Archive for October, 2017

Decimated: Executed Today’s Tenth Annual Report

3 comments October 31st, 2017 Headsman


Mattia Preti, The Crucifixion of St. Andrew (1651)

Halloween 2017 makes it ten damn years since Executed Today was born howling. Has it really been that long?

Our inconceivable dekalog of 3,650 posts … plus the leap days … plus the meta content … and for some reason playing cards … somehow just keeps the tumbrils rolling day upon numbing day. That’s how it goes, until it stops.

It’s been the custom on these anniversaries to bask in the year’s signal events, like our most-beloved tweet that coincidentally fell the day after Donald J. Trump implausibly joined the roster of U.S. presidents.

But I feel ever less entitled to bask as I become ever more conscious that this death has a mounting chorus of its own, and here I the mere scrivener cling by its netherworldly quills, charged to voice the wails of an endless sea of damned souls. There will never be days enough, and never hours in the day enough, to do justice. This is the curse. Write.

The other reason militating against celebration is that, as any regular reader has surely noticed, I these days often struggle to keep to my calendar, including for this very post. That’s not for any want of material or inclination but executioners too grow old; once there was a bottomless energy and a content reservoir running weeks ahead of time and now there is … the other thing.

To some extent this is the consequence of changing circumstances in life outside the blog, and to some extent it is intrinsic to the wild conceit of holding out a topical almanac like this for an entire decade. By whatever reason, a silver age holds no dishonor but one cannot help think longingly of the gold.

Morbid reader, it is you who carries us onward. Whether you have come by this site recently or have walked with us for years on end, your surprising and gratifying interest — nearing 20 million pageviews! — have made the journey worth every step.

Trick or treat! Year 11 awaits.

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Entry Filed under: Administrative Messages

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1860: Johannes Nathan, the last ordinary execution in the Netherlands

Add comment October 31st, 2017 Headsman

On this date in 1860, Johannes Nathan was hanged in Maastricht for murder.

Nathan murdered his mother-in-law over a pig. Most executions in the Netherlands at this point were commuted by royal prerogative but it was felt that Nathan’s acknowledgment of guilt was late, partial, and insincere — rendering him an unfit object for mercy.

Although the execution took place on the Markt, it “was not a public amusement as it was in the Middle Ages: Nathan walked through dead streets, the curtains were closed in the houses, children were held in.”

The Netherlands formally abolished the death penalty for ordinary criminal offenses in 1870; the only executions since then took place under 20th century wartime occupation, or in revenge for same.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Milestones,Murder,Netherlands,Public Executions

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1952: Wallace Ford, horrible in-law

Add comment October 30th, 2017 Headsman

Wallace P. Ford, Jr., a former Buffalo steelworker, was electrocuted by New York on this date in 1952.

His crime, “a senseless, meaningless affair, without motive or purpose,”* in the words of his own court-appointed attorney, was the sad culmination of family woes.

The man had been left by his wife, Frances, who returned to her mother’s house with the couple’s infant daughter in tow. Not long after, in June of 1951, Ford accosted Frances’s kid sister, Nancy, age 15, when the latter was picking up some groceries.

Nancy told him to get lost or something — Ford would later say that it was the girl’s insisting that their family would keep his little son that made him snap — and the extranged brother-in-law bashed her with a rock. Here the horror really begins. Blood racing, Ford must have careened from panic to despair to resolution as he contemplated the crumpled but still-living girl, his already-poor judgment scrambled by stress. The assailant packed Nancy Bridges’s stunned and bloodied form into his vehicle and sped out of Buffalo looking for some way to dispose of his mistake. In that moment, for a disordered mind, that meant to finish her off.

Ford said he thought about drowning the girl in Lake Erie, or pitching her off an elevated railroad. Every possible means would carry its own special horror, to be sure, but Ford settled on a truly vile expedient: he dumped her in a deserted stretch of rural Townline Road and pitilessly drove over her limp form … then popped into reverse and backed over her, too, crushing her chest and driving rib splinters into her liver and lungs.

Nancy Ford’s mangled body was discovered in the adjacent woods by a teenage hunter the next afternoon. Wallace Ford must have been the first name on the lips of the family when investigators asked if they had any enemies, and he didn’t bother to evade responsibility when the police came for him. But he would have served himself better and the Fords too had he reached his epiphany of resignation a little earlier in this process.

* New York Times, Aug. 26, 1952.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Diminished Capacity,Disfavored Minorities,Electrocuted,Execution,History,Murder,New York,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,USA

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1915: Mrs. Chippy, safe return doubtful

2 comments October 29th, 2017 Headsman

On this date in 1915, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton, his ship fatally trapped in Antarctic pack ice, had the ship’s beloved cat shot.

The 1915 voyage of Shackleton’s aptly named barquentine Endurance* wrote for the expiring “Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration” one of its most stouthearted chapters.

Struggling through a gale towards Vahsel Bay, the Endurance became icebound within sight of her destination to the peril of Shackleton and 27 other intrepid souls.

That is, 27 human souls.

“We are twenty-eight men with forty-nine dogs, including Sue’s and Sallie’s five grown-up pups,” Shackleton recorded in his diary for October 29, 1915. By then, the Endurance had been pinned in the ice for the best part of a year, vainly awaiting a favorable wind that would scatter the floes — an exercise in the monotonous perseverance that polar expeditions demanded. Two days before that entry, however, the situation worsened from dire to catastrophic when the weight of the ice began cracking the captive ship’s hull, pouring the frigid Weddell Sea into her hold.

“The pressure caused by the congestion in this area of the pack is producing a scene of absolute chaos,” Shackleton wrote. “The ice moves majestically, ireesistibly. Human effort is not futile, but man fights against the giant forces of Nature in a spirit of humility. One has a sense of dependence on the higher Power.” With the ship now impaled upon the floes, human effort and higher Power alike would need to bend every sinew toward mere survival.

By the terms of its objective — to cross Antarctica overland to the Ross Sea — Shackleton’s expedition was a failure. As a feat of human spirit, it was his greatest triumph, its fame nowise hindered by expedition photographer Frank Hurley who captured the drama in photographs and film.


When a stretch of open sea came within a few hundred yards of the Endurance, Shackleton had his crew try to carve a channel to it with pickaxes.


Dogs and men under the hulk of the Endurance in the eerie polar night.


Crushed by the ice, the Endurance crumples into the sea.

After drifting some weeks more on the floes, Shackleton kept his desperate party together to reach open seas where they navigated the ship’s launches to Elephant Island, a frostbitten desolation where they wintered in a makeshift shelter and hunted seals and penguins.

Meanwhile, Shackleton took a few crew members in a small boat hundreds of miles onward to inhabited stations South Georgia Island where they were finally able to muster a rescue mission. Twenty-five men of the 28 survived the harrowing two-year expedition.


Map of the Shackleton expedition’s progress. The light blue line represents the party’s intended course across the continent; instead, the sea voyage (in red) became trapped in the ice and drifted (in yellow) across the Weddell Sea before taking to the launches to escape (in green) to Elephant Island. (cc) image by Finetooth, Like tears in rain.

Those who were not men did not fare as well.

In addition to the Endurance‘s many sled dogs, 40-year-old Scots carpenter Harry “Chippy” McNish (variously spelled MacNish or McNeish) had taken on board a charismatic little tabby for the ship’s cat. “Mrs. Chippy” — the name stuck even after the crew realized that “she” was really a male — quickly became beloved of the crew, and especially of Chippy McNish.

But Mrs. Chippy was not an asset for the survival epic that the Endurance crew was destined to author.

Under the duress of the ice floes, Shackleton on October 29, 1915 did what had to be done and ordered the least utile animals put to death to preserve resources for the others.

This afternoon Sallie’s three youngest pups, Sue’s Sirius, and Mrs. Chippy, the carpenter’s cat, have to be shot. We could not undertake the maintenance of weaklings under the new conditions. Macklin, Crean, and the carpenter [McNish] seemed to feel the loss of their friends rather badly.

McNish’s hard feelings against the skipper for the death of his puss speaks better of his heart than his head; the irascible carpenter would later be threatened by Shackleton with wilderness execution himself for a brief ice floe mutiny, from which McNish correctly retreated. Surely posterity can overlook the slip of discipline under this state of incredible privation and fear … but Shackleton didn’t. After the pains of the ice and sea were past and the expedition safe home, the chief withheld from his able but disgruntled carpenter an endorsement for the Polar Medal that decorated most of his mates. (Other crew, united in their regard for Shackleton, felt that McNish’s Polar Medal slight was on the mean side.)

The poor doomed cat that succumbed on this date in 1915 to the might of the Antarctic and the hard pragmatism of Ernest Shackleton has been tugging heartstrings ever since. McNish’s grave in New Zealand was decorated in 2004 with a bronze statue of Mrs. Chippy; the cat has also made appearances on postage stamps, in opera, headlining books, and in art.

A few books about the Shackleton expedition

n.b. the legendary help-wanted ad referenced by the title of this post — “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.” — is most likely an actual legend. Numberless Shackleton enthusiasts have plumbed many a musty archive in pursuit of the original copy, without success.

* The ship was christened after Shackleton’s Game Of Thrones-like house motto, “By Endurance we Conquer.”

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Animals,Arts and Literature,Borderline "Executions",England,History,Innocent Bystanders,No Formal Charge,Polar,Shot

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1784: Dirick Grout and Francis Coven, Boston burglars

Add comment October 28th, 2017 Headsman

On this date in 1784, American Revolutions veteran Dirick (sometimes Dirich or Derach) Grout and Francis Coven (or Coyen) were hanged in Boston for burglary.

Coven was a Frenchman who had come to North America with the French expeditionary force deployed to support the colonial rebels; Grout was a New Yorker of Dutch extraction who had served in the Continental Army. Both were caught up in the economic collapse that hit the newly independent states upon the revolution’s 1780s conclusion — from which soil emerged a property crime wave around wealthy Boston that led Justice Nathaniel Sargent to fret that “vicious persons” now were “roving about the countryside disturbing peoples rest and preying upon their property.” Small wonder when, as the Massachusetts Centinel noted, “we daily see men speculating with impunity on the most essential articles of life, and grinding the faces of the poor and laborious as if there were no God.”

According to Alan Rogers’s Murder and the Death Penalty in Massachusetts (which is also the source of the preceding paragraph’s quotes), there was not only a “sharp jump in the number of postwar executions” but a shift in the proportion of those executions that underscored the Commonwealth’s alarm at its bold and violent thieves:

In the two decades after 1780 a very different pattern emerged: the rate of executions throughout the commonwealth nearly doubled and the crimes for which men and women were put to death changed dramatically. Of the seventeen men and one woman executed in Boston during the last two decades of the eighteenth century, only four were convicted murderers, but nine burglars and five highway robbers were hanged, almost the reverse of the data for the first seven decades of the century.

Both of our gentlemen today were among its casualties, and both had been repeat offenders; Coven took 30 lashes as punishment for a previous robbery in 1782. Grout went on a burglary spree that hit multiple houses and shops around Boston. Both received death sentence at the August 31 sitting of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.*

* Other sentences handed down “for various thefts” at the same proceedings, according to the Salem Gazette (September 14, 1784):

Cornelius Arie, to be whipt 25 stripes, and set one hour on the gallows.

Thomas Joice, to be whipt 25 stripes, and branded.

William Scott, to be whipt 25 stripes, and set one hour on the gallows.

John Goodbread and Edward Cooper, 15 each.

James Campbell, to be whipt 30 stripes, and set one hour on the gallows.

Michael Tool, to be whipt 20 stripes.

Meanwhile, “a villain who was tried for burglary with the above-mentioned Joice, last Friday, but acquitted, was no sooner discharged, than he, with another equally meritorious scoundrel, forced open a window of the store of Mr. Daniel Sears, on Greene’s wharf, and were fleecing it of merchandize to a considerable amount, when, to their praise be it spoken, the night guardians of this city caught them in the very act, before they had time even to return by the way they had feloniously stolen in. They were both committed to jail before Saturday’s rising sun of the next day.”

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Massachusetts,Public Executions,Soldiers,Theft,USA

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1938: Chinese soldiers and civilians after the Battle of Wuhan

Add comment October 27th, 2017 Headsman

On this date in 1938 the Imperial Japanese Army conquered the Hankow or Hankou industrial district within the city of Wuhan, and according to the Associated Press* “shot scores of Chinese soldiers or civilians luckless enough to be taken for soldiers” including “twenty uniformed and civilian-garbed Chinese … executed within sight of foreign gunboats.”

A major trading city that had been forced open to western concessions by the Second Opium War, Wuhan had become, briefly, the capital of the Chinese Kuomintang after Japan’s initial onslaught the previous year quickly captured the former capital Nanking.

* The linked newspaper miscopied the dateline; it should read “Hankow, Oct. 27″ rather than “Oct. 2″.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,China,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Innocent Bystanders,Japan,Known But To God,Mass Executions,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Public Executions,Shot,Soldiers,Summary Executions,Wartime Executions

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1781: Twelve Aymara rebels

Add comment October 26th, 2017 Headsman

My very esteemed friend. [I write to you] in the midst of all the travails I have suffered during these two sieges, the first lasting 109 days and the second 15. In both of them, more than 14,000 will have perished in this unhappy city, the great majority through starvation; others were shot, and still others were beheaded by the rebels in the fields that many attempted to cross even though they knew that the rebels would not show them any mercy if they looked Spanish in any way …

There is no Indian who is not a rebel; all die willingly for their Inca King, without coming to terms with God or his sacred law. On October 26th twelve rebels were beheaded and none of them were convinced to accept Jesus; and the same has happened with another 600 that have died in executions during both sieges …

In these nine months we have survived eating biscuits and to do this we hae been taking the tiles from the roofs of our houses. I, who find myself taking care of the gunpowder during the day, have estranged almost all the city. Nobody wants to fight willingly … I have threatened them with military execution and have promised to spare their heads as long as they obey me …

More troops are needed from both Viceroyalties or from Spain, some 8,000 to 10,000 men to make Our Sovereign’s name respected throughout the entire Sierra and to finally, once and for all, cut off some heads and be finished with all these cursed relics. We need, I repeat, seasoned troops and these as soon as possible.

-Juan Bautista de Zavala, in a November 1781 letter after surviving Tupac Katari‘s 1781 indigenous siege of La Paz (via The Tupac Amaru and Catarista Rebellions: An Anthology of Sources)

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1704: “French Peter”

Add comment October 25th, 2017 Headsman

A thief named Peter Bennet was hanged at Tyburn on this date in 1704 — alone since “Two Men and Seven Women were try’d for several Felonies and Burglaries; and being found Guilty, they did all of them receive Sentence of Death accordingly. But Four of the Women, who were found with Quick Child, and the other Three, with one of the Men, through the QUEEN’s especial Mercy being Reprieved; One only, viz. Peter Bennet, is now order’d for Execution.”

That’s from the hang-day tract by Newgate Ordinary Paul Lorrain, who having leave to focus both his ministrations and his column-inches on the one soul and exulted at some length in one of his celebrated (albeit not uncontroversial) conversions.

While the patchy Old Bailey documentation of this early date doesn’t appear from a search of oldbaileyonline.org to preserve the record of Bennet’s trial, there’s a man of the same name and nickname (“French Peter”) sentenced to branding in 1698 — and although Lorrain does not comment on any such mark, it would seem to corroborate our fellow’s confession to a life of viciousness.

Peter Bennet, alias French Peter, alias Peter Flower, the only Person now order’d for Execution, said that he was about 25 Years of Age, born of honest Parents at Niort in the Province of Poictou in France, and brought up in England, whereinto he came very young;* and that his first Employment was the Silk-Weavers Trade, of which he work’d about two Years in Spittlefields, and then went into the late King William‘s Service; in which, and in Her present Majesty’s, he had been (both at Sea and Land) for these several Years past, and was actually in the Second Regiment of Foot-Guards, under the Command of Lieutenant Colonel Bradocke,** when he was apprehended. He own’d himself to have been a very ill Liver, and formerly one of Moll Raby‘s Gang; and he did (with bitter Reflection upon his vicious Conversation, almost through the whole Course of his past Life) freely declare, that he had committed all manner of Sins that cou’d be nam’d or thought on, Murther only excepted; and said that though he earnestly desired to live, that he might lead a new Life, and give sensible Tokens of his Change and Reformation to the World; yet he was willing to submit to the Will of God, and the Stroke of Justice, by which he was appointed to be cut off from the Land of the Living: wherein he had done so little Good, but so much Harm. He confess’d, that he was justly brought to this Condemnation, who had no better improved the Mercy he receiv’d before, when under such another; and that he was guilty not only of the two Facts lately proved, but of all the Seven Indictments then preferr’d against him in the Old-Baily: And 1st, That he, together with Thomas Hunter, (who not long since was executed at Tyburn) and another, whom I shall forbear to name here (because I desire not his Confusion, but his Conversion) broke open, and robb’d the House of Mr. Annis, on the 19th of April last, taking thence 60 Yards of Crape, 90 Yards of Serge, 66 Yards of Holland, and 12 pair of Stockings; which Holland and Stockings they divided among them three; and as to the Crape and Serge, his Companions dispos’d thereof, he does not well know to whom; but he remembers, they had Nine pound for them, and he Three pounds for his Share out of that Nine pound. 2dly, That he, with the other two beforemention’d, and one Sebastian Reis, a German, that was hang’d with Hunter in June last, did likewise in the said month of April, break the House of Thomas Abbot, a Quaker, and took from thence 25 Dozen of Handkerchiefs, and an old Scarf, which they sold for Four Pounds to a Woman that keeps a Brokers Shop at the Golden Ball in High Holbourn: but as for the Guinea mention’d in that Indictment, to have been at the same time with the other Goods, taken out of the forenamed Abbot’s House, he said, he knew nothing of it. 3dly, That they did, in May last, break the House of Mrs. Margaret Christian, and take thence a Cheshire-Cheese, about two or three Quarts of Brandy, and some Sugar Cakes; which Cakes and Brandy, they did eat and drink among them; and for the Cheese, himself, who was carrying it away, when pursu’d, threw it down, and left it to whomsoever would take it. 4thly, That they in April last, broke another House, which he supposes might be Mr. Sapford’s, mention’d in the fourth Indictment, but had not an Opportunity of carrying any thing out of it, being prevented therein by the Watchman that was then going the Rounds, 5thly, That in the same Month of April, they broke the House of Mr. Palmer, and took from thence four Silver-Spoons, a Napkin, an Old-Sword, and a Spice-Box, with a small Silver-Spoon in it, & some other things, of little or no Value. The 4 Silver-Spoons, he said, Mr. Palmer had again; the Napkin he took to himself, and the Box they left in the Fields; but what was in it, and the Sword with the small spoon, he can’t well tell what his two Companions did therewith. 6thly, That towards the end of the said Month of April, he, and the other two first mention’d, broke the House of Mr. Gibbs, and took from thence 8 India-Curtains, 4 Vallance, a Squob, and a pair of Sheets; which Sheets he kept for himself, and one of them took the Curtains, Vallance, and Squob to his own Use, and gave him three half Crowns in Consideration thereof, and their other Companion had also some Money given him upon that account, by him that kept those Curtains, Vallance, and Squob. 7thly, and lastly, That they three went and broke open the House of Mr. Bird, and took thence a Ham of Bacon, (which the Owner had again) and 5 Bottles of Cyder, and two Papers of Tobacco, which they spent among themselves. He added, that he (as he does in general remember, but has forgot the Particulars) had committed several other Robberies and Burglaries, in company with the forenamed Tho. Hunter, and Sebastian Reis, and the other Person whose Name (as I said before) I will now spare; and that this last, in particular, did with him one Night (he can’t well tell how long since) break and enter by the Backside, into a certain House in a pav’d Court in Fetter-Lane, and robb’d it, taking thence 24 or 25 Guinea’s, about 5l- in Money, a Silver-hilted Sword, a Long-Perriwig, a Silver-Salt Seller, with some Silver-Spoons and Forks, and a Hat; which Hat, he said, he wore now, and was not worth restoring. As for the Sword, they flung it into a Cellar, in Fee-Lane, and for the Plate and Perriwig, his Companion sold them to one William Buxton (an Harbourer of ill People, and a Buyer of stoln Goods) living in Church-Lane between White-Chappel and Gravel-lane. This is the ample Confession he made to me, and declared, that (to his Grief) he was not able to make any Restitution or other Reparation to the Persons he had thus wrong’d; but heartily pray’d that God would bless them, and they would forgive him. He freely acknowledg’d himself a grievous Offender, and repeated again, that he had committed all manner of Wickedness, but Murther; that he was the vilest and the worst of Sinners, and had exceeded in Sin, even those that had first brought him into it: some whereof, he said, had deservedly suffer’d a shameful Death, and others are still living; and these he earnestly intreats to be wiser than himself had been, and take due Warning by him, who now finds his Folly in not having done so by others, that is, by the Punishment of those that went this way out of the World before him. He seem’d to be very sensible that his Neglect of God’s Service, prophaning the Lord’s Day and Name, Swearing, Drinking, Gaming, Whoring, &c. were the great Causes of his Ruine; and therefore out of that Charity which he owes, and now has for all Mankind, he (in the Words of a Dying Man, that has done with the World, and now speaks without Disguise, by his own woful Experience) admonishes all to avoid those, and all other Vices; that they may prevent their own Destruction both of Body and Soul. Thus he appear’d as one who had great Reason to abhor Sin, and who wou’d fain perswade others to abhor it too.

The Day of his Execution being come, he was carry’d in a Cart to Tyburn, where I assisted him to the last; earnestly exhorting him to clear his Conscience by a further Confession, if he had any thing more to say, and stir up his Heart and all the Affections of his Soul to God. Upon which he said, he had nothing more to discover, but heartily pray’d God to forgive him his Sins, and be merciful to him for Christ’s sake. Then I pray’d and sung a penetential Psalm with him; and afterwards he spoke to the People to this Effect, I suppose there are some here that have been engag’d in ill things. I know there are. I beseech them to amend their Lives, and I beg that all that see me here, would take Warning by me. I am a very young Man, but a Lad, not above 24 or 25 Years of Age, but a grievous Sinner, and I am now to die for my wicked Life. Pray Gentlemen, take Warning by me, and pray for me, that God would have Mercy upon my poor Soul. And the Lord bless you all and prosper you. Then he lifted up his Eyes to Heaven, and said, Lord have Mercy upon a miserable Sinner. O call me not to mine account. I am not capable of answering thee. Sweet Jesus have Mercy upon me! Lord, open me thy Gates, and let me enter in! When he had done speaking, I discours’d him again, and made him rehearse the Articles of our Christian Faith, and I pray’d again, and sung another Psalm; and having commended his Soul to God, I left him to his private Devotions, for which he had some time allotted him. Then the Cart drew away, and he was turn’d off, whilst he was calling upon God in these and the like Ejaculations, Lord forgive me all my Sins! O God, I come, I come: Reject me not. O do not abhor my Soul! Lord, save me, Lord Jesus receive my Spirit.

* French Huguenots escaping a religious crackdown in the late 17th and early 18th centuries bolstered London’s emerging Spitalfields weaving industry.

** Bennet/Lorrain appears to refer here to the Coldstream Guards; if so, his c.o. “Bradocke” was the father of General Edward Braddock, notable for his New World command (and death) during the French and Indian War. That later Gen. Braddock’s aide, 23-year-old colonel and future American Revolution leader George Washington, made some fame for himself during the disastrous engagement that killed Braddock as the “Hero of Monongahela“, for helping to orchestrate the retreat.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Public Executions,Theft

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1946: Kurt Daluege, Nazi cop

Add comment October 24th, 2017 Headsman

On this date in 1946, former Nazi chief cop Kurt Daluege hanged at Prague’s Pankrac Prison.


Daluege’s postwar detention card.

Daluege, who returned from World War I bearing an Iron Cross and an early affinity for the far-right Freikorps militias, was head of the uniformed police for most of the Third Reich’s evil run. That terminated in 1943 when heart problems saw him pensioned off to Pomerania,* but not before he’d consciously Nazified the entire police force around the perspective of destroying “the consciously asocial enemies of the people.” He wrote a book called National-sozialistischer Kampf gegen das Verbrechertum (National Socialists’ War on Criminality).

With Hitler’s downfall, Daluege was called out of retirement to answer for the villainies that you’d assume a guy in his position would have authored — like mass shootings of Jews on the eastern front and a reprisal order to decorate a Polish town with “the hanging of Polish franc-tireurs from light poles as a visible symbol for the entire population.”

His most notable atrocity, and the reason that his hanging occurred in Czechoslovakia, came via his turn as the de facto successor to that territory’s Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich after the latter’s assassination in 1942.

In this capacity it was Daluege who with Karl Frank ordered the destruction of the village Lidice to retaliate for Heydrich’s murder — one of the standout horrors in a generation thick with them.

Daluege rejected the charges against him to the end, his position a blend of the “superior orders” non-defense and a feigned irrecollection: nothing but the classics. “I am beloved by three million policemen!” he complained.

There’s a bit more information about him in this Axis History Forum thread, wherein appears the author of a hard-to-find German biography, Kurt Daluege — Der Prototyp des loyalen Nationalsozialisten.

* He did retain his seat in the Reichstag all the way to the end, a seat he first won in the November 1932 election.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Czechoslovakia,Death Penalty,Execution,Germany,Hanged,History,Occupation and Colonialism,Politicians,War Crimes

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1665: Gabriel de Beaufort-Canillac vicomte la Mothe, during the Grands Jours of Auvergne

Add comment October 23rd, 2017 Headsman

As with Peter the Great a few decades later, the budding absolutist Louis XIV experienced a scarring breakdown in law and order in his youth that at times threatened his own person.

In the French case, this was the Fronde — meaning “sling”, a weapon of choice for Parisian mobs — or rather the Frondes, successive insurrections in defense of feudal liberties launched against Louis’s mother and regent, Queen Anne that consumed the 1648-1653 span.

(Among other things, Louis’s experience during these disturbances of fleeing trouble spots in Paris, or cowering practically imprisoned behind palace walls, eventually resolved him to relocate his royal person away from the restive capital, to Versailles; his fear was more than vindicated by the fate of the 16th sovereign of his name at the hands of a different century’s Parisian enragees.)

Upon the death of his mother’s Richelieu figure (and literal Richelieu protege) Cardinal Mazarin, Louis took the state in hand in 1661 at age 22, determined to bring France to his elegant heel.

“You will assist me with your counsels when I ask for them,” he directed stunned ministers who had been accustomed to doing a good deal of the day-to-day governing themselves. “I request and order you to seal no orders except by my command, or after having discussed them with me, or at least not until a secretary brings them to you on my behalf. And you Messieurs of state, I order you not to sign anything, not even a passport, without my command; to render account to me personally each day and favour no one.”

L’etat c’est moi … he wasn’t kidding about that.

Bold reforms followed pell-mell through the 1660s and beyond: of the army, the bureaucracy, industry, the tax system. The archetype absolutist, Louis meant to gather into his Leviathan all the little redoubts of cumbersome right and privilege strewn about from France’s feudal antiquity, and above all to master the independence of his aristocrats and parlements.

One district in particular, the region of Auvergne, had in the chaotic 1650s descended into a minor dystopia ruled by avaricious and unprincipled officials gleefully abusing their control of the local judicial apparatus.

The investigations … revealed that quite a few judges lacked professional scruples and were of questionable moral character. Officers in the bailliages and senechaussees were aware of crimes but did nothing to prosecute them … registration of letters of remission could be bought “with ease.” Officers extorted money from countless victims … At the bailliage of La Tour in Auvergne, officers made arbitrary seizures of oxen belonging to peasants … seized property for “salaries and vacations,” forced minor girls to pay a price for marriage authorizations, and so on. Since all the officers in each of the lower courts were related to one another, “they all upheld one another so that it was impossible to obtain justice.”

The clergy had fallen into disarray … committed kidnappings and assaults and lent their names to laymen so that they might enjoy an ecclesiastical benefice. And this is to say nothing of such “peccadilloes” as frequenting taverns, taking the name of the Lord in vain, keeping mistresses, and fathering children. Monasteries and even convents were rife with “libertinage.” Their income was being squandered on banquets for visitors.

Gentilshommes had been using violent means to maintain their tyranny over the peasants. Forcible extortion of money was “the common offense of the gentilshommes of Auvergne,” according to Dongois, clerk of the Grands Jours. The king’s lieutenant in Bourbonnais, the marquis de Levis, was a counterfeiter who manufactured pistoles that were then circulated by his maitre d’hotel. Many gentilshommes exacted seigneurial dues beyond what they were entitled to, for watch, wine, oxen, supply and transport, and the use of seigneurial mills. They usurped such communal property as meadows, woods, and rights to gather firewood, collected money on every pretext, raised the cens without justification, and collected new dues. (Source

Practical princes see opportunity in such crises, in this case the opportunity to make common cause between the crown and the populace at the expense of of those gentilshommes. And so Louis decreed for Auvergne a Grands Jours, a sort of special visiting assize that could circumvent the incestuous area magistrates. From September 1665 to January 1666 the Grands Jours d’Auvergne processed more than 1,300 cases, meting out 692 convictions and 23 executions (although many sentences were executed in effigy). Six of those actually put to death were gentlemen.*

No noble crest attracted the inquisitors’ attentions more urgently than the ancient family of Montboissier-Beaufort-Canillac whose patriarch,

Jacques-Timoleon, marquis de Canillac, age seventy-two, accompanied by a bodyguard of valets known as his “twelve Apostles,” terrorized his fiefs and seigneuries from Clermont to Rouergue. All his close relatives were guilty of serious crimes or misdemeanors. His eldest son stole his neighbors’ animals, besieged their homes, and murdered them. His next eldest son murdered a curate. Guillaume de Beaufort-Canillac had not only extorted money but also abducted and held captive a notary who had drawn up a document against him. Gabriel de Beaufort-Canillac, vicomte de La Mothe, had attempted to murder another gentilhomme …

Charges had been mounting against the Canillacs, and especially against the old marquis, for decades without any effect. (Same source)

They would continue without effect here for the cagey patriarch, who absented himself in time to suffer only a condemnation in absentia,** but his son Gabriel, the vicomte de la Mothe, was taken by surprise as one of the Grands Jours commission’s very first acts and would distinguish himself its highest-ranking prey — on October 23rd, 1665, a mere four hours after his trial.

The charge against him was one of murder, under what was then considered extenuating circumstances. During the civil war [i.e., the Fronde] he had been commiss[i]oned by the great Conde to raise some regiments of cavalry, and had handed over some six thousand francs of the sum entrusted to him for this purpose, to his friend, D’Orsonette, who would neither furnish the troops nor refund the money. Conde, naturally enough, reproached the vicomte, who thereupon left his service, full of rancor against D’Orsonette. The quarrel grew fiercer as time passed on, until on an evil day the disputants met, each accompanied by a body of servants. M. de la Mothe’s party was the most numerous. D’Orsonette and one of his men were wounded, and his falconer was slain. The facts were incontrovertible. A striking example was deemed essential, and despite the entreaties of his family, and a short delay occasioned by an effort to traverse the jurisdiction of the court, the accused was sentenced to death and executed within a month from the commencement of the assize. It affords a significant illustration of the condition of Auvergne to note that the prosecutor in this case and all his witnesses were far more guilty than the prisoner. The prosecutor was accused by his own father of having murdered his own brother, of being a parricide in intention, and of a hundred other crimes. The next principal witness had been condemned for perjury, and was an acknowledged forger. The others were either outlaws or convicts at the galleys. Against M. de la Mothe no other crime was alleged, and he was generally regarded as the most innocent member of his family. Public opinion held that he suffered for having joined the losing side in the civil war, and for bearing a powerful and deeply-hated name. (A different source)

* A full and colorful account of the affair awaits the Francophone reader in Esprit Flechier’s Memoirs de Flechier sur les Grands-Jours d’Auvergne en 1665 (alternate link).

** It would be the second time in his rapacious career that Canillac pere was executed in effigy.

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Entry Filed under: 17th Century,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,France,History,Murder,Nobility,Pelf,Public Executions,Wrongful Executions

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