Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Lives of Remarkable Criminals: Samuel Armstrong


a Housebreaker

I have heretofore remarked the great danger there is in having a bad character, and keeping ill-company, from the probability of truth which it gives to every accusation that either malice or interest may induce men to bring against one.

This malefactor was the son of parents in tolerable circumstances, who were careful of his education, and when he grew up bound him apprentice to Captain Matthews, commander of a vessel which traded to Guinea and the West Indies. He behaved at sea very well, and had not the least objection made to his character when he came home. Happy had it been for him if he had gone to sea again, without suffering himself to be tainted with the vices of this great city.

Unfortunately for him, he fell in love with a young woman, and lived with her for some time as his wife. His fondness for this creature drew him to be guilty of those base actions which first brought him to Newgate and the bar at the Old Bailey, and so far blasted his character and unfortunately betrayed him to his death. In the company of this female he quickly lavished what little money he had, and not knowing how to get more, he fell into the persuasions of some wicked young fellows who advised him to take to robbing in the streets. Certain it is that he had not made many attempts (he himself said none) before he was apprehended, and that the first fact he was ever concerned in was stealing a man's hat and tobacco box in Thames Street. This was committed by his companion, who gave them to him, and then running away, left him to be answerable for the fact, for which being indicted at the next sessions at the Old Bailey, he was found guilty, but it being a single felony only it did not affect his life.

However, having been seen there by one Holland, who turned evidence, he thought fit to save his own life by swearing him into the commission of a burglary which himself and one Thomas Griffith actually committed. However, his oath being positive, and the character of this unhappy lad so bad, the people who were robbed were induced to prosecute him with great vehemence, and the jury, on the same presumptions, found him guilty. Griffith, who received sentence with him but afterwards had a pardon, acknowledged that he himself was guilty, but declared at the same time that this unhappy young man was absolutely clear of what was laid to his charge, Holland and himself being the only persons who committed that burglary, and took away the kitchen things which were sworn against him. Moreover, that Armstrong coming to Newgate, and seeing Holland and speaking to him about something, Holland took that opportunity of asking who Armstrong was, and what he came there for, being told the story of his conviction for the hat and wig, he thought fit to add him to his former information against Griffith, and so by swearing against two, effectually secured himself. In this story both the unhappy person of whom we are speaking and Thomas Griffith, who was condemned for and confessed the fact agreed, and Armstrong went to death absolutely denying the fact for which he was to suffer.

At the place of execution his colour changed, and though at other times he appeared to be a bold young man, yet now his courage failed him, he trembled and turned pale, besought the people to pray for his soul, and in great agony and confusion, submitted to death on the seventh day of October, 1730, being at the time of his death about twenty-two years of age.

Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals