Posts filed under 'Death Penalty'

1946: Vojtech Tuka, Slovakian Prime Minister

Add comment August 20th, 2015 Headsman

Slovak fascist politician Vojtech Tuka was hanged on this date in 1946 by the postwar Czechoslovakian government.

A lawyer, academic, and journalist, Tuka spent the decade leading up to World War II in prison for inciting Czechoslovakia’s Slovakian half to break with the Czechs.

These calls found their footing in 1938-39 when the Third Reich’s expansion crippled Czechoslovakia; a newly autonomous Slovak region under Prime Minister Jozef Tiso soon began pushing for outright independence.

In fact, one of the last actions of the pre-war Czechoslovakian state was to deploy troops to occupy Slovakia under martial law and (momentarily) depose Tiso on March 9, 1939. This desperate attempt to preserve Czechoslovakia was the action triggering Germany’s outright takeover of Czech territory. Tiso was in full support, and in reward he got restored as leader of the now “independent” Slovakia … in reality a German client state.

Tuka was right there for the ride.

In October 1939, Tiso became President of Slovakia, and appointed our man Vojtech the Prime Minister. Tuka would hold that office for the bulk of the coming war years, until ousted by the Slovak National Uprising late in 1944, and distinguish himself early for his enthusiasm in deporting Jews to German camps — and implementing comprehensive domestic anti-Semitic laws.*

But that decade in prison had not done Tuka’s health any favors. He suffered a stroke late in the war, and emigrated, wheelchair-bound, to Austria. He was arrested there and returned to Slovakia; by the time of his trial, he had suffered multiple strokes and was partially paralyzed.

Nevertheless, he was condemned as a war criminal for throwing Slovakia into war against the Soviet Union and for the defeated Slovak Republic’s anti-Jewish measures.

* Dieter Wisliceny, an Eichmann assistant, was a key German liaison to the Slovaks.

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1901: Three Boer rebels against the Cape Colony

Add comment August 19th, 2015 Headsman

On this date in 1901, Petrus Jacobus Fourie, Jan van Rensburg, and Lodewyk Francois Stephanus Pfeiffer were shot by the British at Graaff-Reinet.

They were among the numerous subjects of the British Cape Colony whose sympathy with the independent Boer republics which Britain was in the process of conquering extended so far as aiding their Dutch brethren’s resistance. In this case, the young men joined the famed Boer guerrilla Gideon Scheepers — and whatever one might say about the fuzziness of ethnic and national identity in a frontier region, this rated in London’s eyes as rebellion.

On July 6, 1901, Scheepers executed a raid on the town of Murraysburg — “Scheepersburg”, he called it — and put loyalist houses to the torch.

The British Gen. John French sent columns of men into the rugged Camdeboo Mountains in an effort to trap the irksome commando. Scheepers and most of his troop of about 240 men escaped, but about 27 or 28 Cape Colony rebels were captured (along with a few free staters, who could not be charged as rebels).

A particularly revolting incident happened in the execution of the three who were shot. This was, that the firing parties were a body of ten men, five with ball, and five with blank cartridges. After the word “present,” which brings the rifle to the shoulder, one of them “‘pulled off” before the command “fire” was given, and the bullet blew off the top of one man’s head.

-British guard Wilfrid H. Harrison in his Memoirs of a Socialist in South Africa

Eight of these people were executed as rebels over the ensuing weeks, with the aid of Jan Momberg, one of their erstwhile mates who turned Crown’s evidence against them to save his own life.

After Fourie, van Rensburg and Pfeiffer were shot on Aug. 19, Ignatius Nel and Daniel Olwagen — both teenagers — died at Graaff-Reinet on August 26; and, Hendrik van Vuuren, Fredrick Toy and Hendrik Veenstra were shot at Colesberg on September 4.

Though the British made an effort to obscure the final resting-places of these potential martyr figures, their graves were located. Fourie, van Rensburg and Pfeiffer, along with Ignatius Nel and Daniel Olwagen, are among the men subsequently exhumed and placed in a collective grave. A monument in Graaff-Reinet honors these and three other guerrillas executed there … one of whom is Gideon Scheepers himself, who was captured in October of 1901 and executed the following January.

There’s a good deal more about Scheeper’s rebels, and these men in particular, in a two-part article by a descendant of van Rensburg here: part 1 | part 2.

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1899: Armstead Taylor and John Alfred Brown, horribly

Add comment August 18th, 2015 Headsman

From the Wilkes-Barre (Pa.) Times, Aug. 18, 1899:

ROCKVILLE, Md., Aug. 18 — Armstead Taylor and John Alfred Brown, negroes, were hanged here this morning for the murder of Mr. and Mrs. Rosenstein at Slidelle in March last.

The drop fell at 10:15[?]. The hanging was a horrible botch. the knot did not slip but the drop was long enough. The men writhed, groaned and uttered inarticualate [sic] sounds for nearly ten minutes.

The murders for which they were convicted and sentenced to be hanged were committed at Slidelle, a little station two miles north of Boyds, Md. on March 13 last.

Louis Rosenstein, the postmaster of the hamlet[,] lived with his aged parents in the rear of the post office. They were said to have plenty of money. Early one morning they were attacked and the man’s skull was crushed and the woman’s head pounded with some blunt instrument.

The store was ransacked and a little over $3,000, a pair of shoes and several articles were taken.

Louis Rosenstein died the day after of his injuries and Mrs. Rosenstein lingered until May when she succumbed in a hospital at Baltimore.

Taylor went to Washington and soon attracted attention by spending money in a lavish manner in Georgetown. Suspicious neighbors gave the police the information that led to his capture.

Before Taylor was arrested, however, Sergeant Fritz Bassau of the Washington police force gave up his life. Taylor shot him down as he was climbing the stairs to arrest him, where he was concealed in the house at Georgetown. He also shot Officer Gowon in the hand.

Taylor was taken back to Montgomery county, but did not stand trial for injuring the policemen. His trial was begun at Frederick on July [?] and Brown’s a week later. Both were convicted and sentenced to be hanged August 18.

Strong efforts were made to have Brown respited, it being believed by many that he was only an accessory after the fact.

The men mounted the scaffold at 10:15. They were both calm and exhibited nerve. As they were placed on the door the sheriff asked if they had anything to say. Taylor made a rambling statement in an almost inaudible voice. He appeared weak and swayed upon his feet. He said:

Gentlemen, I done both the killings myself. My Uncle Brown is not guilty. I am the guilty man, but I expect to go to heaven.

Brown refused to make any statement beyond that he had forgiven his enemies and had found salvation.

The deputies then adjusted the rope, before placing the black caps on their heads. Both men smiled and Brown said good-bye to some friends in the crowd who spoke to him.

Sheriff Thompson tok [sic] a board about six feet in length, walked over to the side of the scaffold, reached down and inserted the end of a plank in the wire ring and sprung the trap.

The bodies fell through simultaneously and began to writhe and sway in a horrible manner. Taylor seemed to be conscious and appeared to be trying to speak.

The priests pronounced it the most horrible execution they had ever seen.

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1915: Leo Frank lynched

1 comment August 17th, 2015 Headsman

One hundred years ago today, Leo M. Franks was lynched to an oak tree at Marietta — one of the most notorious mob murders in American history.

Methodically extracted hours before from the Midgeville State Penitentiary by an Ocean’s Eleven-style team of coordinated professionals, Frank’s murder was as shocking in 1915 as it reads in retrospect.

The well-heeled Jewish Yankee was factory superintendent at the National Pencil Company in Atlanta when a 13-year-old girl in his employ was discovered in the factory’s basement — throttled and apparently raped. That was in 1913; for the ensuing two years, the prosecution of Mary Phagan’s boss as her murderer would play out in sensational press coverage.

Frank is today widely thought innocent of the crime, although the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has balked at issuing an unconditional pardon since so little of the original evidence survives. (A 1986 pardon came down “without attempting to address the question of guilt or innocence” in recognition of the slanted trial and the failure to protect Frank from lynchers.) But this was much more than a courtroom drama; the Frank affair crackles with the social tensions of early 20th century America. Industry and labor; integration; sexual violation; sectional politics; race and class and power.

Populist Party politician Thomas E. Watson, whose magazines made a dishonorable intervention by openly agitating for (and then celebrating) Frank’s lynching, captures the Zeitgeist for us as he fulminates against the nationwide campaign to grant the convicted murderer a new trial: “Frank belongs to the Jewish aristocracy, and it was determined by the rich Jews that no aristocrat of their race should die for the death of a working-class Gentile.” Frank came to enjoy (if that’s the right word) the editorial support of most of the country’s major papers, but the meddling of northern publishers, and of fellow Jews in solidarity,* arguably led Georgians to circle wagons in response. Present-day Muslims called upon to disavow every bad act by every other Muslim would surely recognize this no-win position.

But then we must also add that Watson himself, a lawyer, had been approached by Frank’s defense team hoping to enlist his bombast to defend their man at trial. The white supremacist demagogue would have been perfect for the job, for the legal battle pitted the credibility of a black janitor named Jim Conley against that of Frank.

Here amid the nadir of American race relations Frank’s team made its own ugly and unsuccessful pitch for racial solidarity with his neighbors. When formulaically asked by the court that had convicted him for any statement to mitigate the impending sentence, Frank replied that

my execution will make the advent of a new era in Georgia, where a good name and stainless honor count for naught against the word of a vile criminal; where the testimony of Southern white women of unimpeachable character is branded as false by the prosecution, disregarded by the jury and the perjured vaporings of a black brute alone accepted as the whole truth.

This violent collision of two vulnerable minorities each with the keen sense that one or the other of them was being outfitted for WASP America’s nooses makes for riveting and sometimes bizarre reading. Newspapers could hardly fail to note that the all-white jury (Leo Frank’s defense team struck all the blacks) had, as Frank complained, privileged the account of just the sort of “black brute” that Southern courts were accustomed to scorn, or railroad. Thus we have the NAACP organ The Crisis taking umbrage that “Atlanta tried to lynch a Negro for the alleged murder of a young white girl” but “a white degenerate has now been indicted for the crime.” It was likewise reasoned by some that since Conley was a young black man with a criminal record who was a potential suspect in the Deep South in the murderous sexual assault of a little white girl, “the mere fact that Conley did not long ago make his exit from this terrestrial sphere, via a chariot of fire is convincing proof that he, at least, is not the man who committed the deed.”** (New York Age, Oct. 29, 1914.)

In the end it was a zero-sum game between Jim Conley and Leo Frank: one of them was the murderer; each accused the other. Their respective desperate interests permeated to their respective communities. (After Frank’s lynching, hundreds of Jews left Georgia; many who remained took pains to downplay their Jewishness.)

By whatever circumstance police zeroed on Frank and the white community’s passion followed — tunnel vision that would eventually manifest itself in a circus courtroom atmosphere where the prosecuting attorney was cheered and defense witnesses hooted at and the ultimate outcome more demanded than anticipated. The judge feared that an acquittal would result in the summary lynching of not only Frank but his defenders.


Mary Phagan was killed on Confederate Memorial Day, the “holiday” this ballad alludes to.

Unusually for the time, appeals on the case reached the U.S. Supreme Court which declined to intervene — although two justices filed a dissent citing the egregious trial atmosphere.

Mob law does not become due process of law by securing the assent of a terrorized jury …

This is not a matter for polite presumptions; we must look facts in the face. Any judge who has sat with juries knows that in spite of forms they are extremely likely to be impregnated by the environing atmosphere … we think the presumption overwhelming that the jury responded to the passions of the mob …

lynch law [is] as little valid when practiced by a regularly drawn jury as when administered by one elected by a mob intent on death.

But that mob would still have its say. On the eve of Frank’s scheduled June 22, 1915 hanging, outgoing governor John Slaton commuted the sentence.

“Feeling as I do about this case, I would be a murderer if I allowed this man to hang,” the governor said. “It may mean that I must live in obscurity the rest of my days, but I would rather be plowing in a field than feel for the rest of my days that I had this man’s blood on my hands.”†

Frank was spirited away to the penitentiary under cover of darkness; it was hoped that the remote and reinforced edifice would deter any reprisal. It turned out that the furies who hunted Franks could not be dissuaded by mere inconvenience: a committee calling itself the Knights of Mary Phagan formed with the open object of organizing the intended mob vengeance — and indeed it was almost superseded in July of that year by a fellow-prisoner who slashed Frank’s throat as he slept.

Frank survived that murder attempt only to await the next one. Who knows what fancies frequented him in those weeks when he ducked from the shadow of the gallows to that of the lynching-tree, object of pity or hatred. He had time on the last day to savor his impending fate when the Knights methodically cut their way into the penitentiary — snipping the phone wires and disabling the vehicles — and marched their man out with nary a shot fired. Then, a convoy of automobiles “sped” (at 18 miles per hour) all the way back to a prepared execution-site at Marietta. The drive took seven or eight hours over unpaved country lanes, and for every moment of it Frank surely knew how it would end.

* Frank was a chapter president of the Jewish fraternal organization B’nai B’rith; the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith was founded in 1913 as a direct outgrowth of the Frank campaign.

As a contrasting response, the American Jewish Committee declined to participate in the Frank campaign for fear of lending counterproductive credence to charges such as those voiced by the New York Sun (Oct. 12, 1913):

The anti-Semitic feeling was the natural result of the belief that the Jews had banded to free Frank, innocent or guilty. The supposed solidarity of the Jews for Frank, even if he was guilty, caused a Gentile solidarity against him.

** Maurianne Davis’s Strangers and Neighbors: Relations between Blacks and Jews in the United States has a trove of interesting editorial comment from Frank’s contemporaries in the black press, and the Jewish press. Conley was actually the confessed accessory, and served a year in prison for it: he said that he complied with Frank’s order to hide the body for fear that his “white” boss could easily get Conley lynched for the crime. Conley also wrote (under Frank’s directive, he said) the preposterous “murder notes” found with the body that purported to be Mary Phagan’s dying indictment of Newt Lee, the African-American night watchman.

† The allusion to political suicide suggests Slaton’s mind was on the precedent of Illinois Gov. John Altgeld, whose career was destroyed by pardoning some of the Haymarket anarchists. If so, Slaton was quite correct; he actually had to flee Georgia altogether and could not return to the state for more than a decade.

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1817: Not Hall or Read, prosecuted for blood-money

Add comment August 16th, 2015 Headsman

Miscarriages of justice perpetrated by actors in a position to extract private benefit from generating criminal prosecutions is a story as old as the hills. This one, as reprinted in the London Morning Chronicle, Aug. 25, 1817, at least has a happy ending:

EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCE

Two soldiers, named Hall and Morrison, were on the 26th July tried for a highway robbery at the Stafford Assizes, before Baron Garrow, convicted, and ordered to be executed. They were prosecuted by a man named Read, a bricklayers labourer, who swore that they knocked him down and robbed him of a shilling and a penny, in a church-yard at Wolverhampton, on the 23d July. The evidence of the woman in whose house the prisoners resided, went to prove that they did not sleep at home on the night of the imputed robbery. To those two witnesses the evidence was confined, and against it there appeared nothing upon the trial, except the declarations of the prisoners, containing facts which were afterwards sworn to be others, and which, after the utmost labour of a few benevolent persons, were the means of saving the innocent prisoners from a death which appeared to all to be inevitable.

The two soldiers were, upon the 23d of July, drinking at an hour too late for admission at their lodging at Wolverhampton, and, after applying in vain to be allowed to go into the guardroom to sleep, walked about the village to kill time.

In loitering through the church-yard they met a man who seemed to be in want of work, and, like themselves, without a lodging for the night. A conversation ensued, and the stranger told them his name was Read; that he was a bricklayer’s labourer out of employment, and a Hertfordshire man.

It happened, that in his description he hit upon the part of the country from which one of the prisoners came. A jesting dialogue took place between them, and at length it was agreed that they should wrestle.

Hall was the friendly opponent of Read upon the occasion, and he was thrown in the first round of wrestling. In the second, however, Hall was more successful in the feat of activity, but his triumph nearly robbed him of his life. The vanquished man dropped a shilling and a penny from his pocket. Morrison immediately picked up the money, said it would do for beer, and put it into his pocket. The soldiers quizzed Read about his loss, and were heard by a watchman near the spot acknowledging that they had the shilling, and would certainly dispose of it in the most convivial way.

Read growled about his money, and showed a disposition to quarrel, but did not utter a word about his being robbed of it. About five o’clock in the morning the three were seen near the market-place by another watchman, and the soldiers were bantering Read upon the same subject.

The good humour of Read, however, at this time, appeared quite broken up; he spoke of having the soldiers taken into custody, but was answered by a laugh from them. A grocer, named Powis, saw them all under similar circumstances, and heard Read complain of no attempt at robbery, but saw that he was not pleased at being laughed at.

The grocer soon after met a man named Roberts, the keeper of the House of Correction at Wolverhampton, and mentioned to him that Read said two soldiers had got his money. The answer of Roberts, which did not strike the grocer as extraordinary at first, was, “I must see that man; this is a good job.”

The event, however, soon explained the language. Roberts immediately inquired after Read, questioned him upon the loss he had sustained, and in a very short time apprehended the two soldiers upon the charge of robbing Read in the highway of a shilling and a penny. Before the magistrate, Read swore that the soldiers knocked him down and robbed him of his money in the church-yard. Their commitment was immediately made out, and they were sent to the Assizes of Stafford, where, on the Saturday following they were tried and condemned for the capital offense.

The inhabitants of Wolverhampton knew nothing of the intention of Read upon the interference of Roberts in this transaction. It was generally concluded amongst them that the angry state of mind in which Read appeared, would have influenced him to swear a common assault, but nothing at all serious was apprehended from the wrestling bout. There was consequently no interference upon the part of those who were acquainted with many of the circumstances; and the matter died away until the village was struck with horror at an account in the Stafford paper of the proceedings of the Assizes. An old man was reading the paper in an ale-house to a number of politicians, who were not much affected at any thing they heard until he came to that part which stated the number of persons left for execution. Amongst the names were those of Hall and Morrison. The whole population of Wolverhampton instantly showed how they felt upon an occasion so dreadful.

The Rev. Mr. Guard, one of the most venerable characters in that part of the country, who officiates in the village where Hall’s family resides, upon hearing the event of the trial, set out for Wolverhampton, where he found the people already meeting and acting upon this subject. The men were to be hanged this day (Saturday last), and not a moment was to be lost. Mr. Guard, who had known Hall from his infancy, and would have staked his life upon the integrity of the young man, made a quick but deep inquiry into the facts, and having found every thing confirmatory of his innocence, followed Baron Garrow on his circuit to state what he had learned from the very best authority, and obtain a respite.

He saw Mr. Baron Garrow, but his Lordship appeared to see no reason to alter the opinion which he had formed from hearing the trial. The worthy Clergyman, however, was so well convinced of the truth of his own information, that he could not help exclaiming, with more zeal than discretion, “I see you are determined to hang these poor men.”

Mr. Baron Garrow was naturally offended at this intemperate observation, and an eminent Barrister remarked, that Mr. Guard’s object was wholly defeated by the use of it.

Mr. Guard was not, however, to be turned from the endeavour to save the lives of the two soldiers; there was another quarter to which he could apply. He immediately came to town, and went without ceremony to Lord Sidmouth, to whom he obtained an easy access. He remained in conversation with his Lordship between three and four hours, and Lord Sidmouth afterwards declared, that he never in his life saw such an interest taken in the fate of men who were not related by domestic ties to the individuals whom he was labouring to save. This meeting gave Mr. Guard hopes; though Lord Sidmouth had observed, that in cases of this kind the Judge was necessarily better acquainted with all the bearings of the evidence than the Secretary of State, and therefore his power was seldom interfered with, except under circumstances of strong fact.

Mr. Guard posted back to Wolverhampton the moment after he parted from the Secretary. A meeting of the inhabitants was called, at which Mr. Mander, and all the other respectable residents of Wolverhampton attended.

The witnesses were sworn, and a Petition to the Prince Regent was signed and delivered into the hands of Mr. Guard, who, accompanied by Mr. Charles Mander, very soon after arrived in town. These two gentlemen went, with Mr. Pearsall, of Cheapside, to Lord Sidmouth, and put into his hands the evidence of the innocence of the soldiers. His Lordship requested that Mr. Pearsall would relate the circumstance.

That gentleman repeated the manner in which Read and the two soldiers had acted in the presence of the watchmen and the grocer. Lord Sidmouth was just going up with the Recorder’s Report, and said, that upon his return he would examine the affidavits, and act upon them. Mr. Pearsall observed, that the men were ordered for execution on Saturday, but was assured by his Lordship that their case should not be neglected, and that the affidavits should be laid before the Attorney-General.

Upon the next meeting, Lord Sidmouth said there had been no necessity for laying the affidavits before the Attorney-General. The case, he observed, was one of the most interesting that ever came before him.

Indeed, such was the effect of the affidavits upon him, that he was not only immediately convinced that the soldiers should not be executed, but, in the absence of his clerks, he wrote the dispatch for their respite with his own hand, and sent it to the Sheriff; “because,” said his Lordship, “I could not endure the thought that the soldiers should have one hour more of unnecessary anxiety.”

Mr. Pearsall said there was no doubt that the men had no intention of felony; it would also appear, at another time, that the prosecutor had no intention of indicting them, until he was instigated by Roberts, with the view of gaining the reward called “Blood-money,” which was accordingly pocketed by Read and the keeper of the prison, to the amount of 80l.

Lord Sidmouth declared, that, under such circumstances, an immediate investigation should take place. He coincided in the opinion of the impropriety of Roberts’s conduct, and said a pardon would be instantly granted to the soldiers. He also complimented, in the warmest manner, the conduct of Mr. Guard and the other gentleman, who had exerted themselves. In the course of his observations to Lord Sidmouth, Mr. Guard said he would give up half his fortune to save the life of Hall, so convinced was he of his honesty.

While these operations were going forward in London, affidavits, copied from those handed to the Secretary, were brought to Mr. Baron Garrow by Lieut. Buchanan, of the same regiment as the soldiers, and a respite was instantly granted by his Lordship when he read them.

The Officer stated, that Baron Garrow, upon reading the affidavits, said, if the facts had been known before, their respite should have been granted; and asked whether they would, upon being pardoned, be taken into the regiment again? Lieutenant Buchanan immediately replied, that they would be most gladly received.

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1817: Four arsonists in the rain

1 comment August 15th, 2015 Headsman

Account from the Derby Mercury, Aug. 21, 1817:

THE EXECUTION OF
John Brown, Thos. Jackson, Geo. Booth & John King.

The above unfortunate men were arraigned at our late Assizes for setting fire to certain hay and corn stacks, the property of Winfield Halton, Esq. of Southwingfield, in this county, and after a long and impartial trial were found guilty on the most satisfactory evidence, by a very respectable jury of their fellow countrymen. The awful sentence of the law was passed upon them in the most impressive manner by the Judge, who endeavoured to prepare them for the fate which awaited them by assuring them that the heinous nature of their offence precluded all hopes of mercy.

For some days after their condemnation, however, they cherished a hope that pardon or at least a mitigation of their sentence might be extended to them. Under this impression they persisted in asserting their innocence of the crime for which they were about to suffer, and even when this delusion could no longer influence their conduct, their denial of all participation in the offence of which they had been convicted was repeatedly made in the most solemn manner. The faithful exhortations of the Chaplain, and also of a Dissenting Minister, who at their own request attended Brown and Booth, failed to draw a confession of the fact from them. Still they did not appear unimpressed by certain religious convictions which might have been expected to lead to contrition. But in the midst of their profession of forgiveness towards their prosecutor and the witnesses who appeared against them, there was a manifest irritation of mind and a vindictive expression of feeling which justified a doubt of the sincerity of their repentance.

This was particularly the case with Brown and Booth, who were confined together. Jackson exhibited a calmer state of spirit, but still protested that he was not guilty. King shewed the most absolute submission to the fate which awaited him, and his assertions of innocence seemed to be made more in deference to the wishes of his fellow criminals, than to arise from another cause. Indeed he had made a confession of the offence before his trial, but was led subsequently to retract what he had admitted.

It was vainly hoped that at the place of execution they would prove by their confession that their general professions of contrition were sincere. But they had previously stated that they should die with the protestations of innocence on their lips, and not even the dread prospect of that eternity on which they were about to enter was able to produce a charge in this determination.

They were brought out upon the scaffold about a quarter before one o’clock, and seemed but little affected by the sad solemnities by which they were surrounded. After the Chaplain had concluded his devotions, in which they appeared to unite with some degree of fervour, they sang a hymn, all joining in it except King, whose manner expressed a firmness bordering on indifference, and a high disdain of the enthusiastic fervours by which the others seemed to be sustained. Booth and Brown addressed the immense multitudes who were assembled before them; the former expressing himself in unwarrantable terms against individuals whom he named, and the latter exhorting the croud to religious faith and practice.

They, as well as Jackson spoke familiarly to their acquaintances who came to witness their tragical end, and their whole behaviour betrayed an insensibility to their real situation which it was painful to observe, and would be difficult to account for, were not their previous abandoned characters sufficient to furnish the solution. The drop fell from under them about five minutes after one o’clock, and they seemed to die almost without a struggle.

Such was the deportment of these wretched men; even in the closing scene of their lives, aggravating the heavy criminality of their former conduct, by their continued protestations of innocence. Many circumstances tended to produce this. The state of the prison in which they were confined did not, unfortunately, admit of their being in solitary cells, and their intercourse with each other seems to have given them hardihood to deny what had been so clearly proved against them, by evidence which has not been in the slightest degree affected by any circumstances that have subsequently transpired. Indiscreet communications from their friends, by which they were assured that their innocence was believed by their neighbours, farther tended to make them persevere in their first protestations. They seemed unwilling to destroy the sympathy which they believed they had succeeded in exciting.

Still it appears incredible to many that guilt should be so bold, and the professions of religion loudly made by two of the criminals are thought by some to be greatly in favour of their sincerity. Nothing however is more common than protestations of innocence even at the place and hour of execution; nor is it wonderful, where all moral feeling has been outraged during a long course of years that it should not be displayed in a nice regard to truth even in the most awful moments.

The professions of religion made by men who have not been brought by penitence to confession, may well be regarded with suspicion, and such conduct would be inconceivable were we not aware that a species of fanaticism is abroad in the world which separates religion from morals, and substitutes mere profession in the place of practice.

As every fact which may tend to illustrate the principles of human action deserves notice, it is worth observing, that a heavy shower happening, whilst the men were singing the hymn, two of them deliberately retreated to the shelter of an umbrella which was expanded on the drop, and a third placed himself under cover of the door way. The inconvenicne of being wet was felt and avoided by men who knew they had not five minutes longer to live!! The whole of the scene now recorded was one of great horror, increased by the conduct of the criminals themselves. The many thousands of spectators behaved with great decorum, but retired from the spectacle apparently little impressed with sympathy towards men who had evinced so much insensibility to the real nature of their own unhappy condition.

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1679: John King and John Kid, Covenanters

Add comment August 14th, 2015 Headsman

At Edinburgh’s Tolbooth on this date in 1679, two Covenanter ministers hanged as rebels.

The widely recorded gallows-humor bon mot of Kid to his fellow-sufferer — “I have often heard and read of a kid sacrificed, but I seldom or never heard of a king made a sacrifice” — might be pure bunk. Certainly both ministers took pains to vindicate their scruples both religious and political (but I repeat myself) in great detail in the printed records that survive of their scaffold address. “The last speeches of the two ministers Mr. John King, and Mr. John Kid, at the place of execution at Edinburgh on the 14th day of August, 1679″ does (so we presume) what it says on the tin.


The Publisher to the Reader.

Having observed that of late years it is become Customary to publish the dying Speeches of such as have been in a Publick manner Executed as Criminals, I thought the sight of these Speeches (not as Speeches or Discourses only, but) as the Speeches of these two (so much talk’d of) Men, would to most be very acceptable, all persons I believe being curious to know what they would say in their Circumstances, I did not think it necessary to make any Animadversions upon them, but leave it to the [illegible] of every Reader to make his own Remarks, (it being as easie to animadvert in this Case as to read) I would as unwillingly impose my Comment upon others, as I would be imposed upon my self.

farewel.

The Speech of Mr. John King.

I do not doubt but that many that are Spectators here, have some other end, than to be edified by what they may see and hear in the last words of one going to Eternity, but if any one of you have Ears to hear, (which I nothing doubt but some of this great gathering have) I desire your Ears and Attention, if the Lord shall help and permit me to speak, to a few things.

I bless the Lord, since infinite Wisdom and holy Providence has so carved out my Lot to dye after the manner that I do, not unwillingly, neither by force: It’s true, I could not do this of my self, Nature always having an Inclination to put the evil day far off, but through Grace I have been helped, and by this Grace yet hope I shall: ‘Tis true, through Policy I might have shunned such a hard Sentence, if I had done some things, but though I could I durst not, God knows, redeem my life with the loss of my Integrity and Honesty. I bless the Lord that since I have been apprehended and made a Prisoner, God hath very wonderfully upholden me, and made out that comfortable word, Fear not, be not dismayed, I am with thee, I will strengthen thee, I will uphold thee by the right hand of my Righteousness, Isaiah 42.10. [sic – the correct cite is Isaiah 41:10 -ed.] I thank the Lord he never yet gave me leave so much as to have a thought, much less to seek after any [illegible] that might be the least sinful: I did always, and yet do judge it better to suffer Affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of Sin for a Season; therefore I am come hither to lay down my life; I bless the Lord I dye not as a Fool dyeth, though I acknowledge I have nothing to boast of in myself: yea I acknowledge I am a Sinner, and one of the chiefest that hath gone under the name of a Professor of Religion; yea amongst the unworthiest of those that have Preached the Gospel; my Sins and Corruptions have been many, and have defiled me in all things; and even in following and doing of my Duty, I have not wanted my own sinful Infirmities and Weaknesses, so that I may truly say, I have no Righteousness of my own, all is evil and like filthy Rags; but blessed be God that there is a Saviour and an Advocate, Jesus Christ the Righteous, and I do believe that Jesus Christ is come into the World to save Sinners, of whom I am the chief, and that through Faith and his Righteousness I have obtained Mercy; and that through him, and him alone, I desire and hope to have a happy and glorious Victory over Sin, Satan, Hell, and Death; and that I shall attain unto the Resurrection of the just, and be made Partaker of Eternal Life. I know in whom I have believed, and that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. I have, according to my poor Capacity, preached Slavation in his name; and as I have preached, so do I believe, and withal my Soul have commended it, and still do commend to all of you the riches of his Grace, and faith in his Name, as the alone and only way whereby to come to be saved.

It may be many may think (but I bless the Lord without any solid ground) that I suffer as an Evil-Doer, and as a busie body in other mens matters; but I reckon not much upon that, having the Testimony of my own Conscience for me. It was the lot of our blessed Saviour himself, and also the lot of many of his eminent precious Servants and People to suffer by the World as Evil-doers: Yea I think I have so good ground not to be fear’d as such a lot, that I count it my non-such-honour; and Oh what am I that I should be honoured so, when so many Worthies have panted after the like, and have not come at it: My Soul rejoyceth in being brought into Conformity with my Blessed Lord, and Head, and so Blessed a Company in this way and lot; and I desire to pray that I may be to none of you this day upon this account a Stone of stumbling, and a Rock of Offence: and blessed is he that shall not be offended in Christ and his poor Followers and Members, because of their being Condemned as Evil doers by the World.

As for these things for which Sentence of Death hath past against me, I bless the Lord my Conscience doth not condemn me, I have not been Rebellious, nor do I judge it Rebellion for me to have endeavoured in my Capacity what possibly I could for the born-down and ruined Interest of my Lord and Master, and for the Relief of my poor Brethren afflicted and persecuted, not only in their Liberties, Priviledges, and Persons, but also in their Lives; therefore it was that I joyned with that poor handful; the Lord knows, who is the searcher of hearts, that neither my design nor practice was against his Majesty’s person and just Government, but I always studyed to be Loyal to lawful Authority in the Lord, and I thank God my heart doth not condemn me of any Disloyalty; I have been Loyal, and I do recommend it to all to be obedient to higher Powers in the Lord.

And that I preached at Field-Meetings, which is the ground of my Sentence, I am so far from acknowledging that the Gospel preached that way was a Rendezvous of Rebellion, as it is so tearmed, that I bless the Lord that ever he counted me worthy to be Witness of such Meetings; which have been so undoubtedly countenanced and owned, not only to the conviction, but even to the Conversion of many; therefore I do assert, That if the Lord hath had any purer Church in the Land than other, it hath been in and amonst these Meetings in Fields and Houses, so much now despised by some, and persecuted by others.

That [illegible] up Rebellion, and taking up Arms [illegible] authority is untrue, I bless the Lord my Conscience doth not condemn me for that; this never being my design; if I could have preached Christ, and Salvation through his name, it was my work; and herein have I walked according to the Light and Rule of the Word of God, as it did become me, though one of the meanest of the Ministers of the Gospel.

I have been looked upon by some, and represented by others to be of a divisive, and Factious Humor, and one that stirred up division in the Church, but I am hopeful that they will all now give me their Charity, being within a little to stand before my Judge, and I pray the Lord forgive them that did so misrepresent me; but I thank the Lord what-ever men have said against me concerning this, that on the contrary, I have often disswaded from such ways and practices, as contrary to the Word of God, and of our Covenanted and reformed Religion; and as I ever Abhorred division, and Faction in the Church, as that which tends to its utter Ruine, if the Lord prevent it not. So I would in the bowels of my lord and Master, if such an one as I am may presume to perswade, and Exhort both Ministers and Professors; if there be any Consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love; if any Fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies that you be like minded, having the same Love, being of one accord, of one mind the Lowliness of mind; let each esteem other better than themselves, Phil. 1.12. [again, sic; I believe Philippians 2:3 is the citation] Harmoniousness and Honesty in the things of God, can never enough be south after, and [illegible] tend to the prejudice and hurt of Christians [illegible] can never enough be fled from and avoided.

And as I am come hither willingly to lay down my Tabernacle, so also I die in the belief, and faith of the Holy Scriptures, and in the faith of the Apostles, and primitives Christians, and Protestant Reformed Churches, and particularly the Church of Scotland, whereof I am a poor member: That have been so wonderfully carried on against so many Oppositions, by the mighty Power and goodness and Wisdome of God, I bear my Witness and Testimony to the Doctrine and worship, Discipline and Government of the Church of Scotland, by Kirk Sessions, Presbyters, Synods with Assembles.

Here he also bore his Testimony to the Solemn League and Covenant.

Also I bear Testimony to our publick confessing of sins, and Ingagements to duties, and that either as to what concerns the reformation of the whole Church in general, as also the causes of Gods wrath, the neglecting of which is feared, to be one of the greatest causes of Gods wrath this day against the Land: I also give witness and Testimony unto the protestation, given in against the Receiving the Malignant party into places of power and trust, contrary to our Solemn Ingagements, and Obligations to God, also I adhere unto our Confession of Faith, Larger and shorter Catechisms. I witness my Testimony against Popery, which is so greatly increased, yea so much Countenanced, and professed openly by many, and that without the least punishment; I bear witness against the Antichristian Prelacy now — established by a Law contrary to our Vows to Almighty God, and against defending all our Solemn Oaths, and ingagements, as a thing that Calls for Divine Vengeance.

Here he bore witness against all Oaths contrary to the Covenant: and then proceeded thus.

Also I bear my Testimony against all Error, Schisme, Heresie, contrary to our ingagements to God, and especially against that Reviving again, and Soul deluding evil or rather Devilry Quakerisme so much Connived at, if not allowed and Countenanced by many, whose Office it is to restrain it, as also against all the Steps and Courses of Backslidings, defections, which have been and now are on Foot in the Land, and against all branches and parties thereof, under whatsoever name or Notion; moreover, I bear my Testimony to all the Testimonys both formerly and of late, by suffering and banished witnesses, and to all the Testimonies by our first suffering Gentlemen, Noble-men, and others, that have suffered in this City and Kingdome, who Chearfully laid down their lives with admirable Divine Assistance, and all those who have laid down their lives, as also to those who have Sealed their Testimony, either with suffering imprisonment or Banishment upon this account, Score, and quarrel.

Here he bore his Testimony against their Act of Supremacy.

As also I bear my Testimony against the Cess imposed by the late Convention of Estates, whereby the Enemies of Christ, and his Church, are supplyed with all necessaries, for the utter extirpating of the interest of Christ in this Church.

And there is one thing more I would say, that the Lord seems to be very wroth with the Land. The causes are many, first the dreadful sleights our Lord Jesus Christ, has received in the Offers of his Gospel.

Secondly, The Horrid profanity that has overspread the whole Land, That not only Religion in its Exercise, but even Common Civility is gone.

Thirdly, there is the Horrid perjury in the matters of our vows and ingagements, its to be feared will provoke the Lord to bring his Sword upon these Lands.

Fourthly, The dreadful formality and stupidity in the duties of Religion, which is introduced, like that which came upon the Carless Daughters.

Fifthly, Horrid ingratitude, what do we render to him for his goodness? is not the most of all that we do, to work wickedness, and to strengthen our selves to do evil, and want of Humility under all all [sic] our Breaches? We are brought Low, and yet we are not Low in the sight of God, what a dreadful Covetousness, and minding our own things more than the things of God, and that amonst all Ranks? would to God that there were not too much of this among many, who are Enemies of the Cross of Christ, and mind earthly things.

And yet I dare not say, but there are many faithful and precious to him in Scotland, both of Ministers, and Professors, whom I trust God will keep stedfast, and who will Labour to be found faithful to their Lord and Master, and whom I hope he will make a brazen wall and Iron Pillars, and as a strong defenced City, in the following of their duties in these sad evil times, but it were to be wished, That there were not too many to strengthen the hands of the evil-doers, and make themselves Transgressors, by endeavouring to buidl again that which formerly they did estroy, but let such take heed of the flying Roll, Zach. 5. And let all the Lords Servants and Ministers take heed that they watch, and be stedfast in the faith, and quit themselves like men, and be strong, and set the Trumpet to the mouth, and give Seasonable and faithful warning to all Ranks Concerning sins, and duties, especially against the sins of this sinful time: it is to be Lamented and sadly Regretted by many of the Lords people, that there has been so much silence and fainting, even amongst Ministers of how great Concernment it is; now in this sad Juncture, let Ministers consider well, what it is that God calls for at their hands. To be silent now, especially when so many Cruel and Horrid things are [illegible], when they are so much called, and ought to be concerned to speak even upon the Peril of their lives, certainly a dreadful sin in the sight of God, their silence must be. I shall only desire that the Lord would open the mouths of his faithful servants, that with all boldness, they may speak out the mind of their Master, that so the work, interest, Crown and Kingdome of our Lord Jesus Christ, may not be destroyed, and that the troubles of his poor people, which are precious to him, may not without a Testimony be ruined. I shall but say a few words.

First, All you that are profane, I would seriously Exhort you that you return to the Lord by serious Repentance; if you do, iniquity shall not be your Ruine; if you do not, know that the day of the Lords Vengeance is near and hastneth on. Oh know for your comfort, there is a door of mercy yet open, if you be not despisers of the day of Salvation. And you that have been, and yet are, Reproachers and persecutors of Godliness, and of such as live Godly; take heed, Oh take heed, sad will be your day, when God arises to scatter his Enemies, if you repent not for your ungodly deeds.

Secondly, All those who are taken up with their own private interests, and if that go well they Care the less for the interests of Christ, take heed and be zealous, and repent, lest the Lord pass the Sentence I will spew you out of my mouth.

Thirdly, For the truly Godly, and such as are Lamenting after the Lord, and are mourning for all the abominations of this City, and are taking pleasure in the very Rubbish and Stones of Zion, be of good Courage, and Cast not away your Confidence, I dare not say any thing to future things, but surely the Lord has a handful that are precious to him, to whom he will be Gracious; to these is a dark night at present, how long it will last the Lord knows. Oh let not the sad disasters, that his poor people meet with, though very astonishing, Terrifie you, beware of snares that abound, Cleave fast to your Reformed Religion, do not Shift the Cross of Christ, if you be called to it, it is better to suffer than sin, account the reproaches of Christ greater Riches than all the Treasures of the World.

In the last place, let not my Death be Grievous to any of you, I hope it will be more profitable both for you and me, and for the Church and interest of God, than my life could have been. I bless the Lord, I can freely and Frankly forgive all men, even as I desire to be forgiven of God, pray for them that persecute you, bless them that Curse you. As to the cause of Christ, I bless the Lord I never had cause, to this day, to repent for any thing I have suffered, or can now suffer for his name. I thank the Lord who has shewed mercy to such a vile sinner as I am, and that ever he should advance me to so High a dignity, as to be made a Minister of his blessed and everlasting Gospel, and that ever I should have a Seal set to my Ministry, upon the hearts of some in several places and Corners of this Land: the Lord visit Scotland with more and more faithful Pasters, and send a Reviving day unto the people of God; in the mean time be patient, be stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; and live in Love and peace one with another, and the Lord be with his poor Afflicted Groaning people, that yet remain.

Now I bid farewell to all my friends, and dear Relations; Farewell my poor Wife and Children, whom I leave in the good hand of him who is better than seven Husbands, and who will be a Father to the fatherless. Farewell all Creature comforts, Welcome everlasting life, everlasting glory, Welcome everlasting love, everlasting praise; bless the Lord, O my Soul, and all that is within me.

Sic Subscrib.

John ing.

August, 14th. 1679.
Tolbooth, Circa boram Septimam.

The Speech of Mr. John Kid.

Right Worthy and well beloved Spectators and Auditors.

Considering what bodily distempers I have been exercised with since I came out of the Torture, (viz.) Scarce two hours out of my naked bed in one day, it cannot be expected, that I should be in Case to say any thing to purpose at this Juncture, especially seeing I am not as yet free of it, however I cannot but Reverence the good hand of God upon me, and desires with all my Soul to bless him for this my present Lot.

It may be there are a great many here that Judge my Lot very sad and deplorable. I must confess death it self, is very Terrible to Flesh and blood, but as it is an out-let to sin, and an in-let to righteousness, it is the Christians great and inexpressible priviledge, and give me leave to say this, that there is somthing in a Christians Condition, that can never put him without the reach of insufferableness, even shame, death, and the Cross being included.

And then if there be peace betwixt God and the Soul, nothing can damp peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, this is a most supporting ingredient in the bitterest Cup, and under the sharpest, and firiest Tryal he can be exposed unto. This is my mercy, That I have somthing of this to lay Claim unto, viz., The intimacies of pardon, and peace betwixt God and my Soul.

And as concerning that, for which I am condemned, I magnifie his grace, that I never had the least challenge for it, but on the contrary, I Judge it my Honour, that ever I was counted worthy to come upon the Stage upon such a consideration; another thing that renders the most despicable Lot of the Christian, and mine insufferable, is a felt and sensible presence from the Lord, strengthening the Soul when most put to it, and if I could have this for my Allowance this day, I could be bold to say, Oh death where is thy sting, and could not but cry out Welcome to it, and all that follows upon it: I grant the Lord from an Act of Soveraignity may come, and go as he pleases, but yet he will never forsake his people, and this is a Cordial to me in the Case I am now exposed unto.

Thirdly, The exercising and puting forth his glorious power, is able to Transport the Soul of the believer, and mine, above the reach of all Sublunary difficulties, and therefore seeing I have hope to be kept up by this power, I would not have you to look upon my Lot, or any other that is or may be in my Cafe, in the least deplorable, seeing we have ground to believe, that in more or less he will perfect his power and strength in weakness.

Fourthly, That I may come a little nearer to the purpose in hand, I declare before you all, in the sight of God, Angels and men, and in the sight of that Son and all that he has Created, that I am a most miserable sinner, in regard of my Original and Actual Transgressions. I must confess they are more in number than the Haires of my Head. They are gone up above my Head, and are past numbering, I cannot but say as Jacob said, I am less than the least of all Gods mercies, yet I must declare to the exalting of his free grace, That to me who am the least of all Saints is this grace made known, and that by a strong hand, and I dare not but say he has loved me, and washed me in his own blood from all iniquities, and well is it for me this day, That ever I heard or read that faithful saying, that Jesus Christ, came into the World to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

Fifthly, I must also declare in his sight, I am the most unworthiest that ever opened his mouth to preach the unsearchable Riches of Christ in the Gospel. yea the sense of this made me altogether unwilling to fall about so great a work, until by the importunity of some whose names are precious and savoury to me and many others, I was prevailed with to fall about it, and yet I am hopeful not altogether without some fruit, and if I durst say it without vanity, I never found so much of the presence of God upon my Spirit, as I have found in exercises of that nature, though I must still confess attended with inexpressible weakness, and this is the main thing for which I must lay down my Tabernacle this day, viz. That I did preach Christ and the Gospel in several places of this Nation; for which I bless him (as I can), That ever such a poor obscure person as I am, have been thus priviledged by him, for making mention of his grace as I was able.

Sixthly, Give me leave to add this word farther, that though there be great appearances, for spreading and preaching this Glorious Gospel, yet I fear there is a snare at the bottom, and poyson in that dish which may gender, and be productive, of not only greater Scarcity of Honest preaching and preachers, but a Real Famine of the Word, this I say is my fear, and I hope God will keep his servants and people from fomenting any thing to the detriment of the Gospel.

Seventhly, I am also afraid that the Lord is tending to multiply his stroaks upon the Land, we have walked seven times contrary to him, and therefore we may lay our account (unless Repentance prevent it) that he will walk seven times contrary to us, there is more and more grounds to fear that a Sword is Brandished in Heaven, a Glittering Sword, sharpned and forbished against the Guilty and Harlot Scotland.

Eightly, As for the Fifth Cause in my indictment, upon which my sentence of death is founded, (viz.) Presonal preference, Twice or thrice, with that party whom they call the Rebels; for my own part I never Judged them such: I Acknowledge and do believe there were many there that came in the simplicity of their hearts, like those that followed Absolom long ago, and I am as sure on the other hand there were a great party there that had nothing before them but the repairing of the Fallen work, and the restoring of the breach, which is wide as the Sea, and I am apt to think that such of these who were most branded with mistake, will be found to be most single: but for Rebellion against his Majesties person or Lawful Authority, the Lord knows my Soul Abhorreth the name and thing; Loyal I have been, and I wish every Christian to be so, and I was ever of this Judgment, To give to Caesar the things that are caesars, and to God the things that are Gods.

Ninthly, Since I came to prison, I have been much branded with many that I must call Aspersons whereof Jesuitisme is one, I am hopeful there was never one that did converse with me that had the least ground for laying this to my Charge, I know not how it comes to pass it is laid upon me now, except implacable prejudice that some have been prepossest with against me. I am not Ignorant that near two years ago, a person of some note in this Church while Living, was pleased to say, I was dyed in that Judgment: after he was better informed, he Changed his Note, and said it was misinformation: but now the Lord, before whom I must stand, and be Judged by and by, knows I have a perfect Abhorrence of that thing. And that it was never my Temptation directly nor indirectly. Though I must confess, some few years ago, some were very pressing upon me that I would conform, and imbrace Prelacy? But for Popery, and that Truth, it never came nearer my heart than the Popes Conclave, and the Alcoran, which my Soul Abhors.

Tenthly, I Have also been branded with factiousness, divisive, and seditious preaching, and practices. I must confess if it be so, it was more than ever I was aware of: according to the measure that God has given me, it was my endeavor to commend Christ to the hearts and Souls of the people, even repentance towards God and Faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the word of God, confession of faith, and Catechismes Larger and Shorter, yea I did press them, when God did cast it in my way to remember their former Obligations in Doctrine, worship, Discipline and Government, and that they would make it their work to stand to it, in substance and Circumstance, seeing it is so Cryed down in this day, and if this be divisive preaching, I cannot deny it.

Eleventhly, I am prest in Conscience to bear my Testimony to and Abhorrence of every Invasion, Usurpation, and incroachment that is made or has been made against Christs Royal prerogative, Crown, and Kingdome, Originate upon and derivate from that which they call the Supremacy. I was never free to say a Confederacy with those that I judge have in a great part said a Confederacy with that thing, and the Lord is my record, I was never free in my Conscience for that that is called indulgence, neither first nor second, as it was rendered by the Counsel, and as it was imbraced by a great many Godly men in this Land, yea it was never Laudable nor expedient to me, and in effect this is one of the main grounds, why I am rendred so Obnoxious to so many imputations, that I have been all along contrary to that indulgence in my Judgment. I confess I have been so, and I die in my Judgment contrary to it, and this I crave Leave to say without any Offence given to the many Godly and Learned, that are of another Judgment.

Twelfthly, I Judge it fit likewise in this Cafe to leave my Testimony against that Stent, Taxation and Cess, that has been so injustly imposed, so frivolently founded, and vigorously carried on by the Abettors of that contention, and meerly upon no other account imaginable, but to make a Final Extirpation of Christ, and his Gospel Ordinances out of the Land, and how Lamentable it is to consider how many professors did willingly pay it, and were most forward for inciting others to do the same.

In the next place, though to many I die desired, yet I know to not a few my death is not desired, and it is the rejoycing of my heart, that I die in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has loved me, and given himself for me, and in the faith of the Prophets and Apostles, and in this faith that there’s not a name under heaven by which men can be saved, but the name of Jesus, and in the Faith of the Doctrine and Worship of the Kirke of Scotland, as it is now established according to the word of God, Confession of faith, Catechisms Larger and shorter, and likewise I joyn my Testimony against Popery, Perjury, Profanity, Heresie, and every thing contrary to sound Doctrine.

In the Close, as a dying person, and as one who has obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful, I would Humbly leave it upon godly Ministers to be faithful for their Lord and Master, and not to hold their peace in such a day, when so many ways are taken for injuring of him, his name, way, Sanctuary, Ordinances, Crown and Kingdome, I hope there will be found a party in this Land, that will continue for him, and his Matters, in all Hazzards, and as faithfulness is called for in Ministers, so professors would concern themselves that they Countenance not, nor abet any thing inconsistent with former Principles and practices. Let the Land consider how Neuteral and indifferent we are grown in the matters of God, even like Ephraim long ago, a Cake not turned.

Next how far we are fallen from our first love, how far we are degenerated from the noble Vine into which the Lord did once plant us; Lamentable it is how far we are gone in the way of Egypt, drinking the Waters of Sichar, &c. [i.e., drunkenness -ed.]

Again, What a woeful Spirit of bitterness is predominate in this Land, in this our Age, Ephraim vexing Judah, and Judah Ephraim, Manasseth Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasseth, the growing dogedness of this temper almost amongst us all, portends terrible things from the Lord against Scotland.

Fourthly, Reformation neither designed nor practiced, what means all this deformity that is come to pass in these days, instead of the contrary? how many of us are pulling down that which we have been building up; how many of us calling good evil, and evil good, dis-owning and dis-favouring that which sometime we judged our honour to testifie for and to avouch.

Fifthly, A Publick Spirit in contending for God in his matters, in substance and circumstance, according to our Vows and Obligations, is much wanting amonst us at this day.

Farther I am prest in Conscience to make honourable mention of all those glorious things that God has done in Scot. since the year 1638. the abundant measure of his spirit that has been power’d out upon his people.

Here he spoke much concerning the Solemn League and Convenant; and afterwards proceeded as followeth.

And moreover I bear my Testimonies against all other Confusions, Imprisonment and Blood, that is or may be intended against those of the Land that desire to keep their Garments clean, whether in Prison or out of Prison.

6thly, As concerning that which is the ground of my death, viz. Preaching here and there in some Corners, I bless my God I have not the least challenge for it, and though those that Condemned me are pleased to call such Preachings Rendezvouses of Rebellion, yet I must say this of them, they were so far from being reputed such in my Eyes, that if ever Christ had a People or party wherein his Soul took pleasure, I am bold to say these Meetings were a great part of them; the shineing and Glory of God was eminently seen amonst these Meetings, the convincing Power and Authority of our Lord went out with his Servants in those blasphemously nick-named Conventicles; this I say without reflection upon any. I have a word to say farther, that God is calling persons to Repentance, and to do their first work; Oh that Scotland were a mourning Land, and that Reformation were our practice, according as we are sworn in the Covenant.

Again, that Christians of Grace and Experience would study more streightness and stability in this day, when so many are turning to the right hand, and many to the left; he that endureth to the end shall be saved; he has appointed the Kingdom for such as continue with him in his Temptations.

Next, if ever you expect to have the Form of the House shewed you in all the Laws thereof, goings on thereof, and comings in thereof, then think it no shame to take shame to you for all that has been done, sitting down on this side Jordan is like to be our bane. Oh when shall we get up and run after him till he bring us into the promised Land, let us up and after him with all our heart, and never rest till he return.

I recommend my Wife and young one to the care and faithfulness of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God that has fed me to this day, and who is the God of my Salvation, their God and my God, their Father and my Father, I am also hopeful, that Christians, Friends, and Relations, will not be unmindful of them when I am gone.

Lastly, I do further bear my Testimony to the Cross of Christ, and bless him that ever he counted me worthy to appear for him in such a lot as this: Glory to him that ever I heard tell of him, and that ever he fell upon such a method of dealing with me as this, and therefore let none that loves Christ and his Righteous Cause be offended in me.

And as I have lived in the faith of this, that the three Kingdoms are married Lands, so I dye in the faith of it, that there will be a resurrection of his Name, Word, Cause, and of all his Interest therein, though I dare not determine the time when, nor the manner how, but leave all these things to the infinitely wise God, who has done, and will do all things well. Oh that he would return to this Land again, to repair our breaches, and take away our back sliding, and appear for his work: Oh that he were pacified towards us; Oh that he would pass by Scotland once again, and make our time a time of Love, Come Lord Jesus, come quickly. Himself hasten it in his own time and way. The Lord is my light and life, my joy, my song, and my salvation; the God of his chosen be my Mercy this day, and the inriching comforts of the holy Ghost keep up and carry me fair through, to the Glory of his Grace, to the edification of his people, and my own eternal advantage. Amen.

Sic Subferib.

John Kid.

August, 14th. 1679.
Tolbooth, Ante horam Septimam.

FINIS.

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1575: Charles du Puy-Montbrun, unequal

Add comment August 13th, 2015 Headsman

The intrepid Huguenot commander Charles du Puy-Montbrun was beheaded on this date in 1575.

We turn for this account to a 19th century history in the public domain by Henry Martyn Baird:


Whatever military advantages the Huguenots obtained in various parts of the realm were more than outweighed by the death of “the brave Montbrun.”

This daring and energetic leader, the terror of the enemy in Dauphiny, had just defeated a large body of Swiss auxiliaries, upon whom he inflicted a loss of eight or nine hundred men and eighteen ensigns, while that of the Huguenots scarcely amounted to half a dozen men.

But his brilliant success in this and other engagements had made Montbrun and his soldiers more incautious than usual.

They attacked a strong detachment of men-at-arms, and mistaking the confusion into which they threw the advance guard for a rout of the entire body, dispersed to gather the booty and offered a tempting opportunity to the Roman Catholics as they came up.

Montbrun, who, too late, discovered the danger of his troops, and endeavored to rally them, was at one time enveloped by the enemy, but would have made good his escape had there not been a broad ditch in his way. Here his horse missed its footing, and in the fall the leader’s thigh was broken.

In this pitiable plight he surrendered his sword to a Roman Catholic captain, from whom he received the assurance that his life would be spared.

The king and his mother had other views.

Henry, on receiving the grateful news of Montbrun’s capture, promptly gave orders that the prisoner be taken to Grenoble and tried by the Parliament of Dauphiny on a charge of treason.

Vain were the efforts of the Huguenots, equally vain the intercession of the Duke of Guise, who wished to have Montbrun exchanged for Besme, Coligny‘s murderer, recently fallen into Huguenot hands.

Henry and Catharine de’ Medici were determined that Montbrun should die. They urged the reluctant judges by reiterated commands; they overruled the objection that to put the prisoner to death would be to violate good faith and the laws of honorable warfare.

Catharine had not forgotten the honest Frenchman’s allusion to her “perfidious and degenerate” countrymen.

As for Henry, an insult received at Montbrun’s hands rankled in his breast and made forgiveness impossible. Some months before, the king had sent a message to him in a somewhat haughty tone, demanding the restoration of the royal baggage and certain prisoners taken by the Huguenots.

“What is this!” exclaimed the general. “The king writes to me as a king, and as if I were bound to obey him! I want him to know that that would be very well in time of peace; I should then recognize his royal claim. But in time of war, when men are armed and in the saddle, all men are equal.”

On hearing this, we are told, Henry swore that Montbrun should repent his insolence.

In his glee over the Huguenot’s mishap he recalled the prophecy and broke out with the exclamation, “Montbrun will now see whether he is my equal.”

Under these circumstances there was little chance for a Huguenot, were he never so innocent, to be acquitted by a servile parliament.

Accordingly Montbrun was condemned to be beheaded as a rebel against the king and a disturber of the public peace. The execution was hastened last natural death from the injury received should balk the malice of his relentless enemies.

A contemporary, who may even have been an eye-witness, describes the closing scene in words eloquent from their unaffected simplicity.

He was dragged, half dead, from the prison, and was carried in a chair to the place of execution, exhibiting in his affliction an assured countenance; while the Parliament of Grenoble trembled and the entire city lamented. He had been enjoined not to say a word to the people, unless he wished to have his tongue cut off.

Nevertheless he complained, in the presence of the whole parliament, of the wrong done to him, proving at great length his innocence and contemning the fury of his enemies who were attacking a man as good as dead. He showed that it was without cause that he was charged with being a rebel, since never had he had any design but to guarantee peaceable Frenchmen from the violence of strangers who abused the name and authority of the king.

His death was constant and Christian. He was a gentleman held in high esteem, inasmuch as he was neither avaricious nor rapacious, but on the contrary devoted to religion, bold, moderate, upright; yet he was too indulgent to his soldiers, whose license and excesses gained him much ill-will and many enemies in Dauphiny. His death so irritated these soldiers that they ravaged after a strange fashion the environs of Grenoble.

The death of so prominent and energetic a Huguenot captain was likely to embolden the Roman Catholic party, not only in Dauphiny but in the rest of the kingdom. In reality, it only transferred the supreme direction in warlike affairs to still more competent hands.

The young lieutenant of Montbrun, who shortly succeeded him in command, was Francois de Bonne, better known from his territorial designation as Sieur des Lesdiguieres, a future marshal of Henry the Fourth.

Although the resplendent military abilities of Lesdiguieres had not yet had an opportunity for display, it was not long before the Roman Catholics discovered that they gained nothing by the exchange.

Lesdiguieres was as brave as his master in arms, and he was his master’s superior in the skill and caution with which he sketched and executed his military plans. The discipline of the Huguenot army at once exhibited marked improvement.

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1895: Minnie Dean, the only woman hanged in New Zealand

Add comment August 12th, 2015 Headsman

On August 12, 1895, Willamina “Minnie” Dean became the only woman executed in New Zealand’s history.

An immigrant from Scotland, Dean married an innkeeper making bank in a gold rush boom town. If only the mines had not played out!

After they did, the Deans fell on hard times; Charles kept pigs instead of inns, and Minnie kept unwanted children. This “baby farming” industry carved out a curious niche in the Victorian heart of darkness — the domestic heart of darkness, not the colonial one.

Between the dearth of contraception and the stigma attached to unwed mothers, there was a ready market of unwilling parents hoping someone would whisk their little angels away. The “Winton baby-farmer” did just that — for a fee.

The question, then as now, is whether the many infants who died in Dean’s care perished because of calculated homicide, or because of the staggeringly high infant mortality rate of the era. Since baby farmers took one-time fees to take in children whom they would thereafter have to maintain, their incentives were to turn over the stock as quickly as possible — either by placing the child with an adoptive parent or … well …


This report (from the Aug. 14, 1895 Daily Telegraph) alludes to a fictitious lady-in-waiting of legend, whose shadowy inspiration in fact was a real-life Scottish expatriate beheaded for infanticide by Peter the Great.

Police surveilled and investigated Minnie Dean’s operation off and on for more than five years before her June 1895 capital trial: inquests after children’s deaths in 1889 and 1891 attributed them to natural causes but also noted deplorable sanitary conditions. Police found that she had attempted to take out life insurance policies on at least some of the kids.

Fearful of the attention (but still needing the income), Dean became more furtive, and this only made her look the more guilty. As greatly as the circumstances have changed, Dean’s case and others like it mirror the difficulty present-day judiciaries still have in drawing a bright line around childhood fatalities that can be convincingly attributed to abuse.

In the end it wasn’t the coroner who undid Dean, but an eagle-eyed railway attendant who noted the woman boarding a train with a baby and a hatbox … and later leaving the train with a hatbox but no baby. Now the investigation closed in on the Winton baby-farmer quickly: when Dean could not produce the infant granddaughter a woman claimed to have given up to her, police put a spade to her garden and turned up three corpses in the topsoil. The three-year-old boy had an undetermined cause of death, but the two infant girls had perished from suffocation and a laudanum overdose. One of them was the missing infant granddaughter. Murder charges ensued.

Her attorney was Alfred Charles Hanlon, who would go on to a brilliant career at the bar but was here defending his very first homicide — and was unable to interest the jury in an alternative configuration of the incriminating circumstances, namely that Dean had covered up accidental deaths fearing just that they would be taken for murders. (A 1985 TV series about this attorney, Hanlon, explored the case in its first episode, which can be seen online here.) Still less did that angle interest gawkers crowding the courtroom and the hustlers who sold them hatboxes carrying grotesque baby dolls.

Dean maintained her innocence on the scaffold (at least “as far as intention and forethought was concerned”)

As an appropriate postscript, a boy trying to eyeball the macabre proceedings from the roof of a building overlooking the gaol fell off of it, fracturing his skull.

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1849: Konrad Heilig and Gustav Tiedemann, Baden revolutionaries

Add comment August 11th, 2015 Headsman

Konrad Heilig and Gustav Tiedemann, two officers who joined the Baden Revolution(s) of 1848-1849, were shot on this date in 1849.

In southwest Germany’s edition of the revolutionary wave that swept Europe in 1848, Baden’s radical democrats attempted to topple the Grand Duchy of Baden in hopes of uniting with a (still aspirational) greater Germany.

Two separate risings were easily defeated in 1848.


German Confederation troops
storm Republicans in Freiburg in April 1848.

Baden revolutionaries’ last gasp came in May-June 1849; its progress in detail is explored in a public domain volume, An Account of the Final Struggle, in Baden, for the Maintenance of Germany’s First National Representative Government.

Remnants of the left in Baden, exiles from the last go-rounds, and sympathetic soldiers who mutinied at the fortress of Karlsruhe and Ratstatt declared yet another abortive republic. Although the disturbance briefly forced Grand Duke Leopold to flee, other German states allied with Leopold’s exiled government to crush the rebellion. Revolutionary Baden had no chance in a test of arms against Prussia, which defeated the rebellion at Waghausel, then reduced the holdout fortress of Ratstatt. In all, 19 were shot there as rebels between August and October of 1849.

Rastatt saw the most blood flow in the execution of the law as enforced by the invaders. Here leader after leader was laid low, and his body thrown, without coffin or funeral service, into a big ditch prepared in the northern end of the cemetery. One day it was Major Konrad Heilig, the commander of the Rastatt artillery, who as a non-commissioned officer had been the pride of his men, as well as the tallest man in the army. He walked calmly to the place of execution smoking a cigar, and only when force was threatened allowed himself to be blindfolded …

Colonel Tiedemann … had been originally a lieutenant in the Baden army, [and] was the son of a well-known professor in the Heidelberg Uiversity, had gone to Greece and fought in the army of the country, and had a Greek wife and a young son in that far-away land …

In the year 1873, friends and companions-in-arms of the dead asked permission to erect a gravestone common to all those interred there; the Baden government offered no objection but Prussia stepped in with its veto, and the burial-place is still unmarked, although visited yearly by pilgrims from all parts of the world.

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