THE Execution, last Speeches & Confessions, OF THE Thirteen Prisoners That suffered on Friday the24October1679.
THE last Sessions was very remarkable for the great number of Criminals that there received Sentence of Death, there being no fewer than Two and thirty in all that were there condemn'd (though by a Mistake in the printed Narrative, it was said but Thirty one:) But as all penal Laws
are designed not for Cruelty, but amendment of Manners,ut Poena and pancos Terror and omnes perveniat, that by due Punishments inflicted on a few, all being terrified, may desist from ill Practices, for here his most gracious Majesties indulgent Mercy was pleased to extend it self to several of these wretched Malefactors, from whom there might be any hopes of future Reformation.
The poor Creature tryed for killing of her Bastard-childe, in consideration of all Circumstances, and that she was convicted onely upon the severity of the Statute, obtained a Reprieve. so likewise did the two men and one woman about killing the Bayliff in Dutchy-lane; and the two women and one man touching the death of the Bayliff at Westminster; and several others. As to the rest, we shall give you here some account of their Behaviour after Sentence, and at the place of Execution.
Mr. Ordinary according to his usual care, and the grand importarnce of his place, was not wanting to improve the short time the Prisoners had allowed them in this world, for their spiritual advantage of their Souls. He preacht very elaborately, and searchingly to their Consciences, on the Lords day, and was frequently with them in Prayer; and according to his prudent method, fail'd not to examine each of them apart concerning their hopes of a future happy State, and on what solid grounds the same were bottom'd. He found them generally lamentably ignorant of the Principles of Religion, as if they had been born in Africk, and bred up amongst the Savages of America, rather than in England, that Goshen of Gospel-Light. But he endeavoured with his utmost pains, both to inform their Understandings of the mysteries of Salvation, and perswade their stubborn Wills to submit to the Yoak of Christ, and accept of him upon his own Evangelical Terms.
As for Thomas French, he was a Person that had good Friends; and undoubtedly was Master of a great stock of Courage, had he employed it honourably in the service of his Prince, or in lawful Cases. When he found the Mediation of his friends lueffectual, the greatness of his Spirit and emotions of his Minde, struck him into a violent Feaver, so that he was fore'd to keep his Bed, and was not able to attend the publique Exercises of Devotion ; yet the Ordinary charitably visited him and gave him all the assistance he could. As he confessed the Indictments at the Bar, so he now acknowledged, That he had long followed the mischievous practice of Padding on the Road; That he was drawn into it by ill Company and a loose dissolute Life.
John Hurst, the other Highway-man , had formerly been condemned at Alisbury in the County of Bucks, but now was fallen into his old wicked Courses again. He seem'd not to be much regardful of his Condition, but first fed himself with hopes of Reprieve, and at last seem'd too much indifferent concerning his future State.
John Martin and Tho. Dod, seemed to outward appearance, the most penitent of all the company. They much bewail'd their former Ill-spent time, and were very frequently and serventIy in Prayer for pardon and forgiveness for all their Sins, which they freely acknowledged to be most horrid in quality, and Innumerable in number.
Charles Michener and Isaac Whitacre, were Partners in Iniquity, and had broken up a Gentlewomans house at Basing stoke in Hampshire, and took thence a great quantity of Plate and Money; of which, the latter they had spent, the former was found with them when they were apprehended on another occasion by an honest Thieftaker at Wapping; who seeing so much old-fa-shiond Plate in their custody, concluded they had robb'd some Church; but pressing them with much importunity, he prevailed with them to confess where they had it, and sent the Owner notice in a Letter; who now came up and convicted them. They were old hardened Thieves, and behaved themselves very audaciously.
It was a very sad thing to hear, the night before they suffered, when the Bellman, according to custom, came to give them notice that they were to die the next morning, what dismal Cries and Lamentations they made; yet 'tis fear'd, for the most part, not so much out of any due sense of their sins, as of the just punishment that was approaching. Though three or four of them appeared more serious, and with abundance of Tears acknowledged the guilt of their former wicked lives, begging heartily Forgiveness of God, and all those that they had injured by their villainous and pernicious Practices.
'Tis strange and most sad, to consider the corrupt nature of Man, how prone, nay fixt to all kind of Evil, that no Exhortation, no Examples, though so numerous here almost every month of their fellow-Criminals, can reclaim them. The true reason no doubt is expressed by the Psalmist, God is not in all their thoughts, Fear and Shame are the two great Bridles of humane Nature: But these. Restraints they had long since shook off
and by a setled Habit of Debauchery, stifled all the Alarms of Conscience, and quenchd the striving motions of Grace and the Holy Spirit , so that they were grown to that Diabolical state, to commit all Wickedness with greediness, and without any Remorse: Never awakend with any apprehensions of Religion, or regard to the everlasting Condition of their precious Souls, till the dreadful Sentence of Death summond them to give a sudden amazing Account, for which they were no way prepared; but in a stupid Horrour, filld with Terrour and Confusion, were hurried out of the World. A most deplorable Caution to all such desperate Sinners, to turn from the Evil of their ways, whilst there is yet a door of Hope left open, that they may not be surprized with the like Consternation, when nothing remains before their eyes, but a certain untimely Death in this world, and inevitable Destruction in the next.
The common Malefactors were executed at the usual place and time, first Seven and then Five; and not all at once, as heretofore.
But Christian Woodward (condemned to be burned at a Stake in Smithfield) was not Execured till the afternoon; she having had all the time given her that possibly could be granted, to make her applications for a Reprieve. But no Reprieve could be obtained; the Crime being so notorious, and the practise of it grown so frequent.