Public punishment still practised, despite some opposition

Jim Hornby
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

The Islander, April 1

PUBLIC WHIPPING. Hugh McGilvray, the Highway Robber, sentenced at the last term of the Supreme Court in Georgetown, to three years imprisonment, and 39 lashes at the commencement of, and 39 lashes more at the termination of his imprisonment, received the first instalment of his sentence at Georgetown on Monday last, in the presence of a large concourse of people. We hope the rascal’s back got well whipped.

Jim Hornby: On March 10, McGilvray’s sentence included being “publicly whipped on your naked back in front of the Court House” on March 28, which was done by the sheriff with a cat-o’-nine-tails.


Ross’s Weekly, April 7

The Monitor of Thursday last contains an account of the public whipping of one Hugh McGilvray, of Arisaig (Nova Scotia), for the crime of highway robbery. It appears that McGilvray knocked down and robbed an old man named McDonald of some three pounds. It was an aggravated case of robbery, and deserved the utmost punishment of the law; yet we cannot but think that the law on our statute book, which provides the punishment of public whipping for any crime, should be annuled. It is a relict of barbarism and Puritan Blue Laws, and unworthy of this age. There are many ways in which a man can be punished for crime without debasing him by public whipping. Public punishment of any kind is now going out of date, and it is becoming clearly understood that it has an opposite tendency to that which heretofore was generally supposed was its effect. It neither improves the culprit, nor the populace, as the latter become familiar with the punishment and hardened.


Ross’s Weekly, April 7

LYNCH LAW AT GEORGETOWN. Last week “Louis Nicolas,” a young athletic Micmac Indian, appropriated to himself from off the clothesline of Capt. B---, in Georgetown, three flannel shirts, making sale of one of them, and with the proceeds having, for himself and his companion, a first rate breakfast. With the other two the savage adorned his person, a scarlet one outside. Throughout the day, as he was walking proudly down Kent Street, he was detected, and a crowd gathering, he was at once found guilty; and considering, under all the circumstances, that it would be better to administer punishment at once, he was sentenced to receive thirteen lashes! The young Micmac was then ordered to disrobe; and seeing that he could not escape, he--with all the coolness and heroism of a warrior--divested himself of the stolen articles, folded his arms, let fall his head on his breast, and received the number of blows over his shoulders and back, inflicted with a whip, with all the might and strength of the Capt., without moving a muscle.

The Indian then stepping out of the ring, shook his hand, and said, “Me son of great chief--twenty years me watch--s’pose me catch, me tie you to one tree, and dance round one day with tomahawk and scalpum knife--then take’m eelskin and flog till me tired.” The Indian then disappeared.


The Examiner, April 4

Was the redoubtable Captain who inflicted the stripes, as we are told with all his “strength and muscle,” he whose property was supposed to have been appropriated by [Louis Nicolas]? If so, let me ask was he the proper person to select as the one most likely to temper mercy with justice in the infliction of the illegal stripes? To a civilized community, the Captain of the Georgetown Volunteers, in the service of Judge Lynch, with horsewhip in hand, laying it on the naked back of his unfortunate victim, appears to be the greater savage of the two. (Roger Riddler.)

J.H.: “Roger” identifies the captain of the Georgetown Artillery and Rifles company of the Island’s Volunteer militia, as the “savage” who horsewhipped Louis Nicolas, assisted by a mob. He is Charles Owen, a general importer from a powerful mercantile family, whose house and clothesline were on Grafton Street near Fitzroy Street in Georgetown, and whose brother, postmaster general Lemuel C. Owen, was the major commanding the Kings County Regiment of Volunteers. Captain Charles Owen was commissioned in the P.E.I. Garrison Artillery upon the Island’s entry into Confederation in 1873 and was collector of customs at the Port of Georgetown.

The Examiner, April 4

The inhabitants of Lot 61 and Lot 64 are described, in the public prints, APPEAR to be, at the present time, in a state of open revolt. It is said that they have already planted cannon on the Mink River Road, as a means of resistance to the payment of rents. It seems pretty clear that if the good people of Georgetown take it into their heads to back up the refractory tenantry in their resistance to the payment of rent, we may expect to see, at no distant date, the whole tribe of sheriffs, bailiffs, constables, &c. (Roger Riddler.)


Ross’s Weekly, April 7

 I’m old, and weary, and sad,

 My sons have left me alone,

 I’m deep in debt and my credit is bad--

 My courage is almost gone.

 In a few cold winters more,

 No rent will the agent crave

 From me, for a freehold I have in store

 In the lonely churchyard grave.

Lot 52, March 22nd, 1864.

J.H.: The last eight lines of the anonymous 116-line piece entitled The Tenant’s Song are published in this issue.

Jim Hornby’s column, “1864: The Way We Were: gleanings from Charlottetown’s newspapers,” is in The Guardian every Monday in 2014 (on holiday Mondays, it will appear on Tuesdays). It contains excerpts from newspapers of that era, as well as Hornby’s comments on what he has found. To give feedback on this feature, presented in celebration of the sesquicentennial of the Charlottetown Conference, contact the author at

Organizations: Supreme Court, Court House, Georgetown Artillery P.E.I. Garrison Artillery Port of Georgetown.The Examiner

Geographic location: Georgetown, Arisaig, Nova Scotia Kent Street Charlottetown Grafton Street Fitzroy Street Mink River Road

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page