1968: Three blacks in Rhodesia, notwithstanding Queen Elizabeth II

3 comments March 6th, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 1968, Rhodesia earned global opprobrium with a triple hanging in Salisbury (today known as Harare).

Labour M.P. Anne Kerr lays a wreath at the Rhodesian embassy to protest this date’s hangings. A few months later, Kerr would be the one in the world’s headlines … when she was roughed up by Chicago police at the 1968 Democratic Convention.

This was the first “Rhodesian” execution, three years on into the white-supremacist (pdf) breakaway state — which had bucked orderly majority-rule decolonization by declaring independence under its settler government.

So it was hardly a matter of whether James Dhlamini, Victor Mlambo and Duly Shadrack were or were not “guilty”: springing the trap on the gallows was an act fraught with racial hostility within Rhodesia (today, Zimbabwe) and throughout a decolonizing world.

Queen Elizabeth II issued a royal reprieve and the British government warned of the “gravest personal responsibility” attaching to anyone who involved himself in the proposed hanging. Rhodesia royally ignored it.

I have been hanging people for years, but I have never had all this fuss before.

(white) executioner Ted “Lofty” Milton (n.b. seemingly pictured here)

“This fuss” would encompass cross-partisan fury in the British House of Commons as well as a moment of silence in the Indian parliament, denunciations by both America and the Soviet Union … basically everybody. Tanzanian-born British M.P. Andrew Faulds called for criminal sanctions “not excluding the death penalty”. (London Times, , Mar. 7 1968)

There were even demands for humanitarian intervention — amounting to a British military occupation — to protect the other hundred-plus blacks then awaiting the gallows. Needless to say, that wasn’t about to happen, so in the face of Salisbury’s intransigence, was it all just sound and fury?

Does the Secretary of State recall that it was Winston Churchill who said: “Grass grows quickly over the battlefield; over the scaffold, never.”?

-Still-sitting Conservative M.P. Peter Tapsell — then a pup of 38, now the Father of the House — during Parliament’s emotional March 6 debate

Rhodesia insisted on the point by hanging two more Africans five days afterwards … but it also announced 35 reprieves.

In its fifteen years, Rhodesia never did get itself clear of the fuss over white rule; it remained a global pariah and eventually succumbed to its long-running Bush War.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Milestones,Murder,Occupation and Colonialism,Political Expedience,Rhodesia,Wrongful Executions,Zimbabwe

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1900: Ada Chard Williams, the last woman hanged at Newgate

Add comment March 6th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 1900, Ada Chard Williams was hanged for murdering an infant girl.

A baby farmer, Williams took in unwanted children for money … money that went a lot further when the child died. The milestone nature of her hanging in the yard of Newgate Gaol, which would be closed two years later,* was entirely unforeseen at the time.

Justice moved fast in the Williams case, as evidenced by the London Times blurbs covering the case.**

Monday, December 11, 1899

POLICE COURTS. — At the South-Western, William Chard Williams, 41, and Ada Chard Williams, 24, his wife, were remanded, charged with the wilful murder of a child entrusted to their care, and whose body was found in the Thames at Battersea with the skull battered in. The female prisoner said they were perfectly innocent of the charge. The child was delivered by her to another woman and was then quite well.

Saturday, December 30, 1899

POLICE-COURTS. — At the South-Western the charge against William Chard Williams, 41, and his wife, Ada Williams, 24, of the murder of a child named Selina Jones, 21 months old, which had been entrusted to their care, was further investigated. Mr. Bodkin, who prosecuted for the Treasury, stated the facts of the case as already published, and added that the bodies of two other children tied up in the same way as that of the child Jones had been found in the Thames in July last, and the suggestion of the prosecution was that they had been put in the river by the prisoners. After some evidence had been given the prisoners were again remanded.

Saturday, January 20, 1900

POLICE-COURTS. — At the South-Western, William and Ada Chard Williams, man and wife, were finally examined and committed for trial charged with the murder of Selina Jones, an illegitimate child, 21 months old, which had been entrusted to their care.

Monday, February 19, 1900

CENTRAL CRIMINAL COURT. — Before Mr. Justice Ridley, the trial was concluded of William Chard Williams, 41, clerk, and Ada Chard Williams, 24, his wife, charged with the murder of an illegitimate child named Selina Ellen Jones, 21 months old, which had been entrusted to the care of the female prisoner in August last. On September 27 its body was found in the Thames in a condition which indicated that it had been stunned and strangled before being put into the river. The jury found the female prisoner guilty, and she was sentenced to death. The male prisoner was acquitted.

Wednesday, March 7, 1900

EXECUTION AT NEWGATE. — Ada Chard Williams, 24 years of age, who was convicted at the Central Criminal Court of the wilful murder of Selina Ellen Jones, a child which had been placed in her care, was executed at Newgate yesterday morning. There were present at the execution Lieutenant-Colonel Milman, Governor of Newgate and Holloway Prisons, Mr. Under-Sheriff Metcalfe, representing the High Sheriff of the county of London, Dr. Scott, medical officer of Newgate and Holloway, and other officials. Billington was the executioner. An inquest was subsequently held in the Sessions-house, Old Bailey, before Mr. Langham, Coroner for the City. Lieutenant-Colonel Milman gave evidence, stating that the execution was carried out satisfactorily. Death was instantaneous. The prisoner made no confession. The jury returned the usual verdict.

* Male executions were transferred to Pentonville Prison and female executions to Holloway Prison thereafter.

** With the exception of the last, these items are all from the Times index summarizing its news articles, and not the articles themselves.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Abortion and Infanticide,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,Milestones,Murder,Women

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1836: The defenders of the Alamo, much remembered

10 comments March 6th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1836, Mexican forces commanded by President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna overran the Alamo — and executed those few of its defenders who survived the day’s battle.

“Remember the Alamo!”

This most memorable battle of the Texas Revolution has since retained its place in the founding mythology of Texas and its draw as a tourist destination in San Antonio, no matter the complexities on the ground. (You can watch the earliest surviving film treatment, The Martyrs of the Alamo, free online. D.W. Griffith made it the same year he made Birth of a Nation.)

That Alamo of blood and legend, and the countervailing interpretations it eclipses, are much beyond our scope here, but we are attracted to notice the reputed summary execution of five to seven defenders who had surrendered or otherwise been captured during the fight. (A few dozen mostly civilian noncombatants in the former mission also survived, and were not executed.)

According to Robert Scott, Santa Anna was empowered by a Mexican resolution holding (not without cause) that

“foreigners landing on the coast of the Republic or invading its territory by land, armed, and with the intent of attacking our country, will be deemed pirates.”

Who counted, at this moment, as “foreigners” among the Anglo settlers trying to break away from Mexico and their supporters among from the United States to which Texas would eventually attach poses a historiographical riddle. But then, Santa Anna wasn’t there to write a dissertation, but to win a war — and he was said to be sorely annoyed at the defenders having tied him down for a week and a half.

King of the Wild Frontier

Covered by most any definition of “foreigner” would have been the Alamo’s most famous defender, Tennessee frontiersman and former U.S. Congressman Davy Crockett. He had arrived in Texas just a few months before, on a rendezvous with destiny.*

It’s a matter of dispute whether Crockett was among those last few executed; in an event this emotionally remembered, every version of the Crockett death scene — from “found dead of injuries amid a heap of Mexican casualties” to “cravenly bargained for his life” — gores someone’s ox.

Even if the account of Crockett’s presence among the executed derives from a disputed source — well, this blog has not scrupled to highlight the fictional and the mythological, those executions whose resonance transcends factual accuracy.

And even if Davy Crockett was not among those anonymous souls put to death this day, it is by his name that they have their tribute, as in the 2004 film** The Alamo:

* Destiny by way of Walt Disney.

** This Disney film diddles with the Crockett legend that Disney helped to inflate in the 1950’s — to the annoyance, of course, of traditional-minded Alamo partisans.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Arts and Literature,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous,History,Known But To God,Language,Martyrs,Mass Executions,Mexico,No Formal Charge,Notable Participants,Politicians,Popular Culture,Power,Put to the Sword,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Revolutionaries,Separatists,Soldiers,Summary Executions,Texas,Treason,Wartime Executions

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