the trail of tears to tyburn

A depiction of the hanging from Tyburn Tree in the 18th century.

After seeing photos this past week of depictions from Hogarth and discussing them at length, it was clear that he was ahead of his time in terms of moral judgment. Many of those that included themselves in illegal (although nothing was really illegal with the power of money and wealth) activity were often thrown in jail, and some would eventually be hanged at Tyburn Tree.

The fact that it was a spectacle for all to see, especially considered as an event for people to come and drink and be merry, was one that left me in utter shock. I was left wondering, how could an event that ended the lives of many be so entertaining for those to witness? From what it seems like, those who went to celebrate and drink did not have any morals, and is accurate in the sense that in the 18th century, there was no line between what was right and wrong, what was good and bad. As we discussed in lecture, it would not be until later that a stark contrast and difference appear.

Reading Boswell’s journals, although explicit with his confessions of picking up prostitutes on the bridge and doing his business in the wide open in public, were eye-opening to me because of the way he felt about the execution he witnessed. He was quite uneasy afterwards, not feeling like himself and having to go take a walk because it was not a source of entertainment to him; rather, it was a gut-wrenching moment in time that he would not want to witness again. In a way, Boswell’s confession here is a segue to the London we will learn about later. I was pleased to read that I was not the only one who felt uneasy about Tyburn and that this kind of radical thinking that challenged the norm existed in the 18th century. Boswell was a man of many, and although he may have acted upon many activities that I would not support today, we both agreed on one.

The featured picture is a photo of where Tyburn Tree was in today’s London. A plaque of some sort is in the ground, surrounded by three trees to commemorate the site and keep its history. I’m unbelievably glad that that kind of world doesn’t exist in today’s society, and I’m even more excited to read on about London’s spaces and places and compare its history to the London we know today.


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