Dueling Outlawed

In Kentucky, any officer of the state must take an oath, like in other states. But, in Kentucky, the officers must swear that they “have not fought a duel with deadly weapons within this State nor out of it [which should cover all the possibilities], nor have I sent or accepted a challenge to fight a duel with deadly weapons, nor have I acted as second in carrying a challenge, nor aided or assisted any person thus offending, so help me God.” Basically, they must swear that they never have, in any way, been involved with a duel. Although this part of the oath generally produces chuckles from the audience and is clearly archaic, it was a necessary part of the Kentucky Constitution when it was created. Officially outlawed on November 10, 1801, dueling still maintains a fascinating hold on the country. While most people are not inclined to duel, Kentucky has retained this archaic clause through several different iterations of the constitution. However, dueling remained a difficult problem. In 1891, the problem was still so rampant that the Kentucky constitution retained the phrase out of necessity. It turns out that most duels commenced between men, who were likely to run for office. While Kentucky is not the only state to maintain such an archaic law on the books, it is the only one that still requires state officials and lawyers to sear the dueling clause. Surprisingly, though, there are states that have never forbidden dueling. Texas and Pennsylvania do not have laws against dueling, but, actually, have laws that regulate how the duel can take place and who can be involved. But, Kentucky remains at a stand-still over changing the rhetoric of their oaths. While some law-makers feel that the dueling clause is archaic and breaks the dignity of a swearing in ceremony, others want to maintain the clause as a reminder of Kentucky’s violent past. After all, the clause was enacted, because too many Kentuckians were killed in duels. Ultimately, the wording was not changed. So, since 1891, Kentucky officials stand up and swear to have never dueled or been involved in a duel. It may be archaic, but it is also points to Kentucky history.







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