This week in 1776
“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”
— Nathan Hale, convicted of espionage, hanging, colonial New York.
Executed September 22, 1776
An American spy during the Revolutionary War, Hale pretended to be a British loyalist but was captured after his true identity was revealed. The standards of the time dictated that spies be hanged as illegal combatants. While these are reported to be Hale’s last words, they bear significant resemblance to a line from Cato, a play by George Addison that was popular at the time: “What a pity it is / That we can die but once to serve our country.”
This week in 1851
“Lord Jesus, have mercy on my soul. God bless you. I hope I shall be better off…You must all beware of Rum; for rum has been the cause of placing me here to meet this awful fate. I warn you all not to touch the intoxicating bowl, for it will eventually get the advantage of you all. I am sorry to die under the gallows but the laws must be carried out, and die I must, remember what I say, Rum has done it all, and I hope all who are here will be taking warning by it…I thank the good and worthy Sheriff and others for what they have done for me, God bless the Sheriff, and heaven bless you all, good-by.”
—Aaron Stookey, convicted of murder, hanging, New York.
Executed September 19, 1851
Stookey, forty-two, owned a shabby pub on Little Water Street in Manhattan’s notorious Five Points district. A knife fight broke out when he tried to forcefully expel a disruptive drunk, Zeddy Moore. When their skirmish ended, only Stookey remained standing. The sheriff said, “Stookey, this is one of the most painful duties I ever performed, but I am forced to do my duty, so good-by, and may God bless you. I hope you will be happy in the other world.” Six hundred people attended Stookey’s hanging.
This week in 1996
“There are people all over the world who face things worse than death on a daily basis, and in that sense I consider myself lucky. I cannot find the words to express the sadness I feel for bringing this hurt and pain on my loved ones. I will not ask forgiveness for the decisions I have made in this judicial process, only acceptance. God bless you all.”
— Joe Gonzales, convicted of murder, lethal injection, Texas.
Executed September 18, 1996
Gonzales shot and killed fifty-year-old William J. Veader and then made off with cash and other items. The single gunshot was orchestrated to look like a self-inflicted wound, so authorities at first assumed Veader’s death to be a suicide.