This traitor was a native of Ireland, and, while a youth, was decoyed from his parents, conveyed to Dunkirk, and entered into the regiment of Dillon. In this station be continued fourteen years, at the end of which time he was sent to London, to enlist men into the French service; and was promised a promotion on his return, as a reward for the diligence he might exert.
On his arrival in London he endeavoured to connect himself with people of the lower ranks, whom he thought most likely to be seduced by his artifices; and one day going on the quays near London Bridge, he met with two brothers, named Meredith, both of them in the army, but who occasionally worked on the quays, to make an addition to their military pay.
Having invited these men to a house in the Borough, be treated them with liquor; represented the emoluments that would arise from their entering into the French service; and, among other things, said that, exclusive of their pay, they would receive four loaves of bread weekly.
When they were thus refreshed Nowland prevailed on them to go to his lodgings in Kent Street, where he farther regaled them, and then said he hoped they would enter into the service. They expressed their readiness to do so; and said they could aid him in enlisting several other men, if he would spend the evening with them at a public house in the Strand.
This proposal being assented to, they took him to a famous alehouse near the Savoy, called the Coal hole, where Nowland was terrified at the sight of several soldiers of the Guards; but the Merediths saying they were their intimate acquaintance, the parties adjourned to a room by themselves, Here the brothers asked Nowland how much they were to receive for enlisting, which he told them would be four guineas; and that he was commissioned to pay their expenses till they should join the regiment.
The intention of the brothers seems to have been to obtain some money of Nowland; but, finding it was not in his power to advance any while they remained in England, one of them went to the sergeant at the Savoy, informed him of what had passed, and asked him how he must dispose of Nowland. The sergeant said he must be detained for the night, and taken before a magistrate on the following day.
On the soldiers' return to the public house Nowland produced a certificate, signed by the lieutenant colonel of the regiment, as a proof that he was actually in the service of France. He likewise said that the soldiers must dispose of their clothes, and purchase others, to prevent their being detected at Dover; and he repeated his promise of the bounty-money, and other accommodations proper for a soldier, on their reaching the regiment.
When the Merediths, and the other men, had drank at Nowland's expense till they were satisfied, they conveyed him to the roundhouse, and on the following day took him before a magistrate, to whom, after some hesitation, he acknowledged that he had been employed to enlist men for the Irish brigades in the service of France. Inquiry being made respecting his accomplices, he acknowledged that a captain belonging to his regiment was in London, and that some other agents were soon expected in the kingdom: on which he was informed that he should be admitted an evidence if he would impeach his accomplices, He replied, ‘that he was a man of honour, and would never be guilty of hanging any other person to save his own life.'
He was committed to Newgate in consequence of this confession, and, being brought to his trial, was convicted at the following sessions at the Old Bailey, and received sentence of death.
Nowland being of the Roman Catholic persuasion, it is not possible to give a particular account of his behaviour after conviction, as he declined holding any correspondence with the Ordinary of Newgate. When he came to the fatal Tyburn tree, on the 4th of February, 1742, he performed his devotions in his own way, and, being executed, his body was carried to St. Giles's, and soon afterwards buried in St. Pancras churchyard by some of his Roman Catholic friends.
The folly of a man's attempting to recruit the French army in London is more to be wondered at than the commission of the crime. This man, before he attempted to corrupt the allegiance of an Englishman, must surely have been apprized of the conviction and execution of Thomas Hennings, for enlisting a man for the King of Prussia, which took place just before he accepted a French commission to commit a similar crime. Little more can be said of Nowland's case than that it is treasonable in the highest degree, aiming a mortal blow at the constitution of our country, by enticing us to join our enemy. Yet we cannot, however, pass over the particulars, without expressing admiration at the loyalty of the soldiers whom he endeavoured to corrupt.