Thursday, June 21, 1711.
Among the loose Papers which I have frequently spoken of heretofore, I find a Conversation between Pharamond and Eucrate upon the Subject of Duels, and the Copy of an Edict issued in Consequence of that Discourse.
Eucrate argued, that nothing but the most severe and vindictive Punishments, such as placing the Bodies of the Offenders in Chains, and putting them to Death by the most exquisite Torments, would be sufficient to extirpate a Crime which had so long prevailed and was so firmly fixed in the Opinion of the World as great and laudable; but the King answered, That indeed Instances of Ignominy were necessary in the Cure of this Evil; but considering that it prevailed only among such as had a Nicety in their Sense of Honour, and that it often happened that a Duel was fought to save Appearances to the World, when both Parties were in their Hearts in Amity and Reconciliation to each other; it was evident that turning the Mode another way would effectually put a Stop to what had Being only as a Mode. That to such Persons, Poverty and Shame were Torments sufficient, That he would not go further in punishing in others Crimes which he was satisfied he himself was most Guilty of, in that he might have prevented them by speaking his Displeasure sooner. Besides which the King said, he was in general averse to Tortures, which was putting Human Nature it self, rather than the Criminal, to Disgrace; and that he would be sure not to use this Means where the Crime was but an ill Effect arising from a laudable Cause, the Fear of Shame. The King, at the same time, spoke with much Grace upon the Subject of Mercy; and repented of many Acts of that kind which had a magnificent Aspect in the doing, but dreadful Consequences in the Example. Mercy to Particulars, he observed, was Cruelty in the General: That though a Prince could not revive a Dead Man by taking the Life of him who killed him, neither could he make Reparation to the next that should die by the evil Example; or answer to himself for the Partiality, in not pardoning the next as well as the former Offender.
‘As for me, says Pharamond, I have conquer’d France, and yet have given Laws to my People: The Laws are my Methods of Life; they are not a Diminution but a Direction to my Power. I am still absolute to distinguish the Innocent and the Virtuous, to give Honours to the Brave and Generous: I am absolute in my Good-will: none can oppose my Bounty, or prescribe Rules for my Favour. While I can, as I please, reward the Good, I am under no Pain that I cannot pardon the Wicked: For which Reason, continued Pharamond, I will effectually put a stop to this Evil, by exposing no more the Tenderness of my Nature to the Importunity of having the same Respect to those who are miserable by their Fault, and those who are so by their Misfortune. Flatterers (concluded the King smiling) repeat to us Princes, that we are Heaven’s Vice-regents; Let us be so, and let the only thing out of our Power be to do Ill.’
‘Soon after the Evening wherein Pharamond and Eucrate had this Conversation, the following Edict was Published.
Pharamond’s Edict against Duels.
Pharamond, King of the Gauls, to all his loving Subjects sendeth Greeting.
Whereas it has come to our Royal Notice and Observation, that in contempt of all Laws Divine and Human, it is of late become a Custom among the Nobility and Gentry of this our Kingdom, upon slight and trivial, as well as great and urgent Provocations, to invite each other into the Field, there by their own Hands, and of their own Authority, to decide their Controversies by Combat; We have thought fit to take the said Custom into our Royal Consideration, and find, upon Enquiry into the usual Causes whereon such fatal Decisions have arisen, that by this wicked Custom, maugre all the Precepts of our Holy Religion, and the Rules of right Reason, the greatest Act of the human Mind, Forgiveness of Injuries, is become vile and shameful; that the Rules of Good Society and Virtuous Conversation are hereby inverted; that the Loose, the Vain, and the Impudent, insult the Careful, the Discreet, and the Modest; that all Virtue is suppressed, and all Vice supported, in the one Act of being capable to dare to the Death. We have also further, with great Sorrow of Mind, observed that this Dreadful Action, by long Impunity, (our Royal Attention being employed upon Matters of more general Concern) is become Honourable, and the Refusal to engage in it Ignominious. In these our Royal Cares and Enquiries We are yet farther made to understand, that the Persons of most Eminent Worth, and most hopeful Abilities, accompanied with the strongest Passion for true Glory, are such as are most liable to be involved in the Dangers arising from this Licence. Now taking the said Premises into our serious Consideration, and well weighing that all such Emergencies (wherein the Mind is incapable of commanding it self, and where the Injury is too sudden or too exquisite to be born) are particularly provided for by Laws heretofore enacted; and that the Qualities of less Injuries, like those of Ingratitude, are too nice and delicate to come under General Rules; We do resolve to blot this Fashion, or Wantonness of Anger, out of the Minds of Our Subjects, by Our Royal Resolutions declared in this Edict, as follow.
No Person who either Sends or Accepts a Challenge, or the Posterity of either, tho’ no Death ensues thereupon, shall be, after the Publication of this our Edict, capable of bearing Office in these our Dominions.
The Person who shall prove the sending or receiving a Challenge, shall receive to his own Use and Property, the whole Personal Estate of both Parties: and their Real Estate shall be immediately vested in the next Heir of the Offenders in as ample Manner as if the said Offenders were actually Deceased.
In Cases where the Laws (which we have already granted to our Subjects) admit of an Appeal for Blood; when the Criminal is condemned by the said Appeal, He shall not only suffer Death, but his whole Estate, Real, Mixed, and Personal, shall from the Hour of his Death be vested in the next Heir of the Person whose Blood he spilt.
That it shall not hereafter be in our Royal Power, or that of our Successors, to pardon the said Offences, or restore [the Offenders ] in their Estates, Honour, or Blood for ever.
Given at our Court at Blois, the 8th of February, 420. In the Second Year of our Reign.
[Footnote 1: them]