The 1697 ‘Escape of Debtors’ act

I have previously – and only briefly – discussed the 1697 act against the sanctuaries, looking at those places named in it, and their geographical distribution. Below, I present the full text of the statute. The abolition of ‘pretended privileged places’ is just one clause, number 15, out of 22. The rest of the act concerns the management of the prisons, specifically the Fleet and the King’s Bench, the escape of imprisoned debtors, and extortionate practices against prisoners. Certain provisions tacked on the end are made for particular individuals.

Again, as with the other legislation I’ve transcribed, it’s nearly impossible to read. Every clause is a single sentence, every sentence a clause, terms are continually repeated, singulars reinforced with plurals. And that’s before considering the archaic and latin terms used. Add to this the need for context – the motivations driving the law, the parliamentary debate around it, the manner of its writing, the whole legal apparatus producing and enforcing it – and the modern reader is at a considerable distance from it. This distance is further increased given the way the laws inter-relate with each other, defining terms, clarifying clauses, repealing some sections, augmenting others. The whole of the law is more than the sum of its statutes.

So this body of texts requires different ways of reading, to bring out the structures, links and patterns embodied within. Laws can be data-mined, to pull out names and locations for example. The vocabulary can be counted, to show stock phrases and unusual occurrences. Texts can be visualized, with ‘graphs, maps and trees’, to use Franco Moretti’s taxonomy. The computer now allows us to do this, although not as easily as one might think. In this way one can read the whole of the law, going beyond the time-consuming, comprehension-limited and mind-melting strictures of turning every page.

My next few posts will look at ways of analyzing the tortured prose below. But as a quick taster, note that the section pertaining to the sanctuaries adds ‘she’ and ‘her’ to the list of subjects, as in “he, she or they.” Only in this one clause, and then only towards the end, in the parts relating to the aiding, abetting and concealing escapees, are women so specified. From the other legislation I’ve read, this is quite rare; a quick search has revealed a solitary ‘she’ in the Black Act §2. Gender in the law is an important question, and one eminently susceptible to the digital techniques as mentioned above.

Note: Spelling has not been modernised; italics and marginalia have been omitted.

 

8 & 9 William III c.27 An act for the more effectual relief of creditors in cases of escapes, and for preventing abuses in prisons and pretended privileged places.

Whereas by reason of the many grievous extortions and ill practices of such persons who have for several years past respectively executed the offices of marshal of the King’s Bench, warden of the Fleet, and keeper of the Marshalsea, Newgate, and other prisons, and by several pretended privileged places within this realm, both creditors and debtors have been notoriously abused, and the good intents on the law wholly eluded: for reformation thereof be it enacted by the King’s most excellent majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons, in this present parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, That from and after the first day of May, one thousand six hundred ninety seven, all prisoners, either upon contempt or mesne process, or in execution, who are or shall be committed to the custody of the marshal of the King’s bench prison, or the warden of the Fleet, shall be actually detained within the said prisons of the King’s Bench and Fleet, or the respective rules of the same, until they shall be from thence discharged by due course of law; and if at any time from and after the said first day of May, the said marshal or warden, or any other keeper or keepers of any prison, shall permit and suffer any prisoner committed to their custody, either on mesne process or in execution, to go or be at large out of the rules of their respective prisons (except by virtue of some writ of Habeas Corpus, or rule of court, which rule of court shall not be granted but by motion made or petition read in open court) every such going or being out of the said rules shall be adjudged and deemed, and is hereby declared to be an escape.

II. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the said first day of May, every person or persons obtaining judgement in any action of escape against the said marshal or warden, or their respective lawful deputy or deputies, shall and may have, not only several remedies already by law allowed for obtaining satisfaction thereon, but the judges of the respective courts where such judgement shall be obtained (upon oath before them made by the persons or persons obtaining such judgement, that the same was obtained without fraud or covin, and that the debt of the prisoner making such an escape was a true and real debt and unsatisfied) shall, upon motion made to them in open court for that purpose, sequester the fees and profits of the office of marshall or warden, or so much, or such part or proportion thereof, as the said court wherein such motion shall be made shall think it fit and reasonable, with respect to the debt or debts due from such prisoner or prisoners so escaping, and in the first place apply the same towards satisfaction of the debt or debts due from the prisoner or prisoners who escaped, together with all costs and damages recovered in such action of escape.

III. And to the end that such satisfaction may not be deferred by any writ of error brought for delay only, be it enacted, That if the said marshal or warden, or their respective deputy or deputies, shall at any time after the said first day of May, sue forth any writ or writs of error to reverse any judgment given in any action of escape, such marshal or warden, or their respective deputy of deputies, shall be obliged to put in special bail, or in default thereof no execution shall be stayed, nor any sequestration of the profits delayed.

IV. And whereas it is notorious that divers great sums of money and other rewards have been given to, and actually received by, the several persons executing the respective offices of marshal and warden, and other keepers of the several prisons within this kingdom, to assist or permit prisoners in their custody to escape, in open defiance and contempt of the laws of this realm: for preventing the like evil practices for the time to come, be it further enacted, That if any marshal or warden, or their respective deputy or deputies, or any keeper of any other person within this kingdom, shall take any sum of money, reward or gratuity whatsoever, or security for the same, to procure, assist, connive at, or permit any such escape, and shall thereof be lawfully convicted, the said marshal or warden, or their respective deputy or deputies, or such other keeper of any prisons as aforesaid, shall for every such offence forfeit the sum of five hundred pounds, and his said office, and be for ever after incapable of executing any such office.

V. Provided always, That this act, nor any thing therein contained, shall extend, or be construed to extend to make void such securities, or any of them, as shall at any time or times hereafter be given by any prisoner or prisoners for his or their lodging or lodgings without the aforesaid prisones, or ether of them, within the rules of the said prisons of King’s Bench and Fleet, or either of them, so as such security or securities be not taken for the enlargement of any prisoner or prisoners out of or beyond the rules of the said prisons of King’s Bench and Fleet, or either of them respectively.

VI. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the said first day of May, no retaking on fresh pursuit shall be given in evidence on the trial of any issue in any action of escape against the said marshal or warden, or their respective deputy or deputies, or against any other keeper or keepers of any other prison or prisons as aforesaid, unless the same be specially pleaded, nor shall any special plea be taken, received, or allowed, unless oath can be first made in writing by the marshal or warden, or their respective deputy or deputies, or by such other keeper or keepers of any other prison or prisons as aforesaid, against whom such action shall be brought, and filed in the proper office of the respective courts, that the prisoner for whose escape such action is brought did without his consent, privity, or knowledge make such escape; and if such affidavit shall at any time afterwards appear to be false, and the marshal or warden or other keeper or keepers of any other prison or prisons, shall be convicted thereof by due course of law, such marshal or warden or other keeper or keepers of any other prison or prisons shall forfeit the sum of five hundred pounds.

VII. And be it further enacted and declared by the authority aforesaid, That if at any time after the said first day of May, any prisoner who is or shall be committed in execution to either or any of the said respective prisons, shall escape from thence by any ways or means howsoever, the creditor or creditors, at whose suit such prisoner was charged in execution at the time of his escape, shall or may retake such prisoner by any new Capias, or Capias ad satisfaciendum, or sure forth any other kind of execution on the judgment, as if the body of such prisoner had never been taken in execution.

VIII. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if the said marshal or warden for the time being, or their respective deputy or deputies, or other keeper or keepers of any other prison or prisons, shall, after one day’s notice in writing given for that purpose, refuse to shew any prisoner committed in execution to the creditor at whose suit such prisoner was committed or charged, or to his attorney, every such refusal shall be adjudged to be an escape in law.

IX. And be it further enacted and declared by the authority aforesaid, That if any person or persons whatsoever, desiring to charge any person with any action or execution, shall desire to be informed by the said marshal or warden, or their respective deputy or deputies, or by any other keeper or keepers of any other prison or prisons, whether such person be a prisoner in his custody, or not, the said marshal or warden, or such other keeper or keepers of any other prison or prisons, shall give a true note in writing thereof to the person so requesting the same, or to his lawful attorney, upon demand at his office for that purpose, or in default thereof shall forfeit the sum of fifty pounds; and if such marshal or warden, or their respective deputy or deputies exercising the said office, or other keeper or keepers of any other prison or prisons, shall give a note in writing that such person is an actual prisoner in her custody, every such note shall be accepted and taken as sufficient evidence that such person was at that time a prisoner in actual custody.

X. And be it further enacted and declared by the authority aforesaid, That on or before the four and twentieth day of June, one thousand six hundred ninety seven, all and every the conveyances, grants, and mortgages of the inheritance of the aforesaid prisons of King’s Bench and Fleet, or either of them, and of the prison-houses, lands, tenements, buildings, and other hereditaments to the said prisons of King’s Bench and Fleet or either of them respectively belonging, or in any wise appertaining, and all leases thereof, and the respective titles of the marshal of the King’s Bench and warden of the Fleet prisons thereunto, or of him or them in whom the inheritance or inheritances of, in, and to the said prisons, and prison-houses, and premises, or either of them, now are, and all trusts and declarations of trusts thereunto, or unto either of them relating, shall be inrolled (viz.) that of the marshal of the King’s Bench in the King’s Bench court, and that of the warden of the Fleet in the court of Common Pleas at Westminster; and that all future conveyances, grants, and mortgages, of the inheritance of the said prisons of King’s Bench and Fleet, or of either of them, or of any part of either of them, and all leases thereof, and all trusts and declarations of trust thereunto or unto either of them relating, shall be so inrolled in the respective courts, as aforesaid, within six months next after the executing of every or any such conveyances, grants, mortgages, or leases, or such trusts or declarations of trusts thereunto or unto either of them relating, or of any of them; and if any such conveyances, grants, or mortgages, of the inheritance of the said prisons of King’s Bench or Fleet, or either of them, or of any part of either of them, of any such trusts or declarations of trust thereunto or unto either of them relating, or any leases of the said premisses, be not so inrolled within the times limited as aforesaid, in the said courts respectively, as aforesaid, that then and in such case, as well the present as all future conveyances, grants, and mortgages of every of them, and the inheritance of the said prisons of King’s Bench and Fleet, or either of them, or of any part of either of them, and all leases thereof, and all trusts and declarations of trust thereunto, or unto any of them relating, shall be and are hereby declared to be utterly void and of none effect, as if the same had never been executed; any law, statute, or custom, to the contrary thereof in any wise notwithstanding.

XI. And be it further enacted and declared by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the said first day of May, the said offices of marshal of the King’s bench prison, and warden of the Fleet, and each of them, shall be executed by the several persons to whom the inheritance of the prisons, prison-houses, lands, tenements, and other hereditaments, of the said prisons of King’s Bench and Fleet, or either of them, shall then belong or appertain respectively, in his or their respective proper person or persons, or by his or their sufficient deputy or deputies; for which deputy or deputies, and for all forfeitures, escapes, and other misdemeanors, in their respective offices by such deputy or deputies permitted, suffered, or committed, the said person or persons, in whom the aforesaid inheritances respectively are or shall then be, shall be answerable, and the profits and aforesaid inheritances of the said several offices shall be sequestred, seized, or extended to make satisfaction for such forfeitures, escapes, and misdeameanors respectively, as if permitted, suffered, or committed by the person or persons themselves, or either of them, in whom the respective inheritances of the said prisons shall then be.

XII. And whereas the way of proceeding against the warden of the Fleet prison by bill in the courts of Common Pleas and Exchequer at Westminster is found to be very dilatory; be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the said first day of May, it shall and may be lawful to and for any person or persons, having cause of action against the warden of the Fleet prison, upon bill filed in the said courts of Common Please or Exchequer against the said warden, and a rule being given to plead thereto, to be out eight days at most after filing such bill, to sign judgment against the said warden of the Fleet, unless he plead to the said bill within three days after such rule is out.

XIII. And for the more easy and quick obtaining of judgment against any person or persons who now is or hereafter shall be a prisoner or prisoners in the aforesaid prison of the Fleet; be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the said first day of May, it shall and may be lawful to and for any person or persons, who hath or shall have any cause of action against any prisoner or prisoners, who now is, or are, or hereafter shall be committed to the said prison of the Fleet, after filing or entring of a declaration in such action with the proper officer, to deliver a copy of such declaration or declarations to any such defendant or defendants in any personal action or actions, or to the turnkey or porter of the said Fleet prison, and, after rule given thereupon to plead, to be out at eight days at most after delivery of such copy of declaration or declarations, and affidavit made of such delivery before the lord chief justice, or one other of the justices of the Common Pleas, or before the lord chief baron, or some other of the barons of the coif of the Exchequer at Westminster, of the delivery of such declaration or declarations to the defendant or defendants, in such action or actions, or to the turnkey or porter of the said Fleet prison, as aforesaid, to sign judgment in such action or actions against such defendant or defendants, as if such defendant or defendants had been actually charged at the bar of the Common Pleas or Exchequer with such action or actions; any law, statute, usage, or custom, to the contrary thereof in any wise notwithstanding.

XIV. And whereas great sums of money have been and are still taken of the prisoners of the aforesaid prisons of King’s Bench and Fleet, and other prisons, under pretence of chamber rent, although the said prisoners have not had the actual possession of any chamber within the said prisons, or any of them; for the avoiding of that inconvenience for the future be it enacted, That from and after the said first day of May, no prisoner or prisoners shall pay, or be compellable to pay any chamber rent for any chamber within either or any of the said prisons, for an longer time than he or they is or are actually in possession of the said chamber or chambers, and that during such time as he or they is or are actually in possession of any such chamber or chambers within either or any of the said prisons as aforesaid, such prisoner or prisoners shall not pay above the sum of two shillings and six pence per week for any such chamber; and if the marshal of the King’s Bench prison, warden of the Fleet, or keeper or keepers of any other prison or prisons, as aforesaid, shall take or demand any greater sum or sums of money for the use of such chamber, than the sum of two shillings and six pence per week, he or they so taking or demanding shall in such case, for every such offence, forfeit the sum of twenty pounds.

XV. And for the preventing for the future the many notorious and scandalous practices used in many pretended privileged places in and about the cities of London and Westminster, and borough of Southwark in the county of Surrey, by obstructing the execution of legal process there, and thereby defrauding and cheating great numbers of people of their honest and just debts; be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the said first day of May, it shall and may be lawful for any person or persons, who have or hath any debt or debts, sum or sums of money due or owing to him from any person or persons who now is, or hereafter shall be and reside within the White Friers, Savoy, Salisbury Court, Ram Alley, Mitre Court, Fuller’s Rents, Baldwin’s Gardens, Montague Close, or the Minories, Mint, Clink, or Deadman’s Place, upon legal process taken out against such person or persons, to demand and require the sheriffs of London and Middlesex, head bailiff of the liberty of the duchy of Lancaster, or high sheriff of the county of Surrey, or bailiff of the liberty of the borough of Southwark for the time being (as the case shall require, if the plaintiff think it requisite) or their respective deputy or deputies, officer or officers, to take, and they are hereby enabled respectively to take the Posse Comitatus, or such other power as to him or them or any of them shall seem requisite, and enter the said pretended privileged place, and any or either of them (as the case shall require) and to arrest, and in the case of resistance or refusal to open the doors, to break open any door or doors to arrest such person or persons upon any mesne or other process, extent or execution, or to seize the goods of any such person or persons upon any execution or extent; and if the said sheriff or sheriffs, head bailiff, or their deputy or deputies, officer or officers, or either or any of them shall neglect or refuse (upon such request) with such force to do their best endeavours for the executing of such process, execution or extent, he or they so neglecting or refusing to execute such process, execution or extent, shall forfeit to the plaintiff or plaintiffs in such action the sum of one hundred pounds, to be recovered by action of debt, bill, plaint or information, in which no essoin, protection, or wager of law, or more than one imparlance shall be allowed; and if in the executing of such process, execution or extent, any person or persons shall oppose or resist any such officer or officers, or any of them, or any who shall be aiding or assisting to him, them, or any of them, in the executing of such process, execution or extent, he or they so offending shall, for every time he or they shall so offend, forfeit the sum of fifty pounds, and moreover shall be by some justice of the peace committed to the common gaol of such county, city or place where such offence shall be committed, there to remain without bail or mainprize until the next assizes, sessions of oyer and terminer, and general gaol delivery, to be held for such county, city or place; and such offender or offenders being of such offence or offences duly convicted, every such offender shall suffer and undergo such imprisonment, and be set in the pillory, as the court where such conviction shall be shall think fit; and if any rescous shall be made of any prisoner taken by any such officer or officers as aforesaid, upon any such process, execution or extent, within the limits of any the before mentioned pretended privileged places, by any person or persons whatsoever, such person or persons so making such rescous, or aiding, assisting or abetting the same, and being thereof lawfully convicted, shall respectively forfeit to the plaintiff in any such action the sum of five hundred pounds, to be recovered by action of debt, bill, plaint or information, in any of his Majesty’s courts at Westminster, in which action, bill, plaint or information, no essoin, privilege, protection, wager of law, or more than one imparlance shall be allowed; and if after such recovery had against any person or persons for such rescous, or for aiding, assisting or abetting the same, the person or persons against whom such recovery shall be had, shall refuse or neglect to pay to the plaintiff in such action, or to his, her or their executors, administrators or assigns, the sum or sums of money recovered, with full costs of suit, within one month after judgment signed upon such recovery, and demand made, that then the person or persons so refusing or neglecting as aforesaid, upon producing a copy of the judgment upon which such recovery shall be had, and oath made that the money recovered is not paid, shall, by order of such court wherein the said person or persons was or were so convicted, of or for any suit rescous, or for aiding, assisting or abetting the same, be transported by the sheriff or sheriffs of the county, city or place where such conviction shall happen to be, to one of his Majesty’s plantations beyond the seas, there to remain for the space of seven years; and if the person or persons so transported, shall return again to this kingdom within the space of seven years, he, she or they so returning, shall be and is hereby adjudged guilty of felony, and shall not be allowed the benefit of clergy, but shall suffer and forfeit as in cases of felony where clergy is not allowed; and if any person or persons, inhabiting within either or any of the aforesaid pretended privileged places, shall receive, conceal or harbour any person or persons, who shall have made any rescous as aforesaid, he, she or they so receiving, concealing or harbouring any such person or persons, knowing or having had notice that such person or persons had been guilty of such offence, being thereof convicted by due course of law, shall be, by order of that court where such conviction shall happen to be, by the sheriff or sheriffs of the county, city of place where the offence was committed, transported to some or one of his Majesty’s plantations beyond the seas, there to remain for the space of seven years, unless such person or persons shall, within the space of one month next after such conviction, pay to the plaintiff or plaintiffs in such action or suit, the full debt or duty for which such action or suit was brought, with full costs; and if he, she or they shall return into this kingdom within the said space of seven years, he, she or they so returning, shall be and is hereby adjudged guilty of felony, and shall not be allowed the benefit of clergy, but shall suffer and forfeit as in cases of felony, where clergy is not allowed.

XVI. And be it further enacted, That the several penalties before in and by this act inflicted, and not particularly disposed of, shall go one half to his Majesty, his heirs and successors, and the other half to him or them that will sue for the same, to be recovered as aforesaid.

XVII. And for the prevention of disputes touching this act, be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the same, and every clause and thing therein contained, shall be deemed, adjudged, and taken to be a general law, and that it shall not be needful to shew or set forth the same or any clause thereof in pleading, and that the same, and all clauses therein, shall be construed most largely and beneficially for the preventing of all the mischiefs, abuses, escapes, and other inconveniences herein provided against; and further, that if any person or persons shall at any time be sued for putting in execution any power or authority given by this act, such person and persons shall and may plead the general issue, and give in evidence this act, and the special matter; and if the plaintiff or plaintiffs in such action shall be nonsuit, or a verdict given for a defendant or defendants, or if the plaintiff or plaintiffs discontinue their action, or if upon demurrer judgment shall be given for the defendant or defendants, every such defendant or defendants shall have his or their double costs.

XVIII. Saving unto Martha Johnson widow, Thomas Johnson, and John Johnson, sons of the said Martha, and Frances her daughter, their heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, all such right, title, estate, equity, interest and demand, as she or they now have, or shall or may have, challenge or claim, of, in or unto all or any of the houses and shops belonging to the office of the warden of the Fleet, or to the prison of the Fleet, herein before contained, as fully and effectually, to all intents and purposes, as she or they had before the making of this act, as if this act had never been had or made.

XIX. Provided nevertheless, That nothing in this act contained shall extend to prejudice, impeach, or lessen any security or securities for any sum or sums of money made or given, by or out of the said office of marshal of the Marshalsea of the couret of King’s bench, or the profits thereof, by William Lenthall esquire, to Sir John Cutler baronet deceased, or to Edmund Boulter esquire, executor of the said Sir John Cutler, or to any other person or persons in trust for them or either of them, or to subject the said office, or the profits thereof, or the person or persons in whom the same are or shall be vested, to any of the forfeitures or penalties in this act contained, other than such as they are or may be liable unto before the making of this act, until such sum or sums of money, secured thereby, shall be fully satisfied and paid; any thing in this act contained to the contrary thereof notwithstanding.

XX. Saving unto Anthony Smith mariner, his heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, all such right, title, estate, equity, interest and demand, as he or they now have, or shall or may have, challenge or claim, of, in or unto the office of the warden of the Fleet, or the prison of the Fleet, or all or any of the houses and shops belonging to the office of warden of the Fleet, or to the prison of the Fleet, or herein before contained (by virtue of two decrees in Chancery, the one of them made the two and twentieth day of June, one thousand six hundred eighty three, and the other of them the six and twentieth day of January, one thousand six hundred eighty five, whereby four hundred twenty five pounds, and the interest thereof, was and is decreed to be paid to the said Anthony Smith out of the said office, houses, shops and appurtenances, after a mortgage made thereof by Thomas Bromhall unto Henry Norwood esquire was satisfied) as fully and effectually to all intents and purposes, as he or they had before the making of this act, and as if this act had never been had or made.

XXI. Provided nevertheless, That nothing in this act contained shall be deemed, construed or adjudged to take away, lessen, charge or prejudice the right, title or interest of Thomas Norwood, surviving executor of Henry Norwood, as for, touching or concerning a debt of two thousand one hundred fifty and three pounds, and interest, secured to the said Henry Norwood, by virtue of a mortgage of the office of warden of the Fleet prison, bearing date the twenty third day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred seventy and six, or so much thereof as is justly due thereupon; nor to take away, lessen or prejudice the right, title or interest of John Clements of the Middle Temple, London, gentleman, as for, touching or concerning a debt of two thousand two hundred ninety nine pounds, and interest, secured to the said John Clement, in trust for himself and others, by virtue of a mortgage of the said office of warden, bearing date the third of May, one thousand six hundred seventy and eight, or so much thereof as is justly due thereupon.

XXII. And be it further enacted and declared by the authority aforesaid, That all and every deputation or deputations, grant or grants, at any time heretofore made or executed by William Lenthall esquire, of the said office of marshal of the Marshalsea of the said court of King’s Bench, is and are hereby declared void and of none effect; and that all and every succeeding marshal shall from time to time, and at all times hereafter, be constituted and appointed by the said William Lenthall, his heirs and assigns, by and with the consent in writing under the hand and seal of Edmund Boulter esquire, his executors, administrators and assigns, until the debt owing by the said William Lenthall to the said Edmund Boulter, executor of Sir John Cutler baronet deceased, be satisfied.

Source: Pickering, Danby, ed., The Statutes at Large, vol. 10.

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Sanctuary outside England: Iran

Although the focus of the project is upon London from around 1660 to 1725, sanctuaries existed in various forms beyond this city and outside that period. Indeed, how and why sanctuaries disappeared from much of England but persisted in the capital is an important question. A parallel concern is how the English experience differed to those of other countries.

Having biblical roots, one would expect to find sanctuary in some form throughout Christian Europe, and so far I’ve found evidence of it in Scotland, Spain, France and Malta. It’s also possible – I’m not clear on this at the moment – that it was established by the Spanish church in the Americas.

But sanctuary is not solely a Christian or Western tradition, and other cultures have had something similar, existing long after it disappeared from the West. The following lines on the Persian băst come from Surgeon General Edward Balfour’s work The Cyclopaedia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia, commercial, industrial, and scientific, of 1885.

BAST, Pers, From băstăn, to fasten, a sanctuary, a refuge. Like Kedeah of Galilee, Shechem of Samaria, and Hebron in Judea, the sanctuaries of Kum, and the Great Mosque in particular, are famous places of refuge (or băst, as it is termed) for all persons who have committed crimes, or fallen under the royal displeasure. Such is the sanctity of the holy Fatima’s mosque, that the king himself dare not arrest a criminal who has there sought protection. The Persian custom of băst somewhat resembles that of the Jewish cities of refuge, the Alsatia of London, the precincts of Holyrood at Edinburgh and Westminster, etc. The custom prevailing in the East, of having places of asylum, owes its origin probably to Mosaic law concerning the six cities of refuge. Formerly the whole mahalah, or quarter of Bidabad, was reckoned băst, or sacred. The principle mosque, the stables of the king and nobles, and other places, are asylums, Kum, in lat. 84° 41′ N., long. 50° 29′ E., is a ruined town in Irak-i-Ajam in Persia, 80 miles on the road from Teheran to Isfahan. It was taken by the Afghans in 1772. The tomb of the sister of Imam Raza is there, its bars of solid silver and gates gold plated. Kum is the most celebrated of the sanctuaries of Persia, and Shias frequently fly to it for shelter.

This encylopaedia is one of those compendiums of colonial investigation, cataloguing the diverse lands and peoples encountered by the British Empire. As such, it shouldn’t be taken at face value; in referencing British and Biblical precedents, it could be translating an indigenous practice into an idiom understandable by administrators. It’s rather vague on why someone would have to take refuge, just mentioning unspecified crimes and royal displeasure. That debtors also availed themselves of băst is noted by the Russian Pierre Ponafidine in his Life in the Moslem East (1911):

the bast becomes the refuge of criminals and evildoers, and of debtors who live year after year quietly in this small town within itself until, losing patience, the creditors generally come to some understanding with them, preferring to receive a small part of what is due than none at all.

There was also a political usage of băst, as the following account of the constitutional revolution of 1906, from Shuster’s The Strangling of Persia illustrates; note also its adaptation to include foreign embassies:

The Crown Prince, Muzaffaru’d-Din Shah Qajar, was made Shah on June 8, 1896, and reigned until January 4, 1907, when he died. Some six months before his death the Persian people, whose discontent with the tyranny of their rulers had been constantly increasing, commenced an open agitation for the granting of a constitution, and in July, 1906, by a measure which was as remarkable as it was successful, they brought about this result.

Some 16,000 people of Teheran, from all walks in life, after being exhorted by the Mullahs or priests, took refuge or sanctuary – bast it is called in Persia – in the vast compound of the British Legation, and in the mosques and other sacred places. The crowds gathered there in the utmost good order; they established their commissariat and sanitary arrangements, and by these purely passive measures succeeded in compelling the Shah to dismiss an obnoxious minister, the Aynu’d-Dawla, and to grant them a code of laws or constitution. After various attempts to break up this peculiar form of resistance, the Shah and his government were compelled to yield, partly through the strange humiliation which the adoption of this course by the people conveys to the minds of the Persian governing class against whom it may be directed, and partly through fear of further and more active measures of opposition. On August 5, 1906, the so-called constitution was granted and the people resumed their homes and ordinary avocations.

A similar story is told some 55 years later in Time magazine’s report on demonstrations against fraudulent elections in 1961:

When an Iranian wants to be safe from the police, he reverts to an old custom called bast, or asylum. The recognized sanctuaries are Parliament buildings, mosques, the royal palace and stables, and, curiously enough, telegraph offices. As Iran last week reeled through its second national election in seven months, citizens were scampering in all directions seeking bast.

Sanctuary then has a far wider history – geographically, chronologically and socially – than is generally supposed. Is there any commonality in all its different forms? How does it change over time, and how is it used for different ends? Is it some sort of Foucauldian heterotopia, a ‘counter-site’, some sort of limit to the State and law? Although the focus of the project is upon London from around 1660 to 1725, it requires asking much larger questions.

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Two Rescues

If there is a particular practice that epitomises the sanctuaries, it is the rescue. This was the forcible release of a prisoner from the custody of an authority, be it the law, the military or bailiffs. Whilst it was common enough during the eighteenth century – especially when the press gang was on the prowl – the sanctuaries provided two enhancements: a ready crew for mounting them and a place of safety from recapture.

The following document from 1697 shows a rescue more or less carried out ‘to order.’ Two men were being taken under habeas corpus from Somerset to the London courts; a letter requesting their rescue was sent to one Thomas Gurney in Whitefriars, who raised a troop and intercepted them. Gurney seems to have been an important figure in Alsatia: not only was he the organizer of this escape, but he had also been involved in the riot against the Templars that led to the execution of Francis Winter. I will be writing more about him in the future. But otherwise, with part of the document illegible and no other information on this trial or the original case, many questions are left hanging. Why were the men being taken to London? Were they criminals or witnesses? Who required their rescue?

Thomas Gurney, was Indicted for a Riot and Rescous committed at the Cross-Keys in Arundel-street, and Rescuing one Robert Webb, and Samuel Moore Prisoners, who were brought out of Somersetshire, by virtue of their Habeas Corpus’s, by one Richard Fox. It appeared that there was a Letter sent to this Gurney to the Clubb, at the Rising-Sun in Water-Lane; in which was, That a Friend of his desired the Assistance of 8 men for a Friend that was in trouble. Some of White-Friars men accordingly went to Rescue him from the Rose at Knights-bridge; but missed of their design, and heard that they were in Arundel-street; …. [a section of the text is unreadable] …. and carried them to the Temple-stairs, and got them in Boats, and carried them to Dorset-stairs, and from thence to Gurneys House in White-Fryers, they pursuing them there, the Fryers-men beat them, and knockt them down. The Trial lasted long; and the Jury having considered the matter, found him Guilty.

Source: Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 6.0, 31 August 2011), February 1697, trial of Thomas Gurney (t16970224-49).

There was another sort of rescue, where debtors were aided in escaping into the sanctuaries. This may have had a criminal aspect, of setting up a front business, obtaining goods on credit and then absconding. But there is no mention of this in the following account from 1690, where one of the ‘White Fryers men’ was charged with a murder committed in the course of the escape.

John Goodson as principal, and Abraham Hartslop as Accessary, were both tryed for the Murther of one Bartholomew Long on the 8th day of May last, giving him a mortal Bruise with a Quarter-Staff upon the head, of which he instantly died. The Evidence declared, that some rude Fellows viz White Fryers Men, were striving to get away some Goods out of the Prosecutor’s house in Cow-lane , the Tenant, viz. a Broker, designing to make his Escape deceitfully into the Mint: But the Landlord interposing, they made a great Mutiny, and Riotous Tumult, threatning to be the death of any who should oppose them, and had several Quarter-staves, and short wooden pocket pistols, (as they term them) which are to be used in Chambers, or narrow places, with other Instruments of Cruelty.

Goodson, was seen to strike the deceased with an Ashen Quarter-staff about five Foot long, of which he immediately died. But it did not appear that Hartslope struck any Blow. The Surgeon said that the deceased died of the Bruise. Goodson offer’d but little for himself, only that he was hired as a Porter to get away the Goods and called some Evidence, who gave a fair account of his former Conversation. But there being but one Evidence that swore positively Goodson struck the Blow, a Debate arose between the Court and the Jury; afterwards they came to this Result, That the matter should at present be found Special , &c.

Source: Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 6.0, 31 August 2011), June 1690, trial of John Goodson Abraham Hartslop (t16900605-5).

A curiosity of this account is that the Alsatians were to take a fellow from nearby Cow Street, just north of Whitefriars, across the Thames to Southwark Mint. This suggests, perhaps, co-operation between the sanctuaries.

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The Black Act

Following on from my previous post, I present the text of the infamous ‘Black Act’ of 1723. This draconian statute was ostensibly in response to the ’emergency’ created by organized poaching in Windsor and Hampshire. It created a host of new capital offences, and even introduced collective financial penalties upon communities where crimes took place. The best work on it that I know of is E.P. Thompson’s Whigs and Hunters (London, 1975).

The reason for publishing it here is that it appears to have been the act by which the Wapping Minter Charles Towers was executed. This is perplexing, as it appears that the relevant clause, the first, against going armed and disguised, is directed at rural poachers. It does list “any high road” amongst the heaths, downs, forests and enclosures, and makes mention of “forcible rescues”, albeit for persons detained “for any of the offences before mentioned” rather than for debt. But this strikes me as a somewhat tenuous reading in the case of Towers.

It is still the more curious in that the third clause of the Act against Southwark Mint, passed at the same time, also criminalized going in disguise, but only within that sanctuary and  without specifying the death sentence. Why two laws for the same offence if the harsher one was applicable throughout the country? (The Act against Wapping Mint didn’t come into force until 1725, so Towers could not have been prosecuted under that.)

Understanding these laws is a difficult exercise, and not only due to the archaic language and legalistic form. The text itself doesn’t describe the process by which it was written, nor its context as an instrument of state, its debate in parliament, its analysis in the courts, or its enforcement ‘on the ground.’ In this case, the seeming disjuncture between the text and the execution of Towers may be due to a political motivation to crush the sanctuary of Wapping Mint, rather than the disinterested workings of justice.

 

ANNO NONO GEORGII I. C.22. An act for the more effectual punishing wicked and evil-disposed persons going armed in disguise, and doing injuries and violences to the persons and properties of his Majesty’s subjects, and for the more speedy bringing the offenders to justice.

I. WHEREAS several ill-designing and disorderly persons have of late associated themselves under the name of Blacks, and entered into confederacies to support and assist one another in stealing and destroying of deer, robbing of warrens and fish-ponds, cutting down plantations of trees, and other illegal practices, and have, in great numbers, armed with swords, fire-arms, and other offensive weapons, several of them with their faces blacked, or in disguised habits, unlawfully hunted in forests belonging to his Majesty, and in the parks of divers of his Majesty’s subjects, and destroyed, killed and carried away the deer, robbed warrens, rivers and fish-ponds, and cut down plantations of trees; and have likewise solicited several of his Majesty’s subjects, with promises of money, or other rewards, to join with them, and have sent letters in fictitious names, to several persons, demanding venison and money, and threatning some great violence, if such their unlawful demands should be refused, or if they should be interupted in, or prosecuted for such their wicked practises, and have actually done great damage to several persons, who have either refused to comply with such demands, or have endeavoured to bring them to justice, to the great terror of his Majesty’s peaceable subjects:

For the preventing which wicked and unlawful practices, be it enacted by the King’s most excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the lords spiritual and temporal and commons, in parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same. That if any person or persons, from and after the first day of June in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and twenty-three, being armed with swords, fire-arms, or other offensive weapons, and having his or their faces blacked, or being otherwise disguised, shall appear in any forest, chase, park, paddock, or grounds inclosed with any wall, pale, or other fence, wherein any deer have been or shall be usually kept, or in any warren or place where hares or conies have been or shall be usually kept, or in any high road, open heath, common or down, or shall unlawfully and wilfully hunt, wound, kill, destroy, or steal any red or fallow deer, or unlawfully rob any warren or place where conies or hares are usually kept, or shall unlawfully steal or take away any fish out of any river or pond; or if any person or persons, from and after the said first day of June shall unlawfully and wilfully hunt, wound, kill, destroy or steal any red or fallow deer, fed or kept in any places in any of his Majesty’s forests or chases, which are or shall be inclosed with pales, rails, or other fences, or in any park, paddock, or grounds inclosed, where deer have been or shall be usually kept; or shall unlawfully and maliciously break down the head or mound of any fish-pond, whereby the fish shall be lost or destroyed; or shall unlawfully and maliciously kill, maim or wound any cattle, or cut down or otherwise destroy any trees planted in any avenue, or growing in any garden, orchard or plantation, for ornament, shelter or profit; or shall set fire to any house, barn or out-house, or to any hovel, cock, mow, or stack of corn, straw, hay or wood; or shall wilfully and maliciously shoot at any person in any dwelling-house, or other place; or shall knowingly send any letter, without any name, subscribed thereto, or signed with a fictitious name, demanding money, venison, or other valuable thing; or shall forcibly rescue any person being lawfully in custody of any officer or other person, for any of the offences before mentioned; or if any person or persons shall, by gift or promise of money, or other reward, procure any of his Majesty’s subjects to join him or them in any such unlawful act; every person so offending, being thereof lawfully convicted, shall be adjudged guilty of felony, and shall suffer death as in cases of felony, without benefit of clergy.

II. And whereas notwithstanding the laws now in force against the illegal practices above mentioned, and his Majesty’s royal proclamation of the second day of February which was in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and twenty-two, notifying the same, many wicked and evil-disposed persons have, in open defiance thereof, been guilty of several of the offences before mentioned, to the great disturbance of the publick peace, and damage of divers of his Majesty’s good subjects; It is hereby enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all and every person and persons, who since the second day of February in the year of our Lord one thousand seven  hundred and twenty-two, have committed or been guilty of any of the offences aforesaid, who shall not surrender him, her or themselves, before the twenty-fourth day of July in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and twenty-three, to any of the justices of his Majesty’s court of kings bench, or to any one of his Majesty’s justices of the peace, in and for the county where he, she or they did commit such offence or offences, and voluntarily make a full confession thereof to such justice, and a true discovery upon his, her or their oath or oaths, of the persons who were his, her or their accomplices in any of the said offences, by giving a true account of their names, occupations and places of abode, and to the best of his, her or their knowledge or belief, discover where they may be found, in order to be brought to justice, being thereof lawfully convicted, shall be adjudged guilty of felony, and shall suffer death as in cases of felony, without benefit of clergy.

III. Provided nevertheless, That all and every person and persons, who have been guilty of any the offences aforesaid, and shall not be in lawful custody for such offence on the said first day of June and shall surrender him, her or themselves, on or before the said twenty-fourth day of July as aforesaid, and shall make such confession and discovery as aforesaid, shall by virtue of this act be pardoned, acquitted and discharged of and from the offences so by him, her or them confessed as aforesaid; any thing herein contained to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding.

IV. And for the more easy and speedy bringing the offenders against this act to justice, be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any person or persons shall be charged with being guilty of any of the offences aforesaid, before any two or more of his Majesty’s justices of the peace of the county where such offence or offences were or shall be committed, by information of one or more credible person or persons upon oath by him or them to be subscribed, such justices before whom such information shall be made as aforesaid, shall forthwith certify under their hands and seals, and return such information to one of the principal secretaries of state of his Majesty, his heirs or successors, who is hereby required to lay the same, as soon as conveniently may be, before his Majesty, his heirs or successors, in his or their privy council; whereupon it shall and may be lawful for his Majesty, his heirs or successors, to make his or their order in his or their said privy council, thereby requiring and commanding such offender or offenders to surrender him or themselves, within the space of forty days, to any of his Majesty’s justices of the court of king’s bench, or to any one of his Majesty’s justices of the peace, to the end that he or they may be forth coming, to answer the offence or offences wherewith he or they shall so stand charged, according to the due course of law; which order shall be printed and published in the next London Gazette, and shall be forthwith transmitted to the sheriff of the county where the offence shall be committed, and shall, within six days after the receipt thereof be proclaimed by him, or his officers, between the hours of ten in the morning, and two in the afternoon, in the market-places upon the respective market-days, of two market-towns in the same county, near the place where such offence shall have been committed; and a true copy of such order shall be affixed upon some publick place in such market-towns; and in case such offender or offenders shall not surrender him or themselves, pursuant to such order of his Majesty, his heirs or successors, to be made in council as aforesaid, he or they so neglecting or refusing to surrender him or themselves as aforesaid, shall from the day appointed for his or their surrender as aforesaid, be adjudged, deemed and taken to be convicted and attainted of felony, and shall suffer the pains of death as in case of a person convicted and attainted by verdict and judgment of felony, without benefit of clergy; and that it shall be lawful to and for the court of king’s bench, or the justices of oyer and terminer, or general gaol-delivery for the county, where the offence is sworn in such information to have been committed, upon producing to them such order in council, under the seal of the said council, to award execution against such offender and offenders, in such manner, as if he or they had been convicted and attainted in the said court of king’s bench, or before such justices of oyer and terminer, or general gaol-delivery respectively.

V. And be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all and every person and persons, who shall, after the time appointed as aforesaid, for the surrender of any person or persons, so charged upon oath with any the offences aforesaid, be expired, conceal, aid, abet or succour, such person or persons, knowing him or them to have been so charged as aforesaid, and to have been required to surrender him or themselves, by such order or orders as aforesaid, being lawfully convicted thereof, shall be guilty of felony, and shall suffer death as in cases of felony, without benefit of clergy.

VI. Provided nevertheless, and it is hereby declared and enacted, That nothing herein contained shall be construed to prevent or hinder any judge, justice of the peace, magistrate, officer or minister of justice whatsoever, from taking, apprehending and securing, such offender or offenders, against whom such information shall be given, and for requiring whose surrender such order in council shall be made as aforesaid, by the ordinary course of law; and in case such offender or offenders, against whom such information, and for requiring whose surrender such order in council shall be made as aforesaid, shall be taken and secured in order to be brought to justice, before the time shall be expired, within which he or they shall be required to surrender him or themselves, by such order in council as aforesaid, that then in such case no further proceeding shall be had upon such order made in council against him or them so taken and secured as aforesaid, but he or they shall be brought to trial by due course of law; any thing herein before contained to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding.

VII. And be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the first day of June one thousand seven hundred and twenty-three, the inhabitants of every hundred, within that part of the kingdom of Great Britain called England, shall make full satisfaction and amends to all and every the person and persons, their executors and administrators, for the damages they shall have sustained or suffered by the killing or maiming of any cattle, cutting down or destroying any trees, or setting fire to any house, barn or out-house, hovel, cock, mow or stack of corn, straw, hay or wood, which shall be committed or done by any offender or offenders against this act; and that every person and persons, who shall sustain damages by any of the offences last mentioned, shall be and are hereby enabled to sue for and recover such his or their damages, the sum to be recovered not exceeding the sum of two hundred pounds, against the inhabitants of the said hundred, who by this act shall be made liable to answer all or any part thereof; and that if such person or persons shall recover in such action, and sue execution against any of such inhabitants, all other the inhabitants of the hundred, who by this act shall be made liable to all or any part of the said damage, shall be rateably and proportionably taxed, for and towards an equal contribution for the relief of such inhabitant, against whom such execution shall be had and levied; which tax shall be made, levied and raised, by such ways and means, and in such manner and form, as is prescribed and mentioned for the levying and raising damages recovered against inhabitants of hundred in cases of robberies, in and by an act, intituled, An act for the following hue and cry, made in the twenty-seventh year in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

VIII. Provided nevertheless, That no person or persons shall be enabled to recover any damages by virtue of this act, unless he or they by themselves, or by their servants, within two days after such damage or injury done him or them by any such offender or offenders as aforesaid, shall give notice of such offence done and committed unto some of the inhabitants of some town, village, or hamlet, near unto the place where any such fact shall be committed, and shall within four days after such notice, give in his, her or their examination upon oath, or the examination upon oath of his, her or their servant or servants, that had the care of his or their houses, out-houses, corn, hay, straw or wood, before any justice of the peace of the county, liberty or division, where such fact shall be committed, inhabiting within the said hundred where the said fact shall happen to be committed, or near unto the same, whether he or they do know the person or persons that committed such fact, or any of them; and if upon such examination it be confessed, that he or they do know the person or persons that committed the said fact, or any of them, that then he or they so confessing, shall be bound by recognizance to prosecute such offender or offenders by indictment, or otherwise, according to the laws of this realm.

IX. Provided also, and be it further enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That where any offence shall be committed against this act, and any one of the said offenders shall be apprehended, and lawfully convicted of such offence,within the space of six months after such offence committed, no hundred, or any inhabitants thereof, shall in any wise be subject or liable to make any satisfaction to the party injured, for the damages he shall have sustained; any thing in this act to the contrary notwithstanding.

X. Provided also, That no person, who shall sustain any damage by reason of any offence to be committed by any offender contrary to this act, shall be thereby enabled to sue, or bring any action against any inhabitants of any hundred, where such offence shall be committed, except the party or parties sustaining such damage, shall commence his or their action or suit within one year after such offence shall be committed.

XI. And for the better and more effectual discovery of the offenders above-mentioned, and bringing them to justice, be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That it shall and may be lawful to and for any justice of the peace, to issue his warrant to any constable, headborough, or other peace officer, thereby authorizing such constable, head-borough, or other peace-officer, to enter into any house, in order to search for venison stolen or unlawfully taken, contrary to the several statutes against deer-stealers, in such manner, as by the laws of this realm such justice of the peace may issue his warrant to search for stolen goods.

XII. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any person or persons shall apprehend, or cause to be convicted any of the offenders above-mentioned, and shall be killed, or wounded so as to lose an eye or the use of any limb, in apprehending or securing, or endeavouring to apprehend or secure any of the offenders above-mentioned, upon proof thereof made at the general quarter-sessions of the peace for the county, liberty, division or place, where the offence was or shall be committed, or the party killed, or receive such wound, by the person or persons so apprehending, and causing the said offender to be convicted, or the person or persons so wounded, or the executors or administrators of the party killed, the justices of the said sessions shall give a certificate thereof to such person or persons so wounded or to the executors or administrators of the person or persons so killed, by which he or they shall be entitled to receive of the sheriff of the said county the sum of fifty pounds, to be allowed the said sheriff in passing his accounts in the exchequer; which sum of fifty pounds the said sheriff is hereby required to pay within thirty days from the day on which the said certificate shall be produced and shewn to him, under the penalty of forfeiting the sum of ten pounds to the said person or persons to whom such certificate is given, for which said sum of ten pounds, as well as the said sum of fifty pounds, such person may and is hereby authorized to bring an action upon the case against such sheriff, as for money had and received to his or their use.

XIII. And whereas the shortness of the time within which prosecutions for offences against the statute made in the third and fourth years of the reign of their late majesties King William and Queen Mary, intituled, An act for the more effectual discovery and punishment of deer-stealers, are limited to be commenced, has been a great encouragement to offenders; be it therefore enacted by the authority aforesaid, That any prosecution for any offence against the said statute, shall or may be commenced within three years from the time of the offence committed, but not after.

XIV. And for the better and more impartial trial of any indictment or information, which shall be found commenced or prosecuted for any of the offences committed against this act, be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That every offence that shall be done or committed contrary to this act, shall and may be enquired of, examined, tried and determined in any county within that part of the kingdom of Great Britain called England, in such manner and form, as if the fact had been therein committed; provided, That no attainder for any of the offences made felony by virtue of this act, shall make or work any corruption of blood, loss of dower, or forfeiture of lands or tenements, goods or chattels.

XV. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That this act shall be openly read at every quarter-sessions, and at every leet or law-day.

XVI. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That this act shall continue in force from the first day of June one thousand seven hundred and twenty-three, for the space of three years, and from thence to the end of the then next session of parliament, and no longer. [Continued for five Years by 12 Geo I. c. 30.]

XVII. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any venison, or skin of any deer, shall be found in the custody of any person or persons, and it shall appear that such person or persons bought such venison or skin of any one, who might be justly suspected to have unlawfully come by the same, and does not produce the party of whom he bought it, or prove upon oath the name and place of abode of such party, that then the person or persons who bought the same, shall be convicted of such offence, by any one or more justice or justices of the peace, and shall be subject to the penalties inflicted for killing a deer, in and by the statute made in the third and fourth year of the reign of their late majesties King William and Queen Mary, intituled, An act for the more effectual discovery and punishment of deer-stealers.

Transcribed from The Statues at Large, from the Ninth Year of King George the First to the Second Year of King George the Second, ed. D. Pickering, 1765, pp. 88-94. This text is in the public domain and may be reproduced freely.

 

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The Ordinary of Newgate’s account of Charles Towers

I’ve previously published one version of the story of Charles Towers; here is a contemporary telling from the Ordinary of Newgate’s Account. It’s not the complete document; I’ve removed the parts not relating to Towers, meaning those to the William Anderson and the Ordinary’s scriptual quotes. The full text can be found on Old Bailey Proceedings Online.

From this document, we learn more of who Towers was. A butcher, with a wife, two children and a third on the way, gambling is cited as the cause of his fall, although it is said that his circumstances were so poor that he resorted to gaming to rescue himself and his family. He had ‘form’, previously being sentenced to – and reprieved from – transportation for stealing a spoon, a crime he denied. He spent 4 years in the sanctuary of Southwark Mint, and with its end, applied for amnesty under the terms of the 1722  Act against Southwark Mint, his name being listed amongst the petitioners in the London Gazette, no. 6171, 8th June 1723:

Charles Towers listed in the London Gazette, no. 6171

Charles Towers listed in the London Gazette, no. 6171

So with the end of the Southwark Mint, he “was forc’d to harbour in the New Mint, and took an House in Gravel-Lane ; for Prisons were all so full, that Men, as he said, died like rotten Sheep, and he had rather go to the Place whither he was going, than dwell under that Tyranny.”

This account also points at the statute he was executed by:

against the Form of the Statute made and provided, and which was to take effect, after the first of June, in the tenth Year of His Majesty’s Reign.

This is clearly a reference to the notorious ‘Black Act’, 9 Geo 1 c22, “An act for the more effectual punishing wicked and evil-disposed persons going armed in disguise, and doing injuries and violences to the persons and properties of his Majesty’s subjects, and for the more speedy bringing the offenders to justice.” This statute will be the subject of my next post.

THE ORDINARY of NEWGATE his ACCOUNT, Of the Behaviour, Confession, and last Words of Charles Towers, who was Executed at Wapping in the Parish of St. Paul Shadwell, on Monday the 4th of this Instant January: And also of William Anderson, who was Executed at Tyburn on Tuesday the 5th of the aforesaid Month.

AT the KING’S Commission of the Peace, and Oyer and Terminer and Goal-Delivery, &c. Held (before the Right Honourable Sir George Merttins Knt. Lord Mayor , the Right Honourable the Lord Chief Justice King, Mr. Justice Dormer, Mr. Baron Page, Mr. Serjeant Raby, and several of His Majesty’s Justices of the Peace, for the City of London and County of Middlesex) at Justice-Hall in the Old Baily, on Friday, Saturday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, being the 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th and 9th Days of December last, four Men were by the Jury found guilty of Capital Offences, and received Sentence accordingly.

Two of the Persons, so sentenced, having obtained His Majesty’s Reprieve, viz. Rowland Swanson and Thomas Herbert; the remaining two, viz. Charles Towers and William Anderson were appointed for Execution.

Though they at first (especially Charles Towers) were incapacitated as to the performance of their Duty, by the Anger and Resentment their Condition had fill’d them with, ( Charles Towers in particular, at the same time that he acknowledged the rescuing the Prisoner West from the Hands of John Errington, affirming he was no way designedly disguised and that he no way apprehended he had any occasion to disguise himself, any more than had Tims, Bowler, Tibbs, Fencote, or any other upon the same Enterprize)

Yet they afterwards became sensible of the Folly of their Resentment; and as the Friends and Relations of Towers refused to give him any Hopes of a Reprieve, or Expectations of Life, he changed his Passion into Grief and Sorrow, that he had lost, by his neglect, the Use of Letters and Reading. As Rowland Swanson of the Four was alone able to Read, he very industriously assisted his Fellow Prisoners, and call’d upon them to listen to the Scriptures early each Morning, and before they went to Rest at Night. They were all very frequent and regular in their Devotions, when alone by themselves, as well as constant attendants at the Chapel; and ’twas thought apparent they never had any Designs of making an escape from Justice, and the execution of the Sentence that was pass’d upon ’em.

[ …. ]

The Account of these Persons under Sentence of Death.

CHARLES TOWERS, sometime Inhabitant near St. James’s Market, Butcher , was Indicted, for feloniously appearing, with several others, arm’d with Guns, Swords, Staves, or other offensive Weapons, and having his Face Black’d, or being otherwise disguised, on the Highway called Wapping Wall; on the 21st of June last; to the Terror of His Majesty’s Subjects, against the Peace of our Sovereign Lord the King, and against the Form of the Statute made and provided, and which was to take effect, after the first of June, in the tenth Year of His Majesty’s Reign. Upon the Indictment he was Tryed, and it appearing that on Sunday Morning at eleven of the Clock, June the 20th, C. Towers, with seven others, rush’d into the House of John Errington, (with a large Stick, like a Quarter-Staff in his Hand, his Hair clipt off, without Hat, Wig, or Shirt, only with a blue pea-Jacket, which flying open before, show’d his Breast, as well as his Face, Black, and besmear’d as with Soot and Grease;) whence they rescued J. West, affirming that they were sworn thereto, for his Name was set down in their Book kept at the seven Cities of Refuge; and offering (as the Prisoner was with loud Acclamations carrying off) to strike D. Taylor, Waterman, and G. Errington, Brother to the King’s Evidence; And the Prisoner’s allegations, that he never was in any Riot, but only defending himself against the Baylffs, &c. not being thought of any force, he was by the Jury found guilty of Felony without Benefit of Clergy.

As this unfortunate Person, after his Apprenticeship, marry’d young, before he was possest of a Competency, and Children and the Charges of a Family encreas’d upon him, he then judged that Gaming was a proper Method to retrieve himself and support his Family; but by Cards he lost that little he was then possest of. His Circumstances being desperate, he engag’d for a Friend, in a very large Sum of Money; which soon oblig’d him to fly into the Old Mint. When most distrest, he said, he refused all Solicitations to Rob or Thieve: Denying that he ever was guilty of any notorious Offence, except one, which was unfaithfulness to his Wife’s Bed; for which, he added, he must acknowledge he deserved Death, tho’ Adultery is so seldom punish’d in this Kingdom. As for the robbing Mr. Huggins of a silver Spoon, of the taking whereof he was convicted, some time ago, and ordered for Transportation, he denyed his seeing any such Spoon. And as for the picking the Pocket of Mr. Westwood, an Officer, and taking 3 s. with which Fact he was lately charg’d, he said he believed the Money might fall out of the Officer’s Pocket, as they Ditch’d him in a sad and shameful manner, but that he never saw any Silver or Copper. He farther said that their way was, as he must then acknowledge, very cruel and unbecoming Christians, for, during his Time, twelve or more were sentenc’d to be Whip’d, by a Judge, who was chosen from among them, for the Day, and sat in State: He added, that during his Confinement, some Persons had abused and insulted him, who were Friends to Mr. Jones, Bailiff; but he protested he was not Judge when Jones was sentenc’d, but one who was formerly an Officer in the Army: Nor had he ever any Designs against Sir Isaac Tilliard, or his House. He dwelt four Years in the Old Mint; but owing to one Man 70 l. was forc’d to harbour in the New Mint, and took an House in Gravel-Lane ; for Prisons were all so full, that Men, as he said, died like rotten Sheep, and he had rather go to the Place whither he was going, than dwell under that Tyranny.

He acknowledged the Fury and Violence he had used against innocent Men; and observed how contrary it was to Christian Levity and Mildness; we may suppose, that originally he was perswaded to it, as being strong and nimble; and afterwards had all Encouragement and Commendation; which Incitements coincided with the natural Warmth and Vivacity of his Temper. He confest he had been by much too Enterprizing and Rash; but at the same Time added, he thought the Officers were before his Misfortunes fully reveng’d of the Minters; for, among others, a Carpenter’s right Arm was so Hack’d and Chop’d, that the Surgeon was forced to take it off; as for himself, he show’d how dangerously his Head was Cut, even six Weeks ago, the large Scars whereof appear’d.

He denyed that he was ever in Disguise with design to do Mischief; but he said they had Mock-Masquerades, and particularly one in Meeting-House Alley, Wapping, where Men and Women met, under the Number of Twenty, and he in particular was in a Miller’s Habit and his Face cover’d over with White. He directed his Wife to offer this to the Consideration of his Majesty, in a Petition; and also to insert her having two Children, besides one in her Body, which must come to Misery if the Father was taken from ’em; which Petition she delivered at the Council-Chamber Door.

He was happy in having his Health continued entire, from the first Beginning of his Misfortunes; and in having R. Swanson, with him, who was able and ready to Read the Scriptures. When R. Swanson, had been Sick, in the Night, and could not Read and Pray at One of the Clock in the Morning, as was their constant Practice; Towers, the next Day, much condoled the Misfortune, saying he wished he was wealthy enough to employ and reward some Person who should sit up each Night and awaken them to Prayers as soon as Midnight was pass’d. The Day before his Death, he seem’d more chearful than before, saying, This was decreed for me, and I am easy and contented under it; and how should I be otherwise, for I am going from a Life of Trouble and Noise and Confusion, to a World of Quiet.

[ …. ]

The Behaviour, &c. of C. Towers at the Place of Execution.

THIS Prisoner, (who was carryed in a Cart, to the Gallows erected by Wapping, through a very great Concourse of People, many of whom with Tears lamented his Condition) appear’d with uncommon Intrepidity; and tho’ the Evening before, he wept very much when he took leave of his Wife and one of his Children, the immediate prospect of his own Suffering no way shock’d him; but in a very loud and exclaiming Voice he asserted his Innocence to the Spectators, after the Conclusion of the Prayers, &c. and to make all who were there believe, that he was not disguised when he rescued Mr. West, unless the dirty Condition he was commonly in, could be so term’d. That Capt. Buckland, sentenc’d Mr. Jones, the Bailiff, when he was used in so cruel and unchristian a manner that he Swooned, &c. That the others who were apprehended in the new Mint, and confin’d on the same Account, were not Guilty of going Arm’d in Disguise, or of any thing else that could nearly affect them; and named Mr. Saintloe, in particular. That he did not rob Mr. Henry Brooksbank, of any Brandy, Tobacco, or Pipes, as he had been charg’d, though the House was threatn’d and design’d against. To this he added, that lest his Words should be mistaken, he had most of the substance of ’em down in Writing; and pull’d out a Paper, written by an Acquaintance, for he could not write himself. He afterwards said, If the Sheriff or the High Constable must of necessity have the Paper, pray at least grant that it may be now read before all these People, for ’tis not against any Court: The Paper was according to his Desire read before the People; but it did not contain any Discovery, or any Confession of the Disguise, or the like, but was to the following Purport or Effect: That as he was in other matters a great Sinner (and had for other things deserved Death, he underwent the Punishment with Patience; and humbly hoped that Almighty God would be merciful to him for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom he trusted; that he did not know of any Disguise he was in; that he did never commit Theft or Robbery; did not steal a Silver Spoon, or any Money; did not rob any Bailiff, &c. that he was forced and obliged to take Sanctuary in the Place call’d the Mint, in order to avoid his Creditors, because his Debts were so large that it was not possible for him ever to pay them. This was the Substance, but ’twas branch’d into many Words and Sentences. He also inveigh’d against the Bailiffs; but declared that he died in Charity with all Mankind. After the Paper was read, he return’d to his usual Composure and again grew calm. As the Cart began to move forward, he with the loudest Cries and Exclamations cry’d out to God to receive his Soul, till his Breath was stopt, wringing his Hands in a passionate manner; after which, the strength of his Constitution appear’d in the extream and surprizing Difficulty with which he died.

[ …. ]

This is the Account that is given by me, T. PURNEY Ordinary and Chaplain.

N. B. A Paper was given by Towers at the Place of Execution to one Hinton, but was commanded out of his Hands by the High-Constable, and deliver’d accordingly; it was yesterday offered to Mr. Applebee; but as it was read to the Spectators, and the Contents already mentioned in the above Account of the Behaviour, &c. the Paper sign’d by Towers we shall not publish; People may therefore judge whether the Paper printed by Hinton, and published by Warner, is not an Imposition on the Town, altho’ witness’d by the two condemn’d Men: As to what Hinton publish’d, as follows, Towers publickly declar’d he would not deliver any Paper to the Ordinary or Mr. Applebee, &c. ’tis a direct Falsity, for Towers never mention’d either of them to the Publick.

LONDON: Printed by JOHN APPLEBEE, below Bridewell-Bridge, in Black-Fryers.

Old Bailey Proceedings (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 6.0, 17 April 2011), Ordinary of Newgate’s Account, 4 January 1725 (OA17250104).

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The Law enters Southwark Mint

We now present another classic piece of ‘Newgate Literature’, featuring adultery, fraud, debt, perjury, sanctuary, murder, court room shenanigans, and an execution to round everything off. But for my purposes the central interest is in the description of law enforcement in the Mint. One John Sayer, Esq., had obtained a warrant to seize his property and estranged wife from the Mint, where she, with her lover and her mother, had taken shelter.

He therefore obtained a warrant of a justice of the peace, and taking with him two constables, and six assistants, went to the house of George Twyford, in the Mint; the constables intimating that they had a warrant to search for a suspected person; for if it had been thought that they were bailiffs, their lives would have been in danger. Having entered the house, they went to a backroom, where Noble, Mrs. Sayer, and Mrs. Salisbury, were at dinner; the door was no sooner open than Noble drew his sword, and stabbing Sayer in the left breast, he died on the spot. The constables immediately apprehended the murderer and the two women; but the latter were so abandoned, that while the peace-officers were conveying them to the house of a magistrate, they did little else than lament the fate of Noble.

Apprehensive that the mob would rise, from a supposition that the prisoners were debtors, a constable was directed to carry the bloody sword before them, in testimony that murder had been committed, which produced the wished-for effect, by keeping perfect peace.

The constables, it appears, were obliged to demonstrate that they were not bailiffs, first by ‘intimating’ that they had a warrant, and then by displaying the murder weapon. Thus assured, the Minters, alert to their presence, let them alone.

In my previous post, Thomas Baston had portrayed the Southwark Minters as honest folk obliged by the unjust threat of the debtors’ prison to set up their ‘Little Republick.’ Although they were determined not to lose their liberty to the bailiff, “they do not in the least resist the Execution of the law in any other particular …. for they give shelter, or Protection unto none, except purely to the Unfortunate in the case of Debt.” This is probably an overstatement, but here we do have an example of the authorities going unhindered in a sanctuary, where the matter at hand does not seem to be debt-related.

But do we have a case where a criminal – as opposed to debtor – was taking refuge within a sanctuary? And is it without a financial aspect? Not, I think, in this affair: it appears to be a matter of civil dispute, rather than criminal law. Furthermore, the occasion for Mrs Sayer seeking refuge was a public notice published by her husband in some newspapers, informing “tradesmen and others” not to grant her credit and disavowing any responsibility for such. Cobbett’s State Trials quotes the mother as saying

she attended her daughter, in the Mint, which she thought a private place, from the resentment of Mr. Sayer, who threatened her daughter’s life

casting it as a sanctuary from ill fame and financial disrepute.

Note also that the unfortunate Sayer had previously sought refuge “within the rules of the Fleet Prison” to escape a false charge of debt by his eventual killer. The ‘rules’ were an area around that jail, where convicted debtors, if they could afford it, were allowed to reside. They also gave their name to “Fleet Marriages”, irregular and clandestine weddings, often without parental approval and sometimes for fraudulent purposes. Such contracts were made in a number of religious peculiars and sanctuaries throughout London, including the Mint.

Money and marital discord are interrelated in this case, and that the Mint is the stage for the denouement is not an accident, but essential to the narrative.

RICHARD NOBLE
Executed at Kingston, March 28, 1713, For the Murder of Mr. Sayer.

WE forbear to comment upon that part of this shocking transaction which relates to the female sex; and happy should we be, if our duty permitted us to consign to oblivion, imputations upon those who were by nature formed to be the friend and comfort of man. Richard Noble, we are sorry to say, was an attorney at law, and the paramour of Mrs. Sayer, wife of John Sayer, Esq. who was possessed of about one thousand pounds a year, and lord of the manor of Biddesden, in Buckinghamshire. Mr. Sayer does not appear to have been a man of any great abilities, but was remarkable for his good nature and inoffensive disposition. Mrs. Sayer, to whom he was married in 1699, was the daughter of Admiral Nevil, a woman of an agreeable person and brilliant wit; but of such an abandoned disposition as to be a disgrace to her sex. Soon after Mr. Sayer’s wedding, Colonel Salisbury married the Admiral’s widow; but there was such a vicious similarity in the conduct of the mother and daughter, that the two husbands had early occasion to be disgusted with the choice they had made. Mr. Sayer’s nuptials had not been celebrated many days, before the bride took the liberty of kicking him, and hinted that she would procure a lover more agreeable to her mind. Sayer, who was distractedly fond of her, bore this treatment with patience; and at the end of a twelvemonth she presented him a daughter, which soon died: but he became still more fond of her after she had made him a father, and was continually loading her with presents. Mr. Sayer now took a house in Lisle-street, Leicester-fields, kept a coach, and did every thing which he thought might gratify his wife: but her unhappy disposition was the occasion of temporary separations. At times, however, she behaved with more complaisance to her husband, who had, after a while, the honour of being deemed father of another child of which she was delivered; and after this circumstance she indulged herself in still greater liberties than before; her mother, who was almost constantly with her, encouraging her in this shameful conduct. At length a scheme was concerted, which would probably have ended in the destruction of Mr. Sayer and Colonel Salisbury, if it had not been happily prevented by the prudence of the latter. The Colonel taking an opportunity to represent to Mrs. Sayer the ill consequences that must attend her infidelity to her husband, she immediately attacked him with the most outrageous language, and insulted him to that degree that he threw the remainder of a cup of tea at her. The mother and daughter immediately laid hold of this circumstance to inflame the passions of Mr. Sayer, whom they at length prevailed on to demand satisfaction of the colonel. The challenge is said to have been written by Mrs. Sayer, and when the colonel received it, he conjectured that it was a plan concerted between the ladies to get rid of their husbands. However, he obeyed the summons, and going in a coach with Mr. Sayer towards Montague-House, he addressed him as follows: “Son Sayer, let us come to a right understanding of this business. ‘Tis very well known that I am a swordsman, and I should be very far from getting any honour by killing you. But to come nearer to the point in hand, thou shouldst know, Jack, for all the world knows, that thy wife and mine are both what they should not be. They want to get rid of us both at once. If thou shouldst drop, they’ll have me hanged for it after.” There was so much of obvious truth in this remark, that Mr. Sayer immediately felt its force, and the gentlemen drove home together, to the mortification of the ladies. Soon after this affair, Mrs. Sayer went to her house in Buckinghamshire, where an intimacy took place between her and the curate of the parish, and their amour was conducted with so little reserve, that all the servants saw that the parson had more influence in the house than their master. Mrs. Sayer coming to London, was soon followed by the young clergyman, who was seized with the small- pox, which cost him his life. When he found there was no hope of his recovery, he sent to Mr. Sayer, earnestly requesting to see him: but Mrs. Sayer, who judged what he wanted, said that her husband had not had the small-pox, and such a visit might cost him his life; she therefore insisted that her husband should not go; and the passive man tamely submitted to this injunction, though his wife daily sent a footman to enquire after the clergyman, who died without being visited by Mr. Sayer. This gentleman had not been long dead, before his place was supplied by an officer of the guards; but he was soon dismissed in favour of a man of great distinction, who presented her with some valuable china, which she pretended was won at Astrop Wells. About this time Mr. Sayer found his affairs considerably deranged by his wife’s extravagance; on which a gentleman recommended him to Mr. Richard Noble (the subject of our present consideration), as a man capable of being very serviceable to him. His father kept a very refutable coffee-house at Bath, and his mother was so virtuous a woman, that when Noble afterwards went to her house with Mrs. Sayer, in a coach and six, she shut the door against him. He had been well educated, and articled to an attorney of eminence in New Inn, in which he afterwards took chambers for himself; but he had not been in any considerable degree of practice when he was introduced to Mr. Sayer. Soon after his introduction to Mr. Sayer’s family he became too intimate with Mrs. Sayer, and, if report said true, with her mother likewise. However, these abandoned women had other prospects besides mere gallantry, and considering Noble as a man of the world as well as a lover, they concerted a scheme to deprive Mr. Sayer of a considerable part of his estate. The unhappy gentleman, being perpetually teased by the women, at length consented to execute a deed of separation, in which he assigned some lands in Buckinghamshire, to the amount of one hundred and fifty pounds a year to his wife, exclusive of fifty pounds a year for pin-money; and by this deed he likewise covenanted that Mrs. Sayer might live with whom she pleased, and that he would never molest any person on account of harbouring her. Mr. Sayer was even so weak as to sign this deed without having counsel of his own to examine it. Not long after this, Mrs Sayer was delivered of a child at Bath, but that the husband might not take alarm at this circumstance, Noble sent him a letter, acquainting him that he was to be pricked down for high sheriff of Buckinghamshire; and Mrs. Salisbury urged him to go to Holland to be out of the way, and supplied him with some money on the occasion. It does not seem probable that Sayer had any suspicion of Noble’s criminal intercourse with his wife, for, the night before he set out, he presented him with a pair of saddle-pistols and furniture worth above forty pounds. Soon after he was gone, Mrs. Sayer’s maid, speaking of the danger her master might be in at sea, Mrs. Sayer said, “She should be sorry his man James, a poor innocent fellow, should come to any harm; but she should be glad, and earnestly wished that Mr. Sayer might sink to the bottom of the sea, and that the bottom of the ship might come out.” Not long after the husband was gone abroad, Noble began to give himself airs of greater consequence than he had hitherto done. He was solicitor in a cause in the Court of Chancery, in which Mr. Sayer was plaintiff, and having obtained a decree, he obliged the trustees nominated in the marriage articles to relinquish, and assumed the authority of a sole trustee. Mr. Sayer remained in Holland nearly a year, during which time Noble publicly cohabited with his wife; and when her husband returned she refused to live with him; but having first robbed him of above two thousand pounds, in exchequer bills and other effects, she went to private lodgings with Noble, and was shortly after delivered of another child. After Mrs. Sayer had thus eloped from her husband, he caused an advertisement to be inserted in the newspapers, of which the following is a copy:

“Whereas, Mary, the wife of John Sayer, Esq. late of Lisle-street, St. Anne’s, went away from her dwellinghouse, on or about the 23d of May last, in company with Elizabeth Nevil, sister to the said Mary, and hath carried away near one thousand pounds in money, besides other things of a considerable value, and is supposed to go by some other name: he desires all tradesmen and others not to give her any credit, for that he will not pay the same.”

While Mrs. Sayer cohabited with Noble, he was constantly supplied with money but he was not her only associate at that time, for, during his occasional absence, she received the visits of other lovers. Noble now procured an order from the Court of Chancery to take Mr. Sayer in execution for four hundred pounds, at the suit of Mrs. Salisbury, the consequence of a judgment confessed by him, for form’s sake, to protect his goods from his creditors while he was in Holland. Mr. Sayer declared that the real debt was not more than seventy pounds, though artful management and legal expenses had swelled it to the above-mentioned sum. Hereupon Sayer took refuge within the rules of the Fleet Prison, and exhibited his bill in chancery for relief against these suits, and the deed of separation, which he obtained. In the mean time, Mrs. Sayer finding herself liable to be exposed by the advertisement her husband had caused to be inserted in the newspapers, she, with her mother, and Noble, took lodgings in the Mint, Southwark, which was at that time a place of refuge for great numbers of persons of desperate circumstances and abandoned characters. Mr. Sayer having been informed of this, wrote several letters to her, promising that he would forgive all her crimes, if she would return to her duty; but she treated his letters with as much contempt as she had done his person. Hereupon he determined to seize on her by force, presuming that he should recover some of his effects if be could get her into his custody. He therefore obtained a warrant of a justice of the peace, and taking with him two constables, and six assistants, went to the house of George Twyford, in the Mint; the constables intimating that they had a warrant to search for a suspected person; for if it had been thought that they were bailiffs, their lives would have been in danger. Having entered the house, they went to a backroom, where Noble, Mrs. Sayer, and Mrs. Salisbury, were at dinner; the door was no sooner open than Noble drew his sword, and stabbing Sayer in the left breast, he died on the spot. The constables immediately apprehended the murderer and the two women; but the latter were so abandoned, that while the peace-officers were conveying them to the house of a magistrate, they did little else than lament the fate of Noble.

Apprehensive that the mob would rise, from a supposition that the prisoners were debtors, a constable was directed to carry the bloody sword before them, in testimony that murder had been committed, which produced the wished-for effect, by keeping perfect peace. The prisoners begged to send for counsel, which being granted, Noble was committed for trial, after an examination of two hours; but the counsel urged so many arguments in favour of the women, that it was ten o’ clock at night before they were committed. Soon afterwards this worthless mother and daughter applied to the Court of King’s Bench to be admitted to bail, which was refused them. The coroner’s inquest having viewed Mr. Sayer’s body, it was removed to his lodgings within the rules of the Fleet, in order for interment; and three days afterwards they gave a verdict, finding Noble guilty of wilful murder, and the women of having aided and assisted him in that murder. On the evening of the 12th of March, 1713, they were put to the bar at Kingston, in Surrey, and having been arraigned on the several indictments, to which they pleaded not guilty, they were told to prepare for their trials by six o’ clock on the following morning. Being brought down for trial at the appointed time, they moved the court that their trials might be deferred till the afternoon, on the plea that some material witnesses were absent: but the court not believing their allegations, refused to comply with their request. It was imagined that this motion to put off their trials was founded in the expectation that when the business at the nisi prius bar was dispatched, many of the jurymen might go home, so that when the prisoners had made their challenges, there might not be a number left sufficient to try them, by which they might escape till the next assizes, by which time they hoped some circumstances would happen in their favour. It being ordered that the trials should commence, Mr. Noble and Mrs. Salisbury each challenged twenty of the jury, and Mrs. Sayer challenged thirty-five. Here it should be observed, that all persons indicted for felony, have a right to challenge twenty jurors, and those indicted for petit-treason thirty-five; which may be done without alleging any cause. Happily, however, the sheriff had summoned so great a number of jurors, that the ends of public justice were not, for the present, defeated. Noble’s counsel urged that some of the persons who broke into the house might have murdered Mr. Sayer, or, if they had not, the provocation he had received might be such as would warrant the jury in bringing him guilty of manslaughter only. As the court had sat from six o’ clock in the morning, till one o’ clock the next morning, the jury were indulged with some refreshment before they left the bar; and after being out nine hours, they gave their verdict that Mr. Noble was “Guilty,” and Mrs. Salisbury and Mrs. Sayer were “Not Guilty.” When Mr. Noble was brought to the bar to receive sentence, he addressed the court in the following words:

“My Lord,
I am soon to appear and render an account of my sins to God Almighty. If your lordship should think me guilty of those crimes I have been accused, and convicted of by my jury, I am then sure your lordship will think that I stand in need of such a reparation, such a humiliation for my great offences, such an abhorrence of my past life to give me hopes of a future one, that I am not without hopes that it will be a motive to your lordship’s goodness, that after you have judged and sentenced my body to execution, you will charitably, assist me with a little time for the preservation of my soul. If I had nothing to answer for but killing Mr. Sayer with precedent malice, I should have no need to address myself to your lordship in this manner. It is now too late to take advantage by denying it to your lordship, and too near my end to dissemble it before God. I know, my lord, the danger, the hell that I should plunge myself headlong into; I know I shall soon answer for the truth I am about to say, before a higher tribunal, and a more discerning judge than your lordship, which is only in heaven. I did not take the advantage to kill Mr. Sayer, by the thought or apprehension that I could do it under the umbrage of the laws, or with impunity; nothing was more distant from my thoughts than to remove him out of the world to enjoy his wife (as was suggested) without molestation. Nor could any one have greater reluctance or remorse, from the time of the fact to the hour of my trial, than I have had, though the prosecutors reported to the contrary, for which I heartily forgive them. My counsel obliged me to say on my trial, that I heard Mr. Sayer’s voice before he broke open the door; I told them as I now tell your lordship, that I did not know it was him, till he was breaking in at the door, and then, and not before, was my sword drawn, and the wound given, which wound, as Dr. Garth informed me, was so very slight, that it was a thousand to one that he died of it. When I gave the wound, I insensibly quitted the sword, by which means I left myself open for him to have done what was proved he attempted, and was so likely for him to have effected, viz. to have stabbed me; and his failure in the attempt has not a little excited my surprise. When I heard the company run up stairs, I was alarmed, and in fear; the landlord telling me instantly thereupon, that the house was beset, either for me or himself, added to my confusion. I then never thought or intended to do mischief, but first bolted the fore-door, and then bolted and padlocked the back-door, which was glazed, and began to fasten the shutters belonging to it, designing only to screen myself from the violence of the tumult. When he broke open the door, and not till then, I perceived and knew he was present; and his former threats and attempts, which I so fully proved on my trial, and could have proved much fuller, had not Mrs. Salisbury’s evidence been taken from me, made my fear so great, and the apprehension of my danger so near, that what I did was the natural motion of self-defence, and was too sudden to be the result of precedent malice; and I solemnly declare, that I did not hear or know from Twyford the landlord, or otherwise, that any constable attended the deceased, till after the misfortune happened. It was my misfortune, that what I said as to hearing the deceased’s voice was turned to my disadvantage by the counsel against me, and that I was not entitled to any assistance of counsel, to enforce the evidence given for me, or to remark upon the evidence given against me: which I don’ t doubt would have fully satisfied your lordship and the jury, that what happened was more my misfortune, than my design or intention. If I had been able, under the concern, to remark upon the evidence against me, that Mr. Sayer was but the tenth part of a minute in breaking open the door, it could not then well be supposed by the jury, that I was preparing myself, or putting myself in order to do mischief, which are acts of forethought and consideration; which require much more time than is pretended I could have had from the time I discovered Mr. Sayer; for even from his entry into the house, to the time of the accident, did not amount, as I am informed, to more than the space of three minutes. But I did not discover him before the door gave way. I wish it had been my good fortune, that the jury had applied that to me which your lordship remarked in favour of the ladies, that the matter was so very sudden, so very accidental and unexpected, that it was impossible, to be a contrivance and confederacy, and unlikely that they could come to a resolution in so short a time. I don’t remember your lordship distinguished my case, as to that particular, to be different from theirs, nor was there room for it; for it is impossible for your lordship to believe that I dreamt of Mr. Sayer’s coming there at that time, but on the contrary I fully proved to your lordship, that I went there upon another occasion, that was lawful and beneficial to the deceased; and I had no more time, to think or contrive, than the ladies had to agree or consent. If any thing could be construed favourably on the behalf of such an unfortunate wretch as myself, I think the design I had sometime before begun, and was about finishing that day, might have taken away all suspicion of malice against Mr. Sayer. Must it be thought, my lord, that I only am such a sinner that I cannot repent and make reparation to the persons I have injured? It was denied; but I strongly solicited a reconciliation between Mr. Sayer and his lady, and if this had tended to procure me an easier access to Mrs. Sayer, it would have been such a matter of aggravation to me, that it could not have escaped the remark of the counsel against me, nor the sharpness of the prosecutors present in court; with both I transacted, and to both I appealed, particularly to Mr. Nott, to whom, but the day before this accident, I manifested my desire of having them live together again, and therefore, my lord, it should be presumed I laboured to be reconciled to, and not to revenge myself on, Mr. Sayer. Your lordship, I hope, will observe thus much in my favour, that it was so far from being a clear fact, in the opinion of the jury, that they sat up all night, and believing there was no malice at that time, told your lordship they intended, and were inclined, to find it manslaughter, and, doubting the legality of the warrant, to find it special. I hope this will touch your lordship’s heart so far, as not to think me so ill a man as to deserve (what the best of Christians are taught to pray against) a sudden death!– I confess I am unprepared; the hopes of my being able to make a legal defence, and my endeavours therein having taken up my time, which I wish I had better employed; I beg leave to assure your lordship, upon the words of a dying man, that as none of the indirect practices to get or suppress evidence were proved upon me, so they never sprang from me: and I can safely say, that my blood, in a great measure, will lie at their door who did, because it drew me under an ill imputation of defending myself by subornation of perjury. I would be willing to do my duty towards my neighbour, as well as God, before I die; I have many papers and concerns (by reason of my profession) of my clients in my hands, and who will suffer, if they are not put into some order; and nothing but these two considerations could make life desirable, under this heavy load of irons, and restless remorse of conscience for my sins. A short reprieve for these purposes, I hope will be agreeable to your lordship’s humanity and Christian virtue, whereupon your lordship’s name shall be blest with my last breath, for giving me an opportunity of making peace with my conscience and God Almighty.”

The last request that Noble made was granted: he was allowed some time to settle his spiritual and temporal concerns, and at length suffered at Kingston, on the 28th of March, 1713, exhibiting marks of genuine repentance. As to the women, they were no sooner acquitted, than they set out for London, taking one of the turnkeys with them, to protect them from the assaults of the populace, who were incensed in the highest degree at the singular enormity of their crimes.

Text in the public domain, taken from archive.org.

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Thomas Baston’s “Little Republick”

Little is known of Thomas Baston, a printmaker specializing in naval scenes. It appears he was born in the early 1670s, fought the French at sea and perhaps the Irish on land, lived and worked in London, had prints commissioned by William and Mary, and spent the best part of the 1710s in the Kings Bench prison for debt.

It was whilst in prison that he wrote Thoughts on Trade And a Publick Spirit, a wide-ranging attack on corruption, malpractice and fraud, in state, economy and law alike. Against such tyranny, not only does he plead the case of those on the receiving end, the poor debtors and ill-used sailors, but counterposes the example of the Southwark Mint, in a glowing, almost utopian, description of it as a ‘little Republick.’ There, the Minters are honest, honorable and hard-working, regular in government, needing few law books. Justified by both scripture and ‘ancient liberty’, ‘they live very lovingly together.’ An idealistic description without a doubt, but also a radical, political vision of how the whole country could be: ‘the best Way to set this Place on the same level with the rest of the Kingdom is to bring the rest of the Nation on a nearer level with them.’

There is much more to discover about both the man and his book. I’m not even certain he had any first-hand experience of Southwark Mint. Most of the information I’ve found on Baston comes from Charles Harrison Wallace’s site, who notes the suggestive co-incidence of publication and reprinting with crisis: the South Sea Bubble in 1716, the Navy’s Porto Bello disaster of 1728 and the Customs and Excise Bill of 1732. But pending further research, I present his remarkable portrait of a sanctuary.

Of the Mint

from Thomas Baston, Thoughts on Trade and a Publick Spirit, 1716, pp.111-113.

There is a Place on the other Side of the Water, in St. George‘s Parish, call’d the Mint, where a great Number of unfortunate Persons have agreed together to recover a little of ancient Liberty, and rather to loose their Lives than be carry’d to Prison for Debt, tho’ they do not in the least resist the Execution of the law in any other particular; for this little Republick (in this respect) has a very regular Government, executed by their Senators, which they call Clubs, in which some Days every Week they meet together, and examine all Enormities, for they give shelter, or Protection unto none, except purely to the Unfortunate in the case of Debt. They protect no Man who has it in his power to make Satisfaction; no Man who flyes from his Bail; no Cheat of any Sort: In short, they are a tolerable good Sort of People, as Times go, and every whit as honest as their Neighbours, notwithstanding they are call’d by a great many bad Names; yet I am of Opinion they are at worst, very diminutive Rogues in Comparison of those out of the Place; however, their Creditors, and the Bailiffs in general, are mighty Angry with them, because they will not quietly go to Goal, and there be starv’d; tho’ abundance of them, being at liberty to Work, having Time, with their Industry, have paid their Creditors their whole Debt; and others part, according as they can agree, which cou’d never have been done if their Creditors had had their Wills to throw them into Prison. God allow’d several Sanctuaries, or Cities of Refuge; and seeing the Law of our Land allows of none, these Gentlemen allow themselves one. When they catch a Baily (who is an Enemy to their Constitution) they treat him according to the Custom of the Place, which like most of our Courts, is as binding as a Law. ‘Tis true, they make use of very few Law-Books, for which Reason they live very lovingly together, consulting one anothers Good, and Safety, and account their little Cottages happier Dwellings, than Palaces out of the Place, where Bailiffs and their Dogs are continually waiting at their Doors with Writs and Executions. They give Credit to one another, as well in this Place as in any other, according to their Abilities, only upon Honour, and honestly pay when they have it, and better than those out of it, notwithstanding the infallible Security of a Prison, as some foolishly and ridiculously account it. It has been talk’d a long time of putting down this Place, but I believe it will not be easily done without a great deal of Mischief; but the best Way to set this Place on the same level with the rest of the Kingdom is to bring the rest of the Nation on a nearer level with them; that is, to let all the other good People of England have the same Protection for their Persons by Law from a Prison for Debt, as they have by Force.

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Resources: Canting Dictionaries

To round off this series of posts on canting language, here are links to those pre-Victorian cant, slang and jargon vocabularies freely available on the internet. More are to be found in various subscription archives; these are not listed here both because they are not open to the general public, and because it is important to show that there are alternatives. The digital vaults should not be the first resort, as much for ethical as economic reasons.

The difficulty with using Archive.org and Google Books, from whence much of the material below can be obtained, is that the metadata, being generated by machine, is generally patchy and frequently erroneous. This makes it all the more important that what the historian does in the course of writing history – compile reference material – is made public, for all to benefit from, as well as allowing the story to be checked.

Three other resources of note are: Pascal Bonenfant’s database of cant, drawn from three dictionaries dating from 1737, 1811 and 1819; LEME, the Lexicons of Early Modern English, is an ingenious resource, although partly behind a paywall so of limited use to non-subscribers; and finally, I have started a list of canting dictionaries through the facilities provided by the Open Library.

Finally, throughout this series of posts, I have drawn on the first volume of Julie Coleman’s excellent History of Cant and Slang Dictionaries.

Thomas Harman, A caveat or warning for common cursetors, vulgarly called vagabonds, (1567). The first of the glossaries, compiled through interrogating suspected rogues. A reprint from 1814 is available from Archive.org. Open Library.

Samuel Rowland, Martin Mark-all Beadle of Bridewell, (1610). In Volume 2 of his collected works. Open Library.

Thomas Shadwell, Glossary to The Squire of Alsatia, (1688). Subject of my previous post.

B.E., Gent., A new dictionary of the terms ancient and modern of the canting crew, in its several tribes, of gypsies, beggers, thieves, cheats, &c. with an addition of some proverbs, phrases, figurative speeches, &c. First published in 1698, the Internet Archive has a scan of an 1899 reprint. Open Library.

Nathan Bailey, Canting Dictionary, (1736), extracted from Bailey, The New Universal Etymological Dictionary, (1727). Transcribed at From Old Books; the fifth edition of the  full dictionary is available via Google.

Bampfylde-Moore Carew, The life and adventures of Bampfylde-Moore Carew. Picaresque account of the ‘King of the Beggars’, the edition of 1750 contained a canting glossary. Archive.org. Open Library.

Francis Grose, Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, first published 1785 and frequently reprinted and re-edited. Transcribed at From Old Books and also available at Gutenberg and  Archive.org. Open Library

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Shadwell’s Glossary

As the online version is missing it, I present here the glossary that accompanied Shadwell’s The Squire Of Alsatia, comprising the cant terms used in that play. Taken from the 1688 text, and checked against the critical edition by J.C. Ross. In the public domain by reason of its age.

An Explanation of the Cant.

Alsatia. White-fryers.
Prig, Prigster. Pert Coxcombs.
Bubble, Caravan. The Cheated.
Sealer. One that gives Bonds and Judgments for Goods and Money.
A Putt. One who is easily wheadled and cheated.
Coale, Ready, Rhino, Darby. Ready money.
Rhinocerical. Full of money.
Megs. Guineas.
Smelts. Half-Guineas.
Decus. A Crown piece.
George. A Half-Crown.
Hog. Shilling.
Sice. Six-pence.
Scout. A Watch.
Tattler. An Alarm, or Striking Watch.
Famble. A Ring.
Porker, Tilter. A Sword.
A Rumm Nab. A good Beaver.
Rigging. Cloathes.
Blowing, Natural, Convenient, Tackle, Buttock, Pure, Purest pure. Several Names for a Mistress, or rather a Whore.
To Equip. To furnish one.
A Bolter of White-fryers. One that does but peep out of White-fryers, and retire again like a Rabbit out of his hole.
To lugg cut. To draw a Sword.
To Scamper, to rubb, to scowre. To run away.
Bowsy. Drunk.
Clear. Very Drunk.
Smoaky. Jealous.
Sharp. Subtle.
A Sharper. A Cheat.
A Tattmonger. A Cheat at Dice.
Tatts. False Dice.
The Doctor. A particular false Die, which will run but two or three Chances.
Prog. Meat.

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The Language of Alsatia: earliest uses

When was the word ‘Alsatia’ first applied to Whitefriars? Cunningham’s Handbook of London (1850) states:

“ALSATIA. A cant name given before 1623 to the precinct of Whitefriars, then and long after a notorious place of refuge and retirement for persons wishing to avoid bailiffs and creditors. The earliest use of the name is contained in a quarto tract by Thomas Powel, printed in 1623, and called “Wheresoever you see mee, trust unto Yourselfe, or the Mysterie of Lending and Borrowing.” The second in point of time is in Otway’s play of The Soldier’s Fortune, (4to, 1681), and the third in Shadwell’s celebrated Squire of Alsatia (4to, 1688) ….”

Today, due to mass digitization, accurate searching, and hopefully accurate transcription as well, we can say that the first use in print was in 1676 – August 29th, according to the license declared on the cover – in a satirical tract ‘The Character of an Honest Lawyer‘, signed by one ‘H.C.’ According to this, such a paradigm of rectitude never

maintains any correspondence with the Knights of Alsatia, or Ram-ally-Vouchers ….

A brief mention, coupled with ‘Knight’ rather than the squire more common later, and with ‘Ram Alley vouchers.’ Ram Alley was a sanctuary in the precincts of the Temple, abolished along with Alsatia by the act of 1697; a ‘voucher’ was a witness-for-hire.

Before continuing with the chronology of the term, it’s worth considering where and when it wasn’t used. Powell’s 1623 guide to London’s sanctuaries, contrary to Cunningham, did not use it, and Whitefriars is mentioned only obliquely. Similarly, Brome’s play A Mad Couple Well-Match’d, dating from before the civil war but first published in 1653, has the lines:

I need no more insconsing now in Ram-alley,
nor the Sanctuary of White-fryers , the Forts of Fullers-rents,
and Milford-lane, whose walls are dayly batter’d
with the curses of bawling creditors. My debts are payd;
and here’s a stock remayning of Gold, pure Gold harke
how sweetly it chincks.

There’s a clear opportunity to use the term Alsatia here, especially given the explicit mention of Whitefriars. That it is not used implies that it hadn’t yet been coined. Furthermore, its absence implies that Whitefriars hadn’t become the epitome of sanctuary. From the literary evidence, that was not to come until the 1670s, after the Civil War, Plague and Great Fire of London.

The next use of Alsatia in its sense of refuge is a few months after ‘H.C.’, in the prologue to Settle’s play Pastor Fido, licensed December 26th 1676. Although used in passing, it is  the first appearance of the squire:

Another keeps a Miss the modish way;
And when poor Duns, quite weary, will not stay,
The hopeless Squire’s into Alsatia driven;
Yet pretty Charming Sinner is forgiven.

Around this time, there’s a crop of passing mentions. Aphra Behn – once a debtor herself – refers to ‘New Alsatia’ in The Debauchee (1677), her adaptation of Brome’s play. Rawlins has a character as ‘foul mouth’d as a decayed sinner in the lower Alsatia’ (Tunbridge Wells, 1678); Otway’s The Cheats of Scapin (1677) and L’Estrange’s Citt and Bumpkin (1680) also make brief use of it.

It’s not until Otway’s The Soldiers Fortune (1681) that Alsatia and its denizens move out from the wings, with the squire’s portrait being fleshed out:

‘Tis a fine equipage I am like to be reduced
to ; I shall be ere long as greasy as an Alsatian bully ;
this flopping hat, pinned up on one side, with a sandy,
weather-beaten peruke, dirty linen, and, to complete
the figure, a long scandalous iron sword jarring at my
heels

Then in 1686 Alsatia becomes one of the settings of  Aphra Behn’s The Lucky Chance. Bredwel describes the garrett of the debt-ridden aristocrat Gayman, who has sought refuge in Whitefriars:

I was sent up a Ladder rather than a pair of Stairs; at last I scal’d the top, and enter’d the inchanted Castle; there did I find him, spite of the noise below, drowning his Cares in Sleep.
….

‘Tis a pretty convenient Tub, Madam. He may lie a long in’t, upright, there’s just room for an old join’d Stool besides the Bed, which one cannot call a Cabin, about the largeness of a Pantry Bin, or a Usurer’s Trunk; there had been Dornex Curtains to’t in the days of Yore; but they were now annihilated, and nothing left to save his Eyes from the Light, but my Landlady’s Blue Apron, ty’d by the strings before the Window, in which stood a broken six-penny Looking-Glass, that shew’d as many Faces as the Scene in Henry the Eighth, which could but just stand and then the Comb-Case fill’d it.

Two years later, Shadwell’s The Squire of Alsatia (1688), containing the first glossary to collect the term, made the fullest use of both the place and its Dramatis Personae. But by bringing the sanctuaries to the authorities’ attention, and inveighing strongly against such areas, it may have paved the way to the legislation of 1697 that stripped most of them of the right of refuge. It may therefore have a better claim to be one of the last, not first uses, of the term Alsatia.

Addendum: I’ve just discovered the Historical Thesaurus of English, which erroneously dates Alsatia to 1688. More interestingly, it also cites the personification ‘Alsatian’ to 1691, and places ‘Minter’, after the inhabitants of Southwark Mint, to circa 1700 – 1723.

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