Highwayman, who was such a Danger to Society that he was condemned and executed on the same Day, in 1694
EDWARD HINTON was born in London, in the year 1673, of very reputable parents. In his younger years he discovered a strong bent to learning, which his father cherished by putting him to St Paul's School, that celebrated seminary for youth. This good turn of mind was, however, soon overcome by a vicious one, which seemed also to be innate, and grew stronger as he grew older. Even at nine years of age, it is said, he robbed one of his sisters of sixpences and other small pieces to the value of thirty shillings, and kept abroad in company with boys like himself till he had spent and lost it all.
After a little correction young Hinton was sent to school again, upon his promising to be a better boy for the future. But in vain, alas, were his promises. Thieving soon grew into a habit with him, and there was no opportunity of getting money, or anything else, clandestinely that ever escaped him. He went so far at last as to rob his father's counting-house of a considerable sum of money, which he carried to a lewd woman, with whom he was soon after taken on Cambridge Heath.
The first action which he performed in conjunction with others was the robbing of Admiral Carter's country house. Soon after this he and his comrades broke open the Lady Dartmouth's house on Black Heath, and stole plate to a great value, which they sold to a refiner near Cripplegate. Hinton was some time after apprehended for this robbery, and condemned at Maidstone Assizes; but his youth, and the intercession of his friends, procured him a pardon. He was again taken up for breaking open and robbing the house of Sir John Friend, at Hackney, for which he also received sentence of death; but was a second time so far indulged as to have a halter transmuted into transportation, in order to which he was soon after put aboard with other convicts. One would have thought he had now been safe enough; however those who thought so were mistaken, for he drew the rest of the convicts into a conspiracy to get the ship's company under the hatches, and make their escape in the long boat, which they effected near the Isle of Wight, Hinton having first beat the captain with a rope's end, as a return for being served so himself.
He was no sooner ashore than he left his company and travelled alone through the woods and byways, being in a very torn and rusty habit. This distress obliged him to sink from stealing to begging, which he practised all the way to Hounslow Heath, telling the people a lamentable story of his having been shipwrecked. But he soon altered his tone when he saw a convenient opportunity; for on Hounslow Heath he unhorsed a country farmer and mounted in his place. Nor was it long after before he changed this horse for a better, and his own ragged suit for a very genteel one, with a gentleman he met.
Being now got among some of his old gang, they continued some months to rob on the highway almost every day that passed. The Buckinghamshire lacemen and stage-coaches in particular were afraid to travel for them. Hinton by himself, at two several times, robbed a Dutch colonel of his money, horse, arms and cloak; and another gentleman, who had courage enough to exchange a pistol with him. This gentleman was wounded in the leg by Hinton's fire, and our young highwayman, perceiving it, was so generous as to lend him his assistance, and accompany him as far as within a little way of Epsom; when he left him in order to take care of himself.
One day, after robbing the passengers in the Southampton coach, they were so closely pursued that some of the gang were taken; and though Hinton had the good fortune this time to escape, yet the society being broken, he did not care to venture any more on the highway alone; whereupon he returned to his old vocation of housebreaking, picking of pockets, etc.
At length several bills were presented against him for robberies committed in the counties of Surrey and Hertford, to answer which he was detained a prisoner. One of his own gang had made himself an evidence against him, which made the case look very doubtful; yet even here he had again hopes of escaping, by stopping the mouth of this fellow. Some of Hinton's friends undertook to manage the matter, and they threatened to bring in several indictments against their false brother if he did not retract in court what he had before sworn; which for his own safety he did, pretending that he had recollected himself, and that Mr Hinton was never concerned with him in any robbery whatsoever.
This, and the other assistances he received from his old friends, brought him off with honour at the Surrey Assizes, and he did not at all doubt but that he should escape as well at Hertford, there being no evidence against him that he knew of; so that he went thither with abundance of confidence. But when his trial came on, in spite of all that could be deposed in his favour, one of the gentlemen whom he had robbed, and whom he did not expect to appear, swore so positively that he was the very person who unhorsed him and took away his watch that the Court believed him. It is true they had begun to imagine that Hinton really must be concerned in some of those things that he had been acquitted of, because it is unprecedented for a man to be so often accused and not be at all guilty. Besides, Hinton was known to be an old offender, which gave room both to suspect the evidences he brought and to believe that he had not perfectly left off his trade, though he had art enough to make himself seem innocent. In a word, where Hinton fancied himself safest he met with his deserved fate, being convicted, condemned and executed the same day —- a thing seldom heard of, but at this time occasioned by the judge's being informed what a dangerous person he was on account of his interest among the thieves, and how proper it would be to take him out of the way as soon as they possibly could; the jailer protesting that he was afraid he could not keep him a week in custody.