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|Inefficiency of the Law
Written by Barb JA
(9/30/2009 11:07 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, More serious than a slap on the wrist!, penned by Barbara
In my romps about the interweb yesterday reading about duels, I remember reading about (in Britain) the survivor of a duel and all of his seconds being convicted of murder. But I think it said their punishment for it was not harsh. Now I can't remember where I read it to link.
But I was very interested in the first link that Jeffrey gave above, this passage
* "If the legislator had always applied a proper system of satisfaction for offences, there would have been no duelling, which has been, and is still, but a supplement to the insufficiency of the laws."
Poor Eliza had no recourse against her seducer and father of her baby. Colonel Brandon fought the duel for the satisfaction for the offenses against her honour.
I thought that the Jeremy Bentham remark was fascinating and went looking for more. It appears he wrote An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation in 1789, but I found all the quotes about duelling in The Works of Jeremy Bentham published later. I'm linking my search page at the bottom, and you can the chapters are clickable so you can read it complete
He mentions duelling is ineffective punishment because ...
There is another peculiarity in this penal justice, which belongs only to duelling: costly to the aggressor, it is no less so to the party injured.* The offended party cannot avail himself of the right to punish the offender, without exposing himself to the punishment which he prepares for him;
So Mrs. Bennett worries that in trying to punish Wickham, Mr. Bennett may punish himself by being killed, injured, or being convicted of murder. Indeed, Colonel Brandon is endangering himself and Eliza. If he were killed, who would be left to protect her?
Also the duel can raise Willoughby up by his appearing brave to have engaged in a duel.
Of course, their duel never got abroad.
But I do think the most important point is that Eliza was unprotected. I don't know if Mr. Bentham was particularly concerned with protection of women. It seems history shows that woman suffer much more for sexual indiscretion than men. In the U.S. even, "dead-beat dad" laws I think are pretty recent, forcing the father to financially support his children. I wonder, in Austen's time was there any law that protected women from seducers, or gave rights to the illegitimate children? Could Eliza, had she wanted to submit to the publicity, have had any recourse against Willoughby?
|Bentham on duelling|
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