Tag Archives: dueling

- Ten Paces! Fire!

On 28 November 1818, John McCarty of Loudoun County wrote a short letter to the Speaker of the House of Delegates of Virginia, declining the seat he had recently been elected to in that body. The reason? Since his election, he had accepted a challenge from his cousin, U. S. Senator Armistead T. Mason, and would therefore be unable to take the required oath against dueling.

 

Arising from the practices of European nobility, for many years dueling was a surprisingly frequent occurrence in American life—and politics. In a society pervaded by ideas of honor and reputation, disputes that started in the political realm quickly turned personal, and it was far from rare for politicians to engage in so-called “affairs of honor;” the Hamilton-Burr duel is only one of the most famous examples.

Politics were also at the root of the disagreement between John Mason McCarty and his cousin, Armistead Thompson Mason. The two men already had an acrimonious political relationship, stemming from a contentious election where McCarty supported Federalist Charles Fenton Mercer over the Democratic-Republican Mason for a seat in the House of Representatives. Although Mason was selected to serve in the U. S. Senate, McCarty and Mason continued to take potshots at each other in the press, publishing numerous letters in the Leesburg newspaper The Genius of Liberty. In May 1818, the … read more »

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