1839: Domingo Cullen, Santa Fe governor

Add comment June 21st, 2019 Headsman

Domingo Cullen, the governor of the Argentine province of Santa Fe, was extrajudicially executed on this date in 1839.

Cullen (English Wikipedia entry | Spanish) succumbed to Argentina’s lethal rolling civil conflict between political Unitarians (strong central state) and Federales (distributed federal power).

The reader will be unsurprised to find a provincial governor to be an exponent of federalism, and this put him at loggerheads with the ferocious Buenos Aires dictator General Juan Manuel de Rosas.

He logged a more specific head about a year before his death by attempting to negotiate a province-level arrangement with the French fleet blockading Argentina,* for which extravagance of federalism Rosas forced him to vacate his office and conceal himself in internal exile. Eventually Cullen was betrayed, and his arrestors putatively escorting him to the capital for trial rudely informed him once they reached the soil of Buenos Aires province that they were in fact licensed to shoot him out of hand.

Cullen’s son, Patricio, served as Santa Fe governor from 1862 to 1865, and also met a violent death.

* In response to a law that permitted the Argentine armed forces to conscript foreign nationals, including Frenchmen.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Argentina,Borderline "Executions",Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,No Formal Charge,Politicians,Power,Shot,Summary Executions

Tags: , , , , ,

1839: Amos Perley and Joshua Doane, for the Upper Canada Rebellion

Add comment February 6th, 2012 Headsman

On this date in 1839, Amos Perley and Joshua Doan(e) were hanged in London, Ontario for a feeble armed invasion from Detroit.

The Battle of Windsor was pretty much the last gasp of Canada’s Rebellions of 1837 — touching Lower Canada (Quebec) as well as Upper (Ontario).

The effort saw stateside refugees of the Upper Canada Rebellion, also known as the Patriot War, organize an attempt to overthrow British-Canadian authority between Windsor and Niagara. But a brief incursion (a few houses were captured) failed to trigger a general response in a populace that was all risings’ed out, while United States authorities stayed well clear of these troublemakers. Officials had little difficulty mopping them up.

Six different people (named here) were executed at intervals in London, Ontario, beginning on January 7, 1839 — and ending with the two this date.

Amos Perley was a New Brunswick native who had been an American resident (citizenship status is unclear) for some time, but fell in with the Patriots.

Joshua Doane was a Quaker — a sect ordinarily leery of armed conflict and liable to be considered disloyal as a result — who abandoned the whole pacifism thing in favor of the Patriot cause. He’d had to beat it over the border when the last round of Upper Canada disturbances had been put down the previous winter: he wouldn’t get another chance after the 1838 invasion fizzled.

Doane’s touching last letter to his soon-to-be-widow survives.

London, January 27th, 1839

Dear Wife,

I am at this moment confined in the cell from which I am to go to the scaffold. I received my sentence today, and am to be executed on February 6th. I am permitted to see you tomorrow, any time after 10 o’clock in the morning, as may suit you best. I wish you to think of such questions as you wish to ask me, as I do not know how long you will be permitted to stay. Think as little of my unhappy fate as you can; as from the love you bear me, I know too well how it must affect you. I wish you to inform my father and brother of my sentence as soon as possible. I must say good-bye for the night, and may God protect you and my dear child, and give you fortitude to meet that coming event with the Christian grace and fortitude which is the gift of Him, our Lord, who created us. That this may be the case, is the prayer of your affectionate husband,

JOSHUA G. DOANE.

At this point, “people [in London] were so fed up” with the intermittent public hangings they’d been subjected to that the remaining condemned had their sentences commuted instead to penal transportation, and got shipped to Australia instead.

The disruptions did, however, help to contribute to the 1840 political unification of Upper and Lower Canada.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Canada,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Milestones,Revolutionaries,Soldiers,Treason

Tags: , , , , ,

1839: William John Marchant

1 comment July 8th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1839, a spooked 18-year-old servant was hanged at Newgate Prison for murdering fellow-servant Elizabeth Paynton.

A good Chelsea lad with no rap sheet, Marchant slashed Paynton’s throat with a razor when they were left alone, fled, but was so pursued by guilt that he gave himself up and pleaded guilty. Awaiting death, he lamely told his distraught parents

the upper house-maid and the cook went out, leaving [Marchant] with the deceased in the house by themselves. The cook, as she was leaving the house, dared him to get possession of a riband or pair of garters which the deceased had displayed before the servants in the kitchen in jest, and threatened to inflict some ludicrous punishment upon him if he did not … [Marchant] improperly endeavoured to obtain possession of the garters, but she resisted him, and at length slapped his face, called him some ill names, and said she would get him out of his situation for his rudeness. He then ran to fetch a razor to cut the garters and get them into his own possession, and he then had not the least intention of killing her or perpetrating any other offense … but when he did return with the razor in his hand he was seized, as he says, with a sudden and unaccountable impulse, which he could not define, and in a paroxysm of insanity in a moment, and without premeditation, he cut her throat.

(In a later telling, he dropped the garter cover story and copped to a more distinctly identifiable attempted rape, with the murder precipitated by its object’s threat to have him sacked.)

As the London Times remarked on the hanging,

It is difficult, perhaps, to hold him out as an example to other erring youth; for, as he neither appears to have been a drunkard, nor given up to licentious courses, his crime is of so extraordinary a character, that it is hardly possible any other, by following the same course, should terminate his career by the same shameful death … there [may] be no occasion to read a lesson to those who in ordinary cases might be seduced to commit a similar offence.

The dearth of instructional opportunity (and the fact that “the crowd was not great”) did not obstruct London’s enterprising gallows-foot entrepreneurs from cranking out multiple broadsides,* complete with cookie-cutter didactic poem. This sort of thing was standard fare for the day’s forgettable petty villains, not merely its crimes of the decade.

All ye who pity my sad fate,
With sorrow most sincere,
Unto the truth which I will state,
I pray you lend an ear.
Condemned in scorn and shame to die
My doom is most severe,
‘Tis but a few short days since I
Just reached my eighteenth year.

My face is all beset with woe,
My cheeks are worn with care,
My eyes are parch’d and sunk with Grief,
That once so sparkling were.
Strange horrors chill my every vein,
A voice most wild and true,
Whispers to this distracted brain,
Thy hand Elizabeth slew.

At this my very heart doth bleed
With grief, remorse, and guilt
To think upopn the ruthless deed,
The blood which I have spilt;
For never since that hour have I
One moment’s comfort knew,
And poor Elizabeth’s murdered corpse
Is ever to my view.

Behold my days are like a flower,
That blooms at break of day,
Cut down and withered in an hour,
And vanished away.
Lament, lament, to see me die
All ye who do me view,
A poor, heartbroken, wretched lad,
Must bid this world adieu.

Vain, are my lamentations, vain
These unavailing sighs,
Girm [sic] death is hastening apace,
I must prepare to die.
Heaven grant none may hereafter be
Like luckless me undone,
But always strive with humble mind,
The tempters snare to shun.

* From Harvard University’s collection.

Update: The Times Archive Blog flags another interesting bit of this story: the newspaper’s hectoring the doomed footman’s chaplain for excessive “enthusiasm.”

Part of the Themed Set: The Ballad.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,Murder,Public Executions,Rape,Sex

Tags: , , , , , , ,

1839: An opium merchant

7 comments February 26th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1839, the Chinese government provocatively beheaded an opium merchant before the European consulates in Canton.

Opium exports from India into China were a lucrative trade for the British Empire* — for those watching the macroeconomic books, it balanced Britain’s costly importation of Chinese tea — but the consequences for China were wealth hemorrhaging overseas and a growing population of addicts.

Qing decrees against the opium trade dated to decades earlier, but the English had simply smuggled the stuff in. Finally, in the late 1830’s, China began to move to enforce its prohibition.

The trading port of Canton — the English name for Guangzhou — under the administration of upright Confucian governor Lin Zexu (alternately transliterated Lin Tse-hsu) would become the tinder box for open war, by which Britain ultimately compelled China by force of arms to accept its unwanted product.

This day’s execution was one small escalation in that conflict.


Lin Zexu supervises the destruction of opium.

Late in 1838, Chinese police initiated drug busts and expelled at least one opium-trading British merchant. The beheading this date was of a Chinese dealer, but unmistakably directed at westerners given its placement before the foreign missions. The consular officials pulled down their flags in protest of the affront.**

But greater provocations were to follow anon, and by year’s end open hostilities were afoot.

The humiliating British victory that ensued forced China to accept Her Majesty’s drug-running … and helped seed domestic agitation that would ultimately undermine China’s decrepit Imperial rule.

* The United States also trafficked opium — primarily lower-quality opium imported from Smyrna, Turkey — into China during this time, on a much smaller scale than Britain. (Source)

** This period would also mark Canton/Guangzhou’s eclipse as a trading port. Britain seized Hong Kong during the Opium Wars and relocated its foreign offices. Most European powers followed suit, making that city the far eastern entrepôt of choice.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,20th Century,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,China,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Drugs,Execution,Hanged,History,Known But To God,Murder,Occupation and Colonialism,Power,Public Executions,Treason

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1839: Sebastien-Benoit Peytel, notwithstanding Balzac

1 comment October 28th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1839, Honore de Balzac’s crusade to save a condemned man got the chop.

Sebastien-Benoit Peytel was a notary and minor journalist death-sentenced that August for murdering his wife and their servant, one of those countless local outrages whose passing notice flies before the years.

Driven by sentimentality or opportunism or literary conceit — but with a genuine sense of aggrieved justice — the French writer Balzac, who had met Peytel, took up his pen on the condemned man’s behalf.

I am extremely agitated by a horrible case, the case of Peytel. I have seen this poor fellow three times. He is condemned; I start in two hours for Bourg.

Blowing through 10,000 francs of his own money on travel and investigation, Balzac could never make the case to the public as compellingly as it evidently appeared to him.

The English writer William Thackeray was then abroad in Paris, and if we are to credit his more measured defense of Peytel,* Balzac was counterproductive to his cause.

Perhaps Monsieur de Balzac helped to smother what little sparks of interest might still have remained for the murderous notary. Balzac put forward a letter in his favor, so very long, so very dull, so very pompous, promising so much, and performing so little, that the Parisian public gave up Peytel and his case altogether.

Thackeray’s own (yawn) account won’t bring the rhetoricians out of their seats. Conniving Frenchmen: fresh take.

I am not going to entertain you with any sentimental lamentations for this scoundrel’s fate, or to declare my belief in his innocence, as Monsieur de Balzac has done. As far as moral conviction can go, the man’s guilt is pretty clearly brought home to him. But … [i] t is a serious privilege, God knows, that society takes upon itself, at any time, to deprive one of God’s creatures of existence. But when the slightest doubt remains, what a tremendous risk does it incur! In England, thank heaven, the law is more wise and more merciful: an English jury would never have taken a man’s blood upon such testimony: an English judge and Crown advocate would never have acted as these Frenchmen have done; the latter inflaming the public mind by exaggerated appeals to their passions: the former seeking, in every way, to draw confessions from the prisoner, to perplex and confound him, to do away, by fierce cross-questioning and bitter remarks from the bench, with any effect that his testimony might have on the jury.

[Y]ou may see how easy a thing it is for a man’s life to be talked away in France, if ever he should happen to fall under the suspicion of a crime.

Eventually, he pivots from Peytel’s execution this date to state a more general argument against the death penalty, at least in its public form.

Down goes the axe; the poor wretch’s head rolls gasping into the basket; the spectators go home, pondering; and Mr. Executioner and his aides have, in half an hour, removed all traces of the august sacrifice, and of the altar on which it had been performed. Say, Mr. Briefless, do you think that any single person, meditating murder, would be deterred therefrom by beholding this — nay, a thousand more executions? It is not for moral improvement, as I take it, nor for opportunity to make appropriate remarks upon the punishment of crime, that people make a holiday of a killing-day, and leave their homes and occupations, to flock and witness the cutting off of a head. Do we crowd to see Mr. Macready in the new tragedy, or Mademoiselle Ellssler in her last new ballet and flesh-colored stockinnet pantaloons, out of a pure love of abstract poetry and beauty; or from a strong notion that we shall be excited, in different ways, by the actor and the dancer? And so, as we go to have a meal of fictitious terror at the tragedy, of something more questionable in the ballet, we go for a glut of blood to the execution. The lust is in every man’s nature, more or less. Did you ever witness a wrestling or boxing match? The first clatter of the kick on the shins, or the first drawing of blood, makes the stranger shudder a little; but soon the blood is his chief enjoyment, and he thirsts for it with a fierce delight. It is a fine grim pleasure that we have in seeing a man killed; and I make no doubt that the organs of destructiveness must begin to throb and swell as we witness the delightful savage spectacle.

Lost among literature’s towering oaks, our day’s humble shrub has a literary footnote of his own for authoring, in 1832, Physiologie de la Poire (“The Physiology of the Pear”), a protracted satire exploiting Louis-Philippe‘s reputation as “the Pear King.” (Contrary to some reports, Peytel does not appear to have invented this image.)

According to these antiquarians, the book contains the author’s “hilarious” predictions of the ways he will not die.

“Il ne sera pas guillotine‘ comme Bories, Raoulx …”

* Thackeray argued that the trial was badly done and the evidence insufficient for execution but expressly stopped well short of expressing confidence in Peytel’s innocence.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,France,Guillotine,Murder,Notable Participants,Public Executions,Wrongful Executions

Tags: , , , , , , ,


Calendar

June 2019
M T W T F S S
« May    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930

Archives

Categories

Execution Playing Cards

Exclusively available on this site: our one-of-a-kind custom playing card deck.

Every card features a historical execution from England, France, Germany, or Russia!