Who suffered Death on 20th of December, 1700, for stabbing Sir Andrew Slanning, Baronet, near Drury Lane Theatre
THE crime for which this man suffered will show the danger ever to be apprehended from indiscriminate connexion with females, and a caution against intemperance.
John Cowland was the son of reputable parents, who apprenticed him to a goldsmith, but of a vicious irascible disposition. He and some other bon —- vivants had followed Sir Andrew Slanning, Bart., who had made a temporary acquaintance with an orange-woman, while in the pit at Drury Lane playhouse, and retired with her as soon as the play was ended. They had gone but a few yards before Mr Cowland put his arm round the woman's neck; on which Sir Andrew desired he would desist, as she was his wife. Cowland, knowing that Sir Andrew was married to a woman of honour, gave him the lie, and swords were drawn on both sides; but some gentlemen coming up at this juncture, no immediate ill consequences ensued.
They all now agreed to adjourn to the Rose Tavern, and Captain Waggett having there used his utmost endeavours to reconcile the offended parties, it appeared that his mediation was attended with success; but as they were going upstairs to drink a glass of wine, Mr Cowland drew his sword and stabbed Sir Andrew in the belly, who, finding himself wounded, cried out "Murder!" Hereupon one of Lord Warwick's servants and two other persons who were in the house ran up and disarmed Cowland of his sword, which was bloody to the depth of five inches, and took him into custody. Cowland now desired to see Sir Andrew, which being granted, he jumped down the stairs and endeavoured to make his escape, but being pursued he was easily retaken.
He was instantly conducted before a Justice of the Peace, who committed him; and on the 5th of December, 1700, he was tried at the Old Bailey on three indictments: the first at common law, the second on the statute of stabbing, and the third on the coroner's inquest for the murder. The facts above mentioned were fully proved on the trial, and among other things it was deposed that the deceased had possessed an estate of twenty thousand pounds a year, that his family became extinct by his death, and that he had been a gentleman of great good nature, and by no means disposed to quarrel. Mr Cowland being found guilty on the clearest evidence received sentence of death, and, though great efforts were made to obtain a pardon for him, he was executed at Tyburn, on the 20th of December, 1700.
From the moment of his imprisonment to the day of his death, his behaviour was truly contrite and penitent; he professed the most unfeigned sorrow for all his sins, and gave the following account of himself: that he was the son of reputable parents, who apprenticed him to a goldsmith; that in the early part of his life he was sober and religious, studying the scriptures, giving a regular attendance on divine worship, and devoutly reflecting on his duty towards God; but that, abandoning this course of life, he became an easy prey to his own intemperate passions, and proceeded from one degree of vice to another, till at length he committed the horrid crime for which he was justly doomed to fall a sacrifice to the violated laws of God and his Country.
On a retrospect of this melancholy narrative, some reflections will occur, that, if properly attended to, may be of singular use to the reader. The dispute which cost Sir Andrew Slanning his life took its rise from his having associated himself with a woman of light character, with whom Cowland thought he had as much right to make free as the baronet: but Sir Andrew was originally to blame; for, as he was a married man, there was a great impropriety in the connexion he had formed: this, however, was no kind of justification of the conduct of Cowland, who could have no business to interfere; and his crime is greatly enhanced by his having committed the murder after an apparent reconciliation had taken place. To sum up our observations in a few words, from this sad tale let married men be taught the danger that may ensue from the slightest criminal connexion, and let young gentlemen learn to govern and moderate their passions: so may all parties live an honour to themselves, and a credit to their families and connexions.