Monday, January 31, 2011

Empires Built With The Lash

I was talking with a friend the other day about our WhippingDudes videos and explained how one of them was deleted by YouTube management due to containing “inappropriate” material.  He couldn’t understand how this non-sexual activity could be inappropriate when, as he put it, our country was built by whipping men’s backs. 
Both of us being military veterans, I instinctively understood the historical context of what he meant, and so I thought I should make it a topic for the blog.  Many people will jump to the obvious reference to slavery, on which the Southern economy in the United States was based, but there is also the military aspect, which is what my friend was referring to.  

The American system of military discipline derived from how the British treated their soldiers.  Most of the American officers had served in the British Army before joining the War for Independence.  Their comfort level with, and application of, the lash was as strong as the British.  The British Empire sought to keep subject populations in control by using the force of their military, and their officers kept control of their soldiers through fear of the lash. And so it was with American officers.

After the founding, military flogging remained in force for decades.  Even Louis and Clark, who were military officers, resorted to flogging their soldiers during their extraordinary exploration of the vast and wondrous American interior (although the flogging is a rarely included—or noticed—footnote).

Using just these two obvious examples of the British Empire and the United States, we can show that flogging was an accepted foundation for military discipline, and those militaries, in-turn, were used to possess and exploit the resources and populations of conquered lands.  As time went on, societies developed, and subject populations became citizens, with a voice in their own governance.

But we cannot—and should not—forget the bloody backs of the men on which these civilizations were founded:  The men who labored, sweated, fought, and who unwillingly endured the lash for the profits of others.


  1. I wondered if you had considered showing the prisoner being told to strip to the waist, and then being tied up, as it's an integral part of the flogging.

    Any chance of reposting the prison strap video, maybe on a more friendly site.

    Thanks for a great set of videos & the blog.

  2. Stuart, thanks for the encouragement. You are right that the removal of the shirt is an important "dramatic" element, and we are planning on including that in a future video.

    I was able to find a "friendly" site that has kept the first video (Shirtless Muscle Dude Gets Whipped), which included the use of the prison strap, up for weeks. But the site is not for general audiences. I will be happy to provide the URL via email:

  3. It's on xtube saw it last night.

  4. Flogging was the principal punishment in earlier days because it was practical and efficient. There were no jails, and back then, society was not tuned in to the psychological and emotional causes of crime. The object was to demonstrate to the offender, in an acute way, that his conduct was unacceptable, and provide an example to anyone who might be considering the same conduct. In many cases, the pain and humiliation of being trussed up, stripped, and lashed with a whip did the job nicely. Of course, it did not always work, but no punishment has even been a complete deterrent to crime.

  5. The American Empire was definitely founded on the use of the lash. When the Constitution was written in 1787, the banning of cruel and unusual punishment did not prohibit the use of whipping as punishment. Throughout the 19th century, whipping was used extensively in the military, as a judicial punishment and in private businesses. Reformers in the 19th century slowly eroded the use of the lash, but the last state do abolish whipping as a punishment was in the 1950s. From the military during the Civil War to frontier towns in the West to commercial ships on the China trade routes, the whip was considered an essential tool to maintain order. It was an accepted part of life in America, even for those who received the whippings. At the time it was not a human rights issue, it was a fact of life.


  6. Gary, I may be wrong but I am fairly sure the American branches of military service discontinued the lash before the Britiish did. In fact, flogging is still on the books in the British Navy, though (duh) not actually used. But yeah, American prisons and those legendary chaingangs continued it for decades, into the 1960s at least.
    Flogging still is practical and efficient and way cheaper than prison time. Give offending males the choice (depending on the offense--some animals need to be kept off the streets, period). We already know what the men here would choose.

  7. In David McCullough's book, "John Adams," there is an interesting passage about John Adams's effort to draft Articles of War during the Revolutionary War. The British Articles were used as the basis, but

    "[t]he severity of punishments was increased, as [George] Washington wished. Washington though the maximum number of lashes allowed hitherto was hardly sufficient. For crimes such as drunkenness or sleeping on guard duty, Congress increased the punishment from thirty-nine lashes to a hundred lashes, and increased as well the number of crimes for which the penalty was death."

    D. McCullough, John Adams at 160 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001).

  8. Re-reading the excerpt from "John Adams," I would think that 39 lashes of the whip, well laid across the bare back, would be sufficient to wake up the soundest sleeper, but who am I to question the opinion of George Washington, the "Father of our Country"? I am glad to know that he was a devotee of flogging as punishment, but I also note that, for many persons, a sentence of 100 lashes may have been equivalent to a death sentence.

  9. The brutality of American "justice" hasn't abated with the centuries, it just changed form: from the lash of old to prisons-for-profit today.

  10. paul, aka padma pema zhanchubzangpoApril 5, 2011 at 1:31 PM

    bring back the lash,whipping post. it would save the country millions of $ in prison cost, plus the offender would not waste tax payers money taking up space in county jails, and or prisons. also the offender could get back to work almost immediately without losing his/her job; thereby contributing to society, and their family. hopefully saving their job & relationship. bring back the lash & help save our country.