I have just returned from one of those 14+ hour days when I get up before dawn and drive three hours to Boston and back for an all-staff diversity training on inclusion and sensitivity and power dynamics in the workplace. The drive home got me thinking of how some of my ancestors settled their differences.
You will no doubt be surprised at not finding me in the house this morning; but the cause is I am requested to act as Second to a friend in an affair of honor, which is to take place this morning near Chester. We leave home at 7 o'C in a hack & shall probably return between 11 & 12 o'clock. You need be under no
apprehensionfear as to the result for an injury to be done to Either Party, as they fight with swords & are both inexperienced in the use of the weapon.
Yours, E. Olmsted
Alas, there is no record of how poor Sarah Gilmore Olmsted responded to this bit of information, but as her son grew up to be Philadelphia City Solicitor, one assumes the outcome was neither personally injurious nor politically ruinous. Andrew Jackson was in the White House, after all.
In another corner of the family archive, I find a letter written in 1909 to my Great Grandfather Archibald Gracie Ogden about his mother's people and a duel in which his own Great Uncle William Gracie (1787-1842) had been engaged nearly 100 years before.
Dear Archie; - The following extract from a letter written by my great grandfather March 28th 1812 to one of his daughters may or may not be of interest. If he has said anything unpleasant about any relation of yours I am sorry, but it is too late to do anything as he died about 1820.
"You have no doubt heard, or soon will hear of a duel between W. Gracie (in which he has been tho' not seriously wounded) and a Mr. Hamilton. All that I have heard of it is that it arose from the former's attentions to a Lady to whom the latter was engaged and that the latter (a Southern man) is gone back to his country and the affair between him and the lady at an end, a circumstance of which I do not understand that the wounded hero means to avail himself as it seems all that he intended was a little occasional conversation without any serious intentions of any further consequence. The Lady's name is Heyward or Heywood. She is also from the South [illegible] and a great fortune."
If this is of any interest pass it on to your sisters. Sincerely Yours, Christopher R Carter
Thank heavens someone did think it of interest and that it remains a part of our family history. William Gracie was something of a ne'er-do-well: the son of merchant king Archibald Gracie, the founder of that that family in America, and the fellow who owned and expanded the Gracie mansion, now the official residence of the Mayor of New York City.
We did not receive any instruction in these Old School Conflict Resolution strategies at today's training. Pity. I have a lovely pair of dueling foils in the attic that haven't seen any use since my midnight fencing days in college. Why else have battlements on a dormitory?