This malefactor was a native of Buckeridge, in Staffordshire, received a decent education, was apprenticed to a shoemaker, and served his time with fidelity. At the expiration of his servitude he came to London, and worked as a journeyman till he had saved about ten pounds: and this instance of his industry and frugality coming to the knowledge of his aunt, who lived at Hawkehurst, in Kent, she bequeathed him fifty pounds by her will
On the death of the aunt he received the money, married, and commenced business as a master in Kent, where he unfortunately got connected with some smugglers, who dealt with him for shoes, for which they paid him in smuggled articles. This connexion was very pernicious to Hill; for a party of dragoons attacking the smugglers, and Hill taking part with the latter, he was desperately wounded. In the end the smugglers were victorious; but Hill, being wounded, was obliged to get on board a cutter, which carried him to France, where he put himself under the care of a surgeon, and was perfectly cured.
When restored to health he returned to England with a quantity of contraband goods; but the custom-house officers soon afterwards attacked him and another smuggler, and took them into custody. They continued seven months in prison; and were then released by an order from the Exchequer. Hill and his associates now bought a quantity of prohibited goods, and proceeded towards London to sell them; but, being attacked by several custom-house officers on the Deptford road, an engagement ensued, in which one of the officers was wounded in the leg, and the smugglers got off, and sold their goods in London. Not long after this the smugglers paid an officer a sum of money to connive at their proceedings; instead of which he laid an information against them; whereupon they pulled down his house, to testify their revenge. Thence they went to Sandwich, and at tempted to land some run goods; but a party of dragoons attacking them, one of the smugglers was killed on the spot, on which the rest galloped off with the utmost precipitation.
Not long after this affair the officers made an attack on the smugglers near Bromley, when one of the latter was wounded, and three horses were killed belonging to the opposite party. The smugglers now vowed revenge against the custom-house officers, one of whom they seized, and, conveying him to the house of Hill, treated him, for ten successive days, with the utmost barbarity. At length they consulted whether they should murder the unhappy man; but, some of them advising that he should be sent to France, he was conveyed to the sea-side, and proposals made to take him on board a cutter: but the master of the vessel, having been formerly punished for receiving a person on board in a similar situation, refused to accept him, unless he would declare that it was his free will to go; and this declaration not being made, the smugglers beat him severely, and then permitted him to depart.
Soon after this transaction Hill grew tired of his connexion with the smugglers, and retired to the practice of his own business; a circumstance that exasperated his late associates to such a degree, that they robbed his house of effects to a considerable amount, and a hundred and fifty pounds in cash. Distressed by this circumstance, and apprehensive of farther consequences, Hill determined not to remain longer in the country, and therefore wrote a letter to his sister in London, who took a house for him, whither he removed, and soon afterwards buried three children, who had died of the small-pox.
Hill went to visit a smuggler who was confined in Newgate, but had formed a design of effecting his escape, which he communicated to Hill, and offered him a hundred pounds to assist him in putting it into execution. The proposal was, that some other smugglers should come to Newgate, with offensive weapons hid under their clothes, and, having seized the keepers, should set the prisoners at liberty. Hill endeavoured to engage the smugglers to take a part in this affair; but they were too cautious to embark in so hazardous an undertaking. Hill, however, was daring enough to afford assistance to the prisoner, who effected his escape, but was not generous enough to give even a single shilling to his agent. After this Hill was promised a sum of money to assist another smuggler in making his escape from Newgate; in consequence of which he did all in his power to forward the plan, but never obtained the least gratuity for his trouble.
Hill's wife dying about this time, he seemed to decline all farther thought of acquiring money in a dishonest way; and, boarding in the house of a widow woman at Poplar, obtained his living by working as a journeyman at his own business: but at length he became in debt to his landlady, who seized a new suit of clothes for what he owed her. Exasperated by this circumstance, Hill, on the following morning, at tempted to wrest the keys of the house from the woman's hands: but, on her making resistance, he seized a rope that lay by him, with which he strangled her so that she expired immediately. This being done, he robbed the house, and put the stolen effects on board a boat, which went down the river: but, being pursued, he was soon taken, and carried before a magistrate, who committed him to Newgate.
Being brought to trial at the next sessions at the Old Bailey, he was capitally convicted, and received sentence of death; after which he submitted with the utmost patience to his fate, confessing that he was highly deserving of the ignominy that his complicated crimes had brought on him. He was hanged at Tyburn on the 23d of March, 1752, after cautioning the surrounding multitude to take warning by his fate. A few words only will be necessary by way of remark on the case and fate of this malefactor. His unhappy connexion with the smugglers stems to have hardened his mind, so as to have rendered him capable of the commission of any crime—even of the greatest. From his unhappy end, then, we ought to learn to be cautious how we violate the laws of honesty in the smallest degree, since such violation too often leads to the perpetration of the most enormous offences.