"The code preserved a dignity, justice and decorum that have since been lost…to the great detriment of the professions, the public and the government. The present generation will think me barbarous but I believe that some lives lost in protecting the tone of the bar and the press, on which the Republic itself so largely depends, are well spent."
- Charles Gibson
That quote is taken from Doris Kearns Goodwin's masterful tome Team of Rivals, a piece of such historical importance that it is widely considered a must-read for anybody serious in politics. Prior to the eloquent words of Gibson, Goodwin writes, "Years later, reflecting on the Southern "Code" of dueling, Bates's friend Charles Gibson maintained that as wicked as the code was, the vulgar public behavior following the demise of the practice was worse still." I don't think anyone can argue against the last sentiment given the rise of putrid waste found on any one of the 3 major news networks. If it's not some bloated toad spewing about birth certificates, it's an ostrich chirping with head buried in sand. It's enough to put anyone into an apathetic torpor.
There is no honor among thieves and charlatans these days and that is exactly what dueling would establish: a code of honor. We lack civility and empathy for our fellow man and ironically enough I believe killing in defense of such values is important to sustain a civilization. Life has become a constant search for catharsis, but we've lost the meaning of our words with anonymity. 99% of the internet community wouldn't write the salacious statements they do if their name was attached to it. To say something and have to back it up if challenged would BE cathartic to our entire society. Dueling itself was called an "affair of honor".
Of course one could always deny the challenge of a duel and apologize for their disgraceful discourse. Congressman George McDuffie made the mistake of taking a personal shot at Edward Bates who immediately challenged him to an "affair of honor". McDuffie apologized for his disrespectful manner and politely declined. Would Joe Wilson have yelled "You lie!" at President Obama if he may be forced to back up such accusations with a pistol? Andrew Jackson was such a good dueler that a would be assassin tried to take a shot at him from a few yards away and both of his pistols misfired. Jackson attacked him with his cane howling with a mixture of rage and unfettered joy. Would the very nature of political/religious/historical discourse be shaken at it's roots, with the leeches falling like auburn leaves.
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
American Lion by Jon Meachem