Date Of Execution: 25 Jan 1738
Execution Place: unknown
Pirates, hanged at Execution Dock, 25th January, 1738
THE crime of piracy is generally accompanied by murder. Richardson, to both these crimes, added that of swindling. His memory will with justice be particularly execrated by our female readers; for it will be found that, through the most consummate hypocrisy, he succeeded in seducing, and then abandoning, several of their sex.
John Richardson was an American, having been born in the city of New York, where he went to school till he was fourteen years old: he was then put under the care of his brother, who was a cooper; but, not liking that business, he sailed on board a merchant ship, commanded by his namesake, Captain Richardson.
After one voyage, he served five years to a carpenter; but having made an illicit connexion with his master's daughter, who became pregnant, he quitted his service, and entered on board a ship bound to Jamaica; on his arrival there he was impressed, put on board a man of war, and brought to England.
The ship's crew being paid at Chatham, he came to London, took lodgings in Horsleydown, and spent all his money. On this he entered as boatswain on board a vessel bound to the Baltic; but, being weary of his situation, he soon quitted that station, having first concerted and executed the following scheme of fraud.
Knowing that there was a merchant in the country with whom the captain had dealings, be went to a tavern, and wrote a letter, as from the captain, desiring that the merchant would send him a hundred rix-dollars. This letter he carried himself, and received the money from the merchant, who said he had more at the captain's service if it was wanted.
Being possessed of this sum, he, the next day, embarked on board a Dutch vessel bound to Amsterdam; and soon after his arrival connected himself with a woman whose husband had sailed as mate of a Dutch East India ship. With this woman ho cohabited about eight months, when she told him that it would be necessary for him to decamp, as she daily expected her husband to return from his voyage.
Richardson agreed to depart, but first determined to rob her; and, having persuaded her to go to the play, he took her to a tavern afterwards, where he plied her with liquor till she was perfectly intoxicated. This being done, he attended her home, and, having got her to bed and found her fast asleep, ho took the keys out of her pocket, and, unlocking the warehouse, stole India goods to the amount of two hundred pounds, which he conveyed to a lodging he had taken to receive them. Re then replaced the keys; but, finding some that were smaller, he with those opened her drawers, and took out sixty pounds. Some years afterwards be saw this woman at Amsterdam, but she made no complaint of the robbery; by which it may reasonably be supposed that she was afraid her husband might suspect her former illicit connexion.
Having put his stolen goods on board one of the Rotterdam boats, he departed for that place, where he found the captain of a vessel bound to New England, with whom he sailed at the expiration of four days.
On their arrival at Boston, Richardson went to settle about fifty miles up the country, in expectation that the property be possessed might procure him a wife of some fortune. Having taken his lodgings at a farmer's, he deposited his goods in a kind of warehouse.
It being now near the Christmas holy-days, many of the country people solicited that he would keep the festival with them. These offers were so numerous, that he scarce knew bow to determine; but at length accepted the invitation of a Mr. Brown, to which he was influenced by his having three daughters, and four maid-servants, all of them very agreeable young women.
Richardson made presents of India handkerchiefs to all the girls, and so far ingratiated himself into their favour that in a short time all of them were pregnant. But before this circumstance was discovered there happened to he a wedding, to which the daughter of a justice of the peace was invited as a brides-maid, and Richardson as a brides-man.
Our adventurer, soon becoming intimate with the young lady, persuaded her to go and see his lodgings and warehouse, and offered to make her a present of any piece of goods which she might deem worth her acceptance. At length she fixed on a piece of chintz, and carried it home with her.
Two days afterwards Richardson wrote to her; and, her answer being such as flattered his wishes, be likewise wrote to her father, requesting permission to pay his addresses to the daughter. The old gentleman readily admitted his visits, and, at the end of three months, gave his consent that the young people should be united in wedlock.
As there were no licenses for marriage in that country, it was the uniform custom to publish the bans three successive Sundays in the church. On the first day no objection was made; but on the second Sunday all the girls from the house where he had spent his Christmas made their appearance to forbid the bans, each of them declaring that she was with child by the intended husband.
Hereupon Richardson slipped out of the church, leaving the people astonished at the singularity of the circumstance; but he had reason to suppose that it would not be long before he should hear from the father of the young lady, whom he had already seduced.
Accordingly, in a few days be received a letter from the old gentleman, begging that he would decline his visits, as his conduct furnished a subject of conversation for the whole country; and with his request Richardson very cheerfully complied; but in about four months he was sent for, when the justice offered him 300L. currency, to take his daughter as a wife. He seemed to hesitate at first; but at length consenting, the young lady and he went to a village at the distance of forty miles, where the bans were regularly published, and the marriage took place, before the other parties were apprised of it.
However, in a little time after the wedding, he was arrested by the friends of the girls whom he had debauched, in order to compel him to give security for the maintenance of the future children; on which his father-in-law engaged that he should not abscond, and paid him his wife's fortune.
Having thus possessed himself of the money, and being sick of his new connexion, be told his wife and her relations that, not being fond of a country life, he would go to New York and build him a ship, and would return at the expiration of three months. The family, having no suspicion of his intentions, took leave of him with every mark of affection; but he never went near them any more.
Having previously sent his effects to Boston, he went to that place, where he soon spent his money amongst the worst kind of company, and, no person being willing to trust him, was reduced to great distress. It now became necessary that he should work for his bread; and, being tolerably well skilled in ship-building, he got employment under a master-builder, who was a Quaker, and who treated him with the greatest indulgence.
The Quaker was an elderly man, who bad a young wife, with whom Richardson wished to be better acquainted: he therefore one day quitted his work and went home to the house; but he had but just arrived there when he was followed by the old man, who came in search of him, and found him talking to his wife. The Quaker asked him what business he had there, and why be did not keep at his work. Richardson replied that he only came home for an auger: to which the Quaker said, 'Ah! friend John, I do not much like thee; my wife knows nothing of thy tools, and I fear thou hadst some evil thoughts in thy head.'
Hereupon Richardson went back to his work without making any reply, but soon afterwards demanded his wages. The Quaker hesitated to pay him, hinting that he was apprehensive his wife had paid him already; on which Richardson said he would sue him for the debt, and desired him to consider that, if he made such an excuse in open court, he would be disgraced through the country.
On this the Quaker paid his demand, but absolutely forbade him ever to come within his house again; Richardson promising to obey, and intending to have complied with the injunction.
About eight days afterwards, the old gentleman, having some business up the country to purchase timber, desired his young wife to accompany him, to prevent any ill consequences that might arise in his absence. To avoid this journey, the lady feigned indisposition, and took to her bed.
The husband had not been long gone before Richardson, meeting the maid-servant in the street, asked after the health of her mistress, who, the girl said, wanted to see him; and he promised to wait upon her about nine in the evening.
Punctual to his engagement he attended the lady, and renewed his visits to her till the return of her husband was apprehended, when he broke open a chest, stole about seventy pounds, and immediately agreed with Captain Jones for his passage to Philadelphia.
When he arrived at the last-mentioned place, he took lodgings at the house of a widow who had two daughters; and, paying his addresses to the mother, he was so successful, that for four months, while he continued there, he acted as if be had been master of the house.
After this intimacy with the mother had continued some time, he became attached to one of the daughters; and on a Sunday, when the rest of the family were absent, found an opportunity of being alone with her; but the mother, returning at this juncture, interrupted their conversation, and expressed her anger in the most violent terms.
Nor was this all, for when she was alone with the offender she severely reproached him; but be made his peace by pretending an uncommon attachment to her; yet within a month she found him taking equal freedoms with her second daughter. Upon this the mother became outrageous, and told him that the consequence of his connexion with the other girl was, that she was already pregnant. Richardson now quarrelled in his turn, and told her that if her daughter was breeding she must procure her a husband, for he would have nothing to do with her.
At length, when the old woman's passions were in some degree calmed, he represented to her the impossibility of his marrying both her daughters; but said that, if she could procure a husband for one of them, he would take the other.
The old lady soon procured a young man to marry one of her daughters, and then constantly teazed Richardson to wed the other, which he steadily refused to do unless she would advance him a sum of money. She hesitated for some time; but at length said she would give him a hundred pounds, and half her plate; on which he consented, and the marriage was solemnized; but he had no sooner possessed himself of this little fortune than he embarked on board a ship bound for South Carolina.
Within a month after his arrival in this colony he became acquainted with one Captain Roberts, with whom he sailed as mate and carpenter to Jamaica, and during the voyage was treated in the most friendly manner. The business in Jamaica being dispatched, they returned to Carolina.
The owner of the ship living at some distance up the country, and the winter advancing, the captain fixed on Richardson as a proper person to sleep on board and take care of the vessel. This he did for some time, till about a week before Christmas, when he was invited to an entertainment to be given on occasion of the birth-day of his owner's only daughter.
A moderate share of skill in singing and dancing recommended Richardson to the notice of the company, and in particular to that of the young lady, by which he hoped to profit on a future occasion.
In the following month it happened that a wedding was to be celebrated at the house of a friend of the owner, on which occasion Richardson was sent for; and when he appeared the young lady welcomed him wishing that he would oblige the company with a dance; to which be replied, that he should he happy to oblige the company in general, and her in particular.
Richardson, having been a partner with the young lady during the dancing at the wedding, begged leave to conduct her home; and, when the ceremonies of the wedding were ended, he had the honour to attend her to her abode. When they had got into the midst of a thick wood he pretended to be ill, and said he must get off his horse and sit down on the ground. She likewise dismounted, and they walked together under the shade of a chestnut-tree, where they remained till the approach of evening, when he conducted her home, after having received very convincing proofs of her kindness.
Going to his ship for that night, he went to her father's house on the following day, and found an opportunity of speaking to her, when he entreated her to admit of his occasional visits; but she said there were so many negro servants about the house that it would be impossible. On this he said he would conduct her to the ship when the family were asleep; and the girl foolishly consenting to this proposal, the intrigue was carried on for a fortnight, when she became so apprehensive of a discovery that she would go no longer.
But the lovers being uneasy asunder, they bribed an old female negro, who constantly let Richardson into the young lady's chamber when the rest of the family were retired to rest.
At length the mother discovered that her daughter was with child, and charged her to declare who was the father, on which she confessed that it was Richardson. The mother acquainting her husband with the circumstance, the old gentleman sent for Richardson to supper, and, after rallying him on his prowess, told him that he must marry and support his daughter. Richardson said it was out of his power to support her; but the father promising his assistance, the marriage took place.
Soon afterwards the old gentleman gave his son-in-law the ship, and a good cargo, as a marriage portion, and Richardson embarked on a trading voyage to Barbadoes; but he had not been many days at sea when a violent storm arose, in which he lost his vessel and cargo, and he and his crew were obliged to take to the boat to save their lives.
After driving some days at sea, they were taken up by a vessel which carried them to St. Kitt's, where Richardson soon met with a Captain Jones, who told him that one of his wives had died of a broken heart. This circumstance, added to that of the loss of his ship, drove him distracted; so that he was confined to his chamber for four months.
On his recovery he went mate with the captain who had carried him to St. Kitt's; but, quitting this station in about five months, he sailed to Antigua, where a young gentleman, who happened to be in company with Richardson, was so delighted with his skill in dancing a hornpipe, that be invited him to his father's house, where he was entertained for a fortnight with the utmost hospitality.
One day, as he was rambling with the young gentleman to take a view of some of the plantations, Richardson stopped on a sudden, and, putting his hand to his pocket, pretended to have lost his purse, containing twenty pistoles. The young gentleman told him there was more money in Antigua. 'True,' said Richard son, 'but I am a stranger here; I am a Creolian from Meovis.' On this the other asked, 'Do you belong to the Richardsons at Meovis I know their character well.'
Our adventurer, aware that the governor of Meovis was named Richardson, had the confidence to declare that be was his son; on which the other exclaimed, 'You his son, and want money in Antigua! No, no; only draw a bill upon your father, and I will engage that mine shall help you to the money.'
The project of raising cash in this manner delighted Richardson; and the young gentleman's father was no sooner acquainted with the pretended circumstance than he expressed a willingness to supply him with a hundred pistoles, on which he drew a bill on his supposed father for the above-mentioned sum, and received the money.
About a week afterwards be wrote a letter to his imputed father, informing him how generously he bad been treated by his friends in Antigua, and subscribing himself his 'dutiful son.' This letter he intrusted to the care of a person in whom he could confide, with strict orders not to deliver it; and, when as much time had elapsed as might warrant the expectation of an answer, he employed the mate of a ship to write a letter to the old gentleman, as from his supposed father, thanking him for his civilities to his son.
The gentleman was greatly pleased at the receipt of this letter, which be said contained more compliments than his conduct had deserved; and be told Richardson that be might have any farther sum of money that be wanted. On this our adventurer, who was determined to take every advantage of the credulity of his new acquaintance, drew another bill for a hundred pistoles, and soon afterwards decamped.
He now embarked on board a vessel bound to Jamaica, and, on his arrival at Port Royal, purchased a variety of goods of a Jew merchant; which, with other goods that the Jew gave him credit for, he shipped on board a trader to Carthagena, where be disposed of them: but he never went back to discharge his debt to the Jew.
From Carthagena he sailed to Vera Cruz, and thence to England, where he took lodgings with one Thomas Ballard, who kept a public house at Chatham. Now it happened that Ballard had a brother, who, having gone abroad many years before, had never been heard of. Richardson bearing a great resemblance to this brother, the publican conceived a strong idea that he was the same, and asked if his name was not Ballard. At first be answered in the negative; but finding the warm prepossession of the other, and expecting to make some advantage of his credulity, he at length acknowledged that he was his brother.
Richardson now lived in a sumptuous manner, and without any expense; and Ballard was never more uneasy than when any one doubted of the reality of the relationship. At length Ballard told Richardson that their two sisters were living at Sittingbourne, and persuaded him to go on a visit to them, to which Richardson readily agreed: the two sisters had no recollection of this man; however, Ballard having persuaded them that he was the real brother who had been so long absent, great rejoicings were made on account of his safe arrival in his native country.
After a week of festivity it became necessary for Ballard to return to his business at Chatham: but the sisters, unwilling to part with their newly found brother, persuaded him to remain awhile at Sittingbourne, and told him that their mother, who had been extremely fond of him, had left him twenty pounds, and the mare on which she used to ride; and in a short time he received the legacies.
During his residence with his presumptive sisters be became acquainted with Anne and Sarah Knolding, and, finding that their relations were deceased, and that Anne was left guardian to her sister, be paid his addresses to the former, who was weak enough to trust him with her money, bonds, writings, and the deeds of her estate. Hereupon be immediately went to Chatham, where he mortgaged the estate for three hundred pounds, and thence went to Gravesend, where he shipped himself on hoard a vessel bound for Venice.
On his arrival at that place he hired a house, and lived unemployed till be had spent the greater part of his money; when he sold off his effects and went to Ancona, where he became acquainted with Captain Benjamin Hartley, who had come thither with a lading of pilchards, and on board whose ship was Richard Coyle, the other offender mentioned in this narrative.
Captain Hartley being in want of a carpenter, Richardson agreed to serve him in that capacity; and the ship sailed on a voyage to Turkey where the captain took in a lading of corn, and then sailed for Leghorn. On the first night of this voyage, Coyle, who was chief mate, came on deck to Richardson, and asked him if he would he concerned in a secret plot to murder the captain and seize the vessel. Richardson at first hesitated; but he at length agreed to take his share in the villainy.
The plan being concerted, they went to the captain's cabin about midnight, with an intention of murdering him; but, getting from them, he ran up the shrouds, whither he was followed by Richardson and a seaman named Larson. The captain descended too quick for them, and as soon as be gained the deck Coyle attempted to shoot him with a blunderbuss, which missing fire, Mr. Hartley wrested it from his hands, and threw it into the sea.
This being done, Coyle and some others of the sailors heaved the captain overboard; but, as be hung by the ship's side, Coyle gave him several blows which rather stunned him; as, however, he did not let go his hold, Richardson seized an axe, with which he struck him so forcibly that be dropped into the sea.
Coyle now assumed the command of the ship, and, Richardson being appointed mate, they sailed towards the island of Malta, where they intended to have refitted; but some of the crew objecting to putting in there, they agreed to go to Minorca. When they came opposite Cape Cona, on the coast of Barbary, the weather became so foul that they were compelled to lie-to for several days, after which they determined to sail for Foviniano, an island under the dominion of Spain.
Arriving at this place, they sent on shore for water and fresh provisions; but as they had come from Turkey, and could not produce letters of health, it was not possible for them to procure what they wanted.
It had been a practice with the pirates to keep watch alternately, in company with some boys who were on board; but during the night, while they lay at anchor off this place, two of the men destined to watch fell asleep: on which two of the boys hauled up a boat and went ashore, where they informed the governor of what had passed on hoard.
One of the parties who should have watched being awaked, he ran and called Richardson, whom he informed that the boys were gone; on which Richardson said it was time for them to be gone likewise; they therefore hauled up the long-boat without loss of time, and, putting on board her such things as would be immediately necessary, set sail, in the hope of making their escape.
In the interim the governor sent down a party of soldiers to take care of the ship, and prevent the escape of the pirates; but, it being quite dark, they could not discern the vessel, though she lay very near the shore: but, when they heard the motion of the oars, they fired at the pirates, who all escaped unwounded.
Steering towards Tunis, they stopped at a small island called Maritime, where they diverted themselves with killing rabbits: for, though the place is apparently little more than a barren rock, yet it so abounds with these animals that a man may easily kill a thousand in a day.
Leaving this place, they stopped twelve miles short of Tunis, where Richardson was apprehended, and carried before the governor, who asking whence he came, he told him he was master of a vessel, which having been lost off the coast of Sardinia, be was necessitated to take to his long-boat, and had been driven thither by distress of weather.
This story being credited, the governor seemed con erned for the fate of him and his companions, and recommended them to the house of an Italian, where they might be accommodated; sending, in the mean time, to the English consul, to inform him that his countrymen were in distress.
When they had been about a fortnight at this place Richardson sold the long-boat, and, having divided the produce among his companions, he went to Tunis to be examined by the English consul, to whom he told the same story that he had previously told the governor: on which the consul ordered him to make a formal protest thereof, for the benefit of the owners and their own security.
Hereupon the consul supplied him with money, which he shared with his companions. Coyle kept himself continually drunk with the money he had received, and, during his intoxication, spoke so freely of their transactions, that he was taken into custody by order of the consul, and sent to England; and Richardson would have also been apprehended, but, being upon his guard, and learning what had happened to his companion, he embarked on board a ship bound for Tripoli, where he arrived in safety.
At this place he drew a bill on an English merchant of Leghorn, by which he obtained twenty pounds, and then embarked for the island of Malta; he sailed from thence to Saragossa, in the island of Sicily, whence going to Messina, he was known by a gentleman who bad lived at Ancona, and who, remembering his engagement in the service of Captain Hartley, bad him apprehended on suspicion of the murder.
He remained in prison at Messina nine months: on which be wrote a petition to the King of Naples, setting forth that he had been a servant to his father, and praying the royal orders for his release. In consequence of this petition the governor of Messina was commanded to set him at liberty; on which be travelled to Rome, and thence to Civita Vecchia, where he hoped to get employment on board the Pope's gallies in consequence of having turned Roman Catholic.
While he was at Civita Vecchia be became known to Captain Blomet, who invited bin, with other company, on board his ship: when the company was gone, the captain showed him a letter, in which he was described as one of the murderers of Captain Hartley. Richardson denied the charge; but the captain calling down some hands, be was put in irons, and sent to Leghorn, whence be was transmitted to Lisbon: here he remained three months, and being then put on board the packet-boat, and brought to Falmouth, be was conveyed to London. Richardson was lodged first in the Marshalsea, but afterwards removed to Newgate; and, being tried at the Old Bailey, received sentence of death, along with Coyle, for the murder of Captain Hartley.
Richard Coyle was a native of Devonshire, and born near Exeter. His parents having given him such an education as was proper to qualify him for a maritime life, be was apprenticed to the master of a trading vessel, and served his time with reputation to himself and satisfaction to his employer.
When his time was expired, he made several voyages in ships of war, and likewise served on board various merchantmen; he had also been master of a ship for seventeen years, generally sailing from, and returning to, the port of London. In these commands he maintained a good character; but, meeting with misfortunes, he was reduced to serve as mate in different ships; and at length sailed with Captain Hartley, bound to the Levant, when he became acquainted with Richardson, as already related.
After conviction Coyle acknowledged the equity of the sentence against him and, in some letters to his friends, confessed his penitence for the crime of which he had been guilty, and his readiness to yield his life as an atonement for his offences.
With respect to Richardson, he seemed regardless of the dreadful fate that awaited him; and, having lived a life of vice and dissipation, appeared altogether indifferent to the manner in which that life should end.
The above-mentioned malefactors were hanged at Execution Dock on the 25th of January, 1738.
With regard to Coyle, we do not hear that he had been guilty of any notorious crime but that for which he died; but the life of Richardson was such a continued scene of irregularity, deception, and fraud, as is almost unequalled. His treachery to the many unhappy women of whom he pretended to be enamoured was, alone, deserving of the fate which finally fell to his lot.