From Joh. Wolfii Lect. Memorab. (Lavingæ, 1600.)
It will be seen by the curious woodcut from Baptista Mantuanus, that he consigned Pope Joan to the jaws of hell, notwithstanding her choice. The verses accompanying this picture are:—
“Hic pendebat adhuc sexum mentita virile
Fœmina, cui triplici Phrygiam diademate mitram
Extollebat apex: et pontificalis adulter.”
It need hardly be stated that the whole story of Pope Joan is fabulous, and rests on not the slightest historical foundation. It was probably a Greek invention to throw discredit on the papal hierarchy, first circulated more than two hundred years after the date of the supposed Pope. Even Martin Polonus (A. D. 1282), who is the first to give the details, does so merely on popular report.
The thumbs are put into this instrument through the two circular holes at the top of it. By turning a key, a bar rises up by means of a screw from C to D, and the pressure upon them becomes painful. By turning it further you may make the blood start from the ends of them. By taking the key away, as at E, you leave the tortured person in agony, without any means of extricating himself, or of being extricated by others. This screw, as I was then informed, was applied by way of punishment, in case of obstinacy in the slaves, or for any other reputed offence, at the discretion of the captain.
The woodcut represents the execution, in Paris, of a famous captain of robbers, Aymerigol Macel. The scaffold is enclosed by a hoarding; at the nearer corners are two friars, one in brown and one in black, probably a Franciscan and a Dominican; the official, who stands with his hands resting on his staff superintending the executioner, has a gown of red with sleeves lined with white fur, his bonnet is black turned up also with white fur. In the background are the timber houses on one side of the place, with the people looking out of their windows; a signboard will be seen standing forth from one of the houses. The groups of people in the distance and those in the foreground give the costumes of the ordinary dwellers in a fourteenth-century city.
A few years ago some Greek and Italian scoundrels “put up a job” to plunder one of the mosques at Constantinople. They were weeks at work, perfecting their plans, and managed to get their plunder safe on board a schooner which was waiting in the sea of Marmora, a mile or two from shore. They sailed away in triumph, but the electric telegraph, which has brought so many scoundrels to justice, caused them to be overhauled at the Dardanelles.
The schooner was captured and brought back to Constantinople; the property was returned to the mosque, and the enterprising gentlemen who removed it without authority received the polite attentions of a Turkish headsman. Not only they, but the entire crew of the schooner down to the cook and cabin boy—also a cat and two kittens—were decapitated, without fear or favor.
“Bismillah!” (in the name of God) shouted the executioner each time he swung his sword. “Inshallah!” (God is willing) responded the attendant, as he gathered up the heads one by one and stowed them away in a sack.
The punishment of the cangue may be compared to that of our pillory, with this difference, that in China a person convicted of petty crimes or misdemeanours is sometimes sentenced to carry the wooden clog about his neck for weeks, or even months; sometimes one hand, or even both hands, are inserted through holes, as well as the neck. The annexed representation is not a common one, and far less painful than the plain heavy tablet of wood, the whole weight of which must be supported on the shoulders; whereas in this it is mere confinement, without the person being compelled to carry a heavy load. The nature of the offence is always described in large characters, either on the edge of the cangue, or, as in the present instance, on a piece of board attached to it.
Piercing the ear with various sharp instruments is among the punishments of the Chinese. A man who had been insolent to one of the suite of Lord Macartney’s embassy, was sentenced to receive fifty strokes from the pant-zee or bamboo, in addition to having his hand pinned to his ear by an iron wire, which was said to have been inflicted immediately after the bastinade.
The middle figure is an inferior officer of the police, who holds a painted board on which the crime is exhibited to spectators; the other personage is a mandarin reproving the culprit.
In England, petty thieves, unruly servants, wife-beaters, hedge-tearers, vagrants, Sabbath-breakers, revilers, gamblers, drunkards, ballad-singers, fortune-tellers, traveling musicians and a variety of other offenders, were all punished by the stocks. Doubtless the most notable person ever set in the stocks for drinking too freely was that great man, Cardinal Wolsey. About the year 1500 he was the incumbent at Lymington, and getting drunk at a village feast, he was seen by Sir Amyas Poulett, a strict moralist, and local justice of the peace, who humiliated the embryo cardinal by thrusting him in the stocks.
Sinners were never spared (In puritan communities) , either in publicity or punishment. Keen justice made the magistrates rigid and exact in the exposition and publication of crime, hence the labelling of an offender.
“To wear two Capitall Letters, A. D. cut in cloth and sewed on their uppermost garment on the Arm and Back; and if any time they shall be founde without the letters so worne while in this government, they shall be forthwith taken and publickly whipt.”
“Robert Coles was fyned ten shillings and enjoyned to stand with a white sheet of paper on his back whereon Drunkard shalbe written in great lres & to stand therewith soe longe as the Court finde meete, for abuseing himself shamefully with drinke.”
The following year Robert Coles, still misbehaving, was again sentenced, and more severely, for his drunkard’s badge was made permanent.
It would be impossible to enumerate the offences for which Englishmen were pilloried: among them were treason, sedition, arson, blasphemy, witch-craft, perjury, wife-beating, cheating, forestalling, forging, coin-clipping, tree-polling, gaming, dice-cogging, quarrelling, lying, libelling, slandering, threatening, conjuring, fortune-telling, “prigging,” drunkenness, impudence. One man was set in the pillory for delivering false dinner invitations; another for a rough practical joke; another for selling an injurious quack medicine. All sharpers, beggars, impostors, vagabonds, were liable to be pilloried.
It was an engine of punishment specially assigned to scolding women; though sometimes kindred offenders, such as slanderers, “makebayts,” “chyderers,” brawlers, railers, and women of light carriage also suffered through it. Though gruff old Sam Johnson said to a gentle Quaker lady: “Madam, we have different modes of restraining evil—stocks for men, a ducking-stool for women, and a pound for beasts;” yet men as well as women-scolds were punished by being set in the ducking-stool, and quarrelsome married couples were ducked, tied back-to-back. The last person set in the Rugby ducking-stool was a brutal husband who had beaten his wife. Brewers of bad beer and bakers of bad bread were deemed of sufficiently degraded ethical standing to be ducked. Unruly paupers also were thus subdued.
This “barrel-shirt,” which was evidently so frequently used in our Civil War, was known as the Drunkard’s Cloak, and it was largely employed in past centuries on the Continent. Sir William Brereton, in his Travels in Holland, 1634, notes its use in Delft; so does Pepys in the year 1660. Evelyn writes in 1641 that in the Senate House in Delft he saw “a weighty vessel of wood not unlike a butter churn,” which was used to punish women, who were led about the town in it.
The punishments of authors deserve a separate chapter; for since the days of Greece and Rome their woes have been many. The burning of condemned books begun in those ancient states. In the days of Augustus no less than twenty thousand volumes were consumed; among them, all the works of Labienus, who, in despair thereat, refused food, pined and died.
The brank or scold’s bridle was unknown in America in its English shape: though from colonial records we learn that scolding women were far too plentiful, and were gagged for that annoying and irritating habit. The brank, sometimes called the gossip’s bridle, or dame’s bridle, or scold’s helm, was truly a “brydle for a curste queane.” It was a shocking instrument, a sort of iron cage, often of great weight; when worn, covering the entire head; with a spiked plate or flat tongue of iron to be placed in the mouth over the tongue. Hence if the offender spoke she was cruelly hurt.
Another common punishment for soldiers (usually for rioting or drinking) was the riding the wooden horse. In New Amsterdam the wooden horse stood between Paerel street and the Fort, and was a straight, narrow, horizontal pole, standing twelve feet high. Sometimes the upper edge of the board or pole was acutely sharpened to intensify the cruelty. The soldier was set astride this board, with his hands tied behind his back. Often a heavy weight was tied to each foot, as was jocularly said, “to keep his horse from throwing him.”
The custom of performing penance in public by humiliation in church either through significant action, position or confession has often been held to be peculiar to the Presbyterian and Puritan churches. It is, in fact, as old as the Church of Rome, and was a custom of the Church of England long before it became part of the Dissenters’ discipline. All ranks and conditions of men shared in this humiliation. An English king, Henry II, a German emperor, Henry IV, the famous Duchess of Gloucester, and Jane Shore are noted examples; humbler victims for minor sins or offenses against religious usages suffered in like manner.
Laying by the heels in the bilboes
There is no doubt that our far-away grandfathers, whether of English, French, Dutch, Scotch or Irish blood, were much more afraid of ridicule than they were even of sinning, and far more than we are of extreme derision or mockery to-day.
They were a simple but effective restraint; a long heavy bolt or bar of iron having two sliding shackles, something like handcuffs, and a lock. In these shackles were thrust the legs of offenders or criminals, who were then locked in with a padlock. Sometimes a chain at one end of the bilboes attached both bilboes and prisoner to the floor or wall; but this was superfluous, as the iron bar prevented locomotion
There is nothing more abhorrent to the general sentiment of humanity to-day than the universal custom of all civilized nations, until the present century, of branding and maiming criminals. In these barbarous methods of degrading criminals the colonists in America followed the customs and copied the laws of the fatherland. Our ancestors were not squeamish. The sight of a man lopped of his ears, or slit of his nostrils, or with a seared brand or great gash in his forehead or cheek could not affect the stout stomachs that cheerfully and eagerly gathered around the bloody whipping-post and the gallows.
The whipping-post was speedily in full force in Boston. At the session of the court held November 30, 1630, one man was [Pg 73]sentenced to be whipped for stealing a loaf of bread; another for shooting fowl on the Sabbath, another for swearing, another for leaving a boat “without a pylott.” Then we read of John Pease that for “stryking his mother and deryding her he shalbe whipt.”
On the death of Queen Elizabeth, James I. became king and, not favoring Raleigh, at length threw him into prison on a charge of treason. After an imprisonment of twelve years in the Tower of London, Sir Walter was beheaded.
Hanging to Music. (A Minstrel condemned to the Gallows obtained permission that one of his companions should accompany him to his execution, and play his favourite instrument on the ladder of the Gallows.)--Fac-simile of a Woodcut in Michault's "Doctrinal du Temps Présent:" small folio, goth., Bruges, about 1490.
From a Woodcut in the "Cosmographie Universelle" of Munster
Mediæval punishments included more or less atrocious punishments, which were in use at various times and in various countries; such as the Pain of the Cross, specially employed against the Jews; the Arquebusade, which was well adapted for carrying out prompt justice on soldiers; the Chatouillement, which resulted in death after the most intense tortures; the Pal, flaying alive, and, lastly, drowning, a kind of death frequently employed in France
Cat-o'-nine-tails.--From a Woodcut in the "Cosmographie Universelle" of Munster.
Beheading.From the "Cosmographie Universelle" of Munster: in folio, Basle, 1552.
The amende honorable which was called simple or short, took place without the assistance of the executioner in the council chamber, where the condemned, bareheaded and kneeling, had to state that "he had falsely said or done something against the authority of the King or the honour of some person"
The Water Torture.
Fac-simile of a Woodcut in J. Damhoudère's "Praxis Rerum Criminalium:" in 4to, Antwerp, 1556.
In Paris, for a long time, the water torture was in use; this was the most easily borne, and the least dangerous. A person undergoing it was tied to a board which was supported horizontally on two trestles. By means of a horn, acting as a funnel, and whilst his nose was being pinched, so as to force him to swallow, they slowly poured four coquemars (about nine pints) of water into his mouth; this was for the ordinary torture. For the extraordinary, double that quantity was poured in. When the torture was ended, the victim was untied, "and taken to be warmed in the kitchen," says the old text.
Demons applying the Torture of the Wheel.--Fac-simile of a Woodcut in the "Grand Kalendrier ou Compost des Bergers:" small folio, Troyes, Nicholas le Rouge, 1529.
The subterranean cells of the Bastille did not differ much from those of the Châtelet. There were several, the bottoms of which were formed like a sugar-loaf upside down, thus neither allowing the prisoner to stand up, nor even to adopt a tolerable position sitting or lying down. It was in these that King Louis XI., who seemed to have a partiality for filthy dungeons, placed the two young sons of the Duke de Nemours (beheaded in 1477), ordering, besides, that they should be taken out twice a week and beaten with birch rods, and, as a supreme measure of atrocity, he had one of their teeth extracted every three months. It was Louis XI., too, who, in 1476, ordered the famous iron cage, to be erected in one of the towers of the Bastille, in which Guillaume, Bishop of Verdun, was incarcerated for fourteen years.
The executioner did not hold the same position in all countries. For whereas in France, Italy, and Spain, a certain amount of odium was attached to this terrible craft, in Germany, on the contrary, successfully carrying out a certain number of capital sentences was rewarded by titles and the privileges of nobility
The Infant Richard crucified by the Jews, at PontoiseFrom a Woodcut, with Figures by Wohlgemuth, in the "Liber Chronicarum Mundi:" large folio, Nuremberg, 1493.
Punishment by Fire
When a criminal had been condemned to be burnt, a stake was erected on the spot specially designed for the execution, and round it a pile was prepared, composed of alternate layers of straw and wood, and rising to about the height of a man. Care was taken to leave a free space round the stake for the victim, and also a passage by which to lead him to it. Having been stripped of his clothes, and dressed in a shirt smeared with sulphur, he had to walk to the centre of the pile through a narrow opening, and was then tightly bound to the stake with ropes and chains. After this, faggots and straw were thrown into the empty space through which he had passed to the stake, until he was entirely covered by them; the pile was then fired on all sides at once
Originally, decapitation was indiscriminately inflicted on all criminals condemned to death; at a later period, however, it became the particular privilege of the nobility, who submitted to it without any feeling of degradation. The victim--unless the sentence prescribed that he should be blindfolded as an ignominious aggravation of the penalty--was allowed to choose whether he would have his eyes covered or not. He knelt down on the scaffold, placed his head on the block, and gave himself up to the executioner. The skill of the executioner was generally such that the head was almost invariably severed from the body at the first blow. Nevertheless, skill and practice at times failed, for cases are on record where as many as eleven blows were dealt, and at times it happened that the sword broke.
Public Executions.--Fac-simile of a Woodcut in the Latin Work of J. Millaeus, "Praxis Criminis Persequendi:" small folio, Parisis, Simon de Colines, 1541.
The Provost's Prison.--Fac-simile of a Woodcut in J. Damhoudère's "Praxis Rerum Civilium."
Movable Iron Cage.--From a Woodcut in the "Cosmographie Universelle" of Munster, in folio, Basle, 1552.
Member of the Brotherhood of Death, whose duty it was to accompany those sentenced to death
And his Confessor, at Bordeaux in 1377, by order of the King of England's Lieutenant. Froissart's Chronicles. No. 2644, Bibl. nat'le de Paris.
Convicts who have been sentenced to prison, but are released early under the ticket-to-leave experimental scheme.
A meeting of ticket-of-leave men, convened by Mr. H. Mayhew, was held some time since at the National Hall, Holborn, with the view of affording to persons of this class, who are anxious to lead a reformed life, an opportunity of stating the difficulties they have to encounter in their endeavour to obtain a honest livelihood. About fifty members of the body responded to Mr. Mayhew’s invitation.
Then the sentence is passed by the compound manager—ten, fifteen, or twenty strokes, according to the crime. The coolie, with a Chinese policeman on either side of him, is taken away about ten paces. Then he stops, and at the word of a policeman drops his pantaloons, and falls flat on his face and at full length on the floor. One policeman holds his feet together; another, with both hands pressed firmly on the back of his head, looks after that end of his body. Then the flagellator, with a strip of thick leather on the end of a three-foot wooden handle, lays on the punishment, severely or lightly, as instructed. Should the prisoner struggle after the first few strokes, another policeman plants a foot in the middle of his back until the full dose has been administered.
In another form of flogging practised, a short bamboo was used. The coolie would strip to the waist and go down on his knees with his head on the floor. His castigator would then squat beside him, and strike him across the shoulders with lightning rapidity. The blows, though apparently light, always fell on the one spot, and raised a large red weal before cutting the flesh. During the first quarter of this year no fewer than fifty-six coolies were whipped, after 8 p.m. one evening, at the Witwatersrand Mine, the dose varying from five to fifteen strokes.