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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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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1769: Two weavers, for the Spitalfield riots

4 comments December 6th, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 1769, two weavers hanged in East London in a bitter fight over wages and labor power.

Spitalfields, the East London district also known as the stomping-ground of legendary jailbreaker Jack Sheppard, was the capital of a thriving English silk-weaving industry. It had attained 18th century prosperity thanks in large measure to the decision of William and Mary to invite Lyons Huguenots being hard-pressed by the French crown to relocate their talents across the channel. This now-domestic industry* quickly began supplanting formerly dominant French imports.

In 1713 it was stated that silks, gold and silver stuffs and ribbon made here were as good as those from France, and that £300,000 worth of black silk for hoods and scarves was made annually. In 1721 the value of the silk manufactured in England amounted to £700,000 more than in 1688, when wrought silks were imported from France to the annual value of half a million sterling. (Source)

In this roaring and prestigious business, William Hogarth situated his 1747 Industry & Idleness plates: both the Industrious Prentice (eventually destined to become Lord Mayor of London) and the Idle Prentice (eventually executed at Tyburn) start off shoulder to shoulder at the Spitalfields looms.

But as the 18th century unfolded, even the most industrious Spitalfield weavers came under increasing competitive pressure especially from Chinese and Indian imports.

Although Parliament attempted to ban textile imports to preserve the domestic industries, Spitalfield workers were known to enforce their prerogatives directly by attacking people in the street thought to be wearing foreign prints. This simmering tension came to a rapid boil after settlement of the Seven Years’ War enabled England and France to resume trading — and a glut of French textiles to undermine weavers’ price controls.

Conflicts were no less fierce within the weavers’ community, between masters and laborers. Workers combined to maintain wages by attacking those thought to be undercutting prices.

In September 1769, one such action punished a wealthy anti-“combination” (for “combination”, read “labor union”) manufacturer named Lewis Chauvet, and cut the silk handkerchiefs right out of his looms.


From Season 3, Episode 2 of the BBC drama Garrow’s Law, which is directly based on this case. As of this writing, the entire episode can be found on YouTube.

Cutting silk from the loom was a rough method of enforcement by the labor combination. It had also been made a capital crime a few years before. And it turned out that Chauvet was ready to make his the test case.

Richly paying off a couple of independent artisan weavers for their questionable testimony, he secured the conviction of John Valloine or Valline (other alternate spellings are possible; the name clearly denotes the district’s Huguenot heritage) and John Doyle, two weavers allegedly part of the loom-smashing action. The accused denied it, Doyle reported to have fulminated at the gallows, “I am as innocent of the fact I am now to die for as the child unborn. Let my blood lie to that wicked man who has purchased it with gold, and them notorious wretches who swore it falsely away.”**

Manufacturers’ purposes were served just as well whether innocent or guilty. The point was labor discipline, not a few lost hankies.

Accordingly fixing “to strike Terror into the Rioters”, the crown ordered the execution to occur not at the Tyburn gallows, but right in the weavers’ backyard, adjacent Spitalfields at Bethnal Green.

This order actually delayed the sentence for the judiciary’s consideration of the minor point of whether this was allowed at all — since the actual boilerplate sentence read from the bench had specified “the usual place.” The wisest magistrates of the land considered the matter and in time agreed that “the time and place of execution was no part of the sentence” and therefore subject to His Majesty’s discretion. Bethnal Green it was.

They were therefore this morning taken in a cart from Newgate through the City to Whitechapel, and thence up the road to Bethnal Green, attended by the Sheriffs &c, with the gallows, made for the purpose, in another cart; it was fixed in the cross road, near the Salmon and Ball.


The Salmon and Ball pub, where the execution happened, today. (cc) image by Ewan Munro.

There was an inconceivable number of people assembled, and many bricks, tiles, stones &c thrown while the gallows was fixing, and a great apprehension of a general tumult, notwithstanding the persuasion and endeavours of several gentlemen to appease the same. The unhappy sufferers were therefore obliged to be turned off before the usual time allowed on such occasions, which was about 11 o’clock; when, after hanging about fifty minutes they were cut down and delivered to their friends. (cited here)

Vengeful weavers having their noses rubbed in their comrades’ executions smashed up Chauvet’s house in the riots on this date, and the powers that be decided that one hanging-day at Bethnal Green was plenty. A few other rioters convicted as confederates of Doyle and Valline were put to death at Tybun later in December 1769.

Years of violent labor conflict were finally quelled with the 1773 Spitalfield Weavers Act, a political compromise which protected the domestic industry from foreign competition and enabled magistrates to set wages.

Though this act stabilized a tense domestic situation, its effect over several decades was seriously problematic: a protected monopoly with wage-controlled workers maintained an increasingly obsolete system of labor-intensive manufacture that fell behind power looms coming online elsewhere.

As late as 1851 — mechanization wouldn’t fully take over until Britain’s trade liberalization of the 1860s — Charles Dickens visited Spitalfields, and saw a weaver

doing now, exactly what his grandfather did. Nothing would induce him to use a simple improvement (the ‘fly shuttle’) to prevent the contraction of the chest of which he complains. Nothing would turn him aside from his old ways. It is the old custom to work at home, in a crowded room, instead of in a factory.

Disallowed from taking lower wages even in bad times (or when cheaper cotton started displacing silk), many weavers sat completely unemployed instead — gradually sinking into a proletarianization they had fought to avoid. Spitalfield weavers eventually became one of the classic case studies in the laissez faire economics canon.

* Just to be clear, Huguenots weren’t the first silk weavers in Spitalfields; it’s just that their arrival let the industry take off.

** The hanged man’s comrades made good his gallows menace. Peter Linebaugh, whose The London Hanged is an outstanding resource on the economic pressures that brought these weavers and many others to the gallows, relates:

At noon upon a cold and snowy day, 16 April 1771, [Chauvet’s paid witness against the weavers] Daniel Clarke … went walking in Spitalfields. It had been sixteen months since the hangings of the cutters whom Clarke had sworn against, and he must have thought the people cowed or forgetful. He was recognized. ‘There goes Clarke, that blood-selling rascal,’ was the shout, and instantly a small crowd gathered to badger and pester him. He took to his heels and found temporary refuge in the house of Mary Snee. The currents of popular memory run deep; now they flooded to the surface. A hundred people beset the house hurling maledictions. ‘They would hang him, or burn him, or stone him,’ said Mary Snee. He was cornered, stripped and dragged by his feet into the street, where he was led by the neck on a parade of humiliation. The crowds grew. Widow Horsford [wife of one of the weavers hanged later in December 1769 at Tyburn] was seen to ‘jump out of the loom’ at the news Clarke was cursed and dragged to the brick-fields. Children pelted him with dirt. Bespattered with muck, he was thrown into a pond where he was ducked within a breath of drowning. He was removed to a sandheap, buried, dug up and returned to the freezing water. It was estimated that the crowd numbered 3,000. While he could speak, he taunted his tormentors, saying ‘he would take twenty of them’. Widow Horsford said, ‘Clarke, Clarke, I am left a widow, my children is fatherless on account of you.’ Clarke answered, ‘Chauvet is worse than me,’ and then he expired. A grim ending that would be remembered for generations.

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1769: Nicolas de Lafreniere and four others for the Louisiana Rebellion

2 comments October 25th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 1769, five French Creoles were shot in New Orleans for a revolt the previous year against a Spanish takeover.

This date’s story begins with the French King Louis XV getting his French clock cleaned in the French and Indian War. This conflict blew an ill wind all over Francophone North America, much of which was taken by the British. Result: a quarter-millennium later, this blog is in English.

Even what France kept, she did not keep. In a secret pact, France ceded to wartime ally Spain “the country known as Louisiana, as well as New Orleans and the island in which the city is situated.”

This projection onto New World colonists of Old World diplomatic horse-trading was rife with potential hostility among the traded horses. In this instance, Louisianans were widely dismayed when they were finally informed that they’d become Spaniards.

When they did get the memo — and Louis XV declined to reconsider — they launched the Louisiana Rebellion of 1768, expelling the new Spanish govenror Antonio de Ulloa.*

These weren’t mere rabble who showed Ulloa “insubordination … a sense of liberty and independence,” but elites of French New Orleans. Nicolas de Lafreniere was the attorney general.

“The name of Lafreniere deserves rank with those of foremost American patriots,” Americans later reckoned. O’Reilly’s reputation did not fare as well in the patriotic literature, but he perhaps had the best of the law.

Between a rock and a hard place, the leftover French adjutant Charles-Philippe Aubry refused to support the rebels, but also refused to fire on fellow Frenchmen. Meanwhile, Ulloa refused to provide his credentials to the uppity colonists. Louis XV refused to receive the delegations sent to implore him to keep Louisiana.

All these refuseniks found the matter adjudicated by immigrant Irish officer Alejandro O’Reilly, plucked out of Cuba to replace Ulloa and lay down the law. He spoke softly when he landed, but the amnesty he offered was followed a few months later by the surprise arrest of the chief rebels.

Lafreniere, Joseph Milhet, Jean-Baptiste Noyan, Pierre Caresse, and Pierre Marquis were ordered hanged on this date. Noyan, nephew of the city’s founder and a young man just married, was offered his pardon, but melodramatically refused.

It was found that there was no hangman in the colony, so the condemned prisoners were ordered to be shot. When the day of execution came, hundreds of people left the city. Those who could not leave went into their houses, closed the doors and windows and waited in an agony of sickening dread to hear the fatal shots. Only the tramping of soldiers broke the deathlike stillness which brooded over the crushed and helpless city. At three o’clock on a perfect October afternoon in 1769, the condemned men were led to the Spanish barracks. Lafreniere, it is said, gave the order to fire. A volley of muskets broke out on the still air, and five patriots went to their death, — the first Louisianians to give their blood for the cause of freedom.

-A History of Louisiana

The details and historiography of this event are the subject of this 146-page master’s thesis. (pdf)

Whether or not all that stuff about Louisiana planters as freedom-loving patriots trod down by the barbarous Spanish has any real merit to it, that’s the way they’ve been memorialized.

Lafreniere Park in Metairie, La. — home of anti-death penalty VIP Sister Helen Prejean — is named for Nick Lafreniere.

When next visiting the Louisiana State House, keep an eye out for this day’s victims on the frieze to the right of the main entrance. And when next visiting New Orleans, keep an ear out for the ghost of the priest that buried them.

* Ulloa was also a scientist and gave his name to the Ulloa Halo, a “physical illusion consisting of a white luminous ring or arch that can sometimes be seen in mountainous regions, typically in foggy weather, while facing an area opposite the Sun.”

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