Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

tains of tears, by having so lately made his brother's a fountain of blood.

This doleful scene, with the pity of most, but the wonder of all, being thus past over, he is now returned again, a much-la. mented prisoner, to Newgate, from whence, February the fourand-twentieth, he was brought to his trial at the Sessions-house in the Old Bailey, where, appearing with a countenance that carried in it a mixture of courage and contrition, being such as rather semed dejected for offending the law of God, than any ways terrified for any torments that could be inflicted upon him by the laws of man; being demanded to plead, he answers, that, if it might, on his being tried, be admitted him to die by that manner of death by which his brother fell, he would plead; if not, by refusing to plead, he would both preserve an estate to bestow on such friends for whom he had most affection, and withal free himself from the ignominious death of a publick gibbet.

Many arguments, and those urgent and pressing, were used by the Lord Chief Justice Glyn, and the rest of the bench, to in. duce him to plead, as laying before him the sin he committed, in refusing to submit to the ordinary course of law, the terror of the death his obstinate silence would force them to in tliet upon him.

These, with many other motives, were used, but all invalid; he remains impenetrable, refusing either to plead, or to discover who it was that fired the gun; only aflirms, which he continued till his death, that, whoever fired it, it was done by his directions, but with no intent to be the death of his brother-in-law, but only, as he was pleased to say, to let him know, that a life, made odious by so many pressing acts of injustice, as he had received from him, though, by their politick contrivance, defended from any punishment the law could inflict, yet was not safe, where the person of. feoded hath spirit enough to revenge an injury.

This, not-to-be-justified resolution, cherished a long time by his hot and haughty spirit, had often, on the sight of Mr. Fussel, raised in him impetuous storms of rage; such that often broke out into that intemperance, as, both by word and letter, he several times challenges him; and, in consideration of his being something more impaired by age than himself, offers him what odds, in length of weapon, he could with reason and honour demand. This en. countering nought but a silent and slighting repulse, he, one day, meeting him in Westminster-hall, accosts him with this compli. ment:

Brother Fussel, It argues not discretion in us of either side, we being both cavaliers, to submit our causes to this present course of law, where the most of our judges are such as formerly were our enemies—Calais Sands were a fitter place for our dispute, 6 than Westminster-hall.'

These affronts finding a man too subtle to seek any other revenge, than what lay safe under the sure guard of the law, he rather seeks from thence to do him a certain mischief, than, by the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

uncertain managing of a duel, to run the hazard of being mischieved himself; so that he not only refused that way of deciding the quarrel, but indicts his brother Strangeways as a challenger; which, adding more fewel to his former conceived rage, puts him upon

this dangerous way of satisfying his vindictive passion; and though he, by a constant asseveration, affirms, that the firing of the gun was only intended to terrify him; he affirming, that, had not the hand of him who fired it fell lower than was intended, it had been im.' possible for the bullets to have so 'unhappily hit the mark; yet, its being charged with three bullets, whereas small shot, if only intended to affright, would have been a more certain terror, with less hazard of danger, is an argument so prevalent with most men, that the action carries no fairer a face, than a horrid and wilful murther.

But, not to ingulf too far in censuring the act, we hasten to declare, as far as concerns our business in hand, the demeanor of the actor, who, persisting in his first resolution not to plead, hears from the offended court this dreadful sentence:

66 That the prisoner at the bar be sent to the place from whence he came; and that he be put into a mean house stopped from any light; and that he be laid upon his back, with his body bare, sav. ing something to cover his privy parts; that his arms shall be stretched forth with a cord, the one to the one side of the prison, the other to the other side of the prison; and in like manner shall his legs be used: and that upon his body shall be laid as much iron and stone as he can bear, and more; and the first day shall he have three morsels of barley-bread, and the next day shall he drink thrice of the water in the next channel to the prison door, but no spring or fountain water: and this shall be his punishment till he die.”

This thunderbolt of judgment, leve}led at his life, he yet, with a passive valour (high as ever was his active), with a constancy, which might cast a blush on the ghost of an ancient Roman hearse, but continues his resolution; and, being returned to the prison, from thence writes this sad letter to his brother-in-law, Major Dewie, a member of parliament, and a gentleman that had mar. ried another of his sisters,

DEAR BROTHER,

I hope these lines, and pressing death, will so far expiate my ? crime, as to procure your and my other friends forgiveness, for my

conscience bears me witness, I was provoked by many of my brother-in-law's insufferable wrongs. After divers parlies, find. ing his in veterate spleen so implacable, as to indict and inform against me at the open bench, my flesh and blood held no longer patience, but sought to usurp the revengeful attribute which God appropriates to himself, when he would not answer me in single combate, though I offered him advantage in the length of weapon; yet this I will assure you, that I did not intend his death, but, by the discharging of a warning-piece, to have only terrified his heart from practising litigious suits, and thereby to let him

6

[ocr errors]

6

know, that he was at another man's mercy, if he contemned 6 the same.

• In a word, each man oweth a death, I two, by this untimely fact: the one to my Maker, the other to the law; which invokes to pay the one the more willingly, being confident that the other

is cancelled, by the all-seeing eye of Divine mercy and justice. . These, in short, are the last words of

• Your dying Brother,

• GEORGE STRANGEWAYS.' From the Press-yard in Newgate,

13 February, 1658. This being one of the last scenes he was to act on the stage of mortality, he now retires, by Divine contemplation, to dress his soul in those robes of repentance, wherewith she was suddenly to meet her celestial bridegroom. In which pious action, he hath the frequent assistance of divines, some of excellent abilities, as Dr. Wilde and Dr. Warmsley; there was also with bim Mr. Jenkins, Mr. Watson, and Mr. Norton, to all of which, by a repentant acknowledgment of the foulness of his crime, by a detestation of all those thoughts that had formerly fomented his malice, and, by a solemn and serious invocation of his Redeemer, for the increas. ing of those rays of mercy, which (even in that dark and disinal agony the apprehension or guilt might have plunged her into) he yet found irradiated the darkest apprehensions of a soul clouded with sin and sorrow.

To some, whose zcal (if meriting the name) was more in that act than their discretion, when, with the harsh and unseasonable rigid means of the law, they appeared rather as if they came to fright his soul into a distracting despair, than to fortify her with comforts fit to undergo so sad a conflict, he desired them to pro. ceed no further in so unseasonable a discourse ; with an exaited heighth of christian confidence affirming, that, through the power. ful operation of mercy, whose restoratives he felt even in the grasp of death, he doubted not but his scarlet sins were washed white as wool; and that (through the Red sea of his brother's blood) he should safely arrive at the celestial Canaan. Thus spending that narrow stock of time, allowed him for the levelling his accounts with heaven, as if his soul, which before travelled with a snail. like slowness towards her celestial home, were now in her full career, the fatal day arrives. On Monday, the last of January, about eleven of the clock in the morning, the sheriffs of London, accompanied with divers officers, came to the Press-yard, where, after a short time of stay, Major Strangeways was guarded down. He was cloathed all in white; waistcoat, stockings, drawers, and cap, over which was cast a long mourning cloak; a dress that handsomely emblemed the eondition he was then in, who, though his soul wore a sable robe of mourning for her former sins, it was now become her upper garment, and, in some few minutes, being cast off, would discover the iminaculate dress of mercy which was under it.

From hence is he guarded to the dungeon, the sad and dismal place of execution, being accompanied by some few of his friends, amongst which was the Rev. Dr. Warmsley, whose pious care intended now to be near as inseparable to him as life itself. Having asked the executioner for a place to kneel in, and being answered, that there was none of more conveniency than the bottom of the dungeon, Well,' said he, “this place must then serve him, who is forced immaturely to fall; for there can be no greater vanity in the world, than to esteem the world, which regardeth no man, and to make slight account of God, who greatly respecteth all men; for only, Gentlemen, let me tell you, had I served

my

God as faithfully as I served my lord and master, my King, I had never come to this untimely end. But, blessed be God for all-I shall willingly submit, and earnestly implore your prayers for the carrying me through this great work.' Then, turning to Dr. Warmsley, he said, “Will you be pleased to assist me with your prayers ?’ Doctor. • Yes, Major, I come to officiate that christian work, and the Lord strengthen your faith, and give you confidence and assurance in the merits of Jesus Christ."

After they had spent some short time in prayer, Dr. Warmsley, taking him aside, had with him some small time of private conference, concerning the clear demonstration of the faith he died in, and about receiving the sacrament. They appeared something to differ in opinion, which renders the world much unsatisfied, as, in point of religion, whether he died a protestant or not; those of the church of Rome affirming, that, whilst he lay sick of his pleurisy, he was visited by several catholicks that are in orders, some of whose names I have heard, and that they proved so prevalent with him, that they had wrought him to an absolute conversion, and that they were confident, though he had not long lived so, in that faith he died. Whether this be true, I leave every judicious reader to judge, by the succeeding circumstance, when he had left off his conference with Dr. Warmsley, in which he desired him not to press at that unseasonable time matters of controversy, it being a matter full of danger to disturb that calm the soul ought to wear when she comes to encounter death: and then, applying himself to the company in general, with a voice something more elevated thau ordinary, he speaks these words:

For my religion (I thank my God) I never had thought in my heart to doubt it; I die in the christian religion (but never mentioned the protestant), and am assured of my interest in

Christ Jesus, by whose merits I question not but my soul shall, e're long, triumph over these present afflictions in eternity of glory, being reconciled to the mercies of my God, through my * Saviour Jesus Christ, into whose bosom I hope to be gathered, " there to enjoy that eternal, infinite, and boundless happiness,

wherewith he rewards all the elect; so the Lord bless you all, 6 bless

you in this world, till he brings you to a world ever blessed; 6 and bless me in this last and dreadful trial. So let us all pray; 6 Jesus! Jesus! have mercy on me!'

Having said this, he takes his solemn and last leave of all his lamenting friends, and now prepares for that dreadful assault of death he was speedily to encounter. His friends placed themselves at the corners of the press, whom he desired, when he gave the words, to lay on the weights. His hands and legs are extended, in

which action he cries out, thus were the sacred limbs of my ever · blessed Saviour stretched forth on the cross, when suffering to free

the sin-polluted world from an eternal curse.' Then crying forth, with a clear and sprightful voice, Lord Jesus receive my soul,' which was the promised signal, those sad assistants perform their dreadful task; and laid on at first-weight, which, finding too light for a sudden execution, many of those standing by added their burthens to disburthen him of his pain; which, notwithstanding, for the time of his continuance, as it was to him a dreadful sufferance, 80 was it to them a horrid spectacle, his dying groans filling the uncouth dungeon with the voice of terror. But this dismal scene soon finds a quiet catastrophe, for, in the space of eight or ten minutes at the most, his unfcttered soul left her tortured man. sion, and he, from that violent paroxysm, falls into the quiet sleep of death.

His body having laid some time in the press, he was brought forth, in which action, e're coffined, it was so much exposed to publick view, that many standers-by beheld the bruise made by the press, whose triangular form, being placed with the acute angle about the region of the heart, did soon deprive that fountain of life of its necessary motion, though he was prohibited that usual favour in that kind, to have a sharp piece of timber laid under his back to accelerate its penetration. The body appeared void of all scars, and not deformed with blood, but where the eminencies of the press touched on the middle parts of his breast, and upper of the belly; his face was bloody, but, as it appeared to the most inquisitive spectators, not from any exteroal injury, but the violent forcing of the blood from the larger vessels into the veins of the nose and eyes, whose smaller branches, forced open by so sudden a compression, as if they mourned in the colour of his crime, had their last tears composed of blood: and, now commit. ted to that sable cabinet, his coffin, he is, in a cart that attender! at the prison door, conveyed to Christ-church, where his ashes shall sleep, till time herself 'be dissolved to eternity: and, as it is our christian duty to hope, hath made good, in every part, this excellent saying of an ancient philosophical poet:

Cedit item retro, de terra quod fuit ante,
Li terram, & quod nrissum est ex ætheris oris
Iu rursum cæli fulgentia templa receptant. LUCRETius, lib. iv.

Thus did they leave the busy world, the one
So swiftly from all mortal trouble gone;
As if his soul practis'd at first to fly
With the light'motions of eternity:
Gone with such silence, as his hasty breath
By a few groans disdain'd to parl with death:

« ForrigeFortsett »