1674: Guru Tegh Bahadur

Add comment November 11th, 2014 Headsman

The early religion of Sikhism was led by a succession of 10 Gurus.*

The Mughals executed the ninth of those Gurus on this date in 1674.

Guru Tegh Bahadur (the name means “Hero of the Sword” and was earned in youthful battles against those same Mughals) was acclaimed above 20-odd other aspirants after the previous Guru died saying only that the next guy was in the village of Bakala.

Guru from 1664, he’s noted for founding the holy city of Anandpur Sahib in Punjab. And it was his lot to lead a minority faith during the reign of the Aurangzeb, an emperor notorious to posterity for religious dogmatism.

He’s known best as a persecutor of Hindus: knocking over temples to throw up mosques, forcing conversions, and implementing sharia. But Aurangzeb knew how to get after all kinds.

Considering the going sectarian tension between Hindu and Muslim in the environs, there’s a good deal of touchy historical debate over just how to characterize Aurangzeb’s policies. This site is entirely unqualified to contribute to that conversation but suffice to say it was not an ideal moment to adhere to an alternate faith.

The circumstances of Guru Tegh Bahadur’s capture, and his subsequent execution in Delhi, are similarly obscured by hagiography. Aurangzeb, who spent his reign at virtually continual war, must surely have seen in the Guru’s capital city — which also welcomed Hindu refugees fleeing the Mughals’ abrogation of their rites — a nest of rebellion. Putting its leader to death when he too refused conversion would have been right in character; no less understandable is the Guru’s remembrance as a martyr to religious liberty, and not only the liberty of Sikhs but Hindus, Buddhists, and any other comers.

Tegh Bahadur’s nine-year-old son Gobind Singh succeeded as the tenth and last Guru. It was he who laid down the “Five Ks” — five articles that a faithful Sikh should wear at all times. Thanks to the parlous state of security vis-a-vis the Mughals, one of those items is the Kirpan, a dagger or small sword that continues to vex airline security agents down to the present day.

* Ten human Gurus: the tenth passed succession to the perpetual “Guru Panth” (the entire community of Sikhs) and “Guru Granth Sahib” (a sacred text).

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 17th Century,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,God,History,India,Martyrs,Mughal Empire,Power,Religious Figures

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1674: Benjamin Gourd, the last bestiality execution

Add comment April 2nd, 2012 Headsman

On this date in 1674, Benjamin Gourd (or Goad) was hanged for bestiality in Puritan Massachusetts.

Six New England colonists (pdf) had died for bestiality up through 1662, but the sentence was falling out of fashion.

Gourd, caught having his way with a mare “at noon day in an open yard” and within sight of the gallows, has the distinction of being the last colonist of the future United States put to death for fauna-philia. And even the jury that sentenced him was noticeably reluctant about dooming the 17-year-old.

Well, preacher Samuel Danforth wasn’t going to have any of this ungodly backsliding on Gourd’s ungodly backsliding.

Danforth’s The Cry of Sodom Enquired Into; Upon Occasion of the Arraignment and Condemnation of Benjamin Goad, for His Prodigious Villany (that’s a pdf of the full spiel; here’s a Cliff Notes version) is regarded as the first published “execution sermon” in American history.

the Earth groans under the burthen of such Wickedness. You pity his Youth and tender years, but I pray pity the holy Law of God, which is shamefully violated; pity the glorious Name of God, which is horribly profaned; pity the Land, which is fearfully polluted and defiled.

We think Corey Robin will recognize Danforth’s indictment of the youth’s “licentious liberty” obtained in defiance of an unnamed Master as the root of all his ruin, and any American with an AM radio dial will recognize the rest.

Being at length, by the good hand of God, brought under the Yoke of Government and Service, (which might have bridled and restrained him from such wickedness) he violently brake away from his Master, and with an high hand boldly and impudently, like a childe of Belial, shook off that Yoke of God, casting reproach and disgrace upon his Master. Having now obtained a licentious liberty, he grew so impudent in his wickedness, as to commit this horrid Villany in the sight of the Sun, and in the open field, even at Noon-day; proclaiming his sin like Sodom. Though he be a Youth in respect of years, yet he is grown old in wickedness, and ripe for Vengeance.

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Entry Filed under: 17th Century,Capital Punishment,Children,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Massachusetts,Milestones,Public Executions,Sex,USA

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1674: The Chevalier de Rohan and Franciscus van den Enden

Add comment November 27th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 1674, the former Grand Huntsman of France was beheaded in Paris for conspiring to betray Normandy during the Franco-Dutch War.

Your basic debt-mired noble and court cad, the Chevalier de Rohan (French Wikipedia link) through an accomplice “intimated that Normandy was very much dispos’d to a revolt, & that if hee would send a fleet with 6 thousand men, & armes for twenty thousand, with necessaries for sieges & two million of livres, that there was a greate man who would engage himself upon the assurance of thirty thousand crownes pension …”

The correspondence was discovered and Rohan arrested, but his role in the plot was sufficiently anonymized that even an absolutist state didn’t have the goods to convict him. Meanwhile, Rohan’s accomplice was hunted to ground and killed in Rouen during the attempt to arrest him.

This left the authorities in the position, common to every cop show and not a few real-life cases, of requiring a confession from the accused to proceed at all. Rohan’s friends realized this too, and tried desperately to warn him against self-incrimination.

Persons attached to the chevalier de Rohan went every evening round the Bastile, crying through a speaking trumpet, “La Tuanderie is dead, and has said nothing;” but the chevalier did not hear them. The commissioners, not being able to get any thing from him, told him, “that the king knew all, that they had proofs, but only wished for his own confession, and that they were authorized to promise him pardon if he would declare the truth.” The chevalier, too credulous, confessed the whole. Then the perfidious commissioners changed their language. They said, “that with respect to the pardon, they could not answer for it: but that they had hopes of obtaining it, and would go and solicit it.” This they troubled themselves very little about; and condemned the criminal to lose his head. He was conducted on a platform to the scaffold, by means of a gallery raised to the height of the window of the armoury in the arsenal, which looks towards the little square at the end of the Rue des Tournelles. He was beheaded on November 27, 1674.

It is hoped that, should the reader ever become a person of police interest, s/he will recall from Rohan’s example that inspectors do not have suspects’ best interests in mind.

A couple of other nobles also lost their heads along with our chevalier.

Hanged for his trouble was Franciscus van den Enden (English Wikipedia page | Dutch), the elderly Dutchman — and accused Dutch agent — who recruited these toffs for the purpose of seizing Le Havre.

Van den Enden is an interesting, perhaps underappreciated, radical intellectual of secular-democratic persuasion (he attracted the suspicion of atheism, and his Vrye Politijke Stellingen made an unabashed case for democratic government). He’s best known for being a schoolmaster of philosopher Baruch Spinoza; W.N.A. Klever, in an October 1991 paper in the Journal of the History of Philosophy (“A New Source of Spinozism: Franciscus Van den Enden”) traces the connections between the philosophy of the master and that of the pupil and rather dramatically argues that

Van den Enden must be considered as a kind of “Proto-Spinoza.” … He was the hidden agent behind Spinoza’s genius … [t]he origin of Spinoza’s anomalous philosophy.

A variety of (untranslated) references to the “Proto-Spinoza” from 17th century correspondence are available here.

Those inclined more towards geopolitics than philosophy might enjoy Victor Magagna’s podcast lecture on the great-power calculus driving France’s conflict with the Netherlands — which, as we have noticed in these pages, claimed the life of the longtime Dutch leader Johan de Witt.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 17th Century,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,France,Freethinkers,Hanged,History,Intellectuals,Nobility,Power,Public Executions,Spies,Treason

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