A Victim of the horrid Conspirators, whose crimes and punishments are described above
WE have already given the names of some of the devoted victims of these conspirators; but as they were chiefly selected from the very lowest part of society, the particulars of their unhappy cases are lost in obscurity.
The subject of this melancholy history, was in a superior rank of life to his innocent fellow-sufferers; and, like them, it will be found had taken no part in the pretended robbery of which he was accused.
The father of Kidden, was a reputable watch-maker in London, and having given his son a classical education, bound him apprentice to an apothecary; but being fond of idleness, he was soon discontented with culling simples and pounding roots. His indulgent parents, thinking that the watery element might better suit his lazy turn of mind, accordingly procured him a situation as a petty-officer in the royal navy; in which he remained during six years.
Having now returned to his paternal home, his father, fondly hoping that he had settled his mind to a sea-faring life, hired masters to instruct him in the theoretical parts of navigation, and every other branch of that art; but he neglected his opportunity, and hung about his father, a useless and expensive burden; however, we find no propensity in him to dishonesty.
At length, somewhat arousing from his apathy, he made an essay to earn his own bread, and for that purpose ranged him self among the porters, at the end of Fleet-market; for he had neglected to acquire any trade or business.
Going one evening, after the toil of a hard day's work, to regale himself with the London labourer's most wholesome beverage, porter, he was unfortunately marked by the villain Blee, one of the gang last mentioned, who conceived him a fit object upon whom to exercise his hellish design.
Kidden, who had uncertain employ, told Blee that be was in want of work; and the latter engaging to procure some for him, got him lodgings in an alley in Chick-lane, where he continued from Friday till the following Monday, when be was told that there was a job at Tottenham to remove some effects of a gentleman, which would otherwise be seized for rent.
At the time appointed, Kidden and Blee went to Tottenham; and having waited at a public-house till the approach of night, Blee went out, with a pretence of speaking to the gentleman whose goods were to be removed; but, on his return, said that the business could not be transacted that night.
They now quitted the public-house, and proceeded towards London, after Blee had given Kidden eighteen-pence, as a compensation for the loss of his day's work. On the London side of Tottenham they observed a chaise, and a woman sitting on the side of the road near it. Ridden asked her if she was going to London; she replied in the affirmative; but he walked forwards, paying no attention to what she said, till he heard Blee call him back, demanding to know why be walked so fast. Kidden turning back, observed that Blee was robbing the woman; on which be declined a nearer approach, disdaining to have any concern in such a transaction: but Blee, running up to him, said, 'I have got the money': and would have prevailed on him to take half a crown; but this he declined.
Blee then desired Kidden not to leave him; and the latter staying two or three minutes, a thief-taker, named M'Daniel, rushed from a hedge, and seizing Kidden, told him that he was his prisoner.
The woman thus pretendedly robbed was one Mary Jones; and all the parties going before a magistrate, it was positively sworn that Kidden was the robber, and that he took twenty-five shillings from the woman; on which he was committed to Newgate.
Mary Jones, the woman supposed to have been robbed, lodged in Broker's-alley, Drury-lane; and the friends and relations of Ridden, assured in their own minds of his innocence, went thither to inquire after her character, which they found to be so totally abandoned, that they had no doubt but that the whole was a pre-concerted plot for his destruction.
When the trial came on, Mary Jones, and two thief-takers swore positively to the unhappy lad, who was capitally convicted, and sentenced to die; and a report was industriously circulated that he had committed several robberies as a footpad; but this was only the effort of villany, to depreciate the character of an innocent man, in order to receive the reward for his conviction, which was actually paid.
After sentence of death was passed, Ridden made a constant, uniform, and solemn avowal of his innocence. He told how the thief-takers had imposed on him; and his tale was universally credited, when it was too late to save him from the fatal consequences of their villainous devices.
Repeated applications were made that mercy might be extended to the unhappy convict; but these were in vain. The warrant for his execution arrived, and he resigned himself to his fate in the most becoming manner, lamenting the present disgrace that his relations would undergo but entertaining no doubt that the decrees of Providence would soon give ample testimony of his innocence.
He resigned his innocent life to the executioner, after pathetically addressing the multitude, and declaring again his innocence, in the year 1756, greatly lamented.
From a comparison of the circumstances of the case of Ridden, and other miserable youths whom this destructive gang, under pretence of being thief-takers, for the ends of justice, bad given evidence against, we fear there is too much reason to believe that many more than those we have mentioned, fell victims to their crimes.