NATHANIEL PARKHURST, ESQ.
Executed for the Murder of Lewis Pleura, 20th May, 1715
IT is somewhat singular that, in our search of the ancient records of crimes and punishments, we should find, in chronological order, two murders, stimulated by the fumes of intoxication. Of this disgraceful practice -- of itself a sin -- we could give a long lecture; but let these dreadful consequences operate as a caution to drunkards.
Mr. Parkhurst was indicted at the Old Bailey, for the murder of Lewis Pleura, on the 3rd of March, 1715; and a second time indicted on the statute of stabbing; when the substance of the evidence given against him was as follows:
He was a native of the village of Catesby, near Daventry, in Northamptonshire, and was the son of very respectable parents, who, having given him the education common in a country academy, sent him to finish his studies at Wadham College, in Oxford; but, associating himself with men of an atheistical turn of mind, they employed themselves in ridiculing religion, and making a jest of the scriptures, and every thing that was held sacred.
Lewis Pleura, who was born in Italy, had taken upon himself the title of count, and subsisted by the practice of gaming, till, being greatly reduced in circumstances, he was obliged to take refuge in the Fleet prison, where he became acquainted with Mr. Parkhurst.
Parkhurst, and the deceased Lewis Pleura, having been fellow- prisoners in the Fleet for debt, the former, who had sat up drinking till three o'clock in the morning, went into a room adjoining that of Mr. Pleura, and said, "Damn you, Sir Lewis, where are you?" but, finding he had mistaken the room, he went into the right chamber, and said, "Damn you, Sir Lewis, pay me four guineas you owe me." Soon after this the cry of murder was heard; when a number of people, repairing to the place, found Pleura weltering in his blood on the floor, and Parkhurst over him with his sword, who had stabbed him in nearly twenty places.
A surgeon was immediately sent for, who dressed the deceased, and put him to bed; and, as soon as he recovered the use of his speech, he declared that Parkhurst had assassinated him. Parkhurst, being taken out of the room, went back again to it, and said, "Damn you, Pleura, are you not dead yet?"
In answer to this evidence against him, he said that he was ignorant of having committed the crime, and for two years and a half past had been in a very unhappy state of mind; and several witnesses were called to prove that he had done many things which seemed to intimate that he was a lunatic; but, on the contrary, other evidence deposed that, not long before the murder happened, he had taken such steps towards obtaining his liberty as proved that he was in the full use of his intellectual faculties.
Upon the whole, therefore, the jury found him guilty.
Soon after this offender had received sentence of death, he began to see the error of those opinions he had imbibed, and acknowledged the truth of that religion he had ridiculed, and felt the force of its divine precepts. He confessed that the dissolute course of life which he had led had wasted his substance, weakened his intellectual faculties, and disturbed his mind to such a degree, that, before he committed the murder for which he suffered, he had resolved to kill some person or other, and make his escape from the Fleet prison, or, if he should be unable to effect this, he intended to have been guilty of suicide.
It is very remarkable of this malefactor, that, on the morning of execution, he ordered a fowl to be prepared for his breakfast, of which he seemed to eat with a good appetite, and drank a pint of liquor with it.
How men can indulge even the idea of feasting, a moment, as it were, before they know a disgraceful death must happen, is truly astonishing! Lord Lovat ordered his favourite dish to be cooked, and thereof ate greedily, just before his head was severed from his body.
At the place of execution he addressed himself to the populace, intimating that, since he had been ill of the small-pox, about twenty years before, his head had been affected to such a degree that he was never able to speak long at a time:
wherefore he said no more, only earnestly requested their prayers for his departing soul.
He was executed at Tyburn on the twentieth of May, 1715, in the thirty-ninth year of his age.
Mr. Parkhurst seems to have owed his destruction to his association with men of libertine principles -- men who derided religion, and scoffed at holy things. We may safely conclude that there is not such a being in the world as an atheist who can be happy. The man who denies the existence of that God in whom he lives, moves, and has his being, must be extremely wretched in this world, while he is preparing for an eternity of wretchedness in the next.
On the contrary, the man who has a firm faith in the important and all-cheering doctrines of Christianity will go through the various scenes of his life with a serene composure of mind; he will, as far as lies within his power, discharge his duty to God and man, and meet the moment of dissolution in the fullest confidence that his final salvation will be perfected through the merits of that Saviour in whom he has trusted.
After the expulsion of Adam from Paradise, Cain stands the first notorious example on record of the sin of murder; a crime of so enormous a magnitude, that no language can be found in which to express its malignity. The murderer assumes to himself the privilege of Heaven, and presumes to stop the breath of his fellow-creatures at his own pleasure, and to hurry him into eternity "with all his imperfections on his head."
Let those whom the turbulence of their passions may tempt only to think of committing murder reflect that there is a just God who judgeth the earth, and that all our most secret actions will be brought to light.