JOSEPH BLAKE ALIAS BLUESKIN
Made an Unsuccessful Attempt to kill Jonathan Wild by cutting his Throat. Executed in November, 1724, at Newgate
JOSEPH BLAKE, better known by his nickname of Blueskin, from his dark countenance, always deserves to be remembered as one who studiously took the paths of infamy in order to become famous.
By birth he was a native of the City of London. His parents, being persons in tolerable circumstances, kept him six years at school, where he did not learn half so much from his master as he did evil from his school-fellow, William Blewit, from whose lessons he copied so well that all his education signified nothing.
He absolutely refused, when he came from school, to go to any employment, but, on the contrary, set up for a robber when he was scarcely seventeen; and from that time to the day of his death was unsuccessful in all his undertakings, hardly ever committing the most trivial fact but he experienced for it either the humanity of the mob or of the keepers of Bridewell, out of which, or some other prison, he could hardly keep his feet for a month together.
He fell into the gang of Lock, Wilkinson, Carrick, Lincoln, and Daniel Carroll. Being out one night with this gang, they robbed one Mr Clark of eight shillings and a silver hilted sword, just as candles were going to be lighted. A woman, looking accidentally out of a window, perceived it, and cried out "Thieves!" Wilkinson fired a pistol at her, which (very luckily), upon her drawing in her head, grazed the window, and did no other mischief.
Blake was also in the company of the same gang when they attacked Captain Langley at the corner of Hyde Park Road as he was going to the camp; but the Captain behaved himself so well, that notwithstanding they shot several times through and through his coat, yet they were not able to rob him.
Not long after this Wilkinson, being apprehended, impeached a large number of persons, and with them Blake and Lock. Lock thereupon made a fuller discovery than the other before Justice Blackerby, in which information there was contained no less than seventy robberies, upon which he also was admitted a witness; and having named Wilkinson, Lincoln, Carrick and Carroll, with himself, to have been the five persons who murdered Peter Martain, the Chelsea pensioner, by the Park wall, Wilkinson thereupon was apprehended, tried and convicted, notwithstanding the information he had before given, which was thereby totally set aside.
Blake himself also became now an evidence against the rest of his companions, and discovered about a dozen robberies which they had committed. Amongst these there was a very remarkable one.
Two gentlemen in hunting-caps were together in a chariot on the Hampstead Road, from whom they took two gold watches, rings, seals and other things to a considerable value; and Junks, alias Levey, laid his pistol down by the gentlemen all the while he searched them, yet they wanted either the courage or the presence of mind to seize it and prevent their losing things of so great value.
Not long after this Oakey, Junks and this Blake stopped a single man with a link before him in Fig Lane, and he not surrendering so easily as they expected, Junks and Oakey beat him over the head with their pistols, and then left him wounded in a terrible condition, taking from him one guinea.
A short time after this Junks, Oakey and Flood were apprehended and executed for robbing Colonel Cope and Mr Young of that very watch for which Carrick and Malony had been before executed, Joseph Blake being the evidence against them.
After this hanging work of his companions he thought himself not only entitled to liberty but reward. Therein, how ever, he was mightily mistaken, for, not having surrendered willingly and quietly, but being taken after long resistance and when he was much wounded, there did not seem to be the least foundation for this confident demand. He remained still a prisoner in the Wood Street Compter, obstinately refusing to be transported for seven years, till at last procuring two men to be bound for his good behaviour, he was carried before a worthy alderman of the City and there discharged.
At which time somebody there present asking how long might be given him before they should see him again at the Old Bailey, a gentleman made answer, "In about three sessions," which time it seems he guessed very right; for the third sessions from thence Blake was indeed brought to the bar.
No sooner was he at liberty than he was employed at robbing; and having picked up Jack Sheppard for a companion, they went out together to search for prey in the fields. Near the halfway house to Hampstead they met with one Pargitar, pretty much in liquor, whom Blake immediately knocked down into the ditch, where he would inevitably have perished had not Jack Sheppard kept his head above the mud with great difficulty.
For this fact, the next sessions after it happened, two brothers (Brightwells) in the Guards were tried, and if a number of men had not sworn them to have been on duty at the time the robbery was committed they would certainly have been convicted, the evidence of the prosecutor being direct and full. The elder Brightwell died in a week after he was released from his confinement, and so did not live to see his innocence fully cleared by the confession of Blake.
He behaved with great impudence at his trial, and when he found nothing would save him he took the advantage of Jonathan Wild's coming to speak with him to cut the said Wild's throat a large gash from the ear beyond the windpipe; of which wound Wild languished a long time. And happy had it been for him if Blake's wound had proved fatal, for then Jonathan would have escaped death by a more dishonourable wound in the throat than that of a penknife.
But the number of his crimes and the spleen of his enemies procured him a worse fate.
Whatever Wild might deserve of others, he seems to have merited better usage from this Blake; for while he continued a prisoner in the compter, Jonathan was at the expense of curing a wound he had received, allowed him three shillings and sixpence a week, and after his last misfortune promised him a good coffin, actually furnished him with money to support him in Newgate, and several good books if he had made use of them.
But because he freely declared to "Blueskin" there was no hope of getting him transported, the murderous villain determined to take away his life, and was so far from showing any signs of remorse when he was brought up again to Newgate that he declared that if he had thought of it before, he would have provided such a knife as would have cut off his head.
At the time he received sentence there was a woman also condemned, and they being placed, as usual, in what is called the Bail Dock at the Old Bailey, Blake offered such rudeness to the woman that she cried out and alarmed the whole bench. All the time he lay under condemnation he appeared utterly thoughtless and insensible of his approaching fate. Though from the cutting of Wild's throat and some other barbarities of the same nature he acquired amongst the mob the character of a brave fellow, yet he was in himself but a mean spirited, timorous man, and never exerted himself but through either fury or despair.
He wept much at the chapel before he was to die; and though he drank deeply to drive away fear, yet at the place of execution he wept again, trembled, and showed all the signs of a timorous confusion as well he might, who had, lived wickedly, and trifled with his repentance to the grave. There was nothing in his person extra ordinary: a dapper, well set up fellow, of great strength and great cruelty; equally detested by the sober part of the world for the audacious wickedness of his behaviour, and despised by his companions for the villainies he committed even against them.
He was executed in the twenty-eighth year of his age, on the 11th of November, 1724