Illustration: The Abduction of Miss Crockatt.
THE barbarous practice of forcibly carrying off females prevails in Ireland to a shameful extent. Dishonoured women are too often induced to bestow their hand on the ravisher, and thus the success of one villain stimulates the lust and avarice of twenty. The law, which visits this crime with death, has not been sufficient to abolish so base and abominable a practice, as the Irish newspapers are, from time to time, filled with details of cases of abduction.
The robber may plead necessity, and the murderer provocation; but the wretch who deliberately invades the chastity of a female whom he wishes to make his wife, is not only without any excuse whatever, but betrays such a total absence of manly feeling that we know not any offender whose crime deserves a more speedy and capital punishment. Such a monster should be hurried, with a fearful precipitancy, out of society; for he has given proof that he is unfit for the company of virtuous and honourable men, by deliberately attempting to debase what all the world regards as sanctified and pure. Among the lower orders in Ireland, and sometimes among those of a higher rank, this practice is not looked on in the light it deserves. Indelicate and gross minds can see no moral turpitude in an abduction which terminates in marriage; but, as female purity is the vital essence of morality in society, whoever invades that source of all our virtues, and all our happiness, should be hunted down as a monster that preyed upon the dearest interests of man. Besides, it is a crime fearful, not only in its consequences, but in its commission. Family anguish must proclaim its commencement; virgin screams announce its completion; and protracted grief seal its guilt; for how can that woman, though a wife, feel happy, who is liable to have the 'slow unmoving finger of scorn' pointed at her, as one that had been 'dishonoured among men?'
Samuel Dick was one of those contemptible wretches. who would arrive at wealth through the charnel-house of lust, where his own sister stood the officiating goddess. His case is one of revolting indelicacy and deep-laid villainy. We shall give it in the words of the counsel retained to prosecute the accused at the Carrickfergus assizes, March the 21st, 1818.
"The prisoner, Samuel Dick (said he) stands indicted for the forcible abduction and subsequent defilement of Elizabeth Crockatt, the prosecutrix. She is a young woman of respectable family in Derry; and upon the death of her father she became possessed of about two thousand six hundred pounds: this property, her youth, being scarcely seventeen, and her personal attractions, have been the causes of two different atrocious outrages, for the purpose of obtaining possession of them. In August last, upon the Sabbath day, while returning from the meeting, she was forcibly carried off, and taken to Ballymena, where she was rescued by her brother and her uncle. On their return home, her mother, alarmed for her safety, sent her for some time to reside within a few miles of Stewartstown, with a Mr. Matthew Fairservice. On the night of the 3rd of November, Mr. Fairservice's family were invited to spend the evening at Mr. Henry's, where the prosecutrix met Miss Jane Dick, sister to the prisoner, and who is related to the prosecutrix. The prosecutrix, with Mr Robert Fairservice, his sister, and Miss Dick, then went from Mr. Henry's upon the car to a ball at a Mr. Park's, where she danced the greater part of the night. While at Mr. Park's, Miss Dick invited prosecutrix to Stewartstown, which she declined. When they had got on the car, Robert Fairservice drove rapidly towards Stewartstown, without paying any attention to the remonstrances of the prosecutrix; when in Stewartstown they drove to the prisoner's house, where she saw the prisoner: after breakfast Miss Dick asked Miss Fairservice and the prosecutrix to go to Dungannon with her, as she wished to make some purchases. She was prevailed upon, and did go into Dungannon; remained shopping there until the evening; returned to Stewartstown, dined in the prisoner's house; and about nine or ten o'clock the prosecutrix was asked by Miss Dick to go out to the next door to assist her in purchasing some thread; and the distance being so trifling, she did not think even of putting on her bonnet. When out of the hall-door, she was forcibly seized by some person, and put into a chaise in which was the prisoner, who caught her by the arm; when in the carriage she found her cloak and bonnet had been previously placed there, which was sufficient proof of the preconcerted plan. The prosecutrix, the prisoner, with Miss Dick, and the other person, were driven to Lurgan, a distance of twenty miles, before day-light in the morning, the prisoner Dick guarding the prosecutrix with a pistol! After some time she was again put into the chaise, and driven to the house of a person named Swayne, where, after having wept and fasted the whole day, she was prevailed upon to go to bed with Miss Dick. From the fatigue she had suffered the two preceding nights, joined to the anxiety of mind she had undergone, she fell asleep; and found on awaking, that in place of Miss Dick being her bed-fellow, the prisoner at the bar was. The next morning the prisoner attempted to soothe the prosecutrix by promises of marriage, and went to Dr. Cupples, of Lisburn, to procure a licence, leaving his sister and the other person to watch over her till his return; in spite of them, she contrived to escape to the house of a Mr. English, where she was protected until delivered into the hands of her uncle." This statement being supported by the evidence, the jury without hesitation found the prisoner Guilty -- and he was sentenced to death.