MFDJ 05/14/24: Merciful Seamen

Today’s Merciful Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Bryan Edwards, an adventurer who travelled extensively in the Americas in the late eighteenth century, was lodging in St. Domingo during a rebellion that took place there in 1791. His inn overlooked the street, so he had a good view of an execution enacted in the square [talk about a room with a view! – DeSpair], where two men were being broken on ‘two pieces of timber placed crosswise,’ the traditional St. Andrew’s cross. One of them, after having each leg and arm broken in two places, was finished off with a blow to the stomach.

The Dreadful St. Andrew’s Cross

The second prisoner was not so lucky. The executioner, after breaking the man’s arms and legs, was about to deliver the final blow when the mob forced him to desist—not for humane reasons, however, for they tied the suffering victim on a cartwheel, which they then hoisted into the air by fixing the other end of the axle in the ground. Gloating over the terrible agonies he was enduring, they left him there.

How long this suffering would have continued one can only guess for, ‘at the end of some forty minutes, some English seamen, who were spectators of the tragedy, strangled him in mercy.’

Culled from: The Book of Execution

There’s got to be a quip about the mercy of seamen, but it’s eluding me…


Vintage Court Case Du Jour!

In 1662 a Massachusetts court heard a case in which the husband admitted his impotence. Mary White sought a divorce from her husband, Elias White, because he “cannot performe the duty or office of a husband to hir.” The court “perused the evidence” and did not see sufficient cause to separate the couple. Instead, the court advised them to work harder at their marriage. The husband appended a note to the court documents attesting to the truth of his wife’s charges. He explained that when he first married he though himself “sufficient: otherwise I neuer would have  entered into that estate.”  Later he came to discover that he was “Infirmous not able to performe that office of marriage,” though he could not determine the cause. Two men questioned Elias and Mary about the husband’s sexual performance. When White lay with his wife, they asked, was “there any motion in him or no?” He answered that sometimes, after lying together four or five hours, there was, but “when he turned to hir It was gonn againe.” Mary White asked her husband “whither or no he had euer made use of hir,” and he answered “no.” Here, too, the court ruled against the divorce, perhaps because White agreed that when he married, he considered himself “sufficient.” In other words, his infirmity became known only after the couple had been married for several years. As there was no fraud in the initial contract, a divorce on these grounds would not have been warranted.

Culled from: Bodies in Doubt: An American History of Intersex

Let me just guess that if it were the other way around, and the woman was the one refusing sex or infertile, the verdict might have been different?

One comment

  1. Elias was actually lucky; in many courts, if he’d had that charge of impotence laid against him, he would be required to disprove it by having sex with his accuser/wife in front of the magistrates. Many a non-impotent husband became impotent in front of an audience.
    If the marriage was never consummated, it could have been annulled, couldn’t it?

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