Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Lives of Remarkable Criminals: Foster Snow


a Murderer

There cannot be anything more dangerous in our conduct through human life, than a too ready compliance with any inclination of the mind, whether it be lustful or of an irascible nature. Either transports us on the least check into wicked extravagancies, which are fatal in their consequences, and suddenly overwhelm us with both shame and ruin. There is hardly a page in any of these volumes, but carries in it examples which are so many strong proofs of the veracity of this observation. But with respect to the criminal we are now speaking of, he is a yet more extraordinary case than any of the rest; and therefore I shall in the course of my relation, make such remarks as to me seem more likely to render his misfortunes, and my account of them, useful to my readers.

Foster Snow was the son of very honest and reputable parents, who gave him an education suitable to their station in life, and which was also the same they intended to breed him up to, viz., that of a gardener, in which capacity, or as a butler, he served abundance of persons of quality, with an untainted reputation. About fourteen years before the time of his death, he married and set up an alehouse, wherein his conduct was such that he gained the esteem and respect of his neighbours, being a man who was without any great vices, except only passions, in which he too much indulged himself. Whenever he was in drink, he would launch out into unaccountable extravagancies both in words and actions. However, it is likely that this proceeded in a great measure from family uneasiness, which undoubtedly had for a long time discomposed him before committing that murder for which he died. Though, when sober, he might have wisdom enough to conceal his resentment, yet when the fumes of wine had clouded his reason, he (as it is no uncommon case) gave vent to his passion, and treated with undistinguished surliness all who came in his way.

Now, as to the source of these domestic discontents, it is apparent from the papers I have that they were partly occasioned by family mismanagement, and partly from the haughty and impudent carriage of the unfortunate person who fell by his hands; for it seems the woman who Snow married had a daughter by a former husband This daughter she brought home to live with the deceased Mr. Snow, who was so far from being angry therewith, or treating her with the coldness which is usual to fathers-in-law, that, on the contrary, he gave her the sole direction of his house, put everything into her hands, and was so fond of the young daughter she had, that greater tenderness could not have been shown to the child if she had been his own.

It seems the deceased Mr. Rawlins had found a way to ingratiate himself with both the mother and the daughter, but especially the latter, so that although his circumstances were not extraordinary, they gave him very extensive credit; and as he had a family of children, they sometimes suffered them to get little matters about their house; and thereby so effectually entailed them upon them, that at last they were never out of it.

Mr. Snow, it seems, took umbrage at this, and spared not to tell Mr. Rawlins flatly, that he did not desire he should come thither, which was frequently answered by the other in opprobrious and under-valuing terms, which gave Mr. Snow uneasiness enough, considering that the man at the same time owed him money; and this carriage on both sides having continued for a pretty while, and broken out in several instances, it at last made Mr. Snow so uneasy that he could not forbear expressing his resentment to his wife and family. But it had little effect, they went on still at the same rate; Mr. Rawlins was frequently at the house, his children received no less assistance there than before, and in short, everything went on in such a manner that poor Mr. Snow had enough to aggravate the suspicions which he entertained.

At last it unfortunately happened that he, having got a little more liquor in his head than ordinary, when Mr. Rawlins came into the house, he asked him for money, and upbraided him with his treatment in very harsh terms, to which the other making no less gross replies, it kindled such a resentment in this unfortunate man that, after several threats which sufficiently expressed the rancour of his disposition, he snatched up a case knife, and pursuing the unfortunate Mr. Rawlins, gave him therewith a mortal wound, of which he instantly died. For this fact he was apprehended and committed to Newgate.

At the next sessions he was indicted, first for the murder of Thomas Rawlins, by giving him with a knife a mortal wound of the breadth of an inch, and of the depth of seven inches, whereby he immediately expired; he was a second time indicted on the Statute of Stabbing; and a third time also on the coroner's inquest, for the same offence. Upon each of the which indictments the evidence was so dear that the jury, notwithstanding some witnesses which he called to his reputation, and which indeed deposed that he was a very civil and honest, and peaceable neighbour, found him guilty on them all, and he thereupon received sentence of death.

In passing this sentence, the then deputy-recorder, Mr. Faby, took particular notice of the heinousness of the crime of murder, and expatiated on the equity of the Divine Law, whereby it was required that he who had shed man's blood, by man should his blood be shed; and from thence took occasion to warn the prisoner from being misled into any delusive hopes of pardon, since the nature of his offence was such as he could not reasonably expect it from the Royal breast, which had ever been cautious of extending mercy to those who had denied it unto their fellow-subjects.

Under sentence of death this unhappy man behaved himself very devoutly, and with many signs of true penitence. He was, from the first, very desirous to acquaint himself with the true nature of that crime which he had committed, and finding it at once repugnant to religion, and contrary to even the dictates of human nature, he began to loath himself and his own cruelty, crying out frequently when alone. "Oh! Murder! Murder! it is the guilt of that great sin which distracts my soul." When at chapel he attended with great devotion to the duties of prayer and service there; but whenever the Commandments came to be repeated, at the words, "Thou shalt do no murder", he would tremble, turn pale, shed tears, and with a violent agitation of spirit pray to God to pardon him that great offence.

To say truth never any man seemed to have a truer sense or a more quick feeling of his crimes, than this unhappy man testified during his confinement. His heart was so far from being hardened, as is too commonly the case with those wretches who fall into the same condition, that he, on the contrary, afflicted himself continually and without ceasing, as fearing that all his penitence would be but too little in the sight of God, for destroying His creature and taking away a life which he could not restore. Amidst these apprehensions, covered with terrors and sinking under the weight of his afflictions, he received spiritual assistance of the Ordinary and other ministers, with much meekness, and it is to be hoped with great benefit; since they encouraged him to rely on the Mercy of God, and not by an unseasonable diffidence to add the throwing away his own soul by despair, to the taking away the life of another in his wrath.

What added to the heavy load of his sorrows, was the unkindness of his wife, who neither visited him in his misfortunes, and administered but indifferently to his wants. It seems the quarrels they had, had so embittered them towards one another that very little of that friendship was to be seen in either, which makes the marriage bond easy and the yoke of matrimony light. His complaints with respect to her occasioned some enquiries as to whether he were not jealous of her person; such suspicions being generally the cause of married people's greatest dislikes. What he spoke on this head was exceedingly modest, far from that rancour which might have been expected from a man whom the world insinuated had brought himself to death by a too violent resentment of what related to her conduit; though no such thing appeared from what he declared to those who attended him. He said he was indeed uneasy at the too large credit she gave to the deceased, but that it was her purse only that he entertained suspicions of, and that as he was a dying man, he had no ill thought of her in any other way. But with regard to his daughter, he expressed a very great dislike to her behaviour, and said her conduct had been such as forced her husband to leave her; and that though he had treated her with the greatest kindness and affection, yet such was the untowardness of her disposition that he had received but very sorry returns. However, to the last he expressed great uneasiness lest after his decease his little grand-daughter-in-law might suffer in her education, of which he had intended to take the greatest care; his dislike to the mother being far enough from giving him any aversion to the child. It seems from the time he had taken it home he had placed his affections strongly upon it, and did not withdraw them even to the hour of his departure.

As death grew near, he was afflicted with a violent disease, which reduced him so low that he was incapable of coming to the chapel; and when it abated a little it yet left his head so weak that he seemed to be somewhat distracted, crying out in chapel the Sunday before he died, like one grievously disturbed in mind, and expressing the greatest agonies under the apprehension of his own guilt, and the strict justice of Him to whom he was shortly to answer. However, he forgave with all outward appearance of sincerity, all who had been in any degree accessory to his death.

Being carried in a mourning coach to the place of execution, he appeared somewhat more composed than he had been for some time before. He told the people that, except the crime for which he died, he had never been guilty of anything which might bring him within the fear of meeting with such a death. And in this disposition of mind he suffered at Tyburn, on the 3rd day of November, 1725, being about fifty-five years of age. Immediately after his death a paper was published under the title of his case, full of circumstances tending to extenuate his guilt but such as in no way appeared upon his trial.

The Court of Old Bailey at the next sessions taking this paper into their consideration, were of opinion that it reflected highly on the justice of those who tried him, and therefore ordered the printer to attend them to answer for this offence. Accordingly he attended the next day, and being told that the Court was highly displeased with his publishing a thing of that nature, in order to misrepresent the justice of their proceedings, and that they were ready to punish him for his contempt in the aforesaid publication of such a libel; Mr. Leech thought fit to prevent it by making his most humble submission, and asking pardon of the Court for his offence, assuring them that it proceeded only from inadvertency, and promising never to print anything of the like sort again. Whereupon the Court were graciously pleased to dismiss him only with a reprimand, and to admonish others of the same profession, that they should be cautious for the future of doing anything which might reflect in any degree upon the proceedings had before them.

Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals