Death of a Pauper

This is again from The Life of Silas Told, the sort of gross injustice the Georgian justice system is so infamous, executing a man for stealing a few pennies. That said, the crime wsa so stupid, it is hard to feel sorry for the man, but then, he had clearly reached the end of his wits trying to support his family, so this petty crime was more a cry of despair than criminal behaviour per se. But he died nonetheless, leaving the local parish to support his wife and children, which is why, in part, they intervened.

“Anderson, a poor labouring man, whose character until now was unimpeachable, touching his industry, sobriety, and honesty. He had a wife far gone with child, and a daugher about 7 years old, but was totally destitute for money, cothes and a spot where to lay their heads; having been, by one of their rigid creditors, dispossessed of the mean habitation they formerly held, and necessitated to lie on the floor in such places as they were permitted.

One morning, having been long without employment, he said to his wife, “My dear, I have a strong inclination to go down upon the quays: it may be the Lord willrovide for me a loaf of bread or some other employment, whereby we may sustain ourselves a little longer, or else we shall perish with hunger.” he accordingly went out, but finging all resources fail, temptation entered ito his ind to commence robber. Accordingly he went into Hoxton-fields, where meeting 2 washerwomen, who wer bringing home their clean linen, he, without biddingthem to stop, said to one, “Mistress, I want money.” She replied, “I have only 2 pence.” “Then,” said he, “give me that.”After this he addressed the other, “you have got money, I know you have.” the woman answered, “I have but 4 pence.” He took it likewise, and, scarcely knowing what he did, he walked before them into town. When they arrived at Old-treet, the 2 women called a constable, and both declared that he had stopped them in Hoxton-fields, and robbed them of their money. He was committed to prison, tried, and ast at the Old Bailey, with several others, who lay a considerable time under sentence before the report was made to his Majesty.

In the interim, poor Mrs Anderson,thoug big with her third child, made frequent visits to her husband; and, thruogh the piety of some friends, was enablet so supply him with food. /during the many years I attended the prisoners, I ave not seen such a meek, loving, and tender spirits as appeared in teh countenance and deportment of this por man and his wife. Indee,d they were naturally inclined to few words; but the woman freuqently seating herself by her shusband’s side, and throwing her arms about his neck, they would shed floods of tears to mitigate the anguish which overwhelmed thir united hearts: but it is impossible to do justice t their exquisit sensibility and tender affection. Whe I callled the prisonersinto the press-yard room, they behaved with the deepest attention…

The morning of his execution being arrived, I attended him a little past 6 o’clock, and upon his being let down from his cell, found him to be excedingly happy in his mind. He said he had no doubt of his salvation, and that he would shortly be with Jesus, … and added, “This is the happiest day I ever saw in my life. O! Who can exprss the joy and peace I now feel! If only I could have all the world, I would not wish to live another day.!” The minister, churchwardens, and overseers, with several others of St Luke’s parish, presented various petitions to His Majesty on his behalf and he had an honourable character from the captain of the man-of-war whereto he formerly belonged, and from which he was regularly discharged; yet when his case was under the consideration of the Privy Council, by a wrong informatin which hey received, that he was the Anderson who was an audacious highwayman at the time he was included in the death warrant.”

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