Date Of Execution: 14 Mar 1759
Execution Place: unknown
Ship's mate, hanged for beating two of his men to death
JOSEPH HALSEY was born of respectable parents in New England, North America, who gave him an education fit for a navigator. He was, when he committed the murder in question, mate of the ship Amazon, commanded by Captain Gallop. This vessel sailed from Jamaica for London the latter end of June or the beginning of July, having on hoard Captain Gallop; Halsey, the mate; four men, John Father, Daniel Davidson, John Edwards, and Robert Green; and two boys, Thomas Symmes and William Mitchell.
Mitchell was about sixteen years of age, and Symmes seems to have been older. About a week after the Amazon left Jamaica the captain was taken ill, and confined to his cabin: the command, therefore, devolved upon Halsey. About the same time, also, the vessel sprung a leak, so that her hands wore obliged to pump to keep her clear. Halsey, as soon as he took the command of the ship, began to treat the men with great brutality, abusing and beating them without cause or mercy. Complaint was frequently made to the captain, and he was repeatedly alarmed in his cabin by the cry of murder: but he was not able to afford the sufferers redress; only he said to Halsey, 'Halsey, we have but few men, and, if you murder them, who will take care of the ship?' The captain's remonstrance, however, produced no effect, and soon after it became necessary to pump. Edwards and Davidson were taken ill: this afforded Halsey's cruelty a new subject of gratification; be compelled the sick to work as long as those that were well; and, perceiving that they were feeble, and not able to clear the same quantity of water in the same time, he compelled them to continue pumping double the time that was allotted to the rest: the men, indeed, compassionated the poor sufferers, and voluntarily offered to pump for them, or assist them while they were pumping; but this Halsey would not suffer.
The captain, in the mean time, hearing the poor fellows were sick, sent them out some fresh provision from his table, which Halsey would not suffer them to partake of: neither did his diabolical barbarity stop here; for he not only beat them without mercy, sometimes with a board, sometimes with a mopstick, and sometimes with a rope, but, when their watch was over, he prohibited them the refreshment of shelter and sleep, and insisted upon poor Davidson's standing upon deck all night in the rain, at a time when be could scarcely support himself on his legs, and had a right to have been in his hammock.
As the Amazon was in a fleet, and under convoy, it was often proposed to Halsey to send the two poor sick wretches on board a man of war, that the surgeon might take them under his care, and that two effective men might be sent on board in their stead; but this Halsey refused, though he knew, if he made the request, it would have been granted. When he was further urged, he said he had no clothes fit to go on board the man of war in; upon which both Captain Gallop and Captain Ball, captain of another vessel in the fleet, who happened to be on board the Amazon, offered to lend him some clothes; but he absolutely refused to accept them, for which it is impossible to assign any other reason than that be would not give up the pleasure ho took in tormenting the men, for it was manifestly his interest to have rather effectual men than sick on board, especially considering the condition of his vessel.
After that be persisted in treating the sick men in the same manner, with this additional aggravation, that, though he allowed every other person in the ship three quarts of water a day, he allowed them only one quart, though their sickness increased the intolerable thirst, which, in that climate, requires more than the largest of these allowances to quench.
Halsey, that he might indulge himself in contemplating the misery he produced, always caused the two sick men to be upon deck whenever he was upon deck himself, whether it was or was not their watch, and used frequently to make Davidson stand with a mop held out in his hands, as a soldier holds out his musket, for many successive hours, without intermission or refreshment
To this astonishing barbarity poor Edwards first fell a martyr; ho died, and was thrown overboard.
About the same time Davidson, considering his fellow-sufferer as having escaped the misery to which he was still condemned, resolved to follow him, and, accordingly, silently let himself down by a rope from the stern into the sea, in hopes that he should be drowned, and lose both his misery and his life together; but it happened that Halsey saw him as he rose to the surface of the water; and such was the inveteracy of his malice, that he seized a rope and leaped overboard to bring him back, declaring that he should 'not escape him so,' and that be would have the pleasure of tormenting him a little longer. When the poor wretch was brought on board he was, to appearance, dead: the good captain, however, ordered him to be rolled, that the water might be discharged; and, when he came to himself, directed that he should be dry clothed. When he was stripped, in order to fulfil these humane directions, his body appeared to be bruised almost from head to foot.
Halsey, however, did not relent; he continued tormenting him by blows, insults, labour, and thirst: when he was so weak that he could not stand Halsey forcibly drew him up by his hands, and, tying him to the shrouds, first beat him, and then left him in that condition for more than an hour: when he was untied he fell down. The man that came up the next watch found him dying under the boat on the hare deck; about four hours after he was seen lying on a sail; and in the morning he was found dead.
The captain dying at sea, and Halsey being obliged to ask the assistance of a man of war, which before he had refused, obtained two men in the room of Edwards and Davidson, and brought the ship home.
He continued to heat the rest of the crew during the remainder of the voyage, notwithstanding the murders he had already committed; but when he came into port, a complaint being made, he was taken into custody; and the facts here reduced to a narrative having been proved, he was condemned, and suffered at Execution Dock, March the 14th, 1759, without any circumstance of pain or infamy that would not have been then inflicted on a petty thief who had pilfered a silk handkerchief from a passenger in the street.