THE Ordinary of NEWGATE his ACCOUNT of the Behaviour, Confessions, and Last Dying Words of the Malefactors that were Executed at Tyburn, on Monday the 11th of September, 1721.
AT the Sessions held at Justice-Hall, in the Old Bayly, and which began on the 30th of August, were try'd and convicted of Capital Crimes, and sentenced to dye, Four Men, viz. John Meff, John Wigley, John Reading, and William Casey.
During the Time that they lay under the Sentence of Death to the Day of their Execution, they had Prayers in the Chapel of Newgate each Day in the Morning and Afternoon. I endeavour'd also, as I was capable, to explain to them those Chapters in Scripture especially, which immediately relate to Repentance and Regeneracy. And what Questions were propos'd to me, concerning the Nature of Hell Torments, the Duration and Continuance of them, the intermediate State of the Soul, and the like; I solved them to the best of my Abilities, as I hoped they offer'd them to me out of a sincere Desire to arrive at the Knowledge of the Truth, and not to gratify an impertinent Curiosity, much less to see if I was capable of Solving their Difficulties, and Answering their Objections.
On Sunday the 10th Instant, I preach'd to them from the following Words.
Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give ye Rest.
Take my Yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in Heart, and ye shall find Rest unto your Souls.
For my Yoke is easy, and my Burden is light. Mat. 11. 28, 29, 30.
In our Endeavours to illustrate the Words, we considered,
FIRST, The Invitation, Come unto me. - Made also to the Jews Esaiah 55. 1. and Ezek. 18. which the Prisoners were to comply with, (1) As they had not one Day more before they enter'd upon Eternity, and were assured of their Everlasting Fate. (2.) As no less than their Souls depended on their acceptance of this Favour and Kindness, nor could they pretend that they were not offer'd Heaven, &c.
SECONDLY, The Persons by Christ invited, All ye - (viz. both those who led sober Lives, and yet labour'd under Original Depravity, and those who reduced themselves to the violent Death of Hanging on a Tree.) Notwithstanding the Predestinarian's Assertion, who is pleased to admit some to, and exclude others from the Grace of God; saying to the Almighty, hither shall his Mercy extend, and there shall his gracious Arm be stayed, boldly limitting unlimitted Infinity.
THIRDLY, We took occasion to consider the Labour and heavy Load, which is the Portion of Sinners upon Earth. Ye that Labour and are heavy Laden.—To wit, while the Murderer is haunted with consciousness of Guilt, that cries aloud in his Bosom, Blood for Blood! While the Debauchee is loaded with Diseases that impair his tottering Frame: And while the Robber, who has divided himself from Humanity, is attended with Terrors, obliged to stifle his Fears in Wine and Riotings, nor dares lay down his Head in Sobriety to Rest, so long as consciousness of Evil pursues his Steps, nor can the Way be discover'd of flying from himself.
FOURTHLY, the Terms or Conditions of Acceptance. Take my Yoke upon ye. - Exchange the heavy Yoke of Sin, for the gentle Yoke of Virtue. As (1) Submit to the restraints of Civil Laws, nor hold yourselves at Liberty to bid defiance to the World, and to grasp by Violence whatever ye meet on the publick Ways. (2) Have Humility; Learn of me who am Meek and Lowly, and ye shall find Rest. For Meekness is the Natural Parent of Peace, and obtains us Temporal Quiet, as well as Eternal Joys.
FIFTHLY, We considered the Encouragement given us to take the Burden and Yoke of Christ; Because his Yoke is easy and his Burden is light. (1) It cannot be Harsh and Troublesome, as it comes from the greatest and sincerest Friend that Man e'er knew. (2) As it eases us of a heavier and more pondrous Load, the Misery of Impiety, and the Difficulty of the Jewish Ceremonies and Observances. (3) As Religion is further also in its own Nature Delightful and Pleasant to those who are rightly engag'd in it, and can be pleased with the Company and Favour of their Creator, being satisfy'd with acting what becomes a rational and thinking Being.
SIXTHLY and LASTLY, Supposing the Duty of Repentance before perform'd, We endeavour'd to evince the Necessity of the Holy Sacrament, and mentioned the Requisites to that incumbent Duty.
The Behaviour of the Prisoners under Sentence of Death.
PERHAPS there has not often been Men under Condemnation, of Minds naturally more Corrupt and Dead to the Sentiments of Humanity, than the most of Those who were Yesterday Executed; whether we consider their Behaviour at their Tryals, their indecent unconcern, and even Ridicule at time of their Sentence given, or their little Regard afterwards of what had been pass'd upon them. But tho' they appear'd so abandon'd at the first of their Condemnation, yet when they heard that the Warrant was come down for their speedy Execution; They then discover'd that they had something of the Rational remaining in them, and that 'tis perhaps impossible wholly to extinguish that Principle of Thinking aright, which God has put into our Breasts, tho' by an abandan'd Course of Life, Humanity may be so far obscur'd as to seem destroy'd. For tho' even Death at some distance could no Way shock them, in its nearer Approach it alarmed them sensibly; they furnish'd themselves at once with Bibles, Prayer-Books, and what else was necessary; they were changed at once from a careless to a grave Deportment, and the concern of their Hearts very manifestly appear'd; they were solicitous never to omit the publick Prayers, and assured me, they were as constant at their Devotions alone. They seem'd desirous of informing themselves in the Points most necessary to Salvation, and especially the Nature of the Sacrament.
1. John Meff, alias Merth) was convicted of Returning without Lawful Cause, from his Majesty's Plantations in America, having been thither Transported among other Convicts from Newgate for the space of Seven Years. It appearing to the Court a Scruple whether the other fresh Crime which he was to have been Indicted for was not committed at such a Time, as to include the Offender within his Majesty's late Act of Grace, the Court thought it proper to set aside that Fact, and to try him upon the late Act of Parliament, for the more effectual Transportation of Felons, which fully appearing, he was found Guilty and Sentenc'd.
This Prisoner was about 40 Years of Age, Born in London, of French Parents, who fled for Protection, and the Sake of their Religion into England, when the Protestants were, by Lewis the XIV, extirpated out of France: But after a continuance of twelve Years in England, finding it difficult longer to maintain himself and Family, he went over to Holland; and this Prisoner said, it was a heavy Calamity to him that he could not see his Parents before he dy'd.
He said, that being put 'Prentice to a Weaver , his Master approv'd of him, as a diligent and careful Youth; and he added, that if he did not continue so when he was a Man, 'twas in a great Measure owing to his Trade, which was not a Maintenance for himself, and his first Wife and Children.
He also said, that when he was before Condemn'd for Breaking open a House, and got off thro' the Executioner's being Arrested, he
was not the Contriver or Occasion of that Stop to publick Justice; adding, that after that Deliverance from what his Crimes deserv'd, he made in his Mind a solemn Resolution to lead a Regular and Orderly Course of Life, and to be proof against all the Solicitations of Comrades and Acquaintance, if such he should meet in his Transportation; but he knew not what Fate hung over him, as his Terrors were removed, his Resolutions dissolved.
But this Weakness in his Nature he believ'd would not have occasion'd his Ruin, had he quietly been landed in America; but as the Ship (he said) which carried the Convicts, was taken by Pirates, it run him into Hurry and Confusion, and alter'd his intended Scheme: For as he refused to Sign a Paper, in order to his becoming a Pirate among them, they set him with eight others a-shore in a Desart Island wholly without Inhabitants. He added, That an Indian Cannoe arriving by Accident there, prevented their perishing with Hunger, as they all expected; for getting into the Vessel, when the Indians were gone up the Island, they sailed from one small Isle to another, till they reached the Coast of America: There (he said) instead of settling in his Majesty's Plantations, he prefer'd the Life of a Sailor , and lived upon the Ocean a considerable Time, carrying Merchandize from Virginia, South-Carolina, &c. to Barbades, Jamaica, and other British Islands: But being too desirous (he said) of seeing how his Wife and Children fared in England, he resolved to return at all Adventure; where having no Maintenance, he fell again to his wicked Practices, and was committed to Newgate on suspicion of robbing a Person near London; from which Prison breaking out, thro' the Assistance of a certain Bricklayer, he was afterwards taken again, being discover'd (he said) by the same Bricklayer; adding also, that while he lay conceal'd at Hatfield, he had a sort of Illusion upon him, and, as if some Ill Spirit or Genius had attended him, he continued there, tho' 'twas so probable he should be discover'd if he stay'd in England.
Before he died, he said he was very easy and resigned to the Will of Providence; and he hoped his Father, a Gardener at Amsterdam, would keep his Children by his first Wife from starving, when he should hear of his wretched Fate; and that his present Wife was able; by her Industry, to bring up her own Offspring, for that she was an honest and careful Woman, and (during the nine Months he had been wedded to her) had prest him to go over to Ireland, and lead a regular and sober Life.
When he was to receive the Holy Sacrament, he said he doubted not but thro' the Merits of Christ, he had made his Peace with God; that he had had enough of this restless and tumultuous World, and was seeking a quieter and better; thanking God that he had not been molested with the least Cursing and Swearing in the Condemn'd-Hold, but had Opportunity of employing every Moment in the Service of God, and the saving his Soul.
2. James Reading) was convicted of Assaulting George Brownsworth, in Company with two others, between Islington and the Turnpike, two whereof stopt him till one came out of a Ditch and violently pull'd him from his Horse; where they robb'd him of a Watch, a Pair of Silver
Spurs, Silver Buckles, two Guineas, &c. on the 22d of July, about Nine o'Clock at Night.
This Malefactor was about 35 Years of Age, an Inhabitant in London, where he had been in Association with many lewd and vicious Men, some of which he impeach'd and caused to suffer. He own'd that he had often robb'd (being a Footpad) in the Road to Hampstead; that two of his Comrades in those Attempts had been executed, but Shaw and Burridge, he said, had not yet felt the Law. He confess'd that he was privy to the Murther of Captain Hedges of Mile-End, but knew not where the Body was laid, nor had he any of the 50 l. he was carrying Home from the Bank, being at that Time taken up and put into Prison. He said there was three Men concern'd in the Murther of Mr. Philpot, Surveyor of the Window Lights; that he knew two of them, but would not say any thing of the third; but added, that they would in Time be brought to horrible Justice. At the Place of Execution, he said he hoped he had made Heaven sure to himself, and that he died a Member of the Popish Church.
3. John Wigley) of St. Mary at Islington, was condemn'd for Assaulting Symbol Conyers near Islington, on the 7th of August last, about Nine at Night, in Company with two other Footpads, who took from him a Watch, a Pair of Silver Spurs, four Shillings in Money, &c. One crying out Knock him down! while the other two held their Pistols to his Breast, and pluck'd him from his Horse.
This Prisoner was about 40 Years of Age, by Trade a Plaisterer , to which he served five Years, but did not, he said, follow that Business much till lately; that he lived with an Old Woman who sold Brandy in a little Place on Finchley-Common; but he deny'd that she used to advise or direct him in his ill Practices: He said indeed that he lived with her in an unlawful Manner; but as for the Murther of the Old Man her Husband in the Fields, as he was going from London to his Home, he said I had received a wrong Account of it, and that the Old Man was not murther'd; but being a great Drinker of Brandy, had impair'd his Constitution, and being be-nighted, got into a Barn to lodge, near Hornsey, and died in the Night Time.
He said, tho' he had committed many Robberies, (in particular a Coach and four Gentlemen on Horseback by Islington very lately) yet it was not his Method to robb in Gangs, or with Comrades; for that tho' they even gave their Oaths to be true to each other, and there was sometimes found some Faith among them, yet when their Lives were touch'd, they were regardless of their former Promises, and would betray and impeach the nearest Friends.
He also added, that he had great Comfort in being without Children, who would have been miserably expos'd to the wide World, helpless and defenceless; for that tho' they continued Robbers never so long, they could never lay up against a Gloomy Day, in which there must be the immediate Hand of Providence.
At the Sacrament, he appear'd with a serious Deportment and penitent Behaviour, and express'd a great Earnestness and Fervency all the Way he went to Execution, and left the World with the greatest Appearance of Sorrow for the many Sins of his Life.
4. William Casey) was convicted of assaulting Joseph Stone in St. James's-Park, the 10th of July, about Eleven o'Clock at Night, together with three others, who robb'd him of a Hat, Wig, Neckcloath, and fourteen Shillings in Money, and then stamp'd upon him, bruised him, and broke a Rib, saying, if he cry'd out, they would sware Sodomy against him.
This Prisoner was about 20 Years of Age, enlisted into his Majesty's Service four Years , and had served in Spain. He behaved himself, during his Condemnation, with much Seriousness and Devotion; never once miss'd the Prayers in the Chapel the whole Time, but repeated the Responses, &c. with the greatest Care and Concern. But he much accused a Corporal, before he died, for urging (as he said) the Evidence against him, and saying he would be revenged on the Family to the third Generation, because William Casey's Father had threaten'd him for ravishing his young Daughter, and had a Letter wherein he, in part, confess'd that Fact, which Abuse William Casey declared, had he not been thein Spain he would have endeavour'd to have had Satisfaction for.
He also told the People before he was turn'd off, that he had been suspected of Robbing and Murthering a Woman in the Park; he did not say any thing of the Robbery, but declared, he was not the Person who murder'd her, nor had he murder'd any other Person during the whole Course of his Life.
The Paper which he gave me at the Place of Execution contain'd the following Words.
I Am now brought to this Place to Suffer a Shameful and Ignominious Death, and of all such unhappy Persons 'tis expected by the World they should eieither say something at their Death, or leave some account behind them. And having that which more nearly concerns me, (viz. the Care of my Immortal Soul) I chose rather to leave these Lines behind me, than to waste my few precious Moments in talking to the Multitude. And first, I declare I Die a Member, tho' a very unworthy one, of the Church of England as by Law Establish'd; the Principles of which, my now unhappy Father took an early Care to Instruct me in. And next, for the Robbery of Mr. Stone, for which I am now brought to this fatal Place, I solemnly do declare to God and the World, that I never had the Value of one Halfpenny from him; and that the Occasion of his being so ill used was, that he offered to me that Detestable and Crying Sin of Sodomy.
I take this opportunity, with almost my last Breath, to give my hearty Thanks to the Honourable Colonel Pitts, and Colonel Pagill, for their Endeavours to save my Life: And indeed I had some small hopes that his Majesty, in Consideration of the Services of my whole Family, having all been faithful Soldiers and Servants to the Crown of England, he would have extended one Branch of his Mercy to me, and have sent me to have serv'd him in another Country; but welcome be the Grace of God, I am resign'd to his Will, and die in Charity with all Men, forgiving, hoping to be forgiven my self thro' the Merits of my blessed Saviour Jesus Christ. I hope, and make it my earnest Request, no Body will be so ill Christians as to reflect on my Aged Parents, Wife, Brothers or Sisters, for my untimely End. And I pray God, into whose Hands I commend my Spirit, that the great number of Sodomites in and about this City and Suburbs, may not bring down the same Judgment from Heaven as fell on Sodom and Gomorrah. William Casey.
T. PURNEY, Ordinary.
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