Newgate Calendar - WILLIAM WELCH AND PETER CONWAY

WILLIAM WELCH AND PETER CONWAY

Two Boys, the first fourteen, and the latter nine years of Age, Tried at the Old Bailey, for a Highway Robbery on the Person of a Female Infant, still Younger

            WE hardly think that the combined turpitude of mankind, pictured in almost every page of our voluminous work, exhibits such a scene of the debasement of human nature, as came out on the trial of these most miserable children. This abomination could hardly have proceeded from the parties already described: from whom then, inquires the astonished reader, or how could greater baseness arise? From a bawd we answer—it generated in a female breast!

 

"I charge you, in the name of chastity,
Tell me no more; how ugly you seem to me!
There is no wonder men defame our sex,
And lay the vices of all ages on us,
When such as you shall bear the name of woman:
If you had eyes to see yourselves, or sense
Above the base rewards you earn with shame!
If ever in your lives you heard of goodness,
Tho' many regions off, as men hear thunder;
If ever ye had fathers, and they souls,
Or ever mothers, and not such as ye are,
If anything was ever constant in you,
Beside your sins!
If any of your ancestors
Dy'd worth a noble deed—that wou'd be cherished!
Soul-frighted with this black infection,
You would run from one another's repentance,
And from your guilty eyes drop out those sins
That make you blind and beasts."
LORD ROCHESTER'S VALENTINIAN.

            Thus we have quoted a noble author upon sin; but we question whether he, well acquainted as he was with human nature, ever heard of such baseness in a matron's breast, as that which we now, reluctantly, discover in the annals of crimes.

            The wretched children, Welch and Conway, were indicted at the Old Bailey, the second of March, 1787, through the procurement of one of those most dangerous pests to society—the early corrupter of the morals of both sexes—a bawd: who kept an infamous brothel, or stew, as called in old times, in Coventry-court, St. Giles's, London. The accused, as well as Mary Davis, the child said to have been robbed by them, had all been seduced by this abandoned woman; who, hoping to gain more by the conviction of the boys, than by longer keeping them, appeared, in order to take their lives. She swore to their robbing the little girl, Mary Davis, of a bundle of linen; the whole most likely planned by this cruel, infernal, and diabolical woman. The penetrating eye of the Recorder of London, before whom the boys were tried, saw some lurking villainy in the evidence, and he proceeded to sift it from her.

            After much labour he brought her to acknowledge, that she had long made a practice of seducing children from their parents, or to steal them in the streets, and by a regular course of instruction, to train them up in every species of villainy and debauchery, first destroying, as a preparatory step, all sense of shame and decency, by putting many of each sex into beds together, locking them naked in the same room, and encouraging scenes too painful to relate.

            The learned and humane judge directed the boys to be taken care of; and ordered the bawd to confinement in Newgate, for perjury. A prosecution was commenced by the parish against several houses in the infernal neighbourhood, where every species of crime was engendered; but had the magistrates been active in their duty, under the authority of the vagrant act alone, many unfortunate children might have been rescued from infamy, passed to their respective parishes, and thus have become useful members of society; while the keepers of such hellish depositaries would have been handed over to the strong hand of Justice.

 

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