Monday, October 12, 2015

'Monstrous Birth' Claim


The following bizarre notice supposedly appeared regularly in the New York Evening Post during July-August 1807:

TO THE PUBLIC.

A report that a monstrous birth, bearing no marks of the human form, has lately occurred in this city, has within these few weeks been industriously circulated. The malignity of the infamous authors and propagators of that report, whoever they may be, has been carried so far as to fix the detestable charge upon a Young Lady of spotless innocence and merit--and, as if the villains were determined that the tale should gain belief, they have even affected to designate the Physicians who attended at the Birth.

We, therefore, who are the physicians so said to have given our attendance, and who have hereto subscribed our names do most solemnly and unequivocally declare that we have no knowledge of any such occurrence, or of any birth by the lady alluded to; and that from our souls we believe the report to have originated in the most diabolical malice, and to be totally destitute of foundation.

Dated July 31, 1807.

Signed,
JOHN WILSON,
RICHARD S. KISSAM,
JOHN ONDERDONK,
WILLIAM MOORE,
WRIGHT POST,
DANL. B. CORNELIUS,
JOHN RIDDELL,
V.A. SERVANT GRANGEAR, D.M.M.

P.S. Attempts are making by the friends of the young lady, to trace the calumny to its source, for the purpose of inflicting legal and exemplary punishment; and a reward of One Hundred Dollars is hereby offered to any person who will give information of the original author or authors, so as to convict him, her, or them in a court of justice.

It may not be amiss to caution every person against propagating the aforesaid calumny, as, by so doing, they make themselves equally liable in law with the inventor. The peculiar nature of this case is such that the friends of the injured feel themselves justified in saying that they are determined to take every measure within their power to put a speedy end to so cruel and unprecedented a slander.

The printers of country papers, in whose vicinity the tale may have been disseminated, will vindicate injured innocence, and subserve the cause of justice and humanity, by inserting the preceding....

The proffered retraction was not printed in the clip I read. I searched high and low for more information of this incident, but there was none found. During this period of American history, libel and slanderous activity was prevalent...and the newspapers of the time weren't as legal conscience as today.

But on the other hand, could this be a case of 19th century Streisand Effect? In other words, unintended consequence of further publicizing information by trying to have it censored. Instead of successfully removing the information from the public, it becomes even more widely available than before as a backlash against the censorship attempt. This was the case of Barbra Streisand's attempt to stop a website from posting photos of her residence. The full explanation can be found at Streisand Effect.

The word 'calumny' appeared twice in the notice...I had never heard or read this word before:

cal·um·ny
ˈkaləmnē/

noun

The making of false and defamatory statements in order to damage someone's reputation; slander.

Synonyms: slander, defamation (of character), character assassination, libel;

A false and slanderous statement.


So...there you go. Lon

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