior political science student. When she's not reading about politics, she's writing about politics.

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