The Eastbourne Manslaughter

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The Eastbourne manslaughter was an 1860 legal case in Eastbourne, England, concerning the death of 15-year-old Reginald Cancellor (some sources give his name as "Chancellor"[1] and his age as 13 or 14[2]) at the hands of his teacher, Thomas Hopley. Hopley used corporal punishment apparently with the intention of overcoming what he perceived as stubbornness on Cancellor's part, with the result that boy died from the injuries that were caused him.

An inquest into Cancellor's death began when his brother requested an autopsy. As a result of the inquest Hopley was arrested and charged with manslaughter. He was found guilty at trial and sentenced to four years in prison, although he insisted that his actions were justifiable and that he was not guilty of any crime. The trial was sensationalised by the Victorian press, and incited debate over the use of corporal punishment in schools. After Hopley's release and subsequent divorce trial, he largely disappeared from the public record. The case became an important legal precedent in the United Kingdom for discussions of corporal punishment in schools and reasonable limits on discipline.

Background

Thomas Hopley, aged 41 at the time of the incident,[3] was a schoolmaster in Eastbourne who ran a private boarding school out of his home at 22 Grand-parade.[4] He was well-educated and from a middle-class family, the son of a Royal Navy surgeon and brother of artist Edward Hopley. His household was fairly well-off, and he and his wife kept several servants.[5][6] Hopley was described by Algernon Charles Swinburne as "a person of high attainments and irreproachable character".[7] He expressed "utopian" educational ideals that were accepted by many Victorian educational theorists.[5] He wrote pamphlets on education topics[7] which included "Lectures on the Education of Man", "Help towards the physical, intellectual and moral elevation of all classes of society", and "Wrongs which cry out for redress" advocating the...
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