Yet an ingenious friend has urged to me in
mitigation of this practice,
1. That in nations emerging from barbarism, it moderates the license of private war and arbitrary revenge.
2. That it is less absurd than the trials by the ordeal, or boiling water, or the cross, which it has contributed to abolish.
3. That it served at least as a test of personal courage; a quality so seldom united with a base disposition, that the danger of a trial might be some check to a malicious prosecutor, and a useful barrier against injustice supported by power.
The gallant and unfortunate earl of Surrey might probably have escaped his unmerited fate, had not his demand of the combat against his accuser been overruled.