Leslie Mitchell

Pistols in Putney

The Duel: Castlereagh, Canning and Deadly Cabinet Rivalry

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At their best politicians can be hugely entertaining. All, though some more consciously than others, are by nature performers. They can affect anger, indignation and sensitivity at will. Inevitably, however, their repertoire changes over the centuries. Until 1850 or so, politicians occasionally fought each other in a duel. Death was uncommonly the result, but a delighted public could often count on a serious wound or two. William Pitt took on George Tierney, while Charles James Fox was wounded by William Adam. In the latter contest, Fox jokingly remarked that he would certainly have been killed but for the fact that his opponent had been using government powder.

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