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Judicial CP - December 1904

Corpun file 21767

Washington Post, 25 December 1904

Capital Needs Whipping Post

Minister and Local Authorities Heartily Favor It.

Penalty for Wife-beaters

President Roosevelt's Suggestion in His Message Touching District Affairs Meets with Warm Approval.


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President Roosevelt's indorsement of corporal punishment for wife-beaters in his recent message to Congress has caused widespread interest in Washington. An almost unanimous expression of approval of the President's views on the part of the most distinguished churchmen of the city has resulted.

The three Commissioners of the District of Columbia are heartily in sympathy with the idea of the whipping post for the chastisement of petty criminals of this class, as are the judges of the Police Court. Some clergymen, on the contrary, who have expressed their opinion upon wife-beating and the most effective methods for correction of the evil, have not hesitated to take exception to the views of the President on the grounds that brutality cannot be cured by brutality, but the sentiment in Washington apparently is strong in its second to the Executive's declaration upon this crime.

In the course of his discussion of affairs in the city of Washington in his annual message, President Roosevelt dealt in the following unmistakable words with the problem which has been for some time past presented to the authorities by the wife-beater, and which has now assumed proportions of considerable interest:

President Roosevelt's Opinion.

There are certain offenders, whose criminality takes the shape of brutality and cruelty toward the weak, who need a special type of punishment. The wife-beater, for example, is inadequately punished by imprisonment, for imprisonment may often mean nothing to him, while it may cause hunger and want to the wife and children who have been the victims of his brutality. Probably some form of corporal punishment would be the most adequate way of meeting this kind of crime.

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For several years past the Police Court judges in the District, the police officials, and a large number of thinking men both in and out of the church have advocated the establishment of the whipping post for the punishment of the wife-beater. The indorsement of President Roosevelt has aroused a keener and stronger sentiment for the whip, and it is probable that a determined effort will be made to secure from Congress during the present session some legislation to meet both the views of the President and the opinions of a large majority of the citizens of Washington, from some of whom the following expressions have been obtained:

Whip Him, Says Bishop Satterlee.

Right Rev. Henry Y. Satterlee, Bishop of Washington: "I would treat the brute who beats his wife as though he were a bad boy -- whip him. [...]

"My sympathies just now are not with the wife-beater, but with the beaten wife. The only suasion to which he is amenable is the lash. The only argument that will deter or reclaim him is the whipping post."


No Sympathy for Sentimentalism.

Rev. A.W. Pitzer, Central Presbyterian Church: "I have never had the least doubt about the usefulness and desirability of corporal punishment. There is a namby-pamby sentimentalism now that rejects anything like the idea of punishment for wrongdoing, a sentiment with which I haven't a particle of sympathy.

[...] "I would very cheerfully vote to establish not only one whipping post in Washington for wife-beaters, but several, so as to have them convenient. I don't know that I would restrict this form of punishment entirely to wife-beaters.

"The whipping need not be public. It would probably be better if it were not public, and I think it would be far better than imprisonment or fining. [...]"


Punishment Should Fit the Crime.

Commissioner Macfarland: [...] "I think that corporal punishment should be administered only in private.

"While the shame of a public punishment might have on some a salutary effect and the actual sight of the punishment might make an impression on possible offenders, these things are counter-balanced, I believe, by the certainty that such scenes would have a demoralizing influence on the general public. [...]"


Delaware Law Successful.

Maj. Richard Sylvester, superintendent of police: "For the past seven years I have been favorable to the establishment of the whipping post for wife-beaters and thieves. The State of Delaware is largely immune from professional criminals, due in great measure to the fact that the lash is an institution of the law there. [...]

"In my opinion the application of the lash in one or two cases in the District of Columbia and the holding of the apparatus in readiness for the future would tend more to stay the cruel treatment of wives and children and prevent the snatching of pocketbooks, assaults, and robberies, than almost anything that could be devised."


Flogging of Men Declared a Cruelty.

Rev. Thomas S. Lee, St. Matthew's Catholic Church: "When I was a boy, in Maryland, I witnessed the whipping of a colored man who had tried to kill a white boy. The colored man was stripped to his waist. [...] the magistrate [...] imposed a penalty of twenty-five lashes.

"At the first blow a big purple welt was raised upon the colored man's back, and he winced in anguish. At the second blow another welt was raised, while each successive cut of the whip brought bruise and blood. I have seen a man whipped and I know what it is. I do not believe that many of the advocates of whipping have seen this method of punishment inflicted. Since my boyhood I have been opposed to the lash as a means of punishing criminals, and I do not see how any man could favor it. I could not see a dumb animal whipped."

Should Women Be Flogged, Too?

Rev. W.E. Parson, Church of the Reformation: "Respecting the proper punishment for wife-beating there seems to be a wide diversity of opinion. As our leading papers cannot get together on the subject, we can scarcely expect the public to be a unit as to the best course to be pursued. In dealing with the question it must not be overlooked that there are some women quite able to take care of themselves. The wife of a well-known pugilist was charged with husband-beating. Shall the new law, if enacted, send the women to the whipping post?

"The old adage about sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander, would seem to apply. But, seriously, this matter deserves very careful consideration before so radical a change should be introduced as would lead to curing brutality by brutality." [...]

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