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Broadside entitled 'Execution!'


This report begins: 'A Full and Particular ACCOUNT of SAMUEL MAXWELL, who was Executed at the Head of Libberton Wynd, Lawnmarket, Edinburgh, on Wednesday Morning, the 17th of January, 1821, for Stouthrief and Robbery, committed in the House of Mr Arneil, near Glasgow, last year.' This sheet was published by R. Watson of Edinburgh and cost one penny.

This broadside tells of the trial, confession and execution of Samuel Maxwell or McCormack, for burglary. Maxwell's virtuous confession gives substance to the saying that there is 'honour among thieves', since he tells the court that the other three accused men had nothing to do with the crime, and that he alone was responsible. Although the sentence of death for the relatively minor crime of housebreaking might seem extreme, it should be remembered that the aim of the 'Bloody Code' (called the 'Criminal Code' in Scotland) was to protect property above all else - hence the execution.

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: 1821   shelfmark: Ry.III.a.2(15)
Broadside entitled 'Execution!'
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