Sevenoaks (Seovan Acca), in the hundred of Codsheath, in the lathe of Sutton-at-Hone, including the chapelry of Riverhead and the liberty of Weald, is about one of the loveliest places in the lovely county of Kent—and, for the matter of that, in all England. At this the season of apples and plums and pears (and of wind, rain, and fog in London), Sevenoaks should be a Haven of Delight, a Ridge of Rest, an Earthly Paradise, inhabited only by Peaceful Beings continually occupied in lotos-eating and nectar-drinking, under the personal superintendence of Mr. William Morris. Yet from the pretty, placid, smiling precincts of Sevenoaks a gentleman writes (in Wednesday's Times) to demand the public hanging, drawing, and quartering of Englishmen who shall be convicted of corresponding with Arabi Pasha.
There is no mistake about what the gentleman wants. Arabi's friends in this country are, he maintains, not only spies but traitors. He points out that one Gregg, a clerk in the Foreign Office in the reign of Queen Anne, was hanged for having communicated to the French Government a report of proceedings in Parliament, and a copy of a letter from the Queen to the Emperor; and that in 1781-2 a Frenchman named De la Motte and a British subject named Tyrie suffered the doom of traitors for transmitting intelligence to France of English naval movements. Then the gentleman proceeds:—
I ask your permission bluntly to express a wish to "have all such offenders so cut off." The public execution for high treason of any persons proved guilty of the enormous crime of assisting the Queen's enemies would have a very wholesome effect as a reminder that subjects have duties and that laws exist.
Certainly; but might not the offence be met by the provisions of a certain statute for the punishment of a crime known as "Treason Felony" ? A convicted agent of Arabi (who, a correspondent writes, is not a Spaniard, but an Irishman, whose full name is "Arrah, be off wid ye!") might very soon be brought to see the error of his ways if he were sent for five or ten years to Portland or Dartmoor to crack stones or pick oakum. Even "a month on the mill," with a light diet of dry bread and nice oatmeal gruel and refreshing cold water, might do him good, and restore him to society quite a loyal subject; but, you must see, there are difficulties in the way of carrying out in their entirety the horrible directions of the Statute of Edward III. There is an Act of Parliament which provides that capital criminals shall be hanged in private and not in public; and Kennington Common, where middle-class traitors used to be slaughtered in the good old times, has long since been converted into a beautiful pleasure garden.
Then, again, it might not be so easy to find an executioner skilled in the art of cutting off traitors' heads; and when they were cut off the authorities would scarcely know what to do with them. Properly, these grisly memorials of justice should be placed on spikes on the summit of Temple Bar; but the Corporation of London (goaded by a Wicked Press to do the deed their soul abhorred) have pulled down the dear old Bar; and it would be scarcely in accordance with les bienséances to stick the skull of a traitor on the tip of the tail of the Griffin (which is really a Dragon).
Source: The Illustrated London News, No.2257—Vol. LXXXI, Saturday, August 5, 1882, p.131