April 9th, 2009 Headsman
On this date in 1740, a “horrid parricide” was hanged for murdering his father.
The neglected son of an attorney, Charles Drew needed no better provocation for shooting the old dog than his paramour’s remark, “I wish somebody would shoot the old dog.”
The specific provocation for the wish, and the deed, was the likelihood of being disinherited by dad should he make an honest woman of Miss Elizabeth Boyer.
Chas attempted to deflect attention by posting a reward for information, finding to his consternation that said reward quickly triggered the arrest of a man to whom he had actually confided about the crime.
This gave Drew great uneasiness; he took the utmost pains to suppress all farther informations, and even to destroy the credibility of those already made. He publicly declared that Humphreys was not the man who shot his father, and threatened to prosecute the officer who apprehended him.
Their correspondence eventually (by way of a nosy attorney) betrayed young Charles, who upon exposure “seemed not to have a proper sense of the enormity of the crime of which he had been guilty, and would have attributed it to his father’s ill treatment of him.”
Lacking therefore the connivance of the criminal himself in explicating the moral lesson (“don’t kill dad”), the Newgate Calendar clears its editorial voice to expand upon the indignity of Drew’s hanging* this date in 1740.
The crime of murder is in itself so horrid, that it requires no aggravation; but that of parricide is of the worst species of murder. The destruction of those from whom, under God, we have immediately derived our being, has something in it so shocking to humanity, that one would think it impossible it should ever be committed.
By the Lex Pompeia of the Romans parricides were ordained to be put into a sack, with a dog, a cock, a viper, and an ape, and thrown into the sea, thus to perish by the most cruel of all tortures. The Egyptians also put such delinquents to death in the most horrible manner. They gradually mangled their body and limbs, and, when almost every limb was dislocated or broken, they placed the criminal, writhing and screeching with pain, upon thorns, where he was burnt alive! In China impiety to parents was considered a crime similar in atrocity to treason and rebellion, for which criminals were sentenced to be cut in ten thousand pieces! By the ancient Jewish law it was also death for children to curse or strike their parents: in fine, every nation punished the parricide in the most exemplary manner.
* Drew “seemed to part with life with evident signs of reluctance.”
Part of the Themed Set: Selections from the Newgate Calendar.
Also on this date
- 1912: Tom Miles lynched
- 1945: Johann Georg Elser, dogged assassin
- 1868: The native prisoners of Emperor Tewodros II
- 1747: Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat
- 1975: Eight South Korean pro-democracy activists