Posts filed under '18th Century'

1778: Bathsheba Spooner, the first woman hanged in the USA

1 comment July 2nd, 2020 Headsman

Bathsheba Spooner, the first woman executed* in the post-Declaration of Independence (i.e., post-July 4, 1776) United States.

The daughter of one of Massachusetts’s most prominent Tory loyalists — the latter fled to Nova Scotia during the events comprising this post, owing to the ongoing American Revolution — Spooner was married to a wealthy Brookfield gentleman whom she utterly despised.

From late 1777 into 1778, Bathsheba beguiled three young would-be Davids — Ezra Ross, a wounded former Continental Army soldier whom she nursed back to health; and James Buchanan and William Brooks, two redcoat deserters — into getting rid of Mr. Joshua Spooner.

Ross she sent on February 1778 business trip with her hubby and instructions to dose him with nitric acid. The youth chickened out and didn’t do it — but neither did he warn his proposed victim what was afoot.

A couple of weeks later, the Brits achieved by main force what their American opposite dared not attempt by stealth, and “on the evening of the first of March, about 9 o’clock, being returning home from his neighbors, near by his own door was feloniously assaulted by one or more ruffians, knocked down by a club, beat and bruised, and thrown into his well with water in it.” Ross, importantly, had been invited by his lover/sponsor to return and he helped to dispose of the body.

They had not a day’s liberty after this shocking crime, evidently having thought little beyond the deed; the very young Ross especially stands out for his naivete — certainly mingled with lust and cupidity as he contemplated the prospect of attaining a frolicsome, wealthy widow — when the wife went to work on him.

As She was going to Hardwick She asked me the Reason of my being so low Spirited?  I made answer It was my long absence from home.  She replyed that her Opinion was, I wanted some one to lodge with — I told her it would be agreeable.  She asked me if Such an One as her self would do?  I made answer If She was agreeable I was.  [Marginal notation: The Dialect was so.]  Upon which She said “After She came off her Journey she would See.”
 
N.B. After her Return She Gave me an Invitation to Defile her Marriage Bed; which I Expected. [accepted] And after that she proposed constantly every sheam [scheme] for her Husbands Death.  [Marginal notation: The spelling is so.]
 
Ezra Ross

The above is a written account given in jail to the preacher Ebenezer Parkman, who preached a thundering sermon three days after the executions titled “The Adultress Shall Hunt for the Precious Life””

a woman who … allows her loose imagination to range and wander after Others, nay not a few, & rove from [her husband] to pollute & defile the marriage bed [indulging] her own wanton salacious desires … How loathsome are all such, and how directly opposite the pure & holy Nature, Law, and Will of God.

So keep thee from the Evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman. Neither let her take thee with her eyelids. There are a thousand dangers, that poor young wretches are in by reason of the snres & traps which are everywhere laid … particularly the poor beardless youth not quite 18. (As quoted in Deborah Navas’s book about the affair, Murdered by his Wife)

Mrs. Spooner, whose Loyalist family ties did her no favors in this moment, sought a reprieve on grounds of pregnancy. Many condemned women in those days made such requests; more often than not they were temporizing devices that bought no more than the time needed for a panel of matrons to examine them and dismiss the claim. In her case, four examiners submitted a dissenting opinion to the effect “that we have reason to think that she is now quick with child.” Although overruled, they were correct: after the dramatic quadruple execution under a thunderstorm at Worcester’s Washington Square, an autopsy found that Spooner was about five months along with what would have been her fifth child.

According to an early 20th century Chicago Chronicle retrospective (retrieved here via a reprint in the Charleston News and Courier, Jan. 24, 1904) her grave can be located on a manor at Worcester that formerly belonged to the great New York City planner Andrew Haswell Green: Bathsheba Spooner’s sister was Green’s grandmother.

A full original record of the proceedings does not survive for us, but this public domain volume has a lengthy chapter about events, with an appendix preserving some of the original documents.

* We’re at the mercy of uncertain documentation in this context, of course, but there are at least none whose executions can be established that predate Spooner’s within the infant republic. Per the Espy file, a woman named Ann Wyley was hanged in Detroit in 1777, but at the time that city was under British administration as part of the province of Quebec.

For its part, Massachusetts hanged several more women in the 1780s, but has not executed any other women since the George Washington presidential administration. It’s presently a death penalty abolitionist jurisdiction.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Children,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Massachusetts,Milestones,Murder,Public Executions,Sex,Soldiers,USA,Wartime Executions,Women

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1748: Marretje Arents, for the Pachtersoproer

2 comments June 28th, 2020 Headsman

On this date in 1748, three instigators of a riot hanged in an Amsterdam public square, while worse fates befell those who came to see it.

It was only a few days earlier that the Pachtersoproer (English Wikipedia entry | Dutch) had torn apart the homes of nineteen tax collectors and magnates in the capital. These violent protests against inequitable taxation and oligarchical power had actually begun in Friesland and Groningen, the northernmost provinces of the Low Countries, before spreading to Amsterdam.

Marretje Arents (English Wikipedia entry | Dutch), a fishmonger supporting four children while her husband was abroad as a soldier in the East Indies, was seen on that Monday, June 24th, clad in a distinctive red chintz exhorting rioters to wreak revenge on the grandees and helping to ransack at least one house. According to the chronicle (1740-1752) of Abraham Chaim Braatbard, she spat at one agent,

Today we are the boss and tomorrow we will come to you at the town hall. Then we will see what we will do with all of you, gentlemen land-thieves … [then, lifting her skirt] Now you can clean my ass, because that’s all I have left for you.

This bold and public flaunting of an insurrectionary intent was not accompanied by a political achievement more lasting than a couple of days’ looting. When Arents simply turned up on June 27th at her market stall to go about her usual business just as if she hadn’t been trying to overturn it all three days before, she was arrested for sedition. Of course, there must have been hundreds of others who either weren’t identified or weren’t deemed worth making an example of who did go right back to their normal lives, nursing their grievances in customary silence.

Marretje Arents’s voice is heard in the annals, at the cost of her life.

By the next day at noon, she and two other perceived leaders of the disturbance, Mat van der Nieuwendijk [see comments] and Pieter van Dordt, were publicly hanged at the Waag op de Dam.* Over the brattle of drummers charged with drowning her incitements to the crowd, she was still heard to keep out her cries for rebellion until the moment the rope closed her throat.

Revenge, my dear citizens, assist me. For you now let me die so shamefully, while I have not fought for myself. I did it for the whole country, against the tyranny of the tenants, who tormented us citizens and forcibly took our money and good for the lease.

She would not have had to outlive her hanging more than a few minutes to see it. As the next of the riotous “captains” was strung up, a disturbance broke out in the packed square. It’s not certainly recorded whether this was a wave of sympathy responding to Marretje Arents, or the chance surge of a large crowd jostling for position, or something else besides — but suddenly the host of onlookers stampeded, crushing their fellows underfoot and pushing others into the Amstel River. Braatbard guessed that some 200 souls might have lost their lives for the sake of this triple execution … but whether 3 lives or 203, the important thing to the Low Countries’ rulers was that the Pachtersoproer did not re-emerge.

* The Waag, or weigh-house, served the bustling commercial district that grew up around Dam Square at the heart of Amsterdam. It was demolished in 1808 under French occupation.


Painting of Dam Square from the late 1600s, by Dutch master Gerrit Berckheyde. The weigh-house in the middle of the square presents an obviously suitable landmark for an affair like a public execution; just as well, since by this time its original function had been ceded to a new and larger weigh-house which still survives as the city’s venerable Waag. It was in the latter building that the dissection was performed that Rembrandt immortalized in The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Netherlands,Public Executions,Revolutionaries,Rioting,Women

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

1786: Phoebe Harris, coiner

Add comment June 21st, 2020 Richard Clark

(Thanks to Richard Clark of Capital Punishment U.K. for the guest post, a reprint of an article originally published on that site with some explanatory links added by Executed Today. CapitalPunishmentUK.org features a trove of research and feature articles on the death penalty in England and elsewhere. -ed.)

Up to 1790, women convicted of High Treason and Petty Treason were burned at the stake. Although I am sure you have a perception of what High Treason is, as a crime in those days, it also encompassed several other offences, notably coining. Coining covered several individual offences relating only to gold and silver coins, e.g. clipping coins to provide coin metal for forgeries, colouring coins to make them appear of higher value, making counterfeit coins and having the equipment to do any of the above. Coining was considered treasonable because it directly affected the State and confidence in the currency.

The crime.

Under the name of Mrs. Brown, Phoebe Harris had rented a room from one Joel Sparkes at a house in Drury Lane, London (No. 19, in Swan-yard) before Christmas 1785. A friend of hers, Francis Hardy, had recommended her to Sparkes, describing her as a captain’s widow with a private income. In reality, it seems that Phoebe had been separated from her husband for two or three years. Whilst Phoebe lived at this address she was regularly engaged in filing and clipping coins and then using the metal to make new counterfeit coins in sand moulds. Francis Hardy was the person who was later to inform the police of the goings on at No. 19. There was a suggestion, flatly denied by him in court, that Francis Hardy had had a relationship with Phoebe. He did, however, take her teenage daughter in as a servant on the day of her mother’s arrest.

Arrest.

At about 5 o’clock in the afternoon of Saturday, the 11th of February 1786, John Clarke (a constable) went to No. 19 in consequence of the information he had received and found Phoebe Harris and Elizabeth Yelland in the first floor room. He and his assistants, George Meecham, Patrick Macmanus, and William Andrews, broke down the locked door and arrested the two female occupants. They then searched the room in which they found some counterfeit coins and the necessary equipment for coining in an adjoining closet.

When John Clarke compared the counterfeit shillings to genuine ones, it was clear that they had been cast from a mould made from a genuine shilling. In all, some 12 counterfeit coins were discovered, both shillings and sixpences. One of the genuine sixpences had a hole in it and this was evident in the counterfeits.

A little later, after the rooms had been searched, Elizabeth’s brother, Joseph Yelland, returned home and was also arrested. All three were taken to Bow Street to appear before a magistrate. They were remanded in custody at Newgate to stand trial at the next Sessions of the Old Bailey.

The trial.

Capital trials at this period took up very little time with a number being conducted during a single day. The April Sessions of the Old Bailey in 1786 were held on Wednesday, the 26th of that month, before Mr. Baron Eyre. Among those indicted were Joseph Yelland, otherwise known as Holman, Phebe Harris (spelling of Phoebe as given in the original indictment) and Elizabeth Yelland, who were jointly charged with two specimen counts, as follows: “for that they, on the 11th of February last, one piece of false, feigned, and counterfeit money and coin, to the likeness and similitude of the good, legal, and silver coin of this realm, called a shilling, falsely, deceitfully, feloniously, and traiterously did counterfeit and coin, against the duty of their allegiance, and against the statute.” There was also a second count of coining a sixpence. The shilling is the equivalent of the current 5p coin, whilst a sixpence is the equivalent of 2.5p. Although in 1786, these two coins had much greater purchasing power they were still coins of small denomination.

The prosecution was opened by Mr. Silvester, assisted by Mr. Wilson and Mr. Garrow led the defence. [Silvester and Garrow were famous combatants at the bar. See this post for another instance. -ed.]

The case was heard before the 2nd Middlesex jury, consisting of twelve men. Both sides were able to call witnesses and cross examine those for the other side. In this case, the Crown called the constables involved in the raid, together with the landlord and his son. They also called Francis Hardy, who gave direct eyewitness evidence of the manufacture and colouring of the counterfeit coins. The coining equipment found in the rooms was produced in court as evidence. Hardy also suggested that the group had bought forged coins from other criminals to pass off as good — also a capital crime then, known as uttering. He stated in his testimony that she continued with the coining business even though she knew that Hardy was fully aware of what she was doing. It appears that there had been some disagreement between Hardy and Phoebe and this may have led to him informing on her.

The defence was principally based upon the testimony of character witnesses for each of the defendants who averred them to be people of good character. Phoebe addressed the court as follows: “My Lord and Gentlemen of the Jury, I am an unhappy woman; I was desired by a young man of the name of John Brown, to take the room, which I did, and he brought the things found in the room; and desired me to secrete them, and I not knowing the nature of them, or for what purpose they were intended, did do so, and so I told the gentleman when they came and took me: as to my sister-in-law, I being very ill, she came to clean the room for me, and the gentleman found her cleaning it on her knees: and my brother-in-law came some time after the gentlemen had been in the room.”

She also called two character witnesses.

The jury took some time in their deliberations before finding Phoebe guilty and, despite Francis Hardy’s evidence against them, acquitting Elizabeth and Joseph Yelland. As was normal sentencing of all those convicted, took place at the end of the Sessions. Nine prisoners were condemned to death, these being: Hannah Mullins, William Smith, Edward Griffiths, James May, George Woodward, Daniel Keefe, Jonathan Harwood and William Watts, who were sentenced to be hanged while Phoebe was condemned to be burned at the stake. Many other prisoners were sentenced to transportation or imprisonment. Hannah Mullins and James May were subsequently reprieved to transportation. The condemned were returned to Newgate prison to await their fates.

Execution.

Phoebe Harris was to be the first woman burnt at Newgate, as distinct from Tyburn or Smithfield, and her execution was carried out just after 8.00 a.m. on the morning of Wednesday the 21st of June 1786. A huge crowd, estimated at some 20,000 people, had turned out to watch this gruesome spectacle.

At 7.30 a.m. six men, Edward Griffiths, George Woodward, William Watts, Daniel Keefe, Jonathan Harwood and William Smith were brought out through Newgate’s Debtor’s Door and led up onto the “New Drop” gallows. They were prepared in the usual way and the drop reportedly fell around 8.00 a.m.

After they were suspended, Phoebe was led from the Debtor’s Door of Newgate by two sheriff’s officers to a stake that had been erected halfway between the gallows and Newgate Street. The stake was some 11 feet high and had a metal bracket at the top from which a noose dangled. Phoebe was described as, “a well made little woman of something more than thirty years of age, with a pale complexion and not disagreeable features.” She was reported to be terrified and trembling as she was led out. She mounted a stool and the noose was placed around her neck and was allowed a few moments to pray with the Ordinary before her support was removed and she was left suspended. According to V. A. C. Gatrell’s book The Hanging Tree she died hard, he reported that she choked noisily to death over several minutes.

After hanging for half an hour, the executioner put an iron chain around her upper body and fastened it to the stake with nails. Two cart loads of faggots were now piled around the stake and then lit. It is reasonable to assume that she would have been quite dead by this time. After a while, the fire burnt through the rope and Phoebe’s body dropped, remaining attached to the stake by the chain. It took over two hours to be completely consumed by the fire, which continued to burn until midday.

Comment.

Only two more women were to suffer Phoebe’s fate. These were Margaret Sullivan on the 25th of June 1788 and Catherine Murphy on the 18th of March 1789, both for coining. At the April Sessions of 1790, Sophia Girton was also convicted of this offence but her execution was delayed until after Parliament had passed an Act (Act 30 Geo. III, c.48) substituting ordinary hanging for coining offences on the 5th of June 1790. In fact, Sophia was ultimately pardoned, on condition of transportation for life to New South Wales, on the 12th of June 1790.

Executions by burning at Newgate were distinctly unpopular with the local residents of what was a respectable business area of the City. They had sent a petition to the Lord Mayor requesting that Phoebe’s execution be carried out elsewhere. This was an early version of “not in my back yard” rather than a protest against the severity of her punishment. It was later reported that some locals became ill from the smoke from her body. There were similar protests over the Sullivan and Murphy executions and a great feeling of relief when Sophia Girton was reprieved, and the whole ghastly business passed into history in 1790.

The Sheriffs were also becoming increasingly unhappy about attending burnings, and it was they who brought forward the Bill to end this practice. Even though by this time the condemned woman was dead before the faggots were lit, it must have still been a gruesome and revolting spectacle and one which conveyed a feeling of injustice. Men convicted of coining offences were hanged in the same way as other condemned males. The Times newspaper took up this theme after Phoebe’s burning and printed the following article: “The execution of a woman for coining on Wednesday morning, reflects a scandal upon the law and was not only inhuman, but shamefully indelicate and shocking. Why should the law in this species of offence inflict a severer punishment upon a woman, than a man. It is not an offence which she can perpetrate alone — in every such case the insistence of a man has been found the operating motive upon the woman; yet the man is but hanged, and the woman burned.” One can only agree with the “Thunderer’s” sentiments as the Times came to be known. Other London newspapers carried similar articles. Again similar outrage was expressed two years later at the burning of Margaret Sullivan, although strangely there was little media interest at the burning of Catherine Murphy.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Burned,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Guest Writers,History,Other Voices,Public Executions,Women

Tags: , , , , ,

1751: Thomas Quin, Joseph Dowdell, Thomas Talbot, and five others at Tyburn

Add comment June 17th, 2020 Headsman

From the Newgate Calendar:

THOMAS QUIN, JOSEPH DOWDELL, AND THOMAS TALBOT

A Gang of Notorious Thieves, executed at Tyburn, June 17, 1751, for robbery.

At length these miserable robbers see,
Unhappy fruit, suspended on the tree;
They teach, sad lesson! in their wretched state,
That shame and ruin are the villain’s fate;
And that too late each guilty man will find,
Justice, though sometimes slow, is never blind.

The villains disclosed in this narrative, will shew the necessity of the act of parliament for inflicting punishment on masters and mistresses giving a false character. of a servant.

A corrupt servant is the most dangerous inmate of a house; and therefore too much caution cannot be used in admitting such domestics.

Quin, a murderer in his own country, Ireland, was recommended to London as a youth of good morals; while his disposition was base to a great degree.

Dowdell, who in his apprenticeship had injured his first master, procured a recommendation to another, to whom he also proved a villain.

The Case of the unhappy WILLIAM GIBBS, now under Sentence of Death.

On the 13th of March I went to the House of John Duncombe, at Nine at Night, to get a Pint of Beer. I lived five Doors from him. I sat down to drink my Beer, and in came Litchfield, Corbet, Smith, Jackson, and one Gordon; Litchfield went away, and left the rest; Smith and Corbet went to Cards, and Wine came in plentifully. I being a Neighbour, was desired to take Part, which I did. About Two o’Clock Mrs. Duncombs took her Purse, and dropt it over the Bar, I believe, in the Sight of all, except Jackson, who was drunk, and asleep on the Ground, notwithstanding he took upon him to swear hard against me, and was scarce able to stand or sit upon a Chair. I seeing Mrs. Duncombe so careless, and for no other Reason than to make her careful another Time, took the Purse, thinking it was Silver, (and not imagining a Sum of that Consequence would be so heedlessly handled) took it, and went and laid it on a Bulk, (which, by the bye, was his own Wife’s Green-Stall) a few Yards from Duncombe’s Door. Mrs. Duncombe missing the Purse, cried out, I have lost twenty-three Guineas; which frightened me almost out of my Senses, and she called her Husband. I denied the taking of it, and desired the Servant to call my Wife, thinking to get her to bring the Purse, and drop it in the Bar, or thereabouts; for, when I heard of the Sum, my Heart melted within me. Mr. Duncombe said, There’s no Occasion to call any Body, it is a Joke, and I will give a Bottle of Wine, and a free Pardon, and Thanks to him that will give an Account of it. I was very glad to hear that, and called him Backwards into the Yard, and said, Mr. Duncombe, I am sorry I should jest with such edged Tools, I little thought the Contents, but as I am a Neighbour, and live in Credit, pray let it go no farther; he said it should not; I told him where it was, and sent him for it. The Purse he had intire, and brought in a Bottle of Wine; and shook Hands; and, to all Appearance, were good Friends, as formerly, I having used his House ever since he kept it. And when he went to take Ship to go to Scotland, and carried a great Charge of Money, he chose me to conduct him, at Midnight, from Hyde-Park Corner to Hermitage Stairs. I really loved him, and would have done him any Service, as soon as I would have done it for myself; but a Person in Company, Corbet by Name, said we could not make the Matter up without going before a Justice. We agreed to go, Mr. Duncombe, myself, and another, privately. We did so, and Mr. Duncombe told the Justice, who lives near Golden Square, St. James’s, that it was a Jest, but that he wanted to be safe, and we were recommended to give general Releases. While my Wife was gone to get Releases drawn, an inveterate Enemy of mine came into the publick House where we were waiting, who called Mr. Duncombe out, and persuaded him to go to another Justice, and take out a Warrant for me, and before my Wife came back with the Releases, they had served a Warrant on me; and although we were within five or six Doors of the aforesaid Justice, they were ashamed to take me there, but took me about a Mile to another, by whom I was committed, although before recommended for Releases by the other. It plainly appears I had no Intent to keep the Purse or Contents for several Reasons: As first, No Person could lay it on me more than another, for there were four Persons in the House besides myself, and, as I am a dying Man, I never had a Thought of defrauding him of a Shilling. Secondly, I, as a Friend and Neighbour, have been Night and Day entrusted in his House, all the same as his Brother, and he never lost any thing as I ever heard of. Lastly, My Circumstances were not so bad as to cause me to do an ill Action, for I kept two Shops, one at Hammersmith, where my aged Father and Mother lives, and the other at Hyde-Park Corner; and when I came into Trouble I had two Apprentices, one of whom I have turned over since I have been in Newgate. I have a Wife and three Children, a Father and Mother, the one 80, the other 85 Years of Age, whose grey Heirs, without God’s great Mercy, will be brought with Sorrow to the Grave. When this great Misfortune happened to me, I worked for a great many noble Families, and I praise God, wherever I worked there was nothing lost. That unhappy Day, the 13th of March, I had been part of it at work at a worthy Gentleman’s, and was weary, and wanting a Pint of Beer before I went to Bed, could not be content to have it at Home with my Family, but must unfortunately go to the House, whereby I put myself in the Way of this great Misfortune, and if it be the Will of Divine Providence that I must suffer, I am content and resigned.

William Gibbs.
May, 1751.

Letter of one of the five other men hanged with Quinn, Dowdell, and Talbot

Talbot, the third of this dangerous gang, after having robbed on the highway; and being afraid of apprehension; applied to be restored to honest servitude, and was refused; but his master, in pity to his distresses, recommended, him to a nobleman.

Talbot, on the first opportunity, robbing his noble employer, we would ask whether the late master, knowing the servant to have been a thief, was not, in recommending him to an honest employ, virtually, the greater villain of the two? In fine, they were all from early youth, delinquents; and each had been imposed on honest people by those who knew them to be such. No wonder, then, that they will be found thereof the greatest rascals in this calendar of crimes.

Quin was a native of Dublin, the son of honest, but poor parents; and his father dying while he was a child, his uncle put him to school, and afterwards placed him apprentice to a buckle-maker, with whom be served three years faithfully; but his friends supplying him with clothes too genteel for his rank in life, he began to associate with gay company, and was guilty of many irregularities.

These thoughtless youths were frequently concerned in riots, and Quin was considered as the head of the party. In one of these nocturnal insurrections, Quin murdered a man, whose friends, watching him to his master’s house, desired that he might be delivered up to justice; but some of the journeymen sallying forth with offensive weapons, drove off the people; on which a warrant was issued for apprehending the murderer, when his master advised him to depart for England.

A subscription for his use being raised by his friends, he came to London, having recommendations to some gentlemen in that city; but of these he made no use, for, frequenting the purlieus of St. Giles’s, he spent his money among the lowest of his countrymen, and then entered on board a man of war.

After a service of six months, he quitted the ship at Leghorn, and sailed in another vessel to Jamaica, where he received his wages, which he soon spent. He now agreed to work his passage to England, and the ship arriving in the port of London, he took lodgings in St. Giles’s, and soon afterwards became acquainted with Dowdell and Talbot, of whom we are now to give an account.

Dowdell was the son of a bookbinder in Dublin, who being in low circumstances was unable to educate his children as he could have wished. His son Joseph, who was remarkable for the badness of his disposition, he ‘prenticed to a breeches-maker, but the graceless youth grew weary of his place before he had served two years of his time.

Dowdell being ordered by his master to take proper care of some green leather, particularly to defend it from the snow; instead thereof, he heaped such quantities of snow and ice on it, that it was greatly reduced in value. This circumstance so exasperated his master, that he was glad to get rid of him by delivering up his indentures of apprenticeship.

Thus at large, and the father ill able to support him, he was recommended to the service of a gentleman in the country, with whom he might have lived happily: but he behaved badly in his place, and running away to Dublin, commenced pickpocket.

After some practice in this way, he became connected with a gang of housebreakers, in company with whom he committed several depredations in Dublin. Having broke open a gentleman’s house, he was opposed by the servants, and effected his escape only by the use he made of a hanger; soon after which he was taken by the watchmen, and being carried before a magistrate, he was committed to prison till the next morning, His person was advertised, and he was brought to trial, but none of the servants being able to swear to him, he was acquitted for want of evidence.

He now renewed his dangerous practices, and committed a variety of robberies. The following is one of the most singular of his exploits. Going to the house of a farmer, near Dublin, he pretended to be a citizen who wanted a lodging, for the benefit of his health, and he would pay a liberal price.

The unsuspecting farmer put his lodger into the best chamber, and supplied his table in the most ample manner. After a residence of ten days, he asked the farmer’s company to the town of Finglass, where he wanted to purchase some necessaries. The farmer attending him; Dowdell purchased some articles at different shops, till seeing a quantity of gold in a till, he formed a resolution of appropriating it to his own use.

Having returned home with the farmer, Dowdell pretended to recollect that he had omitted to purchase some medicines, which he must take that night, and which had occasioned his going to Finglass. Hereupon the farmer ordered a horse to be saddled, and Dowdell set forwards, on a promise to return before night. On his arrival at Finglass he put up his horse, and stealing stealing unperceived into the shop above-mentioned, he stole the till with the money, and immediately set out for Dublin.

In the interim, the farmer missing his lodger, went to Finglass, and not finding him there, proceeded to Dublin, where he chanced to put up his horse at the same inn where Dowdell had taken up his quarters.

In a short time he saw our adventurer with some dealers, to whom he would have sold the horse; on which the farmer procured a constable, seized the offender, and lodged him in prison.

For this presumed robbery (a real one, doubtless, in the intention) he was brought to trial; but it appearing that the farmer had intrusted him with the horse, he could be convicted of nothing more than a fraud, for which he received sentence of transportation.

The vessel in which he sailed being overtaken by a storm, was dashed on the rocks of Cumberland, and many lives were lost, but several, among whom was Dowdell, swam on shore, and went to Whitehaven, where the inhabitants contributed liberally to their relief. Dowdell travelling to Liverpool, entered on board a privateer, which soon took several prizes, for which he received 60l. to his share, which he soon squandered in the most thoughtless extravagance. Being reduced to poverty, he robbed a Portuguese gentleman; for which he was apprehended, but afterwards released on the intercession of the gentlemen of the English factory; on which he sailed for England, and arrived at London.

He had not been long in the metropolis, before he associated with a gang of pickpockets and street-robbers (among whom was one Carter), whose practice it was to commit depredations at the doors of the theatres. Dowdell had not long entered into this association, before he and Carter went under the piazzas in Covent-garden, where the latter demanded a gentleman’s money, while Dowdell watched at a little distance, to give notice in case of a surprise. While Carter was examining the gentleman’s pockets, he drew his sword and killed the robber on the spot, and a mob gathering at the instant, it was with great difficulty that Dowdell effected his escape.

He now went to the lodgings of a woman of ill fame, who having been heretofore kept by a man of rank, he had given her a gold watch and some trifling jewels, which Dowdell advised her to pawn, to raise him ready money.

The girl hesitating to comply, he beat her in a most violent manner, on which she swore the peace against him; whereupon he was lodged in Newgate, but discharged at the next sessions, no prosecution being commenced against him.

He was no sooner at large, than he made a connexion with a woman of the town, whom an officer had taken to Gibraltar, and during her residence with him she had saved a hundred moidores. Dowdell having possessed himself of this sum, soon spent it extravagantly, and then prevailed on her to pawn her clothes for his support.

Talbot was the son of poor parents, who lived in Wapping, and having received a common education, he engaged himself as the driver of a post-chaise, in the service of a stable-keeper in Piccadilly. While he was driving two gentlemen on the Bath road, a highwayman stopped the carriage, and robbed them of their watches and money.

This circumstance gave Talbot an idea of acquiring money by illicit means; wherefore, on his return to London, he made himself acquainted with some highwaymen, assuring them that he was properly qualified to give them the intelligence necessary for the successful management of their business.

His proposal met with a ready acceptance; and a company having soon afterwards hired a coach and six of his master to go to Bath, Talbot gave one of the highwaymen notice of the affair; and it was resolved that the robbery should be committed on Hounslow-heath.

The highwaymen meeting the carriage on the appointed spot, robbed the parties of all they had, so that they were obliged to return to London for money before they could pursue their journey. Talbot’s share of this ill-gotten booty amounted to fifty pounds, which gave him such spirits that he resolved to pursue the same iniquitous mode of living.

In consequence of this resolution, Talbot informed the highwayman of some company going to Bath, and he attempted to rob them, but a gentleman in the carriage shot him dead on the spot.

Mortified at this accident which had befel his friend, Talbot no sooner arrived in London than he determined to resign his employment, and commence robber on his own account; but previous to engaging in this business, he spent his ready money in the worst company.

After several attempts to commit robberies, and having narrowly escaped the hands of justice, he grew sick of his employment, and requested his former master to take him into his service. This he declined, but in pity to his distress, recommended him to a nobleman, in whose family he was engaged.

Talbot had been but a short time in his new place, before he robbed the house of several articles of value, which he sold to the Jews, to supply the extravagance of one of the maid servants, with whom he had an amour.

This theft was not discovered at the time; but Talbot was soon discharged from his place, in consequence of the badness of his temper, which rendered him insupportable to his fellow servants.

On his dismission he spent his ready money with the most abandoned company, and then commencing housebreaker, committed a variety of depredations in the neighbourhood of London; for one of which he was apprehended and brought to trial at the Old Bailey, but acquitted for want of evidence.

On the very evening he was acquitted, he stopped a carriage in Drury-lane, and robbed a gentleman of his money, which he soon spent among the most dissolute of both sexes; and within a week afterwards, he broke into a house in Westminster, where he obtained plate and cash to a large amount, but was not apprehended for this offence.

In a few days he was taken into custody for picking a gentleman’s pocket, brought to trial, at the Old Bailey, sentenced to be transported for seven years, shipped to America, and sold to slavery.

He had not been long in this situation, when he embarked at Boston, in New England, on board a privateer; but when at sea he entered into a conspiracy with some of the sailors, to murder the officers, and seize the vessel; but the confederacy being discovered in time, a severe punishment was inflicted on Talbot and the other villains.

Talbot, quitting the privateer, sailed to England in a man of war, and engaging with some street-robbers in London, was apprehended, convicted, and sentenced to die: but he found interest to obtain a pardon on condition of transportation.

However, he had not been long abroad before he returned, in company with an abandoned woman, who had been transported at the same time; and this woman introduced him to the acquaintance of Quin and Dowdell, in company with whom he committed a considerable number of robberies.

These accomplices robbed six coaches one evening, and obtained considerable plunder; but this being soon spent in extravagance, they at length embarked in a robbery which cost them their lives.

Having made a connexion with one Cullen, they all joined in a street-robbery, and stopping a coach near Long Acre, robbed a gentleman of his watch and money. Some people being informed of the affair, immediately pursued them; and Cullen, being taken into custody, was admitted an evidence against his accomplices, who were apprehended on the following day.

Being brought to trial at the next sessions at the Old Bailey, they received sentence of death; but, after conviction, seemed as little sensible of the enormity of their crimes, as almost any offenders whose cases we have had occasion to record.

Dowdell and Quin were Roman Catholics; and Talbot refusing to join in devotion with the ordinary of Newgate, at the place of execution, we can say nothing of the disposition of mind in which they left this world.

We would have wished the following exclamation the mouths of these miserable sinners, at the time they made their dying atonements

O omnipotent Creator! Such hellish deeds
My soul abhors. O Lord! behold my frame,
My inmost frame, and cleanse my sinful thoughts
Then ever guide me in thy perfect way,
The way established to eternal bliss?

These men died, we fear, unrepenting sinners.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Mass Executions,Public Executions,Theft

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

1704: Anna Ericksdotter, the last witch executed in Sweden

Add comment June 15th, 2020 Headsman

Sweden conducted its last witch execution — a beheading — on this date in 1704.

Anna Eriksdotter (English Wikipedia entry | Swedish) was a local cunning-woman whose talent for healing both men and beasts had seen her dogged with rumors of devilry for many years.

Evidently she leaned into the story or — who knows? — believed it herself. When a man named Nils Jonsson accused her of striking him blind, deaf and dumb, she acknowledged punishing her “disgusting” neighbor, and even claimed that, raised to witchery from her childhood, she had committed various other supernatural offenses against the community: laying a curse on the vicar, and conjuring wolves to prey on livestock.

These “admissions” might have been necessary to actually bring a witch to the block in 18th century Sweden, scorched as consciences were after a particularly notorious witch hunt 28 years before.

Even so, Anna Ericksdotter just barely attained her milestone. Her sentence was approved by the young king Charles XII — a bit preoccupied in that moment getting rinsed on northern Europe’s battlefields by Peter the Great — over the strong pardon recommendation of his magistrates who considered Ericksdotter “full with mad imaginations”.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Milestones,Public Executions,Sweden,Witchcraft,Women

Tags: , , ,

1790: Seven officers of Papal Avignon

Add comment June 11th, 2020 Headsman

Charles Souvay in “The French Papal States during the Revolution” (The Catholic Historical Review, January 1923) describes the violent reunion to the French nation of the Papal States enclave around Avignon where popes had formerly reigned. This June 11 lynching was as nothing for mob violence compared to the Massacres of La Glacière later in 1790.

In 1789 the French Papal possessions included the two Counties respectively called in Roman Chancery style the Comitatus Avennicinus, or High County, the principal city of which was Carpentras, and the Comitatus Avenionensis, or Low County, named after its capital Avignon; both together having in all an area of less than a thousand square miles. Since 1274, by donation of King Philip III to Pope Gregory X, they belonged to the Popes; and even though several times (1663, 1688 and 1768) the French kings attempted to wrest them from their legitimate sovereign, there was, in 1789, no question of disputing the Papacy’s rights. A Legate administered the two Counties, continuing in the old Papal Castle the moral presence of the popes who had resided there from 1309 to 1378.

The Counties were comparatively an earthly paradise: taxes insignificant; no imposts; living wonderfully cheap — “for one or two sous one could hve a meal of bread, meat and wine”; no militia, scarcely any privileges of nobility; no restrictions on fishing and hunting and to cap it all a miniature representative Assembly. However, the rank and file of the population had a bad name, and it deserved it. In the course of time the country had become the secure haven of all the scoundrels of France, Italy and Genoa: smugglers, fences, vagabonds, swindlers, crooks, convicts escaped from the galleys of Toulon and Marseilles, all flocked there and soon fraternized in debauchery and crime.

Such ingredients constituted a soil admirably adapted for the rapid growth of the revolutionary seed. No wonder, therefore, that towards the end of 1789 rebellion broke out in Avignon, where minds were easily wrought up. Before long it spread beyond the ramparts of the City of the Popes. The high County, however, remained loyal; hence timid: fear of the violence of the demagogues — a fear but too well founded — increased the numbers of the anti-papal faction; and soon the noise they raised was such that the Pope had to intervene. He did it in a fatherly way, promised all the reforms deemed opportune (Briefs of February and April 1790) and sent a Commissary with the charge of trying every possible way to restore order and peace. At Carpentras the pontifical Commissary was shown he was unwelcome; at Avignon he was positively refused admittance.

Then in the papal city Jacobinism, preached by ranting advocates like Tournal, Rovere, the two Duprats, the two Mainvielles, Lecuyer, multiplied its proselytes and stopped at no violence. Within a short while seven or eight riots broke out. On June 10, 1790, at the instigation of the leaders, all the rabble of the city and the suburbs, churls adverse to excise, rapscallions adverse to order, stevedores and longshoremen, armed with scythes, pikes and cudgels, rose up tumultuously, served on the Vice-Legate Casoni notice to quit, turned out of the city the Archbishop Giovio, ousted the Italian officials, obliged the Consuls to resign, hanged the officers of the National Guard and the principal loyalists (June 11)* and possessed themselves of the town hall. For efficiency trust the preachers of the revolutionary gospel.

* Seven men were murdered that day; some were nobles, others priests and others artisans.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Borderline "Executions",Execution,France,Hanged,History,Lynching,Mass Executions,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Papal States,Public Executions,Summary Executions

Tags: , , ,

1764: John Ives, spectator turned spectacle

Add comment June 6th, 2020 Headsman

“I was here at the last execution, as free as any one of you, and little thought of this my unhappy fate. God grant you all more grace than I have had.”

-Last words of burglar John Ives, hanged with six other felons at Tyburn on June 6, 1764.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,Mass Executions,Public Executions,The Worm Turns,Theft

Tags: , , , , ,

1798: The Gibbet Rath massacre

Add comment May 29th, 2020 Headsman

British forces occupying Ireland conducted the Gibbet Rath massacre on this date in 1798, slaying 300 to “500 rebels bleaching on the Curragh of Kildare — that Curragh over which my sweet innocent girls walked with me last Summer, that Curragh was strewed with the vile carcasses of popish rebels and the accursed town of Kildare has been reduced to a heap of ashes by our hands.”

Those are the words of Captain John Giffard, an officer of the force under Major-General James Duff, the Limerick commander who marched into neighboring County Kildare to quell the risings there related to the 1798 Irish Rebellion.

By the time Duff arrived, the Kildare rebels had already been defeated at the Battle of Kilcullen (May 23-24) and had come to a negotiated surrender. A less belligerent British generaal had taken a large rebel surrender on May 27 at Knockaulin Hill by granting an amnesty and showing the flexibility and personal courage to present himself bodily at the rebel redoubt to reassure the Irishmen of their safety.

Events would show that those popish rebels came by their fear honestly.

Duff was detailed to take in another body of rebels availing themselves of the same amnesty upon the Curragh, a broad open plain on the fringe of Kildare town.

Apparently angered past military discipline by the sight on their march of casualties from the rebellion — Captain Griffard’s bloodthirsty effusions above were occasioned by seeing his own son among the dead — Duff decided to subject the Curragh prisoners to a pompous harangue against treason, after which his infantry and cavalry suddenly attacked the disarmed rebels, killing hundreds. According to Duff’s letter to his superiors that same day, the slaughter was triggered when one or more of the rebels discharged their weapons during the stacking of arms.

Kildare, two o’clock, p.m. — We found the rebels retiring from the town on our arrival, armed; we followed them with the dragoons. I sent on some of the yeomen to tell them, on laying down their arms, they should not be hurt. Unfortunately, some of them fired on the troops; from that moment they were attacked on all sides — nothing could stop the rage of the troops. I believe from two to three hundred of the rebels were killed. We have three men killed and several wounded. I am too much fatigued to enlarge.

Duff received commendation, not condemnation, for this action, and Irish rebels still in the field understandably took warning that future surrenders courted summary death.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Borderline "Executions",England,Execution,History,Ireland,Mass Executions,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Shot,Summary Executions,Wartime Executions

Tags: , , , ,

1754: Joseph Coulon de Jumonville, the first Washington atrocity

Add comment May 28th, 2020 Headsman

A volley fired by a young Virginian in the backwoods of America set the world on fire.

Horace Walpole (Source)

On the 28th of May in 1754, a wilderness skirmish in colonial Pennsylvania set spark to the Seven Years’ War — thanks to a battlefield execution under the auspices of the future United States founding father George Washington.

The backdrop to what pro-French partisans would call the “Jumonville Affair” was the rivalrous jockeying of French and British flags in contested North American territory. Looking to check French raiding in Ohio that was feared prelude to an attempt to effect control of that valuable and disputed tract, Washington — here a 22-year-old British lieutenant colonel, many years away yet from his future glory as the American Revolution’s great general — had engaged the French 11 miles from present-day Uniontown, Pa..

It was a short fight: Washington got the drop on the French encampment and efficiently flanked them with his Iroquois allies. Fifteen minutes, and about 10 to 14 French killed, told the tale.

It’s remembered now as the Battle of Jumonville Glen, but its namesake wasn’t around to enjoy the distinction. Instead, that defeated French commander, one Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville, was allegedly taken prisoner by his opposite number but then killed out of hand by the Iroquois leader Tanacharison or Tanaghrisson (known as “Half-King” to Europeans).

There are differing accounts of exactly what happened and only speculative surmises as to why; in the most cinematically catchy version, Jumonville is attempting to communicate his mission to the victorious Washington — the two men do not share a language — when Tanaghrisson steps up to the captive and “cries out ‘Tu n’es pas encore mort, mon père’ (‘Thou art not yet dead, my father’), raises his hatchet over Jumonville’s head, and crashes it into his skull. Reaching into the skull, he extracts a handful of Jumonville’s brains and washes his hands in the pulpy gore.”* According to historian Fred Anderson, this was the native chief making a declaration of war against the French, rejecting their asserted “paternity” over Indians.

Now caught out with a small force of militiamen against a rival state that was sure to be incensed when it caught word Jumonville’s killing, Washington hastily dug in behind improvised palisades, a bunker unassumingly christened “Fort Necessity”. The Iroquois did not stick around, correctly urging Washington that he’d do best to abandon the field as he’d have no prospect of withstanding the large force of French regulars that was sure to answer Jumonville Glen. Just so: on July 3, the French reached the fort and forced its surrender after a few hours’ fighting.

The French-language capitulation that Washington signed on this signal occasion — the only surrender of his military career — characterized the slaying of Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville as an “assassination”. This word would be grist for years of competing propaganda between the contending empires, especially since the flying musket-balls from these two engagements would spiral into the French and Indian War (within the North American theater) and the Seven Years’ War (the larger European and global great powers war). Proving himself even at this moment to be every bit the American, Washington would spend the rest of his career attributing his assent to this incendiary word to his infelicity with French.

Despite slinking out of Pennsylvania with an L and a grudge against his translator, this frontier Gavrilo Princip did great service for his future country. Great Britain won the big war he’d started; her attempt in the 1760s and 1770s to settle the terms of her resulting domination of North America — like restricting colonization past the Appalachian Mountains, in deference to native allies like the Iroquois, or ratcheting up taxes to service gigantic war debts — only inflamed the colonists into the rebellion that put George Washington’s name onto his own imperial capital, and George Washington’s face on the world’s reserve currency. Tu n’es pas encore mort, mon père, indeed.

* Other accounts have the murder effected by musket shot, or even have Jumonville killed during the battle.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Borderline "Executions",England,Execution,France,History,No Formal Charge,Nobility,Notable Participants,Occupation and Colonialism,Pennsylvania,Put to the Sword,Soldiers,Summary Executions,Tomahawked,USA

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

1780: Johann Heinrich Waser, persecuted whistleblower

Add comment May 27th, 2020 Headsman

On this date in 1780, statistician Johann Heinrich Waser

“One of the most spectacular and horrific treason cases of the late eighteenth century” in the words of Jeffrey Freedman (A Poisoned Chalice | here’s a review) — one that “shattered the complacent belief that such a brutal and cynical act of repression could no longer occur in an age of Enlightenment, let alone in Switzerland, the land of William Tell, republican virtue, and free, self-governing citizens.” Subsequent centuries laugh in bitter commiseration.

Initially a pastor, Waser’s idealism had not been fully wrung out in the seminary and so he got himself fired from his Zurich-area parish for complaining too loudly about the oligarchic graft that left his flock’s poor relief barren.

Nothing daunted, he effected a career change and “threw himself with zeal and success into all researches in natural history, history, agriculture and statistics.” He surely had little notion that this technocratic exercise could imperil his life … but as with his time in the ministry, he suffered for his inability to pay the tithe of politic hypocrisy to the unrighteous mighty. Freedman again:

One of Waser’s demographic studies uncovered evidence of a stagnating and even declining population in certain rural districts. To Waser (and indeed to cameralists in general) it was axiomatic that a growing population was good, that it was both cause and symptom of economic prosperity. So the evidence of a stagnating and declining population demanded an explanation, which Waser believed he had found in the trade in mercenaries practiced by the Swiss cantons. With this, Waser was touching upon a very delicate subject indeed, for the trade in mercenaries was not only a useful safety valve for disposing of excess population, it was a major source of fiscal revenue. Yet Waser condemned the lucrative trade without restraint, documenting with hard statistical evidence the population losses it caused; and he drove home his point with anecdotes such as the following, which appeared in the introduction to a study provocatively entitled, “Swiss Blood, French Money”:

With the General Stuppa in attendance, the Marquis de Lauvois, the War Minister of Louis XIV, is supposed once t0o have said to his king: “Sire, if you had all the gold and silver paid by yourself and your royal ancestors to the Swiss, you would be able to pave the highway from Paris to Basel with Thalers.” Whereupon General Stuppa declared: “Sire, that may well be so; but if it were possible to collect all the blood shed by our nation for you and your royal ancestors, one could build a navigable canal from Paris to Basel.

Waser’s incautious muckraking got him the Julian Assange treatment: he’d be condemned for treasonably stealing the information he reported for the public weal; in an attempt to blacken his name, he was even spuriously investigated for poisoning the sacramental wine.

The May 27 beheading of the “unhappy pastor” raised a clamor of European outrage against Zurich’s oligarchs. True, the salon-dwelling demographic liable to such a sentiment had no power to chastise. But it at least enjoyed the satisfaction inside of 20 years to see the lords toppled who had built Waser’s scaffold … thanks, appropriately enough, to the French.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Intellectuals,Martyrs,Public Executions,Switzerland,Treason,Wrongful Executions

Tags: , , , ,

Next Posts Previous Posts


Calendar

May 2022
M T W T F S S
« Nov    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

Archives

Categories

Execution Playing Cards

Exclusively available on this site: our one-of-a-kind custom playing card deck.

Every card features a historical execution from England, France, Germany, or Russia!