At the foot of the gallows, the condemned man recited Psalm 51 and added a word of personal repentance. A shroud was placed over his head, and he climbed the ladder, which the executioner then pulled away, leaving him to “dance upon nothing,” as the vernacular put it. Thousands looked on as the hangman did his gruesome work. What then was the condemned’s offense?
Poaching a rabbit.
This was one of over 200 capital offenses in early 19th century England. The list of capital offenses included “impersonating an Egyptian (i.e., posing as a gypsy),” forgery, “steal[ing] an heiress,” burning a hut or a pile of straw, cutting down an ornamental shrub, or appearing on a highway with a sooty face (the mark of a robber). Such offenses, most of which concerned the protection of property, could send even a 10-year-old to the gallows.
Public hangings were the “most popular mass spectacle in England,” sometimes drawing as many as 80,000 witnesses—one in ten Londoners. A sense of theater enveloped them, with Englishmen gaining renown for the way in which they met death. It was said that, unlike criminals on the continent, who “tended to beg and blubber or become reduced to bovine passivity when confronted by their executioners,” a British felon on the day of his death sought to be “dandy, trim, gay and uncaring.” As one Italian visitor observed, Englishmen faced execution “as if going to be married, with the calmest indifference in the world.” And the show went on frequently, as often as once a week, as in the years 1779-1788.
Ever since the first sin in the Garden of Eden, people have lived with crime and punishment.
(Source: from a sermon by Freddy Fritz, "Crime and Punishment" 7/19/08)
Related Text Illustrations
Contributed by Sermoncentral on Aug 4, 2001
We can get ourselves in Trouble Fast A burglar broke into a house one day. As he was stealing the valuables he heard a voice out of the darkness that said, "Jesus is watching you". He almost choked. He stoped and looked around and then he shook of his fear and went on stealing some more. ...read more
Contributed by Sermoncentral on Sep 13, 2002
ESCAPING JUDGMENT? Because of a minor infraction, a shipmate of mine aboard the USS Reeves, bound for Japan, was busted one rank, fined and given extra duty for three weeks. Looking forward to celebrating his 21st birthday on July 22, he consoled himself every night during his extra duty by ...read more
Contributed by Mike Harris on Sep 24, 2002
Kaiser Family Foundation: there are 20 million new cases of STD’s each year…. --- of these 20 million new cases… 68% occurring between ages 15-24. --- more than 50 % of all teens 15-19 have had sex… ...read more
Contributed by Jeff Simms on Dec 7, 2003
Red Devil Tool Company of Union, N.J. has as their slogan, “It’s easy with the devil.” Of course, they are boasting that their tools transform difficult tasks into simple ones. Those knowing God’s word understand the desire and ambition of Satan, how he seeks to destroy mankind. He makes sin ...read more