Okay, so I know that I promised weekly postings and that for a month (or potentially longer – but I hope not) I haven’t posted anything at all. I am also well aware that the title of this post has you thinking: “What is she on, that has nothing to do with being an author, or writing, or hell even life; she’s writing a post about ending lives!” You are sort of right, but I did also promise to post writing exercises and the occasional University assignment. This is both. I take a paper called Literature in the Age of Invention, and we had to write a blog post about an invention from the period (about 1660-1813), and relate it to it’s modern equivalent and or issues that began with the invention. After driving myself crazy for a week or more I finally settled on the Guillotine/Capital Punishment. Because of the submission requirements for the University assignment, instead of hyperlinks you have a list of URLs at the end (I’m sorry about that, but I am just lazy enough to not want to fiddle with it twice). I hope you all enjoy my decidedly random post about the Guillotine/Capital Punishment.
In the eighteenth century the number of offences deemed fit for capital punishment was at its highest. There were two hundred and twenty offences in England alone which could result in the death penalty. The offences ranged from theft to treason, and method of execution from hanging to being hung, drawn, and quartered.
America was relatively content with hanging for all of its capital punishment requirements; and it was during the eighteenth century that their abolitionist movement raised its voice. Despite the abolitionist movement, the United States still has (in some states) a death penalty available for a limited range of violent crime. Although they may find themselves looking back in time for a method of execution as, according to Time magazine online, Oklahoma has run out of two of the three drugs used together to perform humane executions, the article was from March 18 2014.
That same Time magazine online article also mentions that death row inmates have been suing the state (and/ or state penitentiary) over the drugs used not being humane enough, as they had begun to use substitutes after the original pharmaceutical supplier(s) halted supply. One inmate was even quoted as saying “I feel my whole body burning” shortly after his execution had begun. It is ironic and perhaps even hypocritical that these inmates sue over whether or not their death is humane, when most death row inmates earned their place by killing in the most inhumane manner imaginable.
Beheading as execution was at its most popular in England under Henry VIII, who notoriously hired a French swordsman to behead his second wife: Anne Boleyn. During the French revolution, towards the end of the eighteenth century, a ‘decapitation machine’ was refined by Doctor Joseph Ignace Guillotin, for both accuracy and use on a “large institutional scale”, and the French revolution was certainly that.
If nothing else, the Guillotine was efficient; I have found no reported incidents of incomplete decapitations and the Guillotine. Though British History is riddled with ‘Nearly Headless Nick’s’ (for those who have read J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series) who were beheaded by an axe man or swordsman, and though they subsequently died they were not properly decapitated. Indeed the only article I found mentioning a Guillotine not doing its appointed job efficiently, was a very recent one in the Daily Telegraph (London) from January 29 2014, in which the owner of a printing company fell on his guillotine (meant for cutting paper) and slashed his neck, he subsequently died from shock and blood loss. It was ruled a tragic accident and the inquest lasted only a day – but I suspect that the Occupational Health and Safety ramifications will be some time in abating.
As the U.S. begins looking for humane alternatives, most likely excluding the dangerous gas chamber, but the electric chair is optional already in many states which still have the death penalty. Though in Oklahoma the electric chair is considered “cruel and unusual punishment, so perhaps they will consider the Guillotine: as the total drop time of the blade is about a 70th of a second, and the actual beheading takes only 2/100 of a second. Perhaps the only downside is the mess.