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Broadside letter containing the final words of William Scott, Glasgow, 1788


This execution report begins: 'The last SPEECH, confession, and dying declaration of WILLIAM SCOTT, who was Executed at the Cross of Glasgow, on Wednesday the 3d of December, 1788, for the crime of house-breaking and theft.' A note at the foot of the sheet states that the prisoner wrote this entire letter in the presence of the witnesses, James Brownlie and William Young, who worked as turnkeys in the jail.

The court case of William Scott and his brother, John, was highly unusual in its outcome - totally bizarre, in fact. The brothers were up before Sheriff Depute William Honeyman in Glasgow on three charges of theft by housebreaking. When they were sentenced to death, William exclaimed 'I am a guilty man, my brother is not so guilty as me!' John Scott was subsequently reprieved, while William was executed in Glasgow by the hand of John Sutherland. In this letter, William makes his peace with God, in the hope that the Almighty will offer him the quality of mercy that the Establishment refused him.

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: 1788   shelfmark: APS.4.96.6
Broadside letter containing the final words of William Scott, Glasgow, 1788
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