Lives Of The Most Remarkable Criminals Who have been Condemned and Executed for Murder, the Highway, Housebreaking, Street Robberies, Coining or other offences
by Arthur L. Hayward
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After his arrival in England, he wrought for near two years together at his own business, and had the settled intention to live honestly and forsake that disorderly state of life which had involved him in such calamities; but the fear he was continually in of being discovered, rendered him so uneasy and so unable to do anything, that at last he resolved to go over into the East Indies. For this purpose he was come down to Gravesend, in order to embark, when he was apprehended; and being tried on an indictment for returning from transportation, he was convicted thereon, and received sentence of death. During the time he lay under conviction, the principles of a good education began again to exert themselves, and by leading him to a thorough confidence in the mercies of Christ weaned him from that affection which hitherto he had for this sinful and miserable world, in which, as he had felt nothing but misery and affliction, the change seemed the easier, so that he at last began not only to shake off the fear of death, bur even to desire it. Nor was this calmness short and transitory, but he continued in it till the time he suffered, which was on the 5th of July, 1721, at Tyburn. He said he died with less reluctance because his ruin involved nobody but himself, he leaving no children behind him, and his wife being young enough to get a living honestly.


Before we proceed to mention the particulars that have come to our hands concerning this unhappy criminal, it may not be amiss to take notice of the rigour with which all civilised nations have treated offenders in this kind, by considering the crime itself as a species of treason. The reason of which arises thus. As money is the universal standard or measure of the value of any commodity, so the value of money is always regulated, in respect of its weight, fineness, etc., by the public authority of the State. To counterfeit, therefore, is in some degree to assume the supreme authority, inasmuch as it is giving a currency to another less valuable piece of metal than that made current by the State. The old laws of England were very severe on this head, and carried their care of preventing it so far as to damage the public in other respects, as by forbidding the importation of bullion, and punishing with death attempts made to discover the Philosopher's Stone which forced whimsical persons who were enamoured of that experiment to go abroad and spend their money in pursuit of that project there. These causes, therefore, upon a review of the laws on this head, were abrogated; but the edge in other respects was rather sharpened than abated. For as the trade of the nation increased, frauds in the coin became of worse consequence and not only so, but were more practised.

In the reign of King William and Queen Mary, clipping and coining grew so notorious and had so great and fatal influences on the public trade of the nation, that Parliament found it necessary to enter upon that great work of a recoinage[5] and in order to prevent all future inconveniences of a like nature, they at the same time enacted that not only counterfeiting, chipping, scaling, lightening, or otherwise debasing the current specie of this realm, should be deemed and punished as high treason, but they included also under the same charge and punishment the having any press, engine, tool, or implement proper for coining, the mending, buying, selling, etc., of them; and upon this Act, which was rendered perpetual by another made in the seventh year of the reign of Queen Anne, all our proceedings on this head are at this day grounded. Many executions and many more trials happened on these laws being first made, dipping, especially, being an ordinary thing, and some persons of tolerable reputation in the world engaged in it; but the strict proceedings (in the days of King William, especially) against all, without distinction, who offended in that way, so effectually crushed them that a coiner nowadays is looked upon as an extraordinary criminal, though the Law still continues to take its course, whenever they are convicted, the Crown being seldom or never induced to grant a pardon.

As to this poor woman, Barbara Spencer, she was the daughter of mean parents and was left very young to the care of her mother, who lived in the parish of St. Giles, Cripplegate. This old creature, as is common enough with ordinary people, indulged her daughter so much in all her humours, and suffered her to take so uncontrolled a liberty that all her life-time after, she was incapable of bearing restraint, but, on every slight contradiction flew out into the wildest excesses of passion and fury. When but a child, on a very slight difference at home, she must needs go out 'prentice, and was accordingly put to a mantua-maker, who having known her throughout her infancy, fatally treated her with the same indulgence and tenderness. She continued with her about two years, and then, on a few warm words happening, went away from so good a mistress, and came home again to her mother, who by that time had set up a brandy shop.

On Miss Barbara's return, a maid had to be taken, for she was much too good to do the work of the house. The servant had not been there long before they quarrelled, the mother taking the wench's part. Away went the young woman, but matters being made up and the old mother keeping an alehouse in Cripplegate parish, she once more went to live with her. This reconciliation lasted longer, but was more fatal to Barbara than her late falling out.

One day, it seems, she took into her head to go and see the prisoners die at Tyburn, but her mother meeting her at the door, told her that there was too much business for her to do at home, and that she should not go. Harsh words ensuing on this, her mother at last struck her, and said she should be her death. However, Barbara went, and the man who attended her to Tyburn, brought her afterwards to a house by St. Giles's Pound[6] where after relating the difference between herself and her mother, she vowed she would never return any more home. In this resolution she was encouraged, and soon after was acquainted with the secrets of the house, and appointed to go out with their false money, in order to vend, or utter it; which trade, as it freed her from all restraint, she was at first mightily pleased with. But being soon discovered she was committed to Newgate, convicted and fined.

About this time she first became acquainted with Mrs. Miles, who afterwards betrayed her, and upon this occasion was, it seems, so kind as to advance some money for her. On the affair for which she died, the evidence could have hardly done without Miles's assistance, which so enraged poor Barbara that even to the instant of death, she could hardly prevail with herself to forgive her, and never spoke of her without a kind of heat, very improper and unbecoming in a person in her distressful state.

The punishment ordained by our laws for treasons committed by women, whether high or petty, is burning alive.[7] This, though pronounced upon her by the judge, she could never be brought to believe would be executed, but while she lay under sentence, she endeavoured to put off the thoughts of the fatal day as much as she could, always asserting that she thought the crime no sin, for which she was condemned. It seems her mother died at Tyburn before midsummer, and this poor wretch would often say that she little thought she should so soon follow her, when she attended her to death, averring also that she suffered unjustly. As for this poor woman, her temper was exceedingly unhappy, and as it had made her uneasy and miserable all her life, so at her death it occasioned her to be impatient, and to behave inconsistently. For which, sometimes, she would apologise, by saying that though it was not in her power to put on grave looks, yet her heart was as truly affected as theirs who gave greater outward signs of contrition; a manner of speaking usually taken up by those who would be thought to think seriously in the midst of outward gaiety, and of whose sincerity in cases like these. He only can judge who is acquainted with the secrets of all hearts and who, as He is not to be deceived, so His penetration is utterly unknown to us, who are confined to appearances and the exterior marks of things.

She lost all her boldness at the near approach of death and seemed excessively surprised and concerned at the apprehension of the flames. When she went out to die, she owned her crime more fully than she had ever done. She said she had learnt to coin of a man and woman who had now left off and lived very honestly, wherefore she said she would not discover them. At the very slake she complained how hard she found it to forgive Miles, who had been her accomplice and then betrayed her, adding that though she saw faggots and brushes ready to be lighted and to consume her, yet she would not receive life at the expense of another's blood. She averred there were great numbers of London who followed the same trade of coining, and earnestly wished they might take warning by her death. At the instant of suffering, she appeared to have reassumed all her resolution, for which she had, indeed, sufficient occasion, when to the lamentable death by burning was added the usual noise and clamour of the mob, who also threw stones and dirt, which beat her down and wounded her. However, she forgave them cheerfully, prayed with much earnestness and ended her life the same day as the last mentioned malefactor, Perkins, aged about twenty-four years.


[5] A commission was appointed to consider the debased state of the currency and, not without considerable opposition, a bill was passed in 1696, withdrawing all debased coin from circulation. This incurred an expense of some L1,200,000, which the Government met by imposing a window tax.

[6] This was at the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street. It was an old London landmark, from which distances were measured as from the Standard in Cornhill. It was demolished in 1765.

[7] In practice, criminals were strangled before being burned. The last case in which this penalty was inflicted was in 1789; it was abolished the following year.


Piracy was anciently in this kingdom considered as a petty treason at Common Law; but the multitude of treasons, or to speak more properly of offences construed into treason, becoming a very great grievance to the subject, this with many others was left out in the famous Statute of the 25th Edward the Third, for limiting what thenceforth should be deemed treason. From that time piracy was regarded in England only as a crime against the Civil Law, by which it was always capital; but there being some circumstances very troublesome, as to the proofs therein required for conviction, by a statute in the latter end of the reign of Henry the Eighth it was provided that this offence should be tried by commissioners appointed by the king, consisting of the admiral and certain of his officers, with such other persons as the reigning prince should think fit, after the common course of the laws of this realm for felonies and robberies committed on land, in which state it hath continued with very small alterations to this day.

Offenders of this kind are now tried at the Sessions-house in the Old Bailey, before the judge of the Court of Admiralty, assisted by certain other judges of the Common Law by virtue of such a commission as ts before mentioned, the silver oar (a peculiar ensign of authority belonging to the Court of Admiralty) lying on the table. As pirates are not very often apprehended in Britain, so particular notice is always given when a Court like this, called an Admiralty Sessions, is to be held, the prisoners until that time remaining in the Marshalsea, the proper prison of this Court.

On the 26th of Jury, 1721, at such a sessions, Walter Kennedy and John Bradshaw were tried for piracies committed on the high seas, and both of them convicted. This Walter Kennedy was born at a place called Pelican Stairs in Wapping. His father was an anchor-smith, a man of good reputation, who gave his son Walter the best education he was able; and while a lad he was very tractable, and had no other apparent ill quality than that of a too aspiring temper. When he was grown up big enough to have gone out to a trade, his father bound him apprentice to himself, but died before his son was out of his time. Leaving his father's effects in the possession of his mother and brothers, Walter then followed his own roving inclinations and went to sea. He served for a considerable time on board a man-of-war, in the reign of her late Majesty Queen Anne, in the war then carried on against France; during which time he often had occasion to hear of the exploits of the pirates, both in the East and West Indies, and of their having got several islands into their possession, wherein they were settled, and in which they exercised a sovereign power.

These tales had wonderful effect on Walter's disposition, and created in him a secret ambition of making a figure in the same way. He became more than ordinarily attentive whenever stories of that sort were told, and sought every opportunity of putting his fellow sailors upon such relations. Men of that profession have usually good memories with respect, at least, to such matters, and Kennedy, therefore, without much difficulty became acquainted with the principal expeditions of these maritime desperadoes, from the time of Sir Henry Morgan's commanding the Buccaneers in America, to Captain Avery's more modern exploits at Madagascar[8]; his fancy insinuating to him continually that he might be able to make as great a figure as any of these thievish heroes, whenever a proper opportunity offered.

It happened that he was sent with Captain Woodes Rogers,[9] Governor of Providence [Bahama Islands], when that gentleman first sent to recover that island by reducing the pirates, who then had it in possession. At the time of the captain's arrival these people had fortified themselves in several places, and with all the care they were able, had provided both for their safety and subsistence.

It happened that some time before, they had taken a ship, on board of which they found a considerable quantity of the richest brocades, for which having no other occasion, they tore them up, and tying them between the horns of their goats, made use of them to distinguish herds that belonged to one settlement and those that belonged to another, and sight of this, notwithstanding the miserable condition which in other respects these wretches were in, mightily excited the inclination Kennedy had to following their occupation.

Captain Rogers having signified to the chiefs of them the offers he had to make of free grace and pardon, the greater number of them came in and submitted very readily. Those who were determined to continue the same dissolute kind of life, provided with all the secrecy imaginable for their safety, and when practicable took their flight out of the island. The captain being made Governor, fitted out two sloops for trade, and having given proper directions to their commanders, manned them out of his own sailors with some of these reformed pirates intermixed. Kennedy went out on one of these vessels, in which he had not long been at sea before he joined in a conspiracy some of the rest had formed of seizing the vessel, putting those to death who refused to come into their measures, and then to go, as the sailors phrase it, "upon the account", that is in plain English, commence pirates.

This villainous design succeeded according to their wish. They emptied the other vessel of whatever they thought might be of use, and then turned her adrift, as being a heavy sailer, and consequently unfit for their purpose. A few days after their entering on this new course of life, they made themselves masters of two pretty large ships, having fitted which for their purpose, they now grew strong enough to execute any project that in their present circumstances they were capable of forming. Thus Kennedy was now got in to that unhappy state of living which from a false notion of things he had framed so fair an idea of and was so desirous to engage in.

Kennedy took a particular delight in relating what happened to him in these expeditions, even after they had brought him to misery and confinement. The account he gave of that form of rule which these wretches set up, in imitation of the legal government, and of those regulations there made to supply the place of moral honesty was in substance this.

They chose a captain from amongst themselves, who in effect held little more than that title, excepting in an engagement, when he commanded absolutely and without control. Most of them having suffered formerly from the ill-treatment of their officers, provided carefully against any such evil, now they had the choice in themselves. By their orders they provided especially against any quarrels which might happen among themselves, and appointed certain punishments for anything that tended that way; for the due execution thereof they constituted other officers besides the captain, so very industrious were they to avoid putting too much power into the hands of one man. The rest of their agreement consisted chiefly in relation to the manner of dividing the cargo of such prizes as they should happen to take, and though they had broken through all laws divine and human, yet they imposed an oath to be taken for the due observance of these, so inconsistent a thing is vice, and so strong the principles imbibed from education.

The life they led at sea was rendered equally unhappy from fear and hardship, they never seeing any vessel which reduced them not to the necessity of fighting, and often filled them with apprehensions of being overcome. Whatever they took in their several prizes could afford them no other pleasure but downright drunkenness on board, and except for two or three islands there were no other places where they were permitted to come on shore, for nowadays it was become exceedingly dangerous to land, either at Jamaica, Barbadoes, or on the islands of the Bermudas. In this condition they were when they came to a resolution of choosing one Davis[10] as captain, and going under his command to the coast of Brazil.

This design they put in execution, being chiefly tempted with the hopes of surprising some vessel of the homeward bound Portuguese fleet, by which they hoped to be made rich at once, and no longer be obliged to lead a life so full of danger. Accordingly they fell in with twenty sail of those ships and were in the utmost danger of being taken and treated as they deserved. However, on this occasion their captain behaved very prudently, and taking the advantage of one of those vessels being separated from the rest, they boarded her in the night without firing a gun. They forced the captain, when they had him in one of their own ships, to discover which of the fleet was the most richly laden, which he having done through fear, they impudently attacked her, and were very near becoming masters of her, though they were surrounded by the Portuguese ships, from whence they at last escaped, not so much by the swiftness of their own sailing, as by the cowardice of the enemy. In this attempt, though they miscarried as to the prize they had proposed, yet they accounted themselves very fortunate in having thus escaped from so dangerous an adventure.

Being some time after this in great want of water, Davis at the head of about fifty of his men, very well armed, made a descent in order to fill their casks, though the Portuguese governor of the port near which they landed easily discovered them to be pirates; but not thinking himself in a condition strong enough to attack them, he thought fit to dissemble that knowledge.

Davis and his men were no sooner returned on board than they received a message by a boat from shore, that the Governor would think himself highly honoured if the captain and as many as he pleased of his ship's company would accept of an entertainment the next day at the castle where he resided. Their commander, who had hitherto behaved himself like a man of conduct, suffered his vanity to overcome him so far as to accept of the proposal, and the next morning with ten of his sailors, all dressed in their best clothes, went on shore to this collation. But before they had reached half way, they were set upon by a party of Indians who lay in ambuscade, and with one flight of their poisoned arrows laid them all upon the ground, except Kennedy and another, who escaped to the top of a mountain, from whence they leaped into the sea, and were with much difficulty taken up by a boat which their companions sent to relieve them.

After this they grew tired of the coast of Brazil. However, in their return to the West Indies they took some very considerable prizes, upon which they resolved unanimously to return home, in order, as they flattered themselves, to enjoy their riches. The captain who then commanded them was an Irishman, who endeavoured to bring the ship into Ireland, on the north coast of which a storm arising, the vessel was carried into Scotland and there wrecked. At that time Kennedy had a considerable quantity of gold, which he either squandered away, or had stolen from him in the Highlands. He afterwards went over into Ireland, where being in a low and poor condition he shipped himself at length for England, and came up to London. He had not been long in town before he was observed by some whose vessel had been taken by the crew with whom he sailed. They caused him to be apprehended, and after lying a considerable time in prison, he was, as I have said before, tried and convicted.

After sentence, he showed much less concern for life than is usual for persons in that condition. He was so much tired with the miseries and misfortune which for some years before he had endured, that death appeared to him a thing rather desirable than frightful. When the reprieve came for Bradshaw, who was condemned with him, he expressed great satisfaction, at the same time saying that he was better pleased than if he himself had received mercy. For, continued he, should I be banished into America as he is, 'tis highly probable I might be tempted to my old way of life, and so instead of reforming, add to the number of my sins.

He continued in these sentiments till the time of his death, when, as he went through Cheapside to his execution, the silver oar being carried before him as is usual, he turned about to a person who sat by him in the cart, and said, Though it is a common thing for us when at sea to acquire vast quantities both of that metal which goes before me, and of gold, yet such is the justice of Providence that few or none of us preserve enough to maintain us; but as you see in me, when we go to death, we have not wherewith to purchase a coffin to bury us. He died at Execution Dock, the 21st[11] of July, 1721, being then about twenty-six years of age.


[8] Avery was one of the best known pirates of his time and told of his wonderful wealth, his capturing and marrying the daughter of the Great Mogul, and his setting up a kingdom in Madagascar. He was even the hero of a popular play—The Successful Pirate, produced at Dray Lane in 1712. The true story of his life and how he died in want, is related at length in Captain Charles Johnson's History of the Pirates edited by me, and published in the same edition as the present volume.

[9] Woodes Rogers (d. 1732) sailed on Dampier's voyages and made a large sum of money which he devoted to buying the Bahama Islands from the proprietors on a twenty-one years' lease. He was made governor, but found himself unable to cope with the pirates and Spaniards who infested the islands, and went back to England in 1721. He returned as governor in 1728, and remained there until his death.

[10] This was Howel Davis, whose adventures are related at length in Johnson's History of the Pirates, chap. ix.

[11] The History of the Pirates gives the date as 19th of July. This book gives an interesting account of Kennedy, pp. 178-81.

The Life of MATTHEW CLARK, a Footpad and Murderer

Perhaps there is nothing to which we may more justly attribute those numerous executions which so disgrace our country, than the false notions which the meaner sort, especially, imbibe in their youth as to love and women. This unhappy person, Matthew Clark, of whom we are now to speak, was a most remarkable instance of the truth of this observation. He was born at St. Albans, of parents in but mean circumstances, who thought they had provided very well for their son when they had procured his admission into the family of a neighbouring gentleman, equally distinguished by the greatness of his merit and fortune.

In this place, certainly, had Matthew been inclined in any degree to good, he might have acquired from the favour of his master all the advantages, even of a liberal education; but proving an incorrigible, lazy and undutiful servant, the gentleman in whose service he was, after bearing with him a long time, turned him out of his family. He then went to plough and cart, and such other country work, but though he had been bred to this and was never in any state from which he could reasonably hope better, yet was he so restless and uneasy at those hardships which he fancied were put upon him, that he chose rather to rob than to labour; and leaving the farmer in whose service he was, used to skulk about Bushey Heath, and watch all opportunities to rob passengers.

Matthew was a perfect composition of all the vices that enter into low life. He was idle, inclined to drunkenness, cruel and a coward; nor would he have had spirit enough to attack anybody on the road had it not been to supply him with money for merry meetings and dancing bouts, to which he was carried by his prevailing passion for loose women. And these expeditions keeping him continually bare, robbing and junketting, desire of pleasure and fear of the gallows were the whole round of both his actions and his thoughts.

At last the matrimonial maggot bit his brain, and alter a short courtship, he prevailed on a young girl in the neighbourhood to go up with him to London, in order to their marriage. When they were there, finding his stock reduced so low that he had not even money to purchase the wedding ring, he pretended that a legacy of fifteen pounds was just left him in the country, and with a thousand promises of a quick return, set out from London to fetch it. When he left the town, full of uneasy thoughts, he travelled towards Neasden and Willesden Green, where formerly he had lived. He intended to have lurked there till he had an opportunity of robbing as many persons as to make up fifteen pounds from their effects. In pursuance of this resolution, he designed in himself to attack every passenger he saw, but whenever it came to the push, the natural cowardice of his temper prevailed and his heart failed him.

While he loitered about there, the master of an alehouse hard by took notice of him and asked him how he came to idle about in haytime, when there was so much work, offering at the same time to hire him for a servant. Upon this discourse Clark immediately recollected that all the persons belonging to this man's house must be out haymaking, except the maid, who served his liquors and waited upon guests. As soon, therefore, as he had parted from the master and saw he was gone into the fields, he turned back and went into his house, where renewing his former acquaintance with the maid, who as he had guessed, was there alone, and to whom he formerly had been a sweetheart, he sat near an hour drinking and talking in that jocose manner which is usual between people of their condition in the country. But in the midst of all his expressions of affection, he mediated how to rob the house, his timorous disposition supposing a thousand dangers from the knowledge the maid had of him.

He resolved, in order absolutely to secure himself, to murder her out of the way; upon which, having secretly drawn his knife out of his sheath, and hiding it under his coat, he kissed her, designing at the same time to dispatch her; but his heart failed him the first time. However, getting up and kissing her a second time, he darted it into her windpipe; but its edge being very dull, the poor creature made a shift to mutter his name, and endeavoured to scramble after him. Upon which he returned, and with the utmost inhumanity cut her neck to the bone quite round; after which he robbed the house of some silver, but being confounded and astonished did not carry off much.

He went directly into the London Road, and came as far as Tyburn, the sight of which filled him with so much terror that he was not able to pick up courage enough to go by it. Returning back into the road again, he met a waggon, which, in hopes of preventing all suspicion, he undertook to drive up to town (the man who drove it having hurt his leg). But he had not gone far before the persons who were in pursuit of the murderer of Sarah Goldington (the maid before mentioned) came up with him, and enquired whether he had seen anybody pass by his waggon who looked suspicious, or was likely to have committed the fact. This enquiry put him into so much confusion that he was scarce able to make an answer, which occasioned their looking at him more narrowly and thereby discovering the sleeve of his shirt to be all bloody. At first he affirmed with great confidence that a soldier meeting him upon the road had insulted him, and that in fighting with him he had made the soldier's mouth bleed, which had so stained his shirt. But in a little time perceiving this excuse would not prevail, but that they were resolved to carry him back, he fell into a violent agony and confessed the fact.

At the next sessions at the Old Bailey he was convicted, and after receiving sentence of death, endeavoured all he could to comfort and compose himself during the time he lay under condemnation. His father, who was a very honest industrious man came to see him, and after he was gone Matthew spoke with great concern of an expression which his father had made use of, viz., That if he had been to die for any other offence, he would have made all the interest and friends he could to have served for his life, but that the murder he had committed was so cruel, that he thought that nothing could atone for it but his blood. The inhumanity and cruel circumstances of it did indeed in some degree affect this malefactor himself, but he seemed much more disturbed with the apprehension of being hanged in chains, a thing which from the weakness of vulgar minds terrifies more than death itself, and the use of which I confess I do not see, since it serves only to render the poor wretches uneasy in their last moments, and instead of making suitable impressions on the minds of the spectators, affords a pretence for servants and other young persons to idle away their time in going to see the body so exposed on a gibbet.

At the place of execution, Clark was extremely careful to inform the people that he was so far from having any malice against the woman whom he murdered that he really had a love for her. A report, too, of his having designed to sell the young girl he had brought out of the country into Virginia had weight enough with him to occasion his solemn denying of it at the tree, though he acknowledged at the same time that he had resolved to leave her. He declared also, to prevent any aspersions on some young men who had been his companions, that no person was ever present with, or privy to any of the robberies he had committed; and having thus far discharged his conscience, he suffered on the 28th of July, 1721, in the twenty-fourth year of his age.

The Life of JOHN WINSHIP, Highwayman and Footpad

That idleness in which youths are suffered to live in this kingdom till they are grown to that size at which they are usually put apprentice (a space of time in which they are much better employed, in many other countries of Europe) too often creates an inaptitude to work and allows them opportunity of entering into paths which have a fatal termination.

John Winship, of whom we are now to treat, was born of parents in tolerable circumstances in the parish of St. Paul's, Covent Garden. They gave him an education rather superior to his condition, and treated him with an indulgence by which his future life became unhappy. At about fourteen, they placed him as an apprentice with a carpenter, to which trade he himself had a liking. His master used him as well as he could have expected or wished, yet that inclination to idleness and loitering which he had contracted while a boy, made him incapable of pursuing his business with tolerable application. The particular accident by which he was determined to leave it shall be the next point in our relation.

It happened that returning one day from work, he took notice of a young woman standing at a door in a street not far distant from that in which his master lived. He was then about seventeen, and imagining love to be a very fine thing, thought fit, without further enquiry, to make this young woman the object of his affection. The next evening he took occasion to speak to her, and this acquaintance soon improving into frequent appointments, naturally led Winship into much greater expenses than he was able to support. This had two consequences equally fatal to this unhappy young man, for in the first place he left his master and his trade, and took to driving of coaches and like methods, to get his bread; but all the ways he could think of, proving unable to supply his expenses, he went next upon the road, and raised daily contributions in as illegal a manner as they were spent at night, in all the excesses of vice.

It is impossible to give either a particular or exact account of the robberies he committed, because he was always very reserved, even after conviction, in speaking as to these points.

However, he is said to have been concerned in robbing a Frenchman of quality in the road to Hampstead, who in a two-horsed chaise, with the coachman on his box, was attacked in the dusk of the evening by three highwaymen. They exchanged several pistols and continued the fight, till, the ammunition on both sides being exhausted, the foreigner prepared to defend himself with his sword. The rogues were almost out of all hopes of obtaining their booty, when one of them getting behind the chaise secretly cut a square hole in its back, and putting in both his arms, seized the gentleman so strongly about the shoulders that his companions had an opportunity of closing in with him, disarming him of his sword, rifling and taking a hundred and twenty pistoles. Not content with this they ripped the lace off his clothes, and took from the coachmen all the money he had about him.

Winship had been concerned in divers gangs, and being a fellow of uncommon agility of body, was mighty well received and much caressed by them, as was also another companion of his, whom they called Clean-Limbed Tom, whose true name was never known, being killed in a duel at Kilkenny in Ireland. This last mentioned person had been bred with an apothecary, and sometimes travelled the country in the high capacity of a quack doctor, at others, in the more humble station of a merry-andrew. Travelling once down into the west, with a little chest of medicines which he intended to dispose of in this matter at West Chester, at an inn about twenty miles short of that city he overtook a London wholesale dealer, who had been that way collecting debts. Tom made a shift to get into his company overnight, and diverted him so much with his facetious conversation that he invited him to breakfast with him the next morning. Tom took occasion to put a strong purge into the ale and toast which the Londoner was drinking, he himself pretending never to take anything in the morning but a glass of wine and bitters. When the stranger got on horseback, Tom offered to accompany him, For, says he, I can easily walk as fast as your horse will trot. They had not got above two miles before, at the entrance of a common, the physic began to work. The tradesman alighting to untruss a point, Tom leaped at once into his saddle, and galloped off both with his horse and portmanteau. He baited an hour at a small village three miles beyond Chester, having avoided passing through that city, then continued his journey to Port Patrick, from whence he crossed to Dublin with about four score pounds in ready money, a gold watch, which was put up in a corner of a cloak bag, linen, and other things to a considerable value besides.

But to return to Winship. His robberies were so numerous that he began to be very well known and much sought after by those who make it their business to bring men to justice for rewards. There is some reason to believe that he had been once condemned and received mercy. However, on the 25th of May, 1721, he stopped one Mr. Lowther in his chariot, between Pancras Church and the Halfway House, and robbed him of his silver watch and a purse of ten guineas; for which robbery being quickly after apprehended, he was convicted at the Old Bailey, on the evidence of the prosecutor and the voluntary information of one of his companions.

While he lay under sentence, he could not help expressing a great impatience at the miserable condition to which his follies had reduced him, and at the same time to show the most earnest desire of life, though it were upon the terms of transportation for the whole continuance of it; though he frequently declared it did not arise so much from a willingness in himself to continue in this world, as at the grief he felt for the misfortunes of his aged mother, who was ready to run distracted at her son's unhappy fate.

As he was a very personable young man strangers, especially at chapel, took particular notice of him, and were continually inquiring of his adventures; but Winship not only constantly refused to give them any satisfaction, but declared also to the Ordinary that he did not think himself obliged to make any discoveries which might affect the lives of others, showing also an extraordinary uneasiness whenever such questions were put to him. When he was asked, by the direction of a person of some rank, whether he did not rob a person dressed in such a manner in a chaise as he was watering his horse before the church door, during the time of Divine service, Winship replied, he supposed the crime did not consist in the time or place, and as to whether he was guilty of it or no, he would tell nothing.

In other respects he appeared penitent and devout, suffering at Tyburn at the same time with the afore-mentioned Matthew Clark, in the twenty-second year of his age, leaving behind him a wife, who died afterwards with grief for his execution.

The Life of JOHN MEFF, alias MERTH, a Housebreaker and a Highwayman

The rigid execution of felons who return from transportation has been found so necessary that few or none who have been tried for such illegal returning have escaped, though 'tis very hard to convince those who suffer for that offence that there is any real crime in their evading their sentence. It was this which brought John Meff, alias Merth, of whom we are now to speak, to an ignominious death, after he had once before escaped it in a very extraordinary manner, as in the process of his story shall be related.

This unhappy man was born in London of French parents, who retired into England for the sake of their religion, when Louis XIV began his furious persecution against the Protestants in his dominions. This John Meff was educated with great care, especially as to the principles of religion, by a father who had very just notions of that faith for which in banishment he suffered. When his son John grew up, he put him out apprentice to a weaver, whom he served with great fidelity, and after he came out of his time, married; but finding himself incapable to maintain his family by his labour, he unfortunately addicted himself to ill-courses. In this he was yet more unlucky, for having almost at his first setting out broke open a house, he was discovered, apprehended, tried, convicted, and put in the cart, in order to go to execution within the fortnight; but the hangman being arrested as he was going to Tyburn, he and the rest who were to have suffered with him were transported through the clemency of the Government.

On this narrow escape from death, Meff was full of many penitent resolutions, and determined with himself to follow for the future an honest course of life, however hard and laborious, as persons are generally inclined to believe all works in the plantations are. Yet no sooner was he at liberty (that is, on board the transport vessel, where he found means to make the master his friend) than much of these honest intentions were dissolved and laid aside, to which perhaps the behaviour of his companions and of the seamen on board the ship, did not a little contribute. At first their passage was easy, the wind fair and prosperous. They began to comfort one another with the hopes of living easily in the Plantations, greedily enquiring of the seamen how persons in their unhappy condition were treated by their masters, and whether all the terrible relations they had had in England were really facts, or invented only to terrify those who were to undergo that punishment.

But while these unhappy persons were thus amusing themselves a new and unlooked for misfortune fell upon them, for in the height of Bermuda they were surprised by two pirate sloops, who though they found no considerable booty on board, were very well satisfied by the great addition they made to their force, from most of those felons joining with them in their piratical undertakings. Meff, however, and eight others, absolutely refused to sign the paper which contained the pirate's engagement and articles for better pursuing their designs. These nine were, according to the barbarous practice of those kind of people, marooned, that is, set on shore on an uninhabited island. According to the custom of the people in such distress, they were obliged to rub two dry sticks together till they took fire, and with great difficulty gathered as many other sticks as made a fire large enough to yield them some relief from the inclemency of the weather. They caught some fowls with springes made of an old horsehair wig, which were very tough and of a fishy taste, but after three or four days, they became acquainted with the springes and were never afterwards to be taken by that means. Their next resource for food was an animal which burrowed in the ground like our rabbits, but the flesh of these proving unwholesome, threw them into such dangerous fluxes that five out of the nine were scarce able to go. They were then forced to take up with such fish as they were able to catch, and even these were not only very rank and unpleasant, but very small also, and no great plenty of them either.

At last, when they almost despaired of ever getting off that inhospitable island, they espied early one morning an Indian canoe come on shore with seven persons. They hid themselves behind the rocks as carefully as they could, and the Indians being gone up into the heart of the island, they went down and finding much salt provisions in the boat, they trusted themselves to the mercy of the waves.

By the providence of God they were driven in two days into an English settlement, where Meff, instead of betaking himself to any settled course, resolved to turn sailor, and in that capacity made several voyages, not only to Barbadoes, Jamaica, and the rest of the British Islands, but also to New England, Virginia, South Carolina, and other plantations. On the main, there is no doubt but he led a life of no great satisfaction in this occupation, which probably was the reason he resolved to return home to England at all hazards. He did so, and had hardly been a month in this kingdom before he fell to his old practices, in which he was attended with the same ill-fortune as formerly; that is to say, he was apprehended for one of his first acts, and committed to Newgate. Out of this prison he escaped by the assistance of a certain bricklayer, and went down to Hatfield in Hertfordshire to remain in hiding, but as he affirmed and was generally believed, being betrayed by the same bricklayer he was retaken, conveyed again to Newgate and confined the utmost severity.

At his trial there arose a doubt whether the fact he had committed was not pardoned by the Act of Indemnity then lately granted. However, the record of his former conviction being produced, the Court ordered he should be indicted for returning without lawful cause, on which indictment he was convicted upon full proof, condemned and shortly after ordered for execution.

During the space he lay under sentence he expressed much penitence for his former ill-spent life, and together with James Reading, who was in the same unhappy state with himself, read and prayed with the rest of the prisoners. This Reading had been concerned in abundance of robberies, and, as he himself owned, in some which were attended with murder; he acknowledged he knew of the killing of Mr. Philpot, the surveyor of the window-lights, at the perpetration of which fact Reading said there were three persons present, two of which he knew, but as to the third he could say nothing. This malefactor, though but thirty-five years of age, was a very old offender, and had in his life-time been concerned with most of the notorious gangs that at that time were in England, some of whom he had impeached and hanged for his own preservation; but he was at last convicted for robbing (in company with two others) George Brownsworth of a watch and other things of a considerable value, between Islington and the turnpike, and for it was executed at Tyburn, the 11th of September, 1721, together with John Meff aforesaid, then in the fortieth year of his age.

The Life of JOHN WIGLEY, a Highwayman

It is an observation which must be obvious to all my readers, that few who addict themselves to robbing and stealing ever continue long in the practice of those crimes before they are overtaken by Justice, not seldom as soon as they set out.

This man had been bred a plasterer, but seems to have fallen very early into ill courses and felonious methods of getting money, in which horrid practice he spent his years, till taking up with an old woman who sold brandy upon Finchley Common, she sometimes persuaded him, of late years, to work at his trade.

There has been great suspicions that he murdered the old husband to this woman, who was found dead in a barn or outhouse not far from Hornsey; but Wigley, though he confessed an unlawful correspondence with the woman, yet constantly averred his innocency of that fact, and always asserted that though the old man's death was sudden, yet it was natural. He used to account for it by saying that the deceased was a great brandy-drinker, by which he had worn out his constitution, and that being one evening benighted in his return home from London, he crawled into that barn where he was found dead next morning, and was currently reported to have been murdered.

Though this malefactor had committed a multitude of robberies, yet he generally chose to go on such expeditions alone, having always great aversion for those confederacies in villainy which we call gangs, in which he always affirmed there was little safety, notwithstanding any oaths, by which they might bind themselves to secrecy. For notwithstanding some instances of their neglecting rewards when they were to be obtained by betraying their companions, yet when life came to be touched, they hardly ever failed of betraying all they knew. Yet he once receded from the resolution he had made of never robbing in company, and went out one night with two others of the same occupation towards Islington, there they met with one Symbol Conyers, whom they robbed of a watch, a pair of silver spurs, and four shillings in money, at the same time treating him very ill, and terrifying him with their pistols.

For this fact, soon after it was done, Wigley was apprehended, and convicted at the ensuing sessions. When all hopes of life were lost, he seemed disposed to suffer with cheerfulness and resignation that death to which the Law had doomed him. He said, in the midst of his afflictions it was some comfort to him that he had no children who might be exposed by his death to the wide world, not only in a helpless and desolate condition, but also liable to the reflections incident from his crimes. He also observed that the immediate hand of Providence seemed to dissipate whatever wicked persons got by rapine and plunder, so as not only to prevent their acquiring a subsistence which might set them above the necessity of continuing in such courses, but that they even wanted bread to support them, when overtaken by Justice. He was near forty years of age at the time of his death, which happened on the same day as the malefactors last mentioned.

The Life of WILLIAM CASEY, a Robber

William Casey, whose life is the subject of our present discourse, was a son of one of the same name, a soldier who had served his Majesty long, and with good reputation. As is usual amongst that sort of people, the education he gave his son was such as might fit him for the same course of life, though at the same time he took care to provide him with a tolerable competency of learning, that is, as to writing and reading English. When he was about fifteen years of age, his father caused him to be enlisted in the same company in which he served for some small time before my Lord Cobham's expedition into Spain,[12] in which he accompanied him. That expedition being over, Casey returned into England, and did duty as usual in the Guards.

One night he, with some others, crossing the park a fray happened between them and one John Stone, which as Casey affirmed at his death, was occasioned by the prosecutor Stone offering very great indecencies to him, upon which they in a fury beat and abused him, from the abhorrence they pretended to have for that beastly and unnatural sin of sodomy. Whether this was really the case or no is hard to determine; all who were concerned in it with Casey being indicted (though not apprehended) with him, and their evidence consequently taken. However that matter was, Stone the prosecutor told a dreadful story on Casey's trial. He said the four men attacked him crossing the Park, who attacked, beat and cruelly trod upon and wounded him, taking from him at the same time his hat, wig, neck-cloth and five shillings in money; and that upon his arising and endeavouring to follow them, they turned back, stamped upon him, broke one of his ribs, and told him that if he attempted to stir, they would seize him and swear sodomy upon him. On this indictment Casey was convicted and ordered for execution, notwithstanding all the intercession his friends could make.

While under sentence he complained heavily of the pains a certain corporal had taken in preparing and pressing the evidence against him. He said his diligence proceeded not from any desire of doing justice, or for his guilt, but from an old grudge he owed their family, from Casey's father threatening to prosecute him for a rape committed on his daughter, then very young, and attended with very cruel circumstances; and which even the corporal himself had in part owned in a letter which he had written to the said Casey's father. However, while he lay in Newgate, he seemed heartily affected with sorrow for his misspent life, which he said was consumed as is too frequent among soldiers, either in idleness or vice. He added, that in Spain he had made serious resolutions of amendment with himself, but was hindered from performing them by his companions, who were continually seducing him into his old courses. When he found that all hopes of life were lost, he disposed himself to submit with decency to his fate, which disposition he preserved to the last.

At the place of execution he behaved with great composure and said that as he had heard he was accused in the world of having robbed and murdered a woman in Hyde Park, he judged it proper to discharge his conscience by declaring that he knew nothing of the murder, but said nothing as to the robbery. At the time of his death, which was on the 11th of September, 1721, he was about twenty years of age, and according to the character his officers gave him, a very quiet and orderly young man. He left behind him a paper to be published to the world, which as he was a dying man he averred to be the truth.

A copy of a paper left by William Casey.

Good People, I am now brought to this place to suffer a shameful and ignominious death, and of all such unhappy persons, 'tis expected by the world that they should either say something at their death, or leave some account behind them. And having that which more nearly concerns me, viz., the care of my immortal soul, I choose rather to leave these lines behind me than to waste my few precious moments in talking to the multitude. First, I declare, I die like a member, though a very unworthy one, of the Church of England as by Law established, the principles of which my now unhappy father took an early care to instruct me in. And next for the robbery of Mr. Stone, for which I am now brought to this fatal place. I solemnly do declare to God and the world, that I never had the value of one halfpenny from him, and that the occasion of his being so ill-used was that he offered to me that detestable and crying sin of sodomy.

I take this opportunity, with almost my last breath, to give my hearty thanks to the honourable Col. Pitts, and Col. Pagitt, for their endeavours to save my life, and indeed I had some small hopes that his Majesty, in consideration of the services of my whole family, having all been faithful soldiers and servants to the Crown of England, would have extended one branch of his mercy to me, and have sent me to have served him in another country. But welcome be the Grace of God, I am resigned to His will, and die in charity with all men, forgiving, hoping to be forgiven myself, through the merits of my blessed Saviour Jesus Christ. I hope, and make it my earnest request that nobody will be so little Christian as to reflect on my aged parents, wife, brother, or sisters, for my untimely end. And I pray God, into whose hands I commend my spirit, that the great number of sodomites in and about this City and suburbs, may not bring down the same judgement from Heaven as fell on Sodom and Gomorrah.

William Casey.


[12] Sir Richard Temple, 1st Viscount Cobham, was a distinguished general who had served under Marlborough. In 1719 he led an expedition to the north coast of Spain and seized Vigo and the neighbouring towns and harbours.

The Life of JOHN DYKES, a Thief and Highwayman

It is a reflection almost too common to be repeated that of all the vices to which young people are addicted, nothing is so dangerous as a habit and inclination to gaming. To explain this would be to swell a volume. Instances which are so numerous do it much better. Perhaps this unhappy person John Dykes is as strong a one as is anywhere to be met with. His parents were persons in middling circumstances, but he being their eldest child, they treated him with great indulgence, and to the detriment of their own fortune afforded him a necessary education. When he grew up and his friends thought of placing him out apprentice, he always found some excuse or other to avoid it, which arose only from his great indolence of temper, and his continual itching after gaming. When he had money, he went to the gaming tables about town, and when reduced by losses sustained there, would put on an old ragged coat and get out to play at chuck, and span-farthing, amongst the boys in the street, by which, sometimes he got money enough to go to his old companions again. But this being a very uncertain recourse, he made use more frequently of picking pockets; for which being several times apprehended and committed to Bridewell, his friends, especially his poor father, would often demonstrate to him the ignominious end which such practices would necessarily bring on, entreating him while there was yet time, to reflect and to leave them off, promising to do their utmost for him, notwithstanding all that was past. In the course of this unhappy life the youth had acquired an extraordinary share of cunning, and an unusual capacity of dissembling; he employed it more than once to deceive his family into a belief of his having made a thorough resolution of amendment.

Once, after having suffered the usual discipline of the horsepond, Dykes was carried before a Justice of Peace, and committed to Tothill Fields Bridewell[13]. Here he became acquainted with one Jeddediah West, a Quaker's son, who had fallen into the like practices, and for them shared the same punishment with himself. They were pretty much of a temper, but Jeddediah was the elder and much the more subtle of the two, and in this unhappy place they contracted a strict and intimate friendship. Out of shame Jeddediah forbore for two or three days to acquaint his relations, and during that time for the most part subsisted out of what Dykes got from home. But at last West picked up courage enough to send to his brother, a very eminent man in business, and by telling him a plausible story, procured not only pity and relief, but even prevailed on him to believe that he was innocent of the fact for which he was committed. He so well tutored his friend Dykes that though he could not persuade his parents into the same degree of credulity, yet his outward appearance of penitence induced them not only to pardon him but to take him home, give him a new suit of clothes, and to promise him, if he continued to do well, whatever was in their power to do for him.

Dykes and his companion being in favour with their friends, and having money in their pockets, continued their correspondence and went often to the gaming tables together. At first they had a considerable run of luck for about three weeks, but Fortune then forsaking them, they were reduced to be downright penniless, without any hopes of relief or assistance from their friends sufficient to carry on their expenses. West at last proposed an expedient for raising money, which lay altogether upon himself, and which he the next day executed in the following manner.

About the time that he knew his brother was to come home from the Exchange to dinner, he went to his house equipped in a sailor's pea-jacket, his hair cropped short to his ears, his eyebrows coloured black, and a handkerchief about his neck. As soon as he saw him in the counting-house, his brother started back, and cried, Bless me! Jeddediah, how came you in this pickle? With all signs of grief and confusion, he threw himself at his brother's feet, and told him with a flood of tears that two coiners who had accidentally seen him in Bridewell had sworn against him and three others on their apprehension, in order on the merit thereof to be admitted evidences to get off themselves. So that, dear brother, he continued, I have been obliged to take a passage in a vessel that does down next tide to Gravesend, for I have ran the hazard of my life to come and beg your charitable assistance.

The poor honest man was so much amazed and concerned at this melancholy tale, that bursting out into tears, and hanging about his brother's neck, he begged him to take a coach and begone to Billingsgate, giving him ten guineas in hand and telling him that his bills should not be protested if he drew within the compass of a hundred pounds from Dieppe, whither he said the ship was bound. West was no sooner out of the street where his brother lived, but he ordered the coach to drive to a certain place where he had appointed Dykes to meet him, and there they expressed a great deal of mutual satisfaction at the trick West had played his brother. However, the latter was no great gainer in the end, for Mr. West, senior, soon finding out the contrivance, forever renounced him, and Jeddediah being soon after arrested for twelve pounds due to his tailor, was carried to prison and remained there without the least assistance from his brother, till after his friend Dykes was hanged.

The last mentioned malefactor, unmoved by all the tender entreaties of his friends, and the glaring prospect before him of his own ruin, went still on at the old rate, and whenever gaming had brought him low in cash, took up with the road, or some such like dishonest method to recruit it. At last he had the ill-luck to commit a robbery in Stepney parish, in the road between Mile End and Bow, upon one Charles Wright, to whose bosom clapping a pistol, he commanded him to deliver peacefully, or he would shoot him through the body. The booty he took was very inconsiderable, being only a penknife, an ordinary seal, and five shillings and eightpence in money. A poor price for life, since two days after he was apprehended for this robbery, committed to Newgate and condemned the next sessions.

His behaviour under these unhappy circumstances was very mean, and such as fully showed what difference there is between courage and that resolution which is necessary to support the spirits and calm our apprehensions at the certain approach of a violent death. I forbear attempting any description of those unutterable torments which the exterior marks of a distracted behaviour fully showed that this poor wretch endured. And as I have nothing more to add of him, but that he confessed his having been guilty of a multitude of ill acts, he submitted at last with greater cheerfulness than he had ever shown during his confinement to that shameful death which the Law had ordained for his crimes, on the 23rd of October, 1721, when he was about twenty-three years of age.


[13] This Bridewell occupied the site adjoining the north side of the Green Coat School, on the west: side of Artillery Place. Although originally intended for vagrants, early in the 18th century it was turned into a house of detention for criminals.

The Life of RICHARD JAMES, a Highwayman

The misfortune of not having early a virtuous education is often so great a one as never to be retrieved, and it happens frequently (as far as human capacity will give us leave to judge) that those prove remarkably wicked and profligate for want of it who if they had been so happy as to have received it, would probably have led an honest and industrious life. I am led to this observation at present by the materials which lay before me for the composition of this life.

Richard James was the son of a nobleman's cook, but he knew little more of his father than that he left him to the wide world while very young; and so at about twelve years of age he was sent to sea. There he had the misfortune to be taken prisoner by the Spaniards, who he acknowledged treated him with great humanity, and a house-painter taking a great liking to him, received him into his house, taught him his profession, and used him with the same tenderness as if he had been his nearest relation.

But fondness for his country exciting in him a continual desire of seeing England again, at last he found a means to return before he was seventeen; and after this, being in England but a very small time, he totally disobliged what few friends he had left, by his silly marriage to a poor girl younger than himself. As is common enough in such mad adventures, the woman's friends were as much disobliged as his, and so not knowing how to subsist together, Richard was obliged to betake him to his old profession of the sea.

The first voyage he made was to the West Indies, where he had the misfortune to be taken by pirates, and by them being set on shore, he was reduced almost to downright starving. However, begging his way to Boston in New England, he from thence found a method of returning home once again. The first thing he did was to enquire for his wife. But she, under a pretence of having received advice of his death from America, had gotten another husband; and though poor James was willing to pass that by, yet the woman, it seems, knew better when she was well, and under pretence of affection for two children which she had by this last husband, absolutely refused to leave him and return back to Dick, her first spouse. However, he did not seem to have taken this much to heart, for in a short time he followed her example and married another wife; but finding no method of procuring an honest livelihood, he took a short method of living, viz., to thieving after every manner that came in his way.

He committed a vast number of robberies in a very short space, chiefly upon the waggoners in the Oxford Road, and sometimes, as if there were not crime enough in barely robbing them, he added to it by the cruel manner in which he treated them. At this rate he went on for a considerable space, till being apprehended for a robbery of a man on Hanwell Green, from whom he took but ten shillings, he was shortly after convicted; and having no friends, from that time he laid aside all hope of life.

During the space he had to prepare himself for death, he appeared so far from being either terrified, or even unwilling to die, that he looked upon it as a very happy relief from a very troublesome and uneasy life, and declared, with all outward appearance of sincerity, that he would not, even if it were in his power, procure a reprieve, or avoid that death which could alone prove a remedy for those evils which had so long rendered life a burden. He was very earnest to be instructed in the duties of religion, and seemed to desire nothing else than to prepare himself, as well as time and his melancholy circumstances would allow him, and never from the time of his conviction showed any change in his disposition but continued still rather to wish for his death than to fear it. He made a very ample confession of all the robberies he had ever done, and seemed sorrowful enough, above all, for the inhumanity and incivility with which he had sometimes treated people.

Amongst other particulars he said that once, with his companions, having robbed a lady in some other company of a whip, and a tortoiseshell snuff-box with a silver rim, she earnestly desired to have them returned, saying that as to the money they had taken they were heartily welcome; the other thieves seemed inclinable to grant her request, but James absolutely declared that she should not have them. However, as a very extraordinary mark of his generosity, he took the snuff out of the box, and putting it into a paper, gave it her back again.

At the place of execution he repeated what he had formerly said as to his readiness of dying, adding, that if the people pitied the misfortune he fell under of dying so ignominious a death, he no less pitied them in the dangers and misfortunes they were sure to run through in this miserable world. At the time of his death he was about thirty years of age, and suffered on the same day with the criminal last mentioned.

The Life of JAMES WRIGHT, a Highwayman

James Wright, the malefactor whose life we are going to relate at present, was born at Enfield, of very honest and industrious parents, who, that he might get a living honestly, put him apprentice to a peruke-maker. At this trade, after having served his time, he set up in the Old Bailey, and lived there for some time in very good credit. But being much given up to women, and an idle habit of life, his expenses quickly outwent his profits, and thus in the space of some months reduced him to downright want. This put him upon the illegal ways he afterwards took to support himself in the enjoyment of those pleasures which even the evils he had already felt could not make him wise enough to shun.

He was very far from being a hardened criminal, hardly ever robbing a passenger without tears in his eyes, and always framing resolutions to himself of quitting that infamous manner of life, as soon as ever it should be in his power. He fancied that as the rich could better spare it than the poor, there was less crime in taking it from them, and valued himself not a little that he had never injured any poor man, but always singled out those who from their equipage were likeliest to yield him a good booty, and at the same time not be much the worse for it themselves. He had gone on for a considerable space in the commission of villainies with impunity, but at last being apprehended for a robbery committed by him in the county of Surrey, he was thereupon indicted and tried at the ensuing assizes at Kingston, and by some means or other, was so lucky as to be acquitted, no doubt to his very great joy; and on this deliverance he again renewed his vows of amendment.

After this acquittal a friend of his was so kind as to take him down to his house in the country, in hopes of keeping him out of harm's way; and indeed 'tis highly probable that he had totally given over all evil intention of that sort, when he was unfortunately impeached by Hawkins, one of his old companions, and on his evidence and that of the prosecutor whom he found out, Wright was taken up, tried and convicted at the Old Bailey. When he perceived there was no hope of life he applied himself to the great business of his soul, and behaved with the greatest composure imaginable. He declared himself a Roman Catholic, yet frequented the chapel all the time he was in Newgate, and seemed only studious how to make peace with God.

When the fatal day of execution approached, he was far from seeming amazed, notwithstanding that after mature deliberation he refused to declare his associates, or how they might be found, saying that perhaps they might repent, and he hoped some of them had done so, and he would not bring them to the same ignominious death with himself. The fact he died for, viz., robbing Mr. Towers, with some ladies in a coach in Marlborough Street, he confessed, also that his companion called out to him, What, do they resist? Shoot 'em. He suffered with all the outward signs of penitence, on the 22nd of December, 1721, being about thirty-four years of age.

The Life of NATHANIEL HAWES, a Thief and a Robber

Amongst many odd notions which are picked up by the common people, there is none more dangerous, both to themselves and unto others, than the idea they get of courage, which with them consists either in a furious madness, or an obstinate perseverence, even in the worst cause.

Nathaniel Hawes was a very extraordinary instance of this, as the following part of his life will show. He was, as he said himself, the son of a very rich grazier in Norfolk, who dying when he was but a year old, he afterwards pretended that he was defrauded of a greater part of his father's effects which should have belonged to him. However, those who took care of his education put him out apprentice to an upholsterer, with whom having served about four years, he then fell into very expensive company, which reduced him to such straits as obliged him to make bold with his master's cash, by which he injured him for some time with impunity. But proceeding, at last, to the commission of a downright robbery, he was therein detected, tried and convicted, but being then a very young man, the Court had pity on him, and he had the good luck to procure a pardon.

Natt made the old use of mercy, when extended to such sort of people, that is, when he returned to liberty he returned to his old practices. His companions were several young men of the same stamp with himself, who placed all their delight in the sensual and brutal pleasures of drinking, gaming, whoring and idling about, without betaking themselves to any business. Natt, who was a young fellow naturally sprightly and of good parts, from thence became very acceptable to these sort of people, and committed abundance of robberies in a very small space of time. The natural fire of his temper made him behave with great boldness on such occasions, and gave him no small reputation amongst the gang. Seeing himself extravagantly commended on such occasions, Hawes began to form to himself high notions of heroism in that way, and from the warmth of a lively imagination, became a downright Don Quixote in all their adventures. He particularly affected the company of Richard James, and with him robbed very much on the Oxford Road, whereon it was common for both these persons not only to take away the money from passengers, but also to treat them with great inhumanity, which for all I might know might arise in a great measure from Hawes's whimsical notions.

This fellow was so puffed up with the reputation he had got amongst his companions in the same miserable occupation, that he fancied no expedition impracticable which he thought fit to engage, and indeed the boldness of his attempts had so often given him success that there is no wonder a fellow of his small parts and education should conceive so highly of himself. It was nothing for Hawes singly to rob a coach full of gentlemen, to stop two or three persons on the highway at a time, or to rob the waggons in a line as they came on the Oxford Road to London, nor was there any of the little prisons or Bridewells that could hold him.

There was, however, an adventure of Natt's of this kind that deserves a particular relation. He had, it seems, been so unlucky as to be taken and committed to New Prison,[14] on suspicion of robbing two gentlemen in a chaise coming from Hampstead. Hawes viewed well the place of his confinement, but found it much too strong for any attempts like those he was wont to make. In the same place with himself and another man mere was a woman very genteelly dressed, who had been committed for shoplifting. This woman seemed even more ready to attempt something which might get her out of that confinement than either Hawes or her other companion. The latter said it was impracticable, and Natt that though he had broken open many a prison, yet he saw no probability of putting this in the number.

Well, said the woman have you courage enough to try, if I put you in the way? Yes, quoth Hawes, there's nothing I won't undertake for liberty; and said the other fellow, If I once saw a likelihood of performing it, there's nobody has better hands at such work than myself. In the first place, said this politician in petticoats, we must raise as much money amongst us as will keep a very good fire. Why truly, replied Hawes, a fire would be convenient in this cold weather, but I can't, for my heart, see how we should be nearer our liberty for it, unless you intend to set the gaol in flames. Tush! Tush! answered the woman, follow but my directions, and let's have some faggots and coals, and I warrant you by to-morrow morning we shall be safe oat of these regions. The woman spoke this with so much assurance that Hawes and the other man complied, and reserving but one shilling, laid out all their money in combustibles and liquor. While the runners of the prison were going to and fro upon this occasion, the woman seemed so dejected that she could scarce speak, and the two men by her directions sat with the same air as if the rope already had been about them at Tyburn. At last, as they were going to be locked up; Pray, says the woman, with a faint voice, Can't you give me something like a poker? Why, yes, says one of the fellows belonging to the gaol, if you'll give me twopence, I'll bring you one of the old bars that was taken out of the window when these new ones were put in. The woman gave him the halfpence, he delivered the bar, and the keepers having locked them up, barred and bolted the doors, and left them until next morning.

As soon as ever the people of the gaol were gone, up starts madam. Now, my lads, says she, to work; and putting her hands into her pockets and shaking her petticoats, down drops two little bags of tools. She pointed out to them a large stone at the corner of the roof which was morticed into two others, one above and the other below. After they had picked all the mortar from between them, she heated the bar red hot in the fire, and putting it to the sockets into which the irons that held the stones were fastened with lead, it quickly loosened them, and then making use of the bars as of a crow, by two o'clock in the morning they had got them all three out, and opened a fair passage into the streets, only that it was a little too high. Upon this the woman made them fasten the iron bar strongly at the angle where the three stones met, and then pulling off her stays, she unrolled from the top of her petticoats four yards of strong cord, the noose of which being fastened on the iron, the other end was thrown out over the wall, and so the descent was rendered easy. The men were equally pleased and surprised at their good fortune, and in gratitude to the female author of it, helped her to the top of the wall, and let her get safe over before they attempted to go out themselves.

It was not long after this that Hawes committed a robbery on Finchley Common, upon one Richard Hall, from whom he took about four shillings in money; and to make up the badness of the booty, he took from him his horse, in order to be the better equipped to go in quest of another which might make up the deficiency. For this robbery, being shortly after detected and apprehended, he was convicted and received sentence of death. When first confined, he behaved himself with very great levity, and declared he would merit a greater reputation by the boldness of his behaviour than any highwayman that had died these seven years. Indeed, this was the style he always made use of, and the great affectation of intrepidity and resolution which he always put on would have moved anybody (had it not been for his melancholy condition) to smile at the vanity of the man.

At the time he was taken up, he had, it seems, a good suit of clothes taken from him, which put him so much out of humour, because he could not appear, as he said, like a gentleman at the sessions-house, that when he was arraigned and should have put himself upon his trial, he refused to plead unless they were delivered to him again. But to this the Court answered that it was not in their power, and on his persisting to remain mute, after all the exhortations which were made to him, the Court at last ordered that the sentence of the press should be read to him, as is customary on such occasions; after which the Judge from the Bench spoke to him to this effect

Nathaniel Hawes,

The equity of the Law of England, more tender of the lives of its subjects than any other in the world, allows no person to be put to death, either unheard or without the positive proof against him of the fact whereon he stands charged; and that proof, too, must be such as shall satisfy twelve men who are his equals, and by whose verdict he is to be tried. And surely no method can be devised fuller than this is, as well of compassion, as of Justice. But then it is required that the person to be tried shall aver his innocence by pleading Not Guilty to his indictment, which contains the charge. You have heard that which the grand jury have found against you. You see here twelve honest men ready to enquire impartially into the evidence that shall be given against you. The Court, such is the humanity of our constitution, is counsel for you as you are a prisoner. What hinders then, that you should submit to so fair, so equal a trial; and wherefore will you, by a brutish obstinacy, draw upon you that heavy judgement which the Law has appointed for those who seem to have lost the rational faculties of men?

To this Hawes impudently made answer, that the Court was formerly a place of Justice, but now it was become a place of injustice; that he doubted not but that they would receive a severer sentence than that which they had pronounced upon him; and that for his part, he made no question of dying with the same resolution with which he had often beheld death, and would leave the world with the same courage with which he had lived in it.

Natt thought this a most glorious instance of his courage, and when some of his companions said jestingly, that he chose pressing because the Court would not let him have a good suit of clothes to be hanged in, he replied, with a great deal of warmth, that it was no such thing, but that as he had lived with the character of the boldest fellow of his profession he was resolved to die with it, and leave his memory to be admired by all the gentlemen of the road in succeeding ages. This was the rant which took up the poor fellow's head, and induced him to bear 250 pound weight upon his breast for upwards of seven minutes, and was much the same kind of bravery as that which induced the French lacquey to dance a minuet immediately before he danced his last upon the wheel, an action which made so much noise in France as engaged the Duke de Rochefoucauld to compare it with the death of Cato.

Hawes, indeed, did not persist quite so long, but submitted to that justice which he saw was unavoidable, after he had endured, as I have said before, so great a weight in the press. The bruises he received on the chest pained him so exceedingly during the short remainder of his life that he was hardly able to perform those devotions which the near approach of death made him desirous to offer up for so profligate a life. He laid aside, then, those wild notions which had been so fatal to him through the whole course of his days, and so remarkably unfortunate to him in this last age of life. He confessed frankly what crimes he could remember and seemed very desirous of acquitting some innocent persons who were at that time imprisoned, or suspected, for certain villainies which were committed by Hawes and his gang; particularly a footman, then in the Poultry Compter, and a man's son at an alehouse, who, though Hawes declared he knew no harm of him, yet at the place of execution he said that as he desired his death might be a warning to all in general, so he wished it might be particularly considered by him. Though, as I have said, he was fully convinced of the folly of those notions which he had formerly entertained, yet he did not, as most of those braves do, go from one degree of extravagance to the other, that is, from daring everything to sinking into the meanest cowardice, for Hawes went to his death very composedly, as he had received the Sacrament the day before, with all the outward marks of devotion. He suffered on the 22nd day of September, 1721, at which time he was scarce twenty years of age.


[14] This was the Clerkenwell House of Detention, where prisoners were sent after being sentenced, pending their disposal at a House of Correction. It was originally intended for the overflow from Newgate. The prison stood in Clerkenwell Close.

The Life of JOHN JONES, a Pickpocket

There is not, perhaps, a greater misfortune to young people than that too great tenderness and compassion with which they are treated in their youth, and those hopes of amendment which their relations flatter themselves with as they grow up. If they could suffer themselves to be guided by experience, they would quickly find that sagacious minds do but increase in wickedness as they increase in years. Timely services, therefore, and proper restraints are the only methods with which such persons are to be treated, for minds disposed to such gross impurities as those which lead to such wickednesses or are rendered capital by Law, are seldom to be prevailed on by gentleness, or admonitions unseconded by harsher means. I am very far from being an advocate for great severities towards young people, but I confess in cases like these, I think they are as necessary as amputations, where the distemper has spread so far that no cure is to be hoped for by any other means. If the relations of John Jones had known and practised these methods, it is highly probable he had escaped the suffering and the shame of that ignominious death to which, after a long persisting in his crimes, he at last came.

This malefactor was born in the parish of St. Andrew's, Holborn, of parents in tolerable circumstances, who, while a boy, indulged him in all his little humours from a wise expectation of their dropping from him all at once when he grew up. But this expectation not succeeding, as it must be owned there was no great probability it should, they were then for persuading him to settle in business. That he might do this with less reluctancy they were so kind as to put him out upon liking to three or four trades; but it happening unluckily that there was work to be done in all of them, Jones could not be brought to go apprentice to any, but idled on amongst his companions, without ever thinking of applying himself to any business whatever. His relations sent him to sea, another odd academy to learn honesty at, and on his return from thence, and refusing to go any more, his relations refused to support him any longer.

Jack was very melancholy on this score, and having but eighteenpence in the world when he received the comfortable message of his never being to expect a farthing more from his friends, he went out to take a walk in Hyde Park to divert his melancholy, when he ruminated on what he was to do next for a livelihood. In the midst of these reflections he espied an old schoolfellow of his, who used to have the same inclinations with himself. There had been a great intimacy between them; it was quickly renewed, and Jack Jones unburdened to him the whole budget of his sorrows. And is this all? says the young fellow. Why, I will put you in a way to ease this in a minute, if you will step along with me to a house hard by, where I am to meet with some of my acquaintance. Jones readily consented, and to a little blind alehouse in a dark lane they went. The woman of the house received them very kindly, and as soon as Jack's companion had informed her that he was a newcomer, she conducted him into a little room, where she entertained him with a good dinner and a bowl of punch after it. Jack was mightily taken with the courtesy of his landlady, who promised him he should never want such usage and his friend would teach him in the evening how to earn it.

Evening came, and out walked the two young men. Jack was put upon nothing at that time, but to observe how his companion managed. He was a very dexterous youth, and at seven o'clock prayers picked up, in half an hour's time, three good handkerchiefs, and a silver snuff-box. Having this readily shown him the practice, he was no less courteous in acquainting Jones with the theory of his profession, and two or three night's work made Jones a very complete workman in their way.

He lived at this rate for some months, until going with his instructor through King Street, Westminster, and passing by a woman pretty well dressed, says the other fellow to Jones, Now mind, Jack, and while jostle her against the wall, do you whip off her pocket. Jones performed tolerably well, though the woman screamed out and people were thick in the street. He gave the pocket, as soon as he had plucked it off, to his comrade, but having felt it rather weighty, would trust him no farther than the first by-alley before they stopped to examine its contents.

They had scarce found their prize consisted of no more than a small prayer-book, a needle case, and a silver thimble, when the woman with a mob at her heels bolted upon them and seized them. Jones had the pocket in his hand when they laid hold of him, and his associate no sooner perceived the danger, but he clapped hold of him by the collar and cried out as loud as any of the mob, Ay, ay, this is he, good woman, is not this your pocket? By this strategem he escaped, and Jones was left to feel the whole weight of the punishment which was ready to fall upon them. He was immediately committed to prison, and the offence being capital in its nature, he was condemned at the next sessions, and though he always buoyed himself up with hopes to the contrary, was ordered for execution. He was dreadfully amazed at death, as being, indeed, very unfit to die. However, when he found it was inevitable, he began to prepare for it as well as he was able. His relations now afforded him some little relief, and after having made as ample a confession as he was able, he suffered at Tyburn with the two above-mentioned malefactors, Hawes and Wright, being then but a little above nineteen years of age.

The Life of JOHN SMITH, a Murderer

As idleness is fatal to youth, so it and ill-company become not seldom so even to persons in years. John Smith, of whose extraction we can say nothing, had served with a very good character in a regiment of foot, during Queen Anne's wars in Flanders. His captain took a particular liking to him, and from his boldness and fierce courage, to which he himself was also greatly inclined, they did abundance of odd actions during the War, some of which may not be unentertaining to the reader, if I mention.

The army lying encamped almost over against that of the French king, foraging was become very dangerous, and hardly a party went out without a skirmish. John's master, the captain, having been out with a party, and being over powered by the French, were obliged to leave their trusses behind them. When they returned to the camp, Smith was ordered to lead his master's horse out into the field between the two camps, that the poor creature might be able to pick up a little pasture. John had not attended his horse long before, at the distance of about half a mile, he saw a boy leading two others, at the foot of a hill which joined to the French fortification. As John's livery was yellow, and he spoke Walloon bad enough to be taken for a Frenchman, he ventured to stake the Captain's horse down where it was feeding, and without the least apprehension of the risk he ran, went across to the fellow who was feeding his horses under the French lines. He proceeded with so much caution that he was within a stone's throw of the boy, before he perceived him. From the colour of his clothes, and the place where they were, immediately under the French camp, the lad took him for one of their own people, and therefore answered him very civilly when he asked what o'clock it was, and whom he belonged to. But John no sooner observed from the boy's turning his horses, that the hill lay again between them and the French soldiers, than clapping his hand suddenly upon the boy's throat and tripping up his heels, he clapped a gag in his mouth, which he had cut for that purpose; and leaving him with his hands tied behind him upon the ground, he rode clear off with the best of the horses, notwithstanding that the boy had alarmed the French camp, and he had some hundred shot sent after him.

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