A boxer, convicted of manslaughter for killing his opponent.
Ward boxing with Swain
"Boxing" says a British writer, "which is the setting of the most worthless of the human species to batter each other to mummy, to break jaws, to knock eye-balls out of their sockets, to flatten the nose, beat out teeth, or to dash each other to the ground, with such dexterity as that they shall never rise again, if not a royal sport, is, at least, a princely entertainment, and manifests the exalted taste of its patrons."
On the subject of boxing, in his own country, the American geographer, Dr. Morse, says, that, "When two boxers are wearied out with fighting and bruising each other (in which encounters they kick and bite, as well as strike), they come, as it is called, to close quarters, and each endeavours to twist his forefingers into the ear-locks of his antagonist. When these are fast clenched, the thumbs are extended each way to the nose, and the eyes gently turned out of their sockets. The victor, for his expertness, receives shouts of applause from the sporting throng, while his poor eyeless antagonist is laughed at for his misfortune." This, in America, is called Gouging.
The author of "The Stranger in America," in commenting upon the above passage, after adducing many instances of gouging, observes, "But let us conclude this odious subject, which never should have stained these pages, had not the author alluded to (Morse) proclaimed to the world the cruel and unnatural facts, by observing that these barbarities appear not to have been the genuine growth of American soil. No such practice would be endured by an English mob; no such disgraceful revenge ever entered the breast of a Creek, a Cherokee, or a Kickapoo Indian."
The sight is not the oniy sense endangered in these brutal contests in England; and life itself has oftener, than in the murder now in question, been lost in prize-fighting, as we shall show before we have done with the boxing of William Ward.
The barbarous and unlawful practice of fisticuffs, which the fools of fashion dignify by the name of pugilism, since the rude days of Broughton, had, until this period, happily become nearly out of use. Its renewal shows that there are periodical returns of fashion, even in amusements of cruelty.
The first public renewal of this species of cruelty was a battle between two low fellows, a Jew and a Christian, in outward form, but in heart, as Dr. Morse styles some of his countrymen, Nothingarians -- that is, those who have not the fear of God before their eyes, through any medium of religion.
The fisticuffings between Humphries and Mendoza formed a treat for such fellows as may be daily seen lounging in Bond Street. Peers and pickpockets, cheek by jowl, scampered some score miles to witness the bloody spectacles which these two ruffians made of each other. As at a cockfight, they made their bets, which as between the "grey and pile," varied in proportion to the rounds, or knockdown blows, the failing eye, or the quantity of blood spilt.
The roads to this scene of inhumanity were thronged with all descriptions of idle fellows; some mounted upon the high-mettled racer, and others kicking and whipping miserable jack-asses, that they too might be in at the death, or giving it, as they term it, of the most exhausted of the two ruffian candidates for the gaining of public applause in prize-fighting.
Even royalty, which must ever be at the head of every fashion, was often in the motley mob collected to witness these disgraceful exhibitions; but, bad as are our youth, they will become still worse by following such pernicious examples.
His Majesty, when Prince of Wales, in one of these mortal conflicts, found one of the combatants made a corpse at his feet, upon the stage of pugilistic fight. The heir-apparent to the British crown turned pale away from the horrid sight, and made a vow never more to behold so savage and dangerous a contest, and to which he has conscientiously adhered.
Of the worst description of vagabonds, who run from one bloody stage to the other, was the fellow who now comes under our notice. His origin mean, his understanding totally uncultivated; arrogant of his savage prowess, vicious and cruel; he had often fought, and was the inglorious conqueror; but, in his turn, was shamefully vanquished, and, to the satisfaction of all who wished the downfall of such a desperado, by the fighting Jew, who had been considered his inferior in this despicable attainment.
William Ward, as we have already said, was once a pugilist, high in renown among the fashionable amateurs of that degrading pursuit. He, with several more of his infamous calling, had monopolized the outside stage-coach, journeying to Stilton, seventy-one miles from London, to attend another rencontre, between Jew Mendoza and Christian Humphries. They had not proceeded farther than Enfield, where, as the coach stopped to change horses, the bravado of Ward stimulated a drunken blacksmith, named Edwin Swain, to challenge him to combat.
Now, though there is no honour in the owner of a bloodhorse, or a game cock, to match with a dunghill, or an animal that had toiled in harness, yet Ward inhumanly accepted the foolish dolt's invitation; and, for a while, they did buffet each other with lusty sinews; but science soon overcame brute force, for, in fact, the blacksmith could not hit the trained bruiser. He therefore soon yielded the palm of victory, and retired into the public house, before which the coach and passengers waited the event of this shameful contest. This professed pugilist followed, and upon his unguarded antagonist dealt his fists, until the object of his cruelty was actually beaten to death!
Ward, conscious of the magnitude of his offence, hired a post-chaise, and, with his companions, set off to return to London, where they could best conceal themselves from offended justice; but they were pursued, and committed to prison.
The coroner's jury were divided in opinion, seven finding the crime "wilful murder," and nine "manslaughter"; and, from the circumstances attending the horrid deed, Ward was not admitted to bail; though he boasted that he could find security for his appearance to any amount. A poor mechanic, an useful member of society, might linger in gaol without a friend to bail him, while such ruffians have their aiders, abettors, and protectors, in men of property, rank, and title!
On the 5th of June, 1789, William Ward was arraigned at the bar of the Old Bailey, for the murder of Edwin Swain, and, after a long trial, found guilty of manslaughter, fined one shilling, and sentenced to be imprisoned three months in Newgate.
The evidence did not amount to the proof of actual malice, as the deceased first provoked the contest.
Mr. Justice Ashurst, who tried Ward, expressed his detestation of the inhuman and unlawful practice of boxing, and declared it to be a disgrace to a civilized nation.
At the expiration of his sentence and when about to be liberated Ward had the unparalleled effrontery to offer a public challenge to fight at the next Newmarket meeting. "Is this," says a monthly publication for September, 1789, commenting on this subject, "the effect of the wholesome severity of the law? or are these gross violations of humanity to proceed till more homicides are committed?"