God d—n you, you old Dog!

This snippet is a scandalous account of summary justice early modern style.  Printed anonymously in 1712, it sold for a penny.

The want of Discretion in a lower Rank of Men has been remarkable in all Ages, but never more than in the present Case, as you will hear by the Sequel. At Shaftsbury in Dorsetshire (a Town which had Title to a fam’d Politician in his Days) One Nathaniel Seager, a Malster [brewer], did on Saturday the 2nd of February last, take Horse in order to go to Blandford Market, about 12 Miles off, designing to Buy Corn as usual, but got no farther than the Plain, about 2 Miles from Home, before he was attack’d by a Highway-Man, and a Pistol clap’d to his Breast, with the Word of Command, God D—m you, you old Dog, alight and deliver: At which Mr Seager being very much terrify’d, got off, and threw the Highway-Man three pence in Silver, with which not being contented, the Highway-Man dap’d out his former Oath with a Volly more, saying that That was not all, and drawing his broad Sword, cut Mr Seager in the Left Shoulder; upon which fumbling in his Fob he pull’d out 24 guineas more, with which the Rogue rode off contented, leaving Mr Seager bleeding upon the Ground. In a little time after came up Joseph Reader the Miller on Horseback, Whistling as he us’d to do, and seeing Mr Seager in that Condition, ask’d what was the Matter, the whole whereof the Malster told him in short.  Says Joseph, Master, lend me your Horse, as being better than mine, and I’ll endeavour to overtake the Rogue. Says Mr Seager he’s but just out of Sight, has on a great Blue Coat, and rides upon a Sorrel Horse. Away Joseph scoures, with an Assurance to the Malster that he would take him if the Devil did not.

To be short, it was not long before Joseph came upon the Highway-Man, who upon his approach let fly at him, which miss’d him narrowly, going through the Lappets of his Coat. Not discouraged, Joseph still pursu’d him and came upon him a second Time, upon which the Highway-Man let fly at him again, but miss’d him. With that Joseph, wisely concluding the Highway-Man’s Ammunition be spent, knock’d him off his Horse with a good Oak Cudgel he had in his Hand, and brought him to bow, the Miller being a much stouter Man than the Highway-Man. By that time, the Fray was in a Manner over, Mr Seager came up and found the Highway-Man sprawling upon the Ground. The Miller said, Look here, is this the rogue that robb’d you, and will’d Mr Seager to search his Pockets and take his Money again, which he did.  But then the grand Question was, What they should do with him? At last they resolved that Mr Seager should go and have his wounds Dress’d, and send his Servants, and others, to help the Miller to carry the Highway-Man before the next Justice. Away goes Mr Seager, desiring the Miller to hold him fast till some Body came to his Assistance.  But as soon as he was gone, this Crotchet [idea] came into the Miller’s Noddle, If this Rogue should recover Breath by lying, and get up upon me, I should lose the Forty Pounds due for taking a Highway-Man, therefore to make sure Work on’t, I’ll Hang him my self, and so he did; for taking the Highway-Man’s Belt from about his Middle, he put it about his Neck, and dragg’d him to a Tree, and fairly hung him up till he was Dead, Dead, Dead. By this time came the Malster’s Servants, with the Posse of Shaftsbury; and asking where the Highway-Man was, says the Miller, I have him as safe as a Thief in the Mill: look behind that Tree, which they did, and found him Stone Dead.  But here was the Miller’s Expectation balk’d, for instead of Forty Pounds, which he expected as a Reward, he was carried before Justice Coker, and committed to Dorchester Gaol. However, Mr Seager appearing for him at the Assizes, he was acquitted, the Tryal having given a great deal of Diversion to the Hearers, who, tis generally believ’d, there being present abundance of Gentry, gave the Miller at least Thirty Pounds amongst ’em by way of Encouragement.

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  • October 18, 2009 - 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Blimey rough justice, think I’d rather not get shot in the “lappets”

  • October 17, 2009 - 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Lest they be hoisted by their own trouser accessories for hard cash.

  • October 17, 2009 - 11:46 am | Permalink

    And let that be a lesson to those who seek a bit more vengeance than is due.

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