Wednesday, April 10, 2013

New acquisition: Granville Sharp's "A Tract on Duelling" (1773)

Granville Sharp (1735-1813) is perhaps best known as the initiator of the British abolitionist movement and an important force in bringing the end of slavery in Great Britain. His antislavery work "The law of retribution, or, A serious warning to Great Britain and her colonies : founded on unquestionable examples of God's temporal vengeance against tyrants, slave-holders, and oppressors," published in 1776, was massively influential in Britain and the rebelling American colonies. We proudly hold that title as well, thanks to a generous gift from Professor Daniel R. Coquillette.

This new acquisition is the second and final edition of Granville Sharp's Tract on Duelling, in which he rails against the legal acceptance of the practice of duelling. Sharp collects the writings of none less than Sir Edward Coke, Sir Matthew Hale, Lord Chief Justice Holt, and Henri Bracton to support his argument. Sharp wrote pamphlets on a variety of topics, and many, including this one, are quite impassioned. He goes right to the point in his Preface, writing that

"[t]he intention of the following Tract is to prove that the plea of sudden Anger cannot remove the imputation and guilt of Murder, when a Moral Wound is willfully given with a weapon:

That the indulgence allowed by the Courts to voluntary Manslaughter in Rencounters, and in sudden Affrays and Duels, is indiscriminate, and without foundation in Law:

And that the impunity in such cases of voluntary Manslaughter is one of the principal causes of the continuance and present increase of the vase and disgraceful practice of Duelling."

Sharp ends the tract with even stronger language, stating that it is disgraceful that the protectors of duelling "still persist in the unreasonable and unjust practice of punishing lesser crimes with more severity than the crying Sin of voluntary Manslaughter, which, as I have already proved in my preface, is absolutely unpardonable in this World, by the Law of God!"

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