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Seventh Impression 1959 

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" It Can't Happen Now " 

The sophistry and superficiality which are such outstanding 
characteristics of the product of twentieth-century civiUza- 
tion; the elaborate and rococo environment in which the 
human animal of to-day works and plays; suffice to suggest 
an atmosphere of weakness and appeasement. The rapid 
extension of State control and coincident interference with 
the freedom of the individual suggest the development of an 
improved social organization. 

The collective result is merely a veneer on the surface of 
a human nature that, in its elementals, changes little. Such 
apparent surface changes as do occur, are largely imperman- 
ent, being environmental in character, and due to those 
moral, ethical and social reactions which are mutable and 
sporadic rather than stable and eternal. 

The larger humanity displayed by the individual and by 
the State, while praiseworthy enough in its way, is deceptive. 
Its illusory expression is due to the growmg factitious 
character of modern life, which more and more results in 
man being out of tune with nature. The increasing intricacy 
of the machine, and the ever-increasing production of rubber- 
stamped mentality, are bringing man and machine nearer 
togedier. If twentieth-century man were to formulate a 
deity, he would not create an anthropomorphic godhead 
but a glorified robot — a robot god who would be conceived 
to possess even greater power than the old-time fire-and- 
brimstone Yahveh. 

The machine may be excellent so long as it serves man 
in a truly utilitarian sense: it may be catastrophic the 
moment it concerns itself solely with the work of destruction 
— a comparison of the aeroplane in peace and war presents 
a pertinent example. 

In examining mankind to-day one cannot altogether 
ignore these somewhat alarming repercussions. The decrease 


in brutality which has been so marked a feature of the past 
half century must not blind one to the potentialities for evil 
which are ever present and which may conceivably exhibit, 
should the occasion arise, a new ruthlessness in keeping with 
the competent mechanistic age in which we live. This, in 
itself, would appear to present possibly the most sinister 
aspect of modern civilization. 

Something of the remorselessness and something of the 
lack of emotion, so intimately associated with the machine, 
are featured in the human product which has evolved con- 
temporaneously with the development of the modern Jugger- 
naut. The surrealists, in their artistic manoeuvres, have, I 
think, managed to convey this automatistic remorselessness 
into the expressions of the humans they have depicted. The 
realistic American novelist similarly has succeeded in depict- 
ing the modern reactions and thought-motivations, which, 
when they become unmoral, are perhaps more cold-bloodedly 
inhumanistic than anything which we have ever been able 
to envisage from the literature of the past. The cruelty of 
the criminal of to-day seems all the more pitiless and corres- 
pondingly capable because of the mechanistic forces behind 
him and the mechanized soul within. 

These points seem to me of vast significance. They seem 
to indicate that whenever and wherever a wave of cruelty 
or persecution does occur, it is likely to be all the more 
terrifying, not alone because of the capacities for cruelty 
inherent in this soulless mechanistic group-mind but because 
an outburst of persecution is always more frightful when it 
occurs in a State where cruelty, in its grosser or more sensa- 
tional aspects, has for long been inexistent. 

Recent happenings in other countries have suggested that 
the outbreak of mass cruelty is never an impossibility; that, 
on the contrary, as the Very Rev. W. R. Inge pointed out 
recently, " torture has been reintroduced into Europe."^ The 
history of the past decade has smashed the contention that 
the horrible cruelties of the past are of no interest or signi- 
ficance to the present generation because " they can't happen 
here " or " they can't happen now." 

* In an article in the Evening Standard, January 19, 1939. 


A Dangerous Viewpoint 

At a recently held meeting in the Queen's Hall, Lady 
Astor, because she supported the abolition of flogging, was 
booed and jeered at by 2,500 women. Here we have an 
example of women, in the mass, acclaiming themselves to be 
supporters of torture. That such support may be restricted, 
in its application, to certain crimes, does not affect the basic 
significance of the demand for the continuance of torture in 
the guise of punishment. The moment an attempt is made 
to justify any form of torture, whatever the circumstances 
may be, there arises the possibility of creating a dangerous 

Justification on fhe_^Tnun d of its efficiency, which_was_ 
so"Trftcn" att"emj^te3Iin_xelation-4o -torti^ 
securing confessions of guilt from those charged yyith hergsy 
-'^^ "sorcery, is actually conditioned by the need for finding 
avictim upon wh ich t o wr ^rk <"^^ y^ng^qnc e of society, and , 
vicariously, the vengeance of God. Such justification acts 
also as a means of suppressing or obviating any sense of 
injustice in society as a whole, and in those individuals 
immediately and specifically concerned with the infliction of 
the torture or persecution, either as executioner or onlookers. 
On these lines it is easy to justify any form of barbarity, and 
it is in this way that, through the ages, the most monstrous 
inquisitions and persecutions have been vindicated. Thus 
the justification, in our own time, of negro lynchings, of 
Bolshevist atrocities, of " Black-and-Tan " outrages, of brutal 
floggings, of " third degree " methods. 

If there is one lesson that history teaches it is that any 
possibility of abolishing torture is endangered by the exist- 
ence of cruelty in any form and for any purpose. In all 
circumstances and at all times cruelty may easily develop into 
torture, and the toleration or sanction of one form of torture 
may easily lead to the introduction of other forms. For this 
reason alone, any openly expressed approval of cruelty is as 
dangerous as it is alarming. The spectacle of 2,500 womeik 
crying aloud for the retention of torture is disturbing, and 
presents a significant footnote to any examination of modern 
sociological trends. 


The Ostrich Attitude 

T here arc peoplej^ojgersistentl)^fuse to discuss or to 
witness anything thatjs jinpalatable^ They contend that it 
is~much better to look upon the bright, the pleasant, the 
agreeable and the soporific things of life than to concern 
oneself with the sordid, the revolting and the unpleasant 
aspects. The world is full of people who persistently sub- 
scribe to this doctrine. 

Now I am unaware whether or not these persons think 
that in adopting such an attitude they are exhibiting some 
form or other of mental superiority. But what J_ doj^now 
is tlmt m^is^ way-4hey_(fj5to«r^^<? the e^^ are all top 

prevalent in modern society. Smugly and complacently, 
meyiOiufTheijrcyesTo ah)^^^^^ that is disturbing, repellent 
or offensive, affecting to believe it does not exist. They hold 
the view, or at any rate they act upon the concept, that 
ignorance of cruelty excuses the support of cruelty. Thus 
the well-to-do woman displays her astrakhan coat in ignor- 
ance of the fact that she is contributing towards a detestable 
and revolting form of animal torture; the masses cheer the 
antics of performing animals and thus encourage the con- 
tinuance of a form of cruelty that is a disgrace to civilization. 

This attitude of the public is one of the greatest enemies 
to reform. It may be that the majority of people view with 
disfavour cruelty to animals, to individuals, and to races; 
but this reaction is conditioned by individual desire and 
ambition. Wherever the result of prevention of cruelty is 
in opposition to personal interests I find there is no real 
enthusiasm for abolition. And so it goes on: the cruelty 
connected w^ith the fur trade; the butchery trade; the per- 
fumery trade; the cruelty associated with sport; with amuse- 
ments; et al. 

I make no apology for the presentation, in the following 
pages, of a gruesome picture of man's inhumanity. The 
record, stark and terrible though it be, should drive home 
to all thinking persons the need for every effort being made 
to eliminate cruelty in all its forms : the grim account of 
torture in our own time should make clear to every reader 
the danger, as well as the possibility, of an outbreak at any 
time and in any place. 


It has been essential to my project that nothing should 
be shirked, evaded or suppressed. In any full consideration 
of the subject with which this book elects to deal, a thorough 
knowledge of the historical background is necessary. If the 
problems connected with this particular branch of sociology, 
in so far as they affect and apply to civilization to-day, are 
to be grasped properly, and the means of dealing with them, 
in any adequate sense, are to be comprehended, one must 
lay bare the root causes of torture, and examine its march 
through the thousands of years which have separated the 
appearance of the first crude specimen of homo sapiens and 
the elaboration of the 1939 niod^l* 


In the bibliography are included particulars of the many 
historical, criminological, anthropological, legal, and other 
works, which have been consulted. To the authors of these 
publications I am indebted for much information and help 
in the study of a sociological problem which, admittedly, 
bristles with difficulties. Incidentally, I may say that I have 
made every effort to provide as complete and comprehensive 
a bibliography as possible (even to the extent of including 
certain works from which I have drawn no data) with the 
view and hope that it may prove of value to future re- 
searchers and historians. There seems to be a strange lack 
of bibliographical matter relative to this particular subject. 

For much information respecting present-day aspects of 
cruelty to animals and children, I would express my thanks 
to the Secretary of the Royal Society for the Prevention of 
Cruelty to Animals; to the President of the Massachusetts 
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; and the 
Director of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty 
to Children. 

The illustrations are the result of a diligent search 
through the artistic productions of many centuries and 
several nationalities. I am indebted to the Syndics of the 
University Library, Cambridge, for permission to reproduce 
a number of these pictures from their collections. 

George Ryley Scott. 



Preface ...... v 

" It can't happen now " — A dangerous viewpoint — 
The ostrich attitude — Acknowledgments. 




L The Meaning and Limitations of Torture . i 

A question of terminology — The reality of psycho- 
logical torture — Illegitimate, surreptitious and camou- 
flaged torture. 

IL The Fundamental Principles of Torture . 6 

A primary means of exacting vengeance — An expres- 
sion of power — The physiology of hate — The toleration of 
torture by society — Mob psychology in relation to the 
development of torture. 

in. Sadism as a Basic Cause of Torture by the 

Individual . . . . • H 

The sadistic concept of torture — Sadism developed by 
public exhibitions of torture — The indulgence of private 

IV. The Pleasure Principle in Masochism . . 21 

The submission to torture — Martyrdom and masochism. 

V. The Causes of Wholesale or Mass Torture 

Sacrifice in relation to torture — The weak and the des- 
pised — State domination and power. 


VI. The Effects of Torture . . . • 29 

Paralysing influence upon the individual — Futility of 
torture in the securing of confession or evidence — Psycho- 
logical effects on society. 






VII. Torture Among Savage and Primitive Races . 35 

The transition from torture as a religious rite to penal 
torture — The place of torture in initiatory rites — Punish- 
ment by torture. 

VIII. Torture in Ancient Greece and Rome . . 44 

Torture of free citizens — The torture of slaves — ^The 
Roman gladiators. 

IX. The Progress of Torture . . . -5^ 

The attitude of the Church — The Christian approach 
— The persecutions suffered by the Waldenses — The 
persecutions suffered by the Quakers — The growth of 
judicial and penal torture in Europe. 

X. The Holy Inquisition . . . .64 

The birth and development of the Holy Office — The 
examination of the accused — Inside the torture chamber — 
The auto da fe — Influence of the Inquisition — Victims of 
the Inquisition. 

XI. Torture in Great Britain and Ireland . . 86 

The rise of judicial torture in England — Judicial torture 
in Scotland and Ireland — Torture in the guise of punish- 

XII. The Persecution of the Witches . '95 

The war upon demonology — The mark of Satan — 
Witch-hunting in Britain. 

XIII. Torture in China, Japan and India . . 102 

Judicial torture in China — Methods of punishment — 
Capital punishment in China — Torture in Japan — A 
terrible campaign of religious persecution — Japanese 
methods of punishment — Torture in India — The terrible 
l^iUee and other Indian tortures — Torture of school chil- 
dren — Some bizarre forms of torment. 

XIV. The Torture of Slaves in the West Indies, 

Mauritius and the United States of America i 19 

The traffic in human beings — Methods of torture em- 
ployed — ^Torture will who torture can — The horrors of 
Mauritius— -Torture of American slaves. 



XV. The War upon Torture . . , ' 134 

The growth of opposition — The decHne of torture — 
The war upon animal torture. 

XVI. Some Notorious Torturers 

The ancient tyrants — Torturers of the Middle Ages — 
Some eighteenth and nineteenth century torturers. 



XVII. Impaling Methods . . . . •153 

Crucifixion — The " Dice " — Peine forte et dure or 
pressing to death. 

XVIII. Burning at the Stake, Branding, Boiling to 

Death, the Fire-pan and the Brazen Bull 157 

Burning alive — Branding — Boiling and frying — The 
brazen bull. 

XIX. Squassation, the Rack, the Wheel, the Boot 

and the Scavenger's Daughter . . 168 

Squassation or the torture of the pulley — Torture of the 
rack or wooden horse — The torture of water — Torture of 
the wheel — Stoning to death — Torture of the boot — The 
Scavenger's Daughter — Hurling from a tower or height. 

XX. Whipping and Beating . . . .188 

Flogging implements and methods of the Middle Ages 
— The Jamaica cart-whip — The technique in Mauritius — 
England's cat-o'-nine-tails — Cart's tail and other penal 
floggings — Private and sadistic floggings. 

XXI. Mutilation, Drawing and Quartering, Decapi- 
tation, etc. ..... 208 

Mutilation — Scalping — Drawing and quartering — De- 
capitation — Flaying alive. 

XXII. Burying Alive, Hanging Alive in Chains, 

Starvation, the " Virgin Mary," etc. . 217 

Burying alive — Hanging alive in chains — The Black 
Hole of Calcutta — Torture by starvation — Drowning — 
Torture of the boats — ^The kiss of the " Virgin Mary." 

XXIII. Torture by Ordeal .... 227 

The red-hot iron ordeal — Ordeal of boiling water — The 
cold-water ordeal. 




XXIV. Miscellaneous Forms of Torture . . 

The pillory and the stocks — The thumbscrews — Torture 
of the " iron gauntlets " — Torture of the glove — The 
ducking-stool — The scold's bridle — Torture of the pen- 
dulum — Torture of the bath — Military tortures — Some 
bizarre tortures — " Little ease " and " torture of the 
rats " — Various prison tortures. 

XXV. Methods of Self-inflicted Torture 

The Flagellants — Self-tortures of saints and penitents — 
The Indian suttee. 

XXVI. Modern Methods of Torture 

Torture in Russia in the nineteenth and twentieth 
centuries — The Bolshevist atrocities — Torture in Abyssinia 
— Torture in South-West Africa — The Chinese communist 
atrocities — Torture in modern warfare — Terrorism in Ire- 
land — The American lynchings — The " third degree." 

XXVII. Forms of Torture of Animals 

The criminal prosecution of animals — Bull-baiting 
and bear-baiting — The Spanish bull-fight — Miscellaneous 
forms of modern animal cruelty. 







XXVIII. The Futility of Torture in the Fight Against 
Criminality ..... 

The aims of punishment — The limitations of fear as a 
deterrent — The nullity of punishment in a reformatory 
sense — Experience confounds the arguments of the 

XXIX. The Evils of Torture as a Form of Punishment 

Dangers incidental to excessive pain — The brutalizing 
effect of punishment — The suppression of humanity. 

XXX. The Psychopathological Element in Torture, 
and its Treatment .... 

The limitations of punishment — Treatment of sadism 
and masochism. 

XXXI. The Abolition of Torture 

Preventing the torture of children and animals — Diffi- 
culties in the way of abolition — The real solution. 

Bibliography ..... 
Index ..... 















USED ...... 





IN 1642 .... 


Facing page 




















THE "virgin MARY " ..... 

view of the cutting apparatus in the chamber beneath the 

egan and salmon on the smithfield pillory 
torture of the trees and of driving spikes under the finger 

and toe nails 

THE scold's BRIDLE 




















WATER " ORDEAL ...... 





For kindly pennitting the reproduction of illustrations, acknowledgments are grate- 
fully given by the author and publisher to the Department of Oriental Antiquities, 
British Museum (frontispiece) ; to the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum (Torture 
of Death by the Thousand Cuts) ; and to the University Library, Cambridge (illus- 
trations facing pages 16, 17, 32, 64, 81, 97, 113, 144, 145, 160, 161, 176, 177, 192, 
193, 324, 225. 240, 241, 256, and, in the text, on pages 48 and 54). 





A Question of Terminology 

It must be admitted that the meaning of torture is not easy 
to define. Invariably is one likely to formulate a definition 
which is either too wide or too narrow in its scope. Realizing 
to the full that a serious error in either direction is bound to 
detract from the value of any study of torture, I feel it to be 
essential that I should, at the outset, define with some exacti- 
tude what, so far as this book is concerned, the word torture 
implies. It is important, for instance, to realize clearly that 
there is no rigid line of demarcation between torture and 
punishment. Any distinction is dependent largely upon the 
reaction of the individual victim to physical and mental 
suffering. It is necessary to consider in what circumstances 
the one implies the other. It has always been customary 
for society and the State, from the beginning of civilization 
to the present day, to attempt the justification of torture by 
placing it within the category of punishments, and, further, 
in this way to deny that any form of torture is used at all. 
Largely because of this almost universal practice, in which 
the term punishment is employed as a euphemism for torture, 
it has never been thoroughly and adequately realized to what 
extent torture has been employed in past ages, and, addition- 
ally, to what extent it is employed to-day. 

Much of this lack of knowledge concerning its extent and 


universality has arisen through the wide acceptance of the 
legal definition in contradistinction to any comprehensive 
elucidation of torture; which acceptance has in large part 
been due to the fact that no other more exponential and truer 
definition has been presented. According to the legal defini- 
tion, torture was a form of cruelty or method of tormenting 
sanctioned by the State, and executed by duly accredited or 
appointed officials, through its judicial authorities. It was 
held to be justifiable, and was authorized and executed for 
the purpose of inducing a person accused of a crime to con- 
fess his guilt or a witness to present evidence. In those 
countries, of which England was the most notable, which 
at no time allowed accused persons or witnesses to be sub- 
jected to the qucEstion in order to secure a confession or to 
extract information, it was contended that torture was in- 
existent. By observing a sharp line of demarcation between 
those forms of cruelty authorized and practised for a specific 
purpose, as in the case of judicial torture, and cruelty imposed 
as punishment, it was easy to deny an allegation of torture 
even where criminals, under the name of retribution or 
prison discipline, were subjected to the most fiendish, barbar- 
ous and terrible forms of persecution. 

At the same time, the error must not be made, as it so 
often is made by those whose humanitarianism has run to 
seed, of classifying every form of punishment and every form 
of cruelty, in all circumstances, as torture. It is true that, 
under certain conditions, as we shall see when we come to 
consider psychological torture, a form of punishment con- 
sidered by one individual to be relatively mild, might, to 
another, constitute a most horrible form of torture; but, 
generally speaking, the majority of the punishments inflicted 
to-day in civilized countries and under the aegis of the law, 
cannot be placed within the category of physical torture. 

Torture is not a mere matter of terminology, however. 
Death, in itself, deliberately induced, in many cases, docs not 
rank as a form of physical torture. But torture exists where 
death is preceded and caused by acts which involve unjus- 
tifiable suffering or pain. Where any procedure involving 
cruelty, suffering and pain is inflicted upon an individual, 
in any circumstances, and for any purpose, whether the 
punishment ends with such persecution or is followed by the 


extinction of life, it does most assuredly constitute torture. 
The objects of persecution, whatever their nature and how- 
ever serious their import, neither justify the torturing of the 
individual nor the description of the torture by another 

The acceptance of the legal definition means the accep- 
tance of the view that torture is applied only by the State, for 
the express objects defined. The act of cruelty used by the 
State as a form of torture, if committed by an individual or 
by a number of citizens, without the authority of the State, 
would not be legitimate and would not constitute torture : 
it would rank as an assault. Obviously such an interpreta- 
tion is most unsatisfactory and logically indefensible. 

From the viewpoint of the unfortunate person who is 
being subjected to any act which entails suffering and pain 
analogous to that experienced by the victim of torture, it is a 
matter of indifference by what precise term this persecution 
is described, and whether it is being executed by a private 
individual or by a State official. 

Clearly the sufferer, provided the degree of persecution 
or cruelty is sufficiently severe, is being subjected to what 
can be described as nothing less than torture. And equally 
clearly the sufferer is the one person who is in a position to 
provide the most fitting evidence as to the reality or other- 
wise of such torture. The judge responsible for the sentence, 
and the executioner responsible for the infliction of the 
punishment, apart from the fact that they are prejudiced 
witnesses, cannot be so reliable in their decision as to whether 
or not the specific sentence ranks as torture, as is the actual 

The Reality of Psychological Torture 

Here we come up against the fact, all too imperfectly and 
all too rarely realized, that there is in existence a form of 
torture distinct from physical injury or torment : a form of 
torture which is psychological in its trend. It may exist in 
addition to physical torture. It may exist where there is no 
physical torture at all. 

The substitution of psychological methods of dealing 
with crime in the place of many antiquated physical 


methods does not necessarily mean, as is generally thought, 
that torture has been removed in toto from the prison system. 
It merely means that physical torture, in the shape of 
corporal punishment, the treadmill, the crank, et ah, has 
been to a big extent replaced by other and more subtle 

The reformation in prison methods has been coincident 
with the evolution of a new type of prisoner. Man to-day 
is, generally spea\ing, and in normal circumstances, more 
humane and less brutal than was his prototype of fifty and 
a hundred years ago. He is, to use another form of termin- 
ology, " softer." This applies to the criminal element in 
society exacdy as it does to the respectable element. The 
popular notion that the criminals of the world are *' tougher " 
specimens than are the law-abiding members of the public 
is a fallacy. It arises through the error of accepting those 
exceptional cases of " toughness " which figure in sensa- 
tional newspaper accounts and in crime fiction as representa- 
tive of the criminal world. The majority of criminals, as 
Dr. Amos Squire, one-time chief physician of Sing Sing, has 
pointed out, are indistinguishable in physical or mental 
attainments from the average respectable golf-playing, 
cinema-going, radio-listening citizen. 

The mental torture induced by imprisonment, with its 
destructive effects upon initiative, will-power, originality 
and ambition, can be incalculable. Upon some natures the 
segregation of mind is even more paralysing and cumulative 
in its effects than is any form of physical segregation. The 
contention that the modern prison is a convalescent home 
or a rest-camp, and errs on the side of leniency or benefi- 
cence, is as erroneous in its implications as are the ideas 
secured by visitors who are conveyed around a ** model " 
prison upon a tour of inspection. A prison is a prison what- 
ever amenities form part of the curriculum. Moreover it is 
possible for a governor or a warder, even in a modern 
" humane " prison, to render the life of the prisoner a verit- 
able hell. Ninety years ago, in Birmingham borough prison, 
the governor subjected the prisoners to various illegal tortures 
unknown to the visiting justices. It is not impossible, in 
relation to psychological torture at any rate, for an analo- 
gous state of affairs to exist to-day. 


Illegitimate, Surreptitious and Camouflaged Torture 

The prohibition of torture and persecution during 
criminal investigations and in prison management, by the 
State, is no guarantee of their non-existence in the com- 
munity. Any such prohibition does not even mean that the 
State itself never employs such methods. For instance, 
although torture, either by the State or by private indivi- 
duals, is prohibited in Great Britain, flogging is still included 
among the punishments prescribed in the penal code. The 
use of corporal punishment is justified as a legitimate means 
of correction; it does not rank as (what it actually is) a form 
of torture. In the United States of America, for many 
decades, torture has been prohibited both in the penal code 
and in private life, yet flogging has been employed in several 
States and on many occasions since 1868; and the *' third 
degree," which incorporates many forms of torture, is sur- 
reptitiously but widely resorted to by the police in the secur- 
ing of confessions. The American public, the American 
judges, and the American Government I{now that this " third 
degree " is in constant employment : they make no real or 
sincere attempt to suppress a practice which is as much a 
crime as are any of the offences of the individuals upon 
whom it is used. 

To what extent torture is employed privately it is quite 
impossible to do more than guess at. Although it is true that 
the individual has the right of appeal to the law in any case 
of assault, there are lots of instances where no such appeal 
is made. There are wives and there are children who suffer 
severe physical punishment and take no action against 
those who have inflicted such punishment. There are 
hundreds of cases where terrible mental suffering is borne 
in silence, often, too, in circumstances where it would be 
difficult, if not impossible, to prove anything which would 
secure a conviction in a court of law. There are other cases 
where, for many reasons, the suffering and persecuted party 
cannot face the publicity and exposure which a court action 
ensures. There are prostitutes in the power of bullies and 
pimps, and there are criminals tied up with gangs, who 
cannot seek the protection of the law. 



A Primary Means of Exacting Vengeance 

Once it is conceded and accepted that there are forms of 
torture in addition to the type acknowledged and defined 
by law, we have gone a long way towards realizing that 
torture is something which has existed from the beginning 
of time. In relation to its true and wide significance it is as 
erroneous to assert that torture was inexistent before the 
time of the Romans as it is to assert that it disappeared from 
most European countries in the eighteenth century. Both 
these assertions have been made. Each assertion represents 
a perversion of the truth. 

It is no exaggeration to say that every man and woman 
is a potential torturer. The scope of this potentiality, and 
Hkewise its expression, are extended by the fact that what, 
by the persecuted party, is recognized as torture, may not, and 
probably in many circumstances will not, be so recognized or 
admitted by the individual responsible for putting the torture 
into operation. This non-recognition or non-acceptance of 
torture by the individual, by the mob, and, in certain circum- 
stances, by the State, is responsible for the wide extension 
of persecution in any one period of history, for its continu- 
ance through the ages, and for its existence to-day. It is 
further the cause of the abolition of torture being a much 
more difficult affair than the average person realizes, involv- 
ing matters which are outside the scope of ordinary vision 
and which have implications that are seldom fully recog- 

In its simplest and most ecumenic form torture represents 
a ready, an efficacious, a satisfactory, and a crude means of 
exacting vengeance; especially of exacting that type of ven- 
geance which is more concerned with the individual than 
with the State. That is to say, torture in any ordinary 
circumstances, appeals more to the sense of retribution 



developed in the injured individual for a crime or an offence 
concerning himself or his immediate family, than it appeals 
to the State as a means of securing satisfaction for a crime 
committed against the community, or an offence concerned 
vt^ith abstract principles. It is this attitude v^hich is respon- 
sible for the view expressed so often by those individuals 
intimately concerned with a horrible crime that the penalty 
of death, in itself, is not enough to satisfy the call for justice. 
The personal cry for vengeance demands that before death 
the criminal must suffer long and severely; in other words, 
that torture must precede death. This primitive cry for 
vengeance is as common and as urgent in the civilized 
countries of to-day as it was among the North American 
savages careering around the captives whom they were burn- 
ing at the stake. It is merely that society, in virtue of laws 
passed by citizens, who, at the time of making those laws, 
were not imbued with this passion for private vengeance, 
has diverted or submerged the urge. It is not that, funda- 
mentally and individually speaking, the urge does not exist. 

An Expression of Power 

In this vengeance inherent in all forms of torture lies the 
key to its use as an expression, by the individual, of the will 
to power, and, by the State, of authority and autocratic 
domination. The expression or satisfaction of this demand 
for vengeance on the part of a group of individuals or of 
society as a whole, which is an extension of the individual's 
private urge for revenge, has formed a part of the policy 
adopted by every leader of mankind, starting with the chief, 
the king, or the emperor, and descending, through various 
stages, to the mob leader, whether he be the incendiary 
calling to arms a rabble of political rebels, or the gangster 
chief directing the criminal activities of a mob of social out- 
laws. Nothing was, and nothing is, better calculated to 
enhance the prestige and authority of the leader than the 
handing over to his followers, for punishment, of their 
enemy. ^ It was due to a realization of this primeval fact 

* A modern example of this appeal to the mob's desire for vengeance 
was the promise made, either direcdy or by implication, during the war 
of 1914-18, by some of England's leading statesmen, that the Kaiser would 
be tried and executed at the termination of hostilities. 


that torture was first adopted and authorized as part of the 
penal code of a race, a government, or a branch of society. 
The more the leader showed himself as an advocate and a 
devotee of vengeance against the avowed and suspected 
enemies of the branch of society he headed, the more did he 
find himself respected by his immediate followers. Coinci- 
dentally the tyrant fed, in true anthropophagous style, upon 
his own tyranny. The more tyrannous he became the more 
powerful. Torture proved itself to be a footstool to greater 
power just as it was a means of developing personal vanity 
in one's own power. 

As society developed out of savagery into civilization, and 
as codes of laws and regulations were enacted, the torture 
which was inflicted by primitive man to satisfy his vengeance 
against enemies without and within his race, crystallized 
itself into a definite method of torture justified as a system 
of punishment; as a means, adopted by the ruler in an auto- 
cratic country and by the State in an oligarchy, of compel- 
ling subservience to authority; and, in the case of smaller 
mobs or gangs, as a method of maintaining discipline. 

Torture, more perhaps than any other factor known, 
justified itself, in the opinion of those in positions of author- 
ity, irrespective of the nature, degree and circumstances of 
such authority, as the best available means of limiting the 
freedom of the individual to think or to act for himself. 
Torture justified itself as the most satisfying method of com- 
pelling acceptance of dictatorial jurisdiction, by repressing 
and preventing all attempts to rebel against that authority 
or the tenets of its creed. In the State, as in the Church, in 
waging war upon treason on the one hand and heresy on 
the other, torture was admitted to be the most powerful 
instrument available. It is, although any practical expres- 
sions are hidden and camouflaged in a thousand ways, the 
most powerful instrument available to-day. Because of this 
basic fact, torture has always been existent in some form or 
other, and, in the course of the world's history, has made 
spectacular and sporadic emergencies, which, in themselves, 
have been partly instrumental in distracting attention from 
those forms of persecution which have been continually 
present since the beginning of man's urge to power, and 
which are existent in our own time. 


The Physiology of Hate 

Interlinked with all this is the virtue of cruelty, which 
represents a physical expression of hate, in the fight for self- 
preservation. The rival or the competitor, even within one's 
own race, is a potential enemy. The primeval law of self- 
preservation demands that everyone should think and act on 
the supposition and in accordance with the selfish realization 
that, in the ultimate struggle for existence, it is, in popular 
parlance, every man for himself. In mass formation this 
transcends itself into the assumption that every powerful 
neighbouring tribe or nation is similarly a potential if not 
an actual enemy. 

Whether the question is one concerning the individual 
or the family, or the tribe, or the nation, the possibility of 
hatred towards someone implied or expressed is always 
existent. Everything or everybody that possesses dangerous 
possibilities is a potential subject for hate. 

Now just as cruelty or tyranny is an expression of power 
over the inferior or the despised; so, too, is it an expression 
of hatred for the powerful rival or competitor. The more 
that rival or competitor is feared the greater will be the 
degree of hate, and when the opportunity for overt activity 
arises, the greater the expression of cruelty. 

It is the existence of this fundamental potentiality for 
hate, which may be, and probably is, in many cases, function- 
ing unconsciously or semi-consciously, that, in the interests 
of self-preservation, leads to the formation of gangs, societies, 
associations, groups; and, in relation to nations, pacts, 
alliances or treaties. These organizations may be open or 
they may be secret. 

In modern civilization this tendency is apparently a 
growing one. It is not a tendency which can be viewed 
without disquiet, though one may perhaps secure some 
degree of consolation from the fact that the multiplicity ot 
such groups has a weakening effect upon any individual 

The Toleration of Torture by Society 

It is an ironical commentary upon society that the masses 
have always contributed towards their own enslavement by 


encouraging the lust for power in their leaders, whether 
those leaders have been chiefs of gangs and mobs function- 
ing locally; or kings, dictators and oligarchies functioning 
nationally. If it is too much to say that society itself actually 
initiated the putting into operation of torture in any organ- 
ized and universal sense, it is certainly not too much to say 
that sections of society, by their actions, first suggested to 
ruling individuals or governing bodies the virtues of torture 
as an indication of power and a means of compelling obedi- 
ence. "It is," says Sumner, "of the first importance to 
notice that it was the masses which first applied death by 
burning to heretics. The mob lynched heretics long before 
the Church began to prosecute."^ 

The root cause of this reaction of society, as we have 
already seen, is in the primeval thirst for revenge which is 
inherent in the individual, and which has existed all through 
the ages until our own time. Inevitably, in the end, argu- 
ment gives place to brute force. Inevitably, society accepts 
the primitive law that punishment and torture are, in the 
ultimate analysis, the most powerful instruments, not alone 
for forcing the individual to act contrary to his wishes, but 
also for preventing him rebelling against the existent rules 
of the governing body. It was familiarity with the truth of 
this concept which led the Inquisition to adopt torture as a 
means of securing confession; it was a realization of the force 
of this same concept which led the English government, in 
the Middle Ages, to practise torture in defiance of common 
law; it is the appreciation of this self-same concept which 
leads, in these ultra-civilized days, to war still remaining the 
final arbiter when the possibilities of every other conceivable 
type of negotiation have been exhausted. 

The incorporation of any form of torture in a penological 
system, whether as a means of extracting confession, as in 
the Middle Ages, or as a form of punishment, as in most 
countries to-day, inevitably leads to its acceptance as a justi- 
fiable procedure by society generally, and involves a danger 
of its extension under suitable conditions. Just as familiarity 
with torture leads to approval of torture, so does the 
acceptance or ratification of torture lead to its justifica- 

' W. G. Sumner, Folkways, Boston, 1907, p. 238. 


Wc see examples of this in the attempts, which modern 
society increasingly makes, to justify the torture of animals. 
The animal to-day is in the position of the negro in the 
West Indies a century ago. The negro in those days had 
no rights: he was weak, he was despised. The animal 
to-day has no rights : similarly it is weak, similarly it is 
despised. The negro was tortured a hundred years ago. 
The animal is tortured to-day. These facts are not admitted 
by society as reasons for persecution, nor is any justification 
of persecution essayed along these lines; but none the less 
precisely here lie tiie fundamental reasons for persecution 
and the possibility of justification being attempted. Thus 
it is contended — and the contention is supported by Biblical 
exegesis — that cattle were created by God to provide food 
for man; that butchers must live; that wild animals must 
be destroyed or they would overrun the earth and destroy 
man; that rabbits are pests which must be exterminated; 
that fox-hunting provides work for himdreds of horse- 
breeders, et at. All these excuses for the propagation of 
cruelty are possible only because society is in a position to 
persecute animals. 

Some reflection of this attitude is, too, observable in 
relation to the persecution of those individuals who, in the 
spheres of morality, religion, and even pure intellect, are 
alien to normality or orthodoxy. The same measure of 
brutal treatment or persecution which would arouse the 
deepest resentment or indignation when applied to a 
kindred spirit or a close associate, if directed against one 
whose actions or opinions were viewed with abhorrence or 
disgust, would evince no words of protest, and might con- 
ceivably, were the circumstances suflicientiy provocative, 
meet with active support. Thus the tolerance or approval 
of the most brutal persecutional measures accorded to 
criminals, to sexual perverts, to enemy aliens. The 
martyrdom of anyone who is associated with something 
out of tune with current thought or morality is not viewed 
with sympathy and is usually called by another and a 
harsher name. It is an inevitable result of mob psychology 
that the sympathy and tolerance of the masses is extended 
only to those near them in mentality as well as environ- 


Mob Psychology in Relation to the 
Development of Torture 

Once society began to practise torture, its development 
was certain. It matters little that any such practice was, in 
the beginning, restricted in its application to those guilty 
of certain crimes which, viewed in relation to the ethical 
and religious reactions of the time, were considered to be 
as monstrous as they were dangerous. The very fact that 
torture had been put into operation at all suggested the 
possibility of its extension; and further suggested to the 
leaders of society a method of dealing with their re- 
calcitrant or rebellious members. Thus it not infrequently 
happened that the individuals who had been primarily 
responsible for the infliction of torture against certain 
members of society, found themselves, as a result of the 
development of persecution along unforeseen lines, and 
for unspecified purposes, among its next victims. 

In the beginning torture was probably restricted to 
animals and to members of enemy tribes or races. A start 
having been made, the next steps were the extension in the 
quantity of subjects persecuted and developments in the 
technique of torture itself. The rule that the tolerated of 
to-day becomes the approved of to-morrow, applies to tor- 
ture as well as to most things. And with toleration and 
approval of any specific form of persecution, in many 
cases, it ceases to rank as torture at all, but is accepted as 
a form of punishment or of penal procedure. This hap- 
pened all through the ages. It happens to-day. It is for 
this reason that the justification of persecution has always 
been one of the major forces working against its abolition. 
The result of all this is that torture, in whatever country 
it is practised and wherever it is regarded as essential to the 
form of authority or government in vogue, must of neces- 
sity, if it is not to decline in its efficacy, be either continually 
increasing in its severity or extending in its scope. One of 
the greatest evils connected with torture is that whenever 
and wherever it is practised, and whatever be its objects, it 
must inevitably develop. The judges and executioners of 
the Middle Ages were compelled to be continually invent- 
ing new and more severe forms of torture. Thus by sheer 


tolerance, the brutal form of punishment practised in one 
decade became a commonplace method in the next. 

The tortured individual is himself a potential torturer. 
The ill-treatment of animals by man is often to be found 
in conjunction with the ill-treatment of man by his fellow- 
men. A little over a century ago, in the British West 
Indies, the scavenging work was done by negro slaves 
guilty of some criminal offence or other. They worked in 
fetters and they were treated just about as inhumanly as 
one human being can be treated by another, and live. 
They were permitted to destroy every pig they found in 
the streets. This they looked upon as " great sport"; in- 
deed they revelled in it, according to Mr. F. W. N. 
Bayley, who describes the following incident. It occurred 
in St. Vincent. 

" I was one day standing at my wandow, gazing on 
these unfortunate beings at their work, when a pig 
passed the gang; before the poor animal had proceeded 
ten yards, a long pole, which they carry for the pur- 
pose, was immediately thrust into its side, and passed 
out beneath its belly; at that moment a woman, to 
whom the pig belonged, came out of her house, which 
was close by, and, seizing the animal's two legs, 
endeavoured to take it from the man. The enraged 
and savage brute immediately left his hold of the pike, 
and taking the other two legs of the pig, commenced 
pulling it in a contrary direction. The struggle lasted 
about five minutes, during which time the bowels and 
intestines of the animal were protruding in a most dis- 
gusting manner; and the females of the gang, instead 
of turning away from the revolting scene before them, 
appeared to enjoy it li\e a delicious meal, and stood 
laughing at the despoiled owner. At length the man 
gained the mastery, and having severed the head from 
file body, he stuck it on his pike, as if in triumph, and 
afterwards repaired to the market to make his bargain 
with the butcher."* (The italics are mine. — G. R. S.) 

* F. W. N. Baylcv. Four Years' Residence in the West Indies, 1830, 
p. 197. 



The Sadistic Concept of Torture 

It is futile to deny the existence of individuals who take a 
delight in the sight of suffering, or in the infliction of pain. 
Persons of this nature are often the leaders in scenes of mob 
violence. They are not necessarily sadists, but often they are. 

It is important to distinguish between cruelty per se and 
sadism. The popular assumption, due largely to the loose 
way in which the term is now used in popular fiction and 
in newspapers, that sadism is a synonym for cruelty in any 
form, is a fallacy. Sadism is a sexological term, and, strictly 
speaking, it should never be employed apart from its sexual 
connotations. This widespread misuse detracts from the 
term's significance, and gives rise to a good deal of mis- 

The sadist, in most cases, either practises or delights in 
the witnessing of cruelty, but his pleasure is concerned 
exclusively with and is limited entirely to sexual excitation 
or relief. Cruelty, in any other circumstances, does not appeal 
to him. Moreover, the moment the sexual repercussion 
has spent itself he takes no further interest in the practice 
or expression of cruelty. In addition, the sadist usually 
expresses his cruelty along well-defined and restricted lines. 

Now the individual who practises cruelty for any other 
purpose than sexual excitation is seldom motivated by such 
limitations. And for this reason he usually becomes consist- 
ently more and more cruel. Moreover he is cruel in a general 
and comprehensive rather than a limited and specialized 
sense. Whether his fundamental motive is primeval venge- 
ance, or the lust for power, matters little. His appetite 
for cruelty has been created, and it may well prove to be an 
insatiable one. It is in this respect more perhaps than any 
other that the ordinary cruel person differs from the sadist. 



For whereas the one is ever on the look-out for opportunities 
to practise his itch for cruelty, the sadist, after the satisfying 
of a biological need motivated in a peculiar form of psycho- 
pathological expression, becomes to all intents and purposes 
a normal individual, and may conceivably, apart from these 
sporadic indulgences in cruelty, be an ardent advocate of 

Sadism is not so abnormal a characteristic as one might 
well think. It is actually merely an extension or a develop- 
ment, along unilateral and obsessional lines, of a natural 
characteristic. There is a consistent and universal relation- 
ship between the sex act and pain in its purely objective sense. 
In the throes of erotic passion, however, the sensation which 
in any other circumstances would be characterized as pain, 
is not recognized as such. Any element of suffering is 
obliterated and subordinated by the pleasure associated with 
coitus. This is apparent in the sexual act as practised by 
many animals. It is evidenced in the fact that in numerous 
cases, and especially among races where sexual relations arc 
of a more passionate nature than is customary in ultra- 
civilized society, the kiss becomes a love-bite. At the hands 
of her lover the female suffers treatment which, in other 
circumstances, would constitute rape of the most brutal kind. 

This perfecdy normal correlation between pleasure and 
pain, between cruelty and sexual expression, is the funda- 
ment of what in modern life is termed sadism, and which, 
through its association with the vicarious sexual aberrations 
of the psychopathologically motivated Marquis de Sade, has 
come to be looked upon as something monstrous beyond 
description. Sadism then, as we understand it to-day, is an 
extension of this basic sexual cruelty, which, partly through 
repression and partly as a result of environmental and socio- 
logical conditions, so often reaches an obsessional stage. In 
individuals who have not the faintest knowledge of the 
meaning of sadism, the sight of some cruel act occasionally 
arouses sexual excitation. 

Sadism Developed by Public Exhibitions of Torture 

Although it would be a gross exaggeration to say that the 
thousands of spectators who cheered the gladiatorial contests 


in the Roman amphitheatres were all sadists, there is little 
doubt that a considerable number of them were. In many 
Other cases, too, the very fact of witnessing these exhibitions 
revived or developed sadistic tendencies. 

The gratification of the mob, exemplified in the cheering 
of every act of cruelty, is in many cases but an expression 
of the lust for power, or of the pleasure derivable from 
vengeance exercised upon those who differ in biological, 
physiological or psychological fundamentals from existent 
society. It may or may not in the first instance be associated 
with sadism, but inevitably is there danger that an incipient 
tendency in that direction may be awakened or developed. 

Coincidentally the sadist is inevitably attracted by all such 
scenes of persecution. Although there are sadists who, after 
taking part in or witnessing acts of cruelty, experience erotic 
excitation which must find relief in sexual intercourse, there 
are others, and I believe they are in the majority, who find 
they are able to secure sexual relief independent of actual 
coitus. They may find the act or the exhibition of cruelty 
itself provides all the sexual excitation expected or desired, 
thus forming a complete substitute for coition. Kiirten, the 
Dusseldorf monster, belonged to this class of sadist. In his 
confessions to Dr. Berg he admitted " It was not my inten- 
tion to get satisfaction by normal sexual intercourse, but by 
killing."^ The actual torture or the wimessing of the torture 
may in itself induce ejaculation, or it may be followed by or 
associated with masturbation. 

The position of woman is by no means so clear. Actually 
the popular idea that woman is less attracted by scenes of 
cruelty, and less inclined to practise cruelty, are both fallacies. 
The sadism of man is paralleled and often eclipsed by the 
sadism of woman. The difference, however, is that for the 
most part the sexual stimulation does not so much act as a 
substitute for coitus, or a causative factor in masturbation : 
it more usually induces a great development of eroticism 
manifesting itself in a desire to be subjugated by man. In 
this way it is almost always associated with masochism. It 
was Ovid who first pointed out that the spectacle of blood, 
as in the gladiatorial exhibitions of his time, led to the female 

* Karl Berg, The Sadist, authorized translation by Olga Illncr and 
George Godwin, Acorn Press, 1938, p. 11 1. 

From Clark's Martyrologia, 1611. 


After Picart. 


After Picart. 



(See Text, page 36.) 


being in a state of mind in which she was extremely likely 
to respond to the male's sexual overtures. It was this very 
method which, according to Goncourt, was adopted by an 
Englishman who had failed to overcome his young lady 
friend's scruples — ^he induced her to witness a public execu- 
tion in Paris. 

At the same time, the effect of public exhibitions of 
torture as a means of counteracting the evil potentialities 
inherent in any form of sadism that has no opportunities for 
securing relief, is manifest. It is an ironic commentary upon 
civilization that just as prostitution may be looked upon as 
a means of protecting respectable women; so may all public 
exhibitions involving torture and cruelty be looked upon as 
being the means of lessening the incidence of lust murders, 
of lynchings, of animal torture, et at. 

The autos da fe engineered by the Inquisition were 
popular for the very same reason that, a thousand years 
before, were the Roman gladitorial contests. The populace, 
instead of rearing up in hot indignation at the cruelty, the 
barbarity, and the inhumanity of burning alive the victims 
of the Inquisition, cheered with gusto as the flames con- 
sumed the bodies of the martyrs. 

Similarly with the public hangings at one time to be seen 
in England, and which drew vast crowds; similarly with 
breaking on the wheel, drawing and quartering,^ whipping 
at the cart's tail, and other methods of punishment inflicted 

What of sadism in these modern days when all such 
public tortures are things of the past? Has sadism decayed 
with the growth of humanitarianism ? 

I do not think so. In conformation with the change in 
the life of the people has there been a change in the form of 
sadism that manifests itself. More and more is vicarious or 
subjective sadism subduing or replacing purely physical 

^ When Damien was executed in 1757 every available spot within eye- 
reach of the scaffold was crowded with Parisian sightseers, who gloated 
over the doomed man's sufferings. After having his hand burned off and 
being subjected to the horrible torture of boiling oil and melted lead, for 
hours, to the accompaniment of his piercing screams, the whip-goaded 
horses dragged his limbs and body apart. Casanova, himself an eye- 
witness, although compelled to turn his face away and stop his cars, 
observed that his female companions " did not budge an inch." 



sadism. And coincidcntally with the dedinc in one form 
of mass cruelty, have there come into existence other forms 
of persecution : forms which perhaps are even more ecumenic 
than anything that was ever known in the past. 

It may seem, at first glance, a far cry from the gladia- 
torial combats and gymnastic contests of ancient Rome to the 
circus performances and boxing matches of the present day, 
but fundamentally there is little if any essential difference. 
While the twentieth-century sadist is deprived of the sight 
of the murderer dying the death, he has every opportunity 
to revel in all the gory details of the crime which preceded 
the execution. And there still exists, in another sphere, the 
essentially emotional and surrogative cannibalistic orgy, 
celebrated regularly throughout Christendom, in which the 
drinking of blood and the eating of flesh solemnize a bloody 
sacrificial rite. Finally, there persists, in a hundred different 
ways, the torture of animals. In this one field, if in no other, 
the sadist is to-day enabled to gratify to the full extent of his 
desires, any form or degree of blood lust. 

The Indulgence of Private Sadism 

The contemplation, in connexion with sadism, of animal 
torture in modern life leads us inevitably to the consideration 
of private sadism. For even as regards animal torture, this 
is, in the tremendous main, exercised privately and under 
most effective forms of camouflage or euphemization. 

Apart from and in addition to the presence of sadism 
which never actually functions in the shape of overt acts of 
torture or cruelty performed by the individual pervert, and 
which forms the bulk of existent sadism, there are in exis- 
tence numerous sadists who cannot receive satisfaction in 
any vicarious or subjective way; in other words, they must 
themselves inflict acts of violence upon some human or 
animal subject. Individuals of this type are undoubtedly 
responsible for a lot of the cruelty which exists to-day. 

There are so many ways in which active sadists are 
encouraged, by the remarkable apathy of society in relation 
to certain forms of cruelty, to indulge in their perverted 
appetites. They may, for instance, secure employment as 
keepers of animals or as workers on breeding establishments; 


they may choose butchery as their trade; they may become 
warders in prisons or assistants in lunatic asylums. But, 
above and beyond all, they may adopt the easiest of all 
methods available for the indulgence of an appetite for 
sadism : that of acquiring animals for the express purpose of 
subjecting them to surreptitious torture. 

I do not think there can be any doubt or question that a 
good deal of private or secret torturing of animals takes place 
in every civilized country. It is, of course, impossible even to 
guess at the extent of this type of cruelty, or at the forms it 
takes; but the figures relative to the convictions in the courts 
tell their own terrible story. And for every one such con- 
viction I do not think I can be accused of the slightest 
exaggeration in assuming that there are a full hundred of 
which no one ever so much as hears. 

The sadist may kill or maim as a complete substitute for 
coitus or he may kill or maim during sexual intercourse. 
Most cases of " pricking " are the work of sadists, and no 
doubt many of the " witch-prickers " of the Middle Ages 
were sexual perverts. It is noteworthy that there is a close 
connexion between the sight of the blood proceeding from 
the wounds and the sexual ecstasy of the sadist. Fere says 
" a large number of these perverts need effusion of blood. 
Some increase their pleasure by sucking the blood of the 
wounds they have caused."^ Kiirten, before his execution, 
admitted that in his case the sight of blood produced sexual 
excitement. " I saw blood come from her mouth and I had 
an orgasm."^ Krafft-Ebing was of opinion that the " acci- 
dental sight of blood " might, in certain circumstances, put 
*' into motion the performed psychical mechanism of the 
sadistic individual and awaken the instinct."^ 

Not all sadists kill or maim, however. Sadism being in 
part an expression of the will-to-power of the individual 
formulated specifically in sexual channels, may function in 
that form of persecution which takes shape in the imposition 
of disgusting tasks or moral humiliation. It is this form 

^ Ch. Fcrc, The Sexual Instinct: Its Evolution and Dissolution, 
University Press, 1900, p. 227. 

* Karl Berg, The Sadist. 

* R. V. Krafft-Ebing, Psychopathia Sexualis, authorized English adapta- 
tion of the twelfth German edition, by F. }. Rebman, New York, 1935, 
p. 86. 


in particular which so often occurs, according to Fere, 
in women/ Symbolical, vicarious or imaginary sadism 
occurs where the pervert secures sexual pleasure, often 
culminating in orgasm, through imagining sadistic scenes, 
witnessing executions and acts of cruelty, or even reading 
about such incidents. 

Dr. Stekel has drawn attention to the cruelty inherent in 
modern therapeutics. He says : " Once in visiting a torture 
chamber I was struck with the similarity between instru- 
ments of torture and various medical apparatuses."^ Modern 
massage is merely a rococo form of flagellation; the vapour 
bath,^ as Dr. Stekel points out, gives rise to sensations some- 
what similar to those of being buried alive; while psycho- 
analysis may easily become a sort of mental " third degree." 
" During the war tortures were made use of by over-patriotic 
physicians to extort admission of health ! "* Finally, there 
is the possibility of operative treatment representing an 
expression of masochism on the part of the patient and of 
sadism on the part of the surgeon. " I know a case," says 
this same authority, " in which even the suturing of a wound 
was accompanied by ejaculation."^ 

^ Ch. Fere, The Sexual Instinct, p. 148. 

' Wilhclm Stekel, Sadism and Masochism, The Bodley Head, 1935, 
Vol. I, p. 436. 

* The ancient Romans used their sudatories both as torture and execu- 
tion chambers (cf. p. 242). 

* Wilhehn Stekel, op. cit. 

* Wilhelm Stekel, op. cit. 



The Submission to Torture 

Algolagnia, or the pleasure principle in pain, takes two 
forms: sadism, or the ecstasy associated with the inflic- 
tion or witnessing of pain; and masochism, or the eroticism 
induced by the suffering of pain or persecution. In 
masochism, as in sadism, tliis pleasure principle is limited 
to or intimately associated with sexual excitation. It may 
be accompanied by or it may form a substitute for coitus. 

For the most part masochism is an individual afiair. 
In its true psychopathological sense it is obviously not a 
phenomenon that can be induced in any ordinary way in 
masses of people. It takes a movement like the flagella- 
tion cult of the Middle Ages to arouse any such feelings 
on a wholesale scale. 

Because of the existence of masochism, any wilful sub- 
jection to pain on the part of the individual is inevitably 
suspect. That, in the olden days, when submission to tor- 
ture was common, the term masochism was unheard of 
does not alter the fact that in many instances such sub- 
mission had a sexual content or basis. The masochist, too, 
often secures the acme of erotic pleasure from the fact 
that this pleasurable reaction follows immediately after the 
experiencing of pain, and by the well-known and almost 
universally applicable law of contrast the greater the ante- 
cedent pain the more intense the sexual pleasure correlated 
to it. 

The most usual form which masochism takes is flagella- 
tion, and this very fact leads one to suspect that much of 
the so-called discipline indulged in by the saints and 
others connected with the Church had a masochistic funda- 
ment. The scourging of penitents might well have ful- 
filled a twofold purpose, enabling the priest to indulge a 



taste for sadism and the penitent a penchant for 

Especially is it likely that this constituted the true ex- 
planation wiiere the victim was a female, for in most cases 
of masochism the pleasure in punishment is experienced 
only where that punishment is inflicted by an attractive 
member of the opposite sex. There have been many 
scandals in Church history connected with the chastise- 
ment of penitents by confessors, notably the case where 
Father Girard flagellated the pretty Cadiere girl; and the 
almost equally notorious instance in which the Franciscan 
monk, Cornelius Hadrien, was accused of having admin- 
istered the discipline to naked girl pupils. 

Although the connexion between religion and masoch- 
ism has always been a marked one, largely because there 
are peculiar opportunities for its indulgence, the practice 
is by no means restricted to the Church. Most masochists 
seek sexual relief by paying prostitutes to " torture " them, 
just as many sadists employ prostitutes to suffer the inflic- 
tion of mmor forms of punishment. Thus Kraftt-Ebing 
gives the case of a man who regularly visited a brothel 
where he " had himself bound hand and foot, and then 
flogged by the girl on the soles of his feet, his calves and 
buttocks ";' and Hammond instances the case of a young 
man who often visited a house of prostitution where he 
instructed three of the girls to tread upon his face and chest 
with their high-heeled shoes. ^ 

Martyrdom and Masochism 

In these days when religion has lost much of its power 
and appeal, when pain in its purely physical aspects is 
very much more dreaded than it was a few centuries ago, 
we cannot very well visualize the state of mind which 
enabled human beings to suffer severe punishment or per- 
secution in the name of faith and glory. Just as the 
appeal to a future life of heavenly bliss has lost much of 
its one-time puissance, so, too, the dread of the tortures of 
hell has lost most of its potency, and there seems to be 

* Krafft-Ebing, Psychopathia Sexualis, p. 143. 

* W. Hammond, Sexual Impotence in the Male, 1883, p. 32. 



nothing that religion has to offer modern man in a future 
hfe which would lead him to suffer avoidable persecution 
on earth. 

It was largely die desire for atonement and the appease- 
ment of a sadistic god that induced the people to inflict 
torture upon themselves. Self-flagellation was a mode of 
placating an angry deity. More, in many cases of female 
self-flagellation, it was a means of signifying subjection to 
the omnipotence of God. 

But if one form of martyrdom has deteriorated, another 
has developed. Political or racial martyrdom has taken the 
place of religious martyrdom. The man who would scoff 
at the idea of sacrificing himself in the cause of a religious 
faith, will gleefully immolate himself to the molocn of 
patriotism. Such martyrdom is, of course, conditioned by 
the lack of free choice in the matter. It might well be 
said that the religious victim of the Middle Ages was no 
more free to reject martyrdom than is the twentieth-cen- 
tury political or racial victim in a position to reject the 
martyrdom imposed upon him in the name of patriotism. 

All of which, although true, does not alter the funda- 
mental fact that this patriotic martyrdom of to-day is, as 
was the religious martyrdom of the Middle Ages, condi- 
tioned and largely made possible by a form of symbolic 
masochism which is all the more potent in its influence 
and in its effects through the fact that it is not recognized 
as such by those members of society in whom it particularly 

The tendency to-day is towards an extension of psyches 
logical masochism on the part of society as a whole and 
in all countries, whether that society is governed by a 
tyrannous and sadistic dictatorship or an equally tyran- 
nous and sadistic oligarchy; using the term sadistic here 
in its purely psychological and ideological significance and 
as a correlative of psychological masochism. 



Sacrifice in Relation to Torture 

The birth of the gods signified an advance from the con- 
cept of hatred as a subject concerned with purely private 
vengeance to a v^^ider and more comprehensive system in 
which sacrifice was a potent factor. Sacrifice may be con- 
sidered to represent the first step towards the use of tor- 
ture not only as a religious but also as a patriotic embellish- 
ment. Into the mouths of the various deities were put 
demands for sacrifices. These sacrifices involved, in many 
cases, physical torture; and where the victim did not offer 
to immolate himself masochistically as a tribute to the 
omnipotence of the gods, they invariably involved psycho- 
logical torture. 

Sacrifice, whatever precise form it took, was a propi- 
tiatory act, designed to appease the anger of God, or to 
induce the granting of favours or indulgences. In accord- 
ance with the anthropomorphic conception of the God- 
head, man interpreted the tastes of the deity on lines 
analogous to his own. It was perfectly natural that an 
anthropomorphic god should be conceded to possess carni- 
vorous tastes and, by virtue of his superiority, anthropo- 
phagous tastes as well. 

Whether animal sacrifice preceded human sacrifice is 
open to doubt. The evidence, such of it as is available, is 
conflicting. Possibly races varied in this respect. Possibly, 
too, deficiencies in the supply of human victims might 
lead, on the ground of expediency alone, to the substitu- 
tion of animals. 

So far as the evidence provided in the Bible is concerned, 
the sacrifice of the first-born seems to have represented the 
highest form which any propitiatory act could take. It 
was only in response to a command from Tehovah Himself 



that Abraham stayed the hand that was about to slay his 
son and instead offered up a ram. 

In all contemporary cults, human or animal sacrifices, 
or both, formed part of the ritual, and the offering of the 
first-born seems to have been practised in many races. To 
Odin, the powerful god of the ancient Scandinavians, 
Aun, the Swedish king, in an attempt to secure the pro- 
longation of his own life, sacrificed his nine sons; and to 
the same god. Earl Hakon, the Norwegian king, to secure 
divine help in his war upon the Jomsburg pirates, sacri- 
ficed his son.^ Eusebius states that the Phoenicians sacri- 
ficed their children to Saturn. So, too, the Hindus and 
the Egyptians. The king of Mexico was continually 
waging war in order to secure captives for use as offerings 
to the gods : these sacrifices amounted to no fewer than 
fifty thousand human beings annually. Amurath, says 
Montaigne, sacrificed six hundred young Greeks to his 
father's soul. 

Other races used as offerings enemies captured in war, 
but the supply in most cases was necessarily limited, and 
it was sporadic rather than regular, while the appetites of 
the gods apparently were omnivorous. To fill the gaps, 
criminals, slaves, aged persons of both sexes, the weak, the 
crippled, the abnormal, were sacrificed. In accordance 
with the ritual adopted by many races, the victim was tor- 
tured before death, or killed in a manner which entailed 
long and agonizing torment. Prescott says : *' The Aztecs 
did not, like our North American Indians, torture their 
enemies from mere cruelty, but in conformity to the pre- 
scribed regulations of their ritual. The captive was a reli- 
gious victim."* 

With the development of civilization, the position did 
not change fundamentally, it merely crystallized into a more 
ecumenic and more powerful form of expression. The 
coming of Christianity, with its doctrine of charity and good- 
will, did not, strangely enough, abolish torture and persecu- 
tion. The Christians persecuted their opponents with all the 
rigour of the Romans. Indeed they borrowed the weapons 

» T. W. Doane, Bible Myths, New York, 1882, p. 40. 
* William H. Prescott, History of the Conquest of Mexico, 1843, Vol. 
Ill, p. 61. 


and imitated the practices of their ancient enemies. Thus 
we read in Timothy, of Hymenaeus and Alexander, 
notorious heretics, being dehvered unto Satan, in order that 
the terrible discipline to which they would be subjected, 
would teach them " not to blaspheme." And again we read 
in Galatians : " But there be some that trouble you, and 
would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an 
angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than 
that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." 
Christianity, according to its promulgators, was the one true 
faith. All who professed any other doctrines were heretics 
and idolaters. They were condemned, they were hated, and 
whenever opportunity offered, they were tortured until they 
saw the true faith; failing conversion or confession they 
were exterminated. 

There are indications that human sacrifice continued to 
be practised in ancient Greece and Rome, despite the efforts 
of Tiberius and other emperors to put an end to it. In Europe 
during the Middle Ages sacrifices were common;* there are 
surreptitious cases even to this day. 

In an ideological sense there is little distinction between 
religion and patriotism. The patriot, in any extreme sense, 
and in time of war or conditions which threaten war, is in 
much the same position as the religious fanatic. His 
obsessional interest in the cause of his own country or race 
engenders blind hatred for a rival or an enemy country or 
race. It is at such times that the danger of torture or perse- 
cution is particularly likely. It is in such circumstances that 
the most Christian-like individuals will be transformed into 
fiends clamouring for the blood of their opponents. 

The Wea\ and the Despised 

One of the major lessons of history is that the ultimate 
choice of any race, and, in the majority of cases, of any 
individual member of that race, rests between accepting the 
role of persecutor or persecuted. The story is a consistent 
one. The strong nation has been the persecutor, and coinci- 

* The burying alive of a human being or an aniiDal in the fouadations 
of an edifice is a form of sacrifice (cf. p. 217). 


dentally the respected, the admired and the successful. The 
weak nation, and likewise the weak individual in that 
nation, has been persecuted and despised. One might say 
with much truth that in the history of nations nothing 
succeeds like persecution. And further, one might just as 
truthfully say that the defeat of one form of persecution is 
only possible by the emergence of a stronger form. For this 
reason the world lives through a succession of persecutions, 
only the State, which, at any one time, is wielding tyraimous 
power, calls its persecutions by another and a far more melli- 
fluous name. 

The Romans tortured the Christians as long as their 
power lasted. The fall of Rome and the rise of Christianity 
saw the Christians persecuting every weaker religious sect 
with fine impartiality. The Jews, through thousands of 
years of history, have been consistently persecuted. 

Minorities, of whatever nature, are persecuted. Here 
again history tells a consistent story. And it matters not at 
all what precisely is the nature of the minority. It may be 
a minority in a physical, an ethical, or an intellectual sense. 
The persecution is always present in some form or other, 
though it may not express itself in purely physical action. 
Psychological persecution in these days is far more effective, 
if for nothing but its insidiousness, than physical persecution. 

The masses hate anything which they do not understand 
and at the same time cannot ignore, or which is repugnant 
to their wishes or tastes. They even hate those who tell the 
truth, because they do not want to know the truth. The 
burning of a great national newspaper during the war of 
19 14- 1 8, for telling an unpalatable truth, was a gesture as 
psychologically significant as the burning of the witches in 
the Middle Ages. The persecution of John William Gott, 
in 1921, for his criticism of the Bible, was analogous to the 
persecution of Galileo, three hundred years previously, for 
affirming that the earth circumnavigated the sun. The 
weakness of a minority which is out of tune with the cere- 
bration or psychology of the masses is a signal for the 
majority to turn and rend it. Because of this danger, all 
unpopular movements must work more or less surrepti- 
tiously, the degree of secrecy exercised being in direct ratic 
to the extent of their unpopularity. 


State Domination and Power 

The State has been quick to realize the virtues of perse- 
cution in the maintenance of power, and in the furtherance 
of economic, poHtical and social aims. The power of the 
State is not only conditioned by the persecution, in various 
cuphemized or psychological ways, of its own nationals, but 
in its exploitation of the persecuting powers of society against 
any dangerous rivalries, whether domestic or foreign. In its 
final analysis, the propaganda which every State utilizes to 
some extent all the time, and on certain occasions to a pheno- 
menal degree, is the resuscitation or development or man- 
kind's fundamental liking for persecution along definite 
lines and towards specific ends. The power of this incipient 
persecution is strikingly demonstrated in the way in which 
a mild-mannered man or woman can be transformed, almost 
overnight, into a human volcano spouting hate and savagery. 
We have had instances of this again and again. In the Euro- 
pean war of 1914-18, every country concerned concentrated 
upon arousing the people to a state in which they were likely 
to inflict any form of physical cruelty upon such enemies as 
fell into their power. 



Paralysing Influence Upon the Individual 

There have been a few notable instances where all the 
efforts of the tormentors have failed to break the will of their 
victims. In most of these cases the persons concerned have 
been religious fanatics who were prepared to suffer martyr- 
dom in the service of their god rather than secure peace on 
earth, or they have been masochists who secured pleasure 
from experiencing physical persecution. 

For every one such case, however, there must have 
been a full hundred instances where, whether through the 
fear of torture or during the actual experience of it, the 
prisoner confessed whatever he was expected to confess, 
even in circumstances where he knew such confession 
meant the virtual signing of his own death warrant. 

This fear of torture was evidenced in the attempts that 
were made to escape the ordeal, even to the extent of com- 
mitting suicide. So common were these attempts that in 
the days of the Roman gladiatorial contests, the criminals 
who were selected for fighting what was virtually a 
struggle in which they would be torn to pieces by wild 
beasts or by equally brutal human antagonists, were 
guarded with the utmost thoroughness in order to prevent 
them taking their own Hves and cheating the public of its 

During the time when the Spanish Inquisition was 
functioning at its mightiest, the horrors of the tortures to 
which its victims were subjected were sufficient to cause 
men to go to any lengths to prevent themselves falling 
alive into the clutches of the Holy Office. Similarly in 
the early days of America, when conflicts between Indians 
and whites were frequent, the settlers preferred to shoot 
their womenfolk ana often themselves or one another 
rather than furnish the savages with material for torture. 



In this fear of torture there is nothing calHng for con- 
demnation. No one reaUzing its true import, unless forti- 
fied by a love of martyrdom transcending all ordinary 
standards and bordering upon the psychopathological, 
could be blamed for expressing fear in the face of such a 
threat. It is not a matter of bravery. Torture destroys 
the roots from which bravery, or its negation, springs. In 
its worst stages, it transforms a human soul into a mass of 
pulsating flesh devoid of conscious cerebration. 

The effects of torture are conditioned by the individual, 
and the extent and nature of the technique employed. 
Thus the very threat of torture will have a powerful effect 
in some and indeed most cases, while in others only the 
actual application of some form of punishment will prove 
in any way effective. Generally speaking, in its initial 
stages, or in its milder forms, torture destroys the will. 
In all its forms it injures the nerve power long before the 
stage is reached when consciousness fails. 

Futility of Torture in the Securing of 
Confession or Evidence 

We have seen that torture has always been accepted as 
the certain means of securing confession or evidence. 
When every form of persuasion or entreaty fails, the 
threat or the actual infliction of torture constitutes a trump 
card. Torture was used by savage races in all parts of the 
world to these ends. It was used by the ancient Romans. 
It was used throughout continental Europe during the 
Middle Ages. It was used in England in defiance of com- 
mon law. It is used secredy in America to-day. Private 
individuals from the beginning of time have been accus- 
tomed to practise torture for these same express purposes. 
There is no doubt that, on occasion, they do so at the 
present time. 

Now the evil in connexion with the use of torture for 
securing confession is that invariably it presupposes the 
guilt of the individual. The whole point of torture in- 
duced for this purpose is that the persecution continues 
until the individual confesses or succumbs under the 
ordeal, which in most cases merely means that the torture 



is suspended. All who had anything to do with the prac- 
tice of torture must have been well aware that its effects 
in relation to the securing of evidence were unilateral, for 
the compelling reason that the purpose of torture was to 
extract a confession or an admission of guilt or to secure 
the information that was being asked for; that behind 
every act of torture was a gratuitous assumption of guilt 
or knowledge. 

In the power of torture is existent its own negation. 
Its evil, from a penological and a psychopathological stand- 
point, lies in its power to elicit fiction in the name of truth; 
to compel the accused to condemn himself by false evidence 
of his own making. 

It is impossible for the persecuted individual to be proved 
innocent as a result of the torture. So that for all practical 
purposes, and whichever way one looks at it, torture, for the 
purpose of securing confession, is an unnecessary procedure. 
Its sole object is to justify the persecution and punishment of 
the accused. It is not administered in any hope of securing 
justice. From the point of view of equity therefore the 
procedure is unjust; from the point of view of securing the 
truth it is ineffective. Confession when obtained need not 
be the truth. Two thousand years ago Cicero demonstrated 
its uncertainty. 

All moral and ethical values are endangered under torture 
of any kind. It is for this reason that in so many cases the 
victim betrays friends, accomplices, and even close relatives 
under the pain of torture. He will confess anything that the 
inquisitors wish him to confess : he will sign any document 
that is put before him irrespective of its nature and content. 

The truth of this was admitted by the inquisitors them- 
selves. Von Spee, who was one of those who opposed the 
witch persecutions of the seventeenth century, mentioned 
that an inquisitor had boasted that if he could place the Pope 
on the rack, he would guarantee to induce him to plead 
guilty of sorcery. According to Scherr, it was this same Von 
Spec who said : " Treat the heads of the Church, the judges, 
or me, as you treat these unhappy ones (accused of witch- 
craft), subject any of us to the same torture, and you will 
discover that we are all sorcerers."^ And Bernard Dclicieux, 

* Quoted by W. G. Sumner, Folkways, p. 241, 


who was himself twice tortured by the Inquisition, and 
indeed died as a result of the treatment to which he was 
subjected, stated that Peter and Paul could have been proved 
guilty of heresy by the methods of the Inquisition/ Heinec- 
cius relates the case of a German soldier, charged with theft, 
who was repeatedly put to the torture, and who alleged 
that his own friends were guilty of a number of murders and 
other crimes which had never been committed. In 1793, the 
Parliament of Paris suspended two judges from their offices 
for having " ordered the execution of a man for the alleged 
murder of a woman, proved only by his own confession 
under torture — the woman being discovered alive two years 
after the execution of the supposed murder."* In 1630, when 
the city of Milan was stricken with a plague, rumour had it 
that the pestilence was due to the activities of a body of 
persons called Untori, who secretly smeared the doors and 
walls of the houses with a deadly ointment. The judges and 
the senate, affirmed Manzoni, secured convictions against 
several of these suspected individuals, on their own confes- 
sions, extorted by incredibly barbarous acts of torture.^ 

The efficacy of torture as a means of securing convictions 
(and no one can deny this efficacy) rests therefore in the 
fact that it leads to the conviction of the guilty and the 
innocent alike. Its efficacy, and likewise its popularity, rest 
in the fact that it invariably provides the persecutors with 
a means of satisfying their call for vengeance. Whenever 
and wherever torture has been in vogue the method adopted 
has been to continue the process until the victim confessed. 
The few cases where no confession was secured are negligible 
and do not invalidate the general statement that, in spite of 
any regulations or limitations respecting the severity or dura- 
tion of the torments prescribed, the principle recognized, 
adopted and approved by judges and law officers was to 
continue the torture until its object was achieved. 

These effects suggest that the Spanish Inquisitors and the 
French and English courts, in their adoption of torture, were 
far more concerned in finding victims to persecute or in 

^ H, C. Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, Vol. II 
p. 87. 

* David Jardine, On the Use of Torture in the Criminal Lau oj 
England, 1837, p. 6. 

* George Grotc, History of Greece, 1850, Vol. VII, p. 274. 


From an old engraving. 



/ n-^-^^7rrMr'~\rT 

[ - -■'•-l^tv'- 

After Catlin. 

(See Text, page 38.) 

Prom Moore's Marty rology, 1809. 



justifying their persecutions than in arriving at the truth; 
just as, in modern civilization, the law and the State arc 
sometimes more concerned in securing convictions than in 
administering justice. 

Psychological E'ffects on Society 

Society from its very toleration or approval of torture 
stands in mortal aw^e of it. There is no surer way of develop- 
ing the enmity of the community as a whole against a rival 
organization than the conviction of there existing a risk of 
persecution at the hands of that rival. In other words, the 
torturer, whether potential or actual, stands in fear and 
trembling at the possibility and prospect of being tortured 
himself. Although this may commend itself to some as a 
form of poetic justice, its effects are to extend and increase the 
potentialities for torture in all its forms and in all grades of 

In the old days, fear of God's anger at the toleration of 
those who were worshippers of idols or heathen deities led 
to the torture of heretics in efforts at appeasement. The 
people concentrated on the persecution of others to ensure 
freedom from subjection to divine punishment themselves. 
Torture or be tortured has been, by implication, the unuttered 
battle-cry of humanity since man evolved as a consciously 
cerebrating anthropoid. 

Certain it is that the example of the State is reflected in 
the attitude of society. This constitutes one of the major 
arguments against the use of torture in any penological 
system. It is owing to this fact that to punish brutality with 
an equal or an extra measure of brutality is indefensible. It 
is always evil. It cannot have anything but evil effects. 

No one has a greater abhorrence of cruelty than I have — 
whether it be cruelty to human beings or to animals — but 
the contention that the only punishment for cruelty is the 
cat-o'-nine-tails suggests an entirely wrong approach to the 
problem with which we have to deal. It is impossible to 
hope for the abolition of torture so long as the State employs 
torture in its penal code. If it is wrong for an individual 
member of society to torture his fellows or animals, then it 
is wrong for the State to employ torture as a means of punish- 



ing the offender. The culprit could probably just as logically 
provide some form of extenuation or justification for his 
own act of cruelty. 

It must be remembered that between the State and the 
component members of society there is of necessity the closest 
communion. It is impossible that the acts of the State as 
an official body should not influence the acts of its members 
as private individuals and vice versa. This intimate correla- 
tion between the State and its members is seen in the way in 
which the authorities, often enough, are compelled by force 
of opinion to instigate more severe forms of punishment. 
Thus it was the frantic clamourings of the people which were 
responsible for the passing of the clause in the Treason Act 
of 1842 providing whipping as a penalty for aiming a firearm 
at a sovereign; of the Garrotters Act of 1863; ^^^ ^^ ^^^ 
provisions for the flogging of procurers and pimps in the 
Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1912. Any extension of 
punishment by the State, whether it has originated in a 
demand on the part of the public or in an official department 
of the State itself, leads to an extension of the practice of 
cruelty by private individuals. In this way the whole thing 
becomes a vicious circle. 





The Transition fro?n Torture as a Religious Rite to 
Penal Torture 

There is scarcely for the finding a savage or primitive race 
which does not employ torture either in its religious rites 
or its code of punishment. The nearness to animal behaviour- 
ism, which is a characteristic of savage life, is responsible for 
a crudity and a barbarity which appal modern civilization. 
Because of this fundamental approximation to nature, the 
tortures adopted by these savage tribes lack the ingenuity 
and subtlety of those originated by civilized and semi- 
civilized races. 

In many parts of the world the tormenting of those 
captured in war was looked upon and accepted as inevitable. 
Often such captives were sacrificed to the gods. The 
acceptance by so many races of the necessity for human sacri- 
fice (cf . Chapter V), led to the widening of the criminal code 
in the race itself on the one hand, and the continual excur- 
sions into enemy country on the other, in efforts to secure a 
plenitude of victims to assauge the thirst for blood put into 
the mouths of the gods. So inevitable were torture and death 
looked upon by members of enemy tribes that in many cases 
they would not allow themselves to be taken alive. The 
Aztecs of Mexico invariably sacrificed any captives to the god 
Tezcatepoca. And the manner of their death was a horrible 
one. The captive was stretched on his back at full length 



upon the sacrificial stone. His arms and legs were firmly 
held by priests. The executioner, a scarlet-robed official, 
using a sharp-edged instrument, slit open the breast of the 
victim, inserted his hand through the wound, and tore out 
the warm and palpitating heart. Sometimes, as a variation 
in the procedure, the arms and legs were methodically cut 
off before the heart was removed. 

In Peru, says Picart, the Antis tribe sacrificed prisoners 
of distinction only, ordinary persons being executed on the 
spot and without ceremony. The victim to be sacrificed was 
stripped naked, tied securely to a stake, and then bits of flesh 
were hacked or slashed from various parts of the body with 
knives made of flint stone ground very sharp. The breasts, 
buttocks, thighs, calves, and other fleshy parts were first 
attacked, much in the manner in which the Chinese execu- 
tioner proceeds in the torture known as the " Death by the 
Thousand Cuts " (cf. page 105). The sacrificial and magical 
elements were, however, of outstanding importance and 
significance in this particular Antis rite : men, women and 
children dipped their fingers in and smeared their persons 
with the blood of the victim. Nursing mothers daubed this 
sacrificial blood upon the teats of their breasts, allowing their 
babies to imbibe it with the milk. 

Torture is rarely absent from the theosophic, initiatory 
and other rites adopted by savage tribes. The callous attitude 
of primitive man towards bloodshed, the lack of sympathy 
for suffering, and the phlegmatic reaction to death itself, arc 
all in accord with the exhibition of stoicism in circumstances 
of danger or suffering. In some cases this stoic attitude, or 
bravery, is deliberately induced. The young men are not 
only inured to hardship and danger, but they are subjected 
to certain specific ordeals designed to inculcate fortitude in 
the face of most agonizing pain. The slightest sign of 
cowardice in the course of the ordeal, or initiation, as it is 
termed, would be greeted with scorn by the onlookers, and 
the young man would never again be able to hold up his 
head. Probably he would be banished from the tribe for 
ever. Although, in most cases, the initiate is forced to 
undergo the ordeals, because of the inevitable results of any 
refusal, he becomes for all practical purposes a willing party, 
and virtually therefore the torture amounts to self-torture. 


The Place of Torture in Initiatory Rites 

The forms which the initiatory rite takes arc many, and 
the suffering involved may be of a relatively mild variety 
involving no actual risk to life itself, or it may reach such 
a degree of severity that a considerable proportion of the 
initiates fail to survive the test. An example of the first type 
is the flogging rite practised by the Indian tribes of Guiana. 
According to Brett : 

" The young men and boys, fantastically adorned, 
vi^ere ranged in two parallel rows facing each other, each 
holding in his right hand the Maquarri from which the 
dance takes its name. The Maquarri is a whip, more 
than three feet long, and capable of giving a severe cut, 
as their bleeding legs amply testified. They waved these 
whips in their hands as they danced, uttering alternate 
cries which resembled the note of a certain bird often 
heard in the forests. At some little distance from the 
dancers were couples of men lashing each other on the 
leg. The man whose turn it was to receive the lash 
stood firmly on one leg, advancing the other; while his 
adversary, stooping, took deliberate aim, and, springing 
from the earth to add vigour to his stroke, gave his 
opponent a severe cut."* 

Of a far more serious nature are the rites of initiation 
involving mutilation of the genitals which are practised by 
the Australian Blacks, and which apply to both sexes on 
attaining puberty. Although circumcision, whether prac- 
tised in infancy or at puberty, can scarcely be termed torture, 
the mutilations employed so universally among the abori- 
gines of Australia, Polynesia, Borneo and other places, 
certainly entail an amount of suffering and pain, often for 
protracted periods, which can be described by no other word. 
Similar mutilations, in other parts of the world, rank as 
punishments; and even among the races adopting them as 
religious rites these same operative measures are sometimes 
featured in the penological code. According to Czekanow- 
ski, among the Azandeh race, the punishment for adultery 
' W. H. Brett, The Indian Tribes of Guiana, 1868, p, 154. 


consists of the removal of the exterior genitalia and the 
amputation of both hands/ 

The mika operation of the Australian Blacks consists of 
incising the male sexual member, so as to expose and open 
the urethra, from the scrotum to the glans penis. The 
operation is performed on the attainment of puberty, and no 
anaesthetic is used. The patient is forcibly held down by 
assistants, while the operator, with a knife or sharp flint, 
cuts into the urethral channel, extending the opening thus 
made by forcibly tearing the tissue apart with his fingers. 
The suffering and pain involved are tremendous, and owing 
to the total lack of aseptic conditions the operation is not 
devoid of danger to life itself. 

The sexual mutilations practised upon the girls of many 
races are cruel and barbarous. The commonest of these is 
known as infibulation. It is adopted by the natives of East 
Africa and Abyssinia. At puberty, the clitoris and the labia 
minora, and sometimes the labia majora as well, are cut or 
hacked off with the aid of a dull knife. The operator is 
usually an old woman. 

Of all initiatory rites ever practised by savages, however, 
those adopted by the North American Indians probably 
ranked as the most terrifying, involving excruciating and 
diabolical torture. The procedure varied in different tribes, 
but that adopted by the Mandans appears to have been the 
most pitiless and sanguinary. Previous to the actual ordeal 
the young man was emaciated by fasting. The procedure, 
says Catlin, was as follows : 

" The initiate placed himself on his hands and feet. 
An inch or more of the flesh of each shoulder, or each 
breast, was taken up between the thumb and finger by 
the man who held the knife in his right hand, and the 
knife, which had been ground sharp on both edges, and 
then hacked and notched with the blade of another, to 
make it produce as much pain as possible, was forced 
through the flesh below the fingers, and being with- 
drawn, was followed with a splint or skewer, from the 
other, who held a bunch of each in his left hand, and 

^ Felix Bryk, Circumcision in Man and Woman, translated by David 
Berger, American Ethnological Press, New York, 1934. 


was ready to force them through the wound. There were 
then two cords lowered from the top of the lodge (by 
men who were placed on the lodge outside for the 
purpose), which were fastened to these splints or skewers, 
and they instantly began to haul him up; he was thus 
raised until his body was suspended from the ground 
where he rested, until the knife and a splint were passed 
through the flesh or integuments in a similar manner on 
each arm below the shoulder, below the elbow, and below 
the knees. Each one was then raised with the cords, until 
the weight of his body was suspended by them, and then 
while the blood was streaming down their limbs, the by- 
standers hung upon the splints each man's appropriate 
shield, bow and quiver, etc."^ 

As if this, in itself, did not involve enough in the way 
of torture, the victim was then gradually raised by means of 
the ropes until the weights swung clear from the ground, 
thus ensuring that not only the weight of the man's body but 
also that of the various impedimenta attached to his limbs 
were thrown upon those parts to which the ropes were 
attached. So great was the strain upon the flesh where the 
skewers were inserted that it was lifted from the surrounding 
tissue at these points in pinnacles of six to eight inches in 
height. And so, in a state of such agonizing pain as makes 
one shudder even to visualize, these initiates continued to 
hang in the air, covered with their own gore, biting back 
every suspicion of a groan in their efforts to emerge trium- 
phant from this supreme test of hardihood and courage. 
They were, says Catlin, " appalling and frightful to look at." 
When those in authority were satisfied, they ordered the 
bodies to be lowered to the ground, where they lay appar- 
ently lifeless, coming round in their own good time. 

One might well imagine that such an ordeal was enough 
to satisfy the most exacting of disciplinarians. But no, this 
did not represent the end of the initiate's sufferings. There 
was yet another test to be endured. It was known as " the 
last race," or, in the language of the tribe, " Eh-\e-nah-\a- 
nah'fic\r Each of the young men was put in charge of 

^ Geo. Catlin, Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs and Condi 
twns of the North American Indians, 1841, p. 17c. 


two older athletic warriors. One of these escorts, as they 
might well be called, stood on the right side and the other 
on the left side of the initiate, grasping the loose end of a 
broad leather strap which was wrapped around each wrist. 
To his flesh at various points were attached, with skewers, 
several heavy weights. At a given signal, the two escorts 
started running around a large ring, dragging with them 
the young man in their charge. Round and round, the 
various initiates, dragged by their escorts, continued in pro- 
cession, the weights pulling at the flesh until it came out in 
great, ugly, bleeding lumps. The process continued until 
the victim fainted through loss of blood and exhaustion. 

A curious form of torture, according to Greenwood, was 
adopted as an initiatory rite by the Mandrucu tribe of 
Amazonian Indians. To look at, the instruments employed 
in this particular ordeal appeared remarkably innocent. 
They consisted of two cylindrical cases fashioned out of palm- 
tree bark, measuring about a foot in length, and stopped at 
one end. They were for all the world like a pair of huge and 
crudely made gloves, and it was as gloves they were used. 
The initiate thrust his hands into the cases, and, followed 
by a procession of onlookers, which in fact amounted to all 
the available members of the tribe, started upon a tour of the 
village or camp, stopping at the door of every wigwam to 
execute a sort of dance. These " gloves " were, however, by 
no means so innocent as they seemed, and the dance their 
wearer performed was more real than mimic. For each 
gauntlet contained a collection of ants and other insects, all 
selected for their venomous, biting capacities. And, says 
Greenwood, " what with the heat engendered within and 
the blazing sun playing without the bark gloves, the wretched 
hands seem literally a furnace.'" The " ordeal of the veno- 
mous gloves," in very truth, was something to be dreaded. 

Punishment by Torture 

Turning from these initiatory modes to the infliction of 
torture purely as a means of punishment for various crimes 
and offences, we are struck with the universality of the 
practices employed in various parts of the world. Because 

* lames Greenwood, Curiosities of Salvage Life, 1865, pp. 95-6. 


of the nearness to death or severe injury which may be 
classed as a normal characteristic of savage life, and because 
of the callousness and indifference to human suffering thus 
generated, even the infliction of capital punishment is either 
carried out in a terribly cruel manner involving prolonged 
agony, or is preceded by torture. In the Sandwich Islands 
criminals who are sentenced to death are either beaten with 
a club until life is extinct or strangled with a rope. For 
those crimes where the death sentence is not pronounced, 
punishment assumes some form of mutilation. For instance, 
where a native belonging to the ordinary classes is convicted 
of being on terms of intimacy with a chief's wife, the punish- 
ment prescribed is that his eyes should be put out. The 
procedure is described by Arago : 

" I have not seen it executed myself, but the poor 
wretch with whom Gaimard and myself conversed in the 
presence of M. Rives, told us how it was executed upon 
him. Two men held him by the feet, two more by the 
arms, and another by the hair of the head, whilst a sixth, 
who was the executioner, gave him a violent blow with 
his fist over each eye, and almost at the same instant 
plunged his forefinger into the lachrymal angle, and 
pulled out the ball; the other eye was taken out in the 
same manner, yet we could scarcely perceive a cicatrice 
under the lower eye-lid."* 

For sheer barbarity, few savages have ever surpassed the 
North American Indians. The sanguinary, splenetic and 
ferocious punishments inflicted not only upon prisoners of 
war, but also upon those in their own tribes guilty of crimes 
and misdemeanours, have never been exceeded. In the long 
and terrible struggle between the pioneer whites and the 
native Indians, which raged throughout the eighteenth 
century and well into the nineteenth, death by torture was 
an everyday occurrence. The tearing out of the eyes and the 
placing of red-hot embers in the sockets; various forms of 
mutilation, and burning to death over a slow fire, were 
customary methods. During the period from 1846 to 1852 

* J. Arago, Narrative of a Voyage Round the World, 1823, Vol. II, 
p. 139. 


it is estimated that in Texas alone two hundred whites were 
put to death by torture every year. A frequent practice was 
to tie a captive to a tree, and day by day to cut away a Hmb 
or a portion of the flesh until ultimately death mercifully 

The Choctaws, one of the most barbarous of the tribes of 
American aborigines, were peculiarly ingenious in their 
methods. Before scalping their expiring victims, these 
savages stripped them naked, pinioned their arms, and tied 
a strong grape-vine, which acted as a rope, about their necks. 
The other end of the vine was fastened to the top of the war- 
pole. In this way the prisoner could run around the pole 
over a considerable area of ground, much in the way that a 
bear could run around in the old days when bear-baiting was 
an English sport. Then, says Greenwood: 

" The women make a furious onset with their burning 
torches; his pain is soon so excruciating that he rushes 
from the pole with the fury of the most savage beast of 
prey, lashes them with the trailing vine-rope, and bites 
and kicks and tramples on all he can catch. The circle 
immediately fills again either with the same or fresh 
persons; they attack him on every side — now he runs to 
the pole for shelter, but the flames pursue him. . . . 
Should he sink or flag under the torture, they pour over 
him a quantity of cold water till his spirits recover, and 
so the like cruelties are renewed until he falls down and 
happily becomes insensible to pain."^ 

The Indians who were captured by enemy tribes and 
subjected to various tortures bore their sufferings with a 
stoicism for which the ordeals described in the earlier part 
of this chapter acted as preparatory torments, and which 
were no doubt ordained to this end. For a " brave " to 
groan or supplicate was to disgrace not only himself but the 
tribe of which he was a member. Not all the whites whose 
unfortunate lot it was to be made prisoners by the Redskins 
could be expected to show such stoicism and fortitude. But 
some did. And of those of whom we have any authentic 
record none is more remarkable than the case of Father Jean 
de Brebcuf, who was one of that brave company forming the 

' James Greenwood, op. cit., pp. 35-6. 


Jesuit mission to the Hurons in Canada. He was captured 
by the Iroquois in 1649 and was put to death by torture. For 
stark horror the record of the sufferings which this 
missionary had to endure before he died is probably un- 
rivaUed in all history. It was undoubtedly an instance where 
the powerful physique and iron constitution of the victim 
were to be regretted purely because they caused him to have 
to endure sufiering and agony which long before would have 
killed or rendered insensioie a weaker man. 

To start with, de Brebeuf's hands were chopped off. 
His flesh, at many and different parts of the body, was 
pierced with pointed iron instruments of various kinds. 
Tomahawks made red-hot were suspended around his 
neck, so that every turn of the head was a torment; while 
a belt composed of bark smeared with resin and pitch was 
tied around his body and set alight. These various tor- 
ments, in all their severity, were such as would neither kill 
nor render unconscious a strong man. They were specifi- 
cally designed to ensure a gruesome liQgering death and to 
provide prolonged entertainment for the savages who 
capered around their prisoners — other members of the 
mission, as well as a number of Hurons, were captives too 
and were being treated in similar fashion. But de Brebeuf, 
we are told, endured these agonies staunchly. More, he 
lifted up his voice and preached to his persecutors. They 
retaliated by seizing burning brands from a fire and 
thrusting them into his mouth. Even this could not stop 
the flow of eloquence. They proceeded to further out- 
rages and mutilations, eventually silencing him for all 
time by cutting off his lips. Then, over his body, they 
flung, again and again, buckets of boiling water. They 
cut pieces of flesh from his limbs and trunk, avoiding any 
part likely to prove fatal, roasted them in the fire and ate 
them there and then before his eyes. The sands of life 
were running low by this time, but before death actually 
came, they managed to amputate his feet and to tear o£E 
his scalp. ^ 

^ For a full narrative of the life and martyrdom of this heroic missionary, 
I would refer the reader to The Travels and Sufferings of Father Jean de 
BrSbeuf, edited by Theodore Besterman, Golden Cockerel Press, 1938; to 
which work I am indebted for the salieiu details contained in the above 



Torture of Free Citizens 

In the statement so often repeated by various writers that 
torture {qucestio) in Greece and Rome was rigidly re- 
stricted to slaves, we see another example of the way in 
which historians and others have been misled through the 
restriction of the term to the mode of securing confession. 
In Greece, for example, although torture for the purpose 
of obtaining testimony or confession was never applied to 
free citizens, it was used as a means of punishment appli- 
cable to all classes. Aristophanes alludes to the wheel 
being frequently employed for this purpose.^ The rack, 
too, was in regular use. Among other free-men, Antiphon 
was racked to death. Accordmg to Polybius, the tyrant 
Nabis used an infamous instrument of torture shaped like 
a woman (anticipating the " Virgin Mary " of the 
Spanish Inquisition and the Jungfernkuss of mediaeval 
Germany) in which the victims were clutched undl they 
paid tribute in money. (See Chapter XXII.) 

In Rome the free-man was not, in any ordinary circum- 
stances, liable to torture as a means of extorting confession. 
The exception to this rule was in the case of anyone 
accused of treason. The subjection to torture of those sus- 
pected or accused of this particular crime was first justified 
by Arcadias Charisius. Gibbon implies that the extension 
of legal torture to cases of treason virtually annulled the 
principle by which the free-man was supposed to be 
exempt from the qucestio except in these supposedly rare 
cases of treason, because it was a comparatively easy 
matter to bring a variety of offences into this somewhat 
elusive category. Treason, says Gibbon, " included any 
offence that the subtlety of lawyers could derive from an 
hostile intention^ The rank of the accused individual did 

* Lysistrata. 



not save him, for it was contended that in regard to 
treason all were on an equal footing. This same waiving 
of all rights to exception on account of official position or 
noble birth applied in the case of anyone accused of 
sorcery or witchcraft. 

In regard to certain other crimes also, the free-man could, 
with some exceptions, be subjected to torture. A woman 
accused of poisoning her husband could be put to the 
quastio; so, too, could anyone who, in giving evidence, 
betrayed inconsistency. In the reign of Severus, one guilty 
of adultery could be tortured; under Maximus the 
quastio was applicable in cases of incest; and under Con- 
stantine to sorcery and magic. The most notable of the 
exceptions, in relation to all crimes except the above men- 
tioned ones of sorcery and treason, applied to the aristo- 
cracy, to priests, to pregnant women, to soldiers, and to 
children below the age of fourteen years. Torture was 
restricted, however, to those actually accused of the crimes 
concerned; it was not applicable to witnesses, and it could 
not be applied to a prisoner before the actual time of trial. 
And it is noteworthy that anyone bringing a charge of 
treason against another individual, and failing to substan- 
tiate such a charge, could himself be subjected to the 

Turning to the use of torture as a means of punishment, 
we find that its use was widespread. In some cases it con- 
stituted the whole of the punishment; in others it was but 
a part of it, preceding banishment or the death penalty. 
Under the Republic, private individuals were empowered 
to torture debtors, confining them in private prisons and 
subjecting them to any form of torture short of causing 
death, until the debts were paid. Offences against the 
Church in particular were punished with torture of the 
utmost severity. By the express order of Justinian anyone 
guilty of insulting a priest or a bishop in a church could 
be tortured. In some cases mutilation was the prescribed 
punishment. In the early days, the feet and hands were 
often amputated in toto, but Justinian tempered the sever- 
ity of this law, restricting it to the amputation of one hand 
only. In accordance with the Theodosian Code, anyone 
convicted of heresy could be flagellated with a whip the 


thongs of which were weighted with lead (contusus 
plumbo). Apart from those guilty of this particular crime, 
of certain other offences against the Church, and of adul- 
tery, which was punished by flogging and the amputation 
of the nose, whipping was not inflicted upon free-men. It 
was the punishment of the slave : a mark of dishonour and 
degradation so profound that the average Roman pre- 
ferred death to scourging. 

The Torture of Slaves 

In Greece and in Rome the torture of slaves was ac- 
cepted as their lot and destiny. Scarcely a voice was raised 
against it. Even the philosophers were in favour of it. 
Aristotle, for one, expressed his approval. Plato, in pre- 
senting his concept of Eutopia, admitted the necessity of 
one law for the free-man and another law for the slave. 
He subscribed to the common and popular doctrine of 
flogging the slave for an offence which, in the case of a 
free-man, deserved only censure; of putting the slave to 
death where the free-man would be let off with a fine. 

The slaves in ancient Greece were at first confined to 
those captured in warfare or during marauding expedi- 
tions. The nation had realized that the forcing of enemies 
to perform all the degrading and humiliating tasks of life 
was a far better proposition than executing them or con- 
fining them in dungeons. The principle of slavery, once 
it had been put into practice, appealed to the populace. 
More and more did people applaud the notion of having 
distasteful work performed by someone who could neither 
refuse to do the tasks set them, nor could command any- 
thing in the way of remuneration beyond their bare keep. 
It was natural that as the supply of captives became insuffi- 
cient, eyes should be cast upon other means of securing 
fresh and additional recruits. Criminals or offenders were 
pressed into service. Until Solon stopped the practice, any- 
one who owed money and could not pay the debt became 
automatically the slave of his creditor. Then came the 
traffic in mankind. Slaves were bought and sold like 
cattle. In the notorious slave-market of Athens thev were 


exposed in all their nakedness — men and women bodi — 
and sold to the highest bidder. 

As it was recognized in Roman law that so far as a slave 
was concerned the best and in most cases the only way in 
which the truth could be secured was by torture, and as, 
additionally, the owner was vested with very nearly absolute 
power, the life of a slave, often enough, was punctuated by 
continual punishments of the most cruel and brutal nature. 

All of which does not mean there were no State regula- 
tions respecting torture. There were many such regulations. 
But these were in respect of those modes of punishment 
apart from and in addition to the private tortures to which 
every slave was liable to be exposed; an owner being entided 
to punish any slave in his possession for any offence, real or 
imaginary, and to any extent he decreed. The State regula- 
tions were restricted to offences coming within the jurisdic- 
tion of the courts. For instance, whether the slave was 
accused of a crime or whether he was merely a witness (with 
certain exceptions) he could be tortured for the purpose of 
eliciting the truth. Where a husband charged his wife with 
adultery, the slaves of the husband, of the wife, and of the 
wife's father, could all be subjected to torture in order to 
extract evidence. Generally speaking, however, no slave 
was allowed to give evidence against a master. Exceptions 
to this general rule were concerned with charges of 

The property right of the owner in the slave affected the 
matter of torture by any other authority than his own. It 
was a reasonable argument that the after-value of a slave 
might, as a result of judicial punishment, be seriously im- 
paired. Thus, where a slave was tortured against the will 
or without the express consent of his master, security was 
given to the owner for the cash value of the slave. In the 
event of an accusation being brought against a slave by some- 
one other than his master, and this accusation being proved 
to be false, the owner of the tortured slave was entided to 
secure recompense from the accuser for the damage sustained 
up to double the value of the slave. 

The nature of the torture and its extent rested with the 

* Adultery, coining, and frauds concerning the revenue were looked 
upon as coming under the heading of treason. 


judge. Only when all other proofs had been duly submitted 
and examined could torture be resorted to. In the case of 
an accusation, when all evidence had been presented, and 
the only remaining point to secure conviction was confession, 
torture could be ordered. If this torture failed to secure a 
confession, despite the evidence against the accused being 
strong and wellnigh complete, the judge was empowered to 
order its repetition. He could give such an order again and 
again, there being no limit fixed to the number of repetitive 
tortures where the occasion was deemed to warrant them. 
Unlike a free-man, a slave was denied the right of appeal, 
though his master possessed this right. While any such 
appeal was under consideration the accused was confined in 
prison but he could not be subjected to torture in any form. 

Of the forms of judicial 
torture employed, the rack 
{equuleus) was perhaps the 
principal, as well as the earliest, 
being referred to by Cicero. 
Compression of the arm by 
means of gradually tightening 
cords was frequently used to 
induce witnesses to give evid- 
ROMAN FLAGELLUM ^^^^ gj^^^^ ^^^^ continually 
The coin depicts a contest punished by flagellation. Whips 

between gladiators r J o r 

of various types were used. 
The terrible Roman fiagellum^ made of thongs of ox-leather, 
cut into the flesh like a knife. According to Horace, the 
sadistic cruelty and vindictiveness of some judges led them 
to order floggings which were so excessive, and continued 
so long, that the executioner often enough, through sheer 
exhaustion, was obliged to desist before the sentence was 
completed. Many slaves di^d under the whip. For lesser 
crimes there was the scutica, a whip consisting of thongs of 
parchment; while for minor offences, the ferula, a flat strap 
of leather, was used. Apart from sentences given in the 
courts, slave-owners used the whip daily and for all manner 
of offences. Nor were there in force any regulations respect- 
ing these private punitive measures either as regards the 
severity of the punishment or the type of whip to be used. 
Slave-drivers exercised their ingenuity in devising more 

From Moore's Martyrology, 1809. 




I s 

£ u 
c- I 


terrible instruments of correction than any used by the 
courts. The thongs were knotted with bones and pieces of 
metal; sometimes lead balls, cruel hooks or spikes were 
affixed to the ends. Ladies who could not wield the whip 
themselves hired the public executioner or compelled other 
slaves to flog their servants. 

Apart from flogging, the forms of punishment to which 
slaves were subjected were numerous, and although not all 
these punitive measures could justifiably be called tortures, 
the majority, indubitably and without any straining of the 
truth, were flagrandy cruel and brutal. Slaves who 
attempted to escape and were caught, were often branded 
upon the forehead. So were thieves. In other cases, they 
were suspended by the hands, with weights attached to their 
feet, and in this position whipped until near to death. The 
iron collar and the manacles were in common usage. For 
certain forms of theft one hand was hacked off at the wrist. 

Where the sentence was death, crucifixion ranked as the 
most common method of execution. A slave condemned to 
death by crucifixion was compelled to wear the furcUy a 
collar in shape something like a letter V. The furca was 
fixed over the back of the neck, the ends resting on the 
shoulders. The criminal's hands were bound to his thighs. 
In this fashion he was marched to the place of execution, 
while all the way carnifices, walking behind, beat him with 
cudgels or flogged him with whips. 

Under Constantine a slave guilty of seduction, or an 
accessory to the crime, was put to death by burning or the 
pouring of molten lead down the throat. 

The Roman women, we are told, had certain of their 
young male slaves made into eunuchs, for purposes of sexual 
pleasure and to avoid the risk of parentage; a procedure 
which was considered to exhibit a marked advance in every 
respect on the practice of the Scythian women, who, says 
Montaigne, " put out the eyes of all their slaves and prisoners 
of war, that they might have their pleasure of them, and 
they never the wiser. "^ 

^ Montaigne's Essays (Charles Cotton's translation), 1711, Book III, Ch. 
V, p. no. 


The Roman Gladiators 

Of all the tortures which flourished in the mighty days 
of Rome, nothing approached in fiendish ingenuity and in 
horror those to which the gladiators were compelled to sub- 
mit as a means of providing entertainment for the populace. 
The gladiatorial exhibitions of ancient Rome have acquired 
a degree of celebrity and a reputation which exist to this day. 
Much of their brutality has been covered up or purposely 
obliterated in the passage of time, and to the average English- 
man or American of to-day they rank as evidence of the 
sport-loving qualities of the Romans of old. Their true 
nature is rarely commented upon. 

In these exhibitions men were matched to fight against 
wild beasts and against one another. The gladiators, about 
whom an aura of glamour has been woven, contrary to 
popular opinion, were not willing contestants, longing for 
an opportunity to show their strength, skill and bravery. 
They were not even paid contestants. They were captives, 
criminals, offenders, et al., who had been sentenced to death. 
The gladiatorial exhibition was their prescribed mode of 
execution. It was just as surely a method of execution as 
if they had been hanged or shot. It differed only from other 
forms of execution in being infinitely more cruel, in involv- 
ing for the condemned man tortures indescribable in their 
nature and extent. The notion even that the man thus 
forced to take part in this fight to the death had a slender 
chance of escaping with his life is a fallacy. He had no such 
chance. His death, in some horrible form, and to the accom- 
panying cheers of the spectators, was a certainty. Litde 
wonder that the authorities, to avoid being deprived of their 
sadistic pleasure, had to exercise the most strict watch and 
to take all manner of precautions, to ensure that the con- 
demned man did not commit suicide before the time came 
for him to feature in a gladiatorial display. Often, despite 
every precaution, he did commit suicide. One such notable 
instance occurred when Symmachus ordered a number of 
prisoners to fight in honour of his son. They strangled one 
another to escape the destiny which he had designed for 

* Quoted by W. G. Sumner, Folf^u/ays, p. 572, 


Almost every type of savage animal was used m the 
amphitheatres. Lions, bears, leopards, tigers, panthers and 
wolves were pitted against men in fights to the death. The 
human fighter was hopelessly handicapped from the start. 
In many cases where wolves or mad dogs were their oppon- 
ents the men were tied to stakes just as, a thousand years 
later, bears and bulls were tied to furnish pleasure for 
English audiences. Some faced certain death bravely, put- 
ting up the best fight they could. Others, of weaker or softer 
calibre, refused to enter the arena, in which case they were 
whipped until they changed their minds, or they were flung 
to the waiting animals, neck and crop. When the supply of 
criminals or captives ran short, slaves were purchased to take 
their place. The vast audiences which gathered regularly in 
the amphitheatres were not to be deprived of their amuse- 

Occasionally women were forced to fight in the arena. 
Nero, master sadist of them all, we are told, gloated over 
such exhibitions. According to Martial, on one occasion 
a woman was mangled by a lion. The same authority 
instances a case where a robber was nailed to the cross, and 
in this position was ripped to pieces by a bear. In all cases 
the manner of death was frightful to witness. With scarce 
an exception, before the end came, the victims were begging 
to be granted the favour of a quick execution. 



The Attitude of the Church 

The pagan gods were merciless, revengeful, unjust and cruel. 
Yahveh, the God of Israel, according to the wealth of testi- 
mony provided in the Old Testament, for sheer cruelty, 
terrorism and frightfulness, surpassed belief. Those who 
displeased Him He massacred in thousands; He smote the 
Israelites "with a very great plague";^ He approved the 
punishment of derelictions of duty and petty offences by such 
tortures as stoning to death and burning alive. 

It was not unnatural that the ecclesiastical authorities, 
in punishing offences committed by the people, should be 
inspired by the example of the god they worshipped and 
feared. And further, in particular reference to those crimes 
which were specifically directed against God and His com- 
mands, was it natural they should be especially concerned 
in following divine example and instruction. Thus heresy 
and blasphemy, in particular, being likely to anger God, were 
punished with the utmost rigour. Moreover, as regards all 
crimes, the primitive concept of vengeance, put into the 
mouth of Yahveh, as in the days of the pagans the same 
concept was put into the mouths of a miscellany of deities, 
represented the keynote and fundament of every form of 

The development of religion from its basic anthropo- 
morphic sun-worship into a trinitarian Godhead, with a 
visualized heaven in which there was to be a future perpetual 
sinless life, had its effects upon the concept of punishment. 
Death was never looked upon as annihilation. Punishment 
upon this earth was viewed with something approaching 
resignation by the person who was assured of a life free from 
persecution in another and far better world. It was due to 
this firm conviction that the martyrs bore their persecutions 

^ Numbers xi. 33. 


with a stoicism which in these days, when the Christian faith 
lingers in an emasculated state, is almost incomprehensible. 

The Christian Approach 

The Hebrew policy of retribution, as we have already 
noted, was adopted by the early Christians. The humani- 
tarianism of Jesus, as expressed so repeatedly in the Gospels, 
has conveyed an impression that Christianity was mightily 
concerned with the negation of all cruelty. The belief is 
fallacious. The concept of vengeance lived. We read in 
St. Matthew : " The Son of man shall send forth his angels, 
and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that 
offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them 
into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing 
of teeth." 

To a very big extent the Christian Church adopted the 
Roman law of torture in regard to treason, applying it to 
heresy, which they construed to be " treason against God."^ 
It also adopted the principle of confiscation of all property 
owned by those guilty of heresy;^ a policy peculiarly danger- 
ous to society as a whole in view of the Church's perpetual 
need of funds and the opportunities afforded by such a 
measure for securing such funds. 

The ecclesiastical authorities condemned every faith out- 
side Christianity as demonology; they averred, in a crescendo 
of denunciation, that the worship of pagan and heathen 
deities angered the true Christian trinitarian Godhead; that 
wherever a heretic reared up his ugly head there was danger 
to the whole neighbourhood through God's anger being 
directed towards the inhabitants of this particular spot. 
Lecky says : " It is not surprising that the populace should 
have been firmly convinced that every great catastrophe that 
occurred was due to the presence of enemies of the gods."^ 
Nor is it to be wondered at that when once the public 
discovered a heretic in their midst they looked upon him as 
we to-day should look upon a leper; that in their mortal 

^ Crimm Icesce majestatis divince. 

' The term heresy included analogous or associated offences, notably 

blasphemy. rr i t 

* W. E. H. Lecky, History of European Morals, 1869, Vol. I, p. 437. 


terror they clamoured for his immediate extermination. 

The result of all this was that heresy, " the crime against 
God," was considered by all to be the most terrible offence 
conceivable, meriting the severest punishment and calling 
aloud to heaven for vengeance. To prove the guilt of any- 
one suspected of heresy was a matter of vital necessity, 

Tortures of the Middle Ages as depicted in 
Ulric Tengler's Layenspiegel (1511) 

transcending in importance anything else. To secure this 
proof, by the extraction of a confession from the accused 
party, was a case where, it was held, the end justified any 
measures. Once anyone was suspected of heresy the public 
waited neither for guidance nor authority from Church or 
State. They took the law into their own hands. They 
tortured the suspect until a confession was secured, and then 


without more ado burned him at the stake. The fact of 
an individual being accused of heresy was sufficient to 
ensure his martyrdom. Often enough the wish was father 
to the thought. It only required the occurrence of something 
in the nature of a catastrophe for the people to form the 
conclusion that there was a heretic in their midst. Once 
such a conclusion was reached, they searched the district 
diligently until someone was unearthed who, in accordance 
with the elastic interpretation of which heresy was capable, 
could be accused of the crime. 

The penalty of burning may be said therefore to have 
been devised in the first place, not by the State, but by the 
public. Here, as in so many cases, mob law anticipated or 
suggested State law. Similarly, the Inquisition was rendered 
possible by the public approval of the torture of persons 
suspected of heresy. The Inquisition was not, in its early 
stages at any rate, the detested and abhorred tyrannous 
establishment that certain historians would have us believe; 
to the contrary, it was approved by the public. In many 
instances it may truly be said that the Inquisition saved 
suspected heretics from an even more evil fate. 

Once the populace had started the campaign against 
heresy, the Church took control and organized the crude 
efforts of the rabble into a definite system of persecution, 
which came to its head in this powerful Holy Inquisition, 
with the activities of which we shall deal in another chapter. 

The notion, however, that the Catholic Church held a 
monopoly of the art of persecution may, to members of the 
Protestant faith, have been a comforting thought, but it by 
no means represented the whole truth. It was merely that 
the activities of the Inquisition, because of their extent, their 
consistency and their unexampled rigour, eclipsed all the 
other forms of torture that were in progress during the 
Middle Ages. It was owing to the Inquisitions being known 
and celebrated as places of torture, and the spectacularity of 
the autos da fe, that these particular operations overshadowed 
all others; and so far as history is concerned have sufficed to 
relegate to the background every other contemporary form 
of persecution. 

While the Church persecuted the followers of all rival 
faiths deemed to show possibilities of becoming powerful 


competitors of Christianity, they disapproved of judicial 
torture. St. Augustine denounced it, contending that should 
the accused individual " be innocent, he v^ill undergo for an 
uncertain crime a certain punishment, and that not for 
having committed a crime, but because it is unknown 
whether he committed it." In 384 a synod at Rome 
denounced the use of torture by civil courts.^ And at all 
times the Church attempted, not always with success, to 
secure the exemption of the clergy from submission to the 
qucestion in all cases except those tried by the ecclesiastical 

The Persecutions Suffered by the Waldenses 

About the middle of the seventeenth century the mem- 
bers of the sect known as the Waldenses, who had settled 
in the valleys of the Piedmont to escape persecution in their 
native countries, were accused of heresy. 

On January 25, 1655, under the sanction of the Duke 
of Savoy, Andrew Gastaldo, doctor of civil laws, issued the 
following order : 

" That every head of a family, with the individuals of 
that family, of the reformed religion, of what rank, 
degree, or condition soever, none excepted, inhabiting 
and possessing estates in Lucerne, St. Giovanni, Bibiana, 
Campiglione, St. Secondo, Lucernetta, La Torre, Fenile, 
and Bricherassio, should, within three days after the 
publication thereof, withdraw out of the said places. 
. . . This to be done on pain of death, and confiscation 
of houses and goods, unless within the limited time they 
turned Roman-catholics." 

The result of this edict was the commencement of a 
rigorous campaign of persecution conducted by the Catholics 
in the district and by the troops. 

" The armed multitude," says an eye-witness, " fell 
apon the Waldenses in a most furious manner. Nothing 
now was to be seen but the face of horror and despair; 
blood stained the floors of the houses, dead bodies be- 

* Lea, Superstition and Force, Philadelphia, 1878. 


Strewed the streets, groans and cries were heard from 
all parts. Some armed themselves, and skirmished with 
the troops; and many, with their families, fled to the 
mountains. In one village they cruelly tormented 150 
women and children, after the men were fled; beheading 
the women, and dashing out the brains of the children. 
In the towns of Villaro and Bobio, most of those that 
refused to go to mass, who were over fifteen years of age, 
they crucified with their heads downwards; and the 
greater number of those under that age were strangled." 

The soldiers, in particular, exercised their lust for cruelty 
m a most diabolical manner. Mutilations of every possible 
form preceded the coup de grace, in many cases, no final 
blow was given, the maimed victims being left to die of 
starvation or bleed to death. Isaiah Garcino was literally 
minced; Mary Raymondet had the flesh sliced from her 
bones piece by piece until she died in frightful agony. 
Giovanni Pelanchion was tied by one leg to the tail of a 
mule and dragged through the streets of Lucerne, the mob 
pelting his body with stones. Ann Charbonierre was trans- 
fixed upon a stake and left to die slowly. Others were 
suspended from trees and beams with iron hooks piercing 
their abdomens. Holes were bored in Bartholomew 
Frasche's heels, ropes were passed through the open wounds, 
and in this way he was dragged to the dungeon where he 

A favourite torture was to place small bags of gunpowder 
in the mouths of the victims and then set fire to them. 
Daniel Rambaut had his fingers and toes amputated in 
sections, one joint being cut off each day, in an effort to 
induce him to embrace the Roman faith. Burning at the 
stake, drowning and suffocation were common methods of 

Sara Rastignole des Vignes, for refusing to repeat Jesus 
Maria, had a sickle thrust into the lower part of her abdo- 
men. Another young woman, Martha Constantine, was 
raped and then killed by cutting off her breasts. 

" A servant of Jacopo Michalino of Bobio," says 
Morland, " received divers stabs with a dagger in the 


soles of his feet, and in his ears, by the hands of one 
GuHelmo Roche, a famous massacrer of Lucerna, and 
another called Mandolin, who afterwards cut off his 
privy members, and then applied a burning candle to the 
wound, frying it with the flame thereof, that so the blood 
might be stopt, and the torments of that miserable 
creature prolonged. This being done to their mindes, 
they tore off his nayls with hot pincers, to try if they 
could by any means force him to renounce his religion. 
But when nothing would do, they tied one of his legs 
to the Marquis of Lucerna's mule, and so dragged him 
along the streets, till such time as he had almost ended 
his painfull life; and then binding his head about with 
a cord, they strained and twisted the same with a staff 
until they wrung his head from his body."^ 

Children were cut to pieces, decapitated and killed in 
various ways before the eyes of their parents. Mary 
Pelanchion was stripped naked and hung head downwards 
from a bridge over a river, and in this position made a target 
for the soldiers to fire at. Cypriania Bastia, on being com- 
manded to renounce his religion and accept the Popish faith, 
said : " I would rather renounce life, or turn dog," to which 
a priest answered, " For that expression you shall both 
renounce life and be given to the dogs." Bastia was thrown 
into prison, and when deprivation of food had brought him 
near to death, he was pitched into the road and left there to 
be devoured by wild dogs. 

Jacopo di Rone, a schoolmaster of Roras, was stripped 
to the skin, had his nails torn off with red-hot pincers, and 
holes bored through his hands. A rope was then tied around 
his middle, and by this he was led through the streets of 
Lucerne, with a soldier-guard marching on each side. Alter- 
nately, as the procession moved along, one of these guards 
sliced off a bit of the victim's flesh with a sword, and the 
other struck him with a bludgeon, both of them crying, 
" Wilt thou yet go to mass? " 

As a result of these continual persecutions and murders, 
the towns and villages of the Piedmont valleys were almost 

* Samuel Morland, The History of the Evangelical Churches of the 
Valleys of Piedmont, London, 1658, Book II, p. 341. 


depopulated. Those who were not actually exterminated on 
the spot, for the most part, after escaping to the mountains, 
died of starvation, or fell victims to disease. 

The Persecutions Suffered by the Qua\ers 

In 1646 George Fox founded the Society of Friends. The 
movement met wdth much success. In a few years it became 
a serious menace to the established Church. Then began a 
series of persecutions designed to discourage the securing of 
new recruits, and to cause the abandonment of their project 
by Fox and his immediate followers. In the reign of Charles 
the Second the Star Chamber got to work in dead earnest. 
The Quakers, as the followers of this new cult were dubbed, 
were imprisoned in hundreds, their goods were confiscated, 
they were oppressed and hounded in every way short of 
actually putting them to death, and there is little doubt that 
a good many of them were surreptitiously tortured. 

In the face of such travail, some of the leading lights of 
the movement, despairing of making any progress in their 
own country, turned hopeful eyes westwards towards the 
virgin fields of America. In the July of 1656, Mary Fisher 
and Ann Austin, Quakers both, with hope and faith big in 
them, braved the perils of the three-thousand-mile voyage 
and reached Boston. But their hopes were dashed at the 
outset. They stepped right out of the frying-pan into the 
hottest of fires. They were met, not by a brass band and 
the welcoming obeisance of men and women panting to 
embrace a new and novel faith, but by a mob of infuriated 
citizens clamouring for their blood. Mary and Ann were 
seized, they were " stripped stark naked, in such an im- 
modest manner as modesty will not admit to mention," says 
a chronicler, they were whipped at a cart's tail, and packed, 
bag and baggage, on to the ship that had brought them, with 
threats of what would happen if they ever dared to again 
sully the soil of New England with their heretical feet. 

Though these two women had been the first Quakers 
actually to set foot on American soil, they had not been alone 
in their determination to found a colony of Friends in the 
New World. Others were on their way, and altogether a 
sizable band of them managed to reach Boston during the 


years of 1656 and 1657. They preached their gospel in this 
town and that, they secured many recruits; they threatened 
the very security and existence of the Church. And so, the 
New England Puritans, under the leadership of Governor 
Endicot, embarked upon a campaign of persecution that was 
characterized by some of the most cruel acts that the history 
of religious intolerance has to show. Both men and women 
were whipped unmercifully, branded, mutilated and im- 
prisoned. Many were put to death; many more were sold 
as slaves to the plantations. 

"Mary Tomkins and Alice Ambrose were cruelly 
ordered to be whipped at a cart's tail through eleven 
towns at one time, ten stripes apiece on their naked backs, 
which would have amounted to no in the whole, and 
on a very cold day, they were stripped and whipped 
through three of the towns (the priests looking on and 
laughing) and through dirt and snow, sometimes half 
leg deep, till Walter Barefoot, of SaUsbury, got the 
warrant and discharged them."^ 

Lydia Wardel was stripped from the waist upwards, tied 
to a fence-post, " with her naked breasts to the splinters of 
the posts, and there sorely lashed, with twenty or thirty cruel 
stripes."^ Ann Coleman was whipped within an inch of 
her life, the knots of the whip splitting her breasts. Edward 
Wharton was flogged so severely that, it was testified, " peas 
might lie in the holes that the knots of the whip had beat 
into the flesh of his arms and back; and his body was 
swelled, and very black from the waist upwards."^ Thomas 
Newhouse was stripped and fastened to a gun-wheel, where 
he was given ten stripes, and then on three separate occasions 
whipped at the cart's tail. 

And so the tale of persecutions goes on. The complete 
account of it would need a volume in itself. Let us close 
with the narration of the treatment meted out to WiHiam 

^ John Whiting, Truth and Innocency Defended Against Fahehood and 
Envy, 1702, p. 108. 

* George Bishop, New England Judged by the Spirit of the Lord, 1703, 

P- 377- 

» Ibtd., p. 442. 


Brend, as Bishop gives it in his gory catalogue of the suffer- 
ings endured by these Quakers. 

** The gaoler put him into irons, neck and heels, lockt 
so close together, as there was no more room between 
each, than for the horse-lock that fastened them on; and 
so kept him in irons for the space of sixteen hours (as 
the gaoler himself confessed) for not working; and all 
this without meat, whilst his back was torn with the 
whipping the day before, which did not satisfy the blood- 
thirsty gaoler, but as a man resolved to have his life, and 
by cruelties to kill him, he had him down again the next 
morning to work, though so many days without meat, 
his back beaten, his neck and heels bruised, by being 
bound so long together, because he could not bow to his 
will; yet he laid him on with a pitch'd rope twenty blows 
over his back and arms, with as much force as he could 
drive, so that with the fierceness of the blows the rope 
untwisted and his arms were swollen with it : presently 
after this, the gaoler having either mended his old, or got 
a new rope, came in again; and having haled him down- 
stairs with greater fury and violence than before, gave 
his broken, bruised, and weak body fourscore and seven- 
teen blows more, foaming at the mouth like a madman, 
and tormented with rage; unto which great number he 
had added more blows, had not his strength and rope 
failed him, for now he cared not what he did do: and 
all this, because he did not work for him, which he could 
not do, being unable in body and unfree in mind. So he 
gave him in all 117 blows with a pitch'd rope, so that his 
flesh was beaten black, and as into a jelly, and under his 
arms the bruised flesh and blood hung down, clodded as 
it were in baggs, and so into one was it beaten, that the 
sign of one particular blow could not be seen."^ 

The Growth of Judicial and Penal Torture in Europe 

Practically every European State practised torture for 
extorting confessions of guilt in all cases of criminal trials, 
adopting the principle embodied in the old Roman code. At 

* Ibid., pp. 65-6. 


first the whole matter of procedure was in a most amorphous 
state, but as time went on, and the ingenuity of man added 
to the variety of methods adopted, certain rules and regula- 
tions were enacted and carried out with some thoroughness. 

The development of judicial torture seems to have kept 
pace, almost in fact step by step, with the elaboration of 
torture as an ecclesiastical weapon. The courts of Europe 
and the Inquisition were using torture at the same time, and 
there is little doubt that the attitude of the one influenced 
the attitude of the other. Even in countries where the 
Inquisition had no power, its methods were adopted in the 
civil and ecclesiastic courts. 

Towards the close of the thirteenth century judicial 
torture flourished in Italy as strongly as it did in the days 
of the Caesars. Gradually it spread into other countries, with 
the result that by the birth of the seventeenth century there 
was scarcely for the finding a European State (Scandinavia 
appears to have been the one exception) where torture was 
not looked upon as a necessary part of criminal procedure. 
In Germany, in France and in Spain, judicial torture became 
incorporated in the regular penal system. 

The success of torture was the reason for its development 
and extension. The old Roman rule that it should be 
resorted to only in cases where the evidence was sufficient 
to indicate the guilt of the accused and his confession or 
admission was alone wanting, was disregarded. Mere sus- 
picion of complicity in a crime was a sufficient excuse for 
the application of torture. On an accusation, unsupported 
by any evidence whatever, being made by any one individual 
against another, the accused or the suspected person was 
liable to be seized and put to the quicstion. Prevarication, 
silence, unexplained absence, and even pallor, says Lea,^ 
were all considered to sanction the use of torture. The 
system was extended to include witnesses as well. When 
two witnesses presented opposing or conflicting evidence, 
they were both tortured in the presence of each other until 
agreement was reached. Indeed full power was given the 
judges to order torture as they thought fit, and there seems 
no reason to believe that the majority of them erred on the 
side of leniency or mercy. 

* H. C. Lea, Superstition and Force, p. 439. 


In France, by the closing years of the fourteenth century, 
the records of the Chatelet of Paris show that " torture had 
virtually become the rule and the main reliance of the 
tribunal, for the cases in which it was not employed appear 
to be simply exceptional."^ Even the admission of guilt did 
not always ensure freedom from this ordeal, for if the crime 
was not of sufficient magnitude to warrant a capital sentence 
it became customary to torture the culprit into admitting 
a more serious offence. Thus Fleurant de Saint-Leu, on 
January 4, 1390, charged with stealing a silver buckle, after 
admitting under torture his guilt, was again tortured in an 
effort to induce him to confess the commission of other 
crimes, but although nothing further was extorted, he was 
executed just the same.^ And Marquerite de la Pinele, for 
stealing a ring, after additional torture failed to extract 
admissions of other offences, was buried alive. ^ The length 
of time during which this method of repetitive torturing con- 
tinued to be practised is indicated by the fact that Beccaria 
was denouncing the system in 1764. Even Farinacius, the 
seventeenth-century procurator-general to Pope Paul V, and 
author of Praxis et Theoricce Criminalism one of the most 
complete works on torture ever written, stated that the 
qu(£stion was admissible for the discovery of crimes other 
than those with which the prisoner was charged or of which 
he was suspected. 

In all countries the punishments employed for various 
kinds of offences and crimes involved torture. Capital 
punishment, in itself, was usually preceded by torture. Thus 
in France and Germany, murderers had portions of their 
flesh pinched off with red-hot pincers and their right hands 
burnt away, before execution. In other cases, the form 
which the death penalty took (e.g., breaking on the wheel, 
burning alive, flogging with the \nutm and partial hanging 
followed by quartering) amounted to death by torture. 

^ Ihid., p. 441. 
* Jbid., p. 443. 
» Ibid., p. 444. 



The Birth and Development of the Holy Office 

The Inquisition was a court of justice or tribunal founded 
by the Roman Catholic Church for the express purpose of 
suppressing and eradicating heresy. The war on heresy 
antedated the Inquisition by a thousand years, and, as we 
have seen, heretics were hounded without mercy from the 
dme when Christianity was born. In the year of grace 382 
an Act was passed by which anyone convicted of heresy was 
to be executed. Then, with Christianity firmly established, 
for some centuries the persecution of the heretics by the 
Church itself was not so blatant, so thorough or so merciless. 
Anyone guilty of the crime, for it continued to rank as a 
crime, was excommunicated, and in most cases the Church 
was content to let it go at that. Sometimes, probably as a 
result of sporadic campaigns, heretics were much more 
severely handled, and even on occasion condemned to death. 

As time went on, however, and as a result of leniency, 
and other factors, various heretical cults gained strength, and 
even threatened to become rivals of Christianity itself, the 
ecclesiastical leaders came to the conclusion that sterner 
measures were essential. In particular, the activities of the 
heretical sect known as the Albigenses, roused the Roman 
Church to vigorous action. The result was the beginning of 
a war of extermination. Innocent III conceived a scheme, 
or accepted the rough-and-ready idea of it from some other 
party, for dealing with all those who had the temerity to 
rebel against the Church. The result was the founding, in 
the first half of the thirteenth century, of the Holy Inquisi- 
tion, with Dominique as the first Inquisitor-General. 

Once initiated, tlie Inquisition set about its task in grim 
earnest. Its aim was to rid the country of heresy by destroy- 






■'"' y 

I * 

s • 



















-"^ > 



(See Text, page 149.) 


From Moore"s Martyrology. 1809. 

(See Text, page 81.) 


ing the cancer, root and branch. Spies were appointed and 
were soon at work everywhere. The slightest suspicious 
remark was sufficient for the individual uttering it to be 
haled before the court. Witnesses hed glibly and with 
gusto, not only because of their hatred of supposed heretics, 
but also to placate the officials of the Holy Office. 

The first Inquisition was established at Toulouse in 1233. 
Five years later another court was opened at Aragon. The 
movement spread rapidly. In Germany, in Holland, in 
Spain, in Portugal, in France, courts were established and 
proceeded merrily in the war, deliberate and concerted, 
against heresy in all its forms. 

These courts, in many cases, were magnificent structures. 
Often they were palaces. The Inquisition of Portugal, for 
instance, contained four courts, each of which was some 
forty feet square. The chief inquisitor had his own set of 
apartments, which were spacious and elegant. Around the 
huge courtyard were a number of magnificent salons and 
chambers, which the royal family, members of the court, 
and a number of other dignitaries, during an auto da /^, 
occupied for the purpose of observing the executions. 

What a contrast these magnificent chambers and apart- 
ments presented to the dungeons or cells which housed the 
prisoners. There were some three hundred of these dun- 
geons; dark, damp and small. The only accommodation 
provided was a miserable apology for a bedstead, a urinal, 
wash-hand basin, two pitchers, a lamp and a plate. The 
prisoners were given poor and scanty food, they were for- 
bidden to speak or make any kind of noise, and punished 
severely for any breach of the regulations. Torres de Castilla, 
in describing the Portuguese Inquisition of Goa, says the 
places allocated to the prisoners were the 

" dirtiest, darkest and most horrible that can possibly 
be, into which the rays of the sun never penetrate. The 
kind of noxious air that must be breathed may be 
imagined when it is known that a dry well in the middle 
of the space where the prisoners were confined and which 
is always uncovered, is used as a privy, the emanations 
from which have no other outlet for escape than a small 
opening. The prisoners live in a common privy." 



The Examination of the Accused 

The procedure was much the same in all the Inquisitions. 
The prisoner was often kept for months in one of the 
dungeons before he was examined. This was probably part 
of a carefully thought out scheme to wear down his powers 
of resistance. On being brought before the tribunal, the 
accused was asked to speak the truth, and to promise to 
conceal the secrets of the Holy Office. Acceptance implied 
that the examination would proceed ; refusal meant a return 
to the dungeon and probably the infliction of some form of 
punishment. In the case of the examination being con- 
tinued, a number of questions were put by the president of 
the tribunal and the prisoner's answers were recorded by a 
clerk. In a few days, the accused was again brought before 
the tribunal for further examination. He was asked to 
confess his crimes against the Holy Office, and led to believe 
that the inquisitors possessed evidence and that they had 
secured witnesses who were prepared to testify against him. 
He was not allowed to know either the nature of the 
evidence or the identity of the witnesses. Continued resis- 
tance and denial of guilt led to the inquisitors adopting 
sterner measures. 

Inside the Torture Chamber 

Torture was introduced for the express purpose of extract- 
ing confession, being authorized by Pope Innocent in a Bull 
issued in 1252. The inquisitors reduced torture to some- 
thing approaching a fine art, and in the process showed the 
possession of much psychological knowledge and insight, 
the procedure being nicely calculated to wear down the 
resistance even of the strongest minded and most powerfully 
built man. First, the accused was threatened with torture, 
which threat, in itself, had often the desired effect. If this 
failed to extort confession, he was conducted to the torture 
chamber and shown the instruments used. This torture 
chamber was well designed to afflict all except those possess- 
ing nerves of iron, with horror, dread and despair. It was 
usually an underground apartment, devoid of windows, and 
lighted with nothing better than a couple of candles. The 


executioner was an extraordinary, awesome apparition. 
Clothed from head to foot in a black garment, with his head 
and face covered, except for two eye-holes, with a black cowl, 
he presented a most diabolical and satanic appearance. 

Should the sight of the torture chamber, its impedimenta 
and the executioner, fail to have the desired effect, the 
prisoner was stripped to the buff, and his hands bound. 

** The stripping," says Limborch, " is performed 
without regard to humanity or honour, not only to men, 
but to women and virgins, the most virtuous and chaste 
of whom they have sometimes in the prisons. For they 
cause them to be stripped, even to their very shifts, which 
they afterwards take off, forgive the expression, even to 
their pudenda, and then put on their strait linen 

When the accused was all prepared for the infliction of 
torture, again were the questions repeated, and in the event 
of the prisoner continuing to deny his guilt, the actual tor- 
ments began. 

The main tortures employed by the Inquisition were the 
pulley, the rack, and fire. There were also various modifica- 
tions and extensions of these, as well as a number of lesser 
persecutions, all of which will be described in detail in 
another part of this work. (See Chapter XIX.) 

It is important to note, however, that the whole inquisi- 
torial system, from the moment anyone was unfortunate 
enough to fall into its clutches, until released by banishment 
or death, constituted one long torment. " In many cases," 
says Lea, '* torture and prolonged imprisonment, in the 
foulest of dungeons, doubtless produced partial derangement, 
leading to the belief that he had committed the acts so per- 
sistently imputed to him."* 

Punishment of a severe nature, and often in itself amount- 
ing to torture, was inflicted for the slightest breaches of the 
regulations. Says Torres de CastiUa, writing of the Inquisi- 
tion of Lisbon, 

* Philip a Limborch, The History of the Inquisition, 1731, p. 219. 

* H. C. Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, Mac- 
millan, New York, 1906, Vol. Ill, p. 506. 


" should anyone commit a fault he is flogged in a most 
cruel manner. They strip him naked and lay him on 
the ground with his face downwards, and in this position 
he is held by several men while others flog him most 
unmercifully with cords stiffened by being dipped in 
melted pitch, which brings away flesh at every stroke 
until the back is one large ulcer." 

It may be stated here, however, that the tortures were 
of such a nature that few failed to confess. This applied to 
the innocent just as much as to the guilty. The few that 
remained silent and continued to protest their innocence 
until unconsciousness sealed their lips, were carried back to 
their cells. When some amount of recovery had been made, 
another appearance before the tribunal followed, with more 
threats, and, if no confession were made, further tortures. 
And since, as a rule, confession meant life imprisonment or 
death, the majority either suffered this penalty or died as a 
result of the tortures they endured. 

Among the cases on record where, in spite of every effort 
of the inquisitors, the victim's lips remained sealed, is that of 
Tomas de Leon, who, at Valladolid, on November 5, 1638, 
was racked until his left arm was broken. More remarkable 
still was the case of Florencia de Leon, who underwent three 
forms of torture, the balestilla, the mancuerda, and the potro, 
and yet remained silent; while Engracia Rodriguez, at sixty 
years of age, despite having one arm broken and a toe torn 
off in the balestilla, refused to confess.^ On the other hand, 
many confessed at the very threat of torture, even though 
they were well aware that confession meant being sen- 
tenced to death. Gilles de Rais was one such. He admitted 
the whole category of sadistic crimes with which he was 

At every examination there was present either an in- 
quisitor or a commissioner of the Holy Office. The decision 
as to the nature and degree of the torture to be inflicted was 
left to the discretion of the tribunal. No one, other than 
the judges, the registrar and the executioners, were allowed 
in the chamber while the torture was in progress. The walls 

* H. C. Lea, A History of the Inquisition of Spain, MacxniU^n, New 
York, 1906. 


of the apartment were lined with heavy quilts to prevent 
the screams and cries of the prisoner being heard outside. 
Any confession made during the process of torture, which 
confession was duly recorded by the registrar, had to be 
ratified by the prisoner later. If he retracted this confession 
and refused to sign the document he could be again tortured. 
This repetition of torture was given in the code of Torque- 
mada issued to the Spanish Inquisition in 1484, and similar 
codes were in force in other Inquisitions. In no other cir- 
cumstances, it was stated, could torture be repeated. The 
rule, however, proved of little practical use in conditioning 
or restricting the persecutions to which prisoners were sub- 
jected once they became inmates of the dungeons. The 
inquisitors tortured their victims again and again, but 
instead of calling these fresh torments repetitions, they 
described them as continuations of the same torture. 

An instructive example of this was furnished by the case 
of Maria de Coceicao, a young lady residing in Lisbon, who 
was charged with heresy and ordered to be tortured on the 
rack. So severe were the torments that, unable to endure 
them longer, she confessed. Later, when called upon to 
ratify her confession, she refused to sign the document 
they had prepared. Her ground for refusal was that any 
confession she had made had been forced from her during 
the terrible ordeal to which she had been subjected. 
The inquisitors thereupon ordered her to be again racked. 
Once again she confessed. On recovery, she was again 
requested to sign the confession, and again she refused, stat- 
ing that if they repeated the torture a hundred times *' as 
soon as I am released from the rack I shall deny what was 
extorted from me by pain." A third and last time did the 
executioners do their fell work with the rack; but on this 
occasion she did not even confess, and refused to answer a 
single question. Changing their tactics, the inquisitors 
ordered her to be publicly whipped through the streets and 
banished for ten years. 

The duration of the torture varied considerably according 
to the regulations in force in the different courts. Philip III 
issued a Bull limiting it to one hour. Often the victim 
became unconscious long before the stipulated time. In any 
such case an examination was made by a physician in order 


to ascertain whether the condition was real or simulated. In 
accordance with the physician's verdict the torture was sus- 
pended or continued. Even so, there are numerous cases on 
record where the torture was continued for far longer periods 
than it would appear were countenanced in the regulations. 
Lea says it often lasted two or even three hours. '^ He in- 
stances a case where one, Antonia Lopez, at Valladolid, in 
1648, was tortured continuously from eight till eleven o'clock, 
leaving him with a crippled arm. The poor fellow tried to 
commit suicide by strangling himself. He died in his prison 
within a month.* 

The Auto da Fe 

A confession having been secured, the penalty was then 
decreed. Punishments in the less serious cases were whip- 
ping, imprisonment, the galleys, and banishment; those of a 
graver nature called for death either by burning at the stake 
or by strangling. The capital sentence did not necessarily 
mean that the prisoner would escape the ordeal in the torture 
chamber by confessing at the very threat of persecution. The 
death sentence was looked upon as an additional punishment. 

The doomed prisoners, at a certain specified time, were 
led in procession to the place of execution. The ceremony 
was known as the auto da fe (Act of Faith) or gaol delivery. 
These autos da fe were. not held at any regular times, or even 
annually, but in accordance with the discretion of the Holy 
Office. They might be held at intervals of one year, or every 
two, three or four years. The ceremony, which always took 
place on a Sunday, was the occasion of a gathering of all the 
populace. The victims were to be burned to death in public 
or otherwise punished. 

" The victims who walk in the procession," says Dr. 
Dowling, in his History of Romanism, " wear the san 
benito, the coroza, the rope around the neck, and carry 
in their hand a yellow wax candle. The san benito is a 
penitential garment or tunic of yellow cloth reaching 
down to the knees, and on it is painted the picture of 

^ H. C. Lea, A History of the Inquisition of Spain. 
« Ibid. 


the person who wears it, burning in the flames, with 
figures of dragons and devils in the act of fanning the 
flames. This costume indicates that the wearer is to be 
burnt ahve as an incorrigible heretic. If the person is 
only to do penance, then the san benito has on it a cross, 
and no paintings or flames. If an impenitent is con- 
verted just before being led out, then the san benito is 
painted with the flames downward; this is called ' fuego 
resuelto,' and it indicates that the wearer is not to be burnt 
alive, but to have the favour of being strangled before 
the fire is applied to the pile. Formerly these garments 
were hung up in the churches as eternal monuments 
of disgrace to their wearers, and as the trophies of the 
Inquisition. The coroza is a pasteboard cap, three feet 
high, and ending in a point. On it are likewise painted 
crosses, flames and devils. In Spanish America it was 
customary to add long twisted tails to the corozas. Some 
of the victims have gags in their mouths, of which a 
number is kept in reserve in case the victims, as they 
march along in public, should become outrageous, insult 
the tribunal, or attempt to reveal any secrets. The 
prisoners who are to be roasted alive have a Jesuit on each 
side continually preaching to them to abjure their heresies, 
and if anyone attempts to offer one word in defence of 
the doctrines for which he is going to suffer death, his 
mouth is instantly gagged."^ 

On arrival at the place of execution, where a large scaf- 
fold had been erected, prayers were offered, and a sermon 
preached in which the Inquisition was praised and heresy 
bitterly condemned. If the prisoner were prepared to 
accept and to die in the Catholic faith he had the privilege 
of being strangled first and then burnt. In the event of 
him electing to die a Protestant or a member of any other 
heretic cult, he was roasted alive. And now let Dr. 
Geddes, who was himself the horrified spectator of the 
auto da fe held at Madrid in 1682, take up the tale. 

" The officers of the Inquisition, preceded by trum- 
pets, kettle-drums and their banner, marched on the 

* Quoted by James Gardner in Faiths of the World, 1858, Vol. I, pp 


30th of May, in cavalcade, to the palace of the great 
square, where they declared by proclamation that on 
the 30th of June the sentence of the prisoners would be 
put in execution. There had not been a spectacle of 
this kind at Madrid for several years before, for which 
reason it was expected by the inhabitants with as 
much impatience as a day of the greatest festivity and 
triumph. When the day appointed arrived, a prodi- 
gious number of people appeared, dressed as splendid 
as their respective circumstances would admit. In the 
great square was raised a high scaffold; and thither, 
from seven in the morning till the evening, were 
brought criminals of both sexes; all the Inquisitions 
in the kingdom sending their prisoners to Madrid. 
Twenty men and women out of these prisoners, with 
one renegade Mahometan, were ordered to be burned; 
fifty Jews and Jewesses, having never before been im- 
prisoned, and repenting of their crimes, were sen- 
tenced to a long confinement, and to wear a yellow cap; 
and ten others, indicted for bigamy, witchcraft and 
other crimes, were sentenced to be whipped and then 
sent to the galleys : these last wore large pasteboard 
caps, with inscriptions on them, having a halter about 
their necks, and torches in their hands. On this solemn 
occasion the whole court of Spain was present. The 
grand inquisitor's, chair was placed in a sort of tribunal 
far above that of the king. The nobles here acted the 
part of the sheriffs' officers in England, leading such 
criminals as were to be burned, and holding them when 
fast bound with thick cords; the rest of the criminals 
were conducted by the familiars of the Inquisition. 

" At the place of execution there are so many stakes 
set as there are prisoners to be burned, a large quantity 
of dry furze being set about them. The stakes of the 
Protestants, or, as the inquisitors call them, the pro- 
fessed, are about four yards high, and have each a small 
board, whereon the prisoner is seated within half a 
yard of the top. The professed then go up a ladder 
betwixt two priests, who attend them the whole day 
of execution. When they come even with the afore- 
mentioned board, they turn about to the people, and 


the priests spend near a quarter of an hour in exhort- 
ing them to be reconciled to the see of Rome. On their 
refusing, the priests come down, and the executioner 
ascending, turns the professed from off the ladder 
upon the seat, chains their bodies close to the stakes, 
and leaves them. Then the priests go up a second 
time to renew their exhortations; and if they find them 
ineffectual, usually tell them at parting, that ' they 
leave them to the Devil, who is standing at their elbow 
ready to receive their souls, and carry them with him 
into the flames of hell-fire, as soon as they are out of 
their bodies.' A general shout is then raised, and 
when the priests get off the ladder, the universal cry 
is : ' Let the dogs' beards be made ! ' (which implies, 
singe their beards). This is accordingly performed by 
means of flaming furzes, thrust against their faces with 
long poles. This barbarity is repeated till their faces 
are burnt, and is accompanied with loud acclamations. 
Fire is then set to the furzes, and the criminals arc 

" The intrepidity of the twenty-one men and women 
in suffering the horrid death was truly astonishing; 
some thrust their hands and feet into the flames with 
the most dauntless fortitude; and all of them yielded 
to their fate with such resolution that many of the 
amazed spectators lamented that such heroic souls had 
not been more enlightened. The near situation of the 
king to the criminals rendered their dying groans very 
audible to him; he could not, however, be absent from 
this dreadful scene, as it is esteemed a religious one, 
and his coronation oath obliges him to give a sanction 
by his presence to all the acts of the tribunal." 

Influence of the Inquisition 

It was only to be expected that in every country where 
the Inquisition existed, or, in other words, in every coun- 
try where the Roman Catholic religion flourished, any one 
who had the temerity to flirt with heresy in any form, lived 
continuously under the shadow of a terror. It is axiomatic 
that cruelty begets cruelty, persecution begets persecution. 


The inquisitors, gorged with their inhumanity, developed 
a degree of callousness rarely rivalled in the annals of 
civilization. So wide was the interpretation of the term 
heresy that the free expression of opinion in all Catholic 
countries, for the five hundred years of the Inquisition's 
tyranny, may be said to have been inexistent. It was bad 
enough as regards spoken opinion; it was a hundred times 
worse in relation to the written word. Every book that 
came from the press was scrutinized minutely with the 
express object of finding some passage which might be in- 
terpreted as being against the principles or interests of the 
Catholic faith. The censorship of books took three forms : 
(i) complete condemnation and suppression; (2) the 
expunging of certain objectionable passages or parts; and 
(3) the correction of sentences or the deletion of specific 
words. A list of the various books condemned upon any 
of these three heads was printed every year, after which 
anyone found to be in the possession of a volume coming 
under section (i) or an unexpurgated or uncorrected copy 
of a volume coming under section (2) or (3) was deemed 
guilty of a crime and liable to severe punishment. The 
author and the publisher of any such book often spent the 
remainder of their lives in the dungeons of the Inquisition. 

In a considerable number of instances charges were 
deliberately faked against individuals who, in some way or 
other, had incurred the enmity of the inquisitors or of high 
and powerful authorities, ecclesiastical or otherwise, con- 
nected with the Church. The vast power of the inquisitors, 
and particularly their authority to order prisoners to be tor- 
tured, enabled them to secure a conviction with ease against 
anyone against whom they had a grudge. For this reason. 
Catholics as well as heretics, were in danger. The very fact 
of having a charge brought against one, and of being sum- 
moned to the Inquisition, was sufficient to strike abject 
terror into the bravest man or woman. For few who 
entered the doors of that hall of torment emerged whole in 
mind and body. If they escaped with their life, they were, 
with rare exceptions, maimed, physically or mentally, for 

The power and security of the Inquisition were strength- 
ened and solidified by the grip of terror which it secured 


upon the people. Whatever anyone dare think, he could 
not, without running the risk of being incarcerated, give 
voice to any criticism or disparagement of the Holy Office. 
To the contrary, everyone chanted its virtues and praised its 
fairness. Even those — the fev^^ there were — who were 
released from its clutches, either kept rigid silence respecting 
the treatment that had been meted out to them or otherwise 
glorified the institution. Says Dellon, in his account of the 
Inquisition at Goa, written in 1788 : 

" Those who have thus escaped the fire by their forced 
confessions, when they are out of the prison of the Holy 
Office, are strictly obliged to publish that they were 
treated with much goodness and clemency, since their 
life was preserved to them, which they had justly for- 
feited. For if a man who having confessed himself 
guilty, should afterwards presume to justify himself after 
his enlargement, he would be immediately accused, 
arrested, and burnt at the first Act of Faith, without any 
hope of pardon." 

Many of the inquisitors were sadists. Many were 
libidinous monsters. They took such women as they wanted, 
on trumped-up charges of heresy, and kept them for the 
rest of their days as mistresses. When the French troops 
captured the city of Aragon, Lieutenant-General M. de Legal 
ordered the doors of the Inquisition to be opened, and the 
prisoners, numbering some 400, to be released. " Among 
these were sixty beautiful young women who appeared to 
form a seraglio for the three principal inquisitors." One of 
these ladies had a remarkable story to tell. She related it to 
the French officer who later became her husband, and to 
M. Gavin, the author of A Master Key to Popery. I repro- 
duce the account in her own words. 

I went one day, with my mother, to visit the 
Countess Attaras, and I met there Don Francisco 
Tirregon, her confessor, and second inquisitor of the 
Holy Office. After we had drank chocolate, he asked 
me my age, my confessor's name, and many intricate 
questions about religion. The severity of his countenance 


frightened me, which he perceiving, told the countess to 
inform me that he was not so severe as he looked. He 
then caressed me in a most obliging manner, presented 
his hand, which I kissed with great reverence and 
modesty; and, as he went away, he made use of this 
remarkable expression, ' My dear child, I shall remember 
you till the next time.' I did not, at the time, mark the 
sense of the words; for I was inexperienced in matters 
of gallantry, being, at that time, but fifteen years old. 
Indeed, he unfortunately did remember me; for the very 
same night, when our whole family were in bed, we 
heard a great knocking at the door. The maid, who 
laid in the same room with me, went to the window, 
and inquired who was there. The answer was, the Holy 
Inquisition. On hearing this I screamed out, ' Father ! 
Father ! Dear father, I am ruined for ever ! ' My 
father got up, and came to me to know the occasion of 
my crying out; I told him the Inquisition were at the 
door. On hearing this, instead of protecting me, he 
hurried me downstairs as fast as possible; and, lest the 
maid should be too slow, opened the street door himself; 
under such abject and slavish fears are bigoted minds ! 
As soon as he knew they came for me, he fetched me 
with great solemnity, and delivered me to the officers 
with much submission. 

" I was hurried into a coach, with no other clothing 
than a petticoat and a mantle; for they would not let me 
stay to take anything else. My fright was so great, I 
expected to die that very night; but judge my surprise, 
when I was ushered into an apartment, decorated with 
all the elegance that taste, united with opulence, could 
bestow. Soon after the officers left me, a maid-servant 
appeared with a silver salver, on which were sweetmeats 
and cinnamon-water. She desired me to take some refresh- 
ments before I went to bed; I told her I could not, but 
should be glad if she could inform me whether I was to 
be put to death that night or not. ' To be put to death ! ' 
exclaimed she, ' you do not come here to be put to death, 
but to live like a princess, and you shall want for nothing 
in the world, but the liberty of going out; so pray don't 
be afraid, but go to bed and sleep easy; for to-morrow 


you shall see wonders within this house; and as I am 
chosen to be your waiting-maid, I hope you'll be very 
kind to me.' 

There follows a long discursive account of the manner in 
which, through the medium of this servant girl Mary, Don 
Francisco sent to his latest victim elegant clothes, valuable 
presents, and personal messages, both polite and endearing, 
and an invitation to have dinner with him, which, acting on 
Mary's advice, the young lady accepted. Don Francisco 
informed her that, because of certain accusations which 
had been made against her in connexion with matters of 
religion, the Inquisition had pronounced sentence of burning 
alive " in a dry pan, with a gradual fire," but that he, out 
of respect for her family and pity for her, had managed to 
stop the execution of the terrible sentence, at any rate, for 
the present. The man made it plain, however, and Mary 
made it additionally plain, that there was only one way of 
escaping death, and that anyone other than a born fool 
would take it. Probably acting under instructions from Don 
Francisco, Mary went further and, after securing a promise 
of absolute secrecy from the already terrified young lady, 
offered to show her the implements of torture. And so the 
next morning, before anybody was stirring, 

** taking me downstairs, she brought me to a large room, 
with a thick iron door, which she opened. Within it 
was an oven, with fire in it at the time, and a large 
brass pan upon it, with a cover of the same, and a lock 
to it. In the next room there was a great wheel, covered 
on both sides with thick boards; with a little window 
in the centre, Mary desired me to look in with a candle; 
there I saw all the circumference of the wheel set with 
sharp razors, which made me shudder. Mary then took 
me to a pit, which was full of venomous animals. On 
my expressing great horror at the sight, she said, * Now, 
my good mistress, I'll tell you the use of these things. 
The dry pan is for heretics, and those who oppose the 
holy father's will and pleasure; they arc put alive into 
the pan, being first stripped naked; and the cover being 
locked down, the executioner begins to put a small fire 


into the oven, and by degrees he augments it, till the 
body is reduced to ashes. The wheel is designed for 
those who speak against the Pope, or the holy fathers 
of the Inquisition; for they are put into that machine 
through the little door, which is locked after them, and 
then the wheel is turned swiftly, till they are all cut to 
pieces. The pit is for those who contemn the images, 
and refuse to give proper respect to ecclesiastical persons; 
for they are thrown into the pit, and so become the food 
of poisonous animals. 

" We went back again to my chamber, and Mary 
said that another day she would show me the torments 
designed for other transgressors; but I was in such 
agonies at what I had seen, that I begged to be terrified 
with no more such sights. She soon after left me, but 
not without enjoining me strict obedience to Don Fran- 
cisco; * for if you do not comply with his will,' says she, 
* the dry pan and gradual fire will be your fate.' The 
horrors which the sight of these things, and Mary's 
expressions, impressed on my mind, almost bereaved me 
of my senses, and left me in such a state of stupefaction 
that I seemed to have no manner of will of my own. 

** The next morning Mary said, * Now let me dress 
you as nice as possible, for you must go and wish Don 
Francisco good morrow, and breakfast with him.' When 
I was dressed, she conveyed me through a gallery into 
his apartment, where I found that he was in bed. He 
ordered Mary to withdraw, and to serve up breakfast 
in about two hours' time. When Mary was gone, he 
commanded me to undress myself, and come to bed to 
him. The manner in which he spoke, and the dreadful 
ideas with which my mind was filled, so terribly 
frightened me, that I pulled off my clothes, without 
knowing what I did, and stepped into bed, insensible of 
the indecency I was transacting : so totally had the care 
of self-preservation absorbed all my other thoughts, and 
so entirely were the ideas of delicacy obliterated by the 
force of terror." 

After the seduction of the girl, she was introduced to the 
other young ladies, numbering fifty-two in all, the eldest of 


which was about twenty-four years, who formed the seraglio. 
And for three days, gorgeously upholstered, living in the 
most luxurious apartments, eating and drinking the finest 
products of the land, she lived the life of a queen. Then, 
after an evening of gaiety, the girl was taken to a small, 
dungeon-like room, in which was another young lady. 
Mary, who was her conductor on this occasion too, said, 
" This is your room, and this lady your bed-fellow and com- 
panion," and immediately went away. Then . . . but let 
the narrator resume her story : 

" My perplexity and vexation were inexpressible; but 
my new companion, whose name was Leonora, prevailed 
on me to disguise my uneasiness from Mary. I dis- 
sembled tolerably well when she came to bring our 
dinners, but could not help remarking, in my own mind, 
the difference between this repast and those I had before 
partook of. This consisted only of plain common food, 
and of that a scanty allowance, with only one plate, and 
one knife and fork for us both, which she took away as 
soon as we had dined. When we were in bed, Leonora, 
upon my solemn promise of secrecy, began to open her 
mind to me. ' My dear sister,' she said, ' you think your 
case very hard; but, I assure you, all the ladies in the 
house have gone through the same. In time you will 
know all their stories, as they hope to know yours. I 
suppose Mary has been the chief instrument of your 
fright, as she has been of ours; and I warrant she has 
shown you some horrible places, though not all; and 
that, at the very thought of them you were so terrified 
that you chose the same way we have done to redeem 
yourself from death. By what hath happened to us, we 
know that Don Francisco hath been your Nero, your 
tyrant; for the three colours of clothes are the distinguish- 
ing tokens of the three holy fathers. The red silk belongs 
to Don Francisco, the blue to Don Guerrero, and the 
green to Don Aliaga; and they always give those colours 
(after the farce of changing garments, and the short- 
lived recreations are over) to those ladies whom they 
bring here for their respective uses. We are strictly 
commanded to express all the demonstrations of joy, and 


to be very merry for three days, when a young lady first 
comes amongst us, as we did with you, and as you must 
now do with others; but afterwards we hve hke the most 
wretched prisoners, without seeing anybody but Mary, 
and the other maid-servants, over whom Mary hath a 
kind of superiority, for she acts as housekeeper. We all 
dine in the great hall three days in a week; and when 
any one of the inquisitors hath a mind for one of his 
slaves, Mary comes about nine o'clock, and leads her to 
his apartment. Some evenings Mary leaves the door of 
our chambers open, and that is a token that one of the 
inquisitors hath a mind to come that night; but he comes 
so silent that we are ignorant whether he is our patron 
or not. If one of us happens to be with child, she is 
removed into a better chamber till she is delivered; but 
during the whole of her pregnancy she never sees any- 
body but the person appointed to attend her. As soon 
as the child is born it is taken away, and carried we know 
not whither; for we never hear a syllable mentioned 
about it afterwards. I have been in this house six years, 
was not fourteen when the officers took me from my 
father's house, and have had one child. There are, at 
this present time, fifty-two young ladies in the house; 
but we annually lose six or eight, though we know not 
what becomes of them, or whither they are sent. This, 
however, does not diminish our number, for new ones 
are always brought in to supply the place of those who 
are removed from hence; and I remember, at one time, 
to have seen seventy-three ladies here together. Our 
continual torment is to reflect that when they are tired 
of any of the ladies, they certainly put to death those 
they pretend to send away; for it is natural to think that 
they have too much policy to suffer their atrocious and 
infernal villainies to be discovered, by enlarging them. 
Hence our situation is miserable indeed, and we have 
only to pray that the Almighty will pardon those crimes 
which we are compelled to commit.' " 

This description, the narrator continues, proved to be a 
true one. Eighteen months were to elapse before the French 
officers opened the doors of the Inquisition, and during this 

Prom Moore's Manyrology, 1809. 


IN 1642 

After Picart. 

(See Text, page 103.) 

From Macartney's Embassy to China, 1796. 

(See Text, page 104.) 


period, while eleven of the inmates disappeared in the 
mysterious manner mentioned by Leonora, nineteen new 
girls entered, making the total number at the moment of 
deliverance no fev^^er than sixty. 

Victims of the Inquisition 

Precisely how many people were burned to death, and 
how many were tortured and allowed to die in the dungeons, 
it is impossible to say. Many statements have been made 
regarding the number of executions. But it is more than 
likely that none is accurate. Where the historian does not 
underestimate, the probability is that he exaggerates. 
Llorente, the Roman Catholic writer, who for years acted 
as secretary to the Spanish Inquisition, estimates that from 
148 1 to 15 1 7, that is during a period of less than forty years, 
13,000 persons were burnt alive, and 17,000 were condemned 
to different forms of punishment. These figures are prob- 
ably under rather than over the true mark. The triviality of 
the offences for which punishments, and often death, were 
incurred was instrumental in causing the total number of 
persecutions to be so immoderately large. A glance at the 
records shows the trifling nature of these offences and the 
severity of the punishments meted out to the offenders. 

Rochus, a carver of St. Lucar, Spain, for defacing an 
image of the Virgin Mary rather than sell it to an inquisitor 
for a mere trifle, was burnt at the stake. The keeper of 
the prison at Triano, Spain, for showing kindness to the 
prisoners in the castle, was sentenced to 200 lashes and six 
years labour as a galley slave. A woman servant in the 
Inquisition, for granting favours to the captives, was 
whipped in public and branded on the forehead. Ferd- 
mando, a Protestant schoolmaster, for teaching the principles 
of his faith to his pupils, was first tortured, and then burnt. 
Another Protestant, named John Leon, and some Spaniards 
of the same faith, on endeavouring to escape to England, 
were captured by agents of the Inquisition, tortured, starved, 
and finally burnt. For refusing to take the veil and turn 
nun, but instead taking up the Protestant faith, a young lady 
was condemned to the flames. 

Christopher Losada, an eminent physician of his day, for 


professing the tenets of Protestantism, was racked and burnt. 
A monk of the monastery of St. Isidore, Seville, who turned 
Protestant, was tortured and burnt. A Protestant writing- 
master of Toledo, who had decorated the walls of a room in 
his house with a reproduction of the ten commandments 
in full,^ in his own handwriting, was burnt at the stake at 
Valladolid in 1676. At the same court, Martin-Juan de 
Salinas was sentenced to 200 lashes for bigamy. 

An Englishwoman, marrkd to a man named Vascon- 
cellos, and Hving in Madeira, in 1704, was charged with 
heresy and sent to the Inquisition of Lisbon. For nine 
months and fifteen days this woman, for a crime of which 
she steadfastly claimed to be innocent, was kept in a 
dungeon, on nothing but bread and water, and no better 
sleeping provisions than a damp straw-bed. In attempts to 
extort confession she was whipped on several occasions with 
knotted cords; her breast was burnt with a red-hot iron in 
three different places and the wounds left to heal themselves. 
Finally, she was conveyed once again to the torture chamber 
and commanded by the executioner to sit in a fixed chair, 
to which she was bound with cords in a way which prevented 
the slightest motion. Her left foot was then bared, and an 
iron slipper, which had been put in the fire until it was red- 
hot, was fixed on her naked foot, where it remained until 
the flesh was burnt to the bone. The woman fainted. She 
was then flogged so fiendishly that her back from the 
shoulders to the waist was one mass of torn flesh. They then 
threatened to put the red-hot slipper on her right foot. Un- 
able to endure any further torments she signed the paper 
they held in front of her. 

Jane Bohorquia, a lady of noble family living at Seville, 
for conversing with a friend about the Protestant religion, 
was seized and imprisoned. She was pregnant at the time, 
but immediately after the birth of the child, and while still 
in a lamentably weak state, she was racked with such severity 
that the flesh was cut through to the very bones and blood 
gushed from her mouth. A week later she died. In this 
case, as on many another occasion, it was reported that she 
had been found dead in prison, no official mention being 

* The Papists omitted that part of the second commandment forbidding 
the worship of images. 


made of the torture to which she had been subjected. The 
report read : " Jane Bohorquia was found dead in prison; 
after which, upon reviewing her prosecution, the Inquisition 
discovered that she was innocent. Be it therefore known, 
that no further prosecutions shall be carried on against her, 
and that her effects, which were confiscated, shall be given 
to her heirs at law." 

The allegation that death was due to an accident or to 
illness was a favourite method employed by the inquisitors 
when the torture inflicted had proved fatal and the case was 
one where it might conceivably be difficult to justify such 
extreme cruelty. Thus at Valladolid, in 1623, one Diego 
Enriquez, had an " accident " and died in hospital.^ 

There is the case of Isaac Martin, an English Protestant, 
at Malaga, in 1714. Because of his name, he was accused 
of being a Jew. Martin was seized and taken to the 
Inquisition at Granada for trial. He was locked up in a 
dungeon and given these instructions : " You must observe 
as great silence here as if you were dead ; you must not speak, 
nor whisde, nor sing, nor make any noise that can be heard ; 
and if you hear anybody cry, or make a noise, you must be 
still, and say nothing, upon pain of 200 lashes." After a 
long imprisonment, punctuated by several audiences with the 
chief lord inquisitor, Martin was convicted of heresy, and 
sentenced to receive 200 lashes through the streets of Granada 
and to be banished from Spain. As Isaac Martin is one of 
the few who suffered torture at the hands of the inquisitors 
and was in a position to tell the truth, let him give the tale 
of his sufferings in his own words. 

" The next morning about ten of the clock, I was 
brought downstairs, the executioner came in with ropes 
and a whip. He bid me take off my coat, waistcoat, wig 
and cravat. As I was taking off my shirt, he bid me let 
it alone, he would manage that. He sHpp'd my body 
through the collar, and ty'd it about my waist. Then 
took a rope and ty'd my hands together, put another 
about my neck, and led me out of the Inquisition, where 
there were numerous crowds of people waiting to see an 

* H. C, Lea, A History of the Inquisition of Spai». 


English heretic. I was no sooner out, but a priest read 
my sentence at the door, as followeth : ' Orders are given 
from the Lords of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, 
to give unto Isaac Martin 200 lashes, through the public 
streets. He being of the religion of the Church of 
England, a Protestant, a Heretic, irreverend to the Host, 
and to the Image of the Virgin Mary, and so let it be 
executed.' Knowing what was to be done to me, I was 
not so frightened as when they blind-folded me. The 
sentence being read, the executioner mounted me upon 
an ass, and led me through the streets, the people huzzah- 
ing, and crying out, an English Heretic ! Look at the 
English Heretic, who is no Christian! and pelting me. 
The cryer of the city walked before me, repeating aloud 
the sentence that was read at the door of the Inquisition, 
the executioner whipping me as I went along, and a great 
many people on horseback, in ceremonial robes, with 
wands and halberts following."^ 

There is, too, the remarkable case of Francisco Moyen. 
At the age of twenty-nine, this Frenchman, who was then 
living at Potosi, was seized by the Inquisition and charged 
with heresy. He was sent to Lima for trial. In those days, 
travel in South America was a lengthy process. The journey 
was a long one and, in consequence, it was not until the 
March of 1752 that Moyen, after undergoing incredible 
hardships and privations, was handed over to the Inquisition 
at Lima. He was tried as a heretic and sentenced to 200 
lashes and ten years imprisonment. In 1754, with the aid 
of the candle supplied at supper-time, he set fire to his cell 
door in the hope of being able in this way to effect his escape. 
The scheme failed and for the remainder of his term of 
imprisonment, he had to eat his meals in darkness. The 
man was shackled for the whole of these ten interminable 
years, and his condition may be judged from the fact that, 
in view of the malignant ulcers with which the ankle was 
covered and the fear that gangrene might set in and deprive 
them of their prey, the inquisitors ordered the shackle to be 
removed from the affected foot. On the 6th April, 1761, 

* John Marchant, A Review of the Bloody Tribunal or The Horrid 
Cruelties of the Inquisition, Perth, 1770, p. 121. 


Moycn was released and banished from the country, a mere 
caricature of a man. 

The Inquisition respected neither rank nor station. Rich 
or poor, peasant or nobleman, it was God help anyone who 
fell into its hands. One of the most illustrious of the many 
victims was no less a personage than Don Carlos, the eldest 
son of Philip the Second, and heir-apparent to the crown. 
Appalled at the excesses committed, in the name of God, 
by the Popish hierarchs, Don Carlos, on more than one 
occasion, when among his friends and acquaintances, de- 
claimed against the methods of the inquisitors. The matter 
came to the ears of the Holy Office and the prince was 
arrested. That the power of a king was less than that of 
the Spanish Inquisition Philip was well aware; and his 
thorough realization of this, added to the fact that he was 
not over fond of his son, caused him to make no real effort 
at interference. Don Carlos was found guilty of heresy and 
condemned to death. Owing to his rank, one concession 
was granted him — the choice of the manner of his death. 
He decided to have a vein opened and bleed to death. 



The Rise of Judicial Torture in England 

Englishmen have always been, as they are to-day, incUned 
to boast that torture has never been practised in their 
country. The statement is an erroneous one. It is based 
upon and is due to the fact that torture has never been 
legally recognized by the common law of England. Apart, 
however, from the many cases where, in defiance of common 
law, and with the authority of the reigning monarch, torture 
was repeatedly used both to extract confession and to obtain 
evidence; persecution, as I have been at some pains to point 
out (cf. Chapter I), has always existed. However it may have 
been disguised, euphemized or justified under the name of 
punishment or as discipline, torture it has remained none- 
theless. And in this respect, all through the ages, torture in 
England has been applied in full measure. 

The Anglo-Saxons, like all other contemporary races, 
were callous and cruel. Servants were slaves in all but name, 
and were beaten and ill-used by their masters and mistresses. 
On the slightest provocation they were loaded with fetters, 
kept without food, and often scourged to death. 

Long before the Roman conquest there are indications 
that mutilation was a common form of punishment, and that 
brutal floggings were inflicted for trivialities. At the time 
of the invasion, according to Milton, " the Roman wives and 
virgins hang'd up all naked, had their breasts cut off, and 
sow'd to their mouths, that in the grimness of death they 
might seem to eat their own flesh. "^ 

In the early days, trial by ordeal, which, in some forms, 
such as the cold-water and hot-iron tests, represented forms 
of torture, was common. But as these practices declined, 
and in course of time were abolished, offenders refused to 

* John Milton, The History of Britain, I'j']'], Book II, p. 78. 



accept any alternative forms of trial. When brought before 
the court they pleaded neither guilty nor not guilty, but 
maintained a silence which threatened to balk every effort 
of justice, as it was impossible to convict an accused person 
who remained mute. 

To deal with cases such as these the punishment known 
as peine forte et dure was brought into use. Here, in 
particular, we have a form of punishment which did not, 
according to English common law, constitute torture, but 
which in reality was as barbarous a method of perse- 
cution as anything used in the Spanish Inquisition. 
Thumb-tying was widely adopted as a means of inducing 
prisoners to plead or witnesses to give evidence; and the 
" pricking " of those suspected of witchcraft was frequently 
adopted in the Middle Ages. These practices were forms 
of torture, but they were not recognized as such. This 
reasoning, which was nothing but rank sophistry, seems to 
have been unconditionally accepted by the people, for appar- 
ently few raised the slightest remonstrance or protest. 

When it came to the use of the rack, however, judges 
recognized there was no way in which this could be des- 
cribed as anything other than torture, and as torture was 
prohibited by common law, they had to set about finding 
some way or justifying the use of the qucestion in special 
circumstances. They solved their problem by making it 
possible for torture to be employed in circumstances where 
a special licence was granted by the reigning monarch or by 
some body, such as the Privy Council or the Star Chamber,^ 
whose authority superseded common law. 

In the year 13 lo we find a royal warrant being issued 
to authorize the torturing of the Templars. In 1468, Sir 
Thomas Coke, Lord Mayor of London, was tried and found 
guilty of treason, upon evidence provided by a single witness, 
which evidence was secured by torture. As time went on 

^ The Court of the Star Chamber was formed in the reign of the 
eighth Henry. It consisted of two chief justices and the Privy Council, 
and it was established for the purpose of considering important cases and 
those involving legal problems of more than ordinary gravity or complexity. 
This Court, however, quickly abused its power. It became unjust, pre- 
judiced and tyrannical. As a result of orders given by the Star Chamber 
there were inflicted some of the most brutal tortures that ever disgraced 
English justice. The Court was abolished in 1640. 


the use of torture became more frequent. In fact, although 
it is probable that torture in some form or other and under 
other names, was employed widely from the beginning of 
English history, references to its use in the earlier years are 
remarkably scanty, but during the fifteenth, sixteenth and 
seventeenth centuries, the evidence is abundant. In the 
opinion of no less an authority than Jardine, torture was 
" always used in all grave accusations at the mere discretion 
of the King and the Privy Council."^ A few instances may 
be given. 

" On the 9th June, 1555, letters were written to the 
Lord North and others, to put such obstinate persons as 
would not confess to the torture, and there to order them 
at their discretion; and a letter was written to the lieuten- 
ant of the Tower to the same effect."^ 

" On December 28, 1566, a letter was addressed by the 
Privy Council to the Attorney-General and others, that : 
where they were heretofore appointed to put Clement 
Fisher, now prisoner in the Tower, in some fear of 
torture. Whereby his lewdness and such as he might 
detect might the better come to light, they are requested, 
for that the said Fisher is not minded to feel some touch 
of the rack. — Council Register. Eliz. MSS." 

In 1571, Queen Elizabeth issued a Letter of Warrant to 
Sir Thomas Smith and Dr. Wilson " for putting two of the 
Duke of Norfolk's servants to the rack."^ Samuel Peacock, 
suspected of treason, was tortured on a warrant issued by the 
Privy Council. At Newgate Sessions, on October 14, 1660 : 

" George Thorely, being indicted for robbery, refused 
to plead, and his two thumbs were tyed together with 
whipcord, that the pain of that might compel him to 
plead, and he was sent away so tied, and a minister 
persuaded to go with him to persuade him; and an hour 

* David Jardine, On the Use of Torture in the Criminal Law a] 
England, 1837. 

* Bishop Burnet, The History of the Reformation, Oxford, 1829. 
' Notes and Queries, May 20, 1916. 


after he was brought again and pleaded. And this was 
said to be the constant practice at Newgate."^ 

At the Stafford Assizes, in the March of 1674, a murderer, 
who refused to plead, was sentenced to the peine forte et 
dure. The Scavenger's Daughter, invented by Sir William 
Skevington, a lieutenant of the Tower, in the reign of the 
eighth Henry; the rack;^ the iron gauntlets, the boots, and 
other instruments of torture, were in constant use. The 
loathsome dungeon known as " Little Ease," which, in 
1604, was the subject of a government inquiry; and the even 
more terrible place of torment known as the " dungeon 
among the rats," in which it was admitted that " flesh had 
been torn from the arms and legs of prisoners during sleep 
by the well-known voracity of these animals," were seldom 
unoccupied. Flogging, which did not rank as a form of 
torture at all, was an everyday occurrence. 

It would appear that judicial torture reached its greatest 
ecumenity in the reign of Elizabeth. " In the latter part of 
her reign," says Hallam, " the rack seldom stood idle in the 
Tower."^ There is some dispute as to whether or not Guy 
Fawkes was actually put on the rack, but at any rate he was 
threatened with torture, and probably some preliminary 
steps were taken to induce his confession. Certainly all was 
ready, the order having been issued : *' If he will not other- 
wise confess, the gentlest tortures are to be first used on him, 
and so on, step by step, to the most severe, and so God speed 
the good work," and we have the assertion of King James 
himself that the rack was shown to Fawkes. 

Judicial Torture in Scotland and Ireland 

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries torture was 
much more commonly resorted to in Scodand than in 
England, and especially in relation to those accused of sor- 
cery and witchcraft. The King and the Privy Council were 
both empowered to order it at their discretion. Thus in 

^ A Report of Divers Cases, collected by John Kelyng, 1708, p. 27. 

* The rack, according to tradition, was first introduced into the Tower 
in the reign of Henry VI, by the Duke of Exeter, hence its colloquial name, 
the " Duke of Exeter's Daughter." 

' Hallam, Constitutional History, Vol, I, p. 201. 


1596, James VI ordered Edinburgh rioters to be tortured. In 
1650, Parliament authorized the use of torture in the case 
of Colonel Sibbald. 

Indeed there were many notorious and celebrated cases. 
In the year 1590, Dr. Fian " was put to the most severe 
and cruell paine in the worlde, called the bootes." In 1600, 
one Rhynd, on a charge of participation in the Gowrie House 
conspiracy, was put to the torture. In 1689, the alleged 
murderer of the Lord President Lockhart was tortured to 
induce him to divulge the identity of his accomplices. In 
1615, a Jesuit named John Ogilvie, charged with treason, 
" was convoyit to Edinburgh, and ther keepit in strait waird, 
and a gaird of men, be the space of eight dayis, with small 
sustentation, and compellit and withhaldin, perforce, from 
sleep, to the great perturbation of his brayne, and to compell 
him ad delirium ! "^ 

The instruments employed appear to have been more 
varied than in England. The rack, the caspicaws, or caschie- 
lawis, the witch's bridle, thumbscrews, the boot, the pilnie- 
winkis, were all in frequent use. And D'Archenholz in his 
Picture of England (1790) indicates that peine forte et dure 
was not unknown in Scotland. 

Turning to Ireland, we find remarkably few instances 
of judicial torture on record. In 1583, in Dublin, an Irish 
priest named Hurley, suspected of treason, when brought 
before the Lord Justices, Archbishop Loftus and Sir H. 
Wallop, remained mute. On applying to London for 
instructions, the Irish council was told to put him to the 
torture in order to induce him to speak. As no rack was 
available, " hot boots," in which, according to some accounts, 
melted resin was poured, were applied, and Hurley con- 
fessed.^ Sometimes offenders were taken to London, for 
torture in the Tower, presumably on the ground of its better 
equipment for the purpose. There was an instance in 1581, 
when Myagh was removed to the Tower by command of 
the Lord Deputy. By 1615, the Dublin authorities appar- 
ently had procured a better set of torturing implements, for 
there is a record of one O'Kennan being racked in that city. 

^ Robert Pitcairn, Ancient Criminal Trials in Scotland, Edinburgh, 1833 
Vol, III, p. 332. 

* J. A. Froude, History of England, 1863. 


Torture in the Guise of Punishment 

For every case of torture practised for the purpose of 
extorting confession or evidence, there must have been 
hundreds of instances where it v^as adopted as a means of 
punishment. The fact that it was rarely described as torture 
does not affect the point. The punishment may have been 
partly in the form of torture or wholly in that form. Torture 
often preceded death. But rarely was it admxitted that any- 
one sentenced to death, however brutal or horrible the 
manner of execution might be, had been subjected to torture. 

The most frequent form of punishment involving torture 
was flogging, and of death by torture, burning. Branding 
and mutilation were also common minor punishments. The 
horrible, and already noted, pei7ie forte et dure survived until 
1772. The tortures to which those accused of witchcraft 
were subjected will be considered in another place (cf. 
Chapter XII). 

The criminal records abound with cases of torture in the 
guise of punishment. Thus in 1556, Andrew Drummond, 
convicted of forgery, was sentenced "to be publickly led 
with his hands tied behind his back to the market-cross of 
the burgh of Edinburgh, and there to have his right hand 
struck off and fastened on a pole : and thereafter to be 
banished from the kingdom for life."^ For a similar offence, 
on May 5, 1558, at Edinburgh, David Fethye had his right 
hand amputated.' On December 10, 1549, for setting fire 
to a house, Isobella McFerlane was sentenced " to be branded 
on the cheek." On March 8, 1615, James Boyle, Johnne 
Hammiltoun and Adame Moffet, were scourged through the 
town of Edinburgh, and burned with a hot iron upon the 
cheek.^ On July 30, 1618, for stealing a purse, Johnne 
Broune was burnt on the cheek; and on November 10, 1636, 
some Egyptians, described as " vagabonds and thieves," were 
convicted and sentenced as follows : " the men to be hangit, 
and the weomen to be drowned: and that suche of the 

^ Robert Pitcairn, Ancient Criminal Trials in Scotland, 1833, Vol. I, 
p. 388. 

* Jbid., p. 403. 

' Ibtd., Vol. Ill, p. 358. 


weomen as hes children to be scourged throw the burgh of 
Hadinton and brunt of the cheeke."^ 

Burning at the stake was a form of execution for certain 
other crimes besides witchcraft. Thus on September 17, 
1605, Johnne Jak (ahas Scott) for the horrible crime of 
bestiality was bound to a stake and burnt alive along^ with 
the mare which was his partner in the crime. 

Although breaking on the wheel was comparatively rare, 
there have been instances where death in this terrible form 
has been inflicted. On April 30, 1591, Johnne Diksoun, for 
parricide, was executed in Scotland in this way. And there 
is an entry in Robert Birrel's Diary which reads : " Robert 
Weir broken on ane cart-wheel, with ane coulter of ane 
pleuch, in the hand of the hangman, for murdering the 
Laird of Warriston, quhilk he did, 2 Julii 1600." 

Torture was not confined to the punishment of crime by 
the State. Not infrequently the people took the law into 
their own hands and tortured individuals against whom 
they had private grudges. Not infrequently did sadists and 
others perform crimes in which torture was a predominating 
feature. Only the most flagrant cases, and such as resulted 
in criminal prosecutions, as a rule came to the notice of the 
public — the thousands of others have remained unknown or 
if known the responsible parties were never discovered or 

For evidence, we are therefore compelled once again to 
consult the criminal records. In 1598, James Crawfurd, 
Magnus Andersoune and Johnne Andersoune were charged 
with the torture of Margaret Gairner. The girl, it appears, 
was suspected of having stolen a purse of money from 
Crawfurd and in their endeavours to induce a confession, the 
precious trio forced the girl's fingers into the " bores or 
perforations through which harrows are thrust" causing 
much tearing and laceration. They then burnt her upon the 
back, the shoulders, and under the armpits with red-hot 
tongs, and left her bound and helpless, without food or 
drink, for two days.^ 

Few accounts of torture recounted in a British court, 
however, have ever equalled that which was disclosed when 

' Ibid., Vol. Ill, p. 595. 

' Pitcairn's Trials, Vol, II, p. 45. 


certain members of the clan McFarlane were, in the year 
1623, charged with and convicted for the murder of George 
Buchanan. It appeared that a feud between the two clans 
was the primary cause of the crime. Coming across one of 
the Buchanans early in the morning, several members of the 
McFarlane clan seized him and bound him to a tree trunk. 
This occurred about eight o'clock, and from thence until ten 
at night, at intervals of an hour each, they gave him *' three 
cruel strokes with a dirk in such parts of his body as was not 
to bring present death." Finally they killed him, stripped 
his body of all its clothing, cut his throat, removed his 
tongue and killed his four dogs. One dog's tongue they cut 
out and put in the murdered man's mouth, and Buchanan's 
tongue they placed in the dog's mouth. This grim record 
of posthumous cruelty and barbarity is not yet ended. 

" Nocht content heirwith, bot the forther to satisfie 
their inhuman and barbarous crewaltie upon the naked 
corpis, they slitt up his bellie, tooke out his whole in- 
trallis, and pat thame in ane of the dogis belleis, eftir 
they had opnit the dogis bellie and tane out his intrallis, 
quhilkis they pat in the gentilmannis bellie : and so left 
him lyand naked, and the foure deid dogis aboue him; 
quhair he lay aboue the card the space of aucht dayis 
tnaireftir, or he was found. "^ 

In Ireland there were lots of instances where private 
individuals, singly or in gangs, tortured their fellows. But 
nothing in Irish history, for sheer bloodiness and savagery, 
equalled the wave of terror which swept certain parts of the 
island when, in 1642, the Irish Papists wrecked their ven- 
geance on the English Protestants. In a pamphlet^ published 
in London in 1689, the story in all its ghastly horrifying 
tragedy is recounted. There seems to be no form of crude 
torture that human ingenuity could conceive, which was not 
used upon men, women and children of the hated faith, in 
the glorious name of religion. In Kilkenny an English- 
woman was beaten into a ditch, where she died; her child, 
about five years old, they ripped up abdominally, letting 

^ Ibid., Vol. Ill, p. 548. 

' A Relation of the Bloody Massacre in Ireland. 


out her guts. " One man they forced to mass, then they 
wounded him, ript his belly, took out his guts, and so left 
him alive." With fiendish cruelty they pricked, stabbed and 
mangled in every part but where a wound would prove 
immediately fatal, men and women of all ages, leaving them 
to wallow in their own blood and starve to death. They 
plucked out men's eyes, or cut off their hands. Some they 
buried alive; some they stoned to death; others they pushed 
into fires feet foremost and slowly roasted them. They hung 
up women who were big with child, ripped open their bellies 
so that the infants dropped out, throwing these living babies 
to wild dogs. They took the twelve-year-old child of one, 
Thomas Stratton, and boiled him in a cauldron; while 
another youngster had his backbone broken and was left in 
the fields to die slowly. 

" In the town of Sligo, all the Protestants were first 
robbed of their estates, then cast into gaol, and about mid- 
night were all stript naked, and were then most cruelly 
and barbarously murdered with swords, axes, skeins, &c. 
Some of them being women great with child, their in- 
fants thrust out their arms and legs at the wounds, after 
which execrable murders, these hell-hounds laid the 
dead naked bodies of the men upon the naked bodies of 
the women, in a most immodest posture; where they left 
them till the next day to be looked upon by the Irish, who 
beheld it with great delight." 

Even this does not exhaust the catalogue of torture. They 
forced women to hang their own husbands, mothers to 
drown their own children and maidens to execute their own 



The War Upon Demonology 

In the history of persecution, the torturing of the wizards 
and witches tlirough many centuries of civilization repre- 
sents one of the biggest blotches upon the face of Christian- 
ity. Sorcerers and magicians, real and suspected, had to 
endure not only the persecution of the Inqmsition, repre- 
senting all the accumulated hatred of die Catholic faith, 
but they had to endure die persecution of the Protestants 
as well. Of no avail was it for them to flee from the 
Cadiolic ridden countries of continental Europe to seek 
refuge in Protestant England, for here they were not one 
whit better off. As worsiiippers of the devil they had the 
whole civilized world against tiiem. 

The peculiar beliefs and superstitions attached to or 
associated widi witchcraft caused those who were suspected 
of practising the craft to be extremely likely to be subjected 
to tortures of greater degree than any ordinary heretic or 
criminal. More, certain specific torments were invented 
for use against them. Thus it was held that witches were 
secretly marked by the devil, and die search for these 
marks, in itself, led to a form of torture being devised that 
was restricted to diose accused of sorcery. Ihus, too, the 
application of the water ordeal to witches long after this 
form of persecution had ceased to be employed in the trial 
of any other type of offender (cf. Chapter XXIII). 

Although there had been sporadic attacks on witches 
from the time of Noah, it was not until towards the end of 
the fifteenth century, when Pope Innocent VIII issued his 
notorious bull which specifically mentioned sorcerers and 
witches as enemies of the Christian religion who must be 
rooted out and exterminated, that the witch persecutions 
in grim earnest and on a wholesale scale really began. 
Henrich Kraemer and Johann Sprenger were appointed as 



inquisitors charged with carrying the war against witch, 
craft in North Germany to a successful conclusion. These 
Dominican monks, who were, I strongly suspect, sadists 
masquerading as fanatical Christians, were the joint 
authors of that remarkable work on witchcraft entided 
Malleus Malificarum. 

Thus was inaugurated, on the continent of Europe, a 
long campaign against sorcery and magic in all their forms; 
a campaign marked by the seizure and handing over to the 
Inquisition of many thousands of men and women whose 
only crime was the practice of a form of religion differing 
from Christianity in certain slight details, and the practice 
of various forms of magic on a par with the spiritualism, 
clairvoyance, levitations, trance speaking, et al. of our own 
enlightened days. 

Many and varied were the punishments which these 
unfortunate men and women, most of whom were inno- 
cent of the charges made against them, were compelled to 
undergo. They were whipped or beaten, in an endeavour 
to induce them to confess the crimes with which they were 
charged. If whipping failed, other tortures were applied. 
Huguet Aubry, after being imprisoned for nearly a year, and 
tortured on many occasions, was thrown into a river and 
suspended from a tree; Le petit Henriot, after imprison- 
ment and torture, had his feet burnt to such an extent that 
he became a cripple for Hfe.^ Confession ensured being 
burnt alive; failure to confess meant lifelong incarcera- 
tion, or a succession of tortures which eventually ended in 

The Mar\ of Satan 

Although confession was deemed desirable, it was not 
always considered necessary in order to ensure conviction. 
In many cases, evidence provided by witnesses was suffi- 
cient in itself. The presence of the devil's mark alone was 
enough. It was generally recognized that, of these devil's 
marks, there were two kinds : visible and invisible. The 
visible marks were well known and easily discoverable, 
being moles, warts, birth-stains, supernumerary teats, and 

* H. C. Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, Vol. Ill, 
p. 532. 





















o „ 



^v S 




o — 







































































various spots or cicatrixes of unusual or abnormal appear- 
ance. It was in an effort to find these marks that the 
witch was stripped naked and had all her hair shaved off. 
As regards the invisible marks, it would appear that these 
might well have baffled every kind of search. But the 
witch-finders were nothing if not ingenious. They held 
that there was one characteristic which any invisible badge 
of the devil invariably possessed : the flesh at the precise 
point where the mark existed was insusceptible to pain 
and would fail to bleed even if punctured by the sharpest 
implement. If there existed on any part of the skin sur- 
face a spot that did not bleed when cut, then need one 
seek no further for evidence that the woman was a witch. 
In his learned treatise on witchcraft, King James I said 
that the absence of blood was an infallible sign. 

Whenever, therefore, a woman was accused of witch- 
craft the " bleeding test " was made. A long thin needle 
was used, and the witch-finder (who was usually paid by 
results) systematically prodded all parts of the body in 
order to discover a spot that failed to yield blood or until 
the accused woman ceased to cry out in pain. The test 
was usually successful. It was successful because the tor- 
ture occasioned by this continuous prodding was of such a 
degree of severity that either the woman, in order to put 
an end to it, ceased to give any indication of experiencing 
pain; or, because, as a result of long continued torture, her 
body had become insensitive to pain and her mind was in 
a daze. 

In the 1785 edition of Beccaria's notable Essay on 
Crimes and Vun'tshments, there is a notable description of 
such a trial. I reproduce it here. 

" In the year 1652, a country woman, named 
Michelle Chaudron, of the little territory of Geneva, 
met the Devil in her way from the city. The Devil 
gave her a kiss, received her homage, and imprinted 
on her upper lip, and on her right breast, the mark 
which he is wont to bestow upon his favourites. This 
seal of the Devil is a little sign upon the skin, which 
renders it insensible, as we are assured by all the de- 
monographical civilians of those times. 



" The Devil ordered Michelle Chaudron to bewitch 
two young girls. She obeyed her master punctually, 
the parents ot the two girls accusing her of dealing with 
the Devil. The girls being confronted witii the 
criminal, declared that they felt a continual prickling 
in some parts of their bodies, and that they were pos- 
sessed. Physicians were called, at least men that 
passed for physicians in those days. They visited the 
girls. They sought for the seal of the Devil on the body 
of Michelle, which seal is called, in the verbal process, 
the Satanical mark. Into one of these marks they 
plunged a long needle, which was already no small 
torture. Blood issued from the wound, and Michelle 
testified, by her cries, that the part was not insensible. 
The judges not finding sufficient proof that Michelle 
Chaudron was a witch, ordered her to be tortured, 
which infallibly produced the proof they wanted. The 
poor wretch, overcome by torment, confessed, at last, 
everything they desired. 

" The physicians sought again for the Satanical 
mark, and found it in a litde black spot on one of her 
thighs. Into this they plunged their needle. The poor 
creature, exhausted and almost expiring with the pain 
of the torture, was insensible to the needle, and did not 
cry out. She was instantly condemned to be burnt, but 
the world beginning at thiS' time to be a little more 
civilized, she was previously strangled." 

Witch-Hunting in Britain 

In England, much the same methods were adopted, and 
although there was never at any time a branch of the Inqui- 
sition, or anything resembling it, in operation, the perse- 
cution of the witches was pursued with a degree of rigour 
equalling anything attempted on the Continent. Indeed, 
as regards the discovery of witches by " pricking," that 
arch-fiend Matthew Hopkins excelled the lot or them. 
Hopkins was a lawyer, a native of Suffolk, and the author 
of The Discovery of Witches, a publication which, al- 
though a smaller and more restricted affair altogether, 
might well, in a supplementary sense, have been bracketed 


with the Malleus Malificarum itself. From 1644 ^^ ^^47» 
he operated throughout the eastern part of England, 
searching everywhere for witches and tracking to their 
doom all of whom he could hear. The success of his 
efforts may be judged by the fact that he was responsible 
for the death of over two hundred women in this three 
years' period. His method was to search the suspected 
witch tor the devil's mark, a search which he pursued 
with such thoroughness, it was said, that no one ever 
escaped. The dice were loaded against them, for, as it 
transpired after his death, this cunning sadist held a 
trump card. He possessed a specially constructed blunt- 
ended needle, fixed in a wooden handle. The needle, on 
being pressed against the flesh, telescoped into the handle, 
giving the impression that it had penetrated the flesh to the 
hilt without drawing a cry or a drop of blood from the 
accused. When all else failed, Hopkins had recourse to 
this trick. 

This practice of " pricking," as it was called, was 
widely adopted in Scotland. The '* prickers " were in 
great demand, travelling from town to town in their 
search for witches. In 1749, John Kincaid, the most cele- 
brated " pricker " of his day, was engaged by the magis- 
trates of Newcastle for this purpose; the terms of engage- 
ment being that, in addition to his travelling expenses, he 
should receive twenty shillings for every conviction. On 
Kincaid's arrival the bellman was sent through the town 
calling for informers. As a result thirty women were 
arrested and dragged to the town hall, where they were 
subjected to the " pricking " test. Twenty-seven of them 
were convicted. 

The system obviously lent itself to abuses. Those women 
who could secure the money would gladly pay the informers 
to escape accusation, or the " pricker " to find them 
" innocent." 

Often torture was applied to the suspected witch in order 
to secure a confession independent of and usually before any 
search was made for the devil's mark. Brand^ quotes from 
a rare tract entitled News from Scotland (1591) a passage 
which states that a suspected witch was tortured with 
* John Brand, Observations on Popular Antiquities, 1813. 


" the pilliwinckes upon her fingers, which is a grievous 
torture, and binding and wrenching her head with a 
cord or rope, which is a most cruel torture also, they 
upon search, found the enemy's mark to be in her fore- 
crag, or forepart of her throat, and then she confessed 
all. In another the Devil's mark was found upon hei 

Iron collars, and a contrivance known as the witch's 
bridle, were used to induce confession, often in conjunction 
with deprivation of sleep. In many cases several forms of 
torment were tried one after another until success was 
achieved. An outstanding example of this was the case of 
Doctor Fian (alias John Cunningham) suspected of being a 
sorcerer. The following account is taken from the pages of 
Pitcairn's Criminal Trials (1833): 

" To make him confesse, hee was commanded to have 
a most strange torment, which was done in this manner 
following. His nailes upon all his fingers were riven and 
pulled o^ with an instrument called in Scottish a Turkas, 
which in England wee call a payre of pincers, and under 
everie nayle there was thrust in two needels over even 
up to the heads. At all which torments notwithstanding, 
the Doctor never shrouke anie whit; neither woulde he 
then confesse it the sooner, for all the tortures inflicted 
upon him. Then was hee, with all convenient speede, 
by commandement, convaied againe to the torment of 
the bootes, wherein hee continued a long time, and did 
abide so many blowes in them, that his legges were crushed 
and beaten together as small as might bee; and the bones 
and flesh so bruised, that the bloud and marrow spouted 
forth in great abundance; whereby, they were made un- 
serviceable for ever." 

Despite the failure of these terrible tortures to elicit any 
confession, the accused was adjudged guilty. He was 
strangled and his body burnt. 

In England the last trial of anyone for witchcraft was 
in 1712. The jury found the accused, Jane Wenham, guilty 
and sentenced her to death, a sentence which was afterwards 


repealed through the efforts of the judge, who had vainly 
endeavoured to induce the jury to discharge the prisoner. 
The last execution in Scotland, according to official records, 
was in 1722, though Captain Burt, in his Letters from the 
North of Scotland, affirms that a woman was burnt in 



Judicial Torture in China 

Of all the countries in all the world China has perhaps 
acquired a reputation for being the one place in which 
torture is more universal and takes stranger, more cruel, and 
more revolting forms than it does in any other part of the 
civilized and uncivilized globe. Much of this reputation 
is due to the description, in books of fiction, of forms of 
torture which have originated largely in the fertile imagina- 
tions of sensational novelists. It is true that as regards 
methods practised privately for purposes of revenge, in order 
to elicit information and from purely sadistic motives, 
torture, in any country, sometimes assumes most bizarre 
forms, and it is impossible, of course, to secure any reliable 
information or evidence as to the precise nature or extent 
of such practices. But as regards those tortures authorized 
by the Chinese authorities for purposes of inducing con- 
fession, as forms of punishment, or modes of execution, it 
is doubtful if they exceeded either in their elements of the 
bizarre or in their brutality, the methods adopted for similar 
purposes in many reputedly more civilized countries. 

For forcing reluctant witnesses to speak, or criminals to 
confess, compression of the fingers or ankles was a favourite 
practice. Semedo describes the apparatus used as a kind 
of rack : 

" For the feet they use an instrument called Kia 
Quen. It consisteth of three pieces of wood put in one 
traverse, that in the middle is fixt, the other two are 
moveable, between these the feet are put, where they 
are squeezed and prest, till the heel-bone run into the 
foot : for the hands they use also certain small pieces of 
wood between the fingers, they call them Tean Zu, then 
they straiten them very hard, and scale them round about 



with paper, and so they leave them for some space of 


Sir George Staunton, in his authoritative work on the 
Penal Code of China, written a century and a half later 
than Semedo's book, also refers to the use of these instru- 
ments of torture. 

If the first application fails to elicit the truth, it is lawful 
to repeat the operation a second time. These particular 
forms of torture, at the time of which Staunton wrote, at 
any rate, were used especially in cases of robbery and homi- 
cide. They were not applicable, however, to criminals 
under fifteen years of age or over seventy; to the diseased 
or the crippled. It is also worthy of note that, with rare 
exceptions, the ankle torture was reserved for male culprits, 
and the finger torture for females. 

A more rigorous measure was beating with the bastinado, 
a terrible instrument of correction. According to Semedo 
" They do many times die of the bastinadoes they receive."' 

Methods of Punishment 

Fornication by a monk merited the most severe punish- 
ment, according to Picart. A hole was bored with a hot 
iron through his neck, and one end of an iron chain measur- 
ing some 60 feet in length, was put through this hole and 
secured. Stark naked, the culprit was then led by the chain 
through the streets of the city. Every time he attempted 
to lay hold of the chain in order to ease the pain caused by 
its dragging weight upon the open wound, another monk, 
walking behind and carrying a heavy whip, used this 
instrument with telling effect upon the fornicator's back. 
This procession continued until the victim had collected a 
specified sum of money for the monastery to which he was 

For the punishment of a number of offences, notably 
those deemed to be minor ones, a peculiar kind of pillory 
has been used for centuries. It is variously termed the 

* F. Alvarez Semedo, History of China, London, 1655, p. 143, 
' Ibid.y p. 141. 

• B. Picart, Religious Ceremonies, 1737, Vol. IV, p. 230. 


cangue, the tcha, or f(^ea. The best description which I 
have come across is that given by Semedo, w^ho terms this 
pillory the " punishment of I^ian hao." I give the account 
in the author's own words: 

" It is a great thick board, four or five palmes 
square, with a hole cut in the middle of it about the big- 
ness of a man's neck. This they fasten about their 
necks, and to it are hung two scrolls of paper of a hand's 
breadth, wherein are written his fault, and the cause of 
his punishment; they serve also to show that the board 
hath not been opened; and so with these great boards 
about their necks, these poor wretches are brought out 
every day and exposed to shame in the public streets, for 
fifteen, twenty or thirty days, according as they are 
adjudged by their sentence, whose greatest rigor is that 
during all that time these boards are not taken off their 
necks, neither night nor day."^ 

This punishment is usually preceded with a severe beat- 
ing with the bastinado, which leaves the culprit in a weak 
and pitiable condition. As from the nature of the pillory 
it is impossible for the wearer to reach his mouth with his 
hands, he is dependent absolutely for food and drink upon 
the kindness of others. Those with neither relatives nor 
friends are in sore danger of dying through exhaustion or 

At the time of which Semedo writes it was the invariable 
custom to secure ail prisoners at night. The gaolers were not 
content with the fact that criminals were locked up in the 
prisons and that guards were within easy reach. The 
prison bed was made of planks. At the bottom of the bed 
was a heavy piece of timber in which were holes through 
which tlie prisoner's feet were pushed, the apparatus then 
being clamped in such a way that it was impossible to draw 
them out again. His hands also were manacled and a 
heavy iron chain drawn tightly across his chest. In this 
manner he was secured so thoroughly to his bed that it was 
out of the question for him to so much as turn over. 

Flagellation with the bamboo has always been the most 

* F. Alvarez Semedo, History of China, p. 141. 


frequent form of punishment. The culprit is laid down 
with his face to the floor, and in this position is beaten 
Hghtly but persistently upon the naked buttocks. The 
monotonous regularity of the blows soon begins to have its 
eflect. Sir Henry Norman, who witnessed the punishment 
being given, says: 

" After a few more minutes of the dactylic rap-tap- 
tap, rap-tap-tap, a deep groan broke from the prisoner's 
lips. I walked over to look at him, and saw that his 
flesh was blue under the flogging. Then it became con- 
gested with blood, and whereas at first he had lain quiet 
of his own accord, now a dozen men were holding him 


The same observer mentions a peculiar form of Chinese 
torture known as " kneeling on chains." The criminal is 
suspended by means of a cord fastened to the thumbs and 
big toes, in such a manner that his knees, with the whole 
weight of his body behind them, rest upon a small coiled 
chain, " with sharp-edged links. "^ The suffering is of an 
intense nature and one can well imagine that, apart from its 
use as a method of punishment, admissions of guilt arc 
often secured in this way. 

Capital Punishment in China 

The methods of execution are strangulation, decollation, 
and the terrible death known as " Torture of the Knife " or 
Ling-chy, often described as the " Death by the Thousand 
Cuts,"^ and occasionally more extravagantly as *' Cutting 
into ten thousand pieces." It is also referred to in China 
as execution by the " slow process " or by the " slicing pro- 
cess," and is usually reserved for the punishment of parri- 
cide. According to the various accounts given by travellers, 
the precise technique adopted in this form of execution varies 
in different parts of China. 

^ Henry Norman, The People and Politics of the Far East, Fisher 
Unwin, 1895, p. 221. 

' Ibid., p. 223. 

' Many victims of the atrocities connected with the Communist fighting 
in South-West China during 1927-8, were executed in this way. (Cf. 
p. 269.) 


In some instances death may come quickly; in others it 
may be unduly delayed, according to the luck of the victim, 
or, more likely, the secret instructions given to the execu- 
tioner. There is a basket, covered v/ith a cloth or other 
material, in v^^hich is a collection of knives. Each of these 
knives is marked with the name of some portion of the 
body or some limb. The executioner pushes his hand 
under the cloth into the basket and draws out a knife at 
random. He then proceeds to cut off whatever limb or part 
of the body is indicated on the knife. It has been stated 
that the relatives of the condemned man bribe the execu- 
tioner to " find " as speedily as possible the knife destined 
to be plunged into the heart. 

There seems ground for the belief that the technique 
already described has been largely if not entirely displaced 
by a method of execution in which no element of chance is 
allowed to interfere with the infliction of one of the most 
frightful forms imaginable of death by torture. No basket 
with its multiplicity of marked knives enter into it. A 
single keen bladed instrument is used, and the slicings, cut- 
tings, hackings and amputations proceed slowly step by step 
through the whole ghastly allotted course. 

It is this method which is described by Sir Henry Nor- 
man, who says the criminal is secured upon a rough cross, 
and the executioner, *' grasping handfuls from the fleshy 
parts of the body, such as the thighs and the breasts," slices 
them off. The " joints and the excrescences of the body ** 
are next cut away one by one, followed by the amputation 
of the nose, the ears, the toes and the fingers. " Then the 
limbs are cut off piecemeal at the wrists and the ankles, the 
elbows and knees, the shoulders and hips. Finally, the 
victim is stabbed to the heart and his head cut off."^ 

Torture in Japan 

The courts of Japan, like those of China, recognized 
torture as a legitimate means of eliciting the truth from 
criminals, from those who were accused or suspected of 
offences, and from witnesses who were reluctant to give 
evidence or to tell the truth. 

* Ibid., p. 225, 


During the notorious Tokugawa regime, which flourished 
from 1652 until the middle of the nineteenth century, says 
Murdoch, four diiierent forms of torture were employed. 
The most frequently adopted of these methods was flagella- 
tion. A special whip was used for the purpose. It was 
made of three strips of split bamboo, bound together. It 
made a formidable weapon, the sharp edges of the bamboo 
cutting into the flesh like knives. It was applied to the 
shoulders and the buttocks, and anything up to 150 strokes 
could be given. " Hugging the stone " was another 
method. Heavy weights of stone or other material were 
piled upon the victim's knees while he knelt upon a number 
of sharp-edged, three-cornered flints. In the third method 
of torture, the prisoner's arms and legs were bound so 
tightly with rope that his life was endangered. He was 
kept in this position until the signs of approaching death 
manifested themselves. In the fourth torture the prisoner's 
wrists were bound with the utmost tightness behind his 
back. He was then suspended from a hook in the ceiling. 
All his weight resting upon the wrists, the cord gradually 
sunk into the flesh, cutting it to the bone. If one torture 
failed to produce satisfactory results, another method was 
tried, allowing the prisoner to rest a day or two in the mean- 

Judicial torture was abolished in Japan in 1873. Actually, 
however, there is every probability that here, as elsewhere, 
the practice is by no means extinct. Longford states that 
years after its abolition by the Japanese 

" the present writer had every reason to believe that tor- 
ture was still and not rarely used in local police offices, 
while it is notorious that it was freely used with pristine 
severity on alleged rebels, both in Korea and Formosa, 
often on persons who were entirely innocent. I knew, 
from unquestionable authority, of many instances in 

^ James Murdoch, A History of Japan, revised and edited by Jostph H. 
Longford, Kcgan Paul, 1926. 

' Joseph H. Longford in his revised edition of the late James Murdoch*! 
History of Japan, Kegan Paul, 1926, Vol. Ill, p. 338n. 


A Terrible Campaign of Religious Persecution 

The seventeenth century was marked in particular by a 
lOng record of torture and persecution rivalHng anything 
known in the history of any race. An effort was made to 
drive out of the country all those professing Christianity. 
Every method practised by the ancient Romans, and almost 
every method known to the Inquisition of Spain, appear to 
have been called into use. Men, women and children were 
stripped of all coverings and thrown into the rivers and the 
sea. Placed on horseback, they were driven through the 
streets while boiling water was continually thrown over them. 
In the hot springs with which certain volcanic regions of 
Japan abound, the victims were immersed again and again 
until they were literally boiled to death. At Nagasaki, in 
the September of 1622, we learn that fifty Christians were 
burnt alive. Others had their bodies torn apart, each leg 
being harnessed to an ox, and the animals being driven in 
opposite directions. 

This account, grim though it be, does not exhaust the 
lengths to which, in the blessed name of religion, these 
persecutors were prepared to go. But let me give the rest 
of the terrible story in the words of a contemporary 

" They forced the women and more tender maids to 
go upon their hands and feet, bowing, supporting and 
dragging them naked in the presence of thousands 
through the streets; that done, they caused them to be 
ravished and lain with by Russians and villains, and then 
throwing them so stript and abused, into great deep tubs 
full of snakes and adders, which crept by several passages 
into their bodies, suffered them to perish unspeakable 
miseries in that fearful manner. They thrust hurds 
into the mothers privities, and binding the sons about 
with the same combustible matter, thrust and forced 
them, as also the fathers and daughters, to set fire to 
each other, whereby they underwent unconceivable tor- 
ments and pains : some they cloathed with sods, and 
poured hot scalding water continually upon them, tor- 
tured them in that manner till they died, which dured 


two or three daies, according to the strength of the party; 
hundreds of them being stript naked, and burnt in the 
foreheads that they might be known, and driven into the 
woods and forests, all men being commanded by pro- 
clamation, upon pain of death, not to assist them with 
either meat, drink, clothing or lodging; many more put 
into pinfolds upon the sea-shore, and kept there half 
their time dry and half wet, being every tide overflown 
by the sea; but these were permitted to eat and drink, 
to keep them longer alive in their misery, which lasted 
ordinarily ten or twelve daies. These bloody execu- 
tioners put out the parents eyes, and placing their little 
children by them, pinched and plagued them whole days 
long, enforcing them with tears of blood to call and cry 
to their helpless fathers and mothers for an end of their 
sufferings, which had no period but with their lives, 
whilst their woeful parents, unable to assist either their 
children or themselves, did often die in their presence, 
whom they could not see for grief or sorrow. All these 
miseries, too long and too many to relate, were born by 
the poor Christians with constancy to a miracle; except 
some few, who not able to resist the bitterness of these 
torments abandoned their faith, for some relaxation from 
pain. Once a year they precisely renewed their inquisi- 
tion, and then every individual person must sign in their 
church-books, with his blood, that he renounces Chris- 
tianity; and yet all would not do, for many hundreds 
of Christians are found every year, and destroyed with 
variety of torments. At last they found a more hellish 
and exquisite way of torturing than before; they hung 
these sufferers by the heels, their heads in pits, which 
to give the blood some vent, they slash lightly cross- 
wayes (but they do that now no more) and in this pos- 
ture they live several daies, ten or twelve, and speak 
sensibly to the very last: the greatness of this torment 
surpasseth all other, being beyond all humane strength 
to suffer and be undergone, but by such who are ex- 
traordinarily strengthened from above. This extremity 
hath indeed (by reason of its continuance) forced many 
to renounce their religion; and some of them who hung 
two or three daies, assured me that the pains they en- 


dured were wholly unsufferable, no fire nor no torture 
equalling their languor and violence."* 

Japanese Methods of Punishment 

The fundamental principle of Japanese judicial punish- 
ments, as of those pertaining to all Oriental nations, from 
time immemorial to the present day, is that of "an eye for 
an eye and a tooth for a tooth." The reformation of the 
prisoner forms no basic part of their system of penology. 
Corporal punishment, inflicted with the wicked bastinado, 
plays a major role. 

The methods of execution have always been numerous. 
Crucifixion was largely used for regicides. The " death 
dance " was sometimes adopted, the condemned man being 
enveloped in a thick, tight-fitting garment made of reeds 
and other inflammable material. A light was applied and 
the criminal, compelled by the terrible agony he was endur- 
ing, leaped and danced about until movement was no 
longer possible. 

Those who were privileged to be allowed to avail them- 
selves of death by suicide, or hari-\ari, usually did so. 
According to the Japanese code, death is preferable to dis- 
honour, and suicide is preferred to death at the hands of 
another. The committing of hari-\ari condoned any and 
every crime. Taking the disembowelling knife in his hand, 
the condemned criminal ripped open his own bowels with 
two swift deep cuts in the form of a cross. 

Another terrible form of execution is known as the 
"execution of twenty-one cuts," in which the prisoner is 
literally hacked to pieces, the art of the executioner con- 
sisting of managing to slice away limb after limb and 
piece after piece, before the twenty-first stroke acts as a 
coup de grdce. It bears a very close resemblance to the 
Chinese " Torture of the Knife." 

The rebel chief, Mowung, was executed in this 
manner, and • the following account is from the pens of 
two eye-witnesses of the event. 

* Francis Caron and Joost Schorten, A True Description of the Mighty 
Kingdoms of fapan and Siam, translated from the Dutch by Roger Manlcy, 
London, 1671, pp. 66-9. 


*' With superhuman command of self, the unhappy 
Mowimg bore silently the slow and deliberate sUcing- 
ofl — first of his cheeks, then of his breasts, the muscles 
of upper and lower arms, the calves of his legs, etc. etc., 
care being taken throughout to avoid touching any im- 
mediately vital part. Once only he murmured an 
entreaty that he might be killed outright — a request, of 
course, unheeded by men who took a savage pleasure in 
skilfully torturing their victim.'" 

Torture in India 

In no country in the world was torture more wide- 
spread than in India before and at the time of the English 
occupancy. It was practised as a punishment for a very 
large number of offences, religious and civil. Mutilations 
were common. We learn from Forbes that for blasphemy 
it was customary to cut out the tongue. Grose instances 
the case of a Malabar woman having her breasts cut off by 
order of the Queen of Attinga. The woman had appeared 
in the presence of the queen with her breasts uncovered. 

Ordeals of fire, water, poison, the balance, and boiling 
oil, were employed in the trial of accused persons (see 
Chapter XXIII), especially on the Malabar coast. According 
to Forbes, the custom was so firmly incorporated in and 
recognized as part of the life of the people that it received 
the sanction of the British government. 

Corporal punishment, apart from its use as a means of 
castigation for offenders of all kinds and classes, was used 
with or without legal sanction by all who employed ser- 
vants. Parents used the bastinado and the whip on their 
children. From long practice, those using the bastinado 
acquired remarkable proficiency in wielding it, and in 
selecting the most sensitive parts at which to strike. The 
elbows, the ankles, the shins, and even the scrotum were 
included among these. 

The stocks, forcibly bending back the fingers, branding 
with hot irons, immersion in water to the point of drown- 

^ R. Mounteney Jephson and Edward Pennell Elmhirst, Our Life in 
Japan, London, 1869, p, 33. 


ing, deprivation of sleep, dipping the hands and feet in 
boiUng oil, starvation, and all the category of torments 
used in England and the continental countries were in 
regular use. There are indications that the rack, the wheel 
and other tortures used in Europe by the Inquisition were 
at one time employed. 

According to Percival {Ceylon, p. 124) at the time of the 
seizure of Colombo by the English, both a rack and a wheel 
were discovered in the prison.' These and other forms of 
torture were used for the punishment of criminals and 
slaves. At one time, too, in Ceylon, a favourite mode of 
execution adopted by the Dutch was to break the criminal's 
thighs with an iron club previous to giving the death 

In addition to all these methods of torture, there were 
also used many specific methods peculiar to India, indi- 
cated by environmental conditions : thus driving the prisoner 
up and down for hour after hour in the broiling sun; tying 
him to a tree and smearing his face with honey to attract 
red ants; imprisoning, by means of a cloth covering or a 
cage, on some sensitive part of the body, such as the arm- 
pit, the breast, and, in women, the pudenda, a biting insect 
(e.g. the carpenter beede or the poollah) and leaving it to 
gnaw the victim's flesh — a form of torture producing un- 
endurable agony. Sometimes a prisoner was chained to 
the rear of a cart and forced to run for long distances 
during the hottest part of the day. Or a piece of strong 
but thin heated wire was wound around one arm, or both 
arms, sometimes in several places, after which cold water 
was applied continually to induce contraction and conse- 
quent sinking into the flesh. Another diabolically in- 
genious method was to tie two criminals together by their 
hair, so that practically every movement made was pro- 
ductive of pain. 

The Terrible KITTEE and Other Indian Tortures 

The kjttee was an instrument of torture in regular 
use. It bore some relationship to the thumbscrew so 
popular at one time in England and Scotland. Con- 

^ In Ceylon judicial torture was abolished in 1799. 


From Moore's Martyrology, 1809. 









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a 1 


u ;i. 


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oo t^S 

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al •-* 









structed of wood, and resembling somewhat a household 
lemon-squeezer, various sensitive parts of the body, such 
as the hands, the feet, the ears, the nose, the breasts of 
women and the exterior genitals of men, were squeezed 
between the two plates until the victim could stand the 
terrible agony no longer or, as often happened, he fainted 
under the strain. It often caused permanent disablement. 
A variation of the \ittee consisted of two boards, between 
which the hands or feet of the prisoner were compressed, 
sometimes by the executioner standing upon the upper 
board, and sometimes by heaping heavy weights upon it 
and leaving the victim to suffer for hours at a stretch. 

Another favourite torture was termed anundal. It 
would appear to be of purely Eastern origin. The nearest 
approach to it among European methods was the Scav- 
enger's Daughter. But with this Oriental method no 
appliances, other than ropes or cords, were required. 
Anundal consisted of compelling the victim to remain for 
a considerable length of time in a most unnatural or ab- 
normal, and consequently painful, position. The ingenuity 
of the executioner was given full play. The head of the 
prisoner would be forced down and tied to his feet by 
means of a rope or belt passed around his neck and under 
the toes. Or one leg would be forced upwards to the 
uttermost extent and fastened to the neck, compelling the 
victim to stand in this agonizing position. Or the arms 
and legs, forcibly interlaced to the point almost of disloca- 
tion, were bound so as to be immovable. In other cases 
heavy stones were fastened to the victim's back, which was 
often stripped naked, the sharp edges cutting into the 
flesh. In each variety of punishment it frequently hap- 
pened that the executioner would sit astride of the culprit's 
body at frequent intervals in order to increase the torment, 
and in almost every case the torture was practised under 
the powerful rays of the Indian sun. 

In the Report of the Commissioners for the Investiga- 
tion of alleged cases of torture in the Madras Presidency, 
presented to Parliament in 1855, reference is made to the 
use of anundal by government officials in the collection of 
land revenue. Vencatachella Rajaulee, in conjunction with 
his father, were put to torture in order to compel payment 



of an extraordinary assessment of ten rupees. Both men 
were " placed in anundal, their legs tied together, and 
their heads tied to their feet in a stooping posture; their 
hands were tied behind them, and stones placed upon 
their backs; in which posture they were made to stand 
from six in the morning until noon. It will hardly be 
matter of surprise that the father died the following 
month." In another instance, a Ryot named Singuriah, 
*' who refused to pay the sum of one rupee four annas 
(2s. 6d.) had his hands tied behind his back and his head 
bound to his feet with a coir rope, for two hours." 

A third most popular method was known as thoodasa- 
vary. It involved the use of no apparatus. It could be 
practised on the instant and on the spot by a strong police- 
man. Usually two or three policemen participated in the 
job, which was practically equivalant to what, in these 
days, in England and America, is known as " beating up." 
The prisoner was manhandled by his tormenters, who 
pulled him about by the ears, the nose, the hair, or by 
bunching together the soft flesh in various parts of the 
body. Often, in the process, the moustache or some of 
the hair of the head was pulled out by the roots. 

Another form of torment which, although not apparently 
in itself particularly painful or dangerous, in reality, through 
its long continuance, produced " intolerable agony," con- 
sisted of forcing the prisoner to adopt a squatting attitude 
in which his posterior touched the floor. In this position, 
his arms were forced " under and inside the thighs," and 
he was compelled " to take hold of his ears, one with each 
hand." Any attempt to move by a fraction from this 
posture was the signal for a blow from the guard contin- 
ually on the watch. 

All these methods were used by tax collectors and 
others for inducing the payment of dues and debts, as well 
as for eliciting confessions and securing evidence in 
criminal cases. Occasionally, too, ingenious and sadistic 
officials used lesser known forms of torture to effect their 
purpose. An account of such an incident taking place at 
Tattah, in the seventeenth century, is given by Forbes. 

*' The collector of customs was a Hindoo of family, 


wealth and credit. Lulled into security from his in- 
terest at court, and suspecting no evil, he was surprised 
by a visit from the vizier, with a company of armed 
men, to demand his money; which being secreted, no 
threatenings could induce him to discover. A variety 
of tortures were inflicted to extort a confession; one 
was a sofa, with a platform of tight cordage in network, 
covered with a chintz palampore, which concealed a 
bed of thorns placed under it: the collector, a corpu- 
lent banian, was then stripped of his jama, or muslin 
robe, and ordered to lie down on the couch : the cords 
bending with his weight, sunk on the bed of thorns; 
those long and piercing thorns of the baubul or forest 
acacia, which being placed purposely with their points 
upwards, lacerated the wretched man, whether in 
motion or at rest. For two days and nights he bore the 
torture without revealing the secret; his tormenters 
fearing he would die before their purpose was effected, 
had recourse to another mode of compulsion. When 
nature was nearly exhausted, they took him from the 
bed, and supported him on the floor, until his infant 
son, an only child, was brought into the room; and 
with him a bag containing a fierce cat, into which they 
put the child, and tied up the mouth of the sack. The 
agents of cruelty stood over them with bamboos, ready 
at a signal to beat the bag, and enrage the animal to 
destroy the child: this was too much for a father's 
heart! he produced his treasure."^ 

Another curious method, at one time common on the 
Malabar coast, of inducing the payment of fines or of 
punishing crimes, is described by the same authority. 
The chief of the tribe, who carried out the torture in per- 
son, fixed a sharp pointed stone on the crown of the vic- 
tim's head. On top of this he placed a much larger and 
heavier stone, which he proceeded to bind firmly and 
tightiy by a strap or rope carried under the chin. Con- 
tinued refusal to pay the sum demanded or to confess (and 
in the case of punishment for a crime, the severity of the 
offence) indicated the binding of additional heavy stones 

• James Forbes, Oriental Memoirs, 1813, Vol. II, p. 439. 


one upon the other, causing continually increasing pres- 
sure upon the small sharp stone, which ultimately caused 
a most painful death. 

Other ingenious tortures and the manner of their appli- 
cation were referred to in the Report (already mentioned) 
concerning torture in the Madras Presidency. Let us 
glance at a few of them. 

" Verasawmy Naidoo and lyeppa Naidoo were tor- 
tured by the application of a rope tightly wound round 
the thighs, so as to force the blood into the feet, which 
causes great pain." 

At Syadoorgum (a village in the Cuddalore district), 
one Soobapatha Pillay was " tied by the legs, and hung up 
with his head downwards." While in this position, pow- 
dered chilli was forced into his nostrils and a strong belt 
was passed around his waist and tightened. The details 
of this torture are, it is added, *' too revoltingly indecent to 
be referred to." 

" Murshid Aly Khan, who became Newab of Bengal 
in 1718, made defaulting zemindars drink buffalos' 
milk mixed with salt, till they were brought to death's 
door by diarrhoea." 

A curious form of execution, involving torture pre- 
ceding death, was the practice of having the criminal 
trampled to death by an elephant. The following account 
of such an execution, at Baroda, in 18 14, culled from a 
Bombay journal, appears in The Percy Anecdotes (Vol. 
VIII, pp. 26-7): 

'* The man was a slave, and two days before had 
murdered his master, brother to a native chieftain, 
named Ameer Sahib. About eleven o'clock the elephant 
was brought out, with only the driver on his back, sur- 
rounded by natives with bamboos in their hands. 
The criminal was placed three yards behind on the 
ground, his legs tied by three ropes, which were 
fastened to a ring on the right hind leg of the animal. 


At every step the elephant took, it jerked him for- 
wards, and eight or ten steps must have dislocated 
every limb, for they v^^ere loose and broken when the 
elepnant had proceeded five hundred yards. The man, 
though covered with mud, showed every sign of life, 
and seemed to be in the most excruciating torments. 
After having been tortured in this manner about an 
hour, he was taken to the outside of the town, when 
the elephant, which is instructed for such purposes, is 
backed, and puts his foot on the head of the criminal." 

Torture of School Children 

There is evidence to the effect that torture was still 
rampant in India in the nineteenth century. So deeply 
steeped in the social and penal life of the community was 
it that even the children attending the village schools in 
Bengal were persecuted. According to the Rev. J. Long 
of Calcutta, in 1869, hoisting boys to the ceiling by means 
of a pulley, placing them in sacks with stinging nettles, and 
the application to the naked body of nettles dipped in water 
were favourite modes of inflicting punishment. These may 
rank as minor torments, seeing they did not endanger life 
or limb, but tortures they were nevertheless. 

Some Bizarre Forms of Torment 
In Hahhed's Code of Gentoo Laws we read : 

" If a sooder listens to the Vedas of the Shaster, then 
heated oil shall be poured into his ears; and arzeez and 
wax shall be melted together, and the orifices of the ears 
shall be stopped up therewith." 

In fact, there seems strong grounds for believing that the 
majority of the tortures employed so lavishly in the seven- 
teenth century were used just as merrily in the nineteenth, 
together with certain new forms which the ingenuity of 
sadistic tormenters had discovered. 

Thus the bull's-hide torture, in which the prisoner, 


tightly bound hand and foot, v/as sewn up in the newly 
flayed hide of a buffalo. As the hide slowly dried, it 
gradually shrunk, causing a prolonged and agonizing death. 
Somewhat similar, but even more terrible, was the sheep- 
skin torture, practised so largely by the Mahrattas. The 
warm and well-stretched skin of a freshly killed sheep was 
wrapped as tightly as possible around the nude body of the 
criminal, and sewn firmly in this position. The culprit, in 
this queer garment, was then exposed to the full power of 
the tropical sun. As the hide gradually dried and contracted 
it drew with it the flesh of the prisoner. Speedily putrefac- 
tion set in, and this coupled with hunger and thirst, brought 
death at last, but not until the victim had lived through aeons 
of torment. 

In the torture of the rope, a cord or rope was tightened 
around the abdomen and various other parts until circula- 
tion was impeded. Pieces of flesh were plucked out with 
pincers; and women's breasts were twisted and mutilated 
with the same tool. A variation of \ittee consisted of com- 
pressing the chest between two bamboo rods, one of them 
being placed under the shoulders and the other across the 
chest of the victim. In this position two powerful men 
exerted pressure at the ends of the uppermost bamboo. 
Similarly the fingers were crushed between bamboo rods. 
In other cases the four fingers of one hand were bunched 
and tied tightly together with strong cord. Bamboo splints 
or iron wedges were then hammered between the fingers. 
Another favourite method was to tie the criminal securely, 
lay him on his back on the ground, and then place stones, 
weights, etc., upon his chest — ^in other words, the old peine 
forte et dure cropping up again in India one hundred years 
after its disuse in Europe. 

According to a writer in the Spectator (December 23, 
1893) a Persian prince, within living memory, " bricked-up 
brigands in a wall with their heads exposed for the vultures 
to eat." And, says the same authority, "under the old 
Burmese regime, on the 'testimony of an eye-witness,' the 
children of traitors were pounded with heavy pestles in 
wooden mortars." 



The Traffic in Human Beings 

The torture of the negro slaves in the British West Indies, 
in the cotton-growing states of North America, and in many 
another part of the world, represents a major disgrace to 
civilization. That the British government, for so many 
generations, upheld this terrible treatment of human beings, 
ranking them with dogs and cattle, is a scar that will ever 
remain. In a bitter attack upon this disgraceful and perni- 
cious trade and the men who engaged in it, Mr. Stephen 

"Why Shy lock, raging for his pound of flesh, was a 
merciful man compared with Britons in the West Indies, 
who set their inventions to work to ' find reasons ' to 
indulge themselves in the pleasure of whipping innocent 
men, women and children, their own dependants, and 
entitled to look up to them for protection ! " 

The American slave trade goes back to the time of 
Christopher Columbus. It may be questionable whether or 
not the explorer and adventurer was responsible for the 
introduction of syphilis into Europe, but there is no manner 
of doubt respecting the part he played in the traffic in human 
flesh. He seized hundreds of the natives inhabiting the 
West Indian islands, transported them to Spain, and sold 
them to the highest bidders in the market-place of Seville. 

The settling of the whites in the West Indian islands led 
to the demand for cheap labour to work on the plantations. 
It was to Las Casas that occurred the bright idea of import- 
ing negro slaves from Africa. In 1563, the first English 
importation of African slaves occurred. 



There are indications that the English had no objections 
to slavery at this time. There was little if any opposition. 
As comparatively late as the middle of the seventeenth 
century a British attorney-general stated that, in his opinion, 
" negroes, being pagans, might justly be held in slavery, even 
in England itself."^ 

Once started, the flow of Africans to the West Indies 
gathered rapidly in volume. Men and women both, were 
in constant demand. Mortality, through disease, ill-treat- 
ment, and torture, was abnormally high. Breeding was at 
a low ebb. It was not encouraged, it being cheaper to pur- 
chase imported adult slaves than to rear them. The demand 
for fresh cargoes of human flesh was greater therefore than 
the supply. 

But negroes did not constitute the sole form which these 
batches of human lifestock, exported from England like so 
many bales of cloth, took. Criminals, and in those days the 
most petty theft branded one as a criminal, were sent in 
thousands to the West Indies and the southern American 
states. On arrival they were sold into slavery and a *' living 

The figures relative to the slave population indicate the 
enormous growth of the movement. In the island of Jamaica 
alone, the number of slaves, in 1658, three years after its 
capture by the British, was 1,400. In 1670, it was 8,000. 
Fifty or so years later the slave population had jumped to 
80,000. In 1775 it had reached 190,000. By tne close of 
the eighteenth century it stood around 250,000. And in the 
year of grace 1825, the figure had reached the colossal total 
of 314,300. In the decade (1751-61) no fewer than 71,115 
Africans were landed on the island. The average selling 
price was ^30 a head.^ Little wonder the trade, with all its 
risks and despite the heavy death-rate during transportation, 
attracted those who saw, or who pretended to see, nothing 
wrong in this traffic in human beings. 

The life of a slave was one long torture. It started with 
his capture by the raiding parties; it ended with his death 
on a West Indian plantation. The conditions under which 

^ Horace Greeley, The American Conflict, Hartford, 1864. 
* Quoted by the Rev. G. W. Bridges, The Annals of Jamaica, London, 


the captured slaves were shipped to the islands were so 
terrible that even to visualize them to-day must send a 
shudder of horror through anyone with the faintest trace 
of humanitarianism in his make-up. In the English ship 
Broo\es, engaged regularly in the West Indian slave trade, 
the space allowed for a man was 6 feet by i foot 4 inches; 
for a woman 5 feet by i foot 4 inches; for a boy 5 feet by 
I foot 2 inches; and for a girl 4 feet 6 inches by i foot/ 
Thus were the negroes stowed between decks like bales of 
wool, to be battered across the thousands of miles that 
separated them from America. Little wonder that, under 
such conditions, the losses during the long voyage were 
prodigious. In a discussion in the House of Commons it 
was mentioned that 

"Mr. Isaac Wilson had stated in his evidence that the 
ship in which he sailed, only three years ago, was of 
370 tons; and that she carried 602 slaves, of these she 
lost 155. There were three or four other vessels in 
company with her, and which belonged to the same 
owners. One of these carried 450, and buried 200; 
another carried 466 and buried 73; another 546 and 
buried 158; and from the four together, after the landing 
of their cargoes, 220 died."^ 

Once the slaves had been landed and sold for labour 
in the islands their persecutions increased in number and 
extent. Before, the treatment they received, terrible as it 
was, stopped short of mutilation and flogging in its more 
fiendish forms, for the good and sufficient reason that a slave 
who was a cripple or whose back was scarred with unheal- 
able weals would not fetch as good a price as would one 
sound in appearance. But when a planter had purchased a 
slave he was in many cases moved by no such motives of 
clemency. The probability was that he would keep the slave 
until worn out with labour or until death came, and in the 
meantime his object was to secure from his purchase the last 
ounce of effort liiat torture or punishment could extract. 

^ Thomas Clarkson, The History of the Rise, Progress and Accomplish- 
ment of the Abolition of the African Slave Trade, London, 1808. 
» Ibid. 


Methods of Torture Employed 

The punishment meted out to the slaves was of two 
kinds : that inflicted as a goad to extract the greatest amount 
of work possible, as a horse is goaded by its owner; and 
punishment given for transgressions of the laws of the 
islands, in particular reference to slaves on the one hand, 
and in reference to everybody on the other. 

In the first category was the whipping regularly given to 
slaves of both sexes and of all ages. The overseer was never 
without his whip, which he used upon the slightest provoca- 
tion. It almost looked as if he wanted the slaves to give him 
grounds for flogging them, and there can be no doubt at all 
that many slave-drivers and slave-owners secured sadistic 
pleasure in punishing or in witnessing the punishment of 

The slightest offence was thus construed to merit the 
severest punishment. An instance of this was the treatment 
accorded Eleanor Mead, a mulatto owned by the Colchis 
estate, Jamaica. The incident occurred in the year 1830. 

"Her mistress, Mrs. Earnshaw, who is described by 
some as a lady of humanity and delicacy, having taken 
offence at something which this slave had said or done, 
in the course of a quarrel with another slave, ordered her 
to be stripped naked, prostrated on the ground, and in 
her own presence caused the male driver to inflict upon 
her bared body 58 lashes of the cart whip. . . . One of 
the persons ordered to hold her prostrate during the 
pimishment was her own daughter Catherine. When 
one hip had been sufficiently lacerated in the opinion of 
Mrs. Earnshaw, she told the driver to go round and flog 
the other side."^ 

So common was the flogging of women on the planta- 
tions, in the workhouses, and in the gaols, that it was held 
to constitute one of the most powerful barriers to marriage. 
Negroes could not tolerate the agony of having their wives 
flogged, and, often enough, being compelled to witness the 
punishments. Sometimes even, such was the cruelty of the 

^ Anti-Slavery Monthly Reporter, 1829, p. 345. 


owners, men were forced to whip their own kinsfolk. In 
his evidence before the House of Commons Committee, the 
Rev. Peter Duncan stated that : 

" In the year 1823 I knew of a slave-driver having to 
flog his mother. In the year 1827 I knew of a married 
negress having been flogged in the presence of her fellow 
slaves, and I believe her husband too, for it was her 
husband and herself and other slaves who told me the 
circumstances. Merely because this negress would not 
submit to satisfy the lust of her overseer, he had flogged 
and confined her for several days in the stocks."^ 

There were many outstanding instances of cruelty. In 
the House of Commons papers for 18 14, there is given the 
case of a planter named Huggins, who, in the public market- 
place of Nevis, Jamaica, submitted " twenty-one of his slaves, 
men and women, to upwards of 3,000 lashes of the cart- 
whip," one woman alone receiving no fewer than 291 
strokes, and one man a total of 365. Lord Liverpool charac- 
terized Huggins' treatment of the negroes as " cruel, atro- 
cious and even murderous." 

Slave-owners of all classes and ranks appear to have 
taken pleasure in tormenting these human outcasts whom 
they owned body and soul. In the court of St. Ann's, 
Jamaica, in 1829, the Rev. G. W. Bridges was charged with 
maltreating a female quadroon. The account given was that 
the reverend gentleman was expecting a guest for dinner, 
and had ordered the girl to prepare a turkey. The guest 
did not turn up, and when her master found the servant 
girl had killed the turkey, he flew into a violent rage, 
stripped her to the buff, tied her up by the hands to a hook 
in the ceiling so that her toes barely touched the ground, 
and, with a bamboo rod, flogged her from the shoulders to 
the calves of the legs until she was a " mass of lacerated flesh 
and gore." Despite the girl's story and the tell-tale condition 
of her body, the clergyman was acquitted. 

In a letter published in the Morning Chronicle (October 
8, 1829) from a correspondent residing in Savanah la Mar, 
Jamaica, is an account of a flogging administered to a female 

^ Anti-Slavery Monthly Reporter, 1829. 


slave for causing some clothes to be burnt as a result of 
putting them too near the fire. 

" It was only the day before yesterday, when writing, I 
heard the noise of that disgraceful instrument which so 
often grates on my ear, proceed from a back-yard. . . . 
What an appalling sight did I behold ! a wretched woman 
extended on the ground, with her clothes tied up to her 
waist — a powerful negro man, upwards of six feet high, 
lacerating her flesh; and this disgusting and abominable 
sight directed and superintended by a mother and her 

Some of the slave-owners not only inflicted punishments 
on every imaginable pretext, but were so loath to be balked 
of their " amusement" that they practised flagellation upon 
the slaves until death or manumission released the victims. 
There was the case of the slave Ben Moss, who managed to 
purchase his freedom. The day before the deed of manu- 
mission made the negro a free man, his owner inflicted the 
maximum punishment of 39 lashes upon the poor, tottering 
and almost worn-out carcase. 

In the course of his evidence before the Select Com- 
mittee on Slavery, the Rev. William Knibb affirmed 
that a negro slave named Catherine Williams crawled to 
his house, her back covered with blood. She stated that 
she had been " confined in a dungeon for three months, 
and that she had been flogged, and that the reason was 
that the overseer wanted her to live with him in fornica- 
tion, and that she would not do it."^ The same witness 
alleged that a negro slave called Sam Swiney was punished 
" for the act of praying," and further that some slaves 
" were flogged to death. "^ 

Not only did the owners flog their own slaves, they 
flogged those belonging to others when the opportunity 
presented itself, apparentiy taking the view that a negro, 
in this respect, was common property to be punished by 
any white man who cared to take on the job. J. B. Wild- 

^ Parliamentary Papers: Report of Select Committee on the Extinction 
of Slavery Throughout the British Dominions, 1832, p. 266. 
* Ibid., p. 259. 


man stated in evidence that, in accordance with the system 
in vogue in Jamaica, severe punishment could be inflicted 
upon a slave without the knowledge of the owner. ^ He 
instanced the case of Eleanor James, one of his own 
slaves. In the November of 1829, this elderly female 
applied to a Mr. Macdonald, a Jamaican planter, for the 
money due to her in payment for a pig he had purchased 
from her. Instead of handing over the money, Macdonald 
ordered his drivers to flog James. With a whip continually 
dipped in water to add to its punishing powers, the 
woman was flogged, first by one driver and then by 
another, until 200 lashes had lacerated her back ana 

In a complaint lodged by a slave Jenny against her mis- 
tress, Elizabeth Atkinson, the young woman alleged that 
she had been beaten unmercifully and repeatedly, kicked 
in the belly, trampled on, and locked in the stocks. 
Further, her child Philip was also ill-treated and never 
allowed to be with his mother. On examination, the child, 
as well as the mother, bore marks of severe floggings ad- 
ministered in all parts of the body.* 

In the House of Commons, on July i, 1830, during 
the course of a speech on slavery in the Colonies, Mr. 
Brougham mentioned an instance of cruel treatment 
meted out by an English gentlewoman to a slave girl. On 
suspicion of being concerned in a theft, the young negress 
was imprisoned in the stocks for seventeen days, during 
which period she was deprived of sleep by rubbing red 
pepper into her eyes, and she was flogged repeatedly. On 
removal from die stocks tasks were allotted her which 
were quite beyond her strength, and because of her failure 
to accomplish them she was again and again flogged un- 
mercifully. Finally, in a weak and feverish condition, 
" she was sent to work in the fields, where she died." 

Slaves were branded both for the purpose of claiming 
ownership in the case of escape, and as a method of 
punishment. There was no prohibition by Jamaica State 
law of branding per se. In certain circumstances, such as 
the application of a red hot iron to the breasts of the 

^ Ibid., p. 538. 

^ For additional cases of the whipping of slaves, sec Chapter XX. 


female, it became an offence, and could be punished as an 
act of cruelty. 

Chains, weights and other heavy encumbrances were 
attached to the limbs of slaves by night and often by day 
as well, to prevent any attempt at escape. A favourite 
instrument used for this purpose and also as a form of 
punishment was the " iron collar." It was riveted around 
the slave's neck, and had three long projecting rods 
attached to it at equal intervals. These rods were shaped 
something like pot-hooks, and for this reason the collar 
was sometimes given this name. It is easy to imagine the 
agony caused by the wearing of such a contrivance for 
any protracted length of time. It was impossible to lie 
down without suffering great inconvenience or pain, for 
however the slave so " collared " might turn or twist, one 
of the rods would come in contact v^dth the ground and 
prevent him getting any rest or ease, while the iron collar 
itself exerted pressure upon the neck. Pinckard mentions 
having seen a slave wandering about in a cotton field 
" bearing a heavy iron collar upon his neck, with three long 
iron spikes projecting from it, terminating in sharp points, 
at a distance of nearly a foot and a half from his person; 
and with his body flogged into deep ulcers, from his loins to 
his hams." It is comforting to know that this abominable 
encumbrance was removed from the negro's neck. 

In some cases slaves were hamstrung in order to pre- 
vent them running away, the large tendon above the heel 
being severed. An even more drastic method was amputa- 
tion of one leg. Stedman says that during his stay at 
Paramaribo " no less than nine negroes had each a leg cut 
off for running away."^ 

A diabolical form of punishment employed in Surinam 
consisted of chaining the culprit to a furnace used in the 
distillation of " kill-devil,"' " there to keep in the intense 
heat of a perpetual fire night and day, being blistered all 
over, till he should expire by infirmity or old age."' 

^ George Pinckard, Notes on the West mdi s, London, 1806, Vol. Ill, 
p 267. 

- A species of rum. 

' J. G. Stedman, Narrative of a Five Years' Expedition Against the 
Revolted Negroes of Surinam in Gu'nea on the Coast of South America 
from the Year 1772-iyyy, London, 1796, Wol. I, p. 96. 


A bizarre form of torment is described by Clarkson, as 
having been devised by a West Indian colonist as an 
" auxiliary " form of punishment. It consisted of an iron 
box, in size and shape like a coffin, with holes punctured 
in the sides, bottom and lid. After being flogged, the victim 
was enclosed in the coffin, which was then drawn "suffi- 
ciently near a fire to occasion extreme pain, and conse- 
quently shrieks and groans, until the revenge of the 
master was satiated."^ 

" Field stocks " were much used as a means of inflicting 
minor punishments on female offenders when the Trinidad 
order (the " Model Order " as it was termed) substituting 
this form of punishment in place of female flogging came 
into force. These stocks resembled somewhat the English 
pillory. The hands were inserted in grooves which could 
be raised to any height above the head, while the feet were 
placed in other grooves at the bottom of the stocks. Only 
the toes could touch the ground. The whole weight of the 
body, which was suspended in mid-air as it were, rested upon 
the wrists and toes. In Trinidad, to increase the suffering, 
leaden or iron weights were tied to the wrists. It is doubt- 
ful if this form of torture was any less severe than that which 
it substituted. It was applicable to women of all ages and 
in all conditions. Not even pregnancy excused its infliction. 

As age crept on, as feebleness or disease manifested it- 
self, the slave, male or female, dragged along day after day 
in eternal misery. His life was one long chronicle of terror 
and despair. He dare not, until flesh and tissue would stand 
no more, betray the slightest sign that he was no longer 
worth his keep to his master. For well he knew the fate, 
once that fact was realized, which would befall him. The 
old, the feeble, the diseased, one and all, the moment they 
reached an unworkable stage, or a state in which when sent 
to market they were rejected as worthless, were doomed. 
" It was given in evidence," says Edwards, " as a fact too 
notorious to be controverted, that they were frequently, if 
not generally, put to death." 

* Thomas Clarkson, An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the 
Human Species, London, 1786, p. 146. 


Torture Will Who Torture Can 

It is true that the slaves themselves, when opportunity 
offered, w^ere as cruel and merciless as were their masters. 
The liking for and the ability to inflict torture is, as I have 
attempted to show in this work, restricted neither to race 
nor class : it is universal and timeless. During the terrible 
civil war that raged in St. Domingo in 1791, whites and 
mulattoes vied with each other in their efforts to invent and 
practise the most fiendish forms of torture. 

" Every refinement in cruelty that the most depraved 
imagination could suggest was practised by the whites 
on the persons of these wretched men. One of the 
mulatto leaders was unhappily among the number : him 
the victors placed on an elevated seat in a cart, and 
secured him in it by driving large spiked nails through 
his feet into the boards. In this condition he was led 
a miserable spectacle through the city. His bones were 
afterwards broken, and he was then thrown alive into 
the flames. 

" The mulattoes scorned to be outdone in deeds of 
vengeance and atrocities shameful to humanity. In 
the neighbourhood of Jeremie a body of them attacked 
the house of M. Sejourne and secured the persons both 
of him and his wife. This unfortunate woman was far 
advanced in pregnancy. The monsters, whose prisoner 
she was, having first murdered her husband in her 
presence, ripped her up alive, and threw the infant to 
the hogs."^ 

The Horrors of Mauritius 

In 1 8 10, Mauritius was captured by the British and Sir 
Robert Farquhar was appointed its governor. At that time 
it was notorious as a slave colony. The English, when they 
took possession of what was virtually a disgrace to anything 
resembling civilization, did not abolish slavery. To the con- 
trary, they continued to allow it to be practised. They 
pursued this policy for all of twenty years. 

^ Bryan Edwards, The History of the British Colonies in the West 
Indies, London, 1793, Vol. Ill, p. 118. 


It transpired that, ten years after the British occupancy, 
the state of the slaves on the island was deplorable. They 
were badly and scantily fed, often being reduced to eating 
carrion and offal; they were forced to labour in the terrific 
heat sixteen to nineteen hours a day; they were whipped 
brutally while at work; they were whipped in addition for 
the slightest offences. 

There was the case of Auguste, a Creole slave, which 
came into the court. Auguste was owned by M. Jean Louis 
Diott. On the 26th day of March, 18 17, he was sent to 
fetch a supply of water. Whether the man dallied on the 
way or not is by no means clear, but Diott said that he did, 
and forthwith ordered a driver to flog him. The slave was 
whipped from his naked shoulders to his buttocks. This 
punishment, fearful though it was, did not satisfy the sadistic 
Diott. He instructed the driver to remove seven of the 
slave's teeth. This was done, three in the lower and four 
in the upper jaw being wrenched out or broken with a pair 
of pincers. And the court, in pursuance of its task of 
administering justice, ordered Diott to sell the slavel 

About the same time another case came before the court. 
The offence in this instance was absconding on account, so 
the slave, Le Cotte, affirmed, of ill-treatment. He was 
captured, and his master, Noel Bastil, it was alleged, gave 
him between 200 and 300 lashes, and then cut off his right 
ear, which he forced Le Cotte to eat and swallow. Bastil 
admitted everything but forcing the slave to eat the ear. 
Despite this admission, the court did not punish the owner; 
it merely ordered the confiscation of the slave by the 

Even more horrible was the torture of a negro, in 1822, 
by a slave-owner named Peter Cotry, living near Grant Port. 
The slave was stripped and suspended, with a noose running 
around the body under the arms, so that his feet were raised 
slightly from the ground. Cotry then took a stick and beat 
the negro's body in every available part. He next smeared 
fat over the calves of the man's legs and set dogs to bite 
them. The tortured negro asked for water. He was given 
urine. Finally, his private parts were cut away, and merci- 
fully, under this operation, he died. The case was too grave 
and the evidence too clear and abundant for the court to let 


Cotry go absolutely free. They sent him to prison, from 
where soon after he was allowed to escape. 

Nor were the women into whose power fate cast these 
hapless negroes any more merciful than their menfolk. 
There was the remarkable case of Madame Nayle of Flaco 
in 1823. This woman committed with her own hands some 
fearful mutilations upon the body of a female slave she 
owned. She cut off the negress's nose and her ears, she 
tore out several of her teeth, and finally attempted to 
amputate the breasts. The slave expired before the last act 
was accomplished. This case presented a feature which a 
prejudiced court seized upon to defeat justice. There was 
no white evidence available as to Madame Nayle's guilt, 
although the slave evidence was incontrovertible and 
abundant. In accordance with an ordinance of 1723 the 
court could, at its discretion, avail itself of slave evidence in 
the event of white evidence being unavailable. The court 
did not, in this instance, avail itself of such evidence. It 
permitted Madame Nayle to go free. 

Torture of American Slaves 

It was perhaps inevitable that the importation of negro 
slaves for work on the sugar plantations of the West Indian 
islands should be followed by their importation for labour „ 

in the cotton fields of the southern states of America. In | 

1620, a small batch of slaves, numbering a score, was landed 
at Jamestown from a Dutch vessel. This represented the 
first importation into Virginia. Once a start was made, 
developments were rapid. According to the United States 
census of 1790, there were at that time 40,370 slaves in the 
northern states, and 657,527 in the southern states. A 
colossal total. 

At the beginning of 1808 the African slave trade came to 
a termination. This did not mean that slavery was 
abolished. Far from it. It merely meant that the sources 
of supply for new alien slaves had dried up. It was at this 
juncture that American slave-owners began to pay serious 
attention to the breeding of slaves. At this time able-bodied 
male slaves were fetching as much as 1,500 dollars apiece in 
the New Orleans market, and a young negrcss was worth 


around i,ooo dollars. Women who had proved their 
fertility were specifically advertised as prolific breeders. They 
were in great demand and fetched good prices. 

In the American States, as in the British West Indies, the 
law was so constituted that slave-owners had the right to 
do to the negroes pretty nearly anything in the way of 
ill-treatment, cruelty and punishment short of causing 
mutilation or actual death. It was expressly stated in the 
Civil Code of the State of Louisiana that *' the slave is en- 
tirely subject to the will of the master, who may correct and 
chastise him, though not with unusual vigour, nor so as to 
maim or mutilate him to the danger of loss of life, or to 
cause his death." An Act of Legislature of 1740 read: 

" In case any person shall wilfully cut out the tongue, 
put out an eye, or cruelly scald, burn, or deprive any 
slave of any limb or member, or shall inflict any cruel 
punishment other than by whipping, or beating with a 
horse-whip, cowskin, switch, or small-stick, or by 
putting irons on, or confining or imprisoning such slave, 
every such person shall for every such offence, forfeit the 
sum of one hundred pounds current money." 

The existence of these laws has, on many occasions, been 
mentioned as evidence that the slaves were looked after by a 
beneficent government and that their lot was by no means 
so dreadful as the opponents of slavery stated. After mak- 
ing every allowance for exaggeration on both sides, it is 
obvious that these laws in themselves did something to 
encourage the maltreatment of the negroes. They allowed 
the owner a good deal of latitude in the matter of punish- 
ment. Like all laws made by one section of society for 
imposition upon another subservient section having neither 
the right to take a hand in the making of them nor the 
power to resist them when made, these laws were unilateral, 
unjust and noxious. They were deliberately made to aid 
the exploitation of one party by the other. 

It must be remembered, too, that so far as the courts 
were concerned, the evidence of a slave was " tainted " to 
start with; and, further, that relatively few slaves would 
dare to make any official complaint, as the odds were cither 
the charge would fail, in which case the negro's lot would 


be infinitely worse than before, or in the event of it succeed- 
ing, his next master, on the general principle of planters 
and drivers " sticking up for one another," would take it 
out of him. There are, too, indications that the use of other 
modes of punishment against which there were no specific 
laws, or extensions and variations in the way in which the 
flogging was administered, enabled the drivers and owners 
to torture cruelly the slaves, and yet run little risk of pro- 
secution. For instance, there was the use of the " paddle," 
which left no denotative marks, to which reference has been 
made in another place (cf. page 196). 

In addition, the interpretation of these laws and the 
manner in which they were carried out, largely washed 
away any element of justice that was in them. In relation to 
the laws governing slavery in Mauritius, we have seen that 
the courts interpreted them in favour of the whites, that even 
in cases where white planters had been guilty of mayhem 
and murder, the courts contrived, by subterfuge, evasion, 
collusion, suppression of evidence and every other conceiv- 
able means, even to the extent of conniving at the escape of 
the prisoner after conviction, to enable the guilty parties to 
avoid punishment. The courts, in short, dispensed what 
amounted to a mere travesty of justice. Much the same 
happened in America, as indeed it did in every part of the 
world where slavery existed. 

Not all the slaves were badly treated. Luck entered into 
the matter a great deal. Some negroes had the good fortune 
to be bought by men or women who treated them decently 
and humanly. But these cases represented the exceptions 
rather than the rule. 

In most cases the slaves were flogged or manhandled for 
the most trivial offences. In many instances professional 
floggers were called in to perform the task. In the course 
of his examination in the " Rescue Trials " at Boston, in 
1 85 1, a policeman named John Caphart admitted that he 
had been engaged to flog " coloured persons " for a fee of 
50 cents a head. His answers to the questions put to him 
were revealing: 

Q. " Do you not flog slaves at the request of their 
masters? " 


A. *' Sometimes I do. Certainly, when I am called 

Q. "In these cases of private flogging, do you inquire 
into the circumstances, to see what the fault has 
been, or if there is any? " 

A. " That's none of my business. I do as I am requested 
The master is responsible." 

Q. " Mr. Caphart, how long have you been engaged in 
this business? " 

A. " Ever since 1836." 

Q. " How many negroes do you suppose you have 
flogged, in all, women and children included? " 

A. (looking calmly round the room). " I don't know 
how many niggers you have got here in Massa- 
chusetts, but I should think I have flogged as many 
as you've got in the State. "^ 

Well, indeed, might John P. Hale, a counsel in the case, 
in a burst of forensic eloquence, say, of this slave-flogger : 
" Why, gentlemen, he sells agony! Torture is his stock-in- 
trade ! He is a walking scourge ! He hawks, peddles, re- 
tails, groans and tears about the streets of Norfolk ! " 

^ Quoted by Harriet Beecher Stowe in A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin, 
London, 1853, pp. 7-8. 



The Growth of Opposition 

Since the earliest days of civilization there has been oppo- 
sition to the practice of torture. This opposition, how- 
ever, has been in most cases a partial opposition only, since 
it merely concerned itself with judicial torture and not 
torture in toto. The use of forms of punishment or of 
execution which involved or were preceded by torture 
often enough received no denunciation from the bitterest 
opponents of the qucestion. Thus Seneca recognized the 
injustice of torture and its futility as a means of arriving 
at the truth. So did Cicero. So did St. Augustine. So 
did Ulpian, the famous Roman lawyer. So did Tertullian. 

The history of torture shows a curious diversity be- 
tween theory and practice. There has always been a very 
profound and definite expressed opposition to judicial tor- 
ture at any rate, but at the same time there appears to 
have been little effort made to put the view expressed into 
practical effect. No better example of this has appeared 
than the English prohibition of torture in principle and 
the use of it in practice. The provisions of Magna Charta 
were interpreted as representing torture to be abhorrent to 
the principle of English freedom. The Bill of Rights pro- 
vided that torture was a cruel and an unusual form of 
punishment which in no circumstances should be inflicted. 
Time and time again did the leading legal authorities and 
judges proclaim that the use of torture was contrary to 
English common law and could not be tolerated. But for 
400 years at least judicial torture was employed, and from 
the time of the Anglo-Saxons onwards it has been inflicted 
as a form of punishment. 

All through the Middle Ages, in continental Europe, 
torture prcxxcdcd merrily. The voices of any opponents 



were drowned in the chorus of approval from the multi- 
tude. Among the first to protest against its use were the 
famous Spanish savant, Juan Luis Vives, and Johann 
Graefe, who, in 1624, presented the case against torture in 
his Tribunal Rejorniation. Montaigne, in condemning 
the practice of preceding execution with torture, said : 

" For my part, even in justice itself, all that exceeds 
a simple death, appears to me perfect cruelty; especially 
in us who ought to have regard to their souls, to dismiss 
them in a good and calm condition: which cannot be, 
when we have discompos'd them by insufferable tor- 
ments. ... I could hardly persuade myself, before I 
saw it with my eyes, that there could be found out souls 
so cruell, who for the sole pleasure of murder would 
commit, hack, and lop off the limbs of others; sharpen 
their wits to invent unusual torments, and new kinds 
of deaths without hatred, without profit, and for no 
other end, but only to enjoy the pleasant spectacle of 
the gestures and motions, the lamentable groans and 
cries of a man in anguish. For this is the utmost point 
to which cruelty can arrive."^ 

In 1740, Frederick the Great abolished torture in 
Prussia, and about this time Voltaire lent his powerful pen 
to the cause of abolition. He interceded without success 
in the prosecution of the Chevalier de la Barre; and again 
to better effect in the case of Marc-Antoine Galas. 

And now another opponent came upon the scene, to 
wit, Cesare Bonesana Beccaria. His famous work. An 
Essay on Crimes and Punishnients, published in Milan in 
1764, caused a sensation. In a masterly passage, he says : 

"No man can be judged a criminal until he be 
found guilty; nor can society take from him the public 
protection, until it have been proved that he has violated 
the conditions on which it was granted. What right 
then, but that of power, can authorize the punishment 
of a citizen, so long as there remains any doubt of his 
guilt? This dilemma is frequent. Either he is guilty, 

^Essays (Cotton's translationX Book II, Ch. ii. 


or not guilty. If guilty, he should only suffer the 
punishment ordained by the laws, and torture becomes 
useless, as his confession is unnecessary. If he be not 
guilty, you torture the innocent; for in the eyes of the 
law, every man is innocent, whose crime has not been 
proved. Besides, it is confounding all relations, to expect 
that a man should be both the accuser and the accused; 
and that pain should be the test of truth, as if truth 
resided in the muscles and fibres of a wretch in torture. 
By this method, the robust will escape, and the feeble 
be condemned. These are the inconveniences of this 
pretended test of truth, worthy only of a cannibal; and 
which the Romans, in many respects barbarous, and 
whose savage virture has been too much admired, re- 
served for the slaves alone." 

The Decline of Torture 

The efforts of Beccaria in Italy, leading to the abolition 
of torture in 1786, and of Voltaire in France, which gave 
to the rack and flogging their death-blows in 1789, had 
their repercussions in other countries. In Russia torture 
came to an end in 1801, in Spain in 1812. 

Judicial torture in England had ended in 1640, and in 
1708 it was abolished in Scotland by Act of Parliament. 
But punishments which were tortures in all but name still 
flourished in all countries. Thus, in England, burning at 
the stake continued until 1789, branding was not abolished 
until 1834, and the pillory remained in use until 1837. In 
France the torture of boiling oil was not discontinued until 
1 79 1, and the branding iron was kept busy until 1832; 
while in Russia convicts were branded until as rccendy as 


In the early years of the nineteenth century an outcry 
arose at the brutal floggings inflicted in the British Army 
and Navy.^ Major-General Charles J. Napier, Sir Francis 
Burdett, Lord Hutchinson and Sir Samuel Romilly were 

* In each of the seven years from 1825 to 1832, the number of soldiers 
flogged averaged 2,000, each soldier receiving from 200 to 500 lashes. In 
1 83 1, immediately after a public outcry against flogging had been made, 
1,477 soldiers were given the " cat." 


among the leading and most powerful opponents of these 
sanguinary flogging sentences that were being given for 
trivial offences. Although every effort to get the use of the 
"cat" abolished met with failure, considerable reductions 
were effected in the severity of the sentences which could 
be given and the conditions of punishment. But it was 
not until 1881 that the passing of the Army Act restricted 
flogging to offenders in military prisons. 

Penal flagellation, being one of the earliest forms of 
torture, continued to hold out stubbornly after many other 
torments had been abolished. In Great Britain, the whip- 
ping of women was the form of penal flagellation which 
was first abolished. The last recorded instance was in 
Scotiand in 1817, when a woman was flogged through the 
streets of Inverness for drunkenness and misbehaviour. In 
1820, the Whipping of Female Offenders Abolition Act 
became law. It prohibited the flogging of females for any 
crime and in any circumstances. The next step in the 
march towards humanitarianism was the abolition of the 
flogging of males in public. In 1822, the last recorded 
case of whipping at the cart's tail occurred, when, on May 
8th, a rioter was flogged by the hangman through the 
streets of Glasgow. 

The public were thus cheated of yet another form of 
amusement! But flogging went on. The " cat " was kept 
almost as busy within the walls of the gaols as previously 
it had been without. On July 7, 1823, in the course of a 
discussion in the House of Lords, Mr. Grey Bennet stated 
that during the last seven years there were no fewer than 
6,959 floggings administered in the prisons of England. 
The governor of any gaol was empowered to order a 
prisoner to be whipped whenever he thought such punish- 
ment necessary for the maintenance of discipline. The 
government inquiry into the conditions in Birmingham 
Borough prison, in 1849, revealed that boys and men were 
flogged for trivial offences, day after day, with a severity 
and brutal continuity that it is probable would not have 
been possible had the floggings been given publicly. 

The past century has seen penal flogging hotly discussed 
in this country, one school of thought maintaining that it 
is useless as a means of achieving the diminution of crime, 


and another school maintaining just as strongly and sin- 
cerely that it constitutes the best possible method of accom- 
plishing this same objective. The course of the battle 
royal has been punctuated by many sporadic exhibitions 
of what may perhaps best be described as " flogging 
mania," on the part of the masses, resulting in panic legisla- 
tion, every few decades, undoing the work of the aboli- 
tionists. The " floggers " in die past always won the 

In 1937, the Home Office appointed a Committee to 
consider the whole question of corporal punishment, and 
last year, this Committee, in its published report, recom- 
mended that the birching of juveniles, in all circum- 
stances, should be discontinued, and that the use of the 
" cat " should be restricted to the punishment of certain 
grave prison offences.' 

The War Upon Animal Torture 

It took Christianity a long time to realize that animals 
had rights, that they were entitled to legal protection 
against torture, persecution and wanton destruction. In 
fact, cruelty to animals seems to have come in for littie in 
the way of denunciation until the seventeenth and eigh- 
teenth centuries, when Locke, Wesley, Butler, Bentham, 
John Lawrence, Wilberforce, Sheridan and others cham- 
pioned the cause of animals. Hogarth's " Four Stages of 
Cruelty " did much to open the eyes of thinking people to 
the brutality that was in those days inherent in the treat- 
ment of animals. 

When cruelty forms part of the amusement of society, 
the path of the reformer is a difficult one. This is the lesson 
of history. A telling example of the truth of this statement 
is provided in the futility of early attempts to get Parliament 
to pass a Bill to abolish bull-baiting. The first Bill of this 
nature was introduced in 1800 by Sir W. Pulteney. William 
Windham and George Canning opposed it and their opposi- 

^ At the moment of writing the Criminal Justice Bill, providing for the 
abolition of corporal punishment for all except certain prison offences, is 
going through the House of Commons. The proposal to abolish the " cat " 
is meeting with strong opposition from many quarters, including some 
sections of the popular Press. 


tion was successful. A second attempt, two years later, failed 
too. Lord Erskine was the next to try to get such a Bill 
passed. And once again failure was the result. The fight 
waged by a handful of humanitarians against the govern- 
ment and the people lasted for twenty years. It was not until 
1822 that an Act for the protection of animals, introduced 
by Richard Martin, became law. 

Two years later an event occurred of the greatest impor- 
tance in the history of the fight for the rights of animals : 
the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals 
was formed. " During its first year," we read, " the Society 
successfully prosecuted in 149 cases of cruelty to animals."^ 

From the start, the movement met with many difficulties. 
Martin's Act of 1822, admirable as it was in its way, only 
touched the fringe of the subject, being restricted in its 
application to cattle. Many forms of animal torture and 
cruelty were so much a part of the ordinary everyday life of 
the people that it was almost impossible to get anyone to 
admit that they were not justifiable. Thus the use of dogs 
as draught-animals, which for generations was a scandal and 
a disgrace to Christian England. The animals were worked 
to death without the slightest compunction. They were 
compelled to pull loads far beyond their strength; they were 
flogged till they dropped dead or dying by the roadside. 
For fifteen years persistent efforts were made to have the 
scandal stopped. Success was achieved with a Bill which 
came into force on January i, 1855.^ 

Among other notable reforms effected by the Society has 
been that in connexion with the slaughtering of animals for 
food. The invention of the R.S.P.C.A. humane cattle-killer 
in 1907 marked a great advance upon the old method of 
pole-axe' slaughtering, and the passing of the Slaughter of 
Animals Act 1933 has done much to lessen the cruelty in 
this particular field. The Act provides (Section I, i) that : 

' Edward G. Fairholmc and Wellcsley Pain, A Century of Wor\ for 
Animals, second edition, John Murray, 1924, p. 59. For much of the 
information contained in this chapter concerning the fight against cruelty 
to animals I am indebted to this excellent work, which should be read by 
everyone concerned with animal welfare and the abolition of cruelty. 

' Ibid., p. 117. 

^ From January i, 1929, the use of the pole-axe was declared to be 
illegal in Scotland. 


"No animal to which this section applies shall be 
slaughtered in a slaughter-house or knacker's yard except 
in accordance with the following provisions, that is to 
say, every such animal shall be instantaneously slaugh- 
tered, or shall by stunning be instantaneously rendered 
insensible to pain until death supervenes, and such 
slaughtering or stunning shall be effected by means of 
a mechanically operated instrument in proper repair."^ 

Besides the R.S.P.C.A., there are several other bodies 
working steadfasdy towards the abolition of torture in many 
fields. They have done much to prevent unnecessary suffer- 
ing and persecution. The fight is being waged in sober 
earnest, and with much success. 

In the United States an organization for the prevention 
of cruelty to animals was founded in New York City in 1866, 
and in this same year was passed the first law providing 
protection for animals. To-day practically every big Ameri- 
can city has its own society. The American Humane 
Education Society, a nation-wide movement, has done and 
is doing great work in the campaign against cruelty. 

Despite the gratifying and immense progress made, 
however, there is still much work to do. Especially is this 
the case in certain European countries, in Algeria, in India, 
in China and the East generally. 

^ The Act does not apply to the slaughter of pigs where no supply of 
electrical energy is available. It does not apply to Jewish and Moham- 
medan methods of killing any animals. It is left to local option whether 
or not the provisions of the Act apply to sheep. It is regrettable that by no 
means all the local councils have seen fit to prohibit the slaughter of sheep 
by the knife alone. 



The Ancient Tyrants 

Herod the First (surnamed the Great) was one of the 
earUest of the tyrants respecting v/hich we have any authen- 
tic records. During the years when he was King of Judea 
he pursued a course of unmitigated cruelty. He ordered all 
the children in Bethlehem to be slaughtered. He killed his 
own wife. Then there was Antiochus Epiphanes, conqueror 
of Jerusalem, who tortured the Jews physically by subjecting 
them to every possible form of painful death; and mentally, 
by prohibiting circumcision, and using swine for the purpose 
of sacrifice. It was Epiphanes who ordered Ulpianus to be 
scourged and then fastened up along with a dog and a 
venomous snake in a sack of ox-hide and thrown into the sea. 

The Roman emperors were notorious for their cruelty 
and barbarity. In particular, the Caesars ruled their subjects 
with the aid of torture, with blood, and with the fear ever 
before them of impending and sudden death. Each emperor 
apparently made efforts to invent novel methods of torture 
and punishment, and to discover new offences on which to 
exercise them. 

For twenty-odd years Tiberius, a veritable monster of 
cruelty, punctuated his rule with such tortures that the 
guilty, in many instances, awaited not their trial but com- 
mitted suicide the moment their transgressions were dis- 
covered. For offences which were the merest peccadilloes, 
men and women both were dragged with iron hooks through 
the streets of Rome. Because it was the law that virgins 
could not be strangled (at that time strangling was the 
authorized method of putting females to death) Tiberius 
ordered that first they should be defiled by the executioner. 
The emperor, not content with the miscellany of tortures in 
vogue, which, in truth, were fiendish enough in all con- 



science, invented additional ones. One such, asserts Sue- 
tonius, was to compel 

"the poor wretches to drink a great quantity of wine, 
and presently to tie their members with a lute-string, that 
he might rack them at once with the girting of the string, 
and with the pressure of urine. "^ 

The tyrannous Caligula went even further than his 
grandfather Tiberius. Into the three years and ten months 
of his reign he managed to crowd enough atrocities and 
barbarities to satisfy the appetite of the most insatiable of 
sadists. He did not confine his sentences of death to 
criminals; he had innocent people openly tortured and 
executed. Many he ordered to be thrown to the wild beasts, 
which he purposely kept hungry in their den attached to his 
palace. The sight of these animals devouring the Hving 
humans was one of his favourite amusements. Young men 
were executed in the presence of their parents. Quickly 
tiring of all ordinary methods, Caligula was continually 
inventing, and demanding that his favourites should invent, 
fresh tortures or ways of tormenting. In his own dining- 
room he had criminals tortured while he ate, stating that 
witnessing their sufferings acted as an appetizer. For those 
crimes which he deemed not sufficiently severe to merit 
execution, he adopted a miscellany of torments, of which the 
most common was branding with a hot iron or confinement 
in an iron cage so narrow and so low that the prisoner had 
to adopt a quadrupedal position. Mutilation was another 
favourite punishment. It is said that in one instance where 
a slave was guilty of theft, Caligula ordered the executioner 
to cut ofE the man's hands and hang them about his neck so 
that they dangled upon his breast. For certain crimes a slow 
death was ordained, small and repeated stabs being given, so 
that, in the tyrant's own words, the condemned man could 
" feel himself die." Suetonius tells us he had men sawn in 
two; that a poet, for an ambiguous and unappreciated jest, 
was burnt in the middle of the theatre; and 

" the master of his gladiators and wild beasts, he caus'd 

^ C. Suetonius Tranquillus, The Lives of the XII Casars, 1717, p. 228. 


to be cramp'd with irons, and beaten for two days 
together before his eyes, and did not kill him outright 
till his brain was putrify'd, and offended him with the 

Another equally notorious tyrant was Nero, who, for 
nearly fourteen years, pursued a course of unexampled de- 
bauchery and cruelty. A pervert, a murderer and a poisoner, 
he stopped at nothing. He even set fire to the capital city, 
singing while men, women and children were burnt alive 
or crushed by the falling buildings. The garden of his palace 
was his favourite execution ground. Here prisoners, sewn 
up in wolves' skins, were torn to bits by savage dogs. Others 
were crucified, dying slowly under the tyrant's eyes. Yet 
others were daubed over with inflammable materials, and set 
alight to act as torches in the night. Epickaris, accused of 
conspiracy, he ordered to be tortured until she disclosed the 
identity of her accomplices. In an interval in the process 
she strangled herself.^ 

Trajanus persecuted everyone who refused to obey his 
command to sacrifice to the heathen idols. Despite the inter- 
cession of Pliny, he tortured Christians and Jews alike. He 
had Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, thrown to the lions in the 
amphitheatre at Rome. Polycarpus he ordered to be buried 

The emperor Maximinus lived and died a tyrant. Per- 
haps his greatest act of tyranny was to have 400 persons done 
to death in every cruel way imaginable on the pretext that 
they were concerned in a conspiracy against his life. Some 
were crucified, some were thrown to wild beasts, others were 
sewn up in the skins of slaughtered animals and left to die 
slowly of starvation. 

Diocletianus, however, surpassed all his predecessors in 
the extent and severity of his persecutions. By his express 
orders, 20,000 Christians were burnt in the Church of Nico- 
demia. He boasted that he would eradicate Christianity, 
and to this end he tortured and executed its devotees 
throughout the Empire. In Egypt, according to Sulpicius 
Scverus, the historian, he had 17,000 massacred in a single 

^ Ibid., p. 274. 

* Tacitus, AnnaU, Book XV, p. ^. 


Other notorious tyrants were Severus, Gallus, Decius and 
Valerianus. They tortured everyone who did not sacrifice to 
the imperial gods and who refused to blaspheme the Christ 
Jesus. The Christians, and others accused or suspected of 
heresy, were tormented incessantly and by every thinkable 
method. They were tied by the heels to the tails of horses 
and dragged through the streets; they were whipped with 
the terrible flagellum till they dropped dead in their tracks; 
they were thrown headlong from the highest buildings in 
Rome; they were stoned till they fell dead or dying; 
they were flung to wild beasts; they were literally scraped 
to death. Those who escaped with their lives were often 
grievously mutilated; their noses, ears, hands and feet being 
amputated; their tongues or eyes cut out; their bodies scalded 
with melted lead or boiling oil; their teeth beaten out with 

The tyrannous Urbanus, Governor of Palestine, handed 
virgin girls over to the brothels and had young men castrated 
for use as pathics. Governor Firmillianus tortured criminals 
and suspected heretics without mercy. Because the girl 
Valentina refused to offer sacrifices at his behest, says 
Eusebius, she was " tortured with the combs, without any 
mercy, so that no one man was ever torn to such a degree." 

The Lacedaemonian tyrant Nabis, who reigned some two 
hundred years before Christ, persecuted and oppressed his 
people with the most extreme rigour. His demands for 
money and gifts from his subjects were continuous and 
insatiable. Failure to comply with his requests was punished 
by torture. Of his own devising, there was in his palace a 
most ingenious instrument, of which the following descrip- 
tion is one of the best available. 

" This machine, if it may be called indeed by such a 
name, was an image of a woman, magnificently dressed, 
and formed in a most exact resemblance of his wife. And 
when his intention was to draw money from any of the 
citizens, he invited them to his house, and at first with 
such civility represented to them the danger with which 
their country was threatened from the Achasans; the 
number of mercenaries which he was forced to retain, 
etc. But if all his solicitations were without eflect, he 

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then used to say : I want, it seems, the power of persua- 
sion; but Apega, I beUeve, will be able to persuade you. 
Apega was the name of his wife. Upon these words, the 
image of the woman that has been mentioned immedi- 
ately appeared. Nabis then, taking her by the hand, 
raised her from her seat; and folding afterwards his arms 
round the person whom he had been soliciting, brought 
him near by degrees to the body of the image, whose 
breasts, hands, and arms were stuck full with points of 
iron, concealed under her clothes; and then, pressing the 
back of the pretended woman with his hands, by the 
means of some secret springs he fixed the man close to 
her breast, and soon forced him to promise all that he 
desired. But there were some also who perished in 
this torture, when they refused to comply with his 

Torturers of the Middle Ages 

In the twelfth century, Pope Innocent III began his cam- 
paign of persecution against the Albigenses, a sect whose only 
crime was that of dissenting from the doctrines of the 
Church of Rome. In the war of extermination which raged 
for thirty years, the heretics, as these Albigenses were des- 
cribed by the Pope, were subjected to every form of cruel 
treatment and torture conceivable. Many of them collapsed 
and became converted. Raymond, Earl of Toulouse, in a 
frenzy of fear, offered to be reconciled to the Church. The 
manner of his reconciliation is described by Bzovius. 

"The Earl swore allegiance to the holy Roman 
Church. When he had thus bound himself by an oath, 
the legate ordered one of the sacred vestments to be 
thrown over his neck, and drawing him thereby, brought 
him into the church, and having scourged him with a 
whip, absolved him. He was so grievously torn by the 
stripes that he could not go out by the same place through 
which he entered, but was forced to pass quite naked 
through the lower gate of the church. He was also served 

* Hampton, The General History of Poly bins, 1772, Vol. II, p. 291. 



in the same manner at the sepulchre of St. Peter the 
martyr at New Castres, whom he had caused to be slain." 

When, in 121 1, the castle of Cabaret fell, its defenders 
were burned at the stake or destroyed in other painful ways. 
The lady of the castle was pitched alive into a pit, which was 
then filled up with stones. When Marmaude capitulated, 
five thousand men, women and children were massacred. 
Other so-called heretical sects met with a similar fate to the 
Albigenses. One such was the Apostolicals, who dressed in 
white, with bare heads, after the manner of the apostles. 
Gerhard Sagarellus of Parma, founder of the sect, was 
burned at the stake in the year 1300. Seven years later, his 
successor, Dulcino of Novara, and this man's wife, Mar- 
garetha, were publicly torn to pieces with hooks and other 
implements, and their remains thrown into a fire. 

The fifteenth century saw the trial and execution of one 
of the most notorious and cold-blooded torturers of all time, 
to wit, Gilles de Rais, Marshal of France, a plutocrat of his 
day and an extensive landowner, compatriot and accomplice 
of Joan of Arc. In secret, the man was a sadist, a murderer, 
and a practitioner of Black Magic. He sacrificed children 
to the devil after putting them to unspeakable tortures. 
Acting under the Marshal's instructions, his servants kid- 
napped children of all ages and both sexes. For years 
nothing was suspected. In fact, it was not until de Rais 
crossed the path of the Church authorities that rumour got 
busy, and inquiries were made, culminating in his arrest 
in the October of 1440. Various allegations have been made 
as to the number of his victims, and no doubt there has 
been a good deal of exaggeration, but the Marshal, under 
threat of torture, admitted that he had murdered 140 
children. He was hanged on October 26, 1440. 

It is not to be wondered at that Russia, the land where 
torture was an everyday affair, should have provided a 
monster capable of equalling the blackest deeds of Nero. 
Such was Ivan IV, better known as Ivan the Terrible. His 
case belonged to the realm of psychopathology, and the man 
should have been shut up in an asylum. As it was, he ruled 
a vast country with a rod of iron. He had a giant's power 
and he wielded it in the manner of a tyrant. Like a sadistic 


god he gloated over the sufferings of humanity. The terrible 
1{nut cut the flesh of men and women to ribbons before they 
died under liis eyes. He witnessed the rack perform its 
deadly work. He saw his subjects burnt alive, or torn to 
pieces by the wild animals kept for this especial purpose. By 
his orders, over 20,000 of the inhabitants of Novgorod were 
tortured or murdered. Even his own family were not free 
from persecution and danger : his son was beaten to death, 
and the murderer who wielded the club that finally bashed 
out the lad's brains was Ivan himself. A sigh of relief 
arose to high heaven when, in 1584, the monster went to his 

England had its demons of cruelty too. In the seven- 
teenth century lived Sir George Jeffreys, holding the position 
of Chief Justice of the Court of the King's Bench. The 
irony of the situation was in the fact that no man ever more 
unjustly dispensed what he was pleased to term justice. His 
inhuman sentences, his fiendish cruelty, earned for him the 
sobriquet of " Bloody Jeffreys." The court over which he 
presided was known as the " Bloody Assizes." He sen- 
tenced hundreds to be hanged; he had hundreds of others 
transported — a fate worse than death. It was Judge Jeffreys 
who inflicted upon Tutchin that terrible flogging sentence 
m which the prisoner was to be whipped through every 
market town in Dorsetshire every year for seven years. ^ It 
was Judge Jeffreys who sentenced Lady Alice Lisle to be 
burned alive, a sentence so monstrously inhuman, in view of 
her crime, that the clergy intervened and managed to get it 
altered to beheading. 

In Scotland, James II authorized the use of the boots, 
the rack, the thumbscrews, and various other instruments 
of-torture. As Duke of York, he was compelled to witness 
the torturing of prisoners, and it was alleged that while 
most members of the Council were overwhelmed with 
horror and loathing at the sights they witnessed and would 
escape the duty whenever possible, the Duke enjoyed the 
spectacle and never let pass an opportunity of being present 
when a victim was to be tormented. 

* This brutal sentence was never inflicted. 


Some Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Torturers 

The trial of Warren Hastings, in which he was charged 
with violation of the trust reposed in him as Governor of 
India, accepting bribes, and conniving at many forms of 
corruption, including the administration of torture, re- 
vealed the atrocities performed by one of Hastings' minions. 
Devi Sing collected taxes and rents from the natives, and, 
said Mr. Edmund Burke, in his address to the High Court 
of Parliament during the trial of Hastings, ranked as one 
of the most shocking monsters in history. But let us hear 
Mr. Burke's allegations in his own words : 

" Those who could not raise the money, were most 
cruelly tortured: cords were drawn tight round their 
fingers, till the flesh of the four on each hand was 
actually incorporated, and became one solid mass: the 
fingers were then separated again by wedges of iron and 
wood driven in between them. Others were tied two and 
two by the feet, and thrown across a wooden bar, upon 
which they hung, with their feet uppermost; they were 
then beat on the soles of the feet, till their toe-nails 
dropped off. They were afterwards beat about the head 
till the blood gushed out at the mouth, nose and ears; they 
were also flogged upon the naked body with bamboo 
canes, and prickly bushes, and, above all, with some 
poisonous weeds, which were of a most caustic nature, 
and burnt at every touch. The cruelty of the monster 
who had ordered all this, had contrived how to tear the 
mind as well as the body; he frequently had a father and 
son tied naked to one another by the feet and arms, and 
then flogged till the skin was torn from the flesh; and 
he had the devilish satisfaction to know that every blow 
must hurt; for if one escaped the son, his sensibility was 
wounded by the knowledge he had that the blow had 
fallen upon his father : the same torture was felt by the 
father, when he knew that every blow that missed him 
had fallen upon his son. 

" The treatment of the females could not be de- 
scribed : dragged forth from the inmost recesses of their 
houses, which the religion of the countrv had made so 


many sanctuaries, they were exposed naked to public 
view; the virgins were carried to the Court of Justice, 
where they might naturally have looked for protection, 
but now they looked for it in vain; for in the face of the 
Ministers of Justice, in the face of the spectators, in the 
face of the sun, those tender and modest virgins were 
brutally violated. The only difference between their 
treatment and that of their mothers was, that the former 
were dishonoured in the face of day, the latter in the 
gloomy recesses of their dungeons. Other females 
had the nipples of their breasts put in a cleft bamboo, and 
torn off. What modesty in all nations most carefully 
conceals, this monster revealed to view, and consumed 
by slow fires; nay, some of the monstrous tools of this 
monster Devi Sing had, horrid to tell, carried their un- 
natural brutality so far as to drink in the source of 
generation and life."^ 

On February 24, 1806, Sir Thomas Picton, late Governor 
of Trinidad, was convicted of torturing a native girl 
named Louisa Calderon, to extort confession. And this 
is the tale, gory, gruesome and cold-bloodedly inhuman, 
which was evolved bit by bit, during the course of the trial. 
In the December of 180 1, the girl Calderon, then aged eleven 
years, was living with Pedro Ruiz as his mistress. The girl, 
it appears, was not faithful to Ruiz. She was carrying on an 
intrigue with one Carlos Gonzalez, who, as a friend of Ruiz, 
frequented his house. Gonzalez, not content with robbing 
Ruiz of his lover, took some money as well. He was 
arrested, and the girl Calderon, suspected of being an 
accomplice, was arrested with him. She denied complicity, 
and Sir Thomas Picton thereupon gave orders for her to 
be tortured. 

The torture itself took a somewhat unusual form. 
According to the depositions of Louisa Calderon herself, she 
was carried to the room where the torture was prepared. 
Here she was suspended by the left wrist from the ceiling, 
her right hand and foot were tied together behind her back, 
while the extremity of her left foot rested on a wooden 
spike fixed in the floor. In this painful position she rc- 

^ The History of the Trial of Warren Hastings, London, 1796. 


mained for three quarters of an hour. The next day the 
torture was repeated. On both occasions she swooned away 
before she was taken down. FaiUng to extract a confession, 
her inquisitors put her in irons, of the type called " grillos." 
These were long pieces of iron with two rings for the feet, 
fastened to the wall. Pinioned in this way, she remained 
for eight months in a cell like a garret, with sloping sides. 
The girl stated that " the ' grillos ' were so placed that, 
owing to the lowness of the room, she could by no means 
raise herself up, during the eight months of her confine- 

In the British West Indies, one-time home of torture, on 
May 8, 1811, the Honourable Arthur William Kodge was 
executed behind the gaol of Tortola for the murder of his 
slave Prosper. This Prosper was but one of a number of 
victims. A brief abstract of the paper laid before the House 
of Commons in connexion with the case tells a revolting 
story. On the principle of set a thief to catch a thief, Hodge 
employed a slave to pursue and capture runaway negroes. 
This slave-hunter was named Welcome, and he did not 
always succeed in his mission. In the January of 1806 he 
made three unsuccessful expeditions. Each time, on his re- 
turn with his tale of failure, Hodge had him cart-whipped. 
The wounds from one flogging were still unhealed when the 
next whipping was administered. But the third time was 
the last. Flesh and blood gave out. The slave died. 
Shortly after this occurrence two female slaves attached to 
the Hodge establishment, as cook and washerwoman, died. 
They had been hounded to death by the planter's cruelty. 
On an accusation of attempting to poison his wife and 
children, Hodge poured boiling water down their throats, 
had them cart-whipped, and sent them, naked as the day 
they were born, to work in the fields. During the two 
following years, 1807 and 1808, the persecutions continued. 
The cart-whip was seldom idle. Slave after slave was 
'A^hipped to death for trifling offences or for no offences at 
all. There was, according to the evidence, case after case 
where one flogging followed another without any adequate 
intervals for the wounds to heal. One slave, named Gift, 
was literally whipped to death on his feet; another youngster, 

' G. T. Wilkinson, The Newgate Calendar, 1820. 


CafTy by name, " was cut to pieces, and had hardly any 
black skin remaining." On March 23, 1807, a new slave 
was so severely flogged that he died a couple of days later, 
" his body," according to the testimony of witnesses, " when 
carried out for burial being in a shockingly lacerated state "; 
and Tom Boiler, flogged for an hour without intermission, 
succumbed within the week. One witness testified that " it 
was scarcely possible to remain in the sick house, on account 
of the offensive smell from the corrupted wounds of cart- 
whipped slaves." He stated further that in the three years 
he had been with Hodge, at least sixty negroes had been 
buried and only one out of the lot had died a natural death. 
For stealing candles, Violet was flogged to death; her 
son, for the crime of " running away," shared her fate. 
Frequently, Hodge adopted other methods of torture in 
addition to whipping. Burning the inside of the mouth 
with a red-hot iron was one of them. Nor were the children 
born to the negro slaves safe from his attentions. His 
favourite punishment was to have them taken by the heels, 
head downwards, and dipped into a tub of water until near 
the point of suffocation. They were lifted out, allowed to 
recover their breath, and then re-dipped. Or they were sus- 
pended by the hands from the branch of a tree and cart- 
whipped. Finally there was the whipping to death of 





Crucifixion , 

One of the oldest methods of torture was crucifixion. Its 
antiquity is indicated in its wide use by the Phcenicians. It 
was employed also by the Scythians, the Greeks, the Romans, 
the Persians and the Carthagenians. The use of the cross 
was probably, in most races, antedated by impalement upon 
a tree-trunk. 

The wooden cross took various forms in different races 
and at different periods in history. The form which has 
been immortalized by the crucifixion of Jesus was probably 
the most widely employed at that time. It was really a most 
primitive affair, consisting of one short piece of timber 
attached horizontally to a longer upright stake. This stake 
was firmly fastened in the ground before the time of execu- 
tion. It was not usually so fixed for each individual case, 
but was a permanent affair. 

It was the usual custom for the criminal, after being 
scourged, to carry the cross beam to the place of execution.^ 
The popular notion that Jesus carried the whole cross, that 
is, both the upright stake and the cross-piece, is probably 
erroneous, since such a procedure was at variance with con- 
temporary usage. When the place of execution was reached, 
the victim was stripped naked and forced to stretch himself 
upon the ground on his back, with his head resting upon the 
cross-beam and his arms stretched outwards along its length. 

^ In some cases the scourging was applied after the victim had been 
nailed to the cross, instead of or in addition to flogging before crucifixion. 


In some cases rope was used to bind the arms to the beam; 
in others this procedure was dispensed with, the sole fasten- 
ings being the long nails, one of which was driven through 
the palm of each hand into the beam. The cross-beam, with 
its human burden, was then lifted to its position on the 
upright stake, to which it was either nailed or bound with 
ropes. In order that the whole weight of the criminal might 
not rest upon the hands, involving the risk of the flesh giving 
way, the body was supported by a large peg fixed in the 
upright stake. The feet, which were at some little distance 
from the ground, were nailed to the upright, and in some 
cases the legs were bound to it with rope. In the case of 
each foot, the nail, which was large and long, was driven 
through the instep and sole. 

Death was slow and unutterably agonizing. It repre- 
sented a form of torture continuing for days on end, which 
was sometimes prolonged by giving the criminal food and 
drink. The suffering was capable of being increased and 
intensified in a hundred ways, according to the vindictive 
or malignant nature of the persecutors or the executioners. 
The legs were sometimes broken by heavy blows; the face 
and breasts torn by hooked implements; the body prodded 
with pointed rods or stakes. Sometimes sticks were forcibly 
pushed into the anal orifice or the urethral passage and then 
redrawn. Another variation consisted of smearing the face 
with honey to attract insects. 

The Romans and many other races left the body on the 
cross, letting it rot until nothing but the bare bones were left. 
The Jews took the corpse down immediately death came and 
buried it in accordance with the instructions of Moses, thus : 
" His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou 
shalt in any wise bury him that day." 

Crucifixion, although not often practised, emerged 
through the centuries. One of the last cases of which there 
is any record was in France, in 1127, when Bertholde, the 
murderer of Charles the Righteous, was crucified by the 
order of Louis. 

The "Dice" 

In this torture, which ranked as one of the minor forms 
employed by the Inquisition, the prisoner was forced to 


extend himself on the floor. He was bound or held in this 
position. Two pieces of iron or other metal, shaped like a 
die, but concave on one side, were placed upon the heel of 
the right foot, where they were bound firmly and tighdy in 
place with a rope. By means of a screw, pressure was 
applied, forcing the metal into the flesh. 

" Peine forte et dure " or Pressing to Death 

The uses to which this particular torture were put have 
already been indicated (cf. page 87). The manner of its 
execution is described by Stow {Survey of London, 1720) as 
follows : 

" The criminal is sent back to the prison whence he 
came, and there laid in some low dark room, upon the 
bare ground on his back, all naked, except his privy parts, 
his arms and legs drawn with cords fastened to several 
parts of the room; and then there is laid on his body, 
iron, stone, or lead, so much as he can bear; the next day 
he shall have three morsels of barley bread, without 
drink; and the third day shall have to drink some of the 
kennel water with bread. And this method is in strict- 
ness to be observed until he is dead." 

According to Pike, it was customary, in England, in 
order to hasten death, to place a sharp piece of timber under 
the back of the sufferer.^ When Major Strange ways, in 
1658, was condemned to the torture of peine forte et dure, 
this procedure was not adopted. In its place a heavy piece 
of iron was fixed " angle wise over his heart " and the attend- 
ants increased the pressure by throwing the weight of their 
own bodies upon it. The major was dead in eight or ten 
minutes. In many cases the prisoner agreed to plead. Thus 
the murderer Burnworth, at Kingston, in 1726, after bearing 
the pressure of a mass weighing nearly four hundredweights, 
for one hour and three-quarters, begged for mercy. He was 
tried, found guilty, and hanged.^ 

It would appear that this terrible punishment was some- 

* Luke Owen Pike, A History of Crime in England, 1873. 
^ Ibid. 


times inflicted upon those who were mute from necessity. 
Thus, at Nottingham assizes, in 1735, an alleged murderer, 
deaf and dumb from birth, for failing to plead, was pressed 
to death. Evidently the statements of witnesses as to the 
authenticity of their afflictions availed these deaf and dumb 
suspects nothing, the judges being afraid they might be 
hoodwinked. That such a fear was not altogether fanciful 
is proved in a case occurring in Ireland. In 1740, Mathew 
Ryan was tried for highway robbery at the Kilkenny assizes. 
He could not be induced to plead, being apparently dumb, 
but the jury decided the affliction was simulated. 

" The judges on this desired the prisoner to plead; but 
he still pretended to be insensible to all that was said to 
him. The law now called for the peine forte et dure\ but 
the judges compassionately deferred awarding it until a 
future day, in the hope that he might in the meantime 
acquire a juster sense of his situation. When again 
brought up, however, the criminal persisted in his refusal 
to plead : and the court at last pronounced the dreadful 
sentence, that he should be pressed to death. The sen- 
tence was accordingly executed upon him two days after, 
in the public market-place of Kilkenny. As the weights 
were heaping on the wretched man, he earnestly suppli- 
cated to be hanged; but it being beyond the power of the 
sheriff to deviate from the mode of punishment pres- 
cribed in the sentence, even this was an indulgence which 
could no longer be granted to him."^ 

This peculiar form of torture seems to have been little 
known or used in America. The only case of which there 
is any record is that of Giles Cory, charged with witchcraft 
in 1692. He steadfastly refused to plead, and was pressed 
to death.' 

* The Percy Anecdotes, 1823, Vol. VIII, p. 39. 

• Cobbett's State Trials^ Vol. VI, p. 679. 



Burning Alive 

There is evidence o£ the antiquity of this form of execution 
for the finding in the Bible. " If a man abide not in me, 
he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather 
them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." 
The Babylonians, as well as the Hebrews, used it as a 
mode of execution for certain crimes. It is also referred to 
by Eusebius in his account of the death of Apphianus, a 
victim of Maximinus's terrible cruelty. The man's feet were 
wrapped in cotton that had been well soaked in oil, and then 
set on fire. 

'* The martyr was hung up at a great height, in order 
that, by this dreadful spectacle, he might strike terror 
into all those who were looking on, while at the same 
time they tore his sides and ribs with combs, till he 
became one mass of swelling all over, and the appearance 
of his countenance was completely changed. And for 
a long time his feet were burning in a sharp fire, so that 
the flesh of his feet, as it was consumed, dropped like 
melted wax, and the fire burst into his very bones like 
dry reeds. "^ 

There would appear to be few, if any, countries where, 
in the early days of civilization, as well as in savagery, burn- 
ing at the stake was not practised in some form. 

Many savage races were accustomed to burning their 
captives in this way. Generally speaking, it was looked 
upon as a suitable method of execution for enemies, those 
belonging to inferior classes, or those guilty of infamous oi 

* Eusebius, History of the Martyrs in Palestine, 1861, p. 15. 


repulsive crimes. Thus Yahveh used this form of punish- 
ment for incest and prostitution : " And if a man take a wife 
and her mother; it is wickedness; they shall be burnt with 
fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among 
you." Again : " And the daughter of any priest, if she 
profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her 
father : she shall be burnt with fire." Constantine ordered 
that a slave who had intercourse with a free woman should 
be burned alive. 

It was a favourite sentence in the case of those found 
guilty of heresy. The Inquisition condemned thousands to 
the flames. It was no less a favourite method throughout all 
the countries of Europe, Protestant as well as Catholic, for 
dealing with sorcerers and witches. Thus the burning of 
Gilles de Rais and of Joan of Arc. In the year 1415, Dr. 
John Huss, rector of the University of Prague, and Jerome 
of that same city, a disciple of the doctor, were both burnt 
alive for heresy. 

In Britain, for centuries, burning was recognized as a 
mode of execution for certain crimes, notably, as in conti- 
nental Europe, for heresy. In the fifteenth and sixteenth 
centuries, according to the various chronicles of martyrdom 
compiled by Fox^ and others, there were many such execu- 
tions. The manner in which the burning was carried out 
is well illustrated in the following account of the execution, 
for heresy, in 1555, at Gloucester, in the presence of some 
7,000 spectators, of Dr. John Hooper, Lord Bishop of 

" The place of execution was near a great elm tree, 
over against the college of priests, where he was used to 
preach; the spot round about and the boughs of the tree 
were filled with spectators. Bishop Hooper then knelt 
down and prayed. Having closed his devotional exer- 
cises the Bishop prepared himself for the stake. He took 
off his gown, and delivered it to the sheriff; he then took 
off his doublet, hose, and waistcoat. Being now in his 
shirt, he trussed it between his legs, where he had a 

* Although Fox is not always to be relied upon, the number of heretics 
who were burnt alive probably exceeded by far the cases he gives, or other 
existent records. 


pound of gunpowder in a bladder, and under each arm 
the same quantity. He now went up to the stake, where 
three iron hoops were brought, one to fasten him round 
the waist, anotner round his neck, and another round his 
legs; but he refused to be bound with them, saying, ' You 
have no need to trouble yourselves; I doubt not God will 
give me strength sufficient to abide the extremity of 
the fire without bands; notwithstanding, suspecting the 
frailty and weakness of the flesh, but having assured con- 
fidence in God's strength, I am content you do as you 
think good.' The iron hoop was then put round his 
waist, which being made too short, he shrank and put 
in his belly with his hand; but when they offered to bind 
his neck and legs he refused them, saying, ' I am well 
assured I shall not trouble you.' Being affixed to the 
stake, he lifted up his eyes and hands to heaven, and 
prayed in silence. The man appointed to kindle the fire 
then came to him and requested his forgiveness, of whom 
he asked why he should forgive him, since he knew of 
no offence he had committed against him. ' O sir (said 
the man), I am appointed to make the fire.' ' Therein,' 
said Bishop Hooper, ' thou dost nothing to offend me : 
God forgive thee thy sins, and do thy office I pray thee.' 
Then the reeds were thrown up, and he received two 
bundles of them in his own hands, and put one under 
each arm. Command was now given that the fire should 
be kindled; but, owing to the number of green faggots, 
it was some time before the flames set fire to the reeds. 
The wind being adverse, and the morning very cold, the 
flames blew from him, so that he was scarcely touched 
by the fire. Another fire was soon kindled of a more 
veliement nature : it was now the bladders of gunpowder 
exploded, but they proved of no service to the suffering 
prelate. He now prayed with a loud voice, ' Lord Jesus, 
have mercy upon me; Lord Jesus, have mercy upon me; 
Lord Jesus, receive my spirit ' : and these were the last 
words he was heard to utter. But even when his face 
was completely black with the flames, and his tongue 
swelled so that he could not speak, yet his lips went till 
they were shrunk to the gums ; and he knocked his breast 
with his hands until one of his arms fell off, and then 


continued knocking with the other while the fat, water, 
and blood dripped out at his finger ends. At length, by 
renewing of the fire, his strength was gone, and his hand 
fastened in the iron which was put round him. Soon 
after, the whole lower part of his body being consumed, 
he fell over the iron that bound him, into the fire, amidst 
the horrible yells and acclamations of the bloody crew 
that surrounded him. This holy martyr was more than 
three quarters of an hour consuming; the inexpressible 
anguish of which he endured as a lamb, moving neither 
forwards, backwards, nor to any side: his nether parts 
were consumed, and his bowels fell out some time before 
he expired. Thus perished, in a manner the most horrible 
that the rage of hell itself could devise, in a manner more 
barbarous than that exercised by wild American Indians 
to their prisoners taken in war, the right reverend father 
in God, Dr. John Hooper, for some time Bishop of 
Worcester, and afterward of Gloucester."^ 

Some victims suffered much longer than others, as is 
indicated in the report of the burning of the Rev. George 
Marsh, in 1555. " The fire," we read, " being unskil- 
fully made, and the wind contrary, he suffered extreme 

Later it became customary to strangle the criminal and 
then to burn the corpse, but the plan sometimes mis- 
carried. Strutt, writing in 1775, says : 

" The letter of the law to this very day, I believe 
condemns a woman, who doth murder her husband, 
to be burnt alive, but the sentence is always mitigated, 
for they are first strangled. In the case of Catherine 
Hayes (who, for the murder of her husband, some few 
years ago, was adjudged to suffer death at the stake) 
the intention was first to strangle her; but as they used 
at that time to draw a rope which was fastened round 
the culprit's neck, and came through a staple of the 
stake, but at the very moment that the fire was put to 

* Henry Moore, The History of the Persecutions of the Church of Rome 
and Complete Protestant Martyrology, 1809, pp. 256-7. 

* Ibid., p. 296. 

(See Text, page 171.) 

(See Text, page 170.) 

(See Text, page 172.) 


From an Engraving in Theatmm Crudelitatum Hcereticorum, 1592. 


the wood which was set around, the flames sometimes 
reached the ofienders before they were quite strangled 
— ^just so it happened to her; for the fire taking quick 
hold of the wood, and the wind being brisk, blew the 
smoke and blaze so full in the faces of the executioners, 
who were pulling at the rope, that they were obliged 
to let go their hold before they had quite strangled 
her; so that, as I have been informed by some there 
present, she suffered much torment before she died. 

Ann Williams, convicted of poisoning her husband, 
burnt at the stake at Gloucester, April 13, 1753 

But now they are first hanged at the stake until they 
are quite dead, and then the fire is kindled round, and 
the body burnt to ashes. "^ 

Execution by burning at the stake was never con- 
sidered by the inquisitors of Spain or by the English courts 
to be a form of torture. There was, however, a " torture 

* Joseph Strutt, Manners and Customs of the Inhabitants of England, 
1775, Vol, III, pp. 47-8. 



by fire," which constituted one of the three favourite tor- 
ments employed by the Inquisitions of Italy and Spain, also, 
more rarely, by those in other countries, to force their 
prisoners to confess. The accused person (the torture was 
applied to males and females alike) was fixed in the stocks. 
The legs and feet were bared, and the soles well-greased 
with lard. A fire was lighted and the feet literally fried 
by the heat to which they were exposed. When the prisoner 
began to cry out in agony at the intolerable heat, a screen 
of wood or metal was placed in front of the fire and a de- 

Richard Turpin torturing a woman by fire to extract information 

mand for confession made. If this was refused, the screen 
was removed and the prisoner again subjected to the frying 
process. This was continued until either a confession was 
extracted or the victim fainted. Torture by fire was usually 
adopted when the pulley and the rack had failed; or 
where, for any reason, these tortures were inapplicable or 

The white races in their tortures of the savages which 
fell into their power practised analogous methods to those 
used by the aborigines themselves. Bartholomew De Las 
Casas says : 


" I once beheld four or five principal Indians roasted 
alive at a slow fire, and as the miserable victims poured 
forth dreadful screams, which disturbed the command- 
ing officer in his afternoon slumbers, he sent word that 
they should be strangled, but the officer on guard (I 
know his name, and I know his relations in Seville) 
would not suffer it; but causing their mouths to be 
gagged, that their cries might not be heard, he stirred 
up the fire with his own hands, and roasted them de- 
liberately till they all expired — I saw it myself."^ 

Torture by fire was employed by thieves and others for 
the purpose of extracting information. Richard Turpin,^ 
the eighteenth-century highway robber, by forcing a 
woman to sit on the fire in her own house, and holding 
her there by main force, induced her to disclose the hiding 
place of her money. 


This punishment was at one time widely practised in 
England. The irons employed bore marks or letters of 
various kinds, for use according to the nature of the offence. 
The inside of the left hand was usually chosen as the place 
upon which to apply the hot iron. Rogues and vagabonds 
were branded with the letter R; thieves with the letter T; 
and those guilty of manslaughter with M. The objects of 
branding were twofold. There was the punishment 
effected by the red-hot metal being impinged, none too 
gently, on the skin; and the marking of the criminal so 
that if he again be apprehended for some offence or other, 
the court would be aware of his previous misdemeanour. 

Tn some cases the branding was inflicted on other more 
sensitive spots than the hand. Thus, for shop-lifting, the 
penalty was burning on the cheek under the eye. For 
blasphemy, the tongue was bored through with a red-hot 

* Quoted bv Bryan Edwards, The History of the British Colonies in the 
West Indies, 1793, Vol. I, Book I, Ch. Ill, p.' 88. 

' The hero of a hundred apocryphal adventures, whose " ride to York " 
is known to every schoolboy. Turpin was executed at York on April 10, 


skewer; in a case of perjury part of the penalty was brand- 
ing on the forehead with the letter P. 

In France, for all kinds of minor offences, the punish- 
ment was branding with the fleur-de-lis. In Russia this 
form of punishment was widely practised in the fifteenth, 
sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In addi- 
tion, slaves, as a matter of routine, were branded on the 
forehead and cheeks. 

Boiling and Frying 

Boiling to death is a very old form of execution. We 
find it repeatedly referred to in ancient literature. The 
modus operandi was simple. A huge cauldron or other 
receptacle containing water, oil or tallow was heated until 
it reached boiling-point, and into this the victim was 
pitched, as often as not head first. Or, if the executioners 
wished to prolong the agony of their victim, the contents 
of the cauldron were brought gradually to boiling-point, 
while the individual, bound hand and foot, was covered, 
except for the head, with the fluid. The frying-pan method 
varied little from boiling, except that, in this case, the vic- 
tim was placed in a large shallow receptacle or dish con- 
taining oil, tallow or pitch and fried alive. A variation of 
this procedure was where a gridiron or metal platform 
was used, under which a fire was lighted. 

The account of the torturing of the Maccabees, from the 
pen of Josephus, is perhaps the most celebrated description 
of these various tortures that is available in literature. It 
relates the torments and execution of a mother and her seven 
sons, at the command of that pitiless monster, Antiochus. 

" The tyrant caused them to be beaten with bulls- 
pizzles; first commanding Maccabeus the eldest to be 
stripped and stretched out upon a rack, and his hands to 
be bound, and so to be most cruelly beaten, who so 
wearied his tormentors by suffering, that they rather 
desired to give over than he requested it. Then was he 
put upon a wheel, and a weight hanged at his feet, and 
so stretched round about it, that his sinews and entrails 
brake; yet all this while he called upon God. A fire was 


kindled and he was racked on the wheel, was thrown 
into it, and by flames was so burned that his bowels 
appeared, yet was his mind unmoved. Then was he 
taken from the fire; and slain alive, his tongue being 
pulled out of his head, and he put into a frying-pan, and 
so he departed out of this life, to the admiration of his 
enemies, and the joy of his mother, and brethren. 

" Then was the second brother, called Aber, haled by 
the soldiers; and the tyrant showed him all those instru- 
ments of torment, and asked him if he would eat of the 
sacrifice; which he, denying to do, his hands were bound 
with iron chains, and being hanged up thereby, the skin 
of his body was slain from the crown of his head to his 
knees, so that the entrails in his breast were seen : then 
was he cast to a cruel Libard (leopard), greedily thirsting 
after blood, but the beast, smelling at him, forgat his 
cruelty and went from him, without doing him any 
harm. This increased the tyrant's rage, and Aber by his 
torments grew more constant. Shortly after he yielded 
up his soul to God. 

" Then Machir the third son was brought. The 
tyrant devised new torments, commanding a globe to be 
brought, he caused him to be tied about it in such sort 
that all his bones were put out of joint, hanging one from 
another in a most pitiful manner; then the skin of his 
head and face was pulled off and then was he put upon 
the wheel, but he could be wracked no worse, for all his 
bones were dislocated before, the blood issuing from him 
abundantly — then his tongue was cut out, and he being 
put into a fiery frying-pan, resigned his spirit unto God." 

Josephus continues his terrible and harrowing descrip- 
tion. He tells us how Judas, the fourth brother, was bound 
to a stake and beaten, had his tongue ripped out and suffered 
other mutilation before ending his life on the wheel; how 
Achus, the fifth brother, was thrown into the brazen pot; 
how Areth, the sixth, after being tied to a pillar, head down- 
wards, and near enough to a hot fire to be roasted but not 
burned to death, was pricked with sharp-pointed instruments 
in very nearly every part of his body, had his tongue pulled 
out with red-hot pincers, and was finally thrown into the 


frying-pan; how Jacob, the youngest of the lot, had his hands 
amputated and his tongue pulled out before being cooked in 
the frying-pan. Then Antiochus turned to deal with the 
mother, who had already suffered mental agony, in wit- 
nessing these sanguinary and appalling tortures, sufficient 
to drive any less Spartan-like woman demented. He 
" caused her to be stripped, hanged up by the hands and 
cruelly whipped. Then were her dugs and paps pulled off, 
and herself put into the red-hot frying-pan." 

An instance of boiling to death in England was the 
execution at Smithfield, in 1530, of a cook named John Roose, 
for poisoning seventeen persons of the Bishop of Rochester's 
household, two of whom died. " By a retrospective law," 
wc read in The Percy Anecdotes, " Roose was sentenced to 
be boiled to death; a judgment, horrible as it was, which 
was carried into execution." And in 154 1, at the same place, 
Margaret Dawe was boiled to death for a similar crime. 

The Brazen Bull 

According to Lucian, the " brazen bull " which stood in 
the temple of the first Phalaris, was the invention of a man 
named Perilaus. It ranked as one of the most ingenious and 
diabolical instruments of torture ever conceived in the mind 
of man. This apparatus, which was made of metal, was 
fashioned to the exact size and shape of a bull. The interior 
formed a hollow chamber, and there was a trap-door in the 
back of the bull for ingress and egress. The inventor, know- 
ing the reputation for cruelty of the tyrant Phalaris, brought 
the bull to him for inspection and proceeded to explain the 
ingenuity of the torture it was designed to produce. The 
culprit, explained Perilaus, was to be shut up inside the bull 
and a fire kindled underneath. The agonies of the im- 
prisoned offender would be so great that he would yell and 
scream with pain and fear, and these roars and screams, by 
means of a most ingenious arrangement of flutes in the bull's 
nostrils, would be transformed into a melodious lowing. 
Phalaris, it appears, was " filled with abhorrence for both 
the artificer and his work," and determined to punish him 
in an ironically fitting manner. But let the tyrant tell the 
remainder of the tale in his own words : 


Well, now, Perilaus,' I said, ' if you are so sure of 
your contrivance, give us a proof of it on the spot : mount 
up and get in and imitate the cries of a man tortured in 
it, that wc may hear whether such charming music will 
proceed from it, as you would make us believe.' Perilaus 
obeyed, and no sooner was he in the belly of the bull, 
than I shut the aperture, and put fire beneath it. ' Take 
that,' said I, ' as the only recompense such a piece of art 
is worth, and chant us the first specimen of the charming 
notes of which you are the inventor ! ' And so the bar- 
barous wretch suffered what he had well merited by 
such an infamous appHcation of his mechanical talent. 
However, that the noble work should not be contaminated 
by his dying there, I ordered him to be drawn out while 
still alive, and thrown down from the summit of the rock, 
where his body was left unburied."^ 

Ovid refers to the brazen bull of Perilaus in the well- 
known lines : 

" Perilaus, roasted in the bull he made, 
Gave the first proof of his own cruel trade." 

* Luciao, Worf^^s. 



Squassation or the Torture of the Pulley 

The torture of the pulley was known as the first torture of 
the Inquisition. With this method the victim was, as usual 
in most torments of the Inquisition, stripped to his drawers, 
his ankles shackled, and his wrists tied securely behind his 
back. A stout rope was then fastened to his wrists and 
carried over a pulley fixed to the roof of the torture chamber. 
The executioners drew him up with this rope until he was 
suspended about six feet from the floor. In this position, 
heavy iron weights, usually amounting to about loo pounds, 
were attached to the irons on his feet. At this juncture he 
was asked once more to reveal the truth. Refusal meant the 
infliction of a number of stripes with a whip upon his naked 
back. The questions were repeated. Failure to confess was 
the signal for the torture to start in real earnest. The 
executioners pulled on the rope, raising the victim almost to 
the ceiling. Suddenly allowing the rope to slack for several 
feet, they then brought this rapid descent to an abrupt 
termination before the weights reached the floor. The shock 
to the body, of this suddenly terminated fall, was sufficient 
to jar every bone, joint and nerve in the system. In most 
cases it entailed dislocation. The process was repeated again 
and again until the culprit confessed or became unconscious. 
According to the anonymous author of The History of 
the Inquisition (1828) there were various degrees of severity 
with which this form of torture was applied, the precise 
degree depending upon the nature of the crime with which 
the prisoner was accused and upon the will of the judge. 
These degrees of torture were indicated when pronouncing 
sentence. Thus if the judge said, " Let the prisoner be inter- 
rogated by torture," he was merely hoisted upon the rope. 



If the judge said : " Let him be tortured," this meant the 
undergoing of squassation once only. If the judge said: 
" Let him be well tortured," the indication was two squassa- 
tions; while the words " severely tortured " meant three 
squassations; and " very severely tortured " meant three 
squassations with " twistings and additional weights sus- 
pended from the feet." 

Torture of the RacJ^ or Wooden Horse 

The second mode of torture employed by the Inquisition 
was the rack.^ This apparatus varied somewhat in its con- 
struction in different countries, though its principle was the 
same in all. The rack stood about three feet from the 
ground and consisted of a stout wooden framework with 
sticks across it after the manner of a ladder. The victim was 
stretched upon this frame, his wrists and ankles being 
attached with strong cords to two rollers, one at each end of 
the rack. These rollers were operated by levers which 
moved in opposite directions to each other. When the 
victim was securely fastened on the rack, the questions to 
which answers were desired were put to him. Failure to 
reply satisfactorily was the signal for the two executioners to 
commence operating the levers. The result was the stretch- 
ing of the victim's limbs and body. If persisted in, this was 
bound to cause dislocation of the joints or to drag off the 
members. In some cases the limbs were stretched in much 
the same manner as on the rack but by means of ropes and 
pulleys attached to rings or staples in the walls. 

Occasionally the tortures of the rack were varied or 
increased by the use of cords in addition to the stretching 
mechanism. The arms and legs were bound to the sides of 
the rack with thin but strong cords. These cords were 
wound around each limb three times, and a stick was inserted 
in each. When all was ready for the torture to commence, 
the executioners twisted these sticks, thus gradually tighten- 
ing the cords and causing them to cut into the flesh until the 
bones were reached, inflicting terrible wounds. 

^ Termed by the French, the chevalet, by the Spaniards, the escalero. 
It was generally referred to as the " wooden horse." 


For some idea respecting the nature of the torture of the 
rack we are indebted to die accounts of those, and they were 
comparatively few, who managed to escape the clutches of 
the Inquisition after undergomg tlie terrible ordeal. One 
such revealing instance was that of John Coustos, who, 
accused of the crime of freemasonry, was, in 1743, imprisoned 
by the Inquisition of Lisbon. Refusing to divulge the secrets 
of his order, Coustos was conveyed to the torture chamber. 
Stripped of everything but his drawers, he was fixed on his 
back on the rack, his neck enclosed in an iron collar, and his 
feet attached to two rings. Two ropes the size of a man's 
little finger were wound around each arm and leg and passed 
through holes made for the purpose in the rack. The ropes 
were drawn tight by the executioners, cutting through the 
flesh to the bone, and causing the blood to gush out from 
the wounds made. The executioners bent their strength to 
the task four different times, and at the fourth their victim 
fainted through loss of blood and excruciating pain. After 
six weeks, which were allowed for recuperation, Coustos 
was again brought to the torture chamber. This time the 
procedure was somewhat different. He was made to stretch 
out his arms with the palms of his hands turned outwards. 
His wrists were tied, and then a machine gradually drew his 
hands together behind him until the backs of them touched. 
A second and yet a third time was the operation repeated. 
His shoulders were dislocated in the process; the blood 
gushed from his mouth. Back to his dungeon was Coustos 
taken, where his bones were set by surgeons. Two months 
passed, and then for the third time was he carried to that 
chamber of horrors. On this occasion, his tormenters passed 
a thick iron chain twice around his body, crossing it over his 
stomach. The chain terminated in rings which were 
fastened to his wrists. He was then placed against a thick 
wooden partition, at each end of which was a pulley. Ropes 
were fastened to the rings on his wrists and run through the 
pulleys, the other ends being fixed to a roller. This roller, 
being set in motion, the ropes gradually tightened, pulling 
the chain tighter and tighter across the stomach until not 
only did it bite into the naked flesh, but it pulled his wrists 
out of joint and dislocated the shoulders. The surgeons got 
to work again, and after the bones were set and the wounds 


healed, the torture was repeated. Through all this Coustos 
maintained a stony silence. Finding their efforts of no avail, 
the inquisitors sentenced him to four years' service as a galley- 
slave, after which he was banished from the country. 

Very similar to the rack used in the Inquisition was 
the type employed in the Tower of London. According 
to his own statement, Cuthbert Simson, in December 
1557, was sent to the Tower, charged with heresy, and tor- 
mred " in a rack of iron " for the space of some three hours. 

" On the Sunday after," continues Simson, " I was 
brought to the same place again before the Lieutenant 
and the Recorder of London, and they examined me. 
As before I had said, I answered. Then did they bind 
my two forefingers together, and put a small arrow be- 
twixt them, and drew it through so fast that blood fol- 
lowed, and the arrow broke. Then they racked mc 

The Torture of Water 

Often in combination with the rack was applied the 
" torture of water.'"^ This was generally adopted when 
racking, in itself, proved ineffectual. The victim, while 
pinioned on the rack, was compelled to swallow water, 
which was dropped slowly on a piece of silk or fine linen 
placed in his mouth. This material, under pressure of the 
water, gradually glided down the throat, producing the 
sensation experienced by a person who is drowning. A 
variation of the water torture was to cover the face with a 
piece of thin linen, upon which the water was poured 
slowly, running into the mouth and nostrils and hinder- 
ing or preventing breathing almost to the point of suffoca- 
tion. In another variation, the nose was stopped up, either 
by means of plugs placed in the nostrils, or by pressure of 
the fingers, and water was dropped slowly and continu- 
ously into the open mouth. The victim, in his desperate 
efforts to breathe, often burst a blood-vessel. Generally 
speaking, the larger the quantity of water forced into the 
victim the more severe was the torture. 

* Boo\ of Martyrs, 1732. 

' Sometimes referred to as tormento ie ttcM. 


Of these torments employed m combination, there is 
for the finding m all literature no better, more terrible 
and more heartrendmg a description of the sufferings in- 
duced than that recounted by William Lithgow, a Scots- 
man, who, in 1620, was mistaken for a spy, arrested at 
Malaga, thrown into the dungeons of die Inquisition and 
tortured to the very limits of human endurance. The 
marvel of it all was that the man ever lived to tell his tale. 
I reproduce it here in his own words. 

" I was by the executioner stripped to the skin, 
brought to the rack, and then mounted by him on the 
top of it, where soon after I was hung by the bare 
shoulders with two small cords, which went under both 
my arms, running on two rings of iron that were fixed 
in the wall above my head. Thus being hoisted to the 
appointed height, the tormenter descended below, and 
drawing down my legs, through the two sides of the 
tliree-planked rack, he tied a cord about each of my 
ankles and then ascending upon the rack he drew the 
cords upward, and bending forward with main force 
my two knees against the two planks, the sinews of my 
hams burst asunder, and the lids of my knees being 
crushed, and the cords made fast, I hung so demained 
for a large hour. 

" At last the encarouador, informing the Governor 
that I had the mark of Jerusalem on my right arme, 
joined with the name and crown of King James, and 
done upon the Holy Grave, the corredigor came out 
of his adjoining stance and gave direction to teare 
asunder the name and crown (as he said) of that Heretic 
King, an arch-enemy of the Holy Cathohc Church. 
Then the tormenter, laying the right arme above the 
left, and the crown upmost, did cast a cord over both 
arms seven distant times : and then lying down upon 
his back, and setting botli his feet on my hollow 
pinched belly, he charged and drew violently with his 
hands, making mv womb suffer the force of his feet, 
till the seven several cords combined in one place of 
my arme (and cutting the crown, sinews, and flesh to 
^e bare bones) did pull in my fingers close to the palm 


of my hands; the left hand of which is lame so still and 
will be for ever. 

" Now mine eyes began to startle, my mouth to 
foam and froth, and my teeth to chatter like to the 
doubling of drummer's sticks. O strange inhumanity 
of men, monster manglers! 1 surpassing the limits of 
their natural law; three score tormres being the trial of 
treason, which 1 had, and was to endure : yet thus to in- 
flict a seven-fold surplussage of more intolerable cruel- 
ties : and notwithstanding of my shivering lips, in this 
fiery passion, my vehement groaning, and blood spring- 
ing forth from arms, broke sinews, hams and knees; 
yea and my depending weight on flesh-cutting cords, 
yet they struck me on the face with cudgels, to abate 
and cease the thundering noise of my wresding 

" At last being loosed from these pinnacles of pain, 
I was hand-fast set on the floor, with this their in- 
cessant imploration : Confess, confess, confess in time, 
for thine inevitable torments ensue; where finding 
nothing from me, but still innocent, O, I am innocent, 
O Jesus ! the lamb of God have mercy upon me, and 
strengthen then me with patience to undergo this bar- 
barous murder. 

" Then by command of the Justice, was my tremb- 
ling body laid above, and along, upon the face of the 
rack, with my head downward, inclosed within a 
circled hole; my belly upmost, and my heels upward 
toward the top of the rack, my legs and arms being 
drawn asunder, were fastened with pins and cords to 
both sides of the outward planks; for now was I to re- 
ceive my main torments. Now what a Pottaro or rack 
is (for it stood by the wall of timber, the upmost end 
whereof is larger than a full stride, the lower end 
being narrow, and the three planks joining together are 
made conformable to a man's shoulders; in the down- 
most end of the middle plank there was a hole, where- 
in my head was laid; in length it is longer than a man 
being interlaced with small cords from plank to plank 
which divided mv supported thighs from the middle 
plank; through the sides of which exterior planks there 


were three distant holes in every one of them; the use 

whereof you shall presently hear).^ 

" Now the Alcaide giving commission, the execu- 
tioner laid first a cord over the calf of my leg, then 
another on the middle of my thigh, and the third cord 
over the great of my arm; which was severally done on 
both sides of my body receiving the ends of the cords, 
from these six several places through the holes made 
in the outward planks, which were fastened to pins, 
and the pins made fast with a device : for he was to 
charge on the outside of the planks, with as many pins 
as there were holes and cords; the cords being first laid 
next to my skin. And in every one of these six parts 
of my body, I was to receive seven several tortures : each 
torture consisting of three winding throws of every pin, 
which amounted to twenty-one throws in every one of 
these six parts. 

"Then the tormenter having charged the first 
passage above my body (making fast by a device each 
torture as they were multiplied), he went to an earthen 
jar standing full of water, a little beneath my head : 
from whence carrying a pot full of water, in the 
bottom whereof there was an incised hole, which being 
stopped by his thumb, till it came to my mouth, he did 
pour it in my belly; the measure being a Spanish 
sonlbre which is an English pottle; the first and 
second devices I gladly received, such was the scorch- 
ing drought of my tormenting pain, and likewise I had 
drunk none for three days before. But afterward, at 
the third charge perceiving these measures of water to 
be inflicted upon me as tortures, O strangling tortures! 
I closed my lips again-standing that eager crudelity. 
Whereat the Alcaide enraged, set my teeth asunder 
with a pair of iron cadges, detaining them there, at 
every several turn, both mainly and manually; where- 
upon my hunger-clunged belly waxing great, grew 
drum-like imbolstred, for it being a suffocating pain, in 
regard of my head hanging downward, and the water 

* From this description, and the accompanying illustration, it is evident 
that the type of rack used in this instance differed from that employed in 
mast of the Inquisitions and in the Tower of London. 


rcingorging itself, in my tiiroat, with a struggling 
force, it strangled and swallowed up my breath from 
yowling and groaning. 

" And now to prevent my renewing grief (for 
presently my heart faileth and forsaketh me) 1 will only 
briefly avouch, that between each one of these seven 
circular charges, I was aye re-examined, each examina- 
tion continuing half an hour, each half-hour a hell of 
internal pain, and between each torment, a long dis- 
tance of life-quelling time. 

" Thus lay I six hours upon the rack, between four 
a clock afternoon, and ten a clock at night, having had 
inflicted upon me sixty several torments. Neverthe- 
less they continued me a large half-hour (after all my 
torments) at the full bending, where my body being 
all begored with blood, and cut through in every part, 
to the crushed and bruised bones, I pitifully remained, 
still roaring, howling, foaming, bellowing, and gnash- 
ing my teeth, with insupportalDle cries, before the pins 
were undone, and my body loosed. True it is, it 
passeth the capacity of man, either sensibly to conceive, 
or I patiendy to express the intolerable anxiety of 
mind, and affliction of body, in that dreadful time I sus- 

"At last my head being by their arms advanced, 
and my body taken from die rack, the water regushed 
abundantly from my mouth; then they recloathed my 
broken, bloody, and cold trembling body being all this 
time stark naked; I fell twice in a sounding trance, 
which they again refreshed with a little wine, and two 
warm eggs, not for charity done, but that I should be 
reserved to further punishment. 

" And now at last they charged my broken legs with 
my former eye-frightening irons, and carried me to 
the coach, being after brought secretly to my former 
dungeon, without any knowledge of the town, save to 
my lawless and merciless tormenters. I was laid, with 
my head and heels alike hi^h, on my former stones. 
The latter end of this woeful night, poor mourning 
Hazier, the Turk, was sent to keep me; and on the 
morrow the Governor entered my room, threatening 


me with still more tortures, to confess; and so he 
caused every morning to make me believe I was going 
to be racked again, to make me confess an untruth; 
and thus they continued every day of five days to 

" Upon Christmas-day, Marina, the ladies' gentle- 
woman, got permission to visit me, and with her 
licence she brought abundance of tears, presenting me 
also with a dish of honey, sugar, some confections, and 
raisins in great plenty, to my no small comfort, besides 
using many sweet speeches for consolation's sake. 
The twelfth day of Christmas expired, they began to 
threaten me on still with more tortures, even till 
Candlemas. In all which comfortless time I was 
miserably afflicted with the beastly plague of gnawing 
vermin which lay crawling in lumps, within, without, 
and about my body; yea hanging in clusters about my 
beard, my lips, my nostrils, and my eyebrows, almost 
inclosing my sight. And for the greater satisfaction to 
their merciless minds, the Governor called Areta, his 
silver plate keeper, to gather and sweep the vermin 
upon me twice in eight days, which tormented me 
almost to death being a perpetual punishment; yet the 
poor infidel, some few times, and when opportunity 
served, would steal the keys from Areta, and about 
midnight would enter my room, with sticks and burn- 
ing oil, and sweeping them together in heaps, would 
burn the greatest part, to my great release, or, doubt- 
less, I had been miserably eaten up and devoured by 

The " water torture " was by no means confined to the 
Inquisition. In a miscellany of ways and in combination 
with various other tortures, it was used in most countries 
until comparatively recent times. Surreptitiously it is 
probably used in some form or other even to-day. 

One of the most horrible instances of its employment 

' William Lithgow, The Totall Discourse of the Rare Adventures and 
painejull peregrinations of long nineteene yeares Travailes from Scotland, 
to the most famous Kingdomes in Europe, Asia, and Affrica, 1640, pp. 


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O , 


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H Pu 



From an Illustration in Hughes's Histoire de la Navigation, Amsterdam, 1610. 

From an Engraving in Theatrum Crudelitatum Haereticorum, 1592. 


was in connexion with the torture of a number of EngHsh- 
men by the Dutch authorities at Amboyna in 1622. 
Amboyna is an island in the East Indies, where, in the 
seventeenth century, both Dutch and Enghsh trading 
stations were in operation. In the February of 1622 the 
Enghsh residents were accused by the Dutch of conspiring 
to capture the castle of Amboyna (the Dutch headquarters). 
Abel Price, an English surgeon, was imprisoned in the 
castle and tortured until he confessed that the surprise and 
capture of the castle was contemplated by his compatriots. 
On the 15th of the month Captain Towerson and all the 
other English in the town were made prisoners by the 
Dutch Governor. Under the threat or the actual applica- 
tion of torture, several confessed whatever was put into 
their mouths by their tormentors. Others resisted every 
effort to extort confessions. Their toes were split, their 
breasts cut, gunpowder was placed in incised wounds and 
exploded; water and fire were used in succession. The 
torture of John Clarke was typical : 

" First they hoisted him up by the hands with a cord 
on a large dore, where they made him fast upon two 
staples of iron; fixt on both sides at the top of the dore 
posts, haling his hands one from the other as wide as they 
could stretch. Being thus made fast, his feete hung some 
two foote from the ground; which also they stretcht 
asunder as far as they would retch, and so made them 
fast beneath unto the dore-trees on each side. Then they 
bound a cloth about his necke and face so close that little 
or no water could go by. That done, they poured the 
water softly upon his head untill the cloth was full, up to 
the mouth and nostrills, and somewhat higher; so that 
he could not draw breath, but he must withall suck-in 
the water : which being still continued to be poured in 
softly, forced all his inward parts, came out of his nose, 
cares, and eyes, and often as it were stifling and choaking 
him, at length took away his breath, and brought him to 
a swounce or fainting. Then they tooke him quickly 
downe, and made him vomit up the water. Being a little 
recovered, they triced him up againe, poured in the water 
as before, eftsooncs taking him downe as he seemed to be 


Stifled. In this manner they handled him three or four 
scverall times with water, till his body was swolne twice 
or thrice as bigge as before, his cheekes like great bladders, 
and his eyes staring and strutting out beyond his fore- 
head : yet all this he bare, without confessing anie thing; 
insomuch as the Fiscall and tormenters reviled him, say- 
ing that he was a Divill, and no man, or surely was a 
witch, at least had some charme about him, or was 
enchanted, that he could beare so much. Wherefore they 
cut off his haire verie short, as supposing he had some 
witchcraft hidden therein. Afterwards they hoisted him 
up againe as before, and then burnt him with lighted 
candles in the bottome of his feete, untill the fat dropt 
out the candles; yet then applied they fresh lights unto 
them. They burnt him also under the elbowes, and in 
the palmes of the hands; likewise under the arme-pitts, 
until his inwards might evidently be scene. At last, 
when they saw he could of himself make no handsome 
confession, then they ledde him along with questions of 
particular circumstances, by themselves framed. Being 
thus wearied and overcome by the torment; hee answered 
yea to whatsoever they asked : whereby they drew from 
him a bodie of a confession to this effect; to wit, that 
Captaine Towerson had upon New-yeares day last before, 
sworne all the English at Amboyna to bee secret and 
assistant to a plot that he had projected, with the helpe of 
the laponers, to surprise the castle, and to put the 
Governor and the rest of the Dutch to death. Having 
thus martyred this poor man, they sent him out by foure 
Blacks; who carried him between them to a dungeon, 
where he lay five or six days without a Chirurgion to 
dresse him, until (his flesh being putrefied) great Maggots 
dropt and crept from him in a most loathsome and 
noysome maner."* 

Yet another variation of the torture, involving the use of 
cords, was adopted in the case of Isaac Orobio, a physician, 
who was tormented in order to induce him to confess that 
he was a Jew, an allegation which he most persistendy 

* A True Relation of the Most Cruell and Barbarous Proceedings Againrt 
the English at Amboyna, London, 1624, pp. 11-12. 


denied. The actual tortures were preceded by three years' 
confinement in the dungeons of the Inquisition. On taking 
Orobio to the torture chamber, the first method adopted was 
to envelop him in a garment which was tightened about his 
body to such an extent as to make breathing almost impos- 
sible. This they continually constricted until he was at the 
point of dying : then they suddenly slackened the garment, 
a procedure causing severe pain. Again and again they 
repeated this process, but without extracting a confession. 
In the next torture, Orobio's thumbs were tied tightly with 
fine cord so that the compression caused the extremities to 
swell and blood to spurt from under the nails. He was then 
made to stand on a bench with his back to the wall : ropes 
were passed around his body, his arms, and his legs, and 
thence over fixed iron pulleys. The executioners gripped the 
ropes and pulled upon them with all their strength, resulting 
in his body being drawn forcibly against the wall, causing 
the most terrible pain and the sensation of *' dissolving in 
flames." And then, suddenly, the bench was jerked from 
under him, causing him to be hung by the cords alone, with 
the result that the weight of his body drew the knots tighter. 
Finally, a ladder-like arrangement, in which the five cross- 
pieces or rungs, instead of being rounded or flat, had sharp 
edges, was struck against his body with a violent rapid 
motion, causing such intolerable agony that he fainted. Even 
this did not exhaust Orobio's terrific ordeal. On regaining 
consciousness, and still refusing to admit his guilt, the 
prisoner was put to the final torture. A rope was tied to 
each of his wrists. These ropes were passed around the back 
of the executioner, who had donned a leather jacket espe- 
cially for the purpose. Bending backwards, and bracing his 
feet against the wall, the executioner put every ounce of his 
weight and strength into the effort, causing the ropes to 
tighten and cut into Orobio's flesh to the very bones. Again 
and yet again was the process repeated, each time the ropes 
being moved a couple of inches farther up the arms before 
pressure was applied. At the second application, one of the 
ropes slipped from its new position into the first wound, 
resulting in an effusion so great that it was feared the victim 
would die there and then. However, the surgeon, being 
summoned, stated that Orobio had strength to endure further 


torture, and the third act was performed. Bleeding Hkc a 
stricken pig and unconscious, the prisoner was conveyed to 
his cell. His wounds were barely healed in the two months 
which elapsed before the Inquisition, despairing of securing 
his confession, condemned him, on suspicion of being a Jew, 
to wear for two years the " infamous habit called Sam- 
benito," and after that to perpetual banishment from the 
kingdom of Seville. 

Torture of the Wheel 

This method of execution involving, before death came, 
the most terrible and often prolonged agony, is a most ancient 
one, and apparently at one time had a religious significance. 
Through the centuries it took many forms. Josephus, Lucian, 
Athenaeus, and other ancient writers refer to its use, though 
there is some doubt as to the precise form which the tor- 
ture took in those early days. Gallonio says there were many 
kinds of wheels. In addition to the breaking of the body 
on a sort of cart-wheel, which was the method usually indi- 
cated in the Middle Ages, he refers to the practice of binding 
the criminal upon a broad wheel resembling a cylinder, and 
either rolling this contrivance, with its human burden, down 
a hill or a mountain, or over iron spikes fixed in the ground. 
Sometimes, in addition, the wheel itself was furnished with 
spikes. At one time, and in some countries, according to 
Grimm, the method adopted was to drive heavy wagons 
over the body again and again until the bones were broken. 

Breaking on the wheel was widely employed in Europe 
as a means of executing criminals, particularly during the 
eighteenth century. A more brutal and revolting manner of 
putting anyone to death it is difficult to imagine. The 
criminal was laid on his back upon an ordinary cart-wheel 
and bound securely to the spokes. Often in place of a cart- 
wheel several pieces of timber nailed together to resemble a 
crude wheel, or a couple of beams in the form of a St. 
Andrew's Cross, sufficed. The executioner, armed with a 
sledge-hammer, an iron bar, or a heavy club, smashed the 
legs and arms with successive blows, finally delivering a 
coup de grace in the stomach. 


In some cases the fiendish cruelty of the judges mani- 
fested itself in prescribing the extended duration of the 
sufferings which the doomed man must undergo before 
death ended the torture. Thus the eighty-six-year-old John 
Galas of Toulouse, who, on suspicion of having strangled or 
helped to strangle his own son Anthony, was, in 1761, 
sentenced to be tortured in order to induce him to name his 
accomplices, and then to be " broken alive upon the wheel, 
to receive the last stroke after he had lain two hours, and 
then to be burnt to ashes." 

Apparently there were cases where women were executed 
by this method. M. de la Place mentions seeing a young 
woman broken on the wheel in Brussels, for the murder of 
her husband. Because of her sex, she was allowed, at her 
own request, to wear a jacket and pantaloons of white satin. ^ 

Bryan Edwards describes an execution of this type which 
occurred under the window of his lodgings, on the 28th 
September, 1791, during the course of the rebellion at St. 
Domingo. Two men were broken on two pieces of timber 
placed crosswise. One of them, after having each leg and 
arm broken in two places, was finished off with a blow in 
the stomach. The second prisoner was not so fortunate. 
The executioner, after breaking his arms and legs, was about 
to give the final blow, when the mob, calling out " stop," 
forced him to leave his task unfinished. They then tied the 
suffering prisoner on a cart-wheel, which was hoisted from 
the ground by fixing the other end of the axle-tree in the 
earth, and gloating over the terrible agonies he was endur- 
ing, they left him there. How long this suffering would 
have continued one can only guess at for " at the end of 
forty minutes, some English seamen, who were spectators of 
the tragedy, strangled him in mercy."" 

According to Stedman, breaking alive on the wheel was 
one of the methods of executing slaves practised in Surinam 
at the time of his visit to Guinea towards the close of the 
eighteenth century. He witnessed such an execution. In 
this particular instance, the coup de grace or mercy-stroke, 
which constituted the characteristic termination of the torture 

^ The Percy Anecdotes. 

« Bryan Edwards, The History of the British West Indies, 1819, Vol. Ill, 
p. 84. 


in the European technique, was not given. After the negro 
had been tied securely to a wooden cross, the executioner, 
another negro, chopped off the criminal's left hand with a 
hatchet. Then, grasping a heavy iron bar, with repeated 
blows, " he broke the bones to shivers, till the marrow, blood, 
and splinters flew about the field." The ropes were then 
unlashed. The criminal, who was not dead, " writhed him- 
self from the cross, when he fell on the grass and damned 
them all."^ He begged that his head might be chopped off, 
a request that was refused. For six hours he continued to 
live in indescribable agony, and even then death only released 
him from his torments as a result of an act of commiseration 
on the part of the guard, who knocked him on the head with 
the butt-end of his musket. 

Stofting to Death 

The antiquity of the method lies in its obviousness and 
convenience. Herodotus mentions its use. It was the 
method of execution approved by Yahveh for blasphemy, 
heresy, idolatry, adultery, bestiality, sodomy, et al. 

During the seventeenth-century persecutions, at the insti- 
gation of the Pope, of the Protestants in Piedmont — which 
persecutions reached such a degree of horrifying barbarity 
that, it is said, Cromwell, no sentimentalist himself, was 
constrained to intercede, though in vain — a variation of this 
form of execution was practised. Judith Mandon, a yoimg 
woman, for refusing to embrace Popery 

" was fastened to a stake, and sticks thrown at her from 
a distance, in the very same manner as in that barbarous 
custom, formerly practised on Shrove Tuesday, of throw- 
ing at cocks. By this inhuman proceeding her limbs were 
beat and mangled in a most terrible manner, and at last 
one of the bludgeons dashed her brains out."' 

^ J. G. Stcdman, Narrative of a Five Years' Expedition Against the 
Revolted Negroes of Surinam in Guinea on the Coast of South America 
from the Year iJJ^-iyyy, London, 1796. 

^ Henry Moore, The History of the Persecutions of the Cht^eh of Rfune 
and Complete Protestant Martyrology, 1809, p. 642. 


Torture of the Boot 

The torture of the boot was considered by contemporary 
observers to be the " most severe and cruel pain in the 
world." So dreadful was the sight of a human being suffer- 
ing this torment that, says Burnet, " when any are to be 
struck in the boot, it is done in the presence of the Council, 
and upon that occasion almost all offer to run away."^ For 
this reason, an order had to be issued compelling a number 
to stay; without such an order the board would have been 

This instrument of torture was an iron container made 
in the shape of a boot and designed to encase the naked limb 
from the foot to the knee. Wedges of wood or metal were 
inserted between the flesh and the sides of the apparatus and 
driven in with a hammer. The flesh was lacerated and often 
the bones were crushed and splintered in a shocking and 
dreadful manner, the terrible punishment continuing until 
the victim confessed. It was rare for anyone who experi- 
enced this torture to be other than a cripple for the rest of his 

The boot does not seem to have been generally used in the 
Inquisitions of Europe, though it was frequently employed 
in England and Scotland.^ John Spreull, accused at Edin- 
burgh in 1681 of being concerned in a plot to blow up the 
Duke of York, and steadfastly maintaining his ignorance of 
the affair, was put to the torture in the presence of the Duke 
of York and many other notabilities. 

" The hangman put his foot in the instrument called 
the Boot, and, at every query put to him, gave five strokes 
or thereby upon the wedges . . . When nothing could 
be expiscated by this, they ordered the old boot to be 
brought, alleging this new one used by the hangman was 
not so good as the old, and accordingly it was brought, 
and he underwent the torture a second time, and adhered 
to what he had before said. General Dalziel com- 
plained at the second torture, that the hangman did not 
strike strongly enough upon the wedges; he said, he 

^ Bishop Burnet, History, 1823. 
^ Termed bootikins in Scotland. 


Struck with all his strength, and offered the general the 
mall to do it himself."^ 

In Scotland, too, an instrument named the caspicaws^ or 
caschielawis was in frequent use. This was equivalent to 
the notorious " Spanish Boot," an iron casing for the leg 
and foot which had a screw attachment for compressing the 
calf of the leg. In some cases it was heated until red-hot, 
either before or after its application to the naked foot. The 
actual procedure varied in different countries, although the 
principle was the same in all. According to Pitcairn, in 
Scotland, the usual course was to apply the iron affair, and 
then heat it gradually in a movable furnace. While the 
iron was getting hotter, the questions were put to the 
prisoner. The pain was so agonizing that usually the victim 
was impelled to confess anything which his interrogators 
might wish. 

There are many records of the torture having been 
applied. In 1596, Alesoun Balfour and Thomas Palpla 
were both induced to confess in this way, though not until 
they had suffered grievous pain, Palpla 

" being keepit in the caschielawis ellewin dayis and 
ellewin nychtis; tuyise in the day, be the space of four- 
tene dayis, callit in the buitis, he beand naikit in the 
meane tyme, and skairgeit with towis (cords), in sic soirt, 
that they left nather flesch nor hyde upon him.'" 

Women were not immune from the torture of the boot. 
On the ist February, 163 1, the Privy Council, consisting of 
seventeen members, ordered 

" Margaret Wod to be putt to the tortour of the bootes, 
the morne, at ten of the clocke, in the Laich Counsell 
Hous of Edinburgh; and that the whole counsell be 
present when the tortour is given."* 

^ Robert Wodrow, History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland, 
Glasgow, 1828, Vol. Ill, p. 254. 

* According to Dr. Jamieson the term signifies " warm hose." 

^ Robert Pitcairn, Ancient Criminal Trials, 1833, Vol. I, p. 376. 

* John Graham Dalyell, The Darker Superstitions of Scotland, 1834. 

THE scavenger's DAUGHTER 1 85 

Variations of this form of torture were often adopted. 
At Autun, says Lacroix, high boots made of spongy leather 
were used. The victim, wearing these boots, was secured 
to a table in front of a hot fire. Boiling water was then 
poured into the boots, penetrating the leather and eating 
away the flesh. ^ In other cases, parchment stockings were 
used. These were put on wet, and the prisoner placed be- 
fore a fire : the parchment, as it dried, shrank considerably, 
in the process causing insufferable agony.^ 

Yet another form of boot was known as Brodcquins. 
The prisoner was seated on a strong bench, and boards of 
suitable width and length were placed on the inside and out- 
side of each leg, and tightly bound in position with strong 
rope, the two legs in their casing being fixed together. 
Wedges of wood or metal were then driven with a mallet 
between the centre boards. Four wedges were used in 
" ordinary torture," and eight wedges in what was termed 
" extraordinary torture." The effect was that the cords bit 
through the victim's flesh, causing excruciating pain. In 
many cases the bones were splintered or broken.^ This type 
of boot was used extensively in Scotland in the seventeenth 
century. It was described by an English visitor, says Morer 
(A Short Account of Scotland) as 

" four pieces of narrow boards nailed together, of a com- 
petent length for the leg, not unlike the short cases we 
use to guard young trees from the rabbits, v/hich they 
wedge so tightly on all sides that, not being able to bear 
the pain, they promise confession to get rid of it." 

The Scavenger s Daughter 

This diabolical apparatus was used in the Tower of 
London for the purpose of eliciting confession. It was used 
contemporaneously and alternately with the rack. The 
Scavenger's Daughter was strongly made of iron hoops, con- 
sisting of two parts hinged together. The prisoner was 

^ Paul Lacroix, Manners, Customs and Dress During the Middle Ages, 
= Jbid. 
' Ibid. 


forced into a kneeling posture on the floor, and told to draw 
his body and limbs together so as to compress himself 
into the smallest possible space. The executioner, having 
passed one of the iron hoops under the prisoner's legs, knelt 
upon his shoulders, forcing his body downwards until it 
was possible to fasten the two hoops together over the small 
of the back. The agony which the victim of this torture 
suffered must have been beyond all endurance, and there is 
little room for wonder that in most cases a confession was 
obtained before the expiration of the time (one and a half 
hours) allotted for confinement in the apparatus. It is 
stated that long before this the blood was spurting from 
the nostrils, the mouth, and the anus, and even, on 
occasion, from the hands and feet. According to an entry 
in Rishton's Diary, dated December lo, 1580, two priests 
named Tomas Cottam and Luke Kirbye were tortured in the 
Scavenger's Daughter for more than an hour. Cottam, it 
is stated, " bled profusely from the nose." 

Hurling From a Tower or Height 

Doubtless this mode of execution was general among 
many savage and primitive races where there were precipices 
or rocks providing convenient means for its employment. 
It was also a favourite method of committing suicide. 

As a prescribed legal method of execution we note its use 
in ancient Rome. Manlius Capitolinus met such a fate. 
Condemned as a rebel, he was thrown from the Tarpeian 
Rock. Among other notabilities to be executed in the same 
way was Putuanius, the mathematician, and the Emperor 
Zeno. Aesopus, the famous author, charged with the theft 
of one of the treasures of the Temple of Apollo, met this 
fate in the year 561 b.c. Perilaus, inventor of that diabolic- 
ally ingenious instrument of torture, the brazen bull, after 
being nearly roasted alive in his own creation, was thrown 
from the rock by order of Phalaris. 

There seems to be no trace of its inclusion in any penal 
code in later years, though it was stated that many victims 
of the sixteenth-century persecutions in Piedmont met their 
deaths in this way. A somewhat analogous method in 
vogue during the reign of Francis I was the estrapade, in 


which the criminal was allowed to fall from a height in such 
a manner as to break his limbs. 

The terrible torture so often associated with this mode 
ot execution was in the suffering which was endured before 
death came. The victim, with broken limbs, lay helpless 
until he literally starved to death. It has been stated that 
many such victims " actually devoured the flesh of their 
arms in the agonies of hunger and despair."^ In 1655, Pietro 
Simond of Angrogno, with his neck and heels tied together, 
on being hurled from a precipice, was caught in a tree and 
hung there until he died of starvation. 

* J. G. Millingen, Curiosities of Medical Experience, 1837, p. 100. 



Flogging Implements and Methods of the Middle Ages 

There is no form of punishment older than flagellation/ 
and although, in many instances, it cannot be held to rank 
as torture, there is always a risk where the whip is recognized 
as a method of inflicting judicial punishment, that it may 
develop into a species of torture, and that private individuals, 
taking the law into their own hands, may use the whip to 
such an extent that it is a danger to life. This may occur 
in many ways. It may, through the remarkable severity of 
the blows, the nature of the instrument used, the prolonged 
period of punishment, or the condition of the culprit at the 
time the whipping is administered, cause injury or death. 

At one time or another many types of whips, rods and 
cudgels have been employed. Cart-whips; single-thonged 
whips; knotted cords; the terrible Russian k.nut', the equally 
terrible English cat-o'-nine-tails; whips loaded with balls of 
metals, hooks, etc.; birch rods; the agonizing bastinado of 
the Eastern nations; and, if history does not lie, metal rods 
brought to a white heat and used as bludgeons. 

So universal was the practice of whipping, and so many 
are the instances of its infliction on record, that to deal with 
the subject with any pretensions to thoroughness would 
require a whole book in itself. Moreover as I have written 
a volume dealing exclusively and specifically with the sub- 
ject,^ I do not propose in this chapter to do more than present 
examples of the more characteristic forms of torture adminis- 
tered with the whip in different countries and for various 

Flagellation was, in the early days, a method of correction 

^ For an examination of the use of the whip by the ancient Greeks and 
Romans see Chapter VIII. 

* Sec my work The History of Corporal Punishment: A Survey of 
Flagellation in its Historical, Anthropological and Socielogical Aspects, 
Werner Laurie. 1938. 



greatly favoured by the ecclesiastical authorities. It was 
adopted for the most widely dissimilar offences. There was 
the case of the pseudo-hermaphroditic girl, who, for mas- 
querading as a male and marrying, was handed over to the 
Inquisition and sentenced to 200 lashes.^ There was Law- 
rence Castro, a goldsmith of Zaragoza, " condemned to be 
whipt through the publick streets, to be mark'd afterwards 
on the shoulders with a branding iron, and to be sent for ever 
to the gallies."^ Occasionally the inquisitors used the whip 
as a means of inducing the wealthy to hand over their money 
and goods. Gavin tells of a Jew named Francisco Alfaro, 
who was incarcerated, relieved of his riches, and punished 
by the Inquisition of Seville. He was then allowed to recom- 
mence his trading and four years later, having accumulated 
" more riches," he was " put again into the Holy Office, 
with the loss of his goods and money." 

In England, there was the scourging of Thomas Green 
and of John Fetty's son. The Church, when it decided to 
punish what it was pleased to term heresy, respected neither 
age nor sex. 

" The priest took the child by the hand and carried 
him into the bishop's house, and there amongst them 
they did most shamefully and without all mercy so whip 
and scourge, being naked, this tender child, that he was 
all in a gore of blood, and then in jolly bragg of their 
Catholick tyranny, they caused Cluny, having his coat 
upon his arm, to carry the child in his shirt unto his 
father being in prison, the blood running down his 

In the second decade of the nineteenth century, when 
the Protestants living in the South of France were subjected 
to the persecutions of the Catholics, beating was extremely 
popular as a means of punishment for the females. The 
instrument used was not a whip but a battledore (battoir), 
and to increase the suffering of the victims, nails were driven 
through the wood so that their sharp points protruded from 
the surface, fetching blood at every blow. The skirts and 

^ H. C. Lea, A History of the Inquisition of Spain, Vol. IV, p. i88. 
' D. Antonio Gavin, A Master-Key to Popery, 1725, p. 204. 
* Fox's Boo\ of Martyrs, 1732, p. 859. 


petticoats of the women were turned up over their bent 
heads, and nail-studded battoirs were applied to the exposed 
posteriors until the " blood streamed from the women's 
bodies and their screams rent the air." They spared neither 
old nor young, they even chastised several who were preg- 
nant. One woman, named Frangoise, was stripped naked, 
seated backwards on a donkey, with one of her hands fas- 
tened to its tail, flogged and pelted with mud. Another, 
Madame Pic, was carried to a hospital in a barrow, and took 
two hours to recover from the injuries she had received. 
Many died. Many were permanently injured. 

" I have seen," says M. Durand, a Catholic advocate, 
" the assassins in the faubourg Bourgade arm a battoir 
with sharp nails in the form of a fleur-de-lis; I have seen 
them raise the garments of females and apply with heavy 
blows to the bleeding body this battoir to which they 
gave a name which my pen refuses to inscribe. The cries 
of the sufferers — the streams of blood — the murmurs of 
indignation, which were suppressed by fear — nothing 
could move them. The surgeons who attended on those 
who are dead, can attest by the marks of their wounds, 
and the agonies which they endured, that this account, 
however horrible, is most strictly true."^ 

Of all the punishments which the Inquisition inflicted 
in the name of God, for sheer long-continued cruelty, 
nothing ever rivalled the treatment of the galley-slaves, who 
were flogged very nearly every day during the period they 
laboured at the oars. And these periods were sometimes 
five, or six, or eight years; rarely were they fewer than four. 
Where the Inquisitions did not impose the death penalty, 
they very often sentenced their prisoners to the galleys. It 
was a fate worse than death. For, as everyone knew, it 
meant a life of the most terrible hardship man could possibly 
endure and yet continue to live; it almost inevitably entailed 
death long before the sentence was completed. It meant, in 
the majority of instances, that the victim was gradually 
whipped to death. 

^ Mark Wilks, History of the Persecutions Endured by the Protestants 
of the South of France 181^-1816, London, 1821, VoL I, p. 250. 


Thus few ever survived the terrible ordeal. Of these few, 
one managed to put upon paper an account of the awful 
sufferings under the whip which the galley-slave was called 
upon to endure. This man was condemned to thirteen years' 
service as a galley-slave. 

" Imagine," he says, " six men chained to their seats, 
naked as when born, sitting with one foot on a block of 
timber fixed to the footstool or stretcher; the other lifted 
up against the bench before them, holding in their hands 
an oar of an enormous size. Imagine them lengthening 
their bodies, their arms stretched out to push the oar over 
the backs of those before them; who are also themselves 
in a similar attitude. Having thus advanced their oar, 
they raise that end which they hold in their hands, to 
plunge the opposite in the sea; which done, they throw 

themselves back upon their benches below, which are 
somewhat hollowed to receive them. None, in short, but 
those who have seen them labour, can conceive how 
much they endure."^ 

This terrific labour was continued for ten, twelve and, 
on occasion, twenty hours at a stretch, the slaves stopping 
for nothing, not even in response to the calls of nature, not 
even to eat or drink, food being pushed into their mouths 
while they toiled at the oars. All the time, the lashing of 
the guards' whips continued, the bodies of the rowers 
streaming blood. No free man, says the writer of this 
horrifying account, could continue at an oar for a single 
hour. Under the spurs of cruelty and necessity man can 
perform almost superhuman tasks — for a time. And when 
flesh and blood could endure the strain no longer and the 
slave swooned in his seat (a very frequent occurrence) he was 
whipped mercilessly as long as his tortured body showed the 
faintest sign of life. 

In addition to this daily flogging of the slaves at their 
work, the slightest insubordination or the most trivial offence 
was punished by whipping. 

^ The Memoirs of a Protestant condemned to the Galleys of France for 
his Religion, written by Himself. Translated by James Willington, Dublin, 
1765, Vol. I, p. 59. 


" The criminal is stript from the waist upward. He 
is extended with his face downward, his arms upon one 
bench and his legs upon the opposite, which are held by 
two slaves that stand opposite each other. The execu- 
tioner, who is generally a Turkish slave, stands over him 
with a rope in his hand, with which he is to beat the 
criminal without the least mercy; for if he happens to be 
remiss, which is seldom the case, the sous comite uses 
him as he should have used the criminal. Thus then 
every stroke is laid on with the executioner's whole force, 
so that each blow raises a whelk as thick as one's thumb. 
Few that are condemned to suffer this punishment can 
sustain above ten or twelve blows without fainting. This, 
however, does not prevent the executioner from proceed- 
ing. He continues to lay on the miserable and seemingly 
lifeless carcase, till the number of blows ordered by the 
major are completed. Twenty or thirty are generally 
inflicted for slight offences. I have seen 50, 80, even an 
100 ordered; but then those who are thus punished 
seldom recover. When the allotted number of stripes 
are given, the surgeon barber of the galley rubs the 
criminal's back with salt and vinegar; which, though it 
may prevent a gangrene, yet renews all the poignancy of 
his former anguish."^ 

The Jamaica Cart-whip 

The whip used in. Jamaica — a terrible weapon — was 
typical of that employed in most places where there was 
slave labour. It was a cart-whip, with a lash four or five 
yards long, tapering from a thickness of two and a half 
inches at the point where it was fixed to a two-foot handle, 
to the thinness of stout cord at its extremity. In a speech 
delivered to the Jamaica Assembly in 1826, Mr. Barrett said : 

" I do not hesitate to declare that the cart- whip is a cruel, 
debasing instrument of torture, a horrible, detestable 
instrument, when used for the punishment of slaves. I 
do say that 39 lashes with this horrid instrument can be 

» Ibid., Vol. I, p. 55. 



P z 
I § 


Interior view (showing spikes). 

Front view (closed). 

From Archaeologia, 1838. 


made more grievous than 500 lashes with the ' cat.' "^ 

The cart-whip was by no means the only flagellating 
instrument employed. There was a method o£ fustigation 
in which switches, made of the wiry, thorny branches of the 
ebony plant, were used. Then again it was a common 
practice in Jamaica to administer a sound flogging with a 
tamarind switch, after the 39 lashes with the cart-whip had 
been given. This practice was even justified on the ground 
that it " beat out the bruised blood." The tamarind switch, 
by the way, was a sort of cane or rod, thin, flexible and of 
the tenacity and hardness of wire. In a strong hand it made 
an instrument of flagellation almost equal to the ebony 
switch. In gaols, said Mr. J. B. Wildman, in his evidence 
before the Select Committee on Slavery, negroes were 
" bowsed " for the purpose of flogging, that is, they were 
roped at wrists and angles, and, in seafaring terminology, 
" bowsed out " with a tackle and pulleys. Even women and 
girls were flogged in this way in the workhouses. The 
following account, culled from contemporary records, tells 
its own story : 

" A female, apparently about 22 years of age, was 
then laid down, with her face downwards; her wrists 
were secured by cords run into nooses; her ankles were 
brought together and placed in another noose; the cord 
composing this last one, passed through a block, con- 
nected with a post. The cord was tightened, and the 
young woman was then stretched to her utmost length. 
A female then advanced, and raised her clothes towards 
her head, leaving the person indecently exposed. The 
boatswain of the workhouse, a tall athletic man, flour- 
ished his whip four or five times round his head, arj.d 

^ According to clause 37 of an Act passed by the Jamaica legislature in 
the same year that Mr. Barrett made his notable indictment, it was made 
an offence, incurring a minimum penalty of ^^lo, for any driver to 
administer more than ten lashes at one time and for any offence; or for 
any owner, overseer, or gaol keeper to administer more than 39 lashes in 
similar circumstances. How far these regulations were carried out it is 
impossible to say, but as the prescribed number of lashes could be given 
for each offence, it was easy for a driver or an owner with a penchant for 
cruelty, to trump up charges which would constitute grounds for repetitive 
floggings of the same slave. 



proceeded with the punishment. The instrument of 
punishment was a cat, formed of knotted cords. The 
blood sprang from the wounds it inflicted. The poor 
creature shrieked in agony. . . . Four other delinquents 
were successively treated in the same way. One was a 
woman, about 36 years of age, another, a girl of 15, 
another, a boy of the same age, and lastly, an old woman 
about 60, who really appeared scarcely to have strength 
to express her agonies by cries. The boy of 15, as our 
informant subsequently ascertained, was the son of the 
woman of 36. She was indecently exposed, and cruelly 
flogged, in the presence of her son! and then had the 
additional pain to see him also exposed, and made to 
writhe under the lash."^ 

The Technique in Mauritius 

In the East Indian island of Mauritius two different 
methods appear to have been in general use. In one method, 
a triangular frame, something similar to the arrangement 
common in English convict prisons, was erected, and the 
offender was tied by the wrists to the point where the three 
poles crossed, while the body rested against a cross-bar. In 
the other method, a ladder was laid flat on the ground, and 
the culprit compelled to lie prone on the ladder, to which 
his hands and feet vvere securely tied with cords. In some 
cases, where the ladder was dispensed with, he was pinioned 
to the ground by main force, a slave holding each limb 
firmly. But whatever the position adopted, the severity of 
the flogging was the same. A driver armed with a cart-whip 
or a rattan (in some cases two drivers acted as executioners, 
one on each side of the culprit) flogged the bared back and 
buttocks until the master considered that sufficient punish- 
ment had been inflicted. If the driver failed to do his duty 
to the master's satisfaction, he was doomed to receive a taste 
of the medicine he was administering. 

Whips of various sizes and types were used. The one 
usually employed had a wooden handle of two or three feet 
in length and about two inches in diameter, attached to a 
lash from two to three yards in length, tapering from its 

* Jamaica Christian Record, 1830, p. 13a. 


thickest part, which was at the point of attachment to the 
handle. The rattan consisted of a cane measuring some five 
feet in length, which for a distance of three feet from the 
end was split into three parts, the solid section forming the 
handle. The result was a powerful three-tailed " cat," which 
was capable of cutting the flesh into ribbons. It was a debat- 
able point which of these two terrible instruments of flagella- 
tion was the more punishing. Some held that the whip was 
the more excoriating weapon; others were in favour of the 
rattan. The truth is that both, in the hands of a powerful 
man, were capable of inflicting severe punishment, making 
incisions at every stroke, sending blood and shreds of flesh 
flying in all directions. Soldiers who witnessed these whip- 
pings stated that the military floggings in England and else- 
where, in which the "cat" was used, were nothing in 

The absence of government regulations enabled the 
owners or managers not only to whip their slaves on any 
pretext or occasion, but also to continue a flogging as long as 
they deemed fit. Rarely were fewer than 50 lashes given. 
A more usual sentence was a hundred. Often more than 
one hundred strokes were given. The flogging over, the 
torture was intensified by rubbing into the bloody wounds, 
salt, pepper, lime-juice, or other irritating substances, on the 
ground that this was necessary to prevent festering. 

The following account, given by an eye-witness, of the 
flogging of two slaves, is a typical description of what was 
happening every day. 

" They were placed flat on their bellies, extended on a 
wooden beam, to which they were fastened, while two 
men held their hands and two their legs, and a driver, 
who struck alternately, was placed on each side of the 
sufferer. The whips employed were unusually heavy, 
and 120 lashes were inflicted on each. On the following 
Wednesday, having occasion to go to the room used as 
an hospital, he saw laid out the dead bodies of the same 
two slaves. The wounds were putrid, and sent forth a 
rank smell ; and he afterwards saw them both carried out, 
tied up in mats, to the burial ground."^ 

* Anti-Slavery Monthly Reporter, 1829, p. 3S1. 


In the United States, the cart-whip was used on most 
plantations. The tell-tale marks which it left, however, led 
to the invention of the " paddle " — a thin flat piece of wood, 
punctured with small holes, and attached to a long flexible 
handle. With this implement the most rigorous punishment 
could be inflicted without leaving anything in the way of 
evidence which could not vanish in a day or two. It was woe 
betide the slave that fell into the clutches of a plantation on 
which the " paddle " was used. 

In the prisons, too, the niggers were whipped and mal- 
treated on the slightest pretext. Witness the revelations con- 
tained in the letter addressed by Dr. Howe to the Hon. 
Charles Sumner : 

" If Howard or Mrs. Fry ever discovered so ill- 
administered a den of thieves as the New Orleans prison, 
they never described it. In the negroes' apartment I saw 
much which made me blush that I was a white man, and 
which for a moment stirred up an evil spirit in my animal 
nature. Entering a large paved courtyard, around which 
ran galleries filled with slaves of all ages, sexes, and 
colours, I heard the snap of a whip, every stroke of which 
sounded like the sharp crack of a pistol. I turned my 
head, and beheld a sight which absolutely chilled me to 
the marrow of my bones, and gave me, for the first time 
in my life, the sensation of my hair stiffening at the roots. 
There lay a black girl flat upon her face, on a board, her 
two thumbs tied, and fastened to one end, her feet 
tied and drawn tightly to the other end, while a strap 
passed over the small of her back, and, fastened around 
the board, compressed her closely to it. Below the strap 
she was entirely naked. By her side, and six feet off, 
stood a huge negro, with a long whip, which he applied 
with dreadful power and wonderful precision. Every 
stroke brought away a strip of skin, which clung to the 
lash, or fell quivering on the pavement, while the blood 
followed after it. The poor creature writhed and 
shrieked, and, in a voice which showed alike her fear of 
death and her dreadful agony, screamed to her master, 
who stood at her head, * Oh, spare my life ! don't cut 
my soul out! ' But still fell the horrid lash; still strip 


after strip peeled off from the skin; gash after gash was 
cut in her Uving flesh, until it became a livid and bloody 
mass of raw and quivering muscle."^ 

England's Cat-o' -nine-tails 

Since flogging was authorized by the Mutiny Act of 1689, 
as a mode of punishment in the British Army, it was for two 
hundred years considered to be the best means of keeping 

The cat-o'-nine-tails was the chosen flagellating instru- 
ment. It consisted of nine separate thongs of whipcord. In 
those early days, each thong was knotted in three places.^ 
These thongs, brought down upon the naked flesh of the 
culprit, cut through the skin as if it were paper, the knots 
tearing out great lumps of flesh. The sensation which the 
culprit experienced, says Shipp, was " as though the talons of 
a hawk were tearing the flesh off the bones. "^ At the finish 
of the operation, the ground around the whipped individual 
was splashed with blood; tlie executioner looked for all the 
world as if he had just come out of a slaughter-house. 

At the close of the eighteenth century a court martial had 
the power to order anything up to 1,000 lashes. Sentences 
of 500, 600 and 800 strokes were common, and were given 
for offences which were far from serious. Moreover, the 
manner in which the sentences were executed often increased 
the torture. Thus, in some regiments, it was customary for 
the flogging to be carried out in time with the tapping of 
a drum, the interval between each tap depending upon the 
instructions given to the drummer. By allowing an extended 
interval, it was possible to increase considerably the extent of 
the torture endured by the victim. Again, the weaker the 
individual, the more he suffered. It was usual, in any case 
where the victim could stand no further suffering, to 
finish the sentence at some other time. For instance, if the 
culprit succumbed at the end of 250 lashes, he was removed 
to his cell or to hospital until his wounds were wholly or 

^ Quoted by Harriet Beechcr Stowe in A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin. 

* The " cat " used for penal floggings in England to-day has nine taih 
made of whipcord, but they arc not knotted. The ends arc " whipped " 
with silk thread to prevent fraying. 

* John Shipp, Flogging and its Substitute, London, 1831. 


parually healed, and then brought back to the triangle to 
receive the remainder of the sentence. Where the sentence 
was 800 or 1 ,000 lashes, it was often completed in three or 
four instalments. Now the greatest agony and suffering were 
experienced during the course of the first 200 strokes; after 
300 or so, the flesh became numbed and one might as well 
have been lashing a dead body. Thus it was far better in 
every way for a culprit to have the whole of the prescribed 
number of lashes administered in one dose. The man with 
a weak constitution suffered far more than one blessed with 
great strength. For not only had he to suffer the intolerable 
agony of these first 200 lashes, on three or four separate occa- 
sions, but he had also to suffer the awful mental torture of 
knowing that the ordeal must be faced again. It was not 
until the early part of the nineteenth century that this bar- 
barous practice was abandoned. 

The trivial nature of the offences for which these flog- 
gings were inflicted is indicated in the following case, 
reported in the pages of T ait's Edinburgh Magazine (1833) : 

" A soldier of the First Regiment of Grenadier 
Guards, of which regiment the Duke of Wellington is 
Colonel, having been convicted of insubordination, 
intoxication on duty, and of refusal to deliver up his 
arms when ordered by his officer, was sentenced to 
receive 500 lashes. After receiving 200 lashes, the surgeon 
of the regiment interfered, and put a stop to the brutal 
punishment, in consequence of the life of the soldier 
being in danger. The soldier was then removed to the 
military hospital in a hackney coach, his back being 
dreadfully lacerated. As a sort of refinement in cruelty, 
and to increase the severity of a punishment which could 
not be inflicted to the full extent without depriving the 
unfortunate culprit of his life, a fresh hand was procured 
at every 20 lashes." 

Often death followed these floggings. Sir Samuel 
Romilly mentions a soldier being flogged at Gibraltar, for 
being dirty on parade, with such severity that he died a few 
days later ;^ Sir Charles Napier tells of two soldiers flogged 

* Memoirs, 1840, VcA.. H, p. 262. 


at Corfu in 1819, both of whom died;^ and Somerville, who 
himself suffered one hundred lashes for a trivial offence, 
gives the case of Frederick White, of the 7th Hussars, who, 
in 1846, according to the findings of a coroner's jury, died 
from the effects of corporal punishment.^ His crime, 
deemed to merit such severe treatment, was " being drunk.'" 
In the Navy, corporal punishment was administered for 
similar trivial offences, and with the same frecness, but the 
method was a different one. The " cat " in use was not 
made of whipcord. It was fashioned out of a piece of rope, 
some five feet in length all told. The rope was the thickness 
of a man's wrist, and for three feet of its length was solid, 
while the remaining two feet was ravelled, each section being 
twisted to make a hard thong, and knotted at various points 
along its length. In some cases a wooden handle was affixed, 
in others the solid part of the rope served this purpose. 

" But," says a contemporary writer, " whether of rope 
or wood, upon the length of this handle depends the 
severity of the stroke. In the Army, too," further 
observes this authority, " the drummer who flogs stands 
on one spot, and delivers the lash without moving his 
position, his arm alone giving force to the blow; but in 
the Navy, the boatswain's mate, who has this duty to 
perform, stands full two strides from the delinquent; he 
* combs out the cat,' as it is termed, by running his fingers 
through the strands, and separating them from each 
other, after every lash; then waving it over his head, he 
makes a step forward, and, v^th an inflexion of his body 
that gives his whole strength to the operation, delivers 
the stroke at the full sweep of his arm. 'Tis a severe 
punishment thus; and I do not think any man could 
stand nine dozen as I have seen it 'laid in.' An un- 

* Remarks on Military Law, 1837, p. 151. 

' Autobiography of a Wording Man, 1848, p. 299. 

* The opposition of Sir Charles Napier, Sir Francis Burdctt, Lord 
Hutchinson and others, though it did not result in the aboHtion of the 
" cat," led to a reduction in the severity of the sentences. But flogging 
still remained a species of torture. At the time when Lord Roberts joined 
the service, the number of lashes which could be inflicted had been reduced 
to fifty, but " even under this restriction, the sight was," he states, " a 
horrible one to witness." {Fifty-one Years in India, London, 1898, Vol. I, 
p. 25.) 


hallowed torture it is — bad as the rack of bygone times; 
and to the man that deserved such a punishment, hang- 
ing would be a more merciful dispensation."^ 

The sentences, considering the nature of the offences for 
which they were imposed, were often frightful in their 
intensity. For instance, in the account of a sea-voyage, we 
learn that on August 13, 1787, a private in the marines, 
Cornelius Connell, was punished with 100 lashes for im- 
proper intercourse with a female convict; and on August 
31st James Baker, also a private marine, was given 200 lashes 
for "endeavouring to get passed, on shore, by means of one 
of the seamen, a spurious dollar, knowing it to be so-"^ 

Cart's Tail and Other Penal Floggings 

Flogging as a punishment for offences against society was 
prescribed in the laws of Moses, the maximum penalty being 
forty strokes. It was used through the centuries in practic- 
ally every country, though the Romans and Greeks, as we 
have seen, looked upon punitive flagellation as a disgrace 
and restricted it to slaves. 

In China and Japan the bastinado, in Russia the terrible 
\nuty^ and later the three-tailed plet, were in regular use. 
In England, in the reign of Henry VIII, a specific Act 
prescribed whipping at the cart's tail till the culprit is 
bloody, as the punishment for vagrancy and other offences. 
Not always, however, were the criminals whipped at the 
cart's tail. For less serious offences, such as drinking on a 
Sunday, drunkenness, suffering from smallpox, giving 
birth to illegitimate children, etc., the punishment was in- 
flicted at a whipping-post. These whipping-posts were 
erected all up and down the country. Stow says there 
was one in Cheapside, "called the Post of Reformation, 
near the Standard there. In the year 1556, here was a man 
whipt, for selling of false rings."* The same authority 
says that since Edward III, for theft, the criminal was 

* Frazer's Magazine, May 1836, p. 542. 

' John White, Journal of a Voyage to New South Wales, 1790, p. 50. 

* The use of the \nut was discontinued in 1845. 

* John Stow, A Survey of London, 1720. 


" tied by the hands to the tail of a cart, stripped naked to 
the waist, whether man or woman, and lashed with i 
whip of four, five or six cords knotted." 

Among outstanding instances of penal flogging was the 
case of Titus Oates, who, in 1685, was sentenced to be 
pilloried and afterwards whipped from Aldgate to New- 
gate, and in two days' time from Newgate to Tyburn; 
which, as the judges well knew, was equivalent to sen- 
tencing the man to be flogged to death. That Oates sur- 
vived the frightful torture was due to his enormous physical 
strength and iron constitution, and not to the clemency of 
the court or the mercy of the executioner. The following 
description is from the pen of Macaulay: 

" On the day on which Oates was pilloried in 
Palace-yard, he was mercilessly pelted and ran some 
risk of being pulled to pieces. But in the City his 
partisans mustered in great force, raised a riot and up- 
set the pillory. They were, however, unable to rescue 
their favourite. . . . On the following morning he 
was brought forth to undergo his first flogging. At an 
early hour an innumerable multitude filled all the 
streets from Aldgate to the Old Bailey. The hangman 
laid on the lash with such unusual severity as showed 
that he had received special instructions. The blood 
ran down in rivulets. For a time the criminal showed 
a strange constancy : but at last his stubborn fortitude 
gave way. His bellowings were frightful to hear. He 
swooned several times, but the scourge continued to 
descend. When he was unbound, it seemed that he 
had borne as much as the human frame can bear with- 
out dissolution. James was entreated to remit his 
second flogging. His answer was short and clear: 
* He shall go through with it, if he has breath in his 
body.' An attempt was made to obtain the Queen's 
intercession; but she indignantly refused to say a word 
in favour of such a wretch. After an interval of 48 
hours, Oates was again brought out of his dungeon. 
He was unable to stand, and it was necessary to drag 
him to Tyburn on a sledge. He seemed quite insen- 
sible; and the Tories reported that he had stupefied 


himself with strong drink. A person who counted the 
stripes on the second day said that there were 1,700."^ 

The terrible nature of such a flogging is indicated by 
the fact that when a similar sentence was inflicted upon 
Dangerfield, the victim had to be carried to Newgate in a 
dying condition. 

In the early part of the nineteenth century, the scenes of 
the most heartless floggings, so far as the British Empire 
was concerned, shifted from the prisons and bridewells of 
England, to the penal settlements of Australia. The ex- 
hibitions of cruelty in the Barrack Square of Sydney were 
frightful in their intensity. And on Norfolk Island, the 
most notorious spot of all, convicts were lashed into un- 
consciousness for the most trifling of offences. Sentences 
of 100 and 200 lashes were everyday occurrences. 

" I was once present," says Therry, *' in the police- 
office in Sydney when a convict was sentenced to 50 
lashes for not taking off his hat to a magistrate as he 
met him on the road.'" 

In the report presented to the House of Commons con- 
cerning the infliction of punishment upon the convicts of 
New South Wales, the following revealing extracts, from 
the books of the Parramatta gaol, are given. The various 
orders signify the comparative triviality of the offences in 
relation to the severity of the sentences. 

" March 31, 1823. Henry Bayne, attached to the 
Domain party, sentenced to receive 25 lashes every 
morning, until he tells where the money and property 
is, stolen from the house of William Jaynes, at Parra- 
matta, by him." 

" April 26, 1823. Richard Johnson, attached to the 
government dairy, sentenced to receive 25 lashes every 
morning, until he tells where he got a pair of blue 

' Macaulay, History of England. 

* R. Therry, Reminiscences of Thirty Years' Residence in New South 
Wales and Victoria, London, 1863, p. 43. 


trousers from, being part of a robbery committed at 
the garden house, on the government domain, Parra- 

In consequence of this punishment, Johnson accused 
another convict named John Wright of the robbery, and 
Wright was given the same punishment. Evidently the 
authorities were determined to flog the thief, whoever he 
was. Then, on April 5th, we find that John M'Clutchy 
was sentenced to 25 lashes every morning " until he 
tells who has harboured him during the fourteen days he 
has been absent from the gang "; that Charles Watson, for 
stealing three shirts, got 25 lashes, with a promise of 
another 50 lashes if he did not give information leading to 
the recovery of the stolen property. On April 24, 1822, 
for gambling, James Blackburn was sentenced to 25 
lashes every morning until he disclosed the identity of his 
co-gamblers; on July ist, John Downes and Hugh Carroll 
were sentenced to 25 lashes every second day till they told 
where they had hidden the money they were accused of 
stealing; and on October 4th, for theft, Thomas Smith 
was " to receive 25 lashes every second morning until he 
produced the property " and if after 100 lashes he failed to 
do this he was to be sent to Port M'Quarie to finish his 

Let us shift the scene to the convict prisons of the United 
States. Al Jennings, train-robber and gunman, incarcerated 
in the Ohio State Penitentiary in the latter half of the nine- 
teenth century, tells of prisoners being " whipped into bleed- 
ing insensibility " with razor-edged " paddles." In the North 
Carolina convict camps, says W. D. Saunders, writing in 
Survey (May 15, 1915), the prisoners were " whipped with 
a leather strap " to such an extent that they would carry the 
marks on their backs for the rest of their lives.^ There were 
several deaths due to the severity of these floggings. As 
recently as 1925 "a prisoner died under the blows of the 
guard who was beating him."^ In Georgia, according to the 
testimony of witnesses at an official investigation, a sixteen 

^ Quoted in Prison Reform, New York, 1917, p. 232. 
* Jesse F. Steiner and Roy M. Brown, The North Carolina Chain Gang, 
University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1927, p. 8q. 


year old white boy named " Abe " Winn, for the crime of 
spilHng hot coffee on the backs of pigs owned by one of the 
guards, was hcked with a " sanded " leather thong to such 
a degree that he died in the hospital.^ 

Whipping is not now a prescribed punishment in the 
United States at common law.^ There are indications that 
it is used surreptitiously, bulking largely in " third degree " 
methods, a piece of rubber hose often being the instrument 

Private and Sadistic Floggings 

There can be little doubt that from the earliest days 
there has always been a considerable amount of flagellation 
administered privately and unconnected in any way with 
official, authoritative or penal activities. It is quite impos- 
sible to arrive at the foggiest estimate of the extent of such 
practices. The slaves in all countries and at all times were 
privately flogged to an extent far greater than they were 
flogged with the knowledge and authority of the courts. 
Prisoners in all countries and in all ages have doubtless been 
flogged on many occasions that have never been divulged in 
the prison reports. And even more so, private individuals, 
when opportunity has offered, have flogged children and 
servants in their employ, and enemies who have fallen into 
their power. The motive may have been an attempt to 
extort information, vengeance, sheer cruelty, or sadism. 

An example of the first of these motives was the whip- 
ping to death of Richard Hawkins by John Mills and his 
gang. They charged Hawkins with being concerned in a 
robbery, and demanded to know what he had done with the 
stolen goods, threatening to whip him to death if he did not 
confess. As Hawkins continued to deny having had any- 
thing to do with the affair, they compelled him to strip to 

^ Quoted in Prison Reform, from an article by A. C. Newell in World's 
Wor\, October 1908. 

' Some few States still retain whipping as a punishment for certain 
offences, but cases where the law is put into operation arc few. In Dela- 
ware, at the model workhouse of Wilmington, as recently as 1938, three 
paupers were flogged with a cat-o'-nine-tails for theft (see Daily Mirror, 
January 10, 1938); and in Baltimore the offence of wife-beating is still 
punished by flogging. 


the waist and then began to lash him over the back, face and 
arms. He begged them to spare his hfe, but ignoring his 
every entreaty, they continued the terrible torture, whipping 
him over the legs and belly, and even on the private parts. 
At length Mills and Curtis went to fetch Hawkins's father 
and brother, who, they thought, from some remarks made 
by their victim, knew something about the whereabouts of 
the stolen tea. Hawkins, who had been left in charge of a 
man named Robb, expired before they returned. Mills 
was eventually charged with the murder and executed on 
August 12, 1749. 

For sheer lust of cruelty few cases in history can equal or 
excel the long series of tortures instigated by Elizabeth 
Brownrigg, culminating in her execution at Tyburn on 
September 14, 1767. The female monster who, before her 
marriage to James Brownrigg, a London plumber, was a 
domestic servant, was herself the mother of sixteen children. 
She began practising as a professional midwife, running a 
sort of private hospital for pregnant women, in connexion 
with which she employed a succession of orphan girls as 
servants. There soon, however, began to gather queer 
rumours in connexion with Mrs. Brownrigg and her lying- 
in hospital, and there were whispers that the young girls she 
employed were treated in a manner which, even for those 
days, was shocking and revolting. It was in consequence of 
the death of one of these girls at St. Bartholomew's Hospital 
that a coroner's jury returned a verdict of wilful murder 
against James and Elizabeth Brownrigg and their son John. 
According to the evidence given by girls in the service of 
Mrs. Brownrigg, it was a common practice for her to lay 
down upon the kitchen floor a couple of chairs so that one 
supported the other, and then, aided by her husband, she 
fastened her victim, previously stripped naked, upon the 
backs of these chairs, and whipped her from the shoulders 
to the buttocks until, from sheer exhaustion, she was com- 
pelled to desist. On other occasions, Brownrigg fastened the 
girl's hands together, attached a rope to them which she 
slung over a strong hook in the ceiling, and then hoisted her 
victim, naked as the day of her birth, so that she svmng at 
the end of the rope. In this position, sometimes with, a horse- 
whip, sometimes with a cane, and sometimes with a broom, 


she lashed or beat at the naked body until the blood gushed 
from the wounds. The apothecary who attended to Mary 
CHflord's lacerated body stated that the tears were of such 
severity that they appeared "as if cut with a knife; that 
scarce any part of her body was free from them, that her 
head and face were badly injured; and further that, through 
lack of proper attention and dressing, mortification had set 

Jane Buttersworth beaten to death 

On May 3, 1740, Mrs. EUzabeth Branch and her daughter 
Mary, were executed for the murder of Jane Buttersworth. 
According to the evidence given at Taunton Assizes, where 
the case was tried, the woman Branch, after accusing her 
servant Buttersworth of telling lies, knocked her down. 
Mother and daughter then beat the girl with broomsticks 
until she was senseless. She died soon afterwards. 

Sadistic flogging occupies its own special niche in the 
history of flagellation. Every sexologist knows of cases 
where sexual excitation or satisfaction is secured by whipping 
human beings and animals. In the continental, South 
American, and Eastern brothels, special facilities are pro- 
vided for wealthy perverts of this type. There are, too, those 


who secure sexual exhilaration or gratification from the mere 
sight of a person being flogged. 

" The minions of Henri III of France, and other princes," 
says Millingen, " were decked in white robes, then stripped, 
and whipped in procession for the gratification of their royal 
masters."^ The privileged visitors to the bridewells, when 
boys and girls were birched on the bare buttocks, secured, 
we are told, ecstasy from the sight. 

"A public flogging," said Bernard Shaw, "will 
always draw a crowd; and there will be in that crowd 
plenty of manifestations of a horrible passional ecstasy 
in the spectacle of laceration and suffering from which 
even the most self-restrained and secretive person who 
can prevail on himself to be present will not be wholly 

* J. G. Millingen, Curiosities of Medical Experience, 1837. 
■ The Saturday Review, August 28, 1897, p. 224. 




Where the death penalty was not inflicted, mutilation in 
some form or other, and in nearly all countries, at one time 
was a favourite method of punishment. Among savage races 
it took a variety of forms, notably cutting out the tongue, 
the eyes, and perhaps most frequent of all, castration. 

The incidence of castration is, however, partly explain- 
able in the fact that races which rarely or never practised 
mutilation for penal purposes, castrated criminals and 
prisoners, in some cases as a religious ceremony analogous 
to the Jewish rite of circumcision, and in other instances for 
sociological and sexual purposes. Thus the cutting away of 
the genitals was considered to constitute a sacrifice of the first 
rank. Eunuchs could be sold as guards for harems, or for 
service in brothels specializing in sexual perversion. Slaves 
and criminals were castrated in huge quantities to supply the 

The torture associated with castration is of two kinds. In 
the first place, there is the intense agony and great danger 
to life^ which are inseparable from the operation performed 
in the crude manner customary among savage and primitive 
tribes (often involving complete ablation of the exterior 
genitals), where aseptic surgery is unknown and anaesthetics 
are not employed. In the second place there is the psycho- 
logical torture which cannot ever be effaced in the case of 
any man who is castrated against his will; so that where he 
succeeds in overcoming the physical dangers and suffering, 

'' According to Remondino {History of Circumcision, Philadelphia, 
1891), to provide the 3,800 eunuchs which at one time formed the annual 
quota of Soudan, at least 35,000 Africans were operated upon. 



he continues to suffer mentally as long as life lasts.* 
In Egypt, says Alexander : 

" The chastity of virgins was protected by a law of the 
severest nature; he who committed a rape on a free 
woman, had his privities cut off, that it might be out 
of his power ever to perpetrate the like crime, and that 
others might be terrified by so dreadful a punishment.'" 

As the centuries went by, in civilized countries, castration 
was rarely employed officially or openly as a form of punish- 
ment, or as judicial torture. It has often been employed 
surreptitiously, by mobs taking the law into their own 
hands (especially in relation to sexual offences), and by 
individuals for the purpose of exacting private vengeance. 
It is occasionally employed for this purpose even to-day. 

But if castration has been rare, other forms of mutilation 
have, at one time or another, loomed large in the penal code 
of every European State. The technique adopted was very 
nearly as crude as the surgical operations performed by the 
savages; a fact which added to the suffering of and risk run 
by the victims. 

Of the Turks in the sixteenth century we read in 
Grafton's Chronicles (1809), that, on entering Austria, they 

"committed such crueltie and tyranny, as never hath 
bene heard nor written, for of some they put out the eyes, 
of others they cut off the noses and eares, of others they 
cut off the privie members, of women they cut off the 
pappes, and ravished virgins, and of women great with 
childe, they cut their bellies and burnt the children." 

For many offences it was an English custom to consign 
the culprit to the pillory, and inflict upon him some form of 
mutilation. The methods adopted were of the crudest, and 
calculated to entail the maximum amount of suffering. 

* The operation of castration, which involves the amputation of the 
penis or the testicles (in the ancient days and among many races both 
penis and testicles were removed en bloc) must be clearly distinguished 
from the modern operation of vasectomy, which involves neither danger 
nor suffering. 

' W. Alexander, The History of Women, 1779, Vol. I, p. iii. 



" In the year 1560 a maid was set on the Pillory for 
giving her mistress and her household poison. Besides 
the shame of the Pillory, one of her ears were cut, and 
she was burnt on the Brow. And two days after she was 
set again on the Pillory, and her other car cut. And but 
some few days after, another maid was set on the Pillory 
for the same crime; and her car cut, and burnt on the 

On June 30, 1637, John Bastwick, Henry Burton and 
WilHam Prynn, convicted by the Star Chamber of libel, were 
sentenced to the pillory in the Palace-yard, Westminster, to 
be branded and have their ears cut off. The executioner, it is 
recorded, performed his task " with extraordinary cruelty." 
In the case of Prynn " he heated his iron twice to burn one 
cheek, and cut one of his ears so close that he cut off a piece 
of his cheek." The prisoner Burton, 

" when the executioner had cut off one ear, which he 
had cut deep and close to the head in an extraordinary 
cruel manner, never once moved and stirred for it. The 
other ear being cut no less deep, he then was freed from 
the pillory, and came down, where the surgeon waiting 
for him presently applied a remedy for stopping the blood 
after the large effusion thereof."^ 

For perjury, in addition to branding, as mentioned in 
another place, an offender was sometimes put in the pillory 
and his ears cut off. Similarly for forgery, libel, giving short 
weight, and thefts not exceeding twelve pence, the punish- 
ment was the loss of one ear or of both ears according to the 
gravity of the offence. For sheep-stealing, the hands were 
cut off at the wrists. 

For writing An Appeal to Parliament; or, Zion's Plea 
Against Prelacy, Dr. Leighton was condemned by the Star 
Chamber to be whipped and put in the pillory, and while 
there to have both ears cut off, his nose slit open on both 
sides, and to be branded on both cheeks with the letters S.S. 

In France we read in the Memoirs of the Sansons that 

^ John Stow, A Survey of London, 1720, Book I, p. 258. 

* A Collection of the Most Remarkable Trials, 1734, Vol. IV, p. 528. 


one of the Huguenots " burnt alive on January 21, 1535, in 
the presence of the king, was a man named Antoine Poile, 
whose tongue was pierced and attached to his cheek with an 
iron pin." In 1766, the ChevaUer de la Barre, a young 
officer of seventeen years, was accused of mutilating the 
figure on a wooden crucifix on the bridge of Abbeville. 
Although there was no evidence worth the name, other than 
that the youth was proved to have a penchant for the singing 
of bawdy songs and reading the heretical works of Voltaire, 
he was condemned to be put to the torture, and to have his 
tongue cut out.^ Removal of the tongue was also a common 
punishment in France for blasphemy. For theft, the ampu- 
tation of one ear or both ears, according to the amount 
involved, was prescribed. To induce Jews to hand over their 
money, their teeth were extracted; in cases of murder or 
arson, previous to execution, it was customary to amputate 
one hand. 


This peculiar method of mutilating the living (and the 
dead), adopted by the North American Indians, entailed the 
most agonizing torture. When applied to the living captive 
or the wounded, owing to the rough-and-ready mediods 
adopted, it usually caused death. But there were exceptions. 
The idea that the practice was confined to the Redskins is 
a fallacy. Herodotus refers to scalping by the Scythians : 

" Every Scythian drinks the blood of the first Prisoner 
he takes, and presents the King with the heads of the 
enemies he has killed in Fight. For if he brings a head, 
he is intit'led to a share of the Booty, otherwise not. They 
slew these Heads by cutting a circle round the neck close 
under the ears, and stripping off the skin, as they would 
do that of an ox."^ 

It was practised in many parts of Europe during the early 
centuries of civilization. The ancient German decalvare was 
a form of scalping. 

The origin of the practice seems to have been connected 

* Frederic Shoberl, Persecutions of Popery, 1844, Vol. II, p. 341. 

* History, Book IV. 


with the belief that by securing the scalp one also obtained 
the powers which were exhibited by its original owner. For 
this reason the scalps of brave or powerful warriors were held 
in high esteem. 

Among the North American Indians the method of 
scalping was to grasp the hair on the crown of the head with 
the left hand, pass the knife around it and under the skin, at 
the same time tearing off the skin with the hair, the piece 
removed being about the size of the palm of the hand.^ 

All the scalping that was done in the pioneer days of 
America was by no means restricted to the Indians. The 
whites hunted for scalps, too. They did not collect them as 
trophies, or because of any reputed magical properties, but 
for the bounties which were offered at one time and another. 
This practice of offering a bounty for every Indian scalp 
brought in, seems to have been inaugurated by Governor 
Kieft, in 1641. In the next one hundred and fifty years or so 
many other governors pursued the same policy. The French 
offered bounties for British scalps, and the British offered 
bounties for French scalps, resulting in a state of affairs 
where no person's head-covering could be considered safe. 

Drawing and Quartering 

The ancient methods of execution in which the limbs and 
bodies were literally pulled apart by main force, or cut up 
into sections by an executioner, lived long in European 

Quartering would appear to be a development of dis- 
embowelling, as the practice of cutting open the abdomen 
and removing the bowels, before the body was divided into 
sections, persisted for a long time. An analogous method of 
execution, prescribed for the punishment of traitors, was to 
remove the heart in addition to or instead of the bowels, 
before quartering. 

According to Lacroix and other writers, this method of 
execution, involving, as it did, a form of torture of the most 
revolting nature, was not usually, in itself, enough to satisfy 
the demands of justice. Before execution in this way, it was 

* Geo. Catlin, Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs and Condi 
tiens of the North American Indians, 1841. 


customary for torture of another nature to be applied to the 
doomed criminal. Thus a hand would be cut ofl, or the 
arms, thighs and breasts lacerated, and molten lead or boiling 
pitch poured into the wounds.^ 

These preliminary tactics over, the manner of carrying 
out the execution, says the same authority, was to attach a 
stout rope to each limb of the criminal, binding the arm with 
the rope from the wrist to the elbow and the leg from the 
foot to the knee. Each rope was secured to a strong bar 
of wood or metal, which was then harnessed to a horse. The 
four horses were induced to give short jerks, causing the 
victim, in his intolerable agony, to scream for mercy. When 
the executioners were satisfied with these proceedings, they 
whipped all four horses simultaneously in different direc- 
tions, dragging the criminal's limbs from their sockets. 
Sometimes the tortured body still held together, in which 
case the executioners chopped and cut with hatchets at each 
joint, as a butcher chops at the carcase of a beast, until the 
limbs were drawn away from the still living trunk. The 
whole procedure often dragged on for hours. 

Perhaps the most sensational and terrible case on record, 
and incidentally the last that took place in France, was the 
execution of Robert Frangois Damiens, in 1757, for the 
attempted assassination of Louis XV. The court found 
Damiens guilty of lese-majeste and parricide, and ordered 

" that he be taken to the Greve and, on a scaffold erected 
for the purpose, that his chest, arms, thighs, and calves be 
burnt with pincers; his right hand, holding the knife 
with which he committed the said parricide, burnt in 
sulphur; that boiling oil, melted lead, and resin, and wax 
mixed with sulphur, be poured in his wounds; and after 
that his body be pulled and dismembered by four horses, 
and the members and body consumed by fire, and the 
ashes scattered to the winds. The court orders that his 
property be confiscated to the King's profit; that before 
the said execution, Damiens be subjected to question 
ordinaire et extraordinaire^ to make him confess the 
names of his accomplices." 

' Paul Lacroix, Manners, Customs and Dress During the Middle Ages, 


For over two solid hours was Damiens tortured with the 
boot, but in the face of agony so frightful that it drew forth 
shrieks of anguish, and time and again brought him to the 
point of fainting, he refused to speak. At length, when his 
limbs were crushed and broken, the surgeons said he could 
stand no more. On the scaffold, before the end came, 
Damiens was to endure greater torture. In the process of 
burning his arm, the executioners stated that " when the 
blue flame touched Damiens's skin, he uttered a frightful 
shriek, and tried to break his bonds. But when the first pang 
had shot through him, he raised his head and looked at his 
burning hand without manifesting his feelings otherwise 
than by grinding his teeth. "^ And so the awful tortures, one 
after another, were inflicted — the deliberate tearing of his 
chest and limbs with pincers, the pouring of boiling oil, 
lead, etc., into these wounds — until finally, the four horses 
were urged by the executioners to drag the limbs from his 
body. So tough were the sinews, however, that for hours 
the straining and pulling continued : at last, in desperation, 
the still living body was quartered with the knife. Casanova 
tells us that he and his companions " had the courage to 
watch the dreadful sight for four hours," and says that " I 
was several times obliged to turn away my face and to stop 
my ears as I heard his piercing shrieks, half his body having 
been torn from him, but the Lambertini and the fat aunt did 
not budge an inch."^ 

The method appears to have been unknown in England. 
There was, however, in vogue at one time a form of 
execution for those guilty of treason which, although not 
comparable, for sheer barbaric cruelty, with drawing and 
quartering, involved a species of torture the very thought of 
which is enough to make one shudder in disgust. The 
procedure is described by Stow : 

" That the traitor is to be taken from the prison, and 
laid upon a sledge, or hurdle, and drawn to the gallows, 
or place of execution, and there hanged by the neck until 
he be half dead, and then cut down; his entrails to be 

* Memoirs of the Sansons, edited by Harry Sanson, London, 1876. 

• The Memoirs of Giacomo Casanova di Seingalt, translated by Arthur 
Machen, London, 1922, Vol. V. p. 22. 


cut out of his body, and burnt by the executioner; then 
his hand is to be cut off, his body to be divided into 
quarters; and afterwards his head and quarters are to be 
set up in some open places directed; which usually are 
on the City Gates, on London Bridge, or upon West- 
minster Hall. And to render the crime more terrible to 
the spectators, the hangman, when he takes out the 
heart, shews it the people, and says, here is the heart of 
a traitor."^ 

According to Holinshed,^ after hanging until half dead, 
the criminal was " taken down and quartered alive " before 
the bowels were cut from the body; an opinion which is 
born out by Strutt, who says : 

" Traytors were drawn upon hurdles to the gallows, 
then hanged up for a little space, and let down and 
quartered: and their quarters were set up in the most 
conspicuous parts of the towns, and cities ; but if the male- 
factor was a nobleman, he was beheaded instead of being 
hanged. Some were dragged by the heels, at the horse's 
tail, to the place of execution.'" 

It seems highly probable that the procedure varied some- 
what at different times and in different circumstances. At 
any rate, according to official records, on October 19, 1685, 
for the crime of high treason, John Fernley, William Ring 
and Henry Cornish, were given the following sentence : 

" You must, every one of you, be had back to the place 
from whence you came, from thence you must be drawn 
to the place of execution, and there you must severally be 
hanged by the necks, every one of you by the neck till 
you are almost dead; and then you must be cut down, 
your Entrails must be taken out and burnt before your 
faces, your several heads to be cut off, and your bodies 
divided into four parts, and these to be disposed of at the 
pleasure of the King; and the Lord have mercy on your 

' John Stow, A Survey of London, 1720. 
' Chronicles, 1807. 

* Joseph Strutt, Manners and Customs of the Inhabitants of England, 
1775, V°'- ^^> P- 72- 


This particular mode of execution did not apparently 
apply to women, for at the same trial, and for the same 
crime, Elizabeth Gaunt was found equally guilty. She was 
sentenced " to be burnt to death." 


This method of execution is not considered to involve any 
form of torture in its actual technique, the head being 
severed from the body and death being instantaneous. While 
this is true with regard to such automatic appliances as the 
guillotine, and, even earlier, the Halifax gibbet, it was by 
no means so when the executioner used an axe. Only one 
possessed of the skill that comes with long practice, com- 
bined with great strength and a keen-bladed axe, could 
expect to sever the head from the body with a single blow. 
Usually many blows were required, and the victim suffered 
intense agony before the end came. It is recorded that when 
De Thou was executed in Paris, it was not until the eleventh 
blow that the head was separated from the trunk. ^ 

Flaying Alive 

This old method of condemning the criminal to as linger- 
ing and painful a death as one can well conceive was popular 
among many primitive races. It was used in China and 
other Eastern countries. It was a favourite method of torture 
of Asdrubal, founder of the new Carthage, in the second 
century before Christ. 

Flaying was not unknown in Europe, although there are 
not many records of its adoption. One notable instance was 
the execution of the Chamberlain of the Count de Rouci, in 
1366.^ During the persecutions of the Waldenses in 1655, 
Jacopo Perrin and his brother, David, had the skin stripped 
off their arms and legs, " in long slices till the flesh was 
quite bare";' while Paolo Garnier of Roras was first cas- 
trated and then stripped of his entire skin while still alive. 

In Turkey, this particular form of torture was much used, 
especially for piracy and other serious crimes. 

* Memoirs of the Sansons. 
' Ibid. 

* Samuel Morland, The History of the Evangelical Churches, 16580 



Burying Alive 

Apart from savage races, burying alive as a specific method 
of execution seems to have been but infrequently practised. 
According to Plutarch, the loss of her virginity by a maid 
was punished in this way. There are indications of its 
employment in France. The Due de Soissons, it is alleged, 
caused to be buried alive, a male and female serf, for the 
offence of marrying without his consent. Women were also 
condemned to be buried alive for certain offences. According 
to Lacroix, in 1460, a woman named Perette, accused of theft, 
was condemned by the Provost of Paris to be " buried alive 
before the gallows."^ 

In the thirteenth century, during the war of extermina- 
tion against the Albigenses, the sister of Aymeric, Governor 
of Le Voeur, was placed alive in a pit, which was then filled 
up with stones. 

Allied to burying alive was the method of execution 
sometimes adopted in the Middle Ages, in which the culprit 
was placed in a cavity or cellar and " walled in." It was 
used in Germany and Switzerland. In many cases, however, 
where skeletons have been discovered in the walls of ancient 
buildings, these are not necessarily indications of executions 
or murders having been committed in any true sense. On 
the contrary, they provided evidence of the commission of 
religious sacrifices or rites. It was a custom to " build in " a 
living person, usually a child, as a means of propitiating the 
gods or demons and preserving the building from destruc- 
tion. (Cf. page 26.) 

^ Paul Lacroix, Manners, Customs and Dress During the Middle Ages, 



Hanging Alive in Chains 

In many civilized countries hanging alive seems to have 
been far more v^^idely practised than burying alive, possibly 
the reason being that the torture was thereby greatly pro- 
longed. It appears to have been a favourite method of 
execution in Jamaica and other West Indian islands. 
Edwards says that two of the men concerned in the murders 
committed in Ballard's Valley were himg up alive in irons in 
Kingston and left there until they died of starvation, and 
that a number of people surrounded the gibbet and talked 
with the murderers.^ Stephen refers to the same miscreants, 
stating that they were indulged, at their own request, with a 
hearty meal, immediately before they were suspended; and 
that one survived nine and the other seven days.^ He says 
also that in Dominica, a man named Balla, leader of an 
insurrection which took place there about 1788, was gibbeted 
alive, and was a week in dying.' In 1759, at St. Eustatia, a 
negro convicted of murder was placed in irons and hung 
upon a gibbet alive, in the broiling sun. For thirteen days 
he suffered terrible agony, shrieking continuously. His most 
urgent plea was " Water, water ! "* 

In Surinam, slaves were sometimes executed by suspen- 
sion alive from a gallows. The method was as peculiar as it 
was diabolical. After an incision had been made in the 
criminal's side, between the ribs, an iron hook was inserted 
into the wound, and the body, with head and feet hanging 
downwards, suspended by means of a chain. The torture 
occasioned by this method must have been indescribable in 
its severity, and sometimes, it was averred, three or more 
days elapsed before death came. 

According to the writer of an article in Once a Wee\ 
(May 26, 1866) there is, or was, on exhibition in the Museum 
of the Society of Arts in Kingston, Jamaica, an iron cage 
which was used for imprisoning criminals who were sen- 
tenced to be hanged alive. The criminal was stripped naked 

^ Bryan Edwards, The History of the British Colonies in the West 
Indies, 1793, Vol. II, Book IV, Ch. Ill, p. 66. 

* James Stephen, The Slavery of the British West India Colonigs 
Delineated, 1830. 

' Ibid. 

* Gentleman's Magazine, Vol. XXIX, 1729, p. 93. 


before being confined in the cage. When the cage was dis- 
covered it contained the skeleton of a woman, and this 
skeleton was removed to the Museum along with the 
apparatus itself. The criminal, once imprisoned in the cage, 
which was suspended from the branch of a tree, was left to 
die of starvation, thirst and exposure. As this instrument of 
torture must surely be one of the most remarkable of its kind, 
I reproduce the picture of the cage, which was apparently 
built around its human occupant, and the description of it, 
both culled from the pages of Once a Wee\, 

*' Round the knees, hips, and waist, under the arms 
and around the neck, iron hoops were riveted close about 
the different parts of the body. Iron braces crossed these 
again, from the hips right over the centre of the head. 
Iron bars and plates encircled and supported the legs, and 
at the lower extremities were fixed plates of iron like 
old-fashioned stirrups, in which the feet might have 
found rest, had not a finish to the torture, compared to 
which crucifixion itself must have been mild, been con- 
trived by fixing in each stirrup three sharp-pointed spikes 
to pierce the soles of the victim's feet. The only support 
the body could receive, while strength remained or life 
endured, was given by a narrow hoop passing from one 
end of the waist bar in front between the legs to the bar 
at the back. Attached to the circular band under the 
arms, stood out a pair of handcuffs, which prevented the 
slightest motion in the hands; and on the crossing of the 
hoops over the head was a strong hook, by which the 
whole fabric, with the sufferer enclosed, was suspended." 

Now although the evidence that gibbeting alive was 
practised in the British West Indies is incontrovertible, 
there is a remarkable dearth of evidence as regards its 
practice in England itself. There are many authorities 
who stoutly deny that it was ever practised at all. Cer- 
tainly official records seem to make no mention of any 
such sentences,^ even if they were given. There arc, how- 

* There was a statute which allowed the judge, at his discretion, to 
order the corpse to be hung in chains or dissected. As late as the eighteenth 
century, there appear to have been many cases of criminals being hung in 
chains after execution. Apparently the public derived satisfaction and 
pleasure from the spectacle, for in 'Notes and Queries (January 10, 1874) 


ever, several references to the practice in historical and 
sociological works. Of these the most important is that of 
Holinshed, a reliable historian, who says: 

" But if he be convicted of wilful murther, doone 
either upon pretended malice, or in anie notable rob- 
berie, he is either hanged alive in chains nere the place 
where the fact was committed (or else upon compassion 
taken first strangled with a rope) and so continueth till 
his bones consume to nothing."^ 

A correspondent in Notes and Queries (Fourth series, 
Vol. XII, p. 298) quotes Chetde's statement that " where- 
as before time there was extraordinary torture, as hanging 
wilful murderers alive in chaines "; and another corres- 
pondent in the same journal (Fourth series. Vol. XI, p. 83) 
says that the notorious highwayman, John Whitfield, was 
gibbeted alive on Barrock, a hill outside Carlisle, about the 
year 1777. " It is said," writes this contributor, " he hung 
for several days, till his cries were heartrending, and a 
mail-coachman who was passing that way, put him out of 
his misery by shooting him." In the Scottish Historical 
Review (April, 1905, p. 226) a case occurring in Scodand 
is given, that of " John Davidson, who was for piracy 
condemned on 6th May, 1551, to be ' hanged in irons,' at 
a stake within flood mark of the shore, at Leith, until he 

In 1383 there occurred a remarkable case involving tor- 
ture by hanging alive. The man who was executed in this 
strange way, was an Irish friar who had presented himself 
to King Richard II and accused the Duke of Lancaster of 
treason. The manner of his torture was this: 

" Lord Holland, and sir Henrie Greene, Knight, 
came to this friar, and putting a cord about his necke, 
tied the other end about his privie members, and after 

a correspondent stated that he remembered seeing " several pirates sus- 
pended on the side of the Thames opposite Blackwall." Visitors to taverns 
commanding a view of this spot were provided with " spy glasses," and 
this correspondent further remarks that when these corpses were removed 
" some of the papers of the day complained of the people of London being 
deprived of their amusements, in not being able to enjoy the view of these 

^ Chronicles, 1807, Vol. I, p. 311. 


hanging him up from the ground, laid a stone upon 
his bellie, with the weight whereof, and peise of his 
bodie withail, he was strangled and tormented, so as 
his verie backe bone burst in sunder therewith, besides 
the straining of his privie members; thus with three 
kinds of tormentings he ended his wretched life. On 
the morrow after, they caused his dead corps to be 
drawne about the towne, to the end it might appeare 
he had suffered worthilie for his great falsehood and 

Apparently hanging alive was not unknown in Ger- 
many. It seems, from Moryson's account, to have taken a 
peculiarly fiendish shape. 

" Near Lindau I did see a malefactor hanging in 
iron chains in the gallowes, with a massive doggc hang- 
ing on each side by the heels, as being nearly starved, 
they might eat the flesh of the malefactor before him- 
self died by famine; and at Frankforde I did see the like 
punishment of a Jew." 

The BlacJ{ Hole of Calcutta 

The year 1756 saw the death by suffocation, in a 
prison cell, after hours of excruciating torture, of 123 per- 
sons. The place was Calcutta, the night was close and 
sultry, and the only available air in a cell measuring some 
eighteen feet square came through two small barred win- 
dows. Tormented by intolerable thirst, lack of fresh air, 
and the urinous odour of the cell, the prisoners struggled 
with one another to reach tlie windows and breathe. The 
guards passed small quantities of water through the aper- 
tures, and held up lights so as to be able to watch the fight 
that ensued to secure the water. Many undoubtedly were 
trampled to death. By half-past eleven, according to the 
account given by one of the survivors, a considerable pro- 
portion of the prisoners were dead, and many more were 
delirious. When the doors were opened next morning out 
of the 146 who had been crowded into this apartment only 
23 were alive. 

' Holinshcd's Chronicles, 1807, Vol. II, p. 763. 


Torture by Starvation 

Imprisonment without food has always been a form of 
punishment for minor crimes, to induce confession or 
secure evidence. 

According to Michelet it was customary in Germany to 
punish a slave by putting him under a cask for three days. 

The torture known as prison forte et dure was at one 
time used in both France and England. It consisted, says 
Pike, of " perpetual imprisonment and starvation."^ 
About the reign of Henry IV it gave place to " pressing " 
or peine forte et dure. 


In many ancient races drowning was a form of human 
sacrifice to the demons supposed to have their habitat in 
the waters. Throwing animals of all kinds, as well as 
human beings, into the river or the sea, was supposed to 
appease the rage of the demons, which rage was demon- 
strated in the occurrence of storms. 

In Rome, drowning was the mode of execution for the 
bigamist and the patricide. In many countries it was a 
method of infanticide. It is often adopted to-day by those 
who wish to get rid of unwanted children, mainly owing 
to the fact that its detection is extremely difficult. 

Drowning seems to have been a favourite mode of dis- 
posing of sorcerers and witches during the persecutions of 
the Middle Ages. And in France, under Charles VI, sedi- 
tion was punished by drowning. 

Torture of the Boats 

This unique and revolting form of torture is a relic of 
ancient days, and even then it appears to have been rarely 
employed. It is mentioned by Plutarch as the manner in 
which Mithridates was put to death by the Persian tyrant 
Artaxerxes. He took, says the historian, no fewer than 
seventeen days to die, and must have suffered unimagin- 
able agony in the process. The elaborate manner in which 

* Luke Owen Pike, A History of Crime in England, 1873. 


the torture was executed may be summarized as follows. 

Two small boats of exactly the same size and shape 
were secured. In one of them the victim was extended 
flat on his back, with his head, his hands and his feet all 
projecting over the sides. The second boat was then 
turned upside down and fitted over the first. In this way 
the culprit's body was enclosed within the two boats, 
while his feet, hands and head were left outside. Food 
was then offered, and in the event of it being refused, the 
victim was pricked or otherwise tormented until he com- 
plied with the request. The next step consisted of filling 
his mouth and smearing his face with a mixture of milk 
and honey. He was then exposed to the full glare of the 
sun. In a short time, flies and insects began to setde on 
his face. As the hours and then the days went by, the 
biting of the insects drove the prisoner to distraction. 
And meanwhile, within the cavity made by the two boats, 
nature pursuing her course, the accumulated excrement 
stunk to heaven and became a mass of corruption. When 
death came, and the upper boat was removed, the flesh 
was found to be devoured, and " swarms of noisome 
creatures preying upon and, as it were, growing to his 

The Kiss of the " Virgin Mary ** 

The inventiveness of the torturer has at one time and 
another taken many and strange forms, but surely never did 
anyone devise a more diabolical engine of torment than the 
unique and formidable " Virgin," which Colonel Lehman- 
owsky, who claimed to have seen it at the Inquisition at 
Madrid, said " surpassed all other in fiendish ingenuity." 

Early in the nineteenth century there were many who 
affirmed that the " Virgin " was purely legendary; and in 
support of their contention they stressed the significance of 
the fact that no specimen of this peculiar and sinister instru- 
ment of torture appeared to be in existence. They cast doubt 
upon the veracity of the statements made by Colonel 
Lchmanowsky and others. 

There were, it is true, many rumours as to existence of 
these engines in German castles, and the term ]ungfern\uss 


(the kiss of the " Virgin ") was well known in Germany. 
But nothing more tangible than these rumours and tales, 
which might well have been pure myths, seemed to be 

In 1832, however, Mr. R. L. Pearsall, who was extremely 
interested in the subject, was informed by Dr. Mayer 
(Keeper of the Archives of Nuremberg) that at one time 
such an apparatus had undoubtedly existed in the casde of 
Nuremberg. Two years later, Mr. Pearsall, after diligent 
inquiries, made further progress. At Salzburg, he was 
shown a torture chamber in which it was affirmed the 
"Virgin" had once stood. Finally, the only specimen of 
the apparatus which is believed to exist, was run to earth. 
It formed part of the collection of antiquities owned by a 
Baron Diedrich, who had bought it, he told Mr. Pearsall, 
from someone who had secured it during the French 

It is probable that this instrument of torture was invented 
in Spain sometime in the sixteenth century, and was im- 
ported into Germany during the time that Charles V reigned 
over both countries. The following description of the 
" Virgin Mary " was given by a French officer serving under 
General Lasalle, who, when the French entered the city of 
Toledo, examined the dungeons of the Inquisition there. 

" In a recess in a subterranean vault, contiguous to the 
private hall for examinations, stood a vs^ooden figure, 
made by the hands of monks, and representing the 
Virgin Mary. A gilded glory encompassed her head, and 
in her right hand she held a banner. It struck us all, at 
first sight, that, notwithstanding the silken robe, descend- 
ing on each side in ample folds from her shoulders, she 
should wear a sort of cuirass. On closer scrutiny, it 
appeared that the forepart of the body was stuck full of 
extremely sharp narrow knife-blades, with the points of 
both turned towards the spectator. The arms and hands 
were jointed; and machinery behind the partition set the 
figure in motion. One of the servants of the Inquisition 
was compelled, by command of the General, to work the 
machine, as he termed it. When the figure extended her 
arms, as though to press someone most lovingly to her 

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heart, the well-filled knapsack of a Polish grenadier was 
made to supply the place of a living victim. The statue 
hugged it closer and closer; and, when the attendant, 
agreeably to orders, made the figure unclasp her arms 
and return to her former position, the knapsack was 
perforated to the depth of two or three inches, and 
remained hanging on the points of the nails and knife- 
blades. One of the familiars, as they are called, of the 
Inquisition gave us an account of the customary mode of 
proceeding on using the machine. The substance of his 
report was as follows : 

"Persons accused of heresy, or of blaspheming God 
or the Saints, and obstinately refusing to confess their 
guilt, were conducted into this cellar, at the further end 
of which numerous lamps, placed round a recess, threw 
a variegated light on the gilded glory, and on the head 
of the figure and the flag in her right hand. At a little 
altar, standing opposite to her, and hung with black, the 
prisoner received the sacrament; and two ecclesiastics 
earnestly admonished him, in the presence of the Mother 
of God, to make a confession. ' See,' said they, ' how 
lovingly the blessed Virgin opens her arms to thee ! on 
her bosom thy hardened heart will be melted; there thou 
wilt confess.' All at once, the figure began to raise 
extended arms : the prisoner, overwhelmed with astonish- 
ment, was led to her embrace; she drew him nearer and 
nearer, pressed him almost imperceptibly closer and 
closer, till the spikes and knives pierced his breast."* 

Held thus firmly m that deadly and agonizing grasp, he 
was questioned and asked again to confess his guilt. If he 
refused, the arms gradually tightened their grasp, slowly but 
surely squeezing the life out of the body. It depended upon 
the executioners whether refusal to confess caused death, or 
whether, as was usually the case, the victim was released 
from the clutches of the " Virgin " and taken to his dungeon 
to recover sufficiendy to undergo renewed and possibly fresh 

In Germany, the engine was used in a rather different 
way, according to Dr. Mayer. The figure stood at the edge 

* Frederic Shobcrl, Persecutions of Popery, 1844, pp. 132-4, 



of a concealed trap-door, and when the victim was released 
from the deadly embrace of the " Virgin," he fell through 
this trap-door upon a sort of cradle of swords in the cellar 
below. These swords were arranged so as to cut the body 
into pieces. The precise manner in which the scissor-like 
blades of this machine worked is not known, but it is 
probable that the impact of the victim's body put some 
mechanism into motion, which revolved the cutting blades. 
Apparently the machine examined by Mr. Pearsall in 
Germany was not used for the purpose of extorting con- 
fession. Its embrace was a death clasp, for after injuring 
grievously the victim, it hurled him upon the knives below. 
"The construction of the figure," says Mr. Pearsall, "was 
simple enough." It was of sheet-iron on a strong frame- 
work. The front formed two folding doors. There were 
thirteen quadrangular poniards fitted inside the right breast 
of the figure, and eight on the inside of the left breast. 
Inside the face were two more of these poniards, "clearly 
intended for the eyes of the victim," which indicates that 
he must have been pushed or persuaded to walk backwards 
into it, "and have received in an upright position, in his 
breast and head, the blades to which he was exposed."^ 

» ArchceoJogia, Vol. XXVII, 1838. 



The Red-hot Iron Ordeal 

All ordeals were intimately connected with religion or 
superstition. For centuries it was considered that the human 
body, under the influence of the gods, could withstand fire. 
For this reason a guilty person was unable to secure divine 
protection, while an innocent individual could go through 
any ordeal unscathed. The leading ecclesiastics held these 
beliefs most firmly, as did also many of the so-called scientists 
of those days. We see an indication of this trend of thought 
in the Biblical stories of Abraham escaping unscathed from 
the fiery furnace into which he was hurled by Nimrod; and 
of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who, bound and 
helpless, were cast, at the command of Nebuchadnezzar, 
" into the midst of the burning fiery furnace," walking forth 
without " an hair of their heads singed," although the fire 
was so excessively hot that the flames " slew those men " 
that threw in the God-protected trio. 

The " hot-iron " or analogous ordeals were used by most 
savage and primitive races, as well as in early and medieval 
European civilization. The ordeal was referred to by 
Sophocles. Grimm mentions that the Empress Richerda, 
wife of Charles the Fat, under accusation of adultery with 
Bishop Liutward, proved her innocence by walking un- 
scathed through a blazing fire. 

In England and in Europe generally, the ordeal consisted 
cither of carrying in the naked hand, for a prescribed dis- 
tance, a lump of iron, weighing from two to three pounds, 
heated until it was red-hot; or of walking, with bare feet 
and blindfolded, over nine red-hot ploughshares laid upon 
the ground at unequal distances. In some cases, and in 
relation to certain accusations, the subject was compelled to 
place the naked foot upon each ploughshare. It was by this 



form of trial that Queen Emma, mother of Edward the 
Confessor, was enabled to prove her innocence when accused 
of adultery with Alwyn, Bishop of Winchester. Innocence 
of the charge was established where the accused person 
successfully passed through the ordeal without sustaining 
any injury. 

The basic grounds upon which the ordeal was held to 
prove the innocence or guilt of the accused being purely 
divine, insomuch that it was thought to constitute " a judg- 
ment of God," the performance was attended with a good 
deal of ceremony, and was carried out under the superintend- 
ence of a priest. Before the actual trial, the accused must 
live for three days on " bread, water and herbs," and attend 
all masses. In every case the test was preceded by prayers, 
the drinking of a cup of holy water by the accused; and, 
where the ordeal consisted of carrying the hot-iron, the 
sprinkling of the hand which was to be used. 

The fact that so many persons proved their innocence by 
appealing to this form of ordeal and escaping without burns, 
suggests either knowledge of some method of protecting the 
skin from burning, as suggested by Burckhardt in relation 
to the analogous custom among the Bedouins of licking a 
red-hot spoon (cf. page 230); or collusion between the 
accused and the officiating priest. 

The ordeal of the hatchet {\irapo ja zoka) practised by 
the Wakamba tribe, is a variation of the hot-iron ordeal; and 
has, too, a magical significance analogous to the religious 
hocus-pocus associated with the ordeal of the ploughshares 
by more civilized races. Thus the medicine-man who 
administers the oath, makes the suspected individual repeat 
the following formula : " If I have stolen the property of 
— — (naming the person), or committed this crime, let 
Mulungu (Heaven) respond for me, but if I have not stolen, 
nor done this wickedness, may he save me."^ The medicine- 
man then draws the red-hot iron blade of the hatchet four 
times in succession over the outstretched hand of the accused. 
If innocent, it is thought that he will suffer no injury, and 
in consequence the searing of the flesh is convincing proof of 

' J. Lewis Krapf, Travels, Researches and Missionary Labours During 
an Eighteen Years' Residence in Eastern Africa, i860, p. 173. 


This tribe, says the same authority, has another test 
known as the ordeal of the needle. A long needle is made 
red-hot, and then drawn through the lips of the suspected 
person, whose guilt is established should there be an effusion 
of blood from the wound. 

Ordeal of Boiling Water 

In this form of trial, which had the same religious signi- 
ficance as, and in its popularity was contemporaneous with, 
the red-hot iron ordeal, the accused had to plunge the naked 
hand and arm, up to the elbow, into a vessel containing 
boiling water, and take out some object deposited there, 
usually a coin, a stone or a ring. The technique varied 
somewhat in different countries and sometimes in the same 
country for different offences. These variations were usually 
concerned with the weight of the object to be retrieved from 
the vessel of boiling water, and the time it had to be held in 
the hand, or, in the case of a heavy stone or weight, the 
distance it had to be carried. In other cases the variations 
were concerned with the depth of the water in the vessel. 
The hand was then wrapped up in a cloth or bandage, no 
dressing of any kind being applied, sealed by the priest, and 
left for three days. It was then uncovered. If the flesh 
was found to be uninjured the accused was discharged as 

Other liquids were often used in preference to water, 
e.g. pitch, oil, tallow. In India boiling oil was generally 
used. The occasion was one of great solemnity. Forbes says : 

" In general, on the day appointed for the trial, many 
religious ceremonies are used by the Brahmins, and the 
prisoner; the vessel is consecrated, and the ground on 
which the fire is lighted, is previously covered with cow- 
dung; a substance much employed in religious ceremonies 
by the Hindoos. When the oil is sufficiently heated, a 
leaf of the holy pippal (ficus-religiosa) is put into the 
vessel, and when it has evidently felt the effect of the fire, 
a solemn prayer is offered by the superior Brahmin; the 


accused is then ordered to take out the ring or coin which 
had been placed at the bottom of the vessel. There are 
some instances where the prisoner had been terribly 
burnt; and there are many others equally well attested, 
where the hand and arm received no injury."^ 

This and analogous forms of trial have persisted in India 
until comparatively recent years. In 1846, a merchant of 
Arrah, it was alleged, put some of his servants, whom he 
suspected of theft, to the ordeal of boiling water. In the 
same year, a magistrate of Tanjore reported that a man in 
his district, who missed some small article from his house, 
" proceeded, as a matter of ordinary routine, to dip the hands 
of his three wives into boiling cow-dung to induce them to 
confess if they had taken it."^ And again, in 1867, a case 
was mentioned in the Bombay Gazette^ where a camel- 
driver, suspected of theft, was put to the ordeal of boiling 

In reference to the apparently miraculous phenomenon 
of a person being able to plunge the naked hand into boiling 
liquid, there may be an explanation available. According to 
Voltaire, at the time when the ordeals of this nature were so 
generally used, there were many persons in possession of a 
secret method of plunging the hand into boiling water with 
impunity. This method consisted of rubbing the skin with 
spirit of vitriol and alum mixed with the juice of onions.^ 
Burckhardt and others, in relation to the hot-iron ordeals, 
have stated that if iron is heated to such a degree that it is 
white-hot rather than red-hot, it can be " licked " with 
safety. (See articles on " Ordeal " in Encyclopcedia Britan- 
nica (eleventh edition) and Hastings' Encyclopcedia of Reli- 
gion and Ethics.) 

^ James Forbes, Oriental Memoirs, 1813, Vol. II, p. 390. 
' Once a Week (New Scries), Vol. VIII, 1871, p. 103. 

* H. C. Lea, Superstition and Force, Philadelphia, 1878, p. 250. 

* I have no knowledge of the power of the chemical preparation referred 
to by Voltaire, in the way of conveying impunity to the scalding effects of 
boiling water, and I know of no one who has had the temerity to put the 
method to a trial; but many years ago, in relation to a very different matter, 
I was assured by an old tar-boilsr that it was possible, once one acquired 
the knack, to dip one's finger into boiling tar without suffering any ill 


The Cold-Water Ordeal 

This peculiar and popular form of trial was based upon 
the belief in the magical and purifying properties of 
water. It was held that water, being under divine influence, 
would automatically reject those guilty of sin or crime. 

The cold-water ordeal was much used in England 
immediately after the introduction of Christianity. The 
trial was carried out under the direction of a priest, who, 
immediately before operations were commenced, made the 
following harangue : 

" I conjure you, O man ! in the name of the Father, 
of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; by the Christian 
religion which you profess; by Jesus, the only begotten 
son of God; by the Holy Trinity; by the Holy Gospels, 
and by all the holy relics of the Church, that you pre- 
sume not to draw near to the altar, or to receive the 
communion, if you are guilty of the crime whereof you 
are accused; or, if you have consented to it; or, know by 
whom it was committed." 

The priest then prayed. After these religious overtures 
the accused was stripped naked, securely bound hand and 
foot, a rope fastened around his middle, and a knot made in 
the rope at a distance from the body of half a yard. These 
preparations completed, the prisoner was thrown into the 
water. Sinking to such a depth that the knot in the cord 
was drawn under the surface was considered to be proof of 
innocence. Failure to sink was accepted as a sign of guilt. 

This form of ordeal acquired an added popularity during 
the witch persecutions of the Middle Ages. It was held to 
be peculiarly and specifically valuable in the detection of 
wizards and witches, owing to the fact that those holding 
commerce with the devil possessed the unique characteristic 
of being lighter than water: they could not possibly sink. 
Scribonius was one of, if not the first to propound this 
theory; and, in later centuries, when the campaign against 
witchcraft reached its greatest height and intensity, the 
ancient belief was brought out and given much publicity. 


James I maintained that the water ordeal was infallible as 
a test for witchcraft, and so did Matthew Hopkins, the 
English witch-finder supreme. Ironically enough, however, 
Hopkins was to regret the day he had so enthusiastically 
and didactically proclaimed the virtue and infallibility of 
this test. He was thrown into the water himself, proved to 
be a wizard, and duly executed as one. 

In the English witch-trials by the water ordeal, a 
technique rather different from the one in vogue among 
the Anglo-Saxons was adopted. The suspected person was 
trussed up cross-wise; the thumb of the right hand being 
tied to the big toe of the left foot; and the left-hand thumb 
to the big toe of the right foot. A rope was tied around the 
middle of the body, and the accused thrown into the water, 
or towed across, in the case of a stream. What percent- 
age sank and were proved innocent does not appear, but I 
suspect it was a precious small one; for, obviously, those 
carrying out the test were prejudiced against the accused to 
start with. By adroit manipulation of the rope they were 
easily able to prevent the culprit sinking. 

Despite the abolition of the water ordeal, the belief in 
its efficacy persisted, and occasionally mobs took the law 
into their own hands and submitted suspected individuals to 
the test in defiance of official prohibition. According to 
Konigswarter, in 1815 and 1816 there w^ere many such trials 
of persons suspected of witchcraft in Belgium; and at 
Danzig, in 1836, an old woman, accused of sorcery, was 
twice plunged into the sea, and as she rose to the surface, was 
" pronounced guilty and was beaten to death. "^ 

A particularly notorious instance in England was the 
murder of Ruth Osborne, at Tring, in 1751. This seventy- 
year-old woman, along with her husband, both accused of 
witchcraft, were stripped naked and submitted to the water 
test, the woman dying immediately afterwards. The ring- 
leader, Colley, was tried for murder and sentenced to 
death, at Hertford Assizes.' Again, on July 22, 1760, 

" at the general quarter sessions for Leicester, two persons 
concerned in ducking for witches all the poor old women 

^ Quoted by H. C. Lea, Superstition and Force, 1878. 
' Gentleman's Magazine, Vol, XXI, 1751. 


in Glen and Burton Overy, were sentenced to stand in 
the pillory twice, and to lie in jail one month."^ 

In the nineteenth century the practice persisted, a case 
occurring in the parish of Sible Hedingham, Essex, in which 
an old man, reputed to possess supernatural powers, was 
subjected to the water ordeal. 

Torture of Ruth Osborne and her husband by the 
" cold-water " ordeal 

** On August 3rd last," says The Times (September 24, 
1863), " he was barbarously hustled away in a crowd of 
people to the sluice of a water-mill, thrown into the 
stream, and so cruelly used that about a month after- 
wards he died, according to medical evidence, of the 
injuries received." 

* Ibid., Vol. XXX, 1760. 



The Pillory and the Stoc\s 

These two forms of punishment represent variations of one 
principle: that of exposing the culprit to public degrada- 
tion. Although, in many cases, confinement either on the 
pillory or in the stocks could not be said to involve torture, 
there was a possibility of the crowds inflicting severe 
injuries and humiliations upon anyone so imprisoned. 
Then, too, the psychological aspect was one not to be over- 
looked. In addition, imprisonment on the pillory was 
usually only a part of the sentence. It was often preceded 
or followed by flogging. In other instances it involved 
mutilation (cf. page 210). 

Although the prisoner was confined on the pillory by 
the neck and hands only, it can well be imagined that to 
remain for hours on end with one's neck surrounded by 
what, to all intents and purposes, was an immense immov- 
able wooden collar, was in itself a sufficiently severe punish- 
ment. The prisoner was not only helpless, but he was at 
the mercy of anyone who wished to injure or humiliate him. 

This form of punishment appears to have reached its 
apogee in the sixteenth century. It was applied indiscrimin- 
ately to men and women, and for a large number of minor 
offences. In 1555 we find that a woman was put on the 
pillory for beating her child. In 1556 there is a record of a 
procuress being confined on the Cheapside pillory " for the 
conveying of harlots to citizens, apprentices and servants," 
and, later in the same year, a child and her mother, the 
one for being a prostitute and the other " for procuring her 
own child and bringing her to whoredom."^ In 1637, John 
Lilburn, for printing and publishing seditious literature, was 
sentenced in the Star Chamber, to be whipped through the 
* John Stow, A Survey of London, 1720, 


Streets of Westminster and confined on the pillory. And 
for writing The Shortest Way with the Dissenters^ Daniel 
Defoe was placed on the pillory. 

The practice continued through the centuries. We find, 
in 1 75 1, Egan and Salmon, for participating in highway 
robbery and murder, were sentenced to stand on the pillory 
in West Smithfield, prior to their imprisonment. This 
particular case is noteworthy, as it proves that the punish- 
ment of the pillory often represented a terrible and danger- 
ous ordeal. The mob, which gathered about the exposed 

John Waller pelted to death while on the pillory 

prisoners, pelted them with turnips, potatoes, stones, etc., 
to such tune that in less than half an hour Egan was struck 
dead by a stone, and Salmon received injuries which later 
proved fatal. In 1732, John Waller, for robbery and per- 
jury, was sentenced to exposure on the pillory at the Seven 
Dials, London, and died there as a result of injuries inflicted 
by the missiles hurled at his head by a bloodthirsty mob. 
A somewhat crude form of pillory used by the Anglo- 
Saxons is described by Strutt. It consisted of a split piece 
of pliant wood which was bent round the offender and 
fastened at the top so as to prevent or hamper his move- 
ments. " While the prisoner was thus confined, he was 


whipped with a scourge of three cords each having a large 
knot at the end of it."^ 

The stocks confined the feet or the hands, occasionally 
both. The punishment was capable of causing extreme 
pain. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, stocks 
were to be found in every town or village, and they were 
rarely without occupants. All kinds of minor offences 
were punished in this way. 

One of the most recent cases of which there is any 
record was reported in the Leeds Mercury (April 14, i860) : 
at Pudsey, John Gambles, for gambling on a Sunday, was 
sentenced to sit in the stocks for six hours. 

A special form of stocks, known as bilboes, was much 
used in the West Indies in the slavery days. The foot was 
clamped in a long iron bar. Often ten or a dozen slaves 
were secured in one of these bars. They were released each 
day in order to perform their labour, and then imprisoned 
again, the punishment continuing for three weeks or more. 

The Thumbscrews 

The application of painful pressure to the thumbs was 
long employed in England in order to induce a prisoner to 
plead or a witness to give evidence. This pressure, in its 
simplest form, was supplied by a piece of strong but thin 
string tried around the thumb. The invention of the thumb- 
screw enabled more pressure to be applied, even to the extent 
of crushing the digit to a mass of pulp. The excruciating 
pain induced by this particular form of torture is evidenced 
by the fact that few who were subjected to it failed to con- 
fess. Bishop Burnet, in his History, says that after the boot 
and the " waking " had been tried without avail, the 
thumbscrews, applied to Spence and Carstairs, caused them 
to confess all they knew : 

" When the torture had its effect on Spence, they offered 
the same oath to Carstairs. And, upon his refusing to 
take it, they put his thumbs in the screws; and drew 

^ Joseph Stxutt, Manners and Customs of the Inhabitants of England, 
1775, Vol. I, p. 40. 


them SO hard, that as they put him to extreme torture, 
so they could not unscrew them, till the smith that made 
them was brought with his tools to take them off." 

When, in 1779, Howard visited the prison at Lavenham 
in Suffolk, " the keeper had a number of thumbscrews, sent 
by the magistrates, to secure the prisoners."^ 

There are indications that the thumbscrews, or thumb- 
kins, as they were called, were much used in Scotland, until 
the end of the seventeenth century. The last recorded 
instance of their use was in 1690, when Henry Nevil Payne, 
suspected of complicity in the plot to restore King James to 
the throne, was tortured for two days in succession with 
the thumbkins. 

They are alleged to have been used by the slave-owner 
in the British colonies. Dalyell says that " if a witness 
regarding the slave-trade shall be credited, he saw girls at 
needle-work in Jamaica, with a thumbscrew on the left 

Torture of the " Iron Gauntlets " 

The " iron gauntlets " were used in the Tower of 
London, under authority from the Crown, the Privy Council 
or the Star Chamber. These gauntlets consisted of con- 
stricting irons placed around the wrists, and gradually 
tightened by means of a screw. The pressure of the appara- 
tus itself was only part of the torture. The prisoner was 
made to stand upon blocks of wood or a stool. Chains or 
ropes attached to distant points on a beam were then 
fastened to the prisoner's wrists. When secured in this way, 
the support under the feet was removed, leaving the victim 
suspended in the air, his whole weight being thrown upon 
the wrists. The "gauntlets" cut deep into the flesh; the 
arms swelled. 

" I felt," says F. Gerard, one of the sufferers, " the 
chief pain in my breast, belly, arms, and hands. I 
thought that all the blood in my body had run into my 

* John Howard, The State of the Prisons, 1784, p. 207. 
' John Graham Dalyell, The Darker Superstitions of Scotland, Edin- 
burgh, 1834, p. 653. 


arms, and began to burst out of my finger ends. This 
was a mistake: but the arms swelled, till the gauntlets 
were buried within the flesh. After being thus suspended 
an hour, I fainted : and when I came to myself, I found 
the executioners supporting me in their arms: they 
replaced the pieces of wood under my feet, but as soon 
as I was recovered, removed them again. Thus I con- 
tinued hanging for the space of five hours, during which 
I fainted eight or nine times. "^ 

Torture of the Glove 

A remarkable and fiendish form of torture which, in 
some respects, resembled the " iron gauntlets," was used by 
the Inquisition of Murcia, according to the account of Don 
Juan Van Halen, as late as the year 1817. Van Halen was 
arrested on September 21st of that year, and charged with 
a political offence. He pleaded innocence. Owing to his 
steadfast denials of the accusations made against him, he 
was ordered to be tortured. The executioners proceeded to 
raise Van Halen from the floor by placing two high crutches 
under his arm-pits, thus suspending his body in the air. The 
right arm was then securely tied to the corresponding 
crutch, but the left arm was extended in a horizontal posi- 
tion with the hand open. Upon this hand a wooden glove, 
which extended to the wrist, was tightly fitted. Attached 
to the glove were two irons which extended to the shoulder 
and kept the whole apparatus in position. Cords were next 
passed around both legs and the body, and securely bound 
to the crutches, so that movement of any part was im- 
possible. At this stage, the inquisitors again put their ques- 
tions, and charged their prisoner with plotting the over- 
throw of the sovereign and of the Catholic religion. Once 
again Van Halen denied the charges and repeated his 
protestations of innocence. Then the torture began. Let 
Van Halen tell of his sufferings himself : 

" The glove which guided my arm, and which 
seemed to be resting on the edge of a wheel, began now 
to turn, and with its movements I felt by degrees an 

' John Lirgard, A History of England, 1823, Vol. V, Note (U), p. 651. 


acute pain, especially from the elbow to the shoulder, 
a general convulsion throughout my frame, and a cold 
sweat overspreading my face. The interrogatory con- 
tinued; but Zorilla's question of 'Is it so? Is it so? ' 
were the only words that struck my ear amidst the 
excruciating pain I endured, which became so intense 
that I fainted away, and heard no more the voices of 
those cannibals."^ 

The Duc\ing-Stool 

There is a good deal of confusion between the ducking- 
stool and the cucking-stool, the two terms, in later years, 
being used to indicate the same form of punishment. Both 
were widely used for the punishment of minor offences, 
especially in relation to strumpets and scolds. 

The cucking-stool is much the older of the two. It was 
mentioned in the Domesday Book as being used in the city 
of Chester. Wright says the name means simply a " night- 
chair," and that in all probability the " original punish- 
ment consisted only in the disgrace of being publicly 
exposed, seated upon such an article, during a certain period 
of time."^ There seems to be no justification whatever for 
any supposition that this original stool was ever used for 
submerging offenders in water, and it would appear, from 
the scanty information available, to have been a very harm- 
less form of punishment. 

The ducking-stool,^ on the other hand, represented an 
ordeal to be dreaded. The manner of its use was this. A 
chair or stool was fixed to the end of a long pole. When 
the culprit was seated in the chair, the pole was lifted, either 
by a number of persons standing on the bank of the river or 
pond, or operated by some mechanical contrivance, and the 
chair, with its human occupant, ducked in the water. In 
many cases a muddy or stinking pond was selected for the 
purpose. It was used for the punishing of scolds and 
strumpets, and was popular in Scotland as well as England. 

* History of the Inquisition, 1850, p. 405. 

' Thomas Wright, The Archaological Album, 1845. 

' Also termed the trcbucket, tribuch and thcwc. 


According to the London Evening Post (April 27, 1745), one 
of the last instances on record of its use was at Kingston, 
when, for scolding, " a woman was ducked in the river 
Thames in the presence of two or three thousand people."^ 

An unusual instance of the use of a ducking-stool in a 
prison is given by Howard. The Liverpool bridewell, in 
1779, was one of the few English prisons of that time to have 
such a thing as a bath installed. However, this bath was not 
used for its legitimate purpose. At one end of the bath there 
was a standard for a long pole, at the extremity of which was 
fastened a chair. Every female, on entering the prison, was 
placed in the chair and given a thorough ducking, thrice 

The ducking-stool appears to have been introduced to the 
United States from England. There is a record of its use in 
1818, in the case of Mary Davis, found guilty of scolding 
and sentenced to be publicly ducked. 

The Scold's Bridle 

The ducking-stool was displaced to a very great extent by 
the scold's bridle, or branks, an ingenious and cruel method 
of tormenting women. This bridle was constructed of iron, 
something after the fashion of a helmet, except that it was 
merely a framework, and offered no obstruction to the sight 
or the movement of anything other than the tongue, which 
was effectually silenced by a piece of iron which projected 
into the mouth, acting as a gag; and it may be stated, an 
exceedingly uncomfortable and cruel gag at that. In refer- 
ing to the branks. Plot says : 

" They have such a peculiar artifice at Newcastle and 
Walsall, for correcting of scolds, which it does, too, so 
effectually, and so very safely, that I look upon it as much 
to be preferr'd to the cucking-stoole,^ which not only 
endangers the health of the party, but also gives the 
tongue liberty 'twixt every dipp; to neither of which 

* Quoted in Chambers's Boo\ of Days, 1863, p. 209. 

' John Howard, The State of the Prisons in England and Wales, p. 258 

* The writer is here obviously referring to the ducking-stool. 


From an Engraving in Theatnim Cnidelitatum Haereticoritm, 1592. 
(See page 245.) 



this is at all lyable: it being such a bridle for the 
tongue . . ."* 

Not all the bridles in use were such harmless affairs. The 
specimens which have been preserved in many museums 
throughout the kingdom indicate the variety of designs that 
were used, some of which were undoubtedly capable of 
inflicting severe pain and injury, and the wearing of which, 
even for a short time, must have constituted a form of 
torture. In some cases the part which penetrated the mouth 
was sharply pointed, rowelled like a spur, or studded with 
spikes. These bridles were capable of lacerating the tongue 
and the sides of the mouth. Wilson mentions a peculiarly 
" frightful instrument " found at Forfar; and another speci- 
men discovered in Edinburgh.^ 

The bridle was employed as a punishment for slander 
and defamation of character. It was also much used, as the 
name Witche's bridle indicates, for punishing those suspected 
or accused of witchcraft. The instrument was specifically 
indicated in all such cases, owing to the belief then current 
that all witches possessed the power, by means of some special 
devil's formula which they chanted or recited, of turning 
themselves into animals and transporting themselves through 
space, at will. In combination with the wearing of the 
bridle, witches were often prevented from sleeping by a 
relay of guards whose duty it was to see that the prisoners 
did not snatch so much as a moment's repose. 

A curious form of bridle was used at the notorious Nor- 
folk Island convict prison. It was made of leather and wood, 
and effectually covered the mouth except a small hole left for 
breathing purposes. " When the whole was secured with 
the various straps and buckles, a more complete bridle in 
resemblance could not well be witnessed."^ 

The iron collar, or jougs, as it was generally termed, was 
an apparatus peculiar to Scotland. It was fixed round the 
neck of the culprit. Attached to this collar was an iron 
chain, which, in turn, was fastened to a post or a tree. It was 
the equivalent of the English pillory or stocks. 

* Robert Plot, The Natural History of Staffordshire, 1686, p. 389. 
' Daniel Wilson, Prehistoric Annals of Scotland, 1863. 

• John West, The History of Tasmania, Launceston, 1852. 



Torture of the Pendulum 

Nothing that those arch-fiends the inquisitors of Spain 
ever devised in the v^ay of torture was more nicely calculated 
to cause prolonged agony of mind than v^hat v^as w^ell 
named the " torture of the pendulum." It vv^as sometimes 
used to extract confession, the death-dealing instrument 
being stopped when the prisoner expressed willingness to 
give all the information required; often it was used as a 
means of execution. The victim was placed upon a table 
top and tied securely so that it was impossible for him to 
move anything but his eyes. Above him was a large heavy 
pendulum, the bottommost part of which had a curved cut- 
ting edge. This pendulum, when first set in motion, was 
near the roof of the chamber. As it swung to and fro, 
gradually but surely the shaft of the pendulum lengthened, 
and the prisoner, gazing upwards with a dread that com- 
pelled him, even against his will, to watch the movements of 
the hanging knife, endured the horror and agony of seeing 
the edge approach nearer and ever nearer to his face. Even- 
tually the keen blade slashed the skin, continuing its remorse- 
less cutting until life was extinct. But long before the end 
came, in most cases long before the pendulum blade actually 
drew blood, the prisoner was a raving lunatic. 

No better description of this particular torture is there 
for the finding than that presented in Edgar Allan Poe's 
famous story, The Pit and the Pendulum^ which, although 
a work of fiction, is a realistic description of the sufferings 
endured by those who, only too often, were tortured in this 

Torture of the Bath 

In the days when ancient Rome possessed its magnificent 
thermae, with their hot-air apartments and sudatories, a 
common method of execution was to shut up the culprit in 
one of these baths. Where the object was to punish or to 
extort confession rather than to kill, the prisoner was left in 
the bath until on the verge of suffocation. No mortal could 
withstand the atmosphere of the sweating or the hot-air bath 
for any considerable time, the duration of the period 


preceding suffocation being lessened or extended at will by 
lowering or increasing the temperature. 

There is no doubt, too, that this and analogous forms of 
torture have been employed in various countries through the 
ages. Heat and water in all their forms have always been 
employed by torturers, both official and private, public and 
surreptitious. Thus the pouring of water, drop by drop, 
upon the prisoner's head; or the use of the " wet cloth " in 
conjunction with the rack (cf. page 171). 

It is not generally known, but is nevertheless a fact, that 
any form of torture involving the play of water continuously 
upon a sensitive part, is one of the most insufferable and 
agonizing of torments it is possible for human ingenuity to 
devise. An extension of the " dropping of water " torture, 
is the use of a watering-can without the rose. With the 
victim on his back, a stream of water from a height of about 
six feet is poured steadily upon the forehead, a procedure 
which, " according to experts," says Lea, " will make the 
stoutest criminal beg for his life in a few seconds."^ An 
amplification of this method is the use of the shower bath. 
According to the same authority, this form of water torture 
has been used in America. It has even caused death. " At 
the New York State prison at Auburn, in December 1858, 
a strong healthy man, named Simon Moore, was kept in 
the shower-bath for a half to three-quarters of an hour, and 
died almost immediately after being taken out."* 

Military Tortures 

In addition to flogging, certain other painful forms of 
punishment were at one time used in the Army. One of the 
strangest of these was known as the " wooden horse,"' This 
appliance was constructed of wood. Planks were nailed 
together so as to form an elongated sharp ridge or angle 
which represented the horse's back, supported by four legs, 
some six or seven feet high, fixed to a stand. Wheels were 
fitted so that the whole affair was movable at will. To 

^ H. C. Lea, Superstition and Force, p. 45on. 
' I hid., p. 450«. 

• It is important that the " wooden horse " used in the Army should not 
be confounded with the rack (cf. p. 169). 


heighten the resemblance to a horse, a head and a tail were 
attached. The offender was mounted upon the " horse," 
with his hands tied behind his back, and heavy weights 
attached to his feet. He was compelled to remain in this 
position for hours at a stretch. The pain which must have 
been experienced is easily imaginable. The appliance was 
used in America as well as in England. According to Alice 
Morse Earle, " Garret Segersen, a Dutch soldier, for stealing 
chickens, rode the wooden horse for three days, from t\^'0 
o'clock to close of parade, with a fift)'-pound weight tied to 
each foot, which was a severe punishment."^ The same 
writer says that " at least one death is known in America, in 
colonial times, on Long Island, from riding the wooden 
horse. "^ Its dangerous consequences led to its abandonment 
in England. Grose says : "At length, riding the wooden 
horse having been found to injure the men materially, and 
sometimes to rupture them, it was left off."' 

Another peculiar instrument of punishment was the 
whirlgig, a kind of circular cage, made of wood, and capable 
of revolving on a pivot at tremendous speed. The delin- 
quent, imprisoned in the cage, became, says Grose, " ex- 
tremely sick, and commonly emptied his or her body 
through every aperture."* " In the American Army," 
according to Alice Morse Earle, " it is said lunacy and 
imbecility often followed excessive punishment in the whirl- 


" Picketing,"^ a favourite army pumshment, is described 
by Grose : 

" A long post being driven into the ground, the delin- 
quent was ordered to mount a stool near it, when his 
right hand was fastened to a hook in the post by a noose 
round his wrist, drawn up as high as it could be stretched ; 

* Alice Morse Earle, Curious Punishments of Bygone Days, 1896, p. 128. 
' Ibid., p. 129. 

' Francis Grose, Military Antiquities, 1788, p. 200. 

* Ibid., p. 204. This remark seems to indicate that the whirlgig was 
employed for civil as well as military punishments, and for females as well 
as males, though I can find no records of the appliance being put to any 
use outside the Army. 

* Alice Morse Earle, op. cit., p. 133. 

* It was a form of this torture that was us;d by Governor Picton in the 
case of the native girl, Louisa Caldcron (cf. p. 149). 


a Stump, the height of the stool, with its end cut to a 
round and blunt point, was then driven into the ground 
near the post before mentioned, and the stool being taken 
away, the bare heel of the sufferer was made to rest on 
this stump, which though it did not break the skin, put 
him to great torture."^ 

Some Bizarre Tortures 

One of the most revolting, and at the same time most 
unique methods of torture was that used at one time in 
Holland. The victim was stripped, and tied hand and foot, 
face upwards, on top of a table or bench, or secured to stakes 
fixed in the ground. An iron vessel, of basin-like shape, 
containing several large dormice or rats, was turned upside 
down upon the prisoner's stomach. The next step was to 
light a fire on top of the metal container. The animals, 
driven frantic by the heat, and imable to escape, burrowed 
their way into the prisoner's entrails. 

Somewhat similar was a method which, it is alleged, was 
used in Germany during the seventeenth-century persecu- 
tions of the Protestants, following the death of Martin 
Luther. A large and fierce cat was tied or caged upon the 
naked abdomen of the prisoner. The animal was then 
pricked or otherwise tormented until, in rage and despera- 
tion, it tore with claws and teeth the flesh beneath it, gnaw- 
ing into the bowels. 

A peculiar form of torture used by the French Huguenots 
in their persecution of the Catholics, consisted of sawing the 
body with a rope. The victim, stripped naked, was dragged 
backwards and forwards, with a sawing motion, along a 
tightly stretched, hard-fibred or wire rope. This species of 
torture was of the most agonizing description, the rope 
cutting into the flesh to the bone. 

A torture used in the Inquisition at Macerata in Italy is 
described by Archibald Bower, who was a member of the 
Council, until disgust at the persecutions inflicted caused 
him, in 1726, to flee the country. An instrument, resemb- 
ling somewhat a smith's anvil, surmounted with an iron 
spike, was placed in the centre of the floor. The prisoner, 

^ Francis Grose, op. cit., p. 201. 


his hands and feet bound securely and fastened to ropes 
attached to pulleys, was hoisted to the ceiling and then " let 
down with his back bone exacdy on the spike of iron," where 
his whole weight rested. He was kept there until he con- 
fessed or fainted. 

Another unusual form of torture employed at the same 
Inquisition was specifically designed for women. Tow, 
pitch and cotton were wrapped around the victim's arms, 
and then set on fire and allowed to burn until the flesh was 

The Lydians, in their tortures, says Smith, used an instru- 
ment full of sharp points. It was applied to the victim's 
body in the way that a card is used in combing wool. The 
Jews, remarks the same writer, appear to have used the 
harrow or thrashing-machine in much the same manner.^ 

Hippolyte de Marsillis, a fifteenth-century writer, 
refers to a method of torture in which goats were allowed 
to lick the prisoner's naked feet, which had previously 
been watered v^dth brine. He states that this constituted 
" an indescribable torment." Other methods referred to 
by the same authority were putting hot eggs under the 
arm-pits, allowing a stream of water to fall upon the 
abdomen from a great height, and tying candles to the 

In the thirteenth century, according to Lea, a unique 
form of torment was invented by Theodore Lascaris, appli- 
cable in cases of suspected sorcery. A lady of the court 
was accused of this crime, and to induce her to confess, the 
emperor " caused her to be enclosed naked in a sack with 
a number of cats."^ The method, despite the severe suf- 
fering caused, failed in its object. 

"Little Ease" and "Torture of the Rats'* 

In the Tower of London, during those days when the 
walls of that grim structure, could they have spoken, 
might have told many sorry tales of the tortures of the 
rack, the boots, the Scavenger's Daughter, and the " iron 
gauntiets," there existed a dark cell of such small dimen- 

^ W. Smith, Dictionary of Gree\ and Roman Antiquities, 1842. 
* H. C. Lea, Superstition and Force. 


sions that no grown man could stand upright in it, or lie 
at full length on the floor. Walking about was impossible. 
All the occupant could do during the seemingly intermin- 
able hours when he was confined in this dungeon was to 
adopt a squatting position. The cell was called " Little 
Ease," a most significant and descriptive sobriquet. 

An even more terrible cell in the Tower was that known 
as the " dungeon amongst the rats," to which prisoners, 
by special warrant of the Privy Council, were sometimes 
condemned for the purpose of extorting confession. The 
floor of this dungeon was below high-water mark, and with 
the rise of the tide it became covered with stinking water. 
But this was not all. With the water came hordes of 
hungry rats. To sleep was to court injury or death. And 
so, in that dark stinking water-ridden cell, the prisoner 
fought the rats on the one hand and sleep on the other, 
until, weary and exhausted, he could fight no longer. 

In the Bastille of Paris there was one dungeon, says 
Lacroix, "the floor of which was conical with the point 
downwards so that it was impossible to sit, or lie, or stand 
in it."^ In the reign of Queen Anne, we are told, the 
debtors' prisons were in a shocking state, and because the 
inmates had no money to buy food they were sometimes 
reduced to catching rats and mice to avoid dying of starva- 
tion. Indeed many did die from sheer lack of food. 
Others contracted diseases, as in the case of Dr. John 
Hooper who, in I5S5» was confined in the Fleet prison, 
alongside which a filthy, evil-smelling ditch ran, poisoning 
the atmosphere the prisoners had to breathe. Even as late 
as the nineteenth century the conditions of the hulks or 
" floating prisons " which were moored in the Thames, 
the Medway and in Portsmouth Harbour, housing thou- 
sands of convicts, were terrible. They were insanitary and 
they were full of vermin. 

Thus the prisons of all countries, from the beginning 
of civilization until well into the nineteenth century, might 
well, without any exaggeration, have been described as tor- 
ture chambers. The inmates were badly fed and in- 
humanly treated; they were given work, which, in itself, 
was little removed from actual torture, and punished in 

* Paul Lacroix, Middle Ages, Vol. I, p. 407. 


various ways for the slightest breach of an iron system of 

Various Prison Tortures 

A remarkable seventeenth-century pamphlet, dealing 
with the treatment meted out to English parliamentary 
prisoners, in the year 1643, by Captain William Smith, 
Provost-Marshal General of the King's Army, and the 
prison-keeper at Oxford, provides staggering revelations. 
There were 180 prisoners all told, and they were forced 
into one room of such small dimensions that they were 
compelled to lie upon one another. They were allowed 
one pennyworth of bread and a can of small beer apiece 
each day. They were asked to take up the Protestation 
and serve in the King's Army. All refused, and, says the 
writer, thereupon Smith " drives us all up again into the 
Tower, striking us with his cane, swearing deeply that he 
would make us take it, or he would make us to shit as small 
as a rat; and so kept us still to our former allowance." On 
February 6th some of the prisoners were removed from 
the Castle to the bridewell, " where we were about forty 
of us put down into the dungeon, about foure weeks 
thronged, in so little roome, that we were scarce able to 
stirre one by another, the place also being made very noy- 
some, because we eased ourselves in the same, so that in 
some place of it, we might go over the shooes in pisse and 
filth." As they became weaker and weaker through ill- 
treatment and lack of food, the state of their cell became 
worse. " One eased nature as he lay, and another was 
troubled with vomiting." Smith, to add to their suffer- 
ing, now deprived them of water. So desperate did the 
prisoners in the Tower become that they drank their own 
urine. But let us read further : 

" They knock't for water. Ockdon, the Captaine's 
man, came and told them he could help them to none 
(though the river runee by the doore) they being dry 
knock't again. Smith came himself, and said I will 
give you water, caused three or four of his men to come 
arm'd to guard his person, and cal'd down one that 


was my Lord saies Miller, and layes him in irons neck 
and heels; and one sergeant Wallis he canes him at 
least fifty blowes over the head, and wounds him very 
sorely, that he hath lost one of his joints; and after this 
layes him in irons 28 pound weight, neck and heeles, 
and so keeps him in 48 hours in a nasty dungeon 
without bread or water, or any other sustenance; and 
caned Lieutenant Whithead, and lay'd him in irons; 
and to colour over his tyranny, commands his men to 
say, they made a mutiny." 

One prisoner attempted to escape but was recaptured. 

" Smith laid him in irons, hands and feet, and so 
keepes him about eight weeks; by reason of this cruell 
usage, he fell very weak and sick, and in his sicknesse 
he would not suffer anybody to come to helpe him in 
his great extremity, so that for three wrecks he lay in his 
owne dung and pisse, and so by a long and languishing 
disease, being pined to nothing, in a great deale of woe 
ended his days." 

Two more tried to escape, and failed. These Smith tor- 
tured by burning them with matches " between the 
fingers to the bone."^ 

Now let us skip a matter of a hundred years and take a 
look at the conditions prevalent in English prisons at the 
time when Howard published his famous revelations. At 
Knaresborough, in Yorkshire, the prison for town debtors, 
at the time of Howard's tour of inspection (1779) consisted 
of one room some 14 feet by 12 feet. It had an earthen floor, 
and was in a most offensive state, as an uncovered sewer 
from the town ran through the cell. "I was informed," 
writes Howard, " that an officer, confined here some years 
since, for a few days, took in with him a dog to defend him 
from vermin; but the dog was soon destroyed, and the 
prisoner's face much disfigured by them."' 

In a large number of foreign prisons, according to 
Howard, not only were the conditions inhuman and disgust- 

^ Lord Sommcrs, Tracts, London, 1795. 

* John Howard, The State of the Prisons, London, 1784, p. 410. 


ing, but torture was common. In Rome he found the old 
inquisitorial method of torment known as " the pulley " 
still in use; in Madrid he inspected a torture room, the walls 
of which were stained with blood; in Amsterdam, he came 
across a prisoner whose limbs had been dislocated to such 
an extent that he was incapable of working; at the prison 
La Porte de Halle of Brussels, the gaoler told him that " he 
had seen a man suffering on the torture-stool for 48 hours ";^ 
in Liege he discovered the guards patrolled outside the prison 
for the express purpose of preventing people stopping to 
listen to the cries of the prisoners in the torture chamber; 
in Ghent, at the prison De Mameloc\er, it was admitted 
that " lately a man sat 24 hours on the edged stool ";^ he was 
informed that in Antwerp gaol, a criminal, when he suffers 
the torture, " is clothed in a long shirt, has his eyes bound, 
and a physician or surgeon attends him : and when a con- 
fession is forced from him, and wine has been given him, 
he is required to sign his confession, and about 48 hours 
afterwards he is executed."^ At this prison also Howard was 
shown a small dungeon in which it was said " that formerly 
prisoners were suffocated by brimstone, when their families 
wished to avoid the disgrace of a public execution."* 

He saw the "black torture room" of Munich gaol; he 
found, in Aix-la-Chapelle prison, " an old man with irons 
on his hand, who was coniined on suspicion, and had twice 
suffered the torture to force a discovery of his confeder- 
ates";^ in Hanover he was informed that, only two days 
before, a confession of guilt had been extracted from a 
criminal by torture, the hair from his head, his breast, and 
other parts having been torn off by the executioner; in 
Zurich, in Florence, and in Osnabrug, he discovered that the 
torture chambers were in constant use. In Denmark he 
found that mutilation was still practised; in Italy prisoners 
who attempted to escape were punished with 100 and 200 
lashes a day for three consecutive days. And all this was 
happening about a hundred and fifty years ago. It is a grim, 
a dismaying, and an unforgettable record. 

^ John Howard, The State of the Prisons (Appendix), 1780, p. 97. 

* Ibid., p. 99. 

* Ibid., p. loi. 

* Ibid., p. loi. 

* Ibid., p. 95. 


Now let US move forward another fifty years or so and 
again turn our attention to the English prisons. Early in 
the nineteenth century, an engineer named Cubitt invented 
an infernal affair called the treadwheel or treadmill, for the 
use of prisoners condemned to hard labour.^ It was built 
on the principle of the ordinary water-wheel, the treads or 
steps providing standing room for a row of from ten to forty 
prisoners. Each prisoner, who grasped a bar or rung fixed 
above his head, was compelled to move his legs exactly as if 
ascending a flight of steps, only he never altered his position, 
the steps passing from under his feet. The effort which each 
person made to avoid his legs sinking with the tread, was 
equal to that of ascending. At first sight, the punishment 
did not appear excessive, but in practice, a quarter of an 
hour's labour on the treadmill was enough to exhaust a 
fully developed man. 

For twenty-five years this form of hard labour was 
common throughout the prisons of England. Then, in the 
1840's, another diabolical engine was invented, to wit, the 
crank. In appearance, the machine resembled a domestic 
knife-cleaner as much as anything. The prisoner's task was 
to turn the handle. There was a little clock attachment 
which registered the number of revolutions made. The 
prisoner was required to turn that handle completely round 
10,000 times a day : a stupendous task. To realize the exact 
nature of this task, let us glance at the findings of the 
Committee appointed to inquire into the condition and 
treatment of the prisoners confined in Birmingham Borough 
prison in 1852-3 when, following Governor Maconochic's 
retirement (October 1851), Lieut. Austin became governor 
and introduced new and severer disciplinary methods. 

" We were assured," says the Report, " that, in order to 
accomplish such a task (10,000 revolutions of the crank) 
a boy would necessarily exert a force equal to one fourth 
of the ordinary work of a draught horse; the average 
estimate of the work of a boy, in ordinary labour out of 
a prison, being about one tenth of the same; and, indeed, 
that no human being, whether adult or juvenile, could 
continue to perform such an amount of labour of this 

^ The first prison to install a treadmill was Brixton, in 1817. 


kind for several consecutive days, especially on prison 
diet, without wasting much and suffering greatiy." 

These 10,000 revolutions of the crank were spread over 
various parts of the day, true enough, but it was a rule 
that if a prisoner did not perform his task in the allotted 
time he must continue labouring at the crank, without food, 
until the required number of revolutions was completed. 
More and further, the prisoners were set impossible tas\s 
and punished for not doing these tasks. There was intro- 
duced into the prison an instrument of torture known as 
the " punishment jacket," which merits a word of descrip- 
tion. It was a sort of glorified strait-jacket, with a perfectly 
rigid leather collar three and a half inches deep, and rather 
less than a quarter of an inch thick. The prisoner was put 
into the strait-jacket, with his arms tied together on his chest, 
and strapped to the wall in a standing position. The collar 
was fastened so tightly round his neck " there was no room 
to get a finger between it and the flesh," and, stated the 
chaplain in the course of his evidence, Abner Wilks, a boy 
of fifteen years, who was punished in this way, " could not 
bite a piece of bread held to his mouth owing to the tight- 
ness of the collar." In this position, men and boys were 
often kept for four, five, or six hours, and sometimes for 
a whole day. Edward Andrews, aged fifteen, committed to 
three months' imprisonment on March 28th for the crime of 
stealing four pounds of beef, was given crank labour on 
March 30th. Failing to perform his allotted task, he was fed 
on bread and water only. A second failure was punished in 
the same way. The third time he was put on crank labour, 
Andrews broke the clock attached to the machine. He was 
then put in the " punishment jacket." This was April 17th. 
Two days later and he had another dose of the " jacket." 
Again and again was he punished in this way. On April 
27th came tragedy. The night-watchman found the boy 
hanging by his hammock strap from one of the bars of the 
cell window, stone dead. 

Witness after witness gave evidence of the cruel treatment 
meted out to prisoners Vv^ithin the walls of that grim Birm- 
ingham gaol during the two years immediately following 
Governor Maconochie's retirement. There were tales of 


prisoners stripped naked and drenched with cold water for 
the most trivial offences; there were accounts of terrible 
floggings; and there was unimpeachable evidence of the dark 
cells being in continual use. An old man of sixty-four, of 
poor physique and suffering from disease, was kept labour- 
ing at the crank hour after hour; prisoners who were a long 
way removed from manhood were worked and punished 
until death would have been welcomed. And indeed, death 
did come to three prisoners, and at that, while they were 
locked up in their solitary cells. 

The Commissioners, after examining the witnesses, and 
considering the evidence, stated : 

"With respect to Captain Maconochie, wc arc fully 
satisfied that he is a gentleman of humanity and bene- 
volence, whose sole object, in undertaking the govern- 
ment of the prison, was to promote the reformation of 
the prisoners, and the well-being of society. ..." 

On the other hand, however, they found the conduct of 
Lieutenant Austin, first as deputy-governor, and later, and, 
in particular, as governor, *' was deserving of the most severe 
censure "; they spoke of the surgeon's conduct " in terms of 
strong condemnation"; and "the subordinate discipline 
officers of the gaol were in many instances guilty of wanton 
and very reprehensible severity." 

These revelations had their effect, and initiated a re- 
formatory campaign which revolutionized the treatment of 
criminals in English prisons. The full results of this 
campaign have been seen in this past half century. The 
reforms do not apply throughout the civilized world, how- 
ever, and even in countries claiming to practise the most 
humanitarian of methods there is still much room for 
improvement. The Dartmoor mutiny of January, 1932, it 
was alleged, was primarily due to the unsatisfactory condi- 
tions then prevailing in the prison. Apart from poor food, 
damp and draughty cells, the treatment of convicts in many 
English prisons, according to Stuart Wood, is often lament- 

Towards the close of the nineteenth century, a method, 

^ Sec Shades of the Prison House by Stuart Wood, Williams & Norgatc 


reminiscent of the inquisitorial days, for compelling sus- 
pected criminals and others to talk, was still used in France. 
This method consisted of confinement in the souriciere, a cell 
about three feet square, where the prisoner could not sit, he 
down, or stretch his legs. At the Seine Assize Court, in 
connexion with a murder case, says The Times (February 22, 
1893), when a barber charged with the crime was acquitted, 
it transpired that this suspect and a woman witness had been 
imprisoned in the souriciere for weeks. 

The treatment of prisoners in the Onondaga County 
Penitentiary, near Syracuse, New York, was the subject of 
a revealing article published in The OutlooJ^ (August 2, 
1916), in which it was stated that " added to the penalty of 
chains (weighing 12 to 16 lbs.) riveted to the bodies of 
prisoners who had attempted to escape, was the severe addi- 
tional punishment of being obliged to wear the chains for 
months at a time, ' day and night,' which means, of course, 
even when sleeping and bathing."^ 

In an article in Survey (May 15, 1915), by W. D. 
Saunders, relating to conditions at the convict camp in 
Pasquotank County, North Carolina, it was stated that the 
prisoners who were engaged on road construction were 
" chained on their bunks and chained together by a master 
chain," the ends of which were " padlocked to trees outside 
the tent." They were punished by flogging : a leather strap 
" two inches wide and half an inch thick " fastened to a 
hickory handle being used. The convicts were not only 
chained during working hours as well as at night, but to 
prevent any attempt at running away, were shackled with 
" iron bands on their ankles which cut into their flesh, 
making running sores that never healed because the iron 
bands were never removed."^ 

According to the Spectator (February 27, 1897) recently, 
it was alleged that in Spain *' salt is put in contumacious 
prisoners' water, thus producing a thirst against which 
human nature is incapable of standing out." 

In the year 1919, the conditions of inmates of Turkish 
prisons in Constantinople was the subject of an inquiry. In 
the maison d'arret (house of detention), the prisoners, 

* Quoted in Prison Reform, compiled by Corinne Bacon, H. W. Wilson 
Company, New York, 1917, p. 79. * Ibid., p. 23a. 


" clothed in filthy rags " and " swarming with vermin," 
were kept for months on end awaiting dieir trial. One 
Greek youth of eighteen years, with five other prisoners, 
had been first thrown into prison twelve months before. 
"Neither he nor they have ever been tried, and to-day he 
is wasted to a skeleton and his five companions dead."^ 

Generally speaking, it would appear that torture, in some 
form, administered either openly or surreptitiously, is a 
feature of the penal institutions of most countries. It would 
further appear to be difficult to ensure that torture does not 
occur, seeing that those in authority have opportunities for 
inflicting suffering in forms which may be described as dis- 
ciplinary measures or justified as legitimate punishments: 
e.g., " beating up " for trivial offences, forcing prisoners to 
" trot " until they drop from sheer exhaustion, sometimes 
for no offences at all. In some countries this last-named 
method has been adopted in military prisons, the culprit, 
carrying full equipment, being compelled to do all exercises 
and tasks at " the double." 

It is noteworthy that once a convict is adjudged guilty of 
an offence inside the prison he has little hope of being able to 
protest against any form of ill-treatment to which, in the 
name of punishment, he may be subjected. 

' Report on Conditions in Turf^ish Prisons, H.M.S.O., 1919. 



The Flagellants 

In the thirteenth century, to be precise, in the year 1260, 
appeared the first large-scale religious movement which had 
as its main tenet, self-flagellation. For some generations 
previously, the political, economic and sociological condi- 
tions prevailing in Italy had been creating in the minds of 
the populace, and particularly in the more blatant and 
fanatically religious sections of it, something akin to despair. 
Everyw^here tyranny and anarchy manifested themselves. 
Then, in 1259, the great plague which swept the district 
brought things to a head. Raniero Fasani, known as the 
hermit of Umbria, preached the doctrines of self-appease- 
ment, self-sacrifice, atonement and martyrdom as means of 
placating God and securing divine interference in the affairs 
of man. He went further. He gathered together a number 
of enthusiastic followers. Under the name of " Disciplinata 
di Gesu Cristo," this fanatical band marched through nor- 
thern Italy, preaching their gospel and adopting self-flagel- 
lation^ as part of their rubric. With their bodies bared to the 
waist, carrying whips, sticks, twigs, and every manner of 
crude flagellating instrument, marching in procession, they 
scourged themselves and one another until, if the accounts 
handed down to posterity do not exaggerate, the blood ran 
down their bodies. As they marched, they called for recruits. 
And not surprisingly, to anyone acquainted with the psy- 
chology of mass emotion, they got them. Then, as is the 
way of epidemics, pathological and sociological, after two 

^ It is probable that the Adamites, as the members of a heretical sect 
flourishing about a.d. 200 called themselves, first practised self-flagellation, 
reserving the discipline as well as the practice of nudity for their private 
gatherings in connexion with the religion ihey professed. In any public 
processions, the shoulders only were bared, and flagellation was not prac- 


































Z M 

Pi o 
w o 
o ^ 




years or so of sensational life, the movement declined and 

In 1347 the Black Death swept Europe like a whirlwind. 
Everywhere was dismay, depression, and all the familiar 
results that follow a major catastrophe. The Flagellants 
once more appeared on the scene, and with renewed vigour 
preached their tenets of atonement and martyrdom. 
Throughout continental Europe the movement flourished 
and spread. There were many different organizations, all 
motivated by the same spirit of self-sacrifice, humility and 
goodwill to one's fellow men. Men and women, too, of all 
classes and creeds joined the processions. Criminals even 
became fanatical flagellators. 

The procedure was much the same everywhere. March- 
ing in procession, armed with their instruments of flagella- 
tion, on arrival at a town or village, they held a crusading 
meeting. Often they had two or three meetings in the same 
place in one day. Sometimes these meetings were held in 
the churches; more often they took place in the market 
square or in some other public gathering place. The 
Flagellants stripped themselves to the waist, and sprawled 
on the ground, forming themselves roughly into a circle. 
According to the crimes or offences for which they desired 
to make atonement, they took up specific positions. Thus, 
the adulteress prostrated herself on her face; the murderer 
on his back; the perjurer lay on his side. Then, to the 
accompaniment of prayers, of psalm-singing, of lamenta- 
tions, and pleas for divine intervention, they were flogged 
by the officiating priest or dignitary. Then they flagellated 
each other and, on occasion, themselves. 

Gardner gives an interesting account, from the pen of an 
eye-witness, of a flagellating service performed in a church 
in Rome during Lent : 

" Being resolved to satisfy my curiosity on this 
singular subject, by being present at the ceremony, I went 
one evening, along with several friends, to the church of 
the Caravita, where it is performed on the Tuesdays and 
Thursdays of Lent. The service commenced about an 
hour after sunset. The church is spacious, and the 
number of men present was, as nearly as we could judge, 



about five hundred. There were only six or eight small 
candles, so that from the first we could only see indis- 
tinctly. During prayers, two or three attendants entered, 
each having an iron hoop on which were suspended 
about a hundred leathern thongs, which were distributed 
among the congregation; but some had brought their 
whips along with them. We examined the thongs and 
found them exactly like good small English dog-whips, 
hard and well-knotted towards the point, but we did not 
succeed in obtaining one. After prayers, we had a 
sermon of some length, on the advantages of punishing 
the body for the good of the soul, and especially that sort 
of penance which is inflicted by means of whips. During 
the sermon the lights were extinguished one after another, 
and the concluding part of it was delivered in total dark- 

" After the sermon was concluded a bell rang, and 
there was a slight bustle and hustling, as if those present 
were removing part of their dress; a second bell rang, 
and the flagellation commenced. It lasted fully a quarter 
of an hour; hundreds were certainly flogging something, 
but whether their own bare backs, or the pavement of the 
church, we could not tell. To judge from the sounds, 
some used the whips, and others their hands, but the 
darkness was so total, we could see nothing; and besides 
having some little fear for our own persons we had got 
into a snug corner where we calculated no thongs could 
reach us. The groaning and crying were horrible. When 
the flagellation ceased, prayers were read, during which 
the penitents put on their clothes and composed their 
countenances. Lights were brought in and the congrega- 
tion dismissed with the usual benediction."^ 

Other observers have expressed suspicion regarding the 
genuineness of many of the practices of these Flagellants, 
and undoubtedly the movement presented many opportuni- 
ties for deception and, possibly, even for self-deception. At 
the same time there can be no question that many men and 
women, in their fanatical zealj did undoubtedly castigate 
themselves, or allowed themselves to be whipped by others, 

* James Gardner, The Faiths of the World, 1858, Vol. I, p, 901-2. 


with unmerciful severity. The evidence is voluminous and 
incontestable. In this connexion De Lolme writes : 

" The cruel severities exercised upon themselves by 
the modern Penitents, are facts about which all writers of 
relations agree; all mention the great quantity of blood 
which these Flagellants lose, and throw to and fro with 
their disciplines. It is even commonly reported, I do not 
know with what truth, in the places where such proces- 
sions are performed, that those who have been used for 
several years to discipline themselves in them, cannot 
leave it off afterwards without danger of some great dis- 
order, unless they get themselves bled at that time of the 
year at which these ceremonies used to take place. 
Madame D'Aunoy says, that the first time she saw one 
of these processions, she thought she should faint away; 
and she concludes the account she has given of the gallant 
flagellating excursions that have been above mentioned, 
with saying, that the gentleman who has thus so hand- 
somely trimmed himself, is often laid up in his room for 
several days afterwards, and so sick that he cannot go to 
Mass on Easter Sunday."^ 

A century ago, at least, the last remnants of any such 
flagellating movements in Europe vanished. The religious 
devotee of to-day, in civilized countries, has no taste for 
harsh self-disciplinary measures. But in certain primitive 
races, the phenomenon has persisted. There was, as com- 
paratively recently as fifty years ago, a secret order among 
die Pueblo Indians, practising flagellating rites very similar 
to those flourishing in Europe during the Middle Ages. This 
order, which styled itself " The Hermanos Penitentes or 
Penitent Brothers," was, says a writer in the Dublin Review 
(1894), founded some three hundred years ago. Because of 
the strong hostility and condemnation of the Church and the 
State, the identity of the members of the cult had to be kept 
secret. To this end, during the celebrations held in Lent, 
those taking part had their faces covered with hoods. In 
addition to flagellation administered privately and publicly, 
there was, asserts the writer, who himself witnessed one of 

* Dc Lolmc, The History of the Flagellants or the Advantages of Dis- 
cipline, London, 1777, p. 311. 


the celebrations, " a representation of the Crucifixion, carried 
out with such reaHsm that the death of a victim is by no 
means rare." 

Self-tortures of Saints and Penitents 

Self-punishment, or voluntary submission to torture, 
under the name of discipline, from the beginning of time, 
was a feature of most religious cults. It was expressly sanc- 
tioned by the Church of Rome; it was regularly practised in 
the monasteries and nunneries. The most popular method 
was flagellation, and there are grounds for supposing that, 
in the majority of cases, the penitents practised self-flagella- 
tion, with scourges of their own choosing and in privacy, 
rather than submit to fustigation at the hands of others. 
Thus St. Liguori, according to Cardinal Wiseman, disci- 
plined himself with such extreme severity that his secretary 
was constrained to interfere lest the martyr should lash him- 
self to death; while St. Pacificus used cords and chains upon 
his own flesh three times a week to such a degree that his 
body was covered v^th blood. 

About the year looo, the notorious Fulk, murderer of 
Conan, Duke of Brittany, made three separate pilgrimages 
to the Holy Land, on the last of which, to render his penance 
complete and in every way satisfactory to God and the 
Church, he caused himself to be drawn naked upon a hurdle, 
wearing a halter around his neck, through the streets of 
Jerusalem, while an attendant lashed him continuously with 
scourges, crying out at intervals " Lord ! have mercy on the 
traitor and forswearer Fulk." 

This voluntary submission to various kinds of torture, 
and to flagellation in particular, seems to have been a 
favourite method of atonement for murder and other serious 
crimes. King Henry II, for conniving at, if not actually 
commanding, the murder of Thomas a Becket, allowed him- 
self to be flogged in Canterbury Cathedral. Similarly, for 
heresy and other crimes, real or fictitious, with which they 
were accused, Raymond, Count of Toulouse; William, Duke 
of Aquitaine; Foulques, Count of Anjou; and the Marquis 
of Tuscany, submitted to scourging. The women too 
adopted similar tactics. Thus St. Hildegarde, St. Maria, 
Catherine of Cordona and Queen Anne of Austria. 


No less an authority than De Lolme, in his History of the 
Flagellants, comments on the phenomenon as follows : 

" The practice of voluntary flagellation soon spread 
itself far and wide; and we find it to have been adopted 
by numbers of persons eminent on account either of their 
dignity, or their merit, several of whom have been men- 
tioned by Father Gretzer. Among them were St. 
Andrew, Bishop of Fiesola, Laurence Justinian, Abbot 
Poppo, and especially St. Anthelm, Bishop of Bellay, who 
lived about a hundred years after Dominic the Cuirassed 
and Rodolph of Eugubio, and gloriously trod in the foot- 
steps of these two holy men. ' Every day (it is said in that 
saint's life, which was written by one of his intimate 
friends), every day he scourged himself, making lashes 
fall thick on his back and sides, and by thus heaping 
stripes upon stripes, he never suffered his skin to remain 
whole, or free from the marks of blows." 

In China much the same practices were at one time 
current. One famous penitent monk, belonging to the order 
of Bonzes, used a nail-studded chair. The slightest move- 
ment of the sitter resulted in the sharp points, which were 
as close together as it was possible to place them, piercing the 

The Indian " Suttee '* 

This ancient and tragic Hindu practice represents the 
limits to which self-sacrifice and incidentally self-torture can 
go; for it signifies nothing less than the self-destruction of 
the widow, by fire, upon the funeral pile of her husband. 
An essential feature of the sacrifice is its purely voluntary 
nature. The widow is not compelled to sacrifice herself, 
and any attempt at coercion, either by relatives, friends or 
priests, is condemned and prohibited. 

At the same time the Shastras promised glory and blessed- 
ness in the future life to those who practised the rite, and 
went so far as to state that it was " proper for a woman to 
cast herself upon the funeral pile of her husband." Further, 
the widow who neglected to sacrifice herself forfeited the 
respect of her people. And this was not all. Her nose and 

' B, Picart, Religious Ceremonies, Vol. IV, p. 229. 


car-rings were dragged off by main force, and her hair cut 
away. If she wore ornaments, she was ordered to remove 
them, or they were pulled off. She was compelled to observe 
lifelong chastity. 

The following description of the rite, given by a native 
Hindu, is authoritative : 

" After ceremonies of purification had been per- 
formed upon the spot, strong stakes of bamboo were 
driven into the ground, enclosing an oblong space about 
seven feet in length and six in breadth, the stakes being 
about eight feet in height; within this enclosure the pile 
was built of straw, and boughs, and logs of wood : upon 
the top a small arbour was constructed of wreathed 
bamboos, and this was hung with flowers within and 
without. About an hour after the sun had risen, prayers 
and ablutions having been carefully and devoutly per- 
formed by all, more especially by the Brahmins and Lall 
Radha, who was also otherwise purified and fitted for 
the sacrifice, the corpse of the deceased husband was 
brought from the house, attended by the administering 
Brahmins, and surrounded by the silent and weeping 
friends and relations of the family. Immediately follow- 
ing the corpse came Lall Radha, enveloped in a scarlet 
veil which completely hid her beautiful person from 
view. When the body was placed upon the pile, the 
feet being towards the west, the Brahmins took the veil 
from Lall Radha, and, for the first time, the glaring 
multitude were suffered to gaze upon that lovely face 
and form; but the holy woman was too deeply engaged 
in solemn prayer and converse with Brahma to be sensible 
of their presence, or of the murmur of admiration which 
ran through the crowd. Then turning with a steady look 
and solemn demeanour to her relations, she took from 
her person, one by one, all her ornaments, and distributed 
them as tokens of her love. One jewel only she retained, 
the tali, or amulet placed round her neck by her deceased 
husband on the nuptial day; this she silently pressed to 
her lips, then separately embracing each of her female 
relations, and bestowing a farewell look upon the rest, 
she unbound her hair, which flowed in thick and shining 


ringlets almost to her feet, gave her right hand to the 
principal Brahmin, who led her with ceremony three 
times round the pile, and then stopped with her face 
towards it, upon the side where she was to ascend. Hav- 
ing mounted two or three steps, the beautiful woman 
stood still, and pressing her hands upon the cold feet of 
her lifeless husband, she raised them to her forehead, in 
token of cheerful submission: she then ascended and 
crept within the little arbour, seating herself at the head 
of her lord, her right hand resting upon his head. The 
torch was placed in my hand, and overwhelmed with 
commingled emotions I fired the pile. Smoke and flame 
in an instant enveloped the scene, and amid the deafening 
shouts of the multitude I sank senseless upon the earth. I 
was quickly restored to sense, but already the devouring 
element had reduced the funeral pile to a heap of charred 
and smouldering timber. The assembled Brahmins 
strewed the ashes around, and with a trembling hand I 
assisted my father to gather the blackened bones of my 
beloved uncle and aunt, when having placed them in an 
earthen vessel we carried them to the Ganges, and with 
prayer and reverence committed them to the sacred 

The popularity of the rite is indicated by the fact that, 
despite the protestations and condemnation of the British 
government, in the decade of 1815 to 1825, a total of 5,997 
widows sacrificed themselves. Lieutenant-Colonel Sleeman 
states that on November 24, 1829, he had to suffer " an old 
widow to burn herself with the remains of her husband, 
who had that morning died upon the banks of the Ner- 

In 1830, the authorities succeeded in abolishing suttee 
throughout India, but there are indications that it continued 
to be practised surreptitiously in various parts for many 
years. " The last case I heard of," says Wilkins, " was 
about 1880."' 

^ Quoted by James Gardner, The Faiths of the World, 1858, Vol. II, 
p. 875. 

' Licut.-Col. W. H. Sleeman, Rambles and Recollections of an Indian 
Official, 1844, Vol. I, p. 25. 

' W. J. Wilkins, Modern Hinduism, 1887. 



Torture in Russia in the Nineteenth and Twentieth 

Before the coming of the Soviet, the peasants of Russia were 
treated by the aristocracy and the landowners as animals are 
treated in civilized countries to-day. They w^ere badly fed, 
they were worked very nearly all the hours that God sends, 
they were severely punished for the slightest negligence, 
they were chained to one another, they were driven to their 
work as a herdsman drives his cattle, their life was a living 
death. Many committed suicide. Many were whipped so 
atrociously that they either died under the lash or expired 
shortly afterwards. 

At the trial, in 1853, ^^ Mme. de Svirsky, a landed 
proprietress, it transpired that 

" she used to force her serfs to eat their excrement or 
rotted eggs. She used to strike them with an arapni\, 
or make them sit naked upon ice. She forced a little 
girl to eat a plait of hair. A wolf-bitch was kept in her 
courtyard, and she often set it upon the peasants. One 
woman was nearly killed by it; another received thirty 

In connexion with police activities, and especially as 
regards political offences, torture was frequently employed. 
Alexinsky refers to its use in 1906-7, by the police of Riga, 
in order to induce prisoners to confess their guilt and to 
divulge the names of their associates.^ The methods 
employed were equal in their barbarity and cruelty to any- 
thing of which the inquisitors of the Middle Ages were 
guilty. Three revolutionaries arrested on March 14, 1906, 

* Gregor Alexinsky, Modern Russia, translated by Bernard Miall, Fishci 
Unwin, 1913, p. 84. 

* Ibid., p. 28c. 



had " their nails and hair torn out, they were struck upon 
the genital organs, their bones were broken."^ In Novem- 
ber of that same year, a young man of twenty-two years 
" was transformed, in a detective police bureau, into a hair- 
less and mutilated old man."^ 

These were not isolated instances. They are merely 
typical cases out of a category of tortures the very reading 
of which makes one shudder with horror. Alexinsky, as 
ex-deputy of the Duma, speaks with authority and convic- 
tion. His book should be read by all who think that torture 
in Europe was abolished a hundred years ago. 

The Bolshevist Atrocities 

Now let us turn to the atrocities committed by the Bol- 
shevists in 191 8-19. The report of the Deniken Commission 
established beyond any dispute that many of those who were 
executed by the Bolshevists were subjected to the most 
terrible torture before being actually killed. Mutilations 
and flogging were common forms of ante-mortem treatment. 

An official communique from Vladivostock, dated Janu- 
ary 14, 1919, reveals that " officers taken prisoners by Bol- 
shevists here had their shoulder straps nailed into their 
shoulders."^ Some were found with their eyes gouged out, 
and without noses. Bishop Andronick was buried alive. 

Another report states that in July 191 8, during the fight- 
ing in the Usuri district, Czech soldiers were found with 
their " private parts cut off, their faces slashed, their eyes 
gouged out, and their tongues cut out." These mutilations 
had been " inflicted before death."* 

General Knox reported to the British War Office: 

*' At Blagoveschensk officers and soldiers from Torbolof's 
detachment were found with gramophone needles thrust 
under their finger nails, their eyes torn out, the marks of 
nails on their shoulders where shoulder straps had been 



^ Ibid., p. 281. 
2 Ibid., p. 281. 

' A Collection of Reports on Bolshevism in Russia, H.M.S.O., 1919, 
p. 26. 

♦ Ibid., p. 27. 

* Ibid., p. 45. 


The catalogue of horrors is as terrifying in its immensity 
as it is frightful in its details. Nineteen-year-old Miss 
Bakouycva was found still writhing in agony after having 
had a bayonet slowly forced into the same spot thirteen 
times. The faces of two priests named Bleiwe and 
Bjeschanitzki, when their dead bodies were discovered, 
"were mutilated almost beyond recognition"; labourers 
were flogged and beaten with rifle-butts until they gave 
evidence; many victims, before being executed, were forced 
" to dig their own graves."^ At Pskoff, 150 Russians, cap- 
tured by the Reds, were handed over to the Mongolian 
soldiers, " who sawed them in pieces."^ 

For sheer fiendish ingenuity and barbarity the tortures 
employed by the Che-\a were reminiscent of those days 
when the Tower resounded with the screams of the victims 
of the rack and its analogues. Melgounov's interesting 
work,' to which I am indebted for particulars of the 
activities of the Che'\a, and to which book I would refer 
the reader desirous of further information, mentions several 
of the forms which these torments assumed. The " wreath," 
a leather strap with screw and nut attachment, was clasped 
around the forehead, and at every turn of the screw into the 
nut, with consequent compression, the victim suffered the 
most excruciating pain. The " iron glove," the exterior 
surface of which was covered with spikes, strapped on the 
torturer's hand, inflicted terrible wounds upon any part of 
the victim's body which was battered with it. In another 
method of torture, the prisoner was extended face upwards 
on the floor. His shoulders and head were firmly held by 
four men and his neck stretched " taut," while a fifth man 
beat it with the butt-end of a revolver or a cudgel until the 
*' blood gushed out of the mouth and nostrils."* Branding 
on the forehead, " crowning " with barbed wire, rolling 
in a nail-studded barrel, scalding with boiling water, inject- 
ing powdered glass into the rectum, holding lighted candles 
to the genitals, were a few out of a miscellany of tortures 
commonly used.* 

' Ibid., p. 46. 

^ Ibid., p. 23. 

' Sergey Pctrovich Melgounov, The Red Terror in Russia, Etent, 1935 

* Ibid. 



Torture in Abyssinia 

One of the countries in which torture continued to 
flourish with a degree of universality and barbarity rivalling 
that of former days, was Abyssinia. One reason for this 
was, of course, the continuance of the slave-trade. The very 
way in which the slaves were shackled was a form of torture 
in itself. The manacles upon the slave's feet were fixed so 
closely together that it was quite impossible for him to walk. 
All his movements were made in short jumps, exactly as a 
child moves in playing leap-frog. Often, in addition to these 
shackles, one hand was chained to the feet in such a manner 
that the slave was bent double. 

The conditions of the prisoners in the gaols of Abyssinia, 
both slaves and others, were horrible beyond description, as 
was revealed by Mr. Lawrence Kerans, who, along with 
other British residents, were imprisoned in 1863. This 
Englishman, in a letter to his parents, said : 

" I am now a year and six months in prison, with chains 
of 20 lbs. weight on the legs; and lately the right hand 
has been attached to the feet. You cannot imagine what 
fearful sufferings I have to go through every day."^ 

In 1893, according to statements published in the Press, 
the Negus of Abyssinia condemned one of his pages, who 
was detected plotting against the emperor's life, to have 
his right hand amputated, his tongue cut out, and then to 
be " exposed in the desert under the glare of the sun, to be 
eaten by the hyenas."* 

Torture in South-West "Africa 

The harsh treatment of the natives by officials and 
farmers in the German colonies in Africa previous to the 
war of 1 9 14-18, is revealed in a grim and forbidding report 
presented to the Houses of Parliament in 1918. 

For all kinds of trivial offences men and women were 
punished severely, flogging apparendy being the favourite 
method employed. Usually the procedure was to hold 

* Charles T. Bekc, The British Captives in Abyssinia, 1867, p. 194. 
■ Spectator, December 23, 1893, p. 908. 


down the culprit over a barrel and flog him on the buttocks 
and hips with a heavy sjambok, as many as 25 to 50 lashes 
being often given. Deaths often followed such floggings. 
Johann Noothout stated on oath : 

" I discovered bodies of native women lying between 
stones and devoured by birds of prey. Some bore signs 
of having been beaten to death. . . . The manner in 
which the flogging was carried out was the most cruel 
imaginable . . . pieces of flesh would fly from the 
victim's body into the air."^ 

Another witness stated that women were harnessed to carts 
and " made to pull like draught animals." If they failed to 
perform their task well they were flogged with sjamboks. 
Alfred Katsimune stated on oath that : " Hardly a day 
passed without flogging taking place of local natives or 
natives sent in from the farms." On one occasion he was 
ordered to flog a middle-aged Berg-Damara, " whose master 
complained to the police that he had been impertinent." 
The sentence was 25 lashes. " In the course of the thrash- 
ing the sjambok curled round his thigh and injured his 
private parts. No medical treatment was given to him. He 
went back to his hut and died a few days afterwards."^ 

The Chinese Communist Atrocities 

In the December of 1927 the Chinese city of Canton was 
seized by the Communist party. The insurrectionists were 
a motley crew. There were peasants and soldiers, bandits 
and criminals, with all the rabble that collects whenever an 
opportunity for looting and murdering occurs. Rightly or 
wrongly, Russia was blamed for the whole affair; the 
Nanking Government stating that the man responsible for 
carrying out the coup was Kovchek, a Russian, who had 
arrived in Canton only the week before hostilities com- 

^ Report on the Natives of South-West Africa and their Treatment by 
Germany. Prepared in the Administrator's Office, Windhuk, South-Wesr 
Africa, H.M.S.O., London, 1918, p. 100. 

' Ibid., p. 115. 

* The China Year Boo\, Tientsin, 1928, p. 1401. 


The Reds evidently chose their time well. On Sunday, 
December nth, to the accompaniment of the rattle of 
machine-guns and everything else that would shoot, they 
swept through the city, killing all who attempted to obstruct 
their path. In a matter of hours. Canton was completely in 
their power. Then began a period of terrorism equalling 
anything history has to relate. It was a brief period, true 
enough, but when torture and death are at work, arbitrary 
methods of reckoning time can no longer be taken into 
account. One lives a whole lifetime in every single hour. 
For three days the Reds worked their will, and to every 
known anti-communist, to every citizen who did not join 
the mobs, cheer their antics and, often enough, participate 
in their atrocities, those three days represented an eternity. 
Not for an instant were they free from the fear and possi- 
bility of having to suffer a painful and lingering death. Men 
and women both, after being put to every form of torture 
known to the Oriental mind, were openly butchered. 

On December 13th, after fierce fighting, the city was re- 
captured by General Li Fu-Lin's troops. This marked not 
the end, but the continuation of the reign of terror. The 
" Whites," as these anti-communists were called, repaid 
torture with torture, massacre with massacre. They exacted 
a fearful vengeance. For every known or suspected com- 
munist Canton became as terrible a danger spot as, a few 
hours before, it had been for every known or suspected 
anti-communist. According to The China Year Boo\ (1928) 

" it was reported that thirteen Russians had been arrested 
of whom five, including at least one Soviet Consular 
official, had been executed, and the remainder were be- 
ing paraded through the streets previous to execution." 

Some of the corpses were gathered up and buried, but in 
many cases they were left to rot in the streets. In their 
mangled and mutilated state, these human bodies presented 
an awesome sight. There are indications that both sides in 
the struggle, in putting their victims to death, made free 
use of that most frightful torture termed the " Death by 
the Thousand Cuts." 

Driven out of Canton city, the Reds continued to pursue 


their terrorist activities in various towns and villages of 
South- West China. The reports from these districts, pub- 
lished in the Press at the time, tell a sorry story. " In one 
case," says The Times (March 3, 1928), " 300 Buddhist 
monks were locked in their temple, which was set on fire, 
all of them perishing." Prosperous tradesmen were tortured 
until they parted with their money; " driving splinters 
under the finger nails " being " a favourite device."^ Execu- 
tions took gruesome and bizarre forms, in some cases 
reminiscent of the ancient Aztec sacrifices, the victims' 
hearts being torn out, cooked and eaten. ^ Father Wong, 
" it was publicly announced," was to be " executed by the 
slicing process ";' and a similar fate was the lot of an eighty- 
year-old Chinese friend of Bishop Valtorta.* 

Torture in Modern Warfare 

War and torture are bedmates. Precisely the same 
underlying motives that induce the individual to cry aloud 
for vengeance against another individual induce the nation 
to clamour for the blood of the inhabitants of any country 
with which there exists a state of war. The gospel of the 
nation at war is hate; its objects are vengeance and retribu- 

When once war breaks out, torture may be recognized 
as an inevitable concomitant. Even if the governments 
concerned ostensibly denounce and prohibit torture, it 
occurs nevertheless. There is no way in which bodies of 
men or individuals can be prevented from surreptitiously 
practising torture upon such of their enemies as fall into 
their power where licence to kill and maim has been freely 
given. The exaggeration associated with the reports of 
enemy atrocities, which forms part of every combatant 
State's propagandistic machinery, is probably more an 
exaggeration in regard to particularized or individual cases 
than in any generalized sense. The extent of these atrocities 

^ TAff Times, March lo, 1928. 
' Ibid., March 10, 1928. 
' Ibid., December 29, 1927. 

* For a description of the slicing process (" Death by the Thousand 
Cuts ") see page 106. 


is never admitted or even fully knov^n by the State directly 
or indirectly responsible for their committal, and for this 
reason neither the allegations of torture on the one hand 
nor their repudiation on the other can be accepted as 

Ehiring the world war of 191 4-1 8 torture in all its most 
extreme forms was rampant. When the Austro-Hungarian 
troops first invaded Serbia, they put to death by torture 
soldiers and civilians alike. The account which Professor 
Reiss gives of these atrocities is as awesome in its details as 
it is horrifying in its volume. Men and women were muti- 
lated in the most shocking way before they were finally 
done to death. Cutting away the nose, the ears, the limbs, 
the breasts, and putting out the eyes, were common forms 
which these mutilations took. Men were castrated, women 
were raped, in the most brutal manner. From a long list 
of instances, two may be given. 

" Mirosava Vasilievitch, aged 21, violated by about 
40 soldiers, genital organs cut off, her hair pushed down 
the vagina. She was finally disembowelled, but only 
died immediately after this being done."^ 

" Maxim Vasitch, aged 53, was tied to a mill-wheel 
which was then set in motion. Whenever the wheel 
carried him round to the Austrians, they diverted them- 
selves with prodding him with bayonets.'" 

For sheer brutality in their methods and the number of 
the atrocities they committed, however, it would appear that 
the Turks, in their operations against the Armenians in 
1915-16, surpassed all the other combatants participating in 
the European war. The documents which were presented 
to the English Parliament in the October of 1916 exhibit a 
frightful record of terrorism. 

According to the statement of a German eye-witness, the 
people living in Hartpout and Mezre were subjected to 
ferocious tortures. He says: 

^ R. A. Reiss, Report Upon the Atrocities Committed by the Austro- 
Hungarian Army During the First Invasion of Serbia, English translation 
by F. S. Copeland, Simpkin Marshall, Hamilton Kent & Co., 1916, p. 70. 

* Ibid., p. 114. 


" They have had their eye-brows plucked out, their 
breasts cut off, their nails torn off; their torturers hew 
off their feet or else hammer nails into them just as they 
do in shoeing horses."^ 

According to other witnesses, the bastinado was frequently 
employed, the victims being beaten until they were uncon- 
scious. From 200 to 800 strokes were often inflicted in 
efforts to extract information. After one dose of the excori- 
ating bastinado delivered upon the soles of the feet, boiling 
water would be poured upon the sensitive flesh,* and 
another dose of flogging inflicted. 

Torture by mutilation, by burning with hot irons, and 
beating with clubs and hammers seems to have been 
commonly employed. The Turkish peasants, armed with 
scythes, we are told, massacred the Armenians by shearing 
away their ears, noses, hands, feet, etc. 

Whenever and wherever there is war the same dismal 
story of torture seems to apply. At Nanking, during the 
Japanese-Chinese fighting of 1937-8, we read in that sober 
and terrible record compiled by Mr. H. J. Timperley of 
the rapes and tortures carried out by the Japanese Army.^ 

Terrorism in Ireland 

Turning our eyes nearer home, we find the Anglo-Irish 
war of 1 920- 1 not free from cruelty, torture and persecu- 
tion. The Irish Republicans adopted terrorist tactics; the 
Government forces retaliated with measures just as grim, 
just as brutal, and just as reprehensible. A reign of terror 
prevailed. Murder, arson and looting were everyday occur- 
rences. In Dublin, on November 21, 1920, a day which was 
to go down in history as " Bloody Sunday," fourteen British 
officers and ex-officers were put to death, and several others 
wounded. " In two or three cases," says The Times 
(November 22, 1920), " officers' wives were pulled out of 

* The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire i^i^-i6. 
Documents presented to Viscount Grey of Fallodon by Viscount Bryce. 
H.M.S.O., 1916, p. 90. 

* Ibid., p. 340. 

* Sec What War Means: The Japanese Terror in China, compiled and 
edited by H. J. Timperley, GoUancz, 1938. 


The man in the foreground is a Russian Consular Official. 


(See Text, page 269.) 

From Ford's Tauromachia, 1852. 



bed and their husbands were murdered before their eyes." 
In the afternoon of that same fatal day, a body of " Black- 
and-Tans " went out to Croke Park, where some 15,000 
persons were watching a football match, and fired into the 
crowd. Nine were killed, one died of heart failure, and 
fifty were wounded. 

Each side accused the other of practising torture, prob- 
ably with equal truth. Thus : " Men were made to crawl 
along the streets, and were taken and stripped and 
flogged, and sent back naked to their homes. "^ And 
again, men with blackened faces fetched out the two sons 
of Patrick M'Elligott in their " night attire in a downpour 
of rain " — they were " cruelly beaten with the butt ends 
of rifles and kicked."^ 

There were allegations of Sinn Feiners being taken to 
Dublin Casde and tortured until they gave information. 
The " Black-and-Tans "^ had authority to act as they 
wished, and undoubtedly they abused this authority. 
Hard-boiled eggs, while still hot in their shells, were, 
according to General Crozier, " placed in the armpits of 
prisoners, the arms being strapped to their sides," and in 
other cases, behind locked doors, victims were beaten up 
by " bullies." " In Munster," says the same authority, " a 
seventeen-year-old Sinn Fein boy was stripped naked and 
tied to a triangle for daily flogging till such a time as he 
would elect to tell the name of the murderer of a police- 
man which he was supposed to know."* 

The American Lynchings 

James Irwin was a negro living at Ocilla in the 
southern State of Georgia. He was guilty of murder and 
deserved to be punished. He paid the penalty with his 
life, but first he was subjected to a series of extraordinary 

^ Michael Collins, The Path to Freedom, Talbot Press, Dublin, 1922, 
p. 85. 

2 Ibid., p. 86. 

' The " Black-and-Tans " were mainly English, Scotch and Welsh ex- 
soldiers. They were given this name because they had no complete 
uniforms, usually wearing khaki trousers and black civilian coats, or black 
trousers and khaki jackets. 

• Brigadier-General F. P, Crozier, Ireland for Ever, Cape, 1932, p. 201. 


tortures, witnessed by an enthusiastic mob of thousands 
of people. He was chained to a tree-trunk. One after 
another, and joint by joint, his toes and his fingers were 
cut off; his teeth were pulled out with pHers. And, 
" after further unmentionable mutilations," his " still 
living body," saturated with gasolene, was set on fire, and 
" hundreds of shots were fired into the dying victim." 

Raymond Gunn, a negro of Maryville, Missouri, guilty 
of rape and murder, was executed by a batch of civilized 
people. And here was the manner in which he died. He 
was chained to the ridge-pole of the village schoolhouse, 
after shingles on either side of the pole had been removed. 
The negro's clothing was then soaked with gasolene, and 
quantities of the same fluid were thrown over the wall 
and floor of the building, which was then set alight. A 
crowd numbering between three and four thousand men, 
women and children watched, for a full ten minutes, the 
writhings of the chained victim. 

Now these two incidents occurred, not in the days of 
Nero; not when the Spanish Inquisition was functioning 
in all its glory; not even a hundred years ago when Eng- 
lishmen still enjoyed bear- and bull-baiting. They hap- 
pened within the present decade, in the years 1930 and 
193 1 respectively. And the details which I have presented 
baldly, briefly and sombrely, are not taken from the pages 
of a work of fiction, nor even from the columns of a sensa- 
tional newspaper. I am indebted for them to a soberly 
written and fully documented book by Dr. Arthur F. 
Raper, entitied The Tragedy of Lynching, published in 
1933 by the University of North Carolina Press. It is a 
ratiocinative and cogitative record, well worth the careful 
study of every student of the social problems of the world 
we live in. 

Even the crimes of murder and rape were not always 
existent as excuses for mob hysteria and premeditated tor- 
ture. A band of masked men, on July 29, 1930, drove 
out to the home of a seventy-year-old negro farmer 
named Mincey, carried him off by force to a lonely spot, 
and there manhandled him until " his clothing was beaten 
into shreds and his skin and flesh torn from his back." 
The incident occurred soon after midnight, and the negro 


managed to crawl back to the road, where he was found 
at dawn " writhing in pain." He died two hours later of 
" cerebral haemorrhage."* 

The "Third Degree" 

The term " third degree " is peculiarly of American 
origin, and of modern American origin at that. By the 
inhabitants of every country in Europe the " third degree " 
is supposed to be restricted in its practice to the place 
where the term originated. Of the truth of this I am, 
however, extremely dubious. 

The " third degree " refers exclusively to the methods 
employed by the police officials in their efforts to induce a 
suspected or an accused person to confess his guilt or to give 
away the names of his partners or associates in crime. It 
is, in effect, equivalent to the question of the Romans, and 
of the Inquisition; it is analogous to the tortures instigated 
by the English Star Chamber. The only point of differ- 
ence is that "third degree" methods are illegal; they are 
not recognized or officially countenanced by American 

This fact that the " third degree " is unofficial in its 
purpose and in its methods, is as significant as it is im- 
portant. It means that there is no specified technique 
which the police may employ, and there are no restrictions 
or regulations as to the extent of such torture as is applied. 
The greatest evil associated with " third degree " methods 
is therefore the fact that they are uncontrolled or indefinite. 

The methods employed are calculated to induce sub- 
mission of the victim either by sheer brute force exempli- 
fied in various forms of physical torture, or through the 
gradual wearing down of will-power or resistance as a 
result of long-continued and reiterated questions, threats, 
et al., which may be termed psychological torture in 
excelsis. In many cases the purely physical methods follow 
extended questioning. 

It may be taken as axiomatic that the repetition of 
questions again and again in the same manner and the 

* A. F. Rapcr, The Tragedy of Lynching, p. 172. 


same words, and by one officer after another, will under- 
mine the resisting powers of the majority of individuals. 
In particular will this method prove effective with first 
offenders. It will often prove effective with innocent per- 
sons, for one of the greatest sociological evils of torture in 
any form, is, as we have seen, its powers of causing the 
innocent to admit guilt. Where this " extended question- 
ing " is accompanied with the deprivation of food, as it so 
very often is, its efficacy is greatly enhanced. Because of 
its effectiveness, and because it is almost impossible for a 
victim to prove that he has been submitted to this form 
of ordeal, it is the method more often practised than any 
other. Further, it is no unusual thing for the prisoner to 
be deprived of sleep as well as food until he " comes 
through." In other cases, the questioning is alternated 
with periods of solitary confinement in dark cells, or with- 
out sleeping equipment. There is, in particular, one in- 
stance on record, indicative of the lengths to which, on 
occasion, the police will go in this respect. The defendant 
in Deiterle v. State (1929), accused of murder, was confined 
in a mosquito-infested cell without any sleeping accommo- 
dation, and then, weary from want of sleep, he was ques- 
tioned " throughout the next morning and part of the 
afternoon, with the scalp of the dead woman at his feet."^ 

Terror induced by threats is frequently tried to induce 
admission of guilt. A police officer may threaten to shoot 
the accused, and has been known to go so far as to press a 
revolver, loaded with blank cartridges, against the head 
or stomach and pull the trigger. In other cases, negroes 
have been told they would be handed over to the mobs 
waiting for an opportunity to lynch them. And there was 
the case of Davis v. United States (1929) where the accused 
was conducted to the morgue " at three in the morning 
and made to examine the wounds of the deceased for 
forty-five minutes."^ 

Of purely physical methods, which are usually adopted 
with known criminals, and others whom the police have a 

^ Harvard haw Review, February 1930. 

See the article in this journal for much interesting information respect- 
ing " third degree " methods in the United States. A large number of 
cases in which such methods have been employed by the police are cited. 

' lUd. 


shrewd idea would be impervious to questioning, attempts 
at terrorizing, etc., the customary procedure is that referred 
to as " beating up." Two or three officers manhandle the 
prisoner, using their fists and feet. Whipping is also com- 
mon. The rubber truncheon, or a length of hose-pipe, is 
frequendy used. The methods indeed are endless. 

" I have seen a man beaten on the Adam's apple so that 
blood spurted from his mouth," writes Mr. Lavine, a New 
York newspaper man. " I have seen," continues the same 
authority, " another put in the dentist's chair, and held there 
while the dentist, who seemed to enjoy his job, ground down 
a sound molar with a rough burr."^ Variations of the water 
torture employed in the Spanish Inquisition have been used, 
and Lea refers to the use of the shower-bath in American 
prisons many years ago (cf. page 243). Even the electric 
chair has been employed. 

It is the proud boast of England that " third degree " 
methods are unknown. It is, of course, difficult, if not 
impossible, to prove whether this statement is strictly true. 
Police officers will never admit that any such methods are 
used, and the word of a citizen accused or suspected of crime 
coimts for little against the statement of a policeman, even 
in England. While there may be few occasions when a 
police officer actually uses violence to an accused individual 
to compel him to talk, it is by no means certain that 
" extended questioning " is a method of which the English 
police are altogether innocent. The disclosures in connexion 
with the Savage case, for one, revealed a method of question- 
ing which was, at any rate, most unsatisfactory and unfair. 

Doubtless *' third degree " methods, or some analogous 
forms of intimidation, are practised in most civilized coun- 
tries. In India, according to Sir Cecil Walsh, " they appear 
to be applied impartially to anyone who seems to a corrupt 
police officer to offer a favourable opportunity for practising 
a little extortion."^ 

^ Emanuel H. Lavine, The Third Degree, Nash & Grayson, London, 
1931, p. 4. 

^ Sir Cecil Walsh, Crime in India, Benn, 1930, p. 279. 



The Criminal Prosecution of Animals 

The torture of animals would fill a huge tome in itself, and 
in this work, the exigencies of space alone render it impos- 
sible to do more than glance at the more salient features of 
the subject. 

In the early days of civilization and all through the 
Middle Ages, animals were considered, like human beings, 
to be guilty of various offences, and for these offences they 
were tried, found guilty and duly punished. Thus, in accord- 
ance with the old concept of Plato, an animal which killed 
a human being was a murderer and deserved death. In par- 
ticular were animals found guilty of unnatural relations with 
mankind put to death, as provided in the laws of Moses. 

In 1457, a sow was hanged for the murder of a five-year- 
old child; in 1474, at Bale, for the "unnatural crime of 
laying an ^gg'' a cock was sentenced to be burned at the 
stake. ^ In 1565, at Montpellier, a mule, found guilty of 
bestiality, was sentenced to be burned alive, and as the 
animal was held to be vicious as well, its feet were mutilated 
before the execution.^ In 1557, in France, a pig found guilty 
of devouring a child was sentenced to be " buried all alive."' 

On June 6, 1662, at Newhaven, a cow, two heifers, three 
sheep and two sows, were all executed, together with a man 
named Potter, for the crime of bestiality.* 

The torture of animals to extract confession, their groans 
and cries being interpreted as admissions of guilt, was at one 
time widespread. An extraordinary case is related by Gavin. 

^ E. P. Evans, The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of 
Animals, Heinemann, 1906, p. 162. 

* Ibid., p. 146. 
' Ibid., p. 138. 

* Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana, 1702, Book VI, Ch. Ill, 
p. 38. 



At the University of Zaragosa there was a professor named 
Guadalaxara who was intensely disliked by the students. 
One night, having discovered the dead body of a horse in a 
field just outside the town, these students waylaid the pro- 
fessor, took him into the field where the horse lay, and 
ripping out the contents of the animal's belly, placed the 
professor, bound hand and foot, in the aperture, sewing the 
severed hide together, and allowing only the man's head to 
protrude underneath the horse's tail. In this plight the 
professor remained all night, continually crying out to scare 
away the dogs which came to eat the flesh of the dead horse. 
Next morning, labourers going to work in the fields saw the 
corpse and heard the cries issuing from it. They hied them 
to the town and, in great excitement, told a strange tale of 
a speaking horse. The inhabitants turned out in a body, 
and as they approached the field in which the corpse lay, 
they heard the cries and yells of Guadalaxara, who was 
frantically attempting to draw their attention and thus secure 
his release. None would go near, however. Instead, word 
of the queer affair was sent to the Inquisition, and immedi- 
ately an order was issued that the horse be brought to the 
Holy Office. The inquisitors saw Guadalaxara's head pro- 
truding and they heard his tale, but, says Gavin : 

" the wise Holy Fathers trusting not to his information, 
gave orders to the officers to carry the speaking horse to 
the torture, which being done accordingly, as they began 
to turn the ropes through the horse's belly, at the third 
turning of them the skin of the belly broke, and the real 
body of Guadalaxara did appear in all his dimensions, 
and by the horse's torture, he sav'd his life."^ 

Bull-baiting and Bear-baiting 

The sporting propensities of the British people have 
always been proverbial. It is a pity that these sports, in so 
many respects, have been associated with cruelty of the most 
infamous description. Notable among animal sports involv- 
ing cruelty and torture were bull-baiting, horse-baiting and 

* D. Antonio Gavin, A Master-Key to Popery, 1725, p. 212. 


Apparently the first bull-bait was held in 1209 at Stam- 
ford, Lincolnshire. There was an annual bull-bait estab- 
lished in 1374 at Tutbury, Staffordshire. These exhibitions 
became very popular, and were patronized extensively by the 
aristocracy as well as the common people. Sir Thomas Pope 
entertained Queen Mary and the Princess Elizabeth with a 
bear-bait. When the Danish Ambassador visited England 
in the reign of Elizabeth, he was received by the queen at 
Greenwich and "treated to the sight of bear- and bull- 

" There is a grant of this Queen to Sir Saunders 
Duncombe, dated October 11, 1561, ' for the sole practice 
and profit of the fighting and combating of wild and 
domestic beasts within the realm of England, for the 
space of fourteen years,' and so much did England's 
maiden queen esteem the refined pleasure of bear-baiting, 
that there is an order of the Privy Council, dated July 
1591, prohibiting any plays from being publicly exhibited 
on Thursdays, because on that day bear-baiting and 
similar pastimes had been usually practised, as it was 
complained that the reciting of plays was a ' great hurt 
and destruction of the game of bear-baiting and like 

pastimes, which are maintained for her majesty's 

1 > "1 


In some cases the animals were tortured before the bait 
commenced, and in preparation for it. Thus bulls had their 
tails docked, their ears cropped, their horns sawn off, and 
pepper blown up their noses. Bears were blinded. The 
following description of a bull-bait is from Blaine's Encyclo- 
pcedia of Rural Sports (1840): 

"The animal is fastened to a stake driven into the 
ground for the purpose, and about seven or eight yards 
of rope left loose, so as to allow him sufficient liberty for 
the fight. In this situation a bull-dog is slipped at him, 
and endeavours to seize him by the nose; if the bull be 
well practised at the business, he will receive the dog on 
his horns, throw him off, and sometimes kill him; but, 

* The Percy Anecdotes, collected and edited by Rueben and Sholto 
Percy, London, 1820-3. 


on the contrary, if the bull is not very dexterous, the dog 
will not only seize him by the nose, but will cling to his 
hold till the bull stands still; and this is termed pinning 
the bull. What are called good game bulls are very 
difficult to be pinned : being constandy on their guard, 
and placing their noses close to the ground, they receive 
their antagonist on their horns; and it is astonishing to 
what distance they will sometimes throw them. It is not 
deemed fair to slip or let loose more than one dog at one 
and the same time." 

In bear-baiting the animal was usually secured by a chain. 
Then five or six men, standing around in a circle, armed 
with heavy whips, punished him without mercy. Horse- 
baiting, which was common in the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries, was practised in much the same way as bull- 

The Spanish Bull-fight 

Bull-baiting and bear-baiting were only excelled in sheer 
cruelty by the bull-fights of Spain, which, to the eternal 
shame of twentieth-century civilization, are still in existence. 
Here it is not alone the bull that is tortured until death is 
welcomed, but the horses who engage in the sport receive 
terrible injuries and are treated with a callousness to suffer- 
ing which is rarely equalled. A bull, in his fight for life, 
will often kill half a dozen horses. " It is a piteous sight," 
writes Ford, " to behold the mangled horses treading out 
their protruding and quivering entrails, and yet carrying off 
their riders unhurt."^ 

To add to the bull's anger and agony, the banderillas 
or barbed darts which the toreador throws, explode the 
moment they strike the animal. Neither is anything un- 
done to goad the frightened horses to renew the conflict. If 
one refuses to enter or re-enter the arena, his eyes are ban- 
daged, and he is forced to face a terror he cannot see. For 
the horses and bulls are there to provide entertainment for 
the frantically cheering crowd. Says Ford, " The riders have 
a more than veterinary skill in pronouncing off-hand what 
wounds are mortal or not. Those thrusts which are not 

* Richard Ford, Tauromachia, or the Bull-Fights of Spain, 1852. 



immediately fatal, are plugged up by them with tow, and 
then they remount the crippled steed, and carry him, like 
a battered battleship, again into action."^ 

Miscellaneous Forms of Modern Animal Cruelty 

It is impossible ever to indicate the coundess ways in 
which civilized people in these so-called humanistic days 
torture animals of all kinds, both wild and domestic. Even 
those who do not themselves participate in any kind of 
cruelty to animals, often encourage, indirectly or imcon- 
sciously, some form of torture. There are a score of ways 
in which this is done every day. 

Perhaps the most widespread of all forms of torture is in 
connexion with the manner in which animals and birds, 
intended for food, are killed. It is true that in the past few 
decades great improvements have been made in the slaugh- 
tering of cattle and all large animals. In England, the pass- 
ing of the Slaughter of Animals Act, 1933, has done much 
to eliminate needless cruelty, making "stunning" of cattle 

The Jewish method of slaughtering animals of all kinds 
is still practised in England and in America, involving 
terrible suffering in the " bleeding to death " which forms 
part of the \osher rite. To understand the reason for the 
Jewish method of slaughtering (Shechita) we must hark 
back to the days when animal sacrifices were offered to 
Yahveh, the god of Israel. The blood of the sacrificial 
offering was of vast importance. Being the seat of the life^ 
or soul of the animal, it was of far more importance than 
the flesh. Whether or not the flesh was eaten by Yahveh's 
subjects and worshippers, the blood belonged to God Him- 
self. It must not be drunk; it must not be consumed with 
the flesh. It was ordained by God Himself that blood is 
a means of atonement : in this lies the reason for its taboo 
as an article of food.^ The commands given and repeated 

^ Ibid. 

' Genesis ix. 4; Leviticus xvii. 11. 

• The interpretation of the " blood taboo " is a singularly wide one, 
applying to all animals and birds, and even to " blood spots " in eggs. It 
applies, by implication, to human blood. Fish is the one exception, there 
being no mention of, or implication respecting, fish in the Bible. Th» 


again and again in the Pentateuch are clear and implicit. 
Thus: "And whatsoever man there be of the children of 
Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, which 
hunteth and catcheth any beast or fowl that may be eaten; 
ye shall even pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with 

To ensure that the blood of the animal is drained from 
the body as thoroughly as possible the Jews elaborated their 
specific method of slaughtering, respecting which Dr. Heiss, 
Abattoir Director of Straubing, Bavaria, says, " We consider 
the Shechita one of the most barbarous methods of slaughter 
and one which it is our duty to contend against with every 
means in our power. "^ 

What then is the Shechita, or the method of slaughtering 
all animals destined to become \osher} Dr. Rowley, in his 
excellent pamphlet, Slaughter-House Reform^ described the 
ritual thus : 

"First the animal is thrown to the floor by having its 
feet jerked out from under it (the fall has not infre- 
quently broken its horns, or otherwise injured it); then 
its body is partly hoisted by a chain fastened about a 
hind ankle, then an appliance is gripped about its muzzle 
and its head is twisted over until its face is flat against 
the floor and its neck upturned; then the long knife cuts 
deep across the throat, and for a space, often running into 
several minutes, it kicks and plunges in its wild attempts 
to rise, threshing about the bloody and sHmy floor in its 
dying agony — a sight as pitiable and heartrending as one 
can well endure. That's the Jewish method, described 
without exaggeration, as I have seen it more than a score 
of times."^ 

Then there are the " tortures " involved in the killing of 
poultry, rabbits and other small animals and birds, often by 

elaborate washing of the meat before cooking is a continuation of the ritual 
specifically designed to ensure that every particle of blood is separated 
from the flesh. 

^ See also Leviticus vi. 26-7; xvii. 14. 

■ Quoted in Slaughter-House Reform in the United States and the 
Opposing Forces, by Francis H. Rowley, The Massachusetts Society for the 
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Boston, U.S.A., p. 13. 

' Ibid., pp. 12-13, 


persons who either are not experienced "killers," or who 
secure a sadistic pleasure from the sight or the infliction of 
suffering. In a quarter of a century's close connexion with 
animals and birds, I have seen fowls bled to death slowly; 
I have seen them "hanged" by degrees; I have seen them 
plucked while still living; I have seen their heads battered 
against a wall by those who knew no other way of killing. 

Often, too, the manner in which animals and birds are 
reared and housed makes of their lives one continual torture. 
There are dogs which are kept chained up, in cramped 
quarters, for hours and hours at a stretch; there are rabbits 
and cavies which never see sunlight; there are fowls kept 
in dirty, insanitary and incredibly small enclosures month 
after month and year after year. And there are chickens 
fattened by cramming, a method reminiscent of the " water 
torture " of the Inquisition; there are others confined until 
the day of their death in cages, the wire bottoms of which 
make movement difficult. 

There are the methods adopted to catch wild animals, 
methods which, often enough, result in wholesale mutila- 
tions. The steel traps used for catching rabbits break or 
crush their legs and keep them imprisoned by their mutilated 
limbs for hours and often for days; the "running noose" 
often means a lingering and painful death. 

Finally and importantly, there are the performing 
animals which give pleasure and amusement to thousands 
of patrons of the music-halls, et al. These animals are 
trained, in the majority of instances, by cruel methods. I 
know this statement has been persistently denied, but I say, 
without the slightest shadow of doubt, that in most cases the 
tricks that delight audiences are the result of consistent 
cruelty and often of torture. It was Jack London who 
wrote : 

" What turns my head and makes my gorge rise, is 
the cold-blooded, conscious, deliberate cruelty and tor- 
ment that is manifest behind ninety-nine of every hun- 
dred trained animal turns. Cruelty, as a fine art, has 
attained its perfect flower in the trained-animal world." 
And again : "It was a body of cruelty so horrible that I 
am confident no normal person exists who, once aware 


of it, could ever enjoy looking on at any trained-animal 

It was the knowledge of what went on behind the per- 
formances that spoiled this form of entertainment for Jack 
London. It is this same knowledge that spoils it for me. 

Major F. Yeats-Brown has revealed the way in which, 
on the Continent, dancing bears are trained. " I am told," 
he says, that the animal is put " into a deep copper, under 
which a fire is lighted." Naturally the bear tries to climb 
out. It is clubbed or whipped on the snout, causing it to 
dance with pain. All the time this is going on, a drum is 
beaten, " so that eventually whenever he hears that rhythm 
he begins to dance. "^ And there is a revealing account in 
the autobiography of " Lord " George Sanger, the showman, 
of how " kicking, rearing or buck-jumping horses " are 
made to order with the help of a sharp pin !^ 

^ Jack London, Michael, Brother of Jerry, Mills & Boon, 1917. 
^ The Spectator, October 4, 1930. 

^ " Lord " George Sanger, Seventy Years a Showman, Dent, 1926, 
p. 231. 





The Aims of Punishment 

One might reasonably expect that the objects of punishment 
would be clearly recognized and rigidly defined. The fact 
that responsible law-makers and penologists are by no means 
in agreement on this important matter suggests one of the 
main shortcomings of the modern method of dealing with 
crime, as it has similarly suggested the failings of all methods 
which have been practised in the past. 

It has been stated, and it is agreed upon in many quarters, 
that the aims of punishment are concerned with the preven- 
tion of crime and the reformation of the criminal. This 
statement, in view of the methods actually in force and 
approved by implication, is contradictory. As regards certain 
crimes the penalty imposed debars any possibility of the 
criminal being reformed; and in relation to various other 
crimes the nature of the punishment is calculated, whether 
consciously or unconsciously is beside the point, to extend 
or develop the anti-social attitude of the criminal. Thus the 
death penalty^ in every case, and life imprisonment in most 
cases, absolutely prevent the reformation of the criminal; 

■* In England the death penalty can be imposed for four classes of crime, 
although in two of them it is doubtful if such a sentence would be given 
or, if given, would be carried out. These crimes are (i) murder; (2) high 
treason; (3) piracy with violence; and (4) setting fire to doc^y-ards, arsenals, 
etc. As recently as 1917 there was an execution for high treason. 



while long prison sentences, corporal punishment, and the 
stigma which inevitably attaches itself to imprisonment, in 
the case of most offenders, are the reverse of reformatory in 
their effects. 

Any deterrent effect of punishment upon the incidence 
of crime is to some extent bound up with the reformation of 
the criminal. Its power as a deterrent, however, goes very 
much farther than this. It deters criminals who have not 
been apprehended, as well as a considerable number of other 
individuals who, while they may not actually have embarked 
upon a career of crime, may be contemplating such a career 
and therefore rank as latent or incipient criminals. 

The basis of any such deterrent effect is fear of the punish- 
ment prescribed for the offence and the inevitability of its 
infliction. The idea that individuals remain moral and law- 
abiding owing to the dread inspired by the penalties which 
follow any departures from a fixed code of behaviour is 
fundamentally true and sound. This formed part of the 
notion behind the primary concept ot vengeance, and was, 
in turn, responsible for the formulation of the first penal 
code. Here no idea of reformation entered into the matter. 
Society was concerned solely with the prevention of the 
criminal repeating his offence, and the deterring of others 
from offending in the same manner. To this end punish- 
ments were necessarily severe, brutal and spectacular. They 
were devised to fit the crime, in accordance with the ancient 
notion of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Any 
divergence from this elemental concept of vengeance con- 
cerned itself with exaggerating the punishment rather than 
showing any sign of leniency. 

The Bible confirms and expounds the savage's concept of 
vengeance. "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall 
his blood be shed." And " Vengeance belongeth to me, I 
will recompense, saith the Lord." And again: "I will 
execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the heathen, such 
as they have not heard." And yet again: " I will punish 
you seven times more for your sins. . . . And if ye walk 
contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me; I will 
bring seven times more plagues upon you, according to your 
sins. I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall 
rob you of your children, and destroy your catde, and make 


you few in number." Yahveh was a revengeful, cruel, 
merciless god, who forced his subjects to follow the paths 
of virtue by fear, and by fear alone. 

The fact that the force of modern punishment, not only 
because of its lessened severity, but also owing to the circum- 
stances in which it is inflicted, does not carry with it the fear 
that applied to punitive measures of the past, largely under- 
mines the effect of the punishment and at the same time does 
much to destroy any justification for it. Actually the posi- 
tion to-day is that we are continuing to practise a method of 
dealing with crime which, because of the changed psycho- 
logical oudook upon penology and its problems, is obsolete. 
In other words, we continue to use a method which, how- 
ever effective and suitable it might have been at the time 
when it was originated, is much less suitable and largely 
ineffective in the sociological conditions prevailing to-day. 

Behind the brutality of the ancients was the sound reason- 
ing that the sight of the criminal undergoing the prescribed 
punishment for the offence he had committed, was an excel- 
lent mode of deterring others as well as preventing a repeti- 
tion of the crime by the person undergoing the punishment. 
If there is any justification for brutality or torture, by what- 
ever name it is described, in this lay its sole justification. It 
did do something to -prevent crime, and therefore to protect 
society from the depredations of its criminal element by the 
enforcement of its laws. This represents the main reason 
for the existence of any punitive system. 

There is, and there can be, no other justification for 
punishment, because it has not, in any circumstances, any 
true reformative action. To this extent then the ancient 
law-makers were on far sounder ground than are those 
modern penologists who prescribe punishment as an essential 
feature of any penal system. 

With the abolition of the administration of executions 
and other forms of retribution exacted in public, the power 
of any such punishment to act as a deterring factor was very 
greatly curtailed. The only person upon whom it could act 
as a deterrent was the one actually undergoing the punish- 
ment. As regards others, knowledge of a penalty that wih 
be imposed in secrecy is not the same as witnessing the 
culprit writhing under the torture. Thus, by abolishing one 


of the evils connected with torture, one destroys much of its 
efficacy in another field. 

The Limitations of Fear as a Deterrent 

Admitting that punishment imposed in public and in 
sufficient degrees of severity or brutality, by the fear it 
induces, has some deterrent effect as regards certain offences, 
there is no doubt that this effect v^^as exaggerated in the past, 
and that to-day it is credited with a degree of efficacy far 
beyond reality. In regard to the more serious crimes, not- 
ably murder and rape, it is, in the majority of cases, in- 

Here again, our forefathers, in applying their brutal 
punishments to practically all kinds of offences against law 
and order, unconsciously no doubt but nonetheless surely, 
were applying the principle of punishment as a deterring 
factor upon a far more efficient scale than is the case to-day. 
The very elasticity and width of their punitive system en- 
sured this, upon the old blundering hit or miss principle. 
But nowadays, the rigid restriction of torture or severe 
punishment, by narrowing so tremendously the field of 
influence, has largely undermined, destroyed or nullified its 

The reason why an exaggerated value has been and is 
vested in punishment is because, in the past, the psychology 
of crime received little attention, and even to-day, the causes 
of crime are insufficiendy understood. The old ideas that 
the criminal is a member of a specific class of society, and 
that he has inherited a diseased form of mentality from 
criminal parents, still persist. 

There is no criminal class per se. Every member of 
society is a potential criminal. The criminal environment, 
about which so much has been written and so much nonsense 
circulated, constitutes the whole of existent society. The old 
theory, immortalized by Charles Dickens, that every thief or 
pickpocket carries the marks of his trade upon his counten- 
ance, in the manner of Bill Sikes, bears no relation to the 
truth. The criminal, in appearance, is no different from 
any respectable member of society. Moreover, the respect- 
able citizen of to-day may be the criminal of to-morrow; and, 


not inconceivably, the criminal of to-day, if given the oppor- 
tunity, might become the respectable man of to-morrow. 
This general concept, which postulates the incidence of 
criminality being due more to accident than to anything else, 
is applicable increasingly as the life of the citizen gets more 
complicated and less and less rigidly restricted from birth 
to death to one specific social environment. 

Especially is this applicable to the most serious of all 
crimes — murder. In ninety-nine out of a hundred cases the 
murderer, before the crime occurs, has not any intention of 
committing murder. The crime is committed in the heat of 
passion, under an emotional storm which reaches such a 
degree of crescendic violence that no restraining forces or 
arguments are or can be considered. In such circumstances, 
the fear of punishment cannot enter into the matter. It can 
have no deterrent effect. The murderer is in a state of mind 
when anger or hate dominates the scene and excludes from 
his mind every other possible concept. Were this not so the 
bulk of murders would never be committed. 

The Nullity of Punishment in a Reformatory Sense 

The law, in its punishment of murder, harks back to 
the cry for vengeance so steadfastly reiterated in the social 
code prescribed by Yahveh for his subjects. Whatever 
may be the case as regards other crimes, the State, in this 
twentieth century of Christianity, exacts the same form of 
vengeance for murder as it did four thousand years ago. 
By implication, if not by direct statement, it subscribes to 
the doctrine that the murderer cannot be reformed, it 
makes the gratuitous assumption that if he is let loose 
upon society he will proceed to commit more murders. 
And yet, of all the crimes on the statute book, it is highly 
probable that murder would be less likely to be repeated 
than any other. There are relatively few professional 
murderers; and there is little difficulty in deciding which 
murders are the work of such professionals. It can, of 
course, be argued that the paucity of such professionals is 
indicated by the fact of the detected criminal having to 
face the death penalty. This argument, whatever its 


value as a means of scoring a rococo debating point, is of 
little actual significance. Murder, being essentially a 
crime of passion, the forces which cause an ordinary 
respectable member of society to commit such an outrage 
are not likely to be repeated in relation to that same in- 
dividual. Nor does success in the first instance, as is the 
case w^ith so many offences, necessarily lead the criminal 
to repeat his crime. Because of these facts, vv^hile it is un- 
likely that any form of punishment, however severe, 
which falls short of the death penalty, would prevent a 
isurderer from repeating his crime if such circumstances 
arose as called for its repetition, it is just as unlikely that 
any form of punishment would deter a potential murderer 
(which means every member of society) from becoming 
an actual murderer; and it is just as unlikely (though 
society might justifiably think the risk was far too big a 
one to take) that the released murderer would be encour- 
aged to commit a second murder because he had got away 
with his initial crime. It is the uncaught murderer, in an 
effort to escape retribution, who is tempted to commit a 
second murder. 

Turning to crimes which do not incur a capital sen- 
tence, the uselessness of punishment as a means of reform- 
ing the prisoner has been well established. Indeed, it may 
be taken as axiomatic that the more severe the punishment 
the more pronounced is its failure in any true reformatory 
sense. Severe punishment has a most brutalizing effect 
upon most prisoners; it induces despair, it makes the cul- 
prit feel that he is virtually at war with or outlawed from 
society. The more likely is the prisoner to profit by his 
lapse, the more likely is severe punishment to transform 
him into a habitual prisoner. On the other hand it cannot, 
in any circumstances, have any reformative effect upon the 
professional criminal. 

Punishment affects different individuals in different 
ways. In this lies one of the major evils of a penological 
system which prescribes the extent, nature and duration 
of the punishment in accordance with the nature and 
extent of the crime, neglecting to take into consideration 
the physical, mental and sociological constitution of the 
individual offender. Upon these individual psychological 


factors depend far more die reaction of the prisoner to 
punisliment than the actual extent or mode of punish- 
ment. Thus what to one individual might seem a form 
of persecution so mild as to constitute the merest bagatelle, 
to another might represent the most extreme form of 
torture. This psychological element of the present day 
penological system is, in my opinion, of the most profound 
importance and significance. I have already indicated the 
existence of such a thing as psychological torture (cf. 
page 4). It is a matter which cannot be ignored in any 
future consideration of the treatment of crime and the re- 
claiming of the criminal. 

The loss of freedom which imprisonment entails has a 
most profound effect upon the prisoner. This effect varies 
considerably in respect to the individual, for whereas in 
some cases a long term of imprisonment seems to have no 
enduring or severe psychological results, in other cases the 
shortest possible term, so long as it continues, ranks as a 
form of torture, and leaves scars that are never properly 
healed. The effects of deprivation of freedom depend, of 
course, upon the extent to which the individual had 
already achieved freedom outside prison. In this con- 
nexion, it is impossible to ignore the fact that the growing 
tendency towards the restriction by the State of the free- 
dom of the individual in normal life is having a tendency, 
in conjunction with the greatly improved living and social 
conditions now available in prison, to make of the com- 
plete deprivation of freedom a lesser degree of punishment 
than would be the case in the ideal State, where the normal 
member of society enjoyed intellectual and economic 
emancipation in any real or complete sense. The growing 
bureaucracy, which is so sinister a feature of the modern 
State, is an evil the significance and extent of which society 
has not even yet begun to have any conception. 

In one sense every prisoner who is not senile or im- 
potent, and who is serving a sentence of any considerable 
length, is severely punished. I refer to the lack of oppor- 
tunities for the securing of normal sexual relief. The per- 
sistency with which this aspect of prison life is ignored 
in most considerations of the problem, in no way reduces 
its significance, its effects and its complexity. It represents 


the greatest suffering, in many cases, that a young and 
virile man has to face/ 

Experience Confounds the Arguments of the Floggers 

The present-day controversy concerning the merits of 
the " cat," induced by the proposed aboUtion of flogging 
for all except grave prison offences, has caused many 
judges, magistrates and others to reaffirm the old conten- 
tion that the " cat " is the only form of punishment v^^hich 
acts as a deterrent in certain crimes, and that its abolition 
vi'ould be follovi^ed by a huge increase in tlie incidence of 
crimes of violence, assaults on v^^omen and children, 
v^hite-slave trafficking, et al. Those conversant with the 
history of crime and punishment are familiar with this 
type of argument: an argument which has been brought 
forward against the abohtion of practically every form of 
torture and cruelty since the days of ancient Rome. 

Two hundred and fifty years ago we find Sir R. Wise- 
man apologizing for and countenancing the use of the rack 
and other tortures on the ground that they were necessary 
for the welfare of society, thus : 

" Neither does it derogate from the clemency of the 
Civil Law, that it seems to deal so sharply with those 
(against whom there are grounds enough to suspect 
them of some enormous crimes whereof they are 
accused, but not evidence full enough to condemn 
them) as to allow such persons to be ' set upon the 
rack,' thereby to manifest their innocence by an 
obstinate denial, or to discover their guilt by a plain 
confession. For the only ground of this austere pro- 
ceeding was a great tenderness not to take away the 
lives of any, but upon most manifest and undeniable 
proof, and yet with a care notwithstanding, that for 

^ Joseph F. Fishman, former Inspector of Federal Prisons, in his inter- 
esting and valuable book, Sex in Prison (New York, 1934), says that " in 
the minds of many the greatest punishment the prisoner must undergo is 
the deprivation of normal sex gratification "; and Ernst Toller, in his intro- 
ductory essay, appearing in the English edition of Fishman's work (John 
Lane, 1935) says " the sexual imagination of prisoners is stronger than that 
of people enjoying their ordinary liberty." 


want of such full and clear proof (which offenders 
through their secret workings would always labour to 
prevent) offences should not go unpunished, to the 
endangering of the public peace and welfare of other 

A little over a century ago we find Lord Ellenborough, 
the Lord Chief Justice of England, in the course of a debate 
in the House of Lords on the " Privately Stealing Bill," 
opposing the abolition of the death penalty for thefts, up to 
the value of five shillings, from shops. He 

" trusted their lordships would pause before they assented 
to the repeal of a law which had so long been held 
necessary for the security of public interest, and which 
he was not conscious had in any instance produced any 
injury to the community. ... In this metropolis, where 
the retail trade had become so great and so beneficial to 
the ends of commerce, and from whence such a consider- 
able proportion of the taxes are raised, it was the duty 
of the legislature to protect such property from being 
plundered. Indeed, were the terror of death, which now, 
as the law stood, threatened the depredator, to be re- 
moved, it was his opinion the consequence would be that 
shops would be liable to unavoidable losses from depreda- 
tions, and, in many instances, bankruptcy and ruin must 
be the lot of honest and laborious tradesmen."^ (The 
itahcs are mine. — G.R.S.) 

Coming to the present time, we find that the Home 
Secretary's proposal to abolish flogging for all except certain 
serious prison offences, is meeting with much opposition. 
Mr. Justice Oliver, at Birmingham Assizes, observed, says 
the News of the World (January 8, 1939) : 

'* I have yet to meet anyone with judicial experience 
of crime who does not feel that the best weapon against 
this type of offence (robbery with violence) is that of 

' The Law of Laws: or the Excellency of the Civil Laws, 1686. 
* Hansard, London, 1812, Vol. XVII, pp. 196*, 197*. 


And says the Daily Mail (January 3, 1939), Sir Reginald 
Coventry, at Worcester Quarter Sessions, stated that if the 
change in the law occurred 

'* the professional garrotters of Liverpool and Cardiff 
could look forward to being able to ply their occupation 
without the slightest fear of being punished in the only 
way which really appealed to them — the cat-o'-nine-tails." 

The views so often and so persistently reiterated that the 
Garrotters Act of 1863, which provided the penalty of 
corporal punishment with the " cat " for the offence of 
strangling, and the severe flogging sentences imposed in 1887 
by Mr. Justice Day for robbery with violence, were respon- 
sible for the stamping out of the " crime waves " in both 
cases, are founded upon very doubtful evidence. In the 
Report of the Departmental Committee on Corporal Punish- 
ment we read that, according to the evidence collected by 
the Committee, in neither of these specifically cited cases was 
flogging, directly or indirectly, responsible for the passing 
of the outbursts of crime. Respecting the Garrotters Act, it 
is stated that " by the time the Bill was in the House of 
Commons, the outbreak with which it was designed to deal 
had already subsided." And two years after the Act came 
into force the number of offences which it was specifically 
intended to stamp out exceeded those which occurred before 
the Act was introduced. In reference to the activities of the 
Liverpool " High-Rip Gang " the Report, after analysing the 
number of cases of robbery with violence in the period from 
1887 to 1894, states : 

" These figures show that Mr. Justice Day made con- 
siderable use of the power to order corporal punishment, 
but they do not substantiate the statement that these 
methods stamped out robbery with violence. In the first 
three years of the period the total number of offenders 
was 176, and in the last three years — after a prolonged 
trial of flogging — the total number was 198."^ 

* Report of the Departmental Committee on Corporal Punishment, 
H.M.S.O., 1938, p. 84. 


Just as the abolition of hanging for minor crimes did not 
lead to an increase in the number of such crimes; so it will, 
I venture to assert, be found that when flogging is abolished 
there will be no increase in the prevalence of those particular 
crimes for which it is at present considered to be a deterrent. 
The passing of the Whipping of Female Offenders Abolition 
Act, in 1820, was not followed by any increase in the 
incidence of crime among women and girls. This, in itself, 
is a point worthy of receiving the most serious consideration 
by all those who still hold that the retention of corporal 
punishment as a means of preventing crime is either neces- 
sary or justifiable. I commend it to their attention. 



Dangers Incidental to Excessive Pain 

The moment punishment becomes excessive it leads to an 
extension of crime rather than to its suppression. It does 
this in two ways. In the first place the fear of a dreadful 
form of pimishment often leads to the commission of the 
crime that was clearly unpremeditated or to the commission 
of a series of crimes in order to escape the consequences of 
one crime. For instance, this danger inevitably crops up in 
connexion with any crime for which the penalty is capital 
punishment. The old saying " as well be hung for a sheep 
as a lamb " is a true one. Many a murderer has committed 
a second and even a third murder in order to silence someone 
who accidentally witnessed the initial crime or who had dis- 
covered the identity of the criminal. In cases of rape and 
other sexual offences, the culprit, realizing the dreadful 
nature of the punishment with which he is threatened, 
commits murder in order to silence the only witness of his 

In the second place the severity of punishment inflicted 
upon the offender is a frequent cause of recidivism. The 
evidence that a considerable number of prisoners " come 
back " is consistent throughout Europe and America. They 
" come back " because the severity of the punishment in- 
flicted induces a feeling of despair, of revenge against society; 
and because the difficulties which are placed in the way of 
their return to respectability are often wellnigh insuperable. 
Even where there is no undue severity in a physical sense; 
psychologically, punishment, to anyone other than a con- 
firmed or professional criminal, is inevitably severe. For 
whatever may be the reformative aims in principle, the 
practical effects of punishment are at war with the theoretical 



aims. The reaction of society to the criminal continues long 
after the penalty has been paid, and, in theory, the account 
squared. Society, in negation of its expressed attitude 
towards crime, does not apparently consider that the account 
has ever been squared. The very fact of once having suffered 
imprisonment, like the fact of having engaged in prostitu- 
tion, or being the mother of an illegitimate child, constitutes 
an invisible brand which, to those who are aware of its exis- 
tence, is every whit as effective as were the marks burnt into 
the faces of social offenders in the Middle Ages. Hence the 
only opportunity for the ex-prisoner is to move to some 
district where he is unknown, and by pseudonymity, or other 
disguise, attempt to conceal the past. 

The Brutalizing E§ect of Punishment 

One of the worst features of severe punishment is the 
brutalizing effect it has upon all concerned. Anyone who 
is associated with cruelty in any form must either rebel 
against it or accept it. There is no middle course. Callous- 
ness to suffering is an inevitable aftermath of long connexion 
with the infliction or witnessing of cruelty. The slaughterer 
of animals, if he continues to perform the task, must become 
devoid of sympathy for the victims or revulsion for the 

It is unfamiliarity with a form of cruelty or torture that 
arouses resentment or revulsion, just as familiarity leads to 
toleration. It is unfamiliarity with bull-fighting which leads 
to its condemnation by Englishmen and Americans. It is 
familiarity with the sentencing of canaries, parrots, and 
various other foreign and British birds, to life imprisonment 
in tiny cages, that causes the majority of Englishmen and 
Englishwomen to view the practice with equanimity if not 

It was because of the comparative rarity of the practice 
that the executioner to whom was entrusted the task of tor- 
turing the suffering Damiens on that never-to-be-forgotten 
day in Paris, at the last moment revolted from his task : 

" Charles Henri Sanson saw the chafing-dish tremb- 
ling in his uncle's hands. By his pallor, which was almost 


as deathly as the sufferer's, and the shudder which made 
his Hmbs shake, he perceived that he could not proceed 
with the burning with red-hot pincers; and he offered a 
hundred louis to one of the valets if he would undertake 
the horrible task. The man, whose name was Andre 
Legris, accepted."^ 

The gradual growth of indifference to punishment is 
indicated particularly in the case of flogging. The tendency, 
even as regards school floggings, is for the first feeling of 
revulsion to give place to indifference, and, in time, for the 
exhibition to change in its character from one of cruelty to 
one of entertainment. Mr. Brinsley Richards says: "The 
eyes and nerves soon get accustomed to cruel sights. I gradu- 
ally came to witness the executions in the Lower School not 
only with indifference but with amusement."^ 

The Suppression of Humanity 

The rights of the individual on the social and humanistic 
side may easily be endangered by the growth of the State 
penological machine. The idea that the rights of the indivi- 
dual and the rights of the State are mutual and interchange- 
able is an illusion diligently fostered by the State itself in 
furtherance of dictatorial and oligarchistic ideals. The main 
underlying idea which is behind the penological system, is 
the importance of preserving the property rights of the State 
in particular. Offences against property are invariably more 
severely punished than are offences against humanity. The 
stealing of a loaf of bread is a more serious offence than is 
the torturing of an animal. 

A significant factor in connexion with flogging with the 
" cat " is that, in the majority of cases, it is prescribed for 
robbery with violence.^ Writing on this very point a year 
ago I said : 

" Violence against another individual is not, in itself, 
punishable by flogging; to be so punishable it must con- 

' Memoirs of the Sansons, Vol. I, p. 113. 
' Seven Years at Eton. 

* In 1933, out of a total of 49 offences for which flogging was inflicted, 
42 were for robbery with violence or assaults with intent to rob. 


stitute an assault with intent to steal. This is one point 
which does much to demonstrate the lack of sanity, justice 
and logicality in the application of the most degrading, 
humiliating and psychologically lasting form of punish- 
ment approved and sanctioned by English law."^ 

In this we have an instance of how the State has cun- 
ningly secured public support for a form of barbaric persecu- 
tion ostensibly directed against assault, but in reality against 
robbery or attempted robbery. A man who has a personal 
grudge against another individual may batter, kick and 
maltreat his enemy to his heart's content and he cannot be 
flogged for the offence, whereas one guilty of a far milder 
form of assault combined with robbery or attempted robbery 
can be sentenced to flogging with the " cat." 

Some years ago, in the New Age (July 14, 1932) atten- 
tion was drawn to a case of flogging, in which the driver 
of a car containing four men concerned in a robbery, was 
sentenced to 20 months' imprisonment with hard labour 
and 15 strokes of the " cat." The sentence was for taking 
part in " robbery with violence "; the act of violence con- 
sisted of placing a treacle-plaster over the robbed man's face. 
An appeal against this sentence, on the ground that the 
prisoner " had not been previously violent," failed. In an 
editorial in the TSIew Age (August 11, 1932) it was further 
pointed out that " what is interpreted as ' crimes of violence 
against property ' becomes, in the last analysis, simply thefts 
of, or damage to, insured property,'' and that " flogging 
costs less money to the State than imprisonment." 

^ George Ryley Scoit, The History of Corporal Punishment, second 
edition, Werner Laurie, 1938, p. xxiv. 



The Limitations of Punishment 

The shortcomings and deficiencies of the penological system 
are never more thoroughly demonstrated than in relation 
to the treatment of those guilty of sexual perversions. For 
centuries the State has adopted and it still adopts methods 
w^hich are not only calculated to prevent all possibility of 
reformation, but v^hich are also, in many instances, likely 
to develop the existent anomaly. Thus the homosexual is 
confined under conditions where there is danger of homo- 
sexual vice developing in heterosexual individuals even 
without the excitatory influence of a homosexual presence; 
and the masochist is placed in an environment which is 
almost sure to lead to an extension of his particular aberra- 

The punishing effects of pain, persecution, humiliation 
and degradation, so far as they can apply in any civilized 
penal system, are to this type of pervert, with rare exceptions, 
inexistent. On the contrary, the masochist glories in his 
martyrdom. Even his lack of freedom may be interpreted 
as a form of persecution inflicted by society, and may 
prepare the way for an extended form of submission to 
domination when liberty is regained. The failure of the 
State to realize the psychological motivation behind masoch- 
ism, and the futility of any ordinary form of punishment 
as applicable to the masochistic type of individual, have far- 
reaching consequences. The masochist is seldom in prison 
because of his j^crversion. The anomaly, in itself, is not 
punishable, and, unlike sadism, it rarely is directly con- 
nected with any punishable offence. The masochist is 
usually in prison for some ordinary misdemeanour or crime, 
and the fact that his anomalous sexual condition will com- 



pletely alter his reaction to the punishment implied in a 
prison sentence is not even considered by either the court in 
passing sentence or the prison authorities in carrying out that 
sentence. If sadism is coexistent with masochism, as it very 
often is, the position is further complicated, and the danger 
of punishment developing an existent anomaly is a very 
great one. 

Now the sadist, unlike the masochist, is very often 
convicted and imprisoned or executed as a direct result of 
his anomaly. The lust murderer figures occasionally in the 
English courts. So does the " pricker," the mutilator and, 
less commonly, the pyromaniac. They all receive prison 
sentences of various lengths. Other sadists, whose activities 
take the form of maiming, wounding or otherwise ill-treating 
animals and birds, are usually punished with fines or let off 
with a caution. In other words, they are not punished at all, 
if by punishment we are to accept the usual implications of 
the term. 

It is here, in particular, that the law-makers of the State, 
and those who are supposed to be qualified to interpret these 
laws, make a gigantic muddle. In dealing with cases of 
cruelty to animals, they fail to realize the distinction existing 
between those with a sadistic basis and those which are 
initiated as a result of plain unvarnished cruelty. Because 
the case is concerned with animals only, it is considered to 
be of little importance. The State and the public are not 
interested. Actually, however, the distinction to which I 
have referred is of supreme importance. The sadist, almost 
without exception, ift the beginning, confines any practical 
expression of his perversion to animals. Kiirten, the lust 
murderer, admitted that, as a boy, he tortured animals, and 
this, he said, was the commencement of the sadism which 
developed to such an abnormal degree in later life.' Flavins 
Domitianus, the Roman tyrant, in his childhood, amused 
himself with torturing animals, birds and insects. It is a 
bitter reflection upon our sense of justice, and a terrible com- 
mentary upon the inhumanity of mankind, that the sadist, 
provided he restricts his operations to animals and birds, 
may indulge in his aberration continuously and with com- 
parative immunity. What is so remarkably strange is that 

» Karl Berg, The Sadist, 1938. 


the courts rarely consider that the maiming of animals is an 
expression of sadism; they wait until the pervert transfers his 
activities to human beings before they class him as a sadist. 

Treatment of Sadism and Masochism 

The contention that algolagnia, in either of its forms, is 
hereditary, is founded upon the most dubious premises. The 
sadist and the masochist carry no physical stigmata, the 
presence of v^^hich might imply some inheritable or con- 
genital factor; and it is extremely doubtful whether, to any 
degree, mental qualities or predispositions are hereditary. 

Most children are cruel, it is true, but, as Stekel has 
sagaciously pointed out, " the child is not actually cruel from 
the start, because he has not the consciousness of cruelty."^ 
It is merely an expression, incipient and perhaps uncon- 
scious, of the will to power. It is not, of course, sadism, but 
it may, in certain circumstances, be converted into sadism; 
just as the experiencing of cruelty at the hands of another 
child, or more likely an adult, may be converted into maso- 
chism. It was to the floggings with which Mme. Lambercier 
corrected the juvenile Rousseau that he traced the beginnings 
of the masochism which was to form so potent an element 
in his adult life. Similarly, there seems ground for the belief 
that the sexual perversion of Swinburne was a result of the 
floggings he received at Eton; a point which is noted by 
Georges Lafourcade.^ 

It is probable that sadism and masochism, once they are 
thoroughly developed to the point of overt expression, cannot 
be cured. No form of punishment can prove of any avail. 
Perpetual imprisonment, under suitable supervision, may be 
completely repressive, but this constitutes neither cure nor 
reform. It ranks as a protective measure only. Any method 
of dealing with these anomalies must concern itself with 
prophylactic or preventive treatment. That is to say the 
perversion must be prevented from showing itself, or it must 
be aborted long before it reaches any form of active expres- 

Precisely here we lay bare a primary and powerful argu- 

^ Wilhelm Stekel, Sadism and Masochism, The Bodlcy Head, 1935. 
* Georges Lafourcade, Swinburne: A Literary Biography, Bell, 1932. 


mcnt against any form of cruelty or torture as a judicial 
punishment in relation to adult or juvenile crime; or as a 
corrective in the education of children. The use of corporal 
punishment, either in the case of juveniles or adults, repre- 
sents, for this reason, a most dangerous procedure. What- 
ever safeguards one adopts there is inevitably a possibility of 
developing existent sadism or masochism, or av^^akening 
potential algolagnistic trends in either the whipper or the 
whipped. It is a risk that cannot be disregarded; and the 
fact mat, in nearly every discussion of the case for or against 
flogging, this aspect is studiously ignored does not in any 
way detract from its major importance and significance. 

The man who wields the " cat " may be a sadist who 
enjoys performing his brutal task. If he is not a sadist then 
he is in danger of developing into a sadist. Such develop- 
ment is not inevitable; he may, in cases of force majeure , 
perform his task most unwillingly, but repetition is sure, 
even where it does not develop sadistic tendencies, to lead to 
a form of callousness that may be described as sheer cruelty. 
There is ample evidence as to the truth of this (cf . page 299). 

Upon analysis, the imposition of any form of physical 
torture constitutes a crime on the part of the State. Either 
the State becomes an accomplice in the commission of cruelty 
and sadism, or it attempts to create a condition of cruelty or 
sadism. In either case it is guilty. Prophylactic treatment 
and prevention must concern themselves with abstention 
from corporal punishment by the State, and the rigid con- 
finement of those proved to be confirmed sadists. 



Preventing the Torture of Children and Animals 

In civilized Europe and America to-day torture, on the part 
of private individuals, is practically confined in its expression 
to children and animals, these being the only forms of life 
which are not in a position to resist or escape persecution. 
And, incidentally, it may be mentioned that this alone is the 
reason why cruelty is not more generalized in present-day 

The incidence of cruelty to children is nothing less than 
appalling. The total number of cases dealt with, during 
1938, under the category of ill-treatment, by the National 
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, was 5,269, 
involving 11,323 children. It is a staggering total. And it 
must be remembered that these figures represent only such 
cases as, in one way or another, came to the notice of the 
Society. There remains that other and probably bigger total 
of cases, which for one reason or another, are never brought 
to the attention of the Society or of the police. 

The prevention of cruelty to children is indicated in the 
reporting of every known or suspected case to the local 
inspector of the Society which has done, and is doing, such 
good work in the way of ameliorating the lot of so many 
infants that have been born into a world of sorrow and have 
known nothing but suffering and neglect. 

Cruelty to animals is far more widespread than cruelty to 
children, and in many more instances does it go beyond the 
limits of cruelty and become torture. It is more widespread 
because the cruel individual has more opportunities to indulge 
in his propensity in relations to animals and birds than in 
regard to children, and in addition there is no risk involved 
of his victim causing trouble or being a witness against him. 

Unfortunately the means taken by the State to prevent 



cruelty to animals are unsatisfactory and negligible. In many 
ways the State aids and abets the infliction of cruelty. A fine 
is useless as a deterrent, particularly as, in most cases, it is so 
small as to represent a very minor inconvenience to the con- 
victed person. Moreover, no adequate measures are taken 
to ensure that the person guilty of cruelty will not repeat his 
offence : in a large number of cases all that a fine does is 
to make him take greater care to ensure that any future cruel 
acts do not come to light. 

The measures that should be taken by the State include 
the infliction of more severe sentences. In minor cases, the 
fines should be increased; in major cases the punishment 
should be imprisonment. And in all cases where there are no 
extenuating circumstances, the culprit should be prohibited, 
under severe penalties, from ever \eeping live stoc\ again. 

The Jewish and Mohammedan methods of killing, and 
the slaughtering of sheep with the knife alone, should all 
be prohibited. These are steps which the State should take 
towards the decrease in the torture of animals which is 
going on all over England every week. The public should 
demand that these steps be taken at once. 

The prohibition of all blood sports is another step that 
is long overdue. Stag-hunting, deer-stalking, otter-hunt- 
ing, badger-hunting, and fox-hunting are a disgrace to the 
twentieth century and should be abolished, just as a hun- 
dred years ago bull- and bear-baiting were abolished. 
Vivisection calls for more stringent regulation. The con- 
ditions under which thousands of small birds, foreign and 
domestic, are kept in this country amount to cruelty and 
often to torture. The manner of fattening poultry for 
marketing purposes is a disgrace to civilization. 

The need for the prohibition of animals taking part in 
performances on the stage has been repeatedly urged. 
But these performances still go on.^ Their boycott by the 
public, on the lines indicated by Jack London, would soon 
bring thi«i evil to an end. 

* While the Performing Animals (Regulation) Act 1925, and the Protec- 
tion of Animals Act 1934, provide certain regulations and restrictions in 
relation to the training and exhibition of animals for public performances, 
they do not, in the opinion of many humanists, go far enough. The only 
way in which cruelty can be prevented in any complete sense is by tKe 
prohibition of such performances altogether. 


Difficulties in the Way of Abolition 

The motives which have led to the retention of the 
principle of torture, not only in the penal systems of 
civilization, but also in the private and domestic life of the 
individual, are the main causes of the difficulties in the 
way of its abolition. The fundamental reason behind 
punishment, as we have seen, is the desire for vengeance 
on the part of the individual in the first instance, and, as 
civilization evolved, on the part of society as a whole or of 
some particular section of it. The State has acknowledged 
this fundamental urge by adopting a system of punishment 
based upon the concept of vengeance as a form of justice, 
and has to some extent been dragooned into the acceptance 
and perpetuation of this concept in the face of humanitar- 
ianism and the modern scientific treatment of crime. 

The desire of society for the punishment or prevention 
of crime always outrides any humanitarian feelings; in 
other words, the call for vengeance is invariably louder 
than the appeal to mercy. Self-preservation, in both its 
individual and racial aspects, inevitably overrides humani- 
tarianism. The State, by a careful excitation of the com- 
munity to the danger they stand in at the hands of certain 
classes of criminals, can secure support and even a demand 
for the most ruthless and barbaric forms of torture in the 
guise of punishment. More, the State, by cunning sug- 
gestive methods, can ultimately justify its infliction of 
torture and persecution by stating, with perfect truth, that 
it is acting at the request and with the full authorization 
of the public. In precisely this way, has State after State 
justified wholesale persecutions of individuals and of races. 

It is inevitable that as regards equity or justice, the 
individual is at a disadvantage in any conflict with the 
State concerned with the breaking of social or ethical 
regulations. In the Middle Ages the persecutors acted 
upon the principle that they were justified in burning a 
dozen innocent persons to ensure the destruction of one 
guilty mdividual.^ In modern times, society subscribes to 

^ In connexion with the Chinese communist atrocities, we read in The 
Times (February 13, 1928) that the motto of the Reds was : " Better 10,000 
innocent victims than that one anti-communist escape." 


a principle in which it is contended that, in order to deter 
the commission of crimes against the social order, and to 
satisfy the cry for vengeance, it were better to sacrifice an 
innocent subject than not to immolate any victim at all. 
The cult of deterrence, of which one of the primary prin- 
ciples is tlie suggestion of the inevitability of punishment, 
indicates the necessity for sacrificing an innocent victim in 
the interests of society as a whole. 

It is due to these facts that the members of society allow 
themselves to run the risk of playing the role of martyrs 
in an inquisition of their own making. Rules of self- 
preservation, made under the stress of blinding emotional- 
ism, lead to the putting of themselves always in a position 
of potential danger. Thus the persistence, in America, of 
" third-degree " metiiods which are admitted and toler- 
ated; and the persistence in England of " third-degree " 
methods which are not admitted by the authorities and 
are denied by the public. Thus the persistence of an 
atmosphere in which the mere fact of being charged with 
an ofience has a prejudicial effect and goes a long way 
towards conviction. " Even an innocent man stands at a 
disadvantage before a jury when testifying alone against 
police officers."^ 

There is a danger that the mob element in society, if 
it is convinced that the State is not satisfying the primeval 
concept of vengeance, may be tempted to take the law into 
its own hands; witness the lynchings in the southern 
American States and the congregation of mobs of outraged 
citizens in England and other countries at moments when 
emotional responses have been aroused. 

The danger of sporadic outbursts of mob emotion fruc- 
tifying in demands for vengeance is always with us, and 
is likely to be with us as long as human beings, whether 
as individuals or in the mass, have forfeited the respect of 
their kind. This danger is greater, and its recurrence more 
inevitable, owing to the fact that nothing is more likely 
to reduce all component members of society to the level 
of a common denominator than the appeal to those basic 
ideas of vengeance and brutality that are so apparent when 

* Harvard Law Review, February 1920, p. 623. This statement applies 
w strongly in Great Britain as it does in the United States of America. 


a mob is actuated by the primitive desire for vengeance, 
the call for self-preservation and the stress of panic. It is 
in such circumstances that all forms of class distinction are 
temporarily overwhelmed, just as in panic fear caused by 
the unknown and the mysterious the tiger, the lion and 
the deer may commune in a common gregariousness. When 
the gladiators were being literally thrown to the wild 
beasts in the amphitheatres of ancient Rome, emperors and 
commoners fraternized in a spirit of democratic ideahsm; 
and when the crowds followed the blood-dripping Titus 
Oates through the London streets, all classes hobnobbed 
together and cheered lustily; and when Damiens was tor- 
tured and torn hmb from limb in Paris the aristocrats 
found themselves exchanging pleasantries with the peasants. 
The bull-fights of Spain, and, to a lesser degree, the box- 
ing matches of Britain and America, show something of 
the same democratic feeling. 

" Not infrequently," writes Dr. Rapcr, " more un- 
animity can be had on a lynching than on any other 
subject. Lynchings tend to minimize social and class 
distinctions between white plantation owners and 
white tenants, mill owners and textile workers, Metho- 
dists and Baptists, and so on."^ 

Reinhardt, in relation to the whippings that were such 
features of the nineteenth-century bridewells in Germany, 
made much the same observation. It is an ironic com- 
mentary upon democracy with its ideals of equaUty and 
fraternity, that it functions most thoroughly in circum- 
stances where the most brutal and despicable traits of 
humanity are given an opportunity for manifestation. 

The iconoclast is always in some danger of mob perse- 
cution. There is a distinct degree of affinity between the 
mental persecution which is meted out to the intellectual 
heretic and the persecution which was the lot of the religious 
heretic of the Middle Ages, and which conceivably might 
be the lot of the sociological and political heretic of to-day, 
were the occasion to arise. In any time of stress or panic, 
the heretic, irrespective of the precise nature of his heresy, 

^ Arthur F. Rapcr, The Tragedy of Lynching, 1933, p. 47. 


is in danger of persecution, and might well become a vic- 
tim of mob violence. To the mob, held together, mentally 
congested, and fructifying as nearly on the level of animal 
mentality and psychology as is possible, the voicer of any- 
thing beyond the comprehension of the lov^^est common 
denominator of collective intelligence is a heretic and an 
enemy. He is as much an enemy of the mob, whether 
he be of the same nationality or not, as is a foreign subject 
at the moment when war is declared upon his country. 
He stands in much the same potential danger, and the 
question of whether that potential peril may be trans- 
formed into actual physical danger depends upon circum- 
stances which are nearly always trivial and illogical. 

The Real Solution 

The foregoing analysis of the difficulties in the way of 
the abolition of torture suggests the means that must be 
taken to accomplish such abolition. Abolition is neither a 
fantastic theory nor an impossible dream. Admittedly 
there are many and great obstacles in the way. Society as 
a whole has a long road to travel before the goal is any- 
where within reach of achievement. 

The despair of the humanitarian has always been 
largely the result of those sporadic bursts of torture and 
persecution with which the history of the world is so 
liberally punctuated. Just at the moment when one is 
congratulating oneself on the progress made, and upon 
the vastly increased humanity observable on every side 
and in every country, there is an outbreak of torture which, 
in its details and in its extent, equal anything that occurred 
in the worst days of the Spanish Inquisition. And every 
time one of these sporadic epidemics occurs one feels, with 
much justification, that the clock has been put back a 
hundred years in as many minutes. One sighs for the 
future of humanity. One is inclined to subscribe whole- 
heartedly to a gospel of futility. 

The solution lies mainly in the cultivation of humani- 
tarianism, not humanitarianism in any parochial sense or 
circumscribed bravurUy but universally. This implies a 


penal system in which there is no brutalizing form of 
punishment providing State encouragement for private 
cruelty. One of the greatest objections to corporal punish- 
ment, as I have stated elsewhere, 

** is the danger inseparable from the practice by the 
State of cruelty in any form. Man does not need the 
stimulating and fortifying influence of either precept 
or example. It is an essential feature of any State cam- 
paign against cruelty that torture shall form no feature 
of its own armamentarium."^ 

It implies, too, sociological changes, of which the most 
profound is an extension of freedom. No greater obstacle 
to the development of humanitarianism exists than the 
denial of intellectual freedom to the individual, a denial 
to which society assents by its policy of penalizing free 
thought in any adequate sense. Only in this way is it 
possible to develop, on any extensive scale, a frame of 
mind which will be sufficient to invalidate the primeval 
tendency of the mob to exact vengeance upon the expres- 
sion of any heresy. The State by its policy of propaganda, 
patriotism, pluto-democratic or dictatorial and intransigent 
domination, defends and tolerates where it does not encour- 
age mob persecution. 

A very great deal could be effected by a reform in the 
educational system. Children must be taught humanitarian 
ideals. The liking for cruelty which manifests itself in the 
torture of all kinds of domestic animals and birds, must be 
strictly repressed. The parent, by encouraging his child to 
keep pets may think he is exerting his influence along right 
lines, but only too often this same parent fails to ensure that 
the child is kind to the animals or birds which are put in its 
charge. Nothing is better calculated to develop a love for 
animals and the formation of humanitarian ideals than the 
keeping of pets, provided care is taken to ensure that kind- 
ness is manifested. Nothing is better calculated to develop 
cruelty than to allow that child to persecute and torture the 
pets he is allowed to keep. 

* George Ryley Scott, The History of Corporal Punishment, second 
edition, 1938, p. xxii. 


In trie cruel and thoughtless treatment of animals that is 
SO marked throughout all civilized countries, it seems to me 
lies much of the blame for the cruelty and inhumanity of 
mankind towards one another. The child is allowed to be 
cruel to animals, and grows up to look upon cruelty as an 
everyday affair. It becomes callous as regards the sufferings 
of animals, and there is, in consequence, all the elements 
present for the development of callousness towards its own 
kind. Or the adult is observed by the child to be cruel to 
the domestic cat or dog. What more natural, what more 
inevitable, than that the child, reared in such circumstances, 
should equal, if not excel, in cruelty, its parent. Where is the 
blame to be apportioned : to the parent, or to the child, or to 
the both of them ? It is a vicious circle, the effects of which 
can only be broken by wholesale reforms along the lines I 
have endeavoured to indicate. 

Much of the education of society along humanitarian 
lines must of necessity be bound up with a wholesale reform 
in the methods of treating crime. These methods, as at 
present conducted, after hundreds of years of experiment, 
largely fail. They fail because they are still motivated by the 
old feeling of vengeance. They are concerned far too little 
with the reformation of the criminal. 

Because there is nothing in the world more likely to 
manufacture a habitual criminal than the present gaol system, 
and because the bul\ of first offenders are victims of environ- 
ment, bad luck, accident, et al., we may say that this system 
is mainly concerned with the manufacture of recidivists. 

The system of sentencing offenders to terms of imprison- 
ment fixed either in accordance with the crime or the whims 
of the judges, and which treats certain crimes involving 
property and morality in a harsher manner than other crimes 
which are of a far more serious nature, is neither fair to the 
criminal nor to society. Moreover, such a system of dealing 
with crime suggests that the criminal, after paying the price, 
is free to repeat his offence provided he is wilHng, if caught, 
to again pay this price; a suggestion which, in itself, does 
much to rob the penal system of any reformative value. The 
prisoner, in a huge number of cases, is prepared to repeat his 
offence the minute he secures his liberty, and the police, well 
aware of this, and, in point of fact, implying by their conduct 


that he is almost certain to repeat his crime, are always ready 
to haul him back again. 

The lack of consideration for the psychology of the indivi- 
dual criminal is a major factor for evil in the methods at 
present adopted in dealing with crime. The punishment 
decreed and tJie treatment given are based upon the crime 
and not upon the individual. Until this method is to some 
extent reversed, any reformative action will be prevented or 

More and more does it appear that only a small propor- 
tion of the erring (habitual criminals, confirmed sadists, et 
al.) are altogether irreclaimable, resistant to every form of 
educative or therapeutic treatment. These would constitute 
the permanent inmates of the prisons or their analogues. 
The others, after a course of reconciliatory, propitiatory or 
prophylactic treatment, based, as regards duration, upon 
results rather than upon actual time, should re-enter society 
and contribute to the utility and formulativeness of the State. 


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Abyssinia, torture in, 267 

Adamites, 2'^6n. 

Aesopus, 186 

Africa, South-Wcst, torture in, 267, 

Albigenses, torture of the, 145 
Alexander, W., 209 
Algolagnia, forms of, 21 
Amboyna, torture of English prisoners 

at, 177 et seq. 
American Humane Education Society, 

American Indians, initiatory rites of, 

38 et seq. 
American Indians, tortures of, 42, 43 
Animals, cruelty to, 138 et seq., 278 

et seq. 
Animals, cruelty to, in modern times, 

282 et seq. 
Animals, cruelty to, difficulties in 

abolishing, 308 et seq. 
Animals, cruelty to, incidence of, 306 
Animals, cruelty to, prevention of, 307 
Animals, performing, cruelty in con- 
nexion with training of, 284, 285 
Animals, persecution of, 11, 13 
Antiochus, 164, 166 
Antiphon, 44 
Anundal, 113 

Apostolicals, torture of the, 146 
Apphianus, torture of, 157 
Arago, J., 41 
Aristophanes, 44 
Aristotle, 46 
Artaxerxcs, 222 
Astor, Lady, vii 
Athenaeus, 180 
Australian Blacks, mutilations practised 

'^y- 37 , . . 
Auto da fe, descnpuon or, 70 et seq. 

Bastinado, 104, 188, 200 

Bath, torture of the, 242 

Bayley, F. W. N., 13 

Bear-baiting, 280, 281 

Bears, dancing, how trained, 285 

Bcccaria, Cesarc Bonesana, 63, 97, 135, 

Bentham, 138 
Berg, Dr. Karl, 16 
Bilboes, 236 

Bill of Rights, 134 

Birmingham prison, 251 

Bishop, George, 61 

Black Death, 257 

Black Hole of Calcutta, 221 

Boats, torture of the, 222 

Boiling to death, 164, 165 

Boiling to death in England, 166 

Boot, torture of the, 90, 183 

Branding as a punishment in ancient 

Rome, 49 
Branding in France, 164 
Branding in Great Britain, 91, 163 
Branding slaves, 125 
Brand, John, 99 

Brazen Bull, torture of the, 166, 167 
Brett, W. H., 37 

Bridewells, ducking-stool used in, 240 
Bridewells, flogging in, 207 
Brodequins, 185 
Brownrigg, Elizabeth, notorious sadist, 

Bull-baiting, 280 
Bull-fight, Spanish, 281 
Bull's-hide torture, 118 
Burckhardt, 228 

Burdett, Sir Francis, 136, i99n. 
Burke, Edmund, 148 
Burnet, Bishop, 183, 236 
Burning at the stake, 72, 73, 92, 147, 

157 et seq. 
Burt, Captain, loi 
Burying alive, torture of, 217 
Butler, 138 
Bzovius, 145 

Caligula, 142 

Canning, George, 138 

Capital punishment and torture, 63 

Cart's tail, flogging at, 200, 201 

Casanova, i7n. 

Castration in ancient Rome, 49 

Castration, torture by, 208 

Cadin, George, 38, 39 

Cat-o'-nine-tails, flogging with, 197 

et seq. 
Cat-o'-nine-tails, flogging with, a 

cause of death, 198 
Cat-o'-nine-tails, flogging with, futility 

of, 296 
Ceylon, torture in, 112 


322 INDEX 

Children, incidence of cruelty to, 306 
Children, prevention of cruelty to, 307 
China, capital punishment in, 105, 106 
China, Communist atrocities in, 268, 

China, forms of torture used in, 104, 

105, 216 
China, judicial torture in, 102, 103 
China, punishment of fornication in, 

China Year Boo\, The, 269 
Choctaws, methods of torture practised 

by, 42 
Christianity and torture, 53 et seq. 
Cicero, 48, 134 

Clarke, John, torture of, 177 et seq. 
Clarkson, Thomas, 127 
Code of Gentoo Laws, 117 
Columbus, Christopher, 119 
Constantine, 45, 49, 158 
Coustos, John, torture of, 170 
Coventry, Sir Reginald, 296 
Cromwell, Oliver, 182 
Crozicr, General, 273 
Crucifixion, antiquity of, 153 
Crucifixion in ancient Rome, 49, 154 
Crucifixion of Jesus, 153 
Crucifixion, technique of, 154 
Cruelty in relation to self-preservation, 

Cruelty in relation to torture, 2, 3 
Cruelty of Scythian women, 49 
Cucking-stool, 239 
Czckanowski, 37 

Daily Mail, 296 

Dalyell, J. G., 237 

Damicns, Robert Frangois, torture of, 
i7n., 213, 299 

D'Archcnholz, 90 

Dartmoor prison, mutiny in, 253 

Day, Mr. Justice, 296 

" Death by the Thousand Cuts " in 
modern China, 269, 270 

" Death by the Thousand Cuts," tor- 
ture of, 105 

De Brebcuf, Father Jean, torture of, 

43 • • 
Decapitation, 210 

Decius, 144 

De Coceicao, Maria, torture of, 69 

Defoe, Daniel, in the pillory, 235 

Delicicux, Bernard, 31 

Dellon, 75 

De Lolme, 259, 261 

De Marsillis, Hippolytc, 246 

De Rais, Gillcs, 68, 146, 158 

De Sade, Marquis, 15 

" Dice," torture of the, 154 

Dickens, Charles, 290 

Diocletianus, 143 

Discovery of Witches, The, 98 

Dogs, torture of, 139 

Domitianus, 303 

Drawing and quartering, torture of, 

212 et seq. 
Drowning, 222 
Dublin Review, 259 
Ducking-stool, punishment of the, 239 

Earle, Alice Morse, 244 

Edwards, Bryan, 181 

Egan, killed on the pillory, 235 

Elizabeth, Queen, 88, 89 

Ellcnborough, Lord, 295 

Encyclopcedia Britannica, 230 

Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, 

Encyclopcedia of Rural Sports, 280 
Endicott, Governor, 60 
England, judicial torture in, 86 et seq. 
English Protestants, torture of, 93, 94 
Epickaris, 143 
Epiphanes, Antiochus, 141 
Erskine, Lord, 139 
Essay on Crimes and Punishments, 97, 

Estrapade, torture of the, 187 
Eusebius, 144, 157 

Farinacius, 63 
Farquhar, Sir Robert, 128 
Fasani, Ranicro, doctrines of, 256 
Fear as a deterring force, 290 
Fere, Ch., 19 
Fire, torture by, 162, 163 
Firmillianus, Governor, 144 
Fishman, Joseph F., 294^. 
Flagellants, the, methods adopted by, 

257. 258 
Flagellants, the, origin of, 256 
Flagellation among Pueblo Indians, 

Flagellation as a form of punishment 

in ancient Rome, 46, 48, 49, 144 
Flagellation, erotic, 22 
Flagellation, implements used in, 188, 

Flagellation in Australia, 202, 203 
Flagellation in China, 104, 105 
Flagellation in England, 86, 89, 136, 

Flagellation in Japan, 200 
Flagellation in Mauritius, 194, 195 
Flagellation in Russia, 200 
Flagellation in the army and navy, 

Flagellation in the United States, 203, 

Flagellation, methods of, employed in 

Middle Ages, 188 et seq. 
Flagellation of galley slav«s, 190, 191 

Flagellation of witches, 96 

Flagellation of women, 193, 196 

Flagellation, penal, 137, 200 et seq. 

Flagellation, penal, injuries connected 
with, 300, 301 

Flagellation practised as a religious 
rite, 37 

Flagellation, sadistic, 205, 206, 207 

Flagellation, voluntary, 260, 261 

Flagellation with the Jamaica cart- 
whip, 192, 193 

Flagelium, 48, 144 

Flaying alive, 216 

Flogging. See Flagellation 

Forbes, James, iii, 114, 229 

Ford, Richard, 281 

Fox, George, 59, 158 

France, torture in, 63 

Frederick the Great, 135 

Frying to death, 164, 165 

Galley-slaves, torture of, 190, 191 

Gallonio, 180 

Gallus, 144 

Gardner, James, 257 

Garrotters Act, 34, 296 

Gastaldo, Andrew, 56 

Gavin, D. Antonio, 189, 278 

3ibbon, 44 

Girard, Father, 32 

Gladiators of ancient Rome, 50, 51 

Glove, torture of the, 238 

Goncourt, 17 

Graefe, Johann, 135 

Greece, torture in ancient, 44 et seq. 

Greenwood, James, 40, 42 

Grimm, 180, 227 

Grose, Francis, 244 

Hadrien, Cornelius, 22 

Hale, John P., 133 

Hallam, 89 

Hammond, W., 22 

Hanging alive in chains in England, 

Hanging alive in chains in West 

Indies, 218 et seq. 
Hari-\ari, no 
Hastings, Warren, 148 
Hate, psychology of, 9 
Heineccius, 32 
Heiss, Dr., 283 
Henry II, 260 
Heresy, burning alive as punishment 

for, 158 
Heresy punished by various tortures, 

54. 55 
Herod the First, 141 
Herodotus, 182, 211 
History of Circumcision, 2o8«. 
History of the Inquisition, The, 168 

INDEX 323 

Hodge, Hon. Arthur William, 150, 

Hogarth, 138 
Holinshed, 215 
Hooper, Bishop, burnt at the stake, 

158 et seq. 
Hopkins, Matthew, 98, 232 
Horace, 48 
Horse-baiting, 281 
Howard, John, 237, 240, 249, 250 
Humanity, suppression of, 300, 301 
Hutchinson, Lord, 136, I99«. 

Ignatius, 143 

Imprisonment, psychological effects of, 


Incest, punished by burning alive, 158 

India, children tortured in, 117 

India, methods of torture employed 
in, III et seq., 148 

Infibulation, 38 

Inge, Very Rev. W. R., vi 

Innocent III, 145 

Innocent VIII, 95 

Inquisition, activities of, 74 

Inquisition, examination of prisoners 
by, 66 

Inquisition, formation and develop- 
ment of, 64 et seq. 

Inquisition, influence of, 73 et seq. 

Inquisition, tormre chamber of, 66 

Inquisition, tortures employed by, 67, 
82, 168 et seq., 190 

Inquisition, victims of the, 81 et seq. 

Ireland, judicial tormre in, 90 

Ireland, terrorism in modern, 272 

" Iron Gauntiets," tormre of the, 237, 

Italy, torture in, 62 
Ivan the Terrible, 147 

Jamaica cart-whip. See Flagellation 

James I, 97 

James II, 147 

Japan, forms of torture employed in, 

Japan, judicial tormre in, 106, 107 
Japan, methods of punishment in, no 
Japan, tormre of Christians in, 108, 

Jardine, David, 88 
Jeffreys, Judge, 147 
Jennings, Al, 203 
Joan of Arc, 158 
Joscphus, 164, 165, 180 
Jougs, 241 
Justinian, 45 

Kian hao. See Pillory, Chinese 
Kittee, 112, 113 
Knaresborough prison, 249 

324 INDFX 

Kracmer, Henrich, 95 
Krafft-Ebing, 19, 22 
Kiirten, Peter, 16, 19, 303 

Lacroix, Paul, 185, 212, 247 

Lafourcadc, Georges, 304 

Las Casas, B., 119, 162 

Lavine, E. H., 277 

Lawrence, John, 138 

Lea, H. C, 62, 67, 243, 246 

Lecky, W. E. H., 53 

Leeds Mercury, 236 

Letters from the North of Scotland, 


Libel, punishment for, 210 
Lilburn, John, in pillory, 234 
Limborch, Philip a, 67 
Lisle, Lady Alice, burned at the stake, 

Lithgow, William, torture of, 172 

et seq. 
" Little Ease," torture of, 89, 246, 

Llorcnte, 81 
Locke, 138 

London, Jack, 284, 285, 307«. 
Long, Rev. J., 117 
Lucian, 166, 180 
Lynching, effects on public opinion 

of, 310 
Lynching, torture of, 273, 274 

Macaulay, 201 

Maccabees, tortures of the, 164 et seq. 

Maconochie, Governor, 251, 252, 253 

Magna Charta, 134 

Malleus Malificarum, 96, 99 

Martial, 51 

Martin, Isaac, flogging of, 83, 84 

Martin, Richard, 139 

Masochism and martyrdom, 22, 23 

Masochism, extension of psychological. 

Masochism, futility of punishment in 

cases of, 302 
Masochism, pleasure principle in, 21 

et seq. 
Masochism, treatment of, 304, 305 
Master Key to Popery, A, 75 
Mauritius, torture of slaves in, 129 et 

Maximinus, 143 
Maximus, 45 
Mayer, Dr., 224, 225 
Melgounov, S. P., 266 
Memoirs of the Sansons, 210 
Michelet, 222 
Mika operation, 38 
Millingen, J. G., 207 
Mithridates, 222 
Montaigne, 25, 49, 135 

Morning Chronicle, 123 

Moyen, Francisco, torture of, 84 

Murdoch, James, 107 

Mutilation, torture by, 91, 208 et teq. 

Mutiny Act of 1869, 197 

Nabis, 144 

Napier, Major-General C. J., 136, 198, 

National Society for the Prevention of 

Cruelty to Children, 306 
Nero, 51, 143 
New Age, 301 
News from Scotland, 99 
News of the World, 295 
Norman, Sir Henry, 105, 106 
Notes and Queries, 21972., 220 

Gates, Tittjs, flogged at cart's tail, 201 
Oliver, Mr. Justice, 295 
Once a Wee\, 218, 219 
Onondaga County Penitentiary, treat- 
ment of prisoners in, 254 
Ordeal of boiling water, 229 
Ordeal of cold water, 231 et seq. 
Ordeal of the hatchet, 228 
Ordeal of the " venomous gloves," 40 
Ordeal, red-hot iron, 227, 228 
Ordeal, trial by, in England, 228, 232, 

Ordeal, trial by, in India, 229, 230 
Orobio, Isaac, torture of, 178 et seq. 
Osborne, Ruth, trial by ordeal of, 232 
Outlook, The, 254 
Ovid, 16, 167 

" Paddle," use of the, 132 

Pearsall, R. L., 224, 226 

Peine forte et dure, 87, 89, 90, 91, 

155, 156 
Peine forte et dure m America, 156 
Peine forte et dure in Ireland, 156 
Penal Code of China, 103 
Pendulum, torture of the, 242 
Percy Anecdotes, The, 116, 166 
Performing Animals (Regulations) Act, 

Perilaus, 166, 167, 186 
Persecution by the State, 28 
Persecution, modern aspects of, 27 
Persecution, physiology of, 26, 27 
Phalaris, 166, 186 
Picart, B., 36, 103 
Picketing, 244 

Picton, Sir Thomas, convicted for tor- 
ture, 149 
Piedmont, torture of Protestants in, 

Picture of England, 90 
Pike, Luke Owen, 155 
Pillory, Chinese, 104 


Pillory, Egan killed on the, 235 

Pillory, John Waller pelted to death 
on the, 235 

Pillory, torture of the, in England, 
210, 234 et seq. 

Pinckard, George, 126 

Pit and the Pendulum, The, 242 

Plato, 46, 278 

Pliny, 143 

Plot, Robert, 240 

Plutarch, 217, 222 

Poe, Edgar Allan, 242 

Polybius, 44 

Polycarpus, 143 

Praxis et Theories Criminalis, 63 

Prcscott, William H., 25 

Pressing to death. Sec Peine forte et 

Prison forte et dure, 222 

Prisons, conditions in English, 247 et 

Prisons, conditions in foreign, 247, 

Prisons, floating, 247 

Prostitution, burning alive a punish- 
ment for, 158 

Protection of Animals Act, 307/1. 

Pueblo Indians, flagellation rites of, 

Pulley, torture of the. See Squassation 
Pulteney, Sir W., 138 
Punishment, aims of, 286 et seq. 
Punishment, brutalizing effects of, 

299 et seq. -a 

Punishment, fear of, and its effects, 

Punishment for reformative purpose, 

nullity of, 291 et seq. 
Punishment, lessened force of modern 

forms of, 289 
Punishment, limitations of, 302 et seq. 
Punishment, relation of torture to, 40, 

91 et seq. 
Putuanius, 186 

Quakers, persecutions of the, 59 et seq. 

Rack, Chinese, 102 

Rack, Isaac Oroblo tortured on the, 

178 et seq. , u 

Rack, John Coustos tortured on the, 

170 et seq. 
Rack, William Lithgow tortured on 

the, 172 et seq. 
Rack, technique of torture of the, 69 
Rack, technique of torture of the, as 

employed by the Inquisition, 169 et 

Pack, technique of torture of the, in 

England, 87, 88 
Raper, Arthur P., 274, 3Tr> 

Remondino, 2o8». 

Report of the Departmental Committee 

on Corporal Punishment, 296 
Richards, Brinsley, 300 
Rome, torture in ancient, 44 et seq. 
Romilly, Sir Samuel, 136, 198 
Rope^ torture of the, 118 
Rousseau, 304 

Rowley, Dr. Francis H., 283 
Royal Society for the Prevention of 

Cruelty to Animals, 140 
Russia, Bolshevist atrocities in, 265, 

Russia, torture in, 264 

Sacrifice and torture, 24 et seq., 35 
Sacrifice, human, 25 
Sadism and flagellation, 205 
Sadism and gladiatorial exhibitions, 50 
Sadism and modern surgery, 20 
Sadism and the Inquisition, 75 
Sadism, danger in wrong treatment 

of, 303 
Sadism, encouragement of, 18 
Sadism in relation to torture, 14 et seq 
Sadism, private, 18 
Sadism, treatment of, 304, 305 
St. Augustine, 56, 134 
St. Domingo, torture in, 128 
St. Liguori, 260 
Sanger, " Lord " George, 285 
Saunders, W. D., 203, 254 
Scalping, methods of, 212 
Scalping, torture of, 211 
Scavenger's Daughter, 89 
Scavenger's Daughter, torture of, 185 
Scold's Bridle, 240, 241 
Scotland, judicial torture in, 89, 90 
Scotland, methods of torture used in, 

183, 184, 185 
Scottish Historical Review, 220 
Select Committee on Slavery, 193 
Self-torture of saints and penitents, 

260, 261 
Semcdo, F. A., 102, 103, 104 
Seneca, 134 
Serbia, torture in, 271 
Severus, 45, 143, 144 
Sex in Prison, 2g^n. 
Shaw, Bernard, 207 
Sheridan, 138 
Shipp, John, 197 

Short Account of Scotland, A, 185 
Shortest Way with Dissenters, The, 

Simson, Cuthbert, torture of, 171 
Slaughter-House Reform, 283 
Slaughtering animals, Jewish methods 

of, 282, 283 
Slavery and torture, 119 et seq. 
Slaughter of Animals Act, 139, 282 

326 INDEX 

Slaves, bizarre forms vi punishing, 127 
Slaves, branding ot, 125 
Slaves, flogging, 122, 123, 124, 125 
Slaves, horrors in connexion with 

transport of, 121 
Slaves, methods of torturing, 122 et 

seq., 150, 151 
Slaves, mutilations of, 126 
Slaves, torture of, in ancient Greece 

and Rome, 46 et seq. 
Slaves, whipping of, in West Indies, 

Slaves, whipping of, in Mauritius, 

194, 195 
Slaves, whipping of, in United States, 

Slave-trade, extent of, 120 
" Slicing process," torture by. See 

" Death by the Thousand Cuts " 
Smith, W., 246 
Solon, 46 
Sophocles, 227 

" Spanish Boot," torture of the, 184 
Spectator, 118, 254 
Sprenger, Johann, 95 
SpreuU, John, torture of, 183 
Squassation, 168 
Squire, Dr. Amos, 4 
Star Chamber, 59, 87, 234, 237, 275 
Staunton, Sir George, 103 
Stedman, J. G., 126, 181 
Stckel, Wilhelm, 20, 304 
Stephen, James, 218 
Stocks, punishment of the, 236 
Stoning to death, 182 
Stow, John, 155, 200, 214 
Strutt, Joseph, 160, 235 
Suetonius, 142 
Sumner, W. G., 10 
Survey, 202, 254 
Survey of London, 155 
" Suttee," rites of Indian,' 261, 262, 

Swinburne, 304 
Symmachus, 50 

Tait's Edinburgh Magazine, 198 

Templars, torture of the, 87 

TertuUian, 134 

Therry, R., 202 

" Third Degree," methods employed, 

276, 277 
" Third Degree," torture of, 275 
" Third Degree," torture of, in 

England, 277 
" Third Degree," torture of, in 

India, 277 
Thoodasavary, 114 
Thumbkins. See Tortur'" of the 

Thumb-tying, 67 

Tiberius, 141, 142 

Times, The, 233, 270, 272 

Timperley, H." J., :;72 

Toller, Ernst, 2947J. 

Torquemada, 69 

Torture, abolition of, 306 et seq. 

Torture among savage and primitive 

races, 35 ef seq. 
Torture and the Holy Inquisition, 66 

et seq., 168 et seq. 
Torture and the will to power, 7 
Torture as a means of developing 

sadism, 16 
Torture as a means of discovering 

witches, 99 
Torture as a means of enacting ven- 
geance, 6 et seq. 
Torture as a religious rite, 35 
Torture, attitude of church towards, 

52 et seq. 
Torture, bizarre forms of, 117 et seq., 

245, 246 
Torture, causes of wholesale or mass, 

24 et seq. 
Torture, decline of, 136, 137 
Torture, definition of, i, 2 
Torture, development of, 12 
Torture, effects of, 29 et seq. 
Torture, effects of mental, 4, 29 et 

Torture, evils of, 298 et seq. 
Torture, futility of, 30 et seq., 286 

et seq. 
Torture in ancient Greece and Rome, 

44 et seq. 
Torture in Great Britain and Ireland, 

86 et seq. 
Torture in initiatory rites, 37 et seq. 
Torture in modern warfare, 270 et seq. 
Torture, judicial, 61 et seq., 86 et seq. 
Torture, justification of, vii, 10 
Torture, legal meaning of, 2, 3 
Torture, masochistic aspects of, 20 et 

Torture, modern forms of, 264 et seq. 
Torture, modern forms of, in Abys- 
sinia, 267 
Torture, modern forms of, in America, 

273 et seq. 
Torture, modern forms of, in China, 

268, 269 
Torture, modern forms of, in Russia, 

264, 265 
Torture, modern forms of, in South- 
West Africa, 267, 268 
Torture of animals, 11, 13, 138 et seq., 

278 et seq. 
Torture of boiling to death, 164, 165 
Torture of branding, 163, 210 
Torture of burning alive, 157 et seq. 
Torture of burying alive, 217 


Torture of castration, 208 
Torture of crucifixion, 153, 154 
Torture of decapitation, 216 
Torture of drawing and quartering, 

212 et seq. 
Torture of drowning, 222 
Torture of flagellation, 188 et seq. 
Torture of flaying alive, 216 
Torture of hanging alive, 218 et seq. 
Torture of hurling from a tower, 186 
Torture of " Little Ease," 246 
Torture of lynching, 273, 274 
Torture of mutilation, 208, 209, 210 
Torture of peine forte et dure, 155, 

Torture of scalping, 211 
Torture of school children in India, 

Torture of slaves in America, 130 et 

Torture of slaves in Mauritius, 129 
Torture of slaves in West Indies, 119 

et seq. 
Torture of squassation, 168 
Torture of starvation, 222 
Torture of stoning to death, 182 
Torture of the bath, 243 
Torture of the boats, 222, 223 
Torture of the boot, 183 
Torture of the brazen bull, 166, 167 
Torture of the Brodequins, 185 
Torture of the " dice," 154 
Torture of the ducking-stool, 239 
Torture of the estrapade, 187 
Torture of the frying-pan, 164, 166 
Torture of the glove, 238 
Torture of the " Iron Gauntlets," 237 
Torture of the ordeal, 227 et seq. 
Torture of the pendulum, 242 
Torture of the pillory, 210, 234 et seq. 
Torture of the rack, 16^ et seq. 
Torture of the rats, 247 
Torture of the Scavenger's Daughter, 

Torture of the " Scold's Bridle," 240, 

Torture of the " Spanish Boot," 184 
Torture of the stocks, 236 
Torture of the " Third Degree," 275, 

276, 277 
Torture of the thumbscrews, 236 
Torture of the " Virgin Mary," 223 

et seq. 
Torture of the wheel, 180 et seq. 
Torture of water, 171 et seq., 243 
Torture, principle of, 6 et seq. 
Torture, prohibition of, 5 
Torture, psychological effects of, 3 et 

seq., 33, 302 et seq. 
Torture, rcintroduction into Europe, 

Torture, relation of punishment to, i, 

2, 40 et seq., 91 et seq. 
Torture, sacrifice in relation to, 24 
Torture, self-inflicted, methods of, 256 

et seq. 
Torture, surreptitious, 5 
Torture, technique and methods of, 

153 et seq. 
Torture, toleration of, 9 
Torture, war upon, 134 et seq. 
Torturers, notorious, 141 et seq. 
Torturers of the Middle Ages, 145 et 

Tortures, military, 243, 244 
Tortures, prison, 248 et seq. 
Tower of London, tortures used in, 

171, I74n., 185, 237, 246, 247 
Tragedy of Lynching, The, 274 
Trajanus, 143 
Treadmill, 251 
Treason Act, 34 

Trinidad, torture of slaves in, 126 
Turkish prisons, conditions in, 255 

Ulpian, 134 
Urbanus, 144 

Valerianus, 144 

Van Halen, Don Juan, torture of, 238 

Vengeance in relation to torture, 6 

et seq. 
" Virgin Mary," mechanism of the, 

" Virgin Mary," torture of the, 223 

et seq. 
Vives, Juan Luis, 135 
Vivisection, 307 
Voltaire, 135, 136, 230 

Waldenses, persecution of the, 56 et 

Waller, John, pelted to death on 
pillory, 235 

Walsh, Sir Cecil, 277 

Warfare, torture in modern, 270 et seq. 

Water, torture of, 171, 243 

Water, torture of, modern methods, 

Wesley, 138 

Wheel, breaking on the, 180 et seq. 

Wheel, breaking on the, as practised in 
Surinam, 181 

Whipping. See Flagellation 

Whipping of Female Offenders Aboli- 
tion Act, 297 

Whirlgig, 244 

Wilberforce, 138 

Wildman, J. B., r9'; 

Wilkins, W. J., 265 

Wilson, Daniel, 241 

Windham, William, 138 



Wiseman, Sir R., 294 

Witches, persecution and torture of, 

95 et scq. 
Witches, pricking test for discovering, 

97. 98. 99 
Witches, torture of, in Great Britain, 

99, 100 
Witches, trial of, by ordeal, 232, 233 

Witch's Bridle. See Scold's Bridle 

Wood, Stuart, 253 

" Wooden Horse," torture of the, 

243. 244 

Yeats-Brown, Major F., 285 
Zeno, Emperor, 186