Blast from the Past: Crime and punishment in 1774

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A snippet of the article published in 1774. (Courtesy Virginia Gazette)
A snippet of the article published in 1774. (Courtesy Virginia Gazette)

In this series, we take a look back at news coverage from the early days of the Historic Triangle.

In this “colonial crime blotter” published on Feb. 3, 1774, two men who were allegedly members of a “gang of notorious thieves” were punished for their crimes.

One, a convicted servant, was sentenced to death, while the other man had his execution suspended until the Governor decided upon a course of action.

FREDERICKSBURG, January 21. This Day John Whitney (alias Merryman) a Convict Servant, was executed pursuant to his Sentence at the last Court of Oyer and Terminer in Williamsburg. He, with one Michael Kennedy, were of a Gang of notorious Thieves who have lately infested this Town [Williamsburg] and Falmouth, and brought thither, upon the Application of sundry Gentlemen to his Excellency the Governour, to suffer for their Crimes;

As such a Measure, in their Judgement, would be attended with better Effects to the Community than if transacted at a Distance, and might probably deter their accomplices, many of whmo [sic], it is well known, attended the Execution from being concerned in the like Practices for the future, after receiving his dying Admonitions.

He appeared very penitent, confessing his Crimes, and acknowledging the Justice of his Sentence. Some Circumstances appearing in Favour of Kennedy, his Execution is suspended until the Governour’s Pleasures be known.