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Uranus and Pluto transit viewed from Burke and Hare perspective   Leave a comment

Uranus is in Aries and Pluto is in Capricorn, at the time Burke and Hare were murdering people to sell their bodies to anatomists Pluto was in Aries and Uranus in Capricorn are there any similarities between both times.  To understand Burke and Hare we need to understand the times they lived in.

Up the close and down the stair,
In the house with Burke and Hare.
Burke’s the butcher, Hare’s the thief
Knox, the man who buys the beef.

A common purpose of body snatching, especially in the 19th century, was to sell the corpses for anatomy lectures in medical schools. Those who practised body snatching were often called “resurrectionists” or “resurrection-men”.  Before the Anatomy of 1832, the only legal supply of corpses for anatomical purposes in the UK were those condemned to death and dissection by the courts. Those who were sentenced to dissection by the courts were often guilty of comparatively harsher crimes. Such sentences did not provide enough subjects for the medical schools and private anatomical schools (which did not require a licence before 1832). During the 18th century hundreds had been executed for trivial crimes, but by the 19th century only about 55 people were being sentenced to hang each year. With the expansion of the medical schools, however, as many as 500 cadavers were needed annually.  Body snatching became so prevalent that it was not unusual for relatives and friends of someone who had just died to watch over the body until burial, and then to keep watch over the grave after burial, to stop it being violated. Iron coffins, too, were used frequently, or the graves were protected by a framework of iron bars.

William Hare emigrated from Northern Ireland to the UK and worked along with many other Irish immigrants on the Union Canal before moving to Edinburgh where he ran a lodging house. William Burke was born in Urney, County Tyrone in 1792 and moved to Scotland around 1815. He also found work as a navvy on the Union Canal, where it is suspected the two may have at first met.  Burke and Hare crossed paths in late 1827 when William Burke became resident at Hare’s lodging house on Tanners Close on the west side of Edinburgh. William Hare would later testify that the episode began when together they sold the body of a deceased resident of the lodging house to Doctor Robert Knox, in order they said to  reclaim money owed by the deceased. Seeing an opportunity to make money, and spurred on by the requirements of Robert Knox, Burke and Hare no longer waited for their victims to die of natural causes. They first preyed upon tenants of the boarding house before moving on to prostitutes and strangers on the streets of Edinburgh. They developed a trademark method of suffocation which would later become known as ‘Burking’.

On Monday, November 3, 1828, Edinburgh awoke to the horrifying news that the most atrocious murders of the decade — of the century — had been committed in the West Port district of the Old Town. William Burke and William Hare, together with Helen M’Dougal and Margaret Hare, were accused of killing 16 people over the course of 12 months, in order to sell their cadavers as “subjects” for dissection. Their purchaser was Dr. Robert Knox, a well-regarded anatomical lecturer with a flourishing dissecting establishment in Surgeon’s Square. The ensuing criminal investigation and trial raised troubling questions about the common practices by which medical men obtained cadavers, about the lives of the poor in Edinburgh’s back alleys, about the ability of the police to protect the public from deliberate, unprovoked murder for gain.  The murders were discovered when two of Burke’s lodgers, Ann and James Gray, grew suspicious about the unexpected disappearance of a visitor, Madgy Docherty, whom they had met in Burke’s house the night before. They found her dead body under the bed and went for the police.

Mary Paterson’s corpse was, as historian Lisa Rosner put it, “the most notorious cadaver.” Her murder at the hands of William Burke and William Hare, and the subsequent preservation of her body at Dr. Robert Knox’s anatomical study facility were the fodder for many titillating and moralizing versions of the Burke and Hare story. When Burke delivered Paterson’s corpse to Knox, the anatomist treasured his new acquisition, preserving the body in whiskey for three months before dissecting it. Knox even brought in artists to capture the beauty of his young specimen.

One of the most despicable acts in the series of Burke and Hare murders was the killing of Daft Jamie. Young James Wilson wandered the streets of Edinburgh “barefoot and bareheaded, in all sorts of weather.” Perhaps that was why he was known in and around the Surgeon Square area as Daft Jamie. If he had frequented fancier quarters, Jamie may have been called eccentric. In any case he was not actually mad. Apparently, he had what is known as savantism. While Jamie’s unusual behavior kept him from regular employment, he could easily perform amazing feats of calculation. Jamie could name the day of the week of any given date in exchange for such small tokens of appreciation as food, drink, snuff and the occasional dinner reception. Jamie was a well-known neighborhood character. He never begged. And his mother and sister did their best to care for him in spite of his penchant for roaming the streets.

Both of these victims were well known in Edinburgh especially ‘Daft Jamie’, and Dr Knox was well aware of who both of these victims were. Historian Lisa Rosner writes, “Robert Knox has been an enigma since his purchase of Burke’s and Hare’s cadavers was first made public.” How could a man of medicine be involved in a series of cold-blooded killings? How could a brilliant scientist fail to notice or suspect that the remarkably fresh bodies on his dissection table had been the victims of foul play? Was Knox, “the boy who buys the beef,” a villain or a fool? History rarely gives simple either-or answers to these questions.  If Knox was a villain, perhaps his greatest sin was over-reaching ambition. He made a profit off his purchases from Burke and Hare in the form of tuition from his anatomy students, but knowledge seemed more valuable to him than money. “I would rather be the discoverer of one fact in science than have a fortune bestowed upon me,” he once said. Knox seems to fit the stereotype of the myopic scientist who is so focused on discovery and fame that he never questions the ethics of his research.

The case provoked a massive outcry, with the public clamouring to have Burke and his mistress, Hare and his wife, and Dr Knox hanged. However, the police had very little evidence of murder – there were no physical signs on Docherty’s body – and they didn’t want the case to result in lesser charges, or an acquittal. Therefore they made a deal with Hare that, if he were to become a King’s Witness and tell all in court, he and his wife would be released, provided Burke was convicted.

The trial, which started on Christmas Eve 1828, lasted only until the next morning. Hare’s evidence sent Burke to the gallows, although Burke’s mistress received a not proven verdict. Before his death, a month later, Burke confessed to sixteen murders, but always denied that they ever robbed graves. On the day of his hanging thousands of people, of all classes, turned out to watch the hated man’s execution. When he died the crowd cheered, and when his body was cut down there was a stampede as people tried to reach it. After a period in which it was laid on a slab in a public gallery, so all who desired to do so could see, Burke’s fate was to have his own body donated to medical science – it was dissected in a lecture, which drew a full house. After this, his skeleton was displayed in the Medical School he had kept so well supplied – the bones are still there today.

The case of Burke and Hare so shocked decent society that the British parliament was prepared to legalise the dissection of dead bodies in order to stop the black market trade in them. The 1832 Anatomy Act legalised the use of cadavers in the event of the body being unclaimed – this, in effect, meant that anatomists could now buy their bodies from the workhouses. Since there was now an abundant legal source of bodies, the prices fell, and grave robbers found that the risks of their trade were too great compared with the pitiful rewards they now received.

However this is not the end of the story, the bill established a regime of presumed consent to dissection. It authorized certain parties to be in lawful possession of corpses for the purpose of disposing of them to medical schools, if the person had not, in life, formally registered their dissent to being dissected, and if no relatives claimed the body for burial within forty-eight hours of the death. The bill failed to specify who these powerful parties would be, but they were envisaged as the men who were in positions of authority in places where large numbers of poor people died, especially workhouses and hospitals.  One of the bill’s critics, Lord Teynham, made a last ditch stand in parliament, claiming that as the legislation failed to ban the sale of corpses it would “convert every workhouse-keeper into a systematic trafficker in dead bodies”.  However it would be another twenty-five years before the public learned the prescience of that prediction.  For example, they could persuade workhouse masters to send them bodies by guaranteeing to subject these to a quick, minimal dissection—of the viscera only—before sending them back to the workhouse for burial without obvious disfigurement (at least to a relative who did not insist on the body being taken from its coffin and its shroud removed).   Alfred Feist, master of the St Mary Newington workhouse, was accused in the Central Criminal Court of unlawfully disposing of pauper bodies to Guy’s Hospital medical school. He and the parish undertaker, Robert Hogg, had turned the workhouse into a place where corpses were processed into profitable objects. At any given time, the dead house contained workhouse bodies and others brought in from elsewhere, as well as coffins containing dissected remains that had been removed from Guy’s for burial. The men’s resourceful system for turning these remains to good account was relatively simple. On the morning of a workhouse inmate’s burial, after a relative (usually a daughter or sister) had viewed the body, she was sent from the dead house to the waiting room while Hogg or Feist nailed down the coffin lid. A little later, she was called and told to step into the funeral carriage, while the undertaker’s men lifted a coffin into the accompanying hearse. That coffin contained a stranger’s dissected remains. While the relative accompanied this coffin to the burial ground to witness what she thought was a family member’s interment, Feist filled in the notice that made that corpse available for dissection. Hogg then took the notice to Inspector Bacot, and received in return a warrant that authorized the body to be taken to Guy’s.  Despite the long-held common law principle that there was no property in the human corpse, the Anatomy Act had created a limited right to possess one, and workhouse masters had acquired this right.

The murders by Burke and Hare were driven by financial gain, in an age where religious belief and science clashed over the sanctity of the dead, Burke and Hare brought matters to a head.  The clash between both opposing factions was not solved by parliament as it sought to appease both the public and the medical schools resulting in the poorest in society being bought and sold after death. This period also brings up the capitalist free for all that without any moral or societal boundaries can sell the human body to the highest bidder.  This time brought these themes of capitalism vrs dignity, the individual vrs organisations and science vrs religion to the fore in the publics mind however these issues were not solved until much later but driven underground and perpetuated on the poorest in society.

 

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Posted November 3, 2014 by neptune's Aura Astrology in Long term transits

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