SINGULAR CONVICTION ON CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE
In the year 1723 a youth who was serving his apprenticeship in London, to a master sail-maker, got leave to visit his mother, to spend the Christmas holidays. She lived a few miles beyond Deal in Kent; he walked the journey, and, on his arrival at Deal, in the evening, being much fatigued, and also troubled with the bowel complaint, he applied to the landlady of public house, who was acquainted with his mother, for a night's lodging. Her house was full and every bed occupied, but she told him that if he would sleep with her uncle, who had lately come ashore, and was a boatswain of an India man, he should be welcome. He was glad to except the offer, and after spending the evening with his new comrade, they retired to rest. In the middle of the night he was attacked with his complaint, and awakening his bed-fellow, he asked him the way into the yard. The boatswain told him to go through the kitchen, but as he would find it difficult to open the door into the yard, the latch being out of order, he desired him to take a knife out of his pocket, with which he could raise the latch. The young man did as he was directed, and after remaining near half an hour in the yard, he returned to his bed, but was much surprised to find his companion had risen and gone. Being impatient to visit his mother and friends he also rose before day and pursued his journey, and arrived home at noon. The landlady, who had been told of his intention to depart early was not surprised; but, not seeing her uncle in the morning, she went to call him. She was dreadfully shocked to find the bed stained and every inquiry after her uncle was in vain; the alarm now became general, and on further examination, marks of blood were traced from the bed room into the street, and at intervals, down to the pier heard.- Rumor was immediately busy, and suspicion fell of course on the young man who slept with him, that he committed the murder, and threw the body over the pier into the sea, a warrant was issued against him, and he was taken that evening at his mother's house. On being examined and searched, marks of blood were discovered on his shirt and trowsers; and in his pocket were a knife and a remarkable silver coin, both of which the landlady swore positively were her uncle's property, and that she saw them in his possession on the evening he retired to rest with the young man. On these circumstances, the unfortunate youth was found guilty. He related all the above circumstances in his defence, but as he could not account for the marks of blood on his person, unless he got them when he returned to bed, nor could he account for the silver coin in his possession, his story was not credited; the certainty of the boatswain's disappearance, the blood at the pier, traced from his bed room, were too evident signs of his being murdered, and even the judge was so convinced of his guilt, that he ordered the execution to take place in three days. At the fatal tree, the youth declared his innocence and persisted in it with such affecting assertions that many pitied him though none doubted the justice of his sentence.
The Jack Ketches of those days were not so expert at their trade as modern ones, nor were drops of platforms invented; the young man was very tall, his feet sometimes touched the ground, and some of his friends who surrounded the gallows, contrived to give the body some support as it was suspended. After being cut down, those friends bore it speedily away in a coffin, and, in the course of a few hours, animation was restored, and the innocent saved. When he was able to move his friends insisted on his quitting the country, and never returning. He accordingly travelled by night to Portsmouth, where he entered on board a man of war, on the point of sailing for a distant port of the world, and as he changed his name and disguised his person, his melancholy story never was discovered. After a few years of service, during which his exemplary conduct was the cause of his promotion through the lower grades, he was at last made a masters mate, and his ship being paid off in the West Indies he, with a few more of the crew, were transferred to another man of war, from a different station. What were his feelings of astonishment, and then of delight and ecstacy, when almost the first one he saw on board his new ship, was the identical boatswain for whose murder he had been tried, condemned, and executed five years before. Nor was the surprise of the old boatswain much less when he heard the story. An explanation of all the mysterious circumstances then took place. It appeared, the boatswain had been bled for a pain in the side by the barber, unknown to his niece, on the day of the young man's arrival at Deal; that when the young man awakened him, and retired to the yard, he found the bandage had come off his arm during the night, and that the blood was flowing afresh. Being alarmed, he arose to go to the barber, who lived across the street, but a press gang laid hold of him to the pier, where their boat was waiting; a few minutes brought them on board a frigate then under way for the East Indies and he omitted ever writing home to account for his sudden disappearance; thus were the chief circumstances explained by the two friends, thus strangely met; the silver coin being found in the possession of the young man could only be explained by conjecture--that when the boatswain gave him the knife in the dark, it is probable, as the coin was in the same pocket, it stuck between the blade, of the knife and in this manner became unconsciously the strongest proof against him.
On their return to England, this wonderful explanation was told to the judge and jury who tried the cause and it is probable they never afterwards convicted a man on circumstantial evidence.
This was the heinous offence with which they were charged, and for which they were doomed to four years hard labor in the penitentiary. One of these Missionaries, Mr. Worcester, was a Post Master in the Cherokee Nation at the time he refused to take the persecuting oath, as such, being an officer of the United States Government, the Georgia guard dare not take him unless he was turned out of the Post Office. Application was made to the executive department of his removal, and he was removed. The Georgia guard then took him-he was tried and sentenced as before stated.-Indiana Phoenix.