Reading Log Megan Mckinlay
The journal article In Search of the Phantom Misnamed Honour’: Duelling in Upper Canada by Cecilia Morgan describes duelling during the early 1800’s. Dueling was a fashionable way of dealing with conflict in this time. One of the most popular reasons for dueling was women. Men would often defend a woman’s name or honour. Dueling was a terrible way of dealing with conflict, but it was fashionable which encouraged the tradition.
Dueling in the early 1800’s was used as a way of dealing with conflicts. The most common weapon used in duels in upper Canada was pistols. Pistols were far more dangerous than swords because they required no real skill. The only skill that might give a person an advantage was accuracy, but the duels were mainly point and shoot. Morgan found that “pistol duels killed at least 15 per cent of duellists” (1). With numbers like this it is hard to believe dueling was still legal. Pistol duels were not limited to the upper class; middle class was also involved in these kinds of duels because it was a way of appearing more upper class. Duelling in the early 1800’s was highly fashionable making it more of a danger because people would be willing to challenge a person for less of a conflict.
The issue of female integrity was a very popular conflict for dueling. Men would often challenge someone to duel for disgracing a man’s wife, family member, or even a woman of romantic interest. Morgan states, “It may have been more popular to use the image of an insult to a woman’s sexual reputation as the instigation for a duel” (2). We see a number of cases where a man challenged someone to a duel simply to defend a woman’s name. In the case of John Wilson, Robert Lyon, and Elizabeth Hughes, the two men dueled because of a joke and gossip that slandered Hughes name. Wilson refers to her as an “unprotected female” (3). This was not an uncommon event; many men would duel because of a woman. The mindset was that women could not protect themselves, and since dueling was fashionable at the time, it was easy to use that as an excuse to challenge someone. Dueling was a terrible way of dealing with one’s problems.
- Cecilia Morgan, “‘In search of the phantom misnamed honour’: Duelling in Upper
Canada,” Canadian Historical Review 76:4 (1995), 534.
- Stephen Bown, “Pistols at Six O’clock,” Beaver, 79: 3 (Aug/Sept. 1999), 3.