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Andrew for education. When young Hunter had acquired a good share of classical learning, he was admitted to the degree of master of arts, and began to prosecute his studies in divinity, with no imall degree of success.
Several of the younger clergymen in Scotland act as tutors to wealthy and distinguished families, till a proper period arrives for their entering into orders, which they never do till they obtain a benefice. While in this rank of life they bear the name of chaplains; and in this station Hunter lived about two years, in the house of Mr. Gordon, a very eminent merchant, and one of the bailies of Edinburgh, which is a rank equal to that of alderman of London.
Mr. Gordon's family consisted of himself, his lady, two sons and a daughter, a young woman who attended Mrs. Gordon and her daughter, the malefactor in question, some clerks and menial fervants. To the care of Hunter was committed the education of the two sons; and for a considerable time he discharged his duty in a manner highly satisfactory to the parents, who considered him as a youth of superior genius, and great goodness of heart.
But it happened that a connection took place between Hunter and the young woman abovementioned, which foon increased to a criminal degree of familiarity; however the correspondence between them was maintained for a confiderable time, during which the family was totally ignorant of the affair.
These lovers had gone on undetected so long, that they grew daily less cautious than at the commencement of their amour; and on a particular day, when Mr. and Mrs. Gordon were on a
visit, Hunter and his girl met in their chamber as usual : but having been so incautious as not to make their door fast, the children went into the room, and found them in such a situation as could not admit of any doubt of the nature of their intercourse.
No suspicion was entertained that the children would mention to their parents what had happened; the eldest boy being not quite ten years of age: so that the guilty lovers had not the least idea, that a discovery would ensue; but when the children were at supper with their parents, they disclosed so much as left no room to doubt of what had happened. Hereupon the female servant was directed to quit the "house on the following day ; but Hunter was continued in the family, after making a proper apology for the crime of which he had been guilty, attributing it to the thoughtlessness of youth, and promising never to offend in the same way again.'
Hunter from this period entertained the most inveterate hatred to all the children, on whom he determined in his own mind to wreak the most diabolical vengeance. Nothing less than murder was his intention, but it was a considerable tine after he had formed this horrid plan before he had an opportunity of carrying it into execution; which he at length in a great degree effected, as will be seen hereafter.
Whenever it was a fine day, he was accustomed to walk in the fields with his pupils for an hour before dinner ; and in these excursions the young lady generally attended her brothers. At the period immediately preceding the commission of the fatal fact, Mr. Gordon and his family were at their country retreat very near Edinburgh; and having received an invitation to dine in that city,
he and his lady proposed to go thither about the time that Hunter usually took his noon-tide walk with the children. Mrs. Hunter was very anxious for all the children to accompany them on this visit; but this was ftrenuously opposed by her husband, who would consent that only the little girl should attend them.
By this circumstance Ilunter's intention of murdering all the three children was frustrated; but he held his resolution of destroying the boys while they were yet in his power. With this view he took them into the fields, and sat down as if to repose himself on the grass. This event took place soon after the middle of the month of August, and Hunter was preparing his knife to put a period to the lives of the children, at the very moment they were busied in catching butterflies, and gathering wild flowers.
Having sharpened his knife, he called the lads to him, and having reprimanded them for ac. quainting their father and mother of the scene to which they had been witnesses, he said that he would immediately put them to death. Terrified by this threat, the children ran from him : but he immediately followed, and brought them back. He then placed his knee on the body of the one, while he cut the throat of the other with his
penknife; and then treated the second in the same inhuman manner that he had done the first.
These horrid murders were committed within half a mile of the castle of Edinburgh; and as the deeds were perpetrated in the middle of the day, and in the open fields, it would have been very wonderful indeed, if the murderer had not been immediately taken into custody.
At the time of the murder, it happened that a gentleman was walking on the Castle-hill of Edin
burgh, who had a tolerably perfect view of what pafled. Alarmed by the incident, the gentleman called some people, who ran with him to the place where the children were lying dead : but by this time the murderer had advanced towards a river, with a view to drown himfelf. Those who pursued, came up with him just as he reached the brink of the river: and his person being immediately known to them, a messenger was instantly dispatched to Mr. and Mrs. Gordon, who were at that moment going to dinner with their friend, to inform them of the horrid deed that had been perpetrated by this wicked'man.
Language is too weak to describe the effects resulting from the communication of this dreadful news ; the astonishment of the amicted father, the agony of the mother's grief, may possibly be conceived, though it cannot be painted.
Mr. Hunter being now in custody, it is requisite that we give an account of the proceedings against him, and of the punishment that followed his offence.
According to an old Scottish law it was decreed, that " if a murderer should be taken with the “ blood of the murdered person on his cloaths, " he should be prolecuted in the sheriff's court, " and executed within three days after the com.6 mission of the fact.” It was not common to execute this sentence with rigour, but the offender in question had been guilty of crimes of so aggravated a nature, that it was not thought proper to remit any thing of the utmost severity of the law.
The prisoner was, therefore, committed to gaol, and chained down to the floor all night; and on the following day the sheriff issued his precept for VOL. I. No. I.
the juty to meet; and, in consequence of their verdict, Hunter was brought to his trial, when he pleaded guilty; and added to the offence he had already committed, the horrid crime of declaring, that he lamented only the not having murdered Mr. Gordon's daughter as well as his sons.
The sheriff now passed sentence on the conviet. which was to the following purpose : that " on “ the following day he should be executed on a
gibber erected for that purpose on the spot “ where he had committed the murders: but that, se previous to his execution, his right hand « should be cut off with a hatchet, near the “6 wrist, that then he should be drawn up to the
gibbet, by a rope, and, when he was dead, “ hung in chains between Edinburgh and Leith, " the knife with which he committed the mur“ ders being stuck through his hand, which should “ be advanced over his head, and fixed therewith “ to the top of the gibber."
Mr. Hunter was executed, in strict conformity to the above fentence, on the 22d of August, 1700. But Mr. Gordon soon afterwards petition, ed the sheriff, that the body might be removed to a more diftant spot, as its hanging on the side of the high way, through which he frequently passed, tended to re-excite his grief for the occasion that had first given rise to it, This requisition was immediately complied with, and in a few days the body was removed to the skirts of a small village near Edinburgh, named Broughton.
It is equally true and horrid to relate, that, at the place of execution. Hunter closed his life with the following shocking declaration : “ There $ is no God I do not believe there is any-or : if there is, I hold him in defiance.”.