Was taken into Slavery by the Blacks on Pirates' Island. After gaining his Liberty and returning to England he became a Highwayman. Executed in 1713 for the Murder of a Farmer's Daughter
JOHN BLEWIT was born near Bull Inn Court, in the Strand. His father was a shoemaker, and bred him up to the same trade. But he had not been bound above three years before the old man died, and Jack soon after became too headstrong for his mother to manage him. As he advanced in years, so did he in vice. In the reign of King James II. he changed what little he had of the Protestant religion for about the same quantity of the Roman Catholic, being in hopes of getting himself promoted by this compliance with the times. He entered under the Earl of Salisbury against the Prince of Orange, by which means he got a horse, and he was a professed lover of riding. But he did not long continue in this military station, for upon King William's accession to the throne this newly raised regiment, being mostly Papists, was presently disbanded, and he was put to new shifts to get his bread. He was resolved to try if he could better his fortune at sea; so going on board a ship bound for Guinea, sailing to Old Calabar, they entered the river called the Cross river, into Pirates' Island, where, after they had taken in their Negroes, and were ready to sail, the master called up the boatswain, and three men more, one of whom was Jack, to look out the copper bars that were left, and carry them on shore to sell. The boatswain with his small company desired they might have arms, not believing the inhabitants were so harmless a people as reported. They took with them three muskets and one pistol, and so rowed towards the shore; but unhappily their match fell into the water, and the ship being fallen down lower towards the sea, and they ashamed to go back without dispatching their business, Jack went ashore to the first house to light the match. Before he was twenty rods from the water side he was seized on by half a score of blacks, or rather tawny Moors, and by them hauled half a mile up into the country, and thrown with great violence upon his belly, and so compelled to lie till they had stripped him. In the meantime, more company coming, they were so eager for his poor canvas apparel that some they tore off, and some they cut off, and therewith several pieces of his flesh, to his intolerable pain, and with those rags they made themselves little aprons.
Whilst all this was being done, Jack's clothing being very scarce there, his comrades made the best of their way back again to their ship, telling the captain what had befallen them, in having Jack taken from them by savage natives. Blewit was now sold to a master, who was free to discourse, after he had learned in less than three months the Tata language, which is easily attained, being comprehended in few words, and all the Negroes speak it. After being four months in the country his master presented him to the King of the Buccaneers, whose name was Esme, who immediately gave him to his daughter Onijah. When the King went abroad Jack attended him as his page of honour throughout the whole circuit of his dominions, which was not above twelve miles; yet his Majesty boasted exceedingly of his power and strength, and gloried extremely that he had a white man to attend him, whom he employed to carry his bows and arrows.
During all the time Jack was a slave to this prince he never knew him to go abroad and come home sober. But after two months' service the King of Calanach, called Mancha, hearing of this white, courted his neighbour prince to sell him, and accordingly he was sold, for a cow and a goat. This king was sober, free from the debaucheries and mischiefs the other was subject to, and would often inquire of him concerning the head of his country, and whether the kingdom he was of was bigger than his own, whose whole dominions were not above twenty five miles in length and fifteen miles in breadth.
Jack told as much as was convenient, keeping within the bounds of modesty, yet relating as much as possible to the honour and dignity of his Queen, informing him of the greatness of one of her kingdoms, the several shires and counties it contained, with the number of its cities, towns and castles, and strength of each, the infinite inhabitants, and valour of her subjects; which so amazed this petty prince that he needed to mention no more of her Majesty's glory and dignity. It put him into such a profound consternation that he resolved to find out some way to tender his respects to this mighty princess, and could study none more convenient than that if he could find a passage he would let him go to England, to inform Queen Anne of the great favour and respect he had for her, and carry her a present, which should be two cabareets, or goats, which they value at a high rate, this king himself having not above seventeen or eighteen.
Though our captive lived happily with this prince, yet his desires and hopes were still to return to his native country. At length he promised him that the first English ship which came into the roads should have liberty to release or purchase him. This much rejoiced Jack's heart, and he now thought every day a year till he could hear or see some English ship arrive. The ship came in, the commander whereof was Captain Royden, who had put in there for Negroes. The day after his arrival the King let Jack go, sending him in a canoe, placed between a Negro's legs, with others to guide this small vessel, for fear he should leap overboard and swim to the ship. At a distance he hailed her in English, to the great surprise of those within her. The Negroes let him stand up and show himself to the captain, to whom he gave an account of his slavery; and being redeemed for five iron bars, he was taken on board, where the seamen charitably apparelled him (for he was naked) and brought him safe to England, after fourteen months' slavery.
Jack being back home again was resolved never to venture his carcass again at sea. Deciding to try his fortune on the highway, he stole a horse out of a field by Marylebone. Still wanting a saddle, pistols and other accoutrements, he was obliged to sell the horse to buy all materials to make him a complete highwayman, and proposed to steal another. To Smithfield he rides to make the best market he could, but he had scarce rode a turn or two before the owner came up and challenged his horse; so poor Jack, being apprehended, and carried before a magistrate, was committed to Newgate.
When he was tried, being condemned, he most earnestly begged the Court to show him mercy, by transportation, or any other punishment but death. As it was his first crime, and the prosecutor had his horse again, it was his good luck to obtain a reprieve, and to plead to a pardon, too, within three or four months after his confinement. Jack now being at liberty again, he was put to his trumps how to live; and though he was unsuccessful in his first attempt at thieving, he would yet venture a second time, resolving now to lose the horse or win the saddle. But his thoughts not aspiring to great matters, as they did at first, he was resolved to try how Fortune would smile on his adventures on the footpad; so one evening, going over Clapham Common, he overtook a gentleman riding softly along, whom unawares he knocked off his horse, by giving him an unlucky blow under his ear, which killed him. He fell to rifling him, and took from him forty guineas and a gold watch worth twenty guineas more. When he had done this, putting one of the deceased's feet into one of the stirrups, the horse dragged him up and down the Common an hour or two before he was taken up. At last, being carried to a house, and the coroner sitting on his body, the inquest brought in his death to be occasioned by accidentally falling off his horse, though he had lost his watch and money, which they supposed were dropped out of his breeches by the position he was in, of his head downwards, whilst he was dragged about the Common. Having thus by this complicated piece of villainy lined his pockets, Jack made the best of his way to Yorkshire, where, after clothing himself, he bought a horse, sword and pistols, and then sought out for new adventures on the road. In Hertfordshire, overtaking a farmer's daughter, he shot her through the head and robbed her of fourteen pounds in money, which she had that day received for her father. The same evening he put up at an inn at Ware, whither a hue and cry coming shortly after, he was taken up on suspicion, having some spots of blood on one of the lapels of his coat; and being struck then with a remorse of conscience, he confessed the murder, and was forthwith carried before a Justice of the Peace, who, after a long examination, committed him to Hertford Jail. To drive away sorrow from his breast he got drunk every day until the time of his trial, which was in the Lent Assizes, 1713, when he was condemned for his life. When he was carried to the place of execution he confessed having committed the murder on Clapham Common, as before related, and then, after many devout ejaculations, he was turned off, in the forty-fifth year of his age.