DAVID HAGGART was born at a farm-town called the Golden Acre, near Cannon Mills, in the county of Edinburgh, on the 24th of June, 1801. His father was a gamekeeper; but as his family increased, he followed the occupation of a dog-trainer, and was much taken up in accompanying gentlemen on shooting and coursing excursions. On these occasions David was employed to assist in keeping the kennel, and the gentlemen who had their dogs in training took great notice of him, and never failed giving him a few shillings for paying particular attention to their dogs
He was also, when very young, taken to the Highlands for two seasons to carry the bag during the shooting time, and as be was always a merry boy, the sportsmen took a liking to him, and sent him home with plenty, so that he never wanted the means of indulging himself in childish follies.-- In these habits and these indulgencies an intelligent observer of human nature at once discovers, not the seeds of his vices, for they had their deep-rooted origin in human depravity, but the soil that pushed them forward to such an early and awful maturity. Perhaps there is nothing in every point of view more injurious to young persons, than a profuse supply of pocket money in proportion to their circumstances and stations in life. It takes off every stimulus to industry, and every incentive to frugality; promotes a spirit of selfishness, pride, and contempt of authority; exposes to the snares of evil company; multiplies the wants, and consequently enhances the privations of future life, or leads to unjust means of avoiding them.
David Haggart acknowledged, that although he was so much employed in assisting his father in his business, his education was not neglected. His father early instructed him in religion;-- but while pursuing a course of life so replete with temptations to vice, it seemed only like building with one hand and pulling down with the other. Children are not merely to be told the way in which they should go -- but 'trained up' to go in it;-- they should not only be brought up in the nurture, but in the admonition of the Lord. Discipline must be carefully exercised, as well as instruction diligently imparted. In addition to domestic instruction, David was sent to school, where he acquired considerable knowledge of English grammar, writing, and arithmetic. He appears to have been a sharp active lad, and was always the leader of his schoolmates, both in learning and in sports. He did not recollect ever losing his place in the class for deficiency in acquiring his lessons, but was often punished for playing truant.-- This is an offence which boys at school too seldom look upon in the light of a crime. Many a boy, who would feel ashamed of being detected in what he considered a mean dishonourable action, will speak with great self-approbation of the adroitness with which he managed an enterprise of this nature; and too often parents are found thoughtless enough to encourage such conduct by making a laugh of it, and even relating their own feats of childhood. A little consideration of the bad principles thus called into exercise, and the exposure of bad company incurred, would certainly check such erroneous conduct.
At about ten years of age, the subject of this narrative was seized with a fever, and on his recovery did not return to school, but stayed to assist his father in his business, and thus terminated his education for a considerable time. A trifling accident having occurred at home, through fear of punishment from his father, he came to the resolution of quitting his house; and from that fatal hour he dated the commencement of his sinful career. Perhaps he might, with great propriety, have gone back to that in which he first slyly staid away from school, and spent the hours with sinful companions in forbidden sports. A boy who had never been guilty of disobedience and artifice at school, would scarcely, on account of a small accident at home, have taken at once the rash step of forsaking a father's house. Young people!-- the distinction is not unimportant; if you wish always to shudder, as you now shudder at the thought of the second step in vice, take care to shrink from the first.
At this time David observes he had formed no wicked acquaintances; perhaps he confined this epithet to those who had taken the same flagrant steps in vice to which he afterwards attained. A well-taught youth will apply it to all who are capable of disobedience to parents, artfulness, and irreligion. Being of a bold and fearless disposition, even at this early period of life, he committed several depredations. The first of these was stealing a bantam cock, the property of a poor woman: young Haggart took a fancy to it on account of its great beauty, and offered to buy it, but the owner would not part with it; so he got another cock, set the two a fighting, and ran off with his ill-gotten prize. He also tried shop-lifting, and carried off the till of a poor woman. He knew and felt all this was wrong: but fully employed in vice, he took no time to be sorry or repent; beside, he falsely and wickedly argued that it was of no use for him to repent, for he must fulfil his fate. There is not a more dreadful delusion, nor one perhaps that the great enemy of souls more frequently imposes upon wicked men, than that of charging their sins and miseries on fate. Often have these dangerous sentiment been uttered, and
still oftener indulged:-- 'It was my lot to get among bad companions, and so fall into wicked ways.' 'If I am doomed to go on to my ruin, it is in vain to strive against it.' 'If I am to be saved at last, something will turn up for my conversion.' What can have a stronger tendency than sentiments like these to harden men in their sins?
Haggart's next adventure was in accompanying a lad, with whom he had been very intimate, on a visit to a relation, six miles from Edinburgh. They saw a pony grazing on the road side, when Haggart, feeling himself tired, proposed to mount the beast, and return home; his companion did not object, and they set off at full gallop. The animal was very restive, and threw them several times. On reaching home they lodged him in a donkey hut, and kept him there several days, until traced by the owner, who threatened to have them both punished, but was appeased by the neighbours. Haggart declared that he had no intention of stealing the pony, but having once taken the notion of getting a ride home, he was determined to avail himself of the opportunity, and was afterwards at a loss how to return the beast.
Shortly after this adventure, be went to attend Leith Races, in May, 1813; he had no previous intention of committing depredations, but merely to idle a few days, and amuse himself. But 'Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do;' and David Haggart was not the first, who on a race ground was led into vices and follies of which he had no previous intention or idea. In the close of the week, being in state of intoxication, he fell in with a recruiting party at the races, and got enlisted in the Norfolk militia. He soon learnt to beat the drum; and afterwards to blow the horn; he liked the red coat and the soldiering well enough for a while, but soon became tired of it; he found the confinement disagreeable, and the pay too small for his extravagant ideas. In about a year his regiment was ordered to England to be disbanded; and having made interest with his commanding he got his discharge in Edinburgh and returned to the house of his father, who again kindly put him to school, where he continued almost nine months, and obtained a further knowledge of arithmetic an, book-keeping. He was then bound apprentice to Cockburn and Baird, millwrights and engineers, for the period of six years. 'I had now,' said Haggart, 'reflected on my past follies, and formed a resolution of following my new business with honesty and zeal.' He applied himself closely to work for about two years, and acquired the good opinion of his masters, and perhaps inspired his afflicted parents with hopes of his permanent reformation. At this time he was entrusted to pay in and draw considerable sums of money at the bank, and appears to have acted with fidelity towards his masters; but at length he contracted an intimacy with several very loose characters, and was often engaged in disgraceful adventures in the streets at night; but they were in some degree limited, by his parents imposing on him the salutary restriction of keeping early hours, as also by his ignorance of houses for the reception of stolen goods. The affairs of his employers becoming involved, David was thrown on his parents; idleness exposed him afresh to temptation, and he pursued his former ill-habits with wretched proficiency and success. He was very fond of company, and having now greater opportunities of gratifying his propensities, he continually frequented dances and raffles, where he mingled in the society of both sexes of the most dissolute character. In less than three months from the time that young Haggart obtained unrestricted liberty to attend his sinful pleasures, he found himself, at the early age of sixteen, plunged into such a state of vice and wretchedness, that his mind could not endure reflection. He spent whole nights in the streets, or in worse places; every thing he saw, or heard, or did, was wicked; his nights and his days were evil; he could not bear to look at his relations, and growing at last impatient of the restraint of living in his father's house, he formed the resolution of shifting his scene of action. Among his wretched associates, he had formed a great intimacy with Barney M'Guire, an Irishman, considerably older than himself; of a bold, enterprising spirit, of great bodily strength, and a most dexterous pick-pocket. Instructed by this veteran in the arts of wickedness, they agreed to travel to England together, and share the fruits of their unlawful occupation. It was when in company with, and encouraged by the daring acts of this man, that he first attempted to pick a pocket in open day-light; and be it observed, this attempt was made on a race ground, and on the person of a gentleman who had been very successful in his bets. Haggart was so eager on his prey as to pull out the pocket along with the money, and nearly upset the gentleman, who turned quickly round and examined his hands; but the booty was already passed to his companion in wickedness, and the gentleman appeared satisfied of his innocence, but said some one had picked his pocket. The produce of this achievement was eleven pounds.
From Portobello, Haggart and his wicked companion proceeded to Jedburgh, and thence to Kelso to attend St. James's fair. They repaired to the ground soon after breakfast, where they continued until dark. Having observed a man who had some horses for sale, and who had a bulk, apparently notes, in his breast pocket, Haggart came up to price a good looking horse, while Barney acted as his assistant. A discussion arising respecting the animal's age, the jockey, eager to satisfy them, held the jaws of the animal and shewed his teeth, and while his arms were raised, Barney contrived to ease him of the contents of his pocket, which, however, contained only nine pounds. Haggart immediately requested to see the horse's paces, and on the jockey complying they made off when his back was turned. During the day they committed other depredations, particularly on a gentleman whom Haggart watched all day.
Soon after Dumfries fair invited the attention of the young plunderers: here they remained three weeks; but M'Guire being already known there as an old offender, kept in close, and the prosecution of their scheme of plunder was committed to Haggart and a brother of M'Guire, and as he also was a well-known pickpocket, Haggart kept at a distance from him, and never spoke to him in the street. What a wretched thing must it be, that regard to personal safely compels these chosen companions in vice, these partners in the gains of iniquity, to disavow and avoid each other in the presence of their fellow-creatures!
Beside collecting about seven pounds in silver, (perhaps much of it from persons whom the loss might sink into deep distress,) Haggart, observing a person going about in quest of change for a ten-pound note, followed him into the shop of a hosier, under pretence of purchasing goods, but in fact for the purpose of plundering the unsuspecting stranger. He secured his booty, and decamped; and the day following, started with his companions to Annan, and thence to Lockerby, where a fair was about to be held.
Here, at an inn, they got themselves into company with a farmer and drover, both pretty much in liquor, and in consequence inclined to quarrel. Of these circumstances the villains took advantage. Haggart fanned the flame of contention, and urged them on to fight; at length they rose and stripped;
under pretence of dissuading and separating, irritated them the more, and involved them in a general scuffle, during which Haggart got from the farmer's coat a pocket-book, containing twenty-three pounds; then rang the bell in a violent passion, paid the reckoning, abused the waiter for putting them into a room with such company, and decamped. Well did the wise man observe, 'Who hath woe? Who hath sorrow? Who hath contentions? Who hath babbling? Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes?-- They that tarry long at the wine -- they that go to seek mixed wine.'
The plunderers next proceeded on foot to Langholm, again to the fair. There a gentleman, apparently a dealer in cattle, whom young M'Guire had seen with a pocket book containing a large quantity of bank-notes, was fixed on as the object of their attack. They watched an opportunity, and while Haggart, apparently by accident, turned over the left breast of his coat on his arm, Barney M'Guire diverted his attention by a question relative to some sheep just by, and young M'Guire took from him his pocket-book. This was passed to Barney, who immediately made off; the others remained a minute or two, and afterwards walked slowly away to avoid suspicion.
On joining Barney, he showed them the pocket-book, stuffed with cambric paper, and laughed at his brother for giving them so much trouble about nothing; but on getting alone with Haggart, he showed him the prize, which amounted to two hundred and one pounds. This is not the first instance in which haggard and M'guire conspired to cheat the younger M'Guire of his share of the booty; such measures and treachery in persons of their character cannot excite much surprise; but it must be exceedingly humiliating to these sparks of the earth, thus to be made a prey to each other, and it is a contradiction of the foolish boast of 'honour among thieves.' Haggart observes, that he never was happier in his life than when he fingered all this money; but adds, he thought sore about it afterwards, when he was ill and likely to die.-- Ah, the pleasures of sin are but for a season!-- at the last they bite like a serpent and sting like an adder.
About half an hour after the above adventure, they saw, to their great surprise and terror, a police-officer running about, but he did not see them. They immediately took a post-chaise, and set forward on the road to Annan, leaving word with their landlord that they were gone to Dumfries.
Next day they went on to Carlisle and remained there about a month, amusing themselves by riding about through the days, and passing the evenings in gambling houses and dancing rooms. Here Heggart acquired great proficiency in the use of cards, dice, and billiards, beside a number of legerdemain tricks. Oh! had this ingenuity and application been directed to the pursuit of some rational and innocent science, in all probability a youth of Haggart's abilities would have insured to himself an honest independence, and become a useful and honourable member of the community, instead of its pest and disgrace.
During their stay in Carlisle, they attempted to pick a gentleman's pocket of a gold watch and seals, but the watch being secured in the pocket, disappointed them; the gentlemen accused them of their intention, but they overpowered them with abuse, and he left them. He, however, watched them into their lodging, and the same evening their trunk and portmanteau were secured by constables. To avoid being taken themselves, they shifted their abode to the house of one who appears to have been a comrade in iniquity. Next morning, finding their stock of clothes reduced to what they had on, they went to a respectable merchant tailor, and were measured for suits of superfine clothes. He had them ready in two days, when they called for them; and under pretence of wanting some other article, while the master left the room a moment to fetch them, the sharpers took up their new clothes and made off, taking the next staged for Kendal. At this place is held one of the finest horse markets in England: here, under pretence of dealing for horses, they robbed a gentleman of forty-three pounds, and hastened next day to Morpeth, where a fair was shortly to be held. Here they fell in company with some others of their own profession, and strengthened each other's hands in sin; they engaged in two hazardous adventures -- picking one gentleman's pocket of fifteen pounds, and snatching seventeen pounds out of the hands of another, who was bargaining for a horse. It is painful to observe, that at this place they fell in with a constable or police-officer, who had formerly been acquainted with Barney; they renewed their acquaintance with a familiarity and confidence which too clearly proved the connexion that often subsists between characters of these descriptions. They next proceeded to Newcastle, where they obtained lodgings in the house of a respectable private family, and remained there a month, assuming the false names of Wilson and Arkison, and passing for gentlemen travelling on pleasure. It appears they were admitted to the intimate society of this family, and were allowed to attend the young ladies to the theatre, and other places of public amusement. Who but must shudder at the perilous situation in which these young females were placed? and what a lesson of caution is conveyed both to young persons and those who have the charge of them, against forming habits of intimacy with persons whose character they are not thoroughly acquainted with! While their thoughtless companions supposed them intent only on amusement, these adepts in iniquity, like him to whose service they had devoted themselves, were in reality 'going about, seeking whom they might devour.' On one occasion, observing a gentleman whom they supposed might afford them a considerable booty, Barney, under pretence of indisposition, left his companions, attacked the stranger, and robbed him of thirty-three pounds. Other similar adventures put them in possession of about seventy pounds, yet this sum did not defray their expenses by fourteen pounds: no, for he that worketh iniquity 'earneth wages to put into a bag with holes.'
One circumstance that occurred at Newcastle must not be wholly unnoticed, because it proves that the society of gamblers is often that of swindlers, cheats, profane and quarrelsome persons; and that gambling not unfrequently leads to the commission of these crimes. Haggart and his companions were at a house for receiving stolen goods, gambling with the bully of the house, from whom they gained about three pounds; he became enraged, and swore an oath that they should not leave the house with his money; on which a severe scuffle ensued, which had well nigh ended in bloodshed and murder.
In January, 1818, on their way to Durham, to attend a fair, they came to a house in a lonely place, and determined to break into it. They entered it by a window, and met a strong resistance from the master of the house; but, having knocked him down, they succeeded in binding him hand and foot, and gagging him with a handkerchief. The rest of the family, being females, were too much terrified to interrupt them. and they proceeded to rifle the property. Having taken about thirty pounds, they went to Durham, where Haggart was apprehended the next day; but having changed his clothes, and considerably disguised himself, the man whose house they entered could not identify him: he was accordingly liberated, and returned to Newcastle.
In two or three days they were both apprehended, and carried back to Durham; having on the same clothes in which they had committed the burglary, the man whom they had robbed immediately recognised them, and was bound over to prosecute. They were tried under the feigned names of Morrison and Arkison, and were found guilty, and sent back to prison, in order to be brought up for sentence of death at the end of the assizes.
They lost no time in contriving their escape, and after long deliberation with their fellow-prisoners, resolved on the attempt. They set to work on the wall of their cell, and got out to the back passage, when the turnkey made his appearance. They seized him, took his keys, bound and gagged him: having gained the back yard they scaled the wall, but Barney and another prisoner fell, after gaining the top: by this time the alarm was given, and they were both secured.
Haggart having made his escape, returned to Newcastle, in company with a Yorkshireman (most probably one who had escaped from prison with him), where he obtained a tool with which to assist M'Guire in making his escape; and they were returning to Durham when they were pursued by two officers, who got close to them on a wild part of the road unobserved. Just as they were springing on Haggart, he laid one of them low with his pistol, and left him, uncertain whether he had his murder to answer for, but believing that his aim was but too true; and that was indeed the case. The Yorkshireman knocked down the other, and they then proceeded to Durham; where, in the night time, Haggart, by means of a rope ladder, got over the back wall of the gaol, and conveyed the spring saw to M'Guire, who made his escape that same night, by cutting the iron bars of his cell window, and followed Haggart to Newcastle, and thence accompanied him to Berwick-on-Tweed, Dunse, and Coldstream, where they lodged at a house for receiving stolen goods; in the evening they stripped a drover of nine pounds, and removed next day to Kelso. It is mentioned in this and in several other instances, that the persons they attacked were more or less in a state of intoxication: let this be a warning against that common, but disgraceful and ruinous vice;-- intoxication renders a person an easy prey both to ill-designing men and to the great tempter, who is ever on the watch to catch unwary souls.
At Kelso they made a similar attack on the person of a farmer, but he had his eyes about him, and, detecting Barney in the act of bringing his money out of his pocket, he seized him by the collar, and a terrible scuffle ensued. The farmer, who was very powerful, still retained his grasp; a mob soon gathered; Haggart escaped by flight, but M'Guire was secured, and imprisoned for three months.
Being now left without an associate, Haggart returned to Newcastle, where he resided four months, in the house of his old friend, Mrs. A--: during his stay there, one of the young ladies was married to a respectable shopkeeper, on which occasion Haggart took the lead in conducting the festivities of the wedding. About two months of the time Haggart supported himself by gambling, in the same low and vicious society he had before frequented. One evening, having accompanied one of the Miss A--'s to the theatre, on their return, a gentleman much in liquor attempted to insult the young lady; struggling in her defence, Haggart contrived to pick the pocket of his antagonist of nineteen guineas. On another occasion he observed a person at the gambling-house also much intoxicated, whom he watched out of the house; affected accidently to jostle him, and stripped him of thirty-three pounds. Soon after, attempting to take a gentleman's gold watch, he was detected and pursued, but made his escape by back ways home. He attempted nothing farther in Newcastle; but in the month of June took leave of his hostess and her daughters, with much regret on both sides. For the kindness and friendship manifested towards him by the family, Haggart expressed great gratitude, and observed, 'Little did they know the person whom they had so long harboured in their house, and introduced to most of their acquaintances and relations, under the name of Mr. John Wilson.'
On returning to Edinburgh Haggart employed himself, in connexion with a new associate, in shoplifting. The goods thus obtained were disposed of for a quarter of their value, and the servant of iniquity experienced the pinchings of poverty -- so expensive is vice, and so insatiable the desire of forbidden goods. With his new companion (Henry) Haggart next visited Perth, where they accosted a Highland farmer, already intoxicated --invited him to take some more liquor, and robbed him of nine pounds.
A day or two after this Haggart was seized with violent illness, and returned to Edinburgh: after a few days, finding himself somewhat recovered, he strolled out at dusk, and assisted some old companions in their iniquitous pursuits; he was accidentally seen by George M'Conner, an old apprentice of his father's, who had faithfully promised if ever he met with him to bring him home. He succeeded in inducing him to return to his father, by whom he was gladly and kindly received; and he promised faithfully to remain with his parents, and apply himself to his old business of a mill-wright; but when asked where he had been, or how employed, would give no satisfactory answer. He remained at home two or three days, and then resolving to pass the night at a house of ill-fame, which he had before frequented, he took two guineas from the collar of his coat, where he was in the habit of concealing his ill-gotten treasures, and was proceeding on his guilty purpose, when he was seized with such a shock of sickness as obliged him to take to his bed. During his illness, which lasted four weeks, feelings of remorse operated greatly on him; he trembled at the thought of being cut off in the midst of such wickedness, and called to give an account of all his crimes; to use his own words, 'I felt that I was ashamed to ask forgiveness either from God or man, and such a stranger of late to religious instruction, that I had no words for prayer; I was altogether without hope.' Oh! that these feelings had been deep and abiding enough to drive the sinner to seek mercy, pardon, and purity from the blessed Jesus, who is exalted at God's right hand, a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins! but without his grace softening and changing the heart, terrors alone will not prevail to work an abiding change in the character. 'Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? No more can they that are accustomed to do evil, learn to do good' When Haggart recovered, the thoughts of repentance soon left his mind, and even while in a weak and feeble state he recommenced shop-lifting. Let sinners beware of stifling their convictions and breaking off their purposes of repentance, lest (according to our Lord's awful and expressive words) the evil spirit that seemed to withdraw for a while should return, bringing with him other spirits more wicked than himself; and so the last state of that man should be worse than the first.
Though Haggart returned to his old practices, he so far kept up appearances at home, by never being out after eight o'clock in the evening, and seldom more than half an hour at a time, that his parents thought he could not be doing any thing wrong, and pleased themselves with the hope of his reformation.
One evening he accompanied a lad, named John Steel, to Leith, and went into a shop to buy some tobacco, not intending at that time to practise his profession; when, to his surprise, Steel snatched the roll of tobacco from the woman's hand who was serving it, and ran off. Haggart was taken so unawares by this trick, that he made no attempt to run away till seized by the woman's son, to whom he dealt a violent blow, sent him reeling on the ground, and ran off. The pursuit soon became general; he was overtaken, and conveyed to the police-office; he was examined for this and for some other offences before the sheriff; there was not sufficient proof against him, but he was detained in gaol till he could obtain bail for his appearance at any time within six months. On being released he went to his father's, where he was kindly received; he put such a good face upon his projects, that his too partial parents could not credit his guilty intentions. His next adventure was at shop-lifting, in company with two infamous female companions; he disposed of his booty at the house of an acquaintance, and hastened home to bed soon after seven o'clock in the evening. His father and mother, who had been out, came in shortly afterwards, and asked of his sister where he was, and whether he had been out? She replied that he had not, and that he was in bed. This was very mistaken, as well as sinful kindness: she was indeed quite ignorant of what he had been about, and concealed what she did know to prevent any reproof from his parents for going out contrary to their orders; but the watchfulness and reproofs of kind and careful parents were far rather to be desired than a continuance in sin undetected and unreproved. However, he was next morning taken up, and one of those hardened wretches who invited him to the commission of the crime, appeared as evidence against him. He stoutly denied any knowledge of the affair, and offered to prove an alibi; his parents were called, who proved his being in bed at a quarter past seven, and who believed he had not been out all the preceding evening: thus was their veracity exposed to be called in question by the improper means used by their daughter to conceal her brother's disobedience. The magistrates released him on the word of his father, whom they knew to be an honest man, but expressed their fear that his son was a rogue.
He remained very quietly at his father's for about three weeks, when he was again taken up; his other female companion, having been secured, had divulged everything. However, on cross-questioning her, he so puzzled her that the judge put no faith in her evidence, and he was only ordered to find bail. He then remained at his father's till February, 1819, when one night he met a former companion in vice, who enticed him to his old trade of a pick-pocket. Next day they started in company for Musselburgh, and the same evening plundered the shop of a merchant tailor of two pieces of superfine cloth, and some other articles; this valuable prize they exchanged, when in liquor, for a small sum.
Having now again deserted his father's house, and involved himself in the society of the most vicious and abandoned of both sexes, Haggart became very careless and shabby in, his dress and appearance, and was engaged in various petty, disgraceful scuffles: at length he was taken up, and brought before the same magistrates from whom, in the former instance, he had escaped so easily. One of them thus addressed him--'Haggart, you are a great scoundrel, and the best thing I can do for you, to make a good boy, is to send you to Bridewell for sixty days:--bread and water, and solitary confinement.' He was immediately removed from the bar, and conducted to his doleful cell; whence, about ten days after, he was again brought before the magistrates on another charge. For this he was sentenced to other sixty days' imprisonment. Although fully conscious of his guilt, he stiffly denied the charge; and, with the most hardened impudence, told the judge, that if he died in Bridewell they would be at the expense of burying him.
After four months' imprisonment he was released, in July, and returned to his father's, where he lived quietly a few weeks, and recruited his strength. The time of his confinement had been spent, not in penitent reflections on his past sinful course, and humble resolutions of amendment, but in projecting new schemes of vice with an associate in prison. In .the month of September they set out together on their unlawful enterprises, and were soon joined by two more abandoned characters of each sex, and pursued their trade in company. At Aberdeen races, among other offences, Haggart stole a watch, and passed it to one of his companions (Graham), who took it to his lodgings, and hid it in the draught hole at the back of the grate. That very night a mason was employed to put in another grate, when the watch was discovered, and taken to an officer of justice, who went immediately in search of them. They were all sentenced to imprisonments of different lengths; the magistrate expressing his regret at seeing so many good-looking lads going on in the ways of vice and ruin.
After two months, Haggart and one of his companions, named (or nick-named) Doctor Black, were released, when they immediately recommenced their courses of vice, especially in the shop-lifting way. Having stolen a pedlar's pack, and several other articles of linen drapery and hosiery, Haggart assumed the character of a pedlar, and travelled the country to dispose of his ill-gotten goods. After this he returned to Edinburgh, where he remained till January, 1820, committing depredations of every description, both there and at Leith; especially robbing private houses of large quantities of plate. On the 1st of March he was arrested at Leith, in company with an accomplice named Forest. The offenders made a desperate resistance, but were at length secured and committed for trial. On the evening of the 27th of March, having obtained a small file, Haggart cut the irons from his legs, then forced up the door of his cell, and got into the passage. He then set to work upon a very thick stone wall, through which he at length made a hole, and got on the staircase just as the clock struck twelve. He had still the outer wall to penetrate, on which he fell to work with great caution, lest he should be heard by the person who was appointed to watch him all night. Whilst he was working at the wall this person came several times to the door of his cell, which was just below. Having made considerable progress, he returned to the room where his companion Forest was, and brought him to his assistance; he also awoke one of the debtors whom he knew, and obtained his assistance in removing his hand-cuffs, having all along been working with them upon him. After great labour and violent pain they succeeded in wrenching the chain in two pieces, He then renewed his operations on the outer wall, and, having removed a large stone, got out a few minutes before five o'clock in the morning. When he gained the outside stair he saw a man coming towards him, and, supposing him to be an officer in pursuit of him, he leaped over the back of the stair; but recollecting that Forest had yet to get out, he prepared to give the man battle, lest he should attempt to seize Forest; but the man said to him, 'Run, Haggart, run; I won't touch you.' Forest came out, he took hold of his hand, and ran off at full speed, pulling him along with him. Here one cannot but pause, to regret that such abilities, industry, perseverance, and self-denial, had not been exerted in obtaining an honest livelihood, rather than in escaping a just punishment.
It is distressing to relate, that the very evening of their escape, they returned to their detestable trade. But indeed they had reduced themselves to a sort of wilful necessity, having no other means of subsistence. Let no one flatter himself that in the ways of vice, he , may say to himself, 'Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther;' no! the first step in vice almost necessarily draws on an hundred more, and impels the sinner on to destruction. At Dumfries they were joined by two Irishmen of their own guilty profession, T. M'Colgan, and Felix Donnelly, the former of whom suffered the awful sentence of the law at Glasgow, for housebreaking, a few months before Haggart. How short is the course of vice! and how truly has it been said, 'Vice has had more martyrs than godliness.'
These companions in guilt attended at Dalbeattie fair, where they gained fourteen pounds, and on their return to Dumfries took several purses and watches from the door of the circuit court, which was then sitting; and one evening about eight o'clock, Haggart entered the house of a Mrs. Graham, and took thence a very large quantity of plate, which he disposed of to a wretch of the same name (though of course not connected) with the lady from whom they were stolen. At Dumfries he met with his old associate, Barney M'Guire, whom he had not seen for two years. The remainder of the party were taken a few days afterward; so Haggart and M'Guire resolved to leave Dumfries for Carlisle; but going into a shop, M'Guire was seized by an officer in mistake for Haggart, whose great coat he had on: by this mistake he escaped for a short time, but had not gone above six miles on the road, when he was pursued and taken, after a stout resistance. Haggart was brought back to Leith, where he was fully committed to the gaol, and indicted to stand trial before the High Court of Justiciary on the 12th of July, for one act of housebreaking, eleven acts of theft, and one act of prison-breaking. Of the house-breaking he was acquitted, it appearing that he got in at an open window; but was brought in guilty of theft, and remanded to gaol without getting any sentence. After lying there some time, he was indicted to stand his trial at Dumfries, for the affair in which he had been there concerned with Graham.
M'Guire was sentenced to fourteen years transportation, and they parted with great regret.
On the 6th of September, Haggart was removed in a chaise, attended by two officers, from Edinburgh to Peebles, where he was kept two days in the gaol: this was long enough for him to form a plan of escape; which had nearly succeeded. The iron frame of his window was only fixed with lime; he tore up one of his blankets, tied one end to the window bars, and the other to the door of his cell; he then got a short wooden spoke off part of his bedstead, and began twisting the centre of the blanket; by this means he would soon have pulled out the window, but the blanket was so rotten, that it broke as soon as he laid any stress upon it. Being disappointed in his plan, he plastered up the lime which he had removed so neatly, that it was not observed by the turnkey. A part of the torn blanket he wrapped round his body for future use, little anticipating the awful purpose it would be afterwards turned to. He proceeded to Dumfries, and on the 11th of September was taken into court for trial. For some cause his trial did not go on, and he was sent back to prison; there he became acquainted with a youth named John Dunbar, who was just sentenced to seven years' transportation, and after some caution they entered into a scheme for making their escape.
During the short time that Haggart was in the gaol at Dumfries, several respectable persons noticed him, and kindly interested themselves in his behalf. One of these amiable and excellent females, who delight to mitigate the horrors of imprisonment, and to attempt the instruction and reformation of the guilty, frequently called at the prison, and behaved very kindly to him; but her kindness appears to have had no beneficial effect on his callous heart.
With one person, whom he styles 'a very respectable man,' Haggart was allowed to tamper in order to his escape; he gave him the plans of four keys, as there were four doors between him and his liberty, and expected from him such assistance as should enable him to regain it. Certainly the epithet was grossly misapplied; no one can be respectable who does not honour justice; and no one who respects the laws of God, can wilfully violate, or aid another to violate, those of his country. Having also a spring-saw, by means of which he could cutaway any iron that opposed his progress, Haggart felt himself secure of liberty, but was drawn into another scheme with Dunbar, careless whether or not it succeeded; the prosecution of which however led to the horrid deed for which he suffered.
His cell was opposite to that of Edward M'Grory, who was then under sentence of death for robbery, and was afterwards executed; another prisoner, named Laurie, under sentence of transportation, was in the cell adjoining. One night he asked Haggart through the wall, 'You that have been at gaol-breaking before, how do you think this could be broke?' Unwilling to trust him, Haggart replied, 'I don't think it could be broke at all;' although at the same time he knew to the contrary. Laurie then stated his plan of getting a stone tied in a handkerchief, and some morning when they were all in the passage together, to knock down Hunter, the head-gaoler, and take the keys from him. To this Haggart objected, saying, if he never should get his liberty, he never should strike the serjeant for it, because he thought he could accomplish it in a better and easier way:-- this was, in the absence of Hunter, to gag Thomas Morrin the turnkey, in a closet, at the head of the stairs, just opposite the cage door, take the keys from him, and let all the prisoners out. Laurie still insisted on getting a stone, saying that although they could gag Morrin, they had still all the debtors to get through. Haggart refused to get the stone, but told him to try Dunbar, who agreed; and next day when John Reid, a prisoner, was passing along the yard, he asked him for a stone to break a flint. As soon as Dunbar got the stone, he gave it to Laurie, who fixed it at the bottom of a bag, made for pulling up things out of the yard, out of the piece of blanket that Haggart had brought from Peebles. The next thing was to cut off the irons of M'Grory and Laurie; the spring-saw would soon have accomplished this, but Haggart was determined to keep it secret for his own purposes, in case of failure. He, therefore, with the assistance of a file, made a small saw out of a table-knife, which he had procured from a prisoner lately released. This he passed to Laurie, and then to M'Grory, and on the morning of the 10th of October, which Haggart denominated the blackest day of his life, he spoke through to both of them, and the attempt was agreed upon. About ten o'clock, Robert Simpson, another prisoner, was put into the cage with Dunbar and Haggart; they told him their plans, and although he was to be dismissed the next day, he said he would join them, and accompany Haggart; who however, made no reply, determining, if he escaped, to be off alone. He afterwards observed Simpson and Dunbar whispering in a corner of the cage, and suspected some plan to betray him. About twelve o'clock they saw Hunter leave the prison, and heard that he was gone to the races. Soon after, Morrin brought in two ministers to visit M'Grory, and they were locked into the cell with him. When one o'clock came, although the ministers were not gone away, the culprits resolved to delay no longer, but proceed in their criminal enterprise. Haggart concealed himself in the closet at the head of the stairs, where he had previously placed the bag with the stone. Dunbar then called Morrin to come up, and let out the ministers; he came up the stairs with a plate of soup for M'Grory. When he got to the top, he shut the cage door, and Haggart burst upon him from the closet; the pushing open of the door knocked the plate out of his hand. Haggart struck him one blow with the stone, dashed him down stairs, and without the loss of a moment, took the key of the outer door from his pocket. Haggart declares that he gave but one blow with the stone, and immediately threw it down; Dunbar picked it up, but it appears that no more blows were given, and that Morrin must have received his other wounds in falling.
Dunbar was standing over him, apparently rifling for the key which Haggart had already secured. Simpson had hold of Morrin's shoulders, and was beating his back upon the stairs, when Haggart rushed past them, crossed the yard as steadily as he could, took out the key, and opened the door. On getting out he ran round great part of the town; Dunbar overtook him, and at that moment they saw an officer coming directly up to them. They wheeled round, and ran, but in a moment Haggart had the mortification of seeing his fellow adventurer secured. He at first thought of rushing in among them to rescue him, but the crowd was too great to make the attempt; so he consulted only his own safety, and ran nearly ten miles in less than an hour. He then got on the high road to Annan, when he saw a post-chaise at full gallop almost within twenty yards of him; upon this he threw off his coat, and leaped a hedge into a field where some persons were employed in digging potatoes. They all joined the officers who had got out of the chaise in pursuit of him; he fled across the field with amazing speed, and made for Cumlangan wood. The pursuers followed him into the wood, but he kept concealed close to the edge, and although they were very near him, he thus eluded their pursuit.
He then made for Annan, got through it before the alarm spread. and concealed himself in a hay stack a mile or two on the Carlisle road. There he remained all night, and most of the day following, when he heard a woman ask a boy if the lad was taken that had broken out of Dumfries gaol. He replied, 'No; but the gaoler died at ten o'clock last night.' These words struck him to the soul -- his heart died within him, and he lay a good while in a state of insensibility. On coming to himself, he could scarcely believe that he had heard them, for the possibility of poor Morrin's death had never entered into his mind. He came out of the stack, and resolved to proceed, whatever should be the consequence. Seeing a scare-crow in the field, he stripped it, put on the clothes, and thus proceeded. That night he slept in a hay-loft; in the morning a man came in to fill the horserack, and was within a foot of him, but did not observe him, he being concealed amongst the hay. He overheard the man converse with another in the stable about him, observing that he was one of the most awful characters that ever lived; he had before broken all the gaols in Scotland except Dumfries, and had broken that at last; the other replied, he wished he might keep away, for it would not bring back the poor man's life, and he felt much for Haggart's father, whom he knew.
About eight o'clock he started unnoticed from his place of confinement, and pursued his weary way to Carlisle, where he found the whole town in an uproar about him. He assumed the name of Barney M'Coul, by which he had formerly been known there, and obtained a lodging and some food, the first he had tasted since leaving Dumfries; next day he procured a change of dress, and some women's garments, in which he determined to prosecute his journey. He travelled by night, lurking in wild places or in plantations during the day time, till he arrived at Newcastle, where he remained about twelve days, dressed in woman's clothes, and fell in with a former associate, whom he joined in new acts of robbery.
One evening he came out for the purpose of going to the theatre -- and was it possible that a guilty wretch like him, his conscience corroded with blood, should feel any disposition or power to seek amusement?-- Oh, yes!-- diversion is the world's universal recipe for drowning both remorse and apprehension; it is recommended in every case of mental distress and depression. Under the slighter wounds of conscience, the sinner resorts to amusement, and cannot do without its delusive exhilaration; and when at the borders of despair, he still flies to his old remedy, which seldom fails to stupefy the feelings, and harden the heart, though it can never, never effect a cure.
As Haggart came out, he espied John Richardson, the police-officer before mentioned; and so close was he upon him, that the cape of Haggart's coat touched his shoulder; however, he passed on without observing him. He had no hesitation in telling his companion how closely he was pursued, for he himself had several times escaped from prison, and was one whom Haggart had assisted in releasing from the Lock-up-house in Edinburgh. He immediately determined to return to Scotland, as he knew they would not suspect him of going where he was so well known. He walked out of the town with a bundle containing his different suits of clothes. The Berwick coach soon overtook him; he got outside, and arrived at Berwick without molestation; there he remained about a week, watching the arrival of the coaches, both to observe the movements of the police respecting himself, and also occasionally to pick the pockets of the passengers. After this he returned to Edinburgh in the coach, with another inside passenger, whom he intended to rob, but falling into conversation, they became so intimate that he had not the heart to do it.
Haggart professed himself quite a stranger to Edinburgh, and at a loss where to put up. His new friend recommended him to a tavern, at the door of which he had stolen many a watch. There they remained together several days. Haggart, under pretence of indisposition, declined to accompany his friend in walking out, or to places of public amusement; in private visits to houses of disgrace and iniquity, he was less scrupulous. After a few days, he said he was obliged to proceed to Glasgow, and took leave of his friend, who had known him by the name of Mr. John Wilson. He took his portmanteau, and marched along the street in open day-light, and remained some days longer concealed in the city with an acquaintance, keeping close within doors all day, and walking out at dusk disguised in woman's clothes. He visited several of his acquaintance, and among the rest saw his poor father, but did not let him know his plans or his residence. One night, venturing out in his own clothes, he saw an officer of the police, their eyes met each other; Haggart's heart shrunk for a moment, and but a moment. He plunged his hand into his breast pocket as if for a pistol. The officer, who knew him too well to engage him alone, ran away, as did also Haggart, but in another direction. He then got some plate and other articles which he had concealed in a garret where he formerly lodged, and having exchanged them into money, determined first to go to the north of Scotland, then take a tour to the west, and to go to Ireland. During his stay in and about Edinburgh, he picked up an acquaintance, with whom he went in company to Anstruther, St. Andrews, Cupar-Fife, and Dundee. There he gave Thomson the slip, took lodgings, and procured a suit of sailor's clothes, determining to do something in the way of his business.
Passing by a jeweller's shop, he observed two gold watches hanging among many other metal ones; he thrust his hand and took them. He soon outran the crowd that pursued him, threw on his white great coat over his sailor's clothes, and returned to the spot, where several persons who came together to lament the jeweller's loss, soon had good reason to lament their own; for in a few minutes he picked their pockets to the amount of eighteen pounds, besides a watch, &c. After this he took a circuitous return to Edinburgh: There he began to reflect why he had come back again to a place which was the scene of all his earliest bad habits, and where also danger was most to be apprehended, as he knew there was a price upon his head; he resolved to pursue his guilty traffic that night, and leave the town for ever, early the next morning. Accordingly, he went back to Newhaven, and stopped within doors all day; but still hankering after the scene of his vices, his gains, and his pleasures, he returned to Edinburgh in the afternoon. The first thing that struck his eye was a bill posted up, offering a reward of seventy guineas for his apprehension. The folly of haunting a place where he was so well known, struck him afresh; he walked to Leith, and got into a boat which was setting sail for Kinghorn; then went on to Perth. During his stay there, the illuminations and other rejoicings for the Queen's acquittal, afforded him an opportunity of exercising his trade. He got four silver watches, and a gold one, besides a considerable sum of money. Next day he started for Dunkeld, to attend a fair with two associates, where he robbed a farmer of about nine pounds. At Dundee he stole from a gentleman's house three dozen of table spoons; and at Kenmore fair, thirty-nine pounds from a Highland farmer. After practising also at Cupar-Fife fair, he parted with his companion, and went alone to Arbroath fair, where he took a purse containing twenty-two guineas, but having seen an Edinburgh officer, he did not think it safe to remain in Arbroath all night, so started inside the first coach to Perth; cheated the guard of his fare, and joined an old acquaintance, James Edgy, at his lodgings. Next evening, as he was sitting in his lodgings with Edgy and a female companion, two constables came in upon them; 'Gentlemen,' said Haggart, you are in a mistake,' and ringing the bell, desired the landlord to show the gentlemen into a room. One of them said, 'Oh no, it is you we want;' he then very unconcernedly asked them their business; they in reply asked his name, and he theirs, which they refused to give. The landlord observed to Haggart that they were police men; on which he told them he would call and acquaint the magistrate of their conduct, and in the mean time if they did not make off, threatened them with a horse-whipping; thus intimidated, they left the room: Haggart conveyed his female companion out of the house, and in a few minutes the officers returned with their staves of office, which they presented, and required Haggart and Edgy to go before a magistrate. To this Haggart made no objection, and rang for his great coat; but just as the landlord was retiring to fetch it, he bounced up, saying, Oh, I believe it is in my own bedroom, I'll get it myself;' and retiring by the back door, he made off as fast as he could, to the mortification of the policemen, and the astonishment of his landlord, who had often trusted him with the keys of his drawers, and everything in his house. Being thus deprived of his lodgings, he went to one of the most profligate houses in the town, where he remained a day or two, and then went with Edgy and another to Glanmis fair. Seeing a farmer with a considerable sum of money about him, they determined on attacking him; but as two other persons joined him, Edgy and Smith shrunk off, and persuaded Haggart also to relinquish the attempt; but he was determined to persevere, and ultimately succeeded in his design. He took twenty-eight pounds from the farmer, for which two other persons were taken up and lodged in Forfar gaol, whom Haggart declared were truly innocent of it. He then returned to Perth, paid his reckoning to Mr. Taylor, his unsuspecting landlord, whom he found with his wife in tears on his account. He told them he was immediately going to leave town, but remained some days, during which he got forty-five pounds at one adventure in the market, and saw several pickpockets taken close by his side. Next day he went with Edgy to Glasgow; they made up their minds to go to Ireland; and went on board, when Haggart saw a person who had been confined for debt in Edinburgh gaol when he was there. However, he concealed himself in one of the sailor's cribs, and passed unnoticed. On one occasion, when he was sitting in the fore cabin, a gentleman came below, looked closely at all the passengers, and fixed his eye particularly on Haggart. He soon after went on shore at Lamlash. Haggart suspected something bad, and was inclined to leap overboard, it being a dark night, thinking that the best way of escape. The gentleman was left behind at Lamlash, and Heggart afterwards learned who he was, and that he wrote about him to Dumfries. 'It was well,'
he observed, 'that his suspicions were, unknown to him at the time, for he went on shore at black night, and he could but too easily have put him overboard.' On landing in Ireland, Haggart and Edgy rambled over the town of Belfast for two days in one continued state of intoxication. Edgy being well known in Belfast, was soon taken for some old offence, but Haggart pursued his guilty trade from place to place. When he first arrived at Belfast from Scotland, he saw Robert Platt, who had been confined in Dumfries gaol while he was there. Platt was taken for stealing in Drunmore market, on a day that Haggart also was there, and with a view of getting his liberty, gave information that he had seen Haggart the murderer there. The officers, dazzled with the information of reward for taking him, seized every one of whom they had the slightest suspicion; while he was in a public-house, two lads were taken sitting close beside him. Little did he suspect what they were after, when in a few minutes Plait peeped in at the door, and instantly four officers sprang in, seized him, and carried him before a magistrate. On being asked his name, he replied in a rich brogue, 'Why sure, and it's John M'Colgun.' The officers began to suspect themselves mistaken. Haggart kept up the deception by his broad Irish brogue, professing himself a native of Armagh, and as never having been in Scotland. However, the magistrate ordered three yeomen to sit up with him all night, together with the officers, in the court room; and retired, having witnessed a strict search of his person, on which nothing was found but a thirty-shilling note, and some silver.
He now thought it was all over with him, and determined to make a desperate struggle to gain his liberty, or perish in the attempt. He plied his attendants with plenty of drink, and they were very civil to him. About eleven o'clock, he prevailed upon them to allow an acquaintance to bring him some supper. When the person came, he asked leave to speak to her a minute behind the boxes in the court, where there was a large window. They granted his request, and taking a sudden leap, he sprang through the window, and alighted upon the street, without being either cut by the glass, or hurt by the fall. He crossed the street to an opposite entry, and immediately saw the whole of his keepers below the window staring at each other, not knowing what to do. They all went off to follow him; he took the road for Belfast, and soon got there, having run fifteen Irish miles in two hours and a quarter. He travelled from place to place, taxing each as he went for his dishonourable and unjust maintenance. After remaining a week or two in Dublin, he paid three pounds ten shillings for his passage to America, but afterwards changed his mind, and lost his passage, rather than cross the Atlantic. Soon after this he fell in with a pick-pocket, named O'Brien, and they agreed to go in company. On the quay of Dublin they saw some persons looking at a number of horses just arrived in a vessel from England. Among others, a man very singular in his dress and appearance, which bespoke poverty and meanness. Haggart was not a little surprised to hear him offer eighteen guineas for a horse, and immediately began speculating on what part of his person this sum might be deposited. After some experiment, he found it in a greasy coat pocket, which hung behind unprotected; the frail duffle of his coat having given way to the rough band of time. It proved to contain ninety-five guineas in gold, beside bank-notes. A few days afterwards, they took fifty-four pounds at the theatre door; after which they changed their dress, and, in company with two girls, hired a jaunting car, and a boy to drive them, and took a tour through the counties of Fermanagh, Cavan, and Derry. They were a mouth on their excursion, and spent upwards of a hundred and ninety pounds. On their return, being much reduced, Haggart started for King's county on foot, leaving his clothes in Dublin.
At Mullingar market he picked a farmer's pocket, and would have been apprehended, but for the connivance of a constable. At Tullamore fair he picked the pocket of a pig-drover, who afterwards accused him of the fact, but Haggart having concealed the property very securely, took a high ground, and insisted on his going before a magistrate for the accusation and assault. The judge heard the case, and said that the pig-drover was liable to punishment, but recommended Haggart to withdraw his complaint, as it was evident his ill usage had arisen from mistake, that he knew him to be an honest man, and he had been a great loser already. The poor man therefore was severely reprimanded, apologized to Haggart, who declared himself satisfied, and withdrew. After fresh acts of dishonesty and riot, Haggart at length left Newry with an intention to take a shipping for France. He got as far as Castle William, when he heard of a fair about six or eight miles distance, where he resolved to attend and practise his profession for the last time in the British dominions. It was indeed the last time: for the measure of his iniquities was well nigh full, and his long-delayed punishment was about to overtake him.
At this place he picked the pocket of a pig-drover, and had just time to conceal the money in the collar of his coat, when he was seized by the drover and two of his companions. Having been strictly searched, none of the property was found upon him, but the drover persisted in his accusation, and made oath before a magistrate; consequently Haggart was committed to Downpatrick gaol to stand trial at the next assizes. The society and practices of this place were horrible beyond description. Having received their supply of provisions for three days, the male prisoners blocked out the gaolers, by digging up the stones of the floor, and placing them against the door, and broke their way to the wretched women in confinement, with whom they remained two days, giving way to every kind of wickedness. After spending this time in the most riotous manner, they were secured. Haggart was locked up closely in his cell, and kept in confinement till the day of his trial. His reflections on this scene shall be given in his own striking words:--
'Of all the scenes of my short and evil life, none ever came up to the gaol of Downpatrick. A prison is the blackest and wickedest place in the world. Many a poor boy is brought to the gallows at last, because his first offence is punished by imprisonment. This teaches him evil ways; whereas if he had been well flogged and sent home to his parents, he might have turned out a good man. I cannot say that my bad habits were learned in a gaol, but I am sure they were confirmed there.' During his imprisonment he sent for the drover, and made up the matter with him, by returning his money and two guineas additional, to engage him to say nothing against him on his trial. Haggart's account of his trial is so singular, that it will be the best given in his own words:-
'On the 29th of March I was put to the bar, and the indictment being read over, I said I was not guilty, and demanded a copy of my indictment, but it was refused me. The drover and another man were brought against me in evidence. The drover kept his word, and swore he did not know whether I was the boy or not who took the money. The other witness was sure that I was the person that was taken up for it. This closed the evidence; and, while the judge was addressing the jury, the gaoler prompted me to speak for myself. I immediately rose, and asked liberty to speak a word for myself. The judge replied, "Surely."
I then addressed the jury nearly as follows:--"Gentlemen, I hope you will look well into this case, and not return a thoughtless verdict, which would involve an innocent man, by ruining his character, and depriving him of his liberty. Gentlemen, I acknowledge that I have been perfectly proved to be the person who was apprehended at Clough, on suspicion of picking this man's pocket; but you see clearly that none of his property was found upon me, and more than that, the man himself has sworn in your presence that he is not certain whether I was the person or not. Taking this simple statement into your deliberate consideration, I feel perfectly confident of receiving a verdict of acquittal from you.'
The judge then asked me, "Don't you come from Armagh, sir? and have you not a father and a brother?"'
I answered that I had both.
"All of your own profession -- pick-pockets?" replied the judge.
'I said he was perfectly mistaken, for neither they nor I were ever guilty of such a thing. I was right as to them, but I will leave the world to judge with what truth I spoke of myself. The judge, in an angry tone, said, "Will you hold up your face and tell me that, sir? Was you not tried before me ten days ago at Dundalk, and about four years ago at Carrickfergus? I know you well, and all your family."
I declared that I never was before in a court in my life till then; and sure enough I never was before him.
He then addressed the jury. He said that it did not signify whether they were clear of my being guilty of the present crime, for he could assure them that I was an old offender; and, at all events, to return a verdict of guilty of felony at large. I sprung up, and declared I was getting no justice, and said there was no proof of my being a felon; and added, How can I be brought in as a felon, when not a single witness has made oath to it?"
The judge, in a violent rage, said that he would make oath, if necessary; and the jury in a moment returned a verdict of "Guilty of felony at large." I was then sentenced to seven years' transportation; but the judge at the same time telling me, that if I would produce my father, and show to him that he had mistaken me, he would change the sentence to twelve months' imprisonment. I told him I would rather go abroad than let my friends know any thing about the matter; that he was sending me among pick-pockets, where I would likely learn the art myself; and the first man's pocket I would pick on my return would be his.
'I have been twice tried for my life in Scotland. The first time I got more than justice, for I was acquitted; the second time I got justice; for I was convicted. But in Ireland I got no justice at all; for at Downpatrick there was none to speak for me but the judge, and he spoke against me.'
If this statement be correct, it is a striking and singular circumstance, that he who had by his own artifices, or by the mistakes of others, escaped his just punishment, should at last be reserved to it by a sentence which bore the appearance of mistake, if not of injustice. However man may be mistaken or deceived, 'verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth -- and though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not always go unpunished.'
Haggart was removed to the gaol, and in the afternoon the magistrate of Drunmore, who had formerly examined him, came into the press yard, where he was walking among the other prisoners. He instantly distinguished him, and asked him if he ever was in Drunmore? Haggart replied, 'Yes, twenty times;' he then asked if he recollected him, or bribing a constable, and breaking away? 'No!' replied the hardened liar, 'I have never seen you, or been in custody in Drunmore in my life.' 'Did you ever take the name of John M'Colgan?' 'No, nor do I know what you mean,' was the reply. The gentleman then told the turnkey that if they did not iron him, he would be off in half an hour. He was accordingly loaded with irons, and remained in that state three days, when he was removed to Kilmainham gaol, where he was put among the convicts of every description.
He soon thought of making his escape by digging through the back wall, with the assistance of several others, having first secured the entrance of their apartment; but some of the prisoners gave information, and Haggart being the first man who made his appearance through the hole, got a severe blow; the others rushed after him, but having still a high wall to get over. they were all secured by a party of soldiers, and locked up in their cells. A few hours after this, Haggart called out of his cell window to two young women accused of murder, in Dublin. [Bridget Butterly and Bridget Ennis.] He felt much for their situation, and shivered when he looked at them, his own hands having been stained with blood. He gave them (as he expresses it) such serious advice, as a poor guilty wretch could. They were afterwards condemned and executed. While in conversation with them, the cell door opened, and the turnkey found fault with him for interfering with them, and bade him be silent. Haggart replied he would not be silent, as he was saying nothing improper, and he felt much interested for these poor creatures, whose situation was so much like his own. Some insolence succeeded on the one part, and perhaps some ill-nature on the other, and it resulted in his being handcuffed and confined with a horrible iron instrument fitted on his head, from the front bar of which an iron tongue entered his mouth and prevented his speaking. This, which Haggart considered an arbitrary and cruel exercise of power, excited only opposition, and the moment it was removed, he resumed his seat on the window of his cell, and remained there the rest of the day, singing the most profane songs he could think of. Even the fear of the iron helmet of Kilmainham could not keep him quiet.
But something awaited him far worse, and which, had he known, would have made his heart tremble, hard and wicked as it was. Next morning the prisoners, consisting of some hundreds, were taken down into a yard, and ranked in companies of twenty each. In a few minutes, John Richardson, the police-officer from Scotland, made his appearance, accompanied by the two gaolers and turnkey; a terrific sight to Haggart! He passed through all the ranks, and the second time stopped, and, taking Haggart's hand, said, Do you know me, David?' 'What does the man say?' asked Haggart, in a master-piece of Irish brogue, turning at the same time to the gaoler, who said 'Don't you know him?' 'Troth and by my sowl,' replied Haggart, 'I know nothing at all, at all, about him.' The officer persisted that he knew him; and he was conveyed to the condemned yard; the gaoler telling him, if he was a Scotchman, he was greatly mistaken; for that he had the brogue as well as any boy in Ireland. He was then taken to the police-office, and heavily loaded with irons. An iron belt was fixed round his waist, with his wrists pinioned to each side of it; a chain passed from the front of the belt and joined the centre of a chain, each end of which was padlocked round his ankles, and a chain passed from each wrist to each ankle. In this dreadful (but by his own hardened and daring conduct necessary) state of torture and confinement, he was conducted to Dumfries. The officers treated him with the utmost tenderness and humanity, but he obstinately kept up his pretended ignorance for a considerable time.
On their approach towards Dumfries, which was in the dark, there were many thousands of people on the road, many of them with torches in their hands, waiting his arrival; and at the gaol it was scarcely possible to get him out of the coach for the multitude, all crowding for a sight of HAGGART THE MURDERER.-- Some discovered sorrow, and some terror; but whose could equal his own? He plunged through them all, rattling his chains, and making a great show of courage, but owned that his heart was shaken at the thought of poor Morrin. As he went up the stairs to the cells, he had to pass the very spot where he struck him; and oh! confessed the guilty murderer, 'it was like fire to my feet!' Oh! that sinners would remember this when tempted to commit sin; though at the moment it may be sweet and pleasant, yet at the last it shall sting as a serpent, and bite like an adder. It has been well observed, 'if we had as much fore-sight as we have after-wit, we should not easily be drawn into sin.' And why have we not? Because the love of sin blinds our eyes and hearts, that they should not discern its natural tendency.
After remaining at Dumfries three weeks, where the greater part of his Irish irons were removed, and he was twice examined by the sheriff, he was removed to Edinburgh, and indicted to stand his trial for the murder of Thomas Morrin. His trial came on June 11th: many witnesses were examined against him; some of them gave an incorrect testimony, but Haggart freely allowed that perhaps they were only mistaken, and that he was fully as wicked as they represented him; but there was one witness by whom he felt himself injured. This man knew the whole of their plans, and ought to have testified that their object was liberty, not murder. 'However,' said Haggart, this would have made no difference, for it was the pleasure of God Almighty that I should come to an end.' We will again use his own words:
All that man could do, was done for me at my trial, and I had good hopes till the judge began to speak; but then my spirits fell, for his speaking was sore against me. I did not altogether despair when I saw the jury talking together; but, oh! when they said GUILTY, my very heart broke; but I was even then too proud to show my feelings, and I almost bit my lip through in hiding them. When the judge was passing the awful sentence, I turned dizzy, and gasped for breath. They say I looked careless; but they could not see within me. I did not know what happened or where I was. I thought of every thing in a minute; I thought of my father -- I thought of my mother, who had died of a broken heart;-- I thought of escape, and very near made a plunge over the heads of the crowd; then I could have cried out.'
The judge adverted to some particular circumstances in his case, which pointed out especially for a most severe sentence. Not only, he observed, was it impossible he should escape the common penalty due to the unnatural crime of murder; but that all Scotland might know that the law would most decidedly avenge the violence done to keepers of his Majesty's prisons, the Court had doomed the prisoner to expiate the crime in the city of Edinburgh. His lordship earnestly exhorted him to call in the assistance of the ministers of religion: solemnly warning hint that if he did not seek pardon at the footstool of divine mercy, in deep repentance for all his sins, there was another and more terrible day of reckoning reserved for him, in that state upon which he was about to enter. It is most distressing to add, that, under warnings so solemn, and in circumstances so awful, he still discovered the most depraved insensibility and contempt. He adds, 'When the sentence was over, I gathered my thoughts, and my heart was as hard as ever, for I said, "Well! the man that is born to be hanged, will not be drowned;" this was very wicked' -- wicked indeed, but, alas ! too common, and little thought of; as though his destiny impelled him to a course of life that should terminate in this dreadful end. Such a necessity, the God of Justice, Holiness, and Mercy, never put on any of his creatures. No; the voice of his word and of his dispensations ever is -- (oh, that sinners would regard it!)--'As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live; turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die?'
But to return to Haggart's account of his feelings. After being brought back to the gaol, the wickedness of his heart was still great, and he had so little thought of his awful situation, that he made the following foolish verses, expressive of his hardened and unsubdued spirit:--
'ABLE and willing, you will find,
Though bound in chains, still free in mind;
For with these things I will never be grieved,
Although of freedom I am bereaved.
'In this vain world there is no rest,
And life is but a span at best;
The rich, the poor, the old, the young,
Shall all lie low before its long.
'I am a rogue. I don't deny.
But never lived by treachery;
And to rob a poor man, I disown,
But them that are of high renown.
'Now, for the crime that I am condemned,
The same I never did intend;
Only my liberty to take,
As I thought my life did lie at stake.
'My life, by perjury was sworn away,
I will say that to my dying day.
Oh, treacherous S----, you did me betray,
For all I wanted was liberty.
'No malice in my heart is found,
To any man above the ground.
Now, all good people, that speak of me,
You may say, I died for liberty.
'Although in chains you see me fast,
No frown upon my friends you'll cast,
For my relations were not to blame,
And I brought my parents to grief and shame.
'Now, all you ramblers in mourning go,
For the prince of ramblers is lying low;
And all you maidens, who love the game,
Put on your mourning veils again.
'And all your powers of music chaunt
To the memory of my dying rant;
A song of melancholy sing,
Till you make the very rafters ring.
'Farewell, relations, and friends also,
The time is nigh that I must go;
As for foes, I have but one,
But to the same I have done no wrong.'
'These wild and wicked thoughts,' he afterwards said, soon left me. Everybody was kind to me. How this happens I cannot tell, for from my infancy my hand has been against every man, and I never saw a human being without trying to do them a harm. This kindness is an awful lesson to me now; but it has done me great good, for it is the sorest punishment I have met with yet in this world I have been visited by several clergymen; they have prayed much with me and for me. I told them I had no words to pray, but they taught me, made me read my Bible, and gave me hopes of mercy in heaven -- at least such hopes as a poor miserable wretch like me can have, for my sins stick close to me.
A clergyman, who visited him says --'For nearly a fortnight after his condemnation he appeared to be in the most hardened and unfeeling state of mind; but the pious admonitions he received roused him at last from his insensibility. When asked how he felt with respect to his soul and eternity, the answer he gave was, that he was sure he did not feel as he ought to feel, and he complained that his heart was like a stone. He then inquired if there were any instances in the Scripture of persons who had committed a crime similar to his; and he was directed to the case of David, of Manasseh, of Peter who denied Christ, of the dying thief, and the persecuting Saul, who thought that, by putting people to death, he was verily doing God service. That passage in Ezekiel was also mentioned to him, "I will take away the heart of stones and give him a heart of flesh." These passages had a wonderful effect on him, and seemed to make a deep impression. He began to consult his Bible, and from that time his conviction became powerful, strong, and permanent, and his mind was very evidently much enlightened.
'He was particularly exhorted to examine himself whether his repentance was sincere, and not to rely on false hopes; or suppose, because the thief was pardoned in his dying moments, that therefore he might expect the same. When he was asked whether his repentance did not arise more from the unhappy circumstances in which he was placed, than from a sense of having offended God, and transgressed his holy law, he candidly acknowledged that he was afraid he was more influenced by the former than the latter.
'He desired a friend to go to his father, and to tell him that he died in the faith of Christ, his Redeemer. Indeed, he frequently exclaimed, "Why should I complain of my sufferings when I consider what Christ has undergone for me?" And he declared on the morning of his execution that he would not wish to escape, if the prison doors were open, as his death was the only atonement he could make in this world for the violated laws of God and man.
'Early on the morning of his execution, David Haggart joined earnestly in devotional exercise with his ministerial attendant. After the chaplain of the gaol had prayed, one of the officers of justice appeared, and requested all the persons present to retire, as he had something to communicate to the unhappy prisoner. Haggart immediately exclaimed, in a hurried tone, "Oh! I suppose it is the executioner." His firmness for a moment abandoned him, and he walked rapidly across the cell, with his arms folded, and with deep despair strongly painted on his countenance. He speedily, however, regained his composure; and when the executioner did appear, at once allowed his arms to be bound. He was then removed to a hall in the lower part of the lock-up-house, where he was received by two of the clergymen of Edinburgh and the magistrates. After prayers the procession proceeded to the scaffold. The conduct of the unfortunate youth there was in the highest degree becoming. While the beneficial influence of religion was apparent in his whole demeanour, his natural firmness of character never for a moment forsook him. He kneeled down, and uttered an earnest prayer; and, after addressing a few words of deep and anxious exhortation to the great multitude by whom he was surrounded, he met his fate with the same intrepidity which distinguished all the actions of his short, but guilty and eventful life, having just completed his twentieth year.' He was executed at Edinburgh, July the 18th, 1821.
Haggart, after his condemnation, wrote the history of his short and wicked life, which was subsequently published for the benefit of his father, who he requested might receive any profit arising from it, for the purpose of educating his younger brothers and sisters. The foregoing particulars are taken from this singular piece of autobiography, which evinced a strong, though uncultivated mind; which, if it had been directed to laudable pursuits, could not fail to have placed the writer in an honourable station in society.