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Post Mussolini as Duelist
Created by John Eipper on 06/13/15 4:27 AM

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Mussolini as Duelist (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy, 06/13/15 4:27 am)

Commenting on my post of June 10, John E asked about Mussolini's duels.

Between 1915 and 1922, Mussolini fought in five duels, winning all of them.

The duels were against the Socialist deputies Claudio Treves and Francesco Ciccotti Scozzese, the newsman Mario Missiroli, the anarchist Libero Merlino, and Major Cristoforo Baseggio.

The duels however were against the law, and therefore Mussolini had judiciary problems because of them. The duel with the director of the newspaper Il Secolo di Milano, Mario Missiroli, happened on the outskirts of Milano on 13 May 1922.

The quarrel between Mussolini Missiroli started when the latter published an article by Carlo Russo on 21 March 1922 attacking the fascist actions in defense of the agrarian workers of Lomellina, completely changing the facts.

On 10 May the quarrel escalated with the unfair coverage of the Il Secolo, which completely sided with the Socialists and the immediate response "Pietose Illusioni" from Mussolini in the Popolo d'Italia.

Feeling insulted by such article, Missiroli sent a challenge to Mussolini on 12 May, from his reporter Francesco Perotti and his sword teacher Dino Urbani.

As Missiroli was recognised as insulted, he had the right to choose the weapon.  He chose the sword.

Mussolini agreed, nominating as his seconds the colonel Roberto Raggio and the engineer Mario Chiesa, both decorated and disabled veterans.

The fight lasted 40 minutes with seven assaults. On the first Mussolini broke the tip of his sword; with the third Missiroli had a minor injury but on the seventh Missiroli was badly injured at his forearm with a large loss of blood. Immediately the doctors and the seconds unanimously stopped the fight.

According to accounts of the fight, the two duelists acted in perfect chivalry but did not reconcile.

JE comments: WAIS has dedicated surprisingly little attention to dueling, but it's an interesting (if bizarre) cultural phenomenon. I'm surprised Hemingway disdained the practice; it sounds like the kind of "manly" thing he would have enjoyed.

The most famous duel in US history was between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton in 1804.  The latter, now immortalized on the ten-dollar bill, was mortally wounded.


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  • Pushkin's Duel (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 06/14/15 3:15 PM)
    JE wrote on 13 June: "The most famous duel in US history was between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton in 1804. The latter, now immortalized on the ten-dollar bill, was mortally wounded."

    And would not the most famous duel in history, and perhaps the most fateful one, be the one by which Alexander Pushkin, the greatest of all Russian poets and one of the great figures of world literature, something like the Shakespeare of poetry, was killed by Georges d'Anthes, allegedly Pushkin's wife's lover? Cut down at the height of his literary powers at the age of only 37, it was a tragedy for European culture comparable to Mozart's death at the same age.

    JE comments:  Agreed; I carefully added "in US history" when describing the Burr-Hamilton showdown.  The Russia poet Lermontov would also fall victim to a duel, just four years after Pushkin.

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  • My Duel that Wasn't: Jean-Marie Le Pen (David Pike, France 06/18/15 3:16 AM)
    On 13 June, our Editor JE asked if any WAISer has ever fought a duel. I haven't, but I was challenged to one. I would say duels belong to burlesque, and here's an example. But there was an ugly note in it too.

    The story goes back more than 40 years. It was at a press luncheon at the Maison de l'Amérique Latine in Paris in which Jean-Marie Le Pen was the guest of the Anglo-American Press Association. (We used to hire the restaurant for our press luncheons.) I was seated at a table with a certain Monsieur Rousseau on my right, and a lady correspondent from the Boston Globe on his right. Le Pen gave his address. In the middle of it, I turned to the gentleman on my right, not knowing that he was Le Pen's PR man, and quietly told him that for the first time I was convinced that Monsieur Le Pen was a fascist. Monsieur Rousseau asked me to repeat what I had said. I did. He replied (in French): "When this is over, you and I will go out on the terrace there, and either Monsieur Le Pen or I will settle it with you." I couldn't believe my ears or my luck, so I asked Monsieur Rousseau to repeat it, this time in front of the correspondent from the Boston Globe. He repeated it. She heard it. We had arrived in Alice Land. This took place long before Le Pen's famous bout on the bank of the Seine with a frail lady whom he attacked with flailing fists, so I didn't know how he operated. A duel with Le Pen doesn't follow normal procedure. I told Monsieur Rousseau that as the challenged party I had choice of weapons, and as the former captain of fencing at McGill University (I took part in the Canadian championships in Toronto in 1960) my choice was épée. My plan was to go the full distance in this charade, so I asked for time and brought up the matter of Seconds. My choice was Sir Oswald Mosley, the former leader of the British Union of Fascists and former captain of the British Olympic fencing team. I had recently met Sir Oswald in Paris and established a friendship. How then to proceed? Monsieur Rousseau conducted me into the presence of the great man. People gathered around, taking photographs. The whole charade was not wasted. Hanging on the wall of my library, in pride of place, next to a photograph of Sir Oswald in a different setting, is a photograph of Le Pen standing in front of me, scowling and with his right hand in his inside left pocket, reaching for .. . I never learnt what it was he was reaching for. He broke off, and without further ado we all went our separate ways, and I have only my photos to remind me of the day I failed to duel.

    JE comments:  Le Pen...and Mosley?  This story will enter the annals of WAIS history.  An unforgettable anecdote, David.

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    • A Duel...at Tennis (David Duggan, USA 06/19/15 4:37 PM)
      A few days back John had inquired about WAISers' involvement in dueling. Apart from some alcohol-infused challenges and slights to one's manhood, I haven't been involved in any honor conflicts, but I have offered to play tennis against an opponent for the resolution of a case. The first was against Hugo L. Black, Jr. (son of the Supreme Court justice) in a Ponzi-scheme case pending in the Southern District of Florida in the early 1980s. I was representing one of the broker-dealers who had employed the felonious perpetrator of this scheme, which enveloped a good slug of the Jacksonville, FL medical community, the Atlanta, GA evangelical Christian community, and the South Florida orthodox Jewish community (go figure), and Hugo Black was acting as both trustee of the remains and co-counsel for the plaintiff-investors. There was concern among the defense bar (principally from NYC) that there was an all-too cozy relationship between Black and the trial judge, Hon. William Hoeveler, particularly because of their every-Saturday morning tennis games (perhaps a not-infrequent social lubricant between the bench and bar outside of Northeastern jurisdictions). I offered to play Hugo for the punitive damages aspect of the case, but my would-be seconds (i.e., my employer) refused to back me up. By the way, Judge Hoeveler is the father of Charles Hoeveler, Dartmouth '67, perhaps the best tennis player in the College's history (he's currently ranked 19th in the country in the men's 70-and over category). Given that I was some 30 years younger than Hugo, I think I could have taken him easily.

      More recently, I have offered to play one of Northwestern Law's professors to determine who is right in respect of the proposition: is the Anglo-American accusative system of criminal justice better than the Continental model of an inquisitional process. Having seen the joke that is the accusative criminal system in (Sw)Illinois (both federal and state courts), I have no doubt I am on the side of truth and justice. But so far, he has not taken me up. The recent acquittal of Dominique Strauss-Kahn for orchestrating the participation of prostitutes in Lille, FR hotel-sitused sex parties confirms my belief in the inherent virtue of the system instituted by Napoleon. Even though the prosecutor did not want to prosecute DSK, the neutral magistrate believed that there was sufficient evidence to proceed. The upshot is that DSK received a verdict on the merits. Contrast that with the fate that has befallen the brother of our now incarcerated former governor, Rod Blagojevich. "Fundraiser A," as Robert Blagojevich was known in court filings, was tried with his brother and there was a hung jury on all counts against him in the first trial. The Government "in the interests of justice" dismissed the indictment for the retrial, but that dismissal was "without prejudice," meaning that the charges could be brought again until the expiration of the statute of limitations (which may already have happened: the events charged occurred in 2008 and there's a 5 year period). And note the problems that wrongfully convicted former Illinois prisoners have in receiving "Certificates of Innocence" which would allow them to apply for certain jobs or licenses. The State's Attorneys almost invariably resist these on the theory that they must be guilty of something or else they wouldn't have been put on trial in the first place. I kid you not.

      Trial by battle has an honorable tradition (viz., my namesake against the Philistines' champion, Goliath), much more honorable than the judicial system in Illinois, and certainly no less capricious. But speaking of trial by battle, how 'bout them Chicago Blackhawks: they won their 3d Stanley Cup in 6 years (the most in the "salary cap" era, whatever that means). I'll let others decide whether this team is better than the Hull-Mikita Hawks of the 1960s, the Orr Bruins of the '70s, the Dryden Canadiens of the '70s, the no-name Islanders of the 70s-80s, the Gretzky Oilers of the '80s, or the Lemieux Penguins of the '90s. There is the joke that they called a fight and a hockey game broke out, but the series against the Tampa Bay Lightning was remarkably free of fisticuffs as the Hawks simply out-skated, out-passed and ultimately out-scored the Bay City Brawlers. Kane, Toews, Sharp, Hossa and Keith are all likely heading for the Hall of Fame, and goalie Corey Crawford will be rewarded for his open mic "f" bombs at the rallies. Regardless of what you think of their kick-ass jerseys and the rights of Native Americans, they do have the best theme song: the infectious "Chelsea Dagger."

      Hail to the Hawks.

      JE comments:  This is a painful thing for a Red Wings fan to do, but congratulations to the 'Hawks.

      And thank you for these great musings, David!

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