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Every Rule In The Code Duello, The Stupidest Way Men Used To Settle Beef  

Justin Andress
18.9k views 26 items

From the medieval era up until the mid-19th century, dueling was a fixture throughout the “civilized” world. Despite the rule of law spreading through every nation for the previous three centuries, gentlemen still felt the need to protect their honor in face-to-face duels. Of course, these were soft-handed nobles, not common ruffians, and so complex rules of dueling were put in place to insure that offenses were put to bed without the involvement of larger families or factions. 

Enter the Code Duello. What is the Code Duello? It's a series of rules first crafted in Ireland in 1777 by gentlemen idiots. The goal of the code was to instill in dueling a sense of order and pragmatism, never mind that principle participants had totally thrown pragmatism to the wind when they tried to solve their problems with violence. Until dueling was finally squashed out under a pile of legislation, the rules of the Code Duello were the primary ways men used to settle beef. Each region of the world adopted their own version of the Code Duello, but they all very fairly the same.

Here, for your consideration, a modern day explanation of every rule in the Code Duello as seen through the eyes of completely made-up dispute.

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Rule 5: Finally, Some Actual Violence
Rule 5: Finally, Some Actual V... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Every Rule In The Code Duello, The Stupidest Way Men Used To Settle Beef
Photo:  Bauce and Rouget via Wikimedia Commons

When two duelers resort to physical violence, sh*t officially gets real in the Code Duello. Violence can only be remedied with more violence. Them’s the rules. Basically once someone is hit with a bullet, there's no turning back. You can't apologize for that and have to just keep shooting. That is, until someone cries uncle - then the whole thing is off. 

Rule 5: “As a blow is strictly prohibited under any circumstances among gentlemen, no verbal apology can be received for such an insult. The alternatives, therefore - the offender handing a cane to the injured party, to be used on his own back, at the same time begging pardon; firing on until one or both are disabled; or exchanging three shots, and then asking pardon without proffer of the cane.”

Rule 6: There’s Mandatory Hitting
Rule 6: There’s Mandatory Hitt... is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Every Rule In The Code Duello, The Stupidest Way Men Used To Settle Beef
Photo:  Jean-Léon Gérôme via Wikimedia Commons

If the first man lies to second and the latter responds by whopping the first with his cane, then the fight is locked in for two blows each - unless the second kills or disables the liar in the first shot.

Rule 6: “If A gives B the lie, and B retorts by a blow (being the two greatest offenses), no reconciliation can take place till after two discharges each, or a severe hit; after which B may beg A's pardon humbly for the blow and then A may explain simply for the lie; because a blow is never allowable, and the offense of the lie, therefore, merges in it.”

Rule 7: The Time And Date Are Set, So There Will Be Blood
Rule 7: The Time And Date Are ... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Every Rule In The Code Duello, The Stupidest Way Men Used To Settle Beef
Photo:  publicdomainpictures.net

For a change, Rule 7 is reasonably straightforward: “No apology can be received, in any case, after the parties have actually taken ground, without exchange of fires.” So, if you challenge someone to a duel, you better mean it. There's no backing out of it, according to the Code Duello. 

Rule 8: If You Agree To A Private Duel, You Can Keep It Private
Rule 8: If You Agree To A Priv... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Every Rule In The Code Duello, The Stupidest Way Men Used To Settle Beef
Photo: Wordpress

If you and your dueling partner agree to a private duel, you don't have to tell anyone about it. Duelers weren't even required to tell each other exactly why they were fighting in a private duel unless specifically asked by the challenged. 

"No challenger is obliged to divulge his cause of challenge ... unless required by the challenged to do so before their meeting."