THE ORDINARY of NEWGATE His ACCOUNT of the Behaviour, Confession, and Dying Words OF Matthew Henderson, Who was Executed on FRIDAY the 25th of APRIL, 1746.
NUMBER II. For the said YEAR.
Printed, and sold by M. COOPER, at the Globe in Pater-noster Row, 1746.
THE ORDINARY of NEWGATE His ACCOUNT of the Behaviour, Confession, &c.
BY virtue of a commission of Oyer, Terminer, and Goal-delivery of Newgate, held before the Right Honourable Sir Richard Hoare , Knt . Lord Mayor of the city of London, the Right Honourable the Lord Chief Justice Lee, the Right Honourable the Lord Chief Justice Willes, Mr. Baron Reynolds, Sir Simon Urling , Knt . Recorder , and other of his Majesty's Justices of Oyer and Terminer for the city of London, and county of Middlesex, at Justice-hall in the Old Bailey, on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, the 9th, 10th, and 11th of April, 1746. one malefactor, Matthew Henderson, was capitally convicted of the murder of his lady, mistress Dalrymple, and for the same was sentenced to die.
While under sentence, he was exhorted to think upon the evil of his ways and doings, what a sad and bitter thing it is to depart from the true and living God, and to give himself up to the service of sin and Satan, the great enemy of mankind, who is still going about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. It was also represented to him, although he was young in years, yet he was old in sin, as having committed a most atrocious, and most horrid crime, for which he nor all the world could ever make the least satisfaction oratonement. He was earnestly desired to apply seriously to God Almighty, to wash him in the blood of the Lamb, the immaculate Lamb of God, the Son of God, even Jesus Christ the righteous, who came to take away the sins of the world: he was also exhorted to repent of all his sins, especially that most grievous sin of murther, committed upon his good well-natured mistress, always most kind to him, having never offended him in any respect whatsoever, as he more than once told me, which was joining ingratitude to the barbarous and most cruel sin of murther. He plainly confessed his enormous villanies, and that the punishment of his iniquity was infinitely less than what he deserved; for why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins? He was also instructed in the nature and design of the Christian sacraments, intended for our further comfort and edification in our most holy Christian faith, until in the end we come to the completion of our faith, and grace be consummated in glory. While these and many other exhortations were given, he always behaved very quiet and apparently serious; but his crime was so exceeding great, that he did not deserve to partake in the sacrament of our blessed Lord's last supper; yet Christ having not come to call the righteous (who are lifted up with an opinion of their own righteousness) but sinners to repentance, in case of sincerity, I would not willingly discourage the greatest sinner, who was earnestly desrous of coming to God. He was accordingly directed how to prepare for death, and for partaking in the blessed sacrament of our Lord's last supper, which he did in all appearance very penitently and devoutly.
Matthew Henderson was indicted for petty treason, for that on the 25th day of last March he, with force of arms, came into his mistres's bed-chamber, and there did, with an instrument called a choping knife, wound and kill his said mistress, Elizabeth Dalrymple ; and then he was indicted for privately stealing some money, and several things of value in the house of his master, the honourable William Dalrymple , Esq ; to both which indictments he pleaded guilty.
distance of three hundred and sixty miles from London. His father gave him some education at school, to read and to write, and instructed him in the principles of the Christian religion, and kept him to the church as it is established in Scotland. His father having several children to maintain, and being in no large circumstances, his mother, to assist all she could, took in nurse-children, one of which was the niece of the unfortunate Mrs. Dalrymple. This gave the poor lady occasion to become acquainted with Henderson's family, and as she used to visit her niece, she there saw Matthew, who appearing to her a pretty well behaved boy, she resolved, when he was of years, to make him her servant , and if he behaved well to provide for him. And indeed he gave some hopes that he would have proved as it was expected from him; for he never shewed any vicious inclination, never, as he protested, having associated himself with bad company, though he might have been encouraged to it by the example of his elder brother, who with some young rakes in the country resolved to leave their parents, and run the risk of their fortunes abroad, and setting sail for the American plantations have not been heard of since. There is something so uncommon in this malefactor's case, that it is a matter of surprize how he came to commit this bloody fact. He declared solemnly, before two reverend clergymen, that he had never been vicious the whole course of his life, that he never was given to liquor, and had never been disordered by it in his days, saving one time when he was a child he was made to drink too much for the sport of a company. This cannot be charged to him as a crime. He having no acquaintance with any debauched people, nor having any inclination that way, there was no body to advise him to this horrid deed: it may then be inferred, that it was some sudden frenzy, or a fit of madness which provoked him to commit it. - It was asked him whether he had received any provocation from his lady, which might make him resolve upon some method of revenge - He answered, no: but as it was thought he did not reply directly to the question, the same was insisted upon again, and then he confessed that he had taking a resolution to have more wages or to leave the service - that he had not received any usage to move him to conceive malice or hatred against his lady, no more than what will happen to other servants when they are rebuked for not being diligent. Insisting then, that he had no other resolution than to leave his lady, if more wages were not allowed him. - One of the clergymen
asked him whether or no he could remember that he had heard that any of his family had been disordered in their minds - He said, as to his father and mother he believed not, but as for his aunt, he knew her often out of her senses; and as to himself he believed he might partake of some of her distemper, for that at times he was in such excess of mirth, that he was like one intoxicated with liquor; at other times so melancholic and gloomy that he could not bear any one to speak to him; that he was then unfit for any business, and would avoid and shun all manner of company. Such a fit came upon him the day he murdered his mistress, but as it was attended with a drowsiness, he imputed it to his having set up late, and rising early, to which he said he was not accustomed, being ordered to bed about eleven at night, and rising but about seven in the morning. As he persisted to speak of his former good behaviour, that he had never been wicked till this horrid crime, he was pressed upon to give an account of it, for nothing can appear more strange, than that he should have done it without any instigation: For he repeated it several times, that there was no provocation in him to wish ill to his master's family, much less to embrue his hands in his lady's blood: for the whole time he had lived with them, which was five years and three days in all, part of which time he was in England, that is about two years, he declared he had no reason to complain. But though he had received no usage to move him to this murder, yet it was thought that he had conceived an intention to rob the house, and that this put it into his head to kill his lady, as an expedient to prevent a discovery; but this he solemnly denied, and again he repeated it, that he had no intent, no design, no meaning in the murder; and, if we can credit him, surely it must be the effect only of madness. But be this as it will - he continued to impute this misfortune to the maid's absence that night, for, said he, had any person been in the house,
"believe it had checked me, and
"prevented this piece of barbarity." - For while he was by himself, and preparing for his bed, on a sudden he remembered there was a choping knife in the kitchen, and to some use he resolved to put it; down stairs he went, and while he held it in his hand, thinking what he should do with it, he bethought of his mistress, went up to her chamber, but having some tremor upon him, he stood still a while However the temptation growing upon him, and he giving way to it, it proved so strong that he could nolonger resist it; to his lady's bed he went, and having no light with him, he missed his first blow, but repeating his strokes he reached her, and left her weltring in her blood. When she felt the wound, she cried, Lord, what is this! - When he had left her in this manner, he returned to his bed, flung himself down upon it several times, bitterly reflecting upon his crime, and saying to himself, Lord, I must now be hanged. He got up again, took the bloody instrument, went to the privy-house, and there flung it down. Then it came into his head to rob the house, and he set himself about it with all the dispatch he could. Several things of value he accordingly took, and as for the money he knew not the sum till his hurry was over, and that he had time to reckon it. The several things and money he took are mentioned in the indictment, but as to the pearl necklace with which he is charged, he declared he knew nothing of it.
Some persons were suspected to be concerned with him, and at first he was not thought of, for the maid returning in the morning found him in the airy, which door shuts with a spring, so that he could not get into the house till she had opened the street door; and as she opened the parlour windows, perceiving the chest of drawers were opened, called to him and said, that either her mistress had opened them, or the house was robbed. Upon this he came into the parlour, and shewed the maid that several things were missing; but she going up the stairs to see if all were safe there, perceived some blood upon the stairs, and going in to her mistress's room discovered the dead body bleeding upon the floor. Matthew upon this went directly to call for help, and informed the neighbours, that his master's house was robbed, and his mistress murthered. He even offered himself to be the messenger of this news to his master, who was then at Richmond, where he had been to take lodgings for his niece for the recovery of her health. But e'er long the suspicion fell upon Matthew, and the maid was released, who had been taken up as a person accessary and concerned. When he was brought before the justice he peremptorily denied the fact, but having to do with a person who knew how to examine him, his guilt soon appeared. His accusing of people proved his own guilt, and they had like to have suffered, if God had not moved him to a free and open confession, which he shortly made after his commitment to the Gate-house.
While he was in the Gate-house, the Captain's nephew with another gentleman went to see him; when he was called down, he turned his back upon them, hung down his head, and wrung his hands.
When he was brought to the bar he pleaded guilty to the indictments, and under sentence of death he shewed great signs of penitence, came up to chapel, and behaved with great decency, modesty, and meekness. As he was a dissenter, some clergymen of that denomination came to visit him, and two of our church frequently exhorted and prayed for him. All this he took kindly, for as he used to frequent, as he said, at all opportunities, the Meeting nearest his master's house, he could give a tolerable account of the principles of religion. These clergymen gave him books, pointed to those places which were the fittest for his meditation and prayers, and bestowed such instruction upon him as I believe made him truly sensible of his heinous crime.
Though he was but young, and by his looks a perfect boy, yet he was married, and his wife came daily to allow him support.
He could not forbear reflecting upon the maid's absence from his master's house, saying, that he verily believed it had prevented his crime, for he could have got no instrument to do it with, saying his master's sword, which he never thought of, but upon considering with himself, since his condemnation, with what he could have committed the murder had the choping knife been out of his way, or locked up from him, which it had been if the maid had but staid at home.
He was asked, whether it was true that he had sworn revenge upon his mistress, because she shewed her displeasure at his marriage, and turned his wife off of her service? This, said he, was a false report, for his mistress never knew that he was married, and his wife left her service voluntarily.
But the Wednesday before he died, he related a particular thing which had happened between him and his mistress that day week before he murdered her. As he was in the parlour curling his master's hair, turning himself about he accidentally trod upon his lady's toes: she took no notice of it then, but when the Captain was gone out, she said to him, Sirrah, how did you dare to tread upon me! he said, Madam, excuse me, I did it not designedly; but she gave him, in her passion,a blow on the head, and threatned to discharge him her service. - He replied, you shall not turn me away, for I will go of my own accord. This passed off, and he said, and declared solemnly it gave him no mind to revenge himself, nor that he conceived any the least resentment upon it: for when he was about to murder her, this did not at first occur to his mind, but his heart misgiving him, a sudden thought o'er-took him, brought him to remember the blow he had received, which heightened the temptation, deprived him of all humanity, and hurried him on to spill her blood.
When news was brought him, that he had been reported to his Majesty, and that his execution was ordered, it gave him such a surprize, that he did not recover himself for some time. - Being asked, how he came to be so surprized, when he could hope for no mercy? - He answered - I did not expect to die so soon.
He complained at the officiousness of a certain methodist, who sent him a letter signed, R. F. - the contents of which, when he began to read them, gave him so much dislike, that he had not the patience to go through with it, and declared in chapel, that they must be very deluded persons to think their sins to have been washed away seventeen hundred years ago, and that they have nothing more to do than to believe in the blood of Christ. - If this be the condition of salvation, (these were his very words) a man need be under no dread of what he does, since he stands clean before the eyes of God from that day, that Christ suffered upon the cross. Shewing this letter to a dissenting clergyman, he took it from him, and advised him to repent of his sins, and then the blood of Christ would avail him.
For a lad of his years he gave very pertinent answers to the questions which were put to him concerning his faith: he was fully persuaded of a future judgment, and trembled at the certainty of it. He gave a very good account of his manner of devotion, how he spent his time in the cell, and how he was deeply concerned for his sins, and that he did not dread death, but because it would open to him the gates of eternity, either of happiness or misery - He said, he was well persuaded that his mistress would accuse him before the judgment feat of God. - And how shall I excuse myself there, but by my sincere repentance here? These were his very expressions.
In short, as he appeared truly penitent, we hope, that, professing true faith in Christ, God, through his infinite mercy, has pardoned all his sins.
P. S. The day before he died, he was visited in the morning by the minister of St. Sepulchres, attended by another clergyman. He then took the Sacrament, and to appearance was deeply concerned. In the afternoon another clergyman visited him, prayed by him, and preached to him, and after divine service he made use of proper arguments to move Henderson to a free and open confession; to which he said, Sir, I have nothing more to add to what I've already told you; and then being spoke to concerning the great duty of restitution, he protested he had returned every thing, even to a pair of stockings, and with regard to the necklace, he declared he knew nothing about it. Being asked whether he was in peace and charity with all the world, he replied that he was, though perhaps Mary Platt , (that is his fellow servant ) may think the contrary, because I've refused her to see me; I cannot see her, for she would recal to my mind, as it were, my bleeding mistress standing before me, and oh! would to God she had but staid at home, and this murder had been prevented! - Why? - Because I could not have got the knife, for she lay in the kitchen, and always locked herself in, and I had thoughts of no other instrument to do it with.
As he was visited by several clergymen, one asked him, whether he had at any time been tempted to commit murder? He could not deny but he had - Yes, says he, I have, and then went on with the relation thus - Two days before Christmas day last was twelve month, I was so exasperated at the ill-usage of a serjeant in the guards, that I fully determined to kill him: with this bloody design I loaded two pistols, and was resolved to watch him in order to shoot him, but being seized with remorse, to prevent mischief, I unloaded the pistols, and laid them aside.
In the bitterness of his soul, as he was spoke to in the chapel, he would cry out - Were there ten thousand hells, I deserve them all for the murder of my mistress.
At the Place of EXECUTION.
ABOUT seven in the morning he went up to chapel, where he received the Holy Communion of the body and blood of Christ. When the service was over, a dissenting minister, of whose congregation he was a member, gave him an exhortation, after which he was led to his cell: but soon was the cart called to lead him to execution amidst the greatest multitude of people of all ranks ever known upon such an occasion. When he came near the place of execution, the cart was ordered to turn down Holly street, on one side Cavendish-square, so that he might pass by his master's door. When he came to the tree, the minister, who attended, asked him several questions with regard to a further confession, but again he solemnly declared he had told him all. Prayers beginning, he devoutly knelt, seemed to pray with great zeal, professed the heinousness of his crime, and acknowledged his punishment just. After that his soul had been recommended to the infinite mercies of God, the dissenting gentleman gave him an extempore prayer, and sung a part of the 51st psalm. This being over, he stept from the cart upon a ladder, and as he was mounting it he prayed very devoutly. When he was turned off, as his body was light, he struggled a great deal, and after he had hung a while, having still life in him, his legs were pulled, and some blows were given him upon the breast to put him out of his misery. After he was hanged dead, he was carried away to a place near Edger, about five miles from London, there to be gibbeted in chains, to deter others from the like crime, which God grant!
N.B. It is worth notice that Henderson survived his mistress only one month, for the 25th of March last was the day he murdered her. When he was called out of the cell to be haltered, some offered him a glass of wine, but he refused it, telling them it was no time for him to drink. He reflected upon some one in Newgate, who, before his trial, would fain persuade him not to plead guilty. - What, said he, have I not committed a crime great enough already, without adding to it a lye? He cleared every body from being concerned with him, and said, that he could not rest, when he thought that innocent persons might have suffered for what he alone, without the knowledge of any, had done by himself.