Highwayman, executed at Launceston, 25th of April, 1702, for robbing a Farmer's Wife
TOM JONES was born at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in the county of Northumberland, where his father, being a clothier, brought him up to the same trade. He followed this calling till he was two-and-twenty years of age, though not without discovering his vicious inclinations many years before, by running into debt and taking to all manner of irregular courses. At last, being reduced to extremity, he resolved at once to apply himself to the highway, as the only way left to retrieve his fortune. To make a beginning, he robbed his father of eighty pounds and a good horse, upon which he rode across the country with all speed, for fear of being pursued, galloping forty miles before he stopped; all which way he was afraid of everyone he saw and every noise he heard.
After this, riding into Staffordshire, and meeting a stage-coach with several passengers in it, he commanded the coachman to stop, and the people within to deliver. Some of the gentlemen were resolute, and refused to comply with his demand; upon which he fired several pistols, taking care to do no hurt, and still preserving three or four well-loaded for his defence, if he should have occasion of them. The fright which the gunpowder put a couple of ladies into, who were in the coach, obliged the gentlemen to surrender before there was any mischief done, and Tom rode off with a considerable booty.
It was after this that he met the late Lord Wharton and his lady on the road, stopped their coach and demanded their money, though they had three men on horseback to attend them. His lordship at first made some hesitation, and asked him if he understood what he was about. "Do you know me, sir," says he, "that you dare be so bold as to stop me on the road?" "Not I," replied Jones very readily; "I neither know nor care who you are, though, before you spoke, I took you for a brewer, because you carry your cooler by your side. Now, indeed, I am apt to imagine you are some great man, because you speak so big. But be as great as you will, sir, I must have you to know that there is no man upon this road so great as myself; therefore pray be quick in answering my demands, for delays may prove dangerous." His honour now saw our gentleman was resolute, so he and his lady even delivered up what they had about them without more words.
The whole prize consisted of two hundred pounds in money, three diamond rings and two gold watches. All this being secured, Jones commanded his lordship to bid his servants ride on some distance before, threatening him with death if he refused; which being done, and the servants obeying, he had a fair opportunity of riding off without being pursued.
Tom received intelligence one day that a certain gentleman was on the road with two hundred pounds in his coach. This, to be sure, was a sufficient invitation for him. He got upon a hill to wait for his customers coming, who spied him afar off without apprehending anything. But a steward of the gentleman, observing the behaviour of our chapman at a distance, told his master that he believed the man on the hill was a highwayman. "If you please, sir," quoth he, "to trust me with your money I'll ride by him, which I may do unsuspected, for he certainly waits for you." The gentleman was pleased at his servant's care, and liked his proposal very well. So giving him the bag, the steward rode on as fast as he could, and passed by Jones without being examined, getting out of sight before the coach came up.
In short, the coach was stopped and the money demanded, when our gentleman gave him about ten guineas, assuring him that he had no more. Jones boldly named the sum he wanted, and swore it was in the coach, the traveller as often asserting that he was mistaken. At last the real state of the case came into our adventurer's head; whereupon, without taking his leave of the gentleman, he set spurs to his horse and rode after the steward full speed, who had by this time got at least a mile and a half from the place. Jones was well mounted, and it was five miles from the next town, so that he came in sight of the steward before he could get into any inn; but the steward saw him, mended his pace, and saved the money. This disappointment vexed poor Tom to the heart, but there was no remedy. As to the gentleman, he gave his servant a handsome gratuity for what he had done —- as he deserved.
After many adventures, most of them of a piece with the foregoing, Tom was apprehended, in Cornwall, for robbing a farmer's wife, and afterwards ravishing her. For this fact he was tried, and condemned, the assizes following, and about ten days afterwards executed at Launceston, on Saturday, the 25th of April, 1702, being thirty-two years of age.