1691: William Macqueen, the Irish Teague

Add comment May 1st, 2017 Headsman

On this date in 1691, 11 hanged publicly at Tyburn.

From the Ordinary’s Account they make a fairly typical, if voluminous, assortment: an infanticide, a drunken murderer, and thieves and highwaymen of various descriptions.

Two of these rude knights of the road were “William Selwood alias Jenkins, condemned with William Mackquean a Papist,” the latter also called “Bayley, alias the Irish Teague.” Condemned for robbery on the road, Macqueen confessed to having previously murdered a soldier in a similar encounter; they were “Old Offenders” who had previously “been Reprieved, but would not take warning.”

For the veteran robber Macqueen we have a fine instance of the facts-be-damned mythmaking characteristic of the early Newgate Calendar: his entry credits him with stealing the mace of the Lord Chancellor, an outrageous caper that different criminals really did pull off many years before. Not accidentally, our rewrite version from the Whig ascendancy also edits the identity of the Lord Chancellor involved, who perforce must seem ridiculous to have lost the emblem of his station in this manner — replacing the true victim, the moderate and forgettable Earl of Nottingham, with that hated late-Stuart bete noir (and notorious hanging judge), Lord Jeffreys.

The implicit parable of the Glorious Revolution is reinforced by what must surely be a fanciful vignette in which Macqueen mugs the Lady Auverquerque, the wife of one of the Dutch commanders who invaded England with William of Orange in 1688. Both parties involved are foreigners on English soil, and their awkwardness in that most naked transaction of gunpoint robbery has comedic effect. Presented with a confusingly veiled demand for a “loan,” the mistress seeks clarification: “I believe you had as good tell me at once you are come to rob me; for this is an odd way of borrowing.” Macqueen/Teague apologizes and manages crudely but effectively to the convey the point: “I am a stranger in this country, and so if I don’t know the difference between robbing and borrowing, you must excuse me; for all I mean is, to have your money.”

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1691: Mark Baggot, Jacobite spy

Add comment May 20th, 2016 Headsman

On May 20, 1691, Captain Mark Baggot was hanged as a spy in Dublin.

Baggot had maintained loyalty to King James II when that sovereign was deposed in the 1688 Glorious Revolution that elevated William of Orange to the English throne.

Though deeply unpopular in England, the Catholic James — still to this day England’s last Catholic monarch — had sympathetic subjects to flee to in Ireland. Apart from the religious sympatico, the Irish were still smarting from ravages dating back to Cromwell and before, authored in the main by factions who were direct ancestors of the Whigs, King James’s staunchest domestic foes.

In 1689, James landed in Ireland backed by the French and kicked off the Williamite-Jacobite War between the rival kings. This war was so nasty it even survived the flight of King James himself in 1690:* William refused to guarantee amnesty for a wide swath of the Jacobite leadership, who consequently saw no odds in laying down their weapons.

The latter months of 1690 and the early months of 1691 had the now-outnumbered Jacobites girding the defenses of the cities they held against the coming Williamite attacks that were sure to come. Intelligence was critical under such conditions, and here our man Mark Baggot enters the stage.

Baggot was dispatched from the Jacobite stronghold of Limerick to Williamite-held Dublin to scout the enemy, but there had the embarrassment of being captured trying to escape notice in women’s clothes.** (You may be certain that the Williamite press included this emasculating detail on every available occasion.)

A court-martial condemned Baggot to hang the very next day, March 25.†

But the secret agent bought himself two months’ respite by cooperating with his captors — making the whole mission a clear intelligence win for the Williamites, especially since they still got to hang their spy in the end.

The resulting document has copy nearly as long as its unwieldy title …

The Discovery Made by Captain Mark Baggot, the Person Lately Taken in Womans Clothes, Coming from Limerick to Dublin, where He was Apprehended, and Tried as a Spy, by a Court-Martial ... at which He Received Sentence of Death: But Upon this Confession, Execution was Respited.

That the Irish army consists of forty thousand men of all sorts; that Tyrconnel was reducing them to thirty thousand; but Sarsfield

That Tyrconnel and Sir Richard Nagle are pensioners of France.

That there is no good understanding between Tyrconnel and Sarsfield, having great jealousies of one another.

That King James has correspondence with, and intelligence from some persons in considerable places of trust here in England every ten days.

That the French fleet is hourly expected with thirty pieces of cannon, ammunition, provisions and arms; a French general, some marine men, but none of the army; they resolve to maintain their greatest force against the confederates in Flanders next campaign.

That the Irish army intends to move towards the frontiers, their greatest design being against Cork more than ny other place; what is left of the suburbs they intend to burn; they expect a great many deserters at their approach to the town. The commanders of the parties for this service are Colonel Dorrington and Colonel Clifford.

A spy, taken at Limerick, was hang’d here [Dublin], and confess’d that Major Corket was in particular favour, and held correspondence with the English, who was carried prisoner to Limerick, and suppos’d to have suffer’d death.

That the contributions paid to the new Irish are one peck of wheat or meal, 12 pound of butter every fortnight out of each plow lands.

That there is express order that no guns be removed from Limerick; that the English deserters are only paid and encouraged, but no pay given to the Irish.

That they are still fortifying Limerick.

That Ballyclough and Castletown, with some other places, were to be made garrisons by the Irish; that Sir Michael Creagh’s regiment of foot, under command of Colonel Lacy, are at Ballyclough, which places they are fortifying; that Strabane’s regiment of horse are at Charleveel and Buttifant, &c.

Baggot’s less than flattering report of the Jacobite forces’ condition proved bang-on: that July, the Williamites dealt a fatal blow to the Jacobite cause at the Battle of Aughrim — thanks to forcing a defile that the dug-in Jacobites ought to have held but for want of ammunition.‡ Shortly thereafter, Limerick capitulated to Williamite siege — its last Jacobite garrison escaping into exile, never to stir in Ireland again.

* He’s remembered in Ireland as “James the Shit” (Seamus a Chaca) because he ditched his supporters mid-war.

** Not the only Jacobite with a cross-dressing escapade to his name.

London Gazette, March 26-30, 1691, which calls the spy Baggot “a Person very well known.”

The Baggot(t)s (Bagods, Baggetts) were an English family that could trace lineage back to the age of William the Conqueror, with a very longstanding branch in Ireland. (Dublin still has streets that bear that name.) The 17th century Irish Baggots took it on the chin for their loyalty to the Stuarts, several dying in that service or being dispossessed. The family’s Baggotstown Castle in County Limerick was seized and razed by the Williamites months after the events in this post.

The date of Baggot’s execution is reported in the Gazette for May 25-28, 1691.

‡ “All the day, though he was sincking in his center and on his left, [the Williamites] yett durst not once, for his relief, attempt to traverse the cawsway, till despayr at the end compelled him to trye that experiment at all hazards … they confidently ventured to goe through, notwithstanding the fire from the castle on their right, which fire was insignificant; for it slew but a few in the passage. The reason of it was given, because the men had French pieces, the bore of which was small, and had English ball, which was too large. Here is a new miscarriage thro’ heedlessness. Why was not this foreseen and the dammage prevented?” (Source)

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1691: William Fielding, scammer

1 comment June 3rd, 2015 Headsman

Four men and four women stretched their necks at Tyburn on this date in 1691.

Among them we find one William Fielding, condemned for robbing three houses by using a 17th century variant of the Nigerian prince email scam:

The Prisoners came to all the Prosecutors and pretended that there was a Lady Dead who had left them Legacys, and Wheedled them to go to look after it, and the whilest Robbed their Houses; which was lookt upon as a very wicked Invention.

Proving that even confidence men are vulnerable to their own trick, however, the Ordinary of Newgate‘s dispatch from the foot of the gallows reports that Fielding

said, That he was afraid that if he might be spared that he should be tempted to Rob again, because of his extream poverty: Therefore he now submitted to dye willingly, that he might not add sin to sin, and so encrease his future punishment.

Well might he fear hellfire if he took the judiciary for his example. In a time when property was far dearer than life, Fielding himself and all but one of the other seven to hang with him (the one was an infanticidal mother) died for felony thefts of various types — ranging from the pathetic (“stealing from Charles Thurston, on the 4th of this Instant May, one Linnen Bag, value 1 d. and 20 l. in Mony”) to the ludicrous (“Robbing Daniel Leery, on the 12th Instant, in the Street, as he was going along, in St. James’s Parish, snatching his Hat and Perrywig off his Head, in the Night”).

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1691: Eleven at Tyburn

2 comments December 18th, 2012 Headsman

“Having Intangled themselves in the snares of Death, by their Dissolute Practices, against all the warnings of Publick Justice on other Criminals,” as the Ordinary’s Account puts it, 11 men and women “provokt the Lord to set them out, as monuments of his present severe, yet Righteous Judgement” and therefore hanged together on this date at London’s Tyburn gallows.*

Murderers (and -esses)

William Harsey was taken literally red-handed, found by the St. Katherine’s watch passed out drunk, still gripping a bloody knife. He’d wetted the blade in three different bodies that night, one of them his good friend (also drunk). Two died; one survived to testify against Harsey.

Mary Mott‘s infant son was found lying dead in a gutter on her rooftop, by a laborer working on the chimney. She claimed it was stillborn, but was unable to prove it: the presumption in such instances went against the mother, on the grounds that every infanticide would simply claim stillbirth otherwise.

Thieves

William Smith “said that he was guilty of all sins except Murther, he named Sabbath breaking, Drunkenness, and Uncleanness.” John Barret, a burglar, copped to the same trio of gateway sins.

Less repentant were two other robbers who had no use for the Ordinary’s god-bothering, to the detriment of their bloggable biography: Richard Johnson, who “was not concerned for his bad Life, and withdrew himself from Chappel,” and Anne Miller, who “refused to come to the Chappel, saying she was a Papist.”

Posterity has much more on Mary Jones, a scarf-maker whose lover squandered all her revenues and drove “Moll” to make an illicit living by the dexterity of her fingers. Having been branded on the hand for picking the royal chocolatier’s pocket, Jones turned to the boom trade in shoplifting London’s growing traffic of valuable little textiles like stockings and lace.

She must have had no small gift for the five-fingered discount as she practiced it for 3-4 years. “She was apprehended for privately stealing a piece of satin out of a mercer’s shop on Ludgate Hill, whither she went in a very splendid equipage and personated the late Duchess of Norfolk, to avoid suspicion of her dishonesty; but her graceless Grace being sent to Newgate, and condemned for her life at the Old Bailey.”

Hanging day would hardly be complete in the late 17th century without a highwayman like William Good, who with a buddy (uncaptured) carriage-jacked a gentleman on the London-Hackney road and made off with the 12-Days-of-Christmas-like trove of “a Dyaper Napkin Value 12 d. Twelve Larks, Two Ducks, and an Embroidered Wastcoat.”

Where Good hangs, there will you also find Malice — Humphrey Malice, to be exact, “Condemned for Robbing a Gentleman in Chelsy Field” in which crime he nevertheless enjoyed “no share in the spoil.” His better remunerated (and less interestingly named) confederate Edward Booth hanged with him. The gentleman in question was Malice and Booth’s second victim of the night, the first having been a more working-class sort who was stripped stark naked and could still only produce eight coppers. Malice and Booth gave him a vengeful thrashing for their trouble and told him “that the next time he went abroad, he should put more Money in his Pocket.”

Thomas Taylor, a parson’s son “addicted to idleness,” was in fact quite industrious when it came to robbery. There’s a story from his career of engineering a buffoonish caught-in-the-town-pillory routine to distract a crowd of yokels while his pickpocket buddies plucked them clean. His fatal crime was an even more audacious twist on the same, in which Tom, acting alone this time, fired a barn, then joined the resulting rescue scramble and made off with a trunk full of plate and £140 cash. He would later admit this was not the first time he had used this gambit.

The arson was the source of his condemnation, but we could not pass over the Newgate Calendar’s remembrance of a different and dreadfully amusing larcenous exploit … which also goes to show the very private, and very punitive, nature of crime prevention in those days.

Taylor being pretty expert at picking of pockets, he set up for himself; and one day going to the playhouse in Drury Lane, very well dressed, he seated himself by a gentleman in the pit, whose pocket he picked of about forty guineas, and went clean off. This good success tempted Tom to go thither the next day in a different suit of clothes, when, perceiving the same gentleman in the pit whose pocket he had picked but the day before, he takes his seat by him again. The gentleman was so sharp as to know his face again, for all his change of apparel, though he seemed to take no notice of him; whereupon putting a great quantity of guineas into the pocket next Tom, it was not long before he fell to diving for them. The gentleman had sewed fishing- hooks all round the mouth of that pocket, and our gudgeon venturing too deep, by unconscionably plunging down to the very bottom, his hand was caught and held so fast that he could in no manner of way disentangle it.

Tom angled up and down in the pocket for nearly a quarter of an hour; the gentleman, all the while feeling his struggling to get his hand out, took no notice, till at last Tom, very courteously pulling off his hat, quoth: “Sir, by a mistake, I have somehow put my hand into your pocket instead of my own.” The gentleman, without making any noise, arose and went to the Rose Tavern at the corner of Bridget Street, and Tom along with him, with his hand in his pocket, where it remained till he had sent for some of his cronies, who paid down eighty guineas to get the gudgeon out of this dry pond. However, the gentleman, being not altogether contented with this double satisfaction for his loss, most unmercifully caned him, and then turning him over to the mob, they as unmercifully pumped him and ducked him in a horse-pond, and after that so cruelly used him that they broke one of his legs and an arm.

Taylor, the Ordinary reported, “behaved himself very undecently and unhandsomely, all the way from Newgate to Tyburn.”

* A good round number: it was Tyburn’s second 11-spot of the year.

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1691: Jack Collet, sacrilegious burglar

Add comment July 5th, 2012 Headsman

On this date in 1691, Jack Collet was hanged for “sacrilegious burglary.”

This little-known highwayman ditched an apprenticeship with a Cheapside upholsterer to take the road, and carved a niche as the guy what robbed while dressed up as a bishop. (Once having lost his ecclesiastical garb at dice, he re-robed by sticking up a churchman on the road and forcing his victim to dis-.)

“As if he had been determined to live by the Church,” clucks the Newgate calndar, “he was at last apprehended for sacrilege and burglary, in breaking open the vestry of Great St Bartholomew’s, in London, in company with one Christopher Ashley, alias Brown, and stealing from thence the pulpit cloth and all the communion plate.”

For this bid to render un-from God, Caesar rendered Collet unto Tyburn.

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1691: Jacob Leisler, “a Walloon who has sett at the head of the Rable”

Add comment May 16th, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 1691, Jacob Leisler was executed in New York, a New World casualty of the Glorious Revolution back in the mother country.

In an era when transatlantic communication moved at the speed of a galleon, the 1688 overthrow of England’s Stuart monarchy initiated an agonizing period of political uncertainty in Albion’s far-flung American provinces.

And to the question of who was really in charge were appended the many local political issues of the colonies — religious, economic, political.

One of the empire’s dominant fault political fault lines in the foregoing years had been the succession to follow England’s last Catholic monarch, James II. For Calvinists whose dynastic champion was the House of Orange, the marriage of their guy William III to James’s daughter raised the prospect of an eventual claim on the English throne. Those hopes seemed dashed when James fathered a son, to the elation of Catholics who now aspired to a lasting Catholic line.

When word reached New York, still a majority-Dutch city thanks to its original mother country, of the ascent of that their countryman William III and England’s Protestant establishment had forcibly disinherited the infant prince and his dad, it did not take long for local Dutch factions to run off the former King James’s plenipotentiaries. (An irony, since New York was named for that very same now-deposed King James: he’d been the Duke of York when it was seized for the Dutch in the 1660s.)

That ex-monarch’s brief reign had seen the establishment of a much-resented Dominion of New England, welding together everything from New Jersey to Maine into a super-colony whose high-handed boss was arrested by a Boston mob. (He sailed for England.) That gentleman’s lieutenant, in New York, likewise absconded as his own authority crumbled … a sort of American Glorious Revolution shadowing the one across the pond.

The Frankfurt-born Leisler was a colonial mercantile magnate, one of the 17th century’s wealthiest New Yorkers, notable for his Orangist sympathies and Calvinist religious inclination. It was to this important private citizen (who was also a militia captain) that de facto executive power fell in the New York colony — and it was indeed the New York colony specifically, since the reassertion of local prerogatives and pre-1685 administrative units had been one of the immediate consequences of the shakeout in America.


Statue of Jacob Leisler in New Rochelle, N.Y. — which Leisler helped create as a settlement for refugee Huguenots.

And once in the saddle, the Dutch Calvinist Leisler essentially ran a populist administration against the colonial oligarchy, which replied by vilifying him as a “usurper” and “rebel”.

Internal politics in New York and its neighbors during those months make fascinating reading.* Quakers and Catholics aligned against Protestants. Albany aligned against New York, until Leisler brought the former to heel. Clergy chose up sides. Leisler summoned a sort of proto-continental congress of colonial representatives (all the way to the West Indies) to hash out their situation.

And what was that situation? There had been a revolution, after all, and there was no agreed-upon representative of the royal authority present in New York. An assembly of militia leaders had asked Leisler to assume leadership, so was he really outside his rights to treat as his the London dispatches addressed to “such as, for the time being, take care for preserving the public peace and administering the law in New York”?

It’s a moment whose ferment of democratic energy can be read to presage the next century’s (proper) revolution.

Yet it was also not a revolution in the Cromwellian, world-turned-upside-down sense. For the English polity, and certainly for the conduct it preferred in its frontier possessions, continuity was the order of the day. Even in England herself, William and Mary were more than pleased to govern with Tories who could see their way to releasing their fealty to the Stuarts.

There was an empire to run, after all.

From that standpoint, Leisler’s anti-oligarchical policies and fractious disputes with other colonial elites were a bad business. There’s no sense in letting France make inroads because your governors are bickering over predestination or some such.

So formally, the realm’s new rulers continued all non-Catholic personnel in their posts. With the Dominion governors ejected, it was just a matter of dispatching fresh executives to take over. It’s just that this process required months … during which Leisler was managing New York the way he figured it ought to be managed, and his enemies were consequently painting him as a rebel.

Leisler pronounced himself, this whole time, anxious to submit his authority to the new governor upon the production of proper credentials. If he was surprised that the new monarchs tendered appointees of the very same factions recently expelled,** Leisler showed it only in his exactitude for procedure: because of a logistical cock-up, an aide to the new colonial governor arrived first, and when Leisler refused to hand over his fort without the royal warrant, a tense standoff ensued. It was resolved when the real governor, Henry Sloughter of ominous name, finally showed up.

Sloughter had his “predecessor” immediately arrested, along with others of his circle and harshly tried for treason and murder by a court stacked with anti-Leisler political enemies.†

Ultimately Leisler was condemned to die along with his secretary and son-in-law Jacob Milborne, but even Sloughter was loath to enforce the sentence. The story goes that Leisler’s most implacable foes had to get Sloughter drunk to put his signature on the death-warrant. (Sloughter died a couple of months later himself, for maximum operatic effect.)

On Saturday morning, May 16, 1691, the largest crowd ever gathered in New York City stood, rain soaked and weeping, all eyes fixed as a limp body was cut from the gallows and placed on the block. With a clean blow, the executioner’s ax cut off the head of the “halfe dead” Jacob Leisler — loyal lieutenant governor or rebel tyrant, depending on one’s point of view. Amid the “shrieks of the people,” fainting women (some “taken in labour”), and tumultuous jostling for “pieces of his garments” and strands of his hair, as “for a martyr,” the newly arrived and unfortunately named royal governor, Henry Sloughter, worried that his decision to execute Leisler might not, after all, end the “diseases and troubles of this Government.” Indeed, for years afterward New Yorkers bitterly divided over Leisler and the 1689 uprising that, in the wake of England’s Glorious Revolution, had led to his assumption of power in the provincial government.

-David Voorhees, who elsewhere contends that these divisions “continue to inform American politics to the present day.”*

A few years later, a more Leisler-friendly Parliament restored the dead man’s estate to his heirs, a sort of implicit admission that the whole head-chopping thing might have been a bit much.

This character figures to bear more historical consideration than he has heretofore enjoyed; further to that end, there’s a Jacob Leisler Papers Project devoted to marshaling at New York University the primary documents connected with Leisler.

* See, for instance, David Voorhees in “‘to assert our Right before it be quite lost': The Leisler Rebellion in the Delaware River Valley” in Pennsylvania History, Winter 1997 — and, Voorhees again in “The ‘fervent Zeale’ of Jacob Leisler,” The William and Mary Quarterly, July 1994.

** Literally so: Francis Nicholson, whom Leisler ousted from New York, tried to get himself appointed governor; he was instead sent to Virginia and continued in royal service in the colonies for decades to come.

† e.g., Joseph Dudley, one of Leisler’s judges, whose penchant for authoritarian justice has been noted elsewhere in these pages.

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1691: Jack Withrington, highwayman

2 comments April 1st, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1691, highwayman Jack Withrington hanged at Tyburn.

THIS fellow was the youngest of five brothers, who were all born at Blandford, in Dorsetshire. The other four were all hanged in the country, but Jack had the good fortune to be reserved for Tyburn, and by that means to have his name transmitted to posterity. He was bound to a tanner in Shaftesbury, a town in his native county, with whom he served about three years. Then he entered into the Earl of Oxford’s Regiment of Horse, in which, when Monmouth‘s rebellion was suppressed in the West of England, he came up to London, where he soon met with opportunities of discovering his valour to the world. These occasions were two quarrels in which he was engaged: the first with a man famous for fighting, against whom he behaved with so much bravery and skill that it won him a vast reputation; the second with a person of great estate, but a noted coward, when he showed himself a gentleman by his adherence to the point of honour and good breeding. By these duels he won abundance of applause, so as thereby to contract a familiarity with all the greatest fighting men of the time, especially those in his own regiment. Withrington however carried his manhood so far as to get himself turned out of the regiment within a year after, for challenging his captain. He then became a perfect bully and gamester; and, being fortunate, in a little time by these means saw himself master of a considerable sum of money. Notwithstanding all this good luck at first, he found himself afterwards subject to the fate of gamesters —- viz. to be frequently without money in spite of his large winnings. This brought him at last to consider the uncertainty of Fortune and endeavour to make himself master of her, by supplying with fraud what he might want in plain open skill. But this also did not continue long; for everyone began to be aware of him as a common sharper, and none who knew him would venture to play with him.

In the common scale of knavery the next step above a sharper is a downright thief. Withrington made bold to ascend this degree, and was resolved to take the most honourable station thereon, that of a highwayman. He had money enough to buy him a good horse and accoutrements, so that the resolution and the real attempt were not long asunder. His first adventure was with a farmer, from whom he took forty pounds, giving him in return only an impudent harangue, occasioned by the countryman’s reproaching him with the robbery.

The next that fell in Withrington’s way was Mr Edward Clark, gentleman usher to the Duchess of Mazarin. They met in Devonshire, on the road between Chudleigh and Ashburton. Mr Clark made some resistance, so that in the scuffle Withrington’s mask fell off and discovered his face, which Mr Clark knowing, he called him by his name, and said he hoped he would not rob an old acquaintance. “Indeed I shall, sir,” quoth Withrington, “for you get your money much easier than I do, who am forced to venture my life for a maintenance; you have so much a year for eating, drinking and entertaining your lady with scandal and nonsense. What I shall take from you will do you little harm; it is only putting a higher price upon half-a-score reputations, which you know how to do as well as any coxcomb in England. Ladies never let such faithful servants go unrewarded, nor will yours suffer your loss to fall on yourself.” He got about eight guineas out of this gentleman’s pocket, and for old acquaintance sake bade him “Good-b’w’ye” very heartily.

Withrington’s robberies in less than a year and a half were talked of almost all over the kingdom. But alas! he met with a diversion, common to mankind, that draws even the most stupid into the rank of polite persons. The poor man was in love; and with whom but a rich widow inn-keeper in Bristol! Farewell to the highway: Withrington has another scent to pursue. No more robberies to be thought of from a man who was himself robbed of his heart! He employed an old bawd in the affair, who was intimately acquainted with our hostess, and by this flesh-broker’s mediation things had like to have come to an issue, and Jack to have been master of the Swan Inn. In short, there was nothing prevented it but the accidental coming of a certain gentleman, who knew our highwayman, and informed his mistress what he was. The effects of this discovery were Jack’s being kicked out of doors by the ostler and chamberlain, and the commitment of madam the negotiatress to Bridewell, in order to mill Dolly.

After his return to the highway he and one of his companions met with Mr Thompson, a noted tailor, in a part of Hertfordshire that was convenient for robbing. They took from him about thirty pounds in silver, and then, dismounting him, they ordered him to stay where he was till they brought him more company. As soon as they were gone from him he remounted his horse and attempted to ride off as fast as he could; but our highwaymen perceiving what he was at, and having the best horses, they fetched him back, and mistrusting he had more money, by his being in so much haste, they searched him afresh, he protesting all the while that he had not so much as a farthing left if it were to save his soul. In a literal sense he might be right; but they made a shift to find forty guineas, which they thought better than farthings. Withrington upon this exclaimed that it was a sad thing that one Christian could not believe another! They then shot his horse, to put a stop to his speed, and so rode away and left him.

These, we pause to digress, are not the only stock and store among the (surely half-legendary) c.v. of this colorful bandit. The verbosely entitled Complete History of the Lives and Robberies of the Most Notorious Highwaymen, Footpads, Shoplifts and Cheats of Both Sexes reports that Withrington delivered himself of an even wordier critique of the nascent economic order of the day.

[T]ravelling the road, he met a rich farmer, from whom he took £40. Quoth he, Is not this a downright robbery? Roberry? replied Withrington; So let it be; who is there now-a-days does not rob? The tailor steals before his customer’s face; the weaver steals by eking out the length of a piece of cloth with the remainder of broken ends; the surgeon steals by prolonging a cure; the apothecary steals with a quid pro quo, using one drug for another for cheapness, without any regard to the age and constitution of the patient; the merchant steals by putting his money into the Bank of England; the scrivener steals by selling the soul of a poor man for the money that he can take of a forfeit; the grocer steals by using false weights; the vintner steals by adulterating his wine; the butcher steals by blowing up his meat; the victualler steals by drawing in short measures; the cook steals by roasting his meat twice over; the baker steals by raising his bread when there’s no occasion; and the shoe-maker steals by stretching his leather as much as he does his conscience. Thus, as there is cheating and cozening in all trades but mine, you cannot blame me for borrowing this small trifle; which I shall honestly pay you when we meet again; so till then, farewell.

And a bit of, er, gallantry.

Another time Jack Withrington meeting a gentleman and his wife on the road betwixt St. Albans and Dunstable, he very submissively craved their benevolence; but they not instantly granting his request, he shot the horse on which they both rode, and swore that as he denied him his money, he would take his wife. So forcing her into an adjacent copse, and acting a man’s part by her, he restored her to her husband again, from whom taking eleven or twelve guineas he said, This is no more than my due for I am not obliged to do your drudgery for nothing.

Rape and repartee! Dreamy.

But we know where this is heading.

The last robbery Withrington committed was alone. He stopped a nobleman on Hounslow Heath attended by two footmen. There was a short dispute, but Withrington having the best of it, he took a portmanteau in which were two hundred and eighty guineas, sixty pounds in silver, and a parcel of fine linen. A hue and cry was soon issued out after him, and he was apprehended by means of it at Malmesbury, in Wiltshire, from whence he was removed to London, where he was condemned for this fact.

The sentence of death seemed to have no effect on his temper, for he was as gay and humorous under that circumstance as ever he had been before. When he was riding up Holborn Hill he ordered the cart to stop, and calling up the Sheriff’s deputy, “Sir,” said he, “I owe a small matter at the Three Cups, a little farther on, for which I am afraid of being arrested as I go by the door; therefore I shall be much obliged to you if you will be pleased to carry me down Shoe Lane and bring me up Drury Lane again into the road by which I am to travel this devilish long journey.” The deputy informed him that if such a mischance should happen he should come to no damage. “For,” says he, “I’ll be bail for you myself, rather than you shall go back to prison again.” “Thank you heartily, sir,” quoth Jack; “I protest I could not have thought that I had a friend in the world who would have stood by me so in such a time of need.” After this he rode very contentedly to the place of execution, where he was tucked up with as little ceremony as usual. This fatal day was Wednesday, the 1st of April, in the year 1691.

Part of the Themed Set: Selections from the Newgate Calendar.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 17th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Gallows Humor,Hanged,Outlaws,Pelf,Public Executions,Theft

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