EXECUTION AND CONFESSION OF FRANZ MULLER.
Probably no murder ever created a greater or more sustained Bensation than that of Mr. Briggs ; its mystery, the celerity with which it was committed, the apparent impuissance of the suspected criminal, and other extraordinary circumstances surrounding it, not only exciting interest among every class of society in England, but extending to Germany and America. No prisoner ever had more sympathy exhibited in his behalf than was shown to Miiller, in spite of the horror inspired by his crime. Had he been as rich as Croesus, more could not have been done for him ; for, instead of a formal brief being handed to counsel for the defence, he had the organized machinery of a society — the German Legal Protection Society — working in his behalf, employing the most astute lawyers that could be obtained. And, undiscouraged by their failure at the trial to establish the innocence of their client, they continued to agitate the question with growing pertinacity down to the very eve of the execution ; and had not the wretched man confessed his guilt at the last moment, the controversy would, no doubt, be raging now, with augmented fierceness and bitterness. All Germany was moved in the interest of its unworthy son. The utmost excitement prevailed. It was made a national question. Miiller was looked upon as the victim of British ill-will towards Germany, in consequence of her Danish atrocities. Judges, jury, the press, the people, were all represented as leagued together by one common sentiment of hatred — of which the poor Teutonic tailor was to be the scapegoat ; and one Frankfort paper went so far as to intimate that the name of Franz Miiller would be a by-word of opprobrium against England for years to come. At Frankfort, an address to the Queen had been signed by a number of the inhabitants, praying for a respite of the prisoner ; the Duke of Saxe- Weimar telegraphed to his agent in London, directing him to second, in every possible way, the exertions of the German Society ; and other irregular steps were adopted for the purpose of ai'resting the course of justice. A large array of facts, surmises, and extenuating circumstances, were embodied in a memorial to the Home Office, praying for a respite of Miiller's sentence, in order that his case might be reconsidered. It was presented on Friday, the 11th, and on the following day Sir George Grey's reply was published. He therein expressed his regret that, after carefully considering the statements therein contained, and comparing them with the report of evidence given at the trial, and after full communication with the learned judges before whom the proceedings took place, he saw no ground which could justify him in advising her Majesty to interfere with the due course of the law in this case. Thus was the door of hope irrevocably closed upon the doomed man. Mr. Beard lost no time in "seeing him, and apprising him of the final decision. Miiller received the fatal announcement with the raininess and composure which had scarcely for a moment forsaken him. He remarked, " I did not expect anything else ;" and when exhorted to confess, his reply was, " I should be a very bad fellow if I had done it ; I have no other statement to make than that which I have already made." " Since I have been here," he said, " I have prayed more than I ever did before. lam happy. I feel peace within. I expect to die, but I will write something, and it may please God after my death to bring the truth to light. lam happy to see friends here, but Ido not want them. I like to be alone. This book I read (putting his hand on the Bible) ; I read this continually. Look at that beautiful hymn," he said. It was — Just as I am, without one plea, But that Thy blood was shed for me, And that Thou bid'at me come to Thee— O Lamb of God ! I come. The murderer's confession was obtained through the instrumentality of a German clergyman, Dv. Louis Cappel, minister of the Lutheran Chapel, in Goodman's-fields. He had not been many days in communication with . the prisoner, having paid his first visit to the gaol on the Thursday preceding the execution ; but his kindness, tenderness, and fidelity, so won Muller's confidence that he entreated him with, tears to remain with liim to tlio last. Dr. Oappel appeared to have formed the opinion that he was sincere and earnest in his prayers and religious exercises, and thought that he was not at all to be considered in the light of an ordinary murderer, and he came to the conclusion that the offence was unpremeditated. With this view, upon one occasion, when the prisoner stated he was innocent, he replied that privately he considered he was not guilty of the crime of wilful murder, because he had been tempted by the sight of Mr. Briggs 1 watch and chain to contemplate the offence of robbery, and that the unfortunate gentleman met his death during a struggle, and after blows had been exchanged, and that he either fell or was pushed out of the railway carriage. To tliia the prisoner, who was evidently somewhat off his guard, replied that he believed the afl'air took place something in that manner. From the hour of six on the morning of execution, the prisoner was engaged in prayer with Dr. Cappel, and to him Miiller repeated his observation, " It is no use confessing ; men have not the power to forgive sins." Afterwards Dr. Cappel said to him " These are almost my last words to you. I shall say a few more words of prayer but shall have little conversation. You have asked me to come with you to the scaffold. The last question I shall put to you will be, ' Have you done this deed ?' I exhort you, by the living God, do not deny it, and be damned." Miiller was silent at this. When Dr. Cappel came out of the cell, after having administered the sacrament to Miiller, he said to Mr. Jonas, " I feel almost certain he will confess at the last moment." During the interview the culprit had repeatedly clung to him, and cried, with teara in his eyes, that he was Ins only friend. The last moments in the terrible tragedy are thus described by the Times : — " Shortly before eight o'clock, the sheriffs and under-sheviffs, with Mr. Jonas, the governor of Newgate, and Mr. Gibson, the prisoner-surgeon, proceeded from the Sessionshouse to the gaol. Pausing for a few moments in an open court-yard, they awaited the conung of the convict. A side door wa9 opened, and Miiller presented himself, attended by a warder. He was pale, but marvellously calm and collected, and he walked briskly across the court -yard to the press-room, followed by the authorities. There lie was pinioned by the executioner, aud underwent the ordeal with uiishukeu courage.. While all about him were visibly touched, not a muscle in his face moved, and he showed no signs of emotion. He was docile withal, and respectful in his demeanour. Again and again Dr. Cappel approached him, and sought to sustain him by the use of encouraging word*. Tb» convict, reputing th»
words after the reverend gentleman, repeatedly said, in German, ' Christ, the Lamb of God, have mercy upon me.' The process of pinioning over, Mr. Jonas, the governor, approached the convict, and asked him to take a seat, but he declined to do so, and remained standing until the prison bell began (0 toll which was to summon him to tho scatfold. As he remained in that attitude, one could not help being struck with the remarkable appearance of physical strength which his figure denoted, and still more by his indomitable fortitude. Though short in stature, he was compactly and syinuierrically made, and there were very striking indications about his chest, arms, hands, and the back pai't of his neck in particular. His clothes were well made, and he was dressed with remarkable neatness. "When the executioner was removing the necktie and shirt collar, in arranging which much care appeared to have been bestowed, the convict held up his head to allow of his doing it with more ease. This was about the last of the preparations. A signal given by the governor, and the Rev. Mr. Davis, the ordinary, led the way to the scaffold, reading, as he did so, some of the preliminary verses of the Burial Service. He wa3 followed by the convict, and the Rev. Dr. Cappel, and then by the sheiufFs and under-sheriiTs. He ascended the scaffold with a firm step, accompanied by Dr. Cappel, and, as he did so, the multitude, on his being confronted with them, raised a mighty and indescribable hum. At this moment the sun shone brightly, though rain had fallen more or less all through the night. After the convict had been placed upon the drop and the rope adjusted round liis neck, Dr. Cappel, addressing him with great animation and solemnity, said, 'In a few moments, Miiller, you will stand before God ; I ask you again, and for the last time, are you guilty or innocent ?' He replied, ' I am innocent.' Dr. Cappel said, ' You are innocent?' repeating his own words in the form of a question. Miiller answered, ' God Almighty knows what I have done.' Dr. Cappel : ' God Almighty knows what you have done?' again repeating the convict's own words. ' Does God know that you have done this particular deed ?' Miiller replied, ' Yes. I hare done it,' speaking in German, in which language the whole conversation was conducted. The German expression used by the convict was, ' Ich hdbe es gethan / and these were his last words. The drop fell, and he soon ceased to live. So greatly relieved was the reverend gentleman by the confession, that he rushed from the scaffold, exclaiming, 'Thank God! thank God!' and sat down in a chair, completely exhausted by his own emotion." This admission of his guilt, tardy and imperfect as it was, afforded immense relief to tens of thousands of minds, which for a week or two had been agitated by doubt and uncertainty ; while it, at the same time, prevented the bitter and acrimonious discussion which would most certainly have broken out on platform and in newspapers and pamphlets, had the murderer died hugging the lie to the last. Dr. Cappel' s own impression of the case is thus given in a letter to the Times :—": — " The manner in which this crime was committed will never be known. My own firm conviction, derived from the closest personal intercourse with the prisoner, is that murder was not premeditated ; but that Miiller, in want of money, and yielding to a sudden temptation, attacked his victim for the sake of robbery, and finished, in the despair of the moment, by killing him, cither with his own hands or by causing his fall from the railway carriage. I recollect particularly on one occasion, when I represented to him the crime as likely to have taken place in this way, he answered not, but gazed at me intently, and impressed me at the time with the belief of the correctness of my supposition. I have generally observed that Miiller was most earnest in protesting his innocence when directly charged with murder. Statements, such as having never been in a North London railway train, he made only in answer to pointed questions, and, it seems, in order not to contradict previous similar assertions. His manner — simple, gentle", and apparently open and truthful — was such as easily to deceive even experienced observers, and the wonderful self-possession of this most remarkable character was never more strikingly manifested than by his fencing with words, the rope round his neck aud the white cap over his face, when about to confess his guilt at the last moment." The scene in front of Newgate was horrible beyond precedent. The daily papers give detailed and graphic descriptions of the behaviour of the mob throughout the whole of Sunday night and Monday morning and they are such as to fill one with disgust and loathing for human nature. No country perhaps in the world could furnish a fouler mass of rufniauism and savagery than that winch was collected around Muller's gallows, to scoff at everythii solemn and sacred in life and in death.
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EXECUTION AND CONFESSION OF FRANZ MULLER., Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Volume XXIV, Issue 13, 31 January 1865
EXECUTION AND CONFESSION OF FRANZ MULLER. Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Volume XXIV, Issue 13, 31 January 1865
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