1731: Two murderers and three crooks at Tyburn

Add comment May 14th, 2020 Headsman

The Ordinary of Newgate (in this case, James Guthrie) furnishes us the following “ACCOUNT, of the Behaviour, Confessions, and Dying Words, OF THE MALEFACTORS, Who were EXECUTED at TYBURN, On FRIDAY the 14th of this Instant May, 1731″:


BEING THE Third EXECUTION in the MAYORALTY OF THE Rt. Hon. HUMPHREY PARSONS, Esq;

Number III. For the said YEAR.

LONDON:

Printed and Sold by JOHN APPLEBEE, in Bolt-Court, near the Leg-Tavern, Fleet-street. M.DCC.XXXI.

[Price Three-Pence.]

THE ORDINARY of NEWGATE, His ACCOUNT of the Behaviour, Confession, &c.

AT the King’s Commission of Oyer and Terminer, and Gaol-Delivery of Newgate, held (before the Rt. Hon. HUMPHREY PARSONS, Esq; Lord Mayor of the City of London; the Rt. Hon. the Lord Chief Justice Raymond; the Hon. Mr. Baron Cummins; the Hon. Mr. Baron Thompson; the Hon. Mr. Justice Denton, and others of His Majesty’s Justices of Oyer and Terminer, and Gaol Delivery for the City of London, and Gaol-Delivery of Newgate, holden for the said City and County of Middlesex) at Justice-Hall in the Old-Bailey, on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Monday, being the 28th, 29th, and 30th, of April, and the 1st and 3d of May, 1731, in the Fourth Year of his Majesty’s Reign.

Nine Men, viz. James Berry, Richard Cooper, Francis Woodmarsh, Richard Trap, alias Blue Dick, John Peaverly, John Butler, Francis Lynn, alias Glynn, James Owen, and Ambrose Newport, were by the Jury found guilty of capital Crimes, and receiv’d Sentence of Death accordingly.

After Sentence, they were instructed in the chief Articles of our most Holy Christian Faith: That it is necessary to know that there is one God, the Sovereign Lord of Heaven and Earth; who made all Things by the Word of his Power, and who preserves every Thing in its Being; “For in him we Live, and Move, and have our Being, as certain also of your own Poets have said, for we are also his Off-spring:” As saith the Apostle St. Paul, Acts. xvii. 28.

And as from the omnipotent Word of God, we have our first Existence, and by his powerful Providence we are preserv’d in our Being; so we ought to believe, that there are three Persons in this one God; the Father, who creates and preserves us; the Son of God, who redeems us by his Death and Sufferings, and thus purchases us to be an holy, peculiar, chosen People unto God, zealous of good Works; and God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifies the elect People of God, and who preserves them by the mighty Power of God, through Faith unto Salvation.

And as we ought to believe in the Divine Unity, and that there is a Trinity of Persons in the Godhead; so are we to believe, that there is one Mediator or Intercessor between God and Man, according to the Holy Apostles Doctrine, 1 Tim. ii. 5, 6. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and Men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a Ransom for all, to be Testified in due Time. I exhorted them to believe in Christ, the Son of God, and only Saviour of Sinners, with an operative and lively Faith, moving us to Holiness in all manner of Life and Conversation, for Faith without Works is Dead being alone; as St. James says, Holiness is that which makes us like unto and resemble God, the Archetype of all Perfection, Purity and Virtue. And therefore, since they had been young Men void of Holiness and the Fear of God, which was the occasion of Gods forsaking them, since they had forsaken him, and knew nothing of his Ways, and giving them up to themselves, to their own Hearts Lust, to commit all Uncleanness and all manner of Wickedness with Greediness, I took occasion to offer them a serious Exhortation to Holiness in Heart and Life, to redeem their Time, because the Days are Evil, to improve the few Moments allow’d them upon Earth, in fearing and loving God, and endeavouring to keep his Commandments according to the Apostles Advice. “See then that ye walk Circumspectly, not as Fools, but as wise Men; redeeming the Time, because the Days are Evil.” Eph. v. 15, 16. And I desir’d ’em, to resolve, by the Grace of God, that if they had done Iniquity and Sin, they would do so no more: That whereas formerly they had been the Servants of Unrighteousness unto Sin, henceforth they would become the obedient Servants of rigteousness unto holiness; as the same Apostle adviseth us, “Neither yield ye your members as Instruments of unrighteousness unto Sin; but yield your selves unto God, as those that are alive from the Dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” Rom. 6, 13. And I prest upon them to endeavour after habitual Holiness, because of the great Danger and Destruction ensuing upon a wicked Course of Life. As the Apostle also acquaints us, “For the Wages of Sin is Death: But the Gift of God is eternal Life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Rom. vi. 23.

Two of them having been Convicted of Murder, I us’d many Motives and Arguments to convince them of the greatness of their Guilt. I show’d them that this was one of the blackest and most atrocious Crimes, Man was capable of committing, and that therefore, by all Laws Divine and Humane, the Punishment annext to this Sin is Death by the Sword of publick Justice. The History Moses gives us of the Creation and the antediluvian World, is Compendious, and the Account of the Flood itself, and the Times immediately following is but very short; yet that holy Man, inspir’d by the Spirit of God, in an extraordinary Manner, not making mention of other Laws and Customs proper to those very antient Times, takes particular Notice, no doubt as well knowing how prone Mankind is to prosecute Malice and Revenge, by extending their Resentment of suppos’d or real Injuries or Affronts too great a Length of Gods express Command, that the Murderer should by no Means pass unpunished, but that he should die a violent Death by the Hand of Justice. “And surely your Blood of your Lives will I require: At the Hand of every Beast will I require it; and at the Hand of Man, at the Hand of every Mans Brother will I require the Life of Man. Whosoe sheddeth Mans Blood, by Man shall his Blood be shed: For in the Image of God made he Man.” Gen, ix. 5, 6. Yet notwithstanding the greatness of their Sins, I desired them to throw themselves upon the Mercy of God which is Infinite, and if with David and Manasseh, who were true Penitents for the same Sin and Crime, they truly and sincerely repented, even of this henious Sin of Murder, then God would receive them into Favour, and Pardon that Sin, as he did remit the same to others; for Pardon is promis’d in general to a true Repentance for all his Sins without exception.

I instructed them also in the most important Affair of the Lords Supper, as a special Means to avert their Thoughts from all sinful Appetites, to dispose their Minds for receiving the Grace of God, and to prepare them for the Glories of a future State.

While these and many other good Instructions were given, all of them attended in Chapel; only James Berry was indispos’d for some Days, but behav’d Christianly, and show’d a great Desire to take the Sacrament, as did also some of the rest, and in general they behav’d with a better outward Decorum, than these unhappy Creatures use to do. Peaverly the poor Boy was also Sick for some Time, and carried himself always very decently. When I ask’d him, why he robb’d his Master of so great a Sum of Money as 48 Guineas, and what he intended to do with it, or if any Body advis’d him to such a Crime? He said he could not tell why he did it, that he knew not what to do with it, but to cram his Belly with good Victuals, and that no Body advis’d him, but that it was a Motion of his own wicked Heart. All of them made regular Responses; Butler and Lynn, although they declar’d themselves Romans, yet they gave close Attendance in Chapel, excepting one Afternoon, made Responces and comply’d with the Worship, as did the rest in time of Worship; they read a little too loud upon some Romish Manuals they had; but when I reprov’d them for it, and told them our Worship was such as no Christian could in Reason refuse to comply with, although there might be some other Differences, they did so no more, but were attentive with the rest.

Upon Tuesday, the 11th Instant, the Report was made to his Majesty in Council, of the nine Malefactors under Sentence of Death in Newgate: When John Butler and Francis Lynn, alias Glynn, of St. Giles’s in the Fields, for assaulting Edward Dyer on the King’s Highway, putting him in Fear, and taking from him a Hat, val. 5 s. and a Muslin Stock, val. 6 d. the 23d of August last; John Peaverley, of St. George’s Hanover-square, for feloniously stealing a Purse, val 2d. and 48 Guineas, in the Dwelling House of Robert Dickenson, the 25th of April last; and James Owen, of St. Bartholomew’s-Exchange, for feloniously stealing a Bank-Note, value 100 l. the Property of Thomas Butler, the 4th of February last, receiv’d his Majesty’s most gracious Reprieve.

The other Five, viz. James Berry, Ambrose Newport, Richard Cooper, Richard Trap and Francis Woodmarsh were order’d for Execution.

Francis Woodmarsh, of St. George Hanover-Square, was indicted for the Murder of Robert Ormes, giving him one mortal Wound with a Sword, on the left Part of the Body, near the left Pap, the Length of half an Inch, and the Depth of six Inches, of which he instantly died, the 19th of April last.

He was likewise indicted a second Time, upon the Coroners Inquest, for the Murder of the said Robert Ormes.

1. Francis Woodmarsh, 33 Years of Age, born in North-, of honest respected Parents, who liv’d much in Y-, and gave him good Education at School, in reading, writing, Latin, and Accompts, to fit him for the World, and instructed him carefully in the Principles of our holy Christian Faith. He did not go to any particular Business, when of Age, but acted the Gentleman more than any Thing else; he serv’d some Time in the Army, and was advanc’d (as he said) to be an Ensign in a marching Regiment, but soon left that Business; and afterwards not following any particular Trade of Life, ’tis to be feared he was too much addicted to Iddleness. He was married to a Wife, who appear’d to be a good, discreet Woman, whom he commended as such, and recommended to the Care and Kindness of his Friends, who were People of Respect. He had some Children, but they had all the good Fortune to Die before him. He said, he serv’d a Person of Prime Quality, till he went Abroad some Years ago, but without Hopes of returning in haste; and that some of his Friends serv’d that noble Family for some Generations past. He was a Kind of Dealer in Wigs; when any great Man, whom he knew, wanted a Wig, he us’d to make or provide him One, and by that he sometimes made 2 or 3 Guineas, which was the mot he had to Live upon for some Time past. He said, that about the Time of the late Rebellion, he did several good Services, kept some Gentlemen from joyning in that unnatural Rebellion, and travail’d over best Part of England and Scotland upon that Occasion.

His Father had an Estate and a good Farm in the Country, bestow’d very liberally upon him, and gave him several Sums of Money, of which he never made any good Account, and for that Reason, he had not much left him by his Father, and was he less esteem’d by his Relations. He said, that he was a sober Man, kept the Church, hated Cursing and Swearing, and other Vices, that he read his Book much, shunn’d idle Company, and lov’d a quiet, peaceable Life.

The Account he gave of the Murder of Robert Ormes, for which he died, was to this Purpose.

On the 19th Day of April last, which was Easter-Monday, he walk’d out alone, as far as Chelsea, for his Diversion: When he was upon his Return to Town, the Sun was pretty hot, and he being thirsty, went into on Ale house in Chelsea-Fields, where there was a Company of People, altogether Strangers to him, who Swore and Blasphem’d very much; he was impatient at the hearing of this, and gently reprov’d them, saying that there could be no Profit in using such execrable Oaths, and that it would be much better to be more Smooth in their Conversation, and not to provoke God, by such vain and very sinful Repetitions. They did not think him a proper Person to administer Reproof, but gave him Names, which he took to be opprobrious, and call’d them Scrubs; but insisted that he was a Gentleman and a Scholar, and repeated Si Deus est animas, &c. They bid him pay his Reckoning and begone, and said, they doubted if he had any Money in his Pocket, &c. several satyrical Expressions having past, he was weary of their Company, paid his Three-half-pence, for a Pint of Beer, and went off. The Deceas’d Mr. Ormes, his Wife, and the rest of the Company went out after him, and some of them swore, and cried out to dash out the I-n’s Brains. Upon which they beat him unmercifully, with their Canes and Sticks, upon the Head and other Parts of the Body. He was confounded and knew not what to do, but thought upon nothing but his being murther’d: To save himself, he retir’d a good Way, till he came to the Garden hedge, then he drew his Sword to defend himself, and call’d out to hold off and beware of him, being upon his own Defence. At this Time, Mr. Ormes, (as he suppos’d) rush’d upon his Sword and was kill’d, which was the easier done, because his Breast was naked, as he said. And more than this he knew nothing of the Matter: Only to extenuate the Affair, he said, he was very short-sighted, and never saw Ormes, nor none of the Company.

This is an Account, which contradicts the Evidence of the Prosecutor, and all who were against him, who swore possitively, that he stabb’d Mr. Ormes, without any Provocation, and that they did not see him receive any Stroaks with a Cane. I told him it was not probable, so many People would witness any Thing but Truth, without varying; but after all the Reasons could be us’d for an ingenious Confession, he never alter’d in his Narrative to me, nor to all those who visited him in the Prison, under Sentence, to whom he always repeated the same Thing, with abundance of Tears trickling down his Cheeks. He said he commonly walk’d out with a Sword, (which was very unfortunate to him, on that unhappy Day); although contrary to the Advice of his nearest Friends.

The Reason he gave for dressing like a Gentleman, was, because he had once been an Officer in the Army, and he also expected to get into the Service of some great Man, to whom his fine Dress would be one Recommendation. He made no Reflections, but only said, he heard Mr. Ormes was Quarrelsome.

He was Pusillanimous and of a mean Spirit, always wept and cried like a Child, when he told his Case to any Body, the Tears gush’d out in a very strange Manner, so that he could scarce speak because of his deep Sighs and Groans. I comforted him against the Fears of Death, but he remain’d inconsolable. I often told him, that his undiscretion, in medling with Strangers, of whom he knew nothing off, and with whom he had nothing to do, was the occasion of the unhappy Misfortune that happened; and therefore, laying aside all Pretences of Excuse, seeing he was legally Convicted, it was his Duty to repent of that grievous Sin of Murder: He said he did so, but it’s to be fear’d, he had some Reserve; and it’s certain, there could not be a Man more unwilling, and more afraid of Death than he was.

He had been of a careless and idle Disposition, which exposed him to Temptations, and brought him to a violent and shameful Death. He behav’d well, and appear’d very penitent. He declar’d that he hop’d for Salvation thro’ Christ, that he sincerely repented of all his Sins, and forgave all Injuries, as he expected Forgiveness from God.

On Wednesday Evening, the second Day before their Execution, One in a Lay-Habit, whom they supposs’d to be a R-sh P-st, came to him and spoke silently in his Ear, That it was necessary for him to Turn, for that there was no Salvation out of their Church. Woodmarsh was but a weak Man in his Intellectuals, and he said this Assertion of that Stranger, put him into the greatest Agony and Perplexity immaginable, all the next Night. I told him, he need not be afraid to trust his Salvation upon the Mercy of God, through the Merits of Jesus Christ; and that their Way of Instruction was, to teach Men to confide in their own Merits, and the intercession of the Saints, which was an uncertain Way of obtaining the Favour of God, and contrary to Scripture-Revelation. He was content, and said he did not believe him; but that being so near Death, it put him in no little Confusion, to hear himself upbraided, as if he had liv’d in so gross an Error all his Life.

This is a Freedom, which those of our Communion dare not take in some neighbouring Countries.

The following ACCOUNT of the Killing of Mr. Ormes, was delivered by Francis Woodmarsh, to a Gentleman in the Press-Yard, in Newgate, the Morning before his Execution, (in the Sight of a great Number of People there present,) and by him requested to be delivered to Mr. Applebee, to be publish’d to the World.-

As it is customary for Persons under my unhappy Circumstances to declare the Truth at their last Moments concerning the Fact for which they Suffer: I hope by this to satisfie the World as to the real Truth; tho’ things have been much misrepresented, which have done me no small harm.

ON Easter-Monday last, towards the Evening, calling at the Three Moor-Cocks in Chelsea-Fields (by my self) for a pint of Beer, I unluckily happen’d to go into the Room where Mr Ormes the Deceas’d was with his Friends, all Strangers to me, and all of them seem’d to be much in Liquor; and some of them talking very Profanely, I took the Liberty to Reprove them. At which the Wife of the Deceas’d was very Angry, and used me with a great deal of Ill manners, and gave me very abusive Language, and prompted Mr. Ormes her Husband to Quarrel with me; and her Expression was to knock my Brains out, with several other indecent Expressions, unbecoming her Sex; upon which I paid my Reckoning, and was going out of their Company; but to my great Surprize, Mr. Ormes push’d me out of Doors, and pursued me seven or eight Yards, giving me several Blows with his Cane, which at last obliged me to Draw my Sword in my own Defence, not with any Intention to Kill the Deceased, but only to make him desist from abusing me; but the Deceased-still pursuing me with his Blows, the unlucky Accident happened, for which I am immediately going to suffer Death.

I had no premeditated Design against the Deceased, he being an utter Stranger to me, having never seen him before.

Mrs. Middleton, the Landlady of the House, was in the Celler when I went out of the House, and so could not possibly see whether Mr. Ormes struck me or not, though she swore to the contrary; and likewise gave a false Description of the Ground, to discredit the Evidence of Mr. Bell, who appear’d as an Evidence for me: For which I pray God Almighty to Forgive her, as I do the rest of the Evidences that were then in Company, who I think aggravated Matters to the Court.

As for Mr. Bell, he was an utter Stranger to me, I never having seen him to my Knowledge, till the Time of my Trial, he coming voluntarily to declare the Truth, which was to the same Effect as I have already related, as to the Deceased’s following and striking me; for which I have been inform’d, he has been reflected on: But to do him Justice, I have, by the Assistance of my Friends, obtain’d a Certificate, under the Hands of his Officers, in regard to his Character, which I have hereunto annex’d, and which if I had produc’d on my Trial, I believe might have been of Service to me; but my Trial coming on so soon after my Commitment, prevented me from making so proper a Defence for myself, as otherwise I might have done.

I hope I have made my Peace with God Almighty, through the Merits of my Saviour Jesus Christ, for this and all other my past Offences.

I die an unworthy Member of the Church of England, and beg the Prayers of all good Christians.

May 14, 1731.

Francis Woodmarsh.

A Copy of a Certificate of Mr. Edmond Bells Character, who was an Evidence for the Prisoner; (Sign’d by his Officers)

WE whose Names are hereunto Subscribed, do Certifie, That we have known some Years Edmond Bell, now a Corporal in Lieutenant Col. Henry Wingfields Company in his Majesty’s First Regiment of FootGuards, Commanded by the Right Hon. Sir Charles Wills, and that we have always found him to be a Person of Integrity and Honesty; and that we do believe he wou’d not Swear or Depose any thing but the Truth, upon any Account whatsoever.

As Witness our Hands this 6th, day of May, 1731.

H. Wingfield, Col.

M. Rawlins, Capt.

R. Walter, Ensign & Adjutant.

Richard Cooper, of St. Catherine Creed-church, was indicted for the Murder of Margaret Harle, alias Hall, by giving her one mortal Wound with a Pistol and leaden Bullet upon the right Part of the Bck, of the depth of five Inches, of which she instantly died, the 16th of April last.

He was likewise indicted a 2d Time on the Coroners Inquest for the same.

2. Richard Cooper, 28 Years of Age, Born of honest Parents in the Strand, who gave him good Education at School, in Reading, Writing, casting Accompts, &c. and instructed him in religious Principles. His Father, who was a Maker of Gold and Silver Lace, Died and left him Young; and when he was of Age, his Mother put him to a Shoe-maker, and his Master dying in two or three Years, and he not liking that Employment, would not be turn’d over, but follow’d after that, (as he call’d it) publick Business in Taverns and Shops, by way of a Servant or Porter.

In this Station he serv’d an Apothecary near Covent-Garden upwards of six Years; during which Time he was in Love with a young Woman, and was in Terms of Marriage with her: But after he had Spent all his Money in attending and treating her upon all Occasions, she gave him the Slip and married another young Man, with whom (as he observ’d) she liv’d but a miserable and comfortless Life.

But this Disappointment prov’d still a greater Misfortune to him, for he being naturally inclin’d to Melancholy, and his Mother, who was left in pretty good Circumstances by his Father, having lost her Money by supporting a naughty Brother, who is gone beyond Seas, and an unlucky Sister, and he having advanc’d some Money upon their Account, he turn’d altogether discontented, and would not serve the Gentleman, who had been a very kind Master to him any longer, but came and engag’d in the Service of Mr. Day a Gentleman of the same Business in Leaden-Hall-Street, where he had the Misfortune to Murther the poor Girl Margaret Hall, for which he died.

At first he own’d that he kill’d the Maid, but said, it was only by Accident, by Reason of the Pistol being cock’d, and its going off as he took it out of his Pocket he knew not how; but before he died, he own’d that he did it purposely, and being ask’d Why? He said he knew no Reason, but the violent Temptation of the D-l. He denied that he had any premeditated Design, and that there ever was any Difference between them excepting some hasty Words, which may happen in any House, when Persons live together any considerable Time, as he liv’d with her seven Months. As to the cutting or hurting her Arm, he said it was only accidentally.

His Master said, he lost two good Servants, he having been with him nine or ten, and she seven Months. He said, he was always very honest and obliging to his Masters, and that by Serving seven Years about. Apothecaries Shops, he had acquir’d some knowledge of the Business, could make up Drugs and understood Receipts. He had of a long Time thought upon doing away with himself, and some Years ago he threw himself into the Thames but was drag’d out alive; and some Time ago he bought a pocket Pistol for the same Purpose, and (as he said) he intended to shoot himself with it in the back Room, at the same Time he murdered the Maid, but his Master coming in interrupted him, and then he going to the Kitchen, he was tempted to Discharge it in the poor Maids Back, as she was throwing up Coals into the Fire, of which Wound she immediately died, only having gone some Steps into the Shop, she said, Richard had shot, kill’d or murther’d me.

He was so indifferent about Life that he made no Application for saveing it, as all of them commonly do. He said, there was no Reason for alledging that he Shot the Maid, because She would not allow off to great Familiarities, for he never intended, nor proposed any such Thing. He had been of a Peevish, Surly and melancholy Disposition; he spoke much and fast, and was of a Hasty passionate Temper; but was not Mad or out of his Senses as they represented him to have been. I represented to him the evil of Murder, especially, Self-murder, and desir’d him to Repent of those Sins particularly. He said he did so, and beg’d Grace of God to assist him. He was never much guilty of Cursing, Swearing, Drinking or Whoring, tho’ not altogether free of those Vices. He had some good and virtuous Inclinations, and when he was not necessarily detain’d, he went to Church. He declar’d himself Penitent for all his Sins, that he hop’d for Salvation through the Merits of Jesus Christ his only Saviour, and that he died in Peace with all the World.

James Berry, of St. Peter’s-Poor, was Indicted for Burglariously breaking the House of John Mendez de Costa, and feloniously taking 6 Silver Spoons value 40 Shillings, a Silver Tankard, value 7 l. the 29th of March last.

3. James Berry, Sixty-five years of Age, born in Lancashire of honest Parents, who gave him Education at School according to their Ability, and had him instructed in religious Principles. They bred him to House-painting, at which Trade he serv’d out his Time, and afterwards liv’d in a creditable, honest way; married a Wife, and had several Children, some of whom, both Sons and Daughters, are now married and following business in an honest way in the Country. He was a Soldier in the Wars of Flanders seven Years, and serv’d there to the satisfaction of his Officers; and afterwards he went to Sea, and was Cook of a Ship two or three Years. In all the different Stations of Life he had been in (as he said) he behav’d himself well, and had still a good Character and Reputation. For a great many Years past he liv’d in or about London, and his late Wife Nurss’d a Son to Mr. De Costa whom he robb’d twenty Years ago, and liv’d after that for the most part in his House as a Servant, and both he and she were very much oblig’d to that Family, for both of them had much of their Bread to eat. Him they employ’d to wash and Paint their House, and about other little Affairs, and her they kept as a Servant, so that he was very ungrateful in robbing his Benefactor. About a Year ago his Wife died, and in a very short Time, though he was pretty well advanc’d in Years, yet he ventur’d upon a second Wife; and not having to support her and keep up a Family, and his old Friend upon some Misbehaviour, having Discharg’d him his House, and he not being capable to Discharge some old Debts, his Creditors thought fit to take out an Execution upon his Goods. The poor old Man could not tell what to do in this Extremity, but knowing perfectly the Situation of De Costa’s House, without imparting his Mind to any Body whatsoever, he thought fit, by breaking softly with his Hand a Pane or Two of Glass, to open the KitchenWindows in the Night-time, and to take the Silver Tankard and six Silver Spoons, mention’d in the Indictment. He declar’d his Wife knew nothing of all this, but afterwards the Goods being once in their Possession, his Wife and he went in Company to Pawn the Plate, that they might have Money advanc’d to pay off a 4 l. Debt, for which he was then distress’d by the Landlord, who seiz’d his Goods. But the Pawn-Broker, and a Goldsmith employ’d to weigh the Plate finding them to be advertis’d, as stollen Goods from a certain Person, stopt them, and then Berry was taken up, imprison’d, convicted and Executed for the said Crime. He was always very Penitent while under Sentence, and behav’d with a deal of christian Submission, having never been guilty of any Dishonesty in his Life, as he said, excepting the Crime for which he died. He lov’d to keep the Church and follow’d a regular Life; only upon his Travels and the rambling Part of his Life, he had been sometimes Irregular, but not much as he told me. Two or three Days before he died, he was in a little Passion, but when I represented to him the unseasonableness of being so, he declar’d he was very Sorry and Penitent for it. He declar’d, that he firmly believ’d, that he should be Saved by the Mercy of God through Christ, that he sincerely Repented of all his Sins, in Evidence whereof he often shed Tears, and that, he forgave all injuries done him, as he expected forgiveness from God.

Ambrose Newport, of Thistleworth, was Indicted for feloniously Stealing a black-brown Mare, value six Pound, the Property of Charles Clinch, the 26th Day of April last.

4. Ambrose Newport, Twenty-one Years of Age, born in a Country Town in Wiltshire, of honest Parents, who educated him at School, so as to fit him for Business, suitable to their Station, and got him instructed in religious Principles.

When of Age, his Father educated him to his own Business, which was that of a Gardiner; this Trade he followed for some Time, but being soon weary of constant Employment, he betook himself to an idle Life, going about the Country, and keeping wicked Company, which in the End prov’d his Ruin.

But all this, (as he said) happen’d after his Father’s Death, who by his paternal Authority, kept him in some Order; but when his Parents were once dead, being left without any Restraint, he gave himself up to all Manner of Wickedness, and could not be holden in, by any of his Relations or Acquaintances. His Brother’s Admonitions, (who often told him, that he would certainly be hang’d,) were of no Manner of Effect, but he still continu’d an abandon’d Wretch, forsaking every Thing that’s Good or Virtuous.

He continu’d in this Course of Life, and refuss’d the Advice of all those who endeavour’d to Reclaim him.

About Michaelmas last, he met with a Company of common Thieves, House-breakers, Highway-men, and Horse-stealers, who did his Business at once, and brought him to his fatal End.

They advised him to engage in their Gang, and all gave him fair Promises, that he should never Want, while he had Success in their laudable Enterprizes. He being of a perverse Disposition, too readily concurr’d with them, and succeeded in the stealing of five or six Horses, till at length the unlucky Mare, for which he died, was his final Overthrow.

He confess’d that he Stole the Mare, which he sold at Brentford; and that his Sentence was just, according to Law, that he had Stollen several other Horses, and had been guilty of many other Crimes, such as Housebreaking, Highway, Robbing, Picking, Stealing, Whoring, Drinking to Excess, Swearing and Blaspheming, and that he knew no Kind of Sin he had not committed, excepting Murder, or some such atrocious Sins.

He acknowledg’d that he suffer’d most justly, for his Contempt of God and Transgression of his Laws, and for his neglecting the good Admonitions of his Instructors and Well-wishers.

He always behav’d very well, both in Publick and Private, and made regular Responses to the Prayers. He declar’d that he believ’d in Jesus Christ, repented of all his Sins, and died in Peace with all Mankind.

Richard Trap, alias Blue Dick, of Paddington, was Indicted for assaulting John Monk, on the Highway, putting him in Fear, and taking from him two Cloth Coats, Value thirty Shillings, a Wastcoat, a Pair of Boots and Spurs, a Guinea, a half Guinea, and twelve Shillings in Money, the 19th of March last.

5. Richard Trap, about 26 Years of Age, of mean Parents in Dorsetshire, who gave him no Education at School, having a numerous Family of Children, for whom they could not provide.

When of Age, he learn’d to be a Bricklayer, and a Pavier; and by following those Employments, he gain’d his Bread. Business not being very brisk in the Country at some Times, he us’d to came up to London about Harvest Time for some Years past, and Wrought at Country Work, Brick-laying, or Paving of the Streets as he could be Employed.

He fell in Love with, and lately Married a young Woman at Harrow on the Hill, which occasion’d his coming oftner to, and staying longer in or about London than he intended.

As for the Highway-Robbery Sworn against him, he said he knew nothing of it, and that Humphreys who swore himself an Accomplice, knew as little of it as he; but that he was induc’d to do it upon some other Motive. After all the Arguments could be us’d for an ingenious Confession; he still said, he did not do the Robbery, but that he was at Home all the Night it was committed, in Company with his Wife at Harrow on the Hill; and that Humphreys the Evidence was all that Night in the same House with them.

He own’d, he had been a great Sinner in several Respects, but that he was never Guilty of Thieving or Robbery in his Life. Under his Misfortunes he behav’d very Decently and Christianly; and though he was no Scholar yet he was very attentive to Prayers and Exhortations, and appear’d to have some Sense of Religion upon his Spirits. He hop’d for Salvation through the Merits of Jesus Christ our Lord, Repented of all his Sins, and died in perfect Peace with all Mankind.

At the Place of EXECUTION.

Francis Woodmarsh and Richard Cooper, had another Divine, who came that Morning they died, and gave them the Sacrament privately in the Cells.

Cooper came up to Prayers, but Woodmarsh staid below with some of his Friends. Under the Tree, he was in great Confusion and Disorder and a mighty Terrour of Death: He seem’d to be a little Stupid, and call’d aloud two or three Times in Time of Prayer, wanting to speak with Some-body. Some of his fellow Sufferers bid him be quiet. He was impatient to know when they would be turn’d off. He had no further Confessions, but insisted too much upon his Innocence, saying, he had no ill Intention, and knew nothing of any Body being Kill’d, that he only defended himself, &c. When he had hung a little, he was stript naked to the Skin, (by the Executioner) a very undecent Spectacle; and likewise Berry was strip’d naked at the same Time by the Executioner, only leaving his Breeches on.

Cooper had no more to say.

Richard Trap adher’d to his former Confessions, going to Death with a positive Denial of the Fact he died for, or that he was ever guilty either of Theft or Robbery in his Life.

Newport said he was griev’d for his most sinful and wicked Life, but that he hop’d God out of his infinite Mercy would Pardon him.

James Berry earnestly desir’d hearty Prayers to be offer’d up to God for them. They were all serious at Prayers and Singing of Psalms, and ment off the Stage, crying to God, to have Mercy upon them, and the Lord Jesus would receive their Spirits. &c.

This is all the Account given by me,

JAMES GUTHRIE,

Ordinary of Newgate.

ADVERTISEMENTS.

Just publish’d,

A Rational and Useful ACCOUNT of the VENERAL DISEASE: with Observations on the Nature, Symptoms, and Cure, and the bad Consequences that attend by ill Management; with proper Admonitions; recommended as a Friendly Instruction to all Persons who do, or may, labour under this Misfortune.

ALSO

A short Enquiry into Old GLEETS, and other Weaknesses; whether from Veneral Embraces, Self Pollution, or Natural Imbecillity, and the Reason why they are so seldom cur’d: With the Author’s Method of Cure.

To which is added,

Some Hints of the Practical Scheme, the Methods and and Medicines therein expos’d, and the gross Impositions justly detected. With an Account of Specificks, the Use and Abuse of the Name, and how it covers Ignorance and a Cheat.

The Eighth Edition, corrected, with Additons.

By JOSEPH CAM, M. D.

Evasti? credo metues, doctusque cavebis.

Quares quando it erum paveas, iterumque perire

Possis o toties servus! -Horat.

Principiis obsta. -Ovid.

LONDON: Printed for the Author, and Sold at his House in Bow Church Yard in Cheapside; and by E. Midwinter, in St. Paul’s-Church-Yard, Price stitch’d, one Shilling.

Soap sold by Retale.

THE best Cuttings at Four-Pence

Half Penny a Pound; and very good Green Soap, at Four Pence a Pound; which is very sweet, will wash as well, and go as far as the best Crown Soap, and is a Penny a Pound cheaper, by William Cowpland, Soap Maker at the 3 Pidgeons and Crown in the Old Bailey, near Ludgate Hill. He also Makes and Sells, fine hard Soap, white Barrel Soap, and all his other sorts of Soap Wholesale as well as Retale, for Ready Money, at the very lowest Prices, even tho’ a Child be sent for them.

He likewise makes and sells, his admirable new invented Liquid Soap, at one shilling a Pint, which is as clear as Canary, and smells more pleasant than any Perfume, it being the only Soap yet known for washing the finest Laces, Muslins, Cambricks, Silks, Callicoes, &c. even in cold Water as well as hot, and is highly esteemed by most of the best Quality in England, for washing and beautifying the Hands and Face, as also by Gentlemen for shaving. Only to be had as above directed of William Cowpland, who having petitioned his Majesty to grant him his Royal Letters Patents for the sole making thereof, hath obtained the Honourable Attorney General’s Report in his Favour.

THE ROYAL COSMETICK;

To beautify and cleanse the Face, Neck, and Hands, and to preserve the Complection of Ladies and Others: Devised by several learned Physicians, and used by Queens; Princesses, and other Ladies of Quality, in Italy, Germany, France, and England.

Which, for its excellent Virtues, exceeds all others, and beautifies the Face, Neck, and Hands, to the utmost Perfection, giving a charming Lustre and fine Air to the Features, rendering the Face delicately fair, plump, and smooth, though before ever so ordinary; instantly causing a youthful Fairnes, to Admiration, making a Person look young though old; it makes rough and red Hands exceeding white and smooth, infallibly taking away Redness, Wrinkles, Pimples, Spots, Worms, Morphews, Sun-Burns, Heats, or any other Discolourings of the Skin. It nourishes, plumps, smooths, clears and softens the Skin to the last Degree. It likewise heals Chops of the Lips, Hands, and Arms to Admiration.

The Use of it is so clean, and it hath so pleasant a Flavour, that nothing can exceed it; and is therefore a most excellent Thing to preserve or regain a fine Skin and Complection.

Prepared and Sold by the Author, a Chymist, at his House, the second Door on the Right Hand in Bride-lane, near Fleetstreet; ’tis also Sold at Robotham’s Toy-shop without Whitechappel Bars; at Mr. Neal’s Toy-shop opposite the Whiteheart Inn in the Borough of South- ark; and at Mr. Greg’s, Bookseller, next Northumber-land-house, Charing cross.

Price 3 s. 6 d. a Bottle.

Where is also Sold,

FOR a certain CURE of the SCURVEY, and all SCORBUTICK HUMOURS, is recommended the Tincture Magnum, Anti-Scorbuticum: Or, The Grand Anti-Scorbutick Purging-Tincture of Scurvy Grass; prepared after a new compendious Method, whereby is, made much more beneficial in purging the Blood of all salt brinish, and watery Humours, thn any Preparation heretofore prepared of that Sovereign Herb; to be taken any Time of the Year, but more especially Spring and Fall.

At One Shilling a Battle.

An ADDRESS to the GENTLEMEN, By Dr. GREGORIUS, (Noted for his Skill in Surgery and Anatomy, as well as Physick and Chymistry.)

Who having observ’d the frequent Advertisements in the News Papers, of one and another Single Medicine, said to cure all Sorts of Gleets, and Seminal Weaknesses, which their Authors confound together, as if there were no Difference between them, has been prevail’d upon, by his Friends, in this Publick Manner, to inform, and undeceive those who have unwarily been brought into either, (or both together, as it sometimes happens) of these perplexing, draining Imbecilities.

That where the Gleeting is only from a Laxity of the Glands in the Urethra, what leaks and drills away insensibly from them, through the Urinary Passage, and spots or smears the Linnen, though it be yellowish, yet being without Pain, or any ill-condition’d Disorder, is no more than Mucus, and must be cured one Way.

And where it is a Seminal Weakness, that which slips away involuntarily, though it be thin, watery, and unelaborate, either by itself, in the Day-time, or a Nights too frequently, or profusely in the Sleep, or with the Upine, or upon Stool, whether from an Acrimony, or Deravity of the Juices, or by over straining the Spermatick Vessels, or both, is Seed, and is to be remedied another, inasmuch, as that Medicine which will cure the one, will not cure the other, and (vice versa) as every Practitioner that knows the Nature, Make, and different Situation of the Parts ministring to Generation, will allow; and that for want of this due Distinction, and right Application, it is, that so many People are disappointed of Cure; and by Continuance of the Gleetings are drain’d, as they are, into Impotencies, or Infertili, ties, which as it hinders their Marrying, gives them great Anxiety, and the more, when attended, as in some, with Pain and Weakness in the Back and Reins; or as, in others, with Difficulty, or Dribblings of the Urine in, or after making it, which at Length comes away either foul, sharp, slimy, or of an ill Smell.

As this is so in Fact, and the Doctor well known to have experienc’d, in numberless Instances, the noble and neverfailing Effects of Two particular Balsamick Electuaries, which he spared no Pains or Expence to find out, the one to restrain the Mucus, and the other, the involuntary shedding of the Seed, by their respectively bracing up the Fibres, and restoring the Tone and Springiness of the relaxed Glands and Seminals, invigorating the Genitals, and fertilizing the Seed, was also perswaded to recommend their Use, that those, who, for a long while together, had tried other Medicines for the same Weaknesses, and by their not succeeding, concluded themselves incurable, might be convinc’d by their speedy Amendment and Recovery by these, that it was not the Incurability of their Malady, but the wrong Method they had been in for Cure,

But yet, in either of the said Two Weaknesss, or where it happens that they are complicated, and have proceeded, either from Self-Abuses, excessive, or over straining Coitions, or from over Purgations in Venereal Cures, or any other Cause, as a Flux of Humours generally falls down and settles upon all weakened Parts, rendering them still the weaker, and these tender nervous Parts more especially: The first Step to be taken in order to make way for a regular and substantial Cure, (and without which it is not to be accomplished) must, in a pecular Manner, be to correct, and gently divert those Humours; and the only Medicine he could ever rely upon to do this effectually, that is to overcome the Cause, and introduce the Cure of the most difficult of these Weakness, (even where the Vessels had been obstructed, Manhood greatly enfeebl’d, and in some, well nigh extinct, or at least not able to touch a Woman, but ad primum labiorum contactum, semen emittunt;) has been his Preparing Pills, of which when the Patient has taken only three Doses, at due Distances he is to begin (and not before) with one or t’other (or both together, as the Case may chance to be) of the said Two Electuaries, which how to distinguish in, and how to proceed with, the printed Directions, wrap’d up with the Pills, do so plainly shew, that no Persons, even of the meanest Capacities, can be any Loss to understand them; but will, by their observing the easy Rules therein laid down, have their Blood and whole Body, well cleans’d and purified, the debilated Parts strengthened, and by Degrees, compleatly, and lastingly invigorated and restored, so as to be enabled quickly, and safely to Marry, without the least Need of any further, or other Advice or Medicine.

They are to be had, Price 7 s. 6 d. the Box, sealed up-ready to be deliver’d to any Messenger, upon only asking for, A Box of Pills, at Mr. Payne’s, a Bookseller, at the Crown, facing the Chapter Coffee-house, in PaternosterRow.

Note, The said Two Electuaries, viz, Numb, 1, for Gleets, and Numb. 2, for Seminal and Genital Weaknesses, are to be had there also, Price 7 s. 6 d. each Pot, and are likewise sealed up, and to be asked for by Electuary Number 1, or Electuary Number 2.

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1731: Elizabeth Needham fatally pilloried

Add comment April 30th, 2020 Headsman

On this date in 1731 the English madam Elizabeth Needham stood in the pillory at Park Place, St. James’s, London. It wasn’t a death sentence de jure … but it became one de facto.

“Mother Needham” kept one of London’s most renowned brothels, far more exclusive than the dives of Covent Garden, and she made herself famous enough in the 1710s and 1720s to rate a place in the burgeoning print culture: Alexander Pope makes sly reference to her in The Dunciad, and as Hogarth seems to have modeled the titular courtesan of his Harlot’s Progress plates upon her.


Needham was famous for her recruiting talent. Here, Hogarth’s pockmarked Needham figure inveigles a pretty lass — the series’s central character, “Moll Hackabout” — freshly arriving to London from the hinterlands, while actual Needham client (and notorious sex-beast*) Francis Charteris leers from the stoop. In a subsequent panel in this same series, Hackabout as a seasoned whore encounters another Executed Today customer.

In her heyday a variety of japes, capers, and scandals unfolded in her precincts, beyond the obvious that was her stock in trade. For a number of years she carried out business unmolested by any chastisement from the law, but she suffered a couple of arrests in the 1720s and the heat on London’s brothels escalated uncomfortably with the onset of the 1730s. Thus it was that the wily old procuress earned a conviction for keeping a disorderly house on April 29, 1731.

Her punishment included a small fine and the duty to stand twice in the pillory, exposed to public obloquy. We have already noted in these pages that the horrors of such an ordeal extended beyond the reputational to an outright threat to life and limb. While it was not unheard-of for the pillorying to invert into a ritual of celebration and triumph for its sufferer were the crowd in sympathy, “it would seem that the default crowd at the pillory attended in expectation of an aggressive event.” (“Sodomites in the Pillory in Eighteenth-century London” by Peter Bartlett, Social & Legal Studies, December 1997)

This image of a crowd expecting to abuse the convict is consistent with the report in Fogg’s Weekly Journal in November 1728:

One Mitchel stood in the Pillory in Little Britain, for designing to extort Money from a Gentleman, by threatening to swear a detestable Sin against him [i.e., sodomy] — It was reported that he was to stand again in Aldersgate-street, upon which Occasion the Populace assembled, having furnish’d themselves with dead Cats, and other Ammunition used upon such Occasions, but the Person who was to make all the Sport not appearing, they diverted themselves with throwing their dead Cats at one another.

Elizabeth Needham had a wide notoriety that would have been especially charged in a mob’s eyes by her association with a villain like Charteris: we see her in Hogarth’s illustration above (not yet completed as of the time of her death) as the corrupt agent of predatory magnates. Moreover, she was apparently already weakened by illness. And although she was suffered simply to lie face down on the stage rather than standing dangerously exposed in the apparatus — and although she could afford to hire bodyguards to keep the crowd somewhat at bay — she received the aggressive version of the crowd whose abuse proved fatal to her.

Rictor Norton’s invaluable compilations of reporting on eighteenth century crime capture grub street’s coverage of the frightful end of Mother Needham (and one unfortunate spectator):

The famous Mother Needham was set before the pillory facing Park-place. She was so very ill, that she laid along under the pillory, notwithstanding which she was severely pelted, and it is thought she will die in a day or two … A boy getting upon a lamp post near the pillory, fell from the same upon iron spikes, and tore his belly in so violent a manner, that his bowels came out, and he expired in a few hours in great agonies …

Tuesday, May 4. Yesterday morning died Mother Needham … She declared in her last words, that what most affected her was the terror of standing in the pillory to-morrow in New Palace-Yard, having been so ungratefully used by the populace on Wednesday … They acted very ungratefully, considering how much she had done to oblige them.

* Charteris caught his own death sentence in 1730 for raping a servant, although he had the pull to obtain a royal pardon — with the aid of one of those familiar squid-inking campaigns of smearing his victim and casting doubt on the circumstances. “All the world agree he deserved to be hanged long ago, but they differ whether on this occasion,” one noble confided to his diary.

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1733: Samuel Partridge, very stupid and unconcern’d

Add comment April 7th, 2020 Headsman

From the New England Weekly Journal, July 23, 1733 — a three-month-old news item (part of a roundup of dated minor dispatches) that had to cross the Atlantic from the mother country.

Ipswich, April 7.

Last Saturday Samuel Partridge was executed here, for robbing Mr. Barwell of Brockley in this City, of 31l, 10s., a Horse, and other Things, in Company with another Person not yet taken. He said he was born at Debden in Suffolk, that he was about 22 years of Age, and was brought up in Husbandry; he appeared to be very illiterate, for he could neither read nor write, and was entirely ignorant of the first Principles of Christianity. He denied the Fact for which he suffered, and said he was perswaded to own the Robbery by a Soldier that was in Halsted Bridewell with him, he telling him, that if he confessed the Fact he would come off very well; and that he advised him to say, that he had made use of a Bolt instead of a Pistol, and that he had hid it in a certain Place, where it was found according to his Direction. At the Place of Execution he seemed very stupid and unconcern’d; only, as directed, he called on God for Mercy when he was turned off.

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1733: Henry Neal, for shoes and breeches

Add comment January 29th, 2020 Headsman

That life is often cheap is Executed Today‘s stock in trade and few hanged cheaper than Henry Neal on this date in 19733.

Two bare entries at the Old Bailey Online constitute, we suspect, something close to the entirety of the documentary trail civilization holds for this soul.

Working backwards in time, we begin with the customary account of the Ordinary of Newgate, James Guthrie, of the twelvefold Tyburn hanging on January 29, 1733:

Henry Neal, Twenty Years of Age, his Father a Porter at Billingsgate died, and left him young, and his Mother being a poor Old Woman, could give him no Education at School, after he was Four Years Old; since which time he was forced to Work for his Bread at One Shilling per Week, and as he advanc’d in Years they gave him more. He commonly serv’d the Carters and Scavingers, till about Seven or Eight Months ago a Cart run over his Leg, which disabled him for Work. He own’d the robbing of Mr. Graves’s House, as was Sworn against him, but with a variation of Circumstances; for he said, that he only took the Hat, Breeches, and some small Things; but as to the Rings, the Guinea and a Half, he never saw them, as he said. He said, that he kept the Church, and was not very wicked, neither did he know the vile ways usually practis’d by such wicked People; and that what he did was merely for poverty and want, he having been disabled for Work, having fasted for three Days, and every body refusing him Charity. This is the Account he gave of himself, but as to the truth thereof, we leave it to others to judge thereupon. He was a poor ignorant Fellow, and knew but little of Religion. He declared himself Penitent for his Sins, that he believ’d in Christ his only Saviour, and that he died in Peace with all the World.


Here’s the preceding trial record that got him the noose, with testimony by those he robbed (the last of them seemingly written progressively to capture his distinctive accent):

Henry Neal, of St. Giles’s Cripplegate, was indicted for breaking and entring the House of William Graves, and stealing a Pair of Breeches, a Hat, a Pair of Shoes, 2 Gold Rings, a Guinea and a Half, and 2s. 6d. the Goods and Money of Richard Sims, and a Pair of Leather Breeches, the Goods of Tho Cecil, November 16, about ten at Night.

Richard Sims. I look after the Dog-house Bar. About six at Night the Prisoner came into the House, and desired me to let him warm himself by the Fire, for he said he had been with a Cart to Edmonton, and was very cold. He beg’d an old Pair of Shoes, upon which, I took Notice that those he had on were very bad; but I did not give him any. He staid till eight o’Clock, and then went away, and I shut up the Door as usual, and went to Supper at the Green Man on Windmill-Hill, and after Supper I returned to the House at the Bar, and went to Bed: Next Morning the Taylor came to mend my Breeches, which I had left in my Room overnight before I went to Supper, and there was two gold Rings, a Guinea and a half, and 2s. and 6d. in a brass Box in the Side-Pocket. I look’d for my Breeches but could not find ’em, and at the same Time I mist my Hat and my Shoes. Searching farther I found the Prisoner’s old Shoes, which were tied with Packthread, at the Door, and the Cellar Door was split in two. The Shoes made me suspect the Prisoner. Next week I met with him. He confess’d that he broke the Cellar-Door with a great Stone, and then thrust the wooden Bolt back, and got and took the Goods; that he had pawn’d the Hat in Golden-lane for 6d. and the Breeches in Turnbull-Street for a 1s. He went with me to those Places, and found them there. He had my Shoes upon his Feet.

– Thompson. I took the Prisoner in Coleman-street. I knew him before, and had heard there was a Warrant out against him. He had pilfer’d some Things while he had work’d with me there. I tax’d him with robbing Mr. Sims. He at first denied it, but afterwards own’d that he broke the Cellar-door open with a Stone, and had pawn’d the Hat and Breeches, but said he was drunk when he did it.

Tho. Cecil. I do keep the Dog-house-Bar for Mr. Graves, my Lord-Mayor’s Huntsman. My Breeches did hang up where I did lye, but being Zick, I was vorced to go home and leave’m there, and he have got ‘en on now.

Court. Go and look on ’em.

Cecil. Yes, these be they, I can zafely zwear to ‘n.

The Prisoner made no Defence, and the Jury found him Guilty. Death.

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1739: Elizabeth Harrard

Add comment December 21st, 2019 Richard Clark

(Thanks to Richard Clark of Capital Punishment U.K. for the guest post, a reprint of an article originally published on that site with some explanatory links added by Executed Today. CapitalPunishmentUK.org features a trove of research and feature articles on the death penalty in England and elsewhere. -ed.)

The recovery of the body of a tiny baby boy was carried out by the Beadle of Isleworth, Mr. John Thackery, on Saturday the 14th of July 1739. He had been summoned to the bank of the Powder Mills River by a local farmer, one Mr. Ions who had discovered the baby floating in the river. Mr. Ions had taken the baby from the water and placed it on the grass beside the bank. The Beadle examined the corpse and noted that it had only been in the water a short while and was not bloated. He also noted that the little boy had received a severe blow to the left side of the head and that there was congealed blood around the wound. John Thackery took the child to the Stock House and the Middlesex Coroner, Mr. Wright, was informed of the death. Whilst there Mr. Thackery was told that there was a suspicion that one Elizabeth Harrard, of Isleworth was the mother of the baby and he duly investigated this. Elizabeth was detained by the Overseers of the Poor for neighbouring Teddington and bought back to Isleworth. She was in a very weak condition and Thackery was ordered to get her a bed as she was too ill to be sent to Newgate prison.

After Elizabeth’s arrest a Mrs. Elizabeth Nell examined the prisoner in her capacity as a midwife. Elizabeth told Mrs. Nell that she had given birth to a baby, claiming that it had been born on the previous Monday in a field and that she had been disturbed by some men and left the baby. Mrs. Nell replied that she did not believe this story and Elizabeth told her that the child was stillborn. Again Mrs. Nell said she did not believe this as she could tell from the corpse that the baby had been born alive. It seems that Elizabeth did not realise that Mrs. Nell was a professional midwife and when this was pointed out to her, Elizabeth gave another version of events. She now told Mrs. Nell that the baby had been born alive and had survived for just fifteen minutes. Elizabeth was resting by the river bank after giving birth and had the child on her lap when it rolled off and fell into the river. Mrs. Nell persisted with her questioning and the story changed a little, with Elizabeth now saying that the baby had lived for thirty minutes and that she wrapped it part of her apron and threw it into the river after it had been dead for an hour. Mrs. Nell had examined the corpse after it was recovered and noted that there was no water in it, in other words it had not drowned and felt that the cause of death was a severe blow to the head.

The Inquest was held on Wednesday the 18th of July and the coroner directed Mr. Thackery to show the body to Elizabeth. She begged him not to saying “’tis my own child, born of my own body.” Thackery asked her how she could tell that it was her child without seeing it. Elizabeth continued to insist that it was her child and implored the Beadle not to open the coffin.

The coroner’s court found that the child had been murdered by its mother and Elizabeth was committed for trial at the Old Bailey. This took place on the 6th of September 1739 and evidence was brought against her by John Thackery, Mrs. Elizabeth Nell and Mrs. Elizabeth Thackery (the Beadle’s wife), with Samuel Goodwin giving evidence for Elizabeth. John Thackery related the above story to the court.

Mrs. Thackery, the Beadle’s wife, also gave evidence against Elizabeth. Her husband had initially taken Elizabeth to a pub called the Sign of the Bell after her arrest and had asked his wife to look after her. She told the court that she had asked Elizabeth if she was the mother of the baby that had been found and Elizabeth agreed that she was. She also named the father as one John Gadd whom she had lived with for some time but who had deserted her when she became pregnant. She had also had a previous pregnancy by him which had miscarried. Elizabeth confessed to Mrs. Thackery that the baby had been born alive and that she had put it into the river. She told Mrs. Thackery that she was very poor indeed and had nothing to wrap the baby in, other than an old piece of apron.

In her own statement Elizabeth told the court that on the day the baby died she had walked to Richmond to seek work and had to rest because she had gone into labour. The Beadle of Richmond came to her and refused to get a woman to help her, instead threatening her and telling her to leave the parish immediately. She was similarly treated by Beadle of Twickenham and left in the field by the river to sort out her problems by her self. She told the court that she was in a very poor physical condition by this time and that she did not know whether the baby was dead or alive. Mrs. Nell confirmed that Elizabeth had told her of the Beadle of Richmond refusing her any form of assistance.

The only witness for the defence, other than Elizabeth herself, was Samuel Goodwin. He told the court that he has seen Elizabeth with John Gadd on several occasions and that she had told him that Gadd had taken the apron from her after the baby was born, torn off a piece of it and wrapped the baby in it before taking it away. He implied that it was therefore Gadd who had thrown it into the river and not Elizabeth. Against the rest of the evidence this was not really convincing and the jury returned a verdict of guilty against Elizabeth.

The Folly, Extravagance, and Luxury of young Gentlemen at this Time, especially of those about the Inns of Court, is but too notorious: Would they take warning by my Example, they would undoubtedly prevent those shocking Evils that are the sure Attendants upon Extravagance and Debauchery. Let them in the full Career of their Pleasures, reflect upon me. I have enjoy’d all the mad Delights the World could supply me with, have exhausted my Patrimony, impair’d my Health, and embarrass’d my Circumstances, in the Pursuit of Pleasure, and the Gratification of the Passions; the Consequence of which Conduct and Indulgence, (with bitterness of Soul I speak it) is my inevitable Destruction. Dear Friends, let Moderation and Temperance guide you in pursuit of Pleasure, acquiesce in the Dispensations of Providence, rest satisfy’d with the Portion that Heaven has bless’d you with, and be scrupulously tender of every Man’s Property. I am now upon the Point of bidding an eternal Adieu to the World, and what I speak is, from the very bottom of my Soul, and from the clear Ideas I have of the Beauty and Excellence of Virtue and Sobriety, and the pernicious Result of Vice and Immorality. Finally, my Brethren, whatsoever Things are honest, whatsoever Things are just, whatsoever Things are lovely, whatsoever Things are of good Report, if there be any Praise, if there be any Honour, think on these Things.

-last letter of William Barkwith, another condemned executed on Elizabeth Harrard’s same hanging-day

She was returned to Newgate to await sentence at the end of the Sessions and was duly condemned to hang. The Recorder did not recommend leniency in Elizabeth’s case and so she was scheduled for execution on the next “hanging day” which was to be Friday the 21st of December 1739. With her in the carts that morning were John Albin, John Maw, William Barkwith, James Shields, Charles Spinnel and Thomas Dent, all of whom had been convicted of highway robbery, Richard Turner who was to hang for stealing in dwelling house and Edward Goynes who had murdered his wife.

The usual procession set off for the journey to Tyburn where the prisoners were prepared by John Thrift and his assistants before all ten were launched into eternity together as the carts were drawn from under them. After they were suspended Susanna Broom was led to a stake that had been set up near the gallows and strangled and then burned for the Petty Treason murder by stabbing of her husband, John.

Elizabeth was one of seven women who were hanged nationally in 1739, and one of four to die for the murder of her bastard child.

Comment. It is impossible in this day and age to imagine the mental and physical condition that Elizabeth was in at the time the baby died. She was totally destitute, abandoned by her boyfriend, in great pain, very weak from having just given birth and denied assistance of any kind by the authorities. If indeed she did kill her baby it is not hard to understand the total desperation that led her to do so. However none of these factors, all of which were either known to the court at the time, or were basically self evident facts, were seen as an excuse for her crime in 1739.

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1732: Edward Dalton, brotherly hate

Add comment October 9th, 2019 Headsman

On this date in 1732, Tyburn groaned with 13 men (no women) hanged en masse for various crimes — the most eye-catching of whom per the account of the ubiquitous Newgate Ordinary is surely

Edward Dalton, 26 Years of Age, Born in London, [and] Brother to James Dalton the famous Robber and Evidence, who was Executed last Year, as was thought upon the false Evidence of the infamous Waller

We have previously met in these pages that villainous brother, James Dalton. Jemmy was a serial robber and highwayman as sure as hemp is strong, but part of the lethal charge laid against him came courtesy of this “infamous Waller” who made his bones as an unscrupulous thief-taker, offering testimony fit to swing other fellows in order to secure reward purses.

James Dalton even in acknowledging several other charges that were plenty enough to hang him took violent exception to the mugging alleged by John Waller — for the latter was

a Man of a vile Character, that he was a common Affidavit Man, and was but lately, before the time charg’d in the Indictment, come out of Newgate himself; that though he himself had done many ill Things, and had deserv’d Death many times, yet not for this Fact, he being Innocent of it; and said, the Prosecutor was as great a Rogue as himself, and there was never a Barrel the better Herring

About a year later — with the elder Dalton already in his tomb — the magistrates came to the same conclusion in a different case, convicting Waller for perversion of justice “for endeavouring to defraud John Edlin of his good Name, his Life, his Goods, and Chattels, by making before Mr. Justice Gifford, on the 28th of January last, a false Information in Writing, by the Name of John Trevor, charging the said Edlin and another Person with assaulting him the said Waller on the Highway.”

Waller was condemned to stand in the pillory as a result — a punishment that under the brickbats of the London mob could easily exceed ritual shaming and imperil life and limb. At least seven people died in the pillory in the 18th century. One of them was the hated Waller, upon whom Edward Dalton visited his brother’s revenge after the stool pigeon had stood exposed for only “about two or three Minutes.” That’s when, according to a witness, Dalton and a goon named Serjeant Griffith(s) (“very honest in all his Dealings, and never wrong’d any Body” but given to a “particular Pleasure in mobbing and pelting Persons appointed to stand upon the Pillory”)

got upon the Pillory Board, Griffith took hold of Waller’s Coat, and Dalton of the Waisthand of his Breeches, and so they pulled his Head out of the Pillory, and he hung a little while by one Hand, but pulling that Hand out they threw him on the Pillory-board. [William] Belt took him up and endeavoured to put him in again, but the hung-an-Arse, upon which Belt gave him a Knock or two over the Back, with his Hand, (for I can’t say that he had any Weapon) and I believe to get him into the Pillory, but the other two Prisoners and a Chimney Sweeper laid hold of Waller, and stripped him as naked as he was born, except his Feet, for they pulled his Stockings over his Shoes and so left them; then they beat him with Collyflower-stalks, and threw him down upon the Pillory-board. The Chimney-Sweeper put something into his Mouth, and Griffith ramm’d it down his Throat with a Collyflower-stalk. Dalton and Griffith jumpt and stampt upon his naked Body and Head, and kick’d him and beat him with Artichoke and Collyflower-Stalks, as he lay on the Pillory-Board. They continued beating, kicking, and stamping upon him in this manner, for above 1/4 of an Hour, and then the Mob threw down the Pillory, and all that were upon it. Waller then lay naked on the Ground. Dalton got upon him, and stamping on his Privy Parts, he gave a dismal Groan, and I believe it was his last; for after that I never heard him groan nor speak, nor saw him stir.

William Belt was acquitted in this affair, but both Edward Dalton and Serjeant Griffith went to Tyburn’s gallows on October 9, 1732.

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1733: Rebekah Chamblit

Add comment September 27th, 2019 Headsman

Below follows the full text the gallows ephemera by which print culture recalls for posterity a domestic tragedy of colonial Boston … whose arch phrasing (“sorry for any rash Expressions I have at any time uttered since my Condemnation … I have had more comfort and satisfaction within the Walls of this Prison, than ever I had in the ways of Sin”) strongly implies that it was foisted on her others or

My read of the “September 26” date that appears at the end is that the witnesses notarized the statement on the day prior to the execution.

The Declaration, Dying Warning and Advice of Rebekah Chamblit:

A Young Woman Aged Near Twenty-Seven Years, Executed at Boston September 27th. 1733. According to the Sentence Pass’d Upon Her at the Superiour Court Holden There for the County of Suffolk, in August Last, Being Then Found Guilty of Felony, in Concealing the Birth of Her Spurious Male Infant, of Which She Was Delivered When Alone the Eighth Day of May Last, and Was Afterwards Found Dead, as Will More Fully Appear by the Following Declaration, Which Was Carefully Taken From Her Own Mouth

BEING under the awful Appehension of my Execution now in a few Hours; and being desirous to do all the Good I can, before I enter the Eternal World, I now in the fear of GOD, give this Declaration and Warning to the Living.

I Was very tenderly brought up, and well Instructd in my Father’s House, till I was Twelve Years of Age; but alass, my Childhood off in vanity. However, as I grew in Years, my Youth was under very sensible Impressions from the SPIRIT of GOD; and I was awakened to seek and obtain Baptism, when I was about Sixteen Years of Age; and lived for some time with a strictness somewhat answerable to the Obligations I was thereby brought under. But within two or three Years after this, I was led away into the Sin of Uncleannes, from which tie I think I may date my Ruin for this World. After this, I became again more watchful, and for several Years kept my self from the like Pollution, until those for which I am now to suffer.

And as it be necessary, so doubtless it will be expected of me, that I give the World particular account of that great Sin, with the aggravations of it, which has brought me to this Shameful Death: And accordingly in the fear of GOD, at whose awful Tribunal I am immediately to appear, I solemnly declare as follows:

That on Saturday the Fifth Day of May last, being then something more than Eight Months gone with Child, as I was about my Houshold Business reaching some Sand from out of a large Cake, I received considerable hurt, which put me into great Pain, and so I continued till the Tuesday following; in all which time I am not sensible I felt any Life or Motion in the Child within me; when, on the fatal Tuesday the Eighth Day of May, I was Deliver’d when alone of a Male Infant; in whom I did not perceive Life; but still uncertain of Life in it, I threw it into the Vault about two or three Minutes after it was born; uncertain, I say, whether it was a living or dead Child, tho, I confess its probable there was Life in it, and some Circumstances seem to it. I therefore own the Jutice of GOD and Man in my Condemnation, and take Shame to my self, as I have none but my self to Blame and am sorry for any rash Expressions I have at any time uttered since my Condemnation; and I am verily perswaded there is no Place in the World, where there is a more strict regard to Justice than in this Province.

And now as a Soul going into Etern, I most earnestly and solemnly Warn all Persons, particularly YOUNG PEOPLE, and more especially those of my own Sex, the Sins which their Age peculiarly them to; and as the Sin of Uncleanness has brought me into these distressing Circumstances, I would with the greatest Importunity Caution and Warn against it, being perswaded of the abounding of that Sin in this Town and Land. I thought my self as secure, a little more than a Year ago, as many of you now do; but by woful Experience I have found, that Lust when it has conceived bringeth forth Sin, and Sin when it is finished bringeth forth Death; it exposes the Soul not only to Temporal, but to Eternal Death. And therefore as a Dying Person, let me call upon you to forsake the foolish and live: Do not accompany with those you know to be such, and if Sinners entice you do not consent. I am sensible there are many Houses in this Town, that may be called Houses of Uncleanness, and Places of dreadful Temptations to this and all other Sins. O shun them, for they lead down to the Chambers of Death and Eternal Misery.

My mispence of precious Sabbaths lies as a heavy burden upon me; that when I might have gone to the House of GOD, I have been indifferent, and suffer’d a small matter to keep me from it. What would I now give, had I better improv’d the Lord’s Day! I tell you, verily, your Sabbath will sit heavy upon you, when you come into the near prospect of Death and Eternity.

The Sin of Lying I have to bewail, and wou’d earnestly caution against; not that I have took so great a pleasure in Lying; but I have often done so to conceal my Sin: Certainly you had better suffer Shame and Disgrace, yea the greatest Punishment, than to hide and conceal your Sin, by Lying. How much better had it been for me, to have confess’d my Sin, than by hiding of it to provoke a holy GOD, thus to suffer it to find me out. But I hope I heartily desire to bless GOD, that even in this way, He is thus entring into Judgment with me; for I have often thought, had I been let alone to go on undiscovered in my Sins, I might have provok’d in to leave me to a course of Rebellion, that would have ripened me for a more sudden, and everlasting Destruction; and am fully convinc’d of this, that I should have had no solid ease or quiet in my mind, but the Guilt of this undiscover’d Sin lying upon my Conscience, would have been a tormenting Rack unto me all my Days; whereas now I hope GOD has discover’d to me in some measure the evil of this, and all my other Sins enabled me to repent of them in Dust and Ashes and made me earnestly desire and plead with Him for pardon and cleansing in the pecious Blood of the REDEEMER of lost and perishing Sinners: And I think I can say, I have had more comfort and satisfaction within the Walls of this Prison, than ever I had in the ways of Sin among my vain Companions, and think I woud not for a World, nay for ten Thousand Worlds have my liberty in Sin again, and be in the same Condition I was in before I came into this Place.

I had the advantage of living in several religious Famlies; but alass, I disregarded the Instructions and Warnings I there had, which is now a bitterness to me; and so it will be to those of you who are thus favoured, but go on unmindful of GOD, and deaf to all the Reproofs and Admonitions that are given you for the good of your Souls. And I would advise those of my own Sex especially, to chuse to go into religious Families, where the Worship and Fear of GOD is maintained, and submit your selves to the Order and Government of them.

In my younger Years I maintain’d a constant course of Secret Pray for some time; but afterwards neglecting the same, I found by experience, that upon my thus leaving GOD, He was provoked to forsake me, and at length suffer’d me to fall into that great and complicated Sin that has brought me to this Death: Mind me, I first left GOD, and then He left me: I therefore solemnly call upon YOUNG PEOPLE to cherish the Convictions of GOD’s Holy SPIRIT, and be sure keep up a constant course of fervent Secret Prayer.

And now I am just entring nto the Eternal World, I do in the fear of GOD, and before Witnesses, call upon our YOUNG PEOPLE in particular, to secure an Interest in the Lord JESUS CHRIST, and in those precious Benefits He has purchased for His People; for surely the favour of GOD, thro’ CHRIST, is more worth than a whole World: And O what Comfort will this yield you when you come to that awful Day and Hour I am now arriving unto. I must tell you the World appears to me vain and empty, nothing like what it did in my past Life, my Days of Sin and Vanity, and as doubtless it appears now to you. Will you be perswaded by me to that which will yield you the best Satisfaction ad Pleasure here, and which will prepare you for the more abundant Pleasures of GOD’s Right Hand for evermore.

Sign’d and Acknowleg’d in the Presence of divers Witnesses, with a desire that it may be publish’d to the World, and read at the Place of Execution.

Rebekah Chamblit.

September 26th, 1733

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1731: Catherine Bevan, burned alive in Delaware

1 comment September 10th, 2019 Headsman

On this date in 1731, a double execution of 50-year-old Catherine Bevan and her young servant — perhaps lover — Peter Murphy was nightmarishly marred by Bevan’s burning alive.

Such was indeed the sentence upon her for “petty treason”, a now-archaic legal category that compassed the betrayal — in practice, murder — of an authority. (Compare to “high treason”, meaning the betrayal of the ultimate authority, the sovereign; the legal categories show that these offenses are analogues.) Quite often in such cases the authority in question was the man of the house, and so it was here too: Bevan and Murphy beat and throttled to death her husband, Henry Bevan. Both wife-on-husband and servant-on-master homicide qualified as petty treason.

Crucially for the American colonies, the latter category included slaves in resistance to their masters. Petty treason was an offense elevated beyond “mere” murder because it implied an attack upon the received order upon which all society depended; one expression of the heightened outrage accorded to petty treason was that women* thus convicted could be sentenced to burning, rather than “mere” hanging. This interesting Widener Law Library blog about the Bevan case notes that out of 24 documented burnings of women in early America, 22 were burnings of enslaved women. (Enslaved men were also subject to this fate for crimes particularly threatening to the stability of the Slave Power, like arson.)

Bevan was one of the two exceptions, although it must be noted that there were other prosecutions of white domestic murderesses in the colonial period that simply got the culprits hanged instead of burned. In the looser confines of the New World, the growing English reticence about sending [white] women to the stake predominated; in fact, when Delaware found itself with another spousal parricide on its hands in 1787, its legislature hurriedly amended the still-extant burning-at-the-stake statutes to provide for simple hanging instead.

One reason for the squeamishness was what happened to the widow Bevan.

It was design’d to strangle her dead before the Fire should touch her; but its first breaking out was in a stream which pointed directly upon the Rope that went round her Neck, and burnt it off instantly, so that she fell alive into the Flames, and was seen to struggle.

Pennsylvania Gazette, September 23, 1731

* “In treasons of every kind the punishment of women is the same, and different from that of men” who in some instances could be drawn and quartered, writes Blackstone. “For, as the decency due to the sex forbids the exposing and publickly mangling their bodies, their sentence (which is to the full as terrible to the sensation as the other) is to be drawn to the gallows, and there to be burned alive.”

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1738: Nicolas Doxat de Demoret

Add comment March 20th, 2019 Headsman

Swiss officer and military engineer Nicolas Doxat de Demoret — also referred to as Doxat de Moretz or Doxat von Morez — was beheaded on this date in 1738 for surrendering to a Turkish siege.

Native — as his name suggests — of Demoret, Doxat was a career soldier who had served the Austrian empire since 1712. The generation of Doxat’s service saw Austria’s greatest expansion into the Balkans, with Turkey forced to cede to the empire most of present-day Serbia. Doxat emerged with some war wounds and a general’s epaulets.

Unfortunately 18th century Vienna did not have access to the Internet articles informing it that this would represent its greatest expansion in the Balkans — for, in 1737, Austria jumped into a Russo-Turkish War with an eye to gobbling even more, and instead started suffering the defeats that would return its conquests to the Sublime Porte.

General Doxat owned one of these defeats, the October 1737 surrender of the Serbian city of Niš to an Ottoman siege — yielded too readily, in the judgment of Austrian authorities. He had weeks of supplies remaining but with little water and no prospect of relief he judged the situation hopeless and accepted an arrangement that permitted the honorable withdrawal of his garrison.

Despite the appeals of comrades in arms for clemency, the emperor confirmed the sentence of a war council, and Doxat was beheaded* in Belgrade on March 20, 1738. Barely a year later, that city too was in Turkish hands.

* The beheading, conducted in the botch-prone seated position, was botched — the first blow gouging the general’s shoulder and knocking him prone, where he was inelegantly finished off.

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1739: Two French youths who murdered Choctaws

1 comment January 14th, 2019 Headsman

On this date in 1739, two French youths were executed by musketry in the French Louisiana colony for the murder of two Choctaws — a gesture of juridical diplomacy that didn’t work out as the musketeers hoped.

Our source for this unusual event is Patricia Galloway’s “The Barthelemy Murders: Bienville’s Establishment of the ‘Lex Talionis’ as a Principle of Indian Diplomacy” from the Proceedings of the Meeting of the French Colonial Historical Society, Vol. 8 (1985). The “Bienville” of Galloway’s title was Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, the French Colonial Governor of Louisiana. It was a post he had held intermittently since 1701, which was back when he and his brother Iberville were still exploring the region.*

Bienville was noted for his deft touch with the native inhabitants of the colony he proposed to govern; in Galloway’s words, he “seemed to have an intuitive grasp of the Indian concept of honor and to understand tribal power structures as no other governor did. In addition, he made it his business to learn and use Choctaw or the Choctaw-like Mobilian trade language in his dealings with the Indians — the only governor to do so.”

Be he ever so empathic, Bienville had a sticky wicket with this case of international violence, when each of the nations involved would have disposed of it very differently had it been a purely internal affair.

On the side of the Choctaw and indeed for all of the tribes of the southeast, the available evidence points to blood vengeance as the accepted response to homicide, but there was no governmental institution to carry it out, so the responsibility for the execution of a murderer fell upon the relatives of the victim … the European notion depended upon handing over regulatory powers to a legal institution; the Indian notion, on the other hand, assumed that familial sanctions would keep individuals in line.

It was a situation that demanded the full measure of Bienville’s diplomatic acumen. The Choctaw people were the largest of several native nations in the French colony, dominating the territory of the latter-day state of Mississippi. Years before the events in this post, Bienville had put them on his team by arming them against the British-allied Chickasaw … but in the late 1730s, Bienville was coming off a failed campaign against the Chickasaw, and with the British making diligent trading inroads with the Choctaw, it wasn’t necessarily a given that they would stick within the French sphere of influence. Indeed, there was a chief of rising stature within the Choctaw nation named Red Shoe whose calling card was pushing a bro-British turn.

Onto this delicate stage barged two Creole half-brothers, whom Galloway identifies as Philippe Alexandre (born in 1710) and a youth of whom we know only the surname Barthelemy (born in 1723): as Barthelemy was the name of the (step-, to Philippe) father who stood patriarch to the whole family, it’s the name by which the affair is known. According to the notes taken on the trial** by the colonial official Etienne Salmon as quoted by Galloway, their crime was motivated by nothing but opportunism and racial animus.

They went in a pirogue from Mobile to the Pascagoulas with a Negro slave to look for some food supplies, and there they found a Choctaw and his wife who were proposing to go to Mobile to trade some bear oil and a few deerskins, and who asked them for passage which they granted them. Contrary winds having cast them ashore on some neighboring islands, they went hunting there. The elder of the two brothers proposed to the Negro that he kill the husband and wife, saying that the savages were dogs, and that if they ran across Frenchmen in the same straits in their country they would not object to killing them. The Negro having rejected the proposition, saying that he had [no] reason at all to kill them, that they had done him no wrong, the two brothers discussed the same thing, and the elder told the younger that he would be doing a valorous deed, and that he would be regarded as a true man, if he made the attack; this child allowed himself to be so persuaded that on the following day at sunrise, while everyone was sleeping, or pretending to, the younger shot twice at the husband and his wife, and killed them.

This happened sometime during 1738. It took some months for the disappearance of these hunter-traders to become known to their communities, and for suspicion to fix on the young men involved. The French colony arrested the culprits and Bienville promised his allies “that justice would be done and would be carried out in Mobile before their appointed witnesses.” For Bienville, this meant the strict application of lex talionis through the French judicial mechanism.

The trial took place on January 10 … the two young men were condemned to die, while the Negro was dismissed as guiltless. The original sentence called for hanging, but to spare the dignity of the boys’ family it was changed to death by a firing squad. Salmon reported that the younger brother had no notion of guilt and was convinced that in the dangerous times then prevailing, he had performed a deed worthy of praise. Even Salmon believed that had the situation been different Bienville would have allowed the younger to escape death. But this was not to be, and the young men were returned to Mobile for execution, which took place before Choctaw witnesses on January 14.

The executions placated the Choctaw and, Bienville hoped, established an understanding that crimes between their nations would be properly satisfied by the offender’s nation more or less on the basis of lex talionis: an orderly and reciprocal life-for-a-life punishment.

Seven years ahead and Bienville had been retired to France when at last there came a Choctaw-on-Frenchmen murder to test the precedent. The new governor, Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil, invoked the principle of this Barthelemy case: “We ask nothing of you but justice, since M. de Bienville had justice done you in 1740 [sic] for a man and woman that some Frenchmen had killed.”

The trouble that the French encountered here in having their claim recognized lay in their failure to understand the distinction made by the Choctaw between domestic and international law in a homicide case. The evidence is quite clear that the Choctaw were prepared to accept the notion of setting off the French deaths by an equal number of Choctaw deaths, but they expected the French, as the injured party, to carry out the killings themselves. If the French wanted the Choctaw to carry out the killings, they said, the French would have to persuade close relatives of the required victims to do it, or else there would be an unending train of vengeance set loose in the nation.

The French didn’t know who had actually murdered their three people and “the usual procedure in such cases was to substitute people who were of little use to the tribe or who for some reason already deserved death.” However, the French greedily bid for a political coup by demanding not a marginal victim but the pro-British chief Red Shoe himself. Unsurprisingly, they didn’t find any of Red Shoe’s relatives willing to turn executioner. The only thing left for the Choctaw to try was

killings committed against a group that was the enemy of both French and Choctaw. Therefore, to set off the deaths of three Frenchmen at the hands of pro-English Choctaws, the pro-French Choctaws attempted to fulfill the French demands in part by killing English traders. This was done in a raid on an English convoy which was being escorted by Red Shoe. After Red Shoe was murdered by stealth, two Englishmen were killed in an open attack, making up the required three deaths.

The French, however, completely missed the point of the Choctaw restitution and refused the two English scalps, insisting on two more Choctaw deaths … The deaths of the Englishmen did not go without notice on the pro-English side. Doubtless as a result of a symmetrical demand by the English, the [pro-English] Choctaw killed five French settlers on the Mobile River. These killings were followed by retaliatory raids by French-allied Choctaws on English trade convoys, killing two more English traders.

This is precisely the sort of blood vengeance spiral that Bienville had been trying to militate against, and it soon pulled the whole Choctaw nation into an outright civil war that killed some 800 people and brought the French into the field as well. Galloway once again:

Bienville’s intentions were good, and it is to the credit of the French that they carried out the execution of the half-brothers, against their inclinations, because this was the kind of justice that the Choctaw understood. Nor are the French to be blamed for expecting the Choctaw to make the same kind of concession to their notion of justice. The tragedy arose not because the Choctaw did not want to render justice at all, but because they had no vicarious legal mechanism to carry it out. In the end, therefore, they were forced into civil war because vengeance carried out by a Choctaw, on another Choctaw, in behalf of a third party not a Choctaw, did not leave the avenger free of punishment himself. Like other aspects of southeastern Indian culture, this one was so inconsistent with European understanding that it had to adapt or disappear, and although it did not actually disappear among the Choctaw themselves until 1823, the principle in dealings with white nations was firmly asserted in treaties from the time of the end of the Choctaw civil war. The Choctaw had dearly bought comprehension of Bienville’s principle with the weighty currency of culture change.

* Iberville and Bienville co-founded Fort Louis de la Mobile (present-day Mobile, Alabama) in 1702; this is where the executions in this post occurred. Bienville founded New Orleans in 1718.

** No original record of the trial survives; Salmon’s recollection is the best we’re going to do for primary sourcing.

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