Perp: James Sheppard
The Crime : High Treason
Victim: British Government and Monarchy
Motive : Leading a Jacobite uprising
1715 in North Eastern England. The Jacobite Risings were a series of uprisings, rebellions, and wars in Great
Britain and Ireland occurring between 1688 and 1746. The uprisings were aimed at returning James VII of Scotland
and II of England, and later his descendants of the House of Stuart, to the throne after he was deposed by
Parliament during the Glorious Revolution.
Date: March, 1718
Location : Tyburn
The Story :
This is a very singular case of treason ; for though the crime for which Sheppard suffered was
committed three years after the rebellion was quelled, yet the same misjudged opinions urged this youth to
enthusiasm in the cause of the Pretender as those which actuated the former offenders. It is still more singular
that he, neither being a Scotchman born, nor in any way interested in the mischiefs which he contemplated, should,
unsolicited, volunteer in so dangerous a cause.
James Sheppard was the son of Thomas Sheppard, glover, in Southwark ; but his father dying when he was about
five years of age, he was sent to school in Hertfordshire, whence his uncle, Dr. Hinchcliffe, removed
him to Salisbury, where he remained at school three years. Being at Salisbury at the time of the rebellion, he
imbibed the principles of his school-fellows, many of whom were favourers of the Pretender ; and he was confirmed
in his sentiments by reading some pamphlets which were then put into his hands.
When he quitted Salisbury, Dr. Hinchcliffe put him apprentice to Mr. Scott, a coach-painter in
Devonshire-street, Bishopsgate ; and he continued in this situation about fourteen months, when he was apprehended
for the crime which cost him his life.
Sheppard, having conceived the idea that it would be a praiseworthy action to kill the king, wrote a letter,
which he intended for a nonjuring minister of the name of Leake ; but, mistaking the spelling, he directed it " To
the Rev. Mr. Heath." The letter was in the following terms:-
"Sir,—From the many discontents visible throughout this kingdom, I infer that if the prince now reigning could be
by death removed, our king being here, he might be settled on his throne without much loss of blood.
For the more ready effecting of this, I propose that, if any gentleman will pay for my passage into Italy, and
if our friends will entrust one so young with letters of invitation to his majesty, I will, on his arrival, smite
the usurper in his palace. In this confusion, if sufficient forces may be raised, his majesty may appear ; if not,
he may retreat or conceal himself till a fitter opportunity. Neither is it presumptuous to hope that this may
succeed, if we consider how easy it is to cut the thread of human life;; how great confusion the death of a prince
occasions in the most peaceful nation ; and how mutinous the people are, how desirous of a change. But we will
suppose the worst—that I am seized, and by torture examined. Now, that this may endanger none but myself, it will
be necessary that the gentlemen who defray my charges to Italy leave England before my departure; that I be
ignorant of his majesty's abode ; that I lodge with some whig ; that you abscond ; and that this be communicated to
none. But, be the event as it will, I can expect nothing less than a most cruel death ; which, that I nay the
better support, it will be requisite that, from my arrival till the attempt, I every day receive the Holy Sacrament
from one who shall be
ignorant of the design. " JAMES SHEPPARD."
Having carried it to Mr. Leake's house, he called again for an answer, but he was apprehended, and carried
before Sir John Fryer, a magistrate.
When he was brought to his trial, he behaved in the most firm and composed manner ; and, after the evidence was
given, and the jury had found him guilty of high treason, he was asked why sentence should not be passed on him
according to law, when he said " He could not hope for mercy from a prince whom he would not own." The Recorder
then proceeded to pass sentence on him ; in pursuance of which, he was executed at Tyburn on the 17th March, 1718.
He was attended by a non-juring clergyman up to the time of his execution, between whom and the ordinary the most
indecent disputes arose, extending even up to the time of his arriving at the scaffold, when the latter quitted the
field and left the other to instruct and pray with the malefactor as he might think proper.