1796: Jose Leonardo Chirino, Venezuelan slave revolt leader

1 comment December 10th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1796, insurrectionary Jose Leonardo Chirino was hanged in Caracas for leading a slave revolt in Spain’s oppressive New World sugar plantations.

Nearly all the information readily available online about Chirino is in Spanish, and all the links in this post are to Spanish pages.

The influence of the Haitian Revolution, and the philosophical precepts of the French Revolution that had helped spawn it, sent waves through the Caribbean washing up on every shore it touched.

Most of those lands had a ready audience under the lash of European colonial masters; the eastern Venezuelan city of Coro, home to the sugar aristocracy and the groaning underclass that crop implied, must have had one of the readiest.

On May 10, 1795, Chirino — a Zambo of mixed African and Amerindian blood who was himself a free farmer — led an uprising of the Congolese slaves in the area who worked the sugarcane and declared a Republic under the “Law of the French,” with slavery and white privilege abolished.

Forcibly.

The rebellion’s attempt on Coro itself failed, and it was swiftly put down by the colonial authorities. Though many involved were killed summarily, the Spanish took their sweet time after capturing Chirino in August 1795: only the following year was he transferred to Caracas for execution, after which his body was dismembered and his head set in an iron cage displayed on the road to Coro. (For good measure, they sold his family into slavery.)

[flv:http://www.executedtoday.com/video/Jose_Leonardo_Chirino.flv 440 330]

(Video from here)

Of course, Chirino was on the right side of history. The city square in Caracas where Chirino hung is now Plaza Bolivar, named for Latin America’s eponymous liberator.

Coro itself is today served by Jose Leonardo Chirino airport, and for the African diaspora in Venezuela, Chirino is a special inspiration.

[audio:Jose_Leonardo.mp3]

Like any worthwhile symbol, he’s also contested territory — claimed as a forerunner (if a questionable one) of socialism by the “Bolivarian Republic” now governed by Hugo Chavez.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Famous,Guerrillas,Hanged,History,Occupation and Colonialism,Power,Public Executions,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Revolutionaries,Slaves,Soldiers,Treason,Venezuela

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

1783: The first hangings at Newgate Prison

9 comments December 9th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1783, London’s colorful penal history moved across town.

For centuries, public executions had been carried out at the storied Tyburn gallows, a ribald, rambunctious affair that involved carting the doomed from Newgate Prison through teeming city streets, by way of ale house pit stops.

The Tyburn era drew to a close late in the 18th century. Five weeks before, its last victim swung there.


The former hanging grounds of Tyburn, sketched by William Capon in 1785. The gallery still standing was privately erected, to sell tickets to spectators eager for a view.

Little more than a month later, the curtain raised and the trap fell on a new chapter for the London hanged.

Henceforth, the processional would be dispensed with, and the condemned simply walked across a courtyard and up a flight of stairs to a public gallows just outside the prison.

These were still public executions, and hardly eliminated the carnival atmosphere as this c. 1789 sketch will attest:

But it marked a move towards, if not altogether to, a version of the death penalty more familiar to modern eyes. For one thing, the prison itself became the site of punishment, absent the elaborate and occasionally dangerous theater of the trip to Tyburn; at Newgate, they were regularized, an extension of the frightful dungeon, and as the crowd itself was controlled and separated from the elevated platform, the natural next step would be at last to withdraw inside the prison’s walls.

At the same time, there is a technological advance towards “scientific” hangings geared to minimize suffering: the ‘New Drop’.

This system, whereby a trap sprung beneath the prisoner’s feet suspended him on the gallows, was not strictly new — a form of it had been used at Tyburn as early as 1760, though not repeated.* But the new drop (still just a variety of short drop, where strangulation is likely) marks a distinct shift towards a mechanistic punishment, clearly removed from the sometimes fraught physical confrontation between a prisoner and a hangman attempting to force him or her from the cart, and an antechamber into the grim 19th century science of reckoning hangman’s drops for the precise effect of snapping (without severing) the neck.

Of course, progress always has its detractors.

74-year-old Samuel Johnson groused at the “innovation” of leaving Tyburn:

[T]hey object that the old method drew together too many spectators. Sir, executions are intended to draw spectators; If they do not draw spectators, they don’t answer their purpose. The old method was most satisfactory to all parties; the public were gratified by a procession and the criminal was supported by it.

Approaching the matter from a very different perspective, Lord Byron found the Italian beheadings of Mastro Titta “altogether more impressive than the vulgar and ungentlemanly dirty ‘new drop’, and dog-like agony of infliction upon the sufferers of the English sentence.”

* In the correspondence of an early 19th century Secretary of the Admiralty, we have confirmation of this in a letter of Sir Peter Laurie, available from Google Books here and here. Laurie reports that “something like a drop in hanging criminals”

was not adopted as the general mode of execution till 1783, when ten felons were executed on the 9th of December in that year for the first time in front of Newgate, on a new drop or scaffold hung with black … The gallows used at Tyburn was purchased by a carpenter who, having no sentiment in his composition, converted it into stands for beer butts in the cellars of a public house called the “Carpenter’s Arms” in Adam Street.

On this day..

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

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

1937: Teido Kunizaki

1 comment December 10th, 2007 Headsman

On this date in 1937, Japanese intellectual Teido Kunizaki was shot as a “spy of the Japanese army” in Moscow.

The reader is not deceived to infer from the date and place the dread hand of Stalin’s NKVD at the height of the Soviet purges. The fate of the Soviet Union’s tiny community of Japanese emigres, one of the hidden chambers in a house of horrors, only became fully understood after the Soviet Union collapsed.

The leader of the Japanese section of the German Communist Party in Weimar Germany, Kunizaki’s opposition to Japanese intervention in China and involvement in a publication as subversively titled as Revolutionary Asians had made him unwelcome in Germany shortly before Hitler took power.

But arriving in Russia in September 1932 with his German wife, he stepped into a struggle for power within the Japanese Communist Party’s Russian organs.

According to Tetsuro Kato, the professorial Kunizaki was among those denounced by another seminal Japanese communist, Kenzo Yamamoto — a working-class activist who distrusted intellectuals.

Kunizaki’s execution this day was only one of many wrought on the Japanese party by the Soviet secret police in the dangerous exchange of accusations and denunciations. On this date, Yamamoto himself was already in prison; early in 1939, he would swallow the same draught as Kunizaki — denounced, as it emerged after the Cold War, by yet another of Japan’s revered old Marxists.

In the 1920s and 1930s, there were about 100 Japanese who dreamed of living in “the paradise of the working class” and went to the USSR. These people were mainly communists, who were oppressed by the imperial police in Japan. There were also ordinary workers, intellectuals and artists who were not communist … Almost all Japanese living in the USSR [in the 1930’s] faced the same destiny. The exact number of victims is not yet known, but I now estimate there to have been about 80 Japanese [shot by the NKVD].

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Espionage,Execution,History,Intellectuals,Power,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Russia,Shot,USSR,Wrongful Executions

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Next Posts


Calendar

December 2019
M T W T F S S
« Nov    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

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!