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EXAMINATION OF A CAST OF THE HEAD OF BURGESS.

Being a portion of a Lecture on Phrenology, by A. S. Hamilton, Esq , delivered in the Provincial Hall, for the Benefit of the Maungatapu Monument Fund.

Perhaps in the whole range of the history of notorious criminals, of either ancient or modern date, it would be difficult to find ono more remarkable than that of tho murderer Burgess. The latitude afforded in tins province for the manifestation of tlie peculiarly intellectual character of the man, may have tended in some measure to magnify its importance; but, viewing the conduct of Burgess, a3 I have had an opportunity of doing — simply as considered with reference to his trial, his manner in prison, and his extraordinary display on the morning of his execution — I am forced to declare that he stands alono in completeness of polished and successful ruffianism, and has no rival, either in the magnitude of his crimes, or in the part ho acted in his last hour upon earth.

Some knowledge of the criminal career of Burgess must bo possessed by all who havo taken any interest in the recent trial ; but, apart from all his antecedents, there has been enough in the conduct of the man from his arrest, to his trial, his conviction, and his manner in prison and in the gaol yard on the morning of his execution, to afford scope for tho exercise of amazement, wonder, serious reflection, philosophical criticism, fear, a senso of horror at the thought of the deeds of blood to which he confessed ; and a mixed sentiment of pity, admiration, and revenge, which have combined to make his name terrible, and to preserve tho record of his atrocities and the character of his deportment, as evidence to future generations, of the depth to which man may fall when his intellect is the servant of his evil passions, and when his pride becomes so perverted as to make it his supremo pleasure to excel in acts of violence against the rights of property and the sacredness of human life. I say, that with regard to Burgess, thero is in the public mind a compound feeling or sentiment of pity, admiration, and revenge. Pity, that so much daring, expertness and ability should have been lost to society by being wrongly directed ; admiration, for the firmness, and cheerfulness, and politeness, which he displayed during his long incarceration and up to the morning of his execution ; revenge, that so much of cool, calculating, remorseless murder should have been committed by one so bold, so capable of knowing full}' the error of his ways, so awfully unscrupulous and destructive in the prosecution of his fiendish designs. That you may follow me the more clearly in the course of my analysis of his character, I will, in the first place, give you the particulars of his cerebral organization, and of his temperament : —

Size of head,circumference measurement, 22 inches; longth, from occipital spine to Individuality, 14£ inches ; from opening of car, to ear, over Firmness, loj inches ; from centre of Cautiousness, to ditto, 6fr inches ; from tho opening of the ear to Individuality, 6J- inches ; from Constructiveness, to ditto, over Benevolence, 10i inches ; from Comparison to Self-esteem, 7 inches.

Temperament. — Nervous, three parts ; Sanguine, two parts ; Fibrous, three parts.

Relative Proportion of Organs. — Amativone3B, 16 ; Philoprogenitiveness, 16 ; Inhabitiveness, 14 ; Concentrativeness, 14; Adhesiveness, 14; Combativeness, 19; Destructivencss, 19; Love of Life, 15; Alimentiveness, 16 ; Secretiveness, 17 ; Acquisitiveness, 18; Constructiveness, 17; Self-esteem, 20 ; Love of Approbation, 18 ; Cautiousness, 17 ; Benevolence, 17 ; Veneration, 15 ; Firmness, 19 ; Conscientiousness, 15 ; Hope, 17 ; Wonder, 18 ; Ideality, 17£; Sublimity, 17; Imitation, 18; Individuality, 16£ ; Form, lih ; Size, 19 ; Weight, 19 ; Colour, 16i- ; Locality, 19 ; Number, 17 ; Order, 17£ ; Eventuality, 17 ; Time, 17 ; Tune, 16 J ; Language, 17£ ; Comparison, 19 ,- Causality, 17£ ; Wit, 17. The most remarkable features of the phrenological development of Burgess, are strikingly in harmony with those traits of his character which have supported him undauutedly, and self-relyingly, throughout his extraordinary position during theso last few weeks, and more especially during the terrible scene of Friday morning, in which he played the leading part.

Self-esteem, firmness, combativeness, destructiveness, imitation, hope, and intellect, aro all very large, or nearly large. Self-esteem and firmness, in particular, stand out and up in full relief in his head as distinctly as their natural language wns manifested in the gaol yard and on the scaffold. Whatever our opinions may be regarding tho sincerity, or the contrary, of his religious professions, wo are bound to acknowledge that ho at least met his fate rejoicingly, and that all that could ennoble so depraved a nature was manifested by him up to tho lust moment of his life. Whether or no his hope and faith wore well founded must be left to tho infinite for judgment ; but that he exhibited both hope and faith in his deportment and language there cannot be a doubl. There was no trembling ; no halting ; no indecision ; no faltering of the tongue ; no quiver of the lip ; no lack of firmness of step ; no evidence of physical or mental weakness ; no fear of man ; no indication of fear of God ; no evidence of soul-subduing abasement; no sign of true sorrow for the wives ho had made husbandlcss, for the children he had made fatherless ; no flush of conscious shame on tho cheek that approached, on several occasions, within a few inches of the cheek of those with whom he exchanged salutations. His tongue, indeed, did sound eloquently tho language of thanks to the people assembled; of praise to the God of the universe ; of faith in and love for tho infinitely meek and gracious Saviour into whose arms he was about to ascend ; but if the natural language of pride and vanity can be observed in the deportment and manner of men, surely such language was evinced in the manner of Burgess. There is a crisis in tho career of the wicked, in which conscience itself becomes perfectly seared and perverted, and surely such a crisis had been passed by this prince of modern devils. If conscience in him had not been perverted, and swallowed up in prido and vanity, and m false hope and false faith, how could it havo been possible for him to have acted the part ho did on the morning of the execution. He was more jubilaut in manner than that of the martyrs we havo read of who died for the triumph of what they devoutly believed to be the truth. He hailed tho beauty and the brightness of the morning as emblematic of the joy that awaited him when ho ascended into heaven ; he kissed the rope by which he was about to be strangled, as a prelude to his entry into bliss ; he confidently pronounced tho names of God and Christ, as if these names had afforded him consolation and succour throughout his sinful life ; and ho seemed eager to catch the eyes of all spectators, ami the ears of all listeners, that testimony might be borne to his triumphant exit from time to eternity, from earth to heaven, from the scene of his murderous career to his place among angels in glory. This is no picture of fancy, no romance, but an almost indistiuct picture of but a very small part of the scene presenred by the conduct of Burgess before the termination of the tragedy demanded by the law in satisfaction of blood for blood.

When first I pressed tho hand of this nmnslaycr, ho shrunk from lny grasp, and said, with something like the emphasis of a moral sigh, that his was a murderer's hand, and therefore unworthy to be grasped by a Christian; but in the prison yard, when challenged to put forth all the might of hi» sell-assurance, he grasped my hand with firmness, returning the pressure which I communicated to his ; and he passed from one man to another, shaking hands and exchanging salutations, with a confidence that inspired fear in some, and a senso of moral loathing in others, but which, nevertheless, was perfectly triumphant as far as he himself seemed to feel ; inasmuch as the difference in tho expression of countenance or of the manner of some did not in the least disturb his repose, or mar his marvellous selfpossession. I glory in the study of human character, but it is my sincere desiro that I may never again witness such a painful demonstration of the truth of phrenology as 1 witnessed in the extraordinary display which Burgess miide of his powerful self-esteem and firmness, and of the effect of these organs in calling forth most dcinonstrably all the energies of bis body and mind.

He had evidently conceived and studied well the character of tho hero he imitated to perfection ; and when we look to his large imitation, his active imagination and language, and his highly developed reflective powers, we perceive the mental resources which enabled him to succeed in thoroughly mastering the difficult task he had predetermined to undertake and accomplish. Wonder is large; hope is fairly developed ; ideality is also fair ; and comparison is very large ; hence his conception of, and reference to, the future, to the mysterious, and to the blissful and beautiful ; hence his aptitude in the use of figures of speech ; hence his appreciation of the relative value and associatiou of words ; hence the fertility and aptitude of mind ho displayed in addressing more than a dozen different persons in different modes of speech, and of appearing equal to any demand that might be made upon him for a momentary reply to any question, however puzzling to his understanding, or likely to confuse a mind less ready or less self-confident. His love of approbation, though nearly large, was not such as to prevent the full display of his self-esteem ; and though he studied effect, and was sensitively alivo to opinion and approval, his supreme satisfaction was, first with himself, then with his God and Saviour (whoso servant he seemed anxious that we should believe him to have suddenly become), and, lastly, with his fellow-man, with whom he was happy to associate, and to some of whom ho paid high compliments ; to others he delivered short lectures on the beauty and necessity of the principles of benevolence in the management of the wicked, that they might be led in the paths of duty and obedieuce. In much of this thero was something that was true, something that was real, but throughout the entire scene there was nothing in the aspect, in tho manner, or in the tone or language of Burgess that spoke the sentiment of true penitence, or that whispered the accents of tonder moral contrition.

I have dwelt at great length on the aspect, manner, and conduct of this man during the last halfyenr of his life, in order to show you how compl6tely effective for the acting of a trying part, which demands all the physical and moral courage, and all the faculties of his mind, is the large ondowment of the organs of combativeness, destructiveness, firmness, and self-esteem ; and I again refer you to these organs, as the group which has brought before us so much of the character of Richard Burgess.

In my presence, during my first interview with him in gaol, he did seem in some degree sensibly affected, when I asked him if I could in any way be of service to his mother. He almost seemed affected to tenderness when, on my second visit, he spoke to me of a young woman in Hokitika, whose parents lived in Sydney, and whom he wished to return home as soon as he could arrange to let her have £370, which he then had control over. Upon speaking to him about my intention to lecture on a cast of his head for the benefit of the Monument Fund, he said, " Ah ! that is right ; and I do not know but I may do something for that myself." After deliberating for a second or two, however, he remarked that he thought it was his first duty to make some provision for the young woman, whom he flattered into love and confidence, and who, he said, was in a delicate position at present, and required all the money he could give her. This speaks on behalf of his benevolence, and it also testifies to a certain amount of activity of conscientiousness ; but it would indeed be strange, if these two organs should be altogether dead in reference to one so young (only about twenty), and particularly when in that position, which, either more or less, subdues or softens the rudest passions of the rudest of men. Benevolence was the largest organ in the moral region of Burgess ; but, alas ! it was not large enough to cope with the selfishness which aroso from inordinate self-esteem, or to soften sufficiently the sternness which was the result of large combativoness, destructiveness, and firmness.

Secretiveness, in Burgess, was not a leading feature, nor was cautiousness equal to his excessive selfassurance; hence we find him impulsive, fearless, and daring to foolhardiness, in his desperate career in Tasmania, in Pentridge, in Victoria, and even in his bold and foolishly defiant manner in connection with the late trial ; in fact, though secretiveness, cautiousness and reason, are well developed, and are sufficient for the ordinary cunning and finesse of the pickpocket, the Bwindler, and the burglar, they are not large enough to give patience and tact, and deliberative planning, in cases in which long delay would be required for tho successful execution of his plans. Impatience of delay springs from commanding selfreliance, and indomitable firmness, with but moderate veneration and defective conscientiousness. When the latter organ is defective, there ia a tendency in tho mind to become impulsive and irregular, therefore tho very unscrupulousness of the bad man will often hurry him into deeds which seem at variance with his known cunning and tact. Burges9 was conceited to folly, and rash to madness, though, from being long pressed by the pressuro of danger on every side, he had increased in caution in his latter years. From an examination of the form of the base of this head, it will be seen that, at the situation of the organ of vitativeness, or love of life, there is a flatness and narrowness which accord with the smallness of this organ, and to this we must ascribe much of the indifference to life which he displayed, both with reference to his own life and to the lives of his victims. His firmness of will, his active destructiveness, his absence of a proper share of veneration and conscientiousness, and his but moderate benevolence, present a group of qualities which left him without mercy, justice, reverence, or compunction in cases in which he had an end of importance in view, however much that end violated the rights of men and the sacredness of human life.

The passion of love for woman was, in him, a something to be indulged iv only so far and so often as it squared with, and gave importance to, his desire of power and dominion ; this at least was its fundamental character. Had it been otherwise, had his love been tender, warm, or powerful, or steady, or lasting, he, with his pride, his good taste and good abilities in the arts, and with his general expertness, would have become mated for life, and followed a totally different course from that which he followed. It is, however, hardly possible that the life he led as a London pickpocket, for years during his early boyhood, could have tended to foster either true or powerful love ; and it is well known that his career in Tasmania, his life of robbery for years in Victorin, during the early part of the gold discovery, and his imprisonment in irons for years on board of the hulk in Hobson's Bay, could not have in any way tended to cherish or nourish his affections ; but on the contrary, to have withered and blasted them just at tho period of his early manhood, when they are most powerfully open to receive impressions either for good or evil.

In confirmation of the peculiar smallness of the social organs, and of the appearance of their having been stilled in their growth, I asked his Honour the Superintendent, who was present in the gaol when I made the examination of Burgess' head, to put his hand on the back part, that he might feel the peculiarity to which I now call your attention. I am, therefore, decidedly of opinion that the early misdirection of his affections, the abase of the propensities which arise from intercourse of thieves of both sexes who usually herd together, have had much influence in producing the monster who is the subject of this sketch.

Is it too much to request, that the young men of Nelson who have already commenced a career of gambling, of sensuality, and of intemperance, may pause to consider whether they may not have taken one step on the road which led Burgess to the gallows ?

The perceptive faculties of size, and weight, and locality were very large ; these, with imitation large, constructiveness,' and form, and colour fairly developed, gave him considerable ability in the fine manipulative arts, hence his talent as a stone cutter, in which he excelled in the gaols of the other colonies ; hence his extraordinary nicety in delicate and beautiful caligraphy, specimens of which I now hold in my hand, and which he presented to me in prison ; hence his talent as a crack shot, which caused him to be feared ; hence his power to inaire his way as a traveller in the bush ; hence his confidence in his ability to master navigation, while he was imprisoned in Otago, so that, when he regained his liberty, he would seek for a desperate crew, become

their captain, and capture one of the largo ships homeward bound with gold! Locality, size, and weight, and number nro necessary to bo large for a •knowledge of theoretical and practical navigation ; and, finding himself apt when he chose to apply his mind, his large self-esteem, firmness, wonder ami hope, would supply the assurance, tli3 resolution, fhe extravagance, and tho anticipation of success, it" he only had his freedom once more, to urge him to make the desperate but madly foolish attempt. The preponderance of the intellectual over the merely sensual nature of Burgess, may reasonably account for the fact that he left Ms cell for the scaffold with a small bunch of flowers in his handmeant as an emblem, no doubt, of his natural refino-

ment of character ; and when we know that he ever and anon presented this type of purity and beauty to his no3e and eyes, with an evident enjoyment of its fragrance and of its loveliness, we are ied to believe that there was a reality in all this, so far as it accorded with his organization ; at the same time, we are bound to remark that, had ho been properly impressed with tho solemn reality of his position, he would have used no physical type as a guarantee of the purity of his intentions, or the sincerity of his moral impressions. I fear that in truth it must be said that the presents which he gave to me, the flowers he brought with him to Iho scaffold, the expressions which he used on the beauty of the morning, the inference to tho ineetness of that beauty to his bridal morn, tho ideal sentimont regarding the appropriateness of the blessed sunshine of tho morning to his new birth in Christ and to his flight to bliss in paradise; I say I fear that all these were but the accompaniments of the morbid activity of a group of organs, which has been repeatedly referred to in this sketch, namely, self-esteem, love of approbation, and hope and faith ; the two latter perverted by the false training he had received, and tho two former, especially the first, seeking that — in all things, in life or death — (he man Burgess should act, look, and speak in a higher strain than any man ever did before who was placed in a similar position.

Burgess is a Cockney, according to his own account. From his birth until eight years of age, he was the only cherished object of his mother's love. His mother, tho only parent he ever knew, was, for eight years, maintained by her seducer in a retired street, in London. She pampered her son by excess of fondness, until he became a tyrant, and, when she married a widower, with a family, of the name of Weeks, or Wicks, her only son was placed in a new position for which his training, by a doating mother, did not in any way prepare him ; therefore, he soon, as is often the case, quarreled with his step-father and step-brothers ; after this, he became a London thief, then a burglar, was tried and condemned to fifteen years' penal servitude, two years of which he passed iv one of the earliest reformatories erected in the neighbourhood of London,

He told me that, had he been allowed to have returned to his home at the expiration of these two years, he would have commenced a new life, as the terrors of the prison, and the religious instruction he had received had worked wonders in producing a change for the better in his mind.

It would take me a month to write, and a whole day to describe all that I know and think concerning this man, but I must conclude by saying, that the world has lost the services of a bold, expert, noble, and clever man for a soldier, a sailor, or explorer, because of the want of due care in his training in boyhood ; because of the bad effects of prison associations on Buch a mind, and more especially because of tho ignorance that prevailed in regard to the proper management and classification of prisoners in the various prisons in which he was confined.

Had the principles of practical phrenology been applied to Burgess in childhood and in youth, the people of Nelson would have been spared tho double horror of the double tragedy recently enacted in their midst.

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NENZC18661016.2.9

Bibliographic details

Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Volume XXV, Issue 128, 16 October 1866

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3,733

EXAMINATION OF A CAST OF THE HEAD OF BURGESS. Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Volume XXV, Issue 128, 16 October 1866

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