1786: David Nelson, but not William Horbord

Add comment June 23rd, 2011 Headsman

This date in 1786 offers us the fine legal salami-slicing of how to stanch a race war with a noose.

Our salami’s name is David Nelson, a furloughed veteran of the Queen’s Rangers in the late American Revolution relocated to the environs of Fredericton, New Brunswick.

There, he and a fellow veteran named William Horbord or Horboard shot dead a native Maliseet for stealing their hog.

This brought neighboring peoples to a deadly tense standoff. The Maliseet demanded justice for their victim; white Canadians demanded … well, the right to shoot Maliseet without fear of their own neck.

Nelson and Horbord went right on trial, but how to finesse the situation?

According to an exhibit that unfortunately seems to have vanished from the Virtual Museum of Canada, natives “camped out around the presiding Judge Kingsclear’s home.” That must have got his commute off to an awkward start each day.

So a Solomonic compromise obtained: after the two were duly convicted and doomed to hang, Nelson, the principal offender, was measured for his coffin … while Horbord, deemed less culpable, received a pardon.

Now that’s gallows diplomacy.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Canada,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Murder,Not Executed,Occupation and Colonialism,Pardons and Clemencies,Political Expedience,Public Executions,Soldiers

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