THE Ordinary of NEWGATE HIS ACCOUNT OF
The Behaviours, Confessions, and Last Dying Words of the Malefactors that were Executed at Tyburn on Wednesday the 26th of October 1720.
THE Sunday preceeding the Execution of the seven Malefactors, I preach'd to Them from the following Text. First Pet. 3. 8, 9.
Finally, Be ye all of one Mind, having Compassion One of Another; love as Brethren, be Pitiful, be Courteous;
Not rendring Evil for Evil, or Railing for Railing, But contrarywise, Blessing.
Some of the Injunctions commanded in the Text, I spoke more particularly.
FIRST, Be Ye all of one Mind. I observed that were a Mahometan to take a View of our Nation, he would not believe that We had this Command in our Bibles; We being so resolved not to be All of one Mind, that there are almost as many Opinions, as Men, amongst Us; so that Religion, which was designed to make Us Happy in the next World, by Party-Disputes too often makes us wretched in This. Here is a Book that denies the Eternity of Hell-Torments; Another would confound the Christian, Jewish, Mahometan, &c. Religions together. But their is no Occasion to labour and fatiegue to be Damn'd; Or to study and watch by Night to find new Paths to Hell. St. Paul's Opinion of These is this. If any Man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome Words, even the Words of our Lord JESUS CHRIST.-He is Proud, knowing Nothing, but doting about Question and strifes of Words. Let us therefore, as the same Apostle says, Endeavour to keep the Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace.
SECONDLY, I consider'd the next Command; Be Assistant to Others, or share the Misfortune of Others; For so the Original may be translated; First, from the Natural Import of the Word; Secondly, because if it is translated, Having Compassion One of Another, it scarcely differs from the Command below, Be Pitiful. I endeavour'd to convince the Malefactors, That they had an Opportunity of doing much Good, even in their restrain'd Capacity; Particularly. Two amongst them were unable to write or read, 'twas therefore the Duty
of Those who could read, continually to call upon those poor ignorant People Day and Night, to Hear the good Books which charitable People had sent Them for their Use: And this is being Assistant to, and sharing as 'twere the Misfortunes of other Men.
THIRDLY, Be Pitiful. I told the Prisoners, there was no Object for their Pity; but They might exercise their Compassion in taking Pity upon their own Souls.
FOURTHLY, In speaking to the next Injunction, Be Courteous, I observ'd, That tho' few People may perhaps regard the Sin, yet we do commit Sin, unless we not only be exactly Just in our Dealings, but also use a certain Affability; since it is thus expresly Commanded in Scripture. Yet there are Men in the World, who affect a certain Stiffness and Moroseness, and take a Pride in differing from Custom in the ordinary Rules of Behaviour and Ceremony.
Yet does not my Text command Us to observe all the Rules of Ceremony, that the Sons of Idleness have invented for want of Employ; This were to make that a Part of the Care of a Rational Mind, which is the meanest and lowest Matter relating to the Body. In general therefore, we must be kindly Affectioned one to another, in honour Prefering one another.
FIFTHLY, In considering the last Command, That we are not to render Railing for Railing, but contrariwise Blessing; I endeavour'd to convince the Malefactors, how unreasonable a Thing it would be, for any of them to retain a Spleen against their Accusers, or against the Magistrates who condemned them; As this would be Detrimental to their Souls, and no Advantage to their Bodies; it would ruffle their Minds, and make them unfit for that Duty, which was of such infinite Importance to them, and they had so little Time to perform it in.
LASTLY, I advised the Prisoners, under those Calamities they had brought down upon themselves, 1st, To Patience; For unless they were compos'd, they could perform no Duty acceptable to God. Yet, 2dly, To have a hearty Sorrow; not for that they were about to leave the World, but for having affronted such a Father as is God, such a Friend as is Christ. For Godly Sorrow worketh Repentance not to be repented of, but the Sorrow of the World worketh Death. 2 Cor. 7. 10. 3dly, Not to lose any the least Time from the Service of God, but to compensate, by their present Devotions, for their Vigour and Strength which they had laid out upon the Pleasures of the World.
The Account of the Malefactors.
From the Time of their Condemnation, to that of their Execution, I repair'd twice a Day to the Chapel of Newgate; Where the Prisoners being constantly brought, (without any one of them ever absenting Himself, during the Time they lay under Sentence of Death) I pray'd with Them, and read to them the Holy-Scriptures, which I endeavour'd to explain, to those especially who were not able to Write or Read. I also desired Them, in their private Reading, if they met with any Passage they did not rightly understand, that they would at Chapel make me acquainted therewith, in order to my endeavouring to solve their Difficulties, to the best of my Capacity. Accordingly, some of them proposed to Me Questions of different Kinds, and made Me acquainted with the Scruples that had arisen to Them, in their perusing those Books which had been lent into the Condemn'd-Hold for their Use and Improvement.
I frequently enquired how they behaved themselves, when they were in the Condemn'd Hold; and could not learn that their was any of them so harden'd against all Sense of Virtue, as to use Cursing and Swearing in that dismal Place; I also advised and desired of them, that they would not permit their Friends, when they came to see them under their Calamities, to give them Brandy or any strong Liquors, which, if it did not directly intoxicate them, yet would at least discompose them, and render them less serious, and less fit to perform that great Work, which a whole Age is not too long for the accomplishing of.
In my Conferences with him, he told me, that he was but Eighteen Years of Age, born in London. He said, he always had a due Love and Value for his Father, and therefore (while he was yet very Young) he desired rather to be bound 'Prentice to him, who is a Weaver , then learn his Trade of a Stranger. He said, that in his Apprenticeship, his Father had no Objection against his Behaviour, during the six first Years; nor afterwards, except for staying out by accident some Nights, which was occasion'd by a Woman, who had flatter'd him, and been kind to him after an unusual Manner; so that he began to take a Satisfaction in being in her Company.
The first time I talk'd with Him, I ask'd him if the Story was true that he told upon his Tryal; at first he firmly asserted that it was; He said he had no thoughts of returning Home, for after the Lady he was Slave to, had given him his Freedom, he could have spent his Life in Happiness and Plenty in that Part of the World; But His Majesty's Ship being in Want of Men, he was unhappily drawn into it: But this he afterwards did not so strongly assert to be true.
After he return'd from his Transportation, he assisted his Father in his Business, in an Industrious and Laborious Manner, for some time.
And this was a Part of his Life, he said, the most happy of any he had ever liv'd, if he could but have believ'd it so at that Time. But as he intended to have led his Life to the End, in that honest and quiet Way, a Woman of ill Design accidentally happen'd into his Company, and by degrees overcame him by Perswasion, to forsake his Father; representing his Industry and Pains, as Misery and Wretchedness; and recommending him to a Life most easy and delightful. That from that Time, he frequented Ale-Houses, and spent his Hours with her in a jovial Manner; and leading such a Course of Life, was apprehended for his former Crime, and brought to Justice, which he thought he should have escaped, had he followed his former Industry; for he was commended by all People, and tho' several Persons knew his Condition, yet no One was in the least disposed to discover him.
She said, she was born in Staffordshire; about 30 Years of Age: That her Father and Mother dying when she was Young, left her to the Care of an Unkle; him she unhappily left in very great Discontent, which was occasion'd by a Young Gentleman whom she had a Kindness to, and upon whose account she vow'd that she would never wed with any Man. As she at that Time appear'd to her Friends to be enclin'd to Melancholly, lest that should encrease upon her, they sent her to Board in Shropshire: But she being (she said) of a very uneasy and rambling Disposition of Mind, travell'd about that Country, and also thro' Worcestershire and Shropshire. She had no Reason, she said, to have left her Unkle, as he was very good to her; But as her Parents had show'd an extream Tenderness and Fondness for her, she fancy'd whatever was less than that was less than her Due; Therefore being uneasy, she rambled about the Country, and at length came to London; where being Young and having no immediate Support or Maintenance, she was led into ill Practices, by some who promis'd her not only Relief, but even Gaiety and Finery if she would comply with what they propos'd to her.
Her thoughts were very much upon having a Pardon, with which hopes I found she flatter'd hesrelf very much. She said she had been guilty of Faults, but what are the Concomitants of Whoredom; for she said it was impossible to be taught by wicked People the Sin of Fornication, without learning, at the same Time, that of Picking Pockets, &c.
She seem'd, especially toward the Last, to be serious and earnest in her Devotions; and told Me, that she had agreed with her Companions, to pay a Woman for sitting up with them each Night, that they might sleep only from Three o'Clock in the Morning till Five.
When I talk'd with him, he told me, that he believ'd, that few had led a Life more unhappy than he; For as he had committed several wicked Actions, to save himself, he had never spared to disco
ver his Comrades, which had made him thoroughly hated by his Acquaintance; and added, that his Conscience at certain Times very much tormented him, and brought into his Mind unaccountable Immaginations.
So that, he said, he had often, of late, prayed to God, and thought of Religion, being fully resolved to lead an honest Life in the Occupation he was of, which was, crying Old-Cloths about the Streets : That he had kept to his Resolution almost firmly for the last Half-Year, and that it was in February last, that he committed what he was now condemn'd for.
As for his Age, he said he was about 26, and that his proper Trade was the Caning of Chairs , but not being able to maintain himself and his 2 small Children thereby, he sold Cloths , which he found would support him.
In my Discourses with him, he express'd a very great Desire to make his Peace with God; He said, he was a Young Man, about 20 Years of Age; That he never was of any Business, for to that he had no Genius; but chose rather to live upon his Father's Allowance; which he fancy'd was insufficient toward the last, delighting, he said, in genteel Company, and the best Conversation.
He said, that he was sorry that he was the Darling of his Parents; for he had made an Observation, that the best Beloved had the worst Fate. But he added, That he need not regard his Body, if he cou'd but secure his Soul.
The Day preceeding his Execution, he told me, That he desir'd to receive the Sacrament in private, without being incommoded by the Number of Strangers, who are gazing upon the Prisoners, during the Divine Service, as has always been the Custom of the Chapel.
He told me several Melancholly Thoughts which came into his Mind, at several Times, As when he heard about 1 o'Clock in the Morning a flock of Sheep drove thro' the Gate of the Prison, he reflected how nearly the Life of a rational Creature resembled that of an irrational Brute; both their Lives were inconstant as Air, and both must resign their Breath for the general Service and Benefit of the World.
Immediately before his Execution, he told me, That one Thing made him very uneasy in his Mind, which was, lest he should be strip'd after an indecent and savage Manner at the Tree, as several had shamefully been before him; and desired I would use my Offices to prevent it.
When she Martha Purdue) was 14, she went to Service at Highgate; But her Mistress returning to London in Winter, and having taken a Liking to her, won upon her to attend her to London, which she was averse to, because her Master was inclin'd to be too kind she said to her. In this Place she continu'd some Time, till she was oblig'd to quit it, on account of Familiarities which had pass'd between her Master and Her.
Thus being unfortunately led into a vicious Habit, she was not free from a loose Life, for a considerable Time after. However she wedded a Watch-maker who fell in Love with her, and kept a House some Years in the City, In my first Discourse with her, she said, her Husband was gone to Bristol when she was Apprehended, but thereupon return'd to London. But after she was cast for her Life, he would never see her, declaring that he could not bear the Sight; but she should think herself Happy, if she could once see him before she dy'd.
He said he was 23 Years of Age, born in Surry, near Kingston; That his Father and Mother were not Living; but that he had a Wife, and (I think) 2 Children. He said he was not of any Employ; For, at 12 Years old, a Neighbour of his going to Sea , desired his Father to let him accompany him. Accordingly, he said, he went to the West-Indies, was at Virginia and Carolina, but went very little on Shore. He said he had once a full Design of remaining in New-England, where the Country was pleasant, and the Town of Boston very neat and handsome, and being at Church in the Country, where the Service of the Church of Old-England was perform'd, it was at that Town. But he soon grew too desirous to see his Relations and Acquaintance of his Birth-place; without which Desire he had never suffer'd so shameful a Death amongst them.
He said he was about 27 Years of Age, a single Man. His Father he did not remember, but his Friends would oft have put him 'Prentice, but he was ever averse to it, and delighting in nothing but Hurry and Noise, he most relish'd the Life of a Drawer in a Tavern . At certain Times, when he could not get Business in a Tavern, he serv'd in an Ale-House , not ever finding himself easy, but when in the midst of Clamour and Business.
He said he always had a vast Inclination to go to Sea, but found it was not so agreeable as his Fancy had described it to him.
He said he was in Newgate once before, but was discharg'd by the Turnkeys thro' mistake; but he said it was impossible but he must have been acquitted, for his Companion stole the Ham in dispute, and brought it to him.
At the Sacrament, which was administred before their Execution, he seem'd Devout and Penitent; and appear'd very uneasy if any one spoke to him, or interrupted him in his Duty.
The Behaviour of the Malefactors at the Place of Execution.
Richard Cecil, desired before he dy'd, That I would make it known, that he rob'd a House near the Meufe, and took thence a Sash, and a silver Pepper-box. He said he could not be easy till this was divulg'd, because a Person was suspected, and (I think) taken up for that Fact. He also declared, That as he was then immediately, he hop'd to enter Heaven, be never did affirm that he wou'd be the Death of two Persons in the House of Mr. Windel; as, he said, had deen reported of him, and which had done him much Harm, and might also be Injurious to the Family be left behind him.
Stephen Delaforce spoke to the Spectators; expressing himself, That he hop'd none of them would contemn the Laws made by the King and his Parliament; nor yet any of their Children, so as to occasion that Shame as well as Sorrow to Themselves and their Parents, which he had unhappily occasion'd his.
This is all the Account that can be given by me,
THO. PURNEY, Ordinary and Chaplain.