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strenuous effort was made to procure the commutation of his punishment from death to perpetual imprisonment. A petition, signed by many of the most respectable people in the county, and another by the jury who convicted him, were presented to the Executive. After investigating the facts and weighing the arguments of zealous and able advocates, the Governor and Council were unanimous in the decision, that there was no sufficient cause to interrupt the course of justice. Believing, however, from the apparent unconcern of the prisoner, that he had indulged in a false confidence of pardon, he was respited to the 10th day of May, with the assurance that the sentence would then be executed.
On the day before his execution, Stephen having expressed a desire to make a complete confession, a number of questions were prepared, which were read to him and to which he made answer in the presence of four or five witnesses. They were as follows:
What first induced you to set fire to the town of Newburyport? I was associated with Hannah Downes. The people of the town talked about our being together, which greatly offended her, and led her to propose setting fire to the town, as a matter of revenge. She proposed that I should do it, and urged me to commit the act.
Did you ever make any objections to this proposition? I did at first. I told her I did not wish to injure the town and cared nothing about taking revenge for what was said. At length I became accessory to her views and feel greatly criminal for having complied with them. Did she often speak to you on the subject of setting fire to the town? She did. Do you now, in view of the account which you must soon give up to God, feel that you can say with truth that the first idea you ever had of setting fire to the town was suggested to you by the person whom you named? Yes, I do feel so. Had you ever any accomplice except Hannah Downes? No, I never had any. Did you ever think of setting fire to the town till your acquaintance with her? I never did.
Was Joseph Lawrence an accomplice with you at either fire. No. Did Hannah Downes ever propose to you to set fire to any particular place? I do not remember that she did. She said she wished certain persons13 might be burnt out.
Were the places which you did ultimately fix upon of your own choosing? Yes.
Did Hannah Downes ever say anything to dissuade you from setting fire to the town, telling you that you would go to State prison for it? The morning after the fire, as I was walking with her alone, and talking about it, she told me not to talk so loud, for if I should be heard, and it was proved against me, I should be sent to State prison. Did you ever say to Hannah Downes that you intended to go to the
13 Among whom was a Mrs. Stickney.
Eastward, return by way of Boston, and set fire to the town in three or four places at once? I never did.
How did you communicate the first fire? I took a piece of cloth about two feet long, and prepared it with rum and brimstone and put it in some h ay.
How did you communicate the second fire? I took a candle from my father's cellar in the early part of the evening, and a match from the shop; I lighted a cigar at the fire in the kitchen, went out unobserved; lighted the candle from the match, and placed it under a pair of stairs in the second story.
Have you any hard thoughts or feelings towards the Judges and jury who condemned you, or the Governor and Council who have refused to commute your punishment? None at all.
You are now on the brink of the eternal world, and must soon give up your account to the Judge of Quick and Dead, who knows your heart. Is the confession you have now made true according to the best of your knowledge and recollection? It is.
Do you make it freely, of your own accord, begging for the forgiveness of God and man? I do.
Today at noon the prisoner was taken from the jail in a carriage. He was seated between Rev. Thomas Carlile and Rev. Elias Cornelius, and opposite to the prison-keeper, whom he thanked in affecting terms for his kindness. He did not regain his composure for some minutes, after the procession. started. The press of the crowd often caused some noise around the carriage; but his attention was slightly drawn to it. He seemed to be engaged in prayer, and was collected and composed, nearly all the way. He had often expressed anxiety about his body, and once on his way, he said to the clergymen, "You will take care of my body, won't you?" On arriving at the place of the execution, he repeated the exclamation made when entering the carriage, "God have mercy on my soul," as he was supported to the scaffold by the clergymen. While the Sheriff read the warrant for his execution, he leaned his head upon one near him and was much affected. The Rev. Mr. Cornelius then read the following address, which Clark had composed for the purpose:
"May the youth who are present take warning by my sad fate, not to forsake the wholesome discipline of a parent's house. Had
I took the advice of my parents I never should have come to this untimely end; and I hope my end will be a warning to you all that are now present. May you all pray to God to give you timely repentance, open your eyes, enlighten your understandings, that you may shun the paths of vice, and follow God's commandments all the rest of your days. And may God have mercy on you all. To the world at large I bid farewell!”
The Rev. Mr. Carlile then offered up the following prayer from the church service.
"O Almighty God, with whom do live the spirits of just men made perfect, after they are delivered from their earthly prisons, we humbly commend the soul of this thy servant, our dear brother, into thy hands as into the hands of a faithful Creator, and most merciful Savior; most humbly beseeching Thee, that it may be precious in thy sight. Wash it, we pray Thee, in the blood of that immaculate Lamb that was slain to take away the sins of the world; that whatsoever defilements it may have contracted in the midst of this miserable and naughty world, through the lusts of the flesh, or the wiles of Satan, being purged and done away, it may be presented pure and without spot before Thee. And teach us who survive, in this and other daily spectacles of mortality to see how frail and uncertain our own condition is; and so to number our days, that we may seriously apply our hearts to that holy and heavenly wisdom, whilst we live here, which may in the end bring us to life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, thine only Son, our Lord. Amen.
After a short interval, upon a signal from the sheriff, he was launched into eternity, and immediately expired without apparent suffering. Agreeable to the request he had expressed to his clergymen, his body was delivered to his friends, and was decently interred in a part of one of the public cemeteries, appropriated to the burial of strangers.
THE TRIAL OF STEPHEN RUSSELL FOR ARSON, BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, 1835.
This is the last of the triology of nineteenth century hangings for the crime of Arson in the Bay State, and a brief report of it having been recently found in a Boston newspaper of that day it is given here to complete this notable series. The story and the details of the execution are found in full in the Trial of Crockett, 1 Am. St. Tr. 440.
In the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Boston, December, 1835.
Stephen Russell had been jointly indicted with Simeon L. Crockett for designedly, feloniously, maliciously and wickedly setting fire to, and burning the dwelling house of Joshua Benson, situated in South Street Place, on Haskins' wharf, at or
Bibliography. Boston Statesman, Dec. 23, 1835. It was not thought that there was any account of this trial in existence until it was discovered in this old Boston newspaper.
2 See 1 Am. St. Tr. 443.
3 See 4 Am. St. Tr. 99.
4 MORTON, MARCUS. (1784-1864.) Born Freetown, Mass. Representative in Congress for Massachusetts, 1817-1821. Member Executive Council, 1823. Acting Governor, 1825. Justice Supreme Court, 1825-1840. Governor, 1840-1843. Collector of Boston, 18451849. Member State Legislature, 1858. Died in Taunton, Mass.
about twelve o'clock on the night of October 22, 1835. Mr. Benson was not himself an occupant of the house, but it was inhabited by nineteen or twenty Irish families, consisting of one hundred, or one hundred and twenty persons-men, women and children. The house was built of wood-very large and of a quadrangle form, with a courtyard between the two wings in the rear. The fire was discovered in a cellar, near the corner, on the south side of the building.
J. T. Austin, Attorney General, and S. D. Parker for the Commonwealth.
John Codman and Rufus Choates for the Prisoner.
The prisoners being arraigned on December 15th, both pleaded not guilty, and Mr. Codman moved that they be tried separately, which was ordered by the Court. On December 15th, Crockett's trial began, and on December 17th the jury returned a verdict of guilty."
Today came on the trial of Russell and the following jurors were selected: William W. Stone, foreman; Thomas Barnes, Alvan Drake, Romanus Emerson, Jefferson C. Farrar, James Garland, Ira Gibbs, Thomas Goddard, Ebenezer Kenfield, Cotton Thayer, Joseph Wheeler and Stillman Willis.
5 See 1 Am. St. Rep. 44.
PARKER, SAMUEL DUNN. (1780-1873.) Born Boston, son of Bishop Samuel Parker. Graduated Harvard, 1799. Admitted to Suffolk Bar, 1803. Member of State Senate two years. County Attorney for Suffolk County, 1830-1832. Died in Boston.
7 CODMAN, JOHN. (1808-1879.) Born New York. Graduated Bowdoin College, A. B., 1827. Harvard, A. M., 1830. Admitted to Essex Co. (Mass.) Bar, 1830. Practiced in Boston for many years. Member State Legislature, 1844-1845. Chairman Committee of Boston Latin School and active member in the Greek Department of the Examining Committee at Cambridge. Died in Boston. See Hist. of Bowdoin Coll. (Cleveland.) Bench and Bar of Mass. (W. T. Davis. Boston Journal, June 10, 1879.
SCHOATE, RUFUS. (1799-1850.) Born Essex, Mass. Member Massachusetts Legislature, 1825. State Senator, 1827. Member United States House of Representatives, 1831-1835. United States Senator, 1839-1845. He was one of the greatest advocates that this country has produced. He died at Halifax, N. S.
9 See 1 Am. St. Tr. 440.