1715: Jeremiah Meacham, “mightily distressed”

Add comment April 12th, 2018 Headsman

Jeremiah Meacham was hanged in Rhode Island on this date in 1715 for a double murder committed during a disturbing psychotic break.

In the execution sermon below by Newport Rev. Nathaniel Clap, he attributes what we would today take as clear mental health problems to the man’s disinterest in attending church — for, “while, he was generally esteemed exemplarily exact in his Dealings, and punctual to his Promises, about his Worldy affairs … he seldom or never seemed altogether free from some terrible reflections upon his Conscience, for his Apostasy from God. And it hath been thought that his Convictions about some Concerns of his Soul, mixed with some vexations about his Affairs in the World, brought him into a grievous hurry, which by degrees boil’d up into a sort of a raging fury: And keeping out of the way of suitable directions for his Soul, his troubles of mind grew so intolerable, that he told some, that he was weary of his life.”

Things grew so uncomfortable with him, that he loved not Home; he thought that all his Neighbours looked strangely upon him; he pretended that he feared some body designed mischief against him, and that he should be slain. Every day seemed unto him as if it would be the last day of his life: And he asked of others, if they knew of no contrivance against him.

The Day before he committed his Murders, he appeared mightily distressed, walking about in a very great agony, a great part of that day, chusing to be at the Neighborbours. But on the said day of his Murders (22 d., 1 m.) he got and sat upon his House, with a Penknife in his hand, for several hours, if discoursing sometimes with those that came near him, seeming afraid some or other would hurt him; Others feared more that he would hurt himself; none seemed much to fear that he intended any hurt to any body else. And he declar’d, that he would hurt neither Man, Woman nor Child, if they would let him alone.

After he came down from his House top into his Chamber, he kept there most part of the Afternoon of that day, until after Sun set; and then his Wife, and her Sister, upon his invitation, going up to him, urging of him to go down with them, or striving with him to keep him from hurting of himself; it seems that then he struck his Wife in her throat with his Pen-knife: and then struck her and her Sister down with an Ax (that he had carried up, and he had also Charged his Gun; but made no use of that, in his Murders) how many blows he gave them is not known: But the dreadful marks of several remained on their miserably mangled Bodies.

When he had murdered them, he stood watchfully upon his Guard, with his Ax in hand, threatning all that offered to come up Stairs; knock’d one man down with his bloody Ax. Others endeavouring to apprehend him, by breaking up the Chamber Floor under him, & the Roof over him; he laboured to defend himself, as if against the worst Enemies. And when they carried some Fire, flaming to light their way before them, he snatch’d away the Fire, and laid it among some combustible matter, and got ready more, and quickly kindled a great Fire in the midst of the Chamber, as if he chose rather to Burn himself alive, and the dead Bodies with him than to be taken …

At some time or other, in these hurries it seems, he had cut his own throat; but fearing that death would not come soon enough that way, and finding that he could not bear burning to death; it was thought, he was willing to try, if he could dash himself to pieces, by throwing himself out at the Window; by which he also hurt his head, if no other part of his Body; but his Wounds were near healed, before he came to Dye.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Diminished Capacity,England,Execution,Hanged,Murder,Public Executions,Rhode Island,USA

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1715: Ann Wright, branded

Add comment February 2nd, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1715, a longtime petty thief named Ann Wright — or was it Martha Wright? or Ann Hutchins? or Elizabeth Jolly? — hanged at Tyburn.

In the absence of modern trappings like a standing police force, criminal dossiers, and systematic record-keeping — innovations that lay decades into the future — small-time criminals could float at the margins for the duration of many years and many offenses by relying on the forgetfulness of the legal apparatus: with nothing but a casual alias, one might hope to appear over and over again as a new offender.

Here we see Ordinary of Newgate Paul Lorrain deploy his own investigative acumen to trace for us one woman’s career, a very much more penetrating biography of an Early Modern commoner than we can usually access. We can see from his account of offenses — for how many crimes must Lorrain be omitting in this register? — that he was greatly aided by Wright’s own body which bore the mark of our Old Offender’s repeated brandings. That included scars earned during the brief period from 1699 to 1707 when brands could be applied to an offender’s cheeks, a fate which apparently befell Ann Wright on no fewer than five occasions.*

By the time he came to Wright’s terminal adventure, Rev. Lorrain had held the post of ministering to convicts for fifteen years and could probably boast as expert an acquaintance with London’s criminal underworld as any square; whether he knew Ann Wright on sight or knew her by reputation, he knew her.

Ann Wright, condemn’d for breaking the Lock of Eliz. Barrot’s Chamber-Door, with an intent to rob her, on the 30th of October last. She was about 38 Years of age, and liv’d in the Parish of St. Dunstan, Stepney. She would hardly confess her self guilty of the Crime for which she was justly Condemn’d; neither did she readily acknowledge, that she had done several other Facts of the like heinous nature, and was an old Offender: But when I laid before her, and charg’d her with diverse Burglaries and Robberies, which I knew she had committed, then she could not deny her being Guilty of them.

Here I shall give the Reader a Particular of some of those wicked Facts of hers, and the several Punishments she receiv’d for them, the Time when, and the various Names she went by.

1st, She was (under the Name of Martha Wright) Burnt in the Cheek at the Old-Baily, on the 10th of July, 1702, for entring the House of Mr. James Gee, and taking thence 4 Muslin-Neckcloths, 2 Holland-Aprons, a Hol-Smock, a Cloth-coat, Wastcoat and Breeches, with diverse other Goods, on the 2d of the said Month of July.

2dly, She was (under the Name of Ann Rebel alias Ann Hutchins, which latter, as she said, was her Maiden-Name) also Burnt in the Chek at the
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Old-Baily, on the 11th of September, 1702, for Robbing the House of Mr. Joseph Lineum, on the 7th of August before, and taking thence 6 Hempen-Aprons, 6 Dowlas-Shirts, 6 Smocks, &c.

3dly, She was again (under the same Name of Ann Hutchins) Burnt in the Cheek, at the Old-Baily, on the 9th of July, 1703, for stealing 5 ounces of China-Silk from Mr. John Sheppard, and other Silks from Mr. Nathanael Wichel, on the 19th of May before.

4thly, She was in like manner (under the Name of Ann Hutchins) Burnt in the Cheek, at the Old-Baily, on the 2d of June, 1704, for stealing 4 Buck-Skins from Mr. Tho. Boddington, on the 4th of May preceding.

5thly, She was (under the Name of Elizabeth Jolly alias Hodges, which latter she said was her Husband’s Name) again Burnt in the Cheek, at the Old-Baily, on the 17th of January, 1704/1705, for stealing 16 yards of Silk, a Stuff-Gown and Petticoat, 12 ells of Holland, 26 yards of Lace, and diverse other Goods of Mr. Edward Kenworthy’s, on the 14th of June, 1704.

6thly, She was (under the Name of Eliza. Wright) on the 6th of July, try’d at the Old-Baily, and order’d to be whipt, for stealing a Silver-Spoon and a Cambrick-Handkerchief, from Mr. Anthony Moreing, on the 17th of June before.

7thly, She was (under the Name of Ann Hicken) Burnt in the Hand, at the Old-Baily, on the 26th of February, 1707/1708, for stealing 10 ounces of Silver Orrice-Lace, and 12 ounces of Gold-Lace, from Mrs. Margaret Tiplady, on the 3d Day of the same Month.

8thly, She was again (under the Name of Ann Hutchins) Burnt in the Hand at the Old-Baily, on the 9th of July, 1708, for Robbing Mrs. Mary Collier’s House, and taking from thence 1 pound 15 ounces of Raw-Silk, on the 26th of the preceding June.

9thly, She did (under the Name of Ann Hodges alias Hodgkins) receive Sentence of Death, at the Old-Baily, on the 6th of May, 1709, for Breaking the House of Mr. John Marsh, and taking from thence a Psalm-book, two Cloth-Coats, a Diaper Table-cloth, 10 Napkins, and several other things, on the 11th of April before; for which having obtain’d a Reprieve, and afterwards a Pardon, which she pleaded in Court at the Old-Baily, on the 8th of December, 1710, (at which time she was order’d to the Bridewell of Clerkenwell for 2 Years) she no sooner had her Liberty (which she got by breaking out of that House of Correction) but she return’d to her former wicked Way of Robbing. So that,

10thly, She was again (under the Name of Ann Hutchens) Burnt in the Hand at the Old-Baily, on the 12th of April, 1711, for stealing 4 Holland-Smocks that hung up a drying in the Yard of Mr. William Baker, on the 28th of March preceding.

11thly, She was (under the Name of Ann Hodges) Burnt in the Hand at the Old-Baily, on the 28th of February, 1711/1712, for Stealing a Coat, Wastcoat, and Breeches, Linnen, Gold-Rings, and other Goods, of Mrs. Susannah Butterwick, on the 12th of the same Month.

12thly, and Lastly, (to mention no more of these sad Particulars) She was again (under the Name of Ann Hodges, alias Jenkins, alias Jeatzin) Burnt in the Hand, at the Old-Baily, on the 2d of May, 1712, for a Felony, in stealing Pewter and other Goods out of the House of Mr. John Simmonds, on the 5th of the ‘foregoing March.

All these her notorious Facts, of which I had taken a particular Account, I laid before her, together with some others she had been try’d for, but acquitted of, for want of positive Evidence to convict her, tho’ there was no great reason to doubt her being guilty of ‘em: And moreover, I put her in mind of her having frequently broke out of the Workhouse, to which she had several times been sent, for her Correction and Amendment; the former whereof she would not receive, nor bring her self to the practice of the latter, but plainly shew’d her ill Disposition and wicked Desire of returning (as she did so fast as she could) to her sinful Course of Life; of which I exhorted and press’d her to make a free Confession, and repent. Whereupon she acknowledg’d her Guilt in these Matters, saying, (in general) That she had done many ill things, but her discovering them in particular (were she able fully to do that) would be now of no use to the World. Having some just Suspicion that she had been concern’d in Facts committed in Surrey, and try’d for them in that County, I put the Question to her, which she answer’d in the Negative, thinking (I suppose) that those Facts could not so easily be known to me, being done not only at a distance, and in a County where I have nothing to do, but also under Names which she thought fit at times to take and shift, as suited best her Occasions of disguising her self, and concealing Who and What she was. I found her all along very stupid, and insensible both of her sad Condition, and the Cause of it. When I examin’d her in private, she was very sullen, spoke but few (and those angry) Words, and shed fewer Tears: What her inward Thoughts were, I can’t tell; but she gave little sign of true Repentance. As I observ’d her in that harden’d Temper, so I told her, That she behav’d her self just as I had seen others do, who were guilty of Murder, whom (above all other Sinners) the Devil does what he can to hinder from repenting; and therefore I must needs plainly say this to her, That I was afraid she had been concern’d in some Bl[oo]dy Fact or other; for she seem’d to me to be more than a common Sinner. To this she answer’d, That she never committed any Murder in her Life. No? said I to her; Did you never kill a Bastard-Child, to hide your Shame when you were in Service? (for I knew she had been a Servant in some Families in and about London.) At this Question she startled, and after a Pause (not without some discomposure) said, She was very clear of that Crime. However I gave her to understand I greatly suspected she was not, for she had been a very wicked, lewd, and debauch’d Woman; and so I offer’d her some ghostly Advice herein. Then I further ask’d her, Whether she knew any thing of the Murder of Esq. Hanson and Mr. Carlton, who (some Years ago) were found murder’d, viz. the first near the Vinegar-house beyond Moorfields, and the other between Rosemary-branch and Cambray-house, in Islington Parish. To which she reply’d, That she had indeed heard of those Murders, but was not in the least concern’d in ‘em, nor knew who had committed them. This is all I could get from her, who (as I observ’d with great Concern) instead of making a right use of the long Time and good Instruction she had under this Condemnation, seem’d (all the while) to have nothing so much at Heart as getting a Reprieve, and avoiding this Death; tho’ I endeavour’d to make her sensible, there was no manner of ground for her Hope of Life in this World; and, that if she were wise she would (as ’twas infinitely better she should) seriously consider her sad and miserable Condition by reason of her Sins, and so by all the Acts of Repentance she was capable of exerting, prepare herself for her great Change that was approaching and inevitable. And this important Consideration I urg’d to her, to the very last.

At the Place of Execution (whither both she and George Hynes were this Day carried from Newgate in a Cart, and where I attended them for the last time) she seem’d to be much dejected and sorrowful; and no Wonder, for she had great Cause to be so. Hynes likewise cry’d bitterly, lamenting and bewailing his past sinful Life. Here I gave them proper Admonitions; and after I had pray’d, and sung some Penitential Psalms with them, and made ‘em rehearse the Apostles Creed, I advis’d, that they would (and accordingly they did) desire the Spectators to pray for them, and take Warning by their Fall; To keep the Sabbath-day, serve God, and live honestly. Then I withdrew from them, recommending their Souls to God, and leaving them to their private Devotions, for which they had some Time allotted. After this the Cart drew away, and they were turn’d off, crying all the while to God for Mercy, Pardon, and Salvation.

* We’ve previously seen that London authorities didn’t mind applying the brand several times to a habitual offender.

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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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1716: Stefan Cantacuzino, Wallachian prince

1 comment January 21st, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1716, the Ottomans extinguished their Wallachian (Romanian) client king — and with him native rule on that soil.

The Cantacuzino family has bequeathed Romania no small quantity of notables down to our present time. Our man Stefan Cantacuzino (English Wikipedia entry | Romanian) got the throne of the Ottoman satellite principality of Wallachia via intriguing against a cousin whom the Ottomans deposed and executed in 1714. That guy is a saint today for refusing to convert to save his life.

Stefan Cantacuzino aimed perhaps at a more secular apotheosis, tipping the Austrians to Turkish battle plans as the frontier slid into war between those empires. Who knows what reverential murmurs would attend his name had he been able to attach the Danubian Principalities to Christendom?

But considering that summary death at the command of dissatisfied sultans was an occupational hazard for Wallachian princes, he can’t have been surprised to find the bowstring around his own neck instead.

“With him terminated the rule of the native princes,” notes this 19th century history — and began that of “the so-called Phanariote governors,” a class of Greek magnates initially resident in Istanbul. The Porte’s arbitration among these as deputies for Wallachia enabled it to maintain much better control of the troublesome province than entrusting succession to the treacherous local boyars.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Heads of State,History,Nobility,Power,Romania,Strangled,Turkey,Wartime Executions

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1717: Five at Tyburn

Add comment December 20th, 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 20th of December, 1717.

The melancholy Papers relating to the Criminals executed in this County, having, the Session before this, receiv’d a happy Interruption, through an extraordinary Accident, which then happen’d, and is well known to the Publick; They now come out again, to give an Account of such of the Malefactors, lately condemn’d, as are the sad Subject of them.

At the general Sessions held at Justice-hall in the Old-bailey, on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th days of December, 1717; Eleven Persons, viz. Nine Men, and Two Women, that were Try’d for, and Convicted of, several Capital Crimes, receiv’d Sentence of Death: But the Two Women’s Judgment being respited for their Pregnancy, and Four of the Men repriev’d by His Majesty‘s most gracious Mercy (which I hope they will take due Care to improve) Five of them only are now order’d for Execution.

While they lay under this deplorable State of Condemnation, I constantly visited them, and had them, twice every day, brought up to the Chapel in Newgate; where I pray’d with them, read, and expounded the Word of God to them, and instructed them in those Points of Religion, which were most proper for them both to know and to practise; endeavouring to make them sensible, and to repent, of their past Sins and Follies, and to pray for that Grace, by the Divine Power whereof they might be happily rescued from under the Slavery of Sin and Satan, and admitted into the Glorious Liberty of the Children of GOD. This was the Drift and Purpose of my daily Admonitions to them, both in publick and private. And,

On the Lord’s Day, the 8th instant, I preach’d to those Condemn’d Persons, and many others there present, both in the Forenoon and Afternoon, upon Luke 21. 27. being part of the Gospel appointed for that Day, and the Words these: And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a Cloud, with Power and great Glory.

From this Text and Context, first explain’d in general, and illustrated by parallel Places, I shew’d in particular,

  1. The Certainty of Christ’s Coming to Judge the World. And,
  2. The Uncertainty of the Time when He shall come.

    To which I added,

  3. ult. The weighty Consideration of the nearer or more visibly approaching Judgment, which is privately pass’d on the Soul of every Man at his Death, and will be publickly confirm’d (and extended to his Body also) at the Last Day, when Christ shall come, attended with Myriads of Angels, to raise the Dead.

Again, on the last Lord’s Day, the 15th instant, I preach’d likewise to the Condemn’d, &c. and my Text was Numb. 35. 31. Moreover ye shall not take Satisfaction for the Life of a Murderer, which is guilty of Death: But he shall be surely put to Death.

After a general Explanation of these Words, I shew’d from them in particular,

  1. The heinous Nature of the Crime of Murder; the irreparable Evil of it, and what has a near Relation to it, and may well be comprehended under it.
  2. The Severe Punishment due to it.
  3. & lastly, The great Necessity of that Man’s sincere and hearty Repentance, who is Guilty of this, or of any other Sin whatsoever, according to the Degree thereof.

Having enlarg’d upon all those Points, I concluded every Sermon I then preach’d to the Condemn’d with proper Admonitions to them: And here shew’d them particularly, That any wicked Act wilfully committed, whereof the Consequence might be the shedding of Blood, was Murder in the Sight of God; and that (according to the Apostle’s Conclusion) Whosoever hateth his Brother is a Murderer; adding these peremptory Words, Ye know, that no Murderer has Eternal Life abiding in him, 1 Joh. 3. 15.

From which Consideration, I endeavour’d to make them sensible of the absolute Necessity there was for them (and accordingly exhorted them) to search their own Heart to the bottom, that they might find out their Sins (the Cause of their Troubles and Fears) and so truly repent of all they had done amiss, and of whatever Mischief their Crimes might have further been attended with, in this World; as to prevent their dismal and dreadful Effects in the World to come.

To these Exhortations they seem’d very attentive; and in my private Examinations of them, they gave me the respective Accounts following.

1. Thomas Bingley, convicted upon 3 Indictments, for assaulting, wounding and robbing, on the King’s Highway near Acton, these 3 Persons, viz. 1st, Silvester Proud; 2dly, Jonathan Chapman; and, 3dly, John Blackwell, on the 11th of November last: On which Day, at the very same Time and Place all these Facts were committed by him, with the Assistance of two others hereafter nam’d. He said, he was 25 Years of age, born at Doncaster in Yorkshire: That while he liv’d with his Father (a Malster and Distiller ) he serv’d him in his Business: But upon a Difference happening between his said Father and him, about a Twelvemonth ago, he then came up to London, where he had not been long, before he was listed in the first Regiment of Guards, under the Command of Colonel Townshend. He freely confest the Facts he now stood condemn’d for; but said he had done no such things before, and that those (which were his first) would be also his last, were he to live never so long. When I told him of his Barbarity to the Person of Mr. Proud, whom he violently assaulted, being not contented only to rob him, but using him most cruelly, even to his endeavouring the taking away of his Life: He answer’d, That in his Heat and Haste (being under Fear) he knew not well what he did, but now considering what he had done, he was very sorry, and begg’d his Pardon for it, thanking God, that the Wounds he had given him, proved not Mortal. Here he said, That though he never was a Robber before, yet he had been otherwise a very bad Young-man, he having liv’d a loose Life, and been very extravagant, a great Spendthrift, and withal a most undutiful Son, who had given his Father a great deal of trouble: All which he now was very much griev’d at, being sensible of the Evil and Misery his Follies had justly brought upon him in this World, and of the greater Punishment he deserv’d to undergo in the next: And therefore earnestly pray’d to God for Mercy, and his Father, and all others he had offended, for Pardon; and wish’d all Young-men might take Warning by him, and be more dutiful to God and their Parents, than himself had been; and so avoid such a sad and untimely End, as this he was now come to. When Yesterday the Death-Warrant was come down, and he found by it, that there was no hope at all for him to live much longer in this World, he then (upon my exhorting him to make a full Confession of his Sins, and clear his Conscience) own’d (though he had deny’d it before) that within these 4 or 5 Months he had committed several (but no great) Robberies on the Highway, sometimes about Paddington, and at other times in and about Whitechappel, as also in other Places further from London; and, That once he had begg’d a Furlow of his Officer, under pretence of seeing his Friends in the Country for a few Days; but it was upon no such occasion; his only Design being then to have more Time and Opportunity to do Mischief (as he did) to honest Men: Which wicked Course of Life is now a great trouble to his Soul, who heartily wish’d he had not been so wicked. He implor’d again and again God’s Mercy and their Pardon whom he had any ways injur’d: And that was all the Satisfaction he could make.

2. Joseph Sherrier, condemn’d with the ‘foresaid Tho. Bingley, for being concern’d with him in the 3 Facts above specified, He said, he was 22 Years of age, born at Alresford in the County of Suffolk, and a Lock-Smith by Trade: That since his coming up to London, which was in May last, he work’d with a Smith near Drury-lane, when he had time to work, he being in the same Service, and in the same Regiment and Company with Bingley, who (he said) was the Man that put him upon these Facts, which he would never have thought to commit, had he not been enticed thereto; adding, That when he saw the said Bingley had so barbarously (as he had) cut the poor Man’s Head in diverse places, he cry’d to him, Why have you done that? And he further told me, he was very sorry to
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see it, and if he could, would have prevented it; but standing then at some distance, he could not. At first he said, this was the only time he ever engag’d in such wicked Facts as these were, which the said Bingley induced him to, and that were he to live never so long in this World, he would not be guilty of the like, or any other Crimes; but afterwards he confess’d, That about June or July last, Bingley perswaded him to go upon the Highway; and, That within that time he had committed several small Robberies with him, for which (to his great Grief) he could now make no Satisfaction, but thank’d God he had never shed Blood. He seem’d to be very Sensible and Penitent.

3. Edward Motte, alias Popham (the former being his right Name) condemn’d with the two former, viz. Thomas Bingley and Joseph Sherrier, for being an Assistant to them in the Facts before mention’d. He said, he was 21 Years of age, born at Boxted in Suffolk: That he was a Blacksmith by Trade, and wrought at it ever since he came up to London, when his Service in His Majesty’s Foot-Guards (in which, and in the same Company, he was with Bingley and Sherrier) permitted it. He own’d his Guilt of the Facts he stood condemn’d for, and said, That Bingley had brought him into the commission of them; and, that he had no hand in the Personal Hurt that Mr. Proud receiv’d, and wish’d he could have hinder’d Bingley from doing a thing of that nature; for himself abhorr’d such Cruelties: Neither would he, of his own accord, have gone in this manner upon the Highway; but the said Bingloy forced him to it. He acknowledg’d his Crime was great, in complying with that wicked Man’s Solicitations; and said, this was the first time he had offended the Law; but when the Death-Warrant was come, he acknowledg’d, That within these five months past he had been engag’d with the said Bingley and Sherrier in some Robberies on the Highway, he could not tell how many; yet hoped, that tho’ he was to suffer by it in this World, yet he should find Mercy in the next, for he heartily repented.

4. James Dickenson, alias Robinson (the former his right Name) condemn’d for breaking open the House of Mr. Thomas Bevis, and stealing thence Linnen to the value of 30 s. on the 31st of October last. He said, he was about 26 Years of age, born in Goodmans-Fields, in the Parish of St. Mary White-Chapel, and by his Occupation a Packthread-Spinner, by which he could maintain himself and Family well enough; but not being contented with that honest way of living, he fell into that which prov’d at last his Shame and Ruin. At first (indeed) he stifly deny’d the Fact he stood condemn’d for; alledging this common and worn-out Excuse, That the stoln Goods found on him, were given him by an unknown Hand, to carry to a certain Place: But at last he confess’d himself Guilty. And he also acknowledg’d (upon my putting him in mind of it) That he had formerly committed other ill Facts, and was once burnt in the Hand, and sent to the Bridewell in Clerkenwell, there to be kept at hard Labour for a Twelve-month; and yet (as it prov’d) this Correction did not cure him of his Thievish Distemper; who own’d, That he had committed several ill Facts, which were never found out, and which he cannot now to any purpose discover, nor make any Satisfaction for. He was a poor ignorant Person, who knew nothing of Religion, could not read at all, nor so much as say the Lord’s Prayer.

5. John Monstieurs, condemn’d for the Murder of John Henrick Rule, on the 17th of October last. He said, he was 27 Years of age, of good Parentage, and born at Enwegen in Gelder-land: That he had been brought up in the Business of Merchandizing ; and the chief Commodities he commonly dealt in, were Wines and Brandy, which he bought in the Low-Countries, and imported into England. The Religion he profess’d was that he call’d the Roman Catholick . As to the Fact he was Try’d and Condemn’d for, he at first stifly deny’d it, and would fain have perswaded me, that he was perfectly ignorant and innocent of it; and that he was a Person of a good Life and good Reputation in his own Country. Upon which, I told him, That tho’ I could not charge him with other Crimes (as having no knowledge of him before) yet this, for which he now stood condemn’d, was so evident, and so fully prov’d upon him, that I wonder’d he durst deny it; considering (too) that such a Denial could not clear him before God, nor before Men, neither would be of any the least avail to him as to his present State in this World, but should greatly aggravate his Sins and Condemnation in the Sight of God, and make him infinitely the worse as to his future State in the other World. Being inform’d that some time ago he intended to have marry’d a Dutch-woman, a Protestant; and that one of the Conditions of the Contract to be made between them, was; That he should leave the Church of Rome, and embrace the Protestant Religion; I ask’d him, Whether it was so: To which he reply’d, It was. Then asking him further, Whether he was still in the same mind; that is, Whether he would now (as to this Change) do for the good of his Soul what he promis’d to perform for his Love’s sake, and would be a Protestant whether he liv’d or died? He answer’d at first, That he would; but sometime after this, said, That as he suppos’d both Religions were good, and he was to die so soon that now he had neither time, nor indeed any proper or free Disposition of mind (under his present distraction and disquietude) to attend to any Instruction relating to those Points or Principles, wherein they differ’d the one from the other, and considering also that he was born in the Roman Communion: So he thought it not fit to renounce it, and embrace another; which (for ought he knew) he might have done, were he to have liv’d longer in this World; for he was inclinable enough, from the Instructions he had receiv’d of me, since his Confinement in Newgate (both before and after his Condemnation) to believe, That of the two, the Protestant Religion was the better. He so far agreed with me, that he profess’d, He rely’d on the alone Merits of Jesus Christ for the Pardon of his Sins; and, that he look’d upon Him as the only Mediator between God and Man, and hoped to be sav’d by Him. Here (after some further Instructions to set him forward in the right way) I press’d him to a free Confession, as of all his Sins in general, so particularly of this enormous Crime of Murder, which had brought him to this shameful and untimely Death. Whereupon he (tho’ he had positively deny’d it before) now own’d, that He was Guilty of it; but said, That the Deceased having first began a Quarrel with him, they both (by consent) went out together, to decide the Difference by dnt of Sword: This he alledging for his Pretence as a legal (or at least allowable) Way, to ask and receive Satisfaction for Affronts and Injuries given; was presently shewn his great Mistake herein, and his indispensable Duty and Interest to repent. Besides, I old him, That if that was a Duel, I greatly suspected him to be the Aggressor; but indeed could not think other, but that this Murder was by him committed without Provocation, and with all the Aggravation of Baseness and Barbarity imaginable. To which he said little or nothing but this, I am now to satisfie the Law for it, and pray God to have Mercy on my Soul. Then I went on, exhorting him to Repentance; and such a Repentance too, as might be proportionable to his high Crime, crying with David, Ps. 51. 12. Deliver me from Blood-guiltiness, O God! &c. Before I parted at that time, when I had a long private Conference with him (which was the next day after I had preach’d (chiefly) against Murder) and I found he was something mov’d, and seem’d to relent, I desir’d him for God’s sake, and for his Soul’s sake, to tell me what Crimes of that nature, or what other heinous Sins, he had committed before, either in his own Country or any where else. To which he reply’d, that he had formerly fought several Duels with Officers and other Gentlemen, wounding some of ‘em, but never kill’d any; and that, as to other Matters, he had liv’d like other young Gentlemen, not so well (he must needs confess) as he should have done; for which he implor’d God’s Mercy and Pardon. Being not fully satisfied with his Confession, I further desir’d him to declare freely and ingenuously, what was the true Cause of his committing that Murder. To which he giving no Answer, his Silence put me upon asking him this plain Question, which I press’d him to answer positively one way or other, viz. Whether he did not kill the Deceased with an intent of having his Money and other his Goods? Whereto he made this only Reply, Sure enough; and would say no more, nor express that Sorrow he should have had for the great Evil he had done, and the Guilt he thus had contracted by his Commission of such an inhumane and bloody Fact. I endeavour’d all I could to make him throughly sensible of his Sin and Misery. How affected he was with what I said, and what were his inward Thoughts, I know not: But his outward Appearance discover’d his not being much concern’d. And this hard Temper I was afraid would continue with him to the time of his Death; but thro’ God’s great Mercy it did not; for at the nearer approach of that King of Terrors I found that what had been laid before him to bring him to Repentance, began to make some impression on, and mollify, his obdurate Heart. Then he exprest his Grief for all his Sins, and particularly the heinous Crime that had brought this severe (but condign) Punishment upon him; and he fully confest, That he was Guilty of wilful Murther: That the Person he kill’d had not in the least provok’d nor challeng’d him to it; and, That out of a covetous, malicious, and cruel Heart he did it; thinking to find with the Deceased a great deal of Gold, Money, &c. but he was disappointed therein, for he found but little of that about him. The manner of his committing that barbarous Murther (which he said none but himself knew any thing of, or was concern’d in) was by a Hammer he carry’d in his Pocket for that wicked Purpose, and with which he struck him in divers places on the Head, and other Parts. When he had made an end of this his Confession, I represented to him the horrible nature of that Fact, and the greatness of his Guilt; earnestly exhorting him duly to consider it, and take it to Heart, to the end he might so repent of it, as to obtain God’s Pardon for it; without which he must be eternally miserable.

With such Exhortations as I thought most proper to move him, I endeavour’d to reclaim him out of his dangerous State. And this I did till he was carry’d to the Tree; where I attended him, and the rest of the Dying Criminals, for the last time; and after the usual Performance of my Ministerial Office to their Souls, I left them. When I was withdrawn from them, and they had desir’d the Standers-by to take Warning by them, and pray for their departing Souls, they apply’d themselves to their private Devotion, for which they had some Time allotted them: Then the Cart drew away; and they were turn’d off; while each of them was earnestly calling upon God for the Pardon of his Sins, and the Salvation of his Soul, in these and the like Ejaculations: Lord! have Mercy upon me! Lord, save me! Lord Jesus, receive my Spirit!

This is all the Account here to be given of these Malefactors, by me,

PAUL LORRAIN, Ordinary.
London, Friday, Dec. 20. 1717.

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

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1717: Three spared en route to Tyburn, thanks to Jack Ketch’s debts

Add comment November 6th, 2017 Headsman

From the London Weekly Journal or Saturday’s Post, Nov. 9, 1717:

On Wednesday we had a very odd Accident happen’d upon Occasion of the ordinary Execution of Criminals; the Number to be hang’d was five, according to the Dead Warrant, but two of these had obtain’d a respite of Execution, the other three were put into the Cart and carry’d to the Place of Execution.

The Person they call the Finisher of the Law, alias the Hangman, and who, for the common Understanding inherits the Name of Jack Ketch, going before the Cart on Foot, in order to be ready at the Place, was arrested in Holborn by three Bayliffs or Officers, on a Sheriffs Warrant for Debts, and was carry’d away.

However, after some Time he got out of their Hands, but soon fell into worse Company; for the Mob got him into their Clutches, and whether he had given them Occasion or no, we know not, but no Pick-Pocket was ever used worse by them; for if all we hear is true, they left him with little Life in him.

In the mean Time the Prisoners came to the Place of Execution; but no Hangman could be found to do them the usual last Offices of Kindness. The Under-Sheriff, it is said, offered very generously to several Persons to officiate, but none could be found. Mr. Ordinary, we hear, might have had the Compliment, but did not think fit to say he would accept it if it had been offer’d.

One bold Fellow, being half inclin’d, his Comrade prompted him earnestly, Do Jack, says his Brother Tom, thou hast not earn’d a Penny in an honest Way a great While.

No, says Jack; da___e, not I, for I deserve it as much as any of them; but do you do it your self, Tom, you know it will be your Turn quickly, and Jack Ketch shall use you the better for it.

But in short, neither Jack nor Tom would do it, and the poor Wretches, tho’ they waited in the Cold a great While, were not willing to do it for themselves; and so the Sheriff’s Officers were fain to bring them back again to Newgate, where it is said they must lie till Jack Ketch recovers of his Suffocation in the Horse-Pond, and is in Condition for his honest Employment.

The prisoners in question all had their sentences commuted.

The hangman, William Marvell — who had obtained the position because his predecessor was also clapped in debtors’ prison — likewise lost the executioner’s gig thanks to the embarrassing arrest. Too reviled thereafter to find honest work he wound up being sentenced to convict transportation for shoplifting in 1719.

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1715: Seven at Tyburn

Add comment November 2nd, 2017 Headsman

Paul Lorrain, the Ordinary of Newgate, enlivened his report of a November 2, 1715 mass hanging at Tyburn with a

The malefactors in question on this occasion numbered seven, and were not greatly distinguished from others of their age unless it were by their sheer ordinariness. All committed property crimes, stealing from burgled houses, shops, and gentlemen’s pockets, netting thereby

  • Five pound-weight of Dy’d Silk, and the like quantity of raw Silk, a Silk-Gown
  • a Callico-Quilt
  • 18 China Dishes, 6 China Cups, 2 Silver-Salts, 8 Silver Spoons
  • 2 Damask and 12 Diaper Table-cloths, 12 Damask and 24 Diaper Napkins
  • 180 Poundweight of Inkle
  • 16 Gold-Rings, a Gold Necklace, a Coral, 4 Silver Thimbles, and 15 l. in Money
  • A snuffbox

For this trove, seven lives: just another day at the Triple Tree during the Bloody Code.

Lorrain’s odd addition on this occasion is a resource of some historical value vi-a-vis that Bloody Code, and also one that reveals the minister’s bean-counting soul. (Salaried at just 35 quid per year, Lorrain bequeathed an estate of £5,000 at his death thanks to his diligence in profiteering with execution-day crime-and-repentance potboilers.)

“When I first enter’d upon this arduous and melancholy Office, in the Beginning of the Mayoralty of the Right Honourable Sir THOMAS ABNEY, Knight, I found no less than 65 Persons that had lain for a great while before under Condemnation, viz. 52 Pirates (who were for the most part Foreigners) and 13 other Criminals,” Lorrain writes in a footnote. “Of the Pirates, 24 were Hanged at one time at the Execution-Dook in Wapping, and of the 13 other Malefactors, 8 were Executed at Tyburn.”

What he says next we’ve formatted from a charming little spreadsheet that Lorrain supplied his readers. It’s entirely unclear to me why he did this; perhaps, as with this very blog reproducing his work three centuries later, it was simply to break up the tedium.

In the Mayoralty of … Condemn’d Repriev’d Dy’d after Condemnation, and before their Execution Executed
Sir Thomas Abney, Kt. 118 48 4 66
Sir William Gore, Kt. 49 36 0 13
Sir Samuel Dashwood, Kt. 38 20 0 18
Sir John Parsons, Kt. 35 18 0 17
Sir Owen Buckingham, Kt. 44 28 0 16
Sir Thomas Rawlinson, Kt. 33 28 0 5
Sir Robert Bedingfield, Kt. 23 5 0 18
Sir William Withers, Kt. 34 16 0 18
Sir Charles Duncomb, Kt. 39 29 0 10
Sir Sam Garrard, Kt. & Bart 36 28 0 8
Sir Gilbert Heathcote, Kt. 36 23 0 13
Sir Robert Beachcroft, Kt. 43 28 0 15
Sir Richard Hoare, Kt. 60 35 0 25
Sir Samuel Stanier, Kt. 108 48 1 59
Sir Will. Humphrys, Kt. & Bart 76 38 0 38
Total 772 428 5 339

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1718: Stepan Glebov, lover of the tsarina

1 comment March 15th, 2017 Headsman

On this date in 1718,* the vengeful tsar Peter the Great staged a horrible execution on Moscow’s Red Square.

Stepan Glebov was the collateral damage of Peter’s ferocious conflict with his ill-favored crown prince Tsarevich Alexei — the whelp who had only recently been repatriated to his glowering father after fleeing Russia altogether, to cap a lifetime of letting dad down. Alexei was back in Peter’s clutches, and a few months from the events in this post would be shockingly knouted to death at Peter’s orders.

This Freudian clash also mapped sharply onto Russia’s political schisms (and many of the links in this post are to Russian pages). Alexei was the son of Peter’s first wife, Eudoxia [or Evdokia] Feodorovna Lopukhina, a princess whom the teenage Peter had been required to wed as part of the political logrolling involved in overcoming the 1680s regency of his sister Sofia.

Peter had achieved that victory, definitively, and once it was secured it didn’t take him long to tire of both Eudoxia and of the stagnant boyar class she represented. Peter was all about westernizing the motherland; what better way to start than by immuring his Russian bride in a monastery** and grabbing a German merchant’s daughter for a mistress?


Out. (Painting by Evgeny Alexandrovich Demakov, from this Russian-language page)

The blows were borne together by Eudoxia, by her devout son Alexei, and by that part of traditional and Orthodox Russia horrified by Peter’s innovations. Resentments ran along the familiar channels, here to an immoderate fantasy of deliverance come Peter’s death and there to dangerous plans to immanentize same.

When exposed by to Peter’s hostile gaze little distance would there seem between these varietals.

When Alexei returned to face Peter’s investigation, the old man turned his harsh scrutiny on the ex, knowing her to be a locus of opposition. She was found living outside the monastery in secular garb, having taken an officer named Stepan Glebov as her lover. Their correspondence was ransacked by persecutors determined to discover indicia of treasonable scheming therein. Dozens of associates and monastery monks and nuns would be caught up in the affair, damned for anything from failing to prevent the former queen’s dalliance to plotting against the life of Tsar Peter. Most were stripped of rank and sent to exile with various forms of corporal punishment — whipping, severed nostrils, tongues sliced out — but several would be tortured to death or executed on the breaking-wheel including Dositheus, Bishop of Rostov, a confidante of Eudoxia who had allegedly prophesied Alexei’s triumph over his father, and Alexander Kikin, a mentor of Alexei’s who had helped to arrange his escape from Russia.

But upon Glebov, miserable man, Peter would give free rein to his amazing talent for cruelty: the lover to be impaled alive on a stake artfully inserted to miss all vital organs so as to maximize his suffering; some accounts even give it out that the naked Glebov was bundled in furs for the freezing winter’s execution, that he might endure his pains the longer.

Glebov survived impalement for over 14 hours, only dying after 7 a.m. on the morning of March 16. Folklore (it’s probably just that) has it that, importuned on that stake by the tsar to admit to the treasonable conspiracy, Glebov justifiably retorted that he had refused such a confession under unspeakable torment in Peter’s dungeons, so why would he break now? “Depart, and let me die in peace so that you may live without peace.”

Eudoxia’s brother Avram was also put to death in December 1718. She herself was shut up in Shlisselburg fortress for the balance of Peter’s life, but she would survive to see her grandson (Alexei’s son) take the throne in 1727 as Peter II.

* Julian date: it was March 26 on the Gregorian calendar.

** Suzdal‘s Pokrovsky Monastery.

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1714: A Tyburn dozen

Add comment March 10th, 2017 Headsman

The Ordinary of Newgate His Account of The Behaviour, Confessions, and Last Speeches of the Malefactors that were Executed at Tyburn, on Wednesday the 10th of March, 1713/1714.

At the Sessions held at Justice-Hall in the Old-baily, London, on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the 24th, 25th 26th, and 27th of February last, Fifteen Persons, viz. Fourteen Men, and One Woman, who were all Try’d for, and brought in Guilty of several Capital Crimes, did receive Sentence of Death accordingly. But the Woman being found pregnant, and Two of the Men having obtain’d the QUEEN’s most gracious Reprieve (which I pray GOD they may have Grace duely to improve) Twelve of them are now order’d for Execution.

While they lay under this Condemnation, I constantly visited them, and had them (twice every day) brought up to the Chapel of Newgate, where I pray’d with them, and read and expounded the Word of God to them; instructing them in the Duties of the Christian Religion, and endeavouring to perswade them to the sincere Practice of them, from the weighty Considerations, first, of God’s severe Judgments to obstinate and harden’d Sinners; and, secondly, of his boundless Mercy to them that truly repent.

On the Lord’s Day, the 28th of February last, I preach’d to them (and others there present, who were many) on Ephes. 5. 1, 2. being part, both of the Epistle appointed for the Day, and of the 2d Lesson for that Evening-Service, and the Words these, Be ye Followers of God, as dear Children; and walk in Love, as Christ also has loved us, and has given Himself for us, an Offering and a Sacrifice to God, for a sweet-smelling Savour.

These Words I first explain’d in general; shewing that they contain,

  1. The plain Matter of our Christian Duty. And,
  2. The true Ground of our Christian Hope.

Which I then made out, by speaking to the several Points following, viz.

1st, Who it is we are to imitate, i. e. GOD; which the Apostle shews in these first Words of the Text, Be ye Followers of God.

2dly, Wherefore we ought to imitate Him; and that is, because we are his Children; yea, his dear Children.

3dly, Wherein we should imitate God, viz. in Love; for, says the Text, Walk in Love. Which includes Kindness in Giving, Mercy in Forgiving, Holiness in our Lives and Conversations, and Sincerity in our Endeavours to discharge all Religious and Christian Duties.

4thly, and lastly, How, and in what manner we are to take Pattern for our Imitation of GOD in Love; and that is, Even as Christ also has loved us. Which is to be understood as to the Nature or Manner, not in the Measure or Extent of that Love; for, in this latter Sence, the Love of Christ is immitable, it passeth all Knowledge and Understanding; and is such indeed as no Tongue, either of Men or Angels, can express: For, saith our Apostle in the Text, CHRIST so loved us, that He gave Himself for us, an Offering and a Sacrifice to God, of a sweet-smelling Savour.

Upon these I enlarg’d, and then apply’d; shewing, How much we are oblig’d constantly to discharge this great Duty of Love towards all Men, the want of which being the Cause of all the Evils and Mischiefs committed in the World, and the Troubles and Miseries consequent thereupon.

On the Lord’s Day the 7th instant, I preach’d again to them, both in the Forenoon and Afternoon, upon Luke 18. 1, being part of the Second Lesson for that Morning-Service, and the Words these: And He spake a Parable unto them, to this end, That Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.

Having in general open’d and illustrated these Words of our Blessed Saviour’s, (both in Text and Context) I then proceeded to discourse in particular on this important Subject of Prayer; shewing,

  1. The Necessity of Prayer.
  2. Whom we ought to pray to.
  3. What we ought to pray for.
  4. The due Qualifications for Prayer.
  5. and lastly, The Blessed Fruits and Effects of Prayer, both with respect to our Bodies, and to our Souls.

And on the Day following, being the 8th instant, (the Anniversary of our most Gracious QUEEN‘s happy Accession to the Throne) I did again preach to them, taking my Text out of the Epistle appointed for that solemn Day, viz. 1 Pet. 2. 13, 14. Submit your selves to every Ordinance of Man, for the Lord’s sake; whether it be to the King, as Supreme; or unto Governours, as unto them that are sent by him, for the Punishment of Evil-doers, and for the Praise of them that do well.

This Text I first explain’d in general; and then I consider’d in particular these three Things resulting from it, and the great Import of them.

  1. The Subjection and Obedience we owe, and are to pay to, our Superiours, viz. to the King, as Supreme; or unto Governours, as unto them that are sent by him; saith the Text.
  2. The Civil and Religious Obligation incumbent on us thus to submit, and to obey, as being what God himself has appointed, and is imply’d in these Words, For the Lord’s sake; i. e. according to the Lord’s Will.
  3. and lastly, The Reasonableness and Usefulness of our exact Performance of this Duty, and the excellent Advantages accruing from it, both to the Publick, and to Private Persons; in that a good Government (which cannot well subsist without Mens Obedience to it) is for the suppression of Sin and Vice, and the promotion of Religion and Virtue. And this is evident from the Text, wherein the Apostle declares, That Governours are ordain’d both for the Punishment of Evil-doers, and for the Praise (i. e. the Encouragement and Support) of them that do well.

On these I largely discours’d, and then observ’d how much we (of this Church and Nation) are bound to praise God for his having, as on this Day, bless’d us with so Pious, so Just, and so Excellent a Princess, to reign over us; and (according to our most indispensable Duty) heartily pray for Her MAJESTY’s Long Life, Encrease of Health, and Everlasting Prosperity.

After I had a little more enlarg’d upon this Subject, I apply’d my self with particular Admonitions and Exhortations to the Persons condemn’d; in whom I endeavour’d to raise a due Sense of the great Miseries they had brought on themselves and the much greater they were in danger of falling into hereafter, by their presumptuous Transgressions of he Laws both of GOD and of the Queen.

These Considerations I often press’d upon them, both in my publick Discourses and private Admonitions to them; of whom I am to give the Accounts following.

1. Thomas Grey, convicted of, and condemn’d for committing three Robberies on the QUEEN’s High-way. First, For Assaulting and Robbing Mrs. Baxter as she was coming from Hampsted towards London in a Coach, which he stopt near the Halfway-house, taking 3 s. from her, on the 11th of January last. Secondly, For a like Robbery he committed upon Mrs. Wilson, as she was riding (with other Passengers in a Coach) to Hampsted, taking some Money from them, on the 15th of January last. Thirdly, For such another Robbery by him committed on the same Day, upon the Person of Mr. Samuel Harding, from whom he took 9 s. in Money, about the Halfway-house on the Road to Hampsted. There was also another Robbery, which he was not Try’d for, but had committed in company with Edmund Eames (one of his Fellow sufferers) and one William Biggs, hereafter mention’d, who stopt a Coach coming from Hampsted, and took from the Passengers that were in it about 28 s. on the 2d of January last. At first indeed he was very unwilling to speak out his Guilt in these Matters, and in his faultring way of Speech went about to excuse himself, protesting his Innocency: But I exhorted him, and at last perswaded him to confess; which he did with this seeming Extenuation of these his wicked Facts, That he would never, have committed them, had he not been prompted to (and assisted in) them by William Biggs, a wicked Person, who had formerly receiv’d Sentence of Death twice, viz. once at Maidstone in Kent, and another time in the Old-baily, London. He said, he was above 50 years of age, born in the Parish of St. James Clerkenwell: That he had kept a Publick House in the City of Oxford for several Years, and of late a Salesman’s Shop in Monmouth-street in the Parish of St. Giles in the Fields; and, That tho’ in former time (i. e about 20 years ago) he had done ill things, and was then burnt in the Hand for the same, yet he had not committed any Fact worthy of Death till Christmas last, when his Poverty and Incumbrances with Debts (as he pretended) had made him comply with the wicked Insinuations of bad Men, and embrace the unhappy Opportunities of doing those Mischiefs to honest People, which he must now account and suffer for. I found him very stubborn, and very unwilling either to be ask’d, or to resolve any Question: And when I plainly perceiv’d that he prevaricated in many things, and would not shew any Remorse or Sorrow for his having liv’d to these Years, not to the Glory, but (far from it) to the Dishonour of God and Religion, I refus’d to administer the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper to him: Upon which he curs’d me to the Pit of Hill, and said, That he would certainly kill me, if ever I durst venture to come to pray with him and the rest in the Cart at Tyburn. In answer to this his Threat, I told him, That I would nevertheless do my Duty to his Soul to the very last; and tho’ he Curs’d, yet I pray’d God to Bless both Him and Me, and lay not this additional Sin to his charge; adding, That I heartily pray’d for his Conversion and Salvation; and, That I much pitied him, but fear’d him not in the least.

2. Edmund Eames alias Edward Aimes, condemn’d for 3 several Robberies by him committed on the Queen’s High-way, viz. 1st, For Assaulting and Robbing Mrs. Rogers, at Pancras-Wash, on the 20th of January last, stopping the Coach wherein she was, and taking Money both from her and other Passengers with her. 2dly, For a like Assault upon Mr. Edward Yarborough, stopping the Wakefield-Coach, in which he was, near the foot of Highgate-hill, and taking 5 s. from him, on the 23d of the same Month. 3dly, For another Fact of the same nature, viz. his Assaulting Mrs. Shutter, as she was in a Coach going down the Hill near Pancras, and robbing her of 3 Gold Rings and some Money, on the 19th of February last. He said, he was this very Day (being the 10th of March) just entring upon the 32d Year of his age; That he was born at Dunstable in Bedfordshire, and there serv’d 8 Years Apprenticeship with a Surgeon; That when he was out of his Time, he came up to London, where he exerted his Art for a little while, and then went to a Gentleman’s Service: That afterwards he listed himself a Souldier , and at last arriv’d to the Post of a Surgeon’s Mate in the 2d Regiment of Guards. He at first said, he did not commit the former, but the two latter Robberies aforemention’d; yet at last he confest all, & likewise 3 or 4 more of the same nature, and about the same time; for he had not been engag’d long in that wicked Course, having enter’d upon it but since Christmas last; and that too not so much by his own Inclination, as by the pernicious Instigation and Perswasion of one William Biggs, an old Offender, (not yet taken) with whom he had robb’d a Coach coming from Hampsted, and taken from 3 or 4 Passengers in it about 28 s. in Money, which was divided among them two and Tho. Grey, before mention’d, who was concern’d with them in that Robbery, on the 2d of January last, being Sunday; and on the Tuesday following he robb’d also some Passengers in a Coach on Newington Road, and took from them 22 s. And on or about the 14th of the said Month, he set upon a Worthy Justice of Peace (an ancient Gentleman) as he was riding on Horseback towards Hampsted, taking from him a Watch and some old Gold; which, with his robbing a young Man of Half-a-Crown on the High-way near Uxbridge, on Thursday the 7th of the said January last, were all the Robberies he could reme he ever committed. And now he said, That he was very sensible that for all his unjust Practices, into which he had so foolishly suffer’d himself to be deluded, and by which (as it often happens) he had got but little (not 6 l. in all, he said) he justly deserv’d the shameful Death he was now condem’d to; and thereupon begg’d Pardon of GOD, and of the Persons he had wrong’d, earnestly imploring the Divine Mercy, thro’ the Merits of JESUS CHRIST. And to this his Confession (which he had before told me was all he had done of this nature) he did (for the clearing of the Truth, and his own Conscience, as he pretended) add this,

That he was the only Person who robb’d Mr. James Boys upon the Queen’s High-way between Pancras and Kentish Town, on the 19th of January last; taking from him an old Watch in a Tortoise-shell Case, and 11 s. in Money: And, That since the time he lay under this Condemnation, he had consider’d how to make what Amends he could for the Injuries done by him, and therefore had sent several times to Mr. Boys, to let him know where he might have his Watch again; which when he took, Mr. Boys (as he said) told him, he was very loth to part with it, tho’ it was an old Thing that would yield but little Money, not 3 l. but he valu’d it much more upon some particular Account.

This specious and artificial Speech and formal Declaration he thought I would take as the pure Effect of an awaken’d Conscience, that was now willing to discharge itself of its Guilt, and do Right to all the World: And indeed I was at first doubtful in the matter; but I at last discover’d that herein he prevaricated; I taxed him with it, and reprov’d him for it, shewing him what a dangerous thing it was for him thus to add Sin to Sin, and how presumptuous he was, to desire (as he did) that I would administer the Holy Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper to him, who solemnly attested a Lying Story to be true, at such a time when he was just going to be call’d before the dreadful Tribunal of Christ, there to give an Account (to Him who knows the inmost Thoughts of Men’s Hearts) of all his secret Imaginations, as well as Overt Acts. With that I startled him, but yet could not make him plainly confess, that John Collins (as I knew) had perswaded him to charge himself with this Robbery, by telling him it would now do him no hurt, but himself a great deal of service, in that it might save his Life. This he (the said Edmund Eams) could not absolutely deny: And so I told him, I wondred that Men under such Circumstances as theirs, whose Business it was to prepare for Eternity, would imploy their Thoughts and precious Time in such wicked Machinations, by which, instead of pacifying the Wrath of God, they provoked him more and more to let them perish in their Sins. On this I enlarg’d, but could get no great Satisfaction from him herein; therefore I shall say no more of him here, but proceed to my Account of the other, viz.

3. John Collins alias Collinson, condemn’d for breaking the House of Mr. John Holloway at Chelsea, and stealing thence 2 Exchequer Notes, value 100 l. each, 237 l. 10 s. in Money, and 194 l. in Gold, on the 23d of January last. And he was also at the same time convicted of a Robbery, on the High-way, committed upon the Person of Mr. James Boys, whose Silver-Watch, with 10 or 12 s. were taken from him, between Pancras and Kentish Town, on the 19th of the said Month of January. He said, he was not at all concern’d in this latter Fact, but Eams was the Man had done it, as he told him himself since they were condemn’d. And as to the former, he own’d thus much of it, viz. That he robb’d Mr. Holloway’s House, and took thence 107 l. (or thereabouts) in 100 l. Bag, and another smaller Bag, and no Gold, nor Money-Notes, nor any thing else: Adding, That he had spent some part of that Money before his being apprehended, but most of it, viz. 90 l. and upwards, was then taken from him, which he suppos’d Mr. Holloway has, or will have again; wishing he were able to make up his whole Loss. He said, he was 42 Years of age, born at Faustone near Hull in Northumberland; That he was brought up to no Trade, but had been a Footman to several Gentlemen, both in the Country, and here in London, and was some time a Coachman to one of them: That he had also been a Souldier for 6 Years together, and attain’d at last to the Office of a Sergeant in Colonel Wing’s Regiment; and little thought then, that he could ever have done such a thing, as should bring him to such a shameful End. He said, he heartily repented, and begg’d Pardon of GOD. And this I will say of him, That when he came nearer the Day of his Death, he outwardly behav’d himself somewhat better than I thought at first he would have done. But I discover’d him to be a great Hypocrite; who put Edmund Eams upon charging himself (as I have observ’d before) with the Robbery committed on Mr. Boys, for which the said Collins was condemn’d. I told him that I could not look on him otherwise than as a great Impostor, who endeavour’d (and that too at such a time, and under such Circumstances) to impose upon Justice, and GOD’s Minister, and be so presumptuous also, as to desire to receive the Blessed Sacrament, which upon the same Account was desir’d by, and I refus’d to Eams, and so I did to this Collins; resolving to administer it to neither of them; because I found them most unworthy of it. And this my Dealing with them (which was according to the Practice of the Primitive Church) I wish may be a Warning and Terror to other Sinners, who will not betimes repent as they should do, but erroneously fancy, that if they outwardly partake of that Divine Ordinance, they shall be safe enough, tho’ not altogether so well prepar’d as they might be either for it, or for Death. And on this occasion I must here declare, That when Malefactors (whoever they be) if any shall come under my Cure, and shall not at first open and clear their Consciences, and give me full Satisfaction, that they do truly repent, I shall never admit them to the Holy Sacrament, whatever they may do, or desire when just upon their Departure out of this World. And if they be not satisfy’d with such a Proceeding of mine, let them consult any other Orthodox Divines in the Matter. But as to this Collins, what I shall further say of him here, is that he did Yesterday attempt to poyson himself, for which I reprov’d him; shewing him the Wickedness of such a Fact, or such an Attempt.

4. Charles Weymouth, condemn’d with Christopher Dickson, and John Gibson, for assaulting and robbing Mr. Thomas Blake, Mr. Samuel Slap, and Mr. John Edwards (who was dangerously wounded by Weymouth) taking from them several Goods and Money, upon the Queen’s High-way in Stepney Parish, on the 8th of February last. This Weymouth, who (it seem’d) had endeavour’d to make himself an Evidence against his Accomplices, being disappointed therein, was very uneasy and restless, and shew’d himself all-along of a stubborn and rough Behaviour, giving little sign of Repentance, and making (as it outwardly appear’d both to my self and others) no great Preparation for Death, till he was upon the very brink of it. What Account he gave me of himself, was only this, That he was born at Redriff, and had been brought up to the Sea, and serv’d the Queen on Board some of Her Majesty’s Men of War for several Years off and on; That he was 25 Years of Age, and that he had fallen into wicked Courses only by the Inducement of others, more wicked (as he said) than himself. I told him, he should not answer for their Sins, if he were not the occasion of them; but must expect to be call’d to a very strict and severe Account for what himself had done wickedly, if he did not now undo it (as far as he could) by all possible Reparation, Repentance, and Amendment of Life. Now whether any thing that was then offer’d to him from Reason and Scripture, did work any Reformation upon him, I could not perceive, but pray’d GOD to convert him; and so left him to His Mercy, which he did not seem much to desire; or to his Judgment, which he had greatly deserv’d. This wicked Person also threaten’d to be the Death of me before he dy’d: Upon which I said to him, as I did to Thomas Grey, That I was sorry to see him in such a furious Temper, and heartily pray’d GOD to turn his Heart, for I greatly pity’d him, but fear’d him not.

5. Christopher Dickson, condemn’d for the same Robbery wherein he was concern’d with Charles Weymouth. He confess’d the Fact, and behav’d himself much better than Weymouth; and by what I could perceive, I may say, that what he told me might be true, viz. That he never did commit such Facts before. He said, he was about 22 Years of Age, born in the Parish of St. Mary Whitechappel: That he had serv’d 5 Years of Apprentiship with a Baker, and then by consent parted with him: That afterwards he was a Journeyman to another Baker, but staid not long there bad; Company (that easily wrought upon his corrupt Nature) drawing him away, and bringing him into a vicious Course; which, he said, he now heartily repented of; and I hope he did, for he seem’d very much affected, and greatly to abhor his past sinful Life, and earnestly to implore God’s Forgiveness and Mercy in Christ.

6. John Gibson, condemn’d for being concern’d also in the Robbery before-mention’d with Charles Weymouth and Christopher Dickson. He said, he was about 20 years of age, born at Newcastle under Line; and he readily own’d his being Guilty of this Fact; but said it was his first; which I could not gainsay. Only I advised him to look back upon, and seriously examine his past Life between God and his own Conscience, and tell me how he found himself, and what he thought of himself. Upon this, he confess’d, That he had been a loose Liver, much addicted to Swearing, excessive Drinking, Lasciviousness, and suchlike Vices, too too common among Men of his Profession, he being a Seafaring Man , that had for these several years past been employ’d both in the Queen’s Royal Navy, and Merchant’s Service at Sea; and, that he had little minded or regarded the wonderful Works of God in the Deep; for which he was now very much grieved, and wish’d he had been wiser and better; praying God to forgive him his Sins, and have Mercy upon his Soul, and (to that end) give him a New Heart.

7. Alexander Petre, condemn’d for privately stealing a great quantity of Copper of the value of 20 l. out of the Warehouse of Mr. Thomas Chambers, on the 26th of January last. He readily confess’d, That he was guilty of this Fact; but told me it was his first, and that one Powell (the Evidence against him) was the Person that induc’d him to the Commission of it. He said, That he was (as it appear’d) but a young Man, about 22 years of age; yet acknowledg’d, that he had Years, Descretion, and Understanding enough to know, That what he did ought not to be done; and therefore asked Pardon of God, and the Persons he had any ways offended; praying for Mercy and Forgiveness. The place of his Birth, he said, was Newcastle upon Tyne, his Calling a Sailor, who had for these 12 years past been employ’d on board several of Her Majesty’s Men of War; and the last of them on board which he served, was the New Advice, a 4th Rate. He was very tractable, and seem’d to be Penitent.

8. Thomas Koome, condemn’d for breaking open the House of Mr. John Garret, and stealing from thence a Riding-Hood, a Suit of Curtains, and other Goods, on the 17th of January last. He said he was 21 years of age, born at Hackney near London, and had served at Sea , sometimes in the Royal Navy, and at other times in Merchant-Men, for the most part of his Life. He confess’d the Fact for which he was condemn’d; but said it was his first. For which saying I reprov’d him, knowing he had lately been whipt for a Felony he was then convicted of; which he was forc’d to acknowledge, saying, that the keeping of bad Company had heretofore been the Occasion of his committing many Sins, and now proved his Ruin. I perceiv’d his Friends had given him good Education, and I hope it was not quite lost upon him; for it dispos’d him so much the better to understand the Things of Religion that were laid before him, and to apply himself to the Practice of them, while under this Condemnation. Yet I cannot say, that he made at first so good use of his time as he might have, and I wish he had done.

9. Samuel Denny, alias Appleby, condemn’d for stealing a Gelding from Mr. John Scagg, and robbing him of 27 s. in Money, on the Queen’s Highway, the 31st of January last. He said, That he was 23 years of age, born at Braintree in Essex, and a Wheelwright by his Trade; but had served four years as a private Sentinel in the Army . He own’d the Fact he was to die for, (which he said was the first he ever committed) and pray’d God to forgive him, both that and all other his Sins, and give him Grace so to repent that he might be saved. By what I could all-along observe in him, or get from him, I found he had not been a greater Offender than now he appear’d a Penitent: And therefore, at his earnest Desire, I administer’d the Holy Sacrament to him yesterday: Which I also did, at the same time, to the Three last mention’d, viz. Christopher Dickson, John Gibson, and Alexander Petre; whose Behaviour, from first to last, was (to the best of my Observation) such as became true Penitents.

10. John Winteringham, condemn’d for stealing a Gold-Watch, a Perruke, some Linnen and Apparel out of his Master (Thomas Wynn Esq.) his Lodgings, and some Plate from Mr. James Montjoy, the Landlord of the House where his said Master lodg’d. He own’d himself Guilty of this Fact; but said he never committed the like before; and that he had been (at times) a Servant to other Gentlemen before he came to live with Mr. Wynn, and never wrong’d them to the value of a Farthing; and that being brought up to no Trade, he had for the most part of his Life been a Domestick-Servant in several worthy Families, both in the Country and in London. He said he was but 25 years of age, born at Pomfret (or rather Pontefract) in Yorkshire, and little thought once he should ever come to end his Life in this shameful manner, which (however) he could not but acknowledge was what he had wilfully brought upon himself, and did highly deserve. It seems he was the first Person condemn’d upon the Act lately made against such wicked Servants as rob their Masters. [A 1713 act that made theft of goods valued at 40s. (£2) a capital crime, even without a break-in -ed.] Which I hope will be an effectual Warning to others, so as to teach them to be wiser and more just.

11. Christopher Moor, condemn’d for Burglary in Breaking open the House of Mr. Thomas Wright, and taking thence a pair of Silver-Branches, 8 Tea-Spoons, 2 Tea-Pots, a Lamp, and a large quantity of other Plate, on the 13th of February last. He said, he was but 20 years of age, born in the Parish of St. Giles in the Fields; That for the most part of his Life, he had been a Servant in some Victualling-Houses in and about London, had lived a very loose Life, and done many ill things, besides the Fact he was condemn’d for, which he confess’d; but would give no particular Account of any thing else he had been guilty of, nor discover where the Plate he had stoln might be found, that the right Owner of it might have it again: And when I press’d him to make such Discovery, if he could, he did not so much alledge his Incapacity, as he plainly shew’d his Unwillingness of doing it; saying, that tho’ he could do it, yet he would make no such Discovery, if he were sure he should be damned for it: So desparately wicked he then shew’d himself to be, on whom no Admonitions could at first prevail: But I hope he did at last come to understand better Things. And yet this I must say of him, That his Obstinacy in Iniquity, and Impudent Behaviour towards myself and others, were such, as I never met with the like in any of the Malefactors, whom I have had under my Cure for almost these 14 years I have been in this melancholy and difficult Office. When he saw that he must certainly die, then he remembred what I had told him of another World, and of our necessary Preparation for it. Now he seem’d to be willing to do something to clear his Conscience, and save his Soul; giving attention to my Admonitions, and the Information desir’d of him about the Plate he had stoln. And here (among other things) he told me, That about a Month ago, at Night, he robb’d a House in Grey-Fryars, near Christ-Hospital, by lifting up the Sash-Window, and entring the Parlour, and taking from thence 6 Silver Tea-Spoons and a Strainer, with a Silk-Handkerchief Ell-wide, which he sold for 3 s. tho’ it was worth more: And that as for the Plate, he sold it with a larger Parcel (amounting to 100 ounces) for 4 s. per ounce. And further, he said, that he had wrong’d Mr. Johnson, a Working Silver-Smith, and begg’d his Pardon (before me) for his having (about 18 Months ago) falsly sworn against him, That he the said Mr. Johnson had bought of him and Roderick Awdry, some Plate, which they had stoln out of my Lady Edwin’s House; praying God to forgive him such his Perjury, which I endeavour’d to make him sensible was a most heinous Crime.

12. Daniel Hughes, condemn’d for the Fact last mention’d, in which he was concerned with Christopher Moor, and own’d he was so. He said, he was about 16 years of age, born at Gravesend in Kent, and brought up to the Sea, and that he had been a very loose young Man, addicted to many Vices. He was very stupid, foolish and unconcern’d, and gave no great Signs of his Penitence for his Offences against God and his Neighbour, nor of the Punishment he deserved for them, both in this World, and in the next, till he came within the Borders of Death.

At the Place of Execution, to which they were this Day carry’d from Newgate, in four Carts, I attended them for the last time, and endeavour’d to perswade them (who had lived such vicious Lives) throughly to clear their Consciences, and strive to obtain God’s Grace, to make a good End in this World, that they might be received into that State of Bliss and Glory in the next, which shall have no end. To this purpose I earnestly spoke to them, and pray’d for them. Then I made them rehearse the Apostles Creed, and sung some Penitential Psalms with them; and finally having recommended their Souls to God, I withdrew from them; leaving them to their private Devotions, for which they had some little time allow’d them. And after that, the Cart drawing away, they were turn’d off: all of them bitterly crying unto God to have Mercy upon their departing Souls.

Before they were turn’d off, I thought (as I exhorted them) that some of them should make a further Confession, but they did not: Only those that had been rude to me, and threaten’d my Life, begg’d my Pardon, and thank’d me for the Pains I took for their Souls: And all of them declar’d that they dy’d in Charity with all the World.

This is all the Account here to be given of these Dying Malefactors, by me,

PAUL LORRAIN, Ordinary .
Wednesday, Mar. 10. 1713-14.

London Printed, and are to be Sold by J. Morphew near Stationers-hall.

Just Publish’d, The Third Edition of the 1st and 2d Volumes of the History of Highwaymen, Footpad, &c. And next Week will be publish’d a 3d Volume, continued to this last Sessions. [Here are all three volumes -ed: Volume 1 (part 1) | Volume 1 (part 2) | Volume 2 (part 1) | Volume 2 (part 2) | Volume 3 (part 1) | Volume 3 (part 2)]

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,History,Mass Executions,Public Executions,Theft

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1719: Richard Worley, pirate

Add comment February 17th, 2017 Charles Johnson

(Thanks to Captain Charles Johnson — perhaps a pseudonym for Daniel Defoe — for the guest post. It was originally Chapter XIII “Of Captain WORLEY, And his Crew” in Johnson’s magnum and only opus, A General History of the Pyrates.)

[Richard Worley‘s] Reign was but short, but his Beginning somewhat particular, setting out in a small open Boat, with eight others, from New-York. This was as resolute a Crew as ever went upon this Account: They took with them a few Biscuits, and a dry’d Tongue or two, a little Cag of Water, half a dozen old Muskets and Ammunition accordingly. Thus provided, they left New-York the latter End of September 1718, but it cannot be supposed that such a Man of War as this, could undertake any considerable Voyage, or attempt any extraordinary Enterprize; so they stood down the Coast, till they came to Delaware River, which is about 150 Miles distant, and not meeting with any Thing in their Way, they turn’d up the same River as high as Newcastle, near which Place they fell upon a Shallop belonging to George Grant, who was bringing Houshold Goods, Plate, &c. from Oppoquenimi to Philadelphia; they made Prize of the most valuable Part of them, and let the Shallop go. This Fact could not come under the Article of Pyracy, it not being committed super altum Mare, upon the High-Sea, therefore was a simple Robbery only; but they did not stand for a Point of Law in the Case, but easing the Shallop Man of his Lading, the bold Adventurers went down the River again.

The Shallop came straight to Philadelphia, and brought the ill News thither, which so alarm’d the Government, as if War had been declared against them; Expresses were sent to New-York, and other Places, and several Vessels fitted out against this powerful Rover, but to no manner of Purpose; for after several Days Cruize, they all return’d, without so much as hearing what became of the Robbers.

Worley and his Crew, in going down the River, met with a Sloop of Philadelphia, belonging to a Mulatto, whom they call’d Black Robbin; they quitted their Boat for this Sloop, taking one of Black Robin’s Men along with them, as they had also done from George Grant, besides two Negroes, which encreased the Company one Third. A Day or two after, they took another Sloop belonging to Hull, homeward bound, which was somewhat fitter for their Purpose; they found aboard her, Provisions and Necessaries, which they stood in need of, and enabled them to prosecute their Design, in a manner more suitable to their Wishes.

Upon the Success of these Rovers, the Governor issued out a Proclamation, for the apprehending and taking all Pyrates, who had refused or neglected to surrender themselves, by the Time limited in his Majesty’s Proclamation of Pardon; and thereupon, ordered his Majesty’s Ship Phoenix, of 20 Guns, which lay at Sandy Hook, to Sea, to cruize upon this Pyrate, and secure the Trade to that, and the adjoining Colonies.

In all probability, the taking this Sloop sav’d their Bacons, for this Time, tho’ they fell into the Trap presently afterwards; for they finding themselves in tolerable good Condition, having a Vessel newly cleaned, with Provisions, &c. they stood off to Sea, and so missed the Phoenix, who expected them to be still on the Coast.

About six Weeks afterwards they returned, having taken both a Sloop and a Brigantine, among the Bahama Islands; the former they sunk, and the other they let go: The Sloop belonged to New-York, and they thought the sinking of her good Policy, to prevent her returning to tell Tales at Home.

Worley had by this Time encreased his Company to about five and twenty Men, had six Guns mounted, and small Arms as many as were necessary for them, and seem’d to be in a good thriving sort of a Way. He made a black Ensign, with a white Death’s Head in the Middle of it, and other Colours suitable to it.* They all signed Articles, and bound themselves under a solemn Oath, to take no Quarters, but to stand by one another to the last Man, which was rashly fulfill’d a little afterwards.

For going into an Inlet in North-Carolina, to clean, the Governor received Information of it, and sitted out two Sloops, one of eight Guns, and the other with six, and about seventy Men between them. Worley had clean’d his Sloop, and sail’d before the Carolina Sloops reached the Place, and steered to the Northward; but the Sloops just mentioned, pursuing the same Course, came in sight of Worley, as he was cruising off the Capes of Virginia, and being in the Offin, he stood in as soon as he saw the Sloops, intending thereby to have cut them off from James River; for he verily believed they had been bound thither, not imagining, in the least, they were in Pursuit of him.

The two Sloops standing towards the Capes at the same Time, and Worley hoisting of his black Flag, the Inhabitants of James Town were in the utmost Consternation, thinking that all three had been Pyrates, and that their Design had been upon them; so that all the Ships and Vessels that were in the Road, or in the Rivers up the Bay, had Orders immediately to hale in to the Shore, for their Security, or else to prepare for their Defence, if they thought themselves in a Condition to fight. Soon after two Boats, which were sent out to get Intelligence, came crowding in, and brought an Account, that one of the Pyrates was in the Bay, being a small Sloop of six Guns. The Governor expecting the rest would have followed, and altogether make some Attempt to land, for the sake of Plunder, beat to Arms, and collected all the Force that could be got together, to oppose them; he ordered all the Guns out of the Ships, to make a Platform, and, in short, put the whole Colony in a warlike Posture; but was very much surprised at last, to see all the supposed Pyrates fighting with one another.

The Truth of the Matter is, Worley gained the Bay, thinking to make sure of his two Prizes, by keeping them from coming in; but by the hoisting of the King’s Colours, and firing a Gun, he quickly was sensible of his Mistake, and too soon perceived that the Tables were turned upon him; that instead of keeping them out, he found himself, by a superiour Force kept in. When the Pyrates saw how Things went, they resolutely prepar’d themselves for a desperate Defence; and tho’ three to one odds, Worley and his Crew determined to fight to the last Gasp, and receive no Quarters, agreeably to what they had before sworn; so that they must either Dye or Conquer upon the Spot.

The Carolina Men gave the Pyrate a Broadside, and then Boarded him, one Sloop getting upon his Quarter, and the other on his Bow; Worley and the Crew, drew up upon the Deck, and fought very obstinately, Hand to Hand, so that in a few Minutes, abundance of Men lay weltering in their Gore; the Pyrates proved as good as their Words, not a Man of them cry’d out for Quarter, nor would accept of such, when offered, but were all killed except the Captain and another Man, and those very much wounded, whom they reserved for the Gallows. They were brought ashore in Irons, and the next Day, which was the 17th of February 1718-19, they were both hanged up, for fear they should dye, and evade the Punishment as was thought due to their Crimes.

* The origin of the skull-and-crossbones design we commonly associate with pirates is murky, but Worley is often credited as one of the earliest to sail under it. -ed.

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1717: Anna Maria Wagemann, the last witch burned at Fürfeld

Add comment February 5th, 2017 Headsman

Three hundred years ago today, Anna Maria Wagemann suffered the last witch execution at Fürfeld.

Conveniently available information on this case appears to derive mostly from a single German-language local history volume which is rather extensively summarized in her German Wikipedia entry.

Despite the late date — the entire cosmology of witchery was coming apart by the 18th century — she fit the classical demographic profile of a witch hunt victim. Wagemann was an aged — 66 or 67 at the time of her trial, she thought — and penniless woman who knew her way around medicinal herbs and had a pre-existing reputation for witchcraft.

When the burning times were truly aflame, marginal people like this could easily be ignited by the accusations a torturer wrung from the last luckless soul to be named to the Black Sabbath. By 1716, when Wagemann went on trial, the case strangely conjoined an ancient superstition to a ponderous Enlightenment legal process, with an 879-page codex of the interrogations with vague witness accusations endorsed by jurists at the University of Tübingen.*

There weren’t any raging famines or plagues afoot that demanded supernatural attribution. It seems in this case that before the neighbors could accuse her of drying up their cows and such, Anna Maria Wagemann was targeted thanks to the oldest enmity in the book: family politics. A daughter-in-law of our principal was either quite convinced she had married into sorcery or else quite weary of the dynamic at family meals, and it was her denunciations (supported by her 9- and 12-year-old daughters) that brought Wagemann to book. It’s difficult to piece together the chain of causation; this woman, Anna Margarethe Wagemann, was herself suspected of witchcraft and jailed for many weeks,** so her charge too might have been issued under duress. In the end, it was only Anna Maria who was tried, and Anna Margarethe gave evidence against her — although Anna Margarethe was also punished by being made to witness the execution with her young daughters, and then being expelled from Fürfeld.

* We’ve seen this university in our pages before, involved in the case against Johannes Kepler’s mother.

** Years later, she would appeal for compensation for her wrongful imprisonment. (It’s not known whether the appeal succeeded.)

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Burned,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Germany,History,Milestones,Public Executions,Torture,Witchcraft,Women

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