British Executions

Joseph Wall

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 28 Jan 1802

Crime Location:

Execution Place: unknown

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown



Formerly Governor of Goree. Executed 28th of January, 1802, nearly Twenty Years after committing the Crime, for ordering a Soldier to be flogged to Death

   MR WALL was descended from a good family in Ireland, and entered the army at an early age. He was of a severe and rather unaccommodating temper; nor was he much liked among the officers.

   Mr Wall was Lieutenant-Governor of Senegambia, but acted as chief, the first appointment being vacant. It was an office he held but a short time -- not more than two years -- during which he was accused of the wilful murder of Benjamin Armstrong, by ordering him to receive eight hundred lashes, on the 10th of July, 1782, of which he died five days afterwards. His emoluments were very considerable, as, besides his military appointments, he was Superintendent of Trade to the colony.

   His family were originally Roman Catholics; but of course he conformed to the Protestant Church, or he could not have held his commission.

   As soon as the account of the murder reached the Board of Admiralty a reward was offered for his apprehension; but having evaded justice, in 1784, he lived on the Continent, sometimes in France, sometimes in Italy -- but mostly in France -- under an assumed name, where he lived respectably, and was admitted into good company.

   He particularly kept company with the officers of his own country who served in the French army, and was well known at the Scottish and Irish Colleges in Paris.

   In 1797 he returned to this country, as if by a kind of fatality. He was frequently advised, by the friend who procured him the lodging, to leave the country again, and also questioned as to his motive for remaining. He never attempted, however, to give any, but appeared, even at the time when he was so studiously concealing himself, to have a distant intention of making a surrender in order to take his trial. It is very evident his mind was not at ease, and that he was incapable of making any firm resolution either one way or another. And even the manner in which he did give himself up showed a singular want of determination, leaving it to chance whether the Minister should send for him or not; for, rather than go to deliver himself up, he wrote to say he was ready to do so. He was allied, by marriage, to a noble family, and his wife visited him frequently when in his concealment at Lambeth. Since that time he had lived in Upper Thornhaugh Street, Bedford Square, where he was apprehended. It is most probable that had he not written to the Secretary of State the matter had been so long forgotten that he would never have been in any way molested. At the trial it was proved by witnesses that Armstrong was far from being undutiful in his behaviour. He was, however, tied to a gun-carriage, and black men, brought there for the purpose -- not the drummers, who in the ordinary course of things would have had to flog this man, supposing him to have deserved flogging -- were ordered to inflict on him the punishment ordered. Each took his turn and gave this unhappy sufferer twenty-five lashes until he had received the number of eight hundred; and the instrument with which the punishment was inflicted was not a cato'-nine-tails, which is the usual instrument, but a piece of rope of greater thickness, and which was much more severe than the cat-o'-nine-tails. The rope was exhibited in evidence. While this punishment was being inflicted the prisoner urged the black men to be severe. He said, among other things: "Cut him to the heart and to the liver." Armstrong applied to him for mercy, but the observation of the defendant on this occasion was that the sick season was coming on, which, together with the punishment, would do for him. After receiving a great number of lashes -- that is, eight hundred -- this poor creature was conducted to the hospital. He was in a condition in which it was probable his death might be the consequence. He declared, in his dying moments, he was punished without any trial, and without ever being so much as asked whether he had anything to say in his defence.

   The prisoner in his defence urged that the deceased was guilty of mutiny, that the punishment was not so severe as reported, but that the deceased was suffered to drink strong spirits when in the hospital.

   The jury, after being out of court some time, pronounced a verdict of guilty.

   The recorder then proceeded to pass sentence of death upon him: that he be executed the following morning, and that his body be afterwards delivered to be anatomised, according to the statute.

   Mr Wall seemed sensibly affected by the sentence, but he said nothing, merely requesting the Court would allow him a little time to prepare himself for death.

   On the 21st of January a respite was sent from Lord Pelham's office, deferring his execution until the 25th. On the 24th he was further respited till the 28th. During the time of his confinement, previous to trial, he occupied the apartment which was formerly the residence of Mr Ridgway, the bookseller. His wife lived with him for the fortnight. Although he was allowed two hours a day -- from twelve to two -- to walk in the yard, he did not once embrace this indulgence; and during his whole confinement he never went out of his room, except into the lobby to consult his counsel.

   He lived well, and was at times very facetious, easy in his manners, and pleasant in conversation; but during the night he frequently sat up in his bed and sang psalms, which were overheard by his fellow-prisoner. He had not many visitors. His only attendant was a prisoner, who was appointed for that purpose by the turnkey.

   After trial he did not return to his old apartment, but was conducted to a cell. He was so far favoured as not to have irons put on, but a person was employed as a guard to watch him during the night to prevent him doing violence to himself. His bed was brought to him in the cell, on which he threw himself in an agony of mind, saying it was his intention not to rise until they called him on the fatal morning. The sheriffs were particularly pointed and precise in their orders with respect to confining him to the usual diet of bread and water preparatory to the awful event. This order was scrupulously fulfilled. The prisoner, during a part of the night, slept, owing to fatigue and perturbation of mind. He had an affecting interview with his wife, the Hon. Mrs Wall, the night before his execution, from whom he was painfully separated about eleven o'clock. Numberless tender embraces took place. The loving wife reluctantly departed, overwhelmed with grief, and bathed in tears, while the unfortunate husband declared that he could now, with Christian fortitude, submit to his unhappy fate. In the morning one of the officers proceeded to bind his arms with a cord, for which he extended them firmly; but recollecting himself he said: "I beg your pardon a moment" and putting his hand in his pocket he drew out two white handkerchiefs, one of which he bound over his temples, so as nearly to conceal his eyes, over which he placed a white cap, and then put on a round hat; the other handkerchief he kept between his hands. He then observed: " The cord cuts me; but it's no matter." On which Dr Ford desired it to be loosened, for which the prisoner bowed, and thanked him.

   As the clock struck eight the door was thrown open, at which Sheriff Cox and his officers appeared, The Governor, approaching him, said: "I attend you, sir"; and the procession to the scaffold, over the debtors' door, immediately succeeded. Without waiting for any signal the platform dropped, and he was launched into eternity. From the knot of the rope turning round to the back of the neck, and his legs not being pulled, at his particular request, he was suspended in convulsive agony for more than a quarter of an hour.

   After hanging an hour his body was cut down, put into a cart, and immediately conveyed to a building in Cowcross Street, to be dissected. His remains were interred in the churchyard of St Pancras.