This pamphlet contains the last dying words of David Thomas Myers, convicted of having sex with another man, apprentice tailor Thomas Crow. Sex between men was a capital offence in the UK until 1861.
The publishing of last dying words was common after 1650, coinciding with the rise of newspapers and an increase of political executions. The right to public confession of innocence or guilt was one of the unalienable privileges of prisoners. Officials were not always keen for the convicted to have complete freedom of speech to large crowds, as executions were often performed in public. The curiosity of an increasingly literate population was satisfied with regular publications about last dying speeches and the behaviour of prisoners in court and at the gaol.
This pamphlet includes a woodcut of an execution scene alongside the confession written by Myers. Additional contextual information, most likely written by the authorities, introduces his confession to highlight the severity of the act to which Myers was confessing.
Here is a transcription of Myers’ last words:
As I believe that persons in my unhappy situation are expected to say something at the place of execution, and feeling that I shall not be able to do it, I wish these dying words to be made as public as possible. I confess that I am guilty of the crime for which I am about to suffer, and for these and all my sins, I desire to repent before God with a broken and contrite heart. I forgive from the bottom of my soul every one that has wronged me and I earnestly pray to Almighty God that my untimely end may be a warning to others, who are walking on the same path. Oh! May my shameful death put a stop to that dreadful crime! May those who have been partakers with me in my crime be brought to true repentance!! I am a miserable sinner in the sight of God, and am deservedly degraded in the sight of man. But I commit my guilty polluted soul into the hands of my Blessed Saviour, to be pardoned and cleansed by him. And tho’ I deserve nothing but punishment for my sins, I trust thro’ the merits of my redeemer, when I leave this wicked and miserable world, to be received into a world of purity and peace.