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The Broderick-Terry Duel
April 3, 2012 3:56 AM   Subscribe

On September 13, 1859, a former Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court shot and killed a U.S. Senator in what has been called the last notable duel in American history. The duel itself can be interpreted as a sort of proxy battle between pro- and anti-slavery groups of the time, and a harbinger of the American Civil War (which would begin a year and half later).
posted by MattMangels (10 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
The chosen weapons were two Belgian .58 caliber pistols. Broderick was unfamiliar with this type of gun mechanism, while Terry, in contrast, spent the previous days practicing with this gun.   At the moment of the duel, before the final “one-two-three” count, Broderick’s gun misfired into the dirt. He then stood tall as Terry aimed directly at Broderick’s chest and fired. While Terry later claimed to have only grazed him with a flesh wounded, his bullet entered Broderick’s chest and lung. 

That doesn't sound like the act of gentleman.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:10 AM on April 3, 2012


In an instance of karma, Terry later lost a court case in front of a judge, Stephen Field, who had been a friend of Broderick's. Terry was upset and assaulted Field at a train station. Field's bodyguard shot and killed Terry.

Wild west indeed.
posted by vacapinta at 4:16 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Modern interpretation:

Terry: "Open a portion of the California to Southerners and their property."
Broderick: "That shit cray."
Terry: "I now take the earliest opportunity to require of you a retraction of those remarks."
Broderick: "That shit cray."
Terry: "I demand satisfaction."

Broderick fires first and misses.
Terry fires and hits.
Broderick: "That shit cray cray."

Baker: "That shit cray cray."
The media: "That shit cray cray."
Abraham Lincoln: "That shit cray cray."

The South: "This shit cray."
The North: "That shit cray."

The historian: "There was a moment of cray that went cray cray, soon, the whole country was cray, and I think today, we can all agree, that whole shit was cray."
posted by nickrussell at 4:17 AM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


That doesn't sound like the act of gentleman.

In fairness, I don't think the challenger nor the man challenged had much say in the choice of weapon. According to the Code Duello, the seconds would negotiate such things. Unfortunately for Broderick, it seems his second was second rate:

As it was described later, "Both pistols had hair triggers, but Broderick's was more delicately set than Terry's, so much so that a jar might discharge it. Broderick's seconds were inexperienced men, and no one realized the importance of this difference.
posted by three blind mice at 4:56 AM on April 3, 2012


My 30 seconds of Wikipedia research paint a pretty bad picture of Broderick (not that he deserved to get killed in a duel). He was on the right side of the slavery question, but he made a small fortune by minting $10 gold coins with $8 of gold in them and used that to spend 6 years as essentially the corrupt dictator of San Francisco. It makes his dying statement that, "I die because I was opposed to a corrupt administration and the extension of slavery," ring a little hollow.

19th century California sounds pretty bonkers.
posted by Copronymus at 5:20 AM on April 3, 2012


19th century California sounds pretty bonkers.

19th C. America was freakin' insane! Honestly, everything I have read makes it sound like the 19th C in pretty much all of Europe, Asia, and North America was fairly crazy with lunatics in the political field vying for who could propose the most ludicrous and evil legislation and then make the practical application of that legislation even worse. As I recall, Africa and South America also got the full "benefit" of this era, which seemed plagued by industrial capitalism, although I expect it's unfair to blame everything on that creed.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:05 AM on April 3, 2012


Upon review of Copronymus's post and a bit of digging my own, I came here to say the following:

Two lousy politicians enter the ring. One lousy politician leaves. So who's up for reinstating this sort of governmental challenge system?
posted by Blue_Villain at 6:45 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


In an instance of karma, Terry later lost a court case in front of a judge, Stephen Field, who had been a friend of Broderick's. Terry was upset and assaulted Field at a train station. Field's bodyguard shot and killed Terry.

But everyone was armed, so you know they did it politely.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:20 AM on April 3, 2012


I think this duel is pretty noteworthy, and it happened after 1859.
posted by crunchland at 7:38 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


You really need to read the FULL story and context of this duel in relation to the Supreme Court Case of In Re Neagle. You get another shooting, the parties of the first duel, probate and the love of a woman. Did I mention the shooting? For a dry court case this always got the undergraduates' attention in class.
posted by jadepearl at 9:42 AM on April 3, 2012


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