James Macleane, Violent Theft > highway robbery, 12th September 1750.

Reference Number: t17500912-22
Offence: Violent Theft > highway robbery
Punishment: Death

527. James Macleane , was indicted, for that he, on the king's high-way, on Josiah Higden did make an assault, putting him in corporal fear and danger of his life, one cloth coat, val. 20 s. one pair of cloth breeches, val. 10 s. one perriwig, val. 30 s. one pair of pumps, val. 4 s. five holland shirts, value 40 s. three linen stocks, val. 3 s. one pair of silk stockings, val. 6 s. one pair of worsted stockings, value 3 s. one pair of gloves, val. 6 d. one pair of silver spurs, val. 15 s. one pair of silver shoe buckles, val. 18 s. one pair of knee buckles, one half pound weight of tea and other things, and two guineas from his person, and against his will , June 26 .

Josiah Higden . On the 26th of June, I was passenger in the Salisbury flying coach, going thither. There were four gentlemen and one gentlewoman with me. Betwixt Turnham Green and Brentford, betwixt the five and six mile stone in the parish of Chiswick, between 1 and 2 o'clock in the morning, a man came up to the side of the coach and put his pistol in, demanding our money; at the same time calling to his companion who lagg'd behind to come up. Then came up another person. They were both arm'd and mask'd. The second acted but little; he rather sat on horseback as a guard. I gave about twelve or fourteen shillings to the man that came up first. They declared that should not do, and ordered us out of the coach into the high-way. They took six shillings out of another pocket of mine, and four penny worth of halfpence out of my breeches pocket, and threaten'd to blow my brains out for concealing it. He on horseback I believe threaten'd as much as the other. After this, the person who came up first, declared he would see what was in the boot of the coach, and accordingly jump'd up, and by the help of the coachman, took out two cloak bags; one of which was my property. They made the coachman help them up before them, and each rode off with one. He mentions the goods in this cloak bag as in the indictment. Some of these things were found again in the prisoner's lodgings. I found there a light perriwig, three pair of stockings, a pair of double channel pumps, a handkerchief, two cannisters without tea. They were found on the 27th of July, the day the prisoner was taken, in his trunk, and they are my property, taken out of my cloakbag. I found also at Mr. Loader's a cloth coat and breeches, and waistcoat, with the lace stripp'd off. The portmanteau was brought home three weeks after, said to be found in Kensington Gravel-pits. There were also two guineas in money.

I also heard the prisoner own the robbery before the justice; he said, he, and one William Plunket , did commit that robbery; and told me how they divided the cloaths; he wrote his confession down himself, but did not sign it.

Q. from the prisoner. When was the first time that witness ever saw me?

Higden. I have seen him pass by my door several times before this.

Q. Did he hear me make any confession?

Higden. Yes I did.

Q. Did not Mr. Hidgen declare before the justice he never saw me before?

Higden. No, My Lord, I did not.

Q. Did not Mr. Higden say, the man's voice that robb'd him did not agree with mine?

Higden. I said, I could not say it was the prisoner's voice.

Q. Did he never declare he would have my life, and hoped on that account to be made a great man?

Higden. No, I never declared any such thing. I said, I would go through with it in duty to my country.

William Loader . The prisoner came himself to me, and desir'd I would come and look at some things he had to dispose of; I think this was the 19th of July, he liv'd with one Mr. Dunn in St. James's-street; he shew'd me a light colour'd cloth coat and breeches, a waistcoat with the lace ripped off, I bought them of him with other things. Mr. Higden came to my shop some time after, and found the things lying on the counter and own'd them. I went and got a warrant for the prisoner in the name of Macleane, the name he left with me of his own hand writing, for a direction for me to

come to see the cloaths; he was taken, I was with him before the justice and heard him confess taking these things from the coach, with the other things.

Mr. Higden. These things were advertised in the publick papers several times, and there is the perriwig maker that made the wig now in court.

Justice Lidiard. The prisoner and the things were brought before me, he denied the fact at first, he said it I would be of any service to him he would make a confession. I told him I could not admit him as an evidence, but if he had a mind to make a voluntary confession I would hear it, but I would not at all press him to it; I gave him an hour's time to do it; I went down stairs and up again, and then he told me he had committed this and several other robberies in company with one Plunket; I bid him recollect, as nearly as he could, all the robberies he had committed, and come again the next day; he brought it me the next day in writing, I did not ask him to sign it, he gave it me to read, and said the contents of that paper were true. I left the paper in his hands and never ask'd it of him. He confess'd the taking the two portmanteaus, and among the rest, the things that lay then before him. He confess'd this when I went to him at the Gate-house, and likewise when he was examined by me the first of August.

The prisoner desired the court would indulge him to read his defence, which was to this purport:

'' My Lord, I am persuaded from the candour and indulgence shewn me in the course of my trial, that your lordship will hear me with patience, and make allowance for the confusion I may shew before an awful assembly, upon so solemn an occasion.

Your lordship will not construe it vanity in me, at this time, to say, that I am the son of a divine of the kingdom of Ireland, well known for his zeal and affection to the present royal family, and happy government; who bestowed an education upon me becoming his character, of which I have in my hand a certificate from a noble lord, four members of parliament, and several justices of peace for the country where I was born, and received my education.

About the beginning of the late French war, my lord, I came to London, with a design to enter into the military service of my king and country; but unexpected disappointments obliged me to change my resolution; and having married the daughter of a reputable trademan, to her fortune I added what little I had of my own, and entered into trade in the grocery way, and continued therein till my wife died. I very quickly after her death found a decay in trade, arising from an unavoidable trust reposed in servants; and fearing the consequence, I candidly consulted some friends, and by their advice, sold off my stock, and in the first place honestly discharged my debts, and proposed to apply the residue of my fortune in the purchase of some military employment, agreeable to my first design.

During my application to trade, my lord, I unhappily became acquainted with one Plunket, an apothecary, who, by his account of himself, induced me to believe he had travelled abroad, and was possessed of cloaths and other things suitable thereto, and prevailed on me to employ him in attending on my family, and to lend him money to the amount of 100 l. and upwards.

When I left off trade, I pressed Plunket for payment, and after receiving, by degrees, several sums, he proposed, on my earnestly insisting that I must call in all debts owing to me, to pay me part in goods and part in money.

These very cloaths with which I am now charged, my lord, were cloaths he brought to me to make sale of, towards payment of my debt, and accordingly, my lord, I did sell them, very unfortunately, as it now appears; little thinking they were come by in the manner. Mr. Higden hath been pleased to express, whose word and honour are too well known to doubt the truth.

My lord, as the contracting this debt between Plunket and myself was a matter of a private nature, so was the payment of it; and therefore, it is impossible for me to have the testimony of any one single witness to these facts, which (as it is an unavoidable misfortune) I hope, and doubt not, my lord, that your lordship and the gentlemen of the jury will duly weigh.

My lord, I cannot avoid observing to your lordship, Is it probable, nay, is it possible, that if I had come by those cloaths by dishonest means, I should be so imprudent as to bring a man to my lodgings at noon-day to buy them, and give him my name and place of residence, and even write that name and residence myself in the Salesman's book? It seems to me, and I think must to every man, a madness that no one, with the least share of sense, could be capable of.

My lord, I have observed in the course of Mr. Higden's evidence, he hath declared, he could not be positive either to my face or person, the defect of which, I humbly presume, leaves a doubt of the certainty of my being one of the two persons.

My lord, it is very true, when I was first apprehended, the surprize confounded me, and gave me the most extraordinary shock; it caused a delirium and confusion in my brain, which rendered me incapable of being myself, or knowing what I said or did; I talked of robberies as another man would do in talking of stories; but, my lord, after my friends had visited me in the Gate-house, and had given me some new spirits, and when I came to be re examined before justice Lediard, and then asked, if I could make any discovery of the robbery, I then alledged that I had recovered my surprize, that what I had talked of before concerning robberies was false and wrong, and entirely owing to a confused head and brain.

This, my lord, being my unhappy fate; but unhappy as it is, as your lordship is my judge and presumptive council, I submit it, whether there is any other evidence against me than circumstantial.

First, the selling of the lace and cloaths, which I agree I did; for which I account.

Second, the verbal confession of a confused brain; for which I account.

All this evidence I humbly apprehend is but circumstantial evidence.

It might be said, my lord, that I ought to shew where I was at this time.

To which, my lord, I answer, that I never heard the time, nor the day of the month, that Mr. Higden was robbed; and, my lord, it is impossible for me, at this juncture, to recollect where I was, and much more to bring any testimony of it.

My lord, in cases where a prisoner lies under these impossibilities of proof, it is hard, nay, it is very hard, if presumption and intendment may not have some weight on the side of the prisoner. I humbly hope, and doubt not, but that doctrine will not escape your lordship's memory to the jury.

My lord, I have lived in credit, and have had dealings with manking, and therefore humbly beg leave, my lord, to call about a score to my character, or more, if your lordship pleases; and then, my lord, if in your lordship's opinion the evidence against me should be by law only circumstantial, and the character given of me by my witnesses should be so far satisfactory, as to have equal weight, I shall most willingly and readily submit to the jury's verdict.''

He call'd nine gentlemen of credit, who gave him a very good character.

Death .


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