The BEHAVIOUR, CONFESSION, AND EXECUTION OFThe Twelve Prisoners
That Suffer'd on Wednesday the 22 of Jan. 1678/9
George Brown, John Butler, Richard Mills, Christo, Bruncker, George Kenian, For a Burglary and Felony in Hattongarden, taking away 380 ounces of Plate, besides Rings and Money, under Pretence of searching for Rapists.
Giving a true Account of their Deportment in Prison after pentence, and last Words, as far as material, at Execution: Attested by Mr. Ordinary.
THE CONFESSION and EXECUTION OF The Twelve PRISONERS That Suffer'd on Wednesday the 22th of January 1678/9.
AS this sheet in made publick as a Seamark to all that read or hear it, that they may avoid those desperate Rocks of sin, on which these unhappy persons lamentably Shipwracks: So particular circumspection has been used, that nothing but Truth may be herein related, so as neither to abuse the Dead, or mis-inform the Living.
At the last Sessions, there were in all Seventeen persons, viz. Fifteen Men, and Two Women, that received Sentence of Death: but Five of them obtained (at least for the present) His Majesties Gracious Pardon; the other Twelve, this 22. of January, were brought to Execution.
12th. instant, he was now Condemned, and came to suffer; which was ordered to be in Little Britain, not very far from the place where the Fact was committed. 'Tis strang and sad to consider, that not only at his Tryal, but afterwards, he persisted in asserting his Innocence, notwithstanding all the Arguments and Importunities Mr. Ordinary or other Ministers could use, who took extraordinary pains in that behalf. Yet confessed the sum of all that was Evidenc'd against him, as that he spake those wordsO do no not speak of that Gun, or words to that effect; that there might be Blood on the Gun, Etc. but averr'd. that the door when he came down in the Morning, was not Lockt, but only Latcht, and the Key on the inside. He discoursed very understandingly, and made solemn Appeals of his Ignorance, how, or by what means he came to his end. But the Circumstances were so home and undeniable, that even Charity it self could not credit his Asseverations.
Mr. Ordinary on the Lords day took great pains to awaken them to a through Conviction of their sins, from two remarkable and most suitable Scriptures, viz. in the forenoon, Rom. 3.19.For we know that what the Law saith, it faith to them that are under the Law, that every mouth may be stopt, and all the World become guilty before God. In the afternoon, from Psal. 25.11. For thy Name sake, O Lord! Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.And after the Evening Sermon, inquired what impressions of Gods Spirit they found on their hearts from his Ministerial Labours that day; to which they answered, That they hoped the Lord would make it effectual to them.
On the Munday likewise, Mr. Ordinary visited them, and on the Tuesday they being called together into the great Hall, he and two other Ministers came to exhort and pray with them, in order to fit and prepare them for their great and dreadful change. At first, many of them appeared very earnest to have the Sacrament of the Lords Supper Administred to them: whereupon. Mr. Ordinary, and another able Minister, opening the nature of that Ordinance, their unpreparedness, scandalousness, Etc. used most effectual Arguments why it was neither necessary or convenient for them, under their circumstances; yet withal, declaring their tenderness in no wife to debit them of any thing that might be necessary or expedient for their Salvation: so that after above half an hours pains, the Prisoners in general declared, that they were satished and did not desire in. After satisfaction given in that particular, a very worthy Minister gave them serious advice for their Souls Eternal Happiness, and prayed very earnestly for them; which being performed, Mr. Ordinary, (as his usual manner is) did earnestly desire of them, to consider of the great concerns of their Everlasting Condition; in order whereunto, he required a particular account from every one of them, what hope they had, (after all Counsels and Prayers) of their future happy estate: whereunto every one gave a particular account thereof, most of them confessing and bewailing their precedent Ill course of life, which might provoke the Lord to leave them to themselves, to fall into those Crimes for which they were justly Condemned: Some in particular confessing their Profanation of the Lords day, Disobedience to Parents, Drunkenness, mixing with bad Company; the sin of Swearing, and other Vices of the Tongue. One acknowledged, that he had for two years last past, prayed earnestly to the Lord, to be preserved from the Temptations of his loose Companions; but not setting a sufficient watch over his own heart, he was not fortified against the aforesaid Temptation. Another declared, that being in great wants, and having Overtures made of supplying him by invading the Proprieties of other men,he was over-perswaded to joyn with them in such an Attempt. Mr. Ordinary, after all these Confessions, earnestly pressed them to search into their hearts, which were naturally so deceitful, that they might not presume upon a false Faith and Repentance; and then another Minister concluded for that time with Prayers.
On Wednesday morning about eight a clock, Robert Freeman was drawn on a Sledge (as is usual in cases of Petty Treason) to Little Britain, were just by the Grate was a Gibbet erected: He passed with a solid composed countenance, Reading all the way; and being brought thither, persisted in denying the Fact, with several solemn expressions, too tedious to be here related:he repeated the Lords Prayer with much appearance of Zeal, as likewise the Creed, declaring it to be the Articles of his Souls belief. Mr. Ordinary prayed with him very affectionately, and also he prayed himself in good words: he desired all young Men to beware of Ill Company, and private sins, left God should give them up to the like disastrous end: he expressed largely the love he had to his Master, and that he was not privy to, or conscious of any others that might be concerned in his Murther; but that for his own part, he freely forgave all the World, what ever thoughts it might have of him when he was dead; for he trusted he had made his peace with God: and so was Executed, most people with sorrow admiring at, and pitying his obstinacy; for so we cannot but call his denyal, after such convincing Evidence.Nor want there Examples heretofore of the like resoluteness under the greatest Guilt, in Male factors that out of hopes of Pardon at last, or vain-glory to dye pitted, have stifled their Consciences, and died with a denial of the Facts, which even before they confessed to Mr. Ordinary. But we dare not censure in so abstruse a matter; himself could not deny, but the Witnesses, Court, and Jury, had proceeded fairly: for Men can but act as things appear; therefore we leave him to the judgement of that most just and all-seeing God, who righteously judgeth all the Earth.
The same forenoon, in four Carts were the other Eleven conveyed to Tyburn, who when they were all tyed up to the Beam, declared to Mr. Ordinary, and another Minister, those particular sins, which they did shame themselves for, at the just provocation of God, why he suffered them to fall into those soul Crimes, for which they now dyed.
One of the five for the Burglary in Hatton Garden, delivered a paper of his Confession, under his own hand, which he desired might be published, as some evidence of his sorrow and Repentance to the World, the words of which are as follows.
The first eminent sin which I can remember, was the Breach of the Sabbath; then I proceeded to keep Company, where I learned to Curse and Swear, and Prophane Gods Holy Name; Lying and Adultery, Drunkenness, and Disobedience to my Mother, who sought by good Counsel to reclaim me; which is the just cause my days are shortned in this World. I have been guilty of a great many Robberies on the High-way, and others besides this I am so justly Condemned for.
Another of the Five confessed, that he was guilty of all manner of sin, (that of actual Murder and Treason excepted) and was much humbled for the same, especially for his execrable Oaths and Curses, which had been the customary Parenthesis of his discourses.
They all acknowledged, that the hand of the Lord had righteously brought their Iniquities to light, and themselves to shame; they had deserved to be eternally rejected, for several other notorious unknown Impieties, but they hoped for the pardon of them, by the Merits of Christ, upon their Repentance, which is in charity apprehended to have been sincere: they all prayed for themselves, and some very pathetically, and beyond expectation. They desired Mr. Ordinary in their words, which would not be heard so well in their own pronunciation, by reason of the Multitude of Spectatours, that he would warn all present, by their calamitous end, to take heed of all sin,
The Woman in the Morning, on some temptation, disown'd that she was guilty of the Burglary for which she suffered; but at the place of Execution freely Confessed it, and desired pardon of God for that Lye in particular.
It was a sad and most affecting Spectacle, to see so many persons at once, hastning themselves to an ignominious Death, by the Impieties of their Lives: to behold such a sight, one would think, might awaken all that saw it, to fly from such wicked Practises, to leave off their debauched Conversation and bad Company, and seriously imploring Mercy and forgiveness for past Iniquities, strenuously indeavour to redeem the time for the future, and lead their Lives in Sobriety and Godliness; which God of his infinite goodness grant.
I do Arrest the Particulars of this Narrative to be true.