Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Duel Definition:

The fighting of two persons, one against the other, by pre-arranged appointment, as a form of ultimate dispute resolution.

Related Terms: Code Duello, Chance Medley, Affray

Also known as dueling. Duels are now outlawed in most countries, and jurisdiction.

There was a rime, however, such as in the 1700s and 1800s, that disputes between two men was often "resolved" by the two men agreeing to the event of a due, replete with a set of rules of engagement.

The American grand-master of legal definitions in the 1800s, John Bouvier, in his 1914 edition of his Law Dictionary offered this commentary on the law as it then was in the United States. The Americans had a great interest in the law of duels and the outlawing of duels as one of the greatest and most consequential of duels was the duel between the Vice President of the DuelUnited States, Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton:

v"The fighting of two persons, one against the other, at an appointed time and place, upon a precedent quarrel.
"It differs from an affray in this, that the latter occurs on a sudden quarrel, while the former is always the result of design.

"When one of the parties is killed, the survivor is guilty of murder....1

(The deliberate killing of another in a duel is not a killing in a heat of passion which will mitigate the crime, however grievous the provocation may have been;2 but evidence of a mutual willingness to fight upon the part of persons, one of whom killed the other in a fight, has been held to authorize an instruction that the offence was murder in the second degree.3

"Fighting a duel, even where there is no fatal result, is of Itself a misdemeanor.4....

'Under the constitutions of some states, any one directly or indirectly engaged in a duel is forever disqualified from holding public office.5


  • Coin. v. Jones, 10 Bush (Ky.) 725
  • Barker v. People, 20 Johns. (N. Y.) 457;
  • NOTE 1: 1 Russ. Cr. 443 and Smith v. State, 1 Yerg. 228 (Tennesee)
  • NOTE 2: 3 East 581 and 8 Carr. & P. 644
  • NOTE 3: Wiley v. State, 65 S. W. 190 (Texas)
  • NOTE 4: 2 Com. Dig. 252; Clark, Cr. L. 840; Co. 3d; Inst. 157; Const. 167; Barker v. People, 2; Johns. (N. Y.) 457; State v. Herriott, 1 Mc-Mull. (S. C.) 126; Moody v. Com., 4 Mete. (Ky.) 1; and State v. Dupont 2 McCord 334 (South Carolina); Royall v. Thomas, 28 Gratt., 130, 26 Am. Rep. 835 (Virginia)
  • NOTE 5: Commonwealth v. Jones, 10 Bush (Kentucky, 1874) 725; Barker v. People, 20 Johns. (N. Y.) 457; Moody v. Com., 4 Mete. (Kentucky) 1; State v. Dupont, 2 McCord 334 (South Carolina) 334; Royall v. Thomas, 28 Gratt. (Va.) 130 (Virginia), 26 Am. Rep. 835.





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