Lives Of The Most Remarkable Criminals Who have been Condemned and Executed for Murder, the Highway, Housebreaking, Street Robberies, Coining or other offences
Arthur L. Hayward

Part 13 out of 15

mail was robbed (which was on a Sunday morning) at six or seven o'clock
he found a bundle of papers which he took up, and perceived them to be a
parcel taken out of the Bristol mail, and therefore having perused them
carefully, and taken out of them such as he judged proper, he being at
that time out of business and in great want, put up the rest of them in
a sheet of paper, directed to the Post Master General, and laid them
down in the box-house at Lincoln's Inn Fields, being afraid to go with
them to the office, because a great reward was offered for the robber.
And that he, having changed a twenty-pound bank-note, paid five pounds
of it away to his landlord, Mr. Marlow. He reflected also very severely
on the evidence given against him by Mr. Burton, which he said was the
very reverse of the truth. Burton having often solicited him to go upon
the highway as the shortest method of easing his misfortunes and
bringing them both money.

As he persisted in averring the confession he made to be the truth, it
was objected to him that it was a story, the most improbable in the
world, that when a man had hazarded his life to rob the Bristol mail, he
should then throw away all the booty, and leave it in such a place as
Covent Garden, for any stranger to take up as he came by; yet neither
this nor anything else that could be said to him had so much weight as
to move him to a free confession of his guilt, but on the contrary, he
gave greater and more evident signs of a sullen, morose and reserved
disposition, spoke little, desired not to be interrupted, made general
confessions of his sins, pleased himself with high conceits of the
Divine Mercy, and endeavoured as much as possible to avoid conferences
with anybody, and especially declined speaking of that offence for which
he was to die.

When he first came to Newgate, the keepers had, it seems, a strong
apprehension that he would attempt something against his own life, and
upon this suspicion they were very careful of him, and enjoined a barber
who shaved him in prison to be so, lest he should take that occasion to
cut his throat. Yet nothing of this happened until the day of his
execution, when the keepers coming to him in the morning, found him
praying very devoutly in his cell; but about twenty minutes after, going
thither again, they perceived he had fastened his sword belt which he
wore always about him to the grate of the window which looked out of
his cell, to the end of which he tied his handkerchief, and having then
adjusted that about his neck, he strangled himself with it, and was dead
when the keepers opened the doors to look in.

The Ordinary makes this remark upon his exit, that it is to be feared he
was a hypocrite and that little of what he said can be believed. For my
part, I am far from taking upon me either to enter into the breasts of
men or pretend to set bounds to the mercy of God, and therefore without
any further remarks, shall conclude his life with informing my readers
that at the time he put an end to his own being, he was about
forty-eight years of age, and a man in his person and behaviour very
unlikely to have been such a one as it is to be feared (notwithstanding
all his denials) he really was.

The Life of JOHN DOYLE, a Highwayman

When once men have plunged themselves so far into sensual pleasures as
to lose all sense of any other delight than that arises from the
gratification of the senses, there is no great cause of wonder if they
addict themselves to illegal methods of gaining wherewith to purchase
such enjoyments; since the want of virtue easily draws on the loss of
all other principles, nor can it be hoped from a man who has delivered
himself over to the dominion of these vices that he should stop short at
the lawful means of obtaining money by which alone he can be enabled to
possess them.

Common women are usually the first bane of those unhappy persons who
forfeit their lives to the Law as the just punishment of their offences;
these women, I say, are so far from having the least concern whether
their paramours run any unhappy courses to obtain the sums necessary to
supply their mutual extravagance, that on the contrary they are ever
ready, by oblique hints and insinuations, to put them upon such
dangerous exploits which as they are sure to reap the fruits of, so
sometimes when they grow weary of them, they find it an easy method to
get rid of them and at the same time put money in their own pockets. Yet
so blind are these unhappy wretches, that although such things fall out
yearly, yet they are never to be warned, but run into the snare with as
much readiness as if they were going unto the possession of certain and
lasting happiness.

But to come to the adventures of the unhappy person whose life we are
going to relate. John Doyle was born in the town of Carrough, in
Ireland, and of very honest parents who gave him as good education as
could be expected in that country, instructing him in writing and
accounts, and made some progress in Latin. When he was fit for a trade,
his friends agreed to put him out, and not thinking they should find a
master good enough for him in a country place, they sent him to Dublin,
and bound him to a tallow-chandler and soap-boiler in St. Thomas's
Street, whom he faithfully served seven years, and his master gave him a
good character. Being out of his time, his master prevailed with him to
work journey-work for him, which he did for nine months; but having got
acquainted by that time with some of the town ladies and pretending to
his friends that he was in hopes of better business, his friends
remitted him fifty pounds to help him forward.

He lived well while that money lasted, but when it was almost spent, he
knew not what to turn himself to, for working did not agree with him. He
took a resolution to come to England, and on the 19th of April, 1715, he
came over in a packet-boat. Having no more money left than three pounds
ten shillings, and not seeing which way he could get a further supply
unless he went to work, which he could not endure, he resolved to rob on
the highway; and to fit him for it, he bought a pair of pistols at West
Chester which cost him forty shillings. He continued in that city till
the Chester coach was to go for London. At four miles distant from the
town he attacked it, and robbed four passengers that were in it of
fourteen pounds, six shillings and ninepence, two silver watches and a
mourning ring, which was the first attempt of that kind that ever he
made in his life; then he went off a by-way undiscovered.

Having got a pretty good booty, he travelled across the country to
Shrewsbury, and having stayed there about two days, he happened to meet
a man that had been formerly a collector on the road, who had a horse to
sell. He bought the horse for seven guineas, though indeed it was worth
twenty, as it proved afterwards; no man soever was master of a better
bred horse for the highway. He was not willing to stay long at
Shrewsbury, so he went from thence and going along the country, met two
ladies in a small chaise, with only one servant and a pair of horses. He
robbed them of a purse with twenty-nine half guineas, nine shillings in
silver and twopence brass, and two gold watches. The servant who rode by
had a case of pistols which he took from him, and then made off
undiscovered. His horse at that time was much better acquainted with
coming up to a coach door than he was. Sometime afterwards he passed
across the country, and came to Newbury, in Berkshire, where he
remained for about fourteen days, during which time he was very reserved
and kept no company. But growing weary, he departed from that place the
same morning that the Newbury coach was to set out for London: and when
it was about five miles distant from the town of Newbury, he came up to
the coach door, and making a ceremony, as became a man of business,
demanded their all, which they very readily consented to deliver, which
proved to be about twenty-nine pounds in money, a silver watch, a plain
wedding ring, a tortoiseshell snuff box, and a very good whip.

There was also a family ring which a gentleman begged very hard for,
whereupon by his earnest application he gave it back, and the man
assured him he would never appear against him. He was a man of honour,
for he happened to meet him some time after at the Rummer and Horseshoe
in Drury Lane, where he treated Doyle handsomely, and showed him the
ring, and withal declared that he would not be his enemy on any account

Doyle being at this time a young beginner, thought what he got for the
preceding time to be very well, and in a few days after this arrived at
Windsor, where he stayed one night, and there being a gentleman's family
bound for London, that lay that night at the Mermaid Inn in the town, he
changed his lodging and removed to the inn; and having stayed there that
night, he minded where they put their valuable baggage up. The next
morning he paid his reckoning and came away, and got about four miles
out of the town before them; then coming up and making the usual
ceremony, he demanded their money, watches and rings. The gentleman in
the coach pulled out a blunderbuss, but Doyle soon quelled him by
clapping a pistol to his nose, telling him that if he stirred hand or
foot he was a dead man. Then he made him give his blunderbuss first,
then his money which was fifty guineas, fifteen shillings in silver, and
five-pence in brass, a woman's gold watch and a pocket book in which
were seven bank-notes, which the gentleman said he took that day in
order to pay his servants' wages. After this he made the best of his way
to London and got into James's Street, Westminster, where he drank a
pint of wine, and then crossed over to Lambeth, and put up his horse at
the Red Lion Inn, and stayed there that night.

The next morning he came to the Coach and Horses in Old Palace Yard,
Westminster, where he dined, and about seven at night departed from
thence and went to the Phoenix gaming-house in the Haymarket, to which
place, he said, he believed a great many owe their ruin. He remained
some time at the Phoenix, and seeing them gaming hard, he had a mind to
have a touch at it; when coming into the ring he took the box in his
turn, and in about thirty minutes lost thirty-seven pounds, which broke
him. But having some watches about him, he went immediately to the Three
Bowls in Market Lane, St. James, and pawned a gold watch for sixteen
guineas; and returning back to the Phoenix went to gaming a second time,
and in less than an hour recovered his money and forty-three pounds
more. And seeing an acquaintance there he took him to the Cardigan's
Head tavern, Charing Cross, and made merry. That night he lay at the
White Bear in Piccadilly, and stayed there until the next evening, after
which, having paid his reckoning, he went to Lambeth to his landlord who
had his horse in his care, and remained there that night. The next
morning he went away having discharged the house.

Having then a pretty sum of money about him, he had an inclination to
see the country of Kent, and accordingly went that day to Greenwich, and
put up his horse while he went to see the Hospital; and having baited
the horse he parted from thence, and going over Blackheath, he happened
to meet a gentleman, who proved to be Sir Gregory Page. Doyle took what
money he had about him, which was about seventy guineas in a green
purse, a watch, two gold seals and eighteen pence in silver. That night
he rode away to Maidstone, and from thence to Canterbury.

In a few days he returned to London, and was for a long time silent,
even for about six months, and never robbed or made an attempt to rob
any man, but kept his horse in a very good order, and commonly went in
an afternoon to Hampstead, sometimes to Richmond, or to Hackney. In
short, he knew all the roads about London in less than six months as
well as any man in England. His money beginning now to grow short, not
having turned out so long, and the keeping his horse on the other hand
being costly, he resolved that his horse should pay for his own keeping,
and turned out one evening and robbed a Jew of seventy-five pounds, and
of his and his lady's watches, a gold box and some silver, and returned
to town undiscovered. The next day Doyle went Brentford way, and coming
to Turnham Green stayed some time at the Pack Horse, where he saw two
Quakers on horseback. He rode gently after them till they got to
Hounslow Heath, where he secured what money they had, which was
something above a hundred pounds. They begged hard for some money back,
when he gave them a guinea, taking from them their spurs and whips, and
at some distance threw them away. Those two men, as he found some days
after by the papers, were two meal factors that were going to High
Wycombe market in Buckinghamshire, to buy either wheat or flour.

This last being a pretty good booty, he had a mind afterwards to go for
Ireland and accordingly set out for his journey thither. He took
shipping at King's Road near Bristol, on board a small vessel bound to
Waterford, where he arrived and stayed at the Eagle in Waterford three
days, and from thence went directly to Dublin. Doyle was not long in
Dublin before he became acquainted with his wife, whom he courted for
some time and was extravagant in spending his money on her. He also soon
got acquainted with one N. B., a man now alive, and they turned out
together. None was able to stand against them, for they had everything
that came in their way, and in plain terms, there was not a man that
carried money about him, within eight miles of Dublin, but if they met
him they were sure to get what he had.

Being grown so wicked Doyle was at length taken for a robber and
committed to Newgate, then kept by one Mr. Hawkins, who used him so
barbarously that he wished himself out of his hands. Accordingly he got
his irons off and broke out of the gaol. Hawkins knowing all the
bums[97] in Dublin, sent them up and down the city to take him, but to
no purpose. However, they rooted him fairly out of that neighbourhood.

Then he returned to Waterford, where he appointed his wife and friend
should meet him, which they did; and in about four hours after he came
there he found them out, and there being a ship bound for Bristol, he
sent them on board, agreed with the captain and went himself on board
the same night. They hoisted their sails and got down to the Passage
near Waterford, but the wind proving contrary, they were obliged to
return back, and then concluded it was determined for Doyle to be taken;
which he had been had he kept on board, but he luckily got on shore,
when it was agreed to go to Cork. There they met with an honest cock of
a landlord, and he kept himself very private, making the poor man
believe that his companion and he were two that were raising men for the
Chevalier's[98] service, and that their keeping so private proceeded
from a fear of being discovered. The poor man had then a double regard
for them, he being a lover in his heart of ----. Doyle then sent his
wife to seek for a ship; but Hawkins having pursued him from Dublin,
happened to see her, and dogged her to the ship where she went on board,
sending officers to search, for he was sure he should find him there. He
was mistaken, but they took his poor wife up to see if they could make
her discover where he was, and ordered a strong guard to bring her to
Cork gaol. A boat was provided to bring her on shore, but she telling
the men some plausible stories that her husband was not the man they
represented him to be, one of the watermen having stripped off his
clothes in order to row, and there being a great many honest fellows in
the boat, they assisted her in putting on waterman's clothes, which as
soon as done, she fairly got away from them, and came and acquainted
Doyle that Hawkins was in town, and how she had been in danger. They
then concluded on leaving Cork, hired horses that night, and came to a
place called Mallow, within ten miles of Cork. The next day they
travelled to Limerick, where Doyle bought a horse, bridle, etc., and
went towards Galloway, and in all his journey round about got but two
prizes, which did not amount to above fifteen pounds.

Sometime after, his wife was transported, which gave him a great deal of
concern, and he could not be in any way content without her. So getting
some money together he went to Virginia, and having arrived there soon
met with her, having had intelligence where to enquire for her. The
first house be came into was one William Dalton's, who had some days
before bought the late noted James Dalton,[99] who was then his servant,
whom he very often used to send along with Doyle in his boat to put him
on board a ship. Then he thought it his best way to buy his wife's
liberty, which he did, paying fifteen pounds for it.

He had then a considerable deal of money about him, and removed from
that part of the country where she was known and went to New York. Being
arrived there he soon got acquainted with some of his countrymen, with
whom be had used to go a-hunting and to the horse races; so be spent
some time in seeing the country. By chance he came to hear of a namesake
of his, that lived in an island a little distant from New York, and
being willing to see any of his name, he sent for him, and according to
Doyle's request, he wrote to him that he would come the next day, which
he did, and proved to be his uncle. The old man was overjoyed to see
Doyle, and carried him home with him, where he stayed a long time, and
spent a great deal of money.

His uncle was very much affronted at Doyle's ill-treatment of the
natives, whom he severely beat, insomuch that the whole place was afraid
of him, and all intended to join and take the Law of him. Soon after he
departed from New York and went to Boston, where he remained some time,
and at length he resolved within himself to settle and work at his
trade, thinking it better to do so than to spend all his money, and be
obliged to return to England or Ireland without a penny in his pocket.
He did so, and having agreed with a master he went to work, and was very
saving and frugal.

He remained with that man till by his wife's industry he had got,
including what was his own, about two hundred pounds English money. Then
he advised his wife to go for Ireland in the first ship that was bound
that way, laying all her money out to twenty pounds, and shipped the
goods which he had brought on board for her account. She then went to
Ireland and Doyle for England, promising to go over to her as soon as he
could get some money, for he had then an inclination to leave off his
old trade of collecting.

Being arrived at London, he met with a certain person with whom he
joined, and as he himself terms it, never had man a braver companion,
for let him push at what he would, his new companion never flinched one
inch. They turned out about London for some time, and got a great deal
of money, for nothing hardly missed them. They used a long time the
roads about Hounslow, Hampstead, and places adjacent, until the papers
began to describe them, on which they went into Essex, and robbed
several graziers, farmers and others. Then they went to Bishop's
Stortford, in Hertfordshire, where they robbed one man in particular who
had his money tied up under his arm in a great purse. Doyle says that he
had some intelligence from a friend that the man had money about him, he
made him strip in buff, and then found out where he lodged it, and took
it, but he did not use him in any way ill, for he says it was the man's
business to conceal it, as much as his to discover it.

Doyle and his partner hearing of a certain fair which was to be held a
few days after, they resolved to go to it, and coming there took notice
who took most money. In the evening they took their horses, and about
three miles distant from the town there was a green, over which the
people were obliged to come from the fair. There came a great many
graziers and farmers, whom they robbed of upwards of eight hundred
pounds. At this time Doyle had in money and valuable things, such as
diamonds, rings, watches, to the amount of about sixteen hundred pounds.
His partner had also a great deal of money, but not so much as Doyle, by
reason that he (D) had got some very often which he had no right to have
a share of.

Doyle went again for Ireland, and carried all his money with him, and
having a great many poor relations, distributed part of it amongst them;
some he lent, which he could never get again, and in a little his money
grew short, having frequented horse races and all public places.
However, before all was spent he returned to England. Following his old
course of life, he happened into several broils, with which a little
money and a few friends he got over. In a short space of time he became
acquainted with Benjamin Wileman. They two, with another person
concerned with them, committed several robberies. At length they were
discovered, apprehended and committed to Newgate. Wileman, it seems, had
an itching to become an evidence against Doyle and W. G. But Doyle made
himself an evidence, being really, as he said, for his own preservation
and not for the sake of any reward.

Doyle's wife being for a second time transported, he went with her in
the same ship, and having arrived in Virginia, slaved there some time,
until he began to grow weary of the place. But as he was always too
indulgent to her, he bought her her liberty, and shipped her and himself
on board the first ship that came to England, when in seven weeks time
they arrived in the Downs. Soon after they came up to England, but were
not long in town before his wife was taken up for returning from
transportation, and committed to Newgate, where she remained until the
sessions following, and being brought upon her trial, pleaded guilty.

When they came to pass sentence upon her, she produced his Majesty's
most gracious pardon, and was admitted to bail to plead the same, and
thereupon discharged. Doyle, a short time after, went to the West of
England, where he slaved some time, following his old way of life; and
associating himself with a certain companion, got a considerable sum of
money, and came to Marlborough. And having continued some time in that
neighbourhood, they usually kept the markets, where they commonly
cleared five pounds a day. Going from Marlborough they came to
Hungerford, and put up their horses at the George Inn; and having
ordered something for dinner, saw some graziers on the road, but one of
them being an old sportsman, and a brother tradesman of Doyle's
formerly, he knew the said Doyle immediately, by the description given
of him, and very honestly came to him, and told him that he had a charge
of money about him, and withal begged that he would not hurt him, since
he had made so ingenuous a confession, desiring Doyle to make the best
of his way to another part of the country, telling him at the same time
where he lived in London, and that if he should act honourably by him,
he would put a thousand pounds in his pocket in a month's time.
According to the grazier's directions, Doyle and his companions
departed, but having met, as Doyle phrases it, with a running chase in
their cross way, which they had taken for safety, they were obliged to
return back into the main road again, and by accident put up at the same
inn where the grazier and his companions were that evening. The grazier,
as soon as he saw Doyle, came in and drank a bottle with him, and then
retired to his companions, without taking any manner of notice of him.

As they came for London, they took everything that came into their net,
and in three days time Doyle paid his brother sportsman, the grazier, a
visit, who received him handsomely, and appointed him to meet him the
next market day at the Greyhound in Smithfield, in order to make good
part of his promise to him. Doyle and his companion went to him, put up
their horses at the same inn and passed for country farmers. This
grazier, who formerly had been one of the same profession being now
grown honest and bred a butcher, was then turned salesman in Smithfield,
and sold cattle for country graziers, and sent them their money back by
their servants who had brought the cattle to town. Having drunk a glass
of wine together, they began to talk about business, and the grazier
being obliged to go into the market to sell some beasts, desired Doyle
and his companion to stay there until he returned. When he came he gave
them some little instructions how they should proceed in an affair he
had then in view to serve then in, and having taken his advice, they
rode out of town; and it being a West Country fair they rode Turnham
Green way.

They had not time to drink a pint of wine before the West Country
chapman came ajogging along. They took two hundred and forty pounds from
him, making (as D. terms it) a much quicker bargain with him than he had
done with the butcher at Smithfield. The chapman begged hard for some
money to carry him home to his family, and after they had given him two
guineas, he said to them that he had often travelled that road with five
hundred pounds about him, and never had been stopped. To which Doyle
replied, that half the highwaymen who frequented the road were but mere
old women, otherwise he would never have had that to brag of, and then
parted. Doyle says that the honest man at Smithfield had poundage of him
as well as from the grazier, so that he acted in a double capacity.

That night they came to London, and having put up their horses, put on
other clothes and went to Smithfield, where not finding the butcher at
home, they write a note and left it for an appointment to meet him at
the Horn Tavern in Fleet Street, where they had not stayed long before
he came. After taking a cheerful glass they talked the story over, and
out of the booty Doyle gave turn fifty guineas, after which the butcher
promised to be his friend upon a better affair. After paying the
reckoning they parted and appointed to meet the next market day at

They went at the time appointed, and having drank a morning glass,
stepped into the market and stayed some time. Their brother sportsman
being very busy, he made excuse to Doyle and his companion, telling them
there was nothing to be done in their way till the evening, desiring
them to be patient. They remained in and about Smithfield till then, and
market being entirely over, their friend came up to the place appointed,
and showed them a man on horseback to whom he had just paid fifty
pounds. Doyle and his companion immediately called for their horses,
took leave of their friend, and kept in sight of the countryman until he
was out of town. And when he was got near the Adam and Eve, at
Kensington, they came up to him, and made a ceremony, as became men of
their profession. He was very unwilling to part from his money, making
an attempt to ride away, but they soon overtook him, and after some
dispute took every penny that he received in Smithfield, and for his
residing gave him back only a crown to bear his charges home. In his
memoirs Doyle makes this observation, that they always robbed between
sun and sun, so that the persons robbed might make the county pay them
that money back if they thought fit to sue them for it.[100] Next
morning Doyle and his companion came to the place appointed, and not
meeting with their brother sportsman sent for him, where they drank
together, and talked as usual about business, paying him poundage out of
what money they had collected on his information (for they usually dealt
with him as a custom-house officer does by an informer); after which
they parted for that time, and did not meet for a month after.

Afterwards they went up and down Hertfordshire, but got scarce money
enough to bear their expenses; but where there were small gettings they
lived the more frugally, for Doyle observed that if the country did not
bear their expenses wherever he travelled, he thought it very hard, and
that if he failed of gaming one day, he commonly got as much the next as
he could well destroy.

Hitherto we have kept very close to those memoirs which Mr. Doyle left
behind him, which I did with this view, that my readers might have some
idea of what these people think of themselves. I shall now bring you to
the conclusion of his story, by informing you that finding himself beset
at the several lodgings which he kept by way of precaution, he for some
days behaved himself with much circumspection; but happening to forget
his pistols, he was seized, coming out of an inn in Drury Lane, and
though he made as much resistance as he was able, yet they forced him
unto a coach and conveyed him to Newgate. It is hard to say what
expectations he entertained after he was once apprehended, but it is
reasonable to believe that he had strong hopes of life, notwithstanding
his pleading guilty at his trial, for he dissembled until the time of
the coming down of a death warrant, and then declared he was a Roman
Catholic, and not a member of the Church of England, as he had hitherto

He seemed to be a tolerably good-natured man, but excessively vicious at
the same time that he was extravagantly fond of the woman he called his
wife. He took no little pleasure in the relations of those adventures
which happened to him in his exploits on the highway, and expressed
himself with much seeming satisfaction, because as he said, he had never
been guilty of beating or using passengers ill, much less of wounding or
attempting to murder them. In general terms, he pretended to much
penitence, but whether it was that he could not get over the natural
vivacity of his own temper, or that the principles of the Church of
Rome, as is too common a case, proved a strong opiate in his conscience,
however it was, I say, Doyle did not seem to have any true contrition
for his great and manifold offences. On the contrary, he appeared with
some levity, even when on the very point of death.

He went to execution in a mourning coach; all the way he read with much
seeming attention in a little Popish manual, which had been given him by
one of his friends. At the tree he spoke a little to the people, told
them that his wife had been a very good wife to him, let her character
in other respects be what it would. Then he declared he had left behind
him memoirs of his life and conduct, to which he had nothing to add
there, and from which I have taken verbatim a great part of what I have
related. And then, having nothing more to offer to the world, he
submitted to death on the first of June, 1730, but in what year of his
age I cannot say.

However, before I make an end of what relates to Mr. Doyle, it would be
proper to acquaint the public that the vanity of his wife extended so
far as to make a pompous funeral for him at St. Sepulchre's church,
whereat she, as chief mourner assisted, and was led by a gentleman whom
the world suspected to be of her husband's employment.


[97] i.e., bailiffs, informers and spies.

[98] The Pretender, whose name was only to be mentioned with
baited breath.

[99] See page 533.

[100] Passengers robbed on the highway between sunrise and
sunset, could sue the county for the amount of their loss, it
being the duty of the officials to keep the roads safe.

The Life of JOHN YOUNG, a Highwayman

I have more than once remarked in the course of these memoirs that of
all crimes, cruelty makes men the most generally hated, and that from
this reasonable cause, that they seem to have taken up an aversion to
their own kind. This was remarkably the case of the unhappy man of whom
we are now speaking.

He was, it seems, the son of very honest and industrious parents, his
father being a gardener at Kensington. From him he received as good an
education as it was in his power to give him, and was treated with all
the indulgence that could be expected from a tender parent; and it seems
that after five years' stay at school, he was qualified for any business
whatsoever. So after consulting his own inclinations he was put out
apprentice to a coach-maker in Long Acre, where he stayed not long; but
finding all work disagreeable to him, he therefore resolved to be gone,
let the consequence be what it would. When this resolve was once taken,
it was but a very short time before it was put into execution. Living
now at large, and not knowing how to gain money enough to support
himself, and therefore being in very great straits, he complied with the
solicitations of some hackney-coachmen, who advised him to learn their
trade. They took some pains to instruct him, employed him often, and in
about six months time he became perfect master of his business, and
drove for Mr. Blunt, in Piccadilly. His behaviour here was so honest
that Mr. Blunt gave him a good character, and he thereby obtained the
place of a gentleman's coachmen. In a short time he saved money and
began to have some relish for an honest life; and continuing
industriously to hoard up what he received either in wages or vales
[tips] at last by these methods he drew together a very considerable sum
of money.

And then it came into his head to settle himself in an honest way of
life, in which design his father gave him all the encouragement that was
in his power, telling him in order to do it, he should marry an honest,
virtuous woman. Whereupon, with the advice and consent of his parents,
he married a young woman of a reputable family from Kentish Town, who,
as to fortune, brought him a pretty little addition to his own savings,
so that altogether he had, according to his own account, a very pretty
competency wherewith to begin the world.

For some time after his marriage he indulged himself in living without
employment, but finding such a course wasted his little stock very fast,
he began to apply his thoughts to the consideration of what course was
the most likely to get his bread in. After beating his brains for some
little time on this subject he at last resolved on keeping a
public-house; which agreeing very well with his father's and relations'
notions, he thereupon immediately took the King's Arms, in Red Lion
Street, where for some time he continued to have very good business. In
all, he remained there about five years, and might in that time have got
a very pretty sum of money if he had not been so unhappy as to grow
proud, as soon as he had anything in his pocket. It was not long,
therefore, before he gave way to his own roving disposition, going over
to Ireland, where he remained for a considerable space, living by his
wits as he expresses it, or, in the language of honest people, by
defrauding others.

But Ireland is a country where such sort of people are not likely to
support themselves long; money is far from being plentiful, and though
the common people are credulous in their nature, yet tradesmen and the
folks of middling ranks are as suspicious as any nation in the world.
The county of West Meath was the place where he had fixed his residence
for the greatest part of the time he continued in the island, but at
last it grew too hot for him. The inhabitants became sensible of his way
of living, and gave him such disturbance that he found himself under an
indispensable necessity of quitting that place as soon as possibly he
could; and so having picked up as much money as would pay for his
passage, he came over again into England, out of humour with rambling
while he felt the uneasiness it had brought upon him, but ready to take
it up again as soon as ever his circumstances were made a little easy,
which in his present condition was not likely to happen in haste.

His friends received him very coldly, his parents had it not in their
power to do more for him. In a word, the countenance of the world
frowned upon him, and everybody treated him with that disdain and
contempt which his foolish behaviour deserved. However, instead of
reclaiming him, this forced him upon worse courses. His wife, it seems,
either died in his absence, or was dead before he went abroad, and soon
after his return he contracted an acquaintance with a woman, who was at
that time cook in the family of a certain bishop; her he courted and a
short time after, married. She brought him not only some ready money,
but also goods to a pretty large value. Young being not a bit mended by
his misfortunes, squandered away the first in a very short time, and
turned the last into ready money. However, these supplies were of not
very long continuance, and with much importunity his friends, in order,
if it were possible, to keep him honest, got him in a small place in
the Revenue, and he was put in as one of the officers to survey
candles. In this post he continued for about a twelvemonth, and then
relapsing into his former idle and profligate courses, he was quickly
suspected and thereby put to his shifts again, though his wife at that
time was in place, and helped him very frequently with money.

This, it seems, was too servile a course for a man of Mr. Young's spirit
to take, so that he picked up as much as bought him a pair of pistols,
and then went upon the highway, to which it seems the foolish pride of
not being dependant upon his wife did at that time not a little
contribute. In his first adventure in this new employment, he got
fifteen guineas, but being in a very great apprehension of a pursuit,
his fears engaged him to fly down to Bristol, in order, if it were
possible, to avoid them. After staying there some considerable time, he
began at last to take heart, and to fancy he might be forgotten. Upon
these hopes he resolved with himself to come up towards London again;
and taking advantage of a person travelling with him to Uxbridge, he
made use of every method in his power to insinuate himself into his
fellow traveller's good graces. This he effected, insomuch that at High
Wycombe, in Buckinghamshire, as Young himself told the story, he
prevailed on him to lend him three half-crowns to defray his expenses,
pretending that he had some friend or relation hard by who would repay
him. But unfortunately for the man, he had talked too freely of a sum of
money which he pretended to have about him. It thereupon raised an
inclination in Young to strip him and rob him of this supposed great
prize; for which purpose he attacked him in a lone place, and not only
threatened him with shooting him, but as he pretended, by his hand
shaking, was as good as his word, and actually wounded him in such a
manner as he in all probability at that time took to be mortal; but
taking advantage of the condition in which the poor man was, he made the
best of his way off, and was so lucky as to escape for the present,
although that crime brought him afterwards to his execution.

When he had considered a little the nature of the fact which he had
committed, it appeared even to himself of so black and barbarous a
nature that he resolved to fly to the West of England, in order to
remain there for some time. But from this he was deterred by looking
into a newspaper and finding himself advertised there; the man whom he
had shot being also said to be dead, this put him into such a
consternation that he returned directly to London, and going to a place
hard by where his wife lived, he sent for her, and told her that he was
threatened with an unfortunate affair which might be of the greatest
ill-consequence to him if he should be discovered. She seemed to be
extremely moved at his misfortunes, and gave him what money she could
spare, which was not a little, insomuch that Young at last began to
suspect she made bold now and then to borrow of her mistress; but if she
did, that was a practice he could forgive her. At last he proposed
taking a lodging for himself at Horsely Down,[101] as a place the
likeliest for him to be concealed in. There his wife continued to supply
him, until one Sunday morning she came in a great hurry and brought with
her a pretty handsome parcel of guineas. Young could not help suspecting
she did not come very honestly by them. However, if he had the money he
troubled not his head much which way he came by it, and he had so good a
knack of wheedling her that he got twenty pounds out of her that Sunday.

A very few days after, intelligence was got of his retreat, and the man
whom he had robbed and shot made so indefatigable a search after him,
that he was taken up and committed to the New Gaol, and his wife, a very
little time after, was committed to Newgate for breaking open her lady's
escrutoire, and robbing her of a hundred guineas. This was what Young
said himself and I repeat it because I have his memoirs before me. Yet
in respect to truth, I shall be obliged to say something of another
nature in its due place; but to go on with our narration according to
the time in which facts happened.

A _Habeas Corpus_ was directed to the sheriff of Surrey, whereupon Young
was brought to Newgate, and at the next sessions of the Old Bailey was
indicted for the aforesaid robbery, which was committed in the county of
Middlesex. The charge against him was for assaulting Thomas Stinton, in
a field or open place near the Highway, and taking from him a mare of
the value of seven pounds, a bridle value one shilling and sixpence, a
saddle value twelve shillings, three broad-pieces of gold and nine
shillings in silver, at the same time putting the said Thomas Stinton in
fear of his life.

Upon this indictment the prosecutor deposed that meeting with the
prisoner about seven miles on this side of Bristol, and being glad of
each other's company, they continued and lodged together till they came
to Oxford; where the prisoner complaining that he was short of money,
the prosecutor lent him a crown out of his pocket, and at Loudwater, the
place where they lodged next night, he lent him half a crown more. The
next morning they came for London, and being a little on this side of
Uxbridge, Young said he had a friend in Hounslow who would advance him
the money which he had borrowed from the prosecutor, and thereupon
desired Mr. Stinton to go with him thither, to which he agreed; and
Young thereupon persuaded him to go by a nearer way, and under that
pretence after making him leap hedges and ditches, at last brought him
to a place by the river side, where on a sudden he knocked him off his
horse, and that with such force that he made the blood gush out of his
nose and mouth.

As soon as Young perceived that the prosecutor had recovered his senses
a little, he demanded his money, to which Mr. Stinton replied, _Is this
the manner in which you treat your friend? You see, I have not strength
to give you anything._ Whereupon Young took from him his pocket-book and
money. And Mr. Stinton earnestly entreating that he would give him
somewhat to bear his expenses home, in answer thereto Young said, _Ay,
I'll give you what shall carry you home straight_, and then shot him in
the neck, and pushing him down into the ditch, said, _Lie there._ Some
time after with much ado, Mr. Stinton crawled out and got to a house,
but saw no more of the prisoner, or of either of their mares.

George Hartwell deposed that he helped both the prisoner and the
prosecutor to the inn where they lay at Oxford. Sarah Howard deposed
that she kept the inn or house where they lodged at Loudwater the night
before the robbery was committed. And all the witnesses, as well as the
prosecutor being positive to the person of the prisoner, the charge
seemed to be as fully proved as it was possible for a thing of that
nature to admit.

The prisoner in his defence did not pretend to deny the fact, but as
much as he was able endeavoured to extenuate it. He said, that for his
part he did not know anything of the mare; that the going off the pistol
was merely accidental; that he did, indeed, take the money, and
therefore, did not expect any other than to suffer death, but that it
would be a great satisfaction to him, even in his last moments, that he
neither had or ever intended to commit any murder. But those words in
the prosecutor's evidence, _I'll give you something to carry you home_,
and _Lie there_ (that is in the ditch) being mentioned in summing up the
evidence to the jury, Young, with great warmth and many asseverations,
denied that he made use of them. The jury, after a very short
consideration, being full satisfied with the evidence which had been
offered, found him guilty.

The very same day his wife was indicted for the robbery of her mistress,
when the fact was charged upon her thus: that she on a Sunday, conveyed
Young secretly upstairs in her mistress's house, where she passed for a
single woman; that he took an opportunity to break open a closet and to
steal from thence ninety guineas, and ten pounds in silver; a satin
petticoat value thirty shillings, and an orange crepe petticoat were
also carried off; and she asking leave of her lady to go out in the
afternoon, took that opportunity to go quite away, not being heard of
for a long time. Upon her husband being apprehended for the fact for
which he died, somebody remembered her and the story of her robbing her
mistress, caused her thereupon to be apprehended. Not being able to
prove her marriage at the time of her trial, she was convicted, and
ordered for transportation. This was a very different story from that
which Young told in his relations of his wife's adventure, but when it
came to be mentioned to that unhappy man and pressed upon him, though he
could not be brought to acknowledge it, yet he never denied it; which
the Ordinary says, was a method of proceeding he took up, because
unwilling to confess the truth, and afraid when so near death to tell a

When under sentence of death, this unfortunate person began to have a
true sense of his own miserable condition; he was very far from denying
the crime for which he suffered, although he still continued to deny
some of the circumstances of it. The judgment which had been pronounced
upon him, he acknowledged to be very just and reasonable, and was so far
from being either angry or affrighted at the death he was to die that on
the contrary he said it was the only thing that gave his thoughts ease.
To say truth, the force of religion was never more visible in any man
than it was in this unfortunate malefactor. He was sensible of his
repentance being both forced and late, which made him attend to the
duties thereof with an extraordinary fervour and application. He said
that the thoughts of his dissolution had no other effect upon him than
to quicken his diligence in imploring God for pardon. To all those who
visited him either from their knowledge of him in former circumstances,
or, as too many do, from the curiosity of observing how he would behave
under those melancholy circumstances in which he then was, he discoursed
of nothing but death, eternity, and future judgment. The gravity of his
temper and the serious turn of his thoughts was never interrupted in any
respect throughout the whole space of time in which he lay under
condemnation; on the contrary, he every day appeared to have more and
more improved from his meditations and almost continual devotions,
appearing frequently when at chapel wrapped up as it were in ecstasy at
the thoughts of heaven and future felicity, humbling himself, however,
for the numberless sins he had committed, and omitting nothing which
could serve to show the greatness of his sorrow and the sincerity of his

The day he was to die, the unfortunate old man his father, then upwards
of seventy years of age, came to visit him, and saw him haltered as he
went out to execution. Words are too feeble to express that impetuosity
of grief which overwhelmed both the miserable father and the dying son.
However, the old man, bedewing him with a flood of tears, exhorted him
not to let go on his hopes in Christ, even in that miserable
conjuncture; but that he should remember the mercy of God was over all
his works, and in an especial manner was promised to those who were
penitent for their sins, which Christ had especially confirmed in
sealing the pardon of the repenting thief, even upon the cross.

At the place of execution he appeared scarce without any appearance of
terror, much less of obstinacy or contempt of death. Being asked what he
did with the pocket-book which he took from Mr. Stinton, and which
contained in it things of very great use to him, Young replied
ingeniously that he had burnt it, for which he was heartily sorry, but
that he did not look into or make himself acquainted with its contents.
Just before the cart drew away, he arose and spoke to the people, and
said, _The love of idleness, being too much addicted to company, and a
too greedy love of strong liquors has brought me to this unhappy end.
The Law intends my death for an example unto others; let it be so, let
my follies prevent others from falling into the like, and let the shame
which you see me suffer, deter all of you from the commission of such
sins as may bring you to the like fatal end. My sentence is just, but
pray, ye good people, for my soul, that though I die ignominiously here,
I may not perish everlastingly._

He was executed the first of June, 1730, being at the time about
thirty-nine years of age.


[101] This district, at the Dockhead end of Tooley Street, was
at that time a sort of No Man's Land, where horses were grazed
and a few poverty-stricken wretches lived in sheds and holes in
the ground.

The Life of THOMAS POLSON, _alias_ HITCHIN, a Footpad and Highwayman

Habit is the most dangerous of all evils. The transports of passion are
sometimes prevented from having fatal effects, either by the precautions
of those with whom we quarrel, or because a sudden reflection of our own
minds checks our hand. But where men have abandoned themselves to
wickedness, and given themselves up to the commission of every kind of
evil without restraint, there is little hope to be entertained of their
ever mending; and if the fear of a sudden death work a true repentance,
it is all that can be hoped.

As for this unfortunate man of whose actions the course of our memoirs
obliges us to treat, he was descended from parents who lived at Marlow,
in the county of Salop, who were equally honest in their reputations,
and easy in their circumstances. They spared nothing in the education of
their son, and it is hard to say whether their care of him was more or
his application was less. Even while a child and at school he gave too
evident symptoms of that lazy, indolent disposition which attended him
so flagrantly and was justly the occasion of all the misfortunes of his
succeeding life. Learning was of all things his aversion. It was with
difficulty that he was taught to read and write. As to employment, his
father brought him up to husbandry and the business of a rural life.

When he was of age his father gave him an estate of twenty pounds _per
annum_, freehold, and got him into a very good farm. He procured for him
also a wife, who had ten pounds a year more of her own, and settled him
in such a manner that no young man in the country had a better prospect
of doing well than himself. But, alas! to what purpose are the
endeavours of others, where a man studies nothing so much as to compass
his own ruin? On a sudden he took a love to card-playing, and addicted
himself to it with such earnestness that he neglected his business and
squandered his money. Want was what of all things he hated, except work,
and therefore rather than labour to retrieve, he bethought himself of an
easier way of getting money, and that was to steal.

His first attempt was upon his father, whom he robbed of a considerable
sum of money. He not being in the least suspected, a poor maid who lived
in the house bore the blame for about six months, and nobody in all that
time being charged with it but her, there was at last a design in the
old man's head to prosecute her. This reaching young Polson's ear, he
resolved not to let an innocent person suffer, which was indeed a very
just and honourable act, whereupon he wrote an humble letter to his
father, acknowledging his fault, begging pardon for his offences, and
desiring that he would not prosecute the poor woman, or suffer her to be
any longer under the odium of a fact of which she had not the least
knowledge. This, to be sure, had its effect on his father, who was a
very honest and considerate man. He took care to restore the wench to
her good character and his favour, though for a while he with just
reason continued to frown upon his son. At last paternal tenderness
prevailed, and after giving him several cautions and much good advice,
he promised, on his good behaviour, to forgive him what had past. The
young man promised fairly, but falling quickly into necessities, want of
money had its old effect upon him again, that is, impatient to be at his
old practices, tired with work, and yet not knowing how to get money,
he at length resolved to go into Wales and steal horses.

This project he executed, and took one from one Mr. Lewis of a
considerable value. He sold it to a London butcher for about sixteen
pounds, at a village not far from Shrewsbury. That money did him a
little good, and therefore the next time he was in a strait he readily
bethought himself of Wales. Accordingly he equipped himself with a
little pad, and out he set in quest of purchase. At a little inn in
Wales be met with a gentleman whom he had reason to suppose had money
about him, whereupon our highwayman was very industrious first to make
him drink, and then to get him for a bed-fellow, both of which designs
he in the end brought to pass, and by that means robbed him of six
pounds odd money, taking care to go in the morning a different road from
what he had talked of, and by that means easily escaped what pursuit was
made after him.

When he had committed this fact he retired towards Canterbury, giving
himself over entirely to thieving or cheating, on which design he
traversed the whole county of Kent, but found the people so cautious
that he did it with very little advantage; until at last coming near
Maidstone, he observed a parcel of fine linen hanging upon a hedge. He
immediately bethought himself that though the people were wise, yet
their hedges might be otherwise, upon which stepping up to it, he fairly
stripped it of ten fine shirts, and so left the people who had washed
them to account for it. After this exploit, he made the best of his way
to London, where he speedily sold the stolen linen for five pounds to a
Life Guardsman; and when he had spent a good part of it, down he went
into Norfolk. And being afraid that the inhabitants would take notice of
a stranger setting up his abode there for any considerable time, he
thought fit to pretend to be very lame. Having continued as long as he
thought proper in this place, he took his opportunity to carry off a
fine mare out of the grounds of Sir John Habbard, Baronet, now the Right
Honourable the Lord Blickling. This was one of the most dangerous feats
he ever committed in his life, for the scent was so strong upon him, and
so quickly followed, that he was forced to take a multitude of byways to
get to London, where he set her up in the Haymarket. However he quickly
found there was no possibility of disposing of her here, information
having been given of her to all the great jockeys; so that for present
money he was obliged to borrow four guineas of the man at the inn, and
to leave her in his hands by way of security, which was making but a
poor hand of what he had hazarded his life for.

By this time his father had received some intelligence of his way of
living, and out of tenderness of its consequences, wrote to him assuring
him of forgiveness for all that was past, if he would come down into the
country and live honestly. Such undeserved tenderness had some weight
even with our criminal himself, and he at last began to frame his mind
to comply with the request of so good a father. Accordingly, down he
came, and for a little space, behaved himself honestly and as he should
do; but his old distemper, laziness quickly came in his way, and finding
money not to come in so fast as he would have it, he began to think of
his old practice again, and prepared himself once more to sally out upon
his illegal adventures. For this purpose taking with him a little mare
of his brothers, for at that time he had no horse proper for the designs
he went on, forth he rode in search of prey.

Wales was the place he first visited, and after riding up and down for a
good while without meeting with any purchase worth taking, he at last
unluckily stumbled upon a poor old man in Flintshire, who had one foot
already in the grave. From him he took a silver watch, worth about five
pounds, and five shillings in money, which was all the poor man had, and
making thereupon the greatest haste he could out of the country, he got
clear away before it was discovered. After this he came again to London,
where what little money he had he lavished away upon women of the town.

It was not long before want overtook him again, upon which he determined
to visit Yorkshire, in hopes of raising some considerable booty there.
All the way down, according to his common practice, he bilked the
public-houses, and at last arriving at Doncaster, began to set heartily
about the work for which he came down. On a market day, he robbed an old
farmer of forty shillings and a pair of silver buckles, taking his horse
also from him, which, when he had ridden about fifteen miles across
country, he turned loose. He rambled from thence on foot, as well as he
could, in order to get into his native country of Shropshire, where
after the commission of a multitude of such actions, none of which
afforded him any great booty, he arrived.

His father took him home again, and he lived for eleven months tolerably
honest. However, to keep his hand in use, he now and then stole a
shoulder of mutton, a joint which he particularly loved; but sometimes
to please his father he would work a little, though it always went much
against the grain. At last he quarrelled with his wife, and thereupon
threatened to go away again, which very quickly after he did, turning
his course, notwithstanding his former ill-success into Yorkshire once
more. He was at several of the races in that county, and having no
particular business at any place, did nothing but course the country
round, pilfering and stealing whatever came in his way; insomuch that at
one inn, finding nothing else to lay his hands on, he stole the people's
sheets off the bed he lay in, and marched off in the morning so early,
that he was out of danger before they perceived the theft.

But finding that he could not do any considerable matter amongst the
people, who are cunning to a proverb, he bethought himself of returning
to London, and the society of those strumpets in which he took a
delight. However, all the way on the road he made a shift to pick up as
much as kept him pretty well all the way. On his arrival in town he set
up his place of residence in an inn near Leather Lane, Holborn, where he
remained one whole day to rest himself after the fatigue of his northern
journey. There he reflected on the sad state in which his affairs were,
being without money and without friends, justly disregarded by his
friends in the country, and hated and despised by all his neighbours.
His debts, too, amounted there to near a hundred and forty pounds, so
that there was no hopes in going back. The result of these cogitations
was that the next day he would go out on the road towards Hampstead, and
see what might be made there. He accordingly did so, but with very ill
success. However, he returned a second time and had no better; the third
day, towards evening, he observed an old gentleman in a chaise by
himself, whom he robbed of six guineas, a watch, a mourning-ring, and
nine and sixpence in silver, and then making over the fields got home
very safe.

For three days he thought fit to remain within doors, under pretence of
sickness, fearing lest he should be advertised and described in the
public prints; but finding nothing of that happened, he grew bold, and
for about fourteen nights continued the same trade constantly, getting,
sometimes, two or three pieces, and sometimes losing his labour and
getting nothing at all. At length, waiting pretty late for an old man,
who, as he was informed, was to come that night with eight hundred
pounds about him, although he was so feeble that a child might be able
to take it from him, he at length grew impatient, and resolved to rob
the first man he met. This proved to be one Mr. Andrews, who raised so
quick a pursuit upon him that he never lost sight of him until the time
of his being apprehended, when he was carried to Newgate and prosecuted
the next sessions for the aforesaid robbery.

He was then indicted for taking from the said Thomas Andrews, after
putting him in fear, six or seven shillings in money, a bay mare, bridle
and saddle, and a cane, on the 23rd of July, 1730. The evidence was
exceedingly clear, he having, as I have said, never gone out of sight,
from the time of the robbery to the time he was taken. Under sentence of
death the prisoner behaved with great piety and resignation. He showed
great concern for the offences of his former life, and testified the
utmost sorrow for having blemished an honest family by the shame of his
vices and their just punishment. The night before his execution he wrote
a letter to his parents in the country, which though it be written in a
very uncouth style, yet I have thought fit to insert it _verbatim_,
because there is a strain in it of unusual confusion and concern,
expressing the agony of a dying man with more truth and tenderness than
the best penned epistle could have done.

Honoured Parents,

My duty to both, my love to my brother-in-law. I wish to God I had
been ruled by you, for now I see the evil of my sin, but I freely
die, only the disgrace I have brought on you, my wife and children.
I wrote to my wife last Saturday was seven night but had no answer,
for I should have been glad to have heard from you before I die,
which will be on Wednesday the seventh of this instant October,
hoping I have made my peace with God Almighty. I freely forgive all
the world, and die in charity with all people. Had it not been for
Joyce Hite's sister and Mr. Howel, I might have starved, he told me
it has cost him fifteen shillings on my account, and he gave me four
more. I desire Thomas Mason will give my wife that locket for my

I have nothing more to say, but my prayers to God for you all day
and night, and for God's sake, be as kind to my poor wife and
children as in your power lies. I desire there might be some care
taken of that Estate at Minton for my son. Mr. Botfield hath the old
writings, and I beg you will get them and give them to my wife, and
pray show her this letter and my love to her, and my blessing to my
children, begging of her as I am a dying man to be good to them, and
not make any difference in them, but be as kind to one as the other,
and if she is able to put the boy to some trade. Mr. Waring and
Thomas Tomlings have each of them a book of mine, pray ask for them,
which is all I have to say, but my prayers to God for you all, which
is all from your

Dying Son,
Richard Polson.
In my Cell.
October the 6th.

P.S. My love to all my friends. Pray show this letter to my wife as
soon as you can, and desire of her to bring up my children in the
fear of the Lord, and to make my son a scholar if she is able. There
is five of us to die.

In this disposition of mind, and without adding anything to his former
confessions he suffered on the seventh of October, 1730, being then in
the thirty-third year of his age.

The Life of SAMUEL ARMSTRONG, a Housebreaker

I have heretofore remarked the great danger there is in having a bad
character, and keeping ill-company, from the probability of truth which
it gives to every accusation that either malice or interest may induce
men to bring against one.

This malefactor was the son of parents in tolerable circumstances, who
were careful of his education, and when he grew up bound him apprentice
to Captain Matthews, commander of a vessel which traded to Guinea and
the West Indies. He behaved at sea very well, and had not the least
objection made to his character when he came home. Happy had it been for
him if he had gone to sea again, without suffering himself to be tainted
with the vices of this great city.

Unfortunately for him, he fell in love with a young woman, and lived
with her for some time as his wife. His fondness for this creature drew
him to be guilty of those base actions which first brought him to
Newgate and the bar at the Old Bailey, and so far blasted his character
and unfortunately betrayed him to his death. In the company of this
female he quickly lavished what little money he had, and not knowing how
to get more, he fell into the persuasions of some wicked young fellows
who advised him to take to robbing in the streets. Certain it is that he
had not made many attempts (he himself said none) before he was
apprehended, and that the first fact he was ever concerned in was
stealing a man's hat and tobacco box in Thames Street. This was
committed by his companion, who gave them to him, and then running away,
left him to be answerable for the fact, for which being indicted at the
next sessions at the Old Bailey, he was found guilty, but it being a
single felony only it did not affect his life.

However, having been seen there by one Holland, who turned evidence, he
thought fit to save his own life by swearing him into the commission of
a burglary which himself and one Thomas Griffith actually committed.
However, his oath being positive, and the character of this unhappy lad
so bad, the people who were robbed were induced to prosecute him with
great vehemence, and the jury, on the same presumptions, found him
guilty. Griffith, who received sentence with him but afterwards had a
pardon, acknowledged that he himself was guilty, but declared at the
same time that this unhappy young man was absolutely clear of what was
laid to his charge, Holland and himself being the only persons who
committed that burglary, and took away the kitchen things which were
sworn against him. Moreover, that Armstrong coming to Newgate, and
seeing Holland and speaking to him about something, Holland took that
opportunity of asking who Armstrong was, and what he came there for,
being told the story of his conviction for the hat and wig, he thought
fit to add him to his former information against Griffith, and so by
swearing against two, effectually secured himself. In this story both
the unhappy person of whom we are speaking and Thomas Griffith, who was
condemned for and confessed the fact agreed, and Armstrong went to death
absolutely denying the fact for which he was to suffer.

At the place of execution his colour changed, and though at other times
he appeared to be a bold young man, yet now his courage failed him, he
trembled and turned pale, besought the people to pray for his soul, and
in great agony and confusion, submitted to death on the seventh day of
October, 1730, being at the time of his death about twenty-two years of

The Life of NICHOLAS GILBURN, a Most Notorious Highwayman

This unfortunate person was born at Ballingary, near Limerick, in the
west of Ireland, of parents in very tolerable circumstances, who gave
him a very good education; but perceiving that he had a martial
disposition, they resolved not to cross it, and therefore, though he was
not above fourteen years of age, got him recommended to an officer, who
received him as a dragoon. He served about four years with a very good
reputation in the army; but he had a brother who then rode in a regiment
of horse, who wrote to him from London, and encouraged him to come over
into England, which occasioned his writing to his officer to desire his
discharge. To this his officer readily agreed.

He went thereupon from the north of Ireland to the west, to his friend,
where having equipped himself with clothing, linen and other
necessaries, he then came to London, expecting to meet his brother. But
on his arrival here he was disappointed, and that disappointment,
together with his want of money, made him very uneasy. At last, in order
to procure bread, he resolved to list himself in the Foot Guards. He did
so, and continued in them for about two years, during which time, he
says in his dying declaration, that he did duty as well, and appeared as
clean as any man in the company; nay, in all that time, he avers that he
never neglected his guard but once, which was very fatal to him, for it
brought him into the acquaintance of those who betrayed him to measures
which cost him his life. For being taken up and carried to the Savoy for
the afore-mentioned offence, he had not been long in prison before
Wilson, who had been concerned with Burnworth, _alias_ Frazier, and the
rest in the murder of Mr. Ball in the Mint; and one Mr. G----, an old
highwayman, though he had never conversed with him before, came to pay
him a visit.

They treated him both with meat and drink, seemed to commiserate his
condition very much, and promised him that he should not want
twelvepence a day, during the time in confinement. This promise was very
well kept, and Gilburn in a few days obtained his liberty. The next day
he met Wilson in St. James's Park, who after complimenting him upon his
happy deliverance, invited him to a house in Spring Gardens to drink and
make merry together. Gilburn readily consented, and after discoursing of
courage, want of money, the miseries of poverty, and some other
preparatory articles, Wilson parted with him for that time, appointing
another meeting with him at eleven o'clock the next morning. There
Wilson pursued his former topic, and at last told him plainly that the
best and shortest method to relieve their wants was to go on the
highway; and when he had once made this step, he scrupled not to make a
further, telling Gilburn that there was no such danger in those
practices as was generally apprehended, for that with a little care and
circumspection the gallows might be well enough avoided, which he said
was plain enough from his own adventures, since he had lived several
years in the profession, and by being cautious enough to look about him,
had escaped any confinement.

Gilburn heard this account with terror. He had never committed anything
of this kind hitherto, and knew very well that if he once engaged he
could never afterwards go back. Wilson seemed not at all uneasy at his
pause, but artfully introducing discourse on other subjects, plied him
in the meanwhile with liquor, until he saw him pretty warm, and then
resumed the story of his own adventures and of the facility of acquiring
money when a man is but well stored with courage and has ever so little
conduct. This artifice unfortunately had its effect, Wilson's
conversation and the fumes of liquor prevailing so far upon Gilburn
that, as he himself phrased it, he resolved at last upon business.

The day following, Gilburn provided himself with pistols, and removed
his quarters to go and live with Wilson, who encouraged him with all the
arguments he was able to stick to his new profession, and Gilburn in
return swore he would live and die with him. So at night they went out
together in quest of adventures. The road they took was towards
Paddington. A little after they were come into the fields, they attacked
a gentleman and took from him eight shillings, with which Gilburn was
very much pleased, though they had little luck after, so that they
returned at last to their lodgings, weary and fatigued, and were obliged
to mount guard the next morning. When their guard was over, they were,
as Mr. Gilburn expresses it in his last speech, as bare as a bird's
arse, so no time was to be lost, and accordingly that very night they
made their second expedition. Nobody coming in their way, Gilburn began
to fret, and at last falling into a downright passion, swore he would
rob the first man he met. He was as good as his word, and the booty he
got proved a tolerable provision for some days.

But guard-day drawing nigh again, Wilson told him there was no mounting
without money, and the same methods were taken as formerly; but as the
leagues by which men are united in villainy are liable to a thousand
inconveniencies which are uneasily born, and yet hard to be remedied, so
Wilson's humours being very different from that of Gilburn, they soon
began to differ about the money they acquired by plunder. At last,
coming one night very much tired and fatigued to a public-house where
Wilson was acquainted, they called for some drink to refresh themselves,
which when they had done, Gilburn was for dividing the money, himself
standing in need of linen and other necessaries. Wilson, on the other
hand, was for having a bowl of punch, and words thereupon arose to such
a height that at last they fell to fighting. This quarrel was
irreconcilable, and they absolutely parted company, though Gilburn
unfortunately pursued the same road; and having robbed a gentleman on
horseback of several yards of fine padusoy, he was shortly after
apprehended and committed to Newgate.

At first he absolutely denied the fact, but when he was convicted, and
saw no hopes of pardon, he acknowledged what had been sworn against him
by the prosecutor to be true, attended with much gravity at chapel, and
seemed to be greatly afflicted through a due sense of those many sins
which he had committed. Wilson, his companion, had a little before been
executed at Kingston, and Gilburn with all outward signs of contrition,
suffered the same death at Tyburn, at the same time with the
before-mentioned malefactor, being at the time of his death about
twenty-two years of age.

and Street-Robbers

Amongst the many flagrant vices of the present age, there is none more
remarkable than the strange property we see in young people to commit
the most notorious crimes, provided they may thereby furnish themselves
with money enough to support their lavish expenses in vices which in
former times were scarce heard of by lads of that age, at which our
boldest highwaymen begin to exert themselves now.

The first of these unfortunate lads, James O'Bryan, was born at Dublin,
was brought over hither young, and had a good education given him which
he had very little inclination to make a proper use of. Nothing could
persuade him to go out to a trade; on the contrary, he pretended he
would apply himself to his father's employment, which was that of a
plasterer. But as working was required, he soon grew out of humour with
it, and addicted himself wholly to strolling about the streets with such
wicked lads as himself, and so was easily drawn in to think of supplying
himself with money by the plunder of honest people, in order to carry on
those debaucheries in which, though a lad, he was already deeply

Women, forsooth, drew this spark away from the paths of virtue and
goodness at about sixteen years old, after which time he lost all sense
of duty to his parents, respect of laws divine or human, and even care
of himself. It seems he found certain houses in Chick Lane, where they
met abundance of loose young men and women, accustomed themselves to
every kind of debauchery which it was possible for wicked people to
commit or the most fruitful genius to invent. Here he fell into the
company of his two companions, Morris and Johnson.

The first of these was the son of an unfortunate tradesman who had once
kept a great shop, and lived in good reputation in the Strand, but
through the common calamities of life, he was so unfortunate as to
break, and laying it too much to heart, died soon after it, happy,
however, in one thing, that he did not live to see the deplorable end of
his son by the hand of justice.

Robert Johnson was the son of honest parents, and had a very good
education, but put it to a very ill use; for having all his life time
been addicted to pilfering and thieving, at last he fell into the
company of these unfortunate young men who led him a directer way to the
gallows than perhaps he might have found himself. One of his chief
inducements to forfeit reputation and hazard life by engaging in street
robberies, was his commencing an amour with his father's servant-maid,
and not long after falling into a multitude of such like adventures, the
ready road to inevitable ruin.

These three sparks, together with Bernard Fink, and another person who
turned evidence against them, came all at the same time to a resolution
of attacking people in the streets; and having provided themselves with
pistols and whatever else they thought necessary for putting their
design in execution, they immediately set about it, and though but boys,
committed bolder and more numerous robberies than had ever hitherto been
heard of. It may, indeed, seem surprising that lads of their age should
be able to intimidate passengers, but when it is considered that having
less precaution than older rogues, they were more ready at firing
pistols or otherwise injuring those whom they attacked, than any set of
fellows who had hitherto disturbed the crown, this wonder will wear off.

It was not above two months that they continued their depredations, but
in that time they had been exceedingly busy, and had committed a
multitude of facts. One gentleman whom they attacked in Lincoln's Inn
Fields, refused to surrender, and drew his sword upon Morris. That young
robber immediately fired his pistol, and the rest coming to his
assistance, the gentleman thought it but prudent to retire, the noise
they made having alarmed the watch and so prevented his losing anything.

After this it became a very common practice with them, as soon as they
stopped anybody, to clap a pistol under their nose, and bid them smell
at it, while one of their companions, with a thousand execrations,
threatened to blow their brains out if they made the least resistance.
As soon as the business of the night was over, they immediately
adjourned to their places of rendezvous at Chick Lane, or to other
houses of the same stamp elsewhere, and without the least consideration
of the hazards they had run, squandered the wages of their villainies
upon such impudent strumpets as for the lucre of a few shillings
prostituted themselves to them in these debaucheries.

Mr. O'Bryan was the hero of this troop of infant robbers; he valued
himself much on never meddling with small matters or committing any
meaner crime than that of the highway. It happened he had a mistress
coming out of the country and he would needs have his companions take
each of them a doxy and go with him as far as Windsor to receive her.
They readily complied, and at Windsor they were all seized and from
thence brought to town, two of their own gang turning evidence, so that
on the clearest proof, they were all three convicted.

Under sentence of death they behaved with great audacity, seemed to
value themselves on the crimes they had committed, caused several
disturbances at chapel and discovered little or no sense of that
miserable condition in which they were. O'Bryan died a Papist, and in
the cart read with great earnestness a book of devotions in that way. He
wrote a letter to his father the day before he died, and also something
which he called verses to his sister, both of which I have subjoined
_verbatim_ that my readers may have the better idea of the capacity of
those poor creatures.

To Mr. Terrance O'Bryan, living in Burleigh Street in the Strand.
Honoured Father and Mother,

The uneasiness I give you is more terror to me than the thoughts of
death, but pray make yourselves as easy as you can, for I hope I am
going to a better place; for God is my refuge and my strength, and
my helper in time of tribulation, and pray take care of my brother
now whilst he is young, and make him serve God, and keep him out of
bad company. If I had served God as I ought to have done, and kept
out of bad company, I had not come to this unhappy misfortune, but I
hope it is for the good of my soul, it is good I hope what God has
at present ordained for me, for there is mercy in the foresight of
death, and in the time God has given me to prepare for it. A natural
death might have had less terror, for in that I might have wanted
many advantages which are now granted me. My trust is in God, and I
hope he won't reward me according to my deserts. All that I can
suffer here must have an end, for this life is short, so are all the
sufferings of it, but the next life is Eternal. Pray give my love to
my sister, and desire her not to neglect her duty to God. I hope
you are all well, as I am at present, I thank God. So no more at

From your unhappy and undutiful son,
James O'Bryan.

The verses sent by James O'Bryan to his sister two days before his

My loving tender sister dear,
From you I soon must part I fear.
Think not on my wretched state,
Nor grieve for my unhappy fate,
But serve the Lord with all your heart,
And from you He'll never part.
When I am dead and in my tomb,
For my poor soul I hope there's room,
In Heaven with God above on high,
I hope to live eternally.

At the time of their execution James O'Bryan was about twenty, Hugh
Morris seventeen, and Robert Johnson not full twenty years of age, which
was on the 16th of November, 1730.

The History of the Life and surprising adventures of JOHN GOW, _alias_
SMITH, a most notorious Pirate and Murderer

The principal use to which a work of this nature can be applied is to
engage persons to refuse the first stirrings of their passions, and the
slighted emotions of vice in their breasts, since they see before their
eyes so many sad examples of the fatal consequences which follow upon
rash and wicked enterprises, of which the following history exhibits as
extraordinary an instance as perhaps is anythere to be found.

In giving an account of this malefactor, we are obliged to begin with
his embarking on board the vessel which he afterwards seized and went
a-pirating in. It was called the _George_ galley, and was of about two
hundred tons burden, commanded by Oliver Ferneau, a Frenchman, but a
subject of the Crown of England, who entertained this Gow as a private
seaman only, but afterwards, to his great misfortune, preferred him to
be the second mate in the voyage of which we are next to speak.

Captain Ferneau being a man of reputation among the merchants of
Amsterdam, got a voyage for his ship from thence to Santa Cruz on the
coast of Barbary, to load beeswax, and to carry it to Genoa, which was
his delivering port; and as the Dutch, having war with the Turks of
Algiers, were willing to employ him as an English ship, so he was as
willing to be manned with English seamen, and accordingly among the
rest, he unhappily took on board this Gow with his wretched gang, such
as MacCauly, Melvin, Williams and others. But not being able to man
themselves wholly with English or Scots, he was obliged to take some
Swedes, and other seamen to make his complement, which was twenty-three
in all. Among the latter sort, one was named Winter, and another
Peterson, both of them Swedes by nation, but wicked as Gow and his other
fellows were. They sailed from the Texel in the month of August, 1724,
and arrived at Santa Cruz on the second of September following, where
having a super-cargo on board, who took charge of the loading, and four
chests of money to purchase it, they soon got the beeswax, on board, and
on the third of November they appointed to set sail to pursue the

That day the ship having lain two months in the road at Santa Cruz,
taking in her lading, the captain made preparations to put to sea, and
the usual signals for sailing having been given, some of the merchants
from on shore, who had been concerned in furnishing the cargo, came on
board in the forenoon to take their leave of the captain, and wish him a
good voyage, as is usual on such occasions. Whether it was concerted by
the whole gang beforehand, we know not, but while the captain was
treating and entertaining the merchants under the awning upon the
quarter deck, as is the custom in those hot countries, three of the
seamen, viz., Winter and Peterson, two Swedes, and MacCauly a Scotchman,
came rudely upon the quarter deck as if they took the opportunity
because the merchants were present, believing the captain would not use
any violence with them in the presence of the merchants.

They made a long complaint of all their ill-usage, and particularly of
their provisions and allowance, as they said, being not sufficient nor
such as was ordinarily made in other merchant ships, seeming to load the
captain, Monsieur Ferneau, with being the occasion of it, and that he
did it for his private gain, which however had not been true. If the
fact had been true, the overplus of provisions (if the stores had been
more than sufficient) belonged to the owners, not to the captain, at the
end of the voyage, there being also a steward on board to take the
account. In making this complaint they seemed to direct their speech to
the merchants as well as to the captain, as if they had been concerned
in the ship, or as if desiring them to intercede for them with the
captain, that they might have redress and a better allowance.

The captain was highly provoked at this rudeness, as indeed he had
reason, it being a double affront to him as it was done in the view of
the merchants who were come on board to him, to do him an honour at
parting. However, he restrained his passion, and gave them not the least
angry word, only that if they were aggrieved they had no more to do but
to let him have know of it; that if they were ill-used it was not by his
order that he would enquire into it and if anything was amiss it should
be rectified, with which the seamen withdrew, seemingly well satisfied
with his answer.

About five the same evening they unmoored the ship and hove short upon
their best bower anchor, awaiting the land breeze (as is usual on that
coast) to carry them out to sea; but instead of that, it fell stark
calm, and the captain fearing the ship would fall foul of her own
anchor, ordered the mizen top-sail to be furled. Peterson, one of the
malcontent seamen, being the nearest man at hand seemed to go about it,
but moved so carelessly and heavily that it appeared plainly he did not
care whether it was done or no, and particularly as if he had a mind the
captain should see it and take notice of it. Which the captain did, for
perceiving how awkwardly he went about it, he spoke a little tartly to
him, and asked him what was the reason he did not stir a little and furl
the sail. Peterson, as if he had waited for the question, answered in a
surly tone, and with a kind of disdain, _So as we eat, so shall we
work._ This he spoke aloud, so that he might be sure the captain heard
him and the rest of the men also, and it was evident that as he spoke in
plural numbers, _We_, so he spoke their minds as well as his own, and
words which they all agreed to before.

The captain, however, though he heard plain enough what he said, took
not the least notice of it, or gave him the least reason to believe he
had heard him, being not willing to begin a quarrel with the men and
knowing that if he took any notice at all of it, he must resent it and
punish it too.

Soon after this, the calm went off, and the land breeze sprang up, and
they immediately weighed and stood out to sea; but the captain having
had these two bustles with his men just at their putting to sea, was
very uneasy in his mind, as indeed he had reason to be; and the same
evening, soon after they were under sail, the mate being walking on the
quarter deck, he went, and taking two or three turns with him, told him
how he had been used by the men, particularly how they affronted him
before the merchants, and what an answer Peterson had given him on the
quarter deck, when he ordered him to furl the mizen top sail. The mate
was as surprised at these things as the captain, and after some other
discourse about it, in which it was their unhappiness not to be so
private as they ought to have been in a case of such importance, the
captain told him he thought it was absolutely necessary to have a
quantity of small arms brought immediately into the great cabin, not
only to defend themselves if there should be occasion, but also that he
might be in a posture to correct those fellows for their insolence,
especially should he meet with any more of it. The mate agreed that it
was necessary to be done, and had they said no more, or said this more
privately, all had been well, and the wicked design had been much more
difficult, if not the execution of it effectually prevented.

But two mistakes in this part was the ruin of them all. First, that the
captain spoke it without due caution, so that Winter and Peterson, the
two principal malcontents, who were expressly mentioned by the captain
to be corrected, overheard it, and knew by that means what they had to
expect if they did not immediately bestir themselves to prevent it. The
other mistake was that when the captain and mate agreed that it was
necessary to have arms got ready, and brought into the great cabin, the
captain unhappily bid him go immediately to Gow, the second mate and
gunner, and give him orders to get the arms cleared and loaded for him,
and to bring them up to the great cabin; which was in short to tell the
conspirators that the captain was preparing to be too strong for them,
if they did not fall to work with him immediately.

Winter and Peterson went immediately forward, where they knew the rest
of the mutineers were, and to whom they communicated what they had
heard, telling them that it was time to provide for their own safety,
for otherwise their destruction was resolved on, and the captain would
soon be in such a posture that there would be no muddling with him.
While they were thus consulting, as they said, only for their own
safety, Gow and Williams came into them with some others to the number
of eight, and no sooner were they joined by these two, but they fell
downright to the point which Gow had so long formed in his own mind,
viz., to seize upon the captain and mate, and all those that they could
not bring to join with them; in short, to throw them into the sea, and
to go upon the account. All those who are acquainted with the sea
language know the meaning of that expression, and that it is, in few
words, to run away with the ship and turn pirates.

Villainous designs are soonest concluded; as they had but little time
to consult upon what measures they should take, so very little
consultation served for what was before them, and they came to this
short but hellish resolution, viz., that they would immediately, that
very night, murder the captain and such others as they named, and
afterwards proceed with the ship as they should see cause. And here it
is to be observed that though Winter and Peterson were in the first
proposal, namely to prevent their being brought to correction by the
captain, yet Gow and Williams were the principal advisers in the bloody
part, which however the rest came into soon; for, as I said before, as
they had but little time to resolve in, so they had but very little
debate about it but what was first proposed was forthwith engaged in and
consented to.

It must not be omitted that Gow had always had the wicked game of
pirating in his head, and that he had attempted it, or rather tried to
attempt it before, but was not able to bring it to pass; so he and
Williams had also several times, even in this very voyage, dropped some
hints of this vile design, as they thought there was room for it, and
touched two or three times at what a noble opportunity they had of
enriching themselves, and making their fortunes, as they wickedly called
it. This was when they had the four chests of money on board and
Williams made it a kind of jest in his discourse, how easily they might
carry it off, ship and all. But as they did not find themselves
seconded, or that any of the men showed themselves in favour of such a
thing, but rather spoke of it with abhorrence they passed it over as a
kind of discourse that had nothing at all in it, except that one of the
men, viz., the surgeon, once took them up short for so much as
mentioning such a thing, told them the thought was criminal and it ought
not to be spoken of among them, which reproof was supposed cost him his
life afterwards.

As Gow and his comrade had thus started the thing at a distance before,
though it was then without success, yet they had the less to do now,
when other discontents had raised a secret fire in the breasts of the
men; for now, being as it were mad and desperate with apprehensions of
their being severely punished by the captain, they wanted no persuasions
to come into the most wicked undertaking that the devil or any of his
angels could propose to them. Nor do we find that upon any of their
examinations they pretended to have made any scruples or objections to
the cruelty of the bloody attempt that was to be made, but came to it at
once, and resolved to put it in execution immediately, that is to say,
the very same evening.

It was the captain's constant custom to call all the ship's company into
the great cabin every night at eight o'clock to prayers, and then the
watch being set, one went upon deck, and the other turned in, or, as
the seamen phrase it, went to their hammocks to sleep; and here they
concerted their devilish plot. It was the turn of five of the
conspirators to go to sleep, and of these Gow and Williams were two. The
three who were to be upon the deck were Winter, Rowlinson, and Melvin, a
Scotchman. The persons they immediately designed for destruction were
four, viz., the captain, the mate, the super-cargo, and the surgeon,
whereof all but the captain were gone to sleep, the captain himself
being upon the quarter deck.

Between nine and ten at night, all being quiet and secure, and the poor
gentlemen that were to be murdered fast asleep, the villains that were
below gave the watch-word, which was, _Who fires next?_ At which they
all got out of their hammocks with as little noise as they could, and
going in the dark to the hammocks of the chief mate, super-cargo and
surgeon, they cut all their throats. The surgeon's throat was cut so
effectually that he could struggle very little with them, but leaping
out of his hammock, ran up to get upon the deck, holding his hand upon
his throat. But be stumbled at the tiller, and falling down had no
breath, and consequently no strength to raise himself, but died where he

The mate, whose throat was cut but not his windpipe, struggled so
vigorously with the villain who attacked him that he got away from him
and into the hold; and the super-cargo, in the same condition, got
forwards between decks under some deals and both of them begged with the
most moving cries and entreaties for their lives. And when nothing could
prevail, they begged with the same earnestness for but a few moments to
pray to God, and recommend their souls to mercy. But alike in vain, for
the wretched murderers, heated with blood, were past pity, and not being
able to come at them with their knives, with which they had begun the
execution, they shot them with their pistols, firing several times upon
each of them until they found they were quite dead.

As all this, even before the firing, could not be done without some
noise, the captain, who was walking alone upon the quarter-deck, called
out and asked what was the matter. The boatswain, who sat on the after
bits, and was not of the party, answered he could not tell, but he was
afraid there was somebody overboard; upon which the captain stepped
towards the ship's side to look over. Then Winter, Rowlinson and Melvin,
coming that moment behind him, laid hands on him, and lifting him up,
attempted to throw him overboard into the sea; but he being a nimble
strong man, got hold of the shrouds and struggled so hard with them that
they could not break his hold. Turning his head to look behind him to
see who he had to deal with, one of them cut his throat with a broad
Dutch knife; but neither was that wound mortal, for the captain still
struggled with them, and seeing he should undoubtedly be murdered, he
constantly cried up to God for mercy, for he found there was none to be
expected from them. During this struggle, another of the murderers
stabbed him with a knife in the back, and that with such a force that
the villain could not draw the knife out again to repeat his blow, which
he would otherwise have done.

At this moment Gow came up from the butchery he had been at between
decks, and seeing the captain still alive, he went close up to him and
shot him, as he confessed, with a brace of bullets. What part he shot
him in could not be known, though they said he had shot him in the head;
however, he had yet life enough (though they threw him overboard) to
take hold of a rope, and would still have saved himself but they cut
that rope and then he fell into the sea, and was seen no more.

Thus they finished the tragedy, having murdered four of the principal
men in command in the ship, so that there was nobody now to oppose them;
for Gow being second mate and gunner, the command fell to him, of
course, and the rest of the men having no arms ready, not knowing how to
get at any, were in utmost consternation, expecting they would go on
with the work and cut their throats. In this fright everyone shifted for
himself. As for those who were upon deck, some got up in the round tops,
others got into the ship's head, resolving to throw themselves into the
sea rather than be mangled with knives and murdered as the captain and
mate, etc., had been. Those who were below, not knowing what to do, or
whose turn it should be next, lay still in their hammocks expecting
death every moment, and not daring to stir lest the villains should
think they did it in order to make resistance, which however they were
in no way capable of doing, having no concert one with another, not
knowing anything in particular of one another, as who was alive or who
was dead. Had the captain, who was himself a bold and stout man, been in
his great cabin with three or four men with him, and his fire-arms, as
he intended to have had, those eight fellows had never been able to have
done their work. But every man was taken unprovided, and in the utmost
surprise, so that the murderers met with no resistance; and as for those
what were left, they were less able to make resistance than the other,
so that, as has been said, they were in the utmost terror and amazement,
expecting every minute to be murdered as the rest had been.

But the villains had done. The persons who had any command were
dispatched, so they cooled a little as to blood. The first thing they
did afterwards, was to call up all the eight upon the quarter deck,
where they congratulated one another, and shook hands together, engaging
to proceed by joint consent in their resolved design, that is, of
turning pirates. In older to which, they unanimously chose Gow to
command the ship, promising all subjection and obedience to his orders,
so that we must now call him Captain Gow, and he, by the same consent of
the rest, named Williams his lieutenant. Other officers they appointed

The first orders they issued was to let all the rest of the men know
that if they continued quiet and offered not to meddle with any of their
affairs, they should receive no hurt, but chiefly forbade any man to set
a foot abaft the main mast, except they were called to the helm, upon
pain of being immediately cut to pieces, keeping for that purpose one
man at the steerage door, and one upon the quarter deck with drawn
cutlasses in their hands. But there was no need for it, for the men were
so terrified with the bloody doings they had seen, that they never
offered to come in sight until they were called.

Their next work was to throw overboard the three dead bodies of the
mate, the surgeon, and the super-cargo, which they said lay in their
way; that was soon done, their pockets being first searched and rifled.
From thence they went to work with the great cabin and with all the
lockers, chests, boxes and trunks. These they broke open and rifled,
that is, such of them as belonged to the murdered persons, and whatever
they found there they shared among themselves. When they had done this,
they called for liquor, and sat down to drinking until morning, leaving
the men, as above, to keep guard, and particularly to guard the arms,
but relieved them from time to time as they saw occasion.

By this time they had drawn in four more of the men to approve of what
they had done, and promised to join with them, so that now there were
twelve in number, and being but twenty-four at first, whereof four were
murdered, they had but eight men to be apprehensive of, and those they
could easily look after. So the next day, they sent for them all to
appear before their new captain, where they were told by Gow what his
resolution was, viz., to go a-cruising or to go upon the account. If
they were willing to join with them and go into their measures, they
should be well used, and there should be no distinction among them but
they should all fare alike; he said that they had been forced to do what
they had done by the barbarous usage of Ferneau, but that there was now
no looking back; and therefore, as they had not been concerned in what
was past, they had nothing to do but to act in concert, do their duty as
sailors, and obey orders for the good of the ship, and no harm should
come to any of them.

As they all looked like condemned prisoners brought up to the bar to
receive sentence of death, so they all answered by a profound silence,
which Gow took as they meant it, viz, as a consent because they durst
not refuse. So they were then permitted to go up and down everywhere as
they used to do, though such of them as sometimes afterwards showed any
reluctance to act as principals, were never trusted, always suspected
and very often severely beaten. Some of them were in many ways inhumanly
treated and that particularly by Williams, the lieutenant, who was in
his nature a merciless, cruel, and inexorable wretch, as we shall have
occasion to take notice of again in its place.

They were now in a new circumstance of life, and acting upon a different
stage of business, though upon the same stage as to the element, the
water. Before they were a merchant ship, laden upon a good account, with
merchants' goods from the coast of Barbary, and bound to the coast of
Italy; but they were now a crew of pirates, or as they call them in the
Levant, Corsairs, bound nowhere but to look out for purchase and spoil
wherever they could find it. In pursuit of this wicked trade they first
changed the name of the ship, which was before called the _George_
galley, and which they called now the _Revenge_, a name, indeed,
suitable to the bloody steps they had taken. In the next place they made
the best of the ship's forces. The ship had but twelve guns mounted when
they came out of Holland, but as they had six more good guns in the hold
with cartridges and everything proper for service (which they had in
store through being freighted for the Dutch merchants, and the Algerians
being at war with the Dutch), they supposed they might want them for
defence. Now they took care to mount them for a much worse design, so
that now they had eighteen guns, though too many for the number of hands
they had on board. In the third place, instead of pursuing their voyage
to Genoa with the ship's cargo, they took a clear contrary course, and
resolved to station themselves upon the coasts of Spain and Portugal,
and to cruise upon all nations; but what they chiefly aimed at was a
ship with wine, if possible, for that they wanted extremely.

The first prize they took was an English sloop, belonging to Pool,
Thomas Wise commander, bound from Newfoundland with fish for Cadiz. This
was a prize of no value to them, so they took out the master, Mr. Wise
and his men, who were but five in number, with their anchors, cables and
sails, and what else they found worth taking, and sunk the vessel. The
next prize they took was a Scotch vessel, bound from Glasgow with
herrings and salmon from thence to Genoa, and commanded by one Mr. John
Somerville, of Port Patrick. This vessel was likewise of little value to
them, except that they took as they had done from the other, their arms,
ammunition, clothes, provisions, sails, anchors, cables, etc., and
everything of value, and sunk her too as they had done the sloop. The
reason they gave for sinking these two vessels was to prevent their
being discovered, for as they were now cruising on the coast of
Portugal, had they let their ships have gone with several of their men
on board, they would presently have stood in for shore, and have given
the alarm, and the men-of-war, of which there were several, as well
Dutch as English, in the river of Lisbon, would immediately have put out
to sea in quest of them, and they were very unwilling to leave the coast
of Portugal until they had got a ship with wine, which they very much

After this they cruised eight or ten days without seeing so much as one
vessel upon the seas, and were just resolving to stand more to the to
the coast of Galicia, when they descried a sail to the southward, being
a ship about as big as their own, though they could not perceive what
force she had. However they gave chase, and the vessel perceiving it,
crowded from them with all the sail they could make, hoisting up French
colours, and standing away to the southward. They continued the chase
three days and nights, and though they did not gain much upon her, the
Frenchman sailing very well, yet they kept her in sight all the while
and for the most part within gunshot. But the third night, the weather
proving a little hazy, the Frenchman changed her course in the night,
and so got clear of them, and good reason they had to bless themselves
in the escape they had made, if they had but known what a dreadful crew
of rogues they had fallen among if they had been taken.

They were now gotten a long way to the southward and being greatly
disappointed, and in want of water as well as wine, they resolved to
stand away for the Madeiras, which they knew were not far off; so they
accordingly made the island in two days more, and keeping a large
offing, they cruised for three or four days more, expecting to meet with
some Portuguese vessel going in or coming out. But it was in vain, for
nothing stirred. So, tired with waiting, they stood in for the road, and
came to anchor, though at a great distance. Then they sent their boat
towards the shore with seven men, all well armed, to see whether it
might not be practicable to board one of the ships in the road, and
cutting her away from her anchors, bring her off; or if they found that
could not be done, then their orders were to intercept some of the
boats belonging to the place, which carry wines on board the ships in
the road, or from one place to another on the coast. But they came back
again disappointed in both, everybody being alarmed and aware of them,
knowing by their posture what they were.

Having thus spent several days to no purpose, and finding themselves
discovered, at last (being apparently under a necessity to make an
attempt somewhere) they stood away for Porto Santo,[102] about ten
leagues to the windward of Madeiras, and belonging also to the
Portuguese. Here putting up British colours, they sent their boat ashore
with Captain Somerville's bill of health, and a present to the governor
of three barrels of salmon, and six barrels of herrings, and a very
civil message, desiring leave to water, and to buy some refreshments,
pretending to be bound to ----.

The Governor very courteously granted their desire, but with more
courtesy than discretion went off himself, with about nine or ten of his
principal people, to pay the English captain a visit, little thinking
what kind of a captain it was they were going to compliment, and what
price it might have cost them. However, Gow, handsomely dressed,
received then with some ceremony, and entertained them tolerably well
for a while. But the Governor having been kept as long by civility as
they could, and the refreshments from the shore not appearing, he was
forced to unmask; and when the Governor and his company rose up to take
their leave, to their great surprise they were suddenly surrounded with
a gang of fellows with muskets, and an officer at the head of them.
These told them, in so many words, they were the captain's prisoners,
and must not think of going on shore any more until the water and
provisions which were promised should come on board.

It is impossible to conceive the consternation and surprise the
Portuguese gentry were in, nor is it very decently to be expressed. The
poor Governor was so much more than half dead with fright that he really
befouled himself in a piteous manner, and the rest were in not much
better condition. They trembled, cried, begged, crossed themselves, and
said their prayers as men going to execution, but it was all one, they
were told flatly that the captain was not to be trifled with, that the
ship was in want of provisions, and they would have them, or they should
carry them all away. They were, however, well enough treated, except for
the restraint of their persons, and were often asked to refresh
themselves; but they would neither eat not drink any more all the while
they stayed on board, which was until the next day in the evening, when
to their great satisfaction they saw a great boat come off from the
fort, and which came directly on board with seven butts of water, a cow
and a calf, and a good number of fowls.

When the boat came alongside and delivered the stores, Captain Gow
complimented the Governor and his gentlemen, and discharged them to
their great joy, and besides that gave them in return for their
provisions two cerons of beeswax, and fired them three guns at their
going away. It is to be supposed they would have a care how they went on
board any ship again, in compliment to their captain, unless they were
very sure who they were. Having had no better success in this out of the
way run to the Madeiras, they resolved to make the best of their way
back again to the coast of Spain and Portugal. They accordingly left
Porto Santo die next morning with a fair wind, standing directly for
Cape St. Vincent or the Southward Cape.

They had not been upon the coast of Spain above two or three days,
before they met with a New England ship, one Cross commander, laden with
slaves, and bound for Lisbon, being to load there with wine for London.
This was also a prize of no value to them, and they began to be very
much discouraged with their bad fortune. However, they took out Captain
Cross and his men, which were seven or eight in number, with most of the
provisions and some of the sails, and gave the ship to Captain Wise, the
poor man whom they took at first in a sloop from Newfoundland; and in
order to pay Wise and his men for what they took from them, and make
them satisfaction, as they called it, they gave to Captain Wise and his
mate twenty-four cerons of wax, and to his men who were four in number,
two cerons of wax each. Thus they pretended honesty, and to make
reparation of damages by giving them the goods which they had robbed the
Dutch merchants of, whose super-cargo they had murdered.

The day before the division of the spoil they saw a large ship to
windward, which at first put them into some surprise, for she came
bearing down directly upon them, and they thought she had been a
Portuguese man-of-war, but they found soon after that it was a merchant
ship, had French colours and bound home, as they supposed from the West
Indies; and so it was, for they afterwards learned that she was laden at
Martinico and bound for Rochelle.

The Frenchmen not fearing them came on large to the wind, being a ship
of much greater force than Gow's ship, carrying thirty-two guns and
eighty men, besides a great many passengers. However, Gow at first made
as if he would lie by for them, but seeing plainly what a ship it was,
and that they should have their hands full of her, he began to consider;
and calling his men together upon the deck, told them what was in his
mind, viz., that the Frenchman was apparently superior in force in every
way; that they were but ill-manned, and had a great many prisoners on
board, and that some of their own people were not very well to be
trusted; that six of their best hands were on board the prize; and that
all they had left were not sufficient to ply their guns and stand by the
sails, and that therefore as they were under no necessity to engage, so
he thought it would be next to madness to think of it.

The generality of the men were of Gow's mind, and agreed to decline the
fight, but Williams, his lieutenant, strenuously opposed it; and being
not to be appeased by all that Gow could say to him, or any one else,
flew out into a rage at Gow, upbraiding him with being a coward, and not
fit to command a ship of force. The truth is, Gow's reasoning was good,
and the thing was just, considering their own condition; but Williams
was a fellow incapable of any solid thinking, had a kind of savage,
brutal courage, but nothing of true bravery in him, and this made him
the most desperate and outrageous villain in the world, and the most
cruel and inhuman to those whose disaster it was to fall into his hands,
as had frequently appeared in his usage of the prisoners under his power
in this very voyage. Gow was a man of temper, and notwithstanding all
the ill-language Williams gave him, said little or nothing but by way of
argument against attacking the French ship, which would certainly have
been too strong for them; but this provoked Williams the more, and he
grew so extraordinary an height, that he demanded boldly of Gow to give
his orders for fighting, which Gow declining still Williams presented
his pistol at him, and snapped it, but it did not go off, which enraged
him the more.

Winter and Peterson standing nearest to Williams, and seeing him so
furious, flew at him immediately, and each of them fired a pistol at
him. One shot him through the arm, and the other into his belly, at
which he fell, and the men about him laid hold of him to throw him
overboard, believing he was dead; but as they lifted him up, he started
violently out of their hands, and leaped directly into the hold, and
from thence ran desperately into the powder-room with his pistol cocked
in his hand, swearing he would blow them all up. He had certainly done
it, if they had not seized him just as he had gotten the scuttle open,
and was that moment going to put his hellish resolution into practice.

Having thus secured the distracted, raving creature, they carried him
forward to the place which they had made on purpose between decks to
secure their prisoners, and put him amongst them, having first loaded
him with irons, and particularly handcuffed him with his hands behind
him, to the great satisfaction of the other prisoners, who knowing what
a butcherly furious fellow he was, were terrified to the last degree to
see him come in among them, until they beheld the condition he came in.
He was, indeed, the terror of all the prisoners, for he usually treated
them in a barbarous manner, without the least provocation, and merely
for his humour, presenting pistols to their breasts, swearing he would
shoot them that moment, and then would beat them unmercifully, and all
for his diversion as he called it. Having thus laid him fast, they
presently resolved to stand away to the westward, by which they quitted
the Martinico ship, who by that time was come nearer to them, and
farther convinced them they were in no condition to have engaged her,
for she was a stout ship and full of men.

All this happened just the day before they shared their last prize among
the prisoners, in which they put on such a mock face of doing justice to
the several captains and mates and other men, their prisoners, whose
ships they had taken away, and to whom now they made reparation, by
giving them what they had taken violently from another, so that it was a
strange medley of mock justice made up of rapine and generosity blended

Two days after this they took a Bristol ship bound from Newfoundland to
Oporto with fish. They let her cargo alone, for they had no occasion for
fish, but they took out almost all their provisions, all the ammunition,
arms, etc., and her good sails, also her best cables, and forced two of
her men to go away with them, and then got ten of the Frenchman on board
and let her go. But just as they were parting with her, they consulted
together what to do with Williams the lieutenant, who was then among the
prisoners and in irons. And after a short debate, they resolved to put
him on board the Bristol-man and send him away too, which accordingly
was done, with directions to the master to deliver him on board the
first English man-of-war they should meet with, in order to get his
being hanged for a pirate, as they jeeringly called him, as soon as he
came to England, giving the master an account of some of his villainies.

The truth is, this Williams was a monster rather than a man. He was the
most inhuman, bloody and desperate creature that the world could
produce, and was even too wicked for Gow and all his crew, though they
pirates and murderers, as has been shown. His temper was so savage, so
villainous, so merciless, that even the pirates themselves told him it
was time he was hanged out of the way.

One instance of the barbarity of Williams cannot be omitted, and will be
sufficient to justify all that can be said of him. When Gow gave it as a
reason against engaging with the Martinico ship, that he had a great
many prisoners on board, and some of their own men that they could not
depend on, Williams proposed to have them all called up one by one, and
to cut their throats and throw them overboard--a proposal so horrid that
the worst of the crew shook their heads at it. Gow answered him very
handsomely, that there had been too much blood spilled already; yet the
refusing this, heightened the quarrel, and was the chief occasion of his
offering to pistol Gow himself. After which his behaviour was such as
made all the ship's crew resolved to be rid of him, and it was thought
if they had not had an opportunity to send him away, as they did by the
Bristol ship, they would have been obliged to have hanged him
themselves. This cruel and butchery temper of Williams being carried to
such a height, and so near to the ruin of them all, shocked some of
them, and as they acknowledged gave some check in the heat of their
wicked progress, and had they had an opportunity to have gone on shore
at that time, without falling into the hands of Justice, it is believed
the greatest part of them would have abandoned the ship, and perhaps the
very trade of a pirate too. But they had dipped their hands in blood,
and Heaven had no doubt determined to bring them, that is, the chief of
them, to the gallows for it, as indeed they all deserved, so they went

When they put Williams on board the Bristol-man, and he was told what
directions they gave with him, he began to relent, and made all the
intercession he could to Captain Gow for pardon, or at least not to be
put on board the ship, knowing that if he was carried to Lisbon, he
should meet with his due from the Portuguese, if not from the English;
for it seems he had been concerned in some villainies among the
Portuguese before he came on board the _George_ galley. What they were
he did not confess, nor indeed did his own ship's crew trouble
themselves to examine him about it. He had been wicked enough among
them, and it was sufficient to make them use him as they did. It was
more to be wondered, indeed, that they did not cut him to pieces upon
the spot and throw him into the sea, half on one side of the ship, and
half on the other, for there was scarce a man in the ship but on one
occasion or other had some apprehensions of him, and might be said to go
in danger of his life from him. But they chose to shift their hands of
him this bloodless way, so they double fettered him and brought him up.
When they brought him among the men, he begged they would throw him
into the sea and drown him; then entreated for his life with a meanness
which made them despise him, and with tears, so that one time they began
to relent. But then the devilish temper of the fellow over-ruled it
again, so at last they resolved to let him go, and did accordingly put
him on board, and gave him many a hearty curse at parting, wishing him a
good voyage to the gallows, which was made good afterwards, though in
such company as they little thought of at that time. The Bristol captain
was very just to him, for according to their orders, as soon as they
came to Lisbon, they put him on board the _Argyle_, one of His Majesty's


Back to Full Books