Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

other uneasiness, but this of constant labour; for as they work for the public, so they are well entertained out of the public stock, which is done differently in different places; in some places, whatever is bestowed upon them, is raised by a charitable contribution; and though this way may seem uncertain, yet so merciful are the inclinations of that people, that they are plentifully supplied by it; but in other places, public revenues are set aside for them; or there is a constant tax of a pollmoney raised for their maintenance. In some places they are set to no public work, but every private man that has occasion to hire workmen, goes to the market places and hires them of the public, a little lower than he would do a freeman: if they go lazily about their task, he may quicken them with the whip. By this means there is always some piece of work or other to be done by them; and beside their livelihood, they earn somewhat still to the public. They all wear a peculiar habit, of one certain colour, and their hair is cropt a little above their ears, and a piece of one of their ears is cut off. Their friends are allowed to give them either meat, drink, or cloaths, so they are of their proper color; but it is death, both to the giver and taker, if they give them money; nor is it less penal for any freeman to take money from them, upon any account whatsoever : and it is also death for any of these slaves (so they are called) to handle arms. Those of every division of the country, are distinguished by a peculiar mark; which it is capital for them to lay aside, to go out of their bounds, or to talk with a slave of another jurisdiction ; and the very attempt of an escape, is no less penal than an escape itself; it is death for any other slave to be accessary to it; and if a freeman engages in it, he is condemned to slavery: those that discover it are rewarded ; if freemen, in money; and if slaves, with liberty, together with a pardon for being accessary to it; that so they might find their account, rather in repenting of their engaging in such a design, than in persisting in it.

These are their laws and rules in relation to robbery; and it is obvious that they are as advantageous, as they are mild and gentle ; since vice is not only destroyed, and men preserved, but they treated in such a manner as to make them see the necessity of being honest, and of employing the rest of their lives, in repairing the injuries they have formerly done to society. Nor is there any hazard of their falling back to their old customs: and so little do travellers apprehend mischief from them, that they generally make use of them for guides, from one jurisdi&tion to another ; for there is nothing left them by which they can rob, or be the better for it ; since as they are disarmed, so the very having of money is a sufficient conviction : and as they are certainly punished if discovered, so they cannot hope to escape; for their habit being in all the parts of it different from what is commonly worn, they cannot fly away, unless they would go naked, and even then their cropped car would betray them. The only danger to be feared from them, is their conspiring against the government: but those of one division and neighbourhood can do nothing to any purpose, unless a general conspiracy were laid amongst all the slaves of the several jurisdictions, which cannot be done, since they cannot meet or talk together; nor will any venture on a design, where the concealment would be so dangerous, and the discovery so profitable. None are quite hopeless of recovering their freedom, since by their obedience and patience, and by giving good grounds to believe that they will change their manner of life for the future, they may expect at last to obtain their liberty: and some are every year restored to it, upon the good character that is given of them. When I bad related all this, I added, that I did not see why such a method might not be followed with more advantage, than could ever be expected from that severe justice which the counsellor magnified so much. To this he answered, that it could never take place in England, without endangering the whole nation. As he said this, he shook his head, made some grimaces and held his peace, while all the company seemed of his opis:

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

mion, except the Cardinal, who said that it was not easy to form a judgment of its success, since it was a method that ne ver yet had been tried; but if, said he, when the sentence of death was past upon a thief, the Prince would reprieve him for a while, and make the experiment upon him, denying him the privilege of a sanctuary; and then, if it had a good effect upon him, it might take place; and if it did not succeed, the worst would be, to execute the sentence on the condemned person at last. And I do not see, added he, why it would be either unjust, inconvenient, or at all dangerous, to admit of such a delay; in my opinion, the vaganbods ought to be treated in the same manner ; against whom, though we have made many laws, yet we have not been able to gain our end.

When the Cardii al had done, they all commended the motion, though they had despised it when it came from me ; but more particularly commended what related to the vagabonds, because it was his own observation.

EXECUTION OF NUNDCOMAR.

FROM THE ANNUAL REGISTER OF 1788.

INSERTED TO EXPLAIN THE EFFECT PRODUCED BY THE

PUNISHMENT OF DEATH UPON A NATION NOT ACCUSTOMED

TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENTS.

Sir Gilbert Elliot, towards the conclusion of his speech, read the following account of the execution of Vundcomar, written by the Sheriff

' who attended on the occasion. Hearing that some persons had supposed Mah Rajah Nundcomar, would make an address to the people at his

[ocr errors]

execution, I have committed to writing the following mis nutes of what passed both on that occasion, and also upon my paying him a visit in prison, the preceding evening, while both are fresh in my remembrance.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

“ Friday evening, the 4th. of August, upon my entering his apartments in the gaol, he arose and saluted me in his usual manner. after we were both seated, he spoke with great ease, and such seeming unconcern, that I really doubted whether he was sensible of his approaching fate. I therefore bid the interpreter inform hiin, that I was come to shew him this last mark of respect, and to assure him, that every attention should be given, the next morning, which could afford him comfort on so melancholy an occasion ; that I was deeply concerned that the duties of my office, made me of necessity a party in it, but that I would attend to the last, to see that every desire that he had should be gratified ; that his own palanquin, and his own servants, should attend him, and that such of his friends, who I understood were to be present, should be protected. He replied that he was obliged to me for this visit, that he thanked me for all my favours, and entreated me to continue them to his family; that fate was not to be resisted, and putting his finger to his forehead-God's will be done.' He desired I would present his respects and complimients to the General, Colonel Monson, and Mr. Francis, and pray for their protection of Rajah Gourdass : that they would please to look upon him now as the head of the Bramins. His composure was wonderful ; not a sigh escaped him ; nor the smallest alteration of voice or countenance, though I understood that he had not many hours before taken a solemn leave of his son-in-law Roy Radicum. I found myself so much second to him in firmness, that I could stay no longer. Going down stairs, the gaoler informed me, that since the departure of his friends, he had been writing notes, and looking at accolints in his usual way. I began now to apprehend that he

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

had taken his resolution, and fully expected that he would be found deail in the morning ; but on Saturday the 5th. at seven, I was informed that every thing was in readiness at the gaol for the execution. I came here about half a liour past seven. The howlings and lamentations of the poor wretcher people who were taking their last leave of bim are uol to je described. I have bardly recovered the first shock, while I write this above three hours allerwards. As soon as he heard I was arriver), he came down into the yaril, and joined me in the gaoler's apariment. There was no lingering about liim, no affected delay. H: carne cheerfully into ibe room, made the usual salaam, but would not sit till took a chair near him. Seeing somebody look at a watch, he got up, and said he was ready, and immediately turning to ticee Bramins, who were to attend and take case of his body, he embracel then all closely; but without the least mark of melancholy or depression on his part, while they were in agonies of griei and des. pair. I then looked at my own watch, told him the l'our I had mentioned was not arrived, that it wanted above a quarter of eight, but that I should wait his own time, and that I would not rise from my seat without a motion from him. Upon its being recommended to bim, that at the place of execution he would give some signal when he had done with this world, he said he would speak. We sat about a quarter of an hour longer, cluring which he addressed himsel: more than once to me, mentioned Rajah Gourdass, the General, Colonel Monson, and Mr. Francis, but without any seeming anxiety; the rest of the time, I believe, he passed in prayer; lis lips and tongue moving, and his beads hanging upon his hand. He then looked to me and arose, spoke to some of the servants of the gaol, telling them that any thing he might bave omitied, Rajah Gourdass would take care of; then walked cheerfully to the gate, and seated himself in bis palanquin, looking around him with perfect unconcern. As the deputy sberiff and I followed,

K

« ElőzőTovább »