19 January 1661

Thomas Venner is “hanged, drawn and quartered” in London, UK.

On this day in history, 1661, Thomas Venner was hanged, drawn, and quartered. Venner was originally a wine-cooper before taking over leadership of the radical group, The Fifth Monarchy Men, after General Thomas Harrison, the previous leader of the group, was hanged, drawn, and quartered for treason himself in 1660.

The Fifth Monarchy Men, also known as the Fifth Monarchists, were essentially an extremist group that believed the return of Christ was imminent. Their name was in reference to the fact that the book of Daniel speaks of four “monarchies” or empires that would more or less dominate the world. These are presumed in retrospect to have been Babylon, Persia, Macedonia, and Rome. Since all four had been accounted for, the Fifth Monarchists felt that Christ would soon return for his 1000 year reign as the fifth monarch. Particularly, they thought Christ would return shortly after the year 1666, due to the “666” in the year, which signified “the beast” They further thought that in order for his return to happen, the “Saints” needed to first overthrow the existing rulers to prepare the way for Jesus. The group was particularly active between 1649 and 1661, when their last leader and many others among them were executed for treason after attempting to lead a rebellion against the newly crowned Charles II, who had been restored to the throne after Oliver Cromwell’s rule.

The Fifth Monarchists had actually initially been great supporters of Cromwell, who helped lead the overthrowing of Charles I and established the UK, temporarily, as a commonwealth republic, until his death in 1658. The Fifth Monarchists even went so far as to declare Cromwell a second Moses, but later when he got rid of the Nominated Assembly and established himself as the Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland, they revolted against him, which Thomas Venner returned to England to take part in and was at one point arrested for this, but was soon released.

Once Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, the leader of the Fifth Monarchists, General Thomas Harrison, who had helped overthrow Charles I was arrested and tried and convicted of treason. Interestingly, Harrison had the opportunity to flee England before he was arrested but chose to remain, even though he knew he would be executed if he did so. Not only that, but on October the 13, 1660, when he was executed, eye witness accounts state that he was looking relatively cheerful as he was led to his execution with the brutal method of being hanged, drawn, and quartered.

This is in stark contrast to what people normally did when they were to be executed in this way. What actually happened to specific people while being hung, drawn, and quartered varied greatly depending on the individual and potentially their willingness to repent their crimes. It also changed somewhat with time. A typical execution of this type more or less went like so, though: first, an individual would be lashed to a board and then drawn through the streets to their execution location. During this time, the prisoner may or may not be accosted by people in the streets, depending on their popularity. Because of this, some wouldn’t actually survive to the more gruesome parts of this method of execution and many arrived near death. Once there, they would be hung, but not generally to the point that they’d die, though it did sometimes happen. If the executioner wanted to be particularly lenient, they tended to hang them for a long time so they might die or at the least not be conscious later on. If they wanted to be cruel, this portion of the punishment was typically very quick, to make sure the individual was conscious and alive for the next part.

After the hanging, they could be castrated and emasculated, disemboweled, forced to watch their entrails burn, and would sometimes have their heart removed. Again, if the executioner wanted to be merciful, they’d first behead the person before performing these gruesome acts. Their bodies would then be cut into four pieces, which would be displayed around the country. This method of execution was only for men, as it was deemed inappropriate to display a woman’s body in the way it would need to be at certain points of the execution. Instead, they were typically burned at the stake or beheaded when an extreme execution was required. The “hanged, drawn, and quartered” method of execution was ultimately abolished by the Forfeiture Act of 1870 and execution for any act of treason was abolished in the UK by the Crime and Disorder Act of 1998.

In any event, after Harrison’s execution, Thomas Venner took over leadership of the Fifth Monarchy Men and led a revolt against Charles II, that is today often known as “Venner’s Rising”. With this revolt, they were hoping to overthrow Charles II so that “King Jesus” could reign. The group managed a full four day rebellion lasting from January 1 to January 4, 1661. The members of this organization that took direct part in the rebellion numbered just fifty people, with several army veterans among them. They first took a cathedral and fortified themselves, shooting at passersby if they said they supported Charles II. Eventually, they had to retreat from the cathedral and the battle ensued in the streets. Although they numbered just 50, they put up a gallant fight, even at one point forcing a group of 1200 soldiers to have to retreat from them as they fought in the streets.

Their ultimate defeat came when they tried to storm a prison and free the inmates so that they could increase their numbers. They were unsuccessful in this attempt and they slowly lost ground as the fighting drug on. They made their last stand in a tavern where most of the remaining members of the group were killed on the spot. Venner and a few others were finally taken and shortly thereafter were hung, drawn, and quartered. Given that they were unrepentant during these executions, it is thought that their executions were likely to have included the full brutality of this particularly method men had devised to murder one another legally. From here, the group known as the Fifth Monarchy Men soon faded from history, despite once being a very popular and politically influential group.

19 January 1942

The Japanese conquest of Burma during World War II begins.

The BIA formed a provisional government in some areas of the country in the spring of 1942, but there were differences within the Japanese leadership over the future of Burma. While Colonel Suzuki encouraged the Thirty Comrades to form a provisional government, the Japanese military leadership had never formally accepted such a plan. Eventually, the Japanese Army turned to Ba Maw to form a government.

During the war in 1942, the BIA had grown in an uncontrolled manner, and in many districts officials and even criminals appointed themselves to the BIA. It was reorganised as the Burma Defence Army under the Japanese but still headed by Aung San. While the BIA had been an irregular force, the BDA was recruited by selection and trained as a conventional army by Japanese instructors.

Ba Maw was afterwards declared head of state, and his cabinet included both Aung San as War Minister and the Communist leader Thakin Than Tun as Minister of Land and Agriculture as well as the Socialist leaders Thakins Nu and Mya. When the Japanese declared Burma, in theory, independent in 1943, the Burma Defence Army was renamed the Burma National Army.

The flag of the State of Burma, used 1943-5.
It soon became apparent that Japanese promises of independence were merely a sham and that Ba Maw was deceived. As the war turned against the Japanese, they declared Burma a fully sovereign state on 1 August 1943, but this was just another façade. Disillusioned, Aung San began negotiations with Communist leaders Thakin Than Tun and Thakin Soe, and Socialist leaders Ba Swe and Kyaw Nyein which led to the formation of the Anti-Fascist Organisation in August 1944 at a secret meeting of the CPB, the PRP and the BNA in Pegu. The AFO was later renamed the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League, and roundly opposed the Japanese fascism, proposing a fairer and more equal society.

Thakins Than Tun and Soe, while in Insein prison in July 1941, had co-authored the Insein Manifesto which, against the prevailing opinion in the Dobama movement, identified world fascism as the main enemy in the coming war and called for temporary co-operation with the British in a broad allied coalition which should include the Soviet Union. Soe had already gone underground to organise resistance against the Japanese occupation, and Than Tun was able to pass on Japanese intelligence to Soe, while other Communist leaders Thakins Thein Pe and Tin Shwe made contact with the exiled colonial government in Simla, India.

19 January 1977

Tokyo Rose is pardoned by President Gerald Ford.

On this day in 1977, President Gerald Ford pardoned “Tokyo Rose,” who had broadcast pop tunes during World War II. Although the nickname was a catchall for propaganda broadcasts, it became synonymous with Iva Toguri, an American-born citizen of Japanese descent.

Toguri graduated from UCLA in 1940. When an elderly aunt fell ill, she went to Japan to help care for her, leaving Los Angeles with only an identification card. When war threatened, Toguri sought a passport from the U.S. vice counsel in Japan, but the State Department had not acted on her request by the time of the Pearl Harbor attack.
After the Japanese surrendered in 1945, Toguri asserted that she was forced into her role by the authorities. She said she broadcast only light musical fare even as she smuggled food and medicine to the Allied prisoners of war. Nevertheless, Toguri was branded as a traitor for having aired such songs as “My Resistance Is Low.”

Toguri was detained for a year by the U.S. military occupiers before being released for lack of evidence. In 1948, however, she was charged by federal prosecutors with having committed treason for “adhering to, and giving aid and comfort to, the Imperial Government of Japan.” After a long trial, a San Francisco jury found her guilty of “speak into a microphone concerning the loss of ships.” She was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison and fined $10,000.
She was released early in 1956 for good behavior.