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THIE HALIFAX GIBBET-LAW.
nister an oath to them, to give in a true and perfect
verdict relating to the matter of fact for which the O
said felon was executed, to the intent that a record might be made thereof in the Crown-Office.
When the party accused was condemned, he was to be executed ; if his condemnation took place on the Saturday, he was immediately led to the block; if on the Monday, he would be kept three market-days, but upon this point it does not appear that the law is clearly understood. When brought to the gibbet, he was to have his head cut off from his body.
This gibbet stood on an elevated plot of ground, a short distance at that day from the town; the place is still called Gibbet Hill; it is surrounded by a wall, ascended by steps; and an oblong block of stone marks the site of decapitation. On this elevation were placed two upright pieces of timber, five yards in height, joined at the top by a transverse beam; within these was a square block of wood four feet and a half in length, which moved up and down between the uprights, by means of grooves.
In the lower end of this sliding block, an iron axe was fastened, which is yet to be seen at the gaol in Halifax, and which certainly ought to be deposited in the increasing Museum of the Philosophical Society of the town. Its weight is 7 pounds 12 ounces, length 10% inches, 7 inches over at the top, and nearly 9 at the bottom; towards the top are two holes, for the purpose of fastening it to the block. The axe, thus fixed, was drawn up to the top by means of a cord and pulley, and at
the end of the cord was a pin, which being fixed A SINGULAR power was possessed by the Lord of the either to the side of the scaffold or some other part manor of Halifax, in Yorkshire, from time immemo- | below, kept it suspended, till either by pulling out rial to the year 1650, for the trial and execution of the pin or cutting the cord, it was suffered to fall, any felon taken within the Forest of Hardwiok. and the criminal's head was instantly severed from This custom, known by the name of The Gibber his body. It is said, that if the offender was to be LAW, took cognizance of all thefts of the value of executed for stealing an ox, sheep, horse, or any thirteen-pence halfpenny and upwards; and the seve- other animal, the end of the rope was fastened to rity with which it was carried into execution at Hali- | the beast, which being driven away, pulled out the fax, and the rigour with which vagrancy was visited pin. If the execution was not done by a beast, the at Hull, became notorious, and gave rise to a com
bailiff or his servant cut the rope. mon, but profanely expressed petition.
The bailiff, jurors, and minister chosen by the Whenever a felon was apprehended, he was com- prisoner, were always on the scaffold with him. The mitted to the custody of the Lord of the Manor's fourth psalm was played round the scaffold on bagBailiff, who kept the gaol, had the keeping of the pipes, after which the minister prayed with him, till gibbet-axe, and also officiated at times as the execu
he underwent the fatal stroke. tioner. The bailiff then summoned a jury, which The origin of this custom is hidden in its antiquity; was selected “out of the most wealthy and best the power to exercise it was kept up at Halifax for a reputed men, for honesty and understanding," in four considerable time after it had expired in every other of the many Townships into which the Liberty is part of the kingdom, and it is probable it would not divided.
then have ceased, had not the bailiff been threatened, These jurors, sixteen in number, were not put upon after the last execution, A.D. 1650, that if ever he oath, nor do their duties appear to have been difficult, attempted the like again, he should be called to public merely consisting of an identification of the goods, account for it. that they were of such a value as to bring them The number of executions carefully collected from within the law, and an ascertainment that the the Parish Register, from the year 1541 to 1650, was offender had been taken either hand habend, in forty-nine, -one almost every two years; certainly the act of stealing; back berand, carrying off the very many considering the smallness of the jurisdicstolen property; or confessand, by confession. tion, (not the whole of the present parish,) and the Before this assembly, the accuser and accused were sensitiveness of the population at that period. But brought face to face, the thing stolen produced to the manufacturing system was then in its infancy in view, and the prisoner acquitted or condemned that neighbourhood, and required strict protection. according to evidence. If the party accused was It may be, perhaps, a question not unworthy the acquitted, he was directly set at liberty on paying consideration of the casuist, how far the wild and the fees; if condemned, he was either immediately mountainous district of Halifax may be indebted for executed, if it was the principal market-day, or kept its present wealth and consequence to the severity of till then, in order to strike the greater terror into the its Gibbet Law.
H. neighbourhood. After every execution, the coroners of the county, or some of them, were obliged to
LONDON: repair to the town of Halifax, and there summon a JOHN WILLIAM PARKER, WEST STRAND. jury of twelve men before them, (and sometimes the PUBLISHED IN WEEKLY NUMBERS, PRICE ONE PERYY, AND IN MONTHLY PARTH same persons who condemned the felon,) and admi.
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SOME ACCOUNT OF THE PLAINS AND DESERTS OF THE GLOBE.
The science of Geography is popularly understood as The necessarily intimate connexion between the organic treating of the division of the lands upon the surface of productions of different countries and their climate, renders the earth into various empires, kingdoms, and provinces, it important to explain the laws by which this connexion instituted by man; and this, doubtless, forms that im- is governed. This is one object of the science of Meteo portant part of the science which is properly termed rology, and in order to illustrate some parts of this paper, political, or moral, geography. But there is another, far we must enter into a brief general notice on this subject. more extensive, more important, and more really inter- If the whole surface of the earth were land, without any esting division, which treats of the natural history of the difference of soil, or any inequalities of level, the average earth; of its natural divisions by seas, mountain-chains, temperature of the climates of different zones would rivers, and valleys; of the constitution of its outer crust; decrease equably from the equator towards the poles, of the laws which govern the climates of different portions; because the rays of the sun, by passing vertically through of its animate productions; this is called Physical the atmosphere, would beat the tropical much more than Geography, and, as it is now understood, in the true sense the temperate regions, where the solar beams would lose of the word, partly comprises the various sciences of some of their effect by having to traverse the air more Geology, Zoology, Botany, Meteorology, &c.
obliquely, or to pass a greater distance through it. TemIt may be easily conceived, that there can be few studies perate regions also would be much warmer than the polar, more important to man than this of physical geography; where little heat would be obtained at all from the sun, the every endeavour, therefore, to render some of its facts great source of heat. more intelligible to the general reader, must be a laud- The first and most important cause of disturbance of able task; nor does it require any profound knowledge this supposed regularity, arises from the irregular division or deep study to be able to comprehend many of its leading of the surface into land and water. The ocean is of a principles.
more equal temperature throughout the globe than the When we consider the numberless differences between land; partly because it is less easily heated by the sun's countries, in regard to their climate, soil, and productions, rays, and partly because of the constant mingling of its animal and vegetable, it might seem almost impossible to waters by the currents and the motion of the waves, these investigate the causes of the great diversity which really being produced by the motion of the earth on its axis, and exists: investigation, however, the object of the science by the analogous currents, called Winds, in the aërial ocean, in question, is daily extending; and all the peculiarities are or atmosphere. From these two causes, the waters of the found to be mutually dependent on a comparatively few ocean, at more than 700 feet in depth, are found to be of great principles.
the same temperature all over the globe. Vol. V.
An island in the middle of the ocean will hence have a air, but the earth accumulating the heat more rapidly cooler climate than the adjacent continents, if it be situated and more permanently, it will communicate to the lower within the Tropics, and a warmer one if it lie more towards portion of the air, a greater degree of temperature than the Poles: because, in the first case, being surrounded by a it would otherwise have: and from a well-known law, this body of water cooler than the land, the temperature of the heated portion of air would rise, or ascend, and its place island will be reduced ; and, on the second supposition, the would be supplied with colder air coming from a distance, surrounding seas being warmer than the land under the which would be heated in its turn, and rise, and so on, same latitude, the temperature of the island will be raised. producing a constant current upwards of hot air. Now
Thus, the islands of the Atlantic, as Madeira, the Canaries, this current would prevent the clouds passing over the spot,
in time, a forest might cover the former naked expanse.
abundant enough to form rivers, at least forms springs, A principal cause of the average temperature of the as is the case with the Oases of Africa, (See p. 39.) climate of any place, depends on its elevation above the It is very difficult to ascertain or to be aware of the level of the sea ; or on its being at a greater or less distance difference of level of adjacent countries, by simple ocular from the centre of the earth. The lower part of the inspection. A valley intersecting a plain, is obvious to atmosphere is the warmest, and the heat decreases as we every one traversing it, but if a person ascend a chain of ascend in the air, so that in every part of the globe, there hills rising from a plain, on descending on the other side is an altitude where water is always frozen. This is called he cannot immediately tell whether he is come down to the the line of perpetual snow, because the portions of moun- same level as the plain, or whether he is above or below it. tajns which rise above this height are always snow-clad. We all know that the land, generally, must be higher It is obvious, that the nearer the place is to the equator, the than the level of the sea, or the sea would overflow it higher into the air must we ascend, to get into the tempe- and we know that the land is not equally high, because rature which is met with nearer the earth, at places situated we see it shelve down to the shore in some parts, or form at a greater distance from it. At the poles, and for a great very steep cliffs in others, while we see yalleys and moundistance from them, the water at the surface of the earth is tains varying it on all sides. Few persons, however, are always frozent. Hence, a plain raised many thousand aware, that the difference in the level of extensive regions is feet above the level of the sea, though under the tropics, so great, that while the Table-Land of Asia is raised 10,000 may be as cold, or colder than England, or other places in feet above the level of the sea, there is a vast extent, of the Temperate Zones.
about 18,000 square miles, in the neighbourhood of the Asia affords a striking illustration of these facts. The Caspian Sea, that is absolutely below the level of the ocean. contral Table-Land is the highest part of the globe of any It is now known, that in the course of many ages, great extent; and being surrounded with mountains covered revolutions in the surface of the globe are brought about with snow,
has a temperature far below that of southern by the slow, but constant, wearing down of all the elevated Europe on the same parallel ; while on passing the southern, parts, by the action of water, and also through the elevaor Himalaya chain, the traveller descending into the pen- tion of new islands and continents from the bottom of the insula of India enters a tropical elimate. This partly arises deep by earthquakes. There is conclusive evidence of the from the nearer position of the country to the equator, but, greater part of Europe having been raised from the deep, chiefly, from its lower level; from its being sheltered to since the existence of other more ancient countries. the North by the mountains just mentioned ; and from the Now, if we suppose a large tract of the bed of the prevailing winds blowing from the south-east or south-west. ocean to be gradually raised till it forms dry land, it will
That the character as well as the temperature of a for many ages present the appearance of a level tract or climate, must depend very much on the quantity of rain plain, and such is probably the origin of most of those which falls, is also obvious, and this and the vegetation of extensive deserts, steppes, plains, &c., which are found a country mutually act on each other, as cause and effect. in different parts of the world. This very interesting fact we will explain by an example, We purpose, in this paper, to give a popular account of which will be more intelligible than scientific speculations. some of these, since they are less known from their being
Let us consider an extended plain of sand in any tropical comparatively uninhabited, and little visited ; and the country, as Africa. The sun will heat the surface and the varieties in their appearance and their productions, with . In all countries there is a summer and a winter, or a difference and entertaining lesson, and enable us to judge of the
the few common points of resemblance, will afford a useful of seasons; the former being hotter from the greater length of the day, or of the time the sun is above the horizon, and therefore acting inexhaustible fund of amusement and of knowledge which on the land and air: the mean annual temperature is the average of Physical Geography presents. These different temperatures, as found by repeated observations; and We shall commence with the plains in South America, is that, nearly, of the spring or autumn of the year in each country. called The summer-heat on the continents is greater, and the cold of winter more intense, than on an island; the former are said to have an
THE LLANOS. excessive climate, and the latter an insular climate; yet the mean temperature of a place on the continent, may be the same as one on an
At the foot of the lofty range of mountains in the province Hand in the same latitude. The reader must bear all these facts of Caraccas, there lies a vast plain, stretching southwards m mind, and he will perceive that it is impossible to give any general rule on this subject.
This theory has been advanced and maintained by Professor + It has been calculated, that the mean temperature of the Lyell, in his recent work, Principles of Geology, with such power of equator round the globe is about 85°, and that at the poles is -10°, reasoning and extent of knowledge as will, we are convinced, cause or ten degrees below zero, water freezing at 32° above zero. In the a new epoch in the science of Geology. We may here, once for all, tropics, the line of perpetual snow is at about the height of 16,000 acknowledge our obligations to that work, for many of the princifeet above the sea : in latitude 45°, (that of Venice and South ples and facts in any way connected with that science which have Europe,) it is at about 6000 feet,
appeared in the Supplements of this Magazine,
far beyond the limits of the visible horizon. The contrast rivers; impenetrable forests, occupying the equatorial presented on leaving the fertile, undulating valleys of regions where the land is most extended ; all concur to that country, and the shores of the lake of Tacaragua, keep down the heat and aridity of America, compared dotted over with islands covered with luxuriant vegetation, with the African peninsula, which is diametrically opposed is indescribable. The traveller quits a beautiful tract, to it in all these characteristics. These peculiarities are covered with the palms, sugar-canes, &c., of a tropical sufficient to explain, why Africa and South America preland, to enter on a barren desert. No hill, no elevation, sent the most opposite character of climates, and the most disturbs the monotony of the scene, except here and there different features of vegetation. flat banks, so called by the natives, raised only a few feet Though the Llanos are covered with a thin coating of above the general level, but, from their slight elevation fertile earth, and are periodically flooded by rains, so that and their great extent, hardly distinguishable. These are they are decorated with luxuriant verdure; yet the neighsometimes two hundred square miles in extent, and appear bouring native tribes have never been enticed to leave the like islands in a waveless sea.
lovely valleys of the Caraccas and the coast, or the shores That this plain was once the bottom of an ocean, there of the Orinoco, to settle in these wastes. On the first is conclusive evidence, from those facts which speak more arrival of European and African settlers, these deserts decisively than any historic human records; and at that were found nearly destitute of inhabitants. The Llanos time the banks formed shoals analogous to those in our are now especially appropriated to rearing cattle, though present seas. The observant and scientific traveller has the management of animals yielding milk fit for human his imagination carried back to this primæval period, by food was unknown to all the aborigines of the new an optical illusion presented to his view. When at night continent. the eye ranges over the level tract to the extreme limit of Two kinds of native cattle pasture in the grass-plains of vision, the level line which forms the horizon reminds him West Canada as well as in Mexico: the long-horned of that of a tranquil ocean*, and the stars as they rise or set, moution, the original stem of the sheep, abounds on the are absolutely reilected in the stratum of air that lies on the dry, naked, calcareous rocks of California; and the camel earth, as if seen in real water. This phenomenon arises like vikunnas, alpacas, and llamas, are peculiar to the from the same causes which produce the mirage of the southern continent. Except the last, all these useful desert, in day time; that illusion which mocks the thirsty animals have preserved their natural freedom for thousands and fainting traveller with the appearance of lakes of of years, the employment of milk and cheese as articles water, when journeying over hot sandy plains, .
of food, like the culture of farinaceous grasses, being a But the real ocean, with its associations, is a pleasing, characteristic distinction of the people of the old world. though sublime object, while the “ Llanos" of South Since, therefore, as it appears, the shepherd's life, that America lie stretched out before the eye, like the naked beneficial middle-state which fixes the wandering hunter rocky crust of a worn-out planet. The interest they excite tribes to the meadows, and prepares them for the pursuits is of a peculiar kind, and arises only from their natural of agriculture, was unknown to the original inhabitants of history. Unlike the deserts of Africa, they contain no Oases America, it is to this circumstance, that the absence of to recall the mind to earlier races of inhabitants; no carved population in the Llanos, on their first discovery by monuments, no ruins, to suggest the idea of a past age of Europeans, must be attributed. Hence appears also a glory and renown; no fruit-trees run wild, to indicate that variety of animal forms which have remained in a state the diligence of past generations was exerted to provide of nature, uncontrolled by the presence of man. food for their population. This portion of our globe seems estranged from all human interest; a wild arena for unfettered animal and vegetable existence.
Each continent of the globe has animals peculiar to it; The Llanos extend from the mountains on the coast of many are only different species of genera found elsewhere; Caraccas to the forests of Guayana ; from the snowy but there are many genera of animals peculiar to South mountains of Merida to the great Delta of the Orinoco; America ; though these are not so strikingly different from in a south-westerly direction, they stretch, like an arm of the animals of the old world, as those of New Holland are the sea, from the rivers Meta and Nichada, to the unfre- from the animals of all the rest of the world. quented sources of the Guaviare, comprising a surface of In the Llanos arc found, the agouti, of the same order about sixteen thousand square miles. Though thus close as the guinea-pig, rabbit, porcupine, &c.; it is about the to the equator, yet, from the physical geography of this size of a hare, and has many of its habits. The armadillo, continent, they do not resemble the Sahara of Africa in a singular animal, having a scaly hard shell, which is constant barrenness, but, during one half of the year, are corered with grass, like the Pampas of Buenos Aires, or the Table-Lands of central Asia.
The causes of the lower temperature and greater moisture of the climate of equinoctial America, compared with that of Africa, are to be found in the peculiar form of this part of the globe. Narrow, and much indented with seas and bays within the northern tropic, it presents but a comparatively small surface to the action of the sun's rays; while the great expanse towards the North Pole; an open ocean, over which the tropical winds come; the flatness of the eastern coast; the stream of cold sea-water which flows from Terra del Fuego along the Peruvian coast; the number of mountain-chains rearing their snow-covered summits far above the clouds; the multitude of enormous
That this effect of resemblance to a sea is not exaggerated, is proved by the evidence of Captain Hall, when speaking of another extensive plain,-a very conclusive authority on many subjects. flexible enough to give full scope to its motions, and is yet
“ Some of these singular places" (the prairies on the banks of the a secure defence from most enemies, belongs to the same Mississippi,) are nearly level, others have a gently swelling or roll
. order as the sloth, the ant-eater, &c., and lives on vegetable ing surface. The grand prairie of the Illinois has specimens of both food, and burrows in the ground. The chiguire or capybara, kinds, but its general character is level, with a few clumps of trees, and these far between. The resemblance to the sea which some of another animal of the guinea-pig tribe, and the largest the prairies exhibited was really most singular. There is one spot in known; lives in herds on the banks of rivers, and feeds on particular, near the middle of the grand prairie, where the ground fish and fruits. The chinche, a species of marten, like our happened to be of a rolling character, and where, excepting in the European pole-cat, possesses, but in a much greater article of colour, --and that was not widely different from the
tinge degree, the power of defending itself, by emitting an where I was. This deception was heightened by a circumstance odour, so intolerable, as seriously to affect men or animals which I had often heard mentioned, but the force of which none exposed to it. Another, the mariputa, dwelling on the but a seaman could fully estimate; I mean the appearance of the banks of the Orinoco, is protected from the jaguar, its from our view : they were so exactly like strange sails heaving in effluvia which it emits. distant insulated trees as they rose above the horizon, or receded chief enemy, by the virulence and fætidness of the sight, that I ain sure if two or three sailors had been present they would almost have agreed as to what canvass these magical vessels
Of the more formidable animals, the puma, or American were carrying. --Travels in North America, vol. iü,
lion, must be mentioned first; but both this, and the
jaguar, and other allied species, are well known to Euro-, in the lowest scale of human cultivation, a whole race
The discovery of the New World by the Europeans, has, Nearly uninhabitable except to such animals, these of course, altered this scene; and these plains are now plains would never have arrested the steps of those tribes become inhabited. Towns are built, here and there, on who, Indian-like, prefer vegetable food, were not the the banks of the rivers, for the sake of facilitating the Mauritia, or Fan-palm, found scattered over them here and intercourse between the coast and Guayana, while others, there. The benefits of this important plant are widely in the interior, are the abodes of families who rear cattle, known: the stem attains a height of five and twenty feet, as is now every where done on these boundless wastes. in about 120 or 150 years, and they form lovely groups of These villages, for they deserve no higher denomination, brilliant green in moist spots, something as our alders do. lie sometimes several days' journeys apart, and consist of They preserve by their shade the humidity of the ground, rude huts, constructed of stakes and reeds woven together, and hence the Indians maintain, that the Mauritia myste- and covered with hides. Horses, mules, and cattle, left to riously attracts water to its roots.
run wild, in innumerable troops S, roam over the steppes.
When the vertical rays of the ever-cloudless sun have
THE FAN PALM.
This tree alone supports the unsubdued nation of the Guarannes, who dwell near the mouths of the Orinoco. They suspend mats made of the stalks of the leaves with great skill from stem to stem; and during the rainy season, when the Delta •f is overflowed, they reside entirely in the trees by means of these mats, as completely as if they were apes. These hanging huts are partly covered over with clay: the fires for domestic purposes are lighted on the lower story, which is always damp from the subjacent water, and the traveller by night, in sailing along the river, sees the tlames in rows, suspended, as it were, in the air.
But besides a secure dwelling, the Mauritia affords
It has been computed that 1,200,000 oxen, 180,000 horses, and affords, like the Pisang, and most fruits of the tropics, a and in the Pampas that there are 12,000,000 cattle and 3,000,000 varied nourishinent in its different stages. Thus we find, horses ;-all these sprang from the few individuals carried over by
the Spaniards on their first settling! The horned cattle are princi. By an analogous fallacy, mistaking cause and effect, they pro- pally valuable for their hides and tallow; 800,000 are annually extest against the destroying of snakes; because they say the lagunes ported from Buenos Aires and Monte Video alone. dry up when these reptiles are removed. The Mauritia thrives only || These clouds of dust are especially frequent in the Peruvian where moisture collects, and the serpents only frequent the stagnant sandy plains, between Amotape and Coquimbo ; they would be ponds.
very fatal to travellers, if not avoided when seen approaching. + When a river empties itself into the sea by several mouths, these What appears remarkable is, that these partial whirlwinds always form a triangular figure, and the plain through which they run is arise during a general calm ; in this, also, the analogy between the called the Delta of the river, from the name of the Greek letter D, ocean of air and the ocean of water is preserved ; in the latter, small which is of a triangular form.
streams, in which the rippling is distinctly audible, are often obMany Pa.ms are what botanists term diæcious ; that is, have the served during a dead calm. Electricity is the primary cause of all male and female flowers distinct from each other, on separate plants. these phenomena.