The captain and Smith were out one day a-foraging, and one of the officers of their party who was known to have a hundred pistoles about him, was killed in a skirmish, and neither party dared to bring off the body for fear of the other, it being just dark, each expected a reinforcement from the camp. Smith told his captain that if he'd give him one half of the gold for fetching, he would venture; and his offer being gladly accepted, he accordingly crept two hundred yards upon his belly, and after he had picked the purse out of the dead man's pockets, returned without being either seen or suspected.
When the army was disbanded, Smith betook himself to the sea, and served under Admiral Byng, in the fight at Messina; but on the return of that fleet from the Mediterranean, being discharged he came up to London, where having squandered his money, he did some petty thefts to get more. To this he was induced chiefly by the company of one Woolford, who was executed, and at whose execution Smith was present, and soon after cohabited with his wife. But not long after this, Smith meeting with one Sarah Thompson, an old acquaintance of his, who had it seems left him to live with another fellow, he took it into his head thereupon to use her very roughly, and clapping a pistol to her breast, threatened with abundance of ill-language to shoot her. This occasioned a great fray in the place where it happened, which was near the Hermitage towards Wapping, and several persons running to take the woman away, and to seize him, in order to prevent murder, Smith fired his pistol, and unhappily killed one Matthew Walden, who was amongst the number. The mob immediately crowded upon him and seized him, and the fact appearing very clear on his trial, he was convicted at the next sessions at the Old Bailey.
He behaved himself with great resolution, professed himself extremely sorry, as well for the many vices he had been guilty of as for that last bloody act which brought him to his shameful end. He especially recommended to all who spoke to him, to avoid the snares and delusions of lewd women; and at the place of execution delivered the following paper. He was about forty years of age when he died, being the 8th day of February, 1722, at Tyburn.
The paper delivered by John Smith at the place of execution
I was born of honest parents, bred to the sea, and lived honest, 'till I was led aside by lewd women. I then robbed on ships, and never robbed on shore. I had no design to kill the woman who jilted me, and left me for another man, but only to terrify her, for I could have shot her when the loaded pistol was at her breast, but I curbed my passion, and only threw a candle-stick at her. I confess my cruelty towards my wife, who is a woman too good for me, but I was at first forced to forsake her for debt, and go to sea. I hope in God none will reflect on her, or my poor innocent children, who could not help my sad passion, and more sad death. Written by me,
 George Byng, later created Viscount Torrington, was sent with a fleet for the protection of Sicily against the Spaniards. He found them besieging Messina, whereupon he gave their fleet battle and gained a smashing victory at Cape Passaro, 31 July, 1718.
The Life of JAMES SHAW, alias SMITH, a Highwayman and Murderer
James Shaw, otherwise Smith (for by both these names he went, nor am I able to say which was his true one) was the son of parents both of circumstances and inclination to have given him a very good education if he would have received it. The unsettledness of his temper was heightened by that indulgence with which he was treated by his relations, who permitted him to make trial of several trades, though he could not be brought to like any. Indeed, he stayed so long with a forger of gun-locks, as to learn something of his art, which sometimes he practised and thereby got money; but generally speaking he chose rather to acquire it by easier means.
I cannot take upon me to say at what time he began to rob upon the road, or take to any other villainy of that sort, but 'tis certain that if he himself were to be believed, it was in a great measure owing to a bad wife; for when he, by his labour, got nine shillings a week, and used to return home very weary in the evening, he generally found nobody there to receive him, or to get ready his supper, but everything in the greatest confusion, without any person to take care of what little he had. This, as he would have had it believed, was the source of his misfortunes and necessities, as it was also the occasion of his taking such fatal methods to relieve them.
The Hampstead Road was that in which he chiefly robbed, and he could not be persuaded that there was any great crime in taking away the superfluous cash of those who lavish it in vanity and luxury, or from those who procure it by cheating and gaming; and under these two classes Shaw pretended to rank all who frequented the Wells or Belsize, and it is to be much feared that in this respect he was not very far out. Amongst the many adventures which befell him in his expeditions on the road, there are one or two which it may not be improper to take notice of.
One evening, as he was patrolling thereabouts, he came up to a chariot in which there was a certain famous justice, who happened to have won about four hundred pounds at play, and Count Ui——n, a famous foreign gamester, that has made many different figures about this town. No sooner was the coach stopped by Shaw and another person on horseback, but the Squire slipped the money he had won behind the seat of the coach, and the Count having little to lose, seemed not very uneasy at the accident. The highwaymen no sooner had demanded their money, but the Count gave two or three pieces of foreign gold, and the gentleman, in hopes by this means of getting rid of them, presented them with twenty guineas.
Why, really, sir, said Shaw, on the receipt of the gold, this were a handsome compliment from another person, but methinks you might have spared a little more out of the long bag you brought from the gaming table. Come, gentlemen, get out, get out, we must examine the nest a little, I fancy the goldfinches are not yet flown. Upon this, they both got out of the chariot, and Shaw shaking the cushion that covered the seat hastily, the long bag fell out with its mouth open, and all its bright contents were scattered on the ground. The two knights of the road began to pick them up as fast as they could, and while the justice cursed this unlucky accident which had nicked him, after he had nicked all the gamesters at the Wells, the Count, who thought swearing an unprofitable exercise, began to gather as fast as they. A good deal of company coming in sight just as they had finished, and while they were calling upon the Count to refund, they were glad to gallop away. But returning to London they were taken, and about three hours after committing the fact, they, together with the witnesses against them, were brought before a Middlesex magistrate, who committed them.
But, pray, Sir, says Shaw, before he was taken out of the room; Why should not that French fellow suffer as well as we? He shared the booty, and please your Worship, 'tis but reasonable he should share the punishment. Well, what say you, Sir? quoth the Justice to his brother magistrate. What is this outlandish man they talk of? He is a count, Sir, replied he, returned from Naples, whither he went on some affairs of importance. He makes a very good figure here sometimes, though I do not know what his income is. I do not apprehend your Worship has anything to do with that, since I do not complain. However, replied this dispenser of justice, I have had but a very sorry account of you, yet as you are in company with my brother here, I shall take no further notice of what these men say.
Shaw being after this got out of prison and having no money to purchase a horse, he endeavoured to carry on his old profession of a footpad. In this shape he robbed also several coaches and single passengers, and that with very great inhumanity, which was natural, he said, from that method of attacking, for it was impossible for a footpad to get off, unless he either maimed the man, or wounded his horse.
Meeting by chance, as he was walking across Hampstead Road, an old grave-looking man, he thought there was no danger in making up to him, and seizing him, since he himself was well armed. The old gentleman immediately begged that he would be civil and told him that if he would be so, he would give him an old pair of breeches which were filled with money and effects worth money, and, as he said, lay buried by such a tree, pointing at the same time to it with his hand. Shaw went thither directly, in hopes of gaining the miser's great prize, for the old fellow made him believe he had buried it out of covetousness, and came there to brood over it. But no sooner were they come to the place, and Shaw looping down, began to look for three pieces of tobacco pipe, which the old man pretended to have stack where they were buried, but the gentleman whipped out his sword, and made two or three passes at Shaw, wounding him in the neck, side and breast.
As the number of his robberies were very great, so it is not to be expected that we should have a very exact account of them, yet as Shaw was not shy in revealing any circumstance that related to them, we may not perhaps have been as particular in the relation of his crimes as our readers would desire, and therefore it will be necessary to mention some other of his expeditions.
At his usual time and place, viz., Hampstead Road, in the evening, he overtook a dapper fellow, who was formerly a peruke-maker but now a gamester. This man taking Shaw for a bubble, began to talk of play, and mentioned All Fours and Cribbage, and asked him whether he would play a game for a bottle or so at the Flask. Shaw pretended to be very willing, but said he had made a terrible oath against playing for anything in any house; but if to avoid it, the gentleman would tie his horse to a tree and had any cards in his pocket, he'd sit down on the green bank in yonder close, and hazard a shilling or two. The gamester, who always carried his implements in his pocket, readily accepted of the offer, and tying their horses to a post of a little alehouse on the road, over they whipped into the fields. But no sooner were they set down, and the sharper began to shuffle the cards, but Shaw starting up, caught him by the throat, and after shaking out three guineas and a half from his breeches' pocket, broke to pieces two peep boxes, split as many pair of false dice, and kicked the cards all about the ground. He left him tied hand and foot to consider ways and means to recruit his stock by methods just as honest as those by which he lost it.
The soldiers that at that time were placed on the road, passed for a great security amongst people in town, but those who had occasion to pass that way found no great benefit from their protection, for robberies were as frequent as ever, and the ill-usage of persons when robbed more so, because the rogues thought themselves in greater danger of being taken, and therefore bound or disabled those they plundered, for fear of their pursuing them.
For a fact of this kind it was that Shaw came to his death, for one Philip Pots, being robbed on horseback by several footpads and knocked off his horse near the tile kilns by Pancras, and wounded in several places of his body with his own sword, which one of the villains had taken from him, some persons who passed by soon after took him up, and carried him to the Pinder of Wakefield. There, on the Monday following (this accident happening on Saturday night) he in great agonies expired. For this murder and another robbery between Highgate and Kentish Town, Shaw was taken up and soon after convicted. At first he denied all knowledge of the murder, but when his death grew near, he did acknowledge being privy to it, though he persisted in saying he had no hand in its commission.
At the time he was under condemnation, the afore-mentioned John Smith, William Colthouse, and Jonah Burgess were in the same condition. They formed a conspiracy for breaking out of the place where they were confined and to force an escape against all those who should oppose them. For this purpose they had procured pistols, but their plot being discovered, Burgess in great rage, cut his own throat and pretended that Shaw designed to have dispatched himself with one of the pistols. But Shaw, himself, absolutely denied this, and affirmed on the contrary that when Burgess said his enemies should never have the satisfaction (as they had bragged they would have) of placing themselves upon Holborn Bridge, to see him go by Tyburn, he (Shaw) exhorted him never to think of self-murder, and by that means give his enemies a double revenge in destroying both body and soul.
As Shaw had formerly declared his wife's ill-conduct had been the first occasion of his falling into those courses which had proved so fatal to him, he still retained so great an antipathy to her on that account, as not to be able to pardon her, even in the last moments of his life, in which he would neither confess, nor positively deny the murder for which he died. He was then about twenty-eight years of age, and died the same day with the last-mentioned malefactor, Smith.
 This discourse between the magistrates is obscure. I have been unable to clear it.
 This was the public-house at the Battle Bridge (King's Cross) end of Gray's Inn Road.
The Life of WILLIAM COLTHOUSE, a Thief and Highwayman
William Colthouse was born in Yorkshire, had a very good education for a person of his rank and especially with regard to religious principles, of which he retained a knowledge seldom to be met with among the lower class of people; but he was so unhappy as to imbibe in his youth strange notions in regard to civil government, hereditary rights having been much magnified in the latter end of the late Queen's reign. William amongst others was violent attached thereto, and fancied it was a very meritorious thing to profess his sentiments, notwithstanding they were directly opposite to those of persons then in power. Some declarations of this sort occasioned his being confined in Newgate, and prosecuted for speaking seditious words in the beginning of King George the First's reign. His Newgate acquaintances taught him quickly their arts of living, and he was no sooner at liberty than he put them into execution, he and his brother living like gentlemen on their expeditions on the road; till unfortunately committing a robbery on Hounslow Heath together, they were both closely pursued, the other taken, and William narrowly escaped by creeping into a hollow tree.
After the execution of his brother, Colthouse being terribly affected therewith, retired to Oxford, and there worked as a journeyman joiner, determining with himself to live honestly for the future, and not by a habit of ill-actions go the same way as one so nearly related to him had done before. But as his brother's death in time grew out of his remembrance, so his evil inclinations again took place, and he came up to London with a full purpose of getting money at an easier rate than working.
Soon after his arrival his Jacobite principles brought him into a great fray at an alehouse in Tothill Fields, Westminster, where some soldiers were drinking, and who on some disrespectful words said of the Prince, caught up Colthouse and threw him upon a red-hot gridiron, thereby making a scar on his cheek and under his left eye. By this he came to be taken for a person who murdered a farmer's son in Philpot Lane, in Hampshire, when he was charged with which he not only denied, but by abundance of circumstances rendered it highly probable that he did not commit it, there being, indeed, no other circumstance which occasioned that suspicion but the likeness of the scar in his face, which happened in the manner I told you.
While he lay under condemnation, a report reached his ear that his two brothers in the country were also said to be highwaymen; he complained grievously of the common practice that was made by idle people raising stories to increase the sorrows of families which were so unhappy as to have any who belonged to them come to such a death as his was to be. As to his brothers, he declared himself well satisfied that the younger was a sober and religious lad, and as for the elder, though he might have been guilty of some extravagance, yet he hoped and believed they were not of the same kind with those which had brought him to ruin. However, that he might do all the good which his present sad circumstance would allow, he wrote the following letter to his brethren in the country.
Though the nearness of my approaching death ought to shut out from my thoughts all temporal concerns, yet I could not compose my mind into that quietness with which I hope to pass from this sinful world into the presence of the Almighty, before I had thus exorted you to take particular warning from my death, which the intent of the Law to deter others from wickedness hath decreed to be in a public and ignominious manner. Amidst the terrors which the frailty of human nature (shocked with the prospect of so terrible an end) makes my afflicted heart to feel, even these sorrows are increased, and all my woes doubled by a story which is spread, I hope without the least grounds of truth, that ye, as well as I, have lived by taking away by force the property of others.
Let the said examples of my poor brother, who died by the hand of Justice, and of me, who now follow him in the same unhappy course, deter you not only from those flagrant offences which have been so fatal unto us, but also from those foolish and sinful pleasures in which it is but too frequent for young persons to indulge themselves. Remember that I tell you from a sad experience, that the wages of sin, though in appearance they be sometimes large and what may promise outward pleasure, yet are they attended with such inward disquiet as renders it impossible for those to have received them to enjoy either quiet or ease. Work, then, hard at your employments, and be assured that sixpence got thereby will afford you more solid satisfaction than the largest acquisitions at the expense of your conscience. That God may, by His grace, enable you to follow this my last advice, and that He may bless your honest labour with plenty and prosperity is the earnest prayer of your dying brother
Till the day of his execution he had denied his being accessory to the intended escape by forcing the prison, but when he came to Tyburn, he acknowledged that assertion to be false, and owned that he caused the two pistols to be provided for that purpose. He was about thirty-four years of age at the time he suffered, which was on the 8th of February, 1722, with Burgess, Shaw and Smith.
The Life of WILLIAM BURRIDGE, a Highwayman
In the course of these lives I have more than once observed that the vulgar have false notions of courage, and that applause is given to it by those who have as false notions of it as themselves, and this it was in a great measure which made William Burridge take to those fatal practices which had the usual termination in an ignominious death. He was the son of reputable people, who lived at West Haden in Northamptonshire, who after affording him a competent education, thought proper to bind him to his father's trade of a carpenter. But he, having been pretty much indulged before that time, could not by any means be brought to relish labour, or working for his bread.
Burridge was a well-made fellow, and of a handsome person, as well as great strength and dexterity, which he had often exercised in wrestling and cudgel-playing which gained him great praise amongst the country fellows at wakes and fairs, where such prizes are usually given. Therefore giving himself up almost wholly to such exercises, he used frequently to run away from his parents, and lie about the country, stealing poultry, and what else he could lay his hands on to support himself. His father trying all methods possible to reclaim him and finding them fruitless, as his last refuge turned him over to another master, in hopes that having there no mother to plead for him, a course of continued severities might perhaps reclaim him. But his hopes were all disappointed, for instead of mending under his new master, William gave himself over to all sorts of vices, and more especially became addicted to junketting with servant-wenches in the neighbourhood, who especially on Sundays when their masters were out, were but too ready to receive and entertain him at their expense.
But these adventures made him very obnoxious to others, as well as his master, who no longer able to bear his lying out of night, and other disorderly practices, turned him off, and left him to shift for himself. He went home to his friends, but going on still in the same way, they frankly advised him to ship himself on board a man-of-war in order to avoid that ill-fate which they then foresaw, and which afterwards overtook him. William, though not very apt to follow good counsel, yet approved of this at last when he saw some of his companions had already suffered for those profligate courses to which they were addicted.
He shipped himself, therefore, in a squadron then sailing for Spain under the command of Commodore Cavendish, on board whose ship he was when an engagement happened with the Spaniards in Cadiz Bay. The dispute was long and very sharp, and Burridge behaved therein so as to meet with extraordinary commendations. These had the worst effect upon him imaginable, for they so far puffed him up, that he thought himself worthier of command than most of the officers on the ship, and therefore was not a little uneasy at being obliged to obey them. This hindered them from doing him any kindness, which they would otherwise perhaps have done in consideration of his gallant behaviour against the enemy. At his return into England he was extremely ambitious of living without the toil of business, and therefore went upon the highway with great diligence, in order to acquire a fortune by it, which when he had done, he designed to have left it off, and to have lived easily and honestly upon the fruits of it. But, alas! these were vain hopes and idle expectations, for instead of acquiring anything which might keep him hereafter, he could scarce procure a present livelihood at the hazard both of his neck and his soul, for he was continually obliged to hide himself, through apprehension, and not seldom got into Bridewell or some such place, for brawls and riots.
This William Burridge was the person who with Nat Hawes made their escape out of New Prison, by the assistance of a woman, as the life of that malefactor is before related. And as he saved himself then from the same ignominious death which afterwards befell him, so he escaped it another time by becoming evidence against one Reading, who died for the life offences. As to Burridge, he still continued the same trade, till being taken for stealing a bay gelding belonging to one Mr. Wragg, he was for that offence finally condemned at the Old Bailey. While under sentence, as he had been much the greatest and oldest offender of any that were under the same fate, so he seemed to be by much the most affected and the most penitent of them all; and with great signs and sorrow for the many crimes he had committed, he suffered on the 14th of March, 1722, with five other persons at Tyburn, being then about thirty-four years of age.
 See page 59.
The Life of JOHN THOMSON, a thief, Highwayman, etc.
John Thomson was born at Carlisle, but was brought with his friends to London. They, it seems, were persons of no substance, and took little care of their son's education, suffering him, while a lad, to go often to such houses as were frequented by ill-people, and such as took dishonest methods to get money. Such are seldom very dose in their discourse when they meet and junket together, and Thomson, then a boy, was so much pleased with their jovial manner of life, eating well and drinking hard, that he had ever a bias that way, even when he was otherways employed, till he was fifteen years old, leading such an idle and debauched life that, as he himself expressed it, he had never heard of or read a Bible or other good book throughout all that space.
A friend of his was then so kind as to put him out apprentice to a weaver, and he might have had some chance of coming into the world in an honest and reputable way, but he had not continued with his master any long time before he listed himself in the sea service, during the Wars in the late Queen's time, and served on board a squadron which was sent up the Baltic to join the Danes. This cold country, with other hardships he endured, made him so out of humour with a sailor's life that though he behaved himself tolerably well when on board, yet he resolved never to engage in the same state, if once discharged and safe on shore.
Upon his coming back to England, he went to work at his trade of a weaver, and being for a while very sensible of the miseries he had run through on board the man-of-war, he became highly pleased with the quiet and easy way in which he got his bread by his business, thinking, however, that there was no way so proper to settle him as by marrying, which accordingly he did. But he was so unfortunate that though his wife was a very honest woman, yet the money he got not being sufficient to maintain them, he was even obliged to take to the sea again for a subsistence, and continued on board several ships in the Straits and Mediterranean for a very considerable space, during which he was so fortunate as to serve once on board an enterprising captain, who in less than a year's space, took nineteen prizes to a very considerable value. And as they were returning from their cruise, they took a French East India ship on the coast of that kingdom, whose cargo was computed at no less than a hundred thousand pounds sterling. Thomson might certainly, if he would, have saved money enough to have put himself into a creditable method of life as many of his shipmates had done, and so well did the captain improve his own good fortune that on his return he retired into the country, where he purchased an estate of fifteen hundred pounds per annum.
But Thomson being much altered from the usual bent of his temper by his being long accustomed at sea to blood and plunder, so when he returned home, instead of returning to an honest way of living, he endeavoured to procure money at the same rate by land which he had done at sea, and for that purpose associated himself with persons of a like disposition, and in their company did abundance of mischief. At last he and one of his associates passing over Smithfield between twelve and one in the morning, on the second of March, they perceived one George Currey going across that place very much in drink. Him they attacked, though at first they pretended to lead him safe home, drawing him to a proper place out of hearing of the houses, where they took from him a shirt, a wig and a hat, in doing which they knocked him down, stamped upon his breast, and in other respects used him very cruelly. Being apprehended soon after this fact, he was for it tried and convicted.
In the space between that and his death, he behaved himself very penitently, and desired with great earnestness that his wife would retire into the country to her friends, and learn by his unhappy example that nothing but an honest industry could procure the blessing of God. This he assiduously begged for her in his prayers, imploring her at the same time that he gave her this advice, to be careful of her young son she had then at her breast, not only as to his education, but also that he might never know his father's unhappy end, for that would but damp his spirits, and perhaps force him upon ill-courses when he grew up, from an apprehension that people might distrust his honesty and not employ him. He professed himself much afflicted at the past follies of his life, and with an outward appearance of true penitence, died on the fourth of May, 1722, in the thirty-third year of his age, at Tyburn.
The Life of THOMAS REEVES, a Notorious Highwayman and Footpad
As it is not to be denied that it is a singular blessing to a nation where no persecution is ever raised against persons for their religion, so I am confident that the late Free Thinking principles (as they have been called) have by their being spread amongst the vulgar, contributed greatly to the many frauds and villainies which have been so much complained of within these thirty years, and not a little to encouraging men in obtaining a subsistence and the gratification of their pleasures by rapines committed upon others rather than live in a laborious state of life, in which, perhaps, both their birth and circumstances concurred to fix them.
Thomas Reeves was a very remarkable as well as very unfortunate instance of that depravity in moral principles of which I have been speaking. By his friends he was bred a tinman, his father, who was of that profession, taking him as an apprentice but using him with the most indulgent fondness and never suffering him to want anything which was in his power to procure for him, flattered himself with the hopes of his becoming a good and happy man. It happened very unfortunately for Reeves that he fell, when young, into the acquaintance of some sceptical persons who made a jest of all religion and treated both its precepts and its mysteries as inventions subservient to priestcraft. Such notions are too easily imbibed by those who are desirous to indulge their vicious inclinations, and Reeves being of this stamp, greedily listened to all discourses of such a nature.
Amongst some of these companions who had cheated him out of his religion, he found some also inclined to practise the same freedom they taught, encouraged both by precept and example. Tom soon became the most conspicuous of the gang. His boldness and activity preferred him generally to be a leader in their adventures, and he had such good luck, in several of his first attempts, that he picked up as much as maintained him in that extravagant and superfluous manner of life in which he most of all delighted. One John Hartly was his constant companion in his debauches, and generally speaking an assistant in his crimes. Both of them in the evening of the ninth of March, 1722, attacked one Roger Worebington, near Shoreditch, as he was going across the fields on some business. Hartly gave him a blow on the head with his pistol, after which Reeves bid him stand, and whistling, four more of the gang came up, seized him, and knocked him down. They stripped him stark naked and carried away all his clothes, tying him hand and foot in a cruel manner and leaving him in a ditch hard by. However he was relieved, and Reeves and Hartly being soon after taken, they were both tried and convicted for this fact.
After the passing sentence, Reeves behaved himself with much indifference, his own principles stuck by him, and he had so far satisfied himself by considering the necessity of dying, and coined a new religion of his own, that he never believed the soul in any danger, but had very extensive notions of the mercy of God, which he thought was too great to punish with eternal misery those souls which He had created. This criminal was, indeed, of a very odd temper, for sometimes he would both pray and read to the rest of the prisoners, and at other times he would talk loosely and divert them from their duty, often making enquiries as to curious points, and to be informed whether the soul went immediately into bliss or torment, or whether, as some Christians taught, they went through an intermediate state? All which he spoke of with an unconcernedness scarce to be conceived, and as it were rather out of curiosity than that he thought himself in any danger of eternal punishment hereafter.
Hartly, on the other hand, was a fellow of a much softer disposition, showed very great fear, and looked in great confusion at the approach of death. He got six persons dressed in white to go to the Royal Chapel and petition for a pardon, he being to marry one of them in case it had been procured, but they failed in the attempt, and he appeared less sensible than ever when he found that death was not to be evaded.
At the place of execution, Reeves not only preserved that resolution with which he had hitherto borne up against his misfortunes, but when the mob pushed down one of the horses that drew the cart, and it leaning sideways so that Reeves was thereby half hanged, to ease himself of his misery he sprung over at once and finished the execution.
Hartly wept and lamented exceedingly his miserable condition, and the populace much pitied him, for he was not twenty years of age at the time he died; but Reeves was about twenty-eight years of age, when he suffered, which was at the same time with John Thomson, before mentioned.
The Life of RICHARD WHITTINGHAM, a Footpad and Street robber
Though there have been some instances of felons adhering so closely together as not to give up one another to Justice, even for the sake of saving life, yet are such instances very rare, and examples of the contrary very common.
Richard Whittingham was a young man of very good natural inclinations, had he not been of too easy a temper, and ready to yield to the inducements of bad women. His friends had placed him as an apprentice to a hot-presser, with whom he lived very honestly for some time; but at last, the idle women with whom he conversed continually pressing him for money in return for their lewd favours, he was by that means drawn in to run away from his master, and subsist by picking pockets. In the prosecution of this trade, he contracted an infamous friendship with Jones, Applebee and Lee, three notorious villains of the same stamp, with whom he committed abundance of robberies in the streets, especially by cutting off women's pockets, and such other exploits. This, he pretended, was performed with great address and regularity, for he said that after many consultations, 'twas resolved to attack persons only in broad streets for the future, from whence they found it much less troublesome to escape than when they committed them in alleys and such like close places, whereupon a pursuit once begun, they seldom or never missed being taken. He added, that when they had determined to go out to plunder, each had his different post assigned him, and that while one laid his leg before a passenger, another gave him a jolt on the shoulders, and as soon as he was down a third came to their assistance, whereupon they immediately went to stripping and binding those who were so unlucky as thus to fall into their hands. Upon Applebee's being apprehended, and himself impeached, Whittingham withdrew to Rochester, with an intent to have gone out of the kingdom, but after all he could not prevail with himself to quit his native country.
On his return to London, he fled for sanctuary to the house of his former master, who treated him with great kindness, supplied him with work, sent up his victuals privately, and did all in his power to conceal him. But Jones and Lee, his former companions, found means to discover him as they had already impeached him, and so, on their evidence and that of the prosecutor, he was convicted of robbing William Garnet, in the area of Red Lion Square, when Applebee knocked him down, and Jones and Lee held their hands upon his eyes, and crammed his own neck-cloth down his throat.
When he found he was to die, he was far from behaving himself obstinately, but as far as his capacity would give him leave, endeavoured to pray, and to fit himself for his approaching dissolution. He had married a young wife, for whom he expressed a very tender affection, and seemed more cast down with the thoughts of those miseries to which she would be exposed by his death, than he was at what he himself was to suffer.
During the time he lay in the condemned hold, he complained often of the great interruptions those under sentence of death met with from some prisoners who were confined underneath, and who, through the crevice, endeavoured as usual, by talking to them lewdly and profanely, to disturb them even in their last moments. At the place of execution he wept bitterly, and seemed to be much affrighted at death and very sorry for his having committed those crimes which brought him thither. He was but nineteen years old when he suffered, which was on the 21st of May, 1722.
The Life of JAMES BOOTY, a Ravisher
Such is the present depravity of human nature that we have sometimes instances of infant criminals and children meriting death by their crimes, before they know or can be expected to know how to do anything to live. Perhaps there was never a stronger instance of this than in James Booty, of whom we are now speaking. He was a boy rather without capacity than obstinate, whose inclinations, one would have expected, could hardly have attained to that pitch of wickedness in thought, which it appeared both by evidence and his own confessions, he had actually practised. His father was a peruke-maker in Holborn, and not in so bad circumstances but that he could have afforded him a tolerable education, if he had not been snatched away by death. Thus his son was left to the care of his mother, who put him to a cabinet-maker, where he might have been bound apprentice if the unhappy accident (for so indeed I think it may be called) had not intervened. It seemed his master had taken a cousin of his, a girl of about fifteen or somewhat more, for a servant. This girl went into the workshop where the boy lay, under pretence of mending his coat, which he had torn by falling upon a hook as he stumbled over the well of the stairs; but instead of darning the hole, she went to bed to the boy, put out the candle, and gave him the foul distemper.
Not knowing what was the matter with him, but finding continual pains in his body, he made a shift at last to learn the cause from some of the workmen. Not daring to trust even his mother with what was the matter with him, instead of applying to a proper person to be cured, he listened as attentively as he could to all discourses about that distemper, which happened frequently enough amongst his master's journeymen. There he heard some of the foolish fellows say that lying with any person who was sound would cure those who were in such a condition. The extreme anguish of body he was in excited him to try the experiment, and he injured no less than four or five children, between four years old and six, before he committed that act for which he was executed.
He one day carried his master's daughter, Anne Milton, a girl of but five years and two months old, to the top of the house, and there with great violence abused her and gave her the foul disease. The parents were not long before they made the discovery of it, and the child telling them what Booty had done to her, they sent for a surgeon who examined him, and found him in a very sad condition with venereal disease. Upon this he was taken up and committed to Newgate, and upon very full evidence was convicted at the next sessions, and received sentence of death; from which time to the day before he was executed, he was afflicted with so violent a fever as to have little or no sense. But then coming to himself, he expressed a confused sense of religion and penitence, desired to be instructed how to go to Heaven, and showed evident marks of his inclination to do anything which might be for the good of his soul.
At the place of execution he wept and looked dejected, said his mother had sought diligently for the wench who did him the injury, and was the cause of his doing it to so many others; but that although the girl was known to live in Westminster after she left his master, yet his mother was never able to find her. Thus was this young creature removed from the world by an ignominious death at Tyburn, on the 21st May, 1722, being then somewhat above fifteen years old.
The Life of THOMAS BUTLOCK, alias BUTLOGE, a Thief
The foolish pride of wearing fine clothes and making a figure has certainly undone many ordinary people, both by making them live beyond what their labour or trade would allow, and by inducing them to take illegal methods to procure money for that purpose.
Thomas Butlock, otherwise Butloge, which last was his true name, was born in the kingdom of Ireland, about thirty miles east of Dublin, whither his parents had gone from Cheshire (which was their native country) with a gentleman on whom they had a great dependence, and who was settled in Ireland. Though their circumstances were but indifferent, yet they found means to raise as much as put their son apprentice to a vintner in Dublin, and probably, had he ever set up in that business they would have done more. But he had not been long ere what little education he had was lost, and his morals corrupted by the sight of such lewd scenes as passed often in his master's house. However the man was very kind to him, and in return Thomas had so great esteem and affection for his master that when he broke and come over to hide himself at Chester, Butloge frequently stole over to him with small supplies of money and acquainted him with the condition of his family, which he had left behind.
In this precarious manner of life, he spent some time, until finding it impossible for him to subsist any longer by following his master's broken fortunes, he began to lay out for some new employment to get his bread. But after various projects had proved unsuccessful when they came to be executed, he was forced to return into Ireland again, where not long after, he had the good fortune to marry a substantial man's daughter which retrieved his circumstances once more.
But Butloge had always, as he expressed it, an aspiring temper, which put him upon crossing the seas again upon the invitation of a gentleman who, he pretended was a relation, and belonged to the Law, by whose interest he was in hopes of getting into a place. Accordingly, when he came to London, he took lodgings and lived as if he was already in possession of his expectation, which bringing his pocket low, he accepted the service of Mr. Claude Langley, a foreign gentleman, who had lodged in the same house. It cannot be exactly determined how long he had been in his service before he had committed the fact for which he died, but as to the manner it happened thus.
Mr. Langley, as well as all the rest of the family, being out at church, Butloge was sitting by himself in his master's room, looking at the drawers, and knowing that there was a good sum of ready money therein. It then came into his head what a figure he might cut if he had all that money. It occurred to him, at the same time, that his master was scarce able to speak any English, and was obliged to go over to France again in a month's time; so that he persuaded himself that if he could keep out of the way for that month, all would be well, and he should be able to live upon the spoil, without any apprehension of danger. These considerations took up his mind for half an hour; then he put his scheme into execution, broke open the drawers and took from thence twenty-seven guineas, four louis d'ors, and some other French pieces. As soon as he completed the robbery, and was got safe out of town, he went directly to Chester, that he might appear fine (as he himself said) at a place where he was known. His precaution being so little, there is no wonder that he was taken, or that the fact appearing plain, he should be convicted thereon.
After sentence was passed, he laid aside all hopes of life, and without flattering himself as too many do, he prepared for his approaching end. Whatever follies he might have committed in his life, yet he suffered very composedly on the 22nd day of July, 1722, being then about twenty-three years of age.
The Life of NATHANIEL JACKSON, a Highwayman
The various dispositions of men make frequent differences in their progress, either in virtue or vice; some being disposed to cultivate this or that branch of their duty with peculiar diligence, and others, again, plunging themselves in some immoralities they have no taste for.
But as for this unfortunate criminal, Nathaniel Jackson, he seemed to have swept all impurities with a drag net, and to have habituated himself to nothing but wickedness from his cradle. He was the son of a person of some fortune at Doncaster, in Yorkshire, who died when his son Nat was very young, but not, however, till he had given him some education. He was bound by a friend, in whose hands his father left his fortune, to a silk-weaver at Norwich, with whom he lived about three years; but his master restraining his extravagancies, and taking great pains to keep him within the bounds of moderation, Jackson at last grew so uneasy that he ran away from his master, and absconded for some time. But his guardian at last hearing where he was, wrote to him, and advised him to purchase some small place with his fortune, whereon he might live with economy, since he perceived he would do no good in trade. Jackson despised this advice, and instead of thinking of settling, got into the Army, and with a regiment of dragoons went over into Ireland.
There he indulged himself in all the vices and lusts to which he was prone, living in all those debaucheries to which the meanest and most licentious of the common soldiers are addicted; but he more especially gave himself up to lewdness and the conversation of women. This, as it led him into abundance of inconveniences, so at last it engaged him in a quarrel with one of his comrades which ended in a duel. Jackson had the advantage of his antagonist and hacked and wounded him in a most cruel manner. For this, his officers broke him, and he thereby lost the fifteen guineas which he had given to be admitted into the troop; and as men are always apt to be angry with punishment, however justly they receive it, so Jackson imputed his being cashiered to the officers' covetousness, the crime he had committed passing in his own imagination for a very trivial action.
Having from this accident a new employment to seek, he came over to his guardian and stayed with him a while. But growing very soon weary of those restraints which were put upon him there, as he had done at those under his Norwich master, he soon fell into his old courses, got into an acquaintance with lewd women and drunken fellows, with whom he often stayed out all night at the most notorious bawdy houses. This making a great noise, his friends remonstrated in the strongest terms, pointing out to him the wrong he did himself; but finding all their persuasions ineffectual, they told him plainly he must remove. Upon this he came up to London, not without receiving considerable presents from his so much abused friends.
The town was an ill place to amend a man who came into it with dispositions like his. On the contrary, he found still more opportunities for gratifying his lustful inclinations than at any time before, and these lewd debaucheries having reduced him quickly to the last extremity, he was in a fair way to be prevailed on to take any method to gain money. He was in these said circumstances when he met accidentally with John Morphew, an old companion of his in Ireland, and soon after, as they were talking together, they fell upon one O'Brian in a footman's garb, also their acquaintance in Ireland.
He invited them both to go with him to the camp in Hyde Park, and at a sutler's tent there, treated them with as much as they would drink. When he had paid the reckoning, turning about, d'ye see, boys, says he, how full my pockets are of money? Come, I'll teach you to fill yours, if you are but men of courage. Upon this out they walked towards Hampstead, between which place and St. Pancras they met one Dennet, whom they robbed and stripped, taking from him a coat and a waistcoat, two shirts, some hair, thirteen pence in money, and other things. This did not make O'Brian's promise good, all they got being but of inconsiderable value, but it cost poor Jackson his life, though he and Morphew had saved Dennet's when O'Brian would have killed him to prevent discoveries; for Jackson being not long after apprehended, was convicted of the fact, but O'Brian, having timely notice of his commitment, made his escape into Ireland.
As soon as sentence was passed, Jackson thought of nothing but how to prepare himself for another world, there being no probability that interest his friends could make to save him. He made a very ingenious confession of all he knew, and seemed perfectly easy and resigned to that end which the Law had appointed for those who, like him, had injured society. He was about thirty years old at the time of his death, which was on the 18th of July, 1722, at Tyburn.
The Life of JAMES, alias VALENTINE CARRICK, a Notorious Highwayman and Street Robber
Though it has become a very common and fashionable opinion that honour may supply the place of piety, and thereby preserve a morality more beneficial to society than religion, yet if we would allow experience to decide, it will be no very difficult matter to prove that when persons have once given way to certain vices (which in the polite style pass under the denomination of pleasures) rather than forego them they will quickly acquire that may put it in their power to enjoy them, though obtained at the rate of perpetrating the most ignominious offences. If there had not been too much truth in this observation we should hardly find in the list of criminals persons who, like James Carrick, have had a liberal education, and were not meanly descended, bringing themselves to the most miserable of all states and reflecting dishonour upon those from whom they were descended.
This unfortunate person was the son of an Irish gentleman, who lived not far from Dublin, and whom we must believe to have been a man of tolerable fortune, since he provided as well for all his children as to make even this, who was his youngest, an ensign. James was a perfect boy at the time when his commission required him to quit Ireland to repair to Spain, whither, a little before, the regiment wherein he was to serve had been commanded. As he had performed his duty towards the rest of his children, the father was more than ordinarily fond of this his youngest, whom therefore he equipped in a manner rather beyond that capacity in which he was to appear upon his arrival at the army. In his person James was a very beautiful well-shaped young man, of a middle size, and something more than ordinarily genteel in his appearance, as his father had taken care to supply him abundantly for his expenses; so when he came into Spain he spent his money as freely as any officer of twice his pay. His tent was the constant rendezvous of all the beaux who were at that time in the camp, and whenever the army were in quarters, nobody was handsomer, or made a better figure than Mr. Carrick.
Though we are very often disposed to laugh at those stories for fictions which carry in them anything very different from what we see in daily experience, yet as the materials I have for this unfortunate man's life happen both to be full and very exact, I shall not scruple mentioning some of his adventures, which I am persuaded will neither be unpleasant, nor incapable of improving my readers.
The regiment in which Carrick served was quartered at Barcelona, after the taking of that place by the English troops who supported the title of the present Emperor to the crown of Spain. The inhabitants were not only civil, but to the last degree courteous to the English, for whom they always preserved a greater esteem than for any other nation. Carrick, therefore, had frequent opportunities for making himself known and getting into an acquaintance with some of the Spanish cavaliers, who were in the interest of King Charles. Amongst these was Don Raphael de Ponto, a man of fortune and family amongst the Catalans, but, as is usual with the Spaniards, very amorous and continually employed in some intrigue or other. He was mightily pleased with Carrick's humour, and conceived for him a friendship, in which the Spaniards are perhaps more constant and at the same time more zealous, than any other nation in Europe. As Carrick had been bred a Roman Catholic and always continued so, notwithstanding his professing the contrary to those in the Army, so he made no scruple of going to Mass with his Spanish friend, which passed with the English officers only as a piece of complaisance.
Vespers was generally the time when Don Raphael and his English companion used to make their appointments with the ladies, and therefore they were very punctual at those devotions, from a spirit which too often takes up young minds. It happened one evening, when after the Spanish custom they were thus gone forth in quest of adventures, a duenna slipped into Don Raphael's hand a note, by which he was appointed to come under such a window near the convent, in the street of St. Thomas, when the bell of the convent rang in the evening, and was desired to bring his friend, if he were not afraid of a Spanish lady. Don Raphael immediately acquainted his friend, who you may be sure was ready to obey the summons.
When the hour came, and the convent bell rang, our sparks, wrapped up in their cloaks, slipped to their posts under a balcony. They did not wait long there, before the same woman who delivered the note to Don Raphael made her appearance at the window, and throwing down another little billet, exhorted them to be patient a little, and they should not lose their labour. The lovers waited quiet enough for about a quarter of an hour, when the old woman slipped down, and opened a door behind them, at which our sparks entered with great alacrity. The old woman conduced them into a very handsome apartment above stairs, where they were received by two young ladies, as beautiful as they could have wished them. Compliments are not much used on such occasions in Spain, and these gentlemen, therefore, did not make many before they were for coming to the point with the ladies, when of a sudden they heard a great noise upon the stairs, and as such adventures make all men cautious in Spain, they immediately left the ladies, and retiring towards the window, drew their swords. They had hardly clapped their backs against it, before the noise on the stairs ceasing, they felt the floor tremble under their feet, and at last giving way, they both fell into a dark room underneath, where without any other noise than their fall had made, they were disarmed, gagged and bound by some persons placed there for that purpose. When the rogues had finished their search, and taken away everything that was valuable about them, even to ripping the gold lace off Carrick's clothes, they let them lie there for a considerable time, and at last removed them in two open chests to the middle of the great marketplace, where they left them to wait for better fortune. They had not remained there above a quarter of an hour, before Carrick's sergeant went the rounds with a file of musketeers. Carrick hearing his voice, made as much noise as he was able, and that bringing the sergeant and his men to the place where they were set, their limbs and mouths were immediately released from bondage.
The morning following, as soon as Carrick was up, the Spanish gentleman's major domo came to wait upon him, and told him that his master being extremely ill, had desired him to make his compliments to his English friend in order to supply the defects of the letter he sent him, which by reason of his indisposition was very short. Having said this, the Spaniard presented him with a letter, and a little parcel, and then withdrew. Carrick did not know what to make of all this, but as soon as the stranger was withdrawn, opened his packet in order to discover what it contained. He found in it a watch, a diamond ring, and a note on a merchant for two hundred pieces-of-eight, which was the sum Carrick (to make himself look great) said he had lost by the accident. The note at the same time informing him that Don Raphael de Ponto thought it but just to restore to him what he had lost by accompanying him in the former night's adventures.
After Carrick returned into England, though he had no longer his commission, or indeed any other way of living, yet he could not lay aside those vices in which hitherto he had indulged himself. When he had any money he entertained a numerous train of the most abandoned women of the town, and had also intrigues at the same time with some of the highest rank of those prostitutes. To the latter he applied himself when his pocket first began to grow low, and they supplied him as long, and as far as they were able. But, alas! their contributions went but a little way towards supporting his expenses. Happening about that time to fall into an acquaintance with Smith, his countryman, after a serious consultation on ways and means to support their manner of living, they came at last to a resolution of taking a purse on the road, and joined company soon afterwards with Butler, another Irish robber, who was executed some time before them on the evidence of this very Carrick. When Carrick's elder brother heard of this in Ireland, he wrote to him in the most moving terms, beseeching him to consider the sad end to which he was running headlong, and the shame and ignominy with which he covered his family and friends, exhorting him at the same time not to cast away all hopes of doing well, but to think of returning to Dublin, where he assured him he would meet him, and provide handsomely for him, notwithstanding all that was past.
But Carrick little regarded this good advice, or the kind overtures made him by his brother. No sooner had he procured his liberty but he returned to his old profession, and committed a multitude of robberies on Finchley Common, Hounslow and Bagshot Heaths, spending all the money he got on women of the town, at the gaming table, and in fine clothes, which last was the thing in which he seemed most to delight. But money not coming in very quick by these methods, he with Molony, Carrol and some others of his countrymen, began to rob in the streets, and by that means got great sums of money. They continued this practice for a long space of time with safety, but being one night out in Little Queen Street, by Lincoln's Inn Fields, between one and two in the morning they stopped a chair in which was the Hon. William Young, Esq., from whom they took a gold watch, valued at L50, a sword, and forty guineas in money. Carrick thrust his pistol into the chair, Carrol watched at a distance, while Molony, perceiving the gentleman hesitate a little in delivering, said with a stern voice, Your money, sir! Do you trifle? It was a very short time after the commission of this robbery that both he and his companion Molony were taken, Carrol making a timely escape to his native kingdom. While James Carrick remained in Newgate, his behaviour was equally singular and indecent, for he affected to pass his time with the same gaiety in his last moments as he had spent it in the former part of his days.
Throngs of people, as it is but too much the custom, came to see him in Newgate, to whom, as if he had intended that they should not lose their curiosity, he told all the adventures of his life, with the same air and gaiety as if he had been relating them at some gaming ordinaries. This being told about town, drew still greater heaps of company upon him, which he received with the same pleasantness; by which means he daily increased them, and by that means the gain of the keepers at Newgate, who took money to show him. Upon this he said to them merrily one day: You pay, good folks, for seeing me now, but if you had suspended your curiosity 'till I went to Tyburn, you might have seen me for nothing. This was the manner in which he talked and lived even to the last, conversing until the time of his death with certain loose women who had been his former favourites, and whom no persuasions could engage him to banish from his presence while he yet had eyes, and could behold them in his sight.
At the place of execution, where it often happens that the most daring offenders drop that resolution on which they foolishly value themselves, Carrick failed not in the least. He gave himself genteel airs (as Mr. Purney, the then Ordinary, phrases it) in placing the rope about his neck, smiled and bowed to everybody he knew round him, and continued playing a hundred little tricks of the same odd nature, until the very instant the cart drove away, declaring himself to be a Roman Catholic, and that he was persuaded he had made his peace with God in his own way. In this temper he finished his life at Tyburn, on the 18th of July, 1722, being then about twenty-seven years of age.
 This was in 1705, by an expedition commanded by the Earl of Peterborough.
The Life of John MOLONY, a Highwayman and Street Robber
John Molony was an Irishman likewise, born at Dublin and sent to sea when very young. He served in the fleets which during the late Queen's reign sailed into the Mediterranean, and happening to be on board a ship which was lost, he with some other sailors, was called to a very strict account for that misfortune, upon some presumption that they were accessory thereto. Afterwards he sailed in a vessel of war which was fitted out against the pirates, and had therein so good luck that if his inclinations had been honest, he might certainly have settled very handsomely in the world. But that was far from his intention; he liked a seaman's pleasures, drinking and gaming, and when on shore, lewd women, the certain methods of being brought to such ways of getting money as end in a shameful death.
When abroad, his adventures were not many, because he had little opportunity of going on shore, yet one happened in Sicily which made a very great impression upon him, and which it may not therefore be improper to relate. There were two merchants at Palermo, both young men, and perfectly skilled in the arts of traffic; they had had a very liberal education, and had been constant friends and companions together. The intimacy they had so long continued was cemented by their marriage with two sisters. They lived very happily for the space of about two years, and in all probability might have continued to do so much longer, had not the duenna who attended one of their wives, died, and a new one been put in her place. Not knowing the young ladies' brothers, upon their speaking to them at Church, she gave notice of it to the husband of her whom she attended, and he immediately posting to his neighbour, the woman told them both that their wives, notwithstanding all she could say, were talking to two well-dressed cavaliers, which the duenna who waited on the other, notwithstanding the duties of her post, saw without taking any notice. This so exasperated the jealousy of the Sicilians that without more ado they ran to the church, and meeting with their spouses coming out from thence with an air of gaiety, seized them, and stabbed them dead with a little dagger, which for that purpose each had concealed under his coat. Then flying into the church for sanctuary, they discovered their mistake, when one of them, seized with fury at the loss of a wife of whom he was so extravagantly fond, stabbed the other, though not mortally, and with many repeated wounds murdered the duenna, whose rash error had been the occasion of spilling so much blood.
Upon Molony's return to England, he was totally out of all business, and minded nothing but haunting the gaming tables, living on the charity of his fortunate countrymen when his luck was bad, and relieving them, in turn, when he had a favourable run at dice. It was at one of these houses that he became acquainted with Carrick, and the likeness of their tempers creating a great intimacy, after a short knowledge of one another they joined with Carrol, a fellow as wicked as themselves, but much more cruel, and were all concerned in that robbery for which Carrick and Molony died.
When these two criminals came to be tried at the Old Bailey, their behaviour was equally ludicrous, silly and indecent; affecting to rally the evidence that was produced against them, and to make the people smile at their premeditated bulls. Carrick, was a lean, fair man, and stood at the left hand corner of the bar; Molony was a larger built man, who wore a browner wig. Carrick took occasion to ask Mr. Young, when he stood up to give his evidence, which side of the chair it was he stood on, when he robbed him. Mr. Young answered him, that he stood on the right side. Why now, what a lie that is, returned Carrick, you know Molony, I stood on the left. Before the people recovered themselves from laughing at this, Molony asked him what coloured wig he took him to have on at the time the robbery was committed; being answered it was much the same colour with that he had on then, There's another story, quoth Molony, you know, Carrick, I changed wigs with you that morning, and wore it all day.
Yet after sentence was passed, Molony laid aside all airs of gaiety, and seemed to be thoroughly convinced he had mistaken the true path of happiness. He did not care to see company, treated the Ordinary civilly when he spoke to him, though he professed himself a Papist, and was visited by a clergymen of that Church.
As he was going to the place of execution, he still looked graver and mote concerned; though he did not fall into those agonies of sighing and tears as some do, but seemed to bear his miserable state with great composedness and resignation, saying he had repented as well as he could in the short time allowed him, suffering the same day with the two last mentioned malefactors.
The Life of THOMAS WILSON, a Notorious Footpad
It happens so commonly in the world, that I am persuaded that none of my readers but must have remarked that there is a certain settled and stupid obstinacy in some tempers which renders them capable of persevering in any act, how wicked and villainous soever, without either reluctancy at the time of its commission, or a capacity of humbling themselves so far as to acknowledge and ask pardon for their offences when detected or discovered. Of this rugged disposition was the criminal we are now to speak of.
Thomas Wilson was born of parents not in the worst of circumstances, in the neighbourhood of London. They educated him both in respect of learning and other things as well as their capacity would give them leave; but Thomas, far from making that use of it that they desired, addicted himself wholly to ill practices, that is to idleness, and those little crimes of spoiling others, and depriving them of their property, which an evil custom has made pass for trivial offences in England. But it seems the parents of Wilson did not think so, but both reprimanded him and corrected him severely whenever he robbed orchards, or any other such like feats as passed for instances of a quick spirit and ingenuity in children with less honest and religious parents.
But these restraints grew quickly so grievous to Thomas's temper, that he, observing that his parents, notwithstanding their correction, were really fond of him, bethought himself of a method of conquering their dislike to his recreations. Therefore stealing away from his home, he rambled for a considerable space in the world, subsisting wholly upon such methods as he had before used for his recreation. But this project was so far from taking effect, that his parents, finding him incorrigible, looked very coldly upon him, and instead of fondling him the more for this act of disobedience, treated him as one whom they foresaw would be a disgrace to their family and of whom they had now very little or no hope.
Wilson perceiving this, out of the natural sourness of his temper resolved to abandon them totally, which he did, and went to sea without their consent or notice. But men of his cast being very ill-suited to that employment, where the strictest obedience is required towards those who are in command, Wilson soon brought himself into very unhappy circumstances by his moroseness and ill-behaviour; for though he was but thirteen when he went to sea, and never made but one voyage to the Baltic, yet in that space he was fourteen times whipped and pickled and six times hung by the heels and lashed for the villainies he committed on the ship.
Upon this return into England, he was so thoroughly mortified by this treatment that he went home to his friends, and as far as his surly humour would give him leave, made his submission and promised more obedience and better behaviour for the future. They then took him in, and were in some hopes that they should now reclaim him. Accordingly they placed him with a sawyer, by Fleet Ditch, which at his first coming to the business seemed to him to be a much lighter work than that he had endured in the space of his being at sea. He served four years honestly, indeed, and with as much content as a person of his unsettled mind could enjoy in any state; but at the end of that space, good usage had so far spoiled him that he longed to be at liberty again, though at the expense of another sea voyage. Accordingly, leaving his master, he went away again on board of a merchantman bound for the Straits. During the time which the ship lay in port for her loading, he contracted some distemper from the heat of the country, and his immoderate love of its wine and the fruits that grow there. These brought him very low, and he falling at the same time into company of some bad women, made an addition to his former ails by adding one of the worst and most painful of all distempers to the miseries he before endured.
In this miserable condition, more like a ghost than a man, he shipped himself at last for England in a vessel, the captain of which out of charity gave him his passage home. The air of that climate in which he was born, recovered him to a miracle. Soon after which being, I suppose, cured also of those maladies which had attended the Spanish women's favours, he fell in love with a very honest industrious young woman, and quickly prevailed with her to marry him. But her friends discovering what a profligate life he led, resolved she should not share in the misfortunes such a measure would be sure to draw upon him, wherefore they took her away from him. How crabbed soever this malefactor might be towards others, yet so affectionately fond was he of his wife that the taking of her away made him not only uneasy and melancholy, but drove him also into distraction. To relieve his grief, at first he betook himself to those companies that afterwards led him to the courses which brought on his death, and in almost all the villainies he committed afterwards he was hardly ever sober, so much did the loss of his wife, and the remorse of his course of the life he led affect him, whenever he allowed himself coolly to reflect thereon.
The crew he had engaged himself in were the most notorious and the most cruel footpads which for many years had infested the road. The robberies they committed were numerous and continual, and the manner in which they perpetrated them base and inhuman. For, seldom going out with pistols (the sight of which serves often to terrify passengers out of their money, without offering them any other injury than what arises from their own apprehensions) these villains provided themselves with large sticks, loaded at the end with lead; with these, from behind a hedge, they were able to knock down passengers as they walked along the road, and then starting from their covert, easily plunder and bind them if they thought proper. They had carried on this detestable practice for a long space in almost all those roads which lead to the little villages whither people go for pleasure from the hurry and noise of London.
Amongst many other robberies which they committed, it happened that in the road to Bow they met a footman, whom without speaking to, they knocked down as soon as they had passed him. The fellow was so stunned with the fall, and so frighted with their approach, that be made not the least resistance while they took away his money and his watch, stripped him of his hat and wig, his waistcoat and a pair of silver buckles; but when one of them perceiving a ring of some value upon his finger, went to tear it off, he begged him in the most moving terms to leave it, because it had been given to him by his lady, who would never forgive the loss of it. However it happened, he who first went to take it off, seemed to relent at the fellow's repeated entreaties, but Wilson catching hold of the fellow's hand, dragged it off at once, saying at the same time, Sirrah, I suppose you are your lady's stallion, and the ring comes as honestly to us as it did to you.
A few days after this adventure, Wilson being got very drunk, thought he would go out on the road himself, in hopes of acquiring a considerable booty without being obliged to share it with his companions. He had not walked above half an hour, before he overtook a man laden with several little glazed pots and other things, which being tied up in a cloth, he had hung upon the end of a stick and carried on his shoulder. Wilson coming behind him with one of those loaded sticks that I have mentioned, knocked him down by the side of the ditch, and immediately secured his bundle. But attempting to rifle him farther, his foot slipped, he being very full of liquor, and he tumbled backwards into the ditch. The poor man took that opportunity to get up and run away, and so soon as he could recover himself, Wilson retreated to one of those evil houses that entertain such people, in order to see what great purchase he had got; but upon opening the cloth, he was not a little out of humour at finding four pots, each filled with a pound of rappee snuff, and as many galley pots of scented pomatum.
Some nights after this expedition, he and one of his companions went out on the like errand, and had not been long in the fields before they perceived one Mr. Cowell, near Islington. Wilson's companion immediately resolved to attack him, but Wilson himself was struck with such a terror that he begged him to desist, from an apprehension that the man knew him; but that not prevailing with his associate, they robbed him of a hat and wig, and about a shilling in money. Wilson was quickly apprehended, but his companion having notice thereof, saved himself by a flight into Holland. At the ensuing sessions Wilson was indicted, not only for this fact, but for many others of a like nature, to all of which he immediately pleaded guilty, declaring that as he had done few favours to mankind, so he would never expect any.
After sentence of death was pronounced upon him, he laid aside much of his stubbornness, and not only applied himself to the duties of religion which are recommended to persons in his unhappy condition to practice, but also offered to make any discoveries he was able which might tend to satisfying the Justice of his country or the benefit of society. In pursuance of which he wrote a paper, which he delivered with much ceremony at the place of execution, and which though penned in none of the best styles, I have yet thought convenient to annex in his own words.
Being questioned with respect of several of his companions who are very well known, but whom, notwithstanding all the search had been made after them, no discovery could be made so as they might be apprehended and brought to justice, Wilson declared that as for three of the most notorious, they had made their escape into Holland some time before he was apprehended; two others were in Newgate for trivial offences, and another (whom he would not name) was retired into Warwickshire, had married there, and led a very honest and industrious life.
At the place of execution he seemed less daunted than any of the malefactors who suffered with him, showed himself several times by standing up to the spectators, before the rope was fastened about his neck, and told them that he hoped they would give no credit to any spurious accounts which might be published of him; because whatever he thought might be necessary for them to know, he had digested in a paper which he had delivered the Sunday before he died, in order to be communicated to the public. He added, that since he had been in the cart, he had been informed that one Phelps had been committed to Newgate for a robbery mentioned by him in his paper. He said, as he was a dying man, he knew nothing of Phelps, and that he was not in any manner whatsoever concerned in that robbery for which he had been apprehended. He then put the rope about his neck, and submitted to his death with great resolution, being then about twenty years of age, and the day he suffered the 26th of July, 1722.
The Paper delivered by the above mentioned criminal the day before his execution.
I, Thomas Wilson, desire it may be known that I was in a horse-way that lies between Highgate and Hornsey, where meeting a man and a woman, they enquired the way to Upper Holloway. We directed them across the fields; meantime we drank two pints of ale to hearten us, then followed them, and robbed them of two shillings and some half pence, the woman's apron, her hat and coloured handkerchief. We left them without misusing them, though there were thoughts of doing it. My companion that robbed with me is gone to Holland upon hearing I was taken up, though I should not have impeached him, but his friends lived in Holland. Another robbery we committed was by a barn in the footpath near Pancras Church of a hat and tie-wig, and cane, and some goods he was carrying, but we heard he had a considerable sum of money about him; but he ran away and I ran after him, but I being drunk he escaped, and I was glad to get off safe. We robbed two other men near Copenhagen House of a coat and waistcoat. I committed many street robberies about Lincoln's Inn. For these and for all other sins, I pray God and Man to pardon me, especially for shooting the pistol off before Justice Perry, at my friend's adversary, and am very glad I did not kill him.
The Lives of ROBERT WILKINSON and JAMES LINCOLN, Murderers and Footpads
Robert Wilkinson, like abundance of other unhappy young men, contracted in his youth a liking to idleness, and an aversion to all sorts of work and labour, and applied himself for a livelihood hardly to anything that was honest. The only employment he ever pretended to was that of a prize fighter or boxer at Hockley-in-the-Hole, where, as a fellow of prodigious dexterity, though low in stature, and very small limbed, he was much taken notice of. And as is usual for persons who have long addicted themselves to such a way of living, he had contracted an inhumanity of temper which made him little concerned at the greatest miseries be saw others suffer, and even regardless of what might happen to himself. The set of villains into whose society he had joined himself, viz., Carrick who was executed, Carrol who made his escape into Ireland, Lincoln of whom we shall speak afterwards, Shaw and Burridge before mentioned, and William Lock, perpetrated together a prodigious number of villainies often attended with cruel and bloody acts.
Some of these fellows, it seems, valued themselves much on the ferocity they exerted in the war they carried on against the rest of mankind, amongst which Wilkinson might be justly reckoned, being ever ready to second any bloody proposal, and as unwilling to comply with any good-natured one. An instance of this happened in the case of two gentlemen whom Shaw, he and Burridge attacked near Highgate. Not contented with robbing them of about forty shillings, their watches and whatever else about 'em was valuable, Wilkinson, after they were dismounted, knocked one of them into a ditch, where he would have strangled him with his hand if one of his comrades had not hindered him. The man pleaded all the while the other held him, that he was without arms, incapable of making any resistance, and that it was equally base and barbarous to injure him, who neither could, nor would attempt to pursue him. Though this fact was very fully proved, yet Wilkinson strongly denied it, as indeed he did almost everything, though nothing was more notorious than that he had lived by these wicked courses for a very considerable time.
Having had occasion to mention this gang with whom Wilkinson was concerned, it may not be improper to acquaint my readers with an adventure of one Calhagan and Disney, two Irish robbers of the same crew. One of them had persuaded a gentleman's housekeeper, of about thirty-five, that he was extremely in love with her, passing at the same time for a gentleman of fortune in the kingdom of Ireland, the brogue being too strong upon his tongue for him to deny his country. He met her frequently, and made her not a few visits, even at her master's house, taking care all the while to keep up the greatest form of ceremony, as though to a person whom he designed to make his wife. His companion attended on him with great respect as his tutor or gentleman, appearing at first very much dissatisfied with his making his addresses to a woman so much beneath him, but as the affair went on pretending to be so much taken with her wit, prudence and genteel behaviour, that he said his master had made an excellent choice, and advised him to delay his marriage no longer than till he had settled his affairs with his guardian, naming as such a certain noble lord of unquestioned character and honour. These pretences prevailing on the credulity of an old maid, who like most of her species was fond of the company of young fellows, and in raptures at the thoughts of a lover, she thought it a prodigious long while till these accounts were made up, enquiring wherever she went, when such a lord would come to town. She heard, at last, with great satisfaction, that he would certainly come over from Ireland that summer.
The family in which she lived, going out of town as usual, left her in charge of the house; as there was nobody but herself and an under maid, her lover often visited her, and at last told her that on such a day my Lord had appointed to settle his affairs and to deliver up all his trust. The evening of this day, the gentleman and his tutor came and brought with them a bundle of papers and parchments, which they pretended were the instruments which had been signed on this occasion. After making merry with the housekeeper and the maid on a supper which they had sent from the tavern, the elder of them at last pulls out his watch, and said, Come, 'tis time to do business, 'tis almost one o'clock. Upon which the other arose, seized the housekeeper, to whom he had so long paid his addresses, and clapped an ivory gag into her mouth, while his companion did the same thing by the other. Then putting out all the candles, having first put one into a dark lanthorn they had brought on purpose, they next led the poor creatures up and down the house, till they had shown them the several places where the plate, linen, jewels and other valuable things belonging to the family were laid. After having bundled up these they threw them down upon the floor, tied their ankles to one another, and left them hanging, one on one side, and the other on the other side of the parlour door; in which posture they were found the next day at noon, at the very point of expiring, their blood having stagnated about their necks, which put them into the greatest danger.
But to return to Wilkinson. One night, he with his companions Lincoln and William Lock came up with one Peter Martin, a poor pensioner of Chelsea College, whom they stopped. Wilkinson held him down and Lincoln knocked him down on his crying out for help; afterwards taking him up, he would have led him along, and Wilkinson pricked him with his sword in the shoulders and buttocks for some time, to make him advance, till William Lock cried out to them, How should ye expect the man to go forward when he is dead.
For this murder and for a robbery committed by them with Carrick and Carrol they were both capitally convicted. Wilkinson behaved himself to the time of his execution very morosely, and when pressed, at the place of execution, to unburden his conscience as to the crime for which he died, he answered peremptorily that he knew nothing of the murder, nor of Lincoln who died with him, until they were apprehended; adding, that as to hanging in chains he did not value it, but he had no business to tell lies, to make himself guilty of things he never did. Three days and three nights before the time of his death, he abstained totally from meat and drink, which rendered him so faint that he had scarce strength enough to speak at the tree.
James Lincoln, who died with him for the aforesaid cruel murder, was a fellow of a more docile and gentle temper than Wilkinson, owned abundance of the offences he had been guilty of, and had designed, as he himself owned, to have robbed the Duke of Newcastle of his gaiter ornaments, as he returned from the instalment. Notwithstanding these confessions, he persisted, as well as Wilkinson, in utterly denying that he knew anything of the murder of the pensioner, and saying that he forgave William Lock who had sworn himself and them into it. Wilkinson was at the time of his execution about thirty-five years old, and James Lincoln somewhat under. They died at the same time with the afore-mentioned malefactor, Wilson, at Tyburn.
 This was near Clerkenwell Green. It was a famous Bear Garden and the scene of various prize-fights to which public challenges were issued. Cunningham quotes a curious one for the year 1722:—"I, Elizabeth Wilkinson, of Clerkenwell, having had some words with Hannah Hyfield, and requiring satisfaction, do invite her to meet me on the stage and box with me for three guineas, each woman holding half-a-crown in each hand, and the first woman that drops her money to lose the battle" (this was to prevent scratching). The acceptance ran, "I, Hannah Hyfield, of Newgate Market, hearing of the resoluteness of Elizabeth Wilkinson, will not fail, God willing, to give her more blows than words, desiring home blows and from her no favour."
The Life of MATTHIAS BRINSDEN, a Murderer
Though all offences against the laws of God and the land are highly criminal in themselves, as well as fatal in their consequences, yet there is certainly some degree in guilt; and petty thieveries and crimes of a like nature seem to fall very short in comparison of the atrocious guilt of murder and the imbrueing one's hands in blood, more especially when a crime of so deep a dye in itself is heightened by aggravating circumstances.
Matthias Brinsden, who is to be the subject of our present narration, was a man in tolerable circumstances at the time the misfortune happened to him for which he died. He had several children by his wife whom he murdered, and with whom he had lived in great uneasiness for a long time. The deceased Mrs. Brinsden was a woman of a great spirit, much addicted to company and not a little to drinking. This had occasioned many quarrels between her and her husband on the score of those extravagancies she was guilty of, Mr. Brinsden thinking it hard that she should squander away his money when he had a large family, and scarce knew how to maintain it.
Their quarrels frequently rose to such a height as to alarm the neighbourhood, the man being of a cruel, and the woman of an obstinate temper, and it seemed rather a wonder that the murder had not ensued before than that it happened when it did, they seldom falling out and fighting without drawing blood, or having some grievous accident or other happening therefrom. Once he burnt her arms with a red-hot iron, and but a week before her death he ran a great pair of scissors into her skull, which covered her with blood, and made him and all who saw her think he had murdered her then. But after bleeding prodigiously she came a little to herself, and on the application of proper remedies recovered. Brinsden, in the meanwhile fled, and was hardly prevailed with to return, upon repeated assurances that she was in no danger, promising himself that if she escaped with life then, he would never suffer himself to be so far transported with passion as to do her an injury again.
The fatal occasion of that quarrel which produced the immediate death of the woman, warm with liquor, and in the midst of passion, and which soon after brought on a shameful and ignominious end to the man himself, happened by Mrs. Brinsden's drinking cheerfully with some company at home, and after their going away, demanding of her husband what she should have for supper? He answered, bread and cheese; to which the deceased replied that she thought bread and cheese once a day was enough, and as she had eaten it for dinner, she would not eat it for supper. Brinsden said, she should have no better than the rest of his family, who were like to be contented with the same, except his eldest daughter for whom he had provided a pie, and towards whom on all occasions he showed a peculiar affection, occasioned as he said, from the care she took of his other children and of his affairs, though malicious and ill-natured people gave out that it sprang from a much worse and, indeed, the basest of reasons.
On the discourse I have mentioned between him and his wife, Mrs. Brinsden in a violent passion declared she would go to the general shop and sup with her friends, who were gone from her but a little before. He, therefore, having got between her and the door, having the knife in his hand with which he cut the bread and cheese, and she still persisting with great violence in endeavouring to go out, he threw her down with one hand and stabbed her with the other. This is the account of this bloody action as it was sworn against him at his trial by his own daughter, though he persisted in it that what she called throwing down was only gently laying her on the bed after she received the blow, which as he averred happened only by chance, and her own pressing against him as the knife was in his hand. However that was, he sent for basilicon and sugar to dress the wound, in hopes she might at least recover so far as to declare there was no malice between them, but those endeavours were in vain, for she never spoke after.
In the meanwhile, Brinsden took occasion during the bustle that this sad accident occasioned, and fled to one Mr. Kegg's at Shadwell Dock, where, though for some small space he continued safe, yet the terrors and apprehensions he was under were more choking and uneasy than all the miseries he experienced after his being taken up. Such is the weight of blood, and such the dreadful condition of the wicked.
At his trial he put on an air of boldness and intrepidity, saying that though the clamour of the town was very strong against him, yet he hoped it would not make an impression to his disadvantage on the jury, since the death of his wife happened with no premeditated design. The surgeon who examined the wound, having deposed that it was six inches deep, he objected to his evidence by observing that the knife, when produced in Court, was not quite so long. He pleaded also, very strongly, the insupportable temper of his wife, and said she was of such a disposition that nothing would do with her but blows. But all this signifying little, the evidence of this daughter appearing also full and direct against him, the jury showed very small regard to his excuses, and after a short reflection on the evidence, they found him guilty.
Under sentence he behaved himself indolently and sottishly, doing nothing but eat his victuals and doze in his bed; thinking it at the same time a very great indignity that he should be obliged to take up with those thieves and robbers who were in the same state of condemnation with himself, always behaving himself towards then very distantly, and as if it would have been a great debasement to him if he had joined with them in devotion.