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The Burr-Hamilton Duel

The last duel—at least the last duel of note—in America took place on Sept. 13, 1859 in California, between Senator David C. Broderick and Judge David S. Terry.  Employed were .58 caliber pistols.  The New York Times comments:  

Slavery lay at the root of the disagreement. Senator Broderick, long a champion of the working class, opposed it; Judge Terry supported it. After the judge, who allied himself with the pro-South ‘Chivalry’ wing of the California Democratic Party, roundly denounced the anti-slavery wing, the Senator called him a ‘’miserable wretch.’’ Judge Terry, an expert shot, then issued a challenge.

Broderick was killed in the exchange, and California outlawed dueling shortly thereafter, joining a growing number of states.  Terry, however, proved the “live by the sword, die by the sword” aphorism:

He was shot to death in 1889 by the bodyguard of Justice Stephen Field of the United States Supreme Court after apparently attacking the Justice at a train station in Lathrop, Calif.

Benjamin Franklin

Terry was, apparently, a touchy and violent man, as Benjamin Franklin was not:

In a 1784 letter, Benjamin Franklin challenged the wisdom of dueling with a question: ‘How can such miserable Sinners as we are entertain so much Pride, as to conceit that every Offence against our imagined Honour merits Death?’ In the United States, dueling embodied the right of an American man to freely defend himself.

A sufficient number of Americans agreed with Franklin, and by the beginning of the 20th century, dueling was universally outlawed.  Unfortunately, contemporary American leftists seem determined to resurrect if not the particular practice, the impudent rage that provokes duels and their bloody result.

The cinematic theme is familiar: a quiet, family man wants only to be left alone to care for his family.  He suffers provocation after provocation, until the cruelty of his barbaric, and ugly, tormentors becomes too great for any man to bear, and the evil reap the whirlwind.  What usually breaks the Camel’s back is an attack on the protagonist’s wife or children. Real men brook no such cruelty.  Pajama boys, metrosexuals and Spartacus impersonators need not apply.  The audience invariably cheers, because these stories appeal to ancient archetypes, to human nature, unchanged through the ages.  Women and children must be protected.  Good must ultimately triumph over evil, or there is no hope.  Fast forward to October of 2018.

It has long been considered beyond the pale to involve a man’s family, particularly his children, in political battles.  This is not merely a matter of common decency, though that is a component.  It is a matter of individual and societal survival, recognition of the darker side of human nature.  A man that does not respond to such intentional, brutal provocation is not a man at all.  To call such a response undignified or uncivilized excuses its cruel, unmanly cause and denies human nature.  The long-suffering heroes of the movies must wait for extraordinary provocation before unleashing righteous retribution, so strong are our societal inhibitions against violence, but the archetype endures because we suppress violence by individual exercise of will.  It is always within us.

The wise man—and woman—understands there are lines that dare not be crossed.  Once crossed, there is no going back, escalation is inevitable, and the consequences are predictable.  This is, in large part, why some cross those lines; they want to provoke violence.  It is, for them, merely a logical, and easy, extension of Alinskyite tactics, community organizing to gain money, influence and political power.

The American political divide may be—and I know full well I’m generalizing—usefully characterized.  One side is informed, and restrained, by faith, by the civilizing influence of religion, which is practiced in daily fact rather than in occasional appearance.  With doctrines of non-violence, forgiveness and redemption, Christianity tends to suppress the worst tendencies of humanity.  Such people tend to see politics as a soiled, but potentially honorable endeavor, but above all, an endeavor with rules that keep it from becoming blood sport. There are lines they choose not to cross, tactics they will not employ.  As a result, they are often taken advantage of, yet, time and again, they offer the hand of reconciliation, friendship and peace, and are, with depressing regularity, again abused.

Such people believe antiquated notions of honor that lead them to revere the Constitution as the supreme law of the land, which must guide and limit the actions of all Americans, legislator, judge and executive.  They willingly embrace American constitutionalism, and are willing—indeed, honor bound–to say “even though that policy might be a good thing, the Constitution forbids it, so I’m not even going to propose it.”  They do not encourage people to harass or attack their political enemies.  They do not attack the families—and particularly not the children—of their political enemies, because they recognize the righteous rage that produces can lead to bloodshed. They willingly impose limits, not only on themselves, but on society at large.

These people do not embrace clan or tribe over all.  No victim or identity politics for them.  An insult to one does not provoke retribution by all that share their political views.  They embrace personal responsibility and at least try to deal with all men with sincerity.

The opposite side tends not to embrace faith, or if they do, tend to be Sunday and Holiday Christians, people whose daily lives are not informed by Christian doctrine.  As a result, while they may give lip service to non-violence, forgiveness and redemption, they don’t act on those virtues.  Many such see no need for redemption, because their politics are virtue itself, their policies non-falsifiable, perfect because they, unlike all socialists before them, are uniquely intelligent, uniquely virtuous and incapable of error.  Where their policies have failed in the past, or appear to fail in the present, this can only be because no one as pure as they have heretofore been involved.  With such certainty, they need no forgiveness, and there is nothing to be redeemed.  Violence is just another useful tactic, entirely justified by the virtue of their ideology, though they usually inspire others to do it, soiling their manicured hands being beneath the dignity of the self-imagined elite.

They regularly violate clear standards of decency and honor, and as a matter of practice, ignore American constitutionalism.  They do not honor the results of elections and actively work to undermine them.  They do not believe a legitimately elected president with whom they disagree has the right to appoint Supreme Court Justices or other public officials, and act to deny him that constitutional power.  Yet they demand their candidates be confirmed without opposition.  They see politics as blood sport, and are willing to employ any tactic necessary to win.  They will profess friendship, but only as long as it is politically useful, and they delight in tricking and taking advantage of the good will of others—it reinforces their unsupportable feelings of intellectual and moral superiority.

The supreme law of the land is whatever they need it to be to accomplish their current purpose.  They see the Constitution as a “living” document, when they are willing to acknowledge it at all. For them, it is at best a general, vague guideline, which may be ignored at will if it stands in the way of their political ends. This is why they see the Supreme Court (and lower courts) as a sort of super legislature, an unelected, non-reviewable body that will give them the policies they desire, policies that cannot be obtained at the ballot box because unenlightened deplorables, God and gun clingers all, demand adherence to the Constitution and the rule of law.

They recognize no limits. No tactic is out of bounds.  Any opposing them are inherently evil, hitlerian. Encouraging their followers to harass and attack themis not only imaginable, but necessary, even virtuous. They know their invocation of violence will lead to bloodshed, and they relish the thought.  They recognize the key to control of the future is to control today’s children, so a scorched earth policy towards the children and families of their political enemies is merely another, unremarkable, tactic in their bag of political dirty tricks.

Identity, victim politics is their stock in trade.  They deny personal responsibility, and enforce iron discipline on their clan/tribe.  A perceived, or often, a manufactured slight against any member of the clan is a slight against all, and must be ruthlessly repaid.  In reality, because virtually every member of their clan thinks alike, little arm twisting is required to enforce lockstep orthodoxy.

Sincerity?  George Burns well described their belief:

Sincerity is the most important thing in the world.  If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.

Burns was ironically criticizing the insincere.  The practitioners of post-constitutional politics lack irony and any kind of humor—apart from laughing at the misery they have caused others—and see his aphorism as a recommendation rather than an admonition.

You will notice, gentle readers, I have not ascribed these qualities to any particular political party, because not every member of either primary party may be so categorized.  However, the qualities I’ve described fit well enough to be easily identifiable, and for large numbers.

In the Trump Derangement era, we have seen increasing violence, and invocations of violence by the Left:Antifa, Black Lives Matter, Maxine Waters, and James T. Hodgkinson, among many others.  “Hodgkinson?” Who’s that, you ask?  He’s the leftist that tried to murder a score of congressional Republicans at a baseball practice in June of 2017.  Four were shot and Congressman Steve Scalise nearly killed.  The shooter was killed in a shootout with two members of Scalise’s security detail. Had they not been present, the attack would have been an unprecedented massacre.

Why is Hodgkinson’s name unfamiliar?  Because the media, now a wholly owned propaganda arm of the left, has done everything possible to wash the incident down the memory hole. Propaganda is an essential element of leftist tactics.

The attack on Brett Kavanaugh’s 10 year-old daughter, who prayed for Kavanaugh’s tormentor, has gone mostly unremarked upon by the Left. Few have called it out of bounds. Normal Americans were appalled.  Not only was it indecent, it violated the prohibition on attacking families, and taunted the very foundations of their faith.  These are people that do not taunt God.  The cartoonist, and those that appreciated his depiction do not recognize God, or any standard of decency.

There are consequences for crossing red lines. Eventually, even the truly virtuous can no longer remain peaceful.  With the Kavanaugh debacle, Democrats may have finally awakened even the dimmest members of The Stupid Party.  Even Lindsay Graham recently said Republicans might adopt Democrat tactics.  If they do, Democrats will have no one to blame but themselves.  As Kurt Schlichter has often noted, Democrats will not like the new rules they’ve established:

That photo is me about ten years ago, standing in the ruins of a land where people rejected the rule of law in favor of the rule of force. I think a lot about my year-long deployment to Kosovo these days. I think a lot about people today who, for short term political points, cavalierly disregard the rules, laws and norms that made America what it is. I think a lot about how liberals, especially those who boo God, should pray to Him that those rules, laws and norms are restored.

We no longer duel, but some seem determined to revive the practice.  They are ill prepared to survive it, and too arrogant to know.