Thursday, March 17, 2011

William Seaver's Murder in 1821 - a Reward Offered

On Tuesday, I posted "A Horrid Murder" in Alexandria.  The newspaper article about his murder on 6 July 1821 was lurid, but what happened after that?

Would you believe that the President of the United States, James Monroe, offered a reward?  Here's the screen from the American Presidency Project website with the Proclamation:

The transcription of this proclamation is:

"Proclamation 27 - Offering Reward for the Apprehension of the Murderer of William Seaver
July 10, 1821

"By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

"Whereas information has been received that an atrocious murder, aggravated by the additional crime of robbery, was on the 6th or 7th dau of this present month, committed in the county of Alexandria and District of Columbia on William Seaver, late of this city, and

"Whereas the apprehension and punishment of the murderer or murderers and his or their or accessary or accessaries will be an example due to justice and humanity and every way salutary in its operation:

"I have therefore thought fit to issue this my proclamation, hereby exhorting the citizens of the United States, and particularly those of this District, and requiring all officers, according to their respective stations, to use their utmost endeavors to apprehend and bring the principal or principals, accessary or accessaries, to the said murder to justice.

"And I do moreover offer a reward for $300 for each principal, if there be more than one, and $150 for each accessary before the fact, if there be more than one, who shall be apprehended after the day of the date hereof and brought to justice, to be paid upon his conviction of the crime or crimes aforesaid.

"In testimony whereof I have caused the seal of the United States to be affixed to these presents, and signed the same with my hand.

"Done at the city of Washington, this 10th day of July, A.D. 1821, and of the independence of the United States the forty-sixth.

By the President:

Secretary of State."

The Washington area newspapers carried articles about this proclamation for several mnths, often daily.

In addition, the Mayors of Washington D.C., Georgetown and Alexandria offered a reward, as seen in this newspaper announcement from the Washington Gazette newspaper, dated 16 July 1821 (obtained at GenealogyBank):

This article transcribed is:

"Five Hundred Dollars

"WILL be given to any person who shall afford, Information whereby the murderer of William Seaver can be brought to punishment.  The subscribers, in their individual as well as their official capacities, feeling solicitous that the dreadful villain should receive the punishment due to an offence of such enormity, and also an anxiety for the preservation of the peace and the good government of the District, will pay the above reward to any person by whose agency the murderer shall be convicted.

Mayor of Washington City.
Mayor of Alexandria.
Mayor of Georgetown."

This article ran in the Washington area newspapers for several months also.

I'm amazed that the President of the United States would offer a reward.  Was this a common occurrence?  I got 65 matches on Google when I searched for the words murder proclamation and 77 matches when I searched for the words murder reward on the American Presidency Project website.  So it was done occasionally, but it wasn't common.  Some of the matches overlap, and some are for a general discussion on the pages.

What happened in this case? Was the murderer ever found and convicted?  Were the rewards ever awarded?  I'm still looking for more information.

The bigger questions for me are "Who is this William Seaver?"  "Who were his parents, and where was he born?"  "Who were his wife and children?"  I have clues, but I don't have confirmation of the details.

If you have or find information about this case, I would love to know about them, and will credit you for the finds in my posts.  Email me at

Stay tuned. 

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