A Guernsey duel on Gallow's Hill

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It seems inconceivable today that two men would fight a duel over a disagreement over a book about slavery and people’s rights. Much less would one expect that relatives would fight, and possibly die, on behalf of those who had the disagreement.

But on Wednesday 27 July 1792 exactly this happened on the top of what is now known as Westmount. It was then Gallow’s Hill, a strange and forbidding place to choose for a duel.

Guernsey dispute

It was an even more unlikely choice, because the dispute began in Guernsey over a book which had been published the previous year, entitled The Rights of Man, written by Thomas Paine (1737-1809), a pamphleteer. He was a supporter of the French Revolution, a former agitator in America for independence and a vociferous supporter of the abolishment of slavery and emancipation for women.

The Lieut-Governor of Guernsey and a Captain Brock had argued over the theories propounded in the book and when Capt Brock tried to give the Lieut-Governor a copy, he refused it on the grounds that the author was a traitor.

The argument between the two grew worse and the Lieut-Governor demanded satisfaction. As duelling was against the law in Guernsey, there was no way that he could have pursued the matter there, but the Lieut-Governor's nephew and Captain Brock’s brother, agreed to take part in a duel in Jersey to settle the matter.

The combatants were Captain Jean Brock of the 92nd Regiment, seconded by Jean Le Marchand, and Lieut M Brown of the 52nd Regiment, seconded by Lieut Waugh of the 68th Regiment.

They met on the top of Gallows Hill at 1 pm and took the traditional ten paces before turning to fire at each other. Both men missed, although a bullet entered Capt Brock’s coat pocket and punched a hole in his handkerchief.

Both men began reloading but the seconds intervened and stopped the duel from continuing. The affair was reported in the following week's Le Magasin de L'ile de Jersey.

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