The Life of JAMES CLUFF
a Murderer, in which is contained a concise account of the nature of Appeals
To curb our vicious inclinations and to restrain those passions from the sudden transports of which cruel and irreparable mischiefs are done, is without doubt the best end of all instructions; and for my own part, I cannot help thinking that this very book may contribute as much to this purpose as any other that has been published for a long time. That vices are foul in their nature is certainly true, and that they are fatal in their consequences, those who, without consideration pursue them, feel. There are few who will take time to convince themselves of the first, but no man can be so blind as to mistake the latter after the perusal of these memoirs, in which I have been particularly careful to describe the several roads by which our lusts lead us to destruction; and have fixed up Tyburn as a beacon to warn several men from indulging themselves in sensual pleasures.
This unfortunate person we are now going to give the public an account of was the son of very honest people who kept a public-house in Clare Market. They were careful in sending him to school, and having taught him there to read and write etc., sufficiently to qualify him for business, then put him apprentice to the Swan Tavern near the Tower. There he served his time carefully and with a good character, nor did his parents omit in instructing him in the grounds of the Christian religion, of which having a tolerable understanding he attained a just knowledge, and preserved a tolerable remembrance unto the time of his unhappy death.
After he was out of his time, he served as a drawer at several public houses, and behaved himself civilly and honestly without any reflections either on his temper or his honesty until he came to Mr. Payne's, who kept the Green Lettuce, a public house in High Holborn, where the accident fell out which cost him his life.
It seems there lived with him as a fellow servant, one Mary Green, whom some suggested he had an affection for; but whether that were so or not, did not very clearly appear, but on the contrary it was proved that they had many janglings and quarrels together, in which Cluff had sometimes struck her. However it was, on the 11th of April, 1729, Mary Green being at dinner in a box by herself, Cluff came in and went into the box to her, where he had not continued above four or five minutes before he called to his mistress, who was walking up and down, "Madam, pray come here." By this time the maid was dead of a wound in her thigh, which pierced the femoral artery. There was a noise heard before the man himself came out, and the wench was dead before her mistress came in.
However, Cluff was immediately apprehended, and at the ensuing sessions at the Old Bailey he was indicted for the murder of Mary Green, by giving her a mortal wound in the right thigh, of the breadth of one inch, and of the depth of five inches, of which she instantly died. He was a second time indicted upon the coroner's inquest for the said offence, and also a third time upon the Statute of Stabbing. However the evidence not being clear enough to satisfy the jury, on his trial he was acquitted by them all. But this not at all satisfying the relations of the deceased Mary Green, her brother William Green brought an appeal against him, which is a kind of proceeding which has occasioned several popular errors to take rise. Therefore it may not be improper to say something concerning it for the better information of our readers.
Appeals are of two sorts, viz., such as are brought by an innocent person, and such as are brought by an offender confessing himself guilty, who is commonly called an approver. An innocent person's appeal is the party's private action, prosecuting also for the Crown, in respect of the offence against the public, and such a prosecution may be either by writ or by bill. As to the writ of appeal, it is an original issuing out of Chancery and remarkable in the Court of King's Bench only. Bills of Appeal are more common and contain in them the nature both of a writ and a declaration, and they may be received by commissioners of gaol delivery or justices of assize.
Those which are in use at present in capital cases are four, viz., Appeals of Death, of Larceny, of Rape and of Arson. The first is both the most common and that of which we are particularly to speak. It is to be brought by the wife or heir of the person deceased, unless they be guilty of the murder, and then the heir may have an appeal against the wife, or if he be accused the next heir may have it against him. The appellant must be heir general to the deceased, and his heir male (for by "Magna Charta" a woman cannot have an appeal of death for any but her husband) and in the appeal also it must be set forth how the appellant is heir unto the deceased. As to the time in which an appeal may be brought, it is by the Statute of Gloucester restrained within a year and a day from the time of the deed done. There is great nicety in all the proceedings on appeals of death and everything must be set forth with the greatest exactness imaginable. The appellant hath also the liberty of pleading as many pleas, or to speak more properly, to take issue on as many points as he thinks fit. He is tried by a jury, and on his being found guilty, the appellant hath an order for his execution settled by the Court; but when the appellee is acquitted, the appellant is chargeable with damages on such a prosecution, provided there appear to have been no just cause for the commencement thereof.
But to return to the case of Cluff, which led us into this discourse. The evidence at his trial upon the appeal was, as to its substance thus. Mrs. Diana Payne, at the Green Lettuce in Holborn, deposed that the prisoner James Cluff and the deceased Mary Green were both of them her servants; that about a quarter of an hour before Mary Green died, she saw the prisoner carry out a pot of drink; that while she was walking in the tap-house with her child in her arms, she saw Mary Green go down into the cellar and bring up two pints of drink, one for a customer and another for herself, which she carried into a box where she was at dinner; that about four or five minutes before the accident happened, Cluff came in, and went to the box to the deceased, and in about four minutes cried out, "Madam, pray come hither"; that the witness thereupon went to the door of the box and saw the deceased on her backside on the floor, and the prisoner held her up by the shoulders, while the blood ran from her in a stream; that on seeing her, she said to the prisoner, "James, what have you done?" To which he answered, "Nothing, Madam." Whereupon this evidence enquired whether he had seen her do anything to herself, he replied. "No", the deceased at that time neither speaking not stirring, but looking as if she were dead. However, the prisoner at that time said he saw her have a knife in her hand in the cellar, and the witness being prodigiously affrighted called her husband and ran for an apothecary.
Mr. John Payne, husband of the first witness, deposed to the same purpose as his wife, adding that no struggling was heard when the blows were given and that she had no knife in her hand when she came out of the cellar; that in the morning between nine and ten o'clock, a young man came in, who, as he was informed, had been formerly a sweetheart of the deceased; that this person drank a pint of drink and smoked a pipe, the deceased sitting by him some little time, during which as he believed the stranger kissed her; at which, as they stood before the bar, he observed the prisoner's countenance alter, as if he were out of humour at somewhat, although he could not say that he had ever heard of courtship between them; adding, that when the prisoner went into the box where the deceased was at dinner, he did take notice of his throwing the door after him with an unusual violence.
Mr. Saunders, who happened that day to dine at Mr. Payne's house, confirmed all the former evidence, deposing moreover, than when Mr. Payne gave the prisoner some harsh language, the prisoner replied, "Sir, I am as innocent as the child is at my mistress's breast"; that the prisoner also pretended the deceased took a knife in her hand when she went into the cellar, upon which this evidence and Mr. Payne went down, and found not a drop of blood all the way. Mr. Saunders also deposed that the prisoner was out of the way when the deceased went to draw drink, and that they saw no knife in her hand.
Mr. Cox, the surgeon, deposed that he saw the deceased lying upon her back, amid a vast stream of blood which had issued from her; that upon the table among other knives he had found one amongst them which was a little bloody and answered exactly to the cut, it going through her apron, a stuff petticoat and a strong coarse shift. The wound was in her thigh, going obliquely upwards, and therefore, as he thought, could not have been given by the deceased herself. The knife, too, was as he said, laid farther than the deceased could have carried it after the receipt of the wound, which being in the femoral artery must be mortal in a minute, or a minute and a half at most. He observed, also, that under her chin and about her left ear there seemed to have been some violence used, so as to have caused a stagnation of the blood. This deposition was confirmed by another surgeon and apothecary, and also in most of its material circumstances by a surgeon who looked on her on behalf of the prisoner.
Cluff asked very few questions, and Mr. Daldwin being called for the appellant, swore that at nine o'clock in the morning he was at Mr. Payne's and saw the prisoner and the deceased quarrelling, that he looked maliciously and was an ill-natured fellow. Here the counsel of the appeal rested their proof, and the prisoner made no other defence than absolutely denying the fact. After his counsel had said what they thought proper on the nature and circumstances that had been sworn against him, the jury withdrew, and after a short stay brought in the prisoner guilty.
During the space he was confined, between their verdict and his death, he behaved with a calmness very rare to be met with. He attended the public devotion of the chapel very gravely and devoutly, behaved quietly and patiently in his cell, never expressed either fear or uneasiness at his approaching death, nor ever let fall a warm expression against his prosecutors, but on the contrary always spoke well of them, and prayed heartily for them. When pressed, by the ministers who attended him, not to pass into the other world with a lie in his mouth, but to declare sincerely and candidly how Mary Green came by her death, he at first looked a little confused, but at last seeming to recollect himself, he said, "Gentlemen, I know it is my duty to give glory unto God, and to take shame unto myself for those sins I have committed in my passage through this life. I therefore readily acknowledge that my offences have been black in their nature, and many in number; but for the particular crime I am to suffer death as the punishment of it, I know no more of it than the child that is unborn, nor am I able to say in what manner she came by her death." And in this he continued to persist unto the time of his death, appearing to be very easy under his sufferings and did not change countenance when he was told the day was fixed for his execution, as it is ordinarily observed the other malefactors do.
As he passed through Holborn to the place of execution, he desired the cart might stop at his master's house, which accordingly it did. Cluff thereupon called for a pint of wine and desired to speak with Mr. Payne. Accordingly he came out, and then he addressed himself to him in these words. "Sir, you are not insensible that I am going to suffer an ignominious death for what I declare I am not guilty of, as I am to appear before my Great Judge in a few moments, to answer for all my past sins. I hope you and my good mistress will pray for my poor soul. I pray God bless you and all your family." Then he spoke to somebody to bid the carman go on. It was remarkable that he spoke this with great composedness and seeming cheerfulness.
At the place of execution he did not lose anything of that cheerful sedateness which he had preserved under the course of his misfortunes, but made the responses regular to the prayers in the cart and standing up, addressed himself in these words to the multitude. "Good People, I die for a fact I did not commit. I have never ceased to pray for my prosecutors most heartily, ever since I have been under sentence. I wish all men well. My sins have been great, but I hope for God's mercy through the merits of Jesus Christ." Then a Psalm was sung at his own request. Afterwards, overhearing somebody say that his mistress was in a coach hard by his execution, he could not be satisfied until somebody went to search and coming back assured him she was not there. As the cart was going away he spoke again to the people saying, "I beg of you to pray for my departing soul. I wish I was as free from all other sins as I am of this for which I am now going to suffer."
He desired of his friends that his body might be carried to Hand Alley in Holborn, and from thence to St. Andrew's Church, to lie in the grave with his brother. He suffered on the 25th of July, 1719, being then about thirty-two years of age.
 Passed by a Parliament held at Gloucester in 1278 and dealing with actions at law.
Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals