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The Duel Between France and Germany   By: (1811-1874)

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Ralph Zimmerman, David Starner, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.

THE DUEL BETWEEN FRANCE AND GERMANY

REPRINTED FROM "ADDRESSES ON WAR"

BY CHARLES SUMNER

THE DUEL BETWEEN FRANCE AND GERMANY, WITH ITS LESSON TO CIVILIZATION.

LECTURE IN THE MUSIC HALL, BOSTON, OCTOBER 26, 1870.

"When kings make war, No law betwixt two sovereigns can decide, But that of arms, where Fortune is the judge, Soldiers the lawyers, and the Bar the field."

DEYDEN, Love Triumphant , Act I. Sc. 1.

LECTURE.

MR. PRESIDENT, I am to speak of the Duel between France and Germany, with its Lesson to Civilization. In calling the terrible war now waging a Duel, I might content myself with classical authority, Duellum being a well known Latin word for War. The historian Livy makes a Roman declare that affairs are to be settled "by a pure and pious duel"; [Footnote: "Puro pioqne duello." Historie , Lib. I. cap. 32.] the dramatist Plautus has a character in one of his plays who obtains great riches "by the duelling art," [Footnote: "Arte duellica." Epidicus , Act. III. Sc. iv. 14.] meaning the art of war; and Horace, the exquisite master of language, hails the age of Augustus with the Temple of Janus closed and "free from duels," [Footnote: "Vacuum duellis." Carmina , Lib, IV. xv. 8.] meaning at peace, for then only was that famous temple shut.

WAR UNDER THE LAW OF NATIONS A DUEL.

But no classical authority is needed for this designation. War, as conducted under International Law, between two organized nations, is in all respects a duel, according to the just signification of this word, differing from that between two individuals only in the number of combatants. The variance is of proportion merely, each nation being an individual who appeals to the sword as Arbiter; and in each case the combat is subject to rules constituting a code by which the two parties are bound. For long years before civilization prevailed, the code governing the duel between individuals was as fixed and minute as that which governs the larger duel between nations, and the duel itself was simply a mode of deciding questions between individuals. In presenting this comparison I expose myself to criticism only from those who have not considered this interesting subject in the light of history and of reason. The parallel is complete. Modern war is the duel of the Dark Ages, magnified, amplified, extended so as to embrace nations; nor is it any less a duel because the combat is quickened and sustained by the energies of self defence, or because, when a champion falls and lies on the ground, he is brutally treated. An authentic instance illustrates such a duel; and I bring before you the very pink of chivalry, the Chevalier Bayard, "the knight without fear and without reproach," who, after combat in a chosen field, succeeded by a feint in driving his weapon four fingers deep into the throat of his adversary, and then, rolling with him, gasping and struggling, on the ground, thrust his dagger into the nostrils of the fallen victim, exclaiming, "Surrender, or you are a dead man!" a speech which seemed superfluous; for the second cried out, "He is dead already; you have conquered." Then did Bayard, brightest among the Sons of War, drag his dead enemy from the field, crying, "Have I done enough?" [Footnote: La tresjoyeuse, plaisante et recreative Hystoire, composee par le Loyal Serviteur, des Faiz, Gestes, Triumphes et Prouesses du Bon Chevalier sans Paour et sans Reprouche, le Gentil Seigneur de Bayart: Petitot, Collection des Memoires relatifs a l'Histoire de France, Tom. XV. pp. 241, 242.] Now, because the brave knight saw fit to do these things, the combat was not changed in original character. It was a duel at the beginning and at the end. Indeed, the brutality with which it closed was the natural incident of a duel. A combat once begun opens the way to violence, and the conqueror too often surrenders to the Evil Spirit, as Bayard in his unworthy barbarism... Continue reading book >>




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