1778: Abraham Carlisle and John Roberts, triggering Benedict Arnold’s betrayal?

3 comments November 4th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 1778, the hanging in Philadelphia of two elderly Quakers for treason perhaps set in motion Benedict Arnold’s notorious defection from the American Revolution.

Brotherly love was a little scarce on the ground in Philly after Gen. William Howe occupied it for the British in 1777-1778.*

British control of the cradle of liberty exacerbated the social tensions swirling around the revolution, most particularly between radical revolutionaries and those of a more go-along, get-along variety. Plenty of North Americans, after all, were British loyalists. Plenty of others were fine with political independence but horrified at the more radically democratic ideas of, say, Tom Paine.

Pennsylvania had proven a relative bastion for militants, who authored its progressive 1776 constitution and imposed loyalty tests to disenfranchise Tories and neutrals. When Howe withdrew from Philadelphia, these elements returned, loaded for bear. Or in this case, Quakers.

Members of this sect were suspect to begin with for pacifism, which is the sort of ideology that would fail a loyalty test. Spurning a Moravian pitch for exemption from the oath, the authorities complained of

persons among us, preferring a slavish dependence on the British King, from prejudice, expectation from lucrative offices, or the most unworthy motives, and screening themselves from the notice of Government, by a professed neutrality, have, nevertheless, as soon as opportunity offered declared themselves in favour of our Enemies, and became active against the Liberties of America

Abraham Carlisle and John Roberts, Quakers of an advanced age who had collaborated with the British, were thought to have done precisely this perfidious thing. In the sentence delivered to Roberts (the men had separate trials), the judge insisted his defendant was either with liberty, or against it.

Treason is a crime of the most dangerous and fatal consequence to society; it is of a most malignant nature; it is of a crimson colour and of a scarlet dye. Maliciously to deprive one man of life, merits the punishment of death, and blood for blood is a just restitution. What punishment, then, must he deserve, who joins the enemies of his country, and endeavours the total destruction of the lives, liberties, and property of all his fellow citizens; who wilfully aids and assists in so impious a cause; a cause which has been complicated with the horrid and crying sin of murdering thousands, who were not only innocent, but meritorious; and aggravated by burning some of them alive, and starving others to death. It is in vain to plead, that you have not personally acted in this wicked business; for all who countenance and assist, are partakers in the guilt.**

The wholesale purge such a logic would license was thankfully not forthcoming, because even revolutionary sentiment was uncomfortable with the treatment of these exemplars. Roberts’s own jury had to be cajoled into a conviction, and most of its members joined thousands of Philadelphians of different political stripes petitioning for mercy.

The post-Howe military governor of Philadelphia at this time was none other than Benedict Arnold, still an American general but putting himself ostentatiously into the tug-of-war over the proper revolutionary line with his profligate living and his courtship of a British-friendly merchant‘s daughter.

Arnold stuck his thumb in the radicals’ eye by hosting a party on the eve of this date’s hanging for society ladies of doubtful [revolutionary] virtue … prompting a fulsome protest by Joseph Reed

Treason, disaffection to the interests of America, and even assistance to the British interest, is called openly only error of judgment, which candour and liberality will overlook … it would astonish you to observe the weight of interest excited to pardon [Carlisle and Roberts] … will you not think it extraordinary that General Arnold made a public entertainment the night before last, of which not only common Tory ladies, but the wives and daughters of persons proscribed by the State, and now with the enemy at New York, formed a very considerable number. The fact is literally true.

Left- and right-wing factions of the revolution crystallized around Reed and Arnold, and the abuse of the more-patriotic-than-thou set soon wore on Gen. Arnold. The latter put his contacts with un-revolutionary Philadelphia to work — specifically, that merchant’s daughter’s former suitor, British Major John Andre. Arnold and Andre began their correspondence six months after Carlisle and Roberts hanged; little more than a year later, Arnold ditched the American revolution … and entered the American lexicon.

* This was the winter George Washington famously spent at Valley Forge, 20 miles from Philly.

** The sentence is as printed in in the Pennsylvania Evening Post, Nov. 6, 1778. The magistrate concludes the sentence by pointing out that in Pennsylvania’s “leniency,” treason was punished “only” with hanging … while in the mother country, it could still get you drawn and quartered.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Occupation and Colonialism,Pennsylvania,Power,Public Executions,Treason,USA,Wartime Executions

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1793: The smitten Adam Lux

2 comments November 4th, 2009 Headsman

Among all the strange and pathetic love-stories of the Revolution, when hearts were won within prison walls and wedded by the guillotine, is there another as fantastic and wonderful as that of Adam Luchs? (Source)

Adam Lux (as he’s better known, and a fitter name to his character could hardly be invented), German Republican turned French Revolution representative, was so lovestruck by the arresting figure of Charlotte Corday that it was downright … mortifying.

Many were men to whom the Norman maid played muse, like the poet Andre Chenier.

But Lux was something else.

Thrilled by this chaste heroine’s sacrificial blow against the Revolution’s monster, Lux was supposed to have fallen madly in love with the murderess the one time he actually saw her, on her serene way to the scaffold.

Eros thus yoked to Thanatos, the besotted fellow promptly hurled himself after the exaltation of death. Imitation, after all, is the sincerest form of flattery.

Certainly knowing it to be fatal, Adam Lux published under his own name a vindication of Ms. Public Enemy #1 and her “tyrannicide,” and generally went extravagantly mooning about in this sort of vein as he prepared to get his head cut off this date in 1793:

The guillotine is no longer a disgrace. It has become a sacred altar, from which every taint has been removed by the innocent blood shed there on the 17th of July. Forgive me, my divine Charlotte, if I find it impossible at the last moment to show the courage and the gentleness that were yours! I glory because you are superior to me, for it is right that she who is adored should be higher and more glorious than her adorer!

Adam came off a little needy, you’d have to say.

Not surprisingly, he didn’t get the girl in the end.

Adam Lux to Charlotte Corday
by William James Dawson

Red is the garb thou wearest, red is the deed thou hast done,
And red on a land of blood rises the morning sun.
Kings have ridden this road, conquerors mailed in gold,
But none in such red triumph as this that we behold.

Rose, thro’ a rose-red dawn, go to thy valourous fate,
Queen of all roses thou, splendid and passionate.
And lo ! at thy feet I fling, here, in the gallows-cart,
Passionate even as thine, the rose-flower of my heart.

Turn but a moment toward me, stoop in thy raiment red,
I answer thee look for look, I am warmed and comforted.
Twins are we of one womb, fated sister and brother,
Nursed on the bare bruised breasts of Freedom our great Mother!

Thou, whom none could master, proud and glorious head,
Come, O Rose, to my bosom, come when thou art dead!
They have shorn the beautiful hair, they have bound the strong fair hands,
Signal me with your eyes that love still understands!

Signal, and I will follow : I dwell where thou must dwell,
I shall know thy blood-red raiment either in heaven or hell!
Lo! at thy feet I fling, here, in the gallows-cart,
Passionate even as thine, the red rose of my heart!

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Arts and Literature,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,France,Guillotine,History,Politicians,Power,Public Executions,Revolutionaries,Sex,Treason,Volunteers

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1841: Hermano Pule and his surviving followers

1 comment November 4th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1841, Apolinario de la Cruz was shot at Tayabas for leading a revolt against Spanish occupation of the Philippines.

Known to history as Hermano Pule, the young de la Cruz had dreamt of entering the priesthood — but finding that most barred native Filipinos, he founded the Cofradia de San José (Confraternity of St. Joseph).

Organizing secretly and outside of the approved channels, it gained the enmity of both civilian and religious authorities, though it doesn’t on the surface look like a seditious entity; rather, it attracted Filipinos (and Filipinas) excluded from the official organs. Suddenly, that looked like trouble to Spain.

Condemnation helped the Confradia’s numbers burgeon, and forced its programme towards radicalism: where freedom of religion was forbidden, worship was a revolutionary act.

Matters came to a head when a government raid precipitated armed resistance by Pule and his followers, with the inevitable closing act postponed by an inspiring but short-lived rebel victory at arms. Pule and his followers were overrun on Nov. 1, rounded up as fugitives by the next day, and put to death outside the Tayabas courthouse — with Pule’s head, hands and feet cut off for salutary public display in his adjacent hometown of Lucban (or Lukban).

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,God,History,Martyrs,Occupation and Colonialism,Philippines,Power,Religious Figures,Revolutionaries,Separatists,Shot,Soldiers,Spain,Treason,Wartime Executions

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1936: Edgar André

2 comments November 4th, 2007 Headsman

On this date in 1936, communist politician Edgar Andre was beheaded in Fuhlsbüttel Prison for treasonous complicity in the Reichstag Fire.

This 1936 German pamphlet denouncing Andre’s execution concludes: “Edgar André lives. In his spirit, we march: Despite all.”

A politician raised in Belgium, Andre had bolted the Socialist Party of Germany for the Communist Party in the early 1920’s, becoming a major labor leader in Hamburg. Andre was arrested within days of the 1933 Reichstag Fire as Adolf Hitler crushed official leftist opposition.

But Andre was not brought to trial for over three years — by which time torture had crippled and deafened him, and the political climate made the doubtful nature of the evidence against him scant protection in the courts. His conviction and sentence were a foregone conclusion.

The Spanish Civil War, which erupted over the summer of 1936 between Andre’s trial and execution, saw the service of a battalion in the International Brigades named for Edgar Andre.

Just days after Andre was beheaded, that battalion entered its first action — with German volunteers helping stave off fascist capture of Madrid. The unit’s hymn commemorated their namesake:

[audio:Das_Batallion_Edgar_Andre.mp3]

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Activists,Arson,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Germany,History,Martyrs,Politicians,Power,Torture,Treason,Wrongful Executions

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