Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hanging in chains

The recent pirate activity in the Gulf of Aden between Yemen and Somalia has prompted suggestions from bloggers that the pirates be gibbeted. Being against the death penalty, I disagree. But that punishment has historically been associated with piracy and used to serve as a warning to any considering it. Gibbeting or hanging in chains followed execution and meant displaying the body in a cage until it fell apart from decomposition and scavenging. One of the most famous pirates, Captain William Kidd (c. 1645-1701), was hanged, tarred, and strung up in a cage by the Thames River, where it was visible for years. As it turns out, the only complete gibbet in the U.S. is on display at the Atwater Kent Museum--I'm adding it to my list for the next time I'm in Philadelphia.

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