1712: Peter Dalton, “I think it is no Sin to take from such Misers”

Add comment August 23rd, 2019 Headsman

Original Dublin broadsheet via James Kelly’s Gallows Speeches: From Eighteenth-Century Ireland:


THE LAST SPEECH AND DYING WORDS OF PETER DALTON

Who was executed near St. Stephen’s Green, on Saturday the 23d of August 1712.

Good Christians,

I Peter Dalton was born in the County of Meath, in the Parish of Kilkarn near Naven, Descended of Honest Parents out of the Country of West-Meath, and was but 12 Years of Age when my Father Dyed, and by the loss of my Father my Mother being a Widow, and having several more Children, she was reduced and the Children were Separated; whereupon I went to Dublin, and Bound my self to one Mr. Crowler a Brewer, where I did live in Splender [sic] and Request, until I thought fit to Marry, and being Married in a short time after, I came in Credit and took a House and Sold Ale, given to no Ill Vice during that time, and kept House Selling of Ale four Years, and got the Handling of other People’s Money, I took Frolicks of Drinking, and Spending in all Sorts of Company, till I run my self in Debt, and was forced to quit Selling of Drink, my Wife and I were forced to Separate out of this City, and found Friends in the Country very Cold. I got into a Gentleman’s Service in the Country to one Captain Netterfield, and out of his Service, became Servant to Captain Wade my Prosecutor, and lived with him about Three Months, and during that time I suffered great Hardships, which I complained to Alderman Quinn, who ordered me to quit his Service, the said Wade being displeased at my Parting, he threatened to put me in Bridewell, the Alderman fearing I should be sent to Bridewell, he ordered I should go Home and Serve my Time to Wade. I did accordingly, and while I was Serving him after, I had worse Usage then I had before, and I told, I wou’d not serve him any longer, and said I wou’d chuse to suffer his Displeasure than serve him, this happened a Year and a half ago, and I parted with him before my Time was Expir’d a Fortnight, this is well known by several in City and Country, then came to Serve Captain Warren of Corduff, lived with him Three quarters of a Year in Credit, being given to Drink I affronted my Master several times, his Honour seeing my failing, he has taken the Affronts with great Patience, very Honourably, I being always waiting of his Honour to Town, was troubled with so many Persons craving Debt of me, that I was asham’d, so that I quitted his Service by his Consent, and Honourably paid me, and more then my Wages, and gave me a favourable Discharge, and soon after Discharging me, I came to my last misfortunes, which brought me to this my shameful End, meeting on William Warren and one James Dalton, about Five Months ago the said Dalton lately came out of England,* I being glad to see him, being long out of this Kingdom, told he was bare of Money, he knowing the said Warren in London, the said Dalton demanded of me if I knew him, I told him I did, then we concluded to take a Pot of Ale, and we all complained the want of Money, Warren sends one abroad, and got as much Money as paid the Reckoning, and I said it was a pitty so many free Lads should want Money, and the rest said the same, but Warren said which way shall we come by it.

The said Warren knowing I lived with an able man meaning Wade, asked of me if any Money was to be got in his House, I told him I could not well tell, he said I know the House and no body dwels there, and let us attack it this Night and see what we can get, I think it is no Sin to take from him or from such Misers, then we did atack [sic] the House, and took several sorts of goods away, and divided them even, and then parted one from the other, where they Disposed of their shares.

I do not know, but what I had I [sic] Discovered it, and directed Wade to find them, which was the only Material Evidence he had against me on Tryal, and for the same was Convicted, that the said Warren took a Bed and two Looking Glasses to one Mulloy’s House in Thomas Court, and he borrowed Eight Shillings from the Landlady, being late he went out to find a Broker to buy them, he came in and brought one to buy the said Goods, but could not sell them, and told the Land lady that the said Goods belonged to me and came out of the Country, and I telling to the contrary, caused Suspicion that the Goods was unlawfully got, so that I was immediately Secured, and brought me before Alderman Page, and was Committed on Suspicion, and he ordered the Prosecutors to put the said Goods in the Gazette, Wade soon came to Town and heard the same and Straight came to me, and I directed him as aforesaid by his promising me before Witness he would not harm me, only to tell where the Goods were, after receiving Sentence, I have prevailed with Judge Nutley, that his Honour gave me a Favourable Report, whereby I got Order of Transportation which I have by me, and the said Wade has prevailed with the Government to revoke the said Order of Transportation and such Orders are given that I should Suffer the 23d Instant.

I was 30 Years of Age last June, this is my last and true Speech, the said Wade Informed the Government if I should Escape Death, I wou’d let the Inns on Fire for Spite to his House that is there, as I am a Dying Man I never thought of any such thing, I desire the Prayers of all good Christians. I Dye a Roman Catholick, and the Lord have Mercy on my Soul.

This is my True Speech,

Peter Dalton.

* Presumably this is the James Dalton who was the criminal-father of the notorious London thief of the same name. -ed.

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1730: James Dalton, Hogarth allusion

1 comment May 12th, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 1730, career criminal James Dalton was executed at Tyburn.

Detail view (click for full image) of James Dalton’s wig box depicted in the boudoir of prostitute Moll Hackabout in Hogarth’s A Harlot’s Progress.

Crime ran in the family for young master Dalton; his father hanged upon the information of notorious (and himself eventual gallows-bird) Jonathan Wild. According to the Ordinary of Newgate’s report, our day’s principal “went between his Father’s Legs in the Cart, to his fatal Exit at Tyburn.”*

Who knows but what naughty urchins (or parents) in the throng were deterred by that affecting spectacle. For the Daltons, it was more like Take Your Child to Work Day.

While the elder Dalton’s skills ran towards card-sharping, young master James went in for the more conventional varieties of larceny — both those practiced by stealth, and those practiced by force.

These pursuits saw him twice transported to America, for which we have to thank the English judiciary on account of Dalton’s resultant biography at Early American Crime.

(In)famous for his many dalliances, Dalton’s exploits could move copy in their day — and their author transgress the lines between the underworld and “legitimate” celebrity.

“In the height of all our Robberies” [Dalton] and his companions “used to go to the Playhouse, dressed like Gentlemen,” and that once, while watching The Beggar’s Opera, “Captain Macheath’s Fetters happening to be loose,” one of them “call’d out, Captain, Captain, your Bazzel is undone.” The real thieves, having shown up the actors with their superior knowledge of both irons and cant, then retired in style to an alehouse, “in four Chairs, with six Lights before each Chair.”**

Just another hanged thief.

Except, also not — because while his career in malefaction would undoubtedly have added up to a death sentence, his condemnation was secured upon the word of a perjurer upon a very doubtful charge.

A character named John Waller, an “affidavit man” whose profession was supplying bogus testimony to hang whomever could be hanged where a reward was available, insisted that Dalton had robbed him upon the roads. Dalton vigorously denied (and even rebutted with evidence) this charge even while admitting his general life of crime, but it was upon this dubious offense against Waller that he stretched his neck. Dalton died at Tyburn with three others, though a fifth member of their party, one Hugh Norton or Haughton, managed to cheat the executioner by hanging himself in his cell.†

It was the rough justice of the 18th century, a time frequently admitting opportunity to repay tit for tat.

In this case, the professional perjurer who hanged Dalton was two years later convicted himself after making a bogus accusation of highway robbery. Waller was condemned by the court to stand in the pillory at the Seven Dials — a dangerous punishment cousin to the era’s death penalty, inasmuch as the mob violence thereby invited not infrequently proved fatal.


John Waller bombarded with refuse in the pillory.

Waller had quite a reputation, but the fury of the crowd was nothing next to that of James Dalton’s brother, Edward — who, with a confederate, brazenly climbed onto the platform, wrenched the “assize man” out of his pillory, and savagely beat him to death.

* Cited in this impressive compendium of Dalton-related primary sources.

** Andrea McKenzie, “The Real Macheath: Social Satire, Appropriation, and Eighteenth-Century Criminal Biography,” Huntington Library Quarterly, Vol. 69, No. 4 (December 2006), with the quotes supplied by a 1730 publication called “The Life and Actions of James Dalton (the Noted Street-Robber)”

† Norton/Haughton was posthumously hanged in chains the next day.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Arts and Literature,Capital Punishment,Cheated the Hangman,Common Criminals,Crime,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Pelf,Public Executions,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Theft,Wrongful Executions

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