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Posted in America, Famous crimes, Famous news stories, Law on Wednesday, 22 May 2013
This edited article about the American Wild West originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 262 published on 21 January 1967.
Cole Younger, a member of the Jesse James Gang, in a shoot-out at Northfield
Surrounded by a posse of armed horsemen, a creaking hay-wagon rolled into the little Minnesota town of Madelia. The citizens flocked to watch its arrival, for on the straw lay three badly wounded outlaws, the famous Younger Brothers who rode with Jesse James and his gang.
‘Cole’ Younger was the most badly hurt of the trio. But even though he had 11 bullets in his body, he managed to climb to his feet, remove his brimmed hat and bow to the ladies of Madelia as they timidly watched the prisoners being escorted to jail.
Born on 15th January, 1844, Cole Younger became one of the most daring and romantic outlaws of the Old West. He and his brothers teamed up with Jesse James who specialised in robbing trains and banks. To many people, Jesse James was a modern Robin Hood.
In the period following the Civil War in America, the James gang had the sympathy of the Confederate supporters, who believed it was the ‘Damn Yankees’ who had driven Jesse James and Cole Younger to their wild way of life.
The redeeming feature of Cole was his great sense of humour. Once when he was being hunted in several states, he became a government census taker in Texas, spending his spare time singing in a local church choir. Little did the other choir members realise that the burly, good-looking man with the powerful bass voice was a desperado with a price on his head!
Cole received the wounds that ended his career of crime on 7th September, 1876, when the James gang raided the First National Bank at Northfield, Minnesota. They rode up in true outlaw style, entered the bank and held up the cashier. He tried to give the alarm and Jesse James shot him down.
The sound of the gun alerted the citizens of the town. As the gang ran out of the bank to their waiting horses, they were met by a hail of bullets. For the next 30 minutes a battle raged between the James gang and the townsfolk.
When three of the gang had been killed and the Younger Brothers were lying wounded in the dust, Jesse James gave the order to retreat. Firing as they went, the gang swept out of town, leaving the Youngers behind them.
It was the outlaws’ last raid. Not long afterwards Jesse was killed by one of his own men, who wanted to collect a reward.
Cole Younger and his two brothers were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Posted in America, Historical articles, History, Law on Monday, 20 May 2013
This edited article about the American Wild West originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 259 published on 31 December 1966.
As the watchers held their breath Tom Smith ;aid Big Hank out with one tremendous punch, by Clive Uptton
A tall, strongly-built man on a grey horse rode across the Kansas plains towards Abilene, the wildest town in the American West. He had been summoned from Colorado by the young mayor of Abilene, T. C. Henry, to try and bring some law and order to the town.
The newcomer wore two six-guns, but in later years old-timers could hardly remember if he carried a gun at all – because this was Tom Smith, Bear River Tom Smith, who in 1870 tamed the toughest cow-town of them all with his bare fists.
The great cattle drives out of Texas to Abilene’s railway yards started soon after the Civil War ended in 1865. Cowboys from Texas, many of whom had fought for the defeated South, collected their stock, which had been running wild while they were away, and headed them north to Abilene. From there the cattle were shipped by rail to Chicago, which soon became the centre of the beef industry.
What epic journeys those cattle drives were – with stampedes, outlaws, Indians and weather to contend with! When they reached Abilene, the cowboys wanted to enjoy themselves, gambling, drinking, and generally ‘whooping it up’.
But Abilene was soon more than a cattle terminus. Settlers kept arriving, and a town where cowboys sometimes rode straight into buildings if the owners annoyed them, and where gun-battles were fought every day, badly needed law and order.
Marshals came and went – and the Texans simply ran them out of town.
In despair, Mayor Henry sent for Tom Smith.
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Posted in Historical articles, History, Law, Politics, Royalty, Ships on Friday, 10 May 2013
This edited article about Charles I originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 249 published on 22 October 1966.
A tax collector collecting Ship Money, a very unpopular tax, by Peter Jackson
King Charles I and Parliament could not and would not work together. Like oil and water, they might be shaken together, but as quickly they would separate, each stubbornly defending their rights against the other.
After bitter resistance to the King’s religious and financial policies, Parliament was adjourned amidst stormy scenes, on 2nd March, 1629. With such a strong dose of parliamentary ‘medicine’ behind him, Charles I made up his mind to rule alone; and indeed, Parliament did not meet again for 11 years.
Charles’s main problem was financing his government, for direct taxation could only be levied with the consent of Parliament. The King knew that he had to economise, but he still aimed to recover the Palatinate (in Germany) for his sister’s husband, taking first one country for an ally and then another.
English fleets sailed the North Sea in furtherance of these interests – and, of course, they had to be paid for. Charles was obliged to discover fresh means of getting money without bringing back the troublesome Parliament. The King turned his attention to old-established sources of royal revenue, and enlarged their scope. The most far-reaching of these financial manoeuvres was Ship-money.
Coastal towns had for centuries been required to provide ships or money to build ships for the fleet in time of war, but when Charles sent the first Writ of Ship-money to the citizens of London on 20th October, 1634, he had a new idea in mind.
This Writ obeyed the letter of the law, stating that ships were needed to defend the country against maritime thieves and pirates. But when, a year later, such writs were sent throughout the kingdom instead of to the coastal counties only, there was an outcry, for it was plain to everyone that the King was expanding a small-scale levy into a full-scale tax – and this sort of tax could only be granted by Parliament.
Charles justified the tax on the grounds of national emergency. Those who opposed the King maintained that Ship-money was becoming a permanent way of raising money without the consent of Parliament.
In 1637, John Hampden, a former Member of Parliament for Buckinghamshire (an inland county), refused on principle to pay his Ship-money.
Hampden’s case was heard in November, 1637, and caused great public interest. It was a test case in which the question of the King’s prerogative – how far he could take the law into his own hands – was at stake.
Hampden was represented by Oliver St. John, a little-known but brilliant lawyer. St. John pointed out that Ship-money had first been raised in the reign of King Ethelred, more than 600 years before, and from that time onwards it had been clearly understood that only maritime counties were liable to the tax, and then only in time of war.
When the hearing was over, 12 judges sat in deliberation on the principles involved. The decision went against Hampden, and he was forced to pay the disputed tax, but the judges had been deeply divided and public opinion stood by Hampden. Many people were alarmed at the judges’ decision, for it implied that, in times of emergency, the King could demand money for the defence of the realm without parliamentary consent, and that he could take upon himself sole responsibility for deciding when such a state of emergency existed.
The payment of Ship-money decreased during and after Hampden’s trial and on 7th August, 1641, the famous Long Parliament declared the tax illegal and ordered “the vacating of all records and process concerning the same.”
Posted in Historical articles, History, Institutions, Law, London on Wednesday, 8 May 2013
This edited article about the Metropolitan police originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 246 published on 1 October 1966.
In London at the beginning of the nineteenth century, crime was increasing. One and a half million people were living in slum dwellings, others were moving into the rapidly sprawling suburbs. Many parents who went out to work left their children unminded, to gather at street corners, hatch mischief and wander through the streets pilfering what they could. Loafers could sell their day’s ‘takings’ at any one of thousands of shops set up to receive stolen goods.
This unregulated city, splitting at the seams, teaming with people, had an equally haphazard and inadequate police system to deal with it.
The small area of the City of London proper had an assorted police force of watchmen and constables. Outside the City, the Bow Street Magistrates Court had established the famous foot and horse patrols known as the Bow Street Runners. Constables and watchmen were, otherwise, employed by the parishes, business firms or sometimes by individuals for their own protection.
The inefficiency of these watchmen was notorious. Nicknamed ‘Charlies’, they were often old and villainous themselves. In any case they did little to hinder the activities of quick-witted criminals. The constable was suspect too: he often succumbed to the temptation of a handsome bribe and ‘turned a blind eye’.
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Posted in Customs, Historical articles, History, Interesting Words, Language, Law on Monday, 29 April 2013
This edited article about crime and punishment originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 233 published on 2 July 1966.
We sometimes say that a person held up to ridicule has been “pilloried”. That expression had a very real meaning in England until June 30, 1837, when the punishment of standing in the pillory was abolished by Act of Parliament.
The pillory consisted of a wooden post surmounted by a wooden frame with holes through which the head and hands of the culprit were thrust. The frame was in two parts, an upper and lower, which were closed over the neck and wrists and then locked.
First used to punish a variety of petty crime, a law of 1266, called the Statute of Pillory, laid down that it was to be the punishment for perjury, forgery and for shopkeepers who gave short weight.
A pillory was usually set up in some public place, like a market square, and the crowd were at liberty to pelt the victim with rotten eggs, and decayed vegetables.
Under the Stuart Kings, the pillory became the usual punishment for anyone who criticised the king or the government. Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe, was, in 1703, sentenced to stand for an hour in the pillory in Cheapside for writing a pamphlet pleading for religious toleration. The public were in sympathy with his ideas, and threw flowers and garlands.
The last person to be pilloried in London was Peter Bossey, who stood outside the Old Bailey for an hour on June 22, 1830, for perjury. The pillory continued to be used in some country districts until it was abolished altogether in 1837.
Posted in Historical articles, History, Law, London, Politics on Thursday, 25 April 2013
This edited article about Lord Eldon originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 232 published on 25 June 1966.
Beloved by the Establishment of his day but detested by reformers, Lord Eldon was the arch-conservative. You will find his name on a blue plaque at number 6 Bedford Square, London, W.C.1.
Born John Scott, Lord Eldon’s early career was less orthodox than its end. The son of a Newcastle coal merchant, he at one time considered taking Holy Orders. Instead he eloped with the beautiful daughter of a rich banker. The couple made for Scotland and married as soon as they were comfortably over the border. Their parents, though hotly opposed to the match, forgave them soon afterwards and settled a generous sum upon them to give them a start in life.
John Scott was still disinclined to take life too seriously. He had gained entrance to the Middle Temple as a pupil barrister, but the work involved was not great and he spent a lot of time at Oxford, where he lectured on the law in spite of his ignorance of the subject.
However, he soon realized that real effort was necessary for a successful career, and began to work extremely hard. In so doing, he drove himself to the edge of ill health, but he eventually established himself as a very sound lawyer.
Having founded a sound legal practice, he began to take an interest in politics. In 1796 he was elected Member of Parliament for Boroughbridge, Yorkshire, and he soon astonished the House with a maiden speech of enormous pomposity.
In spite of this unfortunate beginning, John Scott soon came to the notice of William Pitt, who appreciated his thoroughness and the subtlety of his mind. He was created Lord Eldon in 1799, appointed Lord Chancellor in 1801, and became very friendly with King George III – so much so that, when Pitt’s government crumbled after his death, the King was reluctant to accept surrender of his seals of office. “Lay them down on the sofa,” he said, pointing at the seals, “for I cannot and will not take them from you.”
Lord Eldon resumed his post under another administration the following year and retained it for 20 years afterwards. He became a close friend of the young King George IV – who at first detested him and called him ‘Old Bags’ – and became very powerful, holding on to his position despite various attempts to oust him.
Eldon steadily became more conservative in his views and, despite his own method of gaining a wife, found it very difficult to forgive his own daughter when she, in her turn, eloped. He died of old age on 13 January, 1838, leaving a fortune of £700,000. He was a great lawyer and the English law still bears the impress of his work.
Posted in America, Famous crimes, Famous news stories, Law on Monday, 22 April 2013
This edited article about the Pinkerton detective agency originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 230 published on 11 June 1966.
Agents of the Pinkerton Detective Agency arresting bank robbers with (inset) the agency logo
Passengers on the night train from Philadelphia to Baltimore were curious about the invalid with the tartan shawl over his head who had reserved the last three compartments of the sleeping car. The conductor was told he was being taken to see a famous specialist. And a friend of the sick man said that “the poor chap must not be disturbed” on any account.
There were no crowds waiting to meet the train when it steamed into Baltimore at half-past three in the morning. The streets were deserted as the sleeping car was uncoupled and hauled by horse across the city to another station, where it joined a train to Washington, the capital.
The sick man and his party were undisturbed until they reached Washington, shortly after six. Then the invalid left the sleeping car, still with his shawl pulled over his head. Accompanied by his friend, he walked briskly out to the carriage that was waiting for him. Before entering it, he warmly bade goodbye to his friend and said, “Thank you for making it such a safe journey, Mr. Pinkerton.”
“Don’t mention it, Mr. Lincoln,” the man replied. “I was only too happy to help keep you alive!”
The carriage, containing Abraham Lincoln, the president-elect of America, set off for his hotel. An attempt to assassinate Lincoln before his inauguration as President had been foiled by an imaginary illness, a tartan shawl – and a bearded Scottish detective named Allan Pinkerton.
It was Pinkerton who had played the part of the “invalid’s” friend with such conviction. He had been warned of a plot to shoot Lincoln as he changed trains at Baltimore, and had persuaded him to leave for Washington in secrecy and ahead of schedule.
The president-elect had many enemies who felt he looked too kindly on the slaves in the Southern states. Some of them were prepared to murder him rather than let him take office.
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Posted in Historical articles, History, Law, Royalty on Thursday, 18 April 2013
This edited article about Habeas Corpus originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 228 published on 28 May 1966.
King John reluctantly assenting to the Magna Carta at Runnymede by Angus McBride
One of the liberties claimed for the English people when King John signed Magna Carta in 1215 was that no citizen could be kept in prison indefinitely without a charge being brought against him publicly in a proper court of law. This important right did not become really effective until May, 1679, when the Habeas Corpus Act was passed.
That is why today nobody arrested on suspicion of having committed a crime can be detained for more than twenty-four hours without being charged. If he is charged, he must be brought before a magistrate and the charge against him must be read out. If the police want time to prepare their evidence, the accused can be remanded (held in prison) for a fixed time, after which he must be brought before the court again.
For years despotic English kings and parliaments managed to ignore Habeas Corpus and frequently silenced their opponents by having them arrested and held in prison without trial. The prisoner’s lawyer might arrive at the prison with a writ of Habeas Corpus only to be told that the prisoner had been moved elsewhere. Since he was no longer there, he could not be produced in court.
The evasion of Habeas Corpus under the Stuart kings became so serious that Parliament passed the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679, by which evasion of Habeas Corpus became a punishable offence.
Strictly speaking, the Habeas Corpus Act applies only to criminal cases and a few special civil ones.
Posted in Australia, Boats, Historical articles, History, Law, Travel on Thursday, 28 March 2013
This edited article about Australia originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 215 published on 26 February 1966.
Eight men, one woman and two small children faced dangers on the voyage such that they could scarcely hope to survive — but the horrors and hardships of the life they were fleeing from made any risk worth taking, by Bill Lacey
The boat was old and leaky. In it were eight men, one woman and two small children. The dangers of the voyage were such that they could scarcely hope to survive – but the horrors and hardships of the life they were fleeing from made any risk worth taking
Among the thousands of convicts who were transported to the Australian penal colony at Botany Bay at the end of the eighteenth century was a young Cornish smuggler named William Bryant.
When William arrived in Australia, he married a young and pretty female convict named Mary. Her crime, for which she had been banished to the other side of the world, had been the theft of a cloak.
The Bryants found life in the colony more grim than they had ever expected. Bullied by guards, they had to work from sun-up to sun-down, and they knew that the slightest break of the strict discipline would mean cruel punishment.
Not only was the life hard because of the “crimes” the convicts had committed in England, but natural conditions made it worse. Crops failed, and at night raiding parties of natives would drive off cattle meant to support the unhappy settlers.
William decided that he could not endure the life any longer.
“There is no hope left in this land,” he said to his wife. “If only we could escape back to Mother England.”
“How can we?” Mary said. “England is over twelve thousand miles away.”
But the idea of returning to England took hold of Bryant. He dreamed about it at night, and whispered to his friends about it by day. Most of them shrugged.
Still he would not give up. When a Dutch schooner anchored in Sydney harbour, Bryant managed to see the captain secretly. He offered him money for an old, leaky six-oared boat which he saw on the deck. In the colony money had no value, the real currency being food and tobacco, and because of this Bryant still had all the money he had brought out with him. The captain accepted it for the boat, and, not being a mean man, threw in two hundred pounds of rice an old musket, and a compass.
With these stores and eight gallons of water, the Bryants, with the two children they now had, and seven male convicts, rowed away from the colony under cover of darkness on the night of March 28, 1791.
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Posted in America, Famous crimes, Historical articles, History, Law, Transport, Travel on Friday, 15 March 2013
This edited article about the Wild West originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 199 published on 6 November 1965.
Wolves, Indians and bandits threatened the Wells Fargo stagecoach
Film-Makers have often been accused of exaggerating the history of the Wild West, but they would find it hard – in fact quite unnecessary – to add more drama, excitement and courage to the story of Steve Vennard.
The year was 1869. The place was a deep trail between great walls of rock linking Nevada City with Grass Lands, California. The subject, gold, which, taken from the ground in triumph by the miners, had to be transported to the assay office by stage coach, along a trail which might have been built as a highwayman’s dream, because anything passing along it was a sitting target from the undergrowth or the heights above.
This was the nightmare which faced the Wells Fargo transport company responsible for despatching the gold. They could do no more than pack it in strong boxes, load it aboard the coach and hope that it would get through. But in May, 1869, two boxes a week fell to the hold-up men.
“Why not save time and trouble?” said a newspaper sarcastically, “and hand the gold over to the highwaymen right away?”
Nobody laughed in the offices of Wells Fargo, for the company had to refund all losses out of its own assets.
Our real-life film is already underway without any artificial scripting – opening shots of the hold-ups on the trail, the Wells Fargo boxes being lifted down, with perhaps a corpse or two on the ground to show that the bandits meant business. The anxious conference in the Wells Fargo offices, with grim reports of losses incurred – and before them yet another box with its precious cargo to be sent along the same treacherous trail.
Then as in all good films, the moment produces the man – the lean alert figure of Steve Vennard, employee of Wells Fargo, who carried and handled a rifle as naturally as he wore clothes. It was decided that he should ride alongside the driver of the next coach – a tough little man named Majors.
With the box of gold and six passengers the long night journey began, tense but unadventurous.
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