On this date in 1696, Thomas Randal was executed and hanged in chains for the robbery-murder of a Quaker named Roger Levens or Leavens.
Despite what the broadsheet below would have you believe, Randal never acknowledged the crime and begged forgiveness, at least not outside the confines of his own soul. The Ordinary of Newgate devotes a considerable portion of his 29th January 1696 account to his thorough but unavailing work on Randal’s conscience.
“On Wednesday in the Afternoon I took him aside,” he recounts — seemingly referring to a conversation a week prior to the hanging, which took place on Wednesday the 29th.
and for a considerable time endeavour’d to perswade him, no longer Athiestically [sic] to deny the Crime; but he stood out in the denial of it, whereupon I read to him, what was sworn against him at his Tryal, and that the Jury was fully convinced in their Consciences that he was guilty. Which they declared, when they gave their Verdict. He reply’d, That he did not matter that, being clear in his own Conscience. Then I told him, that he obstructed any Rational Hopes of his Salvation, and that all Persons who read the Book of Tryals, whom I met with, believ’d him to be guilty.
I pray’d, that God would work him to a free and full acknowledgment of his Crime, and grant him Repentance for it. Yet he deny’d it, and said, That he was resolved to to so at the time of his Death. I told him of a Person who Murther’d his Wife, and deny’d it several times at the place of Execution, wishing Damnation on himself, if he knew any thing of it. After I had pray’d thrice, that God would perswade him to declare the Truth; I told him, If I went out of the Cart any more, he would be presently Executed, and then he could not be Saved, dying in his Atheistical Impenitency. At last he call’d me back and said, I Murthered my Wife with a Pistol, and shot her in the Head; but let not the People know it. I said, your self shall declare, that you Murthered her. Then he said, All you that behold me pray for me, that God would Pardon my great Provocation of him denying my Crime against my Conscience; for had I died with a Lye in my Mouth, I had been damned. This Account somewhat startled Randal, and altred his Countenance; then I pray’d again, that God would not leave him to dye in so barbarous a Crime, but to confess it, and to Repent of his former Obstinacy. After this he said not any word by way of reply: Then I told him, that he ought to consider of whatsoever I had said, and I hoped that he would confess the Crime before he dy’d. He said, that he had lived in much Sinning, but would not acknowledge any particular.
Breaking down the obstinance of the doomed was one of the Ordinary’s core competencies but he never managed to add Randal’s soul to his ranks of sheep stealers made saints: the man went to the gallows with the same story on his lips.
On Wednesday the 29 January, Thomas Randal who killed Roger Levens the Quaker, was put into a Cart and conveyed by the Deceased’s Door at White-Chappel, and from thence to the Place of his Execution at Stone-bridge by Kingsland, where he is to hang in Irons, on a Gibbet, till his Body be consumed. He did confess that he was at the Marshalsea with Lock and Green but denied that he never spoke any such Words, that he did kill the Quaker: he acknowledged that he did say to the Serjeant when he was Taken, that he was a Dead Man, and that he had been a very wicked Sinner, and had been Guilty of all manner of Sins in general; (except that of Murder) He owned a Burglary that he committed at Linton, near Saffron Walden in Essex; but would not confess any of his Accomplices. He said that Hunt and he had been in many Robberies. The Worthy Sheriffs did exhort him with Spiritual Council, that he should make an Ingenious Confession, and not to perfist in his Obstinacy, and Dye with a Lye in his Mouth, but to have regard to his precious soul; it wrought nothing upon him, his Heart being so hardened, he would not discover any thing of the Murder; nor any of the Persons that was with him at the time; but hoped that he had done his Work with God-Almighty. Then Mr. Ordinary pressed him, and told him that Confession was the first step to Repentance; and without that he could hardly make his Peace with God; but it did avail nothing with him, he still persisting in the same, till the Cart Drew away; He was turned off.