Monday, April 4, 2016

Letters In the Matter of the Duel, September 4, 1765, in the village of Dumfries, Virginia - SCOTT, BAYLIS, and BULLITT


On September 2nd, John Scott wrote two letters, one to Colonel John Baylis, challenging him to the duel, and one to his brother-in-law, Cuthbert Bullitt. He asked his brother-in-law to be his “Second,” and to deliver the letter to John Baylis. He says it will do no good to try to change his mind.

Letter #1. Letter to Cuthbert Bullitt from Johnny Scott

“Dear Sir:  Enclosed I have sent you my letter to Baylis, which I have not sealed. If you have any material objection to it you must come up with my Father tonight and between us we will write another.  But I would not have it postponed any farther if it is possible to avoid it, because as I am resolved to fight, nothing shall hinder me.  I think we can’t come together too soon, therefore you must not let a trifling objection prevent your giving him the enclosed. Pray don’t talk to me any more about prudence, forbearance, and the consequences of what I have undertaken, for I am resolved to be deaf to all you can say.  And if you are so unkind as to refuse to attend me, rather than submit to such insults as Baylis has offered me, I will engage him in private and run the risk of his taking advantage of his strength.
    Your ever affectionate brother,   John Scott”



Letter #2: John Scott to Colonel John Baylis

   " Westwood, Monday September 2d, 1765

Sir:  Your scurrility to me the other day, when you so manfully drew your sword upon a naked man, I should have passed by as unworthy of my resentment, nor should I have paid at Tyler’s,
because I regard it as below the resentment of any gentleman.  But as soon as I heard that you had dared to cast aspersions on the character of my Father (whose sacred function would have protected him from any but a wretch dead to every sentiment of virtue and honor), I no longer hesitate to call you to that account which your repeated insults the best of men so loudly called for.  I shall therefore expect you next Wednesday morning at the back part of Quantico church, armed with pistols and attended by some gentleman, furnished with a pair of the same instruments. I think it necessary that we should each come accompanied by some gentleman in whose honor we can confide, not only as it may be serviceable to the survivor to produce proof that he killed his antagonist in an honorable way, but because the great disparity in our strength might lay me open to advantages which I have too much reason to think you would very readily make use of.  I therefore insist upon seconds, and I would have them be of reputation. You are at liberty to choose whom you please for your attendant, and I shall endeavor to get one to attend me to whom you can have not exception.
"Your humble servant,               John Scott"


Letter #3: Cuthbert Bullitt’s reply to John Scott

"Dear Sir:  I received yours. You request me not to dissuade you from your intentions. Did I not, from cool reflection, think they were better left alone, I would not.  The danger I shall say nothing of, tho’ much might be urged upon that head. Do you get anything by putting it in his power to take your life? Has he not an equal chance to prove fortunate? If so, the only thing you can gain is loss of life. If you kill him what great advantage do you get? You deprive a fellow creature of his life; you render his wife miserable; you ruin his innocent babes who have never injured you.  Think!  Oh think how heavy it will be on your conscience to have the curses of the widow and the orphan trending you to your grave. Sure to any man who is a Christian it will be a dreadful thought to take away the life of another deliberately and in cold blood. And what do you get by the victory? Nothing, believe me, dear Johnny. No man will think the better of you. If you kill Baylis, you must fly your country, give up your promising fortunes, and become an exile in a foreign land far from your friends and relations. What must I say to your father? What can I answer to your mother when, in the utmost distraction, she reproaches me with your death and asks her son at my hands. Dear Johnny, let me advise, let me entreat you to give over this rash enterprise. What you have yet done is unknown to every one but myself. No one will accuse you of want of courage, but all will of rashness. This one step will ever put it out of your power to pursue the vocation you are intended for. Let me know tomorrow what you intend. I shall not deliver yours until I receive an answer to this. If nothing can divert your purpose you must bring powder and bullets for the pistols you have with you. I shall only add that the consequences of the duel, that is Baylis’ or your death, will be as fail to me as to you. We shall both by the law forfeit our lives; this I do not mention by way of excuse. I shall wait your answer tomorrow impatiently.
"I am dear Johnny, your attached   “C Bullitt”


NOTE: Letters and a newspaper article from the newspaper of the day (probably the Virginia Gazette) were saved by John Scott’s family and given to Horace E. Hayden for his history of the Scott family.
See VIRGINIA GENEALOGIES by Horace E. Hayden pp 605 - 607.

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