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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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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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The manacled rogue is seen in the foreground, his head bowed in despair,
as the witness by his side unfolds his damning evidence. Through one
window is shown the robbery for which he is being tried; the other
affords a prophetical glimpse of the villain's end at Tyburn Tree.

(_From the Newgate Calendar_)]

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

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

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

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

_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

_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._

_If, from conviction of his own guilt and a consciousness that it may be
fully proved against him, the prisoner plead guilty to the indictment,
it is considered as the highest species of conviction, and as soon as it
is entered on record the Court proceeds to judgment without further
proceedings on the indictments. But if the prisoner plead not guilty,
and put himself for trial upon his country, then a jury of twelve men
are to pass upon the defendant, and upon their verdict he is either to
be acquitted or convicted._

_And with respect to this jury, the English Law appears again more
equitable than perhaps any other in the world, for in this case as the
jury comes severally to the Book to be sworn, to try impartially between
the King and the prisoner of the bar, according to the evidence that is
given upon the indictment, the prisoner is even then at liberty to
except against, or as the law term it, to challenge, twenty of the jury
peremptorily, and as many more as he thinks fit on showing just cause.
So also, if the prisoner be an alien, the jury are to be half aliens and
half English. So tender is our constitution, not only of the lives of
its natural born subjects, but, also of those who put themselves under
its protection, that it has taken every precaution which the wit of man
could devise to prevent prejudice, partiality, or corruption from
mingling in any degree with the sentences pronounced upon offenders, or
in the proceedings upon which they are founded._

_Last of all we are to speak of the evidence or testimony which is to be
given for or against the prisoner at the time of his trial. And first
with respect to the evidence offered for the Crown; if it shall appear
that the person swearing shall gain any great and evident advantage by
the event of the trial in which he swears, he shall not be admitted as a
good witness against the prisoner. Thus in the case of Rhodes, tried
some years ago for forging letters of attorney for transferring South
Sea Stock belonging to one Mr. Heysham, the prosecutor, Mr. Heysham, was
not admitted to swear himself against the prisoner because in case of
conviction six thousand pounds stock must have replaced to his account.
But to this, though a general rule, there are some exceptions on which
the compass of this discourse will not permit us to dwell. It is also a
rule that a husband or wife cannot be admitted to testify against the
prisoner, but to this also there are some exceptions, as in the Lord
Audley's case,[57] where he was charged with holding his lady until his
servant committed a rape upon her by his command. Also in marriages
contracted by force against the form of the Statute; in that case it is
provided that the woman, though a wife, may be admitted as evidence, as
also in some other cases which we have not room to mention._

_Persons convicted of perjury, forgery, etc., are not to be admitted as
legal witnesses, but that the record of their contrition must be
produced at the time the objection is made, for the Court mil take no
notice of hearsay and common fame in such respect. An infidel, also,
that is one who believes neither the Old nor New Testament, cannot be a
witness, and some other disabilities there are which being uncommon, we
shall not dwell upon here Yet it is necessary to take notice that
whatever is offered as proof against the defendant, shall be heard
openly before him, that he may have an opportunity of falsifying it, if
he be able; and as in all cases, except high treason, no council is
permitted to the prisoner except in matters of law, because every man is
supposed to be capable of defending himself as to matters of fact, yet
the Court is always council for the prisoner and never fails of
instructing and informing him of whatever may conduce to his benefit or
advantage; and if any difficult points of Law arise, council are
assigned him, and are permitted to argue in his behalf with the same
freedom that those do who are appointed by the Crown._

_From this succinct account of the method in use in England, of doing
justice in criminal cases, I flatter myself my readers will very clearly
see how valuable those privileges are which we enjoy as Englishmen; how
equitable the proceedings of our Courts of Justice; and how well
constructed every part of our constitution is for the preservation of
the lives and liberties of its subjects. If there remained room for us
to compare the judicious proceedings in use here with those slight,
rigorous and summary methods which are practised in other countries, the
value of these blessings which we enjoy would be considerably enhanced.
But as this Preface already exceeds its intended length, we must refer
this to a more proper opportunity, and conclude with putting our readers
in mind that by the careful perusal of this and the Preface to the First
Volume, they will have competent notion of the Crown Law, the reasons on
which it is founded, the method in which it is prosecuted, and the
judgments on criminals which are inflicted thereby; matters highly
useful in themselves, as well as absolutely necessary to be known, in
order to a proper understanding of the following pages._


[57] This was Mervyn, Lord Audley, 2nd Earl of Castlehaven, a
man of loathsome profligacy, who was tried by his peers on
charges of unnatural offences, and executed, in 1631.

The Life of WILLIAM SPERRY, Footpad and Highwayman

There is not anything more extraordinary in the circumstances of those
who from a life of rapine and plunder come to its natural catastrophe, a
violent and ignominious death, than that some of them from a life of
piety and religion, have on a sudden fallen into so opposite a
behaviour, and without any stumbles in the road of virtue take, as it
were, a leap from the precipice at once.

This malefactor, William Sperry, was born of parents in very low
circumstances, who afforded him and his brother scarce any education,
until having reached the age of fourteen years, he and his younger
brother before mentioned, were both decoyed by one of the agents for the
plantations, to consent to their being transported to America, where
they were sold for about seven years.[58] After the expiration of the
term, William Sperry went to live at Philadelphia, the capital of
Pennsylvania, one of the best plantations the English have in America,
which receives its name from William Penn, the famous Quaker who first
planted it. Here, being chiefly instigated thereto by the great piety
and unaffected purity of morals in which the inhabitants of that colony
excel the greater part of the world, Sperry began with the utmost
industry to endeavour at retrieving his reading; and the master with
whom he lived favouring his inclinations, was at great pains and some
expense to have him taught writing. Yet he did not swerve in his
religion, nor fall into Quakerism, the predominant sect here, but went
constantly to the Church belonging to the religion by Law established in
England, read several good books, and addicted himself with much zeal to
the service of God. Removing from the house of his kind master to that
of another planter, he abated nothing in his zeal for devotion, but went
constantly from his master's house to church at West Chester, which was
near five miles from his home.

Happening, not long after, to have the advantage of going in a trading
vessel to several ports in America, he addicted himself with great
pleasure to this new life. But his happiness therein, like all other
species of human bliss, very shortly faded, for one morning just as the
day began to dawn, the vessel in which he sailed was clapped on board,
and after a very short struggle taken by Low, the famous pirate.[59]
Sperry, being a brisk young lad, Low would very fain have taken him into
his crew, but the lad having still virtuous principles remaining,
earnestly entreated that he might be excused. On the score of his having
discovered to Low a mutinous conspiracy of his crew, the generosity of
that pirate was so great that, finding no offer he could make made any
impression, he caused him to be set safe on shore in the night, on one
of the Leeward Islands.

Notwithstanding that Sperry did not at that time comply with the
instigations of the pirate, yet his mind was so much poisoned by the
sight of what passed on board, that from that time he had an itching
towards plunder and the desire of getting money at an easier rate than
by the sweat of his brow. While these thoughts were floating in his
head, he was entertained on board one of his Majesty's men-of-war, and
while he continued in the Service, saw a pirate vessel taken; and the
men being tried before a Court of Admiralty in New England, every one of
them was executed except five, who manifestly appeared to have been
forced into the pirates' service. One would have thought this would have
totally eradicated all liking for that sort of practice, but it seems it
did not. For as soon as Sperry came home into England and had married a
wife, by which his inclinations were chained, though he had no ability
to support her, and falling into very great necessities, he either
tempted others or associated himself with certain loose and abandoned
young men, for as he himself constantly declared, he was not led into
evil practices by the persuasions of any. However it were, the deeds he
committed were many, and he became the pest of most of the roads out to
the little villages about London, particularly towards Hampstead,
Islington and Marylebone, of some of which as our papers serve we shall
inform you.

Sperry and four more of his associates hearing that gaming was very
public at Hampstead,[60] and that considerable sums were won and lost
there every night, resolved to share part of the winnings, let them
light where they would. In order to this, they planted themselves in a
dry ditch on one side of the foot-road just as evening came on,
intending when it was darker to venture into the coach road. They had
hardly been at their posts a quarter of an hour before two officers came
by. Some were for attacking them, but Sperry was of a contrary opinion.
In the meanwhile they heard one of the gentlemen say to the other,
_There's D---- M----, the Gamester, behind us, he has won at least sixty
guineas to-night._ Sperry and his crew had no further dispute whether
they should rob the gentlemen in red or no, but resolved to wait the
coming of so rich a prize.

It was but a few minutes before M---- appeared in sight. They
immediately stepped into the path, two before him, and two behind, and
watching him to the corner of a hedge, the two who were behind him
caught him by the shoulders, turned him round, and hurrying him about
ten yards, pushed him into a dry ditch. This they had no sooner done,
but they all four leaped down upon him and began to examine his pockets,
M---- thought to have talked them out of a stricter search by pretending
he had lost a great deal of money at play, and had but fifty shillings
about him, which with a silver watch and a crystal ring he deemed very
ready to deliver; and it very probably would have been accepted if they
had not had better intelligence, but one of the oldest of the gang,
perceiving after turning out all his pockets that they could discover
nothing of value, began to exert the style of a highwayman upon an
examination, and addressed the gamester in these terms.

_Nobody but such a rogue as you would have given gentlemen of our
faculty so much trouble. Sir, we have received advice by good hands from
Belsize that you won sixty guineas to-day at play. Produce them
immediately, or we shall take it for granted you have swallowed them;
and in such a case, Sir, I have an instrument ready to give us an
immediate account of the contents of your stomach._

M----, in a dreadful fright, put his hand under his arm, and from thence
produced a green purse with a fifty pound bank-note and eighteen
guineas. This they had no sooner taken than, tying him fast to a hedge
stake, they ran across the fields in search of another booty. They spun
out the time, being a moonlight night, until past eleven, there being so
much company on the road that they found it impossible to attack without

As they were returning home, they heard the noise of a coach driving
very hard, and upon turning about saw it was that of Sir W---- B----,
himself on the box, two ladies of pleasure in the coach, and his
servants a great way behind. One of them seized the horse on one side,
and another on the other, but Sir W---- drove so very hard that the pull
of the horses brought them both to the ground, and he at the same time
encouraging them with his voice and the smack of his whip. So he drove
safe off without any hurt, though they fired two pistols after him.

About three weeks after this they were passing down Drury Lane, and
observing a gentleman going with one of the fine ladies of the Hundreds
into a tavern thereabouts, one of the gang who knew him, and that he had
married a lady with a great fortune to whom his father was guardian, and
that they lived altogether in a great house near Lincoln's Inn Fields,
immediately thought on a project. They slipped into an alehouse, where
he wrote an epistle to the old gentleman, informing him that they had a
warrant to apprehend a lewd woman who was with child by his son, but
that she had made her escape, and was now actually with him at a certain
tavern in Drury Lane, wherefore being apprehensive of disturbance, and
being unwilling to disgrace his family, rather than take rougher
methods, they had informed him, in order that by his interposition the
affair might be made up.

As soon as they had written this letter, they dispatched one of their
number to carry it and deliver it, as if by mistake, to the young
gentleman's wife. This had the desired effect, for in less than half an
hour came the father, the wife, and another of her trustees, who
happened to be paying a visit there when the letter came. They no sooner
entered the tavern but hearing the voice of the gentleman they asked
for, without ceremony they opened the door, and finding a woman there,
all was believed, and there followed a mighty uproar. Two of the rogues
who were best dressed, had slipped into the next room and called for
half a pint. As if by accident they came out at the noise, and under
pretence of enquiring the occasion, took the opportunity of picking the
gentleman's pockets of twenty-five guineas, one gold watch, and two
silver snuff-boxes, which it is to be presumed were never missed until
the hurry of the affair was over.

The last robbery Sperry committed was upon one Thomas Golding, not far
from Bromley, who not having any money about him, Sperry endeavoured to
make it up by taking all his clothes. Being apprehended for this, at the
next sessions at the Old Bailey he was convicted for this offence, and
having no friends, could not entertain the least hopes of pardon. From
the time that he was convicted, and, indeed, from that of his
commitment, he behaved like a person on the brink of another world,
ingenuously confessing all his guilt, and acknowledging readily the
justice of that sentence by which he was doomed to death. His behaviour
was perfectly uniform, and as he never put on an air of contempt towards
death, so, at its nearest approach he did not seem exceedingly terrified
therewith, but with great calmness of mind prepared for his dissolution.

On the day of his execution his countenance seemed rather more cheerful
than ordinarily, and he left this world with all exterior signs of true
penitence and contrition, on Monday, the 24th of May, 1725, at Tyburn,
being then about twenty-three years of age.


[58] There was great competition to secure white labour in the
American plantations. Infamous touts circulated amongst the
poor, and any who were starving or wished for personal reasons
to emigrate engaged themselves with a ship-master or an
office-keeper to allow themselves to be sold for a term of years
in return for their passage money. On arrival at their
destination these poor wretches were sent to the plantations and
lived as slaves until the term for which they had contracted had
expired. In Virginia and Maryland, where most of them went, they
were driven to work on the tobacco fields with the negroes, and
were worse treated than the blacks, as being only leasehold
property whereas the negroes were freehold.

[59] Captain Edward Low was one of the bloodied of the pirates.
He served under Lowther until 1722, when he smarted on his own
account. After many atrocities he was taken by the French and
hanged, some time in 1724. A full account of him is given in my
edition of Johnson's _History of the Pirates_, issued in the
same series as the present volume.

[60] Belsize House was opened as a place of amusement, about
1720, by a certain Howell, who called himself the Welsh
Ambassador. At first it was a fashionable resort, but it soon
became the haunt of gamblers and harpies of both sexes.

The Life of ROBERT HARPHAM, a Coiner

In my former volume I have taken occasion, in the life of Barbara
Spencer, to mention the laws against coining as they stand at present in
this kingdom. I shall not, therefore, detain my readers here with the
unnecessary introduction, but proceed to inform them that a multitude of
false guineas being talked of--the natural consequence of a few being
detected--great pains were taken by the officers belonging to the Mint
for detecting those by whom such frauds had been committed.

It was not long before information was had of one Robert Harpham and
Thomas Broom, who were suspected of being the persons by whom such false
guineas had been made. Upon these suspicions search warrants were
granted, and a large engine of iron was discovered at Harpham's house,
with other tools supposed to be made use of for that purpose. On this,
the mob immediately gave out that a cart-load of guineas had been
carried from thence, because those instruments were so cumberous as to
be fetched in that manner; though the truth, indeed, was that no great
number of false guineas had been coined, though the instruments
undoubtedly were fitted and made use of for that purpose. Harpham, who
well knew what evidence might be produced against him, never flattered
himself with hopes after he came to Newgate, but as he believed he
should die, so he prepared himself for it as well as he could.

At his trial the evidence against him was very full and direct. Mr.
Pinket deposed flatly that the instruments produced in Court, and which
were sworn to be taken from the prisoner's house, could not serve for
any other purpose than that of coining. These instruments were an iron
press of very great weight, a cutting instrument for forming blanks, an
edging tool for indenting, with two dies for guineas and two dies for
half-guineas. To strengthen this, William Fornham deposed in relation to
the prisoners' possession, and Mr. Gornbey swore directly to his
striking a half-guinea in his presence. Mr. Oakley and Mr. Tardley
deposing further, that they flatted very considerable quantities of a
mixed metal for the prisoner, made up of brass, copper, etc., sometimes
to the quantity of 30 or 40 pound weight at a time.

The defence he made was very weak and trifling, and after a very short
consideration the jury brought him in guilty of the indictment, and he,
never entertaining any hopes of pardon, bent all his endeavours in
making his peace with God. Some persons in the prison had been very
civil to him, and one of them presuming thereon, asked him wherein the
great secret of his art of coining lay? Mr. Harpham thanked him for the
kindnesses he had received of him, but said that he should make a very
bad return for the time afforded him by the law of repentance, if he
should leave behind him anything of that kind which might farther
detriment his country. Some instances were also made to him that he
should discover certain persons of that same profession with himself,
who were likely to carry on the same frauds long after his decease. Mr.
Harpham, notwithstanding the answer he had made to the other gentleman,
refused to comply with this request; for he said that the instruments
seized would effectually prevent that, and he would not take away their
lives and ruin their families, when he was sure they were incapacitated
from coining anything for the future. However, that he might discharge
his conscience as far as he could, he wrote several pathetic letters to
the persons concerned; earnestly exhorting them for the sake of
themselves and their families to leave off this wicked employment, and
not hazard their lives and their salvation in any further attempt of
that sort.

Having thus disengaged himself from all worldly concerns, he dedicated
the last moments of his life entirely to the service of God; and having,
received the Sacrament the day before his execution, he was conveyed
the next noon to Tyburn in a sledge, where he was not a little
disturbed, even in the agonies of death, by the tumult and insults the
mob offered to Jonathan Wild, which he complained much of and seemed
very uneasy at. He suffered on the same day with the last mentioned
malefactor, appealing to be about two- or three-and-forty years of age.

The Life of the famous JONATHAN WILD, Thief-Taker

As no person in this collection ever made so much noise as the person we
are now speaking of, so never any man, perhaps, in any condition of life
whatever had so many romantic stories fathered upon him in his life, or
so many fictitious legendary accounts published of him after his death.
It may seem a low kind of affectation to say that the memoirs we are now
giving of Jonathan Wild are founded on certainty and fact; and that
though they are so founded, they are yet more extraordinary than any of
those fabulous relations pushed into the world to get a penny, at the
time of his death, when it was a proper season for vending such
forgeries, the public looking with so much attention on his catastrophe,
and greedily catching up whatever pretended to the giving an account of
his actions. But to go on with the history in its proper order.

Jonathan Wild[61] was the son of persons in a mean and low state of
life, yet for all that I have ever heard of them, both honest and
industrious. Their family consisted of three sons and two daughters,
whom their father and mother maintained and educated in the best manner
they could from their joint labours, he as carpenter, and she by selling
fruit in Wolverhampton market, in Staffordshire, which in future ages
may perhaps become famous as the birth place of the celebrated Mr.
Jonathan Wild. He was the eldest of the sons, and received as good an
education as his father's circumstances would allow him, being bred at
the free-school to read and write, to both of which having attained to a
tolerable degree, he was put out an apprentice to a buckle-maker in

He served his time with much fidelity, and came up to town in the
service of a gentleman of the long robe, about the year 1704, or perhaps
a little later. But not liking his service, or his master being not
altogether so well pleased with him, he quitted it and retired to his
old employment in the country, where he continued to work diligently for
some time. But at last growing sick of labour, and still entertaining a
desire to taste the pleasures of London, up hither he came a second
time, and worked journey-work at the trade to which he was bred. But
this not producing money enough to support those expenses Jonathan's
love of pleasure threw him into, he got pretty deeply in debt; and some
of his creditors not being endued with altogether as much patience as
his circumstances required, he was suddenly arrested, and thrown into
Wood-street Compter.

Having no friends to do anything for him, and having very little money
in his pocket when this misfortune happened, he lived very hardly there,
scarce getting bread enough to support him from the charity allowed to
prisoners, and from what little services he could render to prisoners of
the better sort in the gaol. However, as no man wanted address less than
Jonathan, so nobody could have employed it more properly than he did
upon this occasion; he thereby got so much into the favour of the
keepers, that they quickly permitted him the liberty of the gate, as
they call it, and he thereby got some little matter for going on
errands. This set him above the very pinch of want, and that was all;
but his fidelity and industry in these mean employments procured him
such esteem amongst those in power there, that they soon took him into
their ministry, and appointed him an under-keeper to those disorderly
persons who were brought in every night and are called, in their cant,

Jonathan now came into a comfortable subsistence, having learnt how to
get money of such people by putting them into the road of getting
liberty for themselves. But there, says my author, he met with a lady
who was confined on the score of such practices very often, and who went
by the name of Mary Milliner; and who soon taught him how to gain much
greater sums than in this way of life, by methods which he until then
never heard of, and will I am confident, to this day carry the charms of
novelty to most of my readers. Of these the first she put upon him was
going on what they call the "twang," which is thus managed: the man who
is the confederate goes out with some noted woman of the town, and if
she fall into any broil, he is to be at a proper distance, ready to come
into her assistance, and by making a sham quarrel, give her an
opportunity of getting off, perhaps after she has dived for a watch or a
purse of guineas, and was in danger of being caught in the very act.
This proved a very successful employment to Mr. Wild for a time. Moll
and he, therefore, resolved to set up together, and for that purpose
took lodgings and lived as man and wife, notwithstanding Jonathan then
had a wife and a son at Wolverhampton and the fair lady was married to a
waterman in town.

By the help of this woman Jonathan grew acquainted with all the
notorious gangs of loose persons within the bills of mortality, and was
also perfectly versed in the manner by which they carried on their
schemes. He knew where and how their enterprises were to be gone upon,
and after what manner they disposed of their ill-got goods, when they
came into their possession. Having always an intriguing head Wild set up
for a director amongst them, and soon became so useful to them that
though he never went out upon any of their lays, yet he got as much or
more by their crimes as if he had been a partner with them, which upon
one pretence or other he always declined.

He had long ago got rid of that debt for which he had been imprisoned in
the Compter, and having by his own thought projected a new manner of
life, he began in a very little time to grow weary of Mrs. Milliner, who
had been his first instructor. What probably contributed thereto was the
danger to which he saw himself exposed by continuing a bully in her
service; however, they parted without falling out, and as he had
occasion to make use of her pretty often in his new way of business, so
she proved very faithful and industrious to him in it, though she still
went on in her old way.

'Tis now time, that both this and the remaining part of the discourse
may be intelligible, to explain the methods by which thieves became the
better for thieving where they did not steal ready money; and of this we
will speak in the clearest and most concise manner that we can.

It must be observed that anciently when a thief had got his booty he had
done all that a man in his profession could do, and there were
multitudes of people ready to help them off with whatever effects he had
got, without any more to do. But this method being totally destroyed by
an Act passed in the reign of King William, by which it was made felony
for any person to buy goods stolen, knowing them to be so, and some
examples having been made on this Act, there were few or no receivers to
be met with. Those that still carried on the trade took exorbitant sums
for their own profit, leaving those who had run the hazard of their
necks in obtaining them, the least share of the plunder. This (as an
ingenious author says) had like to have brought the thieving trade to
naught; but Jonathan quickly thought of a method to put things again in
order, and give new life to the practices of the several branches of the
ancient art and mystery called stealing. The method he took was this.

As soon as any considerable robbery was committed, and Jonathan received
intelligence by whom, he immediately went to the thieves, and instead of
offering to buy the whole or any part of the plunder, he only enquired
how the thing was done, where the persons lived who were injured, and
what the booty consisted in that was taken away. Then pretending to
chide them for their wickedness in doing such actions, and exhorting
them to live honestly for the future, he gave it them as his advice to
lodge what they had taken in a proper place which he appointed them, and
then promised he would take some measures for their security by getting
the people to give them somewhat to have them restored them again.
Having thus wheedled those who had committed a robbery into a compliance
with his measures, his next business was to divide the goods into
several parcels, and cause them to be sent to different places, always
avoiding taking them into his own hands.

Things being in this position, Jonathan, or Mrs. Milliner went to the
persons who were robbed, and after condoling the misfortune, observed
that they had an acquaintance with a broker to whom certain goods were
brought, some of which they suspected to be stolen, and hearing that the
person to whom they thus applied had been robbed they said they thought
it the duty of one honest body to another to inform them thereof, and to
enquire what goods they were they lost, in order to discover whether
those they spoke of were the same or no. People who had such losses are
always ready, after the first fit of passion is over, to hearken to
anything that has a tendency towards recovering their goods. Jonathan or
his mistress therefore, who could either of them play the hypocrite
nicely, had no great difficulty in making people listen to such terms;
in a day or two, therefore, they were sure to come again with
intelligence that having called upon their friend and looked over the
goods, they had found part of the goods there; and provided nobody was
brought into trouble, and the broker had something in consideration of
his care, they might be had again. He generally told the people, when
they came on this errand, that he had heard of another parcel at such a
place, and that if they would stay a little, he would go and see
whether they were such as they described theirs to be which they had

This practice of Jonathan's, if well considered, carries in it a great
deal of policy; for first it seemed to be an honest and good-natured act
to prevail on evil persons to restore the goods which they had stole;
and it must be acknowledged to be a great benefit to those who were
robbed thus to have their goods again upon a reasonable premium,
Jonathan or his mistress all the while taking apparently nothing, their
advantages arising from what they took out of the gratuity left with the
broker, and out of what they had bargained with the thief to be allowed
of the money which they had procured him. Such people finding this
advantage in it, the rewards were very near as large as the price now
given by receivers (since receiving became too dangerous), and they
reaped a certain security also by the bargain.

With respect to Jonathan, the contrivance placed him in safety, not only
from all the laws then in being, but perhaps would have secured him as
securely from those that are made now, if covetousness had not prevailed
with him to take bolder steps than these; for in a short time he began
to give himself out for a person who made it his business to procure
stolen goods to their right owners. When he first did this he acted with
so much art and cunning that he acquired a very great reputation as an
honest man, not only from those who dealt with him to procure what they
had lost, but even from those people of higher station, who observing
the industry with which he prosecuted certain malefactors, took him for
a friend of Justice, and as such afforded him countenance and

Certain it is that he brought more villains to the gallows than perhaps
any man ever did, and consequently by diminishing their number, made it
much more safe for persons to travel or even to reside with security in
their own houses. And so sensible was Jonathan of the necessity there
was for him to act in this manner, that he constantly hung up two or
three of his clients at least in a twelvemonth, that he might keep up
that character to which he had attained; and so indefatigable was he in
the pursuit of those he endeavoured to apprehend, that it never happened
in all his course of acting, that so much as one single person escaped
him. Nor need this appear so great a wonder, if we consider that the
exact acquaintance he had with their gangs and the haunts they used put
it out of their power almost to hide themselves so as to avoid his

When this practice of Jonathan's became noted, and the people resorted
continually to his house in order to hear of the goods which they had
lost, it produced not only much discourse, but some enquiries into his
behaviour. Jonathan foresaw this, and in order to evade any ill
consequence that might follow upon it, upon such occasions put on an air
of gravity, and complained of the evil disposition of the times, which
would not permit a man to serve his neighbours and his country without
censure. _For do I not_, quoth Jonathan, _do the greatest good, when I
persuade these wicked people who have deprived them of their properties,
to restore them again for a reasonable consideration. And are not the
villains whom I have so industriously brought to suffer that punishment
which the Law, for the sake of its honest subjects, thinks fit to
inflict upon them--in this respect, I say, does not their death show how
much use I am to the country? Why, then_, added Jonathan, _should people
asperse me, or endeavour to take away my bread?_

This kind of discourse served, as my readers must know, to keep Wild
safe in his employment for many years, while not a step he took, but
trod on felony, nor a farthing did he obtain but what deserved the
gallows. Two great things there were which contributed to his
preservation, and they were these. The great readiness the Government
always shows in detecting persons guilty of capital offences; in which
case we know 'tis common to offer not only pardon, but rewards to
persons guilty, provided they make discoveries; and this Jonathan was so
sensible of that he did not only screen himself behind the lenity of the
Supreme Power, but made use of it also as a sort of authority, and
behaved himself with a very presuming air. And taking upon him the
character of a sort of minister of Justice, this assumed character of
his, however ill-founded, proved of great advantage to him in the course
of his life. The other point, which, as I have said, contributed to keep
him from any prosecutions on the score of these illegal and
unwarrantable actions, was the great willingness of people who had been
robbed to recover their goods, and who, provided for a small matter they
could regain things for a considerable worth, were so far from taking
pains to bring the offenders to justice that they thought the premium a
cheap price to get off.

Thus by the rigour of the magistrate, and the lenity of the subject,
Jonathan claimed constant employment, and according as wicked persons
behaved, they were either trussed up to satisfy the just vengeance of
the one, or protected and encouraged, that by bringing the goods they
stole he might be enabled to satisfy the demands of the other. And thus
we see the policy of a mean and scandalous thief-taker, conducted with
as much prudence, caution, and necessary courage, as the measures taken
by even the greatest persons upon earth; nor perhaps is there, in all
history, an instance of a man who thus openly dallied with the laws, and
played with capital punishment.

As I am persuaded my readers will take a pleasure in the relation of
Jonathan's maxims of policy, I shall be a little more particular in
relation to them than otherwise I should have been, considering that in
this work I do not propose to treat of the actions of a single person,
but to consider the villainies committed throughout the space of a dozen
years, such especially as have reached to public notice by bringing the
authors of them to the gallows. But Mr. Wild being a man of such
eminence as to value himself in his life-time on his superiority to
meaner rogues; so I am willing to distinguish him now he is dead, by
showing a greater complaisance in recording his history than that of any
other hero in this way whatsoever.

Nor, to speak properly, was Jonathan ever an operator, as they call it,
that is a practicer in any one branch of thieving. No, his method was to
acquire money at an easier rate, and if any title can be devised
suitable to his great performance, it must be that of Director General
of the united forces of highwaymen, housebreakers, footpads,
pickpockets, and private thieves. Now, according to my promise, for the
maxims by which he supported himself in this dangerous capacity.

In the first place, he continually exhorted the plunderers that belonged
to his several gangs, to let him know punctually what goods they at any
time took, by which means he had it in his power to give, for the most
part, a direct answer to those who came to make their enquiries after
they had lost their effects, either by their own carelessness, or the
dexterity of the thief. If they complied faithfully with his
instructions, he was a certain protector on all occasions, and sometimes
had interest enough to procure them liberty when apprehended, either in
the committing a robbery, or upon the information of one of the gang. In
such a case Jonathan's usual pretence was that such a person (who was
the man he intended to save) was capable of making a larger and more
effectual information, for which purpose Jonathan would sometimes supply
him with memorandums of his own, and thereby establish so well the
credit of his discovery, as scarce to fail of producing its effect.

But if his thieves threatened to become independent, and despise his
rules, or endeavour for the sake of profit to vend the goods they got
some other way without making application to Jonathan; or if they threw
out any threatening speeches against their companions; or grumbled at
the compositions he made for them, in such cases as these Wild took the
first opportunity of talking to them in a new style, telling them that
he was well assured they did very ill acts and plundered poor honest
people, to indulge themselves in their debaucheries; that they would do
well to think of amending before the Justice of their country fell upon
them; and that after such warning they must not expect any assistance
from him, in case they should fall under any misfortune. The next thing
that followed after this fine harangue was that they were put into the
information of some of Jonathan's creatures; or the first fresh fact
they committed and Jonathan was applied to for the recovery of the
goods, he immediately set out to apprehend them, and laboured so
indefatigably therein that they never escaped him. Thus he not only
procured the reward for himself, but also gained an opportunity of
pretending that he not only restored goods to the right owners, but also
apprehended the thief as often as it was in his power. As to instances,
I shall mention them in a proper place.

I shall now go on to another observation, viz., that in those steps of
his business which was most hazardous, Jonathan made the people
themselves take the first steps by publishing advertisements of things
lost, directing them to be brought to Mr. Wild, who was empowered to
receive them and pay such a reward as the person that lost them thought
fit to offer; and in this capacity Jonathan appeared no otherwise than
as a person on whose honour these sort of people could rely; by which,
his assistance became necessary for retrieving whatever had been

After he had gone on in this trade for about ten years with success, he
began to lay aside much of his former caution, and gave way to the
natural vanity of his temper; taking a larger house in Old Bailey than
that in which he formerly lived; giving the woman who he called his
wife, abundance of fine things; keeping open office for restoring stolen
goods; appointing abundance of under-officers to receive goods, carry
messages to those who stole them, bring him exact intelligence of the
several gangs and the places of their resort, and in fine, for such
other purposes as this, their supreme governor, directed. His fame at
last came to that height that persons of the highest quality would
condescend to make use of his abilities, when at an installation, public
entry, or some other great solemnity they had the misfortune of losing
watches, jewels, or other things, whether of great real or imaginary

But as his methods of treating those who applied to him for his
assistance has been much misrepresented, I shall next give an exact and
impartial account thereof, that the fabulous history of Jonathan Wild
may not be imposed upon posterity.

In the first place, then, when a person was introduced to Mr. Wild's
office, it was first hinted to him that a crown must be deposited by
way of fee for his advice; when this was complied with a large book was
brought out; then the loser was examined with much formality, as to the
time, place, and manner that the goods became missing; and then the
person was dismissed with a promise of careful enquiries being made, and
of hearing more concerning them in a day or two. When this was adjusted,
the person took his leave, with great hopes of being acquainted shortly
with the fruits of Mr. Wild's industry, and highly satisfied with the
methodical treatment he had met with.

But at the bottom this was all grimace. Wild had not the least occasion
for these queries, except to amuse the persons he asked, for he knew
beforehand all the circumstances of the robbery much better than they
did. Nay, perhaps, he had the very goods in the house when the folks
came first to enquire for them; though for reasons not hard to guess he
made use of all this formality before he proceeded to return them. When,
therefore, according to his appointment, the enquirer came the second
time, Jonathan took care to amuse him by a new scene. He was told that
Mr. Wild had indeed made enquiries, but was very sorry to communicate
the result of them; the thief, truly, who was a bold impudent fellow,
rejected with scorn the offer which pursuant to the loser's instructions
had been made him, insisted that he could sell the goods at a double
price, and in short would not hear a word of restitution unless upon
better terms. _But notwithstanding all this_, says Jonathan, _if I can
but come to the speech of him, I don't doubt bringing him to reason._

At length, after one or two more attendances, Mr. Wild gave the definite
answer, that provided no questions were asked and so much money was
given to the porter who brought them, the loser might have his things
returned at such an hour precisely. This was transacted with all outward
appearances of friendship and honest intention on his side, and with
great seeming frankness and generosity; but when the client came to the
last article, viz., what Mr. Wild expected for his trouble, then an air
of coldness was put on, and he answered with equal pride and
indifference, that what he did was purely from a principle of doing
good. As to a gratuity for the trouble he had taken, he left it totally
to yourself; you might do it in what you thought fit. Even when money
was presented to him he received it with the same negligent grace,
always putting you in mind that it was your own act, that you did it
merely out of your generosity, and that it was no way the result of his
request, that he took it as a favour, not as a reward.

By this dexterity in his management he fenced himself against the rigour
of the law, in the midst of these notorious transgressions of it, for
what could be imputed to Mr. Wild? He neither saw the thief who took
away your goods, nor received them after they were taken; the method he
pursued in order to procure you your things again was neither dishonest
or illegal, if you will believe his account on it, and no other than his
account could be gotten. According to him it was performed after this
manner: after having enquired amongst such loose people as he
acknowledged he had acquaintance with, and hearing that such a robbery
was committed at such a time, and such and such goods were taken, he
thereupon had caused it to be intimated to the thief that if he had any
regard for his own safety he would cause such and such goods to be
carried to such a place; in consideration of which, he might reasonably
hope such a reward, naming a certain sum. If it excited the thief to
return the goods, it did not thereby fix any guilt or blame upon
Jonathan; and by this description, I fancy my readers will have a pretty
clear idea of the man's capacity, as well as of his villainy.

Had Mr. Wild continued satisfied with this way of dealing in all human
probability he might have gone to his grave in peace, without any
apprehensions of punishment but what he was to meet within a world to
come. But he was greedy, and instead of keeping constant to this safe
method, came at last to take the goods into his own custody, giving
those that stole them what he thought proper, and then making such a
bargain with the loser as he was able to bring him up to, sending the
porter himself, and taking without ceremony whatever money had been
given him. But as this happened only in the two last years of his life,
it is fit I should give you some instances of his behaviour before, and
these not from the hearsay of the town, but within the compass of my own

A gentleman near Covent Garden who dealt in silks had bespoke a piece of
extraordinary rich damask, on purpose for the birthday suit of a certain
duke; and the lace-man having brought such trimming as was proper for
it, the mercer had made the whole up in a parcel, tied it at each end
with blue ribbon, sealed with great exactness, and placed on one end of
the counter, in expectation of his Grace's servant, who he knew was
directed to call for it in the afternoon. Accordingly the fellow came,
but when the mercer went to deliver him the goods, the piece had gone,
and no account could possibly he had of it. As the master had been all
day in the shop, so there was no possibility of charging anything either
upon the carelessness or dishonesty of servants. After an hour's
fretting, therefore, seeing no other remedy, he even determined to go
and communicate his loss to Mr. Wild, in hopes of receiving some benefit
by his assistance, the loss consisting not so much in the value of the
things as in the disappointment it would be to the nobleman not to have
them on the birthday.

Upon this consideration a hackney-coach was immediately called, and away
he was ordered to drive directly to Jonathan's house in the Old Bailey.
As soon as he came into the room, and had acquainted Mr. Wild with his
business, the usual deposit of a crown being made, and the common
questions of the how, when, and where, having been asked, the mercer
being very impatient, said with some kind of heat, _Mr. Wild, the loss I
have sustained, though the intrinsic value of the goods be very little,
lies more in disobliging my customer. Tell me, therefore, in a few
words, if it be in your power to serve me. If it is, I have thirty
guineas here ready to lay down, but if you expect that I should dance
attendance for a week or two, I assure you I shall not be willing to
part with above half the money. Good sir_, replied Mr. Wild, _have a
little more consideration. I am no thief, sir, nor no receiver of stolen
goods, so that if you don't think fit to give me time to enquire, you
must e'en take what measures you please._

When the mercer found he was like to be left without any hopes, he began
to talk in a milder strain, and with abundance of intreaties fell to
persuading Jonathan to think of some method to serve him, and that
immediately. Wild stepped out a minute or two, as if to the necessary
house; as soon as he came back he told the gentleman, it was not in his
power to serve him in such a hurry, if at all; however, in a day or two
he might be able to give him some answer. The mercer insisted that a day
or two would lessen the value of the goods one half to him, and Jonathan
insisted, as peremptorily, that it was not in his power to do anything

At last a servant came in a hurry, and told Mr. Wild there was a
gentleman below desired to speak with him. Jonathan bowed and begged the
gentleman's pardon, told him he would wait on him in one minute, and
without staying for a reply withdrew, and clapped the door after him. In
about five minutes he returned with a very smiling countenance, and
turning to the gentleman, said, _I protest sir, you are the luckiest man
I ever knew. I spoke to one of my people just now, to go to a house
where I know some lifters resort, and directed him to talk of the
robbery that had been committed in your house, and to say that the
gentleman had been with me and offered thirty guineas, provided the
things might be had again, but declared, if he did not receive them in a
very short space, he would give as great a reward for the discovery of
the thief, whom he would prosecute with the utmost severity. This story
has had its effect, and if you go directly home, I fancy you'll hear
more news of it yourself than I am able to tell you. But pray, sir,
remember one thing; that the thirty guineas was your own offer. You are
at free liberty to give them, or let them alone; do which you please,
'tis nothing to me; but take notice, sir, that I have done all for you
in my power, without the least expectation of gratuity._

Away went the mercer, confounded in his mind, and wondering where this
affair would end. But as he walked up Southampton Street a fellow
overtook him, patted him on the shoulder, and delivered him the bundle
unopened, telling him the price was twenty guineas. The mercer paid it
him directly, and returning to Jonathan in half an hour's time, readily
expressed abundance of thanks to Mr. Wild for his assistance, and begged
him to accept of the ten guineas he had saved him, for his pains.
Jonathan told him that he had saved him nothing, but supposed that the
people thought twenty demand enough, considering that they were now
pretty safe from prosecution. The mercer still pressed the ten guineas
upon Jonathan, who after taking them out of his hand returned him five
of them, and assured him that was more than enough, adding: _'Tis
satisfaction enough, sir, to an honest man that he is able to procure
people their goods again._

This, you will say, was a remarkable instance of his moderation. I will
join to it as extraordinary an account of his justice, equity, or what
else you will please to call it. It happened thus.

A lady whose husband was out of the kingdom, and had sent over to her
draughts for her assistance to the amount of between fifteen hundred and
two thousand pounds, lost the pocket-book in which they were contained,
between Bucklersbury and Magpie alehouse in Leadenhall Street, where the
merchant lived upon whom they were drawn. She however, went to the
gentleman, and he advised her to go directly to Mr. Jonathan Wild.
Accordingly to Jonathan she came, deposited the crown, and answered the
questions she asked him. Jonathan then told her that in an hour or two's
time, possibly, some of his people might hear who it was that had picked
her pocket. The lady was vehement in her desires to have it again, and
for that purpose went so far at last as to offer an hundred guineas.
Upon that Wild made answer, _Though they are of much greater value to
you, madam, yet they cannot be worth anything like it to them; therefore
keep your own counsel, say nothing in the hearing of my people, and I'll
give you the best, directions I am able for the recovery of your notes.
In the meanwhile, if you will go to any tavern near, and endeavour to
eat a bit of dinner, I will bring you an answer before the cloth is
taken away._ She said she was unacquainted with any house thereabouts,
upon which Mr. Wild named the Baptist Head.[62] The lady would not be
satisfied unless Mr. Wild promised to eat with her; he at last complied,
and she ordered a fowl and sausages at the house he had appointed.

She waited there about three quarters of an hour, when Mr. Wild came
over and told her he had heard news of her book, desiring her to tell
out ten guineas upon the table in case she should have an occasion for
them. As the cook came up to acquaint her that the fowl was ready,
Jonathan begged she would see whether there was any woman waiting at his

The lady, without minding the mystery, did as he desired her, and
perceiving a woman in a scarlet riding-hood walk twice or thrice by Mr.
Wild's house, her curiosity prompted her to go near her. But
recollecting she had left the gold upon the table upstairs, she went and
snatched it up without saying a word to Jonathan, and then running down
again went towards the woman in the red hood, who was still walking
before his door. It seems she had guessed right, for no sooner did she
approach towards her but the woman came directly up to her, and
presenting her pocket book, desired she would open it and see that all
was safe. The lady did so, and answering it was alright, the woman in
the red riding-hood said, _Here's another little note for you, madam_;
upon which she gave her a little billet, on the outside of which was
written ten guineas. The lady delivered her the money immediately,
adding also a piece for herself, and returning with a great deal of joy
to Mr. Wild, told him she had got her book, and would now eat her dinner
heartily. When the things were taken away, she thought it was time to go
to the merchant.

Thinking it would be necessary to make Mr. Wild a handsome present, she
put her hand in her pocket, and with great surprise found her green
purse gone, in which was the remainder of fifty guineas she had borrowed
of the merchant in the morning. Upon this she looked very much confused,
but did not speak a word. Jonathan perceived it, asked if she was not
well. _I am tolerably in health, sir_, answered she, _but I am amazed
that the woman took but ten guineas for the book, and at the same time
picked my pocket of thirty-nine._

Mr. Wild hereupon appeared in as great a confusion as the lady, and said
he hoped she was not in earnest, but if it were so, begged her not to
disturb herself, she should not lose one farthing. Upon which Jonathan
begging her to sit still, stepped over to his own house and gave, as
may be supposed, necessary directions, for in less than half an hour a
little Jew (called Abraham) that Wild kept, bolted into the room, and
told him the woman was taken, and on the point of going to the Compter.
_You shall see, Madam_, said Jonathan, turning to the lady, _what
exemplary punishment I'll make of this infamous woman._ Then turning
himself to the Jew, _Abraham_, says he, _was the green purse of money
taken on her? Yes sir_, replied his agent. _O la!_ then said the lady,
_I'll take the purse with all my heart; I would not prosecute the poor
wretch for the world. Would not you so, Madam_, replied Wild. _Well,
then, we'll see what's to be done._ Upon which he first whispered his
emissary, and then dispatched him.

He was no sooner gone than Jonathan told the lady that she would be too
late at the merchant's unless they took coach; which thereupon they did,
and stopped over against the Compter gate by the Stocks Market.[63] She
wondered at all this, but by the time they have been in a tavern a very
little space, back comes Jonathan's emissary with the green purse and
the gold in it. _She says, sir_, said the fellow to Wild _she has only
broke a guinea of the money for garnish and wine, and here's all the
rest of it. Very well_, says Jonathan, _give it to the lady. Will you
please to tell it, madam?_ The lady accordingly did, and found there
were forty-nine. _Bless me!_ says she. _I think the woman's bewitched,
she has sent me ten guineas more than I should have had. No, Madam_,
replied Wild, _she has sent you back again the ten guineas which she
received for the book; I never suffer any such practices in my way. I
obliged her, therefore, to give up the money she had taken as well as
that she had stole. And therefore I hope, whatever you may think of her,
that you will not have a worse opinion of your humble servant for this

The lady was so much confounded and confuted at these unaccountable
incidents, that she scarce knew what she did; at last recollecting
herself, _Well, Mr. Wild_, says she; _I think the least I can do is to
oblige you to accept of these ten guineas. No_, replied he, _nor of ten
farthings. I scorn all actions of such a sort as much as any man of
quality in the kingdom. All the reward I desire, Madam, is that you will
acknowledge I have acted like an honest man, and a man of honour._ He
had scarce pronounced these words, before he rose up, made her a bow,
and went immediately down stairs.

The reader may be assured there is not the least mixture of fiction in
this story, and yet perhaps there was not a more remarkable one which
happened in the whole course of Jonathan's life. I shall add but one
more relation of this sort, and then go on with the series of my
history. This which I am now going to relate happened within a few doors
of the place where I lived, and was transacted in this manner.

There came a little boy with vials in a basket to sell to a surgeon who
was my very intimate acquaintance. It was in the winter, and the weather
cold, when one day after he had sold the bottles that were wanted, the
boy complained he was almost chilled to death with cold, and almost
starved for want of victuals. The surgeon's maid, in compassion to the
child, who was not above nine or ten years old, took him into the
kitchen, and gave him a porringer of milk and bread, with a lump or two
of sugar in it. The boy ate a little of it, then said he had enough,
gave her a thousand blessings and thanks, and marched off with a silver
spoon, and a pair of forceps of the same mettle, which lay in the shop
as he passed through. The instrument was first missed, and the search
after it occasioned their missing the spoon; and yet nobody suspected
anything of the boy, though they had all seen him in the kitchen.

The gentleman of the house, however, having some knowledge of Jonathan
Wild, and not living far from the Old Bailey, went immediately to him
for his advice. Jonathan called for a bottle of white wine and ordered
it to be mulled; the gentleman knowing the custom of his house, laid
down the crown, and was going on to tell him the manner in which the
things were missed, but Mr. Wild soon cut him short by saying, _Sir,
step into the next room a moment; here's a lady coming hither. You may
depend upon my doing anything that is in my power, and presently we'll
talk the thing over at leisure._ The gentleman went into the room where
he was directed, and saw, with no little wonder, his forceps and silver
spoon lying upon the table. He had hardly taken them up to look at them
before Jonathan entered. _So, sir_, said he, _I suppose you have no
further occasion for my assistance. Yes, indeed, I have_, said the
surgeon, _there are a great many servants in our family, and some of
them will certainly be blamed for this transaction; so that I am under a
necessity of begging another favour, which is, that you will let me know
how they were stolen? I believe the thief is not far off_, quoth
Jonathan, _and if you'll give me your word he shall come to no harm,
I'll produce him immediately._

The gentleman readily condescended to this proposition, and Mr. Wild
stepping out for a minute or two, brought in the young vial merchant in
his hand. _Here, sir_, says Wild, _do you know this hopeful youth? Yes_,
answered the surgeon, _but I could never have dreamt that a creature so
little as he, could have had so much wickedness in him. However, as I
have given you my word, and as I have my things again, I will not only
pass by his robbing me, but if he will bring me bottles again, shall
make use of him as I used to do. I believe you may_, added Jonathan,
_when he ventures into your house again._

But it seems he was therein mistaken, for in less than a week afterwards
the boy had the impudence to come and offer his vials again, upon which
the gentleman not only bought of him as usual, but ordered two quarts of
milk to be set on the fire, put into it two ounces of glister sugar,
crumbled it with a couple of penny loaves, and obliged this
nimble-fingered youth to eat it every drop up before he went out of the
kitchen door, and then without farther correction hurried him about his

This was the channel in which Jonathan's business usually ran, but to
support his credit with the magistrates, he was forced to add
thief-catching to it, and every sessions or two, strung up some of the
youths of his own bringing-up to the gallows. But this, however, did not
serve his turn; an honourable person on the Bench took notice of his
manner of acting, which being become at last very notorious, an Act of
Parliament was passed, levelled directly against such practices, whereby
persons who took money for the recovery of stolen goods, and did
actually recover such goods without apprehending the felon, should be
deemed guilty in the same degree of felony with those who committed the
fact in taking such goods as were returned. And after this became law,
the same honourable person sent to him to warn him of going on any
longer at his old rate, for that it was now become a capital crime, and
if he was apprehended for it, he could expect no mercy.

Jonathan received the reproof with abundance of thankfulness and
submission, but what was strange, never altered the manner of his
behaviour in the least; but on the contrary, did it more openly and
publicly than ever. Indeed, to compensate for this, he seemed to double
his diligence in apprehending thieves, and brought a vast number of the
most notorious amongst them to the gallows, even though he himself had
bred them up in the art of thieving, and given them both instructions
and encouragement to take that road which was ruinous enough in itself,
and by him made fatal.

Of these none were so open and apparent a case as that of Blake, _alias_
Blueskin. This fellow had from a child been under the tuition of
Jonathan, who paid for the curing his wounds, whilst he was in the
Compter, allowed him three and sixpence a week for his subsistence, and
afforded his help to get him out of there at last. Yet as soon after
this he abandoned him to his own conduct in such matters, and in a short
space caused him to be apprehended for breaking open the house of Mr.
Kneebone, which brought him to the gallows. When the fellow came to be
tried Jonathan, indeed, vouchsafed to speak to him, and assured him that
his body should be handsomely interred in a good coffin at his own
expense. This was strange comfort, and such as by no means suited
Blueskin: he insisted peremptorily upon a transportation pardon, which
be said he was sure Jonathan had interest enough to procure him. But
Wild assured him that he had not, and that it was in vain for him to
flatter himself with such hopes, but that he had better dispose himself
to thinking of another life; in order to which, good books and such like
helps should not be wanting.

All this put Blueskin at last into such a passion that though this
discourse happened upon the leads at the Old Bailey; in the presence of
the Court then sitting, Blake could not forbear taking a revenge for
what he took to be an insult on him. And therefore, without ado, he
clapped one hand under Jonathan's chin, and with the other, taking a
sharp knife out of his pocket, cut him a large gash across the throat,
which everybody at the time it was done judged mortal. Jonathan was
carried off, all covered with blood, and though at that time he
professed the greatest resentment for such usage, affirming that he had
done all that lay in his power for the man who had so cruelly designed
against his life; yet when he afterwards came to be under sentence of
death, he regretted prodigiously the escape he had made then from death,
often wishing that the knife of Blake had put an end to his life, rather
than left him to linger out his days till so ignominious a fate befell

But it was not only Blake who had entertained notions of putting him to
death. He had disobliged almost the whole group of villains with whom he
had concern, and there were numbers of them who had taken it into their
heads to deprive him of life. His escapes in the apprehending such
persons were sometimes very narrow; he received wounds in almost every
part of his body, his skull was twice fractured, and his whole
constitution so broken by these accidents and the great fatigue he went
through, that when he fell under the misfortunes which brought him to
his death, he was scarce able to stand upright, and was never in a
condition to go to chapel.

But we have broke a little into the thread of our history, and must
therefore go back in order to trace the causes which brought on
Jonathan's last adventures, and finally his violent death. This we shall
now relate in the clearest and concisest manner that the thing will
allow; being well furnished for that purpose, having to personal
experience added the best intelligence that could be procured, and

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