A very few weeks had but just elapsed since the execution of Wood and Underwood, and on the very next day of execution in London, another boy, scarce sixteen years of age, was brought to the gallows. This wretched young creature was a pot-boy to a public-house, and named John Mead. Such places are the sure road to the ruin of those children whom misery has placed amid the most reprobate class of society, who waste their time, and impoverish themselves and families in public-houses.
Though nature requires so little drink, and when she calls, pure water is the most wholesome, and, in fact, let drunkards deny it as they please, the pleasantest beverage, yet we find, melancholy as is the sight, every bench in every small pot-house, at night filled with sottish fellows, while often at home their children are crying for food. It is, then, little to be wondered at, that the boys and girls employed to draw beer for, and to wait upon such characters, come to an ignominious end.
John Mead was employed by Walter Cavardine, who kept the sign of the Wheat-sheaf, in Redlion-street, Holborn, London. Having been reprimanded for neglect of his business, the graceless lad determined upon revenge. He found that no mode presented itself so easy and effectual, as that of burning his master's house, and therefore he burnt it in the night of the 5th of July, 1791. To commit an act of villainy is easy; but to conceal it, very difficult. This wicked youth conceived that he had nothing more to effect, than lighting a torch, and running off; but suspicion instantly fell upon him. He was pursued and apprehended; when, in terror, he confessed his crime. This confession was read in court upon his trial, and such a number of corroborating proofs of his guilt was adduced, that the jury, however reluctant, found little doubt upon his case.
His youth could not preponderate in the scale of mercy, against the atrocity of his crime. He was executed along with the following malefactors:
Thomas Godfrey and John Smith, for robbing Mr. John Mazinjay on the highway, near Enfield.
John Finch, Joseph Hunt, and David Rango, for robbing Mr. Isaac Gillet, on the highway in Newgate street, of a pocket-book, containing notes, &c. They beat Mr. Gillet so unmercifully, as to break his leg. They were a part of another gang of pick-pockets and foot-pads.