“then my Lad you Swing”

On route to London from Deal, where the passengers from the ship Active were put ashore, ABIGAIL ADAMS describes an encounter with a highwayman in the journal she is intending to send to her sister MARY CRANCH.

From Chatham we proceeded, on our way as fast as possible wishing to pass Black Heath before dark. Upon this road, a Gentleman alone in a chaise past us, and very soon a coach before us stoped, and there was a hue and cry, a Robbery a Robbery. The Man in the chaise was the person robbed and this in open day with carriages constantly passing. We were not a little allarmed and every one were concealing their money. Every place we past, and every post chaise we met were crying out a Robbery. Where the thing is so common I was Surprized to see such an allarm. The Robber was pursued and taken in about two miles, and we saw the poor wretch gastly and horible, brought along on foot, his horse rode by a person who took him; who also had his pistol. He looked like a youth of 20 only, attempted to lift his hat, and looked Dispair. You can form some Idea of my feelings when they told him aya, you have but a short time, the assise [a circuit court] set next Month, and then my Lad you Swing. Tho every robber may deserve Death yet to exult over the wretched is what our Country is not accustomed to. Long may it be free of such villianies and long may it preserve a commisiration for the wretched.

Abigail is upset over what she perceives as gloating: “aya, you have but a short time”, believing that it is not right to “exult” over another’s death, even over a robber for whom hanging was the punishment. She believes that this does not happen the America. Or perhaps she hopes it does not.

“Abigail Adams to Mary Smith Cranch, 6 – 30 July 1784,” Founders Online, National Archives, accessed April 11, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/04-05-02-0204. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 5, October 1782 – November 1784, ed. Richard Alan Ryerson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993, pp. 358–386.]

posted November 4th, 2019 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail, Cranch, Mary (Smith), Crime and punishment, England


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