This broadside crime report begins: ' Copy Letter, relative to the Case of these three unfortunate young Boys CHARLES M'LAREN, THOMAS GRIERSON, and JAMES M'EWEN, who were lately sentenced to be Executed at Edinburgh, on Wednesday the 12th February, 1823, for Housebreaking and Theft; but who have been Respited for one Month longer.' It was published by James McLean of Edinburgh.
The case described here is that of three boys aged between thirteen and seventeen, who have been sentenced to death for housebreaking and theft. Often broadside authors and editors were supportive of the harsh sentences handed down in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Scotland, but here a letter arguing against the death sentences is reproduced, and the editorial agrees with its plea for clemency. The letter draws attention to the backgrounds of the condemned boys, proving that the association between crime and social deprivation is not merely a modern liberal theory. The execution of under-16s in Britain was not abolished until 1908.
Broadsides are single sheets of paper, printed on one side, to be read unfolded. They carried public information such as proclamations as well as ballads and news of the day. Cheaply available, they were sold on the streets by pedlars and chapmen. Broadsides offer a valuable insight into many aspects of the society they were published in, and the National Library of Scotland holds over 250,000 of them.
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Date of publication:
1823 shelfmark: L.C.Fol.74(086)
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