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The Murder of a Daughter

Saturday last, at a Court of Oyer and Terminer held here, came on the Tryal of a Man and his Wife, who were indicted for the Murder of a Daughter which he had by a former Wife, (a Girl of about 14 Years of Age) by turning her out of Doors, and thereby exposing her to such Hardships, as afterwards produced grievous Sickness and Lameness; during which, instead of supplying her with Necessaries and due Attendance, they treated her with the utmost Cruelty and Barbarity, suffering her to lie and rot in her Nastiness, and when she cried for Bread giving her into her Mouth with a Iron Ladle, her own Excrements to eat, with a great Number of other Circumstances of the like Nature, so that she languished and at length died. The Evidence against them was numerous, and in many Particulars positive; but the Opinion of the Physician who had visited the Child, that whatever Usage might be given her, the Distemper she laboured under was such, as would of itself in all Probability have ended her Life about the Time she died, it is thought weighed so much with the Jury, that they brought in their Verdict only Man-slaughter. A Verdict which the Judge, (in a short but pathetic Speech to the Prisoners before the Sentence) told them was extreamly favourable; and that, as the Relation of their hitherto unheard-of Barbarity had in the highest Manner shocked all that were present; so, if they were not perfectly stupified, the inward Reflection upon their own enormous Crimes, must be more terrible and shocking to them, than the Punishment they were to undergo: For that they had not only acted contrary to the particular Laws of all Nations, but had even broken the Universal Law of Nature; since there are no Creatures known, how savage, wild, and fierce soever, that have not implanted in them a natural Love and Care of their tender Offspring, and that will not even hazard Life in its Protection and Defence. — But this is not the only Instance the present Age has afforded, of the incomprehensible Insensibility Dram-drinking is capable of producing. — They were sentenced to be burnt in the Hand, which was accordingly executed in Court, upon them both, but first upon the Man, who offer’d to receive another Burning if so be his Wife might be excused; but was told the Law would not allow it.

The Pennsylvania Gazette, October 24, 1734