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Broadside entitled 'The Last Speech'


Following on from the title, this crime report continues: 'Confession and Dying Words, of ROBERT STEWART, late BOOKBINDER in Edinburgh, who was Executed there on Wednesday FEBRU. 22d, 1809, for the crime of House-breaking and Robbery.' The speech is signed by Robert Stewart himself.

This broadside tells the tragic tale of the terrible fate that befell Robert Stewart, aged 20, who was executed for carrying out a robbery and housebreaking. Apparently written by Stewart himself, he tells of his tragic fall from grace, and thanks the magistrates 'for their attention and convenience'. From 1650 to 1840, the 'Criminal Code' (called the 'Bloody Code' in England) was applied in Scotland, and this law meant that property was defended at all costs - hence the ultimate sentence on Stewart. Stewart concludes his speech by stating that he dies in peace, and warns other young men not to stray from the path of righteousness.

Reports recounting dark and salacious deeds were popular with the public, and, like today's sensationalist tabloids, sold in large numbers. Crimes could generate sequences of sheets covering descriptive accounts, court proceedings, last words, lamentations and executions as they occurred. As competition was fierce, immediacy was paramount, and these occasions provided an opportunity for printers and patterers to maximise sales.

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Date of publication: 1809   shelfmark: APS.3.84.18
Broadside entitled 'The Last Speech'
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