'Ah I little think they -- How many bleed
By shameful variance betwixt man and man;
How many pine in want and dungeon gloom;
Shut from the common air, and common
use of their own limbs.' - THOMSON
Countess of Buchan
Law of Nations
Reigns of Henry VIII. and Queen Elizabeth
The Furca, or Gallows
Henry the Fifth
James the Sixth
Punishment of Cooks
Fate of Charles I
Charles II. and Lord William Russel
Blood's Attempt on Ormond
The Ordeal in India
The Drunkard's Cloak
Saving a Preacher
Terrors of Conscience
Peine Forte et Dure
Warrant of Execution
The Isle of Man
Inquisition of Toledo
Portuguese Auto da Fe
Cruelty to Criminals
Ruse de Guerre
Murder will Out
Certainty of Punishment
Murderers Discovered by Two Dogs
Destruction of Robespierre
Bandit of Goelnitz
A Turkish Love Affair
The People of Tibra
Breaking on the Wheel
The Maid and the Magpie
The Seven Brave Hunters
Assassin of General Kleber
Pardon for Forgery
Sentiments of Bonaparte on Suicide
The Quakers - Pennsylvania
Gaol in Philadelphia
Mercy Too Late
Mitigation of Punishment
The Vardarelli Band
The Curate of Louvaine
Disparity of Punishments
Blood's Attempt to Steal the Crown
Severity of the Law
Execution in Prussia
The Criminals' Grave
The Saddler of Bawtry
Peter the Great
The Outlaw of Calabria
Death of Julius Caesar
Outraged Nature Avenged
English Gaols Schools of Corruption
Private Assumptions of Judicial Authority
Death for a Rhyme
The Thurian Code
George the Third
Law against Stealing
Breaking on the Wheel
The Punishment of Quartering
Abuse of Parents
Execution of Nundcomar
Promulgation of the Statutes
Committing Murder Abroad
Which is the Heir? Ingeniously Determined
A Malefactor Saved to Good Purpose
Magnanimity of a British Soldier
Justice Fighting against Mercy
George the Second
Prating at Venice
English Criminal Code
The Punishment of Death
Sir Samuel Romilly
Sir James Mackintosh
ALTHOUGH the English criminal code is now the most severe of any in Europe, yet it is certain that it owes none of its severity to our ancestors. The Anglo-Saxons had very few capital punishments; and although when Alfred the Great ascended the throne, the country was overrun by a foreign invader, and was remarkable for licentiousness and crimes, yet he ventured, even in these perilous times, to mitigate still further the severity of the laws, and abolished the penalty of death for every crime except treason and murder. 'The consequence was,' says his historian, 'that such was the general security throughout the country towards the conclusion of his reign, that a child could walk from one end to the other with a purse of gold around its neck in perfect security.'
So deeply was this system of judicial clemency engraven on the character of the nation, that the Danes, who overturned almost every Anglo-Saxon institution, permitted the laws in regard to capital punishments to preserve all their lenity. The code of Canute in one of its clauses on showing mercy in judgment, thus commences:
'We desire, though any man sin, and deeply involve himself in iniquity, yet that his punishment be moderate, so that it be merciful before God, and tolerable in the sight of man; and let him who giveth judgment consider what he himself desireth when he prays thus: "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us." And we forbid that Christian men should be condemned to death on any slight cause. Let discipline be freely administered for the benefit of the people; but let not men for a little cause destroy the handiwork of God, and the purchase of Christ, so dearly bought.'
But the most remarkable proselyte that ever was gained to the doctrine of mild punishments was William the Conqueror, who is described by all his biographers as a sanguinary and merciless tyrant. He is described by the monkish chroniclers as hating the natives; and that 'he made large forests for the deer, and enacted laws therewith, so that whoever killed a hart or a hind should be blinded. As he forbade the deer, so also the boars; and he loved the tall stags as if he were their father.' Terrible as the king was to his subjects in forest laws, yet the severity of his temper yielded to the prevalent doctrines of his age; for he concludes both his codes of laws, issued at the commencement and towards the conclusion of his reign, with these words: 'I prohibit that any man shall be put to death for any cause whatever.'
Thus the three most distinguished lawgivers of the Anglo-Saxon, the Danish, and the Norman line, by their own examples, prove that British law, in its origin and source, was peculiarly merciful and tender of human life. Were other instances wanted in proof of this fact, they might be found in the declaration of Lord Coke, that most of our capital enactments are by statute; and of Sir Henry Spelman, who says, that while all other things have grown dearer, the life of man is estimated at a lower rate by us than by our ancestors; and Blackstone, in recapitulating the great changes which have taken place in this country, thinks none greater and none more to be lamented than the change from the great mercy of our ancestors to the extreme severity of our modern law.
In the infancy of states, the idea of capital punishments might naturally enough suggest itself, as when any one had committed an offence and disturbed the peace of society, the question would then first arise, 'How shall we prevent these things?' The answer most likely to occur to a set of barbarians, would be, 'Extirpate the offenders, and give yourselves no further trouble about it.'
Such is the practice among the Hottentots, who have no fixed law to direct them in the distribution of justice. Consequently, when any offence has been committed, there is no form of trial, or proportion of punishment to offences; but the Kraal (village) is called together, the delinquent is placed in the midst, and without further ceremony, demolished with their clubs, the chief striking the first blow.
Feudal times, however, furnish us with a striking exception to the barbarity of infant states. Every one will acknowledge the imperfection of this form of government, and yet under it almost all crimes were restrained by pecuniary fines, and few capital punishments were in use.
Under the consulship of Acilius Glabrio, and Piso, the Acilian law was made to prevent the intriguing for places; by which the guilty were condemned to a fine; they could not be admitted into the rank of senators, nor nominated to any public office. Dio says, that the Senate engaged the consuls to propose this law, by reason that C. Cornelius, the tribune, had resolved to cause more severe punishments to be enacted against this crime, to which the people seemed much inclined. The Senate judged rightly, that excessive punishments would indeed strike terror into the minds of the people, but that they must also have this effect, that there would be no one afterwards to accuse or condemn; whereas, by proposing moderate penalties, there would always be judges and accusers.
While the Romans were besieging the city of Falisca, a schoolmaster contrived to lead the children of the principal men of the city into the Roman camp. The novelty of such baseness surprised them, and they so much abhorred it, that they immediately ordered the arms of the traitor to be tied, and giving each of the scholars a whip, bade them whip their master back to the city, and then return to their parents. The boys executed their task so well in this instance, that the wretch died under their blows as they entered the city. The generosity of the Romans touched the Faliscans so sensibly, that the next day they submitted themselves to the Romans on honourable terms.
Countess of Buchan.
'And what man, seeing this,
And having human feelings, does not blush,
And hang his head, to think himself a man?'
In 1306, the Countess of Buchan, who had been extremely active in the cause of Bruce, and even placed the crown on his head, was, by the command of King Edward, shut up in a wooden cage in one of the towers of Berwick Castle; as was Mary, sister to Bruce, in the same manner, in the castle of Roxburgh.
The order to the Chamberlain of Scotland, or his lieutenant in Berwick, for making the cage for the Countess of Buchan, was by writ of privy seal; by which he was directed to make in one of the turrets of Berwick-upon-Tweed, which he should find the most convenient, a strong cage of lattice-work, constructed with posts and bars, and well strengthened with iron. This cage to be so contrived, that the Countess might have therein the necessary convenience, proper care being taken that it did not lessen the security of her person; that the said Countess being put in this cage, should be so carefully guarded, that she should not by any means go out of it; that a woman or two of the town of Berwick, of unsuspected character, should be appointed to administer her food and drink, and attend her on other occasions; and that he should cause her to be so strictly guarded in the said cage, as not to be permitted to speak to any person, man or woman, of the Scottish nation, or any other, except the woman or women assigned to attend her, and her other guards.'
Matthew of Westminster, a contemporary writer, says, that the king declared, that as she did not strike with the sword, she should not die with the sword, but ordered her to be shut up in an habitation of stone and iron, shaped like a crown, and to be hung out at Berwick in the open air, for a spectacle and everlasting reproach, while living and dead, to all that passed by.
In the year 1770, the four knights who slew Thomas 'a Becket, fled for refuge to Knaresborough Castle; their names were Sir Hugh de Morville, whose descendants were settled in Cumberland, where the sword with which he slew Thomas a Becket was long kept, in memory of the circumstance; Sir Richard Breton; Sir William Tracey; Sir Reginald Fitz-urse, or Bear's son. They remained shut up for a year; but submitting to the church, were pardoned on condition of performing a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Pope Alexander the Sixth went into a vineyard near the Vatican, where his son Caesar Borgia, Duke of Valence, meaning to poison Adrian Cardinal Cornetti, had sent certain bottles of wine mixed with poison, and delivered them to a servant, who knew nothing of the matter, commanding him, that should touch them but by his appoint It happened that the Pope came in some time before supper, and being very thirsty, through the immoderate heat of the season, called for some drink. The servant who had the poisoned wine in keeping, thinking that it had been committed to him as a special and precious sort of wine, brought a cup of it to the Pope, and while he was drinking, his son Borgia came in, and drank also of the same. Both were poisoned, but the Pope only died; his son, by the strength of youth and nature, and use of potent remedies, recovered.
Law of Nations.
Lysander having obtained a victory over the Athenians, the prisoners were ordered to be tried, in consequence of an accusation brought against that nation of having thrown all the captives of two galleys down a precipice, and of having resolved, in full assembly, to cut off the heads of those whom they should chance to make prisoners. The Athenians were therefore all massacred, except Adymantes, who had opposed the decree of his brother senators.
Reigns of Henry VIII. and Queen Elizabeth.
The inefficacy of the extreme severity of punishment, is strikingly exemplified in the reign of Henry VIll., remarkable for the abundance of its crimes, which certainly did not arise from the mildness of punishment. In that reign alone, says his historian, seventy-two thousand executions took place for robberies alone, exclusive of the religious murders, which are known to have been numerous, amounting, on an average, to six executions a day, Sundays included, during the whole of Henry VIII.'s reign.
That this barbarous severity of the law did not prevent crime, we have the authority of Sir Thomas More, who introduces into his works a dialogue between himself and a lawyer. The lawyer applauds the severity of the law, and exults in the fact, that he had himself seen twenty executed on the same scaffold. But he concludes by confessing, that it was a little difficult for him to explain how it happened, that 'while so many thieves were daily hanged, so many still remained in the country, who were robbing in all places.'
Although these severities were ineffectual during the reign of Henry VIII., yet it might be supposed that some benefit would have accrued from them at its conclusion, and that the race of robbers would have been exterminated. This, however, was not the case. In Strype's 'Annals,' there is a letter from a magistrate of Somersetshire, to the Lord Chief Justice, which gives an account of the state of society in that county, during the 'glorious days of good Queen Bess;' and such an account as may make us all rejoice, that those 'glorious days' have long since passed away. The magistrate writes:- 'I may justly say, that the able men that are abroad, seeking the spoil and confusion of the land, are able, if they were reduced to good subjection, to give the greatest enemy her majesty hath a strong battle, and, as they are now, are so much strength to the enemy. Besides, the generation that daily springeth from them, is likely to be most wicked. These spare neither rich nor poor; but whether it be great gaine or small, all is fish that cometh to net with them; and yet I saie, both they and the rest are trussed up apace.'
The same magistrate, who is a strong advocate for the severity of the law, and calls the statute for the execution of gipsies, 'that godly edict,' very unconsciously lets us into the secret why criminals so much abounded in his time; he says: 'In which default of justice, may wicked thieves escape. For most commonly the most simple countrymen and women, looking no farther than to the loss of their own goods, are of opinion that they would not procure any man's death, for all the goods in the world.'
Queen Elizabeth was a great advocate for the certainty of punishment, and the rigid exertion of the laws. In a speech which she directed to be made to her Parliament, she says, 'a law without execution, is but a body without life, a cause without an effect, a countenance of a thing, and indeed nothing;' again, 'the making of laws without execution, does very much harm, for that breeds and brings forth contempt of laws, and law-makers, and of all magistrates.'
This queen, who makes such loud complaints of the non-execution of her laws, contrived to execute more than five hundred criminals in the year, with which number she was so little satisfied, that she threatened to send private persons to see her penal laws executed 'for profit and gain's sake.' It appears that her majesty did not threaten in vain; for soon after this a complaint was made in Parliament, that the stipendiary magistrate of that day was 'a kind of living creature, who, for half a dozen of chickens, would dispense with a dozen of penal statutes.'
Parricide was by the Roman law punished in a much severer manner than any other kind of homicide. After being scourged, 'the delinquents were sowed up in a leathern sack, with a live dog, a cock, a viper, and an ape, and so cast into the sea.' Solon, it is true, in his laws made none against parricide, conceiving it impossible that any one should be guilty of so unnatural a barbarity. The Persians, according to Herodotus, entertained the same notion, when they adjudged all persons who killed their reputed parents to be illegitimate; and to some such reason as this must be imputed the omission of an exemplary punishment for this crime in the English laws; which treat it no otherwise than as simple murder, unless the child is also the servant of the parent.
The Furca, or Gallows.
The furca, an instrument of punishment among the Romans, was a piece of timber resembling a fork. The punishment of the furca was of three kinds: the first only ignominious, when a master for small offences, compelled a servant to carry a furca on his shoulders about the city. The second was penal, when the party was led about the circus, or other place, with the furca about his neck, and whipped all the way. The third was capital, when the malefactor having his head fastened on the furca, was whipped to death.
The gallows for executing criminals by hanging, is still called furca on the continent, particularly in France and Italy. In the latter country, the name is still appropriate, the gallows being a real fork driven into the ground; across the legs of it a beam is laid, to which the rope is fastened.
The records of human punishment scarcely furnish an instance in which torture was so ingeniously and barbarously studied, as in the execution of Ravaillac, the assassin of Henry IV. of France. An authentic account of this event, is to be found in a scarce blackletter tract, entitled, 'The terrible and deserved Death of Francis Ravaillack, shewing the manner of his strange torments at his execution, as it was printed in French in the several bookes published by authoretee.'
After noticing the trial of Ravaillac, who pleaded guilty, the tract states that he was carried to execution in the following manner:
'First, (naked in his shirt) he was brought out of the Consergery, (being the prison for the palace) with a lighted torch of two pownd waight in one hand, and the knife (wherewith he killed the king) chained to the other hand so openly to be seene, that the least childe there present might behold it; after this, he was placed standing upright in a tumbrell or dung cart, and so from thence, conducted with a gard of cittizens, to the capitall church in Paris, where being adjudged to do penance, he had bene made a sacrafize to the rage of the rude people, had not there bin apoynted officers to see his execution prevented it.
'After this, being accompanied to the place of execution with two doctors of divinitie, all the way perswading him to save his soule from everlasting punishment, by revealing and laying oppen his assocyates therein, which he would not, but stiffly (though ungraciously) tooke the bloody burthen upon his owne shoulders, withstanding, even to the death, all faire promises whatsoever. In this manner was he carried to the greve being a spacious streete, and about the middle of Paris, where was builded a very substancial scaffould of strong timber, whereupon, according to his judgment, he was to be tormented to death. Du Viguit, the king's aturney-generall, was apoynted principall to see the execution, and there to gather (if he could) some further light of this unchristianlike conspiracie.
'This here following was the manner of his death, an example of terror made knowne to the world, to convert all bloody minded traytors from the like enterprise. At his first coming upon the scaffold, he crossed himselfe directly over the breast, a signe that he did live and dye an obstinate papist, whereupon by the executioners he was bound to an engine of wood and iron, made like to a S. Andrew's crosse, according to the fashion of his body, and then the hand with the knife chayned to it (wherewith he slew the king), and halfe the arme was put into an artificial furnace, then flaming with fire and brimstone, wherein the knife, his right hand, and halfe the arme adjoyning it, was in a most terrible manner consumed, yet nothing at all would he confesse.' The rest of the details are too horrible to be repeated. The wretched criminal would give no other reason for the crime he had committed, than 'the king had tolerated two religions in the kingdom.' 'Oh! small occasion.' exclaims the writer of this narrative, 'that for this cause, one servile slave should thus quench the great light of France, whose brightness glistened through Europe!'
The punishment of burning alive, horrible as it is, has been inflicted by several communities. It was adopted with many variations among the Babylonians and the Hebrews. It was enacted at Rome, by the code of the twelve tables, against incendiaries; and examples of it frequently occur in the early ages of the French monarchy. In France, the convict wearing a shirt dipped in sulphur, is bound with an iron chain to a stake. This is the most rigorous of all the ordinary punishments; and yet, though inflicted in cases of witchcraft, sacrilege, blasphemy, heresy, it is not extended to the more heinous crime of parricide.
In England, burning alive has been the punishment for several crimes, particularly for the imputed one of heresy, of which Smithfield was so often the scene in the reigns of Henry the Eighth and Queen Elizabeth.
Henry the Fifth.
Among the spectators at the execution of Badly, the tailor, who was burnt in Smithfield for heresy, was Henry, Prince of Wales, afterwards Henry V. Struck with pity at the miserable cries of the unhappy victim, the prince commanded the fire to be extinguished, and offered him a pension if he would retract his opinions. But this Badly declined to do, and perished resolute in his faith.
James the Sixth.
When James the Sixth of Scotland was on his way to London, to occupy the English throne, he gave a sad omen of his reign by an act of wanton despotism. A cutpurse, who had followed the king's retinue from Berwilek, was taken at Newark-on-Trent 'in the fact;' and having confessed his guilt, the king, of his own authority, and without even the form of trial, directed a warrant to the Recorder of Newark to have him hanged, which was executed accordingly. Although not the slightest resistance was made to this needless and daring violation of the laws of England, and of the first principles of all civilized government, yet it made a deep impression. The Tudors, with all their tyranny, had never been guilty of so wanton an outrage on the most venerated institution of the countrytrial by jury; and men wondered what further innovations the Scottish Solomon would make.
Punishment of Cooks.
In the year 1530, Smithfield, which had been used as a place for the execution of felons, even before the year 1219, was the scene of a most severe and singular punishment, inflicted on one John Roose, a cook, who had poisoned seventeen persons of the Bishop of Rochester's household, two of whom died. By a retrospective law, he was sentenced to be boiled to death; a judgment, horrible as it was, which was carried into execution. In 1541, Margaret Davie, a young woman, suffered in he same place and manner, for a similar crime.
A young lady of high birth and fashion at Rome, but unfortunately of the number of Vestal virgins, became involved in a fatal snare, by a line which dropped carelessly from her pen. The Vestals were allowed great honours and great liberty; and this lady had probably been pleasantly entertained by some married friend, from whose demeanour she had formed a very favourable idea of wedlock. Actuated by some motive, she wrote on a scroll, in the ecstacy of her spirit, 'Felices Nuptae! Moriar ni nubere dulce est.' Hail, happy bride! I would I were dead or wedded.
The verse was unhappily found, and her handwriting being known, she was accused as having incurred the punishment due to those who disgraced the temple of Vesta, that of being buried alive. Seneca reports the argument on both sides, but does not gives us the result.
It seems astonishing that the usage of the administration of torture should be said to arise from a tenderness for the lives of men; and yet in the civil law this is the reason given for its introduction, and its subsequent adoption by the French and other foreign nations; namely, because the laws cannot endure that any man should die upon the evidence of a false, or even a single, witness, and therefore contrived this means that innocence should manifest itself by a stout denial of guilt, or by a plain confession; thus estimating a man's virtue by the strength of his constitution; and his guilt by the sensibility of his nerves. Beccaria, in an exquisite piece of raillery, ridicules this doctrine, and has proposed the following problem, which the advocates of torture should resolve before they again plead in its behalf:- 'The force of the muscles, and the sensibility of the nerves, of an innocent person, being given, it is required to find the degree of pain necessary to make him confess himself guilty of a given crime.'
The trial by rack or torture is utterly unknown to the laws of England; though once when the Dukes of Exeter and Suffolk, with other ministers of Henry the Sixth, had formed a design of changing the law, they erected a rack for torture, which, in derision, was called the Duke of Exeter's daughter, and still remains in the Tower of London, where it was occasionally used as an engine of state, not of law, more than once in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
When Felton, upon his examination at the Council Board, declared, as he had always done, that no man living had instigated him to the assassination of the Duke of Buckingham, or knew of his intention, the Bishop of London said to him. 'If you will not confess, you must be put to the rack.' Felton calmly replied, 'If it must be so, I know not whom I may accuse in the extremity of torture, Bishop Laud, or perhaps any lord at this Board.' Laud having proposed the rack, the matter was shortly debated in the council, and afterwards referred to the judges, who unanimously resolved that the rack could not be legally used.
Fate of Charles I.
When the news of Charles I.'s fate reached Sweden, though it made a great noise, yet very few thought of it with any horror; nay, the French ambassador said it ought to be a warning to all princes, how they exceeded the bounds of justice and moderation. On its first mention at court, the Queen Christina turned to a nobleman who came in a moment after, and said, 'My lord, the English have cut off their king's head, for making no use of it, and they have acted very wisely.'
Charles II. and Lord William Russel.
It has been held by Sir Matthew Hale and Sir Edward Coke, that even the king cannot change the punishment of the law, by altering the hanging or burning into beheading, though when the last is part of the sentence, the king may remit the rest; but others have thought, and more justly, that this prerogative being founded in mercy, and immemorially exercised by the crown, is part of the common law; for hitherto, in every instance, all these exchanges have been in favour of that godlike attribute of royalty-mercy.
When Lord Strafford was executed for the popish plot, in the reign of King Charles II., the sheriffs of London having received the king's writ for beheading him, petitioned the House of Lords for a command or order how the judgment should be executed; for as he had been prosecuted by impeachment, they entertained an idea, which Lord Russel is said to have sanctioned, that the king could not pardon any part of the sentence. The lords resolved that the scruples of the sheriffs were unnecessary, and declared that the king's writ ought to be obeyed. Disappointed of raising a flame in that assembly, they immediately signified to the House of Commons, by one of the members, that they were not satisfied as to the power of the said writ. That House took two days to consider of it, and then sullenly resolved that the house was content that the sheriffs should execute Lord Strafford by severing his head from his body.
When Lord Russel was afterwards condemned for high treason upon indictment, the king, when he remitted the ignominious part of the sentence, observed, that 'his lordship would now find he was possessed of that prerogative which in the case of Lord Strafford he had denied him.' Were this really the case, it is difficult to know which most to disapprove of, the indecent and sanguinary zeal of the subject, or the cool and cruel sarcasm of the sovereign.
Blood's Attempt on Ormond.
The attempt of the infamous assassin Blood, upon the life of the great and good Duke of Ormond, in the time of Charles II., was suspected to have been contrived by the Duke of Buckingham. Ormond himself overlooked it, but his son, the young Earl of Ossory, who was warm, brave, an spirited, did not preserve so cool a temper upon the occasion. While Buckingham was standing behind the king this young earl advanced to him with a stern aspect, 'My lord,' said he, in a low and sullen voice, 'I well know that you were at the bottom of the late attempt of Blood. Take notice, should my father come to an untimely or violent death, I shall consider you as the assassin; I shall pistol you as the assassin; I shall pistol you, though you stand behind the king; I tell it you in his majesty's presence, that you may be sure I shall keep my word.'
A person sentenced to the pillory, must have one sentence strictly executed upon him; and if the officer gives him any indulgence, he is liable to be punished in a summary manner, on application to the court. An instance in which this rigid adherence to the strictness of punishment was violated, occurred in the case of Shebbeare, who, in the year 1758, was sentenced to be set in and upon the pillory.
It appeared that Beardmore, who, as undersheriff, was to see the sentence executed, indulged Shebbeare so far as not to put him in the pillory, but simply to stand on the platform. The attorney-general therefore, applied for an attachment against Beardmore, to punish him for a contempt of the court, in taking upon himself to remit this part of the sentence, pronounced upon Shebbeare. The attorney-general produced affidavits, which were very full in asserting that Shebbeare only stood upon the platform of the pillory, unconfined, and at his ease, attended by a servant in livery (which servant and livery were hired for this occasion only), holding an umbrella over his head all the time; but his head, hands, neck, and arms, were not at all confined, or put into the holes of the pillory; only that he sometimes put his hands upon the holes of the pillory, in order to rest himself. And it was proved, that Mr. Beardmore attended as under-sheriff, with his wand; and that he treated the criminal with great complaisance, in taking him to and from the pillory.
The counsel on behalf of Mr. Beardmore, produced his affidavit, stating, that his officiating at all in this affair was quite casual and unexpected, on a sudden message from his brother under-sheriff. It was as full and explicit as possible, 'that he had no sort of design or intention, either directly or indirectly, to favour Shebbeare; that he gave no particular direction to his under officers about it;' but meant and intended that this sentence should be executed in the usual and ordinary manner, as other sentences of the like kind were and used to be executed; and that he stood at a shop opposite the pillory, during the whole time, without almost ever taking his eyes off from it during the whole time, in, order to see the sentence properly executed;, and that he would have obliged him to stand in what he (Mr. Beardmore) took to be the proper manner, if Shebbeare had offered to withdraw himself from such position.' And he positively swore, 'that according to the best information he could get, he looked upon the manner in which Shebbeare stood, to be the usual and proper manner of standing, pursuant to rules worded as this rule is; and that he did, according to the best of his judgment, fully and duly execute the judgment of the court in the usual and common manner.'
Fourteen or fifteen affidavits were at the same time produced, proving that the manner in which Shebbeare actually stood, was with, 'his hands in and through the small holes, and his head and face fully exposed through some of them said in and through) the large hole: and that he stood so during the whole time that the sentence required him to stand.
And several of the deponents (sherrif's officers and others) swore positively that the standing without confining the head, was the usual ordinary manner, and had been so for thirty or forty years in Middlesex, of criminals pursuant to rules of this kind, and that it had been usual in that county, not to fasten or confine the head in the pillory, for a great many years backwards, and ever since one or two persons who were locked down in the pillory had been killed; and several of them particularized how much inconvenience might follow from fastening it down upon the head. And two of the sheriff's officers swore, 'that they always deemed and conceived it to be a full execution of the words of the rule, to stand as this man stood, with the hands in, and the head and face exposed through the holes of the pillory.
Mr. Beardmore and his counsel admitted (or at least did not pretend to contradict) that his arms were not put through the small holes, and that the pillory was not shut down upon Shebbeare, nor his head absolutely thrust through it; which the sheriff's officers swore they did not apprehend to be necessary or usual unless the person was refractory. Neither, indeed, was it pretended that the upper board of this pillory was at all let down over his neck.
Mr. Howard observed, (amongst other things) that the sentence of quartering and burning the bowels of traitors is never strictly executed, nor the punishment of burning in the hand, which is constantly and notoriously done in the face, and with the knowledge of the judges themselves, with a cold iron.
Lord Mansfield declared that the charge, if true, was a disobedience to the rules of the Court by their own officer, and as such, liable to a summary punishment. Justices Denison, Foster, and Wilmot, were of the same opinion, and an attachment was issued against Beardmore. He was brought up, and sentenced to two months' imprisonment, and a fine Of £30.
Among the Indians of America, murder is still considered as a civil injury, left to individual punishment or revenge. The murderer may even appease the wrath of the relatives of the murdered by covering the body; a phrase which combines at once an elegant sentiment of hiding a distressful and irritating object from the eyes of its natural lovers and avengers, and a worldly satisfaction of the more sordid feelings of the injured, by offering an atonement in goods. The American Indians cover the body by heaping upon it clothing and trinkets, and other articles of value.
In Turkey it is considered the business of the next relations, and of them only, to avenge the slaughter of their kinsmen; and that if they rather choose to compound the matter for money, nothing more should be said about it.
The appeal of murder, now happily abolished in this country, was founded upon the same principle; even after the appeal was brought, the appellor might accept a pecuniary compensation. Such was the case of the Kennedies, who, in 1770, were tried for the murder of a watchman on Westminster Bridge. They were found guilty, and sentence of death was passed on them; but they were respited, and afterwards pardoned, on condition of transporting themselves for life. At the following session, the widow of the murdered man brought an appeal; they were brought to the bar of the Court of King's Bench, in order to plead to the appeal; but the widow having accepted the sum Of £350 as a compensation, did not appear, and suffered a non-suit.
In one of the Bombay journals for 1814, there is the following account of the punishment of a criminal at Baroda, by an elephant. The man was a slave, and two days before had murdered his master, brother to a native chieftain, named Ameer Sahib. About eleven o'clock the elephant was brought out, with only the driver on his back, surrounded by natives with bamboos in their hands. The criminal was placed three yards behind on the ground, his legs tied by three ropes, which were fastened to a ring on the right hind leg of the animal. At every step the elephant took, it jerked him forwards, and eight or ten steps must have dislocated every limb, for they were loose and broken when the elephant had proceeded five hundred yards. The man though covered with mud, showed every sign of life, and seemed to be in the most excruciating torments. After having been tortured in this manner about an hour, he was taken to the outside of the town, when the elephant, which is instructed for such purposes, is backed, and puts his foot on the head of the criminal.
The Ordeal in India
'Among other curious circumstances in my administration of justice at Dhuborg,' (says Mr. Forbes in his 'Oriental Memoirs,') 'I was sometimes obliged to admit of the ordeal trial. In the first instance, a man was accused of stealing a child covered with jewels, which is a common mode of adorning infants among the wealthy Hindoos. Many circumstances appeared against him, on which he demanded the ordeal. It was a measure to which I was very averse, but at the particular request of the Hindoo arbitrators, who sat on the carpet of justice, and especially at the earnest entreaty of the child's parents, I consented. A cauldron of boiling oil was brought into the dubar, and, after a short ceremony by the Brahmins, the accused person, without showing any anxiety, dipped his hand to the bottom, and took out a small silver coin, which I still preserve in remembrance of this transaction. He did not appear to have sustained any damage, or to suffer the smallest pain; but the process went on no further, as the parents declared themselves perfectly convinced of his innocence.
In India there are various sorts of ordeal, which in several parts of that vast empire is still the favourite and common mode of deciding disputes, not only between individuals, but in casses affecting a whole tribe. A few years ago, the Koolies of a village in the most northern part of Guzerat, were accused of having seized and imprisoned a Bohra, and of extorting a bond from him for four hundred and fifty rupees. The Thakurda, or chief, a Khemaria Koolie, named Wagajee, denied every part of the charge, and for the proof of his innocence and that of his people, offered to submit to trial by any kind of ordeal.
The Bohra agreed to the trial, and it was determined the Koolie should immerse his hand in a vessel of boiling oil. A large copper pot, called by the natives, Kurye, full of oil, was put on a fire in the market-place, and a pair of blacksmith's bellows applied until it became very hot; a rupee was then thrown into it.
The Koolie came forward, stripped himself, and bathed, saying his prayers, and protesting his innocence; he resisted all attempts to dissuade him from the trial.
It is a vulgar, but erroneous opinion, that the people of Hindoostan are insensible and indifferent to the miseries and misfortunes of their fellow-creatures; on this occasion, the crowd assembled seemed universally impressed with the awfulness of an immediate appeal to the Deity, and prayed devoutly that if the Koolie were innocent, he might pass through his test unhurt.
After the ceremonies, Wagajee walked up to the oil, which appeared boiling, and with great unconcern dipped his hand into it, and laid hold of the rupee, which however slipped out of his fingers into the oil again; he then held up his hand, that the spectators might satisfy themselves of his veracity. His hand appeared as if he had merely put it in cold oil; there were no signs of burn or scald whatever upon it. He was absolved, and dismissed with a present of a new turban, amidst the gratulations of his friends and the multitude.
'They have an artifice at Newcastle-under Line and Walsall (says Dr. Plott in his 'History of Staffordshire'), for correcting of scolds, which it does too so effectually and so very safely, that I look upon it as much to be preferred to the cucking-stool, which not only endangers the health of the Party, but also gives the tongue liberty 'twixt every dip, to neither of which this is at all liable; it being such a bridle for the tongue, as not only deprives them of speech, but brings shame for the transgression, and humility thereupon before it is taken off; which being put upon the offender by order of the magistrate, and fastened with a padlock behind, she is led round the town by an officer, to her shame; nor is it taken off till after the party begins to show all external signs imaginable, of humiliation and amendment.'
This instrument, which was called the franks, may properly be termed an iron mask, having a spike so contrived as to enter the mouth, and hold down the noisy organ. If the offender attempts to speak when undergoing this punishment, a sharp hint is given of the necessity of preserving silence.
The ducking or cucking stool for the punishmeat of scolds, was formerly as common in every parish in England, as the stocks or the whipping-post. It was also called a tumbrel, tribuck, trebucket, and a thewe. It consisted of a chair, fixed at the end of a long pole, in which the offenders being seated, were immersed in some muddy or dirty pond.
The ducking-stool is an instrument of punishment of great antiquity. Bourne says it was in use in this country in the time of the Saxons, by whom it was described to be 'cathedra in quo rixosae mulieres sedentes aquis demergebantur.'
The punishment of the ducking-stool was also inflicted anciently on brewers and bakers who transgressed the laws. In the 'Regiam Majestatem,' by Sir John Skene, this punishment is said to have been anciently used in Scotland. Speaking of browsters, that is, 'wemen quha brews aill to be sauld,' it is said, 'gif she makes gude ail, that is sufficient; but gif she makes evill ail, contrair to the use and consuetude of the burgh, and his convict thereof, she sall pay ane unlaw of aucht shillinges, or sal suffer the justice of the burgh, that is, she sall be put upon the cuck-stule, and the ail sall be distributed to the pure folke.'
Borlasse, in his 'Natural History of Cornwall, tells us that 'among the punishments inflicted in Cornwall of old time, was that of the cucking-stool, a seat of infamy, where scolds were condemned to abide the derision of those that passed by, for such time as the baliffs of manors, which had the privilege of such jurisdiction, did appoint.'
Mr. Lysons, in his 'Environs of London,' mentions, that at a court of the manor of Edgeware, held in the year 1552, the inhabitants were presented for not having a tumbrel, and a ducking-stool, by which it would appear that there was some difference between them; and the following extract from Cowel's 'Interpreter,' is in confirmation of the difference:- 'Georgius Grey, comes Cantii clamat in maner de Bushton et Ayton punire delinquentes contra assisam paniset cervisiae, per tres vices per amerciamenta, et quarta vice pistores per pilloriam, braciatores per tumbrellam et rixatrices, per thewe, hoc est ponere eas super scabellum vocat, a cucking-stool. Pl. in Itin. apud Cestr. 14 Hen. VII.'
Mr. Lysons gives a curious extract from the churchwarden's and chamberlain's accounts, at Kingston-upon-Thames, in the year 1572, which contains a bill of the expenses for making one of these ducking-stools, amounting to twenty-three shillings and fourpence; and as entries of this kind are frequent, it would appear that they must have been much in use formerly. Even when Gay wrote his 'Pastorals,' it would appear that they were not uncommon, and are thus described in the 'Dumps:'
'I'll speed me to the pond, where the high stool
On the long plank, hangs o'er the muddy pool,
That stool the dread of ev'ry scolding quean.'
In the 'New Help to Discourse,' published in 1684, there is the following retort on the subject of the ducking-stool:- 'Some gentlemen travelling, and coming near to a town, saw an old woman spinning near the duckingstool; one, to make the company merry, asked the good woman what the chair was for? Said she, "you know what it is." "Indeed," said he, "not I, unless it be a chair you use to spin in." "No, no," said she, "you know it to be otherwise; have you not heard that it is the cradle your good mother hath often layn in?"'
A volume of poems by Benjamin West of Northamptonshire, printed in 1780, contains a copy of verses, said to have been written some years previous, entitled the 'DuckingStool,' in which it is thus noticed:
'There stands, my friend, in yonder pool,
An engine call'd a ducking-stool;
By legal pow'r commanded down,
The joy and terror of the town.
If jarring females kindle strife,
Give language foul, or lug the coif,
If noisy dames should once begin
To drive the house with horrid din,
Away, you cry, you'll grace the stool,
We'll teach you how your tongue to rule.
The fair offender fills the seat,
In sullen pomp, profoundly great.
Down in the deep the stool descends,
But here, at first, we miss our ends;
She mounts again, and rages more
Than ever vixen did before.
So, throwing water on the fire,
Will but make it burn the higher.
If so, my friend, pray let her take
A second turn into the lake;
And, rather than your patience lose,
Thrice and again repeat the dose.
No bawling wives, no furious wenches,
No fire so hot but water quenches.'
A note to this poem informs us, that to the honour of the fair sex in the neighbourhood of R***y, this machine has been taken down as useless several years.
How long the ducking-stool has been in disuse in England does not appear; but that it was not always effectual, is proved from the records of the King's Bench, where we find, that in the year 1681, Mrs. Finch, a most notorious scold, who had been thrice ducked previously, for scolding, was a fourth time convicted for the offence, when the court sentenced her to pay a fine of three marks, and to be imprisoned until it was paid.
In the United States of America, where many English customs, now forgotten in this country, are retained, the ducking-stool is still the punishment inflicted on a common scold, by the law of Baltimore, and some other States of the Union; and in one of the American papers for 1818, there is a mention of one Mary Davis, who had been indicted for the offence, and found guilty by the jury, after a consultation of an hour and a half. She was sentenced to be publicly ducked.
The Drunkard's Cloak.
It appears from 'Gardiner's England's Grievance in relation to the Coal Trade,' that in the time of the Commonwealth, the magistrates of Newcastle-upon-Tyne punished drunkards by making them put a tub over their heads, with holes in the sides for the arms to pass through, called the Drunkard's Cloak, and thus walk through the streets of the town.
Saving a Preacher.
During the protectorate of Cromwell, a cobbler of New York killed an Indian; but as this man was an eloquent preacher as well as a cobbler, the colonists determined not to lose him; they tried him in the accustomed manner, and he was found guilty; but on the day of execution, they took a poor old weaver who had long been bed-ridden, out of his bed, and hanged him instead of the real offender.
In one of the many plots which were formed against the life and government of Peter the Great, there was among the number of those seized a soldier belonging to his own regiment of guards. Peter being told by the officers, that this man had always behaved extremely well, had a curiosity to see him, and to learn, from his own mouth what had been his inducement to be concerned in a plot against him. To this purpose he dressed himself in plain clothes, that he might not be known by the man, and went to the prison where he was confined. After some conversation, Peter added, I should be glad to hear, friend, what were your reasons for being concerned in an attempt against the emperor, your master, as I am certain he never did you any injury; on the contrary he has a regard for you as a brave soldier, and a man who always did his duty in the field; if you were, therefore, to show the least remorse for what you have done, the emperor, would, I am persuaded, forgive you: but before I interest myself in your behalf, you must tell me by what motives you were induced to join the mutineers, and I say again, that the emperor, who is naturally good and compassionate, will give you your pardon.
'I know nothing of the emperor,' replied the soldier, 'for I never saw him but at a distance; but he caused my father's head to be cut off, some time ago, for being concerned in a former rebellion, and it is the duty of a son to revenge the death of the father, by the death of the person who took away his life. If, then, the emperor is really so good and merciful as you have represented him, advise him, for his own safety, not to pardon me, for were he to restore me to my liberty, the first use I should make of it would be to engage in some new attempt against his life; nor should I ever rest until I had accomplished my design. The securest method, therefore, which he can take, will be to order my head to be struck off immediately, without which his own life is in danger.'
The Czar in vain used all the arguments he could think of, to set before this desperado the folly and injustice of such sentiments. He still persisted in what he had declared, and Peter departed greatly chagrined at the bad success of his visit, and gave orders for the execution of this man with the rest of his accomplices.
Terrors of Conscience.
Christor Juvenaldes Urfius, in a collection of pieces printed in 1601, gives twenty articles of a kind of journal which he had made of the six last months of the year 1572, and of the siege of Rochelle in 1573. The following is one of them. 'On August 30th, 1572, eight days after the massacre of St. Bartholomew, I supped at the Louvre at Mademoiselle de Fiesque's; the heat had been intense all the day; we went and sat down in a small arbour by the river side, to enjoy the fresh air. On a sudden we heard in the air a horrible sound of tumultuous voices, and of groans mixed with cries of rage and fury; we remained motionless, in the utmost consternation, looking on each other from time to time, without being able to speak. This continued, I believe, almost half an hour; it is certain the king heard it, that he was terrified by it, and that he could not sleep the remainder of the night; that, nevertheless, he did not mention it the next morning, but he was observed to look gloomy, pensive, and wild.' Mr. P. Foix remarks, that if any prodigy deserves credit, it is this being attested by Henry IV. 'This prince,' says D'Aubigne, book i. chap. 6, page 561, 'frequently told, amongst his most intimate friends (and many now living can witness,) that he never mentioned it without still being terrified by it; that eight days after the massacre of St. Bartholomew, he saw a vast number of ravens perch and croak on the pavilion of the Louvre; that the same night Charles IX., after he had been two hours in bed, started up, roused his grooms of the chamber, and sent them out to listen to a great noise of groans in the air, and among others, some furious and threatening voices, the whole resembling what was heard on the night of the massacre; that all these various cries were so striking, so remarkable, and so articulate, that Charles IX., believing that the enemies of the Montmorencies and of their partizans had surprised and attacked them, sent a detachment of his guards to prevent this new massacre.' It is scarcely necessary to add, that the intelligence brought from Paris proved these apprehensions to be groundless; and that the noises heard must have been the fanciful creations of the guilty conscience of the king, countenanced by the vivid remembrance of those around him of the horrors of St. Bartholomew's day.
Peine Forte et Dure.
The most remarkable case that ever occurred of submission to the dreadful penalty of standing mute, now happily repealed, was that of a Mr. Calverly, of a very ancient family in the North of England. Being a man of violent passions, he conceived a jealousy against his wife, which by some unfortunate accident was turned into such a frenzy of rage, that early one morning he murdered her, by splitting her skull with his battle-axe, and forced seven children he had by her, to leap off the battlements of his castle into the moat which surrounded it, where they all stuck fast in the mud, and were suffocated by the slime or the water. The monster then mounted his horse, and galloped towards a farmer's cottage, where one of his children, an infant at the breast, was at nurse. Whilst on the road, he was ruminating in gloomy and horrid satisfaction on his approach to the only victim wanting to the final completion of his jealous revenge; the moon on a sudden darkened, he lost himself in the midst of a thick forest; the thunder of heaven, which now stunned his ears, seemed to roll against him, and summon him to judgment; while the pale lightning appalling his soul, was to his frantic imagination, the fire of hell preparing intolerable punishments and excruciating tortures for millions of ages. In an agony of remorse for the atrocities he had committed, he went and delivered himself up to justice. After having made his peace with heaven for the murder of his wife and children, he now became distressed by the thought of depriving the child so rescued from his dagger, of the estate and dignity of his ancestors; and of leaving it, instead of its due inheritance, poverty and infamy. He reflected, that should he be convicted and suffer, or should he by his own hand anticipate the stroke of justice, his estate must in either case go to the crown. He therefore stood mute upon being arraigned, and submitted to the penalty with the heroic patience of a martyr. His estate was thus preserved for his child, which was a male; and from whom, if we are rightly informed, is lineally descended the present family of Blackett in Yorkshire.
This tragical tale seems to have furnished the fable of the play called the Yorkshire Tragedy, said by some critics to be written by Shakspeare.
It was in a case of a very similar nature that this revolting punishment was for the last time put into execution. The criminal was a master of a ship, charged with piracy, who, to save some landed property to his family, submitted to the penalty of standing mute.
Such were examples of good arising out of this law; but the instances of its operation were more frequently of a very opposite character.
At the Nottingham Assizes in the year 1735, a person who was commonly reputed to have been both deaf and dumb from his infancy, was tried, or rather to be tried, for murder. Two persons, who (as was afterwards found) bore him no great good will, swore positively that they had heard him speak. He was desired to plead guilty or not guilty. A lawyer represented his case most feelingly to the judge. But the law on the subject being supposed to be imperative, he was taken into an adjoining room, and actually pressed to death, continuing, says a register of the times, obstinately dumb to the last.
The Press-yard, Newgate, was so named because it was the place for inflicting the Peine forte et dure.
Warrant of Execution.
The warrant for executing a criminal was anciently by precept under the hand and seal of the judge, as it is still practised in the court of the Lord High Steward upon the execution of a peer; though in the Court of Peers in Parliament it is done by writ from the king. Afterwards it was established, that in case of life, the judge may command execution to be done without writ. Now the usage is, for the judge to sign the calendar, or list of all the persons' names, with their separate judgment in the margin, which is left with the sheriff. As for a capital felony, it is written opposite to the person's name, 'Let him be hanged by the neck.' Formerly, in the days of Latin and abbreviation, 'SUS. per coll.;' for 'suspendatur per collum.' And this is the only warrant that the sheriff has for so material an act as taking away the life of another. it is certainly remarkable that in civil cases there should be such a variety of writs of execution to recover a trifling debt, issued in the king's name, and under the seal of the court, without which the sheriff cannot legally stir one step; and yet that the execution of a man, the most important and terrible of any, should depend upon a marginal note.
'At the time I visited Bridewell,' says Mr. Pennant in his 'Account of London,' 'there was not a single male prisoner, but about twenty females. They were confined to a ground floor, and employed in beating hemp. When the door was opened by the keeper, they ran towards it like so many hounds in a kennel, and presented a most moving sight; about twenty young creatures, the eldest not sixteen, many of them with angelic faces, divested of every angelic passion, and featured with impudence, and impertinence, and profligacy, and clothed in the silken tatters of squalid finery. A magisterial -a national opprobrium! What a disadvantageous contrast to the Spinhouse in Amsterdam, where the confined sit under the eye of a matron, spinning or sewing in plain and neat dresses provided by the public; no traces of their former lives appear in their countenances; a thorough reformation seems to have been effected, equally to the interests and honour of the republic.'
The Isle of Man.
In the Isle of Man it was formerly the law, that to take away an ox or a horse was not a felony, but a trespass, because of the difficulty in that little territory of concealing or carrying them off; but to steal a pig or a fowl, which is easily done, was a capital crime, for which the offender was punished with death.
Inquisition of Toledo.
On the entry of the French into Toledo, during the Peninsular war, General Lasalle visited the palace of the Inquisition. The great number of the instruments of torture, especially the instrument to stretch the limbs, the drop baths, which cause a lingering death, excited horror even in the minds of soldiers hardened in the field of battle. One of these instruments, singular in its kind for refined torture, and disgraceful to reason and religion in the choice of its object, deserves a particular description.
In a subterraneous vault, adjoining the secret audience chamber, stood in a recess in the wall, a wooden statue made by the hands of monks, representing the Virgin Mary. A gilded glory beamed round her head, and she held a standard in her right hand. It immediately struck the spectator, notwithstanding the ample folds of the silk garment which fell from the shoulders on both sides, that she wore a breastplate. Upon a closer examination, it appeared that the whole front of the body was covered with extremely sharp nails, and small daggers or blades of knives with the points projecting outwards. The arms and hands had joints, and their motions were directed by machinery placed behind the partition. One of the servants of the Inquisition who was present was ordered by the general to make the machine manoeuvre, as he expressed it. As the statue extended its arms and gradually drew them back, as if she would affectionately embrace and press some one to her heart, the well-filled knapsack of a Polish grenadier supplied for this time the place of the poor victim. The statue pressed it closer and closer; and when, at the command of the general, the director of the machinery made it open its arms and return to its first position, the knapsack was pierced two or three inches deep, and remained hanging upon the nails and daggers of the murderous instrument.
Portuguese Auto da Fe.
When Mr. Wilcox, afterwards Bishop of Gloucester, was minister to the English factory at Lisbon, he sent the following letter to the then Bishop of Salisbury, Dr. Gilbert Burnet, dated Lisbon, January 15, 1706, N.S.
'My Lord, - In obedience to your lordship's commands of the 10th ult., I have here sent all that was printed concerning the last auto da fe. I saw the whole process, which was agreeable to what was published by Limborch and others upon that subject. Of the five persons condemned, there were but four burnt, Antonio Tavanes, by an unusual reprieve, being saved after the procession. Heytor Dias and Maria Penteyra were burnt alive, and the other two first strangled. The execution was very cruel. The woman was alive in the flames half an hour, and the man above an hour. The present king and his brothers were seated at a window so near as to be addressed for a considerable time, in very moving terms, by the man as he was burning. But though the favour he begged was only a few more faggots, yet he was not able to obtain it. The fire was recruited as it wasted, to keep him just in the same degree of heat. All his entreaties could not procure him a larger allowance of wood to shorten and despatch him.'
Three German robbers having acquired, by various atrocities, what amounted to a valuable booty, they agreed to divide the spoil, and to retire from so dangerous a vocation. When the day arrived which they had appointed for that purpose, one of them was despatched to a neighhouring town, to purchase provisions for their last carousal. The other two secretly agreed to murder him on his return, that each might come in for half the plunder, instead of one-third. They did so. But the murdered man was a closer calculator than his assassins, for he had previously poisoned part of the provisions, in order that he might appropriate the whole of the spoil to himself. The triumvirate of worthies were found dead together.
Cruelty to Criminals.
Although the English criminal laws are almost unparalleled in severity, yet they are not aggravated by the manner in which they are carried into execution, as was the case in former times, when criminals were treated with barbarous meanness and insult. When Richard Fitzalan, the great Earl of Arundel, was capitally convicted, he was instantly hurried from Westminster Hall, where he was tried, to Tower Hill; his arms and hands were bound; and the king glutted his eyes with the bloody scene. That great peer, Thomas, Duke of Norfolk, who was confined in the Tower in the last year of Henry VIII, was reduced to beg for sheets. He was to have lost his head, but was saved by the death of the tyrant, on the very day ordered for his execution. He was kept in custody during the next short reign, but was released on the accession of Queen Mary. He mounted his horse, at the age of fourscore, to assist in quelling the insurrection of Sir Thomas Wyat, in 1541. This served to fill the Tower with new subjects for the mean insults of the times. Sir Thomas, and the rest of the prisoners, were brought into the Tower through the traitor's gate. The lieutenant received them one by one, with insults and gross abuse. When Sir Thomas appeared, gallantly dressed, the lieutenant actually collared him: Sir Thomas gave him a fierce and reproachful look, bravely telling him, 'this is no masterie now!'
The 'maiden,' an instrument for beheading criminals in England, seems to have been originally confined in its use, to the limits of the forest of Hardwick, or the eighteen towns and hamlets within its precincts, in the county of York. The time when this instrument first came in use, is unknown; whether Earl Warren, lord of this forest, might have established it among the sanguinary laws then in use against the invaders of the hunting rights, or whether it might not have been introduced after the woollen manufacturers at Halifax began to gain strength, is uncertain. The last is most probable, for the wild country around the town was inhabited by a lawless set, whose depredations on the cloth tenters, might soon stifle the efforts of infant industry.
The custom of beheading by the maiden, which at last received the force of law, seems to have been established for the protection of trade, and the great terror of offenders by speedy execution. The law was, that 'if a felon be taken within the liberty of the forest of Hardwick, with goods stolen out, or within the said precincts, either hand, habend, backberand, or confessioned to the value of thirteen-pence halfpenny, he shall, after three market days, or meeting days, within the town of Halifax, next after such his apprehension and being condemned, be taken to the gibbet, and there have his head cut from his body.'
The offender always had a fair trial; for as soon as he was taken, he was brought to the Lord's Bailiff at Halifax; he was then exposed on the three markets, which were held thrice a week, placed in the stocks with the stolen goods on his back; or if the theft was of the cattle kind, they were placed by him; and this was done both to strike terror into others, and to produce new informations against the culprit. The bailiff then summoned four freeholders of each town within the forest to form a jury. The felon and prosecutors were brought face to face, and the goods, the cow, the horse, or whatsoever was stolen, produced.
If he was found guilty he was remanded to prison, had a week's time allowed for preparation, and then was conveyed to the place of execution, where his head was struck off by this machine.
If the criminal, either after apprehension, or in the way to execution, could escape out of the limits of the forest, the bailiff had no farther power over him; but if he should be caught within the precincts at any time after, he was immediately executed on his former sentence.
The maiden was freely used in the maiden reign of Queen Elizabeth, during which time twenty-five persons suffered by it; and from 1623 to 1625, at least twelve more; after which it was not used.
In the Parliament House at Edinburgh, one of these machines of death is still preserved. It was introduced into Scotland by the Regent Morton, who took a model of it as he passed through Halifax, had one made, and at last suffered by it himself.
The maiden decapitated the body, by means of an axe fixed in the form of a ram for driving piles of wood. If the criminal was condemned for stealing a horse or a cow, the animal was fixed to the string, and on being whipped, disengaged the axe, which fell upon the neck, and thus the beast became the executioner.
The first appearance of gipsies in Germany, is supposed to have been in the commencement of the sixteenth century. In a few years they gained such a number of idle proselytes, that they became troublesome, and even formidable, to most of the states of Europe; hence they were expelled from France in the year 1560, and from Spain in 1591. The government of England had taken the alarm much earlier; for in 1530, they are described in a statute of Henry the Eighth, as 'an outlandish people calling themselves Egyptians, using no craft nor feat of merchandize, who have come into this realm, and gone from shire to shire, and place to place, in great companies, and used great, subtle, and crafty means to deceive the people; bearing them in hand, that they by palmistry could tell men's and women's fortunes; and so many times by craft and subtlety have deceived the people of their money, and also have committed many heinous felonies and robberies.'
By this statute they are directed to avoid the realm, and not to return on pain of imprisonment, and forfeiture of their goods and chattels; and upon their trials for any felony which they may have committed, they shall not be entitled to a jury de medietate linguae. In the reign of the sanguinary Queen Mary, it was enacted, that if any such persons shall be imported into the kingdom, the importer shall forfeit #40. And if the Egyptians themselves remain one month in the kingdom, or if any person, being fourteen years old, whether natural born subject, or 'stranger, who has been seen or found in the fellowship of such Egyptians, or who hath disguised him or herself like them, shall remain in the same one month, at one or several times; it is felony without benefit of clergy.
Sir Matthew Hale states at one Suffolk Assizes, not less than thirteen persons were executed upon these statutes, a few years before the Restoration; but to the honour of our national humanity, there are no instances more modern than this of carrying these laws into practice; and, at last, the sanguinary act itself was repealed in 1783.
In Scotland, the gipsies enjoyed some share of indulgence; for a writ of Privy Seal, dated 1594, supports John Faw, Lord and Earl of Little Egypt, in the execution of justice on his company and folk, conform to the laws of Egypt, and in punishing certain persons there named, who rebelled against him, left him, robbed him, and refused to return home with him. King James's subjects are commanded to assist in apprehending them, and in assisting Faw and his adherents to return home. There is a similar writ in his favour from Mary Queen of Scots, in 1563; and in the following year, he obtained a pardon for the murder of Nunan Small; so that it appears he had staid long in Scotland. It was from this King of the Gipsies, that this erratic people received in Scotland the name of Faw's gang, which they still retain.
Philip de Comines, in his 'Life of Louis XI.' has not concealed the dreadful cruelties and extortions by which he rendered himself one of the most odious monarchs that ever swayed the sceptre of France. Stronger colours could not be employed than those in which he describes his loathsome dungeons, his iron cages, and chain nets. Claude de Seyssel, another historian, says, 'That about the places where he was, were seen great numbers of people hanging on trees; and the prisons, and other neighbouring houses, full of prisoners, which were often heard, both by day and night, to cry out through the torments they endured; besides those who were secretly cast into the rivers.' The same historian observes, 'That this king carried his absolute power to excess. He caused Tristan, his provost, to take the prisoners who were in the palace gaol, and drown them near the Grange aux Mercier.' Mezaria, another historian, relates, 'That he had put to death above four thousand, by different punishments, which he sometimes delighted to see. Most of them had been executed without form of law; several drowned with a stone tied to their necks; others precipitated, going over a swipe, from whence they fell upon wheels, armed with spikes and cutting instruments; others were strangled in dungeons: Tristan, his companion and provost of his palace, being at once judge, witness, and executioner.'
It is a remarkable fact, that the Bishop of Verdun, who assisted Louis in the invention of his iron cages, was himself put into the first that was made, and confined to it for fourteen days; and that the king himself, not long before his death, was obliged to make himself a close prisoner in one of his strongest castles, from a dread of that thirst for vengeance with which his cruel conduct had inspired, not only his nobles and subjects, but the very members of his own family.
The reward of forty pounds on conviction for felony, though originally intended to promote vigilance in the officers of justice, has been frequently perverted to the most diabolical purposes. Individuals have not only been seduced to commit crimes, in order that the informer might obtain the price of blood; but the criminal records of this country afford many melancholy instances in which innocent men have been convicted on the perjured evidence of conspirators.
Blood money and its perversions, are not, however, of modern date; they seem to have been well understood as long ago as the reign of Edward the Third, when the appeal of murder was made a source of profit. The preamble to a statute enacted in the reign of that monarch, states, that 'to eschew the damage and destruction that often doth happen by sheriffs, jailors, and keepers of prisons, within franchises and without, which have pained their prisoners, and by such evil means compel and procure them to become appellors, and to appeal harmless and guiltless people, to the intent to have ransom of such appealed persons, for fear of imprisonment or other cause; the justices of either bench, and justices of assize and gaol delivery, shall, by force of this statute, enquire of such compulsions, punishments, and torments, and hear the complaints of all them that will complain by bill.'
Monsieur de Cinqmars, the favourite of Louis XIII., had, with his majesty's secret approbation, endeavoured to destroy Richelieu, and failed. The king was glad to appease the cardinal by sacrificing his friend, whom he used to call cher ami. When the hour of execution arrived, Louis pulled out his watch, and with a villainous smile, said, 'je crois qu'a cette heure cher ami fait un vilaine mine.' Voltaire, commending him, says that this king's character is not sufficiently known. It was not, indeed, while such an anecdote remained unstained with the blackest colours of history.
When the English court interfered in favour of the Protestant subjects of Louis XIV. of France, and requested his majesty to release some who had been sent to the galleys, the king asked him angrily, 'What would the King of Great Britain say, were I to demand the prisoners of Newgate from him?' 'Sire,' replied the ambassador, 'my master would give every one of them up to your majesty, if you reclaimed them as brothers, as we do your suffering Protestant subjects.'
Capital punishments are very rare in Holland: between the years 1799 and 1806, only nine persons were executed. But notwithstanding the horror with which the Dutch justly regard the sanguinary code of England, yet the torture was not abolished in Holland until the year 1796. The treatment of prisoners before trial is peculiarly severe; they are confined in the damp subterranean dungeons of the stadthouse, cut off from light and air, and never suffered to quit these gloomy abodes from the first moment of their commitment, until they appear before their judges in the adjoining hall, where they undergo private examinations, and at length a close trial. The prisoners are not loaded with irons; in order to escape, indeed, they must heave up the stadthouse, and therefore it may well be thought that such an aggravation of punishment would be unnecessary. They are allowed counsel on trial, but strangers are strictly excluded.
The workhouse at Amsterdam is devoted to correctional, as well as charitable purposes. In one part of the building there were confined in 1807, ten young ladies, of very respectable, and some very high, families, sent there by their parents or friends for undutiful deportment, or some other domestic offence; they are compelled to wear a particular dress, as a mark of degradation; obliged to work a stated number of hours a day, and are occasionally whipped; they are kept apart by themselves, and no one but a father, mother, brother, or sister, can see them during their confinement, and then only by an order from one of the directors. Husbands may here, upon a complaint of extravagance, drunkenness, &c., duly proved, send their wives to be confined, and receive the discipline of the house, for two, three, and four years together. The allowance of food is abundant and good; and each person is permitted to walk for a proper time in the courts within the building which are spacious. Every ward is kept locked, and no one can go in or out, without the special permission of the proper officer.
Ruse de Guerre.
The fatal duel between the Duke of Hamilton and Lord Mohun, is well known. Macartney, the second to Lord Mohun, was suspected of having stabbed the duke treacherously; a reward was offered for apprehending him. About that time, a gentleman was set upon by highwaymen, and with a happy presence of mind, told them that he was Macartney. On this they brought him to a justice of peace, in hopes of the reward, when he gave charge against them for the robbery, and they were sent to jail.
In the early settlement of Virginia, when the adventurers were principally unmarried men, it was deemed necessary to export such women as could be prevailed upon to quit England, as wives for the planters. A letter accompanying a shipment of these matrimonial exiles, dated London, August 12 1621, is illustrative of the manners of the times, and the concern then felt for the welfare of the colony, and for female virtue. It is as follows :
'We send you in the ship, one widow and eleven maids, for wives for the people of Virginia; there hath been especial care had in the choice of them, for there hath not one of them been received but upon good commendations.
'Incase they cannot be presently married, we desire that they may be put with several householders that have wives, till they can be provided with husbands. There are nearly fifty more that are shortly to come, and are sent by our Hon. Lord and Treasurer, the Earl of Southampton, and certain worthy gentlemen, who taking into their consideration that the plantation can never flourish till families be planted, and the respect of wives and children for their people on the soil, therefore have given this fair beginning; for the reimbursing of whose charges, it is ordered that every man that marries them, give one hundred and twenty pounds of best leaf tobacco for each of them.
'Though we are desirous that the marriage be free, according to the laws of nature ' yet we would not have those maids deceived, and married to servants; but only to such freemen or tenants as have means to maintain them. We pray you, therefore, to be fathers of them in this business, not enforcing them to marry against their wills.'
Murder will Out.
The observation of Dryden, that
'With sure steps, though lame and slow,
Vengeance o'ertakes the villain's speed,'
has seldom met a stronger confirmation than in the conviction and execution of William Andrew Horne, at Nottingham, in 1759, for a murder committed thirty-five years before. The discovery of the crime was rather singular. Horne having threatened one Mr. Roe for killing game, and meeting him soon after at a public-house, words arose about the right to kill game; Roe called Horne some names which subjected him to a prosecution in the Ecclesiastical Court at Litchfield, and being unable to prove the charge, was obliged to submit, and pay all expenses. Roe being afterwards informed that Charles Horne had mentioned to some persons that his brother William had starved his natural child to death, went to them, and found it was true. Upon this, he applied, about Christmas 1758, to a justice in Derbyshire, for a warrant to apprehend Charles, that the truth might come out. William Horne was then arrested, and took his trial for the murder of the child, in August, 1759, at Nottingham; when, after a trial which lasted nine hours, he was found guilty.
Certainty of Punishment.
During the wars in Flanders, in the reign of Queen Anne, when the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene commanded the allied army, a soldier, in the division of the latter, was condemned to be hanged for marauding. The man happened to be a favourite with his officers, who took great pains to save his life, and for this purpose interceded with the prince, who positively refused to grant their request. They then applied to the Duke of Marlborough, begging his Grace to interfere; he accordingly went to Prince Eugene, who said, 'he never did, and never would, consent to the pardon of a marauder.' 'Why,' said the duke, 'at this rate, we shall hang half the army; I pardon a great many.' 'That,' replied the prince, 'is the reason that so much mischief is done by your people, and that so many suffer for it; I never pardon any, and therefore there are very few to be punished in my department.' The duke still urged his request; on which the prince said, 'Let the matter be enquired into, and if your Grace has not executed more than I have done, I will consent to the pardon of this fellow.' The proper enquiries were accordingly made, and the numbers turned out very highly in favour of Prince Eugene; on which he said to the duke. 'There, my lord, you see the benefit of example. You pardon many, and therefore you are forced to execute many; I never pardon one, therefore few dare to offend, and of course but few suffer.'
This is one among the many confirmations which might be adduced of the truth of Beccaria's remark, that 'a less punishment, which is certain, will do more good than a greater, which is uncertain.'
Some years ago, an attempt, was supposed to have been made to rob a house in Paris during the night; the family was disturbed, and if there had been any robbers, they were scared from their purpose. The master of the house, in relating the circumstance, said that he thought his house had 'been attacked par des rossignols,' an expression Anglois; which sufficiently shows that the frequency of burglaries in this country, has become, in a manner, proverbial on the Continent.
Murderers Discovered by Two Dogs.
A labouring man of Tobolski, who had deposited in a purse skin which he wore at his breast, the hard-earned savings of his life, was murdered by two of his companions, for the sake of his little treasure. The murderers escaped to a neighbouring forest, followed by two dogs belonging to the deceased, which would not quit them. The wretches did everything to appease them, but in vain. They then endeavoured to kill them, but the dogs were upon their guard, and continued to howl dreadfully. Reduced to despair, the murderers, at the end of two days, returned to Krasnojarsk, and delivered themselves into the hands of justice.
On the 30th of May, 1791, Robespierre spoke in the National Assembly in favour of abolishing the punishment of death; and yet there hardly ever was an individual who showed less regard for human life, or shed blood with such indiscriminate profusion.
Destruction of Robespierre.
The celebrated Jean Lambert Tallien, had formed a tender friendship with the beautiful Madame Cabarus, so celebrated in revolutionary history; but at the period in question, mutual jealousy had interrupted their attachment. She was thrown into a dungeon by order of Robespierre; and when it was conceived she had been sufficiently terrified by imprisonment, and the prospect of the guillotine, she was offered life and liberty if she would betray the councils of Tallien, and enable his enemies to ruin him. Although her lover had been faithless, and had deserted her, she refused the offer with indignation; and, with great difficulty, had the following letter conveyed to him:
'The Minister of Police has announced to me, that tomorrow I am to appear at the tribunal; that is to say, I am to ascend the scaffold. I dreamt last night that Robespierre was no more, and that my prison doors were opened. A brave man might have realized my dream; but, thanks to your notorious cowardice, no one remains who is capable of its accomplishment.'
Tallien answered merely, 'Be prudent as I shall prove brave; and, above all, be tranquil.'
The next day he hurried to the tribunal, and, regardless of danger, accused the miscreant Robespierre in his own presence. The eloquence of Tallien had always been commanding and impressive; but on this occasion, it was compared to the impetuous flowing of a river, whose course had been prematurely stopped. He portrayed the vices of Robespierre and his companions; the cruelty, and the other excesses of their government, which had deprived France of her most illustrious citizens. Then, taking a dagger from his bosom, he rushed towards the statue of Brutus, his own immortal prototype, and swore, that he himself would stab the tyrant to the heart, if his countrymen did not deliver themselves from their disgraceful bondage. His language, his action, and his animated eye, were irresistible; for they recalled the Roman hero to the minds of all the auditors. Robespierre was astounded, and attempted to defend himself. The moment was critical; the life of Tallien hung upon a thread; but his eloquence prevailed, and the tribunal regained its lost character. The tyrant was sent to the scaffold; Madame Cabarus and other intended victims were saved, and the reign of terror was abolished.
Bandit of Goelnitz.
A judge of the name of Helmanotz, in the department of Zips, sent a young female peasant with a sum of money to Goelnitz, a small town situated among the mountains. Not far from the village a countryman joined her, and demanded where she was going? The girl replied, that she was journeying with a sum of 200 florins to Goelnitz. The countryman told her that he was going there also, and proposed that they should travel together. At the wood, the countryman pursued a path which he had told the girl would shorten their journey at least two leagues. At length they arrived at the mouth of an excavation, which had once been worked as a mine; the countryman stopped short, and in a loud voice said to the girl, 'behold your grave; deliver me the money instantly.' The girl, trembling with fear, complied with his demand, and then entreated him to spare her life; the villain was inflexible, and he commanded her to prepare herself for death; the poor girl fell on her knees, and while in the act of supplicating for life, the villain happened to turn away his head, when she sprang upon him, precipitated him into the cavity, and then ran and announced to the village what had happened. Several of the inhabitants, provided with ladders, returned with her to the spot. They descended into the hole, and found the countryman dead, with the money which he had taken from the girl in his possession. Near him lay three dead female bodies in a state of putrefaction. It is probable that these were victims to the rapacity of the same villain. In a girdle which he had round his body, was discovered a sum of 800 florins in gold.
The Turks, says Mr. Turner, one of the most recent travellers in the East, allow that their emperor may kill every day, fourteen of his subjects with impunity, and without impeachment of tyranny, because, say they, he does many things by divine impulse, the reason of which it is not permitted to them to know. I have been told that a Pasha of three tails is authorized by law to cut off five heads a day; a Pasha of two tails, three; and a Pasha of one tail, one.
A Mollah (judge) of Jerusalem being disturbed at night by dogs, ordered all those animals in Jerusalem and its environs to be killed, and thus excited a mutiny among the people, who are forbidden by the Koran to kill any beast unless it be hurtful, or necessary for the nourishment of man. Having, however, by the authority of the Mufti, his father, succeeded in obtaining obedience to his orders, he was emboldened to issue another still more capricious. The flies being very troublesome to him during the heat of summer, he ordered that every artizan should bring him every day forty of these insects on a string, under a pain of severe fine; and he caused this ridiculous sentence to be severely enforced.
When a Grand Vizier is favourably deposed (i.e. without banishing him or putting him to death), it is signified to him by a chiaoux from the Sultan, who goes to his table and wipes the ink out of his golden pen; this he understands as the sign of his dismissal; if his fate be more severe, he receives an order from the Sultan to await his sentence in a small kiosk (summer house) just outside the walls of the Seraglio, where he sits sometimes four or six hours, before the messenger comes to tell him whether he is to be banished or put to death.
Hussein Capitan Pasha (the famous one who fought at Chesme), when in the bay of Smyrna once, with his fleet, seeing one of his ships run foul of another, ordered the captain on board, and beheaded him immediately.
The same Hussein had a Jew physician called in one day to relieve him from an aching tooth; the clumsy fellow unfortunately drew the wrong one, but as the agony of extraction drowned the pain for a time, he got away undetected; the pain soon returned, and a few days after Hussein meeting the man on the Bosphorus, stopped him. and had every tooth in his head drawn.
The Turks lately punished a pirate by flaying him alive; they began at the head, and when they came to the breast, the man died with agony.
A Turk was lately beheaded at Buyukdereh (by order of the Grand Vizier. who was walking about in disguise), for having sold for twenty four paras, a quantity of chestnuts, of which the price was fixed at twelve paras.
A Turkish Love Affair.
The modern laws of Cos do not reward female chastity, but they discountenance in a very singular manner, any cruelty in females towards their admirers. While Dr. Clarke was in that island, an instance occurred, in which the fatal termination of a love affair occasioned a trial for what the Mohammedan lawyers called 'homicide by an intermediate cause.' The case was as follows:
A young man desperately in love with a girl of Stanchio, eagerly sought to marry her; but to his disappointment, his proposals were rejected. In consequence he bought some poison and destroyed himself. The Turkish police instantly arrested the father of the young woman, as the cause, by implication, of the man's death: under the fifth species of homicide, he became therefore amenable for this act of suicide. When the cause came before the magistrate, it was urged literally by the accusers, that 'if he, the accused, had not had a daughter, the deceased would not have fallen in love; consequently he would not have been disappointed; consequently he would not have swallowed poison; consequently he would not have died; but he, the accused, had a daughter, and the deceased had fallen in love, and had been disappointed; and had swallowed poison, and had died.' Upon all these counts, he was called upon to pay the price of the young man's life; and this being fixed at the sum of eighty piastres, it was accordingly exacted!
The People of Tibra.
If any one among the Cucis, or Mountaineers of Tibra, puts another to death, the chief of the tribe, or other persons who bear no relation to the deceased, have no concern in punishing the murderer; but if the murdered person have brother, or other heir, he may take blood for blood; nor has any man whatever a right to prevent or oppose such retaliation.
When a man is detected in the commission of theft, or any other atrocious offence, the chieftain causes a recompense to be given to the complainant, and reconciles both parties; but the chief himself receives a customary fine, and each party gives a feast of pork, or other meat, to the people of his respective tribe.
The laws of the Ashantees are very severe. To be convicted of cowardice, is punished with death. In almost all cases of treason, the life of the accuser is at risk, as well as accused, and is forfeited on the acquittal of the latter. Those accused of witchcraft, or of being possessed with a devil, are tortured to death. A person accidentally killing another, pays five ounces of gold to the family, and defrays the burial customs. In the case of murder, it is twenty ounces of gold and a slave, or he and his family become the slaves of the family deceased.
No man is punished for killing his own slave but he is for the murder of his wife and child. If he kills the slave of another, he must pay his value. If a great man kills his equal in rank, he is general allowed to die by his own hands: the death of an inferior is generally compensated by a fine to the family, equal to seven slaves.
A captain is allowed to put his wife to death for infidelity; but instead of this, it is expected that he will accept a liberal offer of gold from the family, for her redemption.
Trifling thefts are generally punished by the exposure of the party in various parts of the town, whilst the act is published; but more serious thefts cannot be visited on the guilty by any but his family, who are bound to compensate the accuser, and punish their relative or not, as they think fit; they may even put him or her to death, if the injury is serious, or the crime repeated or habitual.
If any subject picks up gold dropped in the market-place, it is death, being collected only by order of the government on emergencies.
It is forbidden, as it was by Lycurgus, to praise the beauty of another man's wife, this being considered intrigue by implication.
Breaking on the Wheel.
M. de la Place relates in his memoirs, that as he once entered Brussels, he saw an immense crowd preceding and following the officers of justice, who were conducting a female culprit to the place of execution. She was a young woman of remarkably fine person, and whose features were so peculiarly interesting, that even the horrors of her situation could not destroy their effect. Her appearance was rendered peculiar by her dress, which consisted of a jacket and pantaloons of white satin. He eagerly inquired the nature of her crime, and why she had chosen so unusual a dress in which to undergo her sentence, when an officer of justice said to him, 'I can fully satisfy you on these points, as I attended her trial before the ordinary tribunal, the sentence of which was yesterday confirmed by the supreme council of Brabant. When arraigned, she addressed herself to the judge, and said. "My lord, in order to shorten proceedings, the length of which would be more painful to me than death itself, I entreat you to listen to my story. I shall conceal nothing but the circumstances of my birth and family, which no earthly torture shall induce me to reveal. I was scarcely more than sixteen years old, when I fell a victim to an almost unexampled plan of base and deliberate seduction, which led me in the issue to Paris, where I was reduced to extremities that exposed me to the arts of those wretches who prey upon the miseries of my sex. After every gradation of a vile and hateful course of life, the scenes of which may be imagined, but which it would rack me to death to describe, I was reduced to the last extremity of wretchedness. At that moment I was relieved by a man of the lower order, it is true; but it was one whom, from gratitude and feeling, I found that I could sincerely love. A fortunate lottery ticket produced me ten thousand livres, and enabled me to return the obligations I had been laid under. Our love was mutual; we resolved to live for each other alone; we resolved to be united by the sacred obligations of marriage; and mutually vowed that the first act of infidelity should be punished by the forfeiture of the life of the guilty party. I can safely affirm, my lord, that from that moment the observance of this duty became a pleasure to me, and that the deceased himself would have done ample justice to me in this particular, had he lived. Each happy in a state of life that set us above want, our situation was really enviable, when the unfortunate death of the Prince of Conti, whom my husband served as coachman, deprived us of more than half our little income. Soon after this, the Count, with whom he had lived previous to his engagement with the deceased prince, promised to exert himself to procure a similar situation for him under Prince Charles of Lorraine, governor-general of the Austrian Netherlands. With this encouragement, we set out for Brussels, where I made use of our remaining money to establish myself in a little way of business, till the promised recommendation in our favour should take effect. But idleness, that root of all evil, and the want of proper occupation, having led my husband among the disorderly houses in the suburbs, the report of an act of his infidelity soon reached me, and produced such an effect that my life was thought to be in danger. But he appeared to be so sincerely affected by his misconduct, that after having brought the terms of our agreement to his recollection, I suffered myself to be appeased, but with a solemn threat that I would not forgive his next infidelity, should he offend again. Alas! he deceived me again; and I overlooked his second aggravation, for still I loved him ardently. But finding shortly after that he not only continued his irregularities, but that after stripping me of the only money I had remaining, and dispossessing me of the few trinkets I possessed, had concerted a plan to set out, in the dead of the night, for Paris, with my rival, my rage burst its bounds; that night, that fatal night, my hand was unfortunately directed to a sword which he always kept in his bed-chamber. I stabbed him, mortally stabbed him, with it while he slept. I did not fly, though, as I had at least four hours before me, I might have been far from Brussels, and have saved myself before my crime was discovered; but at the sight of his blood - of that blood which a few weeks before I would have given my own to have preserved, I was so overcome, that I fainted on the spot. I recovered in about two hours after, just in time to see my murdered husband expire in my arms, and with his dying looks, for speak he could not, forgive me; I seized the reeking instrument of my revenge, and was about to plunge it in my own bosom. No, cried I, such an act would be too mild a punishment for me, the severest sufferings can scarcely atone for such guilt. I left not the body for a single instant, till the officers of justice appeared to arrest me; and all that I now seek, is to have that execution hastened, which alone can expiate my crime." Never was I so deeply affected,' said the officer to M. de la Place, 'as by the calm and solemn dignity of manner with which this address was delivered; and being desirous to know if her courage would equally uphold her in the presence of the supreme tribunal, I attended there likewise, and found her alike firm and undaunted, till the announcement of her sentence, which was, that she should be broken alive on the wheel. "The wheel!" said she with a piercing shriek, that penetrated my very soul: "do you forget that I am a woman?" Such, she was told, was the law in a case like hers. "Ah!" said she, in a voice half broken with sobs, "had I known this sooner" - but recovering herself immediately after, "Forgive me, gentlemen," said she, "for this transport; there is no degree of suffering or humiliation but I am prepared to undergo. Only allow me, and I shall be resigned to my fate - only allow me to appear upon the scaffold with that decent degree of covering which may screen my naked limbs."
'Her request was granted; and returning thanks to her judges, she was reconducted to prison. The dress was then prepared for her; that dress in which you have just seen her proceeding to execution.'
The Maid and the Magpie.
A noble lady of Florence, who resided in a house which still stands opposite the lofty Doric column which was raised to commemorate the defeat of Pietro Strozzi, and the taking of Sienna, by the tyrannic conqueror of both, Cosmo the First, lost a valuable pearl necklace, and one of her waiting-women (a very young girl) was accused of the theft. Having solemnly denied the fact, she was put to torture, which was then given a plaisir at Florence. Unable to support its terrible infliction, she acknowledged that 'she was guilty,' and without further trial was hung. Shortly after, Florence was visited by a tremendous storm; a thunderbolt fell on the figure of Justice, and split the scales, one of which fell to the earth, and with it fell the ruins of a magpie's nest, containing the pearl necklace! Those scales are still the haunt of birds.
Although the law's delay is often complained of in civil cases, yet in criminal ones it is speedy enough. An instance of summary punishment occurred at Derby, in 1814. A man was detected picking a gentleman's pocket of his pocket-book. He was taken into custody, the property found upon him, carried before a justice, committed, a bill found by the Grand jury, which was then sitting; he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to transportation; and all this was done in the course of two hours.
The Seven Brave Hunters.
'Her streets in blood deplore
The seven brave hunters murdered by the Moor.'
During a truce with the Moors, six Spanish cavaliers of the Order of St. James were, while on a hunting party, surrounded and killed by a numerous body of the Moors. During the fight, in which the gentlemen sold their lives dear, a common carter, named Garcias Rodrigo, who chanced to pass that way, came generously to their assistance, and lost his life along with them. The poet, in giving all seven the same title, shows us that virtue constitutes true nobility. Don Payo de Correa, Grand Master of the Order of St. James, revenged the death of these brave unfortunates, by the sack of Tavila, where his just rage put the garrison to the sword.
Assassin of General Kleber.
The assassin who murdered General Kleber, was a Turkish peasant, of the name of Solyman Illepy, who had secreted himself in Kleber's garden at Cairo. Kleber having put his sword and hat down in General Damas's breakfast-room, walked out in his own garden with the architect Protain, in order to survey some alterations making at his house. Having passed a well adjoining the walk, the peasant jumped out, and before Kleber could at all defend himself, plunged a stiletto into his body in five different places. The first wound was mortal, and Kleber fell without uttering a word. The architect had a small rod or rule in his hand, trusting to which for his defence, he made a gallant but vain attempt to secure the assassin, and received himself no less than nine wounds with the same stiletto; fortunately none of them proved mortal. The assassin left the spot, and went amongst the trees, where he was taken in about a quarter of an hour afterwards, by one of Kleber's guide guards, from whom he received a sabre wound on the left arm, on his making resistance. The stiletto he had buried in the ground close by him, where it was found by one of Damas's aides-de-camp. 'This instrument,' says Captain (now Commissioner) Sir Charles Boyle, 'I saw; it was about sixteen or eighteen inches long. The garden wall was surrounded by the guide guards, immediately on the report of Kleber's assassination, to prevent the escape of this man, which, however, appeared to me useless, as I am convinced, from what I saw, it was not his wish to save his own life, for he had jumped a declivity of about eight feet, which was close to the spot where he committed the act, and had crossed the place Esbiquiez. Among the many Turks constantly there, he might have passed unnoticed, and have got into any mosque he had wished in the city, where his person would have been secure.'
The assassin suffered death, by having the flesh burned off his right hand, and by being impaled, in which situation he lived one hour and forty minutes; dying without showing any fear, and declaring to the last, 'That the act which he had done was meritorious, and one for which he should be made happy in the other world.' He continued exclaiming, from the moment of his hand being burnt, to that of his death, Tay hip, or That's good!
Three Sheiks of the church, whom Illeppy had made acquainted with his intention, by praying with them for success, had their heads taken off, and stuck on spikes round the pale on which the assassin was executed; their bodies were afterwards burnt. Two other Sheiks who were concerned, made their escape.
The necessity of a just and well administered system of laws to the progress of civilization among a people, was never more strongly exemplified than in the instance of the island of Corsica. Blessed with a most genial climate, situated most favourably for commerce with all parts of the world, and politically attached to one of the most polished nations in Europe, Corsica is nevertheless without trade, without letters, and without refinement.
This phenomenon, truly extraordinary in the nineteenth century, is owing entirely to intestine divisions, and to hereditary feuds, which have from time immemorial desolated this island. And whence have these arisen? From the impunity given in this country to crimes, and to the absence of everything like justice. So familiar had the Corsicans become to homicide, that according to a report made in 1715, the assassinations committed in that island, amounted during the thirty two preceding years, to the enormous number of twenty thousand, seven hundred and fifteen. During the revolt against the Genoese, Generals Ceccaldri and Graffieri caused two murderers of distinction to be executed, though they offered thirty thousand francs each to be spared. This salutary example had such an effect, that for three years afterwards, not a single homicide was heard of.
A Frenchman being arraigned for a capital crime in 1821, pleaded in his defence, that having been born at the commencement of the revolution, he had imbibed all its pernicious principles, and had never been able to discriminate between good and evil. The court disregarded the plea; the man was convicted, and sentenced to six years' imprisonment.
Some years ago, the captain of a French ship, then lying at Alexandria, went on shore in his own boat, and proceeded towards the French Caravansera. Meanwhile the boat's crew sauntered about the beach, when a Turk suddenly seized one of them, and cried out; on which several Turks came up, and were hurrying the French sailor away. The captain alarmed at the uproar, turned back, and with his boat's crew followed the man, who was taken to the Cadi, or Turkish judge; but as neither the captain nor his men could understand the Turks, nor the Turks them, the French interpreter was sent for, who, when he had heard the matter, told the captain that the sailor whom the Turks had seized, had cursed Mahomet. The captain and his men were greatly astonished to hear this, as the man accused was born dumb, and had remained so ever since. The interpreter informed the judge of this, who paused some time, then turning to the French interpreter, said, 'I believe the man accused was born dumb, and has remained so ever since.' Afterwards, turning to the Turkish accuser, he said, ' I have no doubt but that this Christian has blasphemed Mahomet.' On hearing this, the French interpreter (a man much esteemed, both by Christians and Turks) begged the judge to hear him a few moments, which being granted, he told the judge that it was impossible what both parties said could be true. 'Not in the least,' replied the judge very calmly, 'for though I firmly believe, through the undoubted proofs given me, that the sailor was actually born dumb, and has remained so ever since, till he came on shore here, yet you must know, the devil has such a hatred to our most holy faith, that he gave him the power of speech for an instant, to curse our most holy prophet; therefore,' continues the judge, 'though I pity the prisoner, yet I cannot, without giving a bad example, let him go unpunished; and in compassion to his circumstances, he shall pay no more than fifty Venetian sequins.' The captain was accordingly obliged to pay the money, to save an honest man and a good mariner.
Pardon for Forgery.
At the York Assizes, in 1803, the clerk to a mercantile house in Leeds was tried on a charge of forgery, found guilty, and condemned to death. His family in Halifax was very respectable, and his father, in particular, bore an excellent character. Immediately after the sentence was passed upon the unfortunate young man, a dissenting minister of the Baptist persuasion, who had long been intimate with the father, presumed to address his majesty in a most moving petition, soliciting the pardon of the son of his friend. Fully aware that it had been almost an invariable rule with the government to grant no pardons in cases of forgery, he had little hopes of success; but, contrary to his expectations, his petition prevailed, and the reprieve was granted. That the solicitation of a private individual should have succeeded, when similar applications, urged by numbers, and supported by great interest, have uniformly failed, may excite surprise, and deserves particular observation. The following circumstances, the veracity of which may be depended upon, fully explain the singularity of the fact. In the year 1802 a dignified divine, preaching before the royal family, happened to quote a passage illustrative of his subject from a living author, whose name he did not mention. The king, who was always remarkably attentive, was struck with the quotation, and immediately noted the passage for an inquiry. At the conclusion of the service, he asked the preacher from whom that extract had been taken; and being informed that the author was a dissenting minister in Yorkshire, he expressed a wish to have a copy of the original discourse. The royal mandate was accordingly imparted to the author, who lost no time in complying with it, accompanying the work with a very modest letter, expressive of the high sense he entertained of the honour conferred upon him. His majesty was so well pleased with the production, as to signify his readiness to serve the author. The case of the above young man soon after afforded this amiable and disinterested minister an opportunity of supplicating, at the hands of the monarch, the exercise of his prerogative of mercy, in favour of the son of his friend, as the greatest favour his majesty could confer.
'Among the children,' says that active philanthropist, the Hon. Grey Bennet, in his evidence before the Police Committee, 'whom I have seen in prison, a boy of the name of Leary was the most remarkable; he was about thirteen years of age, good-looking, sharp, and intelligent, and possessing a manner which seemed to indicate a character very different from that he really possessed. When I saw him, he was under sentence of death for stealing a watch, chain, and seals, from Mr. Princep's chambers in the Temple; he had been five years in the practice of delinquency, progressively from stealing an apple off a stall, to housebreaking and highway robbery. He belonged to the Moorfields Catholic School, and there became acquainted with one Ryan in that school, by whom he was instructed in the various arts and practices of delinquency; his first attempts were at tarts, apples, &c.; next at loaves in bakers' baskets; then parcels of halfpence on shop counters, and money-tills in shops; then to breaking shop windows, and drawing out valuable articles through the aperture, picking pockets, housebreaking, &c. Leary has often gone to school the next day with several pounds in his pockets, as his share of the produce of the previous day's robberies; he soon became captain of a gang, generally since known as Leary's gang, with five boys, and sometimes more, furnished with pistols, taking a horse and cart with them; and if they had an opportunity in their road, they cut off the trunks of gentlemen's carriages, when, after opening them, and according to their contents, so would they be governed in prosecuting their further objects in that quarter; they would then divide into parties of two, sometimes only one, and leaving one with the horse and cart, go to farm and other houses, stating their being on the way to see their families, and begging for some bread and water; by such tales, united with their youth, they obtained relief, and generally ended by robbing the house or premises. In one instance Leary was detected and taken, and committed to Maidstone gaol; but, the prosecutor not appearing against him, he was discharged. In these excursions he stayed about a week and Upwards, when his share has produced him from #50 to £100. He has been concerned in various robberies in London and its vicinity, and has had property at one time amounting to £350; but when he had money, he either got robbed of it by elder thieves, who knew he had so much about him, or he lost it by gambling at flash-houses, or spent it amongst loose characters of both sexes. After committing innumerable depredations, he was detected at Mr. Derrimore's, at Kentish Town, stealing some plate from that gentleman's dining-room; when, several other similar robberies coming against him in that neighbourhood, he was, in compassion to his youth, placed in the Philanthropic Asylum; but being now charged with Mr. Princep's robbery, he was taken, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death, but was afterwards respited, and returned to that institution. He is little, and well-looking; has robbed to the amount Of £3000 during his five years' career. This surprising boy has since broke out and escaped from the Philanthropic, went to his old practices, was again tried at the Old Bailey, and is transported for life.
Sentiments of Bonaparte on Suicide.
A grenadier of the French consular guard, having experienced a slight from a young woman to whom he was attached, he determined on the destruction of his life, and soon carried it into execution, by shooting himself. Bonaparte, who was then first consul, upon hearing of the transaction, directed the publication of the following paper, for the future prevention of such a cowardly practice amongst the troops.
'A soldier ought to know how to overcome grief and melancholy arising from passion; there is as much true fortitude in suffering mental pain with firmness, as in remaining firm before the grape shot of a battery. For a soldier to abandon himself to sorrow without any resistance, to kill himself in order to avoid it, is to abandon the field of battle without having conquered.'
A few years ago the green of a rich bleacher in the North of Ireland had been frequently robbed at night to a very considerable amount, notwithstanding the utmost vigilance of the proprietor and his servants to protect it, and without the slightest clue being furnished for the detection of the robber.
Effectually and repeatedly baffled by the ingenuity of the thief or thieves, the proprietor at length offered a reward of £100 for the apprehension of any person or persons detected robbing the green.
A few days after this proclamation the master was at midnight raised from his bed by the alarm of a faithful servant, 'there was somebody with a lantern crossing the green.' The master started from his bed, flew to the window: it was so; he hurried on his clothes, armed himself with a pistol, the servant flew for his loaded musket, and they cautiously followed the light. The person with the lantern (a man) was, as they approached, on 'tip-toe,' distinctly seen stooping and groping on the ground; he was seen lifting and tumbling the linen. The servant fired; the robber fell. The man and master now proceeded to examine the spot. The robber was dead; he was recognised to be a youth of about nineteen, who resided a few fields off. The linen was cut across; bundles of it were tied up; and upon searching and examining farther, the servant, in the presence of his master, picked up a pen-knife, with the name of the unhappy youth engraved upon the handle. The evidence was conclusive, for in the morning the lantern was acknowledged by the afflicted and implicated father of the boy to be his lantern. Defence was dumb.
The faithful servant received the hundred pounds reward, and was, besides, promoted to be the confidential overseer of the establishment.
This faithful servant, this confidential overseer, was shortly afterwards proved to have been himself the thief, and was hanged at Dundalk for the murder of the youth whom he had cruelly betrayed.
It appeared, upon the clearest evidence, and by the dying confession and description of the wretch himself, that all this circumstantial evidence was preconcerted by him, not only to screen himself from the imputation of former robberies, but to get the hundred pounds reward.
The dupe, the victim, he chose for his diabolical purpose was artless, affectionate, and obliging. The boy had a favourite knife, a penknife, with his name engraved upon its handle. The first act of this fiend was to coax him to give him that knife as a keepsake. On the evening of the fatal day the miscreant prepared the bleach green, the theatre of this melancholy tragedy, for his performance. He tore the linen from the pegs in some places, he cut it across in others; he turned it up in heaps; he tied it up in bundles, as if ready to be removed, and placed the favourite knife, the keepsake, in one of the cuts he had himself made.
Matters being thus prepared, he invited the devoted youth to supper, and as the nights were dark, he told him to bring the lantern to light him home. At supper, or after, he artfully turned the conversation upon the favourite knife, which he affected with great concern to miss, and pretending that the last recollection he had of it, was using it on a particular spot of the bleach green, described that spot to the obliging boy, and begged him to see if it was there. He lit the lantern which he had been desired to bring with him to light him home, and with alacrity proceeded upon his fatal errand.
As soon as the monster saw his victim was completely in the snare, he gave the alarm, and the melancholy crime described was the result.
Could there have been possibly a stronger case of circumstantial evidence than this? The young man seemed actually caught in the fact. There was the knife with his name on it; the linen cut, tied up in bundles; the lantern acknowledged by his father. The time, past midnight. The master himself present, a man of the fairest character; the servant, of unblemished reputation.
In a certain principality of Germany, where the game laws are very severe, a dangerous poacher, who had long been pursued in vain, was at length taken. Before he was seized, he had contrived to hide his gun in a hollow tree. When interrogated, he confessed everything, except that he could not be brought to point out the place where he had concealed his gun; he was sentenced to several years' imprisonment and hard labour. The years of his confinement passed away, and the day of his release arrived. His wife and children expected him from the morning early, till late in the night, but in vain. At length he approached, armed as he had been when he parted from them before his arrest, threw a deer which he had killed at the feet of his terrified wife, and ordered her to dress it to celebrate his return. The first use he had made of his recovered liberty had been to go to a distant forest to look for his gun; and his first action, a repetition of the crime for which he had just endured a long and rigorous imprisonment.
By the Emperor of Japan, almost every crime is punished with death, because disobedience to so great a potentate, is reckoned an enormous crime. The question is not so much to correct the delinquent, as to vindicate the authority of the prince. Lies spoken before the magistrates; even things which have not the appearance of a crime, for instance, a man's venturing his money at play, are punished with death.
The severity of the laws does not, however, repress crime; the number of those who are suffocated or murdered in the streets, is, by those who have visited Japan, said to be 'incredible; young maids and boys are carried away by force, and afterwards found exposed in public places at unseasonable hours, quite naked, and sewed in linen bags, to prevent their knowing which way they had passed; robberies are committed in all parts; horses are stabbed, in order to bring their riders to the ground; and coaches overturned, that the ladies may be plundered.
Executions are rare in Denmark. A great number of those convicted of child murder, are condemned to work in spin-houses for life, and to be whipped annually, on the day when, and the spot where, the crime was committed. This mode of punishment is dreaded more than death; and, since it has been adopted, has greatly prevented the frequency of the crime.
At the entrance of many towns in Denmark, a whipping-post stands conspicuous; on the top, a figure of a man is placed with a sword by his side, and a whip in his right hand. Gibbets and wheels are also placed on eminences, on which the bodies of malefactors are sometimes left after execution, to deter others from crime.
The place of execution is out of the city. Decollation by the sword, is accounted more honourable than by the axe. This is the common mode of execution; but for some more heinous crimes, the punishment is breaking upon the wheel; and in executing this on state prisoners, it has been the practice sometimes to begin with cutting off their right hands. After the sentence of a criminal is confirmed, he is allowed time to prepare for death, from eight to fourteen days, as the chaplain attending him thinks necessary. He is confined in a cell or dungeon at night, but is allowed to be in an upper room in the day.
The punishments for capital crimes in Iceland, are the same as those in Denmark; and the criminal is not hanged, but beheaded. It is a fact, however, that for many years, no Icelander has been found who would undertake the office of executioner, so that it was necessary for the very few who had been sentenced to suffer death, to be conveyed to Norway, there to receive the punishment for their crimes.
The common mode of punishing offences of a less heinous kind, is, either whipping, or close confinement and hard labour in the Tringhuus, or House of Correction, for certain years, or for life.
When Mirabeau was in England, he asked a friend with whom he was dining, if it were true that twenty men had been executed that morning at Newgate? The gentleman said, if the daily papers asserted it, there is no reason to doubt the truth of it. 'Then,' replied he, with great warmth and surprise, 'the English are the most merciless people I ever heard or read of in my life.' Fortunately for Mirbeau, he did not live to witness the atrocities committed by his own countrymen during the revolution.
When Lord Kenyon was on the Home Circuit, a young woman was tried before him, for having stolen to the amount of forty shillings in a dwelling house. It was her first offence, and was attended with many extenuating circumstances. The prosecutor appeared, as he stated, from a sense of duty; the witnesses very reluctantly gave their evidence, and the jury still more reluctantly their verdict of guilty. The case of the poor girl excited great interest in court. The judge passed sentence of death - she instantly fell lifeless at the bar. Lord Kenyon, whose sensibilities were not impaired by the sad duties of his office, cried out in great agitation from the bench, 'I don't mean to hang you; will nobody tell the prisoner I don't mean to hang her?'
'I have (says Dr. Lettsom) been so happy as to reform a highwayman and footpad who had robbed me; and from these I think that few of our fellow creatures are so hardened, as to be impenetrable to repentance. The highwayman has since been twice in the Gazette promotions, as a military officer. The footpad married, and became a respectable farmer in Surrey.'
The Quakers - Pennsylvania.
If the Quakers had been the legislators of the world, they had long ago interwoven the principles of their discipline into their penal codes, and death had long ere now been abolished as a punishment, except for the worst of crimes. As far, however, as they have had any power in legislation, they have procured an attention to these principles. George Fox remonstrated with the judges of his time on the subject of capital punishments; but the Quakers having no seats in the legislature, and no predominant interest with the members of it, they have hitherto been unable to effect any change in England on the subject. In Pennsylvania, however, where they were the original colonists, they have had influence, and have contributed to set up a model of jurisprudence worthy of the imitation of the world.
When William Penn first went to America, and founded that colony which is known by his name, he formed a code of laws chiefly on Quaker principles, in which, however, death was inscribed as a punishment, but it was confined to murder. Queen Anne set this code aside, and substituted the statute and common law of the mother country. It was, however, resumed in time, and acted upon for some years; when it was again set aside by England. From this time it continued dormant until the independence of America. No sooner had the event taken place which rendered the Americans their own legislators, than the Pennsylvanian Quakers began to aim at an amelioration of the penal laws. In this they were joined by several individuals of other denominations, among whom was Dr. Franklin; and these acting in union, procured from the legislature of Pennsylvania, a reform in the criminal code, in 1786, by which the punishment of death was restricted to wilful and premeditated murder.
This act, which was called an experiment, was carried by a very small majority, and limited to five years' duration; it was opposed by the authority of all the Judges, one only excepted. When the period arrived at which the act terminated, it was unanimously renewed as a permanent measure, not as an experiment, but a truth sanctioned by indisputable facts, and with the concurrence of all the judges, who had the magnanimity to declare the total alteration which their opinions had undergone, from the extraordinary success which attended the experiment.
The new law was entitled, 'An act for the utter prevention of crimes, and for abolishing the punishment of death in certain cases;' and it declares, that 'the design of all punishment is to prevent the commission of crimes, and to repair the injury that hath been, thereby, done to society, or the individual; and it hath been found by experience, that these objects are better obtained by moderate, but certain penalties, than by severe and excessive punishments; therefore, no crime whatever, hereafter committed, except murder of the first degree, shall be punished with death, in the state of Pennsylvania.'
A few years afterwards, one of the judges published a minute detail of the comparative state of crime in the United States, prior and subsequent to the alteration of the laws, by which it appears that crimes, and especially crimes of enormity, had decreased, but that, in a given number of persons tried, the number of convictions had nearly doubled. He also stated some curious facts. In Pennsylvania, where the punishment for forgery was mitigated, the crime had decreased. In New York, where there had been no such mitigation, the crime had gone on increasing. In one of the states, the farmers, in consequence of their heavy losses from horse-stealing, petitioned the legislature to protect them more effectually, by enacting the penalty of death for the offence. Their request was complied with. But so inefficient was the result, that the very same parties afterwards prayed for a commutation of the penalty, alleging, that this severity generated a reluctance to prosecute, and that reluctance reproduced the crime. Again their request was attended to, and the crime was found to decrease.
The doctrine of the greater efficacy of a mild law, adopted as it was at first in Pennsylvania, has won its way, by its own strength, through every one of the United States; and opinions, which forty years ago were deemed theoretical and extravagant, are now universally received and acknowledged as indisputable truths, throughout the whole of that great republic in which they have been tried.
Gaol in Philadelphia.
As there is now but one capital offence in Pennsylvania, punishments for other offences are made up of fine and imprisonment, and labour; and these are awarded separately or conjointly, according to the magnitude of the offence. When criminals have been convicted and sent to the great gaol of Philadelphia, to undergo the punishment, it is expected of them that they should maintain themselves out of their daily labour, that they should pay for their board and washing, and also for the use of their different implements of labour; and that they should defray the expenses of their commitment, of their prosecutions and their trials. An account, therefore, is regularly kept against them; and if, at the expiration of the term of their punishment, there should be a surplus of money in their favour, arising out of the produce of their work, it is given to them on their discharge.
In consequence of the admirable regulations by which the prison is conducted, those who visit the criminals of Philadelphia, in the hours of their labour, have rather the idea of a large manufactory, than a gaol; they see carpenters, weavers, joiners, nailmakers, &c., all busily employed, with nothing but order and regularity among them; and as no chains are to be seen in the prison, the visitors seem to forget that the men they behold are criminals, and look upon them rather as the free and honest labourers of a community, following their respective occupations.
Such has been the effect of this system, that it has been productive of great advantages, both to criminals and to the state; the state has experienced a diminution of crimes to the amount of one-half, since the change of the penal system; and the criminals have been restored in a great proportion from the gaol to the community as reformed persons; indeed, their conduct during confinement, has generally been such as to obtain a remission of some part of their sentence.
Mercy Too Late.
The case of William Townley, who was executed at Gloucester in April, 1811, was attended with circumstances particularly unfortunate. On the Friday night preceding his execution, a reprieve for him was put into the post-office of Hereford, addressed by mistake to the Under-Sheriff of Herefordshire, instead of Gloucestershire; the letter as delivered to Messrs. Bird and Woollaston, Under-Sheriffs for the county of Hereford about half-past eleven o'clock on the following day. As soon as the importance of its contents were ascertained, an express was humanely sent off with the utmost celerity to Gloucester; but the messenger arrived too late; the unfortunate man had been turned off twenty minutes before, and was then suspended on the drop.
The French police being unable to discover any traces of the perpetrator of a very extraordinary robbery in Lyons, in the year 1780, resorted to the expedient of sending an officer to the Bicetre, disguised as a prisoner. He acted his part extremely well, and interested his audience highly by his account of this exploit. In this assembly of connoisseurs in guilt, one of them exclaimed, 'It is only Philip who could execute such a stroke.' This led to the discovery, that Philip was in fact the leader of the gang.
Mitigation of Punishment.
The linen-bleachers of England and Ireland, finding their property peculiarly exposed to depredation, ascribed the impunity with which the crime was committed, to the severity of the law, which caused a reluctance to prosecute. In 1811, they presented a petition to parliament praying for protection, and declaring their conviction that 'by certainty being substituted for severity of punishment, crimes would be diminished, and their property better secured.' They prayed that Parliament would alter the punishment of death in case of robbing bleach-greens, into transportation for life, or a period of confinement in penitentiary houses.
In the House of Commons, the prayer of the petition was readily granted, and the House of Lords with some reluctance determined to punish those romantic petitioners with the fulfilment of their prayer, and to inflict on them the penalty of conceded wishes, with what effect was soon witnessed.
Returns were made some years afterwards from the county of Lancaster, the county in which this species of trade is principally carried on, including a period of twenty years, thirteen of which were anterior, and seven subsequent to the mitigation of the law. Mr. Buxton, in his able and eloquent speech in the House of Commons on the severity of punishment in May, 1821, thus draws the comparison. 'I shall,' says he, 'take the first five years during which the crime was capital, and compare them with the last five years during which it was not capital. Now, if I prove that this offence has increased, but only in the same proportion with other offences, I prove my point; but what if I go a step, and a very great step further, and prove that, while all other offences hove in creased with the most melancholy rapidity, this, and this alone, has decreased as rapidly - that there is only one exception to the universal augmentation of crime, and that one exception, the case in which you have reduced the penalty of your law; if I do this, and upon evidence which cannot be shaken, have I not a right to call upon the noble lord opposite, and upon his majesty's ministers, either to invalidate my facts, or to admit my conclusion?
'Well, then, all other crimes have increased in the county of Lancaster. During the last five years, highway robbery - the number more than doubled those of the first five years; burglary - the number more than trebled; horse-stealing - thenumber more than quadrupled; stealing in dwelling-houses - the number increased more than elevenfold. Then we come to the offence of stealing from bleaching-grounds, and we find twenty-eight in the first five years, nine in the five last; that is, the offence has decreased two-thirds. But we have always contended that, by reducing the penalty, you augment the certainty of conviction. It appears by the official returns, that during the former period, at least one-third were acquitted; and that during the latter period, there has not been one single acquittal.
'In Ireland, the results have not been less favourable. Mr. Hancock of Lisburn, who had invested a considerable sum of money in this species of trade, says, "that though, from the general increase of crime, arising from the peculiar state of these countries, bleachground robberies have not latterly diminished, yet that the change of punishment of death has not had the smallest tendency to increase this particular crime; but, on the contrary, convictions have been in much greater proportion than under the old law. Prosecutors now act vigorously, witnesses give their testimony willingly; and especially jurors, relieved from the compunctious visitings of nature, feel grateful for the relief, and willingly return verdicts of condemnation when death is not the consequence." He then goes on to say, "It is worthy of observation, and tends to show the benefit of the change in the law, that convictions have multiplied so greatly since 1811. In my opinion, the protection to bleach-grounds is much increased, and things probably would have been much worse under the old law, owing to the greater number of culprits who would have escaped."
'This,' continues Mr. Buxton. 'though satisfactory, was not conclusive. But I have since received from Mr. Walter Bourne, clerk of the crown, a return of the number of committals and convictions for bleach-ground robberies on the north-east circuit of Ulster, for twenty years; and with it I pursue the same method as with the returns from Lancaster. I take the first five years, and compare them with the last five, and these are the results. In the first five years that the offence was capital, the number of robberies was sixty-one; in the last five, when the offence was not capital, the number was forty-two.
Here then returns the question, Has any greater facility of conviction resulted from a mitigation of the law? It has; while the law was rigid, it was hardly possible to prove a conviction. Out of sixty-two persons committed, fifty-eight or fifty-nine had not been convicted. But since that alteration, though the number of trials have decreased nearly one-half, the number of convictions have increased,five-fold.'
The Vardarelli Band.
The Vardarelli band, so called from their chief and his brothers, had for more than two years committed great depredations in Apulia, until at length they were allowed to form a regular corps, still commanded by the same leader, who received a monthly salary, and engaged to secure the provinces which he had so long ravaged from all similar attacks in future. In 1818, the remains of this band presented themselves to the general commanding at Foggia, and had an altercation with him. The general finally commanded the two leaders to repair to his own apartment to speak to them; this they objected to do without their arms, which they declared they would never part from; and it is supposed that the language they made use of in the course of their argument so exasperated the officer, that he roughly pushed one of them back, who was using threatening gestures, on which the other fired his musket at him, but having missed his mark, was shot dead on the spot by the sentry at the gate; this was the signal for an attack from his companions, that was immediately answered by a round of musketry from the troops who were drawn out close to them, which killed several, and spread consternation among the crowds of townspeople who had assembled on the spot. Four of the band, who had presence of mind to spring upon their horses, escaped in different directions out of the town, though followed by cavalry, and fired at as they had fled. Another portion were made prisoners; but a third division sought security in a cellar, the first place of refuge which offered itself, and which, having one very low entrance, afforded them a defensible asylum for some time; the depth and darkness of this receptacle, made it difficult to attack them with success, for they killed a soldier, and wounded several others who ventured too near the aperture. Of this last desperate set, four, however, gave themselves up, and made known the number that remained. In order to bring to as speedy a termination as possible the dismay and agitation which this event had spread throughout the city, two of those who had been last taken were sent in to their companions, with their hands tied, to persuade them to surrender, and to inform them that if they persevered in a resistance, which, from the local nature of their retreat, must be unavailing, a straw fire would be lighted at the orifice, as the only means of hastening their compliance or destruction. The unfortunate men never returned, and no answer being given, this threat was put into actual execution, and the aperture blocked up with stones.
Imagination pictures their situation as most horrible; but its terrors were eluded by the last resource of despair. Two hours after, the cellar was entered without opposition, and their lifeless bodies covered with wounds indicated the death they had received at each other's hands.
The Curate of Louvaine.
In February, 1818, a curate in the suburbs of Louvaine, was sent to fulfil the last duties with a sick person. Having discharged them, he returned to his own habitation. It was late at night. In passing near a house, he perceived a light, and the door open. He entered, and what was his surprise at seeing a bloody corpse stretched near the entrance! He recognised it to be the body of the master of the house. A little farther he observed that of his unfortunate wife, killed in the same manner. At length, by the assistance of a light, he discovered in the chimney-place legs, which gave several convulsive movements. It was the female servant suspended by the neck, in the last agonies of death. He hastened to cut the cord, and with much difficulty restored her to the use of her senses. He interrogated the girl respecting the circumstances of this horrid deed; she hesitated for some time to give any explanation. At last she told the curate, that the principal author of these assassinations was his own nephew; she gave such an account of him, that the curate could not misconceive her description, and she also described the villains that accompanied him. Furnished with this information, the curate pursued his way to his own residence, resolved to cause his nephew, with the murderers, to be arrested. Before he reached home, he applied to the mayor, declared to him what he had seen and heard, and requested him to assist him by every means which his functions would admit of, to succeed in his plan. The mayor, with much prudence, employed the measures necessary in such a case; and having arranged the plait with the curate, the latter returned home. He there found his nephew, who appeared watching for his return. 'I have had a painful visit,' said he to him, 'and I want some refreshment; go down into the cellar, and bring me a bottle of wine, that we may partake of it.'
The nephew hesitated, and endeavoured to persuade his uncle, that he would do better to go to bed. 'Well then, I will go to the cellar myself,' said the curate, 'since you fear to put yourself out of the way to do me a service.' In effect, he arose to execute his design, when the nephew, with an eagerness unaccompanied with excuses, told him he was going to do what he desired. He descend, but scarcely had he entered, when the curate closed the door upon him. The nephew thought at first, that it was only a trick; soon after, the mayor arrived with an escort, and the cellar door was opened. They found there the nephew, with fifteen brigands, companions of his crimes. They recognised them to be the individuals that the servant had described. They were disarmed, bound, and conducted to the neighbouring prisons.
Disparity of Punishments.
At a sessions in Charleston, in the United States of America, a man for killing a negro was only fined £5o; while two other persons for negro stealing, were sentenced to be hanged. The disproportion of punishment in other States of the Union, is not less remarkable. In the district of Ohio, a man for the frequent embezzlement of letters from the United States mail, was sentenced to three months' imprisonment. Another man convicted at Richmond of stealing a missal from a church, was condemned to three years' confinement in the Penitentiary.
Blood's Attempt to Steal the Crown.
At the time that Blood made his daring attempt to steal the crown of England in 1673, the care of the regalia was entrusted to Talbot Edwards, to whom Blood had about three weeks before introduced himself in the habit of a parson, with a long cloak, cassock, and canonical girdle, and accompanied by a woman whom he called his wife. While they were looking at the regalia, the lady feigned indisposition, which called forth the kind offices of Mrs. Edwards, the keeper's wife, who having invited her into the house, she soon recovered; and on their departure, they professed their gratitude for the civility.
A few days afterwards, Blood returned with a present of four pair of gloves to Mrs. Edwards, and at length so far insinuated himself into the good opinion of the family, that he proposed a match between a pretended nephew and Mrs. Edwards's daughter. He was invited to dinner, and said grace with much seeming devotion, concluding with a prayer for the king, queen, and royal family. After dinner, he went up to see the rooms, and observing a handsome case of pistols, expressed a desire to buy them, by which he no doubt thought of disarming the house against the period intended for the execution of his design. On his going away, he appointed a day and hour when he would bring his nephew to see the young lady, which was the very day that he made his daring attempt.
On that day, the good old gentleman had got up ready to receive his guest, and the daughter was in her best dress to entertain her expected lover; when Parson Blood, with three more, came to the jewel house, all armed with rapier blades in their canes, and every one a dagger and a brace of pocket pistols. Two of his companions entered in with him, on pretence of seeing the crown, and the third stayed at the door, as if to look after the young lady, a jewel of a more charming description, but in reality as a watch. The daughter, who thought it not modest to come down till she was called, sent the maid to take a view of the company, and bring a description of her gallant; and the servant conceiving that he was the intended bride-room who stayed at the door, being the youngest of the party, returned to soothe the anxiety of her young mistress, with the idea she had formed of his person.
Blood told Mr. Edwards that they would not go upstairs till his wife came, and desired him to show his friends the crown, to pass the time till then; and they had no sooner entered the room, and the door as usual shut, than a cloak was thrown over the old man's head, and a gag put into his mouth.
Thus secured, they told him, that their resolution was to have the crown, globe, and sceptre; and if he would quietly submit to it, they would spare his life; otherwise, he was to expect no mercy. He thereupon endeavoured to make all the noise he possibly could, to be heard above; they then knocked him down with a wooden mallet, and told him, that if yet he would lie quietly, they would spare his life - but if not, upon his next attempt to discover them, they would kill him. Mr. Edwards, however, according to his own account, was not intimidated by this threat, but strained himself to make the greater noise, and in consequence received several more blows on the head with the mallet, and was stabbed in the belly; this again brought the poor old man to the ground, where he lay for some time in so senseless a state, that one of the villains pronounced him dead. Edwards had come a little to himself, and hearing this, lay quietly, conceiving it best to be thought so. The booty was now to be disposed of, and one of them, named Parrot, a silk-dyer in Southwark, put the orb in his breeches. Blood held the crown under his cloak, and the third was about to file the sceptre in two, in order that it might be placed in a bag brought for that purpose; but, fortunately, the son of Mr. Edwards, who had been in Flanders with Sir John Talbot, and, on landing in England, had obtained leave to come away post to visit his father, happened to arrive while this scene was acting; and in coming to the door, the person that stood sentinel asked with whom he would speak? to which he answered, that he belonged to the house; and perceiving the person to be a stranger, told him, that if he had any business with his father, that he would acquaint him with it, and so hastened up-stairs to salute his friends. This unexpected accident spread confusion among the party, and they instantly decamped with the crown and orb, leaving the sceptre yet un-filed.
The aged keeper now raised himself upon his legs, forced the gag from his mouth, and cried treason! murder! which being heard by his daughter, who was perhaps anxiously expecting for other sounds, ran out, and reiterated the cry. The alarm now became general, and young Edwards and his brother-in-law, Captain Beckman, ran after the conspirators; whom a warder put himself in a position to stop, but Blood discharged a pistol at him, and he fell, although unhurt, and the thieves proceeded safely to the next post, where one Sil, who had been a soldier under Cromwell, stood sentinel; but he offered no opposition, and they accordingly passed the drawbridge. Horses were waiting for them at St. Catherine's gate, and as they ran that way along the Tower Wharf, they themselves cried out stop the rogues; by which they passed on unsuspected, till Captain Beckman overtook them. Blood fired another pistol at his head, but missed him, and was seized. Under the cloak of this daring villain was found the crown; and although he saw himself a prisoner, he yet had the impudence to struggle for his prey; and when it was finally wrested from him, said, 'It was a gallant attempt, however unsuccessful: it was for a crown!'
Parrot was also taken; but Hunt, Blood's son-in-law, reached his horse and rode off, as did two others of the accomplices; but he was soon stopped, and taken into custody. Blood and his associates, after being a short time in prison, were pardoned; he represented to the king, that he was connected with a formidable band, who would revenge the punishment inflicted on any of its members.
Severity of the Law.
In a debate on the Privately Stealing Bill in 1808, Mr. Windharn opposed the principle of making transportation the minimum of punishment for such an offence. There might, he observed, very justly exist doubts as to the degree of criminality existing on the part of the offender, and certainly there should be no unnecessary restriction laid on, with respect to the equalization of the punishment to the crime itself. He mentioned an instance of the extreme severity of the law, in sentencing a poor young woman to transportation, for having in a sort of jest stolen one of her companion's bonnets; and who, after a considerable time passed in captivity, made her escape with some daring exiles, to the port of Timor in China, in an open boat, after a passage of several thousand miles, through a most stormy sea, and enduring the most unparalleled suffering.
Execution in Prussia
The execution of criminals in Prussia, is distinguished by a species of cruelty, worthy of the worst days of the Inquisition; yet Prussia is a country that boasts a high degree of civilization. A traveller who was at Berlin in 1819, gives the following account of the execution of a man for murder. 'The executions of the Prussian capital take place about a quarter of a mile from the gate of Orianesberg. A triangular gibbet is raised in the centre of an extensive plain, commanding a view of the city; attached to this gibbet is a stone platform, lightly railed in with iron, so as to admit of all that takes place being distinctly viewed by the spectators. A large grave was dug in front of it. The ground was kept by a detachment of lancers, formed in hollow squares, and enfiladed round the execution place by an inner square of the infantry guard. About half an hour before the appearance of the criminal, twelve persons, executioners, officers of police, and two little boys as assistants, mounted the scaffold, and fixed the strangling cords. At length the buzz of the surrounding multitude, the flourishing of naked sabres, and the galloping of the officers, announced the slow approach of the criminal upon a hurdle drawn by six horses. On his approach, the word of command flew through the ranks, arms presented, drums beat, and colours and lancers' flags were raised, until he had mounted the scaffold. During the yet short space that remained for him to make his last, his expiring peace with his offended Maker, no ecclesiastic, as in England, appeared to gild the horrors of eternity in those awful moments, when religion arrays itself in her brightest robes, and bids the expiring criminal sink into her everlasting arms with hope, if not with security; no dying and repentant prayer closed the quivering lips of the blood-stained murderer. Never (continues the narrator), never shall I forget the one bitter look of imploring agony that he threw around him, as almost immediately on stepping on the scaffold, his coat was rudely torn from off his shoulders. He was then thrown down, the cords fixed round his neck, which were drawn by the executioner until strangulation almost commenced, or at least until the luxation of the neck was effected. Another executioner then approached, bearing in his hands a heavy wheel bound with iron, with which he violently struck the legs, stomach, arms, and chest, and lastly the head of the criminal. I was unfortunately near enough to witness his mangled and bleeding body still convulsed. It was then carried down for interment, and in less than a quarter of an hour from the beginning of his torture, the corpse was completely covered with earth! Several large stones which were thrown upon him, hastened his last gasp: he was mangled into eternity.'
The Criminals' Grave.
In Rome there is a burying-place appropriated to malefactors, which is opened to the public on the 29th of August. Adjoining to an elegant church is a chapel, which makes one side of a court, and on each of the other three sides, is a portico supported by Doric pillars. The women are buried in the middle of the pavement of the front portico, and the men in one of the side porticos. The latter are interred in the same dress in which they are hanged.
In the burying ground are marble stones, in which are circular apertures for the interment of those that are executed. Round these stones is inscribed the following brief but expressive prayer:
Domine cum veneris judicare,
Noli nos condemnare.
0 Lord, when thou shalt come to judge, do not thou condemn us.
The Saddler of Bawtry.
It was formerly the custom to present a bowl of ale to malefactors on their way to execution. The county of York, which strongly adheres to its ancient usages, was the last place where this custom continued. A saddler of Bawtry lost his life in consequence of declining the refreshment; as had he stopped as usual, his reprieve, which was actually on the road, would have arrived in time enough to have saved him. Hence arose the saying, that the saddler of Bawtry was hanged for leaving his ale.
It has been remarked by Bishop Burnett, 'that the regicides were odious beyond expression, yet the odiousness of the crime began to be much flattered by the frequent executions; and, therefore, when Sir Henry Vane was brought to the scaffold, lest his words should leave impressions on the hearers to the disadvantage of the government, drummers were placed under the scaffold, who, as soon a he began to address the people, upon a sign given, struck up with their drums. After being thus repeatedly interrupted, and even when he was taking leave of his friends, he gave over, and died with so much composure, that it was generally thought that the government had lost more than it had gained by his death.'
This was not the only instance of the ungenerous insults towards the republican sufferers at the Restoration. When Hugh Peters was carried on a sledge to the scaffold, he was made to sit within the rails, and see the execution of Mr. Cook. When the latter was cut down to be quartered, Colonel Turner ordered the Sheriff's men to bring Mr. Peters near, that he might see it; and when soon after the hangman rubbed his blood-stained hands together, he tauntingly asked, 'Come, how do you like this work, Mr. Peters?' He calmly replied, 'Friend, you do not well to trample on a dying man.'
The want of classifying culprits, which is one of the great evils of English discipline, is much worse at Rome, where a youth, who in a moment of violent resentment of some deep injury or insult, takes up a stone and throws it at his antagonist, is often shut up for a whole year with murderers, assassins, and other malefactors of the worst description. The severity of punishment has, however, in modern times been much mitigated.
A very horrid sort of punishment was formerly inflicted under the criminal laws of Rome for trivial faults. The offender was hoisted up by means of a rope fastened to his arms, behind his back, and was then suddenly dropped down with a jerk, by which process his shoulders were generally dislocated; and when this happened to a labourer or artizan, who was thereby prevented from earning his family's bread, suicide was usually the result. This punishment has now been entirely abolished. It is replaced by the cavaletto, which, though administered on too slight occasions, is not likely to produce such dreadful consequences. The criminal is tied on a table with his breast downwards, and receives a certain number of blows. He is not stripped for this infliction, but his clothes are drawn so tight by his position, that he must feel the instrument of correction almost as acutely as if he were. Some of these culprits, however, mind it so little, that they laugh and jest all the time they are undergoing it, naming a saint at each lash, till they have received the whole portion. The cavaletto is applied to those who speak too freely of the government, who play at quoits or other games at forbidden times, who create disturbances at theatres, or commit other offences of similar magnitude. The spectators of a game are liable to be punished as severely as those who are actors in it. But the punishment is frequently evaded by playing on the steps, or within the precincts of a church, which is a sacred asylum. Strange! that religion should step in to shield offenders against the provisions of laws, made for the sole purpose of preventing religious hours and religious seasons from being profaned! If they braved only their magistrates, nothing could save them; but when they at the same time brave their God, they have nothing to fear!
A recent traveller to Rome, witnessed an execution there in AA: the culprit was a man who had murdered his father; the murder was discovered in a singular manner. The disappearance of the deceased had given rise to inquiry, and the officers of police went to his cottage, where, on examining his son, they learned that his father had gone out to work as usual, a few days before, and had not been seen since. As the officers were continuing their search in the neighbourhood, their attention was excited by observing a dog lying in a lone place, who seemed to endeavour to attract their notice, by scratching on some new-turned earth. Their curiosity was excited by something peculiar in his action and manner, to the spot where they found the body. It would seem that the dog must have been an unobserved witness of his master's murder, and had not forsaken his grave. On returning to the cottage with the body, the son was so struck with the discovery made by the officers, by means which he could not divine, that concluding it must have been by supernatural intimation, he made a full confession of his guilt; that he had killed his father with a mallet, at the instigation of his mother, and had dragged him to that lone place, where he buried him. The mother was condemned to imprisonment for life, the son to the guillotine. The execution, which never takes place until the culprit is supposed to be brought to a due state of penitence, was delayed nearly five hours. At last, the bell rung; the host was brought from a neighbouring church, that the last sacrament might be administered, and soon afterwards the criminal was led out, between two priests, a crucifix, and a black banner with death's head upon it, being led before him. He mounted the scaffold with a firm step, and did not flinch till he stooped to put his head into the groove prepared to receive it. This was the trying moment; all the rest was but the work of an instant; his head was severed from his body with such rapidity, that it seemed to possess sense and consciousness for a few seconds afterwards.
Dr. Moore says that the Roman populace view executions in a serious and compassionate manner; in one which he witnessed, an old woman said with an exalted voice 'Now I hope his soul is is heaven;' and the multitude around seemed all inclined to hope the same.
The Roman law permitted the murderer to remain on the gibbet after execution, as a comfortable sight to the friends and relations of the deceased. Thus Horace:
'Nec furtum feci, nec fugi, si mihi dicat
Servus: Habes pretium; loris non ureris, aio.
Non hominem occidi; non pasces in cruce corvos.'
The Mosaical law directed the body of the criminal to be buried on the day of his death, 'that the land might not be defiled.'
It may be much doubted, whether there is any wisdom in the choice which the laws of England have made on this point, of the rescripts of the emperors in preference to the command of Moses. The leaving human carcases on gibbets, as is still the case in some instances in England, by forcing a familiarity with such objects, can have no other effect than to blunt the sentiments and destroy the benevolent prejudices of the people.
In the island of Madeira, assassinations are very frequent, which is ascribed in a great measure to the penal laws not being enforced as they ought to be, for death is seldom inflicted even for murder. Interposition is generally made by some person, in favour of the criminal, by a form termed empentio; and when this friendly interposition is made by a lady, though the crime should be of the blackest dye, yet it is considered a virtue, and even a point of honour, out of respect to the application, to protect him. To such an extravagant height do the Portuguese in Madeira carry their chivalry!
Capital punishments are not only prejudicial to society from the example of barbarity they furnish, but they multiply crimes instead of preventing them, and although increase of punishment may suddenly check, yet it does not in the end diminish the number of offenders.
In 1752, the British Parliament passed an Act for the better preventing the horrid crime of murder, by which, in order, as the Act stated, 'to add further terror to the punishment of death,' it was directed that the body of the criminal should be delivered at Surgeons' Hall, to be dissected and anatomized.
This expedient, it is said, carried some terror with it at first, but the impression soon wore off; for on comparing the annual average of convictions for twenty-three years previous and subsequent to the statute, it was found that the number of murders had not decreased.
Peter the Great.
When the Empress Eudoxia was sentenced by her husband, Peter the Great, to undergo the punishment of the knout, on a charge of infidelity, she no sooner saw the dreadful apparatus, than to avoid the torture, she readily confessed every species of criminality they were inclined to lay to her charge. She owned every amorous intrigue with which she was accused, and of which, to all appearance till that horrible moment, she never had the least idea. Eudoxia was, however, condemned to undergo the discipline, which was administered in full chapter, by the hands of two ecclesiastics. But what is more remarkable, she persisted in her last declaration, and even confirmed it when confronted with Glebow, her pretended accomplice in guilt.
Glebow, on the other hand, more unshaken, and more devoted to truth, endured several times the torture of the knout without the least sign of terror. He maintained that Eudoxia was absolutely innocent, notwithstanding the pretended acknowledgments exorted from her fears, by the prospect of punishment. In vain he endured the most unheard of tortures, for the space of six weeks, at the end of which he was impaled; when in this horrible situation, the Czar, who was eager to sacrifice Eudoxia, came to conjure him to speak the truth, but the mangled expiring body opened its mouth, and exclaimed, 'Go, tyrant, and let me die in peace!'
Abraham Lapuchin was at first condemned to be broken on the wheel, and afterwards to be beheaded; but the moment he laid his head on the block, already stained with the blood of preceding victims, the emperor again changed his punishment, granting him life, but ordered his tongue to be cut out, and then banished him to Siberia.
Eudoxia was afterwards shut up in a frightful dungeon, deprived of all her domestics, whom she had hitherto retained, as the companions of her sorrow, and reduced to the necessity of perforining the most menial offices herself; nor was she set at liberty till the death of the Empress Catherine, which took place two years after the decease of Peter.
The only capital punishment in Russia, is for the crime of treason; but the common punishment of the knout is often dreaded more than death, and sometimes the criminal has endeavoured to bribe the executioner to kill him. This punishment seldom causes immediate death, but death is often the consequence of it. The knout whip is fixed to a wooden handle a foot long, and consists of several thongs, about two feet in length, twisted together, to the end, on which is fastened a single tough thong of a foot and a half in length, tapering towards a point, and capable of being changed by the executioner when too much softened by the blood of the criminal.
When the philanthropic Howard was in Petersburgh, he saw two criminals, a man and a woman, suffer the punishment of the knout. They were conducted from prison by about fifteen hussars and ten soldiers. When they had arrived at the place of punishment, the hussars formed themselves into a ring round the whipping-post; the drum beat a minute or two, and then some prayers were repeated, the populace taking off their hats. The woman was first taken, and after being roughly stripped to the waist, her hands and feet were bound with cords to a post made for the purpose. A servant attended the executioner, and both were stout men. The servant first marked his ground, and struck the woman five times on the back; every stroke seemed to penetrate deep into her flesh; but his master thinking him too gentle, pushed him aside, took his place, and gave all the remaining strokes himself, which were evidently more severe. The woman received twenty-five blows, and the man sixty. 'I (continues Mr. Howard) pressed through the hussars, and counted the number as they were chalked on a board for the purpose. Both the criminals seemed but just alive, especially the man, who had yet strength enough remaining to receive a small present with some signs of gratitude. I saw the woman in a very weak condition some days after, but could not find the man any more.
In the year 1782, a man was convicted of a robbery, and condemned to die; but as there appeared some favourable circumstances, his sentence was mitigated, and he was sent for seven years to work upon the the Thames. Three years afterwards he was again arraigned at the bar of the Court, for having been found at large before the term of his punishment had expired, and was again condemned to die. It appeared from the evidence produced on his trial, that the moment he escaped from the lighter, he went to a watch-maker, and entreated him to teach him the business; his wish was granted, and the fugitive applied himself to his new trade with such indefatigable assiduity, that in a few weeks he gained sufficient to support himself, and from that time, to the moment he was taken, he had employed himself in such unremitting labour, that he had not stirred out of his room for eight months together.
At Munich, there are two prisons for criminals. One, in the Town House has a dark damp dungeon, down seventeen steps, where the instruments of torture are deposited. The other consists of about fifteen cells, twelve feet by seven, and a black torture room. Here is a table covered with black cloth and fringe; six chairs for the magistrates and secretaries, covered also with black cloth, are elevated above the floor and painted black.
Various engines of torture, some of which are stained with blood, hang around the room. When the criminals suffer the candles are lighted, for the windows are shut close, to prevent their cries from being heard abroad. Two crucifixes are presented to the view of the unhappy objects. 'But (says Mr. Howard) it is too shocking to relate their different modes of cruelty; even women are not spared.'
In the prison at Antwerp there are two rooms for citizens, and above there is a cage about six feet and a half square, into which criminals are put before the torture. A criminal, while he suffers the torture, is clothed in a long shirt, has his eyes bound, and a physician and surgeon attend him. When a confession is forced from him, and he has had some wine, he is required to sign his confession; and about forty-eight hours afterwards he is executed.
In a small dungeon, is a stone seat, such as is often seen in old prison towers, on which it is said, that formerly prisoners were suffocated by brimstone, when their families wished to avoid the disgrace of a public execution.
This most hateful of all tribunals, was introduced into Spain in the year 1478; and into Portugal, at the pressing solicitation of King John the Third, about the year 1536. From its first establishment, until the recent revolution in those countries, its power had been unchecked, and the details of its proceedings, even such as have transpired, chill us with horror. In Spain alone, from the year 1481 to 1808, not fewer than 32,382 persons were burnt alive; 17,690, burnt in effigy; and 291,450, imprisoned for various periods, with confiscation of the whole of their property. The number of victims sacrificed by this infernal tribunal, diminished in proportion to the increase of knowledge. Thus Torquemada, the first Grand Inquisitor, in the course of seventeen years, had upwards of 10,000 persons burnt alive; and nearly 100,000 imprisoned, with confiscation of property; while during the first twenty years of the reign of the late King of Spain, not a single person was burnt alive, only one burnt in effigy, and forty-two imprisoned.
To notice the various means by which the victims of the Inquisition were murdered, with all the tortures that malice could prompt or human ingenuity invent, would but be to record crimes at which humanity would shrink with horror. For independent of its secret tortures and murders, it made a sort of carnival of destruction.
The last act of the inquisitorial tragedy, was the Auto da Fe, which in the Romish Church was a sort of gaol delivery, appointed for the punishment of heretics, and the absolution of the innocently accused, as often as a competent number of prisoners were convicted of heresy, either by their own extorted confession, or on the evidence of witnesses.
The Auto da Fe, to describe it in the words of an eye-witness, is generally held on some great festival, that the execution may pass with the more awe; at least, it is always on a Sunday. When one of these dreadful scenes is about to take place, there is a procession led by Dominican friars; after which come the penitents, all in black coats without sleeves, barefooted, and bearing a wax candle in their hands. These are followed by the penitents, who have narrowly escaped being burnt, who over their black coats have flames painted in an inverted position. Next come the negative and relapsed, who are to be burnt, having flames on their habits pointing upwards. These are followed by such as profess doctrines contrary to the faith of Rome, who in addition to habits like the last, have their portraits painted on their breasts, with dogs serpents, and devils, all open-mouthed, around it.
Each prisoner is attended by a familiar of the Inquisition, and those to be burnt have also a Jesuit on each hand, who continually urges them to abjure. The prisoners are followed by familiars on horseback, inquisitors on mules, and last of all, the Inquisitor General, on a white horse, led by two men with black hats, and green hat-bands.
A scaffold is erected large enough for two or three thousand people; at one end of which are the Inquisitors, at the other the prisoners. After a sermon in praise of the inquisition, a priest ascends the scaffold, recites the final sentence of those who are to be put to death, and delivers them to the secular arm, earnestly beseeching at the same time the secular power not to touch their blood or put their lives in danger. The prisoners being thus in the hands of the civil magistrate, are loaded with chains, then carried to the secular gaol, and in an hour or two brought before the civil judge; who after asking in what religion they intend to die, pronounces sentence on such as declare they die in the Communion of the Church of Rome, that they shall be first strangled, and then burnt to ashes; those that die in any other faith are doomed to be burnt alive.
The condemned are then immediately carried to the Riberia, the place of execution, where there are as many stakes set up as there are prisoners to be burnt. The negative and relapsed being first strangled and then burnt; the professed mount their stakes by a ladder, and the Jesuits, after several repeated exhortations to be reconciled to the church, consign them to eternal destruction, and then leave them to the fiend, who they tell them stands at their elbow to carry them into torments. On this a great shout is raised, and the cry is, 'Let the dogs' beards be made;' which is done by thrusting flaming bunches of furze, fastened to long poles, against their beards, till their faces are burnt black, the surrounding populace rending the air with the loudest acclamations of joy. At last fire is set to the furze at the bottom of the stake, over which the victims are chained, so high, that the flame seldom reaches higher than the seat they sit on, and thus they are rather roasted than burnt. Although there cannot be a more lamentable spectacle, and the sufferers continually cry out as long as they are able. 'Pity, for the love of God!' yet it is beheld by persons of all ages and both sexes with transports of joy and satisfaction.
When we reflect on the havoc made on the human species by the Inquisition, how must we rejoice that it is abolished in the two countries where it held a sway almost unlimited.
The Cortes of Lisbon, in one of their sittings, in October, 1821, decreed the abolition of the Inquisition; and one of the members proposed that the following inscription should be fixed on every place it had occupied:- May eternal malediction follow every Portuguese who does not hold for ever in abhorrence an invention so infernal.
By a decree of the Cortes, the dungeons of the Inquisition were thrown open to the public; and an Englishman, then in Lisbon, gives the following account of this horrible place.
'On the 8th of October the Inquisition of Lisbon was thrown open for public inspection, and for the first four days the concourse of people of all descriptions that crowded to view it was so great that the pressure of the entrance made it an enterprise of some risk.
'The building is a large oblong, with a garden in the centre; there are three floors, with a number of vaulted passages, along the sides of which are cells of different sizes, from six by seven feet, to eight by nine feet. Each cell has two doors, the inner one of iron, the outer of oak, very strong. As there are no windows in the cells on the ground and middle floors, no light is admitted when the doors are shut. The cells on the upper floor are larger than the others, and each has an aperture like a chimney, through which the sky is visible. These were appropriated to the use of those who it was supposed might be liberated. In the roof of each cell (for they are all vaulted) is a small aperture of about an inch in diameter, and a private passage runs over each range, so that the persons employed by the holy office could at any time observe the conduct of the prisoners unseen; and if two persons were confined in one cell, hear their conversation. There are seats in these private passages so contrived that a person sitting might inspect two of the cells at the same time, as, by a turn of the head, he could fix his eye upon the hole over either cell at pleasure, or he could hear what was said in either. The persons appointed to listen to the discourse of the prisoners wore cloth shoes, so that their footsteps could not be heard.
'Frequently a familiar of the holy office was put into the cell of a prisoner, as a person arrested, in order to entrap the unfortunate inmate of this horrible place into admissions that might afterwards be used against him. I saw, in several of the cells, human skulls and bones; most of them appeared to have lain there for many years, as I broke some of them easily with my fingers, others were hard and fresh. In a number of the cells the names of the unhappy inmates were written on the walls: some had strokes, apparently marking the number of days or weeks the victims of this horrid tyranny had been confined. On the wall of one cell I counted upwards of five hundred of these marks. On the wall of another cell was written, 'Francisco Joze Carvalho, entered here the last day of March, 1809, and remained as many days as there are strokes in the wall.' On the wall of another cell was written, 'John Laycock;' the name had been covered with whitewash, which had scaled off. There were a number of strokes under the name, and the figures "18" were easily made out, the others were obliterated. Some of the cells, which had not been used for several years, were locked up, but the visitants soon broke them open. Human bones were found in many of these. In one was found part of a friar's habit, with a waist-girdle of rope, and some bones. The apertures, like chimneys, in some of the cells were closed; and I have been informed that it was a common mode of putting prisoners to death, to place them in these apertures, which were then walled up, and quicklime being poured in from the top, a speedy end was put to their sufferings. The furniture is very old; the chairs in the halls are covered with leather, studded all round with very large brass nails. The large tables in the halls had drawers for papers; these the visitants broke open, every one being desirous of obtaining some relic of the once terrible Inquisition. In several of the cells there were mattresses, some of them old, others nearly new, which proves that the Inquisition was not a trifle up to a very recent date. The spot on which the Inquisition stands was covered with houses in 1755, when the great earthquake happened, by which they were laid in ruins; so that the present building has not been erected more than sixty years, and all the victims that were immolated in it, must have been sacrificed within that period.'
In Switzerland, the prisoners who have not been tried, and consequently punished on presumption of guilt, are most severely treated. They are not only a long time in being brought to trial, but their places of confinement are most cruel. In a visit to one of these prisons, in 1818, a man was found shut up in a tower, situated in the middle of a river. He was its only human inhabitant. His gaoler came three times a day in a boat, to examine his chain and bring him food; and his judges from time to time, as they proceeded in his examination. He was chained to Wit bed, from which he could not move far, and had neither chair, table, fire, nor comfort, nothing but a few old books. He could indeed see the sky, but that only. He had been in this situation for twelve months, and even then it was not determined whether he was guilty or not. In the same tower was a room. about sixteen feet square, without light altogether, or air, except what passed through a narrow funnel. In this place a man had been on one occasion confined eleven months. In another prison, a large apartment in the tower of an ancient convent, a man was found who had been taken up on suspicion, and had been confined forty-eight days. The window was unglazed, but not large enough to admit light. The room was very cold. The straw on which the prisoner lay was almost black with use, and his clothes had not been changed since his confinement. These are, it is to be hoped, singular cases; yet it is the general treatment of untried prisoners in Switzerland.
The Outlaw of Calabria.
One of the most celebrated leaders of the bands of brigands which infested Calabria and the Abruzzi, in 1817, was the priest Ciro Annichiarico, who, though born of respectable parents, and bred to the ecclesiastical profession, abandoned himself to crime at an early period of his life. He began his infamous career by killing a young man of the Motolesi family in a fit of jealousy. His insatiable hatred pursued every member of the family, and exterminated them one after the other, with the exception of a single individual, who succeeded in evading his search, and who lived shut up in his house for several years, without daring to go out. This unfortunate being thought that a snare was laid for him, When people came to tell him of the imprisonment, and shortly after, of the death of his enemy; and it was with difficulty that he was induced to quit his retreat.
Ciro, condemned for the murder of the Motolesi to fifteen years of chains or exile by the tribunal of Lecce, remained there in prison for four years, when he made his escape. It was then that he began to lead a vagabond life, which was stained by the most atrocious crimes. At Martano he penetrated with his accomplices into one of the first houses of the place, massacred the mistress and all her attendants, and carried off ninety-six thousand ducats. He became in correspondence with all the hired brigands; and whoever wished to get rid of an enemy had only to address himself to Ciro. On being asked by Captain Montorj, reporter of the military commission which condemned him, how many persons he had killed with his own hand, he carelessly answered, 'E chi lo sa? sarrano tra sessanta e settanta.' 'Who can remember? they will be between sixty and seventy.' One of his companions, Occhiolupo, confessed to seventeen; the two brothers, Francesco and Vito Serio, to twenty-three; so that these four ruffians alone had assassinated upwards of a hundred!
The activity of Ciro was as astonishing as his artifice and intrepidity. He handled the musket and managed the horse to perfection: and as he was always extremely well mounted, found concealment and support, either through fear or inclination, everywhere. He succeeded in escaping from the hands of the soldiers by forced marches of thirty and forty miles, even when confidential spies had discovered his place of concealment but a few hours before. The singular good fortune of being able to extricate himself from the most imminent dangers acquired for him the reputation of a necromancer, upon whom ordinary means of attack had no power among the people, and he neglected nothing which could confirm this idea and increase the sort of spell it produced upon the peasants. They dared not execute or even blame him in his absence, so firmly were they persuaded that his demons would immediately inform him of it.
Ciro put himself at the head of two associations of most desperate character, the Patrioti Europei, and Decisi. The institution of the Decisi, or decided, was of the most horrible nature. They kept a register of the victims they immolated; and had what they called a director of funeral ceremonies, for they slaughtered with method and solemnity. As soon as the detachments employed on this service found it convenient to effect their purpose, at the first blast of a trumpet they unsheathed their poniards; at the second blast they aimed them at their victim; at the third they gradually brought their weapons towards his breast, 'con vero entusiasmo.' in their cannibal language; and at the fourth signal plunged them into his body.
In 1817, these associations had become so formidable that General Church was sent with an army to exterminate them; but with men linked by such ties, a person of Ciro's determined character was not to be put down easily. He therefore made the most desperate efforts to defend himself. At length, worn out by fatigue, Ciro, and three companions, Vito di Cesare, Giovanni Palmieri, and Michele Cuppoli, had taken refuge in Scaserba, to repose themselves for a few hours. He had previously provided this, and all the farm-houses of the district, with ammunition and some provisions. When he saw the militia of S. Marzano marching against him, he appeared very little alarmed, and thought he could easily cut through their ranks. He shot the first man dead who came within range of his musket. This delay cost him dear; the militia sent information to Lieutenant Fonsmore, stationed at the 'Castelli,' a strong position between Grottaglie and Francavilla. This officer hastened to the spot with forty men. On seeing him approach, Ciro perceived that a vigorous attack was to be made. He shut up the people of the Masseira in the straw magazine, and put the key in his pocket. He took away the ladder from the tower, and loaded, with the aid of his companions, all the guns, of which he had a good number.
Next morning, Major Bianchi proceeded in person to Scaserba, and besieged Ciro with one hundred and thirty soldiers, while a body of the militia were placed at some distance. Ciro rigorously defended the approaches to the tower until sunset. He attempted to escape in the night, but the neighing of a horse made him suspect that some cavalry had arrived, whose pursuit it would be impossible to elude. He retired, after having killed with a pistol shot a Voltigeur, stationed under the wall he had attempted to scale. He again shut himself up in his tower, and employed himself till morning in making cartridges. At daybreak the besiegers tried to burst open the wooden gate of the outer wall; Ciro and his men repulsed the assailants by a well-directed fire; they killed five and wounded fourteen men. A barrel of oil was brought in order to burn the door. The first man who set fire to it was shot through the heart. A four-pounder which had been conveyed to the place was pointed against the roof of the tower. Several of this calibre had been contrived to be easily dismounted from their carriages and transported on mules. This little piece produced great effect, and the tiles and bricks which fell forced Ciro to descend from the second floor to the first. After some deliberations with his companions, he demanded to speak with General Church, who, he believed, was in the neighbourhood; then to the Duke of Jasi, who was also absent; at last he resolved to capitulate with Major Bianchi. He addressed the besiegers, and threw them some bread. Major. Bianchi promised that he should not be maltreated by the soldiers. He descended the ladder, opened the door of the tower, and presented himself with the words, 'Eccomi, Don Ciro' 'Here I am, Don Ciro!'
He begged them to give him some water to quench his thirst, and desired them to liberate the farmer and his family, who had been shut up all this time in the straw magazine. He declared that they were innocent, and distributed money amongst them. He suffered himself to be searched and bound patiently; some poison was found on him, which he said his companions had prevented him from taking. In prison, he appeared to be interested for the fate of some of his partisans, begging that they might not be persecuted, and declared that they had been forced to do what they had done. He had entertained some hope till the moment when he was placed before the Council of War and refused permission to speak to General Church. He was condemned to death. On his arrival at the place of execution, Ciro wished to remain standing, but was told to kneel; he did so, presenting his breast. He was then informed that malefactors like himself were shot with their backs towards the soldiers; he submitted, at the same time advising a priest, who persisted in remaining near him, to withdraw, so as not to expose himself.
Twenty-one balls took effect, four in the head, yet he still breathed and muttered in his throat; the twenty-second put an end to him. This fact is confirmed by all the officers and soldiers present at his death. 'As soon as we perceived,' said a soldier, very gravely, 'that he was enchanted, we loaded his own musket with a silver ball, and this destroyed the spell.' It will easily be supposed that the people, who always attributed to him supernatural powers, were confirmed in their belief by this tenacity of life, which they considered miraculous.
Theodorus Gaddaraeus, who was tutor to Tiberius the Roman Emperor, observing in him, while a boy, a very sanguinary nature and disposition, which lay lurking under a show of lenity, was wont to call him 'a lump of clay steeped and soaked in blood.' His predictions of him did not fail in the event. Tiberius thought death was too light a punishment for any one that displeased him. Hearing that one Carnulius, who had displeased him had cut his own throat. 'Carnulius,' said he, 'has escaped me.' To another who begged, of him that he might die quickly, 'No,' said he, 'you are not so much in favour as that yet.'
Death of Julius Caesar.
If the conspirators had restored liberty to their country, their act had been completely glorious, and would have shown that Caesar, and not Rome, was degenerated. But if we may judge from the consequences, heaven disapproved of the deed. A particular fate attended the conspirators; not even one of them died a natural death; and even Brutus, recollecting in his last moments the benefit he had received from Caesar, was staggered in his thoughts of virtue, and broke out into a pathetic expression, signifying, 'that he had worshipped virtue as a substance, and had found it only as a shadow;' so that he seems to have wanted that fortitude of mind, which constantly attends true virtue to the grave. This defect in the character of Brutus, is not improperly expressed in the famous gallery of the great Duke of Tuscany, where there is a very fine head of Brutus, begun by Michael Angelo, but left unfinished; under it is engraven upon a copper-plate, this distich:
'Dum Bruti effigiem sculptor de marmore ducit,
In mentem sceleris venit, et abstinuit.'
A chapter of the Upland law, has been quoted by Dr. Robertson from Stiernook, entitled, 'On Battle and Single Combat; from the old laws which were used in the heathen time. If (it says) a man speak to another the words which ought not to be spoken: Thou art not a man's equal, thou art not a man in thy heart, I am as much a man as thou art; then shall they meet at the meeting of three ways.' The usage of the heathen day, allowed of duel or single combat, in answer to the inexpiable accusation of cowardice, an accusation which could only be effaced by blood. The recreant who refused to give the satisfaction of a gentleman, 'where three ways meet,' lost his law, and never could afterwards defend himself by oath, or be received as a witness. That which was the direful cause of war before the rape of Helen, could not fall to inflame the anger of the Scandinavians; and their combats very frequently originated in 'ladies' love and druery.' The last and most memorable duel in Iceland, was fought between the two poets, Gunnlang with the serpent tongue, and Kafn. They contended for the hand of the fair-haired Pelga, and both died in the conflict. The fate of these youthful lovers excited universal commiseration; and it was enacted, in one of the greatest folkmates ever known in Iceland, and by the advice of one of the wisest men in Iceland, that henceforth the duel should be taken away for ever.
The following passage from Bishop Burnet's 'History of his own Time,' will give some notion of the kind, though not of the extent, of that hideous persecution, from which the people of Scotland were delivered by the revolution. 'When any are to be struck in the boots, it is done in the presence of the council; and upon that occasion almost all offer to run away. The sight is so dreadful, that without an order restraining such a number to stay, the boards would be forsaken. But the Duke of York (afterwards James II.), while he was in Scotland, was so far from running away, that he looked on all the while with an unmoved indifference, and with an attention as if he had been to look on some curious experiment. This gave a terrible idea of him to all that observed it, as a man that had no bowels of humanity in him. Lord Perth observing this, resolved to let him see how well qualified he was to be an inquisitor-general. The rule about the boots in Scotland, was, that upon one witness and presumptions, both together, the question might be given. But it was never known to be twice given, or that any other species of torture besides the boots, might be used at pleasure. In the Court of Inquisition, they do upon suspicion, or if a man refuses to answer upon path as he is required, give him the torture, and repeat it as often as they think fit, and do not give over till they have got out of their mangled prisoners, all that they have a mind to know from them.
'This Lord Perth now resolved to make his pattern, and was a little too early in letting the world see what a government we were to expect under the influence of a prince of that religion. So upon his going to land, one Spence, who was a servant of Lord Argyle's, and was taken up to London only upon suspicion, and sent down to Scotland, was required to take an oath to answer all the questions which should be put to him. This was done in direct contradiction to an express law, obliging men to swear that they will answer super inquirendis. Spence likewise said, that he himself might be concerned in what he might know, and it was against a very universal law, that excused all men from swearing against themselves, to force him to take such an oath. So he was struck in the boots, and continued firm in his refusal. Then a new species of torture was invented; he was kept from sleep eight or nine nights. They grew weary of managing this, so a third species was invented. Little screws of steel were made use of, that screwed the thumbs with that exquisite torture, that he sunk under this, for Lord Perth told him, that they would screw every joint of his whole body, one after another, till he took the oath. Yet such was the firmness and fidelity of this poor man, that even in that extremity, he capitulated that no new questions should be put to him but those already agreed upon, and that he should not be a witness against any person, and that he himself should be pardoned, so all he could tell them was, who were Lord Argyle's correspondents. The chief of them was Holmes in London, to whom Lord Argyle wrote in a cypher that had a particular curiosity in it. A double key was necessary, the one was to show the way of placing the words of the cypher, in an order very different from that they lay upon the paper; the other was the key of the cyphers themselves, which was found among Holines's papers when he absconded. Spence knew only the first of these, but he put all in its due order, and then by the other key they were deciphered. In them it appeared what Argyle had demanded, and what he undertook to do upon the granting his demands; but none of his letters spoke anything of any agreement then made.
'When the torture had this effect on Spence, they offered the same oath to Carstairs; and upon his refusing to take it, they put his thumbs into the screws, and drew them so hard, that as they put him to extreme torture, so they could not unscrew them, till the smith that made them was brought with his tools to take them off.'
Outraged Nature Avenged.
In Queen Anne's reign, a soldier belonging to a marching regiment, that was quartered in the city of W-, was taken up for desertion, and being tried by a court-martial, was sentenced to be shot. The colonel and lieutenant-colonel being both in London, the command of the regiment had devolved in course to the major, who was accounted a very cruel and obdurate man. The day of execution being come, the regiment, as usual upon those occasions, was drawn up to witness it; but when everyone present who knew the custom at these executions, expected to see the corporals cast lots for the ungracious office, they were surprised to find it fixed by the major upon the prisoner's own brother, who was also a soldier in the regiment, and was at the moment taking his last leave of the unfortunate culprit.
On this inhuman order being announced to the brothers, they both fell down upon their knees; the one supplicated in the most affecting terms that he might be spared the horror of shedding a brother's blood; and the other brother, that he might receive his doom from any other hand than his. But all their tears and supplications were in vain; the major was not to be moved. He swore that the brother, and the brother only, should be the man, that the example might be the stronger, and the execution the more horrible. Several of the officers attempted to remonstrate with him, but to no purpose. The brother prepared to obey. The prisoner having gone through the usual service with the minister, kneeled down at the place appointed to receive the fatal shot. The major stood by, saw the afflicted brother load his instrument of death, and this being done, ordered him to observe the third signal with his cane, and at that instant to do his office, and dispatch the prisoner. But behold the justice of Providence! When the major was dealing his fatal signals for the prisoner's death, at the last motion of his cane, the soldier, inspired by some superior power, suddenly turned about his piece, and shot the tyrant in a moment through the head. Then throwing down his piece, he exclaimed, 'He that can show no mercy, no mercy let him receive. Now I submit, I had rather die this hour, for this death, than live a hundred years, and give my brother his.' At this unexpected event, nobody seemed to he sorry; and some of the chief citizens, who came to see the execution, and were witnesses of all that passed, prevailed with the next commanding officer to carry both the brothers back to prison, and not to execute the first prisoner until farther orders, promising to indemnify him for the consequences, as far as their whole interest could possibly go with the queen. This request being complied with, the city corporation, that very night, drew up a most pathetic and moving address to their sovereign, humbly setting forth the cruelty of the deceased, and praying her majesty's clemency towards both the prisoners. The queen, upon the perusal of this petition, which was presented to her majesty by one of the city representatives, was pleased to promise that she would inquire a little further into the matter. On doing so, she found the truth of the petition confirmed in all its particulars; and was graciously pleased to pardon both the offending brothers, and discharge them from her service, 'For which good mercy in the queen,' says a chronicle of that period, 'she received a very grateful, and most dutiful, address of thanks from her loyal city.'
English Gaols Schools of Corruption.
It is remarked by Mr. Locke, 'Of all the men we meet with, nine parts in ten are what they are, good or evil, useful or not, by their education.' Never was this truth more strongly exemplified than in the case of persons of comparatively pure lives committed to an English gaol.
'Many and very grievous,' says that indefatigable philanthropist, Mr. Buxton, 'are the instances which have come to my knowledge of persons corrupted by prison. When I first went to Newgate, my attention was directed, by my companion, Mr. Bedford, of Spitalfields, to a boy whose apparent innocence and artlessness had attracted his notice. The schoolmaster said he was an example to all the rest, so quiet, so reserved, and so unwilling to have any intercourse with his dissolute companions. At his trial, he was acquitted, upon evidence which did not leave a shadow of suspicion upon him; but lately I recognised him again in Newgate, but with a very different character. I cannot entertain a doubt of this lad having been ruined by Newgate. I could, if delicacy would allow it, mention the name of a person who practised in the law, and who was connected by marriage with some very respectable families. He, for a fraud, was committed to Clerkenwell prison, and sent from thence to Newgate, in a coach, handcuffed to a noted housebreaker, who was afterwards cast for death. The first night, and the subsequent fortnight, he slept in the same bed with a highwayman on one side, and a man charged with murder on the other. During that period, and long after, spirits were freely introduced. At first he abstained from them, but he soon found that either he must adopt the manners of his companions, or his life would be in danger.
They already viewed him with some suspicion, as one of whom they knew nothing. He was in consequence put out of the protection of their internal law. Their code is a subject of some curiosity. When any prisoner commits an offence against the community, or against an individual, he is tried. Some one, generally the oldest and most dexterous thief, is appointed judge; a towel tied in knots is hung on each side of his head, in imitation of a wig. He takes his seat, if he can find one, with all form and decorum; and to call him anything but 'my lord' is a high misdemeanour. A jury is then appointed, and regularly sworn, and the culprit is brought up. Unhappily, justice is not administered with quite the same integrity within the prison as without it. The most trifling bribe to the judge will secure an acquittal, but the neglect of this formality, is a sure prelude to condemnation. The punishments are various, standing in the pillory is the heaviest. The criminal's head is placed between the legs of a chair, and his arms stretched out are attached to it; he then carries about this machine; but any punishment, however heinous the offence, might be commuted into a fine, to be spent in liquor, for the use of the judge and jury. This mode of justice was the source of continual persecution to Mr. -; hardly a day passed without an accusation against him for moving something which ought not to be touched, or leaving a door open, or coughing maliciously, to the disturbance of his companions. The evidence was always clear, to the satisfaction of the jury; and the judge was incessant in his efforts to reform him, by inflicting the highest punishments. In short, self-preservation rendered it necessary for him to adopt the manners of his associates; by insensible degrees, he began to lose his repugnance to their society; caught their flash terms, and sung their songs; was admitted to their revels, and acquired in place of habits of perfect sobriety, a taste for spirits; and a taste so strong, and so rooted, that even now he finds it difficult to resist the cravings of his diseased thirst for stimulants.'
Private Assumptions of Judicial Authority.
While Christina, Queen of Sweden, resided in France, after her abdication, she excited general horror by an action, for which in perhaps any other country she would have been punished with death. This was the murder of Monaldeschi, an Italian, her master of the horse, who had betrayed some secret entrusted to him. He was summoned into a gallery in the palace, letters were shown to him, at the sight of which he turned pale, and entreated for pardon, but he was told instantly to prepare to die. The queen withdrew, and two of her domestics issuing from an adjoining apartment, put her sanguinary order into execution, by stabbing the unfortunate Monaldeschi to death. The French court was justly offended at this atrocious deed; yet it met with vindicators, on the absurd plea, that though Christina had abdicated the Swedish throne, she had not resigned any of the personal attributes of royalty. Even the great Leibnitz disgraced his name, by enlisting himself among the apologists of this female satrap.
When the celebrated Colonel Blood was at the head of the Fifth Monarchy, he was guilty of conduct somewhat similar, wanting only the bloody part of the transaction. He called a kind of court-martial in a tavern, to try two members of his secret council, who had revealed all his transactions to the government. They were tried, found guilty, and sentenced to be shot two days after in the same place and time.
When the appointed day came, till which they were kept in strict durance, they were brought out, and all the necessary preparations made for putting the sentence into execution. The poor men seeing no hopes of escape, prepared themselves to suffer as well as they could. At this critical juncture, Blood was graciously pleased to grant them his pardon, trusting that they would atone for their past offences by their future gratitude and fidelity!
The case of John Eyre, Esq., who, though worth upwards of £30,000, was convicted at the Old Bailey, and sentenced to transportation, for stealing eleven quires of common writing paper, was rendered more memorable by the opportunity which it gave Junius to impeach the integrity of Lord Mansfield, who was supposed to have erred in admitting him to bail. An anecdote is related of Mr. Eyre, which shows in a striking manner the natural depravity of the human heart; and may help to account for the meanness of the crime of which he stood convicted. An uncle of his, a gentleman of considerable property, made his will in favour of a clergyman, who was his intimate friend, and committed it, unknown to the rest of his family, to the custody of the divine. However not long before his death, having altered his mind with regard to the disposal of his wealth, he made another will, in which he left the clergyman only £500, leaving the bulk of his large fortune to go to his nephew and heir-at-law, Mr. Eyre. Soon after the old gentleman's death, Mr. Eyre rummaging over his drawers, found this last will, and perceiving the legacy of £500 in it for the clergyman, without any hesitation or scruple of conscience, put it in the fire, and took possession of the whole effects, in consequence of his uncle's being supposed to have died intestate. The clergyman coming to town soon after, and enquiring into the circumstances of his old friend's death, asked if he had made any will before he died? On being answered by Mr. Eyre in the negative, the clergyman very coolly put his hand in his pocket, and pulled out the former will, which had been committed to his care, in which Mr. Eyre had bequeathed him the whole of his fortune, amounting to several thousand pounds, excepting a legacy of £5oo to his nephew.
Death for a Rhyme.
A poet called Madera,having calumniated a noble Roman lady, called Foittaita, was called to an account for the imprudent attack by Pope Sixtus V. He declared he had no reason for slandering her, but that Putanta rhymed to Fontana. The witty Pontiff, in the same vein of humour, condemned him to the galleys, 'Merely,' said he, 'because Gallera is a good rhyme to Madera.'
About 1776, there appeared an account from Port St. Louis, in Brittany, in France, of a galley-slave who had been condemned to death for murder, but who was promised life and liberty, and a considerable reward, upon condition of suffering himself to be dressed in a certain apparatus, and pushed off the top of a building seventy feet, high, for the purpose of ascertaining the power of the air, in supporting a superincumbent weight. A farther experiment, with some improvements, was made in the presence of many persons of distinction. A gentleman who is extremely curious in every branch of mechanics and natural philosophy, having written to a friend at Nantes, relative to the affair, received the following account. 'The slave in question, whose name is Dominic Dufour, aged about twenty-four years, on the morning of the 29th of September, ascended the leads of the Arsenal, one hundred and forty-five feet, from the terrace of the Esplanade, dressed in a suit of feathered tissue, accompanied by the Duke d'Aiguillon, Governor of Brittany, the Abbe de Henry, and the King's Professor of Mathematics in the Academy of Rennes. A strong cephalic cordial being given him, he was pushed very gently off the parapet of the building, in sight of more than ten thousand spectators; and after fluttering a little in a brisk wind, began to descend in a steady uniform manner, at the distance of about ten feet from the wall of the tower, amidst the acclamations of the people, whose joy for his success would have been immoderate, if not checked by some anxiety for the event; which soon relieved them, for the successful convict lighted upon his feet in perfect safety, being exactly two minutes and thirteen seconds in his descent. He was immediately let blood, and conducted through the principal streets, with drums and trumpets, to the Town Hall, where the magistrates gave a splendid entertainment to many nobility and others, who came from all parts of the country to behold the extraordinary sight. A handsome collection was made by the company, and the prisoner relieved, with a certificate of his performance, to entitle him to the king's bounty and most gracious pardon, with which he set off the next day to Paris. M. Defontagne, who is the author of this invention, has applied for an exclusive patent for his natural life, as such an apparatus may be of invaluable consequence in cases of sudden accident, particularly fire, for which purpose it was chiefly intended.'
The Thurian Code.
Charondas, in order to cheek capricious innovations in his Thurian laws, ordained that whoever should propose any alteration in them, should remain in public, with a rope about his neck, till the people had formally decided upon its adoption or rejection. In the latter case, the rope was tightened, and the reformer strangled. It can scarcely be necessary to add, that few alterations were proposed. Only three instances are recorded by the Greek historian; and of these, but one refers to criminal legislation.
Faithful to the old principle of retaliation which has produced so much mischief in the world the law was enacted, that whoever should deprive another of his sight, should be punished by the loss of his own. A man who had already lost one of his eyes, and by a second wound was deprived of the other, represented with tears to his fellow citizens, that the offender would not endure an equal suffering, as he would retain the use of one of his eyes, whereas he himself was totally blind; justice, therefore, he alleged, demanded that he should be punished with the loss of both. At the peril of his life he proposed this alteration; his suggestion was accepted, and the charge was confirmed.
George the Third.
Although picking a pocket is not a capital felony, yet taking anything privily from the person, of the value of one shilling, is punishable with death. The Recorder having to report to his majesty, George the Third, the capital conviction of a man for stealing privily from the person, the king asked what that offence meant, as distinguished from picking a pocket? The Recorder answered, that it meant taking the article without the knowledge of the party from whom it was stolen. 'Why,' replied his majesty, 'I had always understood that the very essence of picking a pocket, was, that it should be done as much without the knowledge of the party as possible.' The king refused his assent to the death warrant, and the criminal was ordered for transportation.
Law against Stealing.
It is singular enough, that the punishment for private stealing, by hard labour, which has recently been proposed as one of the substitutes for death seems to have occurred, though indistinctly, to the very legislators by whom the penalty of death was first appointed. By the statute of the 8th of Elizabeth, this crime when committed clam et secrete, was excluded from the benefit of clergy; and it is necessary for every indictment to contain those words in order to subject the accused party to a capital conviction. Now this very statute, in its preambIe, says, 'that it is made to the end, that the fraternity, or brotherhood of cutpurses and pickpockets, may not continue to live idle by the secret spoil of good and true subjects.'
Does not, then, this preamble itself seem to intimate, that the proper remedy is to oblige the criminal to hard labour?
This mode of punishment was known in the first ages of the French monarchy. In England, it has long been the only capital punishment, for where decapitation forms a part of the sentence, the criminal is first hanged. By the Saxon laws, the adulteress was compelled to hang herself. She was then thrown upon a funeral pile, over which was suspended the body of her paramour. The Emperor of Germany sanctions no other mode of execution than hanging; the body is ordered to remain suspended twelve hours upon the gallows, and afterwards to be buried, not with the ordinary rites of sepulture, but apart from the other dead, without ceremony or attendance.
In the year 1728, Margaret Dickson was tried at Edinburgh for the murder of her child, supposed to have been born during the absence of her husband. After her condemnation, she behaved in the most penitent manner, acknowledged her infidelity, but constantly and steadily denied that she had murdered her child, or even formed an idea of so horrible a crime. At the place of execution, her behaviour was consistent with her former declaration; and she was hanged. After her execution, her body was cut down, and delivered to her friends, who put it into a cart, to be buried at her native place; but the weather being sultry, the persons who had the body in charge, stopped to drink at a village about two miles from Edinburgh. While they were refreshing themselves, one of them perceived the lid of the coffin move, and uncovering it, the woman immediately sat up, when most of the spectators ran off with every sign of trepidation. A person who was drinking in the house, had recollection enough to bleed her; in about an hour after she was put to bed, and next morning she was so far recovered as to be able to walk to her own house. By the Scottish law, which is partly founded on that of the Romans, a person against whom the judgment of the Court has been executed, can suffer no more in future, but is thenceforth totally exculcated; and it is likewise held, that the marriage is dissolved by the execution of the convicted party. Mrs. Dickson having been thus convicted and executed, the king's advocate could prosecute her no farther, but he filed a bill in the High Court of justiciary, against the sheriff, for omitting to fulfil the law. The husband of this restored convict, married her publicly a few days after she was hung; and she lived about thirty years afterwards.
Breaking on the Wheel.
This punishment is said by some, to have been first inflicted under Commodus, in the second century of Christianity; others date its origin in the time of Louis le Gros; it was not, however, admitted into the French code until the year 1534, when it was the subject of an edict of Francis I.
This edict was not less marked by its disproportion of punishments, than by its general spirit of atrocity. Hanging, which had been the penalty of murder, still remained so. The wheel was not extended to this crime, but confined to cases of highway robbery and burglary; thus property was more carefully protected than life. This shocking disparity was finally corrected under the reign of Henry II.; the highwayman no longer appeared a greater criminal than the murderer, but was still equally punished.
And yet the law, thus severe in instances of individual robbery, contents itself with inflicting merely pecuniary fines upon ministers who embezzle the public property, a crime which, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, was punished with death in France. Enguerrant de Marigny, superintendent of the finances of Philip le Bel, was capitally convicted of peculation, and suffered for it under Louis le Hutin; nor would Jacques Coeur have been more fortunate under Charles VII., had not that prince commuted his punishment for a fine Of 300,000 livres, and the confiscation of his entire property. This rigour was confirmed by many other statutes; but in 1716, Louis XV. substituted pecuniary mulcts. Well may we exclaim with the poet,
'Plate sin with gold.
And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks;
Clothe it in rags, and a paltry straw will pierce it.'
The Punishment of Quartering.
If reasons of justice and utility authorize capital punishments, they certainly do not require that they should be inflicted with barbarity. What then must be thought of quartering the body, that horrible aggravation of capital punishments, which was a very ancient mode of executing criminals in France convicted of high treason? Gregory of Tours adduces several instances of it. Gonelon was quartered for having conspired against Charlemagne. Nor was this disgraceful ferocity confined to France; when Richard III. was recognised as King of England, a gentleman of the name of Collingbourne was condemned to be quartered, for having written to a friend of the Earl of Richmond, who was then levying troops, the two celebrated lines:
'The rat, the cat, and Lovel the dog,
Rule all England under the hog.'
Alluding to Ratcliffe and Catesby, and to Richard's arms, which were a Boar.
Soon after the publication of Beccaria's excellent 'Treatise on Crimes and Punishments,' the Duke of Tuscany abolished the punishment of death for every crime, even for murder; and the beneficial effects of this alteration in the criminal code, soon became obvious. A gentleman who resided five years at Pisa afterwards, states, that only five murders had been committed in the Duchy of Tuscany in twenty years. The same gentleman, on leaving Tuscany, passed three months at Rome, where death was still the punishment of murder, and where executions were conducted with remarkable solemnity. During his short period, there were sixty murders committed within the precincts of the city; and yet the manners, principles, and religion, of the inhabitants of Tuscany and Rome, are exactly the same; consequently the abolition of death alone as a punishment for murder, produced this difference in the moral character of the two nations.
The edict of the Grand Duke of Tuscany on this subject, is too remarkable to be passed over; the following are extracts from it:
'Since our accession to the throne of Tuscany, we have considered the examination and reform of the criminal laws, as one of our principal duties; and having soon discovered them to be too severe, in consequence of their having been founded on maxims established, either at the unhappy crisis of the Roman empire, or during the troubles of anarchy, and particularly that they were by no means adapted to the mild and gentle temper of our subjects; we set out by moderating the rigour of the said laws, by giving injunctions and orders to our tribunals, and by particular edicts abolishing the pains of death, together with the different tortures and punishments, which were immoderate, and disproportioned to the transgressions and contraventions to fiscal laws; waiting till we were enabled, by a serious examination, and by the trial we should make of these new regulations, entirely to reform the said legislature.
'With the utmost satisfaction to our paternal feelings, we have at length perceived that the mitigation of punishments, joined to a most scrupulous attention to prevent crimes, and also a great dispatch in the trials, together with a certainty and suddenness of punishment to real delinquents, has, instead of increasing the number of crimes, considerably diminished that of the smaller ones, and rendered those of an atrocious nature very rare; we have therefore come to a determination, not to defer any longer the reform of the said criminal laws, and having abolished in an absolute way the pain of death, deeming it not essential to the aim of society in punishing the guilty; having totally forbidden the use of the torture, and the confiscation of the criminal's goods, the latter as tending generally to the ruin of their innocent families, which were not accomplices in their offences, we have determined, &c.
'We have seen with horror the facility with which, in the former laws, the pain of death was decreed, even against crimes of no very great enormity; and having considered that the object of punishment, ought to consist in the satisfaction due either to public or private injury, in the correction of the offender, who is still a child, and member of the society and of the state, and whose reformation ought never to be despaired of, we find efficacy and moderation to consist more in condemning the said offender to hard labour, than in putting him to death; since the former serves as a lasting example, and the latter only as momentary object of terror, which is often changed into pity; we are therefore come to a resolution to abolish, and we actually abolish for ever, the pain of death, which shall not be inflicted on any criminal present, or refusing to appear, or even confessing his crime, or being convicted of any of those crimes which in the laws, prior to those we now promulgate, and which we will have to he absolutely and entirely abolished, were styled capital.'
Abuse of Parents.
The Mosaic law ordained, that he that curseth his father or his mother, shall surely be put to death; and amongst the American Indians and several other rude nations, filial duty is considered as the first of virtues. In more civilized states, parental authority and respect are not so carefully protected; but in Scotland, in 1818, a journeyman plasterer of the name of Oliver, was tried at Kirkcudbright, before the Steward of the Stewartry and a special jury, for the crime of cursing, and otherwise threatening, and for using personal violence towards his aged and widowed mother. Several witnesses were examined, whose evidence conclusively established the fact of the prisoner having abused her in the grossest manner, and of his having threatened to deprive her of life: none of the witnesses saw the prisoner strike his mother, but one of them affirmed, that from various circumstances she had no doubt of his having done so. After a few minutes' consultation, the jury returned a verdict, finding the fact of the prisoner's having cursed and otherwise grossly abused his mother proven, but finding the charge of his having struck her not proven. The prisoner was then addressed by Sir Alexander Gordon in a short but impressive speech, and sentenced to six months' inprisonment, and thereafter to be banished the Stewartry for the space of seven years. This is the only case of the kind that has been tried in Scotland for many years.
Execution of Nundcomar.
The execution of Nundcomar, in the East Indies, on a charge of forgery, was attended with circumstances particularly affecting. He was seventy years of age; was a Brahmin, a rank considered sacred among the Hindoos.
Sir Gilbert Elliot, (afterwards Lord Minto) in a speech which he made in the House of Commons in 1788, read an account of the execution of Nundcomar, written by the Sheriff who attended on the occasion. From this narrative we make the following extracts:
'Friday evening, the 4th of August, upon my entering the apartments in the gaol, he arose and saluted me in his usual manner. When informed that on the following day he must suffer, he replied, that fate was not to be resisted; and putting his finger to his fore head, said, "God's will be done." His composure was wonderful; not a sigh escaped him, nor the smallest alteration of voice or countenance.
'On Saturday, the 5th, at seven, I was informed that everything was in readiness at the gaol for the execution. The howlings and lamentations of the poor wretched people who were taking their last leave of him, are not to be described. I have hardly recovered the first shock while I write this three hours afterwards. As soon as he heard I was arrived, he came down into the yard, and joined me in the gaoler's apartment. There was no lingering about him - no affected delay. Seeing some person look at a watch, he rose, and said he was ready; and immediately turning to three Brahmins who were to attend and take care of his body, he embraced them all closely, but without the least mark of melancholy, or depression on his part, while they were in agonies of grief and despair.
'At the place of execution, the crowd was very great; the Rajah sat in his palanquin, and looked around with some attention, but I did not observe the smallest discomposure in his countenance or manner, at the sight of the gallows, or any of the ceremonies passing about it. He conversed for some time with the Brahmins, and begged that the men might be taken care of, as they were to take charge of the body, which he desired repeatedly might not be touched by any of the bystanders. Nothing now remained but the last painful ceremony. I ordered his palanquin to be placed close to the gallows, but he chose to walk. At the foot of the steps which led to the stage, he put his hands behind him to be tied with a handkerchief; some difficulties arising about the cloth which should be tied over his face, he told the people that it must not be done by one of us. I presented to him a subaltern sepoy officer, who was a Brahmin, and he came forward with a handkerchief in his hand; but the Rajah pointed to a servant of his own, who was laying prostrate at his feet, and beckoned him to do it. When on the stage, I examined his countenance as stedfastly as I could, till the cloth covered it, and saw not the slightest symptom of fear and alarm. My own spirits sunk, and I stept into my palanquin; but before I was well seated, he had given the signal, and the stage was removed. The body, after hanging the usual time, was taken down, and delivered to the Brahmins for burning.'
While this tragedy (said Sir Gilbert) was acting, the surrounding multitudes were agitated with grief, fear, and suspense. With a kind of superstitious incredulity, they could not believe that it was really intended to put the Rajah to death; but when they saw him tied up, and the scaffold drop from under him, they set up an universal yell, and with the most piercing cries of horror, and dismay, betook themselves to flight, running, many of them, as far as the Ganges, and plunging into the water, as if to hide themselves from such tyranny as they had witnessed, or to wash away the pollution contracted from viewing such a spectacle.
Promulgation of the Statutes.
It was anciently the custom at the end of every session of Parliament, that all the statutes which had been enacted in it, were transmitted to the sheriff of every county in England, together with a writ commanding them to promulgate those statutes; and the sheriffs, in obedience to this writ, caused them to be proclaimed at their county courts; but soon after the invention of printing was brought into England, this practice was discontinued; and yet, till the fifth year of the reign of Queen Anne, those who could read, and who consequently might be presumed to have a knowledge of the law, were only burned in the hand for crimes which were punished with death in those who could not read, and who might, therefore, well be supposed ignorant of the law.
Committing Murder Abroad.
Sir Francis Drake had, in some remote part of the globe, condemned one of his men to suffer death. The trial and condemnation were deemed unjustifiable in every part; and the friends of the deceased, upon Sir. Francis's return to England, joined in an application to the queen, to issue out her commission to the Lord High Constable to try Sir Francis. The queen consulted the officers of state about the propriety of granting the request; but on account of the eminent services Sir Francis had rendered the nation, her majesty was advised not to comply with the solicitation.
In another case, however, recorded by Duck, a civilian, who lived in the time of Charles the First and Second, the latter prince did grant a commission to the Lord High Constable, to hold a court for the trial of one who had slain a British subject out of the king's dominions. He was found guilty of the murder and sentenced to death. but afterwards reprieved.
It thus clearly appears, that it is a very great mistake to suppose that the laws of England cannot take cognizance of a murder of a British subject committed abroad; and that many Parties of honour might, therefore, save themselves the trouble of choosing a foreign soil for the scene of their combats.
Tasso relates, that he was once attacked by a numerous banditti, but upon hearing the name of the author of Jerusalem delivered, they presented him to their chief, who received him with respect and veneration; all his baggage was restored to him, a considerable present added, and the chief, at the head of an escort, conducted him out of all danger.
Which is the Heir? Ingeniously Determined.
A jeweller who carried on an extensive trade, and supplied the deficiencies of one country by the superfluities of another, leaving his home with a valuable assortment of diamonds, for a distant region, took with him his son and a young slave, whom he had purchased in his infancy, and had brought up more like an adopted child than a servant. They performed their intended journey, and the merchant disposed of his commodities with great advantage; but while preparing to return, he was seized by a pestilential distemper, and died suddenly in the metropolis of a foreign country. This accident inspired the slave with a wish to possess his master's treasures, and relying on the total ignorance of strangers, and the kindness everywhere shown him by the jeweller, he declared himself the son of the deceased, and took charge of his property. The true heir of course denied his pretensions, and solemnly declared himself to be the only son of the defunct, who had long before purchased his opponent as a slave This contest produced various opinions. It happened that the slave was a young Tan of comely person, and of polished manners, while the jeweller's son was ill-favoured by nature, and still more injured in his education, by the indulgence of his parents. This superiority operated in the minds of many to support the claims of the former; but since no certain evidence could procured on either side, it became necessary to refer the dispute to a court of law. There, however, from a total want of proofs, nothing could be done. The magistrate declared his inability to decide on unsupported assertions, in which each party was equally positive. This caused a report of the case to be made to the prince, who having heard the particulars, was also confounded, and at a loss how to decide the question. At length, a happy thought occurred to the chief of the Judges, and he engaged to ascertain the real heir. The two claimants being summoned before him, he ordered them to stand behind a curtain prepared for the occasion, and to project their heads through two openings, when, after hearing their several arguments, he would cut off head of him who should prove to be the slave. This they readily assented to; the one from a reliance on his honesty, the other from a confidence of the imposibility of detection. Accordingly, each taking his place as ordered, thrust his head through a hole in the curtain. An officer stood in front with a drawn cimeter in his hand, and the Judge proceeded to the examination. After a short debate, the judge cried out. 'Enough, enough, strike off the villain's head!' and the officer, who watched the moment leaped towards the two youths; the imposter, startled at the brandished weapon, hastily drew back his head, while the jeweller's son, animated by conscious security, stood unmoved. The judge immediately decided for the latter, and ordered the slave to be taken into custody, to receive the punishment due to his diabolical ingratitude.
A Malefactor Saved to Good Purpose.
A French Abbe was sent for to prepare a hardened highwayman for death. They were shut up together in a little dim sort of a chapel, but the Abbe perceived, that amidst his arguments and exhortations, the man scarcely took any notice of him. 'Strange!' said he, 'friend, do you think that in a few hours you are to appear before God? What can divert your thoughts from such an inexpressible concern?' 'You are right, father' replied he, 'but I cannot get it out of my mind, that it is in your power to save my life, and well may that divert my thoughts.'
I save your life! How can that be? Besides, I should then be the instrument of your doing more mischief, and increasing your sins.' 'No! no! father, nothing of that, you may take my word for it; my present danger will be an effectual security. I have been too near a gallows, ever to run a second risk!' The Abbe did as most persons, perhaps, would have done on a like occasion; he yielded to entreaties, and all the business now was to know how to set about the deliverance. The chapel received light only through one window, which was near the ceiling, and above fifteen feet from the floor. 'Why, father,' said the malefactor,' only remove the altar, as it is portable, to the wall; set your chair upon the altar, and stand you upon the chair, and I will stand upon your shoulders, and I being thus within reach of the window, the business is done.' The Abbe closed with the expedient; the malefactor was out in a trice; and the kind father having put all things to rights, placed himself composedly in his chair. An hour or two after, the executioner growing impatient, knocked at the door, and asked the Abbe what had become of the criminal? 'Criminal!' gravely answered the father, 'he must be some angel; for on the word of a priest, out of that window did he take his flight.' The executioner being a loser by the escape, asked the father if he thought to make a fool of him so, and ran to report the matter to the judges. They repaired to the chapel, where the father was sitting in his chair, and pointing to the window assured them, on his conscience, that the man, if he was a man, had flown out that way, and that he could hardly forbear recommending himself to him as a superior being; that, besides, were he a criminal, which he could not conceive after what he had seen him do, he was not made his keeper. The magistrates, who were not able to keep their countenances at this personated composure, wished the superior being a good journey, and went away.
The Abbe, twenty years after, going through the Ardennes, (a woody country in the N. E. borders of France) happened to be bewildered at the close of the day. A person in the garb of a peasant viewed him very fixedly, asked him whither he was going, and assured him that the roads were extremely dangerous; but that on following him, he would carry him to a farm-house hard by, where he might be safe, and have a night's lodging. The Abbe was not a little perplexed at the attention of the man in looking at him, but considering that there was no escaping if he had any bad design, he followed the rustic, though with a heavy heart. This uneasiness, however, was soon removed by the sight of the farmhouse, and superseded by joy, on his guide, the master of it, saying to his wife, 'kill a choice capon, and some of our best fowls, to entertain this guest I have brought you.' The farmer, whilst supper was getting ready, came in again with eight children about him, to whom he said, 'There, children, go and pay your respects to that good father, for without him you would not have been in the world; nor I either, for he saved my life.' Here the father recollected the man's features, so far as to perceive him to be the very robber whom he had helped to escape. All the family flocked about him with their thanks, and every mark of the most fervent respect and gratitude; when the farmer and he were by themselves, he asked by what means he be came so well settled? 'I have kept my word, father, and being resolved to live honestly, I immediately on my escape set off, and begged my way down hither, where I was born. The master of this farm took me into his service, and by my diligence and honesty, I so far gained his good will, that he bestowed his daughter, his only child, on me. God has so prospered my honest endeavours, that I have laid by something, and a great joy it is to me, that I can show you my gratitude.' 'The service I did you is over paid,' said the Abbe, 'by the good use you have made of your life, and don't talk of any presents.' He complied, however, with the farmer's entreaties to stay a few days with him; after which, the grateful man obliged him to make use of one of his horses to go through the journey, and would not leave him till he was out of danger from the brigands who used to infest these roads.
Magnanimity of a British Soldier.
The following anecdote, says a correspondent in the American Village Record, comes from a source entitled to perfect credit. During the revolutionary war, two British soldiers, of the army of Lord Cornwallis, went into a house, and abused the inmates in a most cruel and shameful manner. A third soldier in going into the house, met them coming out, and knew them. The people acquitted him of all blame, but he was imprisoned because he refused to disclose the names of the offenders. Every art was tried, but in vain, and at length he was condemned by a court-martial to die. When on the gallows, Lord Cornwallis, surprised at his pertinacity, rode near him.
'Campbell,' said he, 'what a fool are you to die thus. Disclose the names of the guilty men, and you shall be immediately released; otherwise, you have not fifteen minutes to live.'
'You are in an enemy's country, my lord,' replied Campbell, 'you can better spare one man than two.'
Firmly adhering to his purpose, he died.
Does history furnish a similar instance of such strange devotion for a mistaken point of honour?
Justice Fighting against Mercy.
A young gentleman of family and fortune, but of abandoned principles, having long distinguished himself, in the reign of Charles II, by highway robberies and other desperate acts against society, was often apprehended, and sometimes convicted; but through the interest of his friends, had always been pardoned. He was at last tried for murder, and condemned. Many of the nobility interceded in his favour, but to no effect; the king was inexorable; he had the pen in his hand to sign the order for his execution, when one of the nobility threw a copy of a pardon on the table before him. The Duchess of Portsmouth, his chief favourite, standing at his right shoulder, took his hand gently within her own, and conducting it to the paper which had the pardon written on it, led his hand while he subscribed his name, the king not making the least resistance. Shaking his head, and smiling, he threw the pardon to the nobleman who had interposed in the young man's behalf, adding, 'Take care you keep the rascal out of my reach for the future.'
When this pardon was shown to Lord Chancellor Hyde, observing how badly the letters of the king's name were formed, he wittily remarked, 'That when his majesty signed the pardon, justice had been fighting against Mercy.'
We hope, for the honour of human nature' that such events as the following do not often occur.
Among the indictments for theft, says a Concord, American paper, was one in which a person was a complainant against his own father, who, to appearance, was upwards of seventy years of age. The party resided at Salisbury. The son testified that his father, during the absence of the former, broke open his house, and took, carried away, and concealed sundry articles; that he procured a warrant, and went with an officer and found a part of the goods concealed in defendant's garret, &c. The officer, who is sheriff of the county, testified in substance the same as the complainant, in respect to the concealment of the goods; but on a cross-examination, said, that the door of the house was open, and no impediment was made to the search. On the part of the defendant, another son testified that the goods taken belonged to the father, and had been lent a number of years previous; that the father had divided his real property equally between himself and the complainant, taking a life-lease; that he had lent the article in question to enable the son to prosecute his business; that differences had taken place, and the old man had requested these articles to be restored, but they were refused; and his father had gone to the house and taken them in open day, it being the only way in which they could be secured. When this witness was examined, the court inquired of the counsel for government, if he expected to impeach his testimony? It was answered, that it was not expected to impeach his character, but do away his evidence, by proving that the son had purchased and paid for the articles. It not appearing that any more than a trespass would be proved, even if the old man did own the property, a nolle prosequi was entered, and the action was dismissed.
The indictment charged the old man with stealing to the amount of something like one hundred dollars. Had he been convicted, he must have been sentenced to hard labour in the state prison for a number of years. How unnatural, that a son, one too who it appeared had property gratuitously bestowed on him by his father, should seek for an occasion, in presence of the public, to swear to facts, a conviction of which must have consigned that father, already on the brink of the grave, to servitude and a dungeon!
George the Second.
The conviction of the inequality of many of our laws, was so strong in the mind of George II., that except in cases of murder, he would never sign a death warrant without betraying every symptom of reluctance and displeasure; twirling his hat, and walking in apparent anger round the chamber, and condemning in bad English, the severity of the English laws.
It has sometimes happened, that a man who has committed a very atrocious crime, has been hanged for a circumstance attending the perpetration of it, which was in itself perfectly innocent. Thus, a servant who had attempted to murder his master (before the attempt to murder was made a capital offence), by giving him fifteen wounds, upon the head and different parts of the body, with a hatchet, was convicted and executed, not as an assassin, but as a burglar, because he had been obliged to lift up the latch of his master's door, to get to his chamber.
Prating at Venice.
A Genoese sculptor was sent for to Venice, to perform some curious piece of workmanship in the church belonging to the Jesuits, and as he was of great eminence, it was customary to go and see him at work. Two French travellers, among others, hearing of his performance, went to see him, and after admiring the beauties of the piece he was about, they insensibly led him into a conversation about the Venetian form of government. The Frenchmen launched out into bitter invectives against the senate and the republic, and very liberally bestowed the title of 'Pantaloons' upon the senators.
The poor Genoese defended the Venetians, but to no purpose, for as they were two to one, they soon silenced him. The next morning the council of state sent for the Genoese, who was brought before the senate, shuddering with fear. He had no idea of his crime, nor was anything farther from his thoughts than the conversation he had had with the two Frenchmen. From the senate, he was carried before the council of state, where he was asked if he should know the Frenchmen again, with whom he had the conversation the day before about the government of the republic? At this question his fears redoubled, and he answered in a faltering voice, that he had said nothing but what was greatly to the praise and honour of the senate. He was then ordered to look into the next chamber where he saw the two Frenchmen, quite dead and hanging from the ceiling. He judged, from this horrid spectacle, that his last hour was come; but he was remanded before the senate, when the doge, in a solemn manner, pronounced these words: 'Keep silence for the future, my friend, our republic has no need of such advocates as you.' After this, he was set at liberty; but his fears and apprehensions so far got the better of him, that he never returned to take leave of the Jesuit, but left Venice as fast as possible, and vowed he would never return to it again.
The discretionary power which the severity of the English law puts into the hands of the judges, is often productive of the greatest inequality. Some years ago, two men were detected stealing some fowls in Suffolk. One of them was arrested on the spot, tried and convicted before Judge Buller, who, not thinking the crime of any serious magnitude, sentenced him to three months' imprisonment. The other man was arrested some time afterwards, and convicted of the offence, at the ensuing assizes, before Justice Gould, who, entertaining a different opinion from judge Buller, sentenced the unfortunate man to seven years' transportation; and it so happened, that of these two men, the one was leaving his prison after the expiration of his punishment, at the time the other was setting out for Botany Bay to undergo a more severe one, though both for the same offence.
English Criminal Code.
The English criminal code includes a list of nearly two hundred offences punishable with death; of these, more than one-half have been added during the last century. Upon an average, every year of that period has been marked by a penal enactment; besides those occasions in which the legislature, as if tired of the tedious retail method of confining one capital denunciation to a single statute, have actually heaped together fifteen or twenty of such enactments in one heterogeneous mass. There is one case in which, in the same paragraph, nineteen are thus huddled together; one is for civil trespass to the value of sixpence, and another for the worst species of murder.
When we come to inquire into the nature of the crimes of which this dreadful catalogue is composed, we find that it contains transgressions which scarcely deserve corporal punishment; while it omits enormities of the most atrocious kind. We find in it actions to which nothing but the terror of some impending danger to the state, could ever have given a criminal appearance; and obsolete offences, whose existence we learn only from those statutes, which are still left as bloody monuments of our history, while the causes which gave rise to them have long ceased. On the one hand, we see that to steal a horse or a sheep, to snatch a man's property out of his hands, and run away with it, or to take it privately from him, though only to the amount of a shilling; to steal to the amount of forty shillings in a dwelling house, or to the amount of five shillings in a shop, are all crimes punishable with death. On the other hand, for a man to attempt the life of his own father, was, until the act of the late Lord Ellenborough, only a misdemeanour; to take away another's life, and to brand his name with ignominy by a premeditated perjury, is not considered as murder, nor thought deserving a capital punishment. To burn a house, and endanger the lives and properties of a whole town, is not visited with greater punishment than to destroy turnpike-gates on roads, or posts, rails, or fences, belonging to such gates, or cutting a hop bine, or breaking down the head of a fish pond, whereby the fish are lost or destroyed.
If we look into the legal definition of crimes, we discover still grosser inconsistencies; we find, that under certain circumstances, a man may steal without being a thief, that a pickpocket may be a highway-robber, and a shoplifter a burglar; that to steal fruit ready gathered, is a felony; that to gather it and steal it, is only a trespass; that to force one's hand through a pane of glass at five o'clock in the afternoon in winter, to take out anything that lies in the window, is a burglary, even if nothing be actually taken; though to break open a house with every circumstance of violence and outrage, at four o'clock in the morning in summer, for the purpose of robbing, or even murdering the inhabitants, is only a misdemeanour; that to steal goods in a shop, if the thief be seen to take them, is only a transportable offence; but if he be not seen, that is, if the evidence of his guilt be less certain, it is a capital felony, and punishable with death; that if a man firing at poultry with intent to steal them, inadvertently kills a human being, he shall be adjudged a murderer, and suffer death accordingly.
The Punishment of Death.
If those active philanthropists, Romilly, Mackintosh, Buxton, Bennet, and others, whose labours have endeared them to humanity, have not yet succeeded in procuring any essential amelioration of the penal code, they have at least so far unmasked its horrible deformity, as to induce the hope that it cannot long be adhered to. Among the mass of important evidence produced before the Parliamentary Committee, for inquiring into the state of the criminal laws, and 2 of which was decisive against their severity, that of Mr. Harmer, the solicitor, was perhaps the most valuable; since he is a gentleman who has spent the last twenty years in the active engagements of his profession, has been solicitor to two thousand prisoners, admitted to their confidence, acquainted with their secrets, and has had full opportunity of observing the effect produced upon their minds by the existing law; while of late years he has been solicitor for more prosecutors, and admitted in the same way to their secrets. With all this experience, he expresses his undoubting conviction, that the severity of the law generates crime.
The gentleman on being asked, Have you any observations to make, with respect to the effect of capital punishment. 'I have; first as to forgery; it appears to me, that the punishment of death has no tendency to prevent this crime. I have, in many instances, known prosecutors decline proceeding against offenders, because the punishment is so severe. Instances have come within my knowledge, of bankers and opulent individuals, who, rather than take away the life of a fellow creature, have compromised with the delinquent. Instances have occurred of a prosecutor pretending to have had his pocket picked of the forged instrument; in other cases, prosecutors have destroyed, or refused to produce it; and when they have so refused, that they have stated publicly that it was because the person's life was in jeopardy. I will relate a very recent circumstance that occurred under my observation at the Old Bailey. A person, through whose hands a forged bill had passed, and whose appearance upon the trial was requisite to keep up the necessary chain of evidence, kept out of the way to prevent the conviction of the prisoner; it was a private bill of exchange. I also know another recent instance, where some private individuals, after the commitment of a prisoner, raised a thousand pounds for the purpose of satisfying some forged bills of exchange; and they declared, and I have good reason to know the fact, that if the punishment had been anything short of death, they would not have advanced a farthing, because he was a man whose conduct had been very disgraceful; but they were friends to the man's family, and wished to spare them the mortification and disgrace of a relative being executed, and therefore stepped forward and subscribed the before-mentioned sum. I have frequently seen persons withhold their testimony, even when under the solemn obligation of an oath to speak the whole truth; because they were aware that their testimony, if given to the full extent, would have brought the guilt home to the parties accused; and they have, therefore, kept back a material part of their testimony. In all capital indictments, with the exception of murder and some other heinous offences, I have often observed prosecutors show great reluctance to persevere, frequently forfeiting their recognizances.'
Mr. H. was then asked by the Committee, 'When you speak of the cases of murder and other heinous offences, do you mean offences accompanied with violence to the person, or which are likely in their consequences to inflict serious injury. Certainly; those are the offences to which I allude: I know that many persons who are summoned to serve as jurymen at the Old Bailey, have the greatest disinclination to perform the duty, on account of the distress that would be done to their feelings, in consigning so many of their fellow creatures to death, as they must now necessarily do, if serving throughout a session; and I have heard of some, who have bribed the summoning officer to put them at the bottom of their list, or keep them out altogether, so as to prevent them from discharging this painful duty; and the instances I may say are innumerable, within my own observation, of jurymen giving verdicts, in capital cases, in favour of the prisoner, directly contrary to the evidence. I have seen acquittals in forgery, where the verdict had excited the astonishment of every one in court, because the guilt appeared unequivocal, and the acquittal could only be attributed to a strong feeling of sympathy and humanity in the jury, to save a fellow-creature from certain death. The old professed thieves are aware of this sympathy, and are desirous of being tried, rather on capital indictments than otherwise. It has frequently happened to myself, in my communications with them, that they have expressed a wish that they might be indicted capitally, because there was a greater chance of escape. In the course of my experience I have found that the punishment of death has no terror upon a common thief; indeed, it is much more the subject of ridicule among them, than of serious deliberation; their common expressions amongst themselves used to be, "such a one is to be twisted." and now it is, "such a one has to be top't." The certain approach of an ignominious death, does not seem to operate upon them; for after the warrant has come down for their execution, I have seen them treat it with levity. I once saw a man, for whom I had been concerned, the day before his execution, and on my offering him condolence, and expressing my sorrow at his situation, he replied, with an air of indifference, "Players at bowls must expect rubbers." Another man I heard say, that "it was only a few minutes, a kick and a struggle, and it was all over; and that if he was kept hanging for more than an hour, he should leave directions for an action to be brought against the sheriffs and others;" and others I have heard state, that "they should kick Jack Ketch in their last moments." I have seen some of the last separations with their friends, of persons about to be executed; where there was nothing of solemnity in it; and where it was more like parting for a country journey, than taking their last farewell. I heard one man say (in taking a glass of wine) to his companion, who was to suffer next morning, "Well, here's luck." The fate of one set of culprits, in some instances, has no effect even on those who are next to be reported. They play at ball, and pass their jokes, as if nothing was the matter.'
A writer in 'Dr. Anderson's Bee,' vol. 6, mentions the following singular indictments, as copied from an old MS. that had fallen into his hands; the writer begins his minutes thus:
'Memorandum - That on the 19th daye of February, 1661, was the firste tyme that I was uppone the jury for life and death at the Old Bayley, and then were these persons following tryde and for what crime.'
After mentioning the names of nine persons who were tried that day, and seventeen the next, for ordinary offences, are the following entries:
'Katherine Roberts is endited for selleing of a child to the spirits for 28s. 6d.; but after much heareinge of witnesses, it could not be clearely proved, and so she was found not guilty.'
'Mary Grante is endited for beating of her husband, but nothinge is made of this. The law says, that the husband cannot endite his wife for a battery.'
The following is a copy of a petition which was actually presented to Charles I., from John Goodman, a convict, who was sentenced to death in the year 1640, but reprieved by his majesty, to the great discontent of the people:
TO THE KINGS MOST EXCELLENT MAJESTY.
The petition of John Goodman, condemnded,
That whereas your majesty's petitioner hath understood of a great discontent in many of your majesty's subjects, at the gracious mercy your majesty was freely pleased to show upon your petitioner, by suspending the execution of the sentence of death pronounced against your petitioner;
These are humbly to beseech your majesty, rather to remit your petitioner to their mercies that are discontented, than to let him live the subject of so great a discontent in your people against your majesty, for it hath pleased God to give me grace to desire with the prophet, 'That if this storm be raised for me, I may be cast into the sea, that others may avoid the tempest.'
This is, most sacred sovereign, the petition of him that should esteem his blood well shed to cement the breach between your majesty, and your subjects.
Before the restoration of Charles the Second, transportation, as a punishment, was unknown in England; but, after that time, persons found guilty of offences entitled to the benefit of clergy, and sentenced to be imprisoned, were transported to the British settlements in North America. They were not, however, sent away as perpetual slaves, but bound by indentures for seven years; and for the last three years they received wages, in order that a fund might be provided, to give them a fair chance of future success in life.
When the American revolution prevented the further transportation of convicts to that country, in 1775, the system of confining prisoners to hard labour on board the Hulks, and Houses of Correction, was adopted, until the discovery of New South Wales by Captain Cook, in 1770 and 1777, opened a new field for transportation; the coast of Africa having been previously explored in vain, for a fit situation for a colony of criminals. The first embarkation to this new colony, was made in February, 1787, and consisted of two hundred and sixty-four convicts: the first settlement was made at Sidney; and another has since been formed in the adjacent island, Van Dieman's Land. So prolific has this country been in crime, that in a period of less than thirty years, the colony at Botany Bay amounts to upwards of twenty thousand persons, one-half of whom are convicts.
So large an assemblage of men and women, many of whom are of the most desperate character, are with difficulty kept in order; but in order to restrain their irregularities, punishments of a summary kind are frequently inflicted. Of these the most severe, next to that of death, is transportation to the Coal River, which is ordered usually by the judge advocate, or a bench of magistrates, for a term of years or for life, as the enormity of the offence may require. Convicts dread this mode of punishment very much, because they are there compelled to work in chains from sunrise to sunset, and are subject also to other restrictions of a highly penal description. The rigour of this sentence is, however, frequently relaxed in degree, as the criminal shows signs of amendment; and in very few cases is it found necessary to subject any of the convicts to a repetition of that sentence.
Sir Samuel Romilly.
It was observed by Mr. Whitbread in the House of Commons, that although posterity, as most advantaged by the efforts of Sir Samuel Romilly to reform the criminal code, would be loudest in their praise of his exertions, yet he was sure that the country was now ready, with one voice, to say,
Presenti tibi largimur honores.
this lamented gentleman, after attending the courts of criminal law for a period of fifteen years, was no sooner seated in the legislature, than he devoted his talents and his experience to ameliorating the penal code; this object formed the most distinguished feature of his parliamentary life, and he persevered in it every succeeding session with unremitting zeal. if this virtuous senator did not possess the influence sufficient to carry the important measures he contemplated, his eloquence pleaded so powerfully, and excited such a host of advocates in his favour, that there is little doubt but many of his proposals will, ere long, be adopted. the repeal of the 39th of elizabeth, which constituted it a capital offence, punishable with death, in soldiers and sailors found to beg in the streets; the erection of a penitentiary for confining and employing convicts; and the mitigation of punishment in cases of larceny, were all principally the fruits of his enlightened exertions.
Sir James Mackintosh.
One of the ablest coadjutors of Sir Samuel Romilly in the mitigation of the severity of the penal code, is the gentleman to whom these Anecdotes are inscribed. Sir James Mackintosh, after filling the important office of judge of Bombay for seven years, could, on taking leave of his office in 1811, thus address the Grand Jury: 'Since my arrival here, in May, 1804, the punishment of death has not been inflicted by this court. Now the population subject to our jurisdiction, either locally or personally, cannot be estimated at less than two hundred thousand persons.' He then examined into a comparative view of the state of crime, previous to, and during his judgeship, which he proved had diminished considerably during the latter period; the annual average of capital convictions, up to the time Sir James Mackintosh became Recorder of Bombay, was twenty; the annual average of persons who suffered death, seven. During his judgeship, the average of convictions annually, was fifteen only, (notwithstanding the increase of population) and this without a single execution. Well, therefore, might he add in his farewell charge, 'This small experiment has therefore been made, without diminution of the security of the lives and properties of men. Two hundred thousand men have been governed for seven years without any increase of crimes. If, therefore, any experience has been acquired, it has been safely and innocently gained.'