1766: Nicholas Sheehy, Whiteboys priest

Add comment March 15th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1766, Irish priest Nicholas Sheehy was hanged, drawn, and quartered in Clonmel — a victim to the years-long campaign of enclosures by Ireland’s landlords, whom English agriculturist Arthur Young reported as “harpies who squeezed out the very vitals of the people and by process, extortion, and sequestration dragged from them the little which the landlord had left them.”

Sheehy was a sympathizer of the peasant “Whiteboys” resistance movement, so named for the snowy frocks these secret guerrillas donned when out on midnight raids to strike back against the owners where tenants’ livelihoods were at stake. Where landlords enclosed public grounds, Whiteboys knocked down the fences; where they displaced peasant farmer with commercial livestock, Whiteboys hamstrung the cattle.

“It could not be expected,” wrote Margaret Anne Cusack, “that the Irish priest would see the people exposed to all this misery — and what to them was far more painful, to all this temptation to commit deadly sin — without making some effort in their behalf.”

Father Sheehy, parish priest of Clogheen, was one of these, and a villain in the eyes of Protestant elites for his denunciations of enclosure and his comforts to its more muscular foes.

He had interfered in the vain hope of protecting his unfortunate parishioners from injustice; and, in return, he was himself made the victim of injustice. He was accused of encouraging a French invasion — a fear which was always present to the minds of the rulers, as they could not but know that the Irish had every reason to seek for foreign aid to free them from domestic wrongs. He was accused of encouraging the Whiteboys, because, while he denounced their crimes, he accused those who had driven them to these crimes as the real culprits. He was accused of treason, and a reward of £300 was offered for his apprehension. Conscious of his innocence, he gave himself up at once to justice, though he might easily have fled the country. He was tried in Dublin and acquitted. But his persecutors were not satisfied.

A charge of murder was got up against him; and although the body of the man [John Bridge, a former Whiteboy turned informer -ed.] could never be found, although it was sworn that he had left the country, although an alibi was proved for the priest, he was condemned and executed. A gentleman of property and position came forward at the trial to prove that Father Sheehy had slept in his house the very night on which he was accused of having committed the murder; but the moment he appeared in court, a clergyman who sat on the bench had him taken into custody, on pretence of having killed a corporal and a sergeant in a riot. The pretence answered the purpose …

At the place of execution, Father Sheehy most solemnly declared, on the word of a dying man, that he was not guilty either of murder or of treason; that he never had any intercourse, either directly or indirectly, with the French; and that he had never known of any such intercourse being practised by others.

Father Sheehy’s head wound up on a pike (it was said that the birds in reverence would not peck at it), and his name in the rich firmament of Irish martyr-patriots. He’s been occasionally proposed for canonization.

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1767: John Williamson, cruel husband

Add comment January 19th, 2018 Headsman

From the London Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, Feb. 2, 1767.

An Account of the CRUELTIES, exercised by JOHN WILLIAMSON on his wife, whereby she left her life, and for which he was lately executed in Moorfields.

JOHN WILLIAMSON, Journeyman Shoemaker, a widower with three children, who all starved together in a garret in an alley in Little Moorfields, found a woman who had upwards of 60l. weak enough in understanding to marry him; but she did not bed with him above two or three times; yet they continued sociable for two or three weeks. But the poor woman soon after finding herself ill-used, and denied common food, made complaints to some neighbours; which he resenting, debarred her from going abroad.

The wife being subject to fits, used to turn up the whites of her eyes, at which a neighbour, and Williamson’s daughter, of fifteen, pretending to be frightened, he thought proper, when he went out, to tie a rope around her waist, and fastened it to a post near the bedstead: but afterwards he procured some hand-cuffs, which were put on in the daytime, and she permitted to sit on a trunk.

Besides having fits, and turning up her eyes, she once drank a dish of tea left in the pot for the little boy, and filled the pot with water; she slapped the boy’s face when he had done a fault; the husband once missing a pair of soles, he supposed she must have made away with them; she struck a light with one of his working knives; she often begged of him for victuals; and he as constantly beat her for it, and once when her husband had been out with other company, and returning about nine at night, her usual time of going to bed, she was found asleep, which was reported to be drunkenness.

These things were thought sufficient reasons by her husband to hand-cuff her, with her hands behind, and tie her up in a closet; he tied a rope to a staple, put it through the hand-cuffs, and drew it up to a nail over her head, so as to cause her to stand on tip-toe, and left her in that condition and posture for near a month together, without being set down or going to bed — not even when she was in fits.

Her husband gave her every day a bit of bread and butter, laying it on a shelf she could easily reach with her mouth, when she could not, sometimes they would put it close; they used to hold water to her mouth while she drank. When she asked for more bread and butter, the husband would not let her have it.

She was also beaten, bruised, and wounded, and frequently sluiced in the face and all over with cold water.

Want of every necessary, and the repetition of the above cruelties, were too much for a woman, and she sunk under them. The day before she died, she was let out of the closet, and offered meat when she could not swallow; she was also then allowed to warm herself, but in ten minutes she was told she was warm enough, and should sit there no longer, but must get into her kennel; she staggered to the closet, and the door was shut; she fell into a delirium, and died in strong convulsions in the evening.

Casualties of Williamson’s abuse outlived the man and his poor wife: Williamson’s children landed in the workhouse of St. Giles’s Cripplegate, whereas elsewhere …


Item from the May 18, 1767 Boston Evening Post.

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1769: John Martin Andrew, John Fielding prey

Add comment January 11th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1769, a prolific Swedish burglar named John Martin Andrew went to Tyburn for burgling a Foster Lane jeweler to the tune of

  • seven pair of snam-garnet gold buttons, value 6 l. 6 s.
  • six pair of garnet ear-rings, set in gold, value 3 l.
  • one other pair ditto, value 8 s.
  • one pair of Moco buttons, set in gold, value 1 l. 15 s.
  • two pair of ditto, value 2 l.
  • two pair of clutter ditto, with garnets, value 3 l.
  • one pair of crystal ditto, value 18 s.
  • two pair of small ditto, value 1 l. 8 s.
  • one three stone topaz gold ring, with a diamond, value 1 l. 14 s.
  • one ditto amethyst with diamonds, value 1 l. 13 s.
  • one ditto, value 1 l. 3 s.
  • one ditto, value 1 l. 4 s.
  • one ditto, garnet with diamonds, value 1 l. 5 s.
  • one ditto, value 1 l. 3 s.
  • one stone ditto with garnets and diamonds, value 6 l.
  • one single garnet stone ditto, value 1 l.
  • one single crystal stone ditto, value 17 s.
  • one sapphire ditto, value 1 l.
  • one Moco ditto, value 18 s.
  • four Moco ditto, set round with garnets, value 4 l. 4 s.
  • one cluster garnet with hair in it, value 1 l. 3 s.
  • one case for rings, value 2 s.
  • one pair of three drop cluster garnet ear-rings, set in gold, value 8 l.
  • a pair of single drop ear-rings, with knots in silver, value 1 l. 1 s.
  • six pair of fancy ear-rings, and cases in silver, value 5 l.
  • a girdle buckle in silver, value 10 s.
  • a pair of crystal buckles, set in silver, value 15 s.
  • a pair of topazes ditto, set in silver, value 2 l. 12 s. 6 d.
  • a pair of children’s stone buckles, in silver, value 10 s.
  • a pair of knee stone ditto, in silver, value 8 s.
  • a stone shoe buckle, in silver, value 12 s.
  • one child’s silver buckle, value 2 s.
  • a pair of garnet shoe buckles, in silver, gilt, value 2 l.
  • a pair of crystal ditto, in silver, value 18 s.
  • a pair of cluster garnet buttons, in gold, value 1 l. 15 s.
  • six pair of buttons and wires
  • three silver and twelve gold ear-rings, value 1 l. 1 s.
  • thirteen stone buttons, set in silver, value 18 s. 6 d.
  • one pair of cluster studs, value 2 s.
  • three gold diamond rings, value 6 l.
  • one ditto false stone, value 5 s.
  • three pair of stone buttons, set in silver, value 1 l. 2 s.
  • one pair of garnet buttons, set in gold, value 18 s.
  • one pair of cluster Moco, set in gold, value 1 l. 10 s.
  • one pair of crystal ear-rings, set in silver, value 6 s.
  • one pair of cluster paste, set in silver, value 7 s.
  • one heart trinket, set in gold, value 7 s.
  • one gold seal, value 1 l. 3 s.
  • one pair of stone knee buckles, set in silver, value 8 s.
  • a purple paste hoop-ring, set in gold, value 12 s.
  • two paste crosses in silver, value 12 s.
  • one pair of large garnet buttons, set in gold, value 3 l.
  • four pair of Moco ditto, set in gold, value 4 l.
  • four pair of garnet ditto, set in gold, value 4 l.
  • three pair of Moco studs, set in gold, value 2 l. 5 s.
  • one pair of garnet ditto, set in gold, 1 l.
  • six pair of single drop ear-rings, set in gold, value 3 l. 12 s.
  • two pair of three drop ear-rings, set in ditto, value 3 l. 3 s.
  • five pair of garnet and topazes, set in ditto, value 1 l. 17 s. 6 d.
  • one pair of night ear-rings, value 11 s.
  • thirty hoop rings in gold, some paste, some garnets, value 14 l. 16 s. 6 d.
  • five gold seals, value 8 l. 8 s.
  • four diamond rings, value 8 l. 8 s.
  • about thirty rings, value 12 l. 13 s.
  • nine garnet buckles, set in gold, value 5 l.
  • about fourteen gold lockets, some sapphires, some garnets, value 2 l. 10 s.
  • two pair of sham garnet buckles, set in gold, value 1 l. 16 s.
  • five stock buckles, value 2 l. 10 s.
  • five shirt buckles, set in silver, 2 l. 5 s.
  • about three pair of fancy ear-rings, value 2 l. 12 s. 6 d.
  • about twenty-four pair of stone shoe buckles, value 19 l. 4 s.
  • about twenty-eight stone knee buckles, value 11 l. 10 s.
  • a large garnet unset, value 3 l.
  • a mettle watch-case, value 12 s.
  • about six pair of gold wires, and one gold ring, value 1 l. 1 s.
  • one cluster locket, value 1 l.
  • about twelve pair of silver shoe buckles, value 7 l.
  • two heart trinkers, value 14 s.
  • one garnet cross, set in silver, value 4 s.
  • twelve large waistcoat buttons, silver, value 12 s.
  • four breast buckles, value 1 l. 8 s.
  • three girdle buckles, value 1 l. 4 s.
  • one solitair, value 1 l. 4 s.
  • one king William and queen Mary’s half-crown
  • one pocket piece, larger
  • and sundry pieces of small money, in a chip box, value 10 s. 6 d.

As the charge sheet’s thorough inventory suggests the jeweler knew his business — or rather, it was known by his wife Mary Knight, who with the man of the house laid up with illness very coolly delivered the court the testimony that would hang their thief. It seems the Knights had the diligence to inscribe a business sigil on most of their pieces, and even on their business papers. It was this that enabled their property’s recovery.

Mary Knight also knew precisely where to turn to make that recovery, and when the sun came up on her burgled home she “immediately had warnings dispersed about, from Goldsmiths hall, and went to Sir John Fielding.”

The “Blind Beak of Bow Street” — “beak” was just slang for someone in charge — John Fielding had followed his half-brother Henry as London’s chief magistrate. Together the Fieldings fathered policing in England, Henry as the pioneer before his sudden death in 1754, and the energetic and innovative John for the quarter-century following.

Incredibly from the standpoint of posterity, London at around 700,000 souls mid-century had no professional police; indeed the populace was bitterly suspicious at the idea as tending to despotism. Despite favorably describing autocratic France’s far more developed marechaussee, the English observer William Mildmay remarked that “such an establishment is not to be imitated in our land of liberty, where the injured and oppressed are to seek for no other protection than that which the law ought only to afford, without flying to the aid of a military power” as the latter would be “either dangerous to our liberties or unconstitutional to our form of government.” The French critic Le Blanc, abroad in England in the 1730s, was perplexed by his hosts’ preference for the taxation of highwaymen to that of any state organ that might secure the roads.

Those institutions of public security that existed in the Great Wen* were a wormeaten quiltwork of minutely local and almost determinedly ineffective entities, and “there was a rivalry and jealousy rather than co-operation and mutual help between the Watch, King’s Messengers, Press Messengers, city marshals and sheriffs, and the other ad hoc bodies.” (Frank McLynn, Crime and Punishment in Eighteenth-Century England) Meanwhile, the responsibility to investigate and prosecute crimes after the fact fell to victims themselves, and these prospective vendettas were so prohibitive that neighbors were known to form “prosecution associations” to insure one another against the expense. The acme of the perversity had been attained in the 1710s-1720s business empire of Jonathan Wild, the “thief-taker” who was simultaneously the criminal kingpin, ingeniously skimming the margins on the city’s entire economy of robbing, fencing, and private rewards.

This was the world that the Fieldings set themselves to remake.

When he attained the magistracy in 1748, Henry set up his home in Bow Street as the headquarters of a protozoan police force. Six constables of his recruit would be the founding coterie of what was soon known as the Bow Street Runners.

His kinsman and assistant John would inherit leadership of this enterprise in 1754 and make it his life’s work. With a state stipend that grew over the years with his successes, John Fielding made the long-dubious racket of thief-taking into a respectable office, his tireless pen relentlessly advertising (exaggerating, McLynn claims) the honesty and effectiveness of his enterprise and forever “dragg[ing] the unwilling authorities in the direction of the creation of a national police force.” (McLynn again) Fielding kept his offices open for long and reliable hours; in the case we have at hand, the first search warrant for John Andrew Martin’s lodgings was granted not by he but by a subaltern while Fielding was out at dinner. He also widened his constables’ investigative scope beyond the narrow parishes to which they had historically been attached, and counseled Parliament on policy. He was particularly busy here in the 1760s, as a crime wave following the post-Seven Years’ War demobilization was engulfing London.

Cataloguing and disseminating information about criminals was a particular interest and the Blind Beak had a reputation for being able to recognize thousands of rogues by the sound of their voice alone. So it was in our case, for “when the prisoner was taken before Sir John Fielding, Sir John knew him very well; and asked him how long he had been come back from transportation?” There were, the Old Bailey transcript dryly notes, “fourteen other indictments against him for burglaries.”

At Tyburn, Martin’s “behaviour was manly and decent … He was about five feet ten inches high, forty years of age, genteely dressed, with his own hair tyed behind.”

* The term “Great Wen” as a slur for London wasn’t coined until the 1820s, by radical journalist William Cobbett, a great advocate of rural England.

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1763: John Brannon, Joseph Jervis, Charles Riley, and Mary Robinson

Add comment December 28th, 2017 Headsman

On this date in 1763, four thieves hanged at Tyburn to great public indifference.

They were of such scanty account that one is hard-pressed to find a newspaper report of the executions; even the Ordinary of Newgate didn’t bother to publish on them until weeks later, when he could combine them with a pair of February hangings. (Perhaps because, as he notes in his account, three of the four were Catholic and so gave the Anglican minister short shrift on the confessional front.)

Two of the men — and also one prosecutor, the victim Peter Manchester, who was robbed of his prize money — appear to have been recently from royal service in the just-concluded Seven Years’ War: early avatars of the crime wave that would engulf London as demobilized soldiers and seamen swamped its labor market.

six persons were capitally convicted and received sentence of death, for the several crimes in their indictments set forth, viz.

John Brannon, John Edinburgh, Joseph Jervis, Charles Reiley [Riley -ed.], Mary Robinson, and Mary Williams.

And on or about Friday the 16th of December the report of the said malefactors being made to his Majesty, by Mr. Recorder, two of them were respited, namely, John Edinburgh, for horse-stealing; and Mary Williams, for being concerned with Charles Reily and Mary Robinson in the robbery of Peter Manchester; and the remaining four ordered for execution on Wednesday December the 28th, and were accordingly executed.

1. John Brannon was indicted, for that he, on the King’s highway, on Thomas Worley did make an assault, putting him in corporal fear and danger of his life, and stealing from his person one pair of silver shoe-buckles, value 10s. his property; and Jane Blake, otherwise Buckley, spinster, for receiving the same, well knowing them to have been stolen, October 17.

The prisoner Brannon was one of five in a desperate gang, who attacked the prosecutor Worley, and another, John Paget, in Church-lane, White-chapel, about 12 at night. Having searched them and found no money on them, they took a pair of silver buckles from each, and a handkerchief from Paget: Mean time Esq. Gore’s chariot passing by, they fired two pistols at it, because the coachman would not stop. Brannon was positively sworn to, as one of the two first that came up to the prosecutor, and held a pistol to him while he was robbed. He was detected and taken the next day by means of Jane Blake offering the buckles to a pawn-broker, Mr. Samuel Spencer, who stopped them, secured her, and sent constables to search her lodgings, where they took Brannon, found the other pair of buckles and the handkerchief before mentioned, and also a pair of horse pistols loaded.

His behaviour after sentence was in general such as became his unhappy condition; but being under the influence and direction of the church of Rome, he gave no account to me of his accomplices, or any other fact: Nor did he pretend to deny this, either at his trial or afterwards, as indeed there was no room for it. He appeared to be about thirty years of age, was born in Dublin, was by trade a Carver, and had served six years in the Royal Navy.

2. Joseph Jervis was indicted, for that he, on the 14th day of November, about the hour of two in the night, on the same day, the dwelling house of Joseph Hill did break and enter, and steal one silver spoon, value 1s. the property of the said Joseph in his dwelling.

This convict lived in King-street, Spitalfields; but how he supported himself there, whether by any honest labour, doth not appear either by his own confession, or the evidence of several witnesses for him, who gave only a negative character, that they never heard any ill of him. And supposing he had practised this wicked scheme of breaking into houses, and plundering them in the hour of deep sleep undiscovered for a time, ’tis hard to imagine how they could hear any ill of him, however criminal. As to the present fact, he had prowled away as far as Kingsland, a mile or two, at midnight, to perpetrate it. But here, luckily for the publick safety, he was mistaken in his mark, and fell upon a house well inhabited by a master Carpenter and his workmen: The former, awakened by the noise of wrenching open the frame of a cellar window, alarmed two or three of his men, who came upon him, and with some difficulty seized and secured him; in effecting of which, by means of his resisting and endeavouring to escape in the dark, he had received two unlucky strokes, one with a pistol and another with a hanger, both on the head; by which he was wounded, and made more deaf and stupid than he was before, for he laboured under both those defects during the time between sentence and execution. After he was apprehended, he was found to be furnished with a tinder-box, a dark-lantern, a candle, and an iron bar flatted at one end. A silver spoon was also found upon him, the property of Mr. Hill, the prosecutor.

He had the artifice to plead on his trial, that he was non compos, out of his mind, and knew not what he did. But being reminded by the Court that his situation was very serious, and no proof of this assertion being offered, it was urged no farther. After conviction and sentence passed, he still appeared to be very hard of hearing and dull of apprehension; so that it was a difficult task to instruct and prepare him, whether this was real or partly affected. He said he was born at Hertford, where he learned to read and write, and then was brought up to the trade of dressing flour, which he afterwards followed for several years in London, in or near Houndsditch; he was now about forty-five years of age.

After he had been daily visited, assisted with prayers, and the plainest instructions, he was now and then questioned what progress he had made in his preparation for an awful change; but could give very little satisfaction in that matter, only said, he would trust to Providence; meaning, that he would give no farther account of his past life, nor confess any other facts; tho’ he did not pretend to deny he was guilty of any other.

When he found himself included in the Death-warrant, it did not much affect him, as he seemed to expect it. Endeavours were renewed to prepare him for the holy communion; but with no better success; he pleaded he had lost his memory, as well as his apprehension; and that what he read or heard made little impression, and was quickly gone from him; so that he seemed incapable of celebrating that sacred act of remembrance. However, there seemed to be a greater want of disposition than capacity. To arouse and quicken him, therefore, to a sense of his duty in this respect, he was permitted to be present, and very near, at the administration of the communion in the chapel, the day before he suffered; so as that he could hear and see all that was spoken, or done, without admitting him to partake of it. Several intelligent good neighbours were present now, and on other occasions, who took opportunities to speak familiarly to him before and after service, in order to bring him to a better disposition. But neither did these means kindle in him that desire, which we hoped. He still continued in a languid indifference. As he could still read, and as his last evening was now come, a brief but excellent little tract on spiritual communion was put into his hands, to assist and raise his thoughts this last night of his life. He returned it to me the next morning, and said he had read it. Being asked whether he understood it, and applied it to himself? he replied, he did, as well as God gave him leave; his usual answer to such questions.

3, 4. Charles Reiley, labourer, and Mary Robinson, and Mary Williams, spinsters, were indicted for that they, in the dwelling house of Francis Talbot, near the King’s high-way, on the body of Peter Manchester did make an assault, putting him in corporal fear and danger of his life, and stealing from his person four guineas and one half-guinea, his property, against his will, October 18.

The prosecutor, Peter Manchester, was a sailor, come to town about a week, and had received five guineas prize money the very day of this robbery. Passing along Salt-petre Bank, he was forced into this house by Williams and Robinson, shut in, and his purse violently taken from him by these two women, assisted by Charles Reiley. He was also beaten by the women, while Reily threatened to cut off his hand, if he did not let go the purse to him; by which means Reily got it, containing four guineas and a half, and he and Robinson ran off with it. The prosecutor pursued, but missed them; he then applied to two of his shipmates and a constable to assist him. By help of these, and others, the two women were found out, and apprehended the same night. Robinson being searched, had two guineas and a quarter found concealed upon her. The two guineas she confessed before the Justice next day to be the property of the prosecutor, and that they were given to her by Charles Reily, one for herself, and one for Mary Williams, to reward them for their trouble; and that he kept two guineas and a half, the remainder of the money. But luckily for Williams she had not fingered the guinea; which circumstance, together with her not being able to follow Reily, to get her share from him, seem to be the distinguishing considerations, which might turn the scale for a respite to one of these three, rather in her favour. As for Reily he was caught in the very trap for such creatures of prey. The prosecutor being at Hicks’s-hall next day, to prefer a bill of indictment against them, had intelligence that Reily was then drinking at Newgate, only as a voluntary visiter, went directly and found him there; and tho’ he fled, and had a long run for it, from thence to St. Dunstan’s church, he was there taken, detained in the cage at St. John’s, Wapping, examined, and committed, having confessed the fact, but said it was the first.

Being all three convicted the 10th of December, they came up to chapel the 11th, being Sunday morning, tho’ they professed all to be of the church of Rome. Yet Reily, to my surprize, joined in the service, made his responses, read his part in the Psalms and the Liturgy very distinct and intelligible, as if well acquainted with it. On questioning him, after divine service, he let me know, that he was brought up in an hospital for children on a Protestant foundation in a great city, where he received a common share of good learning and the principles of Christianity, but was now determined to die in the faith of the church of Rome; for which he could give no better reason, than that his father died in that persuasion. Endeavours were used to reason him out of this very groundless and weak resolution, and proper books put into his hands for that purpose, particularly a Protestant Catechism and a New Testament, both which he soon after returned, without suffering them to make any good impression upon him. As to the fact for which he was convicted, he said, he was not in the house when the fray began but, having his lodging there, came in, in the midst of it, and so was drawn in.

He was bred up to the sea from a lad, served his time in the Merchants service, in the New York trade; and between six and seven years since, entered into the King’s service, a volunteer, at Cork, in which he has continued ever since, till discharged about six months before from the Orford of 70 guns, in which he had been at the taking of the Havanna, from whence he came home in her; and had also a share in two Spanish prizes, the St. Jago and St. Charles, taken by the Orford in company with the Temeraire and the Alarm, a little before the peace extended thither. After he was a prisoner in Newgate, he was told that a dividend of 3l. 17s. a man was paid the 26th of October, which he did not receive, and believed he had much more due to him. In the same ship, he said, he was at the taking of Cape Breton and Quebeck, for both which he received some prize money. — He was about 30 years of age.

4. Mary Robinson was much about the same age of thirty, and had passed thro’ various scenes, in her way, which was none of the best. She had been at the cities of Bath and Bristol for five years, to which she came from Dublin, where she was born. She had left her husband there, having sold his goods and quitted him, because, as she said, he had used her ill. While she was under sentence, she owned she had been a wicked sinner in all respects, except the crime of Murder.

The Morning of EXECUTION, Dec. 28.

OF the four convicts, there being only Jervis who adhered to the church of England, he went up and attended to the duties of the chapel, as well as his imperfect state of sensibility and attention would permit. He was sincere and sensible enough to acknowledge the justice of his sentence; and also owned expressly that this was not his first offence of this nature; but would give no particulars of time, place, or persons. For, either he could not be convinced it was his duty, or else he could not be persuaded to comply with it; still persisting to say, that his memory was so bad he could not recollect any fact, or he did not see what use or satisfaction it could give the world, or any injured person, to confess it. To set this in a strong light before him, a plain case was put; Suppose you had been robbed, would it not give you satisfaction to know who did it? And what is become of him? Whether living or dead? Whether hardened and going on still in his wickedness, or penitent and reformed, at least past the power of offending any more. Would it not be a great ease and benefit to you to put an end to your doubts and suspicions? Would it not be the same to innocent persons, who might be suspected, to be cleared of those doubts and suspicions? Surely it might, to the saving of their character, their liberty, and their livelihood. Reason and justice, no less than our rational religion and our excellent church, join in requiring this mark of sincere repentance from dying criminals: And let those who teach, or think, or act otherwise, see to it.

There is the more reason to speak thus freely, because this duty is too often made a stumbling-block to several unhappy persons under sentence, whose preparation is obstructed, and rendered more difficult, by the contrary poisonous principles sown in the prison by some disguised enemy; tho’ it must be owned there is no need of this, while the native pride and corruption of the human heart, unmortified, are sufficient to harden it against this duty, and every act of self-abasement.

In a word, I could form no apology in my own mind for this criminal not complying with this duty, but his defect of apprehension and memory before-mentioned.

We used the Litany, and other proper acts of devotion in the chapel, in which he joined tolerably well for the most part. After which he was directed to meditate on proper subjects, or read in the way to the place. When he went down from the chapel, which was about twenty minutes before nine, he was asked, Are you resigned? He answered in the affirmative. Do you find peace and hope in your breast, on a sure foundation? He replied faintly in the same manner.

The other three convicts of the church of Rome, were kept ready in their cells, not in the Press-Yard, or Little hall, as usual, for what reason, as I did not enquire, so I did not learn. But all were detained about an hour later than usual, till after ten, on account, as it was said, of some necessary part of the apparatus not being provided in time.

After the Sheriff was set off in his chariot, preceded by proper officers on horseback, then followed the first cart with Charles Reily and Mary Robinson; and in the second were John Brannon and Joseph Jervis. In a little more than an hour they arrived at the place, where they read and repeated their prayers very earnestly, with an audible voice; the last offices of prayer were performed for Jervis, while the others were exercised in their own devotions. They were all greatly affected, the woman wept and bewailed herself much, till the cart being driven away, they all resigned their lives.

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1767: Tom, slave of the Baylor family

Add comment October 15th, 2017 Headsman

From The Baylors of Newmarket: The Decline and Fall of a Virginia Planter Family, by Thomas Katheder. The specific “Baylor” referenced in this text is John Baylor III, a slave merchandising heir then in the midst of squandering the family fortune through his passion for horseracing. (In the latter capacity, Baylor also imported the legendary colonial stud Fearnought.) Baylor died in 1772, still straining his creditors for maintenance of his oligarchic station … but his son John Baylor IV died in a debtor’s prison that his “gentleman justice” father had helped to construct. We have the date of the hanging, although not the explanation for the delay between trial and execution, via a different book, Murder at Montpelier.

In colonial Virginia, the county courts, which were controlled by “gentleman justices” like Baylor, governed the counties with an oligarchic, unchecked, and largely self-perpetuating rule utterly unthinkable in modern America.

With legislative, executive, and judicial functions combined into a single governing body, the county courts impacted the day-to-day lives of Virginians more than any other civil authority. The county court adjudicated most civil matters, including debt and contract disputes, presided over nonfelony criminal cases (accused felons were bound over for trial at the General Court in Williamsburg), and determined whether wills were admitted to probate and whether deeds, mortgages, or other instruments were worthy of being recorded in the county records.

The justices established the amount of the county levy each year and decided who was exempt from taxation and exactly how the money would be spent — no road, bridge, or public building could be built without their approval. They issued bonds, permits, and licenses, including permits for ferries and mills, as well as licenses for taverns and inns; they even set the prices that could be charged for alcoholic beverages.

They appointed all county officers, including tax collectors, the county clerk, militia officers, the coroner, and the sheriff (some of these positions were subject to the royal governor’s usually perfunctory assent). As historian Jack P. Greene points out, in colonial Virginia “[n]ot a single local civil or judicial officer was elected.”

The justices also apprenticed orphans to artisans or tradesman; they fined the parents of illegitimate children or sometimes ordered they be publicly whipped; and they put able-bodied paupers to work or exiled them from the county if they were from somewhere else (under ancient English custom and law the poor were supposed to be dealt with in their home communities.)

The justices were most powerful when they sat as a “Court of Oyer and Terminer” under special commission from the governor. In that capacity the justices could — and did — try slaves for capital offenses and order their execution, without any right of appeal.

In the summer of 1767 one of Col. Baylor’s slaves, Tom, was tried and found guilty of breaking into a white planter’s house and stealing items worth about five shillings. The Orange County Court, presided over by James Madison Sr. (father of the future president) [and a man who had lost his father to an alleged slave murder -ed.], noted that Tom was “precluded from the Benefit of Clergy” because he had already received it once before and ordered him executed.

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1766: James Annin and James M’Kinzy

Add comment August 1st, 2017 Headsman

From the Pennsylvania Gazette, Aug. 7, 1766:

BURLINGTON (New-Jersey) August 4

At a Court of Oyer and Terminer, held at Burlington, on Wednesday, the Thirtieth Day of July last, came on the Trial of James Annin, aged 54 Years, and James M’Kinzy, aged 19 Years, on an Indictment for the Murder of two Indian Women, named Hannah and Catherine, who had long resided in the Neighbourhood of the Place where the Murder was committed.

It appeared by their own Examinations, and by the Testimony of credible Witnesses, that they had been on the Western Frontiers of Pennsylvania and Virginia, but that their first Acquaintance began in Philadelphia; that they came to Moore’s Town, in the County of Burlington, on Thursday, the 26th of June last, about Noon, and begged for Charity, and obtained Relief: That while they were eating their Dinners, the two Indians who were murdered, came to the Place where they were, and that the youngest of the Men gave them abusive Language: That the Indians went off, and rested in a Wood, near the Side of the Road: That the one of them was possessed of a clean Shift, and the other of a Piece of new Linen, which they had that Day got: That about 2 o’Clock on the same Day, James Annin sold the Shift, and James M’Kinzy the Piece of new Linen, and a Blanket, about two Miles from Moore’s Town.

That they were parted by Accident, and that many People had seen the Indians lying in View of the Road, and supposed them to be asleep, till Sunday, the 29th of June, when two Persons perceived a Stench, and on going near the Bodies, found they were dead; whereupon the Coroner was called, whose Inquest found them to be murdered by Persons unknown.

On this Alarm the two Criminals were suspected, and pursued.

James Annin was apprehended, and committed to the Goal at Burlington, and the other advertised from the Description given by Annin, and in a few Days taken up by Order of the Mayor of the City of Philadelphia, and sent to Burlington.

The Examinations of the Prisoners, taken before they had an Opportunity of seeing each other, were read, and by each Examination it appeared, that they went to the Indians with Intent to ravish them, if they should refuse their Offers; each acknowledged that he was present at the Murder, but charged the giving the Stroke on the other, and acknowledged also the taking the Goods; in this they persisted at the Bar. The Jury soon found them guilty, and they received Sentence of Death.

On Friday Noon they were hanged at the Gallows; they continued in denying the Fact, and charging it on each other. The Elder declared, he thought it a Duty to extirpate the Heathen, and just before they were turned off, M’Kinzy, the younger of the Men, acknowledged, that one of the Indians, on receiving the Blow from Annin, struggled violently, and that he, to put her out of Pain, sunk the Hatchet in her Head, but that they were both knocked down by Annin.

The youngest of the Squaws was near the Time of Delivery, and had Marks of shocking Treatment, which the most savage Nations on Earth could not have surpassed.

A few of the principal Indians of Jersey, were desired to attend the Trial and Execution, which they did, and behaved with remarkable Sobriety.

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1768: James Gibson and Benjamin Payne, impressing James Boswell

Add comment March 23rd, 2017 James Boswell

(Thanks to James Boswell for the guest post. The Dr. Johnson biographer was a ravenous gallows-haunt whom we have encountered repeatedly in these pages; even in his guise as a barrister, Boswell personally lost a client to the hangman. No fool when it came to content repurposing, Boswell in 1768 wrote the Publick Advertiser about the March 23, 1768 double hanging of John Gibson and Benjamin Payne; then, in 1783, he recycled the entirety of this bygone letter to extend his musings on the spectacle of public executions, for the occasion of Tyburn’s abolition. We reprint here the 1783 article, a comment within a comment, within the very comment that is this dreary site. -ed.)

LONDON MAGAZINE,<br />
FOR MAY, 1783.<br />
THE HYPOCHONDRIACK. No. LXVIII.<br />
Mitiores Poena nobis semper placuere. Justinian.,<br />
'We have always preferred mild punishments.'

THE question, Whether society has a right to punish individuals, especially to the extent of death, which is well denominated in Latin “ultimum supplicium — the last or utmost punishment,” has been treated with great attention and ingenuity by a number of casuists in law and in morals. And of late it has been discussed with elegant ability by the Marquis di Marco, an Italian nobleman of Mantua, whose performance well becomes that celebrated city, while it shews that in modern times the descendants of those whom we are taught from our early years to admire, are yet worthy of admiration. So that we may quote from Addison‘s beautiful letter from Italy,

And still I seem to tread on classick ground.

It is indeed a question which resolves into the powerful and irresistible plea of necessity; since we are sure society could not exist without such a right. But the exercise of it, no doubt, admits of much modification, in which the wisdom and humanity of legislators has a wide field. Another Italian nobleman has done himself great honour by his admirable work “Delle de litte e delle pene,” which Voltaire has illuminated with some additional rays; and I can with pleasure mention, to the credit of our own nation, Mr. Eden‘s Principles of Penal Law.

These cursory remarks are only meant to serve the purpose of introducing into the collection of my Hypochondriack Essays, another of my former writings, which is, I think, well suited to my present title.

April 25, 1768.

To the Printer of the Publick Advertiser

Sir,

THAT the people of England possess that quality called good-nature, will not be denied by any man whose mind is not fretted by some real ills, or clouded by some fanciful ones. But it must also be acknowledged that the people of England are, of all nations in the world, the most desirous of feeing spectacles of cruelty. Bull-baiting, cock-fighting, and even throwing at cocks, were for many and many a year the delight of the English; and it is not long since assemblies of good-natured people were deliberately held to see their fellow-creatures beat, bruise, and sometimes actually kill each other.

Though the desire of seeing spectacles of cruelty has peculiarly prevailed in England, it has more or less been the passion of mankind in all ages and countries. Hence the various satires against it by poets; hence the various attempts to account for it by philosophers. Lucretius, who was both a poet and a philosopher, refers it to self-love, as we may see from that celebrated passage,

Suave mari magno turbantibus aequora ventis.

He thinks that men love to behold scenes of distress, that they may hug themselves in security, and relish more their own safety and ease, by comparing themselves with those who are suffering. Though I, as well as every rational and virtuous man, must think that Lucretius is in general a very false and a very hurtful writer; yet I must candidly own that he is often ingenious and just in his observations. In the present case he certainly has a great deal of merit; though I would be for compounding his system with that of the Abbe du Bos, who accounts for our desire of seeing spectacles of cruelty from the universal wish that we all have to be moved; that is, to have our souls agitated; for to be sure there is nothing so irksome to a man of lively sensations, as to have his faculties thrown into a kind of torpor, so that in Shakespeare’s words,

They cream and mantle like a standing pool

This will more fully account for what I am endeavouring to explains and will make human nature appear not so grossly selfish as Lucretius paints it.

Of all publick spectacles, that of a capital execution draws the greatest number of spectators. And I must confess that I myself am never absent from any of them. Nor can I accuse myself of being more hard-hearted than other people. On the contrary, I am persuaded that nobody feels more sincerely for the distresses of his fellow-creatures than I do, yor would do more to relieve them. When I first attended executions, I was shocked to the greatest degree. I was in a manner convulsed with pity and terror, and for several days, but especially nights after, I was in a very dismal situation. Still, however, I persisted in attending them, and by degrees my sensibility abated; so that I can now see one with great composure, and my mind is not afterwards haunted with frightful thoughts: though for a while a certain degree of gloom remains upon it. I can account for this curiosity in a philosophical manner, when I consider that death is the most aweful object before every man, who ever directs his thoughts seriously towards futurity; and that it is very natural that we should be anxious to see people in that situation which affects us so much. It is true indeed that none of us, who go to see an execution have any idea that we are to be executed, and few of us need be under any apprehension whatever of meeting with that fate. But dying publickly at Tyburn, and dying privately in one’s bed, are only different modes of the fame thing. They are both death; they are both that wonderous, that alarming scene of quitting all that we have ever seen, heard, or known, and at once passing into a state of being totally unknown, to us, and in which we cannot tell what may be our situation. Therefore it is that I feel an irresistible impulse to be present at every execution, as I there behold, the various effects of the near approach of death, according to the various tempers of the unhappy sufferers, and by studying them I learn to quiet and fortify my own mind.

I shall never forget the last execution I saw at Tyburn, when Mr. Gibson, the attorney, for forgery, and Benjamin Payne, for an highway robbery, were executed. Poor Payne was a thin young lad of twenty, in a mean dress, and a red night-cap, with nothing to discriminate him from the many miserable beings who are penitent and half dead with fear. But Mr. Gibson was indeed an extraordinary man. He came from Newgate in a coach, with some friends attending him. I met the mournful procession in Oxford-road; and I declare that if I had not been told it, I should not have known which was Mr. Gibson. He was drawn backwards, and looked as calm and easy as ever I saw a man in my life. He was dressed in a full suit of black, wore his own hair round and in a natural curl, and a hat. When he came to the place of execution he was allowed to remain a little in the coach. A signal was then given him that it was time to approach the fatal tree. He took leave of his friends, stepped out of the coach, and walked firmly to the cart. He was helped up upon it, as he was pinioned and had not the free use of his arms. When he was upon the cart, he gave his hat to the executioner, who immediately took off Mr. Gibson’s cravat, unloosed his shirt neck, and fixed the rope. Mr. Gibson never once altered his countenance. He refreshed his mouth by sucking a sweet orange. He shewed no stupid insensibility; nor did he affect to brave it out like those hardened wretches who boast that they die hard. He appeared to all the spectators a man of sense and reflexion, of a mind naturally sedate and placid. He submitted with a manly and decent resolution to what he knew to be the just punishment of the law. Mr. Moore, the Ordinary of Newgate, discharged his duty with much earnestness, and a fervour for which I and all around me esteemed and loved him. Mr. Moore seems worthy of his office, which, when justly considered, is a very important one, if administering divine comfort to multitudes of miserable beings, be important. Poor Payne seemed to rely on that mercy which I trust has not been refused him — Mr. Gibson seemed truely devout; and, in short, from first to last, his behaviour was the most perfect that I ever saw, or indeed could conceive of one in his unhappy circumstances. — I wish, Sir, I may not have detained you too long with a letter on subjects of a serious but I will not fay of a gloomy cast, because from my manner of viewing them I do say that they become matters of curious speculation, and are relieved of their dreary ideas. I am, Sir,

Your constant reader,
MORTALIS.

After an interval of fifteen years, I have little to add to this occasional essay. But I cannot but mention in justification of myself, from a charge of cruelty in having gone so much formerly to see executions, that the curiosity which impels people to be present at such affecting scenes, is certainly a proof of sensibility not of callousness. For it is observed, that the greatest proportion of the spectators is composed of women; and I do not apprehend that my readers will impute a barbarous severity to the fair sex, though it is common for lovers to represent them as metaphorically cruel. But in the one case they are cruel to others to be kind to themselves, by avoiding what is disagreeable to them. Whereas in the other case the pleasure must be from the sufferings of others independent of any such reference. That there, however, is such a pleasure I am afraid is true; and in support of my opinion, I bring no less authority than Edmund Burke, who maintains it in his Treatise on the Sublime and Beautiful. Yet let it not be supposed that this pleasure arising from agitation, prevents the finest feelings and effects of compassion; I am sure it does not.

As the great Justinian nobly expressed himself, I should wish that as mild punishments as are consistent with terrour were always inflicted. It is indeed astonishing how men have been found willing and able to execute some of the horrible sentences which have been put in execution upon some criminals. One shudders to think of them; and I shall not wound the minds of my readers by reciting particulars. They who wish to be shocked, or to gratify a monstrous curiosity, may read the tortures of Ravaillac or Damiens. A mode of death which strikes terrour into spectators, without excruciating the unfortunate objects of legal vengeance, seems to be the most eligible. I, therefore, think that the faces of those who are hanged should not be covered, as in Britain, but exposed, as is the custom upon the continent, that the distortions may be seen, which covered or uncovered must take place. I also think that the punishment of throwing criminals from the Tarpeian rock in ancient Rome was a very judicious one. But the best I have ever discovered is one practised in Modern Rome, which is called Macellare –to butcher.” The criminal is placed upon a scaffold, and the executioner knocks him on the head with a great iron hammer, then cuts his throat with a large knife, and lastly, hews him in pieces with an ax; in short, treats him exactly like an ox in the shambles. The spectators are struck with prodigious terrour; yet the poor wretch who is stunned into insensibility by the blow, does not actually suffer much.

But, indeed, death, simple death, when slowly and solemnly inflicted, will be fully sufficient to answer the purposes of publick punishment, as is very well demonstrated by Dr. Mandeville, in An Essay upon the Increase of Robberies, in which he has written with a very different spirit from that which prompted his very shrewd, lively, and entertaining, but dangerous Fable of the Bees.

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1764: John Prince, dissembler

Add comment March 7th, 2017 Headsman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

London June 3, 1763.

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

Sir, your most humble servant,

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

Accepted, William Orcherton.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOHN PRINCE.

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

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

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

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

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

The Morning of Execution.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Morning of Execution.

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

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

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

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

This is all the account given by me,

STEPHEN ROE,
ORDINARY of Newgate.

Part of the Themed Set: The Ordinary of Newgate.

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

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1769: Six felons at Tyburn, keeping away thoughts of death

Add comment October 18th, 2016 Headsman

Six Britons — Joseph Stackhouse, William Litchfield, John Anning, Joseph Godwin, Joseph Simpson, and George Low, Lowe, or Law — hanged together at Tyburn on this date in 1769, notwithstanding some public anticipation of a late reprieve for the well-connected Simpson.

Their individual tragic passions are little enough notable from centuries’ distance among the forests noosed at the dread Triple Tree, but they give us an excuse to drop in on our slightly gallows-obsessed friend, the barrister and scribbler James Boswell.

Best known, of course, for chumming around with Samuel Johnson and recording the latter’s every bon mot for posterity, Boswell attended this hanging (a regular pastime of his) and used it as the hook to elicit some Johnsonian musings on the terrors of death and the great indifference of the living to same.

I mentioned to him that I had seen the execution of several convicts at Tyburn, two days before, and that none of them seemed to be under any concern. Johnson. “Most of them, Sir, have never thought at all.” Boswell. “But is not the fear of death natural to man?” Johnson. “So much so, Sir, that the whole of life is but keeping away the thoughts of it.” He then, in a low and earnest tone, talked of his meditating upon the awful hour of his own dissolution, and in what manner he should conduct himself upon that occasion: “I know not (said he,) whether I should wish to have a friend by me, or have it all between God and myself.”

Talking of our feeling for the distresses of others; — Johnson, “Why, Sir, there is much noise made about it, but it is greatly exaggerated. No, Sir, we have a certain degree of feeling to prompt us to do good; more than that, Providence does not intend. It would be misery to no purpose.” Boswell. “But suppose now, Sir, that one of your intimate friends were apprehended for an offence for which he might be hanged.” Johnson. “I should do what I could to bail him, and give him any other assistance; but if he were once fairly hanged, I should not suffer.” Boswell. “Would you eat your dinner that day, Sir?” Johnson. “Yes, Sir; and eat it as if he were eating it with me. Why, there’s Baretti, who is to be tried for his life to-morrow, friends have risen up, for him on every side; yet if he should be hanged, none of them will eat a slice of plum-pudding the less. Sir, that sympathetick feeling goes a very little way in depressing the mind.”

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

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1767: Thomas Nicholson, hung in chains

Add comment August 31st, 2016 Headsman

On August 31, 1767, Thomas Nicholson hung in chains at Carleton for murdering his godfather Thomas Parker — a sort of god-parricide.

And we would tell you all about this (rather banal) crime and the (extremely interesting) lineage of the hanging-in-chains punishment that has decorated our pages as it once did the English (and American) byways with gibbets … but Stephen Lewis at the interesting blog The Wild Peak has already taken care of all that. Read his post on Nicholson here.

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