James Leroy Wilson's blog

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Humanitarian, Guillotin

The other day, I thought, when you think of execution devices, there is something quite humane about the guillotine. I mean, if you were to be executed, would you prefer an axe? Crucifixion? Being drawed and quartered, or burned at the stake? I wondered if it was invented with humanitarian intentions. Looks like I was pretty close to the truth:

Ironically, the guillotine, which became the most notable symbol of the excesses of the French Revolution, was named for a humanitarian physician, Joseph Ignace Guillotin. Guillotin, a member of the French Constituent Assembly, recommended in a speech to that body on October 10, 1789, that executions be performed by a beheading device rather than by hanging, the method used for commoners, or by the sword, reserved for the nobility. He argued that beheading by machine was quicker and less painful than the work of the rope and the sword. In 1791 the Assembly did indeed adopt beheading by machine as the state's preferred method of execution. A beheading device designed by Dr. Antoine Louis, secretary of the College of Surgeons, was first used on April 25, 1792, to execute a highwayman named Pelletier or Peletier. The device was called a louisette or louison after its inventor's name, but because of Guillotin's famous speech, his name became irrevocably associated with the machine. After Guillotin's death in 1814, his children tried unsuccessfully to get the device's name changed. When their efforts failed, they were allowed to change their name instead.

3 comments:

  1. GreginOz9:55 PM PST

    "...A beheading device designed by Dr. Antoine Louis, secretary of the College of Surgeons, was first used on April 25, 1792, to execute a highwayman named Pelletier or Peletier."

    Pelletier! Now that is a good name for a libertarian blogger, ESPECIALLY as he was , literally, executed by the Mechanism of The State!

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  2. "...there is something quite humane about the guillotine. I mean, if you were to be executed, would you prefer an axe?...

    Isn't that a false dichotomy? Choosing between two forms of evil doesn't really amount to choice when subject to state violence.

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  3. I posted this in an ironic mood. Maybe that wasn't communicated.

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