1781: Isaac Hayne, paroled prisoner of war

2 comments August 4th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 1781, South Carolina patriot Isaac Hayne was hanged for breaking his conditional British parole and re-enlisting in the American Revolution.

Though Hayne is not, to us, the most famous revolutionary executed by the British, he might have been considered by his contemporaries as the most prominent individual to go to the scaffold for the cause.

A wealthy planter (lots of slaves!) whose home and grave can still be toured in Jacksonboro, Hayne was among 5,000 to surrender to the British when the latter captured Charleston in 1780.

These prisoners were required to swear an oath of allegiance to the crown in exchange for their parole, which Hayne reluctantly agreed to do because his family had been hit with smallpox.

He declared to a friend that,

as they [the British] allow no other alternative than submission, or confinement in the capital, at a distance from my wife and family, at a time when they are in the most pressing need of my presence and support, I must, for the present, yield to the demands of the conquerors. I request you to bear in mind, that previous to my taking this step, I declare that it is contrary to my inclination, and forced on me by hard necessity. I will never bear arms against my country … I do not mean to desert the cause of America.

But as the British southern campaign foundered over the year ahead, the mother country eventually attempted to call him up to do just that: bear arms against his country.

Hayne thought his parole terms protected him from ever having to serve against the colonies, so he simply got back into the fight on the revolutionary side instead. He was captured in that capacity.

The British commander Francis Rawdon handled his relapsed prisoner with uncommon severity, putting him to a drumhead military tribunal with a preordained outcome and refusing the many public pleas for leniency.

The irregular and vengeful nature of these proceedings, and Hayne’s seemingly honorable conduct, raised hackles on both sides of the Atlantic; shortly after hanging Hayne, Rawdon returned to the British Isles to find a good deal of pointed criticism of his behavior. (Parliament quashed any damaging official inquiry, and Lord Rawdon actually extracted an apology from the peer who had the temerity to motion the investigation — an intolerable impeachment on Rawdon’s honor.)

The Hayne incident was widely understood to have been conditioned by British frustration at its failing fortunes in the war. By the time of the execution, the redcoats held nothing of South Carolina save Charleston itself. General Cornwallis had recently marched north from the Palmetto State; in a few weeks’ time, he would surrender his sword and the British cause alike after the decisive British defeat at Yorktown, Virginia.

And though the commandants at Charleston scarcely anticipated that stunning reversal, they had only a few months before suffered the upsetting (but more legally tenable) hanging of the honorable British Major John Andre as a result of the Benedict Arnold affair. British forces were reputedly on the lookout for any opportunity to trade tit for tat.

Continental Gen. Nathaniel Greene alleged that the British officer who received the petition for Hayne’s life simply wrote on it John Andre — and sent it back.


Isaac Hayne was the great-uncle of South Carolina pol Robert Y. Hayne, best remembered for a hot sectional debate with Massachusetts Sen. Daniel Webster. (Read it all here, if you must.)

It was during this exchange of Senatorial disquisitions that Webster delivered one of the noted orations of the antebellum era, the aptly-named Second Reply to Hayne:

I have not allowed myself, Sir, to look beyond the Union, to see what might lie hidden in the dark recess behind. I have not coolly weighed the chances of preserving liberty when the bonds that unite us together shall be broken asunder. I have not accustomed myself to hang over the precipice of disunion, to see whether, with my short sight, I can fathom the depth of the abyss below; nor could I regard him as a safe counselor in the affairs of this government, whose thoughts should be mainly bent on considering, not how the Union may be best preserved, but how tolerable might be the condition of the people when it should be broken up and destroyed. While the Union lasts, we have high, exciting, gratifying prospects spread out before us and our children. Beyond that I seek not to penetrate the veil. God grant that in my day, at least, that curtain may not rise! God grant that on my vision never may be opened what lies behind! When my eyes shall be turned to behold for the last time the sun in heaven, may I not see him shine on the broken and dishonored fragments of a once glorious Union; on States dissevered, discordant, belligerent; on a land rent with civil feuds, or drenched, it may be, in fraternal blood! Let their last feeble and lingering glance rather behold the gorgeous ensign of the republic, now known and honored throughout the earth, still full high advanced, its arms and trophies streaming in their original lustre, not a stripe erased or polluted, not a single star obscured, bearing for its motto, no such miserable interrogatory as “What is all this worth?” nor those other words of delusion and folly, “Liberty first and Union afterwards”; but everywhere, spread all over in characters of living light, blazing on all it sample folds, as they float over the sea and over the land, and in every wind under the whole heavens, that other sentiment, dear to every true American heart, – Liberty and Union, now and for ever, one and inseperable!

When not being rhetorically posterized by New England gasbags, Robert Hayne made time to pen a justification for his famous forebear’s conduct for the Southern Review in 1828 — comparing the British behavior of executing rather than detaining a prisoner who broke parole to the massacre at Jaffa Napoleon notoriously ordered in 1799.

(Actually, Isaac Hayne’s old nemesis Francis Rawdon had only died in 1826; Robert Hayne wrote his piece to confute a vindication of himself that Lord Rawdon — also recognized by his subsequent titles, Earl of Moira and Marquess of Hastings — had authored, decades after the fact, of his conduct in the Hayne matter.)

Though this 37-page slog of Robert Hayne’s is obviously in the public domain by now, it appears it is not yet freely available online. However, it’s the source of the otherwise unattributed quotes in this article.

Part of the Themed Set: The Empire Strikes Back.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Businessmen,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Famous,Hanged,History,Martyrs,Occupation and Colonialism,Politicians,Public Executions,Revolutionaries,Separatists,Soldiers,South Carolina,Treason,USA,Wartime Executions,Wrongful Executions

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1474: A cock and its eggs

Add comment August 4th, 2009 Headsman

“On the Thursday before St. Lawrence’s Day,” writes Gross in his Kurtze Basler Kronik, “they burned a cock on the Kolenberg, together with an egg which he had laid,* for they feared that a dragon might be hatched therefrom. The executioner cut open the cock and found three more eggs in him. For, as Vicentius saith in the sixth book of his Speculum Naturale, it hath always been held that a cock in his old age may lay an egg, whence ariseth a basilisk, if it be hatched out on a dungheap by the serpent called coluber. Wherefore the basilisk is half cock and half serpent. He saith also that certain persons declare they have seen basilisks hatched from such eggs. (Source)

* “The cock,” George Ives reassures, “was possibly an hermaphrodite or, more likely, a crowing hen.”

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Entry Filed under: 15th Century,Animals,Burned,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Notable Jurisprudence,Public Executions,Switzerland,The Supernatural

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2006: Mohamed Amin Mohamed Razali, mystical Malaysian militant

Add comment August 4th, 2008 Headsman

Two years ago today, the strange leader of a mystical Islamic fight club was hanged at Malaysia’s Sungai Buloh prison for waging war on the king.

Caption Contest?: The Headsman could be mistaken, but based on an altogether amateur comparison to the Razali shot on this BBC story, I believe that’s him in the white. Photo from the sect website.

The heretofore obscure Al Ma’unah — just a couple dozen guys — had descended on an army camp in July 2000 and made off with a handsome cache of weapons and a few hostages, apparently the opening gambit in a bid to launch an Islamic fundamentalist revolution in Malaysia.

What actually happened was the army hunted them down and engulfed them a couple of days later.

You’d never know the ambitious designs of this clique from its web site (still online as of this writing), whose English “about us” page rings harmlessly loopy (all grammatical manglings [sic]):

Al-Ma’unah … is a Non-Govermental Organisation (NGO) … involved in the teaching of martial arts particularly the development of one’s inner power and the practice of Islamic traditional medicine.

Literary, the term “Ma’unah” is an Arabic word which means, something extraordinary that happens to an ordinary Muslim individual, for example extra sensory perception or the ability to see “things” in another dimension (paranormal).

“Al-Ma’unah Inner Power” can be defined as “something extraordinary bestowed to a righteous Muslim (in the form of assistance from Allah) in accordance with specific adherence to tradition and proper sequence emphasising on the Islamic principles and Allah’s commandments as stipulated in the holy Quran”.

In teaching the martial art and traditional medicine, the brotherhood placed more emphasis on spiritual development and enlightenment of its members or “ikhwan” as it is known in Al-Maunah, in order to achieve the highest level of proficiency in the art and to attain great healing powers.

… although a section entitled “The Usage of the Inner Power” suggests the training achieves the sorts of useful martial superpowers more commonly found on a Dungeons & Dragons treasure table:

Among the benefit of Al-Ma’unah Inner Power can be listed as follows:

o For health and vitality, both physically and spiritually.
o Making an enemy/attacker to freeze on the spot and to be hurled sprawling backwards without being touch.
o Invincible from sharp objects, weapons, boiling water, fire etc.
o To transfer temporarily the inner energy to another object.
o Able to attain healing powers.
o Able to tie enemies without using rope.
o Able to hypnotise a violent aggressor to sleep or forget his intention.
o Able to pull back a fleeing snatch thief or robber from great distance (without physical body contact).
o Able to make attackers to drop to their knees or fall down with the blink of an eye.
o For marital bliss.
o Able to increase influence over others.

Too bad it didn’t protect against hemp.

Most of the 19 who survived the manhunt and went on trial eagerly cut deals, groveled (“Please don’t send us to the gallows!” one said during the hearing), and pointed the finger at the former army private. Razali didn’t say boo at trial and died stoically at about 6 a.m. this morning.

Although there were 359 executions in Malaysia from 1970 to 2001, the practice has dropped into disuse in this decade; Razali appears to be the last person executed in Malaysia as of this post’s publication. Amnesty International has suggested that Malaysia’s zero figure might conceal some secret (presumably extrajudicial) executions. While the government angrily denied that suggestion, the death penalty has come under growing scrutiny in Malaysia.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Guerrillas,Hanged,Malaysia,Religious Figures,Revolutionaries,Ripped from the Headlines,Soldiers,Treason

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