FEBRUARY 2017

FEBRUARY  2017
The same old bullshit, for 2 hundred years. First it was the Catholics - German, Italian and Irish - and then Asians, and then Jews. Whose next?

Translate

Amazon Contextual Product Ads

Friday, December 14, 2012

CROSSING THE BORDER LINE


I think we have all seen his photo, but I doubt if many of you have seriously gazed into the chubby self satisfied face of President Chester A. Arthur and wondered what made him such a clothes horse? You ought to. “Elegant Arthur” was a vain, shallow, mutton chopped political hack who owned 80 pairs of trousers, and who rarely wore the same pair twice. “Chet”, as his friends liked to call the 6 foot 2 inch dandy raconteur, spent more on hats annually than most Americans earned in a year. Chester was a product of the spoils system. In six years as the Collector of the Port of New York, with a salary of $6,500 a year, Chester amassed a fortune of $3 million. And yet it was not his sticky fingers which endangers his reputation to this day . It was his massive ego, which inspired him to tell one little white lie . He fibbed about how old he was.
Chester had never held elected office before joining the Republican national ticket in 1880. He was the choice of Senator Roscoe Conkling, boss of the Stalwarts, the renamed Tammany Hall graft machine. In exchange for a promise to get-out-the-vote in New York “Lord Roscoe” had forced James Garfield to accept Chester as his Vice President. The Republicans needed the help. During the campaign Democrats spread the rumor that Chester had actually been born in Canada, and thus was not eligible to serve as Vice President. Chester refused to even dignify the charge with a response, even tho at least one Republican pol wondered why Chester didn't just “say where he was born, and put an end to all this mystery.”
It might have made a difference. Out of 4 million votes cast that November 8, 1880, Garfield and Chester Arthur received just 1,898 more votes than Civil War hero Winfield Scott Hancock and Indiana banker William English, running for the Democrats. The close defeat was a bitter pill for Democrats to swallow, and they stayed bitter. In mid-December, the New York Times noted that a Democratic operative had arrived in St. Albans, Vermont, investigating Chester's ancestry. The Democrats had tied this tract before, claiming Chester had been born in Ireland. That smear fell apart quickly, but evidently they were were not willing to let it go. If Chester noticed that small item in the paper, and I bet he did, he must have been more than a little nervous.
According to the Times, the operative's name was Arthur P. Hinman. Shortly after the 1880 election members of the Democratic National committee had walked into Hinman's offices at 14 Wall Street, offering to pay his expenses to investigate the persistent rumors that Vice President-elect Chester Arthur was not “a native born citizen” as required by the Constitution. They had picked their man well. Besides being a loyal Democrat, Hinman had written a poem recently published in Harper’s Magazine. It began, "My back is to the wall, My face is to my foes, That surge and gather around me, Like waves that winter blows”.  And it was this combative and contentious bull dog who traveled to the town of St. Albans, 15 miles south of the Canadian border, and further, to the little villages beyond, on both sides of the political line.
Interviewed by the Times in the American Hotel at the corner of Main and Lake Streets, in St. Albans, Himman claimed his investigation had uncovered that Chester A. Arthur was actually, “born in Canada....that he was 50 years old in July instead of October...and generally that he is an alien and ineligible to the office of Vice-President.” It was hard to disprove the allegation. Vermont did not begin recording and issuing birth certificates until 1857. Yet, the tiny article, printed under the headline “Material For a Democratic Lie”, caused barely a hiccup back in Washington. After all Chester was just the vice president. He did not matter.
   Still it was just one more reason why, after taking the oath in March of 1881, President Garfield had bared Chester from even entering the White House. Garfield had decided on civil service reform, doing away with the profitable spoils system, and that meant figuratively castrating Senator Conkling and freezing his “Stalwarts”, like Chester, out of the government. Then, on July 2nd , President Garfield was shot in a Washington, D.C. train station. As the deranged assassin was arrested he shouted, "I am a Stalwart, and Arthur will be President!”. In September, 88 days later, Garfield died of blood poisoning Abruptly, the charming but vapid Chester A. Arthur was President, and the assassin had publicly tied the new POTUS to the murder.
And what happened next did not improve the trouser snake's public image. Chester refused to occupy the executive mansion until Lewis Comfort Tiffany had spent two months and lots of public money redecorating it, with pomegranate plush drapes and a floor to ceiling ornate wood and glass screen (above) jammed into the main entrance hall. To complete the grotesque gilded age transformation of a national monument, 24 wagon loads of historical paintings, furniture and furnishings accumulated by Presidents John Adams through Ulysses Grant were sold at auction. It was just one more reason why a journalist would later write, “No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted as Chester Alan Arthur.”
The Democrats saw a quick opening, but Hinman rushed his shot and he missed. His new conspiracy theory presented in the fall and winter of 1881, was a repeat of what he had told the Times, with a few more details. But again the story still fell apart. This time there was the testimony of Chester Abell, the doctor who delivered the future President. The boy was even named after him. Dr. Abel insisted Chester had been born in Fairfield, Vermont, about half way between St Albans and the Canadian border. And although the father, William Arthur, had not become a naturalized American citizen until 1843, there was no doubt that he married Chester's mother Malvina in 1821, and she was blatantly American born. Her grandfather had even fought in the American Revolutionary Army, for crying out loud. So when Chester Arthur was born in October of 1830, he was automatically an American citizen, like his mother, no matter what his father's status. And once President Chester Arthur began to crusade for the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act, his public image improved and most people forgot the Democratic smear. In fact the public began to notice that Chester was just so likeable. It even began to look as if he might even run for re-election. And that meant that Arthur Hinman would be back.
Lawyer Hineman's third theory still insisted that Chester had indeed been born in Canada. Malvina's parents had lived in Dunham, Quebec for years, just 8 miles north of the border. William and Malvina had met and eloped in Dunham. It would have been natural, in the fall of 1830, for Malvina to seek her mother's help in minding her four older children when it came time to deliver Chester. And as for Dr. Abel's testimony, well, the old man was just confused. See, Chester Alan Arthur had been born in Dunham, Quebec, but in 1828. Then there had been another son, named Chester Abel Arthur, born in 1830 in Fairfield, Vermont. That was the baby Dr. Abel had remembered. But, said Hinman's research, Chester Abel had died before his first birth day. And years later, when applying to Union College in Schenectady New York, Chester Alan Arthur had appropriated his dead brother's birth date and location, making him an American citizen and qualifying him for student aid. It was such a good story that Hinman put it all down in a book, “How A British Subject Became President of the United States”, and in the summer of 1884, with another Presidential election looming, summarized it in an article he wrote for the Brooklyn Eagle Newspaper.
It might have caught on. It might have become a majestic conspiracy, like the rabbit Alice followed. And the Democratic party might have fallen down that rabbit hole in the election of 1884. The American people have always been drawn to conspiracy theories, be it FDR sacrificing Pearl Harbor in 1941, or the mob contracting the shoot John Kennedy in 1963, or the UN black helicopters hiding in National Parks in the 1990's, or even Hurricane Sandy winning the election for Obama in 2012. But reality intervened in 1884 when President Chester Arthur fell ill and decided not to run for re-election. And as quickly as that, Arthur Hinman lost his livelihood. He had become irrelevant, the Donald Trump of his age, leaving behind a brown smudge as his only contribution to the historical record.
Chester Alan Arthur left the White House in March of 1885 a very sick man. On November 16, 1886 he ordered his son to burn all his personal papers, reducing to ashes all the shady deals he had cut while a loyal Stalwart for Senator Conkling.  And then on November 18, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, and died. Mark Twain, the man who had invented the title “Gilded Age”, offered a powerful obituary; “It would hard indeed to better President Arthur's administration”
After his work as a hatched man dried up, Arthur Hinman suffered the roller coaster life a political flunky, in with one administration, out wit the next. His law business fell off and his was forced to move his office to cheaper space at 644 Hancock street in Brooklyn. But then the worm turned again and by 1901 he was back at 375 Fulton Street, just blocks from City Hall in Manhattan.   But he never lost his pugnaciousness. In October of 1904, the now aging lawyer got into a fist fight with an undertaker, a Mr. Joseph P. Pouch. Hinman had represented Pouch's  wife in their divorce case, and when the judge awarded her custody of their 7 year old child, Arthur Hinman offered to effect the transfer, to avoid a confrontation. With any other lawyer that might have worked. But Arthur was never one to suffer an insult. He belted Joe in the eye, and Joe pounded Himman in the face and head. Poor Joe got arrested for contempt of court, and Mrs. Pouch got her child. And Arthur Hinman got the fight he always relished. It was straight out of  the final stanza of his poem, where Arthur recalls his “life of combat”; "I stand, poor speck of dust, Defiant, self reliant, To die – if die I must.” 
And the mystery of Chester Alan Arthur's birth would not be finally be answered until 1949 when Chester A. Arthur III donated the family bible to the New York Public Library. And there, recorded in William Arthur's own handwritten are listed, in order, the births of all nine of his children. The name of the first male and fifth child is Chester Alan Arthur. But the birth date is October 5, 1829. It was the same year William Arthur was elected to the school board in Fairfield, Vermont. And all the great mystery and drama compounded by politicians over the birth place of President Chester Alan Arthur, boiled down to a  vain man's vanity about his age.
- 30 -  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

THE LIGHT FANTASTIC

I wish I had been there on that fantastic July day in 169 B.C.in the Alexandrian suburb of Eleusis, when for a few brief moments the past and future were divided by a line in the sand. On one side stood the royal egomaniac Antiochus IV, whose army was just four miles from capturing the Pharaoh of Egypt. Standing in his way was one old man, the Roman ambassador, Gaius Popillius, carrying a decree from “the Senate and the People of Rome”. It ordered the upstart Syrian Greek to turn his Slecuid army around, and go home. Antiochus was infuriated, and tried to buy time. He had to consult his advisers, he said. But Gaius would have none of that. Grabbing a stick he drew a circle around the King and insisted, if Antiochus stepped over the line without agreeing to turn back, it would mean war with Rome. It was the original line drawn in the sand, and for one of the few times in history, it actually worked. Antiochus went home. It came to be called the “Day of Eleusis”, and because of that day, we celebrate a holiday – just not the one you're thinking about, probably.
Antiochus IV was King of the Slecuid Empire, centered in Syria and stretching from India on the east and now the border with Egypt on the west. He was called Epiphanes, “God Manifest” on his monuments, and Epimanes behind his back - “The Mad One”. And as he retreated eastward across the Sinai, he got madder and madder. You see, some jackass in Judea had spread a rumor that Antiochus had been  killed in battle. Maybe the Romans had spread the story to weaken Antiochus in his rear, and maybe Antiochus had spread it himself, to flush out any trouble makers among the conquered peoples in his empire. But whoever spread it, the hottest hot head in Judea was a Jewish religious fanatic named Mattathias ben Johanan, the Hasmonean.  Mattathias believed the rumor, and with about a thousand followers came charging out of the hills to capture the temple in Jerusalem and drive the high priest Menelaus into the wilderness
Now, few people in Jerusalem missed Menelaus. He had become high priest because his brother Onias had been high priest before him. But when Onias had sent Menelaus to deliver the yearly taxes to Antiochus IV, Menelaus had included a little extra from himself, a bribe, and suddenly Onias was no longer high priest, Menelaus was. So you can see why Antiochus tended not to think of the high priests of Judisiam as particularly holy, and neither did the people of Jerusalem.  Menelaus slipped a little more in public opinion when his brother Onias died in a tragic sword accident – bad luck. So the Jews of Jerusalem were not really sorry to see Menelaus gone.
But Antiochus IV(above) was sorry. Menelaus might be a sniveling bottom feeder, but he was the King's sniveling bottom feeder. And then there was that whole “got to show them whose the boss” dynamic going on. And Antiochus IV had an army that had been expecting a rich sacking of Alexandria, which the Romans had put the kibosh to. So in the dog days of August 169 B.C., everything was pointing toward a very bad day for Jerusalem. And it came.
It seems – oops - somebody had left the city gates open. So the Slecuid army marched right in, as Mattathias ben Johanana slipped out the back door. First the Slecuid  soldiers stripped the Jewish temple of everything of value -  everything not already sold to pay tribute to Antiochus IV, or stolen earlier by the Babylonians or the Egyptians when they sacked Jerusalem.  Really there couldn't have been that much left to steal. But whatever it was, Antiochus IV took it. And then, according to the holy text, Second Macabbees, “And he commanded his soldiers to cut down relentlessly every one they met and to slay those who went into the houses.”.
The primary non-religious source for what happened was the Jewish radical turned Roman informer, Josephus. He says that over three days Antiochus IV murdered 44,000 people in Jerusalem, which would have been about 10% of the population, and another 44,000 women and children were sold into slavery. Antiochus IV then built a citadel right next to the Jewish temple, which he stocked with a permanent garrison. Then he had the Jewish temple re-dedicated. On the altar where Menelaus had sacrificed goats to honor Yahweh, the Greek priests now sacrificed pigs to honor Zeus. Antiochus IV also issued a decree forbidding circumcision - (who was the lucky guy who got to check on that? ). It seemed the Jews had finally ticked off one King too many.
But, a year later human nature, or maybe it was Yahweh, intervened. In 168 BC, the rising empire of Parthia captured the Afghanistan city of Heart (Hair-it). This was an important because  the region around Herat was  the bread basket of central Asia, and part of the trade route with India. We're talking a major loss of taxes, here. So Antiochus IV had to turn eastward to deal with the upstart Parthians. But he did not forget the troublesome Jews.  He ordered his governor of Syria, a nobleman named Lysias  “to conquer Judea, enslave its inhabitants, utterly destroy Jerusalem and abolish the whole nation."
In 167 B.C. Lysias dispatched four divisions to accomplish this task. As they marched on Jerusalem, Mattathias, who had reappeared, now  organized the faithful.  However, because he was a religious fanatic, Mattathias insisted that all soldiers strictly adhere to Jewish law - that's what they were fighting for, wasn't it? Unfortunately the Slecuid army did not recognize the Jewish Sabbath, and on a Saturday they attacked a Jewish village. Following the law, the villagers refused to do any work on the sabbath, even refusing to lift a weapon to defend themselves, and all 1,000 were slaughtered. After this Mattathias was replaced as leader of the revolt by his son, Judah. And under him, the Jews decided to fight, twenty-four, seven.
It turns out the new Jewish leader, Judah ben Mattathias was pretty good at it. In 166 B.C. Judah fell on the Slecuid supply base at Emmaus, killing its 3,000 man garrison, capturing a huge cache of weapons and food, and forcing half the Seleucid army to retreat. A year later he beat the other half of the Slecuid army at Beth-zur, forcing them, again, to retreat. It was battles like this that earned him the nickname of Judah the Hammer, or in Hebrew, Judah Maccabees. Shortly after this victory, word again arrived that Antioschus IV was dead. Except this time he really was. He'd been in Babylon, struggling to prepare a counter attack against the Parthians, when he suddenly dropped dead. He might have been sick, but I think it more likely, he'd been poisoned. In any case, his young son, Antiochus V, now inherited the empire.
Lysias immediately had himself declared Antioschus V's guardian, which put the Governor in charge of the entire empire. Lysias ordered an end to efforts to retake Heart, and in 165 B.C. he marched for a third time on Jerusalem. Third times the charm, right? This time Lysias came by the southern road, catching the Hammer off guard. This time Lysias actually laid siege to Jerusalem. This time it looked as if the clock had run out for the Jews. This time there was nobody to save them. And then out of nowhere appeared a guy named Phillip, (the royal governor of Babylon, actually), who had been with Antioschus IV when he died. And Phillip claimed that Antioschus IV on his deathbed had asked him, Phillip, to raise the king's son, now known as Antioschus V.  That would make Phillip the regent, not Lysias.  Lysias did not believe a word of it. Would you? But Lysias still had to deal with Philip’s army. And one morning Judah looked out from walls of Jerusalem, and saw...nobody. The entire Slecuid army had mysteriously disappeared. It was a miracle. As long as you did not notice the whole Slecuid infighting going on.
Judah Maccabees ordered a a new altar built for the temple, and declared 8 days of “sacrifice and songs” for its re-dedication. The pigs were out, Yahweh was back in. There was only one problem. Tradition said that the temple menorah lamps had to burn on the new altar every night, all night, during the celebration. But there was only enough oil for one night. What to do?
Now if it was me, I would have ordered the nine lamps on the menorah to be publicly lit at sundown each night, as usual. And then, after the faithful had gone home, the priests would quietly extinguish the lamps. This way, instead of burning through all the oil in one eight hour winter's night, the lamps would burn for an hour each night, for eight nights. Besides, it was and is tradition for the flames to burn for only half an hour after sunset, except for special occasions, like the re-dedication of the temple. And I think that maybe that was what the Hammer did. But then, I am a non-believer. And priest are in the business of believing, even in miracles. And the truth is, miracles don't happen without a little help from somebody. Who that help comes from depends on who and what you believe in. Anyway....
It was the first Hanukkah, the first festival of the lights. Two thousand years later it is not a very important Jewish holiday, and about the only one in which women play a leading role. Each of the eight nights a woman first lights the “shamash”, the central candle or lamp, used to illuminate the entire ritual. On each successive night , the shamash then is used to light one candle more each nigh until all are burning. In each Jewish home they are displayed in a window or an exterior door, “to illuminate the house outside” the home. And as they do so, the women recite the Hanukkah prayer.
“We light these lights for the miracles and the wonders, for the redemption and the battles that you made for our forefathers, in those days at this season, through your holy priests. During all eight days of Hanukkah these lights are sacred, and we are not permitted to make ordinary use of them except for to look at them in order to express thanks and praise to Your great Name for Your miracles, Your wonders and Your salivations.”
Lysias defeated and killed Philip in 163 B.C.. But in 162 B.C. he was defeated by Demetrius I, who was Antiochus IV's older brother and Antiochus V's uncle. Demetrius had replaced Antiochus IV as the official hostage in Rome, and when their father died, Antiochus IV had grabbed the crown. So this was payback. Demetrius executed both Lysias, and the boy king Antiochus V. Demetrius then tried to reconquer the Jews, but the Fighting Maccabees  held him off for ten years, until Demetrius was killed by a new usurper in 150 B.C. It was the end of Slecuid empire.
The next empire to come marching down the coast road of Judea would be the Romans. And they and the Jews would have their own problems, strongly reminiscent of the ones the Jews and S'ecuid's had shared. They say, some people never learn. But I think, most people never learn, certainly not in the middle east.
- 30 -

Sunday, December 09, 2012

UP THE STAIRS



I confess that my favorite nursery rhyme might be considered a bit morbid. Of course there is nothing unusual in that. The harmless "Pop goes the Weasel” tells the story of a gin addict, gin being a product of the mulberry bush. And my favorite, the rhyme known as “Burke and Hare”, has a similar history, just a bit more bloody.
Try to imagine little red headed girls playing jump rope, keeping time by chanting this Scottish ditty, “Up the close and down the stair, In the house with Burke and Hare, Burke's the butcher, Hare's the thief, Knox the man who buys the beef. Burke and Hare they were a pair, Killed a wife and didnae care. Then they put her in a box, and sent her off to Doctor Knox. Burkes the Butcher, Hares the thief, Knox’s the yin that buys the beef!” Of course it didn’t quite happen that way, but it is still catchy, isn’t?William Hare was an Irish immigrant to Scotland who worked as a “Navvy” on the Union Canal. He was a digger with a pick and shovel. William married Margaret Laird, who ran a boarding house, "Logs Lodging". She had inherited the business, in the West Port section of Edinburgh, when her first husband died.
In 1827 Margaret renewed her acquaintance with William Burke, another Irish emigrant, who was returning to Edinburgh after working as a weaver, a baker and a shoe maker. Burke had abandoned a wife and two children in Ireland, but in Scotland he had picked up a common-law wife, Helen M'Dougal. They became two more lodgers of Margaret Hare’s.In December yet another lodger known to history only as Donald, died of “natural causes” – alcoholism – leaving an unpaid bill of four pounds. Hare was so angry over the debt that he decided to take action. Enlisting Burke’s aid, a weight was substituted for the deceased in his coffin. And after dark Burke and Hare lugged the corpse down Infirmary Street to Surgeons Square, where the old man’s remains were sold to Dr. Robert Knox, a lecturer at Barclay's Anatomy School. The value of Donald’s corpse was set by Dr. Knox at 7 pounds 10 shillings, for a profit to Hare of three pounds ten shillings – a small fortune for men such as Burke and Hare.The market for selling dead bodies had been fairly steady in Edinburgh since the school of Surgeons had combined with the Royal College of Physicians to form the world famous University Faculty of Medicine in 1726.Dr. Robert Knox was not a member of the University, but since the University’s lecturer in anatomy was dull enough to bore students to death, the popular Dr. Knox made a nice living displaying brains freshly removed from skulls and explaining how the corpses’ medulla oblongata was just as highly developed as that of the Bishop of Edinburgh, or discoursing upon the ways an alcoholic liver reminded him of the Lord Mayor of Edinburgh. And all the students laughed. But besides a cutting sense of social humor, to remain in business Dr. Knox required a steady source of corpses. And there was one small problem with that.It was well known that the dissection of human corpses was essential for the training of doctors. People who were sick wanted a trained knowledgeable doctor to save their lives. But the family of the deceased wanted their loved ones to rest in peace, in one piece, pending the resurrection. The conflict between those two desires could get very nasty.In 1742 an angry mob whipped one John Samuel through the streets of Edinburgh after he was caught transporting the corpse of a young girl. The authorities banished Samuel from Scotland for seven years. The mob wanted him lynched. Unable to achieve that, they burned his house to the ground and attacked his family.In part this social rejection of "resurectionists" accounted for the high price required to attract entrepreneurs to the profession of grave robbing. But the principles of finance being what they are, it was inevitable that eventually the field would attract capitalists (think, Bain Capital for the dead) who found a way to undercut their competition in both overhead and tne supply of fresh corpses.Instead of expending the effort required to unearth their raw material, these savvy investors simply harvested the wheat while it was still able to deliver itself to the reaper. And rather than waiting until the fruit ripened and fell into their arms, these master cultivators forced the crop into early maturity. And who were these agrarian managers of such foresight that they would have impressed Scotsmen like Adam Smith and David Hume? Those two Irish transplants to Scotland, Msrs. Hare and BurkeIn December (the off season for bodies, with the ground too frozen for excavations) another lodger named Joseph Miller fell ill. Burke put his hands over Miller’s nose and mouth while Hare sat on his chest. Afterward this technique, which left no visible wounds or bruises, would be called “Burking”. And the first product of the method produced a ten pound profit. Our new venture capitalists now had capital.In February of 1828 Abigail Simpson was “burked”; ten more pounds. Then Margaret Hare got into the act, finding investment number three, another old alcoholic woman; ten pounds more. Next, a prostitute named Mary Paterson and a woman begger named Effie made their contributions; ten pounds apiece. Business was booming!Not that there weren’t problems. College students of today are no more given to sexual escapades than those in 1829, and several of Dr. Knox’s 1829 students had been customers of Mary Paterson – some of them recently. They didn’t remember her coughing or showing signs of illness. So her sudden appearance in the dissecting theatre of Dr. Knox was troubling. But none of the students felt comfortable enough with their suspicions to raise the accusation against the eminent Dr. Knox.With the approach of the spring thaw however, competition drove the price down to eight pounds per corpse. To offset this fluctuation Hare and Burke simply increased production. An old woman and her grandson produced sixteen pounds. Then there was a Mrs. Ostler, followed quickly by one of Helen M'Dougal’s aunts, Ann. And then our budding business moguls made their first big mistake.They figured a mentally retarded 18 year old with a game leg named Daft Jamie would be an easy profit. But the boy actually was evidently a socialist,  who did not appreciate the virtues of Burke and Hare's capitalism. He fought back. It turned out to be a lot of work for a mere eight pounds. And on top of that Jamie’s mother came looking for him. Now it was embarrassing.There was worse to come. In the morning, when Dr. Knox unveiled his new corpse for his dissection class, several of the students recognized Jamie, having seen him quite recently - and in good health at that. Dr Knox was forced to dissect Jamie’s face first to calm those few squeamish students and to disguise the evidence. Things were now getting frustrating even for Dr. Knox. In an abundance of caution, he immediately removed the boys deformed feet, to avoid being accused of being a heel.There was no doubt, success had caused the stockholders and employees of Hare and Burke to put their foot in it. Shortly thereafter a couple named Gray came back to their rented room at Logs Lodging to find some of the inventory stored under their bed. It was an Irishwoman named Doucherty. The Grays called the police. By the time the officers arrived, the body was gone. But a tip led the lawmen to Dr. Knox’s dissection class where the product was found, waiting to do her service for the medical profession. And at this point the corpses hit the fan. All four members of the corporation were arrested.The invention of "Burking" which had given rise to the company, had also so disguised the method of death that it might be impossible for the authorities to prove any murder had even occurred. And, amazingly enough, the corporation was not accused of robbing a single grave. If anybody was going to be punished for this crime spree the cops needed one of the conspirators to turn on their fellow conspirators.
The Lord Advocate went to the smartest member of the corporation, offering him immunity in exchange for a full confession. And that is why William Burke went up the stairs of the gallows all by himself in January of 1829. Everybody else, Helen M'Dougal, Margaret and William Hare, got a walk. And Dr. Knox, who financed the entire operation, was never even charged.William Burkes’ real crime may have been that he was always arguing with his business partners. In the end it was a capital offense. William Burke danced at the end of a rope, alone. His corpse was removed to the University anatomy theatre, carved up and used as an abject lesson in sin and immoral behavior – not a very productive example when the profession was seeking to encourage others to donate their bodies to medical science.And to drive their pointless point home even stronger, Burke’s skeleton remains in Edinburgh to this day, in a glass case, labeled as a notorious fiend and a serial murderer. His public image remains as a villain in films, plays, history books and a child’s nursery rhyme. He was William Burke the butcher, while William Hare, the brains behind the outfit, is usually protrayed as "the thief". In fact, William Burke was the man who paid the price, of being remembered as a fiend, but whose real crime was just not being very nice. 
- 30 -

Blog Archive

Amazon Deals