Wednesday, January 19, 2011

January 20, 1843 --- Assassinated by a Madman

Edward Drummond, Private Secretary to Prime Minister Peel, is shot in the back while walking down Whitehall.  A respected career civil servant, Drummond is an unlikely target; the diarist Greville described him as "as good and inoffensive a man as had ever lived. ... without an enemy in the world." The gunman, who is immediately subdued, is identified as a deranged Scot named M'Naughten who had been stalking Sir Robert Peel for some time.  Since Peel and Drummond were almost inseparable, the assassin apparently mistook his target; he clearly thought he had gunned down the P.M. 

Drummond is carried to his home whence doctors reassure the public that the wounds do not appear life threatening. In five days, he was dead. He lingered in great pain, bearing it stoically; he told his doctors, "That ugly French word malaise expresses most fully my burden."

From M'Naughten's jail cell come reports of "incoherent exclamations as to the destruction of his mental faculties by means of Tory persecutions." Somehow the Queen and the Jesuits are involved as well.  In March, M'Naughten - obviously mad - is found "not guilty, on the ground of insanity."  There is an immediate uproar; Peel called the development "lamentable" and the Queen denounced Lord Chief Justice Tindal whose charge to the jury has become known as "the M''Naughten rule." Tindal told the jurors: "The question to be determined is whether at the time the act in question was committed the prisoner had or had not the use of his understanding, so as to know that he was doing a wrong or wicked act [if not] then he would be entitled to a verdict in his favor." Lord Brougham, one of the foremost legal scholars of the day, argued that M'Naughten may have madly mistaken Drummond for Peel but he certainly knew he was killing a man, an act which the law had forbidden.  

The Illustrated London News claimed that the continued treatment of criminals as madmen would "endanger the personal security of the community."

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