BOOK REVIEW: In the Shadow of the Gallows: Criminal Law and Capital Punishment in Prince Edward Island, 1796-1941. Jim Hornby Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 1998 Queen's Law Journal and Author, Jointly 
Queen's Law Journal

BOOK REVIEW: In the Shadow of the Gallows: Criminal Law and Capital Punishment in Prince Edward Island, 1796-1941. Jim Hornby

Charlottetown: Institute of Island Studies, 1997

Fall, 1998

24 Queen's L.J. 327


Alan W. Clarke, J.D., LL.M., Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, Ferris State University


Local histories often speak to a limited audience; some, however, transcend parochial concerns and merit a wider hearing. Jim Hornby's riveting account of crimes, trials and executions on Prince Edward Island is one such narrative.

Anyone seriously interested in the history and morality of capital punishment will profit from reading this concise but powerful study. In the best tradition of critical legal history, In the Shadow of the Gallows exposes how politics, social status and justice on the cheap, drove life-and-death decision-making. This Canadian death penalty review parallels Douglas Hay's masterful account of 18th-century British capital punishment in his essay "Property, Authority and the Criminal Law" in Albion's Fatal Tree. 1 Hornby, like Hay, concludes: "The pardon system turned justice into a kind of moral popularity contest, such that those with little influence were most often selected as examples of the weight of the law." 2 That these same themes distort capital punishment regimes in other jurisdictions 3 and focus the debate in our own era gives this historical work immediacy.

Admirers of P.E.I. will appreciate the way in which meticulously-detailed legal contexts at the local level are woven into the larger pattern of British and Canadian legal history -- including the influence of Parliament's "Bloody Code" which featured death by hanging for as many as 220 offenses, 4 and colonial laws following the 1530 Whipping Act of Henry VIII which provided for whipping "at the end of a cart 'till the body became bloody.'" ...
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