We commemorate the death of John Baird and Andrew Hardie on this day in 1820. The two men were executed for treason on the 8th September 1820 for their part in what became known as the Radical Uprising in the April of that year.
You can read more about the Radical Uprising on our blog here. Suffice to say that after the skirmish that ended the attempt to rise up against the British Government, many men were arrested and taken to Stirling Castle to await trial for treason. In the end, only three men, John Wilson, John Baird and Andrew Hardie paid the ultimate price for their involvement. Wilson was hanged and decapitated in Glasgow three weeks before Baird and Hardie met a similar fate.
The Council Archives were lucky enough to receive the offer of this remarkable item late last year.
The letter is printed quite clearly. It has been suggested that it is a copy of the letter written by Hardie from his imprisonment in Stirling Castle prior to his execution for Treason three days later. It is also possible that it was dictated and is the original letter, as the signature at the bottom is in a different hand to the body of the text.
This item was generously donated to the Council Archives by Don and Penny Pitt, of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. The letter was found among the papers of John Lawrence (1839 – 1912), an ancestor of the depositor. The Lawrence family were printers in Denny. Since some of the wording of the letter is identical to that published in broadsheets at the time, it is thought possible that this is a copy sent to James Lawrence (1769 – 1843) for printing.
What makes this version interesting is the fact that it includes text that was not published at the time. It may not be possible to determine whether this is an ‘original’ or a later copy for publication. Either way, it is a fascinating document, giving an insight into what was going through the mind of Hardie prior to his death.
The letter reads as follows: –
Stirling Castle 5th Sept 1820
My dear relations
I now write you my long and last
farewell letter as I an in__ __[two words indecipherable because of damage to the paper] line to fall a victim neath the stroke
of the tyrant, for seeking those rights for which our forefathers bled, and
for which I shall lay down my life without the least reluctance knowing
it is for the cause of truth and justice. I have wronged no person. I have
hurt no person, and although I have formerly been of a very easy temper, I
bless god who has the hearts of all men in His hand that it never entered mine to hurt
my fellow creature, no person could induce me to take up guns in the same
manner to rob or plunder. No my dear friends, I took them up for the good of
my suffering country and although we were out witted yet I protest
as a dying man that it was with a good intention on my part. But dear friends
it becomes me as a dying Christian to look over these matters which bless
god I can do with pleasure for if I cannot forgive my enemies or those
who have injured me how can I expect my blessed saviour to make intercession
for me, who so freely forgave his enemies when he prayed father forgive then for they
know not what they do. I could take the greatest enemy I have into my bosom
even the perjured Baird who in the presence of almighty god and a large
assembly stained and embrewed his hands in innocent blood or even the unrelenting
Hardie, my name’s disgrace who voluntarily came to prove me. Yes my
friends my earnest prayer to god is that he may forgive them. My dear
friends I hope you will put yourselves to as little trouble about me as
possible it becomes us to [word undecipherable because of damage] the will of god and to every dispens-
–ation of his providence, he often sees the most painful trials necessary. He is infinitely
wise he can do nothing wrong, he chasteneth whom he loves and I earnestly
hope and pray that he will sanctify his gracious dispensation of his providence
to one and all of us is the prayer of your unfortunate Nephew while on Earth.
Stirling Burgh Council were given the duty of organising the execution of Baird and Hardie once the sentence had been passed by the Court meeting at Stirling. The Council Archives holds a series of documents that relate to this process, and created a series of blog posts about these on the 200th anniversary in 2020. You can read more about these documents here.
We are very grateful to Mr and Mrs Pitt for their kindness in sending this fascinating addition to the papers that are held at the Archives relating to the uprising and Baird and Hardie’s execution, thus making it available for research to anyone who wishes to visit our facility.