Helloooooo History People!
Today’s date holds many significant events in American and world history.
1917 – Diplomatic Relations between the US and Germany were disbanded.
2005 – The first Hispanic Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, was appointed.
And now, the event that we will be discussing in more detail:
1780 -The first instance of mass murder in post-Revolutionary America.
It happened in the early hours before sunrise on February 3rd, 1780, in a small town in Connecticut, that Barnett Davenport, a nineteen-year-old Continental Army veteran, went to the home of his employer, Caleb Mallory. He then killed Mallory, Mallory’s wife, and their three grandchildren who were staying with them at the time using physical force and arson. This terrible event is known as the first recorded mass murder in the history of the United States.
“These days, we live in a dangerous world.” After seeing the 24/7 news reports about attacks, mass shootings, and other criminal activity, it’s not surprising how often I’ve already heard this sentence spoken in my short lifetime. Obviously, there are dangers in the world – it’s impossible to be so stubbornly ignorant of this fact. However, I think the people who believe they are at risk today more so than in any other time period fail to understand that crime and murder have been around since the origins of mankind. This potential danger we all face that stems from our fellow people – it’s nothing new.
According to extensive research performed by historian Michael-John Cavallaro, Barnett Davenport was born into a normal-seeming family, but he had been engaged in criminal acts including theft before and after joining the army at age sixteen. As a young boy, he admitted to being intrigued by murder, yet never killed anyone until a few years later. Davenport actually came to Mallory’s farm in search of a job and applied using his brother’s name instead of his own, causing the justice system and present-day historians to recognize that this event was in fact premeditated and completely intentional. Once the murders had been committed, the authorities at first captured the wrong Davenport before realizing their error and beginning the search once again. The true mastermind was captured about a week after the killings took place.
The fact that separates this instance from other murders prior to its occurrence was the shift in perspectives through which crime was viewed by the American public. Before, the general consensus was that all criminals and murders, though extremely misguided, were still regular people who had made terrible, horrible choices. The change was sort of the realization that there are multiple factors that go into a person’s decision to do evil deeds. Sometimes people who commit these acts lose their grips on reality completely, as their minds slowly become uncontrollably obsessed with thoughts of harm, personal gain, or simply the experience of killing. Davenport’s confession shed light on the inner workings of his mind and revealed that he alone plotted the Mallorys’ murders “merely, for the sake of plundering his house; without the least provocation, or prejudice against any of them”.
(Side note: I highly recommend taking a look at his confession, page 9 – 14. Its detail and personal reflections pose some interesting points to consider when dealing with the criminal mind.)
Throughout the whole of his confession, Davenport’s factual retelling of the murders was intertwined with personal reflection on his premeditated actions, which give the reader the notion that Davenport was in fact a rational individual overcome for some time with the blinding haze of murder just for the experience of it. He was eventually sentenced to forty lashes and death by public hanging.
Another unique aspect to recognize about this case is that contemporary mass murders don’t typically end with the opportunity to hear the perpetrator’s reasoning behind the act. Many more are planned with the intention of the individual’s suicide to avoid the inevitable repercussions and to make a point. They’re also often connected to the idea of terrorism, but as history has shown, that is not always the case, and there are also many different definitions of terrorism that don’t always constitute that of mass murder.
There are numerous factors that can go into a person’s reasoning for any action they engage in, particularly criminal acts. The only thing we can do as citizens is to analyze the past, apply those understandings to contemporary measures of safety, action, and justice, and, hopefully, prevent future acts of horror by providing proper forms of help to those who need it.
That’s all for now!
Quote of the Day:
“What is truth? Truth is something so noble that if God could turn aside from it, I would keep the truth and turn aside from God.”
– Johannes Gutenberg (Inventor of the printing press, Birthday: 1500)