American Politics at Ten Paces

Strict codes of conduct marked the relationships of early American Politicians, often leading to duels, brawls, and other—sometimes fatal—violence

Numerous books codified the rules of dueling or "code duello," including the 1829 All the Stages of a Quarrel, above, which mapped the position of the duelers' assistants, or seconds, on a dueling ground. Read more »

A Shooting And A Wedding.

An Unfortunate Affair at Fullerton Which at the End is Amicably Adjusted.

Joe Lyons, the nineteen-year-old son of Isaac Lyons of Orangethorpe, shot and seriously wounded Morris Smith, son of W. J. Smith of the same place, at Fullerton at about half-past 9 o’clock on last Thursday morning. Lyons had driven in from his father’s ranch in a cart and awaited the coming of Smith on the sidewalk on Commonwealth avenue near Smith’s butcher shop. The latter shortly after arrived, coming up on horseback through the alley leading out on to Commonwealth avenue in rear of Stern and Goodman’s store.Read more »

The Fateful Encounter

IN THE MOST FAMOUS DUEL IN AMERICAN HISTORY AARON BURR IS USUALLY SEEN AS THE VILLAIN, ALEXANDER HAMILTON AS THE NOBLE VICTIM, BUT WAS IT REALLY THAT SIMPLE?

Of all the thousands of duels fought in this country, only one is known to every high-school student. Never before or since has there been an encounter between two such nationally prominent men, the Vice President of the United States and the former Secretary of the Treasury. Moreover, the outcome was considered by most persons a triumph of Evil over Good—in flagrant violation of the American dream. Read more »

Pistols For Two … Coffee For One

“It is astonishing that the murderous practice of Benjamin Franklin. Yet continue it did, duelling should continue so long in vogue,” said often with peculiarly American variations

Few boys survive their school days without using their fists now and then. If these fights are extemporaneous affairs, fought in the immediate heat of anger, they are little more than animal reflex actions. But if they are of the “I’ll see you after school” variety, allowing time for rage to be replaced by trepidation, they become highly complex manifestations of human emotions and social pressures. By the time the young gladiators arrive on the field of combat, usually one or both of them would much prefer to be home watching television.Read more »

“Now Defend Yourself, You Damned Rascal!”

Andrew Jackson challenged Thomas Hart Benton in a bloody frontier brawl, but they later formed a political team which left its mark on America.

As the chanting of his slaves announced the approaching death of Andrew Jackson, on a June day in 1845, the old warrior spent part of his last conscious moments dictating farewell messages to men whose love he had valued—Francis P. Blair, Sam Houston, and Thomas Hart Benton.Read more »