Execution of John McAffry
This execution is the first, but one, which has ever taken place in the Civil Government of the State or Territory of Wisconsin; although there have been five executions since 1830, four of which occurred from 1832 to 1834. One of these executions occurred at Mineral Point, under the administration of Judge Lynch, and the subject we believe was an Englishman. Another occurred at the Indian Reservation, under the administration of the laws of the Stockbridge Indians. The subject was an Indian.
Another took place at Green Bay, under martial law, the subject was a soldier who had shot an officer. The other was an Indian who was also executed at Green Bay, for the murder of an officer of the U. S. A. It is possible that he may have been condemned by a District Court of the U. S. ; if not, this execution must also have taken place under martial law. And in 1838 a man was executed at Lancaster, in Grant County.
If there have been other executions, they have been out of the range of our knowledge. We hope that this execution will satisfy the friends of Capital Punishment to the full. There are now, incarcerated in the several jails of the state some 6 or 8 individuals under the charge of murder.
The speedy erection of the State Prison, will make a safe place of confinement, and the adoption of a strict and certain mode of punishment, will do more to secure society against its murderous outlaws, then all the gallows and gibbets that can be erected. The following from the Democrat, so well expresses our views, that we take the liberty to copy it.
"The circumstances this affair, similar probably to those of every public execution, have more than ever impressed us with the inutility and barbarism of the code. The effect we are satisfied was not salutary upon the witnesses of the transaction. It was in plain terms nothing but a cold blooded murder., under the sanction of the Statute, by way of retaliation for murder committed. Every movement made was an eloquent lesson in favor of the voidability of human life. It was murder before the people, with it's horrors removed by the respectability of those engaged in its execution and the facility with which it was consummated. Community is no safer than before. Years of moral preaching would not atone with that audience for the impression it there on that day received. Death by violence may have been for spectators of the scene a horrible thing to contemplate before they came there. The officers of the law have demonstrated that it is a thing as simple as the alphabet, and a matter which men may go about as deliberately as the eating of a dinner."
[Published: Kenosha Telegraph, August 29, 1851, Kenosha, Wisconsin]
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Monday, 24 September, 2001