Executed for the murder of her bastard child, 1st August, 1712
AT the sessions held at the Old Bailey, in the month of July, 1712, Elizabeth Chivers was indicted for the wilful murder of her female bastard child, Elizabeth Ward, by drowning it in a pond; and, pleading guilty, she received sentence of death.
This unnatural woman was a native of Spitalfields, but lived at Stepney at the time of the commission of the murder. The account she gave of herself after she was under sentence of death was as follows -- She said that her father dying while she was very young, left her in indigent circumstances, which obliged her to go to service when she was only fourteen years of age; that she lived in several reputable families, in which her conduct was deemed irreproachable.
When she arrived almost at the age of thirty years, she lived with one Mr. Ward, an attorney, who prevailed on her to lie with him; in consequence of which she bore the child which she afterwards murdered.
Finding herself pregnant, she removed from Mr. Ward's to another family, where she remained about six weeks, and then took private lodgings; in which she was delivered of a girl, who was baptized by the name of Elizabeth Ward. The father, agreeable to his promise, provided for the mother and child for about three months, when Mrs. Ward, discovering her habitation, exposed her in the neighbourhood, so that she was ashamed to make her appearance.
Enraged by this circumstance, she was tempted to destroy her child on which she took it into the fields, and threw it into a pond not far from Hackney; but some people near the spot, happening to see what passed, took her into custody, and carried her before a magistrate, who committed her to Newgate.
All the time that she remained in this gloomy prison, her mind seemed to be tortured with the most agonizing pains on account of the horrid crime of which she had been guilty; and she expressed a sense of her torments in the following striking words, which she spoke to a clergyman who attended her: 'Oh, sir! I am lost! I cannot pray, I cannot repent; my sin is too great to be pardoned! I did commit it with deliberation and choice, and in cold blood: I was not driven to it by necessity. The father had all the while provided for me and for the child, and would have done so still, had not I destroyed the child, and thereby sought my own destruction.'
She suffered the dreadful sentence of the law on the 1st of August, 1712.
It is very remarkable of this woman that she was near thirty years of age before she was seduced, and previous to that time her character was unimpeached. Hence let young women learn the importance of chastity, and consider how very little they have to depend on when the character is once gone. Let men, likewise, he taught to reflect what a horrid crime seduction is; and that, when once they tempt a young woman to violate her chastity, they are only leading her to the brink of inevitable destruction.
The terrors of conscience this poor creature underwent appear to have been of the most dreadful kind, and afford us a shocking idea of the consequences resulting from the crime of murder. What a deplorable state must that wretch be in, who despairs to so great a degree as to be unable to repent! May God, in his mercy, grant that none of the readers of this work may ever have occasion to repent of a crime so shocking as murder! Nature revolts at the idea of so enormous an offence; but we know not to what lengths our passions may lead us. Let us, therefore, constantly pray that we may not be 'led into temptation;' and 'let him that standeth take heed lest he fall.'