Lives Of The Most Remarkable Criminals Who have been Condemned and Executed for Murder, the Highway, Housebreaking, Street Robberies, Coining or other offences
by Arthur L. Hayward
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Yet recollecting in the coach that by this means he might be discovered by his relations, he called to the coachman before he reached there, and remembering an inn in Holborn, which he had heard spoken of by the Scotch merchant, where he had lodged in his last adventure, bid the fellow drive thither, saying he was afraid to be out late, and if he made haste he would give him a shilling. When he came thither and had had his two portmanteaus carried into the inn, pretending to be very sick he went immediately upstairs to bed, having first ordered a pint of wine to be burnt and brought upstairs.

Reflecting in the night on the condition he was in and the consequence of the measures he was taking, he resolved with himself to abandon his ill-courses at once and try to live honestly in some plantation of the West Indies. These meditations kept him pretty much awake, so that it was late in the morning before he arose. Having ordered coffee for his breakfast, he gave the chamberlain a shilling to go and fetch the newspapers, where the first thing he saw was an account of his own cheat in the body of the paper, and at the end of it an advertisement with a reward for apprehending him. This made him very uneasy, and the rather because he had no clothes but those which he had taken up as aforesaid; so he ordered the chamberlain to send for a tailor, and pretended to be so much indisposed that he could not get out. When the tailor came, he directed him to make him a riding suit with all the expedition he could. The tailor promised it in two days' time. The next day, pretending to be still worse, he sent the chamberlain to take a place for him in the Bristol coach, which being done, he removed himself and his things early in the morning to the inn where it lay, and set out the next day undiscovered for Bristol.

Three days after his arrival he met with a captain bound for the West Indies, with whom having agreed for a passage, he set sail for Jamaica. But a fresh gale at sea accidentally damaging their rudder, they were obliged to come to an anchor in Cork, where the captain himself and several other passengers went on shore. Anderson accompanied him to the coffee-house, where calling for the papers that last came in, he had like to have swooned at the table on finding himself to have been discovered at Bristol, and to have sailed in such a ship the day before the persons came down to apprehend him in order to his being carried back to London.

As soon as he came a little to himself, he stepped up to the man of the house and asked him for the vault [privy], which being shown him, he immediately threw the paper down; and as soon as he came out, finding the captain ready to go, he accompanied him with great satisfaction on board again, where things being set to rights, by the next day at ten o'clock they sailed with a fair wind, and without any further cross accident arrived safe at Jamaica. There Tom had the good luck to pick up a woman with a tolerable fortune, and about three years later remitted L300 home to the jeweller who had been defrauded of the watch and the ring, and directed him to pay what was over, after deducting his own debt, to the people who had trusted him with other things, and who upon his going off had recovered most of them, and were by this means made a tolerable satisfaction.

He resided in the West Indies for about five years in all, and in that time, by his own industry acquired a very handsome fortune of his own, and therewith returned to Scotland.

I should be very glad if this story would incline some people who have got money in not such honest ways (though perhaps less dangerous) to endeavour at extenuating the crimes they have been guilty of, by making such reparation as in their power, by which at once they atone for their fault, and regain their lost reputation; but I am afraid this advice may prove both unsuccessful and unseasonable and therefore shall proceed in my narrations as the course of these memoirs directs me.

The Life of JOSEPH PICKEN, a Highwayman

There cannot, perhaps, be a greater misfortune to a man than his having a woman of ill-principles about him, whether as a wife or otherwise. When they once lay aside principles either of modesty or honesty, women become commonly the most abandoned; and as their sex renders them capable of seducing, so their vices tempt them not often to persuade men to such crimes as otherwise, perhaps, they would never have thought of. This was the case of the malefactor, the story of whose misfortunes we are now to relate.

Joseph Picken was the son of a tailor in Clerkenwell, who worked hard at his employment and took pleasure in nothing but providing for, and bringing up his family. This unhappy son, Joseph, was his darling, and nothing grieved him so much upon his death-bed, as the fears of what might befall the boy, being then an infant of five years old. However, his mother, though a widow, took so much care of his education, that he was well enough instructed for the business she designed him, viz., that of a vintner, to which profession he was bound at a noted tavern near Billingsgate.

He served his time very faithfully and with great approbation, but falling in love, or to speak more properly, taking a whim of marriage in his head, he accepted of a young woman in the neighbourhood as his partner for life. Soon after this, he removed to Windsor, where he took the tap at a well-accustomed inn, and began the world in a very probable way of doing well. However, partly through his own misfortunes, and partly through the extravagance of his wife, in a little more than a twelve months' time he found himself thirty pound in debt, and in no likelihood from his trade of getting money to pay it. This made him very melancholy, and nothing added so great a weight to his load of affliction as the uneasiness he was under at the misfortunes which might befall his wife, to whom as yet this fall in his circumstances was not known.

However, fearing it would be soon discovered in another way, at last he mentioned it to her, at the same time telling her that she must retrench her expenses, for he was now so far from being able to support them that he could hardly get him family bread. Her mother and she thereupon removed to a lodging, where by the side of the bed, poor Picken used to slumber upon the boards, heavily disconsolate with the weight of his misfortunes. One day after talking of them to his wife, he said: I am now quite at my wits' end. I have no way left to get anything to support us; what shall I do? Do, answered she, why, what should a man do that wants money and has any courage, but go upon the highway.

The poor man, not knowing how else to gain anything, even took her advice, and recollecting a certain companion of his who had once upon a time offered the same expedient for relieving their joint misfortunes, Picken thereupon found him out, and without saying it was his wife's proposal, pretended that his sorrows had at last so prevailed upon him that he was resolved to repair the injuries of Fortune by taking away something from those she had used better than him. His comrade unhappily addicted himself still to his old way of thinking, and instead of dissuading him from his purpose, seemed pleased that he had taken such a resolution. He told him that for his part he always thought danger rather to be chosen than want, and that while soldiers hazarded their lives in war for sixpence a day, he thought it was cowardice to make a man starve, where he had a chance of getting so much more than those who hazarded as much as they did.

Accordingly Picken and his companion provided themselves that week with all necessaries for their expedition, and going upon it in the beginning of the next, set out and had success, as they called it, in two or three enterprises. But returning to London in the end of the week, they were apprehended for a robbery committed on one Charles Cooper, on Finchley Common, for which they were tried the next sessions, and both capitally convicted.

Through fear of death and want of necessaries, Joseph Picken fell into a low and languishing state of health, under which, however, he gave all the signs of penitence and sorrow that could be expected for the crimes he had committed. Yet though he loaded his wife with the weight of all his crimes, he forebore any harsh or shocking reproaches against her, saying only that as she had brought him into all the miseries he now felt, so she had left him to bear the weight of them alone, without either ever coming near him, or affording him any assistance. However, he said he was so well satisfied of the multitude of his own sins, and the need he had of forgiveness from God, that he thought it a small condition to forgive her, which he did freely from his heart.

In these sentiments he took the Holy Sacrament, and continued with great calmness to wait the execution of his sentence. In the passage to execution and even at the fatal tree, he behaved himself with amazing circumstances of quietness and resignation, and though he appeared much less fearful than any of those who died with him, yet he parted with life almost as soon as the cart was drawn away. He was about twenty-two years of age, or somewhat more, at the time he suffered, which was on the 24th of February, 1724-5, much pitied by the spectators, and much lamented by those that knew him.

The Life of THOMAS PACKER, a Highwayman

Thomas Packer, the companion of the last-named criminal both in his crimes and in his punishment, was the son of very honest and reputable parents, not far from Newgate Street. His father gave him a competent education, designing always to put him in a trade, and as soon as he was fit for it placed him accordingly with a vintner at Greenwich. There he served for some years, but growing out of humour with the place, be made continual instances to his friends to be removed. They, willing and desirous to comply with the young man's honours, at length after repeated solicitation prevailed with his master to consent, and then he was removed to another tavern in town. There he completed his time, but ever after being of a rambling disposition, was continually changing places and never settled.

Amongst those in which he had lived, there was a tavern where he resided as a drawer for about six weeks. Here he got into acquaintance of a woman, handsome, indeed, but of no fortune, and little reputation. His affection for this woman and the money he spent on her, was the chief occasion of those wants which prevailed upon him to join with Picken in those attempts which were fatal to them both. It cannot, indeed, be said that the woman in any degree excited him to such practices. On the contrary, the poor creature really endeavoured by every method she could to procure money for their support, and did all that in her lay (while Packer was under his misfortunes) to prevent the necessities of life from hindering him in that just care which was necessary to secure his interest in that which was to come.

Packer was in himself a lad of very great good nature, and not without just principles if he had been well improved, but the rambling life he had led, and his too tender affection for the before-mentioned woman, led him into great crimes rather than he would see her sustain great wants. The reflection which he conceived his death would bring upon his parents, and the miseries which he dreaded it would draw upon his wife and child, seemed to press him heavier than any apprehension for himself to his own sufferings, which from the time of his commitment he bore with the greatest patience, and improved to the utmost of his power. As he was sensible there was no hopes of remaining in this world, so he immediately removed his thought, his wishes and his hopes from thence, applied himself seriously to his devotions, and never suffered even the woman whom he so much loved to interfere or hinder them in any degree.

As it had been his first week of robbing, and his last too, he had little confession to make in that respect. He acknowledged, however, the fact which they had done in that space, and seemed to be heartily penitent, ashamed and sorry for his offences. At the place of execution he behaved with the same decency which accompanied him through all the sorrowful stations of his sad condition. He was asked whether he would say anything to the people, but he declined it, though he had a paper in his hand which he had designed to read, which for the satisfaction of the public, I have thought fit to annex.

The paper left by Thomas Packer.

Good People,

I see a large number of you assembled here, to behold a miserable end of us whom the Law condemns to death for our offence, and for the sake of giving you warning, makes us in our last moments, public spectacles. I submit with the utmost resignation to the stroke of the Law, and I heartily pray Almighty God that the sight of my shameful death, may inspire every one of you with lasting resolutions of leading an honest life. The facts for which both Picken and I die were really committed by us, and consequently the sentence under which we suffer, is very just. Let me then press ye again that the warnings of our deaths may not be in vain, but that you will remember our fate, and by urging that against your depraved wishes, prevent following our steps; which is all I have to say.

Thomas Packer

He was about twenty years of age at the time he suffered, which was with the afore-mentioned malefactor at Tyburn, much pitied by all the spectators.

The Life of THOMAS BRADLEY, a Street-Robber

One must want humanity and be totally void of that tenderness which denominates both a man and a Christian if we feel not some pity for those who are brought to a violent and shameful death from a sudden and rash act, excited either by necessity or through the frailty of human nature sinking under misfortune or hurried into mischief by a sudden transport of passion. I am persuaded, therefore, that the greater part, if not all of my readers will feel the same emotions of tenderness and compassion for the miserable youth of whom I am now going to speak.

Thomas Bradley was the son of an officer in the Custom-House at Liverpool. The father took care of his education, and having qualified him for a seafaring business in reading and writing, placed him therein. He came up accordingly with the master of a vessel to London, where some misfortunes befalling the said master, Thomas was turned out of his employment and left to shift for himself. Want pinched him. He had no friends, nor anybody to whom be might apply for relief, and in the anguish with which his sufferings oppressed him, he unfortunately resolved to steal rather than submit to starving or to begging. One fact he committed, but could never be prevailed on to mention the time, the person or the place.

The robbery for which he was condemned was upon a woman carrying home another woman's riding-hood which she had borrowed; and he assaulting her on the highway took it from her, which was valued at 25s. Upon this he was capitally convicted at the next sessions at the Old Bailey, nor could never be prevailed on by a person to apply for a pardon. On the contrary, he said it was his greatest grief that notwithstanding all he could do to stifle it, the news would reach his father, and break his heart. He was told that such thoughts were better omitted than suffered to disturb him, when he was on the point of going to another (and if he repented thoroughly) to a better life; at which he sighed and said their reasoning was very right, and he would comply with it if he could. From that time he appeared more composed and cheerful, and resigned to his fate. This temper he preserved to the time of his execution, and died with as much courage and penitence as is ever seen in any of those unhappy persons who suffer at the same place.

At the time of his death he was not quite nineteen years of age. He died between the last mentioned malefactor and him whose life we are next to relate.

The Life of WILLIAM LIPSAT, a Thief

William Lipsat was the son of a person at Dublin, in very tolerable circumstances, which he strained to the utmost to give this lad a tolerable education. When he had acquired this he sent him over to an uncle of his at Stockden, in Worcestershire, where he lived with more indulgence than even when at home, his uncle having no children, and behaving to him with all the tenderness of a parent. However, on some little difference (the boy having long had an inclination to see this great City of London) he took that occasion to go away from his uncle, and accordingly came up to town, and was employed in the service of one Mr. Kelway. He had not been long there before he received a letter from his father, entreating him to return to Dublin with all the speed he was able. This letter was soon followed by another, which not only desired, but commanded him to come back to Ireland. He was not troubled at thinking of the voyage and going home to his friends, but he was very desirous of carrying money over with him to make a figure amongst his relations, which not knowing how to get, he at last bethought himself of stealing it from a place in which he knew it lay. After several struggles with himself, vanity prevailed, and he accordingly went and took away the things, viz., 57 guineas and a half, 25 Caroluses,[51] 5 Jacobuses, 3 Moidores, six piece of silver, two purses valued at twelve pence. These, as he said, would have made his journey pleasant and his reception welcome, which was the reason he took them. The evidence was very dear and direct against him, so that the jury found him guilty without hesitation.

From the time of his condemnation to the day he died, he neither affected to extenuate his crime, nor reflect, as some are apt to do, on the cruelty of the prosecutors, witnesses, or the Court that condemned him. So far from it, that he always acknowledged the justice of his sentence, seemed grieved only for the greatness of his sin and the affliction of the punishment of it would bring upon his relations, who had hitherto always born the best of characters, though by his failing they were now like to be stigmatised with the most infamous crimes. However, since his grief came now too late, he resolved as much as he was able to keep such thoughts out of his head, and apply himself to what more nearly concerned him, and for which all the little time he had was rather too short. In a word, in his condition, none behaved with more gravity, or to outward appearance with more penitence than this criminal did.

He suffered with the same resignation which had appeared in everything he did from the time of his condemnation, on the 1st of February, 1724-5, with the before-mentioned malefactors, being then scarce eighteen years of age.


[51] Carolus was a gold coin of Charles I, worth 20s.-23s.; a Jacobus, coined by James I, was of the same value; the moidore was worth about 27s.

The Life of JOHN HEWLET, a Murderer

There are several facts which have happened in the world, the circumstances attending which, if we compare them as they are related by one or other, we can hardly fix in our own mind any certainty of belief concerning them, such an equality is there in the weight of evidence of one side and of the other. Such, at the time it happened, was the case of the malefactor before us.

John Hewlet was born in Warwickshire, the son of Richard Hewlet, a butcher, and though not bred up with his father, he was yet bred to the same employment at Leicester, from which, malicious people said he acquired a bloody and barbarous disposition. However, he did not serve his time out with his master, but being a strong, sturdy young fellow, and hoping some extraordinary preferment in the army, with that view he engaged himself in the First Regiment of the Guards, during the reign of the late King William.

In the war he gained the reputation of a very brave, but a very cruel and very rough fellow, and therefore was relied on by his officers, yet never liked by them. Persons of a similar disposition generally live on good terms with one another. Hewlet found out a corporal, one Blunt, much of the same humour with himself, never pleased when in safety, nor afraid though in the midst of danger.

At the siege of Namur, in Flanders, these fellows happened to be both in the trenches when the French made a desperate sally and were beaten off at last with much loss and in such confusion that their pursuers lodged themselves in one of the outworks, and had like to have gained another, in the attack on which a young cadet of the regiment in which Blunt served was killed. Blunt observing it, went to the commanding officer and told him that the cadet had nineteen pistoles in his pocket, and it was a shame the French should have them. Why, that's true, corporal, said the Colonel, but I don't see at present how we can help it. No, replied Blunt, give me but leave to go and search his pockets, and I'll answer for bringing the money back. Why, fool, said the Colonel, dost thou not see the place covered with French? Should a man stir from hence they would pour a whole shower of small shot upon him. I'll venture that, says Blunt. But how will you know the body? added the Colonel. I am afraid we have left a score besides him behind us. Why, look ye, sir, said the Corporal, let me have no more objections, and I'll answer that, he was clapped, good Colonel, do you see, and that to some purpose; so that if I can't know him by his face, I may know him by somewhat else. Well, said the Colonel, if you have a mind to be knocked on the head, and take it ill to be denied, you must go, I think.

On which Blunt, waiting for no further orders, marched directly in the midst of the enemy's fire to the dead bodies, which law within ten yards of the muzzle of their pieces, and turning over several of the dead bodies, he distinguished that of the cadet, and brought away the prize for which he had so fairly ventured.

This action put Hewlet on his mettle. He resolved to do something that might equal it, and an opportunity offered some time after, of performing such a service as no man in the army would have undertaken. It happened thus: the engineer who was to set fire to the train of a mine which had been made under a bastion of the enemy's, happened to have drank very hard over night, and mistaking the hour, laid the match an hour sooner than he ought. A sentinel immediately came out, called out aloud, What, have you clapped fire to the train? There's twenty people in the mine who will be all blown up; it should not have been fired till 12 o'clock.

On hearing this Hewlet ran in with his sword drawn, and therewith cut off the train the moment before it would have given fire to all the barrels of powder that were within, by which he saved the lives of all the pioneers who were carrying the mines still forward at the time the wild fire was unseasonably lighted by the engineer.

At the battle of Landau he had his skull broken open by a blow from the butt end of a musket. This occasioned his going through the operation called trepanning, which is performed by an engine like a coffee-mill, which being fixed on the bruised part of the bone, is turned round, and cuts out all the black till the edges appear white and sound. After this cure had been performed upon him, he never had his senses in the same manner as he had before, but upon the least drinking fell into a passion which was but very little removed from madness.

He returned into England after the Peace of Ryswick, and being taken into a gentleman's service, he there married a wife, by whom he had nine children. Happy was it for them that they were all dead before his disastrous end.

How Hewlet came to be employed as a watchman a little before his death, the papers I have give me no account of, only that he was in that station at the time of the death of Joseph Candy, for whose murder he was indicted for giving him a mortal bruise on the head with his staff.

On the 26th of December, 1724, upon full evidences of eye-witnesses, the jury found him guilty, he making no other defence than great asservations of his innocence, and an obstinate denial of the fact. After his conviction, being visited in the condemned hold, instead of showing any marks of penitence or contrition, he raved against the witnesses who had been produced to destroy him, called them all perjured, and prayed God to inflict some dreadful judgment on them. Nay, he went so far as to desire that he ought himself have the executing thereof, wishing that after his death his apparition might come and terrify them to their graves. When it was represented to him how odd this behaviour was, and how far distant from that calmness and tranquillity of mind with which it became him to clothe himself before he went into the presence of his Maker, these representations had no effect; he still continued to rave against his accusers, and against the witnesses who had sworn at his trial. As death grew nearer he appeared not a bit terrified, nor seemed uneasy at all at leaving this life, only at leaving his wife, and as he phrased it, some old acquaintance in Warwickshire. However, he desired to receive the Sacrament, and said he would prepare himself for it as well as he could.

He went to the place of execution in the same manner in which he had passed the days of his confinement till that time. At Tyburn he was not satisfied with protesting his innocence to the people, but designing to have one of the Prayer Books which was made use of in the cart, he kissed it as people do when they take oath, and then again turning to the mob, declared as he was a dying man, he never gave Candy a blow in his life. Thus with many ejaculations he gave way to fate in an advanced age at Tyburn, at the same time with the malefactors last mentioned.

The Lives of JAMES CAMMEL and WILLIAM MARSHAL, Thieves and Footpads

James Cammel was born of parents in very low circumstances, and the misfortunes arising therefrom were much increased by his father dying while he was an infant, and leaving him to the care of a widow in the lowest circumstances of life. The consequence was what might be easily foreseen, for he forgot what little he had learned in his youngest days, loitering away his time about Islington, Hoxton, Moorfield, and such places, being continually drinking there, and playing at cudgels, skittles, and such like. He never applied himself to labour or honest working for his bread, but either got it from his mother or a few other friends, or by methods of a more scandalous nature—I mean pilfering and stealing from others, for which after he had long practised it, he came at last to an untimely death.

He was a fellow of a froward disposition, hasty and yet revengeful, and made up of almost all the vices that go to forming a debauchee in low life. He had had a long acquaintance with the person that suffered with him for their offences, but what made him appear in the worst light was that he had endeavoured to commit acts of cruelty at the time he did the robbery. Notwithstanding he insisted not only that he was innocent of the latter part of the offence but that he never committed the robbery at all, though Marshal his associate did not deny it.

They had been together in these exploits for some time, and once particularly coming from Sadlers Wells, they took from a gentlewoman a basket full of bed-child linen to a very great value, which offering to sell to a woman in Monmouth Street, she privately sent for a constable to apprehend them. One of their companions who went with them observing this, he tipped them the wink to be gone, which the old woman of the house perceiving, caught hold of Marshal by the coat; and while they struggled, the third man whipped off a gold watch, a silver collar and bells, and a silver plate for holding snuffers, and pretending to interpose in the quarrel slipped through them, and out at the door, as Cammel and Marshal did immediately after him.

Once upon a time it happened that Marshal had no money, and his credit being at a par, and a warrant out to take him for a great debt, and another to take him for picking of pockets, he was in a great quandary how to escape both. He strolled into St. James's Park, and walking there pretty late behind the trees, a woman came up to the seat directly before him, when she fell to roaring and crying. Marshal being unseen, clapped himself down behind the seat, and listened with great attention. He perceived the woman had her pocket in her hand, and heard her distinctly say that a rogue not to be contented with cutting one pocket and taking it away, but he must cut the other and let it drop at her foot. Then she wiped her eyes and laying down her pocket by her, began to shake her petticoats to see if the other pocket had not lodged between them as the former had done. So Marshal took the opportunity and secretly conveyed that away, thinking one lamentation might serve for both. Upon turning the pocket out, he found only a thread paper, a housewife and a crown piece. Upon this crown piece he lived a fortnight at a milk-house, coming twice a day for milk, and hiding himself at nights in some of the grass plots, it being summer.

But his creditor dying, and the person whose pocket he had picked going to Denmark, he came abroad again, and soon after engaged with Cammel in the fact for which they were both hanged. It was committed upon a man and a woman coming through the fields from Islington, and the things they took did not amount to above 30 shillings. After they were convicted and had received sentence of death, Cammel sent for The Practice of Piety, The Whole Duty of Man, and such other good books as he thought might assist him in the performance of their duty. Yet notwithstanding all the outward appearance of resignation to the Divine Will, the Sunday before his execution, upon the coming in to the chapel of a person whom he took to be his prosecutor, he flew into a very great passion, and expressed his uneasiness that he had no instrument there to murder him with; and notwithstanding all that could be said to him to abate his passion, he continued restless and uneasy until the person was obliged to withdraw, and then with great attention applied himself to hear the prayers, and discourse that was made proper for that occasion.

Marshal in the meanwhile continued very sick, but though he could not attend the chapel, did all that could be expected from a true penitent. In this condition they both continued until the time of their death, when Marshal truly acknowledged the fact, but Cammel prevaricated about it, and at last peremptorily denied it. They suffered on the 30th of April, 1725, Cammel appearing with an extraordinary carelessness and unconcern, desired them to put him out of the world quickly, and was very angry that they did not do it in less time.

The Life of JOHN GUY, a Deer-stealer

One would have thought that the numerous executions which had happened upon the appearance of those called the Waltham Blacks,[52] and the severity of that Act of Parliament which their folly had occasioned, would effectually have prevented any outrages for the future upon either the forests belonging to the Crown, or the parks of private gentlemen; but it seems there were still fools capable of undertaking such mad exploits.

It is said that Guy being at a public house with a young woman whom, as the country people phrase it, was his sweetheart, a discourse arose at supper concerning the expeditions of the deer-stealers, which Guy's mistress took occasion to express great admiration of, and to regard them as so many heroes, who had behaved with courage enough to win the most obdurate heart, adding that she was very fond of venison, and she wished she had known some of them. This silly accident proved fatal to the poor fellow, who engaging with one Biddisford, an old deer-stealer, they broke into such forests and parks and carried off abundance of deer with impunity. But the keepers at last getting a number of stout young fellows to their assistance, waylaid them one night, when they were informed by the keeper of an alehouse that Guy and Biddisford intended to come for deer.

I must inform my reader that the method these young men took in deer-stealing was this. They went into the park on foot, sometimes with a crossbow, and sometimes with a couple of dogs, being armed always, however, with pistols for their own defence. When they had killed a buck, they trussed him up and put him upon their backs and so walked off, neither of them being able to procure horses for such service.

On the night that the keepers were acquainted with their coming, they sent to a neighbouring gentleman for the assistance of two of his grooms; the fellows came about 11 o'clock at night, and tying their horses in a little copse went to the place where the keepers had appointed to keep guard. This was on a little rising ground, planted with a star grove, through the avenues of which they could see all round them without being discerned themselves. No sooner, therefore, had Guy and his companion passed into the forest, but suffering them to pass by one of the entries of the grove where they were, they immediately issued out upon them, and pursued them so closely that they were within a few yards of them when they entered the coppice, where the two grooms had left their horses. They did not stay so much as to untie them, but cutting the bridles, mounted them and rode off as hard as they could, turning them loose as soon as they were in safety, and got home secure, because the keepers could not say they had done anything but walk across the forest.

This escape of theirs and some others of the same nature, made them so bold that not contented with the deer in chases and such places, they broke into the paddock of Anthony Duncombe, Esq., and there killed certain fallow deer. One Charles George who was the keeper, and some of his assistants hearing the noise they made, issued out, and a sharp fight beginning, the deer-stealers at last began to fly. But a blunderbuss being fired after them, two of the balls ripped the belly of Biddisford, who died on the spot; and soon after the keepers coming up, John Guy was taken. And being tried for this offence at the ensuing sessions of the Old Bailey, he was convicted and received sentence of death, though it was some days after before he could be persuaded that he should really suffer.

When he found himself included in the death warrant, he applied himself heartily to prayer and other religious duties, seeming to be thoroughly penitent for the crimes he had committed, and with great earnestness endeavoured to make amends for his follies, by sending the most tender letters to his companions who had been guilty of the same faults, to induce them to forsake such undertakings, which would surely bring them to the same fate which he suffered, for so inconsiderable a thing perhaps as a haunch of venison. Whether these epistles had the effect for which they were designed, I am not able to say, but the papers I have by me inform me that the prisoner Guy died with very cheerful resolution, not above twenty-five years of age, the same day with the malefactors before mentioned.


[52] See page 164.

The Life of VINCENT DAVIS, a Murderer

It is an observation made by some foreigners (and I am sorry to say there's too much truth in it) that though the English are perhaps less jealous than any nation under the heavens, yet more men murder their wives amongst us than in any other nation in Europe.

Vincent Davis was a man of no substance and who for several years together had lived in a very ill correspondence with his wife, often beating and abusing her, until the neighbours cried out shame. But instead of amending he addicted himself still more and more to such villainous acts, conversing also with other women. And at last buying a knife, he had the impudence to say that that knife should end her, in which he was as good as his word; for on a sudden quarrel he slabbed her to the heart. For this murder he was indicted, and also on the Statute of Stabbing,[53] of both of which on the fullest proof he was found guilty.

When Davis was first committed, he thought fit to appear very melancholy and dejected. But when he found there was no hopes of life, he threw off all decency in his behaviour and, to pass for a man of courage, showed as much vehemence of temper as a madman would have done, rattling and raving to everyone that came in, saying it was no crime to kill a wife; and in all other expressions he made use of, behaved himself more like a fool or a man who had lost his wits than a man who had lived so long and creditably in a neighbourhood as he had done, excepting in relation to his wife. But he was induced, with the hopes of passing for a bold and daring fellow, to carry on this scene as long as he could, but when the death warrant arrived, all this intrepidity left him, he trembled and shook, and never afterwards recovered his spirits to the time of his death.

The account he gave of the reason of his killing his wife in so barbarous a manner was this; that a tailor's servant having kept him out pretty late one night, and he coming home elevated with liquor abused her, upon which she got a warrant for him and sent him to New Prison. After this, the prisoner said, he could never endure her; she was poison to his sight, and the abhorrence he had for her was so great and so strong that he could not treat her with the civility which is due to every indifferent person, much less with that regard which Christianity requires of us towards all who are of the same religion. So that upon every occasion he was ready to fly out into the greatest passions, which he vented by throwing everything at her that came in his way, by which means the knife was darted into her bosom with which she was slain.

Notwithstanding the barbarity which seemed natural to this unhappy man, the cruelty with which he treated his wife in her last moments, the spleen and malice with which he always spoke of her, and the little regret he showed for having imbrued his hands in her blood, he yet had an unaccountable tenderness for his own person, and employed the last days of his confinement in writing many letters to his friends, entreating them to be present at his execution in order to preserve his body from the hands of the surgeons, which of all things he dreaded. And in order to avoid being anatomised, he affronted the court at the Old Bailey, at the time he received sentence of death, intending as he said to provoke them to hang him in chains, by which means he should escape the mangling of the surgeon's knives, which to him seemed ten thousand times worse than death itself. Thus confused he passed the last moments of his life, and with much ado recollected himself so as to suffer with some kind of decency, which he did on the 30th of April, at the same time with the last-mentioned malefactor.


[53] 1 Jac. I, cap. 8, "When one thrusts or stabs another, not then having a weapon drawn, or who hath not then first stricken the party stabbing, so that he dies thereof within six months after, the offender shall not have the benefit of clergy, though he did it not of malice aforethought." Blackstone.

The Life of MARY HANSON, a Murderer

Amongst the many frailties to which our nature is subject, there is not perhaps a more dangerous one than the indulging ourselves in ridiculous and provoking discourses, merely to try the tempers of other people. I speak not this with regard to the criminal of whom we are next to treat, but of the person who in the midst of his sins drew upon himself a sudden and violent death by using such silly kind of speeches towards a woman weak in her nature, and deprived of what little reason she had by drink.

This poor creature, flying into an excess of passion with Francis Peters, who was some distant relation to her by marriage, she wounded him suddenly under the right pap with a knife, before she could be prevented by any of the company; of which wound he died. The warm expressions she had been guilty of before the blow, prevailed with the jury to think she had a premeditated malice, and thereupon they found her guilty.

Fear of death, want of necessaries, and a natural tenderness of body, brought on her soon after conviction so great a sickness that she could not attend the duties of public devotion, and reduced her to the necessity of catching the little intervals of ease which her distemper allowed her, to beg pardon of God for that terrible crime for which she had been guilty.

There was at the same time, one Mary Stevens in the condemned hold (though she afterwards received a reprieve) who was very instrumental in bringing this poor creature to a true sense of herself and of her sins; she then confessed the murder with all its circumstances, reproached herself with having been guilty of such a crime as to murder the person who had so carefully took her under his roof, allowed her a subsistence and been so peculiarly civil to her, for which he expected no return but what was easily in her power to make. This Mary Stevens was a weak-brained woman, full of scruples and difficulties, and almost distracted at the thoughts of having committed several robberies. After receiving the Sacrament, she not only persuaded this Mary Hanson to behave herself as became a woman under her unhappy condition, but also persuaded two or three other female criminals in that place to make the best use of that mercy which the leniency of the Government has extended them.

There was a man suffered to go twice a day to read to them, and probably it was he who drew up the paper for Mary Hanson which she left behind her, for though it be very agreeable to the nature of her case, yet it is penned in the manner not likely to come from the hands of a poor ignorant woman. Certain it is, however, that she behaved herself with great calmness and resolution at the time of her death, and did not appear at all disturbed at that hurry which, as I shall mention in the next life, happened at the place of execution. The paper she left ran in these words, viz.:

Though the poverty of my parents hindered me from having any great education, yet I resolve to do as I know others in my unhappy circumstances have done, and by informing the world of the causes which led me to that crime for which I so justly suffer, that by shunning it they may avoid such a shameful end; and I particularly desire all women to take heed how they give way to drunkenness, which is a vice but too common in this age. It was that disorder in which my spirits were, occasioned by the liquor I had drunk, which hurried me to the committing a crime, at the thoughts of which on any other time my blood would have curdled. I hope you will afford me your prayers for my departing soul, as I offer up mine to God that none of you may follow me to this fatal place.

Having delivered this paper, she suffered at about thirty years old.

The Life of BRYAN SMITH, a Threatening Letter Writer

I have already observed how the Black Act was extended for punishing Charles Towers,[54] concerned in setting up the New Mint, who as he affirmed died only for having his face accidentally dirty at the time he assaulted the bailiff's house. I must now put you in mind of another clause in the same act, viz., that for punishing with death those who sent any threatening letters in order to affright persons into a compliance with their demands, for fear of being murdered themselves, or having their houses fired about their ears. This clause of the Act is general, and therefore did not extend only to offences of this kind when committed by deer-stealers and those gangs against whom it was particularly levelled at that time, but included also whoever should be guilty of writing such letters to any person or persons whatsoever; which was a just and necessary construction of the Act, and not only made use of in the case of this criminal, but of many more since, becoming particularly useful of late years, when this practice became frequent.

Bryan Smith, who occasions this observation, was an Irishman, of parts so very mean as perhaps were never met with in one who passed for a rational creature; yet this fellow, forsooth, took it into his head that he might be able to frighten Baron Swaffo, a very rich Jew in the City, out of a considerable sum of money, by terrifying him with a letter. For this purpose he wrote one indeed in a style I daresay was never seen before, or since. Its spelling was a la mode de brogue, and the whole substance of the thing was filled with oaths, curses, execrations and threatenings of murder and burning if such a sum of money was not sent as he, in his great wisdom, thought it fit to demand.

The man's management in sending this and directing how he would have an answer was of a piece with his style, and altogether made the discovery no difficult matter. So that Bryan being apprehended, was at the next sessions at the Old Bailey tried and convicted on the evidence of some of his countrymen, and when, after receiving sentence, there remained no hopes for him of favour, to make up a consistent character he declared himself a Papist, and as is usual with persons of that profession, was forbidden by his priest to go any more to the public chapel.

However, to do him justice as far as outward circumstances will give us leave to judge, he appeared very sorry for the crime he had committed, and having had the priest with him a considerable time the day before his death, he would needs go to the place of execution in a shroud.

As he went along he repeated the Hail Mary and Paternoster.

But there being many persons to suffer, and the executioner thereby being put into a confusion, Smith observing the hurry slipped the rope over his head, and jumped at once over the corpses in the cart amongst the mob. Had he been wise enough to have come in his clothes, and not in a shroud, it is highly probable he had made his escape; but his white dress rendering him conspicuous even at a distance, the sheriffs officers were not long before they retook him and placed him in his former situation again.

Hope and fear, desire of life, and dread of immediate execution, had occasioned so great an emotion of his spirits that he appeared in his last moments in a confusion not to be described, and departed the world in such an agony that he was a long time before he died, which was at the same time with the malefactor before-mentioned, viz., on the 30th of April, 1725.


[54] See page 198.

The Life of JOSEPH WARD, a Footpad

There are some persons who are unhappy, even from their cradles, and though every man is said to be born to a mixture of good and evil fortune, yet these seem to reap nothing from their birth but an entry into woe, and a passage to misery.

This unhappy man we are now speaking of, Joseph Ward, is a strong instance of this, for being the son of travelling people, he scarce knew either the persons to whom he owed his birth, or the place where he was born. However, they found a way to instruct him well enough to read, and that so well that it was afterwards of great use to him, in the most miserable state of his life.

He rambled about with his father and mother until the age of fourteen, when they dying, he was left to the wide world, with nothing to provide for himself but his wits; so that he was almost under necessity of going into a gang of gipsies that passed by that part of the country where he was. These gipsies taught him all their arts of living, and it happened that the crew he got into were not of the worst sort either, for they maintained themselves rather by the credulity of the country folks, than by the ordinary practices of those sort of people, stealing of poultry and robbing hedges of what linen people are careless enough to leave there. I shall have another and more proper occasion to give my readers the history of this sort of people, who were anciently formidable enough to deserve an especial Act of Parliament[55] altered and amended in several reigns for banishing them from the Kingdom.

But to go on with the story of Ward; disliking this employment, he took occasion, when they came into Buckinghamshire, to leave them at a common by Gerrard's Cross, and come up to London. When he came here, he was still in the same state, not knowing what to do to get bread. At last he bethought himself of the sea, and prevailed on a captain to take with him a pretty long voyage. He behaved himself so well in his passage, that his master took him with him again, and used him very kindly; but he dying, Ward was again put to his shifts, though on his arrival in England he brought with him near 30 guineas to London.

He look up lodgings near the Iron Gate at St. Catherine's, and taking a walk one evening on Tower Wharf, he there met with a young woman, who after much shyness suffered him to talk to her. They met there a second and a third time. She said she was niece to a pewterer of considerable circumstances, not far from Tower Hill, who had promised, and was able to give her five hundred pounds; but the fear of disobliging him by marriage, hindered her from thinking of becoming a wife without his approbation of her spouse.

These difficulties made poor Ward imagine that if he could once persuade the woman to marriage, he should soon mollify the heart of her relation, and so become happy at once. With a great deal to do, Madam was prevailed upon to consent, and going to the Fleet they were there married, and soon returned to St. Catherine's, to new lodgings which Ward had taken, where he had proposed to continue a day or two and then wait upon the uncle.

Never man was in his own opinion more happy than Joseph Ward in his new wife, but alas! all human happiness is fleeting and uncertain, especially when it depends in any degree upon a woman. The very next morning after their wedding, Madam prevailed on him to slip on an old coat and take a walk by the house which she had shown him for her uncle's. He was no sooner out of doors, but she gave the sign to some of her accomplices, who in a quarter of an hour's time helped her to strip the lodging not only of all which belonged to Ward, but of some things of value that belonged to the people of the house. They were scarce out of doors before Ward returned, who finding his wife gone and the room stripped, set up such an outcry as alarmed all the people in the house.

Instead of being concerned at Joseph's loss they clamoured at their own, and told him in so many words that if he did not find the woman, or make them reparation for their goods, they would send him to Newgate. But alas! it was neither in Ward's power to do one, nor the other. Upon which the people were as good as their word, for they sent for a constable and had him before a Justice. There the whole act appearing, the justice discharged him and told them they must take their remedy against him at the Common Law. Upon this Ward took the advantage and made off, but taking to drinking to drive away the sorrows that encompassed him, he at last fell into ill-company, and by them was prevailed on to join in doing evil actions to get money. He had been but a short time at this trade, before he committed the fact for which he died.

Islington was the road where he generally took a purse, and therefore endeavoured to make himself perfectly acquainted with many ways that lead to that little town, which he effected so well, that he escaped several times from the strictest pursuits. At last it came into his head that the safest way would be to rob women, which accordingly he put into practice, and committed abundance of thefts that way for the space of six weeks, particularly on one Mrs. Jane Vickary, of a gold ring value twenty shillings, and soon after of Mrs. Elizabeth Barker, of a gold ring set with garnets. Being apprehended for these two facts, he was committed to New Prison, where either refusing or not being able to make discoveries, he remained in custody till the sessions at the Old Bailey. There the persons swearing positively to his face, he was after a trivial defence convicted, and received sentence of death accordingly.

As he had no relations that he knew of, nor so much as one friend in the world, the thoughts of a pardon never distracted his mind a moment. He applied himself from the day of his sentence to a new preparation for death, and having in the midst of all his troubles accustomed himself to reading, he was of great use to his unhappy companions in reading the Scripture, and assisting them in their private devotions. He made a just use of that space which the mercy of the English Law allows to persons who are to suffer death for their crimes to make their peace with their Creator.

There was but one person who visited this offender while under the sentence of the Law, and he, thinking that the only method by which he could do him service was to save his life, proposed to him a very probable method of escaping, which for reasons not hard to be guessed at, I shall forbear describing. He pressed him so often and made the practicability of the thing so plain that the criminal at last condescended to make the experiment, and his friend promised the next day to bring him the materials for his escape.

That night Ward, who began then to be weak in his limbs with the sickness which had lain upon him ever since he had been in the prison, fell into a deep sleep, a comfort he had not felt since the coming on of his misfortunes. In this space he dreamed that he was in a very barren, sandy place, which was bounded before him by a large deep river, which in the middle of the plain parted itself into two streams that, after having run a considerable space, united again, having formed an island within the branches. On the other side of the main river, there appeared one of the most beautiful countries that could be thought of, covered with trees, full of ripe fruit, and adorned with flowers. On the other side, in the island which was enclosed, having a large arm of water running behind it and another smaller before, the soil appeared sandy and barren, like that whereon he stood.

While he was musing at this sight, he beheld a person of a grave and venerable aspect, in garb and appearance like a shepherd, who asked him twice or thrice, if he knew the meaning of what he there saw, to which he answered, No. Well, then, says the stranger, I will inform you. This sight which you see is just your present case. You have nothing to resolve with yourself but whether you will prepare by swimming across this river immediately, forever to possess that beautiful country that lies before you; or by attempting the passage over the narrow board which crosses the first arm of the river and leads into the island, where you will be again amidst briars and thorns, and must at last pass that deep water, before you can enter the pleasant country you behold on the other side.

This vision made so strong an impression on the poor man's spirits that when his friend came he refused absolutely to make his escape, but suffered with great marks of calmness and true repentance, at Tyburn, in the twenty-seventh year of his age.


[55] This was the statute of 1530 (22 Hen. VIII, c, 10) directed against "outlandish people calling themselves Egyptians." It was amended 1 & 2 Ph. & Mary, c. 4 and 5 Eliz., c. 10 and sundry other legislation was of a similar tenour.

The Life of JAMES WHITE, a Thief

Stupidity, however it may arise, whether from a natural imperfection of the rational faculties, or from want of education, or from drowning it wholly in bestial and sensual pleasures, is doubtless one of the highest misfortunes which can befall any man whatsoever; for it not only leaves him little better than the beasts which perish, exposed to a thousand inconveniences against which there is no guard but that of a clear and unbiased reason, but it renders him also base and abject when under misfortunes, the sport and contempt of that wicked and debauched part of the human species who are apt to scoff at despairing misery, and to add by their insults to the miseries of those who sink under their load already.

James White, who is to be the subject of the following narration, was the son of very honest and reputable parents, though their circumstances were so mean as not to afford wherewith to put their son to school, and they themselves were so careless as not to procure his admission into the Charity School. By all which it happened that the poor fellow knew hardly anything better than the beasts of the field, and addicted himself like them, to filling his belly and satisfying his lust. Whenever, therefore, either of those brutish appetites called, he never scrupled plundering to obtain what might supply the first, or using force that might oblige women to submit against their wills unto the other.

While he was a mere boy, and worked about as he could with anybody who would employ him, he found a way to steal and carry off thirty pounds weight of tobacco, the property of Mr. Perry, an eminent Virginian merchant; for which he was at the ensuing assizes at the Old Bailey, tried and convicted, and thereupon ordered for transportation, and in pursuance of that sentence sent on board the transport vessel accordingly. Their allowance there was very poor, such as the miserable wretches could hardly subsist on, viz., a pint and a half of fresh water, and a very small piece of salt meat per diem each; but that wherein their greatest misery consisted was the hole in which they were locked underneath the deck, where they were tied two and two, in order to prevent those dangers which the ship's crew often runs by the attempts made by felons to escape. In this disconsolate condition he passed his time until the arrival of the ship in America, where he met with a piece of good luck (if attaining liberty may be called good luck) without acquiring at the same time a means to preserve life in any comfort. It happened thus.

The super-cargo falling sick, under the usual distemper which visits strangers at first coming if they keep not to the exact rules of temperance and forbearance of strong liquors, ran quickly so much in debt with his physician that he was obliged immediately to go off, by doing which six felons became their own masters, of whom James White was one. He retired into the woods and lived there in a very wretched manner for some time, till he met with some Indian families in that retreat, who according to the natural uncultivated humanity of that people cherished and relieved him to the utmost of their power.

Soon after this, he went to work amongst some English servants, in order to ease them, telling them how things stood with him, viz., that he had been transported, and that for fear of being seized he fled into the woods, where he had endured the greatest hardships. The servants pitying his desperate condition relieved him often, without the knowledge of their mistress until they got him into a planter's service, where though he worked hard he was sure to fare tolerably well. But at length being ordered to carry water in large vessels over the rocks to the ship that rode in the bay underneath it, his feet were thereby so intolerably cut that he was soon rendered lame and incapable of doing it any longer. The family thereupon grew weary of keeping him in that decrepit state he was in, and so for what servile scullion-like labour he was able to do, a master of a ship took him on board and carried him to England.

On his return hither, he went directly to his friends in Cripplegate parish and told them what had befallen him, and how he was driven home again almost as much by force as he was hurried abroad. They were too poor to be able to conceal him, and he was therefore obliged to go and cry fruit about the streets publicly, that he might not want bread. He went on in this mean but honest way, without committing any new acts that I am able to learn, for the space of some months. Then being seen and known by some who were at that employed (or at least employed themselves) in detecting and taking up all such persons as returned from transportation, White amongst the rest was seized, and the ensuing sessions at the Old Bailey convicted on the Statute. He pleaded that he was only a very young man, and if the Court would have so much pity on him as to send him over again, he would be satisfied to stay all his life-time in America; but the resolution which had been taken to spare none who returned back into England, because such persons were more bloody and dangerous rogues than any other, and when prompted by despair, apt to resist the officers of justice, took place, and he was put into the death warrant.

Both before and after receiving sentence, he not only abandoned himself to stupid, heedless indolence, but behaved in so rude and troublesome a manner as occasioned his being complained of by those miserable wretches who were under the same condemnation, as a greater grievance to them than all their other misfortunes put together. He would sometimes threaten women who came into the hold to visit modestly, tease them with obscene discourse, and after his being prisoner there committed acts of lewdness to the amazement and horror of the most wicked and abandoned wretches in that dreadful place. Being however severely reprimanded for continuing so beastly a course of life, when life itself was so near being extinguished, he laid the crime to his own ignorance, and said that if he were better instructed he would behave better, but he could not bear being abused, threatened and even maltreated by those who were in the same state with himself. From this time he addicted himself to attend more carefully to religious discourses than most of the rest, and as far as the amazing dullness of his intellects would give him leave, applied to the duties of his sad state.

Before his death he gave many testimonies of a sincere and unaffected sorrow for his crimes, but as he had not the least notion of the nature, efficacy or preparation necessary for the Sacrament, it was not given him as is usually done to malefactors the day of their death. At the place of execution he seemed surprised and astonished, looked wildly round upon the people, and then asking the minister who attended him what he must do now, the person spoke to instructed him; so shutting his hands close, he cried out with great vehemence, Lord receive my soul.

His age was about twenty-five at the time he suffered, which was on the 6th day of November, 1723.

The Life of JOSEPH MIDDLETON, Housebreaker and Thief

Amongst the numbers of unhappy wretches who perish at the gallows, most pity seems due to those who, pressed by want and necessity, commit in the bitter exigence of starving, some illegal act purely to support life. But this is a very scarce case, and such a one as I cannot in strictness presume to say that I have hitherto met with in all the loads of papers I have turned over to this purpose, though as the best motive to excite compassion, and consequently to obtain mercy, it is made very often a pretence.

Joseph Middleton was the son of a very poor, though honest, labouring man in the county of Kent, near Deptford, who did all that was in his power to bring up his children. This unfortunate son was taken off his hand by an uncle, a gardener, who brought up the boy to his own business, and consequently to labour hard enough, which would, to an understanding person, appear no such very great hardship where a man had continually been inured to it even from his cradle, and had neither capacity nor the least probability of attaining anything better. Yet such an intolerable thing did it seem to Middleton that he resolved at any cost to be rid of it, and to purchase an easier way of spending his days.

In order to this, he very wisely chose to go aboard a man-of-war then bound for the Baltic. He was in himself a stupid, clumsy fellow, and the officers and seamen in the ship treated him so harshly, the fatigue he went through was so great, and the coldness of the climate so pinching to him, that he who so impatiently wished to be rid of the country work, now wished as earnestly to return thereto. Therefore, when on the return of Sir John Norris, the ship he was in was paid off and discharged, he was in an ecstacy of joy thereat, and immediately went down again to settle hard to labour as he had done before, experience having convinced him that there were many more hardships sustained in one short ramble than in a staid though laborious life.

In order, as is the common phrase, to settle in the world, he married a poor woman, by whom he had two children, and thereby made her as unhappy as himself; what he was able to earn by his hands falling much short of what was necessary to keep house in the way he lived, this reduced him to such narrowness of circumstances that he was obliged (as he would have it believed) to take illegal methods for support.

His own blockish and dastardly temper, as it had prevented his ever doing good in any honest way, so it as effectually put it out of his power to acquire anything considerable by the rapine he committed; for as he wanted spirit to go into a place where there was immediate danger, so his companions, who did the act while he scouted about to see if anybody was coming, and to give them notice, when they divided the booty gave him just what they thought fit, and keep the rest to themselves. He had gone on in this miserable way for a considerable space, and yet was able to acquire very little, his wants being very near as great while he robbed every night, as they were when he laboured every day, so that in the exchange he got nothing but danger into the bargain.

At last, he was apprehended for breaking into the house of John de Pais and Joseph Gomeroon, and taking there jewels and other things to a great value, though his innocence in not entering the place would sufficiently excuse him, for he pleaded at his trial that he was so far from breaking the house that he was not so much as on the ground of the prosecutor when it was broke, but on the contrary, as appeared by their own evidence, on the other side of the way. But it being very fully proved by the evidence that Joseph Middleton belonged to the gang, that he waited there only to give them an intelligence, and shared in the money they took, the jury found him guilty.

While he lay under conviction, he did his utmost to understand what was necessary for him to do in order to salvation. He applied himself with the utmost diligence to praying God to instruct him and enlighten his understanding, that he might be able to improve by his sufferings and reap a benefit from the chastisements of his Maker. In this frame of mind he continued with great steadiness and calmness till the time of his execution, at which he showed some fear and confusion, as the sight of such a death is apt to create even in the stoutest and best prepared breast. This Joseph Middleton, at the time of his exit, was in about the fortieth year of his age.

The Life of JOHN PRICE,[56] a Housebreaker

A profligate life naturally terminates in misery, and according unto the vices which it has most pursued, so are its punishments suited unto it. Drunkenness besots the understanding, ruins the constitution, and leaves those addicted to it in the last stages of life, in want and misery, equally destitute of all necessaries, and incapable to procure them. Lewdness and lust after loose women enervate both the vigour of the brain and strength of the body, induce weaknesses that anticipate old age, and afflict the declining sinner with so many evils, as makes him a burden to himself and a spectacle to others. But if, for the support of all these, men fall into rapacious and wicked courses, plundering others who have frugally provided for the supply of life, in order to indulge their own wicked inclinations, then indeed the Law of society interposes generally before the Law of Nature, and cuts off with a sudden and ignominious death those who would otherwise probably have fallen by the fruits of their own sins.

This malefactor, John Price, was one of these wretched people who act as if they thought life was given them only to commit wickedness and satiate their several appetites with gross impurities, without considering how far they offend either against the institutions of God or the laws of the land. It does not appear that this fellow ever followed any employment that looked like honesty, except when he was at sea. The terrors of a sick-bed alarmed even a conscience so hardened as Price's, and the effects of an ill-spent life appeared so plainly in the weak condition he found himself in, that he made, as he afterwards owned, the most solemn vows of amendment, if through the favour of Providence he recovered his former health. To this he was by the goodness of God restored, but the resolutions he made on that condition were totally forgotten. As soon as he returned home, he sought afresh the company of those loose women and those abandoned wretches who by the inconveniences into which they had formerly led him, had obliged him to seek for shelter by a long voyage at sea.

What little money he had received when the ship was paid off, was quickly lavished away, so that on the 11th of August, 1725, he with two others named Cliffe and Sparks, undertook, after having well weighed the attempt, to enter the house of the Duke of Leeds by moving the sash, and so plunder it of what was to be got. By their assistance Cliffe got in at the window, and afterwards handed out a cloak, hat, and other things to his companions Sparks and Price, but they were all immediately apprehended. Cliffe made an information by which he discovered the whole fact, and it was fully proved by Mr. Bealin that Price, when first apprehended, owned that he had been with Cliffe and Sparks. Upon the whole the jury found him guilty, upon which he freely acknowledged the justice of their verdict at the bar.

All the time he lay under conviction he behaved himself as a person convinced of his own unworthiness of life, and therefore repined not at the justice of that sentence which condemned him to death, though in his behaviour before his trial there had appeared much of that rough and boisterous disposition usual in fellows of no education, who have long practised such ways of living. Yet long before his death he laid aside all that ferocity of mind, appearing calm and easy under the weight of his sufferings, and so much dissatisfied with the trouble he had met with in the world that he appeared scarce desirous of remaining in it. He was not able himself to give any account of his age, but as far as could be guessed from his looks, he might be about thirty when executed, which was at the same time with the malefactor last mentioned; Cliffe, whose information had hanged him, being reprieved.


[56] A fuller account of this rogue will be found on page 276.




In the Preface to my former volume I endeavoured to give my readers some idea of the English Crown Law, in order to shew how consistent it was with right reason, how perfectly just, and at the same time how full of mercy. In this, I intend to pursue the thread of that discourse, and explain the methods by which Justice in criminal cases is to be sought, and the means afforded by our Law to accuse the guilty and to prevent punishment from falling on the innocent. In order to do this the more regularly, it is fit we begin with the apprehension of offenders, and shew the care of the Legislature in that respect.

In sudden injuries, such as assaults on the highway, attempts to murder or to commit any felony whatsoever, there is no necessity for any legal officer to secure the person who is guilty, for every private man hath sufficient authority to seize and bring such criminal, either to a constable or to a Justice of the Peace, in order to have the fact clearly examined and such course taken therein as may conduce to the impartial distribution of Justice. And because men are apt to be scrupulous of interesting themselves in matters which do not immediately concern either their persons or their properties, so the Law hath provided punishments for those who, for fear of risking their private safety or advantage, suffer those who offend against the public to escape unpunished; hence hundreds are liable to be sued for suffering a robber to escape, and that method of pursuit which is called hue and cry is permitted, if no probable way may be left for felons to escape. Now a hue and cry is raised thus: the person robbed, for example, goes to the constable of the next town, tells him the case, described the felon, and the way he went. Whereupon the constable, be it day or night, is to take the assistance of those in his own town, and pursue him according to those directions immediately, at the same time sending with the utmost expedition to the neighbouring towns, who are to make like pursuit, and to send like notice until the felon be found.

So desirous is our Law of bringing offenders to Justice, and of preserving the roads free from being infested with these vermin. For the better effecting of this, besides those means prescribed by the customs of our ancestors, of later times rewards have been given to such as hazarded their own persons in bringing offenders to justice, and of these, as far as they are settled by Acts of Parliament and thereby rendered certain and perpetual, I shall speak here; though not of those given by proclamation, because they being only for a stated time, people must hereafter have been misled by our account, when that time is expired.

Highwaymen becoming, some time after the Revolution, exceedingly bold and troublesome, by an Act made in the reign of William and Mary, a reward of forty pounds is given for apprehending any one in England or Wales, and prosecuting him so as he be convicted; which forty pounds is to be paid by the sheriff on a certificate of the judge or justices before whom such a felon was convicted. And in case a person shall be killed in endeavouring to apprehend or making pursuit after such robbers, the said forty pounds shall be paid to the executors or administrators of such persons upon the like certificate. Moreover, every person who shall take, apprehend, or convict such a person, shall have as a reward the horse, furniture, arms, money or other goods of such robber as shall be taken with him, the right or title of his Majesty's bodies politic or corporate, lords of manors, or persons lending or letting the same to such robber notwithstanding; excepting only the right of those from whom such horses, furniture, arms, money, or goods were before feloniously taken.

A like reward of forty pounds was, by another Act in the same reign, given to such as shall apprehend any person convicted of any capital crime relating to the coin of this land.

By an Act also made in the reign of the late King William, persons who apprehend and prosecute to conviction any who feloniously steal goods to the value of five shillings, out of any house, shop, warehouse, coach-house or stable, or shall assist, hire or command any person to commit such offence; then such person so taking as aforesaid, shall have a certificate gratis from the Judge or Justices, expressing the parish or place where such felony was committed; which certificate shall be capable of being once assigned over, and shall exempt its proprietor or assignee from all parish and ward offices, in the parish or ward wherein the felony was committed.

By an Act made in the fifth year of the late Queen, persons apprehending one guilty of burglary, or of feloniously breaking into a house in the day-time, and prosecuting to conviction, shall receive over and above the certificate before mentioned, the sum of forty pounds, as in the case of apprehending an Highwayman.

By an Act passed in the sixth year of the late King, whoever shall discover, apprehend, or prosecute to conviction without benefit of clergy, any person for taking money or other reward, directly or indirectly, to help persons to their stolen goods (such persons not having apprehended the felon who stole the same, and brought him to trial, and given evidence against him) shall be entitled to a reward of forty pounds for every offender so convicted, and shall have the like certificate, and like payment without fee, as persons may be entitled to for apprehending highwaymen.

The next point after offenders are once apprehended, is to carry them before a proper magistrate, viz., a Justice of the Peace, and this leads us to say something of the nature and authority of that office. My Lord Chancellor, or Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, the Lord High Steward of England, the Lord Marshal, and the Lord High Constable, each of the Justices of the King's Bench, and as some say, the Lord High Treasurer of England, have, as incidental to their offices, a general authority to keep the peace throughout the realm, and to award process for their surety thereof, and to take recognizances for it. The Master of the Rolls has also a like power, either incident to his office, or at least by prescription. As to the ordinary constructors or Justices of the Peace, they are constituted by the King's Commission, which is at present granted on the same form as was settled by the Judges in the 33rd Year of Queen Elizabeth, by which they are appointed and assigned every one of then jointly and separately to keep the King's peace in such a county, and cause to be kept all statutes made for the good of the peace and the quiet government of the Kingdom, as well within liberties, as without, and to punish all those who shall offend against the said statutes, and to cause all those to come before them, or any of them, who threaten any people as to the burning their houses, in order to compel them to be kept in prison until they shall find it. As to the other powers committed to these justices, it would be too long for me to explain them, and therefore after this general Act, I shall go on to take notice of the manner in which the person accused is treated, when brought before them.

First the Justice of Peace examines as carefully as he can into the nature of the offence, and the weight there is of evidence to persuade him of the just ground there is for accusing the person before him; and after he has thoroughly considered this, if the thing appear frivolous or ill-grounded, he may discharge the person, or if he think the circumstances strong enough to require it, he may take the bail of the party accused, or if the nature of the crime be more heinous, and the proof direct and clear, he is bound by an instrument under his hand and seal called a Mittimus, to commit the offender to safe custody until he is discharged according to Law. In carrying to prison for any crime whatsoever, if the party so carried escape himself, or if he be rescued by others, he and they are guilty of a very high misdemeanor, and in some cases, those who assist in making the rescue may be guilty of felony or high treason. But if a prisoner be once committed to gaol for felony, and afterwards break that prison and escape, such breach of prison is felony, by the Statute De Frangentibus Prisonam, and shall be tried for the same as in other cases of felony, and suffer on conviction. My readers will find mention made of a case of this nature in respect to one Roger Johnson, who some years ago was tried for breaking the prison of Newgate, while he remained a prisoner there under a charge of felony, and making his escape; but so tender is the English law that when there appeared a probability that one Fisher (not then taken) broke down the wall of the prison and that Johnson took advantage of that hole and made his escape, he was found not guilty, for want of due proof that he actually did break that hole through which he escaped.

The prisoner being in safe custody, a bill is next to be preferred to the grand jury of the county, in which the nature of the crime is properly set forth, and after hearing the evidence brought by the prosecutor to support the charge, they return the bill to the Court, marked Billa Vera or Ignoramus. In the first case the prisoner is required to be tried by the petit jury of twelve, and to abide their verdict; in case of the latter, he is to be discharged and freed from that prosecution. But the grand jury must find or not find the bill entire, for a Billa Vera to one part and an Ignoramus to another renders the whole proceeding void and is of the same use to the prisoner as if they had returned an Ignoramus upon the whole.

Many without knowing the Law have taken occasion to be very free with its precedents, and to treat them as things written in barbarous Latin, in which an unreasonable, if not ridiculous nicety is sometimes required. But when this comes to be thoroughly examined, we shall find that their proceedings are exactly conformable to reason, for if care and circumspection be necessary in deeds and writings relating to civil affairs, ought it not a fortiori to be more so where the life, liberty, reputation and everything that is dear and valuable to the subject is at stake? Therefore, since there are technical words in all sciences, surely the Law is not to be blamed for preserving certain words to which they have affixed particular and determined meanings for the expressing of such crimes as are made more or less culpable by the Legislature. Thus Murdravit is absolutely necessary in an indictment charging the prisoner with a murder; Caepit is the term made use of in indictments of larceny. Mayhemaivit expresses the fact charged in an indictment of maim; Felonice is absolutely necessary in all indictments of felony of what kind soever; Burglariter is the Latin word made use of to express that breaking which from particular circumstances our Law has called burglary, and appointed certain punishment for those who are guilty thereof. Proditorie expresses the Act in indictments of treason, and even if these are not Latin words, justified by the usage of Roman authors, the certainty which they give to those charges in which they are used, and which could not be so well expressed by circumlocutions, is a full answer to that objection, since the proceedings before a Court aim not at elegancy, but at Justice. But let us now go on to the next step taken to bring the offenders to Judgment.

The bill having been found by the grand jury, the prisoner is brought into the Court where he is to be tried, and set to the bar in the presence of the judges who are to try him. Then he is usually commanded to hold up his hand, but this being only a ceremony to make the person known to the court it may be omitted, or the person indicted saying I am here, will answer the same end. Then the proper officer reads the indictment which has been found against him, in English, and when he hath so done, he demands of the prisoner whether he be guilty or not guilty of the fact alleged against him, to which the prisoner answers as he thinks fit, and this answer is styled his plea. That tenderness which the English Law on all occasions expresses towards those who are to be brought to answer for crimes alleged against them, requires that at his arraignment, the prisoner be totally free from any pain or duress which may disturb his thought and hinder his liberty of pleading as he thinks fit, and for this reason, even in cases of high treason, irons are taken off during the time the prisoner is at the bar, where he stands without any marks of contumely whatsoever.

But in case the prisoner absolutely refuses to answer, or in an impertinent manner delay or trifle with the court, then he is deemed a mute; but if he speaks not at all, nor gives any sign by which the Court shall be satisfied that he is able to speak, then an inquest of officers, that is of twelve persons who happen to be by, are to enquire whether his standing mute arises from his contempt of the Court, or be really an infirmity under which he labours from the hands of God. If it be found the latter, then the Court, as counsel for the prisoner, shall hear the evidence with relation to the fact, and proceed therein as if the prisoner had pleaded not guilty; but if, on the contrary, the Court or the inquest shall be satisfied that the prisoner remains a mute only from obstinacy, then in some cases judgment shall be awarded against him as if he had pleaded or were found guilty, and in others he shall be remitted to his penance, that is to suffer what the Law calls Peine forte et dure, which is pressing, of which the readers will find an account in the subsequent life of Burnworth, alias Frazier; and therefore I shall not treat further of it here.

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