20 January 2019

20th January 1843 - Daniel M'Naghton shot Edmund Drummond

On 20th January 1843 a Scottish Woodturner named Daniel M'Naghton shot Edmund Drummond, private secretary to Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel, thinking Drummond was Peel. M'Naghton was later acquitted of murder because it was judged that his mental condition rendered him incapable of judging right from wrong. He had declared that he fired the shot but said 'I was driven to desperation by persecution'. The verdict in M'Naghten's trial provoked an outcry in the press and Parliament. Queen Victoria, who had been the target of assassination attempts, wrote to the prime minister expressing her concern at the verdict.

Chief Justice Tindal delivered a final answer to such concerns to the House of Lords on 19 June 1843. The answer to one of the questions became enshrined in law as the M'Naghten Rules and stated: To establish a defence on the ground of insanity it must be clearly proved, that, at the time of committing the act, the party accused was labouring under such a defect of reason from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing, or if he did know it, that he did not know that what he was doing was wrong.

It has also been argued that poor medical treatment of hastily extracting the bullet, leeches, and bleeding killed Edmund Drummond.

M'Naghten lived out his days in Bethlem and the newly built Broadmoor hospital.

Wikipedia Daniel M'Naghten - Wikipedia has more details. Thankyou to today in psychology history for the date.

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