The Newgate Calendar - FRANCIS CHARTERIS

FRANCIS CHARTERIS

Convicted of using violence to the person of Ann Bond.

THE name of Charteris, during life, was a terror to female innocence; may, therefore, his fate, and the exposure of his villainy, act as their shield against the destructive machinations of profligate men, especially such as those upon whom the blind and fickle goddess, Fortune, may have unworthily heaped riches. The wealthy profligate, in order to gratify an inordinate passion, will promise, perjure, and pay, to any length, or to any amount -- then, 'like a loathsome weed, cast you away.'

Be thus advis'd, ye young and fair,
Let virtuous men engage your care.
The rake and libertine despise;
Their breath is poison -- O be wise!
Their arts and wiles turn quick away,
And from fair Virtue's path ne'er stray.

By the law of Egypt rapes were punished by removal of the offending parts. The Athenian laws compelled the ravisher of a virgin to marry her. It was long before this offence was punished capitally by the Roman law; but at length the Lex Julia inflicted the pains of death on the ravisher. The Jewish law also punished this crime with death; but, if a virgin was deflowered without force, the offender was obliged to pay a fine and marry the woman.

By the 18th of Elizabeth, cap. 7, this offence was made felony without benefit of clergy.

It is certainly of a very heinous nature, and, if tolerated, would be subversive of all order and morality; yet it may still be questioned how far it is either useful or politic to punish it with death; and it is worth considering whether, well knowing that it originates in the irregular and inordinate gratification of unruly appetite, the injury to society may not he repaired without destroying the offender.

In most cases this injury. might be repaired by compelling, where it could he done with propriety, the criminal to marry the injured party; and it would he well for society if the same rule extended not only to all forcible violations of chastity, but even to instances of premeditated and systematic seduction.

in cases, however, where marriage could not take place, on account of legal disability or refusal on the part of the woman, the criminal ought to be severely punished by pecuniary damages to the party injured, and by hard labour and confinement, or transportation for life.

The execrable subject of this narrative was born at Amsfield, in Scotland, where he was heir to an estate which his ancestors had possessed above four hundred years; he was also related to some of the first families in the North by intermarriages with the nobility.

Young Charteris, having received a liberal education, made choice of the profession of arms, and served first under the Duke of Marlborough, as an ensign of foot, but was soon advanced to the rank of cornet of dragoons: he appears, however, to have had other views than fighting when he embraced the life of a soldier.

Being a most expert gamester, and of a disposition uncommonly avaricious, he made his knowledge of gambling subservient to his love of money; and, while the army was in winter-quarters, he stripped many of the officers of all their property by his skill at cards and dice. But he was as knavish as he was dexterous: and, when he had defrauded a brother-officer of all his money, he would lend him a sum at the moderate interest of a hundred per cent, taking an assignment of his commission as security for the payment of the debt.

John, Duke of Argyle, and the Earl of Stair, were at this time young men in the army; and, being deter mined that the inconsiderate officers should not be thus ruined by the artifices of Charteris, they applied to the Earl of Orkney, who was also in the army then quartered at Brussels, representing the destruction that must ensue to young gentlemen in the military line, if Charteris was not stopped in his proceedings.

The Earl of Orkney, anxious for the credit of the army in general, and his countrymen in particular, represented the state of the case to the Duke of Marlborough, who gave orders that Charteris should be put under arrest, and tried by court-martial. The court was composed of an equal number of English and Scotch officers, that Charteris might have no reason to say he was treated with partiality.

After a candid hearing of the ease, the proofs of Charteris's villainy were so strong, that be was sentenced to return the money he had obtained by usurious interest, to be deprived of his commission, and to be drummed out of the regiment, his sword being first broken; which sentence was executed in its fullest extent.

Thus disgraced, Charteris quitted Brussels, and, in the road between that place and Mecklin, he threw his breeches into a ditch, and then, buttoning his scarlet cloak below his knees, he went into an inn to take up his lodgings for the night.

It is usual, in places where armies are quartered, for military officers to be treated with all possible respect; and this was the case with Charteris, who had every distinction shown him that the house could afford, and, after an elegant supper, was left to repose.

Early in the morning he rang the bell violently, and, the landlord coming terrified into his room, he swore furiously that he had been robbed of his breeches, containing a diamond ring, a gold watch, and money to a considerable amount; and, having previously broken the window, he intimated that some person must have entered that way, and carried off his property; and he even insinuated that the landlord himself might have been the robber.

It was in vain that the innkeeper solicited mercy in the most humiliating posture. Charteris threatened that be should be sent to Brussels, and suffer death, as an accessory to the felony.

Terrified at the thought of approaching disgrace and danger, the landlord of the house sent for some friars of an adjacent convent, to whom he represented his calamitous situation, and they generously supplied him with a sum sufficient to reimburse Charteris for the loss he pretended to have sustained.

Our unprincipled adventurer now proceeded through Holland, whence he embarked for Scotland, and had not been long in that kingdom before his servile submission, and his money, procured him another commission in a regiment of horse; and he was afterwards advanced to the rank of colonel.

Amidst all his other avocations, the love of money was his ruling passion; for the acquirement whereof there was no crime of which he would not have been guilty.

The Duke of Queensbury was at this time commissioner to the Parliament of Scotland, which was assembled at Edinburgh, to deliberate on the proposed union with England. Charteris having been invited to a party at cards with the Duchess of Queensbury, he contrived that her Grace should be placed in such a manner, near a large glass, that he could see all her cards; and he won three thousand pounds of her in consequence of this stratagem. One good, however, resulted from this circumstance: the Duke of Queensbury, incensed at the imposition, brought a bill into the House to prohibit gaming for above a certain sum; and this bill passed into a law.

Our adventurer continued his depredations on the thoughtless till be had acquired considerable sums. When he had stripped young men of their ready cash at the gaming-tables, it was his practice, as before, to lend them money at an extravagant interest, for which he took their bonds to confess judgment, and the moment the bonds became due he failed not to take every legal advantage.

By a continued rapacity of this kind he acquired several considerable estates in Scotland, and then removed to London, which, as it was the seat of greater dissipation, was a place better adapted to the exertion of his abilities.

He now became a great lender of money on mortgages, always receiving a large premium, by which at length he became so rich as to purchase several estates in England, particularly in the county of Lancaster.

Colonel Charteris was as infamous on account of his amours as for the unfeeling avarice of his disposition: his house was no better than a brothel, and no woman of modesty would live within his walls. He kept in pay some women of abandoned character, who, going to inns where the country waggons put up, used to prevail on harmless young girls to go to the colonel's house as servants; the consequence of which was, that their ruin soon followed, and they were turned out of doors, exposed to all the miseries consequent on poverty and a loss of reputation.

His agents did not confine their operations to inns, but, wherever they found a handsome girl, they endeavoured to decoy her to the colonel's house; and, among the rest, Ann Bond fell a prey to his artifices. This young woman had lived in London, but, having quitted her service on account of illness, took lodgings at a private house, where she recovered her health, and was sitting at the door, when a woman addressed her, saying, she could help her to a place in the family of Colonel Harvey; for the character of Charteris was now become so notorious, that his agents did not venture to make use of his name.

Bond being hired, the woman conducted her to the colonel's house, where she was three days before she was acquainted with his real name. Her master gave her money to redeem some clothes, which she had pledged to support her in her illness; and would have bought other clothes for her, but she refused to accept them.

He now offered her a purse of gold, an annuity for life, and a house, if she would lie with him; but the virtuous girl resisted the temptation; declared she would not be guilty of so base an act; that she would discharge her duty as a servant, and that her master might dismiss her if her conduct did not please him.

On the day following this circumstance she heard a gentleman asking for her master by the name of Charteris, which alarmed her fears still more, as she was not unapprized of his general character; wherefore she told the housekeeper that she must quit her service, as she was very ill.

The housekeeper informing the colonel of this circumstance, he sent for the poor girl, and threatened that he would shoot her if she left his service. He likewise ordered the servants to keep the door fast, to prevent her making her escape; and, when he spoke of her, it was in the most contemptuous terms.

On the following day he directed his clerk of the kitchen to send her into the parlour; and, on her attending him, he bade her stir the fire: while she was thus employed, he suddenly seized and committed violence on her, first stopping her mouth with his night-cap; and afterwards, on her saying that she would prosecute him, he beat her with a horsewhip, and called her by the most opprobrious names.

On his opening the door the clerk of the kitchen appeared, to whom the colonel pretended that she had robbed him of thirty guineas, and directed him to turn her out of the house, which was accordingly done.

Hereupon she went to a gentlewoman named Parsons, and, informing her of what had happened, asked her advice how to proceed. Mrs. Parsons recommended her to exhibit articles against him for the assault; but, when the matter came afterwards to he heard by the grand jury, they held that it was not an attempt, but an actual commission, of the fact; and a bill was found accordingly.

When the colonel was committed to Newgate he was loaded with heavy fetters; but he soon purchased a lighter pair, and paid for the use of a room in the prison, and for a man to attend him.

Colonel Charteris had been married to the daughter of Sir Alexander Swinton, of Scotland, who bore him one daughter, afterwards married to the Earl of Wemys; and the earl, happening to be in London at the time of the above-mentioned transaction, procured a writ of habeas corpus, in consequence of which the colonel was admitted to bail.

When the trial came on every art was used to traduce the character of the prosecutrix, with a view to destroy the force of her evidence; but, happily, her character was so fair, and there was so little reason to think that she had any sinister view in the prosecution, that every artifice failed; and, after a long trial, in which the facts were proved to the satisfaction of the jury, a verdict of guilty was given against the colonel, who received sentence to be executed in the accustomed manner.

On this occasion Charteris was not a little obliged to his son-in-law, Lord Wemys, who caused the Lord President Forbes to come from Scotland, to plead the cause before the privy council; and an estate of 300L. per annum for life was assigned to the president for this service.

At length the king consented to grant the colonel a pardon, on his settling a handsome annuity on the prosecutrix.

Colonel Charteris was tried at the Old Bailey on the 25th of February, 1730.

After his narrow escape from a fate which he had so well deserved he retired to Edinburgh, where he lived about two years, and then died in a miserable manner, a victim to his own irregular course of life.

He was buried in the family vault, in the churchyard of the Grey Friars of Edinburgh; but his vices had rendered him so detestable, that it was with some difficulty he was committed to the gave; for the mob almost tore the coffin in pieces, and committed a variety of irregularities, in honest contempt of such an abandoned character.

Soon after Charteris was convicted a fine mezzotinto print of him was published, representing him standing at the bar of the Old Bailey, with his thumbs tied; and under the print was the following inscription:

Blood!--must a colonel, with a lord's estate,
Be thus obnoxious to a scoundrel's fate?
Brought to the bar, and sentenc'd from the bench,
Only for ravishing a country wench?

Note: At Exeter, on the 5th of October, 1753, an unworthy minister of the Holy Gospel, the Reverend Peter Vine, was hanged for committing a crime of this nature.

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