PopZette

Maybe Trump, Cruz Should Just Duel It Out

Their spat has become an affair of honor, and the Code Duello sets out what follows

Donald Trump insulted Ted Cruz’s wife on Twitter, a move seen as a new low in political blows. Cruz responded by pointing a finger at TV cameras and saying, “Donald, you’re a sniveling coward and leave Heidi the hell alone.”  

The modern-day exchange of words sounds like the old-fashioned equivalent of a slap in the face with a perfumed glove — and a challenge to the death. Just think: Two hundred years ago, it would have been on between Cruz and Trump, in a very different way. The two wouldn’t just be throwing political shade. They would be back-to-back in a field somewhere, pacing off, pistols in hands. They would have dueled — and one of them would likely have died. 

Those were the rules, according to the Code Duello, the 1777 Irish code governing dueling. In essence, if someone insulted a gentleman’s lady, the gentleman should react even stronger than if the insult were aimed at him. The code was drawn up by gentlemen, for gentlemen, and was accepted throughout Europe and Great Britain and even in America.

The Code Duello is a very specific document, but Rule 10 applies directly to Cruz v. Trump:

Rule 10. Any insult to a lady under a gentleman’s care or protection to be considered as, by one degree, a greater offense than if given to the gentleman personally, and to be regulated accordingly.

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Trump is sure to go down in history for his political performance this year. He’s reminiscent of another historic political figure who wasn’t afraid to spar with anyone who crossed him. Before he was the seventh president of the United States, Andrew Jackson was a proud Tennessean and a scrapper, married to the former Miss Rachel Donelson Robbards. 

Jackson was not hesitant to take up a pistol to settle a score, whether to defend her honor or his own. History.com says that Jackson participated in anywhere from five to 100 duels (yes, that’s quite a range…). One duel involved a Tennessee lawyer named Charles Dickinson. Jackson and Dickinson got into an argument over a horse bet. Dickinson called Jackson a coward and an equivocator. Dickinson also called Jackson’s wife, Rachel, a bigamist. (Rachel had married Jackson not knowing her first husband had failed to finalize their divorce.)

Jackson challenged Dickinson to a duel. They could have used swords or pistols, according to the rules, but by the early 19th century, swords were considered old school. Dickinson chose pistols. On May 30, 1806, Jackson and Dickinson met in Logan, Kentucky, stood 24 paces from each other, and fired pistols.

Jackson took a bullet to the chest, which broke ribs, but he stayed standing. Some say Jackson’s first shot was a misfire, which, according to the Code, meant the duel was over. But Jackson fired a second shot, which killed Dickinson and silenced his talk once and for all.

Jackson ran for president in 1829, and the dueling murder of another American did not affect his performance.

Painter Edouard Manet, Russian writer Alexander Pushkin and Shakespeare contemporary Ben Johnson were all involved in duels over the centuries — but the most famous was former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton’s duel against Aaron Burr in July of 1804.

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These guys did not like each other. When Burr ran for governor of New York, Hamilton went after him like Donald Trump has gone after Cruz — and Burr challenged Hamilton to an affair of honor.

According to some historians, Hamilton had no intention of shooting Burr. Hamilton fired and missed, then took Burr’s bullet to the stomach. Hamilton died a day later, causing shock and outrage across the country. Burr was accused of murder, arrested for treason for another act, fled to Europe — then returned to America when the heat was off and stayed out of prison.

Painter Edouard Manet, writer Alexander Pushkin, Shakespeare contemporary Ben Johnson — all were involved in duels over the centuries. Declaration of Independence signer Button Gwinnett was killed in a duel, and Abraham Lincoln narrowly avoided a duel when he apologized to a fellow Illinois state official he had slurred in a newspaper.

Dueling was never illegal in America, but the acceptance of it faded by the time of the Civil War.

But that was then and this is now. The enmity between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz is every bit as heated as what went down between Jackson and Dickinson, and Hamilton and Burr. These guys do not like each other, history is at stake, and they are slapping each other with the perfumed glove of Twitter and social media. It’s on.