Eighteen-year-old Highwayman, who tried to cut the Fatal Rope, and died with a Laugh in 1693
JAMES LEONARD, a youth of no more than eighteen years old, who had been at the reduction of Ireland, and afterwards in Flanders, under the late King William (we may suppose only in the quality of a waiting-boy at first), was but just returned to England when he was apprehended, condemned and executed, for a robbery on the highway. He was so little concerned at the gallows that he smiled at his misfortune, and pulling a knife out of his pocket attempted to cut the rope. When he was asked the reason of his so doing —- "Nothing more" says he, "than that I should have given you the trouble of buying a new rope, if my knife had been good." Leaning his back against his coffin as it stood on the cope of the cart, he laughed out heartily and spoke as follows: —-
GOOD PEOPLE, —- I am a Roman Catholic, and so I die. You see I am but very young; however I have made good use of my time, for I have been as great a rogue as those that are older. Methinks 'tis a plaguey cold morning; they need not have brought one to be hanged in such weather as will freeze a body before the job's over.