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November 7, 2018

"Is Eating People Wrong?"

6a00d8341c8ccf53ef01bb09d3c651970d-320wiFor those interesting in learning more about Thomas Dudley and his travails, check out this Wikipedia page on the Dudley and Stephens case and some of the links therein.  That page provides this accounting of the activities that led to a criminal prosecution:

Drawing lots in order to choose a sacrificial victim who would die to feed the others was possibly first discussed on 16 or 17 July, and debate seems to have intensified on 21 July but without resolution.  On 23 or 24 July, with Parker probably in a coma, Dudley told the others that it was better that one of them die so that the others survive and that they should draw lots.  Brooks refused. That night, Dudley again raised the matter with Stephens pointing out that Parker was probably dying and that he and Stephens had wives and families.  They agreed to leave the matter until the morning.

The following day, with no prospect of rescue in sight, Dudley and Stephens silently signalled to each other that Parker would be killed.  Killing Parker before his natural death would better preserve his blood to drink.  Brooks, who had not been party to the earlier discussion, claimed to have signalled neither assent nor protest.  Dudley always insisted that Brooks had assented.  Dudley said a prayer and, with Stephens standing by to hold the youth's legs if he struggled, pushed his penknife into Parker's jugular vein, killing him.

In some of the varying and confused later accounts of the killing, Parker murmured, "What me?" as he was slain.  The three fed on Parker's body, with Dudley and Brooks consuming the most and Stephens very little.  The crew even finally managed to catch some rainwater.  Dudley later described the scene, "I can assure you I shall never forget the sight of my two unfortunate companions over that ghastly meal we all was like mad wolfs who should get the most and for men fathers of children to commit such a deed we could not have our right reason."  The crew sighted a sail on 29 July.

And if you really want to dig deep and get and even more thorough understanding of the context of the crime and the prosecution, check out Chapter 2 of this book, wonderfully titled "Is Eating People Wrong?".  Here is one of many notable passages to be found therein describing Captain Dudley's background and hiring:

Captain Tom Dudley ... was short of stature with reddish hair and beard.  A self-made man of thirty, he had earned himself quite a reputation as a dependable and intrepid mariner; he brought distinction to his home port of Tollesbury in Essex, on the southeast coast of England at the mouth of the river Blackwater.  He was a religious man, ran a tight ship, and insisted that his crew remain dry.  His wife, Philippa, was a local schoolteacher, and Tom was always on the lookout for ways to improve his financial condition for the benefit of his wife and three children.  Although he did not relish being away from his family for such a long time, the trip to Australia offered substantial remuneration and a chance to check out possible business opportunities on that burgeoning continent.  He seemed an ideal choice as captain for Want and the Mignonette’s sixteen-thousand-mile, 120-day voyage.

[Australian lawyer John Henry] Want engaged Dudley on a generous contract.  For £100 on signing up and a further £100 on delivery of the Mignonette to Sydney, Dudley was to hire and pay a crew, provide all provisions on the trip, and keep her in good repair.  It seemed a wonderful deal and one that would leave Dudley with a handsome profit. However, he had problems securing the crew he required.  The boat was considered light and small for such an arduous trip through some of the world’s most treacherous waters, especially around the Cape of Good Hope. After some initial failures, he recruited a three-man crew of Edwin “Ed” Stephens (as mate), Edmund “Ned” Brooks (as able seaman), and Richard “Dick” Parker (as cabin boy).

The sailing was delayed for a few weeks because the Mignonette was in far from shipshape condition.  Although many timbers were rotten and needed replacing, the parsimonious Dudley opted to make only minimal and makedo repairs.  After extended and agitated negotiations with the Board of Trade over acquiring the necessary documents to certify the ship’s seaworthiness, the Mignonette and her crew were finally cleared to leave (or, at least, not prevented from leaving).  Like most seamen, Dudley was of a superstitious temperament.  Although he was ready to sail on a Friday, he chose to wait until the following, less ill-starred Monday.  Consequently, the ship set sail for Australia from Southampton on May 19, 1884.

November 7, 2018 in Course materials and schedule | Permalink

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