Date Of Execution: 20 Oct 1790
Execution Place: unknown
T H E S E C O N D
S P E E C H 1 8
Being an account of the behaviour of James Day, in prison and on
the Scaffold, on Wednesday the 20th of October 1790.
THE Night before the execution of James Day, he was attended by Mess. Archibald,
Neilson, and two Divines, when the whole night was spent in singing of psalms, and
prayer, and exhorting him to fly from the wrath to come, and to the Lord Jesus Christ, in-
structing him in the knowledge of Christ, and the way of salvation, and righteousness; when
he made a large confession of the sins of his nature, heart, and life, and took his turn in pray-
er with them that were present, when the scaffolding was putting up, his mind was crowded
with terror and confusion, which appeared in his countenance, when he cried out, O! to be
sprinkled with the blood of Christ, which only can cleanse me from my sin. Then he was
desired to go about prayer, which he did accordingly, after which he was more composed in
his mind. At two o'clock, he was taken out of the iron room, to the town-hall drest in
his dead cloaths, and a white gown down to his feet, mounted with black, attended by the
Revd. Messrs. Balsour and Bell, and Mr. Neilson, on whom he lerned down the stairs to the
Hall, when he sung a part of the sixty-second Psalm 5, 6, 7, verses, after which he prayed,
and then Messrs. Balsour and Bell, questioned him concerning the murder of his Child, which
he denied, that ever he embrued his hands in his blood, but owned he was a mean of his
death, and was willing to suffer for it. After which Messrs, Balsour and Bell gave him suit-
ble exhortations,when the lord Provost, asked him if he had any thing further to say, as
the time was drawing on, to which he answered, No! when Mr. Bell prayed, he then took
farewall of the ministers, and came away to the scaffold , accordingly, then he desired Mr.
Neilson to pray, which was done with great servency, when a part of the 24 Psalm was
sung from the 7th verse to the end. then he prayed himself, after which he turned to the
spectators desiring them, to observe the ten commandments, and went through them one by
one, observing that there might be some among such a great multitude, who are living in sin,
as he had, and prayed them to take warning.
After which one of the Magistrates, asked him if he had any family or friends, that the
Magisters of Glasgow, could do any thing for them; he answered, No! but thanked them
kindly, after which he went to the foot of the ladder, and took farewell of Mr. Neilson,
when the tears ran down his cheeks, he then went up the ladder. After the cap being
drawn over his face, and seemingly in a praying posture he appeared to saint, on which the
executioner did his office immediately
On his being cut down, his body was put in a coffin, and laid on a cart, and carried to the
College to be, dissected, and attended by the Magistrates, likewise escorted by a party of the
42d Regiment of foot.
The unfortunate James Day is a woful example of the depravity of human nature, when
further corrupted by the debauched company of loose women.—He had education parts and
abilities to make a figure as a tradesman; but his giving himself up to lust, and doating on
strange women led him astray from the paths of virtue: and, pride, the very sin which made SAtan, A Devil from an Angel of light, perverted his mind.
No doubt, the confession of a great many particular sins has no tendency to reform man-
kind: it rather leads poor mortals to a vain conceit of themselves, and the guilty, to palliate
their own sins, by thinking them of an inferior fort to the black catalogue they read of or
see before them. In this case, let every one consider, that it is only the over ruling band of
Providence which keeps FALLEN MAN from running into the most wicked, base and degener-
The man, or woman, who indulge themselves in licentious amours, will undoubtedly feel a
sting in their conscience, which no salve can cure: witness this man, who says, in his own
hand writing, that he never had a heart love for this Adulterous Child, As a bird of a bad
During his confinement and under sentence, he behaved with the greatest fortitude con-
versed freely and acted as composed, as conscious innocence could do: Yet his own account of
his wandering the child leaves a suspicion of his being the actual Murderer.
This report begins: 'THE SECOND SPEECH Being an Account of the behaviour of James Day, in prison and on the Scaffold, on Wednesday the 20th of October 1790.'
The particulars of James Day's crime are left ambiguous in this report. The conviction was for murder, and the author attributes Day's downfall to 'the debauched company of loose women', but scapegoating women for men's violence was a common feature of broadside reports. The final line of the report is intriguing: 'his own account of his wandering the child leaves a suspicion of his being the actual Murderer.' Day had in fact drowned his own illegitimate child in the Clyde.
Reports recounting dark and salacious deeds were popular with the public, and, like today's sensationalist tabloids, sold in large numbers. Crimes could generate sequences of sheets covering descriptive accounts, court proceedings, last words, lamentations and executions as they occurred. As competition was fierce, immediacy was paramount, and these occasions provided an opportunity for printers and patterers to maximise sales.