This Week in History – May 30th to June 5th

This Week in History UPPER

This week the Time Traveling Adventures of the Pandora Society takes us mostly to France, but first we witness Andrew Jackson kill a man in a duel, and P.T. Barnum takes his circus to the road. In France civil death is banned, some poems are banned, a woman flies in a balloon, and there is rebellion on the streets of Paris. Meanwhile across the English Channel, a riot brakes out in an English graveyard!

DuelFuture U.S. President Andrew Jackson and Charles Dickinson met in the Adairville, Kentucky on May 30th, 1806 for a duel. Since Dickinson was considered an expert shot, Jackson and his friend, Thomas Overton, determined it would be best to let Dickinson fire first, hoping that his aim might be spoiled in his quickness. The obvious weakness of this strategy was, of course, that Jackson might not be alive to take aim. Dickinson did fire first, hitting Jackson in the chest. Under the rules of dueling, Dickinson had to remain still as Jackson took his one shot. Jackson’s pistol stopped at half cock, so he drew back the hammer and aimed again, this time hitting Dickinson in the chest. Dickinson bled to death. Doctors determined that the bullet in Jackson was too close to his heart to operate, so Jackson carried it for the rest of his life, and suffered much pain from the wound. Locals were outraged that Dickinson had to stand defenseless while Jackson re-cocked and shot him, even though it was acceptable behavior in a duel. Jackson could have shot in the air or shot only to injure Dickinson; this would have been considered sufficient satisfaction under dueling rules. Jackson replied that Dickinson had meant to “kill the genl”, so Jackson had also shot to kill. Jackson’s reputation suffered greatly from the duel.

Prisoners 680On May 31st, 1854, France abolished the procedure of civil death which is the loss of all or almost all civil rights by a person due to a conviction for a felony or due to an act by the government of a country that results in the loss of civil rights. It is usually inflicted on persons convicted of crimes against the state or adults determined by a court to be legally incompetent because of mental disability. In medieval Europe, felons lost all civil rights upon their conviction. This civil death often led to actual death, since anyone could kill and injure a felon with impunity. Under the Holy Roman Empire, a person declared civilly dead was referred to as vogelfrei, ‘free as a bird’, and could even be killed since they were completely outside the law. Historically outlawry, that is, declaring a person as an outlaw, was a common form of civil death. In the US, the disenfranchisement of felons has been called a form of civil death, as has being subjected to collateral consequences in general.

baudelaireJune 1st, 1857 saw the publication of Charles Baudelaire‘s Les Fleurs du malThe author and the publisher were prosecuted under the regime of the Second Empire as an outrage aux bonnes mœurs (“an insult to public decency”). As a consequence of this prosecution, Baudelaire was fined 300 francs. Six poems from the work were suppressed and the ban on their publication was not lifted in France until 1949. These poems were “Lesbos“; “Femmes damnées (À la pâle clarté)” (or “Women Doomed (In the pale glimmer…)”); “Le Léthé” (or “Lethe“); “À celle qui est trop gaie” (or “To Her Who Is Too Gay”); “Les Bijoux” (or “The Jewels”); and ” Les “Métamorphoses du Vampire” (or “The Vampire’s Metamorphoses”). These were later published in Brussels in a small volume entitled Les Épaves (Scraps or Jetsam). In the wake of the prosecution, a second edition was issued in 1861 which added 35 new poems, removed the six suppressed poems, and added a new section entitled Tableaux Parisiens. A posthumous third edition, with a preface by Théophile Gautier and including 14 previously unpublished poems, was issued in 1868.

PT_Barnum_1851-cropIn 1834, when lotteries were banned in Connecticut, cutting off his main income, P.T. Barnum sold his store and moved to New York City. In 1835 he began as a showman with his purchase and exhibition of a blind and almost completely paralyzed slave woman, Joice Heth, claimed by Barnum to have been George Washington‘s nurse, and to be over 160 years old. On June 2nd, 1835P. T. Barnum and his circus start their first tour of the United States. Joice Heth died in 1836, no more than 80 years old. After a year of mixed success with his first variety troupe called “Barnum’s Grand Scientific and Musical Theater,” followed by the Panic of 1837 and three years of difficult circumstances, he purchased Scudder’s American Museum, at Broadway and Ann Street, New York City, in 1841. Barnum improved the attraction, renamed “Barnum’s American Museum,” upgrading the building and adding exhibits, and it became a popular showplace.

Wardsend Cemetery 680Wardsend Cemetery is an abandoned Victorian cemetery in the Owlerton district of Sheffield, England, and on the evening June 3rd, 1862, it was the location of a turbulent riot by angry Sheffield citizens. Their issue was against accusations that the Reverend John Livesey and his sexton Isaac Howard were neglecting to bury corpses, and instead selling them to the town’s medical school for use in anatomical dissection. The rumors were proven false and Livesey and Howard were instead fined by York Assizes for reusing graves in order to save space; however, both were later paid compensation for the damage caused to their property during the riot, and Livesey was reinstated as the Vicar of St. Philip’s Church. Today Livesey Street, now home to the Hillsborough campus of The Sheffield College as well as the back entrance to Owlerton Stadium is named after the Reverend Livesey.

Élisabeth Thible BalloonÉlisabeth Thible, or Tible, born in Lyon was the first woman on record to fly in an untethered hot air balloon. On June 4th, 1784, eight months after the first manned balloon flight, Thible flew with Mr. Fleurant on board a hot air balloon christened La Gustave in honour of King Gustav III of Sweden‘s visit to Lyon. Monsieur Fleurant originally planned to fly the balloon with Count Jean-Baptiste de Laurencin, but the count gave his position on The Gustave to Élisabeth Thible. When the balloon left the ground Thible, dressed as the Roman goddess Minerva, and Fleurant sang two duets from Monsigny‘s La Belle Arsène, a celebrated opera of the time. The flight lasted 45 minutes, covered four kilometres and achieved an estimated height of 1,500 meters. It was witnessed by King Gustav III of Sweden in whose honor the balloon was named. During the bumpy landing Thible turned an ankle as the basket hit the ground. She was credited by Fleurent with the success of the flight both because she fed the balloon’s fire box en route and by exhibiting her remarkable courage. Little is known of Madame Thible, she is described as the abandoned spouse (épouse délaissée) of a Lyon merchant. No record of her survives as a professional opera singer.

June_RebellionThe June Rebellion or the Paris Uprising of 1832 (French: Insurrection républicaine à Paris en juin 1832), was an anti-monarchist insurrection of Parisian republicans that began on June 5th, 1832The rebellion originated in an attempt of the republicans to reverse the establishment in 1830 of the July Monarchy of Louis-Philippe, shortly after the death of the king’s powerful supporter, President of the Council Casimir Pierre Périer, on 16 May 1832. The death of Jean Maximilien Lamarque was a spark shortly before the revolutionaries rose to their barricades. The rebellion was the last outbreak of violence linked with the July Revolution of 1830. Author Victor Hugo described the rebellion in his novel Les Misérables, and it figures largely in the stage musical and films based on the book.


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