Outlaws and Highwaymen

Passage from A Complete History of the Highwaymen, by Captain Alexander Smith
Captain Alexander Smith, A Complete History of the Highwaymen, ed. Arthur L. Hayward (London, George Routledge, 1926), pp. 188–189. Title ‘A Highwayman’s Oath’ not in original


A Highwayman’s Oath

I.–I, E.F, swear by the head and soul of our Captain, to be obedient to all his commands.
II.–To be faithful to my companions in all their designs and attempts.
III.–To be always present at such meetings as the Captain shall appoint, here or in any other place, except his leave to the contrary.
IV.–To be ready at all hours by day and by night, upon call or notice.
V.–Never to desert my companions in any danger or otherwise, to the last breath.
VI.–Never to fly from an equal number of opposers, but rather die courageously fighting on the place.
VII.–To help one another, whether taken, imprisoned, in sickness or any other distress.
VIII.–Never to leave, if possibly I can bring it off, any of my companions’ bodies, wounded or dead, behind me, to fall into enemies’ hands.
IX.–To confess nothing, if taken; or ever to discover the abodes and residences of my accomplices, though put to the punishment of death itself. And this oath, when I break in the least tittle may the greatest plagues and D—tion seize me here and hereafter.


Smith’s History of the Highwaymen incorporates material from many sources. This oath is supposed to have been administered to the members of his gang by the gentleman robber Tom Wilmot in the reign of Charles II, but none of these details are to be relied on. However, the oath itself was almost certainly plagiarised from some lost pamphlet of the late seventeenth century. It may well be genuine, or largely so. In 1628, John Clavell mentioned the very similar oaths that were sworn by members of the highwaymen gangs to which he himself had belonged. Note also the oath supposed to have been administered to James Hind when he joined the gang led by the highwayman Allen.

Notes and page design © Gillian Spraggs 2001, 2002, 2007
Text added to site on 20 September 2001 | Page last modified on 28 August 2007

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