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not been erected there since 1844. In one of the flagged yards of the gaol, the visitor may notice a stone with the letters W. S. cut into it with a depth worthy of the chisel of Old Mortality himself. Should he inquire what the inscription—brief enough to puzzle the wise men in “Pickwick ”—means, he will be told one of the most sickening stories which the tragedy of life records. But the tale is worth listening to for the sake of its moral. One of the points on which tradition holds out longest against the innovations of science and philanthropy, is public hanging Everyone is aware of the mischiefs resulting from the old method of carrying the victim in procession from Newgate to Tyburn. Howard attacked that tremendous abuse. But even he did did not think it politic to propose to abolish hanging in public altogether. Such a proposition, he was aware, would not have been entertained for a moment in his day; so he satisfied himself with effecting the reform which lay in his power. He got the gibbet transferred from Tyburn-gate to Newgate ; that was a vast step in the right direction, for it did away with the riot and confusion of the procession. Imagine Oxford-street-from Hyde-park to the Postoffice-blocked up and rendered impassable every Monday morning, as it was then! But the mischief is only part removed. Every execution that takes place in front of Newgate, besides the bruises and fractures, the idleness and intemperance, to the assembled crowds, is half-a-day's impediment to all the business of the neighbourhood. The moral
reasons against public hanging are still stronger. The W. S. in the Nottingham gaol refers to a story highly illustrative of some of the evils of this English “ Feast of Death."
William Saville was a wretch, whom nothing but an awful atrocity could possibly have invested with a particle of public interest. But having cut the throats of his wife and three children, he at once became an object of public wonder, curiosity, and perhaps execration. All the neighbourhood went to stare at the scene of the murder—12,000 persons the first day; and up to the hour of trial the attraction increased. During the examination the courts were crowded to suffocation. The trial came-he was condemned. Lord Denman made an impressive address, and fixed the fatal day. The interest excited by the proceedings--the brutal obstinacy with which the culprit conducted himself— insured a “ bumper” at the execution.
The gallows was erected in front of the County Hall, and the murderer was to die at eight o'clock. At midnight the crowd began to assemble for choice of places. Opposite the hall stands St. Mary's Church, the yard of which is elevated considerably, and forms one of the best “stands” on such occasions. Towards five o'clock it was quite crowded. Then the country population poured in. By seven, every lamp-post, roof, chimney, and wall commanding a view of the death-engine was occupied. These favourable positions were, however, much disputed, and the higher thrones were all subject to violent changes of dynasty. When the bell tolled the hour of death, there were from 40,000 to 50,000 persons assembled—a large portion of these were women. When the murderer appeared on the scaffold, there was a howling roar—but whether of execration or approval no man could tell : it produced no effect upon its object. He died as he had lived.
Then came the true catastrophe. An eye-witness and participator in the scene has furnished me with an account of what followed :—“From an early hour in the morning,” he says, “the tide of life flowed in from Hollow Stone, St. Mary's Gate, Garner's-hill, the low pavement, and, indeed, from every avenue leading to the gaol. At seven o'clock the crowd collected was immense ; in all probability there were 50,000 persons present. From this period to the time of execution, and even afterwards, numberless hats, bonnets, shoes, and other wearing apparel, were continually thrown into the air, and tossed about until they were destroyed. There was one part of the scene which, even on so solemn an occasion, excited the risibility of many ; this was the frequency with which (during the whole proceedings) parties, principally youths, and often grown-up persons, were hoisted above the heads of the populace, and buffeted about for several minutes, sometimes over a space of ten or fifteen yards ; until at last, when there was room sufficient, they dropped down, frequently head foremost, to the ground : some must have been seriously injured in this manner. Even in the more early part of the morning, the scream
ing and fainting of females was appalling. About half-past seven o'clock I took up my position at the doorway of the judge's lodgings; I remained there without interruption until a minute or two after Saville was turned off, when, as if rith one accord, the immense mass before me turned round and made for the Town-hall. The appearance of the crowd at that moment was exactly like a field of corn when the wind blows upon it.
All seemed to lean one way,
with occasional heavings, to gain new strength for the rush. At this time I was involved in the crowd, and, a few yards from my standing place, I observed a boy and man on the ground; my foot tripped against them, and but for the greatest possible exertion being used, I must have fallen, as others did. As it was, I caught hold of a man's collar, and in holding on by it, my arms ached as though they had been bruised all over ; my legs, too, were in a similar state, arising from the difficulty I had in extricating myself from the crowd. I shall never forget the scene I witnessed when I passed over the man and boy; the face of the latter appeared to have been ground off ; and both were bleeding profusely. I have no doubt but the rush was occasioned by a desire on the part of those immediately facing the scaffold to obtain fresh air : they must have been almost suffocated before the prisoner came out to suffer. This was only in one part of the excited and infuriated crowd. The mob had become a perfect monster. It was 'every one for himself, and the fiend for all. Called together to gloat over the death agony of a fellow-creature, when its curiosity was sated, the mob became callous to all the gentler feelings of human nature. In its madness it roared and stamped like a wild beast, —and I saw young boys and women, as well as strong men, trampled and trodden to death. When the infuriated passions of the mob had sufficiently abated, the dead, dying, and wounded were picked up. Thirteen were already dead; seven of them young females! Many more were carried into the hospitals and infirmaries. Some were found to be maimed for life ; and I am given to understand, that more than forty died altogether.”