Hugh Henry Brackenridge was a remarkable man: author of one of America’s first novels, founder of what became the University of Pittsburgh, and urbane wit in what was still a rather rough little city across the Alleghenies from civilization. Here is a letter he sent to the Gazette in 1797 on the subject of duels, which were then a notorious plague in Pittsburgh. It was reprinted in a review pasted in the end-papers of an 1846 edition of his Modern Chivalry, so Father Pitt regrets that the source is secondary and not easily identifiable. “Mr. Scull” was the editor of the Pittsburgh Gazette.
Mr. Scull—The Age of Chivalry is not over; and challenges have been given even in the midst of a yellow fever which, one would think, was killing people fast enough already. The fear of God or the law, are usual and just grounds of refusing. But I will give you a sample of the way in which I get off with some of my challenges, in the following letter and answer on a late occasion; but omitting the name of the challenger, as I have no inclination to trouble him with a provocation.
PITTSBURGH, October 15, 1797.
Sir—I will thank you to take a walk with a friend and meet me at the back of the graveyard about sunrise to-morrow morning. After what has happened, you know what I mean.
Your humble servant, &c.
PITTSBURGH, October 15, 1797
Sir—I know what you mean very well; you want to have a shot at me, but I have no inclination to be hit, and I am afraid you will hit me. I pray thee therefore have me excused.
H. H. BRACKENRIDGE.