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THE

EDINBURGH MAGAZINE,

AND

LITERARY MISCELLANY.

AUGUST 1817.

ORIGINAL COMMUNICATIONS,

OBSERVATIONS ON THE INTRODUC- savage mockery of judicial inquiry.

TION INTO SCOTLAND, AND THE In Scotland, where torture continued USE MADE THERE, OF THE INSTRU- to be employed long after it was abanNENT OF TORTUBE CALLED THYM. doned in England, there were two BIKENS.

modes chiefly in use, the torture of

the boots, and that of the thumbin If history were not full of the enor, kens. The exquisite picture of the mities which man has perpetrated torturing of Macbriar, in the Tales upon man, under the sanction of of my Landlord,

* has made every established systems of religion and one acquainted with the cruel prolaw, it would be difficult, in an en- cess employed in the torture of the lightened age, to believe, that torture boots, and as we are enabled, through had ever been employed as an instru- the kindness of Alexander Dunlop, Esq. ment of justice. We can enter into banker in Greenock, grand-nephew of those mistaken feelings in regard to the celebrated Principal Carstares, who the nature and end of punishment, was tortured with the thumbikens which have sometimes prompted men in 1684, to present our readers with a to inflict cruel torments upon the con- figure of the instrument used upon victed perpetrators of great crimes; that occasion ; we have collected tobut there seems to be no apology in gether a few particulars regarding its any good feeling of our nature, for origin and employment in this coune the blind and brutal expedient of ap- try. plying torture, in order to force the The thumbikens, as the name imdiscovery of such crimes. In this ports, was an instrument applied to case, there is not only a flagrant vio- the thumbs, in such a way as to enalation of every principle of justice and ble the executioner to squeeze them humanity, by the infliction of tor- violently; and this was often done ment previous to conviction, but guilt with so much force as to bruise the and innocence are made wholly to de- thumb-bones, and swell the arms of pend upon the physical strength or the sufferer up to his shoulders. The resolution of the sufferer. It is thumbikens used in torturing Princinevertheless true, however, that al pal Carstares was an iron instrument most all countries have, at one time fastened to a table with a screw, the or other, had recourse to this barbarous expedient; insomuch, that it

• The materials of this picture are evi. would require a volume of no small dently drawn from the account given by size to describe even the instruments Wodrow of the torturing of Mitchell, it which have been employed in this the first yolume of his History.

upper part of the instrument being tion was certainly a fit quarter from squeezed down upon the thumbs by whence to derive so congenial an immeans of another screw, which the plement; but other accounts, as we executioner pressed at the command of have said, and these apparently unhis employers.

questionable, assign it a later introducThe torture of the boots occurs at an tion, and from a quarter and by means earlier period in our history than that of agents, very well fitted for the

pro. of the thumbikens; and is mentioned duction and importation of such a in conjunction with some other tor- commodity. In the journal of the turing instruments, of which we have proceedings of the Scotch Privy-Coun. not been able to find any description cil kept by Lord Fountainhall, and in the writings of our antiquaries. partly published in that very curious Thus we read, that, in 1596, the son collection called his Decisions, he takes and daughter of Alison Balfour, who occasion to mention the origin of the was accused of witchcraft, were tor- thumbikens, in his account of the vatured before her to make her confess rious torturings inflicted in 1684, upon her crime, in the manner following: William Spence, a person who had “ Her son was put in the buits, been in the employment of the Earl where he suffered fifty-seven strokes; of Argyll. Upon the 26th of July in and her daughter, about seven years that year, this unfortunate man was old, was put in the pilniewinks." In put to the torture of the boots, " to the same case, mention is made, force him," as Fountainhall says, " to besides pilniewinks, pinniewinks or reveal what he knew of the Earl's and pilliwinks, of cuspitaws or caspi- other persons accessions to the late cuws, and of tosots, as instruments English fanatic plot, and the associar of torture. Lord Royston, in his tion and design of rising ;" but as he manuscript notes upon Mackenzie's would confess nothing at this time, Criminal Law, conjectures, that these he was put in General Dalyell's may have been only other names hands; and it was reported, that, by for the buits and thumbikens ; + and a hair shirt and prickings, as the wit, thus much seems certain, that in those ches are used, he was five nights kept times, there was some torturing device from sleep, till he was turned half applied to the fingers, which bore the distracted." Spence's resolution did name of pilniewinks ;I but it will im- not, however, forsake him, for somemediately appear, that the most au- time after he had, with due considera, thentic accounts assign the introduc- tion, doubtless, of Dalyell's fitness for tion and use of the instrument known the office, been placed in the fangs of by the name of thumbikens, to a much that merciless persecutor ; but, on the later period.

7th of August, after being tried in “ It has been very generally as- vain with the thumbikens, in which serted," says Dr Jamieson, that “his thumbs were crushed,” and be part of the cargo of the invincible ing about to be again tortured in the Armada was a large assortment of boots, he then, says Fountainhall, be, thumbikens, which, it was meant, came frighted, and desired time, should be employed as powerful ar- and he would tell what he knew ; guments for convincing the here whereon, they gave him some time, tics." § The country of the inquisi- and sequestrated him in the Castle of

Edinburgh, as a place where he would Maclaurin's Criminal Cases, Intro- be free from any bad advice to be ob duct. 35.

stinate in not revealing.” It is upon p. † Quoted by Maclaurin, Ibid. p. 36.

this occasion that Fountainhall mens See Newes from Scotland, declaring tions the origin of the thumbikens, the damnable life of Doctor Fian, a nota- stating, that this instrument was ble sorcerer, who was burned at Edinburgh new invention used among the coliers in Januaric last, 1591. § Dictionary, . Thumbikens. We wish General Dalyell and Drummond, they

upon transgressors, and discovered by the learned author would, before he pub- having seen them used in Muscovy." lishes another edition of his Dictionary, ex

The account which Bishop Burnet tend his researches to the pilnicwinks, caspicans, and tosots, implements which he has wholly overlooked ; though they seem thumbikens upon the persecuted Presbyteto have been at one time as freely employ. rians. ed upon the persecuted witches, as the Decisions, Vol. I. p. 299, 300.

[graphic][merged small]

gives of the torturing of Spenee, con thumbikens, whether imported from firms the then recent use of the thumbi abroad, or invented at home, was a kens. “Spence," says he," was struck mode of torture which had been only in the boots, and continued firm. Then recently introduced, at the frightful a new species of torture was invented; period to which we have just been re. he was kept from sleep eight or nine ferring ;--a period well Atted, either nights. They grew weary of manag, for the reception or the production of ing this; so a third species was in any new device, calculated to extend vented ; little screws of steel were the outrages of power over its unhappy made use of, that screwed the thumbs victims. This being the case, we see with so exquisite a torment, that he no good reason for not going a step sunk under it." This point, we think, farther, and taking the account of its is put beyond all doubt by the fol introduction which is given by Lord lowing act of the Privy Council in Fountainhall

. It was upon the perse 1684, quoted in Wodrow's invalu- cuted Presbyterians that this species of able History. “Whereas there is now torture was first inflicted; and who a new invention and engine called the among all their persecutors was there thumbikens, which will be very effec- more likely to enhance their sufferings tual to the purpose and intent fore- by any new device, than the ruthless said, (i.e. to expiscate matters relat- commanders, whom this Judge, their ing to the government); the Lords of contemporary, points out as its auhis Majesty's Council do therefore or- thors ? dain, that when any person shall by It was during this atrocious pertheir order be put to the torture, that secution, 'when every right and feelthe boots and thumbikens both be ap- ing of humanity were trampled unplied to them, as it shall found fit der foot, with a degree of wantonand convenient."

ness and

barbarity unparalleled in the Thus, then, it seems clear, that the annals of any otlier country, that the

use of the torture reached its height. • History of the Sufferings of the Church To so great an extent,” says Mr of Scotland, Vol. II. p. 347.

Humne in his Commentaries on the Criminal Law,

๕๔

was this iniquity tained a promise of Sir Hugh's estate carried in those days, that confessions for his brother, provided Sir Hugh obtained in this way were made use should be condemned. He was accusof as an evidence in modum adminiculi, tomed, as Burnet tells us * the Duke towards the conviction even of third of York when in Scotland had been, parties ;-the confession of William to behold the sufferings of those torCarstares, for instance, against Baillie tured before him “ with an unmoved of Jerviswood.” * Every one at all ac- indifference, and with an attention, as quainted with our history must know, if he had been to look on some curious that Mr Carstares, afterwards Princi- experiment.”+ Carstares, as we have pal of the University of Edinburgh, said, did not utter any confession was deeply concerned in those unfor- when under the hands of this arch intunate transactions, which brought quisitor, though the passage quoted Argyll to the scaffold in Scotland, and above from Mr Hume's Commenta. Russel and Sydney in England. He ries might lead the reader to that conwas seized in England, and being sent clusion; as would also the first notice to Scotland, was, on the 5th of Sep- of his case by Lord Fountainhall. I tember 1684, + tortured with the It appears that he was afterwards prethumbikens before the secret commit- vailed upon to give some information tee of the Privy Council, in order to affecting Baillie of Jerviswood and force him to reveal the names and de- others, under an express stipulation signs of his associates. An hour and that he should not be brought fora half of this cruel operation, during ward as a witness, and that no use which the sweat streamed from his should be made of his communications face, and some cries of agony were at their trial ; § but no faith was kept extorted, did not, however, render him with him in this respect; and his de subservient to the wishes of his inhu- claration so obtained was, as Mr Hume man tormentors ; among whom the states, admitted as an adminicle of Earl of Perth, true to the general evidence in the shameful trial and infamy and atrocity of his character, condemnation of Mr Baillie. stood conspicuous; urging the execu- It would appear, from Fountaintioner to press the screws, while the hall, that the new torture of the Duke of Hamilton and the Earl of thumbikens was looked upon as exQueensberry left the room, unable any tremely cruel; and he adds that the longer to witness the revolting spec- Privy Council would have “ contracttacle. # It was this same miscreant, ed some tash” by the frequent use of Perth, who, sometime before, at the it at this time, had they not succeed. trial of Sir Hugh Campbell, accused ed in thereby extorting some confesof rebellion, endeavoured, in his then sions. He mentions, too, that, in capacity of Justice-General, to urge some of these successful cases, it had on and to lead a suborned wit- proved its efficiency over the boots, ness, who was unable to say any thing because tried upon persons having against the prisoner, till he, the small legs. Il Justice-General, was stopped by the After the Revolution, the Privy jury; and this because he had ob- Council of Scotland presented Mr Car

starcs with the identical thumbikens See Humes Commentaries, Vol. II. with which he had been tortured in ch. 12.-Nothing can more clearly shew 1684. This curious relic is still the darkness of men's minds in those dire preserved by Mr Dunlop, who has times, as to the plainest principles of justice kindly enabled us to give the figure and evidence, than the following passage of of it, which accompanies this article, Lord Fountainhall.

“ Some doubted how and which the engraver has conFar testimonies extorted per torturam could trived to exhibit in such a way as be probative against third parties, seeing witnesses should be so far voluntary and spontaneous, as to be under no terrors of * Burnet, Vol. II. p. 249. life or limb; but others judged them best + Ibid. p. 252. to be credited then.” Decisions, Vol. I. # Vol. I. p. 302.

$ Fount. ibid. p. 326; M'Cormick's + Fountainhall's Decisions, Vol. I. p. Life of Carstarcs, p. 20, 21; and Burnet, 302.

Vol. II. p. 256. #M'Cormick's Life of Carstares, pre- l Vol. 1. p. 303. fixed to his State Papers.

M'Cormick's Life of Carstares.

p. 303.

LETTER

FROM

DAVID

ACCOUNT OF A RARE AND CURIOUS

LETTER.

to represent a picture of the thumbis makes us acquainted with the heroic kens in action. There is an anecdote sufferings of our forefathers, and the handed down among the descendants evil doings of their rulers,—which is of Mr Carstares, in regard to this in- calculated to sharpen our moral feelstrument, which we shall copy here, as ings against the abuses of power, we find it narrated in the fifth volume or to shew, what is more grateful, of the Statistical

Account of Scotland. the solid advances made by our coun“I have heard, Principal," said King try in the arts of legislation and goWilliam to him, when he waited on his vernment. Majesty after the Revolution, “ that you were tortured with something they

ORIGINAL call thumbikens ; pray what sort of in

HUME TO JOHN HOME, WITH SOME strument of torture is it?" "I will shew it you,” replied Carstares, “ the

TRACT CHARACTERIZED IN THAT next time I have the honour to wait on your Majesty." The Principal was as good as his word.-" I must try The annexed letter from David them," said the King ;-"I must put Hume to the author of Douglas, with in my thumbs here now, Principal, which the public is now, for the first turn the screw.- not so gently- time, presented, is both curious and another turu-another-Stop! stop! interesting ; curious, from its alluno more another turn, I'm afraid, sion to a clever jeu d'esprit, which Fould make me confess any thing.". appeared in Edinburgh in 1774, but

What share of truth there may be which is now of the greatest rarity; in this story, we know not ; but, and interesting, from the specimen it whatever King William's personal o- affords of that gay and easy humour pinion of the use of torture may have which distinguished the familiar corbeen, thus much is certain, that there respondence of this eminent writer. is one case recorded in the proceedings The small satirical tract to which the of the Privy Council of Scotland, letter refers, is entitled, A Specimen which shews that the thumbikens were of the Scots Review. It consists of employed under the sanction of his sign thirty pages, neatly printed in octavo, manual, in the year 1690. This was but without the name of any printer, in the case of Neville Penn or Payne, or publisher. It professes to give & the person to whom George Duke of prospectus and a specimen of an inBuckingham addressed his Essay up- tended new review ; but the whole on Reason and Religion. He was ac- object seems to have been, to laugh cused of having gone to Scotland to at some individuals obnoxious to the promote a Jacobite plot; and was, in writer, and particularly to ridicule the consequence of the king's warrant al- virulence, and to lower the pretensions ready mentioned," put to the torture of those who had signalized themof the thumbikens,” but without mak- selves by their attacks upon the phiing any disclosure. *

This was, we losophical writings of Mr Hume. A believe, the last occasion on which promise is held out, that this "archa this instrument was employed ; but infidel" is himself to be reviewed, in it was not till the year of the Union the first place ; and next, that torture was expressly forbidden authors who have waged an holy war by law in Scotland; the Claim of Right against him ;" of whom a list is given, in 1689 having only declared, “ that with their characters, the delineation the using torture without evidence, or of which, in no very favourable coin ordinary crimes, was illegal." lours, appears, as already mentioned,

We close these hasty memoranda to have exhausted the main object of of the history of the thumbikens, an the piece, though one or two gentle instrument of vulgar sound, but well hits are aimed at the historian himcaleulated, as we have seen, for ter- self, rible purposes, with this reflection, That it is never useless to explore any

“ St Andrew's Square, piece of history which illustrates the

4th of June, 17746 state of manners and law, which “Dear John,The enclosed came

to hand to-day, and, as I take it to be Rose's Observations on Mr For's llis. directed to you, I have sent it you. If torical. Work; p. 179, 180.

on opening it you find otherwise, you

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