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Eaton in a manner and tone not easily forgotten, "What kind of a man- a god, sir, a god." The spirit of the past seemed over her, as with trembling voice and deep emotion she spoke of the man whose powerful and unfaltering friendship had been her stay and bulwark during the terrible ordeal through which she had passed.
Accompanying her that evening to the humble home provided for her by a distant relative, she remarked, "I have seen the time, sir, when I could have invited you to an elegant home." She then said that when Major Eaton died, he left her an ample fortune but that some years later she unfortunately married a man younger than herself, who succeeded in getting her property into his hands and then cruelly deserted her.
Fiction indeed seems commonplace when contrasted with the story of real life such as this now penniless and forgotten woman had known. Once surrounded by all that wealth could give, herself one of the most beautiful and accomplished of women, her husband the incumbent of exalted official position, -now, wealth, beauty, and position vanished; the grave hiding all she loved; sitting in silence and desolation, the memories of the long past almost her sole companions. When in the tide of time has there been truer realization of the words of the great bard—
"The web of our life is of a mingled yarn,
Good and ill together?"
THE CODE OF HONOR
BLADENSBURG, A PLACE NOTORIOUS FOR DUELS · - FRANKLIN'S
GEN. CONWAY, FOR CONSPIRING AGAINST
DUELLING BY ILLINOISANS LINCOLN'S INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE PRELIMINARIES OF HIS DUEL WITH SENATOR SHIELDS.
HE very name "Bladensburg" is suggestive of pistol and bullet, savors indeed of human blood. It is associated with tragic events that during successive generations stirred emotions of indignation and horror that have not yet wholly died out from the memories of men. As the words "Baden-Baden" and "Monte Carlo" bring before us the gambler "steeped in the colors of his trade," so the mere mention of Bladensburg calls to mind the duellist, pistol in hand, standing in front of his slain antagonist.
Personal difficulties are now rarely if ever in this country adjusted by an appeal to "the code." The custom, now universally condemned as barbarous, was at an early day practically upheld by an almost omnipotent public opinion. As is well known, in many localities to have declined an invitation to "the field of honor" from one entitled to the des
ignation of "gentleman" would have entailed not only loss of social position, but to a public man have been a bar to future political advancement. Thanks to a higher civilization, and possibly a more exalted estimate of the sacredness of human life, the code in all our American States is a thing of the past.
And yet, revolting as the custom now appears, it held its place as a recognized method for the settlement of personal controversies among "gentlemen," to a time within the memories of men still living. The code, a heritage from barbaric times, lingered till it had caused more than one bloody chapter to be written, until it had taken from the walks of life more than one of our most gifted American statesmen.
Truer words were never written than those of Franklin at the time when the code was appealed to for the settlement of every dispute pertaining to personal honor: "A duel decides nothing; the man appealing to it, makes himself judge in his own cause, condemns the offender without a jury, and undertakes himself to be the executioner." And yet, the startling record remains that in the State of New Jersey, one of the ablest and most brilliant of statesmen met death at the hands of an antagonist scarcely less gifted, who was at the time Vice-President of the United States. The survivor of an encounter equally tragic, occurring near the banks of the Cumberland in 1806, was a little more than a score of years later elevated to the Presidency. The valuable life of the Secretary of State during the administration of the younger Adams was saved only by his antagonist magnanimously refusing to return the fire which came within an ace of ending his own life. Thirteen years after the Clay and Randolph duel, a member of Congress from Maine perished in an encounter at Bladensburg with a representative from Kentucky. Sixty-six years ago, a challenge to mortal combat was accepted by one who in later years was twice elected to the Presidency. One of the signers of the Declaration of Independence fell in a duel with an officer of the Colonial army, soon after that great event. There are many yet
living who read the startling telegram from the Pacific coast that a Senator from California had fallen in a duel with the Chief Justice of that State, and sad as it is, this dreadful recital might be much farther extended.
While a member of Congress many years ago, in company with Representatives Knott and McKenzie of Kentucky I spent some hours upon the historic duelling ground at Bladensburg, a Maryland village of a few hundred inhabitants, six miles from the city of Washington. Governor Knott pointed out the exact spot where Barron and Decatur stood in the memorable duel in 1820, in which the latter was killed. It is impossible to read the account of this fatal meeting even after the lapse of more than four score years, without a feeling of profound regret for the sad fate of one of the most gallant of all the brave officers the American Navy has known. It was truly said of Decatur: "He was one of the most chivalric men of any age or country." He was one of the little band of naval commanders who by heroic exploits at sea did so much to redeem the American name from the humiliation and disgrace caused by incompetent generalship upon land, in our second war with Great Britain. His encounters with the enemy were of frequent occurrence, and in each instance added new laurels to our little navy. If Commodore Decatur had rendered no other service to his country, that of the destruction of the Algerine pirates would alone entitle him to a place among its benefactors. His skill and daring when in command of our little fleet upon the Mediterranean destroyed forever the power of "the common enemy of mankind," avenged the insult to our flag, and secured for the American name an honored place among the nations of the world.
The tragic death of Decatur- recalling so much of gallant service has cast a spell about his name. It belongs in the list of the immortals, with the names of Sir Walter Raleigh, Captain Lawrence, Lord Nelson, and Oliver Hazard Perry. Cities and counties without number throughout our entire country have been given the honored name of Decatur.
Commodore Barron, too, had known much active service. For an alleged official delinquency, he had been court-martialed near the close of the War of 1812, and sentenced to a suspension of five years from his command. Smarting under this humiliation, he was bitter in his denunciation of all who were in any way concerned in what he regarded an act of flagrant injustice to himself. Chief among the officers who had incurred his displeasure was Commodore Decatur. A protracted and at length hostile correspondence ensued between the two, and this correspondence resulted at length in a challenge from Barron, accepted by Decatur. The latter had repeatedly declared that he bore no personal hostility toward Barron. Before going to the fatal field he told his friend William Wirt - then the Attorney-General of the United States that he did not wish to meet Barron, and that the duel was forced upon him. When he received the challenge, he assured a brother officer that nothing could induce him to take the life of Barron. In connection with this sad affair, Mr. Wirt—who was untiring in his efforts to effect a reconciliation - has left the record of a conversation with Decatur in which the latter declared his hostility to the practice of duelling, but that he was "controlled by the omnipotence of public sentiment." "Fighting," said he, "is my profession, and it would be impossible for me to keep my station and preserve my respectability without showing myself ready at all times to answer the call of any one who bore the name of gentleman."
The hostile meeting between Barron and Decatur occurred at the place already mentioned, March 22, 1820. The distance was eight paces, the weapons, pistols. Decatur's second was Captain Bainbridge, at a later day a distinguished admiral in our navy. As they took their places at the deadly range, Barron said, "I hope on meeting in another world we will be better friends than in this." To which Decatur replied, "I have never been your enemy, sir." At the word both pistols were discharged, making but a single report. Both combatants fell. Decatur was supported a short distance, and sank down near his antagonist,