John Wright, Theft > extortion, 28th June 1738.

Reference Number: t17380628-7
Offence: Theft > extortion
Verdict: Guilty
Punishment: Death

9. John Wright , was indicted, for that he being a Person of an evil Disposition, and the

Laws of this Realm not regarding, after the first of June, 1723, viz. on the 13th of June last, knowingly, unlawfully, and feloniously did send a certain Letter in writing, without Name or Date, directed to William Dolley , demanding the Sum of 30 l. and containing divers Threats of the Life, and burning the House of the said Dolley, if the said Money should not be paid, according to the Directions of the said Letter, to the great Damage of the said Dolley, against the Form of the Statute, to the evil Example of others, and against the Peace, &c.

William Dolley. I was at a Neighbour's House the 13th of this Month, and the next Witness ( Alice Barnard ) came to me, and desired I would make haste Home, and bring one of my Company with me, for a threatening Letter was sent me. When I came Home, the Prisoner stood within the Shop; I took a slight Glance on the Letter, and then I double-lock'd the Door, to secure the Prisoner. I then asked the Prisoner if he knew what he had done? He said, No. I search'd him immediately, for fear he should have Pistols, or Knives about him, - that is, - I clapp'd my Hands upon his Cloaths, - I did not put them into his Pockets. When I found he had nothing about him, I took him into a little back Room, behind the Shop, and read the Letter to him. All that I could get out of him, was, that he knew nothing of it. I told him, if he would let me know who were his Accomplices, I would be favourable to him, and he should not go to Jail; but he told me, he was so strongly sworn, that he could not say any Thing. Upon this, I sent for a Constable, and would have sent him to New-Prison; the Prisoner told me I could not send him to Prison, without first carrying him before a Magistrate. For this Reason, I desired the Constable to carry him before a Magistrate, but he did not think proper to do so, least his Comrades should be near, and do me a Mischief, so he was carry'd to Prison. The next Morning we had him to the Elephant and Castle, in order to his going before the Justice, and there he wrote this Note (producing it) to send for his Friends; some Persons now in Court, saw him write it; and upon comparing it with the Letter he brought me, the Hands agreed. I charged him immediately with having wrote the Letter himself, and had him before Mr. Justice Poulson, where he confess'd he wrote the Letter he brought me himself.

Mr. Poulson prov'd the Confession was voluntarily sign'd, after it had been read over to the Prisoner.

'' Middlesex. To wit. The Confession of John '' Wright, taken before me, &c.

'' Who being examin'd, saith, that Yesterday, '' the 13th of June, he wrote a Letter to Mr. '' William Dolley , in Holborn , demanding the Sum '' of 30 l. and threatening, on Refusal to pay the '' said Money, to kill him, and reduce his House '' to Ashes. And that the said Letter, and every '' Word thereof, is the proper Hand of this '' Examinant.

John Wright .

The Letter was read.

'' To Mr. William Dolley, Ironmonger , at the '' Warming-Pan, at his House in Holborn.

SIR,

'' This is to acquaint you, that there are a certain '' Number of poor Men, who, without present '' Help, will be ruin'd: Therefore we all consent '' to send to four able Gentlemen, like yourself, '' for some of that old Gold, that has lain by you '' so long. We send for no more that 30 l. '' which you can spare so easily. So for your own '' Safety's Sake, don't refuse to send it by the '' Hands of the Bearer. Put it into a Box; cover '' it with Paper, and seal it up, and put it into '' the Hands of the Person that brings you this '' Letter. If you refuse to send it, or make any '' Stir, we are all determin'd to kill you, and reduce '' your House to Ashes. Don't imagine we '' are afraid of the Faces of any; for we positively '' declare we will murder you, and yours, '' as sure as ever you were born, either riding, '' walking, or sleeping. We know you, and how '' much of your Riches you have cruelly and unjustly '' gotten; so if you refuse, we will wash our '' Hands in your Heart's Blood, and burn your '' House to Ashes, therefore we command you to '' send the Money, on Peril of your Goods, Life, '' and Habitation.

'' We have no more to say at present.''

Mr. Dolley. Here is Mr. Rawlinson, who will give some Account of the Prisoner: He was try'd about a Year and a Quarter ago, on much such an Affair. *

* The Prisoner was try'd (for setting Fire to Mr. Arthur Rawlinson 's House) in April Sessions, 1737. Vide Sessions Book for that Year, No IV. p. 94.

Alice Barnard . The Prisoner brought this Letter for my Master, and deliver'd it to an Errand Boy, before me. He said it was for Mr. Dolley, and required an Answer. I carry'd it in to my Mistress, Mr. Dolley's Partner, and she open'd it. I told the Prisoner, my Master was at a Neighbour's House, and that I would go and call him. He thanked me, and said he waited for an Answer. I perceived my Mistress was very much surprised, so I went and call'd my Master.

Prisoner. I desire my Friends may be call'd.

William Cruikshank . I have known the Prisoner about two Years and a half; and always observed him to have been seiz'd with a rooted melancholy Desperation. Some Time or other in the Month either of November or December 1735, he wrote a Letter to me, full of the most melancholy desperate Expressions, declaring himself to be a Person devoted to eternal Destruction, and abandon'd of God. I endeavour'd to answer all his unreasonable Objections, and I thought to some good Effect; but soon after, his old Melancholy return'd, which I imagin'd was occasioned, because he had never been baptized; being descended of Parents, who were of the People call'd Quakers. As far as I can remember, he mention'd this, as the Reason of his Melancholy. On the 29th of February, 1735-6, he was baptized, and about a Month after, he received the Holy Communion, - after he had been instructed in the Principles of the Christian Religion. In the Month of April or May following, his Melancholy recurr'd in such a Manner, that he made two Attempts upon his own Life, by endeavouring to drown himself in St. James's Park. When I came to know the Cause, I endeavoured all that lay in my Power, to give him ease; and I thought I had succeeded; but he was continually in a melancholly way after that. I forgot to observe that the two Attempts of Self-Murder, were about a Year before the unhappy Affair of Mr. Rawlinson, in the Months of April and May, after his receiving the Sacrament. That Affair was under the Cognizance of this Court about a Year and a Quarter ago; I was not then in this Country; but that was the Effect of his Melancholy, for he express'd himself, that it was better for him to be cut off by the Hand of the Civil Magistrate, than to be his own Executioner. After he was acquitted of that Affair, we thought he behav'd pretty soberly, and we were in hopes his melancholy Distemper would wear off; but it recurr'd again in the Month of September 1737, to a high Degree, as appears by this Letter, which he sent to Mrs. Corse. I did not see him write it, but as far as I can judge of any Man's Writing, I can judge of that Letter, and I have all the moral certainty in the World, that 'tis his Hand. I had it from the Person to whom it was sent by the Penny Post; and I believe, was the Letter read, the Court would see some of the oddest Expressions that ever were heard; and I have all the moral Reason to believe, it was the Effect of a rooted, desperate Melancholy. Since the Writing of this Letter, he has made use of melancholy Expressions to me, and has said, he was weary of Life and wanted to be out of this World; this was this last Spring, but I cannot ascertain the particular Time. As for the Lad's Character, I can say, that I have always known him to be sober; never guilty of any Immoralities, except those that were the Effect of his downright Melancholy. And as for his Accomplices, I have all the Reason in the World to believe he had none, for he never kept any bad Company.

Rachel Bamfield . The Prisoner's Mother was my own Sister, and a very honest just Woman she was. His Father was a little disorder'd in his Brain, and oftentimes in the Spring would leave his Family. He had a Sister this last Summer confined for the Disorder he is now in, - she was quite raving. I never knew him guilty of an ill Action, except Mr. Rawlinson's Affair last Summer and this.

James Wallis . I have known him, and seen him often for these two Years; once I was in his Company among other young Men, and he told us, he was certainly damn'd and ruin'd to all Eternity. I have seen him often, and he behaved well, but would use these Expressions. Another Time he said he would go and drown himself in St. James's Park; but a Thought came into his Head, and he would not do it at that Time.

Mary Telford . I have been intimately acquainted with the Prisoner about four Months, by living in the House with him; and he behav'd always very circumspectly, when he was out of these Flights; but sometimes he would fly out, and I would advise him to throw of those Flights; he used to say he could not, and wish'd he might die, that he might no longer carry about with him this Body of Sin. Before this Accident happened, he was blooded, and lost a Porringer full of Blood, and would have been blooded again, and have lost more, but the Man would not permit it. About three Weeks or a Month ago, he told me he was going to be bad again, but desired I would not let his Friends know; and I (foolish) kept the Secret. 'Twas but the Day before this Letter was delivered,

that I was singing a Verse of the 138th Psalm to him, and he wish'd I could sing him into Heaven with that Tune, for he was weary of his Life; and about a Fortnight before he attempted to hang himself.

John Redding . The Prisoner has made Shoes for me near a Twelve-month; and I have taken him out among my merry Shoe-makers to divert him; but he has not been able to bear it. He has told me he was tempted to destroy himself, once to hang himself, another Time to drown himself? then to starve or bleed himself to Death. He brought me Home a Pair of Shoes that Afternoon he did this Thing, and I knew he was going into one of his Flights. Sometimes he was capable of doing his Business, and sometimes he was not.

Robert Forest . I have known him two Years, and never knew any Thing by him, but what was solid and sober, except when he was in those Fits. I have heard him over and over express despairing Words, - Words of deep despair, and that he should surely perish. I have begg'd of him to mind his Duty to God, and not to concern himself so much about sacred Things. At some Times he would have some glimmering of Hope, but oftener would be in despair, and say he was sure he should be damn'd.

Ivel Northam. The Prisoner has lodged with me sometimes, at his own request, I have had Conversation with him; he was always melancholy, and afraid of his Damnation. One Sunday I was talking to him, and he said, - is it not better for me to leave off all Religion, than to be such a scandal to it as I am. I gave him good Advice, and he said, he wish'd he could take it, but (says he) I am a hard hearted Creature, and shall split upon the Rock of Despair at last. The Day after he was taken, I went to him in Prison, and I said, John Wright , as you stand before the great God, declare on what Account you sent this Letter; was it for the Money? No. Was it to hang yourself? He answered, 'tis better to be executed by the Laws of the Land, than to murther ones self. Why, says I, what Proof have you of your being damned? Because (says he) he that believeth not, shall be damned. I then asked him where the Man liv'd, that he had carry'd the Letter to? He would not tell me. I beg'd of him for God's Sake, - for my Sake, who was his Friend to tell me; at last he only told me it was to an Ironmonger; but he desired none of his Friends would trouble themselves, but let the Law have its Course; and he should rejoice (he said) if he was then in the Cart, and was going to Tyburn; and that he had been often tempted to take off somebody's Hat, in the Streets, that he might do the Work effectually.

Richard Gardiner . I could say a great deal more; but that I think is of no Effect, - but he used to run after the Romish Priests, that are disputing about Transubstantiation, and the Infalibity of the Church. I perceived a great Disorder in the Head, and heard odd Expressions; and I would have you consider, whether the Person is not prejudic'd, and has not Interest into the Case, for this Day I asked him at Hick's Hall whether his Bill was rectify'd, and he told me, if one Bill would not do, another should, - and therefore I think he is partial. As to the Prisoner's Prosession, I can't tell what it is he has so many Notions running in his Head about the Roman Priests. Sometimes he goes to one Place, sometimes to another. I have been at St. Ann's Church with him, and other Churches beside.

The Jury found the Prisoner Guilty . Death .


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