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1764: John Prince, dissembler

Add comment March 7th, 2017 Headsman

The Ordinary of Newgate’s Account of the Behaviour, Confession, and Dying Words, of Five Malefactors, Viz.

John Prince for Forgery, Who was executed at Tyburn, on Wednesday, March 7; Anne Baker for a Street Robbery, Peter Robins for a Burglary, and James Rocket and Timothy Stewart for a Robbery, near the Highway, Who were executed at Tyburn on Wednesday, March 28, 1764.
Being the Fourth and Fifth Executions in the Mayoralty of the Rt. Hon. William Bridgen, Esq.
Lord Mayor of the City of London.
Number III. for the said Year.

LONDON, Printed for J. COOKE, at Shakespear’s Head, in Pater-noster Row, and Sold by all Booksellers and News Carriers. Price 8d.

The Ordinary of Newgate’s Account of the Behaviour, Confession, and Dying Words, &c.

The Introduction to the tryal and conviction of John Prince having been published in the foregoing account of six malefactors, Numb. II. need not be recited here.

1. John Prince was indicted, for feloniously forging and counterfeiting a certain bill of exchange, for the payment of 125l. and publishing the same, well knowing it to have been forged, with intent to defraud Robert Mackoun, July 8.

The steps, by which this well-known offender was brought to justice, are remarkable: He was apprehended, about the 12th or 13th of September, on account of a fraud only, at the suit of Mr. Richard Marshe, Hosier, near Temple Bar, for obtaining from him a parcel of silk hose, by false pretences. It was no easy task to lay hold of a man long practised in much greater frauds, and yet evading the hand of justice. Prince (who always flattered himself, and looked on his own actions in the most favourable light,) told me, he had not fair play on that occasion. At least he was inclined to think so, because the consequence of his being taken up for this fraud, brought to light a worse crime, which proved fatal to him. He said Mr. Marshe had taken out warrants against him, and way-laid him in three or four counties, as well as the city of London; that about this time he was seen casually passing through Fleet Street, by Mr. Marshe, who pursued him, with an hue and cry of stop thief, and was taken in a publick house under that character, where he stepped in for shelter; whereas, said Prince, he had no right to consider me as a thief, but only his debtor. However, he was taken before Sir John Fielding, and being examined, was committed to the Gatehouse, Westminster, September the 13th last, for obtaining from Richard Marshe, by false pretences, silk hose to the value of 13l. and upwards. By this time the transaction of the forgery began to be looked after by the injured party, and, like a mine, was ready to be sprung, and involve the miner in its ruin. Prince was now advertised to be re-examined the 15th, at the very time Mr. Mackoun was meditating how to prosecute this forgery; who seeing the advertisement in a news paper, which he took up in a coffee-house, attended at Sir John’s, and produced this bill. Prince being examined on it, said, Bricklen (the supposed drawer of the bill,) was gone into Yorkshire. It now probably appeared before the Magistrate, by the same evidence, afterwards given on tryal, that Prince had told the prosecutor two different stories about the drawer of this bill; the first was, that Bricklen and Co. were great Distillers and Brandy-merchants, living near the watch-house, in Moorfields; that they served Orcherton, the accepter of the bill, who then kept the Rose Tavern, in Cursitor Street, with rum and brandy. This being proved false, on enquiry, no such persons as Bricklen and Co. to be found, and Orcherton gone aside; the second story was, that Bricklen in truth was an outlawed smuggler, but was worth three or four thousand pounds, and the bill would be paid when due, and that he lodged in some lane or alley near Moorfields. This was equally true with the former; and now, being urged by the necessity of the case, to produce this drawer of the bill, he said he lived in the country, and was gone into Yorkshire. The bill was to this purport:

London June 3, 1763.

Three months after date pay to Mr. John Prince, on his order, the sum of one hundred twenty five pounds sterl. and place the same to account of,

Sir, your most humble servant,

G. Bricklen and Co.
To Wm. Orcherton, at the Rose Tavern, Cursitor Street.

Accepted, William Orcherton.

This bill had been passed by the prisoner to the prosecutor, instead of 100l. cash, payable by way of deposit to bind a bargain and sale of an estate, near Long Ford, Middlesex, in the Windsor Road, about 15 miles from London. The terms of this sale had been agreed upon in a memorandum, of which the seller had given the buyer a copy, signed by him. On discovery that the bill was bad, the former would have returned it to the latter, on condition of recovering his memorandum again; but this was wilfully and obstinately refused by Prince, who insisted on his bargain; for that he had friends who would raise him the money when the bill became due. The bill was now due nine days before this examination, as appears by the date in the face of it; and yet neither he nor his friends had paid it, otherwise we should probably have heard nothing of this prosecution. This is here mentioned to demonstrate the audacious temper and effrontery of this prisoner, who persisted, after his conviction, to assert, “that it was no forgery, but a good bill, and would have been paid had it been demanded when due; and that it never was demanded;” which is contrary to the whole tenor of the evidence on trial. But if this assertion had any appearance of truth, it was a mere fallacious evasion; if it was not demanded, it was because none of the parties, by whom it was payable, could be found. On this issue the prisoner himself put the affair at the time of this examination, when he pretended that Bricklen was gone into Yorkshire, and desired five or six days might be allowed him till he should return, or be found. Sir John granted him eight or nine days, and also proposed, if the prisoner would give him an account what part of Yorkshire he was in, he would send an express for him, at his own expence; for, as he told the prisoner, it was a matter that nearly concerned him; this kind offer was not accepted, because it could not be complied with. At this examination Orcherton, the keeper of the Rose Tavern, in Cursitor Street, was produced. Some words dropt from him, which caused him to be secured as an evidence at least, if not an accomplice in the forgery; he set forth, that he had known the prisoner only since May last, that he wrote the body of that bill of exchange, and accepted it with his own name; but G. Bricklen and Co. was not on it at that time, nor did he ever remember to hear of that name, till he saw it on the draught with Mr. Mackoun’s Attorney; consequently, that he had never dealt with Bricklen and Co. for brandy and rum, as the prisoner had pretended. Orcherton also now opened the pretences, by which he was drawn in by Prince and his associates, to write this, and some other bills of the same nature, to the amount of 500l. which was, to raise money for Prince to purchase the house Orcherton then lived in, being advertised for sale, and, when purchased, it was to be mortgaged for money to pay off those bills. This was to be for the use and benefit of Orcherton, to prevent his being turned out of the house. Prince was remanded back to the Gatehouse for further examination; but would not yet be persuaded to think, or seem to believe, that his case was any way dangerous. In conversation between Prince and Orcherton, as they were carried in a coach together, a kind of dispute or quarrel arose; Prince charging Orcherton with giving evidence too severely against him, and the other insisted it was the truth: And charged him with having been the occasion of great losses to him, by which he became a bankrupt; adding, that he “would not think much to be banished, for the satisfaction to see him hanged.” Prince, forward to catch at any thing that might break the force of so pointed an evidence, considered this hasty and vindictive expression, as sufficient to invalidate his testimony; and therefore had subpoena’d witness to prove it on his trial. But Orcherton having, of his own accord, acknowledged it in his cross examination, and accounted for it by a sudden passion he was put in, for being sent to prison on account of these notes, which Prince induced him to write, and also explained himself, that he did not mean to have him hanged unless he deserved it, the objection seemed to lose its weight.

Prince being searched when charged with the forgery, a paper, teeming with secret practices and dark deeds, was found upon him, which, as it tended to confirm Orcherton’s evidence, in relation to the company that used to frequent his house with Prince, and their practices, was also read at the close of his evidence on the trial, to the purport following:

An agreement between Samuel Fisher, Edward Hart, George White, and John Prince, concerning dividing the money that should be raised by a bill, or bills, drawn by the prisoner, and the expences how to be paid.

An occasion will offer itself, in the course of this account, to compare some names in the aforesaid paper with another curious piece dictated by Prince, and by means of which his respite of three weeks was obtained.

On his next examination before the Justice, no Bricklen, no drawer of the bill being found or traced out, and the presumption of a forgery rising proportionably higher, he was committed to Newgate toward the latter end of September; when the gaol being sickly, he caught the distemper, which occasioned his trial to be put off, he being reduced so low in health that it was believed he could not live to be tried. During this interval, there was no opportunity for me to know or converse with him, he being either disabled by sickness, or (like the bulk of the other prisoners) disinclined to think of his duty in the chapel, till after trial and conviction. His trial at length came on in January sessions. Beside what has been said, it was proved, that all possible enquiry was made for Bricklen and Co. but they were not to be found by the prosecutor, or his clerk; and it was proved positively, by an old inhabitant, of twenty years, near the watch-house, Moorfields, that no such person was in that time known to live there. The prisoner only said in his defence, that he lived in an alley beyond the watch-house, and produced two witnesses, to prove they had seen the prisoner in company with a person of that name, above a year since, and that he was a dealer in horses; and one of them believed the signing of the bill to be like his hand. But this did not come up to the point, nor prove such persons as Bricklen and Co. to exist under the description and character given by the prisoner, of the drawers of the bill, and therefore it was determined he had forged the person; and no such person appearing, he was found guilty.

Thus the charge against this prisoner, with its proof and issue, has been briefly collected and laid before the reader. His behaviour after conviction, together with the means used to bring him to a repentance proportioned to his crimes and course of life, have been also in part represented to the publick, with that of his other eight fellow-convicts; two of which, James Anderson and Thomas Thompson, have been executed Feb. 15, and six respited.

So long as there is any hope of the reformation of criminals in the character of penitents, and while there is life there is hope, all possible patience, and forbearance, and tenderness should be exercised towards them: But when their lives are forfeited, and the forfeit paid for the warning of other hardened and presumptuous offenders, and the safeguard and protection of the honest and industrious; the best use should be made of their subtile schemes and evil conduct, to answer those purposes for which criminals are punished.

And first, it is a desperate and most provoking degree of hardness in guilt, for any surviving criminal to encourage himself in his wickedness, and persist in his evil courses, because he sees or hears of a dying criminal making a decent exit at the place of execution. This is a most fallacious sign, on which there is no dependence. We are, indeed, in general obliged to perform the best offices of piety and charity we can, and they are capable of, for the worst of dying sinners and criminals; but the success is wholly unknown and uncertain to us; it is deep involved in futurity, and the divine counsels. There is no judging, by present superficial outward appearances, of their true spiritual state at present, nor of the judgment that will pass upon them for their eternal lot hereafter. ‘Tis impossible for us, for any but the Searcher of Hearts, to know how far these seeming penitents have complied with the terms of salvation. Whether they have outsinned their day of Grace and Salvation, or are still objects of it? Whether they strive earnestly in prayer, that a true repentance, a lively faith, and all the graces requisite for their condition may be granted to them? or whether it is too late to sue for them? For however presumptuous and ignorant men may flatter themselves, and each other, that it is never too late to repent (and tho’ perhaps this may be true of a sincere repentance) yet we are assured, by the highest authority, that the hope of the hypocrite shall perish; that there is a time when these good things are hid from mens eyes, and the door of mercy is shut. And the reasons and causes are assigned, which bring things to this desperate pass. When men hate knowledge and do not chuse the fear of the Lord; when they refuse his calls and disregard the stretching out of his hand; when they set at naught his counsel and will hear none of his reproof; then will he also laugh at their calamity, and mock when their fear cometh; — when their fear cometh as desolation, and their destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon them. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me, saith the supreme Judge. [Proverbs 1:22-28 -ed.] We know, and are witnesses, that these causes and symptoms too generally prevail among obdurate sinners, within and without our prison-doors, whether at large or in chains. How then can they escape the inevitably connected consequences? Have we not invincible arguments, to make us expect and dread them all in the worst sense? It appears to me the best good office which humanity and good-will can do such men, to set these things strongly before their eyes, ere it be yet too late, for ever.

We know, and are witnesses, that in general the apparent repentance of convicts in chains seems to be merely forced upon them by their present fears and miseries; for they too frequently prove this, by putting it off as long as they can, and relapsing as soon as they can, i.e. on the first opportunity.

These reflexions naturally rise from the long course of frauds and misconduct which the convict now in view had run thro’, and the little sense he seemed to feel of his real case and danger. For tho’ he attended the chapel almost daily after conviction, yet he acknowledged he had never been there above three or four times in so many months that he was a prisoner before it: And now that he came, the point he seemed to have most at heart was to deny his guilt, plead innocence, and consult with me how to escape this death? rather than ask and learn how he should obtain eternal life; for this was the convict hinted at in the former Account, (No. II. p. 9.) who desired a private conversation on this subject; but being then respited, was not named. This is the convict, there also unnamed, who mistook the Commination for the Communion Office, after some weeks instruction and preparation. For it appeared from his conversation, from his incapacity to read common English with propriety, or write a plain hand, that he was of a more ignorant and low-bred class than he found it his interest to assume in the several scenes he had gone thro’. From his being known to have been a Draper on Ludgatehill, or a Warehouseman in Bread-street, one would form an idea of a man of suitable birth and education. And this pretence he still endeavoured to support; for being asked one day, whether he had served his time to a Draper? he answered no, he had learned it by being bred up and travelling among the woollen manufacturers; that he was born in Wiltshire, and there educated with his father, came to London at the age of eighteen or twenty years, and having lived sometime among the principal Drapers, to whom he was sometime a rider , he then set up the business on his own account. The truth is, he came to town a raw country young fellow, about twelve years ago, and was first employed in a considerable Print-shop kept by Mr. O–v–n, facing St. Sepulchre’s church, as a menial servant, and acted as footman and porter to carry out parcels, and used to ride journeys with his master, to carry his portmanteau. In this service he was thought to be rather heavy and stupid, than capable of those pranks, which he has since had a part in playing off. When he had lived here about a year, he got another place at a Draper’s and Sale-shop in Houndsditch, and from thence he moved to a like place in Drury-lane, much in the same capacity. In these two latter places he learned so much of the business as to open a shop for himself on Ludgate Hill, which much surprized all who knew him from his beginning; and puzzled them to account, whence the capital should arise to enable him to venture on such a house. But this blaze, having served his turn, was soon extinguished, and the house shut up in darkness. This is said to have been about the year 1760. His next step was to remove to Godalming in Surrey, where, out of the spoils already picked up, he dealt in corn and flour to London, having purchased a mill for that purpose, and was getting money apace; this held on for about eighteen months, and he told me he might have done well here, and continued so, had not some of his former companions, ever restless, and seeking whom they may devour, found him out, and came down to extort a sum of money from him, or threatened to blow him. He not answering their large demands, they exposed him as one who had been a bankrupt and in gaol, &c. He was soon pointed at by his neighbours and others (with whom he had hitherto kept up his credit) as one who had been so and so in London, and was now come down to cheat the country. This obliged him to sell his mill and decamp; and he added, that 90l. of the price was still due to him, which he hoped they would pay his wife. Of her he always spoke with tender concern, and, to aggravate his sorrows, said they had three children; the last of which died of the gaol distemper, caught by being with his mother to visit him in the prison. It is known, and generally believed, that this convict had been too frequently and deeply concerned with several persons (some of them before named in the paper found in his pocket when taken) in sundry frauds and forgeries to procure goods, to get possession of effects and estates on counterfeit securities, and then raise money upon them. One of their most successful methods was to put on the guise of considerable dealers and persons of property, to strike a bargain, pay down some cash in hand, and give bills for the rest, which, on enquiry, proved much like the bill for which he was convicted. This he seemed conscious of, when he endeavoured to account for his conviction on other principles than those of justice and law; for he insisted on being innocent of any forgery in this case; but, said he, I was unfortunately connected with a set of bad people, and had but a light character, and it was determined that some one must die, and I am singled out to fall a sacrifice. By whom and what number of men this was determined, he did not explain; but often hinted, that a person concerned in his prosecution was no better than he should be. Several exploits in their way are reported of this sett of confederates. Prince had agreed with a principal for an Oyster-meter’s place at Billingsgate. He would have paid down 100l. cash, and 400l. more in bills: But this latter part not being approved, broke off the bargain. When he dealt as a Draper, he took a journey into the West Country with his ingenious accomplice F–r, under the stile and title of F-sh-r, Esq; of F-s-r hall in Lancashire, where, by offering a good price, they dealt with a clothier for the value of 1500l. in pieces of cloth, then lying in a great warehouse in London, for which they paid down 600l. in cash, and gave bills on supposed Merchants for 900l. They had the pieces delivered to them by order; but when the bills became due, the persons by whom they were payable were not to be found. The two accomplices were secured, on an affidavit or oath made by the creditor, or prosecutor, and sent to prison; their attorney found, or pretended to find, a flaw in the affidavit, trumped up a prosecution for perjury against him, which, it is said, terrified him so, as to induce him to give the defendants a general release, and 400l. more by way of composition.

It is well known, that Prince and his companion aforesaid were fellow-prisoners in Newgate for a fraud in March 1761, in obtaining several pieces of superfine cloth by false pretences. A little before they were to be tried for this fact, the prosecutor was prevailed on to make a debt of it, by their paying down some little money, and giving him some large promises to pay the rest. They were detained as debtors in Newgate five or six weeks, till F–r first, and Prince in a week after, moved themselves by Habeas Corpus to the King’s Bench prison, from whence, in less than a year, they were both cleared by the compelling clause in the Act of Insolvency. They were well known in each of these prisons on other occasions.

On the day that Prince was convicted, some young gentleman was seen to give him a quarter guinea, for his present relief; and said, at the same time, that his father had lost 1000l. by him. For that and the like purposes, he and his accomplices had taken a house in Bread-street, facing the Three Cups Inn, the better to give a colour to their transactions.

When men have long turned their whole thoughts, and laid out their talents on such deep schemes of fraud and villainy, they may truly be said to have sold themselves to work iniquity; their heart is perverted, and become callous to every good impression, which they have long resisted and stifled. There is a root of bitterness in them, which it were impossible for human strength or means to change or extirpate; and if ever they are changed so as to be saved, it can only be by the mighty power, the extraordinary grace, the exceeding great love and mercy of that God, to whom nothing is impossible. But let sinners take heed how they presume upon these perfections, and dally with divine patience and goodness. It is for this very reason, because there is mercy with him, therefore he is to be feared.

These thoughts are occasioned by a sudden change in this prisoner, which flattered us with hopeful appearances of a good work begun in him, on January 25, the festival of the Conversion of St. Paul, when the Psalms, the proper lessons, and other offices of the day were explained and applied to the prisoners, teaching them that the same heavenly light and grace which had converted Saul from being a persecutor, a blasphemer, and injurious, to be a most zealous Apostle and Preacher of the Gospel, was most surely recorded, and still shone bright in the hearts of all who were open to receive it, and that for this very cause he obtained mercy, to be a pattern to others, who should hereafter be convinced. After service he came, of his own accord, and spoke to this effect; first, that he was sorry for some refractory misbehavour he had been guilty of yesterday in the chapel, and also that he was now glad he did not die of the goal distemper before his trial, (for he said he was, indeed, very wicked when first put in gaol, but hoped he was now spared to repent,) tho’ he should die a shameful death; that he had not an opportunity of attending chapel above two Sundays during his confinement, before trial, having been ill the best part of three months; that he had been drawn in and connected with bad men, but now saw his folly, for they were his ruin; he added, that a friend who supported him, promised to use his endeavours to save his life, but he would make the best use of his time, and not depend on it. He was in the same cell with another convict, who could read well, and had several proper books lent them, which they promised to make good use of.

One of these bad connections is little known or spoken of, viz. that which he had with John Perrott, his neighbour on Ludgate Hill, who was executed at Smithfield, November 11, 1761, for concealing his effects as a bankrupt; not long before which was the failure of Prince, with some similar causes and circumstances. This connection was carried so far, that it is said F–r, at least his associate, if not Prince himself, was concerned in a scheme to rescue Perrott out of gaol a few days before his execution; which was indeed then apprehended, and guarded against. (See page 12, 13, of the Account of John Perrott and Samuel Lee.)

The respite of Prince, the night before his fellow convicts were executed, has been mentioned in the preceding Account; as also that the reasons and means of that respite seemed unknown even to himself; but this was owing to his dissimulation with me, and perhaps shame also to avow the real means and motives by which that respite was obtained. To conceal which, when asked, a few days after, how this respite came about, he amused me with the following blind stories; that he was visited Feb. the 14th, the evening before execution, by a gentleman of fortune from Spitalfields (his name being forgot;) he asked him a few questions, and going away left two shillings for him at the lodge; when he heard this, he revolved in his mind, why should two shillings be left for a man who is to die to-morrow? He conjectured, therefore, this respite was obtained by his means, thro’ the interest of a noble Lord and some gentlemen, for whom he once procured a sum of money, as a broker, on some goods and an estate, for which he gave a bond. And as the estate is now vested in him, it must be forfeited if he dies: To prevent this, he would seem to suppose he was respited. He added, that he had suffered much by law and imprisonment on account of that affair, as the parties believed he had defrauded them of a large sum, but at last cleared himself, and believes they are satisfied of his innocence. The real story he alluded to, is thus reported; that he advised a certain N-b-n, who applied to him in necessity for ready cash, to take up goods from a manufacturer in Spitalfields, to the value of 2000l. which being put into the hands of Prince, when he had raised a proper sum on them, he returned three or four hundred pounds to his employer, and sunk the rest. This was an expedient he was well practised in, the raising of money on goods, however obtained, of which there are numberless instances. This is one of those abuses of trade and credit, which perverts this practice into one of the worst species of robbery; and is common among that obdurate set of enormous criminals, who live luxuriously upon the spoil in our prisons under the name of debtors. For it must be allowed, that in proportion as the right use of fair trade and well-grounded credit is beneficial to society, and is, in fact, the support of millions in these nations and dominions; so the abuse and perversion of either, or both, is detrimental and destructive to numbers.

But so long habituated was this criminal to the use of false pretences, that he could scarce divest himself of them to his dying day. Whatever pretences he had made use of to conceal the real occasion of his respite from me, the true state of it was first hinted by another, and in due time fully cleared up; and it was thus. He sent his wife to a compassionate Gentleman, in the Commission of the Peace for Middlesex, to inform him, that John Prince, her husband, was able to make some material discoveries for the publick utility, she herself making an affidavit to that purpose, and that he was ready to give his information to proper persons. This was on the 14th of February, the day before he was to suffer. Proper application being made above, by the Gentleman aforesaid, in a few hours a respite, for three weeks, was sent down. And the next day, Prince being examined in an apartment of the prison, gave the following Information.

MIDDLESEX. The Examination of John Prince, now under sentence of death in Newgate, taken this 15th day of February, 1764.

THIS Examinant says, that he knows Ed—d H–t, late of the Seven-dials, Cheesemonger; T—s G–ff–h, a Cabinet-maker; J–n W–ms, late a Change-broker, and who now lives near Grosvenor, or Hanover-Square; George White; who lately died in Newgate; Ch–s Wh–e, brother to the said G–e, who is now at large; J–h H–mm–d, and S–l F–r: Says, that about last Spring he frequented H–ll’s, at the Wheatsheaf, in Purpoollane; that he there saw the aforesaid Ch–s and G–e W–te, who told him, that they lived by picking of pockets; that he also then and there saw, in company with the said two Wh–s, two lusty country-looking fellows, who the said Wh–es informed him, lived by robbing on the highway, and by committing other robberies, but does not know the said last mentioned two persons names, but that they use L–l–y’s, in Golden-lane; says that about nine months ago he was sent for to the Royal Oak, as he believes at Mile-end, by G–e Wh–e and Ed–d H–t, who informed him they had a good job for him to do; says they did not then inform him what the job was, but appointed him to meet them at the Angel at Islington, at five o’ clock the same evening; says he met them there accordingly; says he stayed some time there, when and where they told him, that money must be had, and that if he would go along with them, they had a scheme to get it that night; says they set out from Islington, and proceeded together on horseback to the Halfway-house in the bottom of Finchley Common, where they had some brandy; from thence went to Whetstone, and put up their horses at the Green Man there; from thence went to Barnet to the Green Man there, where they drank; from thence went to the White Lion at Kitt’s Inn, put up their horses there, and after staying some time returned towards London, till they got on to Finchley Common: says they then took across the Common towards Southgate, when they told him they had come out on purpose to rob the Mail: says they staid together on horseback till they saw the Mail cart come along from London; when they desired this informant to go and rob it, and at the same time told him, it was a very rich Mail on account of Chester fair: says he refused robbing it, clapt spurs to his horse, and rode away to his lodgings, opposite the Royal Oak at Mile End aforesaid: says that about twelve days afterwards the said W–te and H–t again called upon him at his lodging, and that they drank together at the Royal Oak; that they then took him into the fields, and told him they had robbed the Mail at the time they wanted him to rob it as aforesaid; and that W–te then gave this examinant a black pocket-book, now in the possession of T–s M–r, Esq; in which was sixteen or eighteen Bank notes of different sums, all which, they told him, they had got out of the aforesaid Mail: says they desired this informant to put the notes by, but not to put them off without their knowledge: says he kept them about a month, and returned them to them again at the Royal Oak aforesaid: says that a few days afterwards they gave him a thirty pound bank bill, which he, in his way from Ascot-Heath races, put off to a Butcher in the morning, who lives opposite the White Hart at Slough, who is a lusty man; that H–t and White told him the said note was taken out of the aforesaid Mail: says he afterwards put off a bank bill, at Bury St. Edmund’s, to G–e M–n, an Attorney, of 20l. which he also had from W–te and H–t, and which they told him they got out of the Mail in manner aforesaid: says H–t told him he buried his share of the bank notes and other papers, which were taken out of the said Mail, in his cellar, near Lombard Court, Seven-dials: says the widow of G–e Wh–e now lives at Matthew Fr–h’s, at Coney, and verily believes that she now has concealed, either in a trunk or in two boxes, papers taken out of the aforesaid Mail. Says, that at the time the said Mail was going to be robbed, as aforesaid, he rode a bay mare, fourteen hands high, which he hired in Red Lion yard, Clerkenwell; that G–e Wh–e rode a brown horse of his own, which at that time stood at the first inn on the left hand going down Old-street; that H–t rode a little black horse, which was hired of C–kst–e at Mile-end, where he this examinant then lodged; that Wh–e was dressed in a brown suit of cloaths, all of the same; but at that time had in his saddle-baggs, a dark grey coat, a black shag waistcoat, and leather breeches; that H–t was dressed in a brown coat and waistcoat, and leather breeches; that he had an old brown great coat tied before him, but that Wh – e had no great coat: Says J–ks-n was a sailor, but now dealt in horses; is a short thick man, and used to pick pockets.

JOHN PRINCE.

It was observed by one well versed in these matters, that after this information was known to be on foot, it was designedly or incautiously kept by the prisoner for twenty-four hours; in which time notice for escape and secreting the effects might be given to the parties, and so the design be defeated. That in consequence of it search warrants were issued, and several parties taken up, but nothing was to be found, or proved.

It was also humanely observed, with due concern, by a Magistrate, that the matter of this examination did not come before the Magistrates in a due and regular channel, by confession made, in a serious hour and frame of preparation, to the proper Minister of the prison, by whom it might have been laid before them, that they might judge whether it deserved the extraordinary favour of a reprieve sine die, and not merely serve the turn of a short, because ill-founded, respite, by which the unhappy convict underwent the dreadful vicissitudes of hopes and fears, and was at length disappointed, to the great disturbance of his mind, and interruption of the regular progress of his preparation. But whom had he to blame for thus undertaking what he could not perform? But there have been like cases of others, who, when sinking, will catch at these twigs.

The matter of this information being referred from authority to three Magistrates, to consider and report whether the case merited a farther respite, it was agreed and concluded to send a written message to Prince, to acquaint him, that his discoveries hitherto were of no service to the publick, and for the most part known before; therefore not to flatter himself with farther favours, unless he could better fulfil his promise; this being signed by the aforesaid three Gentlemen, was sent to him by the hand of his wife, at least nine or ten days before he suffered. Yet he thought proper to keep this whole transaction a secret from me, nor did it come to my knowledge till communicated thro’ an authentic hand after his execution: Insomuch that it now seems unaccountable, how he could amuse himself and me with the appearance of hope, without truth or reason, to the last day; sometimes affecting to expect to know more in a few days; again, insinuating that he was sold by those who better deserved the same fate; then to suspect the intercepting or suppressing some paper of intelligence, which he obscurely hinted at by the application of some bank bills; and dropping other half sentences then unintelligible to me; but which, I now conceive, he must know to be impossible to be true, unless he suspected his wife, or could doubt his own eyes in the answer she brought him. And yet it is well known, she was unwearied and importunate in her applications, and strained some points, at her own peril, to save his life.

As he was frequently warned by me not to build too much on the renewal of this respite, he assured me he would not; for which he gave an instance; that while he was shopman to a draper in Drury-lane, he was picked out as an expeditious rider, to ride post with a respite for a convict in a distant county for six weeks, which was renewed from time to time for six months; and yet at last he suffered.

In the interval of this respite, Prince was far from being composed, but seemed rather fretful and captious. Some ignorant visitor having told him that his life and character was published, much to his disadvantage, being no other, I presume, than the Grub street half-penny speech, he or his friends absurdly took it in their head to suspect, and at last to accuse me, of doing him this ill office. It greatly shocked me, that in the midst of all the best offices I could do him, he should imagine me capable of so much inconsistency. However, considering his ignorance, and the torturing suspence he was in, I patiently gave him all the satisfaction I could, that I never had seen that paper, nor knew what he meant. Still he, in his resentment, seemed unsatisfied, and brought and returned me all the pious and proper tracts I had lent him for his better instruction and preparation. Being calmly asked, how he could do without them? he answered, he had other good books of his own. He still attended the chapel, except an odd day, when in a sullen fit. The last Sunday he had to live, two persons, having desired leave, happened to come with me to go to the chapel; he outrageously attacked one of them, a working Printer, with hand and tongue, seizing him by the collar, was ready to choke him, and using the bitterest imprecations against him, for having published his life; and swore, if he went up to chapel, he would tumble him down stairs. The man assured him (as, I believe, he well could) that he was quite innocent, and an utter stranger to the affair: Prince answered, It was you, or that parson there! Luckily, I had gone first up to chapel, and was not disturbed with this outrageous fray, till after service being ended, and returning to the press-yard, I reproved the man, with some warmth, for neglecting to come up to the service. He then explained the matter, and pleaded his fears of Prince, as a very reasonable excuse. This matter was quickly made known to Mr. A-k-n, who with temper and prudence undertook to set Prince right. By his means he was convinced of his rash judgment and gross misbehaviour, and when visited next day, relented, asked pardon, and expressed sorrow for his fault, of abusing a person who had spoke favourably of him in the account that was then published. And in truth, none of those papers, so offensive to this unhappy man, ever fell under my eye, tho’ enquiry was since made to procure one of them. And considering that those ill-timed and ill-natured invectives, against a man in his critical situation of doubt and fear, might lessen his hope of farther mercy, his resentment, tho’ foolishly misplaced, admits of some sort of excuse. The two last days he employed chiefly in writing notes and sending messages to some officers of the Mint and the Post-office; one from each of which came, and had private conferences with him, by which he seemed to expect a renewal of his respite: But, in fine, he was told, they could do him no service. On these occasions, he only told me in general, that his mind and conscience was not easy, till he had opened what he had to say to those gentlemen before he suffered, which, he told me, was a discovery concerning the robbery of the Chester Mail: But said nothing of his conversation with the Gentleman from the Tower. And as to his discovery concerning that robbery of the Mail, it is strongly surmised, for good reasons, that it was all hearsay evidence, which he had learned in conversation from his fellow-prisoner, G. White aforesaid, who died in Newgate, and is believed to be the person, or one of them, who committed that fact; for neither Prince nor his wife, when closely examined, could ascertain the time when it was committed. He told me it was above a year ago, while his examination makes it only three quarters of a year; and she, from the circumstances of her husband’s returning home in a morning, would have proved it to be in June last: whereas it appears, from the Advertisement, to be on the 7th of September last, between three and four in the morning, by two footpads, the one rather a tall man, pitted with the small-pox; the other rather a short man, in a sailor’s jacket and a check shirt, &c.
He seemed to become very serious and attentive the two last days, in the chapel, when I explained to him, from the chosen Lessons of Isaiah the fifth and St. Luke the sixteenth, and other places, the necessary distinctions between moral good and evil, virtue and vice, obedience and disobedience, and their inevitable consequences; and also the certainty and eternal duration of two opposite states, from the Parable of Dives and Lazarus. When visited the evening before he suffered, several proper and affecting prayers were offered up, in which he humbly and heartily joined. He was very thankful, and expressed his gratitude in the tenderest manner, seizing my hand and kissing it, and shewing great sorrow that he had ever distrusted my care and fidelity, and wished he had placed that confidence in his minister which he put in others.

The Morning of Execution.

Having saluted him with a blessing of Peace, and asked him how are you? he said, As well as can be expected. He had two books in his hand, which I lent him a second time the preceding evening. He was asked, have you made good use of those books? He answered, he had, as long as light was allowed him, which was but an hour after I left him at six. Had you any sleep? Yes, he said, he lost himself for about two hours, and then returned to his thoughts and exercises proper for his approaching change.

At Prayers and the Administration he behaved with humble and attentive devotion, only seemed too little acquainted with his part of the office, unless directed. After which, he was reminded, to keep in his heart this surest and highest pledge of the love of God, and in his passage to meditate on the articles of the Christian Faith, and these two petitions — Thy kingdom come; thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven: And to comfort himself with the hope that this chastisement is a mark and proof of God’s love to his soul, intended by a right use of it to save him from worse, infinitely worse, hereafter. He seemed very thankful, and promised he would comply with these directions. He went down directly, and passed thro’ the operation of having his irons knocked off, and his hands and arms bound, with great resignation. He said, indeed, one thing which had better been spared, “That he might have saved his own life had he put others in his place; but this he did not chuse to do.” This speech, compared with what has been before related, seems to prove he was not yet purged from the dross of all dissimulation and false pretences. This was his weak side.

When put in the cart, he appeared intent on his book, and regardless of any thing that passed around him. There were few spectators here in comparison, and fewer at the place of execution; this execution being scarce known, or expected by the public.

When brought to the tree, he seemed calm and chearful; and being asked, said he was very easy. Also, Whether he now acknowledged the justice of his sentence? he answered, there was no fraud intended, nor forgery committed; but as his King and country had found him guilty, he submitted. He added, that nothing lay heavy on his conscience, nor had he any concern, but that dear, worthy, good creature he left behind him; to whom, he assured me, he was married, whatever malicious report may say to the contrary. The usual proper devotions being performed, in which he joined and also the surrounding people, he looked round with a calm countenance, but seemed to want words; he then said, “The peace of God be with you all; I wish you more grace than I have had, and not to come to this sad end which I have brought myself to.” Then having received the last benediction, he quietly resigned his life and suffered his sentence.


An Account of the Behaviour of Anne Baker, Peter Robins, James Rocket, and Timothy Stewart.

BY virtue of the King’s commission of the peace, oyer and terminer, and gaol-delivery of Newgate, holden for the city of London and county of Middlesex, at Justice-hall in the Old-Bailey, before the Right Honourable William Bridgen, Esq; Lord-Mayor of the city of London ; Sir Henry Gould, Knt. one of the Judges of his Majesty’s Court of Common Pleas ; the Honourable Mr. Baron Perrott; James Eyre, Esq; Recorder , and others of his Majesty’s Justices of oyer and terminer of the city of London, and Justices of gaol-delivery of Newgate, holden for the said city and county of Middlesex, on Wednesday the 22d, Thursday the 23d, Friday the 24th, Saturday the 25th, Monday the 27th, and Tuesday the 28th of February, in the fourth year of his Majesty’s reign, five persons were capitally convicted and received sentence of death, for the several crimes in their indictments set forth, namely, Anne Baker, Peter Robins, James Wharton, James Rocket, and Timothy Steward.

1. And on Friday the 23d of March, the report of the said malefactors was made to his Majesty, by Mr. Recorder, when James Wharton, for the robbery of Anne Curtise of 2s. on the King’s highway, was respited, and the other four abovenamed ordered for execution, on Wednesday March 28th, and were executed accordingly.

2. Anne Baker, spinster, was indicted, for that she, (together with Anne Hill, James Doleman and John Wright, not taken,) in a certain alley, near the King’s highway, on Thomas Porter did make an assault, putting him in corporal fear and danger of his life, and violently taking from his person one guinea and twelve and six-pence in money, numbered, his property, January the 8th.

The prosecutor, Thomas Porter, a seafaring and lighter-man , who then lodged on Snow-Hill, drinking a pint of beer at the Bell in the Old-Bailey, fell into this ill company, and had a quarrel raised against him, for speaking a word to save the prisoner from the stripes of a rattan; he went out to avoid them; and the two women, mentioned in the indictment, followed him close, under pretence of getting some persons to see him righted. They got the two men abovementioned. They decoyed him from one alehouse to another, between Fleet-Market and the Old-Bailey, from seven till twelve at night, and then the women persuading him to see them home to White-Cross Street, they led him round through Chick-Lane, to Black-Boy Alley, where the prisoner, by a frightful whistle which she blew, had him surrounded by five, in a moment. The four now mentioned, struck and wounded him terribly, saying, they would have his money, life, and clothes; and then dragging him by the legs along the street, they held him down, rifled his pockets, cutting one of them out with a knife; this made him cry out, Murder, help, mercy. The prisoner said, Blast him, murder him, &c. Some door opening at that instant, they fled. He caught Wright and hauled him up Chick-Lane; a watchman said, he dared not to assist the prosecutor, among such a number of thieves as are in that lane, for fear of being murdered; and he was advised to let go the robber, which he did. The prisoner was taken the second night after, by a warrant from Sir John Fielding, and by help of some of his men, at the said Bell ale-house. Having denied the charge as long as she could, with great impudence and imprecations, she at last confessed it, and impeached her accomplices, saying, she and Anne Hill had 6s. each, and the two men 12s. each; that they lay together that night; and she was an unhappy woman. All which is confirmed by several other witnesses.

Being convicted, she, with the other two Protestant convicts, attended the chapel, February the 26th, and before prayers heard an exhortation suited to their sad case, with which they seemed deeply affected. On Tuesday afternoon, the 28th, they received sentence of death. After this they were daily instructed in a manner suited to their gross ignorance, and evil habits, and taught to join in the service, with which they seemed little acquainted. Baker could not read, and required the more labour to be laid out in teaching her. She said she was only nineteen years of age, the daughter of a Printer, of the name of Craddock, born in St. John’s Square, Clerkenwell; the name of Baker being that of her husband, a sailor, now abroad; that while her father lived, she got a little instruction, and could read; but he dying, left her poor mother a widow, with five children, about four or five years ago; in her tenth year she had a fever, which hurt her eyes, so that she was blind nearly for a year, and so lost her reading. When recovered, and at a proper age, she was put out by the parish of St. Bride’s, to a man in Rosemary-Lane, to learn the business of closeing shoes, and dealing in old cloaths ; here, she described her treatment to be so very bad, that she ran away, and made her complaint to the parish officers. They passed her back to Whitechapel parish, in which her master lived, to whom she was compelled to return, and was then treated worse than ever; for she said, he was the first that corrupted her, and used to lock her up, and force her to yield to his wicked purposes. She then fled from him entirely, and went and hired herself at the Blue Ball and Crown in Black-Friars, a publick house, where she lived for two years. But being seduced by some unhappy young girls like herself, she then went to a house of ill-fame near Fleet-ditch, begun to walk the street, and has been in these wretched and detestable courses for some years, so that she now seemed languid, distempered, and decayed, at an age when youth and virtue would have ripened her into blooming health and strength. She was free to confess she had lived in several bad houses, partly as a servant, and partly as a guest. She owned she was in company with the prosecutor, and the other men, who frequent those houses, and go a thieving; but denied the most odious and cruel parts of the charge against her, pretending she knew not the men had robbed and abused the prosecutor, till she heard him cry out murder, and then she ran away. They were duly warned not to dissemble and hide their sins, but to repent of them all without reserve. After the Death warrant she seemed so far convinced of this duty, that she humbly and heartily opened several acts of theft she had been guilty of; such as going off with a guinea now and then, of a guest, which was entrusted with her to change; and once she stole three guineas of a sick man, whom her mother was a nursing. She was also concerned in the robbery of a man at the Turk’s Head Bagnio, in Catharine-street, near the Strand.

While the Death-warrant was delayed, she and her-fellow convicts seemed to forget their condition and to relapse into bad habits and filthy conversation; but when she found she must die, she wept and lamented much; was filled with sorrow and shame for her past sinful life, and became more thoughtful and serious than ever.

By help of the plain instructions which were daily given them, she endeavoured to prepare herself with all the requisites for receiving the holy communion; and after careful examination and repeated instruction, was admitted to it the day before she suffered, not without hope and comfort.

3. Peter Robins, Charles Galliher, and Jane Godfrey, otherwise Simonds, spinster , were indicted, for that they, on the 16th of January, about the hour of one in the night, the dwelling house of Christian Watts did break and enter, and steal one large silver salver value 5 l. one silver apple scoop value 2 s. two silver tea spoons value 2 s. one silver table spoon value 6 s. two silver dessert forks value 3 s. one pair of cotton stockings value 2 s. one pair of worsted stockings value 2 s. one canvas bag value 1 d. and 20 s. in money numbered, the property of the said Christian, in her dwelling house.

This burglary and robbery is the more aggravated, as it was perpetrated against a lonely gentlewoman in years, at Staines, Middlesex, afflicted with deafness, and unguarded by any company in her house, which stands alone in the Hampton Road. In the morning of the 16th or 17th of January, she found the glass of her window had been broke, the sash of the staircase unscrewed, her chamber door broke to pieces, which had been fastened with a lock and bar, her pocket taken from under her head, emptied, and thrown in the passage; five locks broke; the several things mentioned in the indictment missing, besides a feather-bed thrown out of a window into the garden. Three of her neighbours, being called in, were eyewitnesses of the damages, to which they gave testimony. Mr. Bolt, by applying to Sir John Fielding, and advertising the particulars, traced the affair to the prisoner Robins, who was stopt with the salver, on Sunday the 22d of January, by Mr. Hebbleswaite, a Watch-maker, in New-Street, St. Martin’s in the Fields, and given in charge to Mr. Sheffield the Constable. He said first, it was a family piece of plate, that belonged to his mother. Then, before the Magistrate, that it was thrown at him, by a man galloping by his door, with several other improbable falsehoods, till at last the prosecutrix coming to town, and swearing to the property, he declared the truth in all its circumstances, discovered his two accomplices, and that he had sold the rest of the plate at Mr. Master’s, a Silver-smith, in Coventry-Street, where they found it.

Jane Godfrey was taken in the street, and Galliher in his bed at Egham: She swore against a fourth person, who being taken up, and examined, was set at liberty, being thought innocent. She would have turned evidence, but was not judged, by Mr. Bolt, sit to be credited.

The prisoner in his defence denied no part of the evidence given against him, but rather confirmed it, by admitting he first named the person to be robbed, in very abusive and opprobrious terms; which terms expressed more vengeance against the injured prosecutrix, than a sense of his own guilt, or the least remorse for it at this time. Bad symptoms, indeed! which glared so strong against him, that they probably contributed to countervail all the powerful interest since used to save his life.

There being nothing found on the other two accomplices, nor no evidence against them, but that of the prisoner; they are acquitted and let loose. But let them be warned, by his fate, how they intangle themselves again.

For some time after conviction Robins said he could not read, but stood silent in the chapel, and took no proper books to assist him in the cell: For this reason, perhaps, Wharton, his fellow convict, was put in the same cell to read to him, till they disagreed in about a week, and were parted; when it came out that Robins could read a little tolerably, and having books put into his hands, began to apply himself to it, both in chapel and in private. His case and condition having been strongly and frequently represented to him, he seemed really affected; he began to look serious, dejected, and terrified, and to give more earnest heed to instruction. He was naturally of a good spritely countenance, about twenty-four years of age, well-made, of a middle size, seemed strong and active, and capable of doing much good, or evil. It should have been mentioned before, that when first questioned, what he was convicted for? he put on a piteous face, and said it was for robbing a house, but he was never in it, nor near it. This was gross prevarication, after all that he had confessed, and was proved against him. He was reminded, that he was now in a situation, where the hiding of his guilt could be of no service to him, in the presence of him to whom his heart, life, and actions were open and visible; to whom if he denied his guilt, it was not only vain, but must seal his destruction. On this he was silent for the future about his innocence; and only insisted that this was his first fact; and from this he never departed. His meaning in the former assertion he explained to be, that he was not one of those who broke into the house, but only stood at the window and received the goods, and, to his cost, sold them too.

On his insisting that this was his first and only fact, he was told it was otherwise believed and reported by those who knew him at Staines. He seemed surprized, and appealed to his character there; and pleaded the common excuse, that he was in liquor when he did this.

He told me he was born in Northampton, that his father was a plumber and glazier; which business he had not thoroughly learned, but used to work at house-painting at Staines, and sometimes at London; that he used also to break and ride young horses. He did not mention, what I heard from others, that he was some time in the light horse , and of Lord Albemarle’s troop; which being reduced, he was discharged. Also that he could earn 20s. a week as a plumber .

He was married to a young woman of a decent family at Staines, by whom he has left issue. His wife and brother are said to have been very active in applying to get his sentence mitigated, and some great personages spoke for the same favour, but could not prevail.

He, with the other convicts, had relapsed into a scene of very indecent conversation about the 18th of March, while the sword of justice seemed suspended; but being reproved, and the danger of so hardened and desperate a temper set before them, they seemed to relent, and behave better the few remaining days.

After the Death-warrant he was remarkably composed, and said he expected no other, and hoped he was on a good foundation. On expressing his preparation and desire, he was admitted to communicate. Wharton also, who is respited, humbly and devoutly joined with them in this duty, the day before and the morning they suffered.

On the 25th, being the last Sunday they had to live, the nature, end, and institution of the holy communion was summed up to them a-new, before prayers. The prisoners in general were serious and attentive, and the convicts behaved with deep humility and sorrow. Then followed the morning-service. From the first proper lesson, Genesis chap. xxxix. the two very contrary characters of faithful Joseph, and his lewd, perfidious, and vindictive mistress, were contrasted and set in opposite points of view. The blessing and prosperity of Joseph sprung hence, that the Lord was with him, and preserved him in purity of heart and integrity of life; while they who forsake God are left to themselves, to work their own ruin. The epistle for the day, Ephes. ch. v. proved exactly suitable to warn and reprove these backsliding convicts, and other prisoners, for their bad habits and conversation, which was therefore opened and applied to them. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God: The conscience and experience of sinners joining to convince them, that (without repentance) the punishments are and will be inflicted, as sure as denounced. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God on the children of disobedience. In the afternoon they were farther instructed from the ixth chapter of Jeremiah, and the xiith chapter to the Hebrews, and from other proper portions of Scripture on different occasions.

4. James Rocket, otherwise Price, and Timothy Steward, were indicted, for that they (in company with Joseph Redmond, sick in gaol) in a certain footway, near the King’s highway, on John Pennington did make an assault, putting him in corporal fear and danger of his life, and violently taking from his person a metal watch, value 3l. three metal seals, value 12d. a brass watch-key, value 1d. three guineas and five shillings in money numbered, his property, November 20.

This fact was brought home to the two prisoners, on the evidence of one of their accomplices, Joseph Lowther, (there being five of them concerned) supported by the prosecutor’s swearing to both Rockett and Steward; and also by Henry Jacobs, son of a Jew Silversmith in Wapping, to whom the said two prisoners sold the watch and seals for a guinea, and the property of which was also sworn to by the prosecutor. He was first cruelly knocked down with a poker by one of this inhuman gang, who is now a respite in Newgate. Pennington being somewhat in liquor, and a stranger about those parts of Nightingale-lane and East Smithfield, had enquired his way of them, and was making home through Chelsea to Battersea, where he lives, and is a Slater, Plaisterer, and Painter. These five seafaring men were prowling about, and had formed a scheme to rob a Chandler’s shop of the till, while one of them was buying some bread and cheese: This being prevented by the people being on their guard, they were looking out for some other prey when they met with this unlucky man, whom they marked out, followed, and beset, till they treated him in the manner described. ‘Tis well the knot is broke!

James Rockett told me his true name is Lockart, that his father was a Scotchman and belonged to the army, and his mother an Irish woman; that he was born in the English camp, then in some part of Germany; he pretended he was but sixteen years of age, but it proved afterwards he could not be less than twenty-two or twenty-three years old, for he was said to be an old offender, and companion to Steward, who owned himself to be about that age. They were often invited to attend our service, but refusing to come, they were warned not to trust in any other means of salvation without true repentance, and an entire change of mind and manners. They had enlisted themselves under a different persuasion, and would give little account of their past life. They were both illiterate, and very ignorant.

Timothy Steward was born at Knightsbridge, where his father lived some time, and, as he said, was one of the Gardeners of Kensington gardens, which employment, I was told, he quitted for that of a Coal-heaver in the river, and about Wapping, in which neighbourhood his mother now lives. This lad served his apprenticeship to the sea in a vessel out of Scarborough, in the coal trade , and was afterwards in his Majesty’s service for two years. When asked what religion his parents professed? he answered, he knew not, for they taught him none, nor ever made him go to any place of worship, to which he and his companion were strangers. No wonder, will the serious reader be apt to say, they were brought to this untimely and shameful death! Their religion being to chuse, and they incapable of making any distinction, it was said in the prison they chose the church of Rome, on account of some emoluments allowed them. These two behaved careless and insolent till they found themselves included in the Death-warrant, when they appeared more thoughtful and humble.

On the Morning of Execution.

Ann Baker and Robins, when visited, were found in a composed and hopeful temper, as they were left the day before. Baker said, she had asked pardon of her mother for all her disobedience and rude behaviour to her, and had taken leave of her mother and sister in peace. Robins confessed nothing farther. The usual good offices in the chapel were performed for them, and they seemed well supported and resigned. About nine these two were put in one cart, and Rockett and Steward in a second; one of the latter, viz. Rockett, behaved with levity, dancing in the cart, and calling out to some sailors in the crowd, What ship, brother? He was in a different temper at the place of execution, where he confessed, “he was in the company that committed this robbery; but had deserved this death for other facts more than this; that he would not take warning, though he had been transported from Hicks’s-hall, but returned from the Havanna in a King’s ship, and fell again into bad company at Saltpetre-bank.” Steward denied “he had been long in these courses, but was foolishly drawn into this fact.”

Robins was very easy and calm; both he and Baker behaved with great devotion, and were prayed for by the surrounding multitude, at their own request. They warned others to beware of bad company and bad courses; to which purpose Baker repeated this couplet:

Take heed ill company and vice to shun,
Lest soon like mine your glass may run.

When prayers were ended, and I had parted from them, she fainted, and was only supported by the cord; after which they quickly suffered their dreadful sentence.

This is all the account given by me,

STEPHEN ROE,
ORDINARY of Newgate.

Part of the Themed Set: The Ordinary of Newgate.

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

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1554: A false coiner and a masked dummy

Add comment September 29th, 2016 Headsman

From the diary of Felix Platter, a Swiss youth studying in Montpellier, France. It is not completely evident from context (“afterwards …”) whether the masked dummy was “executed” on the same occasion as the coiner, or whether that effigy was punished on a different day.

On the next day [after a September 28 execution] a false coiner was hanged in the same place. The gibbet was not vety high and had only one arm.

Afterwards a masked dummy was brought on a hurdle, and was laid on the cross and its limbs broken, as I have described. This dummy represented a Greek who had studied at Montpellier and had been accounted one of the keenest blades of the town. He had married Gillette d’Andrieu, a girl of doubtful reputation, who had neither beauty nor fortune. She had a very long nose, and her lover could scarcely manage to kiss her on the lips, especially since he too had a nose of respectable size.

The Greek was insulted by a canon, Pierre Saint-Ravy, who taunted him, at the moment when he was about to relieve himself, of having had intercourse with his wife. The husband at once stabbed the canon and fled; he could therefore be executed only in effigy. His wife continued to live in Montpellier, and was often in Rondelet’s house she was a relative of his.*

She often came there to dance, and one day I danced with her, all booted and spurred, on my return from Vendargues. As I turned, my spurs entangled themselves in her dress, and I fell full length on the floor. Some tablets I had in a breast pocket were broken into pieces, and I was so stunned that I had to be helped up.

* Guillaume Rondelet was one of Platter’s instructors, a professor of medicine. He had been friends with Rabelais and has the distinction of appearing in Gargantua and Pantagruel under the name Rondibilis.

Part of the Daily Double: Felix Platter’s Diary.

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Entry Filed under: 16th Century,Broken on the Wheel,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Counterfeiting,Crime,Death Penalty,Executed in Effigy,Execution,France,Gruesome Methods,Hanged,History,Known But To God,Murder,Not Executed,Pelf,Public Executions

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1806: John Docke Rouvelett, malicious prosecutor

1 comment September 3rd, 2016 Headsman

From the Newgate Calendar:

John Docke Rouvelett, alias Romney

After maliciously prosecuting a Woman he was executed at Ilchester, at the Summer Assizes, 1806, in Somersetshire, for Forgery

JOHN DOCKE ROUVELETT, a notorious swindler, was well known at Bath, where he passed for a West Indian of considerable fortune and family. He was about forty years of age, and had the appearance of a creole. He lived with a woman of the name of Elizabeth Barnet, who passed for his wife. Having been arrested for debt, he was occasionally visited by this woman in the Fleet Prison, and was afterwards removed, by habeas corpus, into Somersetshire, on a charge of forgery.

Conscious that Elizabeth Barnet was the only witness against him, by whose evidence he could be convicted of the forgery, as well as of perjury, another case also pending — Rouvelett having falsely sworn a debt against Mr Dorant, of the York Hotel, Albemarle Street — he had her taken up for a supposed robbery, and charged her with stealing his purse in the Fleet Prison, containing forty guineas, half-a-guinea, and a valuable diamond.

This case of singular atrocity came on at the Old Bailey, Saturday, 5th of July, 1806. The young woman was fashionably attired, and her appearance excited universal sympathy. Rouvelett was brought up from Ilchester jail, ironed, to prosecute on his indictment. An application was made to put off the trial, on the affidavit of the prosecutor, which stated that some material witnesses at Liverpool had not had sufficient notice to attend. The object of this attempt was to prevent the woman appearing against him on his trial for forgery, and also to prevent her becoming a witness against him in the case of perjury, as already mentioned. The recorder saw through the transactions, which he described as the most foul and audacious that ever were attempted. He ordered the trial to proceed.

Rouvelett, who called himself a gentleman, stated that the prisoner was with him on the 11th of June, 1805, when he drew half-a-guinea from his purse and gave it to a messenger; after which he put the purse containing the property as stated in the indictment into the pocket of a surtout coat, which was hanging up in the room, in which was the ring, worth thirty pounds. There were no other persons in the room but the prisoner and himself, and in twenty minutes after she was gone he missed his property from the greatcoat pocket. He concluded that the money was safe, as the prisoner had gone to Dorant’s hotel, Albemarle Street, and he did not suppose her capable of robbing him. She, however, absconded, and he never saw her again until she was arrested at his suit, jointly with Dorant, in an action of trover for twenty thousand pounds for deeds, mortgages and bonds, bearing interest, for which bail was given. He had no opportunity of bringing her to justice for the alleged robbery, being himself a prisoner. (The recorder here remarked that the prosecutor could find the prisoner for a civil suit, although he could not find her for the criminal act.)

On the cross-examination of the prosecutor he said he was born at St Martin’s, in the West Indies, and had been at most of the islands in that quarter. His uncle was a planter in the West Indies, and he lived on such means, whilst in England, as his family afforded him. He was brought up in Amsterdam, at the house of Mr Hope, banker; after which he became a lieutenant in the British Army (the 87th Regiment). He knew Mr Hope, of Harley Street, Cavendish Square, and Mr Hope knew him to be Mr Rouvelett, of St Martin’s, for the two families had been closely connected for a hundred years. He lived in England on remittances from his uncle, in goods or bills, but he had no property of his own. Messrs Stephens & Boulton used to pay witness his remittances at Liverpool, but he could not tell who paid them in London. The recorder observed that the witness should not be pressed too far to give an account of himself, as he (the prisoner) stood charged with forgery. Being asked if he, the witness, had not said he would be revenged on the prisoner, as she was intimate with Dorant, and charge her with a felony, he answered that he did not recollect having said so; but the question being pressed, he partly acknowledged it. The purse, which was empty, witness acknowledged was found under the pillow, on the 12th of June, the day after the alleged robbery, by his room chum, a man of the name of Cummings. The prisoner was with him in prison after the 12th of June, although he had said she had absconded.

The recorder did not suffer the cause to be further proceeded in, and directed the jury to acquit the prisoner; he also observed this was the most foul charge he had ever heard of.

The disgust of the persons in court as the fellow retired was manifested by hisses and groans in such a manner as baffled the efforts of the officers of justice for some time to suppress.

The trial of this malicious offender, who was thus happily disappointed in his views, came on at Wells, on Tuesday, 12th of August, 1806, before Baron Thompson, and excited uncommon interest throughout the county of Somerset.

The prisoner, John Docke Romney alias Rouvelett, was indicted for having feloniously and knowingly forged a certain bill of exchange, dated Grenada, 10th of November, 1804, for four hundred and twenty pounds sterling, payable at nine months’ sight to the order of George Danley, Esq., and drawn by Willis & Co. on Messrs Child & Co. in London, with the forged acceptance of Messrs Child & Co. on the face thereof, with intent to defraud Mary Simeon.

Mr Burrough entered into the details of the case, which were afterwards substantiated by the evidence.

Mr Philip George, the younger clerk to the Mayor of Bath, stated that the bill in question was delivered to him by the Mayor of Bath, and that he had ever since kept the bill in his own custody.

Mrs Mary Simeon, dealer in laces, at Bath, deposed that in April, 1805, she lived at Bath. The prisoner came to her house on or about the 16th of March 1805; he looked at several articles in which she dealt, bought a fan, paid for it, and said he should bring his wife with him in the afternoon. He accordingly did so, and brought Elizabeth Barnet as his wife, Mrs Romney. He asked whether Mrs Simeon had a Brussels veil of a hundred and fifty guineas’ value. The witness answered she had not. He then bought two yards of lace, at four guineas a yard, and went away. This happened on a Saturday. The following Monday he came again, accompanied by his wife, looked at a lace cloak, at veils worth five and twenty guineas, and other goods, but did not buy any. In the course of the week he called again, and proposed to purchase a quantity of goods from the witness, if she would take a bill of a long date, accepted by Messrs Child & Co., bankers, in London. Witness answered she had no objections to take a bill accepted by such a house. He returned in two or three days and purchased articles to the value of about one hundred and forty pounds, which, with other goods afterwards bought, and with money advanced by her, made the prisoner her debtor to the amount of two hundred and ninety-nine pounds. He bought all the articles himself, unaccompanied by his wife. In the month of April, between the 20th and 24th, the prisoner proposed paying for the different articles, and he brought his wife to the house, when a meeting took place between them and the witness, and her brother, Mr Du Hamel. He said: “I am going to London, and I should like to settle with you. This is the bill I proposed to you to take; it is accepted by Child & Co., bankers, in London”; and, turning over the bill, he added: “The endorser is as good as the acceptors.”

The bill was here produced, and proved by Mrs Simeon to be the same which the prisoner gave to her in April, 1805.

The witness then took the bill, and her brother, Mr Du Hamel, paid to him, for her, thirty-five pounds, which, with the articles previously bought, made the whole of the prisoner’s debt to her two hundred and ninety-nine pounds. In her presence he wrote on the bill the name of John Romney, as his name. He afterwards went to London by the mail. She sent the bill to London the next day.

The conversation which passed between her and the prisoner, in the presence of her brother and Elizabeth Barnet, was entirely in the French language. He left his wife at her house, where she slept. While he was absent the witness received intelligence from London that the bill was a forgery, and she instantly wrote a letter to the prisoner, informing him of it. He came to Bath in consequence of the letter, late on a Sunday night, and a meeting took place then at her house with him, his wife, herself, her brother, and her solicitor, Mr Luke Evill, of Bath. The conversation then passed in English. Several questions were put to the prisoner by herself and by Mr Evill. Mr Evill asked him whether he had any business with W. A. Bailey, the endorser, which induced him to take the bill. He said Mr Bailey had sold some sugar for him. She asked him if Bailey lived in London; he replied at some inn or coffee-house, the name of which she did not recollect. He was then asked in what island or islands Mr Bailey’s property was situated. He mentioned two or three islands in the West Indies, but he did not know in which of them Mr Bailey was at that time. The prisoner then inquired where the bill was. Being informed by the witness that it was in London, he said she must write to get it sent back. She, however, declared that such an application would be unavailing, and the prisoner pressed her to go to London herself. She refused to go alone, and he entreated Mr Evill to accompany her, saying that he would give Mr Evill twenty pounds to defray the expenses of the journey, which he accordingly did. She set out at ten o’clock that night, accompanied by Mr Evill, and obtained the bill from Messrs Sloper & Allen, in whose custody it was, by paying three hundred guineas, which was all the money she then had at her bankers’. She brought the bill back to Bath, having stopped but one day in London; but the prisoner was not at Bath when she returned. He had left some property at her house with his wife, who had removed from Sidney House, with his clothes, etc. The bill remained after this in her custody about a twelvemonth, and was given up to Mr Evill by her brother. Mr Dorant paid the whole of the debt due by the prisoner on the 6th of May, 1805, a few days after the prisoner finally left Bath.

Upon the cross-examination of Mrs Simeon, it appeared that she considered the prisoner and Elizabeth Barnet as man and wife. It was not until May, 1806, that she appeared before the Mayor of Bath against the prisoner, whom she knew to have been in the Fleet Prison. She did not go before the magistrate at the solicitation of Mr Dorant, nor did she at any time, nor on any account, receive any money from Dorant, but what was actually and fairly due to her by the prisoner.

Mr Du Hamel, brother of Mrs Simeon, corroborated all the principal facts stated by his sister.

Mr Whelan deposed that he was a clerk in the house of Messrs Child & Co. He had filled that situation for about nine years, and, from his knowledge of the business, was enabled to state their manner of accepting bills. The house had no correspondence whatever at Grenada by the name of Willis & Co., and the acceptance which appeared on the face of the bill was not the acceptance of Messrs Child & Co.

Elizabeth Barnet was next called. She deposed that she became acquainted with the prisoner in the month of September, 1804, when at Liverpool. About a fortnight after she first saw him she began to live with him, and continued till the 6th of June, 1805; during all that period she passed under the name of Mrs Romney. She left Liverpool in the month of January, 1805, and came to London with the prisoner. They then took lodgings at Mr Dorant’s hotel, in Albemarle Street. The account he gave of himself to her was that he was a West Indian planter, and that he had estates in Martinique and St Kitts. They remained between two and three months at Mr Dorant’s hotel, during which time they were not visited by anybody except a Mr Hope, whom she remembered seeing with the prisoner. This Mr Hope was not represented to her as coming from Holland. She accompanied Mr Romney to Bath, and on their arrival there they lodged at the White Hart Inn for about a fortnight previous to her lodging at Madame Simeon’s. Soon after their arrival at the White Hart she went along with the prisoner to Madame Simeon’s to look at some laces and a black cloak. None of these articles, however, was purchased at that time by the prisoner, they being afterwards bought when she was not present. She heard the prisoner state to Madame Simeon that he would give her a bill of exchange, accepted by Child & Co. of London. She did not then see any bill in his possession, but saw him writing one three days afterwards, when he sent the witness for some red ink. Two or three days after the prisoner gave the bill to Madame Simeon he was much disturbed, and on being asked the reason he said he would be hanged. He asked her to fetch him his writing-desk, which she did. He then took out a large parcel of papers and burned them. She had no opportunity of seeing what those papers were. She said to him: “Were the papers any harm?” He said: “Yes; and there was a paper which must not be seen.” She never lived with the prisoner after the 6th of June, 1805. She, however, remembered visiting him in the Fleet Prison. She was soon afterwards arrested at Bath, at the prisoner’s instance, for the sum of twenty thousand, three hundred and twenty pounds, and carried to Winchester jail, and afterwards removed to the King’s Bench. She saw the prisoner on this occasion, and again at the Old Bailey, when he was examined as a witness against her on her trial. He then charged her with having robbed him on the 11th of June, 1805, of forty guineas and a diamond ring, when he was in the Fleet Prison. This charge was totally without foundation, as was also the alleged debt of twenty thousand, three hundred and twenty pounds. She never had any transactions in her life to which such a charge could refer.

On her cross-examination she deposed that her real name was Elizabeth Barnet. She was the daughter of a farmer in Shropshire, from whom she had had a plain education. She left her father when nineteen years of age and went to Liverpool, where she lodged with a Mrs Barns. She lived in Liverpool about nine or ten months. After she had left off seeing Mr Rouvelett in the Fleet she lodged at a Mr Fox’s, in Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, for seven or eight weeks. She afterwards went to Berry Street.

To some additional interrogatories by Mr Burrough this witness further deposed that the prisoner Romney sued out a writ against her for twelve hundred pounds, exclusive of the sum before mentioned. This was after she had ceased to visit him in prison and had gone to reside at her father’s, and it was also previous to the arrest for the twenty thousand, three hundred and twenty pounds already taken notice of. No demand was made against her by the prisoner when she visited him in the jail.

The jury, having consulted for a few minutes, returned a verdict of guilty of forging the acceptance, and of uttering it knowing it to be forged.

The trial lasted nearly twelve hours, and the court was filled in every part. Among the audience were the first characters in the country. This notorious offender was executed at Ilchester, pursuant to his sentence, on the 3rd of September, 1806. He was dressed in a blue coat with metal buttons, striped trousers, green slippers, and a fur cap.

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1756: Owen Syllavan

Add comment May 10th, 2016 Headsman

Colonial counterfeiter Owen Syllavan (Sullivan) was executed in New York on this date in 1756.

An Irish runaway, Syllavan followed an indenture to the North American colonies and wound up enlisted in the army during the French and Indian War. As a militia armorer, he picked up the smithing skills with which he would later turn out plates to to clone the colonies’ bills of exchange.

Anthony Vaver, author of Bound With An Iron Chain: The Untold Story of How the British Transported 50,000 Convicts to Colonial America, tells the charming crook’s story on Vaver’s blog Early American Crime; click onward to find out whether Syllavan’s gallows appeal for his 29 confederates to get out of the currency fraud game saved their necks.*

* Anthony Vaver has also guest-blogged for Executed Today.

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1770: King David Hartley, Yorkshire coiner

1 comment April 28th, 2016 Headsman

On this date in 1770, the King of Yorkshire counterfeiters hanged (along with one of his subjects) at York’s Tyburn gallows.

Hartley was the chief of a band of currency manipulators who achieved surprising success and longevity operating from the haunting moors of England’s north.* Known (in order of least to greatest geographical specificity) as the Yokrshire, or West Riding, or Cragg Vale coiners, their operation was a straightforward shaving precious metal from coins but found its edge — so to speak — in their lair’s remoteness from the capital.


Illustration of the coining tools for Portuguese money seized from King David’s band, from The Yorkshire Coiners, 1767-1783. (Portuguese coins, a Cragg Vale specialty, were in active and legal circulation in England at this time, along with other continental coinage.)

According to this public domain volume about the criminals, the first recognition of their activities by law enforcement occurred in 1767, when a coin-clipper named Greenwood “confessed who learnt him the art of clipping in your neighbourhood” — which makes it sound like those artists were already both numerous and practiced. The next year, a man named Joseph Stell hanged for the crime, but the Leeds Intelligencer editorialized in 1769 against “the number of Sweaters and Filers of Gold coin [who] still continue to infest the Western part of this County with impunity” because “if they are suffered to go on a few years in this public and daring manner, it is supposed the current gold coin of the nation in general will be reduced a fifth part.” (A parliamentary inquiry in 1773 found that the overall weight of the country’s coinage came up a full 9% short of its face value: certainly not entirely the work of Cragg Vale, but an alarming state of affairs.)

The business had an undeniable appeal despite the occupational hazard of the gallows. With England awash in the whole world’s specie as the dominant mercantile power, the West Riding became a veritable Silicon Valley for currency entrepreneurs. It’s thought their number might have ranged into the hundreds.

Gold Coin, which has heretofore been so scarce among us as to command a large Premium against Bills of Exchange, flows in upon us with great Rapidity from all parts of the Island; and by the Hocus Pocus Touch of a Number of experimental Philosophers and Chymists (not by an addition to its weight, but by an ingenious Multiplication of its Numbers) is so greatly increased, that all Payments in Paper will soon be at an end … [they] are in a fair Way of drawing Half the Gold in the two Kingdoms into this happy Country … If you wish to be rich, and can sacrifice a few nonsensical Scruples to that Deity, make haste hither, and you may soon be instructed in these Mysteries, which, (with great Ease and Pleasure) will enable you to convert a thousand of your old-fashioned Guineas into Twelve Hundred, and, with a moderate Industry, to repeat the Process every Week.

-Letter from Halifax, July 14, 1769

This letter reflects an alarming situation: not merely the extent of the operation but the degree to which it had become normalized, winked-at, and even integrated into Yorkshire’s economic circuits. “It had become a common practice of the moneyed people — the merchant and manufacturers of the Parish of Halifax — and of those by which that Parish was surrounded, comprising a large portion of the West Riding of the County of York, to carry on a somewhat lucrative business with the Coiners,” one observer wrote. “The central body, if such it may be called, with, for a time, ‘King David’ at its head, was constituted into a kind of Banking Company, with whom certain capitalists deposited large amounts in the shape of guineas.” After all, this bank could offer steady guarantees of investment return.

But bubbles are blown for the bursting, and however many Yorkshiremen had been looking the other way while chymists multiplied guineas, it was about this time that officers of the law started putting the screws to the Yorkshire coiners. (Needless to say, the illicit bank’s merchant customers weren’t handled quite the same way.)

Confrontation came into the open with the 1769 arrests of our man David Hartley (nicknamed “King” for self-evident reasons) and at least a half-dozen others. York Castle’s bowels began to fill up with coiners and collaborators, courtesy of a crown excise officer named William Dighton (or Deighton). Dighton bgan rolling up the gang in a very modern way: starting with bribes to obtain informants and then using their information to smash through the cells.

But so vaunting were the Yorkshire coiners that David Hartley’s brother Isaac put up a £100 reward for the murder of William Dighton — and two guys duly ambushed him in a dark lane in Halifax in November 1769 and shot Dighton dead. This gambit by Isaac was much more loyal than it was wise, for the effrontery to murder an agent of the state invited a ferocious counterattack. (It also didn’t help David Hartley in the least: there was no plan to break him out, only vindictiveness against his persecutor.) the Marquess of Rockingham — the once (1765-66) and future (1782) Prime Minister — was dispatched to the scene to avenge the murdered Dighton, and had 30 coiners in custody by Christmas.

The coiners were done shooting back by this point, and the remaining tales form a tissue of outlaw desperation — flight from manhunts, maneuvering to mitigate death sentences, informing on one another. (Its particulars, and the evidence marshaled against various coiners, can be read in detail at the public domain history already cited.) David Hartley was brought up on capital charges at the next assizes;** his former comrades, including the assassins of Dighton, were hunted to ground. Soon, such counterfeiters as might still be found were reduced to their customary posture, in hidey-holes leaching a few dank groats from the neglected plumbing under the economy, rather than as retail concerns with banking ledgers and armed toughs.

But they left countless others besides — passive co-conspirators, whose wealth their shaving and filing had enlarged and who like King Charles‘s regicides could never fully be brought to book. And they’re not done to this very day: a coiners’ museum is reportedly in the works to capture a few tourist dollars, too.

* Wuthering Heights takes place in Yorkshire, and the Cragg Vale outside of Halifax is within a tormented moonlight ramble of the real locations that inspired its settings.

** Death sentences came down liberally at the assizes, but were (almost) as liberally reprieved — including, for the instance at hand, all of the following: “Thomas Harrison and Benjamin Smith, for Burglary; Benjamin Parkinson, for returning from Transportation; Richard Whitfield, for stealing Linen Cloth from a Bleaching Field; William Dalby, and Robert Moor, alias William Moor, for Horse-stealing; William Owen, George Carr, and John Tunningly, for Cow-stealing; and Robert Allerton, for Sheep-stealing.” (London Public Advertiser, April 13, 1770.)

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1725: James Dunbar, with paternal advice

Add comment April 10th, 2016 Headsman

A (lengthy) gallows broadsheet via James Kelly’s Gallows Speeches From Eighteenth-Century Ireland. Almost all the [bracketed] content is exactly as Kelly has rendered it, interpolating wherever possible damage to the document that obscures small bits of text.

The Last Speech, Confession and Dying Words of Mr. J. Dunbar

who was Try’d and Condemn’d, for High Treason against his Majesty King George; at the Assizes, of Oyer, Terminer, or Goal Delivery, holden, at Carrickfergus, for and in the County of Antrim, the 17th Day of Ma. 1725. And was Executed Saturday, April 10th for the same together with his last Advice to his Children prov’d by Scripture Texts, &c. As it was taken from his own Mouth in the Goal, and desir’d to be Printed.

Courteous Readers,

Into whose Hands those my Dying Words shall come; they may not be look’d upon as a Form, because it is Customary, for unfortunate Persons under my Fate so to do; No, but with a sincere Heart to clear my Conscience, as I am a Dying Man. First to my Creator & Redeemer, by whom and thro’ his great Mercy I hope to merit Salvation.

I JAMES DUNBAR, was born in the Town land of Grogan, in the Parish of Drummal, near Ronaldstown, in the County of Antrim of honest Parents; My Father was a Farmer, Liv’d in the fear of God, attended the Meetings constantly with his Family, doing to the best of his Knowledge as became a Man in his Station; brought up all under his care in the fear and service of God. To this Day I well remember when I was about Eleven years of Age, I had amongst others learned a great Word to swear by my Conscience, and in his hearing, he finding it became practice took an opportunity to Chastize me for it, but with that pleasant Fatherly Correction, that he perfectly sham’d me out of it, the same was so imprinted in my mind, be in what Company soever, I never was any way addicted to that Sin of Swearing to this Day. He taught me the Catechism and Psalm Book; brought me up to the Age of Sixteen, then I stray’d away from him and Listed in the Service, where in Flanders and Ireland I served seven years under King William, in which time I receiv’d three Wounds, during my whole Travels my mind was always bent upon the Genuine part, casting Molds of several sorts, each exceeding the other.

Upon my return I settled, Marry’d a Wife, and got things necessary about me: But in process of time, hearing such a Character of New England, what great Advantage was to be made by those that could carry some Money with them, I resolv’d for that place: In order thereunto I made Sale of all I had, & proceeding forward at Newtown-Stuart chang’d my Mind, which I now dearly repent. Settles again there about three Years. At Leisure times to recreate my self with an Innocent Pleasure I took delight in Fishing; but once too often, for by an unhappy fall, there was a Knife with the point Towards me, stuck into and gave me a Wound six Inches deep, the same I lay by sixteen Weeks. Even upon my Recovery, came three Idle Fellows, knowing me to be an Ingenious Artist, desired me to make them a Crown Molud in Steel for the use of Coyning, I told them in Horn, Brass, Pewter, Silver or Gold I could; but because I had never try’d in Steel I should spoil it, they not fearing told me that I should have twelve pence per Day if I did, not being of Steel as I said, I did notwithstanding they paid me twelve Shillings. Sometime after they came to me again to do the same the which I dextrously Perform’d to a truith, and [for] the same receiv’d forty Shillings; Some of the same 3 [men] have been Executed on that Head since: As for In[stance] David Denniston at Omey the last Assizes. For my [own] part my Genious so far exceeded other Men that I have [no] occasion for help but for Company sake; I ca[n make] Molds and could Perform all that Art requir’d; [but because] the Laws of the Land are so strict I must own an[d confess] myself Guilty of what is laid to my Charge, a[nd I am] willing to resign my Vital Breath and Soul to hi[m, my God,] for the same, in whom I trust thro his great Me[rcy, with] sincere Repentance I have made my Peace, and s[eek out] the ingdom of Heaven, forsaking this Life for [that of the etern]nal. I Die in Charity with all People, freely fo[rgiving] those that was the cause of this my untimely Dea[th and any] others that ever wrong’d me in Thought Word [or Deed] and for all those that I have wrong’d Directly or [Indirectly] I ask Pardon and Forgiveness. First of my Grea[t and Glo]rious GOD, the which I hope to obtain for all [my off]ences; next of them, hoping they will do the s[ame, I] do expect to be forgiven at the latter Day.

My dear Friends and Countrey-Men, and all [people that] hears of my Unhappy Fall to take Warning in t[his; let it] be an Example to all; especially Young People, w[hatever walk] of Life it is the[y] go on in, and to their utmost En[deavour] shun all lewd Company. Besure [sic] first choose the [compa]ny, than their Liquor, and then not to Debauch […] with it, so as to be bereft of Sense; it is the f[irst step to] Destruction. Next to shun all lewd Women, […] Total Overthrow, and nothing but the Works [of the Devil] proceeds from them. Thirdly be not Covetous of […]stance. And fourthly, If the LORD is pleased to [endow us] with a Talent to be more Ingenious than any other [to put] it to that Use that the great Giver of all Design[s ordains.] I leave behind me one Son and three Daughters [; Grant] them Grace to lead their Life and Conversation u[ntroubled be]fore God and Man. I hope there is no Person w[ill put] either upon my Wife or them after my Decease. T[o] all that knew me in my Settlement in the County of Derry; and all others, that knew me else where, what a Value and Esteem all People had for me, for my Ingenuous Performances in that Trade of Horning. How I lived in my Family is well known for many years together, performing the Duty as becometh a Professor or Christian to do, I could inlarge: But let no Man boast in his own Strength least he Fall, they are well kept whom the LORD keeps.

I have laid down some Scripture Proofs to shew the Error of Man, and the Scourage [sic] that attend it, which I hope may prove of some Use after my Decease, as follows

Jeremias [sic] 17:17 17 18. Heal me O Lord and I shall be heal’d, save me and I shall be saved for thou art my praise.

V. 17. Be not a terrour unto me thou art my hope in the Day of evil. V. 18. Let them be confounded that presecute [sic] me, but let not me be confounded. Let them be dismayed bring upon them the day of evil and destroy them with double Destruction.

I will look unto thee O Lord for Deliverance from all my Troubles: For there is no Power like unto thy Power, who delivered thy People from all the Power of Egypt, and with a strong Hand brought them through the Red Sea.

Mat 9.10[-13]. And it came to pass as Jesus sat at Meat in the house behold many Publicans and Sinners came and Sat down with him and his Disciples; And when the Pharisees saw it they said unto his Disciples, Why eateth your Master with Publicans and Sinners. But when Jesus heard that he said unto them, They that be well need not a Physician, but they that are sick. Now go ye and learn what that meanet, I will have Mercy and not Sacrifice; for I am not come to call the righteous, but Sinners to Repentance.

[Some] Advice from a Father to his Children, when he was near to his Death.

[My] Son James Dunbar, I Charge thee in the Name of [the L]ord thy God, that thou keep thy self from the Unlaw[ful, Lewd] Women strong Drink, and Sabbath breaking for [they d]raw away thy Heart from the Lord thy God, & [follow the w]ay of his Commandments.

[Proverbs 5:]3. For the Lips of a strange Woman drop as a Hon[eycomb an]d her Mouth is smoother than Oil. V. 4. But her [end is bitter] as Wormwood, sharp as a two edged sword. V. 5. [Her feet go] down to Death, her steps take hold on Hell. V. 6. [Lest thou sh]ouldest ponder the path of Life, her ways are move[able th]ou canst not know them. V. 7. Hear me therefore, [o sons], and depart not from the Words of my Mouth re[move thy way] far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house.

[Keep thy]self from all Woman kind, except thy own [wife (if] you live to have one) for that Unlawful Use of [them an]d strong Drink hath been the Ruin of me, and [others], and so it will be of thee and thine, if ever thou [follow that pr]actice.

[Hear m]e my dear Children, hear the Instruction of your [dying Fa]ther, from the Word of God, receive them and [take them dee]p in your Hears [sic], for they will be an Ornament […] to your Hands, and Chains of Gold about your [wais]t as They will render you Beautiful and Accept[able to Go]d and good Men. When you are in Trouble, God [hears y]our Cries when ye pray unto him, and will deliv[er you ou]t of all your Distresses, if you be not in the wrong; [These a]re the Troubles that Afflict the Just but the [good be]ereth them out of them all. My dear children, [let your e]yes be fixed on the Lord your God in all your [actions;] if you offend in one you are guilty of all; there[fore keep e]qual Regard and Respect to them all, and when [you have d]one all that you can, say you are Unprofitable […].

[But] be not Lifted up, nor High in your own Eyes, but fear least ye be Tempted to Sin and God be provoked to cast you down again, as he has justly done to me. Therefore I beseech you for your Saviour’s sake, beware of vain Glory and high Mindedness but Contrarywise of be Humble and Meek and Lowly, and God will lift you up, but if he do not be Content he is well worth the trusting for he is not Unrighteous to forget your Work and Labour of Love for when he seeth you Diligent and Sincere in your Christian Course he will help you with his Blessing in the Work of your Hands and he will encourage you and strengthen your Hearts with the gracious of his Spirit, but if it be his Will to keep you Low and Mean in the World be Content and do not fret nor repine at the Dispensations of God, for that is the way to keep you Low and Mean still, but contrarywise be thankfull, and say with Paul I have learned in whatsoever State or Condition I am therewith to be content. [Philippians 4:11 -ed] For if you be content and have but a Morsel of dry Bread or Herbs you have a good Feast. For Contentment is great gain, Likewise I beseech you my dear children set your Hearts to seek the Lord with all your might.

Thess. 5:16,17. Rejoice evermore Pray without ceasing. V. 18. in every thing give thanks, for this is the Will of God in Christ Jesu,concerning you. V. 19 Quench not the Spirit. V. 20. Dispise not Prophesying. V. 21. Prove all things hold fast that which is good V. 22. Abstain from all appearance of evil, V. 23. And the very God of Peace sanctifie you wholly, and I pray God your whole Soul and Body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ &c.

Consider my Chidlren, these words, Pray without Ceasing. It is not that you should always be upon your Knees at Prayer, but that you shall be always in a Praying Flame of Spirit. But more particularly, dear Children see that ye neglect not to Pray in secret every Morning, and at Night, for that is the Duty of all others. That you may pour foth [sic] your Hearts to God, in the most familiar way without Bashfulness or Confusion, and expect most of the Presence of the Holy Ghost.

Eph. 6 16, [sic: he means Ephesians 6:18] Praying always with all prayer and Supplication in the Spirit and watching thereunto with all Perseverance and Supplication for all Saints.

And now my dear Children, I might have Recommended you to many more Places of Scripture, but I rather Recommend you to the search of the whole Old and New Testment, [sic] which is able to make you Wise unto Salvation.

I humbly beg leave of thee, O Father, of Heaven and Earth, to return thee my hearty thanks, for inspiring an Spirit of Remorse & Pity, into the Hearts and Minds of those Learned Gentlemen the Clergy of the Presbytery of the Town of Belfast &c. Who was pleas’d to remember me in their publick Service, joyn’d with their Congregations, on Sunday last. Humbly rendering their Prayers to thee O GOD to have Mercy on me, a poor lost Soul, without thy help; hoping thou was pleas’d to hear the same, and that I may find the Sweetness, Joy and Comfort of it, at this my Sudden Departure; altho’ I was no ways deserving of such a Compassionate Christian Favour, being a fallen Member and Transgressor of the same; That they will be pleased to receive this as in obedience of thanks Paid to them as true Professors obedient to God’s Holy Word, and Teachers of the same; and all those that joyn’d with them in that Charitable Act.

Also those Worthy Gentlemen of the Church of England, who hath since offered up their Prayers for me.

My time is spent my Glass is run, sweet Saviour open thy Arms of Mercy, for unto thee I come. O Lord, shut not thy Gate against me stretch forth thy Almighty Hand, and take me to thy self and let not SATAN have Power over me; now I launch into Eternity in full Hopes of Assurance to be with thee in thy Heavenly Kingdom, there to remain with thee and thy holy Angels, World without end.

I Die in the Presbyterian Communion, and upwards of Fifty Years of Age.

Have Mercy on me O LORD sweet JESUS I COME. I COME, Mercy I crave at this my last Minute, Grant it for thy dear Son’s sake Amen.

JAMES DUNBAR.

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1750: John Young, resisting

Add comment December 19th, 2015 Headsman

A piece titled “Extract of a Letter from Edinburgh, dated Dec. 20” in the May 16, 1751 edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette:


John Young, late Serjeant in Lord Ancram’s Regiment of Foot, was executed here Yesterday Afternoon, pursuant to the Sentence of the High Court of Justiciary, pronounced against him, on a Remit made to that Court by the Lords of Session; before whom a full Proof was deduced of Young’s having vended false Notes of the Royal Bank of Scotland, knowing them to be so forged and fabricated.

This unhappy Man had amused himself, before Trial, with the Hopes of being acquitted; after Sentence, with those of obtaining a Pardon; for which great Interest was used by the Officers of the Army, &c. though all to no Purpose; the Hurt done to publick Credit by such destructive Practices rendering it necessary that an Example should be made to deter others from committing the like in Time coming. Indeed this unfortunate Man complained bitterly of his hard Fate, in eing made the only Sacrifice to Justice, while two others, rather more culpable than he, (they being the very Engravers and Fabricators of the Notes) found Means to save themselves by turning Evidences against him, who did not scruple to accuse him of Perjury, though with what Truth I cannot determine.

Young, however, at the Day, nay, at the very Time of Execution, betook himself to a very unusual Expedient to save his Life for a Time, seeing then all his Hopes of Pardon entirely baffled: The Magistrates appointed to witness the Ceremony having assembled about two o’Clock, at the Prison Door, with the proper Officers, the Guard, and an infinite Multitude of Spectators; they, attended by two Clergymen, went up to the Prisoner, and having read over to him the Sentence, they asked his Objections to the executing the same. Young answer’d, that he had none: But observing the Sentence appointed the Execution to be performed betwixt the Hours of Two and Four in the Afternoon, that suggested a Thought to him, that if he could preserve his Life till past Four, the Magistrates could not afterwards execute him. Accordingly he desired Leave to retire a short Time with two reverend Ministers, for ghostly Consolation; which being granted, he return’d with them to the Iron Room, where he had been confin’d since under Sentence; and after talking a little with them, he begg’d they would allow him to spend a few Minutes in private Devotion, which seeming reasonable, they withdrew, and he usher’d the Clergymen to the outer Door of his Apartment, which shutting behind them, he retired to the inner Room, the Iron Door of which he also immediately bolted.

Soon after the Officers of Justice, surprized at his Delay, endeavoured to open the Door, which, to their great Surprize, they found bolted: Then they knock’d, and desired him to come out. No, said he, in this Place I am resolved to defend any Life to the utmost of my Power.

On this the Door was attempted to be forced, but it, as is said, being of Iron, in vain were the most violent Endeavours used for that Purpose.

This extraordinary Accident was immediately rumour’d about. My Lord Provost was sent for, and accordingly appeared in Person. The City Clock was stopp’d, and Surprize and Expectation appeared in every Face. A considerable Time being spent to no Purpose in forcing the Door, that Attempt was given over, and the only possible Method of getting in was found to be by breaking up the Floor of the Room over Head of the Prisoner, which at length was, in about two Hours, effectuated; and a Passage being opened, a Gun was presented to him, the Prisoner, in order to terrify him, and compel him to open the door; but this did not frighten him in the least; for he said, that as he liv’d, so he desired to die, like a Soldier. The Fellow, however, who held the Gun, being a little remiss, Young making a Leap up, laid hold of the Muzzle, and pulled it down, threatening, on getting Possession of the Piece, to shoot the first Man that dar’d to enter; but happily the Gun was unloaded, which prevented so fatal a Catastrophe. Rewards were then offered to such of the City Guard as would go down and seize him; and at length, after severals refusing, one Fellow had the Courage to go down, whom Young welcom’d with a violent Blow, on the Breast from the Butt of his Gun, that laid the Soldier on the Ground. Had Young been arm’d with a Sword or Bayonet, it is likely the Fate of the first Adventurer would have stopp’d the Attempts of a second; but he having only an empty Musket, and the Passage being wide, three or four more jump’d in at once, and at length after a violent Struggle, overpowered and bound the unhappy Victim, who still refusing to walk, the Door was opened, and he dragged headlong down Stairs, in a most deplorable Condition. When he was brought out, he ask’d if it was Four o’Clock (as indeed it then was) but being answered, That he should e hanged were it past Eight, he immediately composed himself to suffer that so much dreaded Death. Still however, did he refuse being accessary [sic] to his own Murder (as he was pleased to term it) by walking, as usual, to the Place of Execution: He was therefore forced upon a Cart, where the Hangman, fitting by him, holding the End of the Rope, which was immediately put about his Neck, he was in this Manner dragged to the Grass Market, amidst thousands of amaz’d Specattors; where again refusing to ascend the Scaffold, he was carried up by the Guard, and after about fifteen Minutes, being near Half an Hour past Four, and almost dark, he was hang’d by the Neck till he was dead.

This poor Man served in the Army many Years, with Reputation; was beloved by his Officers, being never before conicted of the least Offence, and was said to have been recommended to the first vacant Colours in his Corps.

The extraordinary Manner of his Exit, the strenuous Efforts to preserve his Life, and the unhappy Success that attended them, made him an Object truly worthy of Compassion.

He was a middle aged Man, very tall, and remarkably well-look’d.

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1789: Thomas Phipps the elder and Thomas Phipps the younger

3 comments September 5th, 2015 Meaghan

From the Newgate Calendar (with thanks to frequent guest poster Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the find):


These malefactors were father and son; and their final exit from this life was attended by circumstances of the most heart-rending and melancholy description.

The father was a man of good property, and lived on his own estate at Llwyney Mapsis, in Shropshire; and he and his son were indicted for uttering a note of hand for twenty pounds, purporting to be that of Mr. Richard Coleman of Oswestry, knowing the same to have been forged.

It was proved on their trial that Mr. Coleman never had had any transactions with Mr. Phipps that required the signing of any note whatever; that about the Christmas before, Mr. Coleman was served with a copy of a writ at the suit of Mr. Phipps the elder, which action Mr. Coleman defended, and for want of further proceedings on the part of the plaintiff, a non pros. was signed, with two pounds three shillings costs of suit against Phipps.

Upon this an affidavit was drawn up and sworn by Phipps the elder, Phipps the younger, and William Thomas, their clerk, for the purpose of moving the Court of Exchequer to set aside the judgment of non pros. and therein they swore that the cause of action was a note of the said Coleman’s for twenty pounds, which was given as satisfaction for a trespass by him committed in carrying some hay off the land of one of Mr. Phipps the elder’s tenants.

The Court thereupon granted a rule to show cause why the judgment should not be set aside; but Mr. Coleman insisting that the note was a forgery, the present prosecution was instituted against the father, son, and Thomas.

After a full hearing at the assizes at Shrewsbury, the father and son were pronounced “Guilty of uttering and publishing the note, knowing it to be forged;” and William Thomas was found “Not Guilty.”

Though convicted on the fullest evidence, the unhappy men, until the morning of their execution, persisted in their innocence; but when about to leave the jail, young Phipps made the following confession: “It was I alone who committed the forgery: my father is entirely innocent, and was ignorant of the note being forged when he published it.”

They were taken in a mourning-coach to the place of execution, accompanied by a clergyman and a friend who attended them daily after their condemnation.

On their way to the fatal tree the father said to the son, “Tommy, thou hast brought me to this shameful end, but I freely forgive thee;” to which the son made no reply. It being remarkably wet weather, their devotions were chiefly performed in the coach.

When the awful moment arrived, Mr. Phipps said to his son, “You have brought me hither; do you lead the way!” which the youth immediately did, and in the most composed manner ascended the ladder to a temporary scaffold erected for the purpose of their execution, followed by his father.

When their devotions were finished, and the halters tied to the gallows, this most wretched father and son embraced each other, and in a few moments the scaffold fell, and they were hand-in-hand launched into eternity, September the 5th 1789, amid a vast concourse of pitying spectators.

The father was forty-eight, and the son just twenty years of age.

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1783: William Wynne Ryland, court engraver

Add comment August 29th, 2015 Headsman

On this date in 1783, British engraver William Wynne Ryland hanged at Tyburn* before a throng of gallows-voyeurs such as “had not been seen on a like occasion since the execution of Dr. Dodd.” (Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, Aug. 30, 1783)

“[H]is evil genius prompted him, for gold, to debase his talents in engraving,” the Newgate Calendar opined. “By one fatal act, he entirely ruined his reputation as a man: but his name as an artist will ever stand in the highest estimation.”

French- and Italian-trained, Ryland was a premier court artist in his day, noted for importing stipple engraving from the continent to England. He earned a royal pension for his portraits of Hanoverian elites.


Some Ryland portraiture, from the National Portrait Gallery: King George III and his queen, Sophia Charlotte.

Although Ryland’s first attempt to parlay his draftsmanship into a print-selling business had gone bankrupt in 1771, he does not seem to have been entirely neglected by the muse of business acumen, either. Over the subsequent decade he had discharged all his previous debts and stockpiled assets to the amount of £10,000. “I am rich beyond temptation,” he protested to the jurors who tried him for his life. The Crown could produce little in the way of an immediate motive for the forgery. (“It is impossible for us to penetrate so far into the heart of man as to know what his inducements are.”)

But lucre is its own motivation, and the facts of the case weighed heavily against Ryland.

He had come into (legitimate) possession of £200 bill of exchange issued by the East India Company and dated October 5, 1780. Somehow it transpired that Ryland then exchanged two copies of this bill — one on September 19, 1782 with the banker Sir Charles Asgill, and then once again on November 4, 1782 to a banking firm with the Dickensian name of Ransom & Co.

Both bills were identical to every inspection, with the same amount, date, and cheque number, and Ryland the expert engraver could give no convincing account of the second note’s provenance. In the public’s mind, the fact that he had fled the indictment and then dramatically attempted suicide when his capture was imminent surely cinched the case.

Ryland’s attempts to inspire in the jurors a sufficient doubt as to whether the East India Company might not have accidentally circulated two identical bills was fatally undone when it turned out that a difference between the two bills could be found after all — by the paper manufacturer, who proved to the court that the second bill was inscribed on paper whose watermark established that did not exist on its purported date of issue.

this sheet of paper was made at the mill, on that particular mould, it has a defect on it; on the 21st of January, 1782, of the same mould of which this note is now shewn me, I made this sheet of paper; there is a defect of the mould, either by an injury it has received, or in consequence of the quantity of paper made on it, the bill has the same defect; and there is likewise a defect which the bill has not, so that the sheet of paper on which the bill was written, was made from that mould. This could not happen in the same places, and situations in any two moulds.

The jury needed only half an hour to convict him.

By the Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser‘s account, he was London’s star attraction on his hanging day.

At half past nine a man on the steps of newgate called out, “Mr. Ryland’s coach,” upon which a mourning-coach, that was standing opposite the Sessions-house, drew up to the door of the prison, and in about two minutes after the unhappy man walked down the steps at a brisk pace, and entered the vehicle; presently after which [fellow condemned prisoner John] Lloyd went into another mourning coach. The Ordinary of Newgate, another clergyman, a gentleman in mourning, (said to be a relation of he convict’s) and a sheriff’s Officer, went in the coach with Mr. Ryland …

These coaches, which immediately followed the Sheriffs’ carriages, having drawn a few yards from the door of the prison, two carts were drawn up; [James] Brown, [Thomas] Burgess, and [John] Edwards were tied in the first, as was [James] Rivers in the last cart …

The gallows was fixed about 50 yards nearer the park wall than usual. About five minutes before 11 o’clock, Ryland’s coach drew on the right of the gallows, as did Lloyd’s on the left; and between them the cart; soon after which a violent storm of thunder, lightning, and rain came on, when the Sheriffs gave orders for a delay of the execution. When the storm had subsided, and some time had been employed in prayer, Rivers was lifted from one into the other cart, which backing to Lloyd’s coach, he alighted therefrom, and entered the vehicle, and after the ropes had been fixed about the necks of these unfortunate men, Ryland stepped from the coach to join his unhappy fellow sufferers. After a conversation of at least ten minutes between Ryland and Mr. Villette, Ordinary of Newgate, and the same time employed in an earnest discourse between Lloyd and Burgess, all the malefactors joined in singing the hymn, called, “The Sinners Lamentation”


Editor’s note: I’m not certain whether this is the hymn alluded to.

Ryland was the object that attracted the general attention, from Newgate to Tyburn, the sound that reverberated from every quarter, amidst the immense multitude was, “Which is ryland? There, that is Ryland in the first coach!” Exclusive of the usual accommodations, a vast number of temporary stages were erected; and gentlemens and hired carriages were innumerable. Some rooms, for accommodating private companies, were actually let at the enormous rate of from six to ten guineas.

Notwithstanding the vast press of the crowd, amidst the astonishing number of horsemen, carriages, and people on foot, we have not heard that any body was materially hurt, though many were forced down and trod on.

Ryland was in mourning, and wore a tail wig … Through the whole of this trying scene [he] conducted himself with remarkable serenity and fortitude, strongly indicating that he was prepared for, and perfectly reconciled to his fate.

The wheel of fortune turning against the mighty — especially when they should hazard their lives for a needless pittance — being irresistible to other artists, Ryland is the title character of a a comedic play.

* One of the very last hangings at Tyburn.

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1697: Three duty stamp counterfeiters

Add comment November 3rd, 2014 Headsman

On this date in 1697, nine men hanged at Tyburn — all for property crimes.

Three were highway robbers. A fourth was a coiner. A fifth was a pickpocket. A sixth was a husbandman who stole a gelding.

The remaining three men, Thomas Houghton, Francis Cook and Francis Salisbury, operated a ring selling vellum paper bearing counterfeit sixpenny impressed duty stamps.

Their offense was against a 1694 levy titled “An act for granting to Their Majesties several duties on Vellum, Parchment and Paper for 10 years, towards carrying on the war against France”. This statute (full text here) imposed taxes of varying amounts for any number of a huge variety of officially-registered business. Routine commercial transactions now almost universally came with a rake for the taxman: “every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet of paper, upon which shall be ingrossed or written any indenture, lease, or deed-poll” had to be executed with a sixpenny stamp.

As a practical matter, such skins or pieces of vellum or parchment were sold pre-stamped, the stamp to be canceled by the parties in question when they signed on the line which is dotted. And it was this market that Houghton, Cook, and Salisbury exploited.

While counterfeiting the specie could be held to imperil the kingdom so dangerously to rate as treason, this trio’s “counterfeiting” was just everyday white-collar siphoning. By forging a bogus sixpenny stamp and applying it to sheafs of contract-ready vellum that they could sell at market rates, they got the revenue-agent’s cut — not the crown. (The scam is described in their Newgate Calendar entry, which inexplicably gives short shrift to Francis Cook.)

Though the “war against France” named by the stamp bill — the War of the League of Augsburg or the Nine Years’ War — had ended weeks before even the hangings we mark on this date, the lucrative levy long outlasted it. In the following century, England revived this type of tax often, notably in 1712 expanding it to encompass printed publications like newspapers and pamphlets. Hey, just require anything printed on paper to have a royal stamp on it — easy! This habit would eventually create the 1765 Stamp Act so obnoxious to North American colonists in the run-up to the American Revolution.

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