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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Pseudo Duels

The following affairs were concluded before a duel could take place.

Martin and Earp v. Fitzgerald (1842). Dr S. McD. Martin, editor of the New Zealand Herald and Auckland Gazette, published a critical article on the Legislative Council entitled “Our Independent Members”, believed to have been written by G. B. Earp, a member of the Council. R. A. Fitzgerald, Registrar of the Supreme Court, obtained the manuscript from John Moore, publisher of the Herald, and when asked by Martin to return it, refused. Consequently Martin challenged him and, on being refused, posted Fitzgerald as a coward and blackguard. Earp also challenged Fitzgerald but no duels were fought.

Cormack v. Best (1842). A difference occurred between W. E. Cormack and Captain A. D. Best on 17 March 1842 resulting in a verbal challenge sent from the former by Dr Martin. On the following day Best reported to a meeting of officers that he and his second E. Shortland met Martin, Cormack's second, at six that morning and waited an hour before withdrawing. Shortland stated that he and Martin could not agree whether to use Best's or Cormack's pistols. Martin withdrew. Later he wished to reopen the affair but Best declined, not wishing to be made a fool of again.

Joplin v. Johnson (1843). At an Auckland teetotal meeting, A. Johnson peremptorily ordered R. C. Joplin, editor of the Auckland Chronicle, to shut the door. Joplin, in an open letter, upbraided him for his impudence, and stated that the result of it might prove more serious than he imagined. Johnson, in reply, stated that he had not intended offence—that he had in error mistaken Joplin for one of the waiters in attendance. Joplin accepted the apology, but thought his appearance a little less plebeian than Johnson's answer would imply.

McLachlan v. Sinclair (1844). Lachlan McLachlan, who had come to Auckland in connection with the Manukau Land Company's enterprise, was called an adventurer by Dudley Sinclair, eldest son of Sir George Sinclair. McLachlan challenged him and, failing to receive an answer, called on Sinclair and whipped him with his own horse whip. Sinclair wished to challenge McLachlan but Conroy, Sinclair's second, advised against it. Sinclair committed suicide soon after, on 22 October, the inquest returning a verdict of temporary insanity.

Terry v. Shortland (1845). Charles Terry, author of New Zealand, its Advantages and Prospects as a British Colony, and first editor of the New Zealander, thought that Wilioughby Shortland Colonial Secretary, had slighted him. Terry intended to call out Shortland but after talking it over with a friend made a reconciliation.

Manning v. Stephen (1852). Mr Justice Sidney Stephen, newly appointed Judge of the Supreme Court at Dunedin, brought a charge of conspiracy against Graham, Mansford, and Webb. The case was heard on 22 January 1852 before the Dunedin Bench of Magistrates, who committed the defendants to the Supreme Court for trial. Mansford, a Port Chalmers storekeeper, at the same hearing charged Stephen with alleged assault, the Judge having threatened to break every bone in the complainant's body. As no assault had been committed the case was dismissed. During the hearings Stephen used abusive and ungentlemanly language, so causing offence to many of the public who when the cases were concluded, speedily collected a large sum to help defray the legal expenses of the defendants. When Stephen left the Court, Dr Henry Manning accosted him, demanding satisfaction for reflections cast on the character of Mary Graham. Stephen did not take up the challenge but applied for Court protection and had Manning bound over to keep the peace.

The Daily Southern Cross of 16 May 1870 reported that after a dispute at the Royal Hotel, Hamilton, on 11 May, the principals made their wills, then proceeded to the ground. Meanwhile the seconds had procured a bottle of blood from a butcher and had charged but not loaded the pistols. After the first shot, whether from fright or otherwise, one of the contestants fell, and was surreptitiously besprinkled with gore. The seconds urged the other to fly, but he stood his ground, boasting that it would teach gentlemen not to insult him. This “sanguinary” affair caused a sensation until the true facts were disclosed.

The Bruce Herald of 21 August 1877 reported that on 15 August two Tokomairiro youths had arranged to meet in a pistol duel near the township of Milton. A young lady was the cause of the trouble. But the mother of one of the participants came to learn of the affair and, accompanied by the other mother, arrived on the scene in time to avert bloodshed. The “duel” ended in an anti-climax with the rivals being escorted home by their respective mothers.