1705: Edward Flood and Hugh Caffery

1 comment December 5th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1705, Edward Flood and Hugh Caffery hanged at Dublin’s St. Stephen’s Green for robbing one “Mr. Casey.”

Both men were impugned by a witness who subsequently recanted — at which point the victim’s mother-in-law, Elizabeth Price, stepped in to denounce them instead. In their dying statements (republished in James Kelly’s Gallows Speeches: From Eighteenth-Century Ireland) both men insist upon their innocence of the robbery.

It’s unclear to this reader all these centuries later whether we are meant by these doomed “robbers” to understand something unstated between the lines about Elizabeth Price’s animosity towards them, or whether we simply have a case of unreliable witness testimony and tunnel vision. (Obviously we also can’t know whether Flood’s and Caffery’s protestations are reliable.) Judge for yourself, gentle reader:


THE LAST SPEECHES AND DYING WORDS OF

EDWARD FLOOD AND HUGH CAFFERY

Who was Executed at St. Stephen’s-Green, On Friday the 5th of December, 1707 for Robbing of Mr. Casey, at Cabbra?

Good Christians,

Now that I am brought to so scandalous an End, and within a few Minuts of my last Breathing; I here declare before God and the World, that I was not Guilty of this Fact for which I am now to Dye for; neither was I privy thereto, nor to any other Robbery all my Life-time.

One of the same Company that I belong’d to being Confined in the Castle Guard, and transmitted to New-Gate for stealing Cloaths, was in a starving Condition; and that Mr. Casey, who was Robbed, hearing there was some of the Regiment in New Gate, and being Robb’d by some of the same Regiment, as they suppos’d, came to New Gate, to see if he cou’d hear any thing of this Robbery among them.

Then this Man who belong’d to the same Company that I was in, by name Bryan Mac Couly, being in a starving Condition, and Casey making him Drink, and Bribed him, Swore against Four of the same Company; for which we were Apprehended.

In a considerable time after, his Conscience prick’d him; and sent for the Reverend Mr. Jones, who examin’d Mac Couley, who Declared he Wrong’d us Four … That Elizabeth Price, Mother-in-law to the said Casey, hearing that Bryan Mac Couly had made the second Examination, came to him, and said; If he would not Swear against us, she would swear against Caffery and I; so she desired him to Swear, and that he shou’d have for his Reward two Guineas, but he wou’d not.

Then Mrs. Price Swore against Caffery and I, and said she knew us Both well enough … [and] Mrs. Price pitch’d upon one of Man of the Battallion, and said, that was one of the Men, and would have had him confined only he had good proof to the contrary; and made out where he was that Night.

Likewise I declare once more before God and the World, I know nothing of this Robbery that I am to Die for; altho’ I deserved Death before now, but I thank my God not for Robbing or Stealing, but for keeping Company with Women, and I was much given to that Crime, and do trust that God of his great Mercy will forgive me …

Edward Flood

Christians,

Since it has pleased Almight God, that I should Dye this most unfortunate Death; these few minutes that I have to live, shall be to satisfy the World of what was laid to my Charge. And now that I am to dye, I hope all Good Christians do believe that I have a tender regard for my poor soul, (which I hope God will be Merciful to,) and not think that I will dissemble with the World so as to deprive my self of Eternal happiness.

Dear Christians, these being my last Words, I do declare I never was Guilty of this Crime that I now suffer for, nor was I ever Guilty of so hainous a Crime as Stealing or Robbing; but all other small Vices I have been Guilty of, (and hope my Heavenly Father will pardon the same) Cursing, Swearing, and Women was the only Vice I was Guilty of; And that I do heartily forgive the Persons that hath occasion’d this my untimely End. And do further declare, that I never before knew any that was privy to the fact I suffer for; not did I see Mrs Price for 3 Years to my knowledge, ’till she came to New Gate.

I lived with one Ignatius Taffe, at the sign of the Black Swan in Smite-Field; during which service, I have been often in her House, yet never did her any wrong. I Confess I deserv’d Death long ago for the matter of keeping Company with Lewd Women, and I was as much given to that, which is all that troubles my Conscience.

I never wrong’d any living Soul, except I did my Master when I was sent to Buy small Conveniences for the House, then some small thing or other I often kept for my own use: Which is all I shall answer at the Tribunal. And pray God that all Christians may eschew those Vices of Lewd Women, Cursing and Swearing; God will one time or other revenged on ’em that Practice ’em. I desire the prayers of all that sees my untimely End. So fare well.

Hugh Caffery

These are the true Copies of the Dying Persons as delivered by ’em.
Printed by E. Waters in School-House Lane.

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

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1705: William Pulman, Edward Fuller, and Elizabeth Herman

Add comment March 9th, 2017 Headsman

The Ordinary of Newgate his Account of the Behaviour, Confessions, and Last Speeches of the Malefactors that were Executed at Tyburn on Friday the 9th of March, 1704/1705.

At the Sessions held at Justice-Hall in the Old Bailey, on Wednesday the 28th of February last, and on Thursday and Friday the 1st and 2d Instant, 8 Persons, i. e. seven Men and one Woman, having been Try’d, and found Guilty of Death, received their Sentence accordingly. Of these 8 Persons, 5 being by her Majesty’s gracious Reprieve, respited from Execution, they who are now ordered for it, are only these 3, viz. William Pulman, Edward Fuller, and Elizabeth Herman.

On the Lord’s Day, the 4th Instant, I preach’d to them, both in the Forenoon and Afternorn, upon part of the second Lesson, appointed for that Morning-Service, viz. Luke Ch. 15. v. 18 & 19. I will arise and go to my Father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinn’d against Heaven and before Thee; And am no more worthy to be call’d thy Son; Make me as One of thy hired Servants.

Having explain’d the Parable of the Prodigal Son, of which the Text is a part, I shew’d from thence how a Sinner must gradually proceed in his Repentance.

  1. He must take a firm Resolution to return to a better Life.
  2. He must confess his Guilt, not only to God, but where the Offence has given any publick Scandal, he must confess it to Man also.
  3. He must rather aggravate than palliate his Crime.
  4. He must be severe towards himself, if he will have God to be merciful to him.
  5. He must humble himself to the lowest degree, and look upon himself as unworthy of the least Favour, but worthy of the greatest Punishment, and incapable of returning to God without his Converting Grace, which he ought earnestly to implore.
  6. And Lastly, I shew’d how acceptable such a Repentance (attended with all these) was to God, and how beneficial therefore it would prove to them that should exert themselves therein.

These were the Principal Heads on which I then discours’d to my Auditory, both in the Morning and Afternoon; concluding with a twofold Exhortation; First, To the Strangers that were come to see the Condemned Persons, that they would put up hearty Prayers for them, and be thankful to God, who by his restraining Grace, had kept them from falling into their Sins, and under their Condemnation. And Secondly, To the Prisoners, and particularly those Condemned to die; That they would desire the Prayers of all good People, which they stood in so great need of; and stir up themselves to Prayer, and implore the Spirit of God to their assistance therein; That they would examine themselves, and take an exact Survey of all their past Sins, so far as they could remember, and seriously consider how they had lived before, and how they were now fit to die, and what would become of them after Death.

Yesterday being the Anniversary Day of the QUEEN‘s Accession to the Throne, I preach’d again both in the Morning and Afternoon, to the Prisoners in Newgate, and other Persons there present; and my Text was, Ps. 40. [1]3. Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me: Make haste, O Lord, to help me.

After I had open’d the Text, and by the by spoken something concerning the Solemnity of the Day; shewing how Men are in a double manner Guilty, who living in a Country where the Gospel shines in its full Brightness and Purity, and under a Government so just, so equal, and so easy as this is, are (nevertheless) wilfully ignorant of Christian Duties, and disobebient to God and their Superiours, and unjust, mischievous and oppressive to their Neighbours.

Then I proceeded to discourse on that Subject which I thought then most proper for my Auditory, which was to shew from the Text, How it concerns all Men (especially great Offenders) to be earnest in their Application to God for Deliverance, both From their Sins; And, From the Punishment due to them.

And in order thereto, consider,

  1. How they came to be prompted to, and by degrees hardened in Sin.
  2. How they might recover themselves by that sincere Repentance which is of absolute Necessity to their Pardon and Salvation; and which is the Work of God’s Spirit, for which they should pray with fervent Zeal and Perseverance.

In the Close of those my Discourses, I made particular Application to the Condemned Prisoners; who from the time of their receiving their Sentence, to that of their Execution, were brought up twice every Day, to the Chappel in Newgate; where I pray’d with them, and instructed them in the Word of God, and in the way to Salvation. And upon my discoursing them in private, and pressing them to make a free and open Confession of their Offences, and the Injuries they had done to the World, and to make what Reparation and Amends they could: They discover’d to me their former Lives and Conversations, and their present Disposition, as follows:

I. William Pulman, alias Norwich Will, Condemned for Robbing Mr. Joseph Edwards on the High-way, upon the 30th of December last, and taking from him a pair of Leather-Bags, a Shirt, 2 Neck-Cloths, 2 Pocket-Books, 25 Guineas, a half Guinea, a half broad Piece, and 4 l. in Silver. When I put him upon his Confession, both of this and other Facts he might be guilty of, he at first pretended (as he did at his Tryal) that he knew nothing of that Robbery committed upon Mr. Edwards. But when I shew’d him, not only how little available, but how mischievous such a Denial was to him, in case he was really Guilty of the Fact; he at last confess’d it, owning that he had 5 Guineas and 40 Shillings in Silver for his Share in that Robbery. He confess’d also, That he (with some others he named) had several times, for these 4 Years past, taken Bags, Trunks, Boxes, and such like Things, from behind Horses, Coaches, and Waggons; but he protested to me, that he never broke any House, nor stole any Goods out of Shops. He further said, That he did not know any of the Proprietors or Owners of the stol’n Goods in which he was concerned, save Mr. Edwards; and though he should know them, or could send to them, yet he could make them no Satisfaction; all being spent, and he left poor. So true it is, That Goods unlawfully gotten do not profit. He therefore pray’d God, and those he had wrong’d, to forgive him. Being ask’d, When and Where he was born, and how he had spent his Life, he gave me this further Account of himself, That he was about 26 Years of Age, born in the City of Norwich, of honest Parents, who brought him up well, and put him to a good Trade, viz. That of Barber and Perriwig-maker; to which he serv’d the full time of his Apprenticeship, and then set up for himself in that City. But getting into ill Company, he was presently debauch’d, and became a very lewd Person, breaking the Sabbath-day, and abandoning himself to Swearing, Drinking, Whoring, and all manner of Wickedness; saying, That he was guilty of all Sin but Murther. In this wicked Disposition, he came up to London about five years ago, where he had not been long but he was prest to Sea; and having served not above two Months on Board the Jersey, a Third Rate, commanded by Captain Stapleton, he was discharged. And being so, he went to work at his Trade for a few Months with one Mr. Wright a Perriwig-maker in Old-Bedlam. But keeping Company with ill People, by their Example and Perswasion (and particularly by the Sollicitation of a certain wicked Woman) became a Robber. He told me, That he had served 16 Months on Board the Triumph, a Second Rate Ship, Captain Greydon Commander, and that he was in that Ship in the late Expedition to Vigo. But he sorrowfully acknowledged he had been so stupid, as all the while to take no manner of notice of the great Dangers he was in, and from which the Providence of God had preserved him. When he was returned into England and discharged, then he went sauntering about to see what he could get; and finding himself in danger of being prest again, he enter’d himself into the Land-Service , viz. in the Second Regiment of Foot-Guards, in the Company of Captain Swan, under the Command of Colonel Marsham; in which Service he was, when in December last he was Try’d, Convicted, and Burnt in the Cheek for a Felony by him committed a little before that time; which Punishment he had received long before, viz. above three years ago, for a Felony he then was justly found guilty of. He mightily lamented his sinful Life past, and begg’d Pardon both of God and Man.

II. Edward Fuller, Condemned for Robbing Mrs. Eliz. Woodward of 5 s. and Mr. John Wright of a Silver Watch on the 3d of February last: Both which Facts he deny’d. But confess’d, that he had been an Ill-liver, and for these 3 or 4 Years last past concerned as a Partner with Pick-pockets. He said he never got much by that, nor could now make restitution to the Parties wrong’d, should he know them. He being asked whether he ever broke any House, or stole things out of any Shops, or Robbed on the High-way Abroad, on Horseback, or otherwise, he answer’d, no; saying, that he had never meddled with any Robberies, or Robbers of that kind. As for his Manners, he confess’d himself to have been a very Idle and Loose Person; neglecting the Business of his Calling, which was a Coach and Harnessmaker, to which he had served his Prenticeship in the Borough of Southwark, where he set up and work’d for himself a while after his time was out. He said he was about 30 Years old: An Age when he might have done most Good, but did most Evil; being perfectly sunk into Debauchery, and all manner of Uncleanness, and having abandon’d the Service of God, in which he was carefully brought up, and embraced the Sinful Lusts and Pleasures of the World. He much complain’d of the hardness of his Heart, and desired me to pray for him. He confess’d he had been in Newgate before now; but he was always either discharged, no body appearing; or acquitted, nothing being proved against him; tho’ not always Innocent of the Facts for which he was committed; But was so; when about 3 or 4 Months ago, being in the QUEENs Service under the Command of Captain Columbine in Brigadier Farindon’s Regiment, he was suspected to have deserted his Colours; but it appeared otherwise, and that his supposed Desertion was occasion’d by his being taken a Prisoner by the French, and by them carry’d into some Parts of the Spanish Netherlands; from whence making his Escape, and returning into England, he gave such satisfaction of this to his Officers, that they did not look upon him as a Deserter, but entertained him as before, in HER MAJESTIE’s Service; out of which he was afterwards discharged, upon his having broken one of his Arms by accident.

III. Elizabeth Harman, alias Bess Toogood; Condemned for Picking the Pocket of Mr. John Tredwell on the 30th of January last. She would fain have deny’d the Fact; but being press’d upon the matter, she confessed her self to have been concern’d in it, and to have had 5 s. of the Money which was then taken from Mr. Tredwell, not by her self, but by another Woman that was with her, as she said; but afterward confess’d she had done the Fact. She said, that (to her great Shame and Sorrow) she had lived to the Years of above 30 (which was now her Age) without having done any good; but on the contrary, much harm to the World, and to her own Soul: This particular account she gave me of her self, That she was born at Great Marlow in Buckinghamshire; and that about 14 Years ago she came up to London, and served at first at a Silk Dyers in Thames-street, and in several other Worthy Families in this City and in Westminster; but afterwards falling into ill Company, she soon became as Lewd and Debauch’d as any of them. She, upon my asking, declar’d, that she never drew any young Woman or other into her wicked Ways; and that those she was acquainted with, were ripe in Wickedness and Lewdness before she ever knew them. But she acknowledg’d, that she had been her self very wicked indeed; a great Swearer, Sabbath-breaker, and most filthy and impudent in her Conversation and Actions; and that for these several Years past, she had made it her constant Practice to pick up Men in the Streets, and while they were committing Lewdness with her, she pick’d their Pockets. She bitterly cry’d and lamented, that she had been such an Illliver, and thought her Sins to be so great and so many, that God would never forgive her; adding, that tho’ in her Retirement she read in the Bible and pray’d, yet she found no manner of comfort, nor could understand any thing of what she read; so dull and stupified, and sunk in Sin and Darkness, and so unaccustom’d to any thing of Religion and Piety she was, that those Spiritual Means, could hardly work any good upon her. In this desperate and despairing condition she was in, I gave her such Advice and Directions as were proper for her; and from the many tears she shed, and other the Tokens of Sorrow she express’d, I hope she was at last most sensible of the Folly and Mischievous Effects of a Sinful Life. She desired me and all good People to pray for her Soul, and all wicked Persons, (especially those of her Acquaintance) to take warning by her, and to reform and amend their Lives betimes; that they might prevent both their Temporal and Eternal Destruction. And she desired all young Women above all to take care of being deluded: For there are many young Creatures that come up to London with an honest intent, who are easily Debauched and Corrupted by wicked People that get acquainted with them. Therefore her Advice to them is, that they should avoid all ill Company; which if she had done she might have lived happy.

This Day of their Execution being come, they were all of them carry’d to Tyburn; where I met them: And after some Exhortation to them in general, That they would consider well, that now they were come to the very brink of Eternity, and therefore ought to clear their Consciences, &c. I then apply’d my self to each of them in particular; asking them, whether they had any thing to add to, or alter in the Confessions they had made to me: Upon which they answer’d they had not. Only Edward Fuller said, That it was not true what he had told me before, viz. That he was taken by the French; for now he owned he had really deserted his Colours, but he got himself discharged afterwards. He added, he was sorry he told me an untruth, for which (said he) I beg Pardon of God and you. But as to the 2 Facts for which he was Condemned to this shameful Death, he still persisted in the denial of them; saying, that he knew nothing of the 5 s. taken from Mrs. Woodward; and that for the Watch owned by Mr. Wright, he bought it of one Thompson, and pay’d him 3 l. 15 s. in Money for it, besides a Quart of Wine that cost him 20 pence. This was his last Declaration to me at the Tree; where I most strenuously press’d him before God upon the hope of Eternal Life, to speak the truth. He declared that he had no Animosity or Hatred against any one in the whole World, Man, Woman, or Child, and that he dy’d in Charity with all Mankind. And so did the other two. When this was over, I proceeded to exhort them to stir up their Hearts to God, to cry for his Mercy, and to beg the Assistance of his Holy Spirit in this time of need. Then I pray’d and Sung some Penitential Psalms with them; and made them rehearse the Apostle’s Creed, and repeat some Ejaculatory Expressions after me. I admonished them to warn both Young and Old against Sin; which they did; praying all Standers by and others to avoid all manner of Vice and Vicious Company, and never neglect the Service of God, as they had done to their Shame and Sorrow. Which they having said, I recommended them to God and the Direction of his Grace: And so left them to their private Devotions, for which they had some time allowed them. Then the Cart drew away, and they were turn’d off; Calling upon God to have Mercy upon them, in these and the like Ejaculations, utter’d and often repeated by each of them. Lord have Mercy on me, a miserable Sinner! My Sins are innumerable, and my Soul is in anguish, Lord comfort me, and heal me! Lord into thy Hands I recommend my Spirit! Sweet Jesus, take me to thy self: Take me to thy Mercy! Open me thy Gates! Lord, I come, I come!

This is all the Account here to be given of these Dying Persons by PAUL LORRAIN, Ordinary of Newgate. Friday March 9. 1705.

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THE Necessary Duty of Family-Prayer, and the deplorable Condition of Prayerless Families consider’d. In a Letter from a Minister to his Parishioners. With Prayers for their Use.

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Ordinary of Newgate Paul Lorrain published this professional guide on ministry to the dying.

BOOKS set forth by Paul Lorrain. Ordinary of Newgate, viz.

THE last Words of the Lady Margaret De la Musse: And The Dying-Man’s Assistant, both printed for J. Lawrence at the Angel in the Poultry. And A Guide to Salvation, Sold at the Star in St. Paul’s Church-Yard.

Sold by Joseph Downing in Bartholomew-Close.

THE Christian Education of Children. In a Letter to a Friend. In which are contain’d the Fundamental Truths of Religion, and the Duties of a Christian Life. Profitable for all sorts of Persons; but especially recommended to Schools of Charity. Printed for R. Sympson at the Harp in St. Paul’s Church-Yard, 1704.

Rpbert Whitledge, Bookbinder, now living at the Bible in Creed-Lane, within Ludgate, where all Booksellers, and others, may be furnshied with the WELSH Bible, WELSH Common Prayer and WELSH Almanack, and with all sorts of other Bibles and Common-Prayers, large and small, with Cuts or without, Rul’d or Unrul’d, Bound in Turkey Leather, extraordnary or plain, or unbound. Also the Statutes at large, and Articles and Canons of the Church of England; Tate and Brady’s new Version of the Singing Psalms, the Common-Prayer in French, the new Book of Rates compleat; and also all Books neatly Bound.

London, Printed by J. Downing in Bartholomew-Close near West-Smithfield. 1705.

Part of the Themed Set: The Ordinary of Newgate.

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

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1705: The Camisards Catinat and Ravanel

1 comment April 22nd, 2013 Headsman

On this date in 1705, two men were burned at the stake and two others broken on the wheel — Camisards all, put to death in Nimes, France.

The Camisards* were French Protestants of the mountainous southern Cevennes region who make their entry into these pages because the crown in 1685 revoked the Edict of Nantes, France’s guarantee of multiconfessional toleration.

Protestants were going to be bullied into conversion — or, in many cases, flight. (London’s Spitalfields textile industry, for instance, got a welcome shot in the arm from refugee Huguenot weavers.)

In 1702, the Cevennes Protestants pushed back.

“A persecution unsurpassed in violence had lasted near a score of years,” Robert Louis Stevenson wrote in his 19th century travelogue of the region. “This was the result upon the persecuted; hanging, burning, breaking on the wheel, had been in vain; the dragoons had left their hoof-marks over all the countryside; there were men rowing in the galleys, and women pining in the prisons of the Church; and not a thought was changed in the heart of any upright Protestant.”

On July 24, 1702, the Catholic torturer-priest running this show was assassinated, and the Camisard revolt was on.

Two years of dirty neighbor-on-neighbor violence mostly petered out in 1704 with the loss of the Camisards’ two main leaders — Jean Cavalier, the brilliant peasant-turned-commander who was bought off by an army commission and a royal pension, and Roland Laporte, who was betrayed as by Judas for 200 pieces of gold.

Catinat and Ravanel were Cavalier’s lieutenants; according to Alexandre Dumas, Catinat was a peasant named Abdias Maurel who picked up his nickname after serving under Marshal Catinat in the War of Spanish Succession.

The prospect of a renewed rising drew them back — a bold and terrible stroke to mount a surprise massacre and kidnap the exiled English Duke of Berwick. Catinat returned from his hidey-hole in Geneva; Ravanel came the bush where he was the last notable Camisard commander in the field.

An informer spilled the secret and the conspirators were busted in Nimes before they could spring their trap.

They faced immediate trial and condemnation — Catinat and Ravanel, along with two younger fighters named Jonquet and Villas.

After a long bout of pre-execution torture on April 21 to reveal their conspirators,**

The next day, the 22nd April, 1705, they were taken from the prison and drawn to the place of execution in two carts, being unable to walk, on account of the severe torture to which they had been subjected, and which had crushed the bones of their legs. A single pile of wood had been prepared for Catinat and Ravanel, who were to be burnt together; they were in one cart, and Villas and Jonquet, for whom two wheels had been prepared, were in the other.

The first operation was to bind Catinat and Ravanel back to back to the same stake, care being taken to place Catinat with his face to windward, so that his agony might last longer, and then the pile was lit under Ravanel.

As had been foreseen, this precaution gave great pleasure to those people who took delight in witnessing executions. The wind being rather high, blew the flames away from Catinat, so that at first the fire burnt his legs only — a circumstance which, the author of the History of the Camisards tells us, aroused Catinat’s impatience. Ravanel, however, bore everything to the end with the greatest heroism, only pausing in his singing to address words of encouragement to his companion in suffering, whom he could not see, but whose groans and curses he could hear; he would then return to his psalms, which he continued to sing until his voice was stifled in the flames. Just as he expired, Jonquet was removed from the wheel, and carried, his broken limbs dangling, to the burning pile, on which he was thrown. From the midst of the flames his voice was heard saying, “Courage, Catinat; we shall soon meet in heaven.” A few moments later, the stake, being burnt through at the base, broke, and Catinat falling into the flames, was quickly suffocated. That this accident had not been forseen and prevented by proper precautions caused great displeasure to spectators who found that the three-quarter of an hour which the spectacle had lasted was much too brief a time.

Villas lived three hours longer on his wheel, and expired without having uttered a single complaint.

A hecatomb of Camisard executions followed, fed by the denunciations of frightened or avaricious people; still others were “merely” condemned to the galleys … bringing at last a sullen peace of arms to the turbulent province.

* Here’s a 19th century public domain novel about the whole Camisard business.

** While three bore the torture quietly, Villas coughed up the name Boeton de Saint-Laurent-d’Aigozre. This man, too, was arrested and executed.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Broken on the Wheel,Burned,Capital Punishment,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,France,God,Gruesome Methods,Guerrillas,History,Martyrs,Power,Public Executions,Religious Figures,Soldiers,Terrorists,Torture

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1705: Captain Thomas Green and two of his crew on the Worcester

17 comments April 11th, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 1705, another century’s supposed terrorist was hanged on Leith Sands with two of his “pirate” crew by a Scottish court “drunk with patriotic prejudice.”*

This execution took place in the feverish run-up to England and Scotland’s Acts of Union welding the neighboring realms into Great Britain in 1707.

Arising as it did from the same causes that animated that national marriage of convenience, Green’s execution also endangered it: Daniel Defoe, who was at this time a pro-Unionist mole (and prolific pamphleteer) for English pol Robert Harley, described this hanging as one of the six crises that had to be overcome en route to the Union.

A Man, A Plan, A Calamity

Panama.

That’s where it all started, for Green and Union alike.

Mired in economic backwardness as neighboring European states carved up the world, Scotland made a bold, doomed bid for a chit in the empire game: the Darien scheme. One part visionary and (at least) two parts daft, this venture attempted to establish a Scottish colony on the Isthmus of Panama (aka the Isthmus of Darien) with a view to porting freight across the narrow strip of land separating Atlantic and Pacific, and dominating the dramatically more efficient east-west trade route that would result.


The intended Scottish colony in Panama; map from this University of Glasgow exhibit.

Students of the Panama Canal project will be aware that this malarial tropic would not be described as especially hospitable; to the natural disadvantages of the climate were added the political interpositions of England herself, whose hostility to the advent of her Caledonian neighbor as a New World rival was expressed in legislation choking the Darien adventure of foreign aid.

(Also a problem: Spain. The colony was abandoned at last under Spanish siege.)

So Scotland went it intrepidly, injudiciously alone in this last bid for real independent muscle in Europe. The hyperbole of the Isthmus’s publicists eventually sucked in 20 percent or more of the capital circulating in Scotland. And when Darien-dot-com went bust by 1700 at the cost of a couple thousand lives, it cratered the Scottish economy too. That set the stage for Edinburgh’s partnership in a different scheme: Great Britain.

Green with Envy

In the years following the Darien catastrophe, the Scottish corporation chartered to undertake it was still throwing stuff against the wall in the world trade game, trying to get something to stick to at least take the edge off the losses.

This company (theoretically a potential rival of England’s own East India Company) had suffered the further national indignity of having one of its ships, the Annandale, seized in the Thames for infringing the East India Company’s royal monopoly. Its appeals for redress falling on deaf ears, the Darien company apparently induced Scottish authorities to undertake the retaliatory seizure of an English merchant ship, the Worcester, that had the ill luck to weather a storm at the Firth of Forth.

Rumor soon connected this ship to another vanished Darien company vessel overdue from its return trip from the East Indies … and, as it quickly became understood by all right-thinking Scots, overtaken in the Indian Ocean by this same Worcester and its crew butchered.

Captain Thomas Green and his English crew were hailed before an Admiralty court** on piracy charges on this extremely fantastical connection in a virtual mob atmosphere.

It never was clearly established that an act of piracy had been committed as a distinct fact, but by putting certain circumstances together it was inferred that Green was guilty of piracy. The very shape in which the accusation is set forth, shows that the accusers could not point to the specific act of piracy which had been committed …

[There] was no specification as to the vessel taken, which might enable the accused to prove that it had not been taken; no names of parties murdered, who might be shown still to be alive; no ownership of cargo, which might admit of proof that the owner’s goods had arrived safe. As Green himself is made justly to say in the document published as his dying speech, “We are condemned as pirates and murderers on a coast far distant from this place — is there any of you who wants either a friend whom we have murdered, or whose goods we have taken?”

Worcester Sauce

The Worcester‘s Malabari cook provided a highly dubious charge — dubious, for he was not yet among the crew when it last called at the location he claimed the crime took place — of Green and crew hatchet-murdering approximately ten English-speaking mariners on an unnamed vessel off the Indian coast.

Upon this evidence, 14 or more members (the ready sources are a little loose on the total number) of the Worcester crew were condemned for piracy, and initially slated for three batches of hangings. Queen Anne‘s personal intervention managed a stay,

The Scottish Privy Council unto the very last hours debated what to do with the diplomatic appeals, with evidence forwarded from London to the effect that the crew these Worcester men had supposedly slaughtered were alive, their vessel having been hijacked in another place, by another man.

But a surging Scottish mob aggrieved by the preceding years’ misadventures and the impending shotgun marriage to Westminster rather than anything Green himself had really done was already engorged on the blood of the supposed English corsairs. Most of the Council thought better than to deny them their sacrifice.†

The Streets fill’d with Incredible Numbers of Men, Women and Children, calling for Justice upon those ENGLISH Murtherers. The Lord Chancellor Seafield‘s Coach happening to pass by, they stop’d it, broket he Sashes, haul’d him out, and oblig’d him to promise Execution should speedily be done before he could get from ’em … According to the Chancellors promise, soon after, on the same Day, being Wednesday, Captain Green, Madder [the mate], and Sympson [the gunner] were brought out, and convey’d to Execution, which was at Leith Road upon the Sands, and all the way was Huzza’d in Triumph as it were, and insulted with the sharpest and most bitter Invectives. Being come to the place of Execution, Good God! what a moving sight was it to see those Men stand upon the very Varge of Life, just launching in to Eternity, and at the same time see the whole Multitudet ransported with Joy!”

-From an anonymous Letter From Scotland To a Friend in London, quoted by James Kelly, “The Worcester Affair,” The Review of English Studies, Feb. 2000

In the event, these three were the only ones actually hanged; passions cooled enough for the other “pirates” to be quietly released.

But the wider, national passions unleashed by this date’s executions would long provide fodder for intemperate patriotic recrimination, and specifically anti-Unionist propaganda — on both sides of the border.

Competing propagandistic broadsides framed and re-framed the events, as the affair of unscrupulous English buccaneers or perfidious highland barbarians. (Defoe, maneuvering for Union, wrote to chill such bad-for-business hostility: “Nothing could be more horrid, than that the Scots should Execute these Men on a meer Pique at the English Nation. Nothing can be more like it, than to conclude rashly, that it is so, and improve it on purpose to Exasperate our People against the Scots.” (Kelly))

And that, of course, is precisely the viewpoint that prevailed.

While the hemp neckties issued to Green et al this date threatened to (ahem) scotch the Union project, that very danger might have ultimately hastened its completion — as elites recognized, in Defoe’s words, that Union represented “the only way to preserve the publick Tranquillity, and prevent the certain Mischiefs that threatened the whole Body,” (Kelly, again) and rammed it through with dispatch.‡

* English historian G.M. Trevelyan.

** A lengthy account of the trial can be found in this Google books freebie

† In their very scanty defense, the Scottish magistrates had reason to fear Scottish citizens.

‡ The ebb and flow of national resentment continued long after the Acts of Union, of course; continuing Scottish support for the restoration of the Stuart monarchy was one expression of Scottish nationalism and anti-Union sentiment.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Innocent Bystanders,Murder,Not Executed,Pardons and Clemencies,Piracy,Pirates,Political Expedience,Public Executions,Scotland,Wrongful Executions

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1705: John “Half-Hanged” Smith Half-Hanged

5 comments December 24th, 2008 Headsman

Because we executioners are not bereft of sentiment, it is with glad season’s tidings that we remember the veritable rebirth on Christmas Eve of housebreaker John Smith, who was cut down from the Tyburn tree this day in 1705 and revived.

“Though the crimes committed by this man were not marked with particular atrocity, nor his life sufficiently remarkable for a place in these volumes, yet the circumstances attending his fate at the place of execution are perhaps more singular than any we may have to record,” begins the Newgate Calendar, and one can all but see our Marlow setting light to his tobacco as he makes ready to unspool a particularly satisfying yarn.

After John Smith dangled 15 minutes this day at Tyburn, the crowd at his hanging began calling for a reprieve. One gets the impression our narrator may be eliding in a sentence quite an unruly affair; that “the malefactor was cut down” we may well guess, but after a mere 15 minutes? Did the crowd overpower the sentries, or were the officers of the law simply in a Christmas spirit?

There is, too, allusion to his friends’ working to obtain clemency and failing. Family and supporters of the accused intervened at Tyburn in all sorts of meddlesome ways, when they could — pulling the condemned prisoner’s legs to shorten his suffering, or holding his legs up to give him a chance at survival; fighting with anatomists for possession of the corpse, and obviously agitating for mercy at the slightest opportunity. Was it these friends who instigated the crowd’s appeal?

Whether or not Smith’s luck was as dumb as William Duell‘s, they did cut him down, and did revive him “in consequence of bleeding and other proper applications.”

So, what’s it like to be hanged?

When he had perfectly recovered his senses he was asked what were his feelings at the time of execution; to which he repeatedly replied, in substance, as follows. When he was turned off, he for some time was sensible of very great pain, occasioned by the weight of his body, and felt his spirits in a strange commotion, violently pressing upwards. That having forced their way to his head, he as it were saw a great blaze, or glaring light, which seemed to go out at his eyes with a flash, and then he lost all sense of pain. That after he was cut down, and began to come to himself, the blood and spirits, forcing themselves into their former channels, put him, by a sort of pricking or shooting, to such intolerable pain that he could have wished those hanged who had cut him down.

All this violent commotion of the spirit was enough to score a pardon, but not quite equal to the task of reforming the man now known as “Half-Hanged Smith”.

Our narrator relates that he went twice more to the Old Bailey in some danger of his neck, escaping once on a technicality and then again upon the uncommonly timely death of the prosecutor.

Nothing more is henceforth heard of the man, and it is unknown whether he decided to stop tempting fate, or whether officers of the law were in no further mood to tempt the hand of a Providence evidently determined to protect him, or whether some still more mysterious purpose thereafter summoned him away from the worldly cares of the justices.


And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”

Update: Courtesy of Anthony Vaver’s captivating Early American Crime, it looks like Smith was eventually sentenced to penal transportation to the Virginia colony.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Executions Survived,Hanged,Not Executed,Pelf,Public Executions,Theft,Tyburn

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