Abraham Doane was born probably at Plumstead, Bucks Co., Pa. He was hanged in Philadelphia, Pa., Sept. 24, 1788. His history was closely, identified with that of his cousin, Levi Doane hence some of the facts in the career of both are here related. They were first cousins, nearly of the same age, and finally ended their lives at the same time, and under the same circumstances. Levi Doane's name appears with that of his cousin Abraham and others in the Proclamation dated Saturday, July 26, 1783, and in which a reward of £100 specie is offered for the capture of each or any one of them. In June, 1784, Abraham Doane and two or three of his accomplices were arrested and lodged in a jail in Washington Co., Pa., while on their way to Detroit. He probably escaped from that prison but finally, in 1788, was arrested with his cousin Levi in Chester Co., and conveyed to Philadelphia. They were in the Philadelphia jail in June, 1788, awaiting sentence of death under the outlawry. On the 7th of that month they petitioned Benjamin Franklin, President of the Executive Council, asking that the mercy of the laws of the country may be extended to them, and that the " outlawry so far as it relates to punishing us with death may be rescinded." They acknowledged they had aided the British and committed various offences, but plead their “youth and inexperience “and the “artful persuasion of designing men," in extenuation. In a subsequent petition dated July 14, 1788, they say they were induced by artful enemies of the Commonwealth to commit various crimes at an early age, neither of them being seventeen years old, but declare they were not " directly or indirectly concerned in the felony and burglary wherewith we are charged, and for which this process (outlawry) was had against us." The petitions of the unfortunate men themselves, not having met the success desired, the friends of the family in Bucks Co. interposed their influence to save their lives.
On the 13th of Aug., 1788, the mothers and sisters of the condemned men petitioned the council for pardon, but they say, if they cannot do this they desire that length of time be granted “to prepare for death and to complete, if possible, the important work of salvation." This petition bears the signatures of Hester Doane, mother of Levi; Rachel Doane, mother of Abraham; Rachel Doane, sister of Abraham, and Mary Doane, sister of Levi. This petition was supported by another, signed by over one hundred persons who ask that the lives of the two men " may be spared and the punishment of death remitted or altered to that of hard labor or banishment." To this petition are signed, among others, the names of Edward Fox, father of the late Judge Fox of Doylestown; Robert Morris the financier of the Revolution and William White, first Episcopal Bishop of New Jersey. Two days afterward the mothers presented another petition accompanied by one from their two condemned sons asking for pardon, or an extension of time to prepare for death. Another and similar petition was presented the 9th of Aug. The 6th of Sept., Joseph Doane the father of Levi, and uncle of Abraham, petitions the council in behalf of his son and nephew, and asks that their lives be spared. These repeated applications must have made some impression on the Executive Council, for soon afterward a petition, numerously signed by inhabitants of Bucks Co., was presented to council asking that the law be allowed to take its course, and protesting against the pardon of the criminals. It was laid before the council and read on the 17th of Sept., 1788. All efforts to save Abraham and Levi Doane from death were unavailing and on Sept. 24, 1788, they were publicly hanged on the common in the city of Philadelphia. It is said that the father of Levi went to the city and carried the two bodies in a cart to Plumstead. The Society of Friends in that village, after deliberating awhile, refused to grant permission for the interment in their graveyard, consequently they were buried in the edge of the woods nearly opposite the Plumstead Meeting- house. An old lady, who once lived on the Doane farm, remembers that Levi's mother was in the habit of visiting his grave, over which with Bible in hand she would read and weep for hours at a time.
When Abraham and Levi were hanged in Philadelphia, it was commonly said of them, with special reference to Abraham, “they have hanged the smartest two men in Pennsylvania."
The following account of the arrest and execution of Levi and Abraham Doane is from the Autobiography of Charles Biddle:
In the month of Sept., 1788, Levi and Abraham Doan, two young men from Bucks Co., were taken prisoners and brought before the Supreme Court then sitting in Philadelphia. Being outlawed it was only necessary to identify them to sentence them to death. As they were well known in Bucks Co., this was done and they received their sentence. The case of these young men was exceedingly hard. When very young, their fathers were very ill treated by some violent committee men in the county, on account of their attachment to the British Government. These lads were threatened if they did not voluntarily enter into the American army they should be pressed. In consequence of this they went off and joined the British. It was said they afterwards committed depredations in the neighbourhood of where they were born, and it is probably true. If the treatment of their parents did not justify them, it certainly was some excuse for their conduct. At the conclusion of the Peace they returned to their county, as they said, to see their friends and relations; but one of them, it was generally thought, came back on account of a very handsome girl he was fond of before he went to the British, and his cousin would not leave him. They were concealed a considerable time by their friends; it at length, however, became known that they were in the county, when several who were, or conceived themselves, injured by them, endeavored to have them apprehended; but as they were stout, active, resolute men and went always well-armed, those who were in pursuit of them were afraid openly to attack them. Probably there hardly lived a more active man than the younger, Abraham. If he were seen by persons on horseback in pursuit of him, and he on foot, he would run like a deer, and no fence could stop him for a moment. He went over any fence without putting a hand on it. They were both tall, handsome men. A considerable time after their return into the State they were taken by surprise in Chester Co., by some men who were out hunting, who, from their appearance in the woods, and from their endeavors to conceal themselves, suspected them of having bad intentions, and insisted on their going before a magistrate. They made no resistance, hoping, as they were not known, they would be immediately dismissed; in this, however, they were mistaken. They were carried before Colonel Hannum who committed them to jail. Had they not attempted to conceal themselves, they would not have been apprehended, for they told a very plausible story of their being New Jersey men on the way westward to take up land.
Had they applied to Thomas Ross, Esq., a gentleman of the Bar, who then lived at Chester (and was present when they were brought before Colonel Hannum within a day or two of their commitment he would have had them liberated, but owing to some mistake they did not apply in time, and they were detained until, some people coming to Chester from Bucks Co., they were known. As there was no reward offered for apprehending them [Mr. Biddle is mistaken in this as Levi and Abraham were mentioned in the Proclamation of Outlawry , the people who took them were in no way anxious about their being kept in prison. Mr. Ross, who was their counsel when they were brought to the Court, has since told me that he lamented they had not applied in time to him, for he knew the family had been hardly used. He was born near where these young men were, and knew them well before they went off, but did not recollect them when they were brought before Colonel Hannum. After they were condemned, and the time was fixed for their execution, the father of Abraham, several female relations and friends, and some influential gentlemen, waited on the Council to solicit a pardon for them, or, if that could not be obtained, a reprieve. The latter was readily granted Hearing much of these men, and wishing to communicate intelligence which I knew would give great pleasure to these unfortunate men and their friends, I went to jail to inform them that the Council had granted a reprieve for one month. I wished also to prepare them for the worst that might happen. When I went into the room, they were surrounded by their relatives and friends, among whom were several females, two of them very handsome girls who had lived with them in the woods. It was to no purpose I told them that the prisoners were only reprieved for a month, and that it was probable they would not be pardoned. When they found they were reprieved they gave way to the most extravagant joy; they all concluded that through the Intercession of friends, they should be pardoned. This, I told them, they must not expect, although I had little doubt myself but that a pardon would be granted. I always thought it wrong to grant a reprieve for any length of time, without granting a pardon; it is like putting a man to death in cold blood. Before the month expired the Legislature met, when they petitioned for pardon, and if that could not be obtained a trial by jury. The Legislature were inclined to pass a bill in their favor, and appointed a committee, consisting of Mr. Lewis, Mr. Fitzsimons and Mr. Rittenhouse, to confer with the Supreme Executive Council on the subject of their pardon. This I believe was what proved fatal to these young men. Several of the members of the Council thought the Legislature had no business to interfere, as the power of pardoning, by the Constitution, was given to the Council. They refused to pardon or extend the time fixed for their execution. It was in vain the members of the Legislature and the minority in the Council urged the peculiar situation of these unfortunate men; the majority were jealous of the interference of the Legislature, and it was carried by a very small majority, that they should suffer. Going to the Council the day afterwards, I met them going in a cart to the gallows, followed by their relations and friends. It was a very affecting sight. They died with great firmness.
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