Saturday, February 22, 2014

Today -100: February 22, 1914: Of bentons, arbitration, and pardons

The NYT says that the five people in the room with Pancho Villa when William Benton confronted him are now all missing, possibly, the Times darkly suggests, murdered to prevent them saying what really happened. The records of Benton’s court-martial have just been released, and by released I mean fabricated. Benton supposedly made an armed attack on Villa and also gave aid & comfort to Federal forces.

In the absence of a British consul in Juarez, where Benton was shot, the US is supposed to be looking after the interests of British subjects there. Whether that means actually protecting them from this sort of thing is not entirely clear. To anyone, I mean, not just to me. So the US’s actual responsibility in this matter is open to debate.

The Senate renews arbitration conventions with Britain, Norway, Sweden, Japan, Portugal, Switzerland, Spain and Italy.

South Carolina Gov. Coleman Blease, who has issued more pardons than any governor in US history, sends a 333-page message to the State Senate giving his reasons for those pardons. He explains that one of them, a manslaughterer named William White, has the same name as a childhood friend of his. He pardoned some rich folks from Jasper County for assault and battery on two negroes who had subjected them to “some very dirty and slanderous talk”; a crowd took the negroes into the woods and “gave them what they deserved - a genuine first-class whipping”. Another pardon went to a negro who had served 13 years of a life sentence for killing another negro, and had been punished in the penitentiary, i.e. beaten and shocked with a battery, for speaking to Gov. Blease when he was touring the facility. Blease also pardoned a rich man who paid the widow of the man he killed $2,750; the governor says the man should have been released as soon as she accepted (he served something less than 2 years). Another was a negro who killed another negro in “a fuss about a woman”; Blease approvingly quotes a petition supporting pardon which said “the morals and the mode of living between colored people are not up to the standard adopted and lived up to by the white people... it was more on the order of the lower animals, as the negro race has absolutely no standard of morality.”

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