The Life of FRANCIS BAILEY
a notorious Highwayman
That bad company and an habitual course of indulging vicious inclinations, though of a nature not punishable by human laws, should at last lead men to the commission of such crimes as from the injury done to society require capital sufferings to be inflicted, is a thing we so often meet with, that its frequency alone is sufficient to instruct men of the danger there is in becoming acquainted, much more of conversing familiarly, with wicked and debauched persons.
This criminal, Francis Bailey, was one of the number of those examples from whence this observation arises. He was born of parents of the lowest degree, in Worcestershire, who were either incapable of giving him any education, or took so little care about it that at the time he went out into the world he could neither read or write. However, they bound him apprentice to a baker, and his master took so much care of him that he was in a fair way of doing well if he would have been industrious; but instead of that he quitted his employment to fall into that sink of vice and laziness, the entering into a regiment as a common soldier. However, it were, he behaved himself in this state so well that he became a corporal and serjeant, which last, though a preferment of small value, is seldom given to persons of no education. But it seems Bailey had address enough to get that passed by, and lived with a good reputation in the army near twenty years. During this space, with whatever cover of honesty he appeared abroad, yet he failed not to make up whatever deficiencies the irregular course of life might occasion, by robbing upon the highway, though he had the good luck never to be apprehended, or indeed suspected till the fact which brought him to his end.
His first attempt in this kind happened thus. The regiment in which he served was quartered at a great road town; Bailey having no employment for the greatest part of his time, and being incapable of diverting himself by reading or innocent conversation, knew not therefore how to employ his hours. It happened one evening, that among his idle companions there was one who had been formerly intimate with a famous highwayman. This fellow entertained the company with the relation of abundance of adventures which had befallen the robber on the road, till he had saved about seven hundred pounds, wherewith he retired (as this man said) to Jamaica, and lived there in great splendour, having set up a tavern, and by his facetious conversation, acquired more custom thereto than any other public house had in the Island.
As Bailey listened with great attention to this story, so it ran in his head that night that this was the easiest method of obtaining money, and that with prudence there was no great danger of being detected. Money at that time ran low, and he resolved the next day to make the experiment. Accordingly he procured a horse and arms in the evening and at dusk sallied out, with an intent of stopping the first passenger he should meet. A country clergyman happened to be the man. No sooner had Bailey approached him with the usual salutation of "Stand and Deliver", but putting his hand in his pocket, and taking out some silver, he, in a great fright, and as it were trembling, put it into Bailey's hat, who thereupon carelessly let go the reins of his horse, and went to put the money up in his own pocket. The parson upon seeing that, clapped spurs to his horse, and thrust his right elbow with all his force under Bailey's left breast, and gave him such a blow as made him tumble backwards off his horse, the parson riding off as hard as he could with a good watch and near forty pounds in gold in his purse.
So ill a setting out might have marred a highwayman of less courage than him of whom we are speaking; but Frank was not to be frightened either from danger or wickedness, when he once got it into his head. So that as soon as he came a little to himself, and had caught his horse, he resolved, by looking more carefully after the next prize, to make up what he fancied he had lost by the parson. With this intent he rode on about a mile, when he met with a waggon, in which were three or four young wenches, who had been at service in London and were going to several places in the country to see their relations. Bailey, notwithstanding there were three men belonging to the waggon, stopped it, and rifled it of seven pounds, and then very contentedly retired to his quarters.
Flushed with this success, he never wanted money but he took this method of supplying himself, managing, after the affair of the parson, with so much caution that though he robbed on the greatest road, he was never so much as once in danger of a pursuit. Perhaps he owed his security to the newer taking any partner in the commission of his villainies to which he was once inclined, though diverted from it by an accident which to a less obstinate person might have proved a sufficient warning to have quitted such exploits for good and all.
Bailey being one day at an alehouse, not far from Moorfields, fell into the conversation of an Irishman, of a very gay alert temper perfectly suited to the humour of our knight of the road. They talked together with mutual satisfaction for about two hours, and then the Stranger whispered Bailey that if he would step to such a tavern, he would give part of a bottle and fowl. Thither, accordingly, he walked; his companion came in soon after; to supper they went and parted about twelve in high good humour, appointing to meet the next evening but one. Bailey, the day after, was upon the Barnet Road, following his usual occupation, when looking by chance over the hedge, he perceived the person he parted with the night before, slop a chariot with two ladies in it, and as soon as he had robbed them, ride down a cross lane. Bailey, hereupon, after taking nine guineas from a nobleman's steward, whom he met about a quarter of an hour after, returned to his lodgings at a little blind brandy-shop in Piccadilly, resolving the next day to make a proposal to his new acquaintance of joining their forces. With this view he staid at home all day, and went very punctually in the evening to the place of their appointment; but to his great mortification the other never came, and Bailey, after waiting some hours, went away.
As he was going home, he happened to step into an alehouse in Fore Street, where recollecting that the house in which he had first seen this person, was not far off, it came into his head that if he went thither, he might possibly hear some news of him. Accordingly he goes to the place, where he had hardly called for a mug of drink and a pipe of tobacco, but the woman saluted him with, "O lack, sir! Don't you remember a gentleman in red you spoke to here the other day? Yes", replied Bailey, "does he live hereabouts? I don't know, says the woman, where he lives, but he was brought to a surgeon's hard by, about three hours ago, terribly wounded. My husband is just going to see him."
Though Bailey could not but perceive that there might be danger in his going thither, yet his curiosity was so strong that he could not forbear. As soon as he entered the room the wounded man, who was just dressed, beckoned to him, and desired to speak with him. He went near enough not to have anything overheard, when the man in a low voice, told him that he was mortally wounded in riding off after robbing a gentleman's coach, and advised him to be cautious of himself, "For", says the dying man, "I knew you to be a brother of the road as soon as I saw you; and if ever you trust any man with that secret, you may even prepare yourself for the hands of justice." In half an hour he fell into fainting fits, and then became speechless, and died in the evening, to the no little concern of his new acquaintance Bailey.
Some months after this, Frank was apprehended for breaking open a house in Piccadilly and stealing pewter, table-linen, and other household stuff to a very considerable value. He was convicted at the ensuing sessions at the Old Bailey for this crime, upon the oath of a woman who had no very good character; though he acknowledged abundance of crimes of which there was no proof against him, yet he absolutely denied that for which he was condemned, and persisted in that denial to his death, notwithstanding that the Ordinary and other ministers represented to him how great a folly, as well as sin, it was for him to go out of the world with a lie in his mouth. He said, indeed, he had been guilty of a multitude of heinous sins and offences for which God did with great justice bring him unto that ignominious end. Yet he persisted in his declaration of innocence as to housebreaking, in which he affirmed he had never been at all concerned; and with the strongest asservations to this purpose, he suffered death at Tyburn, the fourteenth of March, 1725, being then about thirty-nine years old, in company with Jones, Barton, Gates and Swift, of whose behaviour under sentence we shall have occasion to speak by and by.
Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals