25.04.

1792: The First Execution by Guillotine during the French Revolution

1792: The First Execution by Guillotine during the French Revolution
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 25 April 1792
  • The executioner was the well-known Charles Henri Sanson (also known for executing the King Louis XVI later).

The guillotine was used as a means of carrying out the death penalty for the first time in history on this day. 

That device was named after Dr. Joseph Ignace Guillotin, a doctor who was actually very humane and opposed to the death penalty. As a first step towards the full abolition of the death penalty, he saw the introduction of painless method of its execution.

Namely, at that time executions were done using violent methods – only nobles were entitled to having their heads cut off with a sword or an ax, while the lower classes ended up on the gallows.

The breaking wheel was used for those guilty of particularly serious crimes, on which the criminal’s bones were broken and which caused a slow and painful death. Guillotin’s machine, on the contrary, was supposed to execute convicts completely painlessly, and be used for all people equally, regardless of class.

The first person executed on the guillotine was the criminal Nicolas Jacques Pelletier, convicted of a robbery in which he also killed the victim. The execution was carried out on this day on a Paris square in front of the City Hall (Hôtel de Ville). The executioner was the well-known Charles Henri Sanson (also known for executing King Louis XVI later).

It is interesting that the crowds were not satisfied with the performance because the guillotine was too quick and painless. They shouted: “Bring back our wooden gallows!”

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