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Judicial CP - August 1913

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The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah, 24 August 1913

Ought We Revive the Barbarous Whipping Post?

A Distinguished American Judge Says That the Lash, as Used in Delaware and England, Is the Only Way to Stop Atrocious Assaults and Crimes Against Women and Children

IN this day of enlightenment and tender care for the defective and erring members of the community there are still intelligent men and women who say that we should revive the whipping post for certain crimes.

England still uses the cat-o'-nine-tails as a punishment for atrocious offences against the person, and has recently made it applicable to the hideous crimes of the white slavers. In our country, the fine old State of Delaware has always employed the cat as a punishment for thieves, wife-beaters and other criminals. A statement on this page by the Governor of Delaware indicates that the State is well satisfied with the punishment and intends to stick to it.

Nevertheless it is probably true that the majority of Americans regard flogging as barbarous. The tendency is in the other direction. The movement to abolish capital punishment altogether is very strong. Recently the State of Colorado, in its solicitude for the murderer, has offered him a choice between shooting, poisoning and electrocution -- all humane forms of death.

In connection with these humanitarian tendencies we must note that atrocious crimes against women and children, murders, burglaries and crimes of violence are increasing.

Judge Lewis L. Fawcett, a Brooklyn judge who has become noted for his severe dealing with burglars and other violent criminals, has just declared sharply in favor of reviving flogging throughout this country.

"The lash," said Judge Fawcett, "has done more to reduce crime in England than anything else. . . . What we need here for gangsters, white slavers and Black Handers is just that sort of punishment. A good lashing and a little salt in the wound will tame the most ferocious criminals.

"Under the English system, when the wounds from the lashes have healed the surgeons open the wounds and apply salt. This operation is performed several times before the six months have expired. Consequently he becomes a tamed citizen."

The argument of Judge Fawcett and others who think like him is that the agony and humiliation of the lash is the only punishment that can reach the sensibilities of the brutes who commit atrocious crimes against women and children. It is a barbarous punishment for a barbarous nature. Imprisonment means nothing to these brutes, and even the death penalty often fails to terrify them.

Strange to say, experience has shown that they have a certain kind of self-respect, which is wounded when they are publicly flogged. Most of them are powerful brutes physically, and the humiliation of being whipped is more than they can bear.

The suggestion to revive flogging in New York has been severely criticised for persons interested in the treatment of criminals. Dr. Beverley Robinson, discussing the subject, wrote:

"It brutalizes both prisoners and keepers. It is revolting to our senses. It is barbarous, unfeeling and worthless. It should be tolerated in no civilized community. It is to me a disgrace for any State or people to tolerate it."

In England flogging has always been regarded as a valuable means of punishment, discipline and education. Until a generation ago soldiers and sailors were flogged almost to death with the cat-o'-nine-tails for the most trifling offences against discipline. In the law courts a severe flogging was the accompaniment of nearly every sentence.

Between 1860 and 1870 there was a movement against excessive flogging, but many influential Englishmen have never ceased to uphold it. About that time a law was passed that flogging should only be ordered in cases of atrocious assault. For these offences the punishment has always been freely inflicted. The tendency recently has been to inflict it more frequently. Judges have availed themselves more often of their power of ordering it.

Now the law has been amended, making it permissible to order the lash for criminals convicted of traffic in "white slavery." The judges may order as much as one hundred lashes with the cat-o'-nine-tails. Thus the punishment is extended beyond the cases of atrocious assault. It was argued that the other punishments inflicted had failed to produce any terrifying effects on those engaged in this hideous traffic.

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The devotion of Delaware to the whipping post is a particularly interesting chapter of American history. It is favored by every member of the State judiciary, by the police and officials. They point to the significant fact that not for the past ten years has a single "crook" of a dangerous class been caught in Delaware. The reason has been explained by the "crooks" themselves. They would feel degraded beyond expression at having to receive a flogging with the cat-o'-nine-tails at the hands of a Delaware jail warden.

Men like the late "Jimmy" Hope, the notorious bank burglar, would a dozen times have preferred to take chances with the combined police and detective forces of New York or Chicago than the small police force of a city like Wilmington, Del., because capture would have meant "hugging old Susan," as the whipping post is called.

While the horror of the post keeps the professional thief outside the boundaries of the State, the petty thief continues to take his chances with Delaware justice just the same. In a great many cases thieves are whipped time and time again, until their backs appear to become hardened to the rawhide thongs, and whatever self respect they may have had has been destroyed.

The law whereby wife-beaters are punished at the post has been recently revived. It was in force during Colonial days, but after the Civil War it was discovered that a woman desiring to get rid of a husband would not hesitate to go upon the witness stand and swear that he had beaten her. As the man once whipped is disfranchised for life, the law was for a time repealed. Then aggravated cases of wife-beating became numerous, and so the punishment was revived.

The whipping post in Delaware has been a means of punishing lawbreakers since its early history. In the chronicles of Diedrich Knickerbocker is a reference to it. In 1656, the punishment was administered at the pleasure of the Governor, there being no regular laws. The first official whipping occurred in 1679, when Agnita Hendricks, a depraved woman, was whipped with twenty seven lashes. Within a few months, she repeated her offence, was whipped with thirty-one lashes and was banished from the State.

The first code of laws for the punishment of criminals was passed In 1717 by a General Assembly composed of delegates from "the counties of New Castle, Kent and Sussex upon the Delaware and the Province of Pennsylvania." It provided that the punishments should be the same as then in force in England. Thieving and various other crimes were punishable by flogging in Great Britain, and consequently they became so in the colonies. In addition to the whipping post, the pillory and the stocks were introduced. They continued in force until 1789, when a particularly severe punishment was inflicted upon a negro convicted of attacking a woman. He was compelled to stand four hours in the pillory with his ears nailed to it, and when he was taken down, his ears were severed close to his head. Afterward he was banished.

The punishment of criminals as late as 1830 was not confined to the state courts, but was administered by the justices of the peace, and old records show that offenders were sentenced by a 'squire,' taken outside of the building and flogged by the constable.

In Wilmington the whippings took place in the city hall park, the lash being handled by the chief of police, then known as the "high constable."

The law providing for the whipping of women remained in force until 1852, when it was stricken from the statute books as barbarous.

Practically all of the whippings in Delaware at the present time take place at the New Castle County workhouse. Arrangements have been made by the officials of other counties, by which their long-term prisoners are boarded at the workhouse, and consequently they are flogged there.

In the past the methods of whipping were different in each of the three counties. In New Castle County the post was two stories in height. Planted in the centre of the old jail yard at New Castle (now torn down) was a twelve-inch post about twenty feet high. Ten feet from the ground was a platform upon which the prisoner stood when in the pillory. The pillory itself consisted of two side arms to the post, the arms being so split that the upper half raised on a hinge. In the arms were two small holes at either end and a larger hole in the centre. In these the prisoner placed his head and hands, the upper part was lowered, locked with a clasp and he was securely fastened as if held in a vise.

Fastened to the post, below the platform and about three feet from the ground, were two iron semi-circular bands. When a prisoner was to be flogged, he was made to put his hands through these manacles, which were fastened with a clasp and he was held firmly. In [?] and Sussex counties the [?] consisted merely of a rough [?] in the ground.

The present post employed in New Castle County [?] the imposing structure [?] because the pillory has been abolished, but it is just as [?].

Delaware Devoted to Whipping

By Governor Charles R. Miller, of Delaware,


WHILE the State of Delaware has been held up to criticism throughout the country for the continuation of this mode of punishment, it is, to my mind, one of the most effective barriers to vicious criminals in their acts that we have on the statute books to-day.

The City of Wilmington, which contains about half the population of the State of Delaware, is on a direct line of communication between four of our largest Eastern
cities, namely, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington. There are three trunk line railroads running through the City of Wilmington. The situation of Wilmington makes it, therefore, a very fertile field for the professional crook or criminal in his movements to and fro between these large cities. A professional criminal or crook has a greater degree of intelligence than most people give him credit for, [...]

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