The Life of MARY HANSON
Amongst the many frailties to which our nature is subject, there is not perhaps a more dangerous one than the indulging ourselves in ridiculous and provoking discourses, merely to try the tempers of other people. I speak not this with regard to the criminal of whom we are next to treat, but of the person who in the midst of his sins drew upon himself a sudden and violent death by using such silly kind of speeches towards a woman weak in her nature, and deprived of what little reason she had by drink.
This poor creature, flying into an excess of passion with Francis Peters, who was some distant relation to her by marriage, she wounded him suddenly under the right pap with a knife, before she could be prevented by any of the company; of which wound he died. The warm expressions she had been guilty of before the blow, prevailed with the jury to think she had a premeditated malice, and thereupon they found her guilty.
Fear of death, want of necessaries, and a natural tenderness of body, brought on her soon after conviction so great a sickness that she could not attend the duties of public devotion, and reduced her to the necessity of catching the little intervals of ease which her distemper allowed her, to beg pardon of God for that terrible crime for which she had been guilty.
There was at the same time, one Mary Stevens in the condemned hold (though she afterwards received a reprieve) who was very instrumental in bringing this poor creature to a true sense of herself and of her sins; she then confessed the murder with all its circumstances, reproached herself with having been guilty of such a crime as to murder the person who had so carefully took her under his roof, allowed her a subsistence and been so peculiarly civil to her, for which he expected no return but what was easily in her power to make. This Mary Stevens was a weak-brained woman, full of scruples and difficulties, and almost distracted at the thoughts of having committed several robberies. After receiving the Sacrament, she not only persuaded this Mary Hanson to behave herself as became a woman under her unhappy condition, but also persuaded two or three other female criminals in that place to make the best use of that mercy which the leniency of the Government has extended them.
There was a man suffered to go twice a day to read to them, and probably it was he who drew up the paper for Mary Hanson which she left behind her, for though it be very agreeable to the nature of her case, yet it is penned in the manner not likely to come from the hands of a poor ignorant woman. Certain it is, however, that she behaved herself with great calmness and resolution at the time of her death, and did not appear at all disturbed at that hurry which, as I shall mention in the next life, happened at the place of execution. The paper she left ran in these words, viz.:
Though the poverty of my parents hindered me from having any great education, yet I resolve to do as I know others in my unhappy circumstances have done, and by informing the world of the causes which led me to that crime for which I so justly suffer, that by shunning it they may avoid such a shameful end; and I particularly desire all women to take heed how they give way to drunkenness, which is a vice but too common in this age. It was that disorder in which my spirits were, occasioned by the liquor I had drunk, which hurried me to the committing a crime, at the thoughts of which on any other time my blood would have curdled. I hope you will afford me your prayers for my departing soul, as I offer up mine to God that none of you may follow me to this fatal place.
Having delivered this paper, she suffered at about thirty years old.
Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals