George Becraft SR, A Man with a Temper
In 1772, George Becraft Sr, was tried and banished from Maryland for the killing of Thomas Buckingham. In the document detailing his trial and evidence presented to the court, is the following description of the incident:
Commission Book 82 -- P. 282 from 7/1733 to 1773
8th July 1772
Maryland, Frederick - Absolute Lord and Proprietary of the Provinces of Maryland and avalon Lord Baron of Baltimore & so forth.
To all our Bailiffs and Good People to whom these presents shall come.
Know ye that of our especial Grace we have pardoned unto George Becraft late of Frederick County yeoman as a proper object of our mercy the suit of our peace and whatsoever appertaineth unto us for that he the said George Becraft no having the fear of God before his eyes but eing moved and seduced by the instigation of the devil on the twenty fifth day of April in the yar of our Lord Seventeen hundred and seventy two with force and arms at Frederick County afresaid in and upon one Thomas Buckingham in the peace of God then and there being then and there feloniously willfull and of his malice aforethought did make an ssault and that he the said George Becraft with a certain club of the value of one Penny Sterling which he the said George Becraft in his right hand then and there had and held the said Thomas Buckingham in and upon the head belly stomach sides back thighs legs and feet of him the said Thomas Buckingham then and there feloniously wilfully and of his malice afrethought did strike beat and bruise giving to the said Thomas Buckingham in and upon the head belly stomach sides back thighs legs and feet of him the said Thomas Buckingham with the club aforesaid in manner afresaid several mortal bruises of which said mortal bruises the aforesaid Thomas Buckingham instantly died and that the said George Becraft the afresaid Thomas Buckingham in manner and form aforesaid feloniously willfully and of his malice afrethought did kill and murder against our peace Good Rule and Government whereof he was convict on the Eighteenth day of June in the year of our Lord Seventeen hundred and seventy two before Thomas Prather, Esquire and others Justices of an Especial Court of Oyer and Termination and General Goal Delivery held in and for Frederick County afresaid. Nevertheless we grant unto him the said George Becraft our firm peace and will not that he suffer any corporal punishment therefore provided that he the said George Becraft shall transport himself or cause himself to be transported out of this our Province within ten days from the time of his delivery out of prison and never return again, otherwise this our pardon shall and is hereby declared to be void and of none effect anything herein contained to the contrary notwithstanding.
Witness our trusty and well beloved brother Robert Eden, Esq. lieutenant General and Chief Governor in and over our Province this eight day of July in the twenty second year of our Dominion Anno Domini Seventeen Hindred and Seventy two.
Signed by Order
U. Scott, S. Cow
The first question that comes to mind when reading this account is "What did Thomas do that got George so mad?" It is obvious from the description and from the lack of other incidents in George's life that this was a single isolated occurrance in a long life. Even going through the other interesting events in George's and his son George Jr's lives, nothing comes close to this singular violent event.
One might also take into account the time at which this incident occurred. Just prior to the Revolutionary War and at a time when Americans were pushing for their freedom from oppression. As a comparison, we can look at the death of James Hood, who was killed by a field hand in 18xx. His punishment was to be hanged for the crime. There are two ways to look at this... one takes into account social status, George being a well-to-do landowner, the other a field hand... we have pre-revolutionary war vs. post-revolutionary war and a new government administering justice.
© Copyright, 2001. Robert J Becraft, All Rights Reserved.