Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Abraham White


Thieves and Housebreakers

Of these unfortunate lads, Abraham White was born of mean parents who had it not in their power to give him much education, but taught him, however, the business of a bricklayer, which was his father's trade, and by which, doubtless, if he had been careful, he might have got his bread. But he unfortunately addicting himself from childhood to drinking and lewd company, soon plunged himself into all manner of wickedness, and quickly brought on a fatal necessity of stepping into the road of the gallows; and associating himself with Sanders and Minsham, they had all gone together upon the road for about six weeks before they were taken.

Francis Sanders was a young fellow of very tolerable arts and education. He had been put out apprentice to a stay-maker, attained to a great proficiency in his trade; and by the help of his friends, who were very willing to lend him their assistance, he might have done very well in the world if it had not been for that unfortunate inclination to roving, which continually possessed him. His acquaintance with a certain bad woman was in all probability the first cause of his addicting himself to ill-courses, and as in the papers I have before me relating to him, her history is also contained, I thought it would not be unentertaining to my readers if I ventured to insert it. This woman's true name was Mary Smith. She was brought up, while young, from her native country of Yorkshire to London, where getting into the service of an eminent shopkeeper, she might, had she been honest and industrious, have lived easily and with credit; but unfortunately both for herself and her master's apprentice, the young man took a liking to her, and one night, having first taken care to make himself master of the key of her door, he came out of his chamber into hers, where after a faint resistance, he got to bed to her. Their correspondence was carried on for a good while without suspicion, but the young man having one night stole a bottle of rum with a design that it should make his mistress and he merry together before they went to bed, they inconsiderately drank so heartily of it that the next morning they slept so sound that their master and mistress came upstairs at ten o'clock, and found them in bed together. Upon this, the wench, without more ado, was turned out of doors, and was forced to live at an alehouse of ill-repute, where Sanders used to come of an evening, and so got acquainted with her.

John Minsham was an unfortunate wretch, born of mean parents, and equally destitute of capacity or education. From the time he had been able to crawl alone, he had known scarce any other home than the street. Shoe-blacks and such like vagabonds were his constant companions, and the only honest employment he ever pretended to was that of a hackney-coachman, which the brethren of the whip had taught him out of charity.

Thus furnished with bad principles, and every way fitted for those detestable practices into which they precipitated themselves, they first got into one another's company at a dram-shop near St. Giles in the Fields, much frequented by Constance Buckle, a most lewd and abandoned strumpet, and one Rowland Jones, a fellow of as bad principles as themselves. One night, having intoxicated themselves with the vile manufacture of the house, they went out, after they had spent their money, and in Bloomsbury Square attacked one John Ross, from whom they took away a hat value five shillings, and fourpence halfpenny in money. This man, it seems, lived the very next door to the gin-shop where they frequented. Going there the next day, to make complaint, he was immediately told that the people who had robbed him had sold his hat, and were coming thither by and by to drink the money out in gin. Upon this information Ross procured proper assistance, and the people keeping their appointment pretty exactly, were all surprised and taken.

In the confusion they were under when first apprehended, Minsham and Sanders in part owned the fact, but Rowland Jones making a full and frank discovery, was accepted as an evidence, and produced against them at their trial at the ensuing sessions at the Old Bailey, where, upon full evidence, they were all convicted of this fact, and Francis Sanders, Constance Buckle, and Robert Tyler, were indicted for assaulting Richard Smith on the highway, putting him in fear, and taking from him a hat value five shillings.

Rowland Jones, the evidence, deposed that the night the robbery was committed he was in company with the prisoners at a brandy shop, where having drunk until they were all pretty much elevated, they went out in order to see what they could pick up. And not far from the place they went from, overtaking a man whom they saw had a pretty good hat on, Sanders hit him a blow in the face, and that not doing the business, he repeated it, and at the second blow, the hat fell off from his head, whereupon Constance Buckle caught it and clapped it under her coat. The constable deposed that by the information of Rowland Jones, he apprehended the prisoners. Constance Buckle acknowledged that she was in their company when the man was knocked down and the hat taken, whereupon the jury, without withdrawing, found them guilty, and they received sentence of death.

The woman Constance Buckle pleaded her being with child, and a jury of matrons being impannelled, they found she was quick, and thereby procured her a respite of execution, and soon after her sentence was changed to transportation. The rest, under conviction, behaved themselves very indifferently, and manifested sufficiently that though custom and an evil disposition might make them bold in the commission of robberies, yet when death looked them steadily and unavoidably in the face, all that resolution forsook them, and in their last moments they behaved with all the appearances of terror which are usually seen in souls just awakened to a due sense of their guilt. They died on the 23rd of December, 1730; White being eighteen, Sanders near eighteen, and Minsham sixteen years of age.

Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals