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Colonial Cases

R. v. Barbot [1753]

duelling - capital punishment

January 1753

Source: Halifax Gazette, 12 May 1753 [1]

[2] St John's, (in   Antigua December 24. The following is a Particular Account of the Duel that was fought at St. Christophers, by Mr. Mills and Mr. Barbot; and as the Circumstances of that Duel, are very different from those related in one of our late Papers; for the Sake of Truth and Justire [sic], it is necessary to insert the Particulars now; which have been collected from the best Accounts of that unhappy Affair.

The Disputes which occasion'd this Duel arose at Nevis, on the Sale of an Estate, called Bridgwater's, where Mr. Barbo took some Exceptions to the Terms of the Sale, proposed by the Provost Marshal; and upon his persisting in his Objections, Mr. Mills said, Why will you Cavil, Mr. Barbot? Soon after, Mr. Barbot bid for the Estate; and then Mr. Mills said, This is the second Time this Estate has been sold, therefore let's have no Boy's Play. I expect that the Purchase Money of this Estate will be paid: Mr. Barbot immediately started up, and pertly said, I expect, Sir, to be treated like a Gentleman.

Mr. Mills continued at Nevis that Night, and until the Evening of the next Day, before he return'd to St. Christophers, without hearing from Mr. Barbot, and was at St. Christophers some Days before the fatal Accident. Mr. Barbot continued at Nevis, and is supposed to have sent the Challenge from thence; and on Sunday the 19th   of November left Nevis, from a Place call'd Morton's Bay, about Two in the Morning, in a Canoe rowed by four Negroes, and went over to Frigate Bay, at St. Christophers; and a little after Five Mr. Mills came to the Bay, and as soon as he had dismounted from his Horse, Barbot step'd on Shore; and upon their Meeting, they saluted each other with, Your Servant Sir. Barbot had his Pistols with him, and one of them cock'd in his right Hand; and Mr. Mills took his Pistols and hung one over the little Finger of his left Hand, and the other in the Palm of the same Hand, with his Powder Horn in his right, priming it; when Mr. Barbot asked him if he was ready? and at the same Time advanced within four or five Yards of him. Mr. Mills bid him stop, and told him he should be ready immediately; but before Mr. Mills could get his Pistols ready, Barbot shot him in his right Side, inclining to his Back, and Mr. Mills fell, and only said, I am dead. Barbot, as soon as he saw him fall, bit Mr. Mill's Negro Boy take Care of his Master, and went directly into his Canoe, return'd to Nevis, and landed at the Place he went off. Mr. Mills's Boy went to a neighbouring Estate for Help, and very soon returned, but before he could bring any Person, this amiable Gentleman had breathed his last.

Mr. Mills's Pistol that he was priming, was found empty, without any Mark of Powder being burnt in it. This Circumstance, with the Situation of the Wound (which was too much inclin'd to his Back, to suppose that Mr. Mills was at that Time in a proper Posture to find his Pistol) prove too plainly that Mr. Barbot shot him before he could load his Pistol. Several other Circumstances have since appeared (too tedious to be inserted here) which make it too probable there was a wicked Design to take away this worthy Gentleman's Life....

By a Vessel from Antigua we are informed, that Mr. Barbot, Attorney at Law, who lately kill'd Mr. Mills in a Duel at St. Christophers, was apprehended and brought to his Trial sometime in January last; that he pleaded his own Cause, which took up near 12 Hours Time, (not being able to get any Attorney to assist him) and the Affair being committed to the Jury, in about 18 Minutes they brought in their Verdict, GUILTY: That a few Days after he was executed, at which Time he was dress'd in a Suit of Black Velvet, which, with 10 Pistoles, he gave to the Executioner.


[1]  For another duelling case, see R. v. Cook and Pellat, 1753 (Massachusetts).

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School