Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Lives of Remarkable Criminals: Frances Blacket


a Highwaywoman

Nothing deserves observation more than the resolution, or rather obstinacy, with which some criminals deny the facts they have committed, though ever so evidently proved against them. There are two evils which follow from a hasty judgment formed from this consideration; the first is, that people either instigated through malice, or rashly and by mistake, swear against innocent persons from a presumption that nobody would be so wicked as to die with a lie in their mouths; the other fault consists in imagining that the prosecutor is never in the wrong, but believing that covetousness or revenge can never bring people to such a pitch as to take away the life of another to gain money, or glut their passions. Our experience convinces us that either of these notions taken generally is wrong in itself, and that even as many have died in the profession of falsehoods, so some have suffered though innocent of the crime for which they died. The true use, therefore, of this reflection is that where life is concerned, too much care cannot be taken to sift the truth, since appearances often deceive us and circumstances are sometimes strong where the evidence, if the whole affair were known, would be but weak.

Mary Blacket, which was the real name of this unfortunate woman, was the daughter of very mean parents, who yet were so careful of her education that they brought her up to read and write tolerably well, and to do everything which could be expected from a household servant, which was the best station they ever expected she would arrive at. When she grew big enough to go out, they procured for her a service in which as well as in several others, while a single woman, she lived with very good reputation. After this she married a sailor, and for all her neighbours knew, lived by hard working while he was abroad. Then on a sudden she was taken up and committed to Newgate, for assaulting William Whittle, in the highway, and taking from him a watch value L4, and sixpence in money, on the 6th of August, 1726.

When sessions came on, the prosecutor appeared and swore the fact positively upon her, whereupon the jury found her guilty, though at the bar she declared with abundance of asseverations that she never was guilty of anything of that sort in her life, and insisted on it that the man was mistaken in her face. While under sentence of death, she behaved herself with great devotion, and seemed to express no concern at leaving the world, excepting her only apprehensions that her child would neither be taken care of nor educated so well after her decease, at the charge of the parish, as hitherto it had been. Yet with respect to the crime for which she was to die, she still continued to profess her innocency thereof, averring that she had never been concerned in injuring anybody by theft, and charging the oath of the prosecutor wholly upon his mistake, and not upon wilful design to do her prejudice. At chapel, as well as in the place of her confinement, she declared she absolutely forgave him who had brought her to that ignominious end, as freely as she hoped forgiveness from her Creator; and with these professions she left the world at Tyburn, on the same day with the before-mentioned malefactor, being then about thirty-four years of age, persisting even at the place of execution in the denial of the fact.

Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals