THE ORDINARY of NEWGATE'S ACCOUNT of the Behaviour, Confession, and Dying Words, Of the THREE MALEFACTORS, Who were executed at TYBURN On Wednesday the Eleventh of OCTOBER, 1752,
NUMBER IX. for the said YEAR.
Printed for, and sold by T. PARKER, in Jewin-street, and C. CORBETT, over-against St. Dunstan's Church, in Fleet-street, the only authorised Printers of the Dying Speeches.
THE ORDINARY of NEWGATE'S ACCOUNT of the Behaviour, Confession, &c.
BY Virtue of the King's Commission of the Peace, Oyer and Terminer, and Jail-Delivery of Newgate, held before the Rt. Hon. ROBERT ALSOP , Esq ; Lord Mayor of the City of London, RICHARD ADAMS , Esq ; Recorder , and other his Majesty's Justices of Oyer and Terminer and Jail-Delivery of Newgate, holden for the said City and County of Middlesex, on Thursday the 14th, Friday the 15th, Saturday the 16th, Monday the 18th, Tuesday the 19th, and Wednesday the 20th of September, in the twenty-sixth Year of his Majesty's Reign, Matthew Lee, John Wilkes, and Thomas Butler, were capitally convicted, and received Sentence of Death accordingly.
Their Behaviour since has been quiet, and without Disturbance, unless of their own Minds; they constantly attended at Chapel, and seemed to have Regard to the Service done there, and decently joined in it, as far as their illiterate and narrow Understandings would give them Leave.
On Thursday the fifth Instant the Report of three Malefactors was made by Mr. Recorder to the Lords of the Regency, when they were pleased to order them all three to be executed on Wednesday the eleventh Instant.
1. John Wilkes , was indicted, for that he on the King's-Highway on Elizabeth Holt , Widow , did make an Assault, putting her in corporal Fear and Danger of her Life, and stealing from her Person one gold Watch, val. 5 l. one thread Purse, val. 3 d. two Silver Medals, one Half Crown, and 6 s. in Money numbered, June 17 .
yet taken, in a certain open Place near the King's-Highway, upon James Chalmers did make an Assault, putting him in corporal Fear, and Danger of his Life, one Silver Watch, val. 4 l. 10 s. in Money numbered, the Goods and Money of the said James, from his Person did steal, take, &c: July 4 .
1. Matthew Lee , aged 20, was born near Boston in Lincolnshire, of honest and industrious Parents, who did what was in their Power to bring up their Children in the Fear of God. This unhappy Youth was kept at School till he was 11 Years of Age, to learn to read and write, and was about that Time he says, put out Apprentice in the Neighbouring Town or Village to a Shoe-maker , to whom he served his Apprenticeship duly and truly. Being out of his Time, his Inclination led him to London, and upon the Invitation of a Brother, he came to Town between two and three Years ago.
Soon after his Arrival in this City, he found himself in a very painful and disagreeable Situation; for he had no Friends capable of supporting or even assisting him. And being bred in the Country, was consequently unacquainted with the Method of dispatching Work either with that Expedition or Neatness that was necessary; he had the Misfortune to find that he was unable to get Employment at his own Business. Thus finding himself deprived of the very Means of Support, by being incapable of following the Business to which he had been bred, he had Recourse to his Brother and other Friends, and laid before them his unhappy Situation, and consulted with them on what was best for him to do to get an honest Livelihood.
After much Deliberation, it was agreed that the best and most effectual Way he had to take was, to get a Waiter s Place at an Inn or Public House in the Country. And Enquiry being made, after some Time he was recommended to the Swan, at Fulham, and there he says he was initiated into public Business, which he liked very well, got Money, and lived there in an agreeable, contented Manner for some Time. From whence he removed to the House known by the Sign of the Town of Newcastle, and from thence to the Sign of the three Tuns, in New-street, Fetter-Lane, where, he says, he lived, till about a Fortnight before he was taken up for the Robbery of which he was convicted.
During his Stay at this House, he contracted an Intimacy with one Walton, a young Fellow who used to come to his Master's House, and one Day, after drinking together, Walton took him aside, and with an Air of Satisfaction told him, that an Aunt of his was lately dead, and had left him a Legacy of 250 l. and that he was going into the Country to receive it. Lee wished him Joy, and congratulated him upon it, and soon after, Walton put the Question to him, Whether or no, as he was a Servant it would not be as agreeable to him to live with a private Gentleman? And then told Lee, that if he would go with him, he should travel with him in the Capacity of a Servant, but should live as well as himself. For, added he, as soon as I have received my Legacy, I'llgo down into the Country to my Father, who is a wealthy old Farmer, and can do for me if he will. So I'll go Home, and endeavour to please him, and it will be better for me one Day or other, and you shall go with me, and live as I do.
Lee, who, in Appearance, was a quiet easy Youth, was persuaded by those Solicitations, and had not the least Apprehension that this was a Trap laid for his Life, as it unhappily proved. But what added great Weight to Walton's Arguments, was a Circumstance that rendered his staying in the Family where he then was by no Means eligible. While he was in this, or one of his former Places, he received a Visit from a Woman, who lived in the House, who entered his Chamber, and stepped into his Bed, without having ever given him any previous Notice of her Intention; and this Visit was afterwards, by their mutual Consent, followed by many others, and this guilty Intercourse was carried on for a considerable Time. The good Understanding this naturally introduced between them, had made him ask to borrow Money of her; she readily complied, till he had received more than he was at this Time able to pay; and then changing her Conduct, endeavoured to make this last Favour turn to her own Account, by importuning him to marry her, and on his Refusal threatning him with a Jail. He was in this Situation when Walton made his Proposal, her Solicitations made him uneasy, and her Threatnings filled him with daily Apprehensions, and from thence he the more readily complied with a Request which he thought would give him present and certain Relief. He therefore packed up his Cloaths, put what little Money he was possessed of in his Pocket, and went away with his new Master; but he had not travelled far with him, when instead of providing for him, and making him a Man, as he had foolishly began to conceive Hopes, he found himself led to his Ruin.
There being a Delay in the Payment of Walton's pretended Legacy, they kept Company together for some Days without any settled Habitation, spending their Time in loitering about the Fields, and in the Public Houses about Kentish-Town, Pancras, and Islington. Thus they lived a very loose and debauched Life for about a Fortnight, 'till all that poor Lee had got by his Industry was squandered away. Then he says, Walton took him into the Fields, and shewed him a Pistol, and telling him, that must provide them more, opened to him the wicked Scene of Action, which he intended to go upon, and which, Walton, as he afterwards found, had been used to, but this he did not know till after he was gone off with him, and had unhappily engaged too far to be able to retreat.
Upon shewing Lee the Pistol, Walton swore, he says, that if he did not consent to assist him, he would blow his Brains out; and then he made Lee take the Pistol in his Hand, and away they went together upon the dangerous and villainous Design, which has proved the Ruin of this ill-fated Youth. They had not, he says, agreed upon this Matter long, before the Prosecutor, Mr. Chalmers, came in Sight; when he, having the Pistol, Walton immediately bid him go up, and stop him. His Heart failed him, and he sat down by the Side ofthe Field, while Mr. Chalmers passed by him. Walton then came up to him, and with Vollies of wicked and blasphemous Oaths reproached him for his Cowardice, and they both went after him directly, and coming up with him, Lee presented the Pistol to him, and demanded his Money, or he was a dead Man. They took some Half-pence from him, but returned them again; and then they took away his Watch, and fourteen Shillings, while Walton stood over him with a large Stick.
Lee's Fear now redoubling, he says, he was making off, but Walton seeing some bulky Substance left in Mr. Chalmer's Pocket, which was thirteen Guineas, would fain have had that too: But, he refused to give it him, and taking Courage, insisted on their giving him his Watch again, or else he would follow them. Upon which they both made off, and he followed them: When Lee having the Pistol, threatned him, if he proceeded; but his Resolution was fixed, which Walton seeing, in order to preserve himself, took the Pistol from Lee, and made off over the Fields. But, Lee having the Watch, was pursued, and fled to Islington; where a Cry of Stop Thief being made after him, and being closely followed by a Horseman, was drove into a Boghouse for Shelter, and being there taken, was carried before a Justice, who committed him to Clerkenwell- Bridewell , and upon Trial was convicted upon clear Evidence.
Since his Confinement he has behaved well, and quietly; but entertained no small Hope of his Life being spared, upon Account of his tender Years, and its being, as he declared all along, his first Fact. He says, he might have lived very well in Service, had it not been for the seducing Means Walton made Use of to delude him. And he protested to the last that the above Account was the real Truth of the Matter.
Thus this unhappy Youth was in a Manner dragged to Destruction, and compelled to commit an Action, that has exposed him to all the Horrors of an ignominious Death: And thus many others are led into these wicked Courses, by inadvertently entering into an Intimacy with Persons to whose Characters they are perfect Strangers; by this Means they indispensably catch the Contagion of Vice, and are either forced or brought willingly to comply with the most villainous Proposals, and being grown hardened in Vice, boldly violate the Laws of Society, and daringly do all the Mischief they can to Mankind; fondly presuming that the Plea of Youth, and the Pretence of its being the first Fact will, whenever they are taken, save them from the Gallows, tho' if they should be so happy as to meet with Mercy, 'tis ten to one if they reform.
When Lee found he was ordered by the Warrant for Death, he began to lament very much, and wept sorely. Being asked, from whence that Profusion of Tears arose, whether from the Thoughts of suffering Death in an ignominious Manner, or from a Contrition for having offended against the Laws of God and his Country, in committing the Action for which he suffered, added to the other Offences of his Life; he answered ingenuously, that it proceeded from the Thoughts of being cut off so soon. However, acknowledging theJustice of his Sentence, he said moreover, he believed it so pleased God, that he should be taken in the first Fact, lest he might go on in those evil Practices, and have greater and more Crimes to answer for of the like Nature, if not Murder in the End. He owned the Justice of his suffering, thanked God for giving him Time to repent of that his early Wickedness, and of all his past Follies, and resigned his Breath to him, who knew what was sit for him, and had Hopes that he would be merciful unto him.
2. John Wilks , was 28 Years of Age, and was born at Ewel, near Epsom, in Surry, of reputable Parents, who had obtained the Esteem and Friendship of the Neighbourhood, tho' their unhappy Son soon deviated from the Principles and Instructions which they endeavoured to instill into him in his early Days. He was kept at School for some Years, and might have had the Advantage of the best Education his Parents could afford, and been put Apprentice to any Trade he had an Inclination to follow; but he acknowledges, that he was thus early of such an unruly Disposition, that he had scarce left School, when, throwing off every Principle of Honour and Honesty, and erasing from his Mind all the early Impressions that had been made by his Parents, he commenced Thief, by stealing a Quantity of Wine from a Gentleman in the Neighbourhood; an Action for which he would then have been transported, had it not been for his Parents, for whose Sake the Prosecution was stifled.
When he was about fourteen Years of Age, his Father determined to send him to Sea, and in Pursuance of this Resolution, made Friends, and got him a Birth on Board one of the King's Ships, the first breaking out of the War.
In this Manner he entered into the World, and continued in this new Station for a considerable Time; but mentions nothing remarkable happening in which he had any Concern, till he was put on Board the Deptford Man of War, which Ship was ordered, in Company with some others, to sail to the East-Indies, under the Command of a Commodore. In this Voyage they had the good Fortune to take three Vessels belonging to the French, from which he reaped considerable Advantage; since he received a great deal Money, as his Proportion of these valuable Prizes, and had more due to him, which he was not permitted to live to receive.
After he was paid off and discharged from the Royal Navy , he went on Board the Ship London, in the East-India Company's Service , and in this Voyage was about thirty-six Months out and Home. Soon after this, he went another Voyage to the East-Indies, in the Scarborough; in this he was only out eighteen Months.
In these Voyages he saved some Money, and on his Return Home, laid it out in Glass, China, &c. in order to get a Livelihood by selling it about the Country, on the Kentish Road, sometimes going as far as Canterbury. In this Business, he says, he engaged at the Instance, and by the Persuasion of a Relation, who got a good Maintenance by dealing the same Way.
This may, for aught I know, be a true Account of some Part of his Life: but he is unhappily but too well knownto the Publick, by having practised frequently the wicked Trade of receiving Goods which had been stolen out of Boats and Lighters; and it seems very probable, that he actually stole Goods out of these Vessels himself, tho' he had the good Fortune He says, never to have appeared before a Magistrate till last July.
His Place of Abode, he says, was in Farthing-Alley, Bermondsey-Street, in the Borough, and this Place he probably chose on Account of its being near the River, which enabled him the more easily to carry on his villainous Design of receiving and concealing the Goods of the plundered Merchants; but in spite of all his Security and Precaution, Justice at last overtook him.
He was committed to Newgate on the 6th of July last, on the Oaths of John Philips , and others, for putting the said John Philips in Fear, and robbing him of a Silver Watch. Afterwards a Detainer came against him, August the 29th, on the Oath of Elizabeth Holt, for assaulting, and robbing her of half a Guinea, and two Medals, and also robbing Charles Holt of a Gold Watch. Upon this last Indictment he was tried, and upon very direct and plain Evidence was found guilty.
Notwithstanding what was sworn by William Smith , the Accomplice and Evidence, Wilks declared, he did not commit the Robbery, nor was with Smith at the other End of the Town that Night. He pretended at first, that he left him near St. Magnus Church , at the Foot of the Bridge, and went no farther with him; but returned to the Green Man and Bell, where he first met with Smith that Night the Robbery was committed, and entirely disowned the Fact, or his having any Hand in it; but that Smith came there again about four o'Clock in the Morning, and then shewed him the Watch.
Afterwards recollecting himself, he acknowledged that he went along with Smith to the other End of the Town. But still he continued absolutely to deny the robbing of the Lady and her Son in the Coach. He says, indeed, they did go together to the other End of the Town, and resolved to commit a Robbery, but yet persisted in it, he neither took the Watch, nor saw it, till Smith shewed it him in Piccadilly, after he had committed the Robbery, which he did by himself for ought he knew.
However, they continued in Company together, and came to the Green Man and Bell, in Darkhouse Lane, where they went to refresh themselves. And the next Day they went down to Billingsgate, where Wilkes says, Smith proposed to him to go and sell the Watch; but Wilkes was afraid, and Smith told him he'd go and sellit himself to an Acquaintance of his in Lombard-street, mentioning the Person. So they parted, and Wilkes says he never saw Smith afterwards, till he saw him in the Old-Bailey, when he came to give his Evidence. He says, he advised Smith not to sell the Watch, because he would surely be discovered, but to let his Mother, or some Friend, carry it as the Advertisement should direct. However, as the other had told him where he intended to sell the Watch, and as Smith never came near him again, he had the Curiosity to go and see, whether such a Watch was sold there or not. He had bought such a Watch as he described, the Gentleman told him, and asked him if it was his? He said no. Then the Gentleman ask'd him if it was honestly come by? And Wilkes replied, It was for ought he knew to the contrary, tho' he owned he told a Lie in so saying, and said he was sorry for it.
Wilkes finding that Smith had sold his Prize, and that it seemed to pass off well, was encouraged, as Things then appeared, to try the same Method, expecting to come off as well as his Comrade had already done.
But before he went to sell the Watch he had robbed Mr. Philips of near Carnaby Market, the Gold Watch sold by Smith was discovered to have been stolen, by an Advertisement in the publick Papers, and owned by the Lady, who, upon seeing it, had made Oath of its being hers before Justice Fielding, from whence it very naturally followed, that Wilkes's going to sell Mr. Philips's Watch at the same Place, raised a Suspicion that that was stole too; he was therefore secured, and being carried before Sir Joseph Hankey, was by him committed to the Compter.
Wilkes acknowledged that he had been a very abandoned Fellow, that he had given himself up to Lewdness, Drinking, and Sabbath-breaking, and excepting the Time he was at Sea,, had always led an idle, vagabond Life. That about two Years and a Half ago he married, and kept a Public House in Radcliffe-Highway; but that not answering, he left off Business, and went to live in Barnaby-street, and that while he was there, he had a Legacy of 150 l. left him by a Friend who died Abroad, which he received about Christmas last, but had spent it in Drunkenness and Debauchery.
He always persisted in positively denying the Robbery Smith charged him with; and though he owned he went out with him with a Design to rob, yet insisted upon it that he did not at that Time put this Design in Execution. He acknowledged, that according to the Evidence, he could not but be condemned, that being sufficiently strong to justify the Jury; but said, that though he had deserved to be hanged before, and in severalInstances he had committed Actions worthy of Death, yet he never thought he should have been hanged for a Crime of which he knew himself to be innocent.
He could not but own the Justness of his Fate; for though he denied the absolute Fact of the Robbery, yet he owned the going out with Smith with an Intent to do what Mischief they could, and with a Resolution to make a Prey of somebody or other. He said he was drunk, and asserted that he never before went out with the same villainous Design, not ever should have gone, but for Smith's persuasions, and taking Advantage of tempting him to it when he was overcome with Liquor, and a Sense of Danger, or the ill Consequences of such Practices as these are, were entirely absent from his Thoughts.
After Conviction, however, he for some Time seemed to take little Notice of the sad Situation he was in, nor did he expect to dye, but hoped for the kind Assistance of some Friends, who were Persons of Note, and considerable Repute. However, they had known his Course of Life too well to interfere with the Sentence of the Law, which his own Crimes and Folly brought upon him; but when he found the Law must be executed upon him by Warrant of the Lords of the Regency, he began to be somewhat more serious, and to consider of his past evil Ways. For some Time, as I have already intimated, he positively denied the Whole of the Matter laid to his Charge by Smith; but at last God opened his Mind, and softened so far his obdurate Heart, as to make him own what Share he had in the Robbery, as related above. He declared to the last, contrary to the Evidence Smith gave against him, that he had known him for above two Years, though he had not been so intimate with him as to engage them to drink together, till very lately, perhaps three or four Months ago. He said, he never was Master of a Pistol in his Life, tho' Smith swore so positively to his furnishing him with one, and that they were both equally to go out upon the same unjust and destructive Scheme, without any Fear of what might be the Consequence. A Day or two before Execution, he began to lament his Condition, and said, he wish'd he had sooner had a Mind so well set towards God and another World, as he then seemed to have. And, though he strove all that in him lay to drive away the Thoughts of his approaching End to the last Moment, as is too frequently the Case of such unhappy Wretches, the awful Idea of his launching suddenly into Eternity had laid such fast hold of him, that he could not shake it off. He acknowledged that he had deferred seeking of God too long, and thathe had been spirited thereto by some evil-minded People, whom he wished he had never spoke to, or seen; who for a while had deceived him, by endeavouring to harden his Heart against Repentance, and making him believe, that there was not that Occasion for Sorrow and Repentance, that he was inclined to think there was.
But, now he was persuaded that these pretended Friends and Advisers were only Engines of the Devil, the common Enemy of Souls, and that he could not be too fervent, or too frequently exercise himself in Prayer to God, for the Forgiveness of the Errors of his past sinful Life, or the Guilt of which he declared himself at last thoroughly sensible, and wished that his Eyes had been before opened to see the Danger he was in.
This unhappy Wretch, tho' an odd Person of a Man, was yet a Fellow of tolerable good Understanding, and had seen a good deal of the World: But, for Want of a Regard to any settled Rule of Life, he had never enjoyed the Benefits which Providence was pleased to bestow upon him; but all he got by his Labour and Experience was entirely thrown away upon him, as it was squandered in Extravagance and bad Company. And, his loose Way of Life made him a Prey to the Snare, that one, not so knowing perhaps as himself, tho' bad enough, had taken into his Head to lay for him. And, tho' he was desired to consider of the Nature of the Evidence given against him by this Villain, left contradicting the Truth at his dying Hour, he might bring more Guilt upon his Head, than he could ever atone for, or get rid of; he protested he had told the Truth, and had now no more to say, but to resign himself to the Will of the Almighty.
3. Thomas Butler , aged 27, was born in the Parish of St. James's Westminster, of Parents who lived very well in Repute, his Father having been Coachman to a certain noble Family for many Years. He says, he was for a considerable Time kept to School, but being of an unlucky Disposition, did not make Use of this Advantage, as he ought to have done; but frequently incurred both his Master's and Father's Correction and Reproof, for playing Truant. When he was about thirteen Years of Age, he was bound Apprentice to a Shoemaker , at the other End of the Town, and by the Time he had served two Years, his roving Inclination began to appear strong in him, and after eloping two or three Times from his Master, and being brought back again, and the Matter made up, he at last took Courage, and told his Father plainly, that he would not stay any longer
with his Master, for he did not like the Business. So his Father agreed with his Master, and his Indentures being cancelled, this unhappy Youth went Home to his Parents again. Then he took to attending the Stables with his Father, as there was no hard Labour required, he, for a while liked that Method of employing his Time very well. But however, being a Lad of a very unlucky Genius, it was not long before he fell into idle Company, and, in Consequence of this, as is always the Case, grew every Day more and more wicked and dissolute in his Manners. So that having once picked a Gentleman's Pocket of his Handkerchief somewhere near the Haymarket, and being known, tho' the Dusk of the Evening covered his Escape by Flight for the present, yet his Father hearing of it, thought proper to send him to Sea, in Hopes of preventing, by this Step, his suffering a worse Fate. He was a lusty Youth, of a very robust Constitution, and fit to encounter with all the Labour and Hardship of that tempestuous Element. His Father having Friends enough to procure him a good Birth in the Merchants Service ; he was therein employed some Years in Voyages to the Streights, the Mediterranean, to Jamaica, and the other Islands of the West Indies. And, afterwards, during the late War, he sailed in several Privateers out of Bristol, Dartmouth, and other Places, which had good Fortune at Sea by taking many rich Prizes, by which Means, a great deal of Money came to this poor unhappy Youth's Share; so that he says, Providence had put it in his Power to live very well and honestly, if he had not, (as is indeed too frequently the Case of young Persons who labour Hard at Sea for a little Money, and then throw it away on Shore in a Manner the most idle and foolish) squandered away all he had obtained by his Courage and Labour, in the wicked Scenes of Drunkenness and Debauchery. But this was not all, his being engaged in these shameful Excesses, brought him again into the Company of some whom he had formerly known, whose vicious Dispositions were adapted to strengthen those he had imbibed, and to lead him into every Species of Villainy; they therefore invited him to join with them in robbing and plundering the Innocent; he accepted of the Invitation and was again in Danger of being laid hold of by the Hand of Justice, for a Street Robbery, when accidentally meeting with a Press-Gang, he was suddenly clapped on Board a Man of War, an Adventure, which, perhaps, for that Time, saved him from the Gallows, However, he was not long easy in this Station, enervated and grown indolent by his late Debaucheries, Work was become his Aversion, and nothing could appear
After he had travelled the Country for some Time, in an idle Manner, living upon begging, and stealing, he fell into another Press-gang, by whom he was conducted to London, and being afterwards carried down to the Downs in a Tender, was put on Board the Mermaid, as he says, where he staid no longer than till he could find an Opportunity to make his Escape.
This in about a Week or ten Days he found Means to do, and again set out for London, where, as soon as he came, he resorted to his old Companions in Iniquity, and, as he was very well acquainted with their Haunts, he soon found out such Society as his wicked Cast of Mind had consented to be joined to, and to be Partaker of any of their evil Ways. After having been very successful at picking Pockets from one End of the Town to the other, and guilty of many Robberies, he was at last apprehended, and at the Sessions in the Month of June, 1747, the Right Honourable William Benn , Esq ; being then Lord-Mayor , he was convicted of Felony, and received Sentence of Transportation for seven Years. He was a Youth of a very daring and enterprizing Spirit, and being pretty much given to Liquor, he generally kept himself warm with it; so that by this Means, (tho' he was naturally undaunted) he kept off all Thoughts of Fear and Danger, and so became the more resolutely bent upon all such wicked Undertakings, and 'twas well for the Publick thus to get rid of so dangerous a Robber. He had frequently committed Crimes that deserved the Gallows, but had the good Fortune for this Time to escape with only a Sentence of Transportation for seven Years.
Accordingly, soon afterwards, I think in July following, he was transported to Virginia, where he staid some Time; and, being a brisk, and able Seaman , he after a while was taken on Board a Vessel bound from Virginia to Carolina, which at that Time wanted Hands; and he, and one or two more, sailed in her that Voyage. He staid with the Vessel while she discharged her Cargo, and loaded again, as he says, for the Bay of Honduras, whither he sailed in her again, and continued in this and other Vessels trading to Virginia, Carolina, the Bay of Honduras, &c. ever since he was transported, till last Spring, at which Time he met with a Vessel bound for England, that wanted Hands, and he, agreeing with the Master of the Ship, for so much Money for the Run, camein her to Bristol; where, after she had discharged her Cargo, he staid not long, before his Contract-money was paid him, and he had his own Liberty to go where he pleased.
He says, he was not unmindful of his Sentence of Banishment, which hung over his Head, and it gave him some Uneasiness to think, if he came where he was known, he was liable to be apprehended by any Body, Yet, notwithstanding all this, a strong Desire to see London, and know whether his old Friends and Companions were yet in Being, got the better of all his Thoughts of the Risque he run in so doing. He therefore set his Face towards London, resolving with himself not to stay long, and hoping to escape the Notice of any one, that might detect him, till such Time as he got a Ship to go Abroad again, and stay out his Time: But he had not been in Town, he says, above five Days, when (very unfortunately for him) he met with one in St. George's-Fields who knew him very well, and with whom he had lived and lodged. This Man, getting proper Assistance, way-laid him, and as he was one Day going over the Fields, rushed on him, and took him. And, notwithstanding all his Entreaties, he could not prevail with them to let him make his Escape; but being carried before a Magistrate, was committed. And, being brought upon his Trial upon an Indictment for returning from Transportation, the Record of the Court was read, that one Thomas Butler received Sentence of Transportation, at the Time above-mentioned; and he being proved by Witnesses, that then knew him to be the same Person, the Jury could not but find him guilty. This being all that is required to be proved by the Act of Parliament, that makes returning from Transportation before the Time stipulated, to be Death, without Benefit of Clergy. Nor had he any Thing to say in his Behalf, only that as is generally said in these Cases, the People swore away his Life for the Sake of the Reward. For these unhappy Wretches never consider that the Mercy of the Legislator, by giving them back the Life they had forfeited, on certain Conditions, which they were perfectly able to perform, had put that Life in their own Power, and that the violating the very Conditions, on which their Lives were prolonged, had not only made these forfeit all Claim to Life, but had exposed them to the Hazard of being obliged to pay the Forfeiture; and that they themselves had escaped from Security, and put themselves in the Way of the People whose Duty it was, as Members of the Society they had injured, and might still injure, to bring them to Justice. How absurd then are all such Complaints, when
these People are thoroughly sensible, that had they been content to suffer the Sentence of the Law, and stay in a Place of Security the Time that was allotted them, they might then return in Safety, enjoy the Privilege of Freemen, and the Benefit of being protected by the Laws of their Country, as long as they continued worthy of this Protection.
Butler's Behaviour after Conviction was, as far as I saw, very quiet and unexceptionable. However, he endeavoured by disowning himself to be the Person, to get his Life saved, nor would he own it till after the Warrant for Execution came down from the Lords of the Regency. There was before some Interest endeavoured to be made to save him, tho' there was no Room for the least Hope; but tho' he buoy'd himself with such Thoughts before, he now began to be more reconciled to his Fate; and when he found he was ordered for Execution, and there was not the least Room to hope for Mercy, he appeared more resigned, and more willing to submit to his Sentence.
By the ill Advice of some, who had stole an Opportunity of whispering him in the Ear, he seemed yet to entertain some Resentment in his Breast against the People that took him, and brought him to Justice, and said, he could not freely forgive some of them, who had known him so long, and in whose Company he had formerly spent a good deal of Money. But, being better advised, with Respect to that Point being an important and most necessary Duty, in Order to entertain Hopes of Forgiveness at God's Hand, he by Degrees changed his Mind, and, at last, thought it necessary to declare his hearty Forgiveness of them, and of dying in Love and Charity with all Men. Having prayed to God for his Grace to soften his hardened and obdurate Heart, he said he found himself better inclined, but that he could not appear so penitent as others, who shed Tears plentifully, (as did the other two unhappy Sufferers with him) for he was of such a Make, that nothing, to the best of his Remembrance, had ever happened to him that could draw Tears from his Eyes. But he was sensible of the Folly and Wickedness of his past mispent Life, and was heartily sorry, and hoped to be forgiven by God and all the World.
I cannot help observing with Regard to this poor unhappy Man, that he seemed to be led by an odd Sort of mistaken Presumption, that in London he should not be taken Notice of, tho' before he was transported, he was known about Town, as well as any Man ever was who followed such evil Practices as render Men liable to the Vengeance and Resentment of the Law. To Bristolindeed he was led by a Prospect of the Advantage of the Voyage, and might easily have gone from thence again, wherever he pleased out of the King's Dominions. But, as if he was resolved on his own Ruin, no where would serve him but where he ought not to go. If we had not too many Instances of this Kind, to convince us of the contrary, one would be apt to imagine, that Men under those Circumstances might find many Countries, in which they might live in Safety, and as agreeable as in England; and where, if they were disposed to reap the Benefits of Industry, they might enjoy as many Advantages as they could hope to receive even in their native Country.
When wicked Men have forfeited their Lives to the Laws of their Country, who is he that does not think it worth his while to do all he can to save it again? Hence 'tis evident that these Men are fond of Life, however some of them endeavour to impose on the World by pretended Undauntedness even in their last Moments: I say, to impose on the World; because where there is Sin, there must be Consciousness of Guilt, and where that is must be Fear, and Dread of Ill, and Mind, what shall be the Consequence of it hereafter, when the Man is about to leap into Eternity! Therefore, I say, when Life is forfeited, and given to a Man again, as it were, and instead of being hanged, he is only transported, what a ridiculous, thoughtless Man must he be, who by returning, throws himself into the Jaws of that very Death, which he strove so anxiously before to save himself from?
At the Place of EXECUTION.
ON Wednesday the 11th Instant, between eight and nine o'Clock, Matthew Lee , John Wilks , and Thomas Butler , were carried in a Cart from Newgate to the Place of Execution. When they were brought there, they appeared very penitent; the two former wept very sorely, but the latter was not moved to Tears, tho' he seemed properly affected at the approaching sad Catastrophe. After some Time spent in Prayer, and recommending their Souls in the Name of Christ and his Church to the Almighty's Protection, they were turned off, earnestly calling on the Lord to receive them to his Mercy. The whole solemn and dismal Scene was conducted with Decency, and good Order, while the Laws were putting in Execution, and when they had hung the proper Time, their Bodies were delivered to their Friends.