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James Aitken


(John the Painter)

1752 - 1777

Terrorist, who tried to destroy the British naval dockyards. Born in Edinburgh, Aitken apprenticed as a house painter. In 1773, he travelled to Jamestown (Virginia, USA) as an indentured servant, ran away from his master and returned to England. He seems to have become embittered against the British authorities, not helped by the treatment as a working-class Scot in London. He hatched a plot to damage his country by setting fires in the Royal Navy dockyards at Portsmouth and Bristol, with the hope this would damage the effectiveness of the British navy and help the United States win the War of Independence. Although given some money by American agents, Aitken seems to have committed his acts of terrorism for reasons of personal malice rather than any real wish to support the American colonists.

He was publicly hanged in Portsmouth.


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