A Famous Highwayman who robbed Roundheads and even made an Attempt on Cromwell. Executed 24th of September, 1652
Hind robbing Colonel Harrison in Maidenhead thicket.
THE father of Captain Hind was a saddler, an inhabitant of Chipping-Norton in Oxfordshire, where the captain was born. The old man lived there many years in very good reputation among his neighbours, was an honest companion, and a constant churchman. As James was his only son, he was willing to give him the best education he was able, and to that purpose sent him to school till he was fifteen years of age, in which time he learned to read and write very well, and knew arithmetic enough to make him capable of any common business.
After this he was put apprentice to a butcher in his native town, where he served about two years of his time, and then ran away from his master, who was a very morose man, and continually finding something or another to quarrel with him about.
When he made this elopement he applied immediately to his mother for money to carry him up to London, telling her a lamentable story of the hardships he had suffered from his master's severity. Mothers are generally easily wrought upon with stories of that kind; she therefore very tenderly supplied him with three pounds for his expenses, and sent him away with tears in her eyes.
He had not been long in London before he got a relish of the pleasures of the place (pleasures I call them in compliance with the opinion of gentlemen of the captain's taste) —- I mean the enjoyment of his bottle and his mistress; both which, as far as his circumstances would allow, he pursued very earnestly. One night he was taken in company with a woman of the town, who had just before picked a gentleman's pocket of five guineas, and sent with her to the Poultry Compter till morning, when he was released for want of any evidence against him, he having in reality no hand in the affair. The woman was committed to Newgate. The captain by this accident fell into company with one Thomas Allen, a noted highwayman, who had been put into the Compter upon suspicion of some robbery, and was released at the same time with Hind, and for the same reason. These two men going to drink together after their confinement, they contracted a friendship which was the ruin of them both.
Their first adventure was at Shooters Hill, where they met with a gentleman and his servant. Hind being perfectly raw and inexperienced, his companion was willing to have a proof of his courage, and therefore stayed at some distance while the captain rode up and, singly, took from them fifteen pounds; but returned the gentleman twenty shillings, to bear his expenses on the road, with such a pleasant air that the gentleman protested he would never hurt a hair of his head if it should at any time be in his power. Allen was prodigiously pleased both with the bravery and generosity of his new comrade, and they mutually swore to stand by one another to the utmost of their power.
It was about the time that the inhuman and unnatural murder of King Charles I. was perpetrated at his own palace gate, by the fanatics of that time, when our two adventurers began their progress on the road. One part of their engagement together was like Captain Stafford's resolution, never to spare any of the regicides that came in their way. It was not long before they met the grand usurper, Cromwell, as he was coming from Huntingdon, the place of his nativity, to London. Oliver had no less than seven men in his train, who all came immediately upon their stopping the coach and overpowered our two heroes; so that poor Tom Allen was taken on the spot, and soon after executed, and it was with a great deal of difficulty that Hind made his escape, who resolved from this time to act with a little more caution. He could not, however, think of quitting a course of life which he had just begun to taste, and which he found so profitable.
The captain rode so hard to get out of danger after this adventure with Cromwell that he killed his horse, and he had not at that time money enough to buy another. He resolved, therefore, to procure one as soon as possible, and to this purpose tramped it along the road on foot. It was not long before he saw a horse hung to a hedge with a brace of pistols before him; and looking round him, he observed on the other side of the hedge a gentleman untrussing a point. "This is my horse," says the captain, and immediately vaults into the saddle. The gentleman calling to him, and telling him that the horse was his —- "Sir," says Hind, "you may think yourself well off that I have left you all the money in your pockets to buy another, which you had best lay out before I meet you again, lest you should be worse used." So he rode away in search of new adventures.
There is another story of the captain's getting himself remounted, which I have seen in a printed account of his life. Being reduced to the humble capacity of a footpad, he hired a common hack from a man who made it his business to let out horses, and took the road on his back. He was overtaken (for he was not able to overtake anybody) by a gentleman well mounted, with a portmanteau behind him. They fell into discourse upon such topics as are common to travellers, and Hind was very particular in praising the gentleman's horse, till the gentleman repeated everything his horse could do. There was upon the side of the road a wall, over which was another way, and the gentleman told Hind that his horse could leap that wall. Hind offered to lay a bottle of it; upon which the gentleman attempted and accomplished what he proposed. The captain confessed he had lost his wager, but desired the gentleman to let him try if he would do the same with him upon his back, which the gentleman consenting to, the captain rode away with his portmanteau, and left him to return his horse to the owner.
Another time Captain Hind met the celebrated regicide, Hugh Peters, in Enfield Chase, and commanded him to deliver his money. Hugh, who had his share of confidence, began to lay about him with texts of Scripture, and to cudgel our bold robber with the eighth commandment. "It is written in the Law," says he, "that thou shalt not steal. And furthermore, Solomon, who was surely a very wise man, speaketh in this manner: 'Rob not the poor, because he is poor.'" Hind was willing to answer the finished old cant in his own strain; and for that end began to rub up his memory for some of the scraps of the Bible which he had learned by heart in his minority. "Verily," said Hind, "if thou hadst regarded the divine precepts as thou oughtest to have done, thou wouldst not have wrested them to such an abominable and wicked sense as thou didst the words of the prophet, when he saith, 'Bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron.' Didst thou not, thou detestable hypocrite, endeavour from these words to aggravate the misfortunes of thy Royal master, whom thy accursed republican party unjustly murdered before the door of his own palace?" Here Hugh Peters began to extenuate that horrid crime, and to allege other parts of Scripture in his defence, and in order to preserve his money. "Pray, sir," replied Hind, "make no reflections on my profession; for Solomon plainly says, 'Do not despise a thief'; but it is to little purpose for us to dispute. The substance of what I have to say is this: deliver thy money presently, or else I shall send thee out of the world to thy master in an instant."
These terrible words of the captain frightened the old Presbyterian in such a manner that he gave him thirty broad-pieces of gold, and then they parted. But Hind was not thoroughly satisfied with letting such a notorious enemy to the Royal cause depart in so easy a manner. He therefore rode after him, full speed, and overtaking him, spoke as follows: —- "Sir, now I think of it, I am convinced that this misfortune has happened to you because you did not obey the words of the Scripture, which say expressly, 'Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses for your journey '; whereas it is evident that you had provided a pretty deal of gold. However, as it is now in my power to make you fulfil another command, I would by no means slip the opportunity. Therefore pray give me your cloak." Peters was so surprised that he stood neither to dispute nor to examine what was the drift of Hind's demand; but Hind soon let him understand his meaning when he added: "You know, sir, our Saviour has commanded, that if any man take away thy cloak, thou must not refuse thy coat also; therefore I cannot suppose you will act in direct contradiction to such an express direction, especially now you, can't pretend you have forgot it, because I have reminded you of your duty." The old Puritan shrugged his shoulders for some time before he proceeded to uncase them; but Hind told him his delay would do him no service, for he would be punctually obeyed, because he was sure what he requested was consonant to the Scripture. Accordingly Hugh Peters delivered his coat, and Hind carried all off.
Next Sunday when Hugh came to preach he chose an invective against theft for the subject of his sermon, and took his text in the Canticles, chap. v, 3: "I have put off my coat, how shall I put it on." An honest Cavalier who was present, and knew the occasion of his choosing these words, cried out aloud: "Upon my word, sir, I believe there is nobody here can tell you, unless Captain Hind was here!" Which ready answer to Hugh Peter's scriptural question put the congregation into such an excessive fit of laughter that the fanatic parson was ashamed of himself, and descended from his prattling box without proceeding any further in his harangue.
It has been observed before that Hind was a professed enemy to all the regicides; and, indeed, fortune was so favourable to his desires as to put one or other of those celebrated villains often into his power.
He met one day with that arch-traitor, Sergeant Bradshaw, who had some time before the insolence to sit as judge of his lawful Sovereign, and to pass sentence of death upon his Majesty. The place where this rencounter happened was upon the road between Sherborne and Shaftesbury, in Dorsetshire. Hind rode up to the coach side and demanded the sergeant's money; who, supposing his name would carry terror with it, told him who he was. Quoth Hind: "I fear neither you nor any king-killing son of a whore alive. I have now as much power over you as you lately had over the King, and I should do God and my country good service if I made the same use of it; but live, villain, to suffer the pangs of thine own conscience; till Justice shall lay her iron hand upon thee, and require an answer for thy crimes in a way more proper for such a monster, who art unworthy to die by any hands but those of the common hangman, and at any other place than Tyburn. Nevertheless, though I spare thy life as a regicide, be assured that, unless thou deliverest thy money immediately, thou shalt die for thy obstinacy."
Bradshaw began to be sensible that the case was not now with him, as it had been when he sat at Westminster Hall, attended with the whole strength of the rebellion. A horror, naturally arising from a mind conscious of the blackest villainies, took possession of his soul, upon the apprehensions of death, which the pistol gave him, and discovered itself in his countenance. He put his trembling hand into his pocket and pulled out about forty shillings in silver, which he presented to the captain, who swore he would that minute shoot him through the heart if he did not find coin of another species. The sergeant at last, to save a miserable life, pulled out that which he valued next to it, as of two evils all men choose the least, and gave the captain a purse full of jacobuses.
Hind, having thus got possession of the cash, made Bradshaw yet wait a considerable time longer, while he made the following eulogium on money; which, though in the nature of it, it be something different from the harangues which the sergeant generally heard on a Sunday, contains, nevertheless, as much truth, and might have been altogether as pleasing had it come from another mouth: —- "This, sir, is the metal that wins my heart for ever! O precious gold, I admire and adore thee as much as either Bradshaw, Pryn, or any other villain of the same stamp, who, for the sake of thee, would sell their Redeemer again, were He now upon earth. This is that incomparable medicament which the republican physicians call 'The Wonder- working Plaster.' It is truly Catholic in operation, and somewhat of a kin to the Jesuits' powder, but more effectual. The virtues of it are strange and various: it makes justice deaf as well as blind, and takes out spots of the deepest treason as easily as Castile soap does common stains; it alters a man's constitution in two or three days, more than the Virtuoso's transfusion of blood can do in seven years. It is a great alexipharmic, and helps poisonous principles of rebellion, and those that use them. It miraculously exalts and purifies the eyesight, and makes traitors behold nothing but innocence in the blackest malefactors. It is a mighty cordial for a declining cause; it stifles faction and schism as certainly as the itch is destroyed by butter and brimstone. In a word, it makes fools wise men, and wise men fools; and both of them knaves. The very colour of this precious balm is bright and dazzling. If it be properly applied to the fist —- that is, in a decent manner and a competent dose —- it infallibly performs all the abovesaid cures, and many others too numerous to be here mentioned."
The captain, having finished his panegyric, pulled out his pistol and said further:
"You and your infernal crew have a long while run on, like Jehu, in a career of blood and impiety, pretending that zeal for the Lord of Hosts has been your only motive. How long you may be suffered to continue in the same course, God only knows. I will however, for this time, stop your race in a literal sense of the words." With that he shot all the six horses which were in the sergeant's coach and then rode off in pursuit of another booty.
Some time after, Hind met a coach on the road between Petersfield and Portsmouth, filled with gentlewomen. He went up to them in a genteel manner, told them that he was a patron of the fair sex, and that it was purely to win the favour of a hard-hearted mistress that he travelled the country. "But, ladies," added he, "I am at this time reduced to the necessity of asking relief, having nothing to carry me on in my intended prosecution of adventures." The young ladies, who had most of them read a pretty many romances, could not help conceiting they had met with some Quixote or Amadis de Gaul, who was saluting them in the strain of knight-errantry. "Sir Knight," said one of the pleasantest among them, "we heartily commiserate your condition, and are very much troubled that we cannot contribute towards your support; but we have nothing about us but a sacred depositum, which the laws of your order will not suffer you to violate." Hind was pleased to think he had met with such agreeable gentlewomen, and for the sake of the jest could freely have let them pass unmolested if his necessities at this time had not been very pressing. "May I, bright ladies, be favoured with the knowledge of what this sacred depositum, which you speak of, is, that so I may employ my utmost abilities in its defence, as the laws of knight-errantry require?" The lady who spoke before, and who suspected the least of any one in the company, told him that the depositum she had spoken of was three thousand pounds, the portion of one of the company, who was going to bestow it upon the knight who had won her good will by his many past services. "My humble duty be presented to the knight," said he, "and be pleased to tell him that my name is Captain Hind; that out of mere necessity I have made bold to borrow part of what, for his sake, I wish were twice as much; and that I promise to expend the sum in defence of injured lovers and the support of gentlemen who profess knight-errantry." At the name of Captain Hind they were sufficiently startled, there being nobody then living in England who had not heard of him. Hind, however, bid them not be affrighted, for he would not do them the least hurt, and desired no more than one thousand pounds out of the three. This the ladies very thankfully gave in an instant (for the money was tied up in separate bags), and the captain wished them all a good journey, and much joy to the bride.
We must leave the captain a little, to display the corruption of human nature in an instance which the captain has often protested was a great trouble to him. The young lady, when she met her intended husband, told him all that had passed upon the road, and the mercenary wretch, as soon as he heard of the money that was lost, adjourned the marriage till he had sent to her father to ask whether or no he would make up the original sum agreed upon, which he refusing (partly because he had sufficiently exhausted his substance before, and partly because he resented the sordid proposal), our fervent lover entirely broke through all his vows, and the unfortunate young lady died of grief and indignation.
Another time Hind was obliged to abscond for a considerable time in the country, there being great inquiries made after him; during this interval his money began to run short, and he was a great while before he could think of a way to replenish his purse. He would have taken another turn or two on the highway, but he had lived so long here that he had spent his very horse. While he was in this extremity, a noted doctor in his neighbourhood went to receive a large sum of money for a cure which he had performed, and our captain had got information of the time. It was in the doctor's way home to ride directly by Hind's door, who had hired a little house on the side of a common. Our adventurer took care to be ready at the hour the doctor was to return, and when he was riding by the house he addressed himself to him in the most sub missive style he was master of, telling him that he had a wife within who was violent bad with a flux, so that she could not live without present help; entreating him to come in but two or three minutes, and he would show his gratitude as soon as he was able. The doctor was moved with com passion at the poor man's request and immediately alighted, and accompanied him in, assuring him that he should be very glad if it was in his power to do him any service. Hind conducted him upstairs, and, as soon as they were got into the chamber, shut the door and pulled out a loaded pistol and an empty purse, while the doctor was looking round for his patient. "This," quoth Hind, holding up the purse, "is my wife; she has had a flux so long, that there is now nothing at all within her. I know, sir, you have a sovereign remedy in your pocket for her distemper, and if you do not apply it without a word, this pistol shall make the day shine into your body." The doctor would have been glad to have lost a considerable fee, provided he might have had nothing to do with the patient; but when he saw there was no getting off, he took forty guineas out of his pocket, and emptied them out of his own purse into the captain's, which now seemed to be in pretty good health. Hind then told the doctor that he would leave him in full possession of his house, to make amends for the money he had taken from him. Upon which he went out and locked the door upon poor Galen, mounting his horse, and riding away as fast as he was able, to find another country to live in, well knowing that this would now be too hot to hold him.
Hind has often been celebrated for his generosity to all sorts of people, more especially for his kindness to the poor, which it is reported was so extraordinary, that he never injured the property of any person who had not a complete share of riches. We shall give one instance, in stead of a great many which we could produce, which will sufficiently confirm this general opinion of his tenderness for those who were needy.
At a time when he was out of cash (as he frequently was, by reason of his extravagance), and had been upon the watch a pretty while, without seeing any worth his notice, he at last espied an old man jogging along the road upon an ass. He rode up to meet him, and asked,, him very courteously where he was going. "To the market," said the old man, "at Wantage, to buy me a cow, that I may have some milk for my children." "How many children," quoth Hind, "may you have?" The old man answered ten. "And how much do you think to give for a cow?" said Hind. "I have but forty shillings, master, and that I have been saving together these two years," says the poor wretch. Hind's heart asked for the poor man's condition, at the same time that he could not help admiring his simplicity; but being in so great a strait as I have intimated, he thought of an expedient which would serve both him and the old man too. "Father," said he, "the money you have got about you I must have at this time; but I will not wrong your children of their milk. My name is Hind, and if you will give me your forty shillings quietly, and meet me again this day sevennight at this place, I promise to make the sum double. Only be cautious that you never mention a word of the matter to anybody between this and that." At the day appointed the old man came, and Hind was as good as his word, bidding him buy two cows, instead of one, and adding twenty shillings to the sum promised, that he might purchase the best in the market.
Never was highwayman more careful than Hind to avoid bloodshed; yet we have one instance in his life that proves how hard it is for a man to engage in such an occupation without being exposed to a sort of wretched necessity some time or other to take away the life of another man, in order to preserve his own.
Hind had one morning committed several robberies in and about Maidenhead Thicket, and, among others, had stopped Colonel Harrison, a celebrated regicide, in his coach and six, and taken from him seventy odd pounds. The colonel immediately procured a hue and cry for taking him, which was come into that country before the captain was aware of it. However, he heard at a house of intelligence, which he always had upon every road he used, of the danger he was in, and thereupon he instantly thought of making his escape, by riding as fast as he could from the pursuers, until he could find some safer way of concealing himself.
In this condition, as anyone would imagine, the captain was apprehensive of every man he saw. He had got no farther than a place called Knole Hill, which is but a little way of the thicket, before he heard a man riding behind him full speed. It was a gentleman's servant endeavouring to overtake his master, who was gone before, with something he had forgotten. Hind just now thought of nothing but his own preservation; and therefore resolved either to ride off or fire at the man, who, he concluded, was pursuing him. As the other horse was fresh, and Hind had pretty well tired his, he soon perceived the man got ground of him; upon which he pulls out a pistol, and just as the unfortunate countryman was at his horse's heels, he turns about and shoots him through the head, so that he fell down dead on the spot. The captain, after the fact, got entirely off; but it was for this that he was afterwards condemned at Reading.
After King Charles I. was beheaded, the Scots received and acknowledged his son King Charles II., and resolved to maintain his right against the reigning usurpation. To this end they raised an army, and marched towards England, which they entered with great precipitation. Abundance of gentry, and others, who were loyal in their principles, flocked to the standard of their Sovereign, and resolved to lose their lives in his service, or restore him to his dignity. Among these Hind, who had as much natural bravery as almost any man that ever lived, resolved to try his fortune. Cromwell was sent by the Parliament into the north to intercept the Royal army, but in spite of that vigilant traitor's expedition the King advanced as far as Worcester, where he waited the enemy's coming.
Oliver came to Worcester soon after, and the consequence of the two armies meeting was a very fierce and bloody battle, in which the Royalists were defeated. Hind had the good fortune to escape at that time, and came to London, where he lodged with one Mr Denzle, a barber, over against St Dunstan's Church in Fleet Street, and went by the name of Brown. But Providence had now ordered that he should no longer pursue his extravagances; for he was discovered by a very intimate acquaintance. It must be granted that he had sufficiently deserved the stroke of justice; but there yet appears something so shocking in a breach of friendship that we cannot help wishing somebody else had been the instrument.
As soon as he was apprehended he was carried before the Speaker of the House of Commons, who then lived in Chancery Lane, and after a long examination was committed to Newgate, and loaded with irons. He was conveyed to prison by one Captain Compton, under a strong guard; and the warrant for his commitment commanded that he should be kept in close confinement, and that nobody should be admitted to see him without orders.
On Friday, the 12th of December, 1651, Captain James Hind was brought to the bar of the sessions house in the Old Bailey, and indicted for several crimes; but nothing being proved against him that could reach his life, he was conveyed in a coach from Newgate to Reading in Berkshire, where on the 1st of March, 1651, he was arraigned before Judge Warberton for killing one George Sympson at Knole, a small village in that county. The evidence here was very plain against him, and he was found guilty of wilful murder; but an Act of Oblivion being issued out the next day, to for give all former offences but those against the State, he was in great hopes of saving his life, until by an Order of Council he was removed by habeas corpus to Worcester jail.
At the beginning of September, 1652, he was condemned for high treason, and on the 24th of the same month he was drawn, hanged and quartered, in pursuance of the same sentence, being thirty-four years of age. At the place of execution he declared that most of the robberies which he had ever committed were upon the republican party, of whose principles he professed he always had an utter abhorrence. He added that nothing troubled him so much as to die before he saw his Royal master established on his throne, from which he was most unjustly and illegally excluded by a rebellious and disloyal crew, who deserved hanging more than him.
After he was executed his head was set upon the Bridge Gate, over the River Severn, from whence it was privately taken down and buried within a week afterwards. His quarters were put upon the other gates of the city, where they remained till they were destroyed by wind and weather.