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dealer in the neighbourhood of Cheapside, and it is said, that the bills which brought him to the bar of the Old Bailey were negotiated for the purpose of raising money to fulfil his engagements with his partner. Be this as it may, his conduct brought upon a large family the most terrible consequences, and plunged them into the abyss of distress, pained the feelings of a numerous acquaintance, and for a passing moment occasioned the voice of the vulgar to be heard against a body which is justly entitled to the appellation of respected friends”
-the Quakers—a community of which he was a member. It was, perhaps, owing to this circumstance, that so great an effort was made to save his life, after the day was fixed for his execution. Petitions, addressed to the king, or his secretary of state, were hung out for signature at numerous shops about the city, in the hope that numbers might move the firmness of the authorities; but the law took its course, and so it would have done at that period if a thousand necks depended upon the decision of the council. Not that this was the king's fault, and it is but just to state that one of the best traits in his late Majesty's character, was his aversion to take away life under any circumstances. When the council received the recorder's report, he was always peculiarly melancholy and affected. “Why, and by what right, do we take life at all ?” he would emphatically exclaim. As the law stood, he felt that he ought not to act upon his own judgment; it was therefore his practice, upon these painful occasions, to consider himself as but one individual' in the council, and in that capacity he uniformly voted against the execution of all malefactors.
Hunton was a very small man, and remarkable for his activity, or rather bustling manner; it was no small undertaking to attempt to fix him in one place for a moment. He always reminded me of a racoon, perpetually running to and fro in its cage. If he went into a warehouse for the express purpose of purchasing goods, and was not instantly waited upon, so great was his impatience, that he immediately left the house and flew off to another, although he was generally a loser of time by so doing. Entre nous, there are none in the world who so carelessly waste their energies, that is, their animal powers and spirits, in useless bustle and seeming business, as your Londoner does, especially those who enact their parts upon real Cockney land the city. Without doubt there is much business transacted in the neighbourhood of St. Paul's, but not so much as a stranger would infer from the activity of young citizens, many of whom are like little cur dogs—traverse over ten times more ground than is needful, and expend the greater part of their energies in running about without any definite reason. Most of the real business in the city is performed by a few, (as compared to the number seen in public,) who walk steadily along the streets to their houses of trade, and there remain throughout the day.
Hunton, when committed, was not without a hope: he had, when in the world, said to himself, “If I commit a forgery upon some established and known person, when that person disavows the writing, I am detected, and in the hands of the law ; but if I use the name and address of no person in existence, how can it be a forgery? Or if they should attempt to wrest the law, and so .construe it, how are they to prove a nullibility ?" When, therefore, he learnt from his legal advisers that his case was one of bona fide forgery, he would not admit the unpalatable truth to enter his mind. He, however, showed considerable firmness of mind throughout; he did not affect to brave death, neither was he so terrified at its approach, like Fauntleroy, as to be totally unmanned; his demeanour was altogether in keeping with his melancholy situation, although he had gone through enough to shake the nerves of any man. He had for years moved in a large and respectable circle of society—he was the father of a large family, who could all feel the full force and the consequences of their father's disgrace. He had gone through the agonizing ordeal of communicating to his wife and family the perilous situation in which he stood, and the necessity there was for immediate Alight.' Subsequently he had shipped himself for America, on board a vessel which had actually sailed through the Needles, with a full intention of not again touching land, and then, being the first time for many days, got a few hours rest, in the full assurance of safety; he had, too, written a letter to his wife, and appeased her anxiety, by stating that he was safe from his pursuers; but, after all this, was driven back by stress of weather, and apprehended almost as soon as he came within sight of land; and to add to the poignancy of his feelings, he soon learnt that he owed his capture to the letter sent to his wife, containing an account of his escape.
On the morning of his execution, when brought into the pressroom to be pinioned, he said to a fellow-sufferer who had previously been bound,“ Friend, how doth thee feel thyself? hast thou had any sleep in the night ? I have had none." As the man bound his wrists he cried out, “Oh, do not bind them so tight;" but checking himself, he continued, “but thou knowest best what be proper." All the details of this case have been too recently before the public to admit of a republication; for this reason, as well as from a desire to avoid opening old wounds, and giving pain to individuals, this case would have been passed over, were it not one especially illustrative of the times in which it occurred, or rather of the times which preceded its consummation, and when the commission of forgery was an every-day event. Indeed, at that period, had the whole body of merchants and bankers imitated the conduct of the Governor and Company of the Bank of England, who hung up their victims by scores, to force a piece of flimsy paper to pass current for twenty shillings; that is, had they prosecuted for every forgery coming under their notice, in the days to which I allude, gibbets must have been thrown across the principal streets, where the culprits might have been hung up in rows by the hundred.
In the evidence given before the House of Commons on the subject of inflicting the punishment of death for forgery, most of the bankers and merchants who where examined, said, that as the law stood, they were resolved not to prosecute for the crime of forgery; but even this firmness and good sense was not enough to remove the prejudice of
and the penchant he and many others of his school had, and still have so preposterously imbibed, for the practice of hanging. The rising generation will read with disgust and horror the numbers of human beings sacrificed, in the war carried on against the Bank of England, at the time when one and two pound notes were in circulation; and also the many who were strangled before the public for other kinds of forgery, in the heart of civilized London. Already the junior members of society begin to blush for the conduct of their forefathers, excepting only that sensible lawyer, Sir Samuel Romilly; but what will they say, when they are informed that in the age which preceded them, and when hundreds were sacri. ficed to that Moloch, the gallows, that those who were prosecutors were also in many instances criminals, not excepting the rulers of the land. Counting-houses were opened in the City of London, where men publicly carried on the business of forgery, avowing themselves ready to work for hire ; and to these pen-and-ink shops, government officers and merchants flocked with their money for forged documents; he who was the most skilful in imitating the writings of others obtained the most business.
I knew one individual, who worked for government, being peculiarly au fait at imitation, and adroit at his pen, who might, had he not possessed habits of extravagance, have made a retiring fortune. This man ultimately, when in distress, committed a forgery upon a banker, but was fortunate enough to make his escape abroad. The employment of these men was to forge foreign documents of every description, but more especially ship's papers: and this was no secret among merchants or to government. Trading adventurers to foreign ports in time of war, were under the necessity of shipping their goods in fictitious, or assumed foreign bottoms; but this could not be done with any prospect of success without foreign ship's papers, and these could only be obtained through the means of forgery. Government, too, had purposes of deception to accomplish, which required forged documents. If Cardinal Mazarine were alive again, or if Talleyrand would open his mouth, these secrets of diplomacy might be explained. Suffice it to say, upon this occasion, that the British government were not behind any foreign power in obtaining forged documents—how they used them is another question; I only know that they were obtained, and that the public paid for them.
Now, readers, for a few minutes seriously consider the monstrous anomaly of hanging up five or six of our fellow-creatures by the neck, at the Old Bailey, at eight o'clock, on a dark November morning; all convicted of imitating another man's handwriting, fraudulently to obtain money; all sentenced by the recorder, according to law. • “ The law allowed it, and the court awarded it," and remember, that these men had been ordered for execution by the privy council,*
· * It is a mistake to suppose that malefactors are ordered for execution by the privy council or the king ; the effect, however, is the same, and therefore justifies my application of the term. The king and council only interpose between the sen. tence and the execution of the law; they determine how many shall be spared, not, as it is supposed, how many shall be hung; there is no occasion for their order, the law only takes its course upon those who are executed.
also that it is the business of the sheriffs, who are decorated with gold chains for the cervical occasion, to tie them up, see, or cause them to be so tied up, and there to hang for the space of one hour, while the said sheriffs retire with their friends to enjoy a splendid breakfast, set out in the session-house upon the occasion. Now the same day the council left these men for hanging (we will suppose) they determined upon some political proceedings, which required forged documents, for which an order was forthwith sent into the city to the forger's shop, and were fetched away that very morning, and at the time the men were suspended, the messenger (thoughtless dolt!) stopping on his way up Ludgate Hill, to take a look at six men hanging for writing another man's name. If, readers, you will pause a moment to reflect on these things, it needs no comment of mine. The sheriffs, too, being merchants, the same morning, while at breakfast, recollect that they want some forged ship's papers, and, therefore, only wait till the six dead ones are cut down and laid upon the copper in the cooking-house just within the prison, and then go to treat with the forger for their papers ;- now, I ask, who is the criminal ?
“ The tempter or the tempted, who sins most?
Thieves for robbery have their authority,
When judges steal themselves." But I shall be told, that national interest sanctioned the shops for forged papers, and that public security demanded the life of the forgers. Yes, when inordinate cupidity dictates the argument, so-" phistry finds supporters both in black and red coats, especially when well paid for it. The national interest and public security at all times and under all circumstances, demand, above all other considerations, the preservation of virtue.
“ To whom can riches give repose, or trust,
Content, or pleasure, but the good or just ?” It cannot, it must not be disguised, that the history of British crime is the history of misrule, cruelty, and injustice. The more we probe this question, the more it will become apparent. Hitherto our laws have only been tolerated.
“ Because authority, though it err, like others,
Hath a kind of medicine in itself,
Misery makes us acquainted with strange bedfellows; they are, however, not always new ones. All the prisoners in Newgate were not strangers to Hunton when he was committed there ; and this leads to the introduction of another character to the reader's notice, illustrative of what men are capable of doing for gain, even when not pressed by want. A person, named B **** n, worth, it is believed, twenty thousand pounds, was, at the period when Hunton was committed, under a sentence of eighteen months' imprisonment, passed upon him by the Court of King's Bench, for a fraud upon an insurance office, under the following circumstances. This person had made his fortune in a business, which, as he was about to retire, he was desirous to sell, having previously purchased himself a chateau. His premises and trade in town were advertised for sale, where he left a confidential man to recommend the concern; while, however, it was under sale, the premises caught fire, but was immediately put out, causing a damage to the amount of about ten pounds. When the owner came to town and heard of the event, although quite independent of the world as regards pecuniary matters, it occurred to him that he might as well avail himself of this accident, and realize another hundred pounds by way of a finish. Communicating this idea to his confidential man, and telling him to make out the account of damage, with a promise of a twenty-pound note if properly done, a demand upon the office was concocted between the master and the man, it is said, of a hundred and twenty pounds, which, from the respectability of the party, was paid without any very scrutinous inquiry. The premises were very shortly afterwards sold through the super-recommendations of the aforesaid confidant, for which service another promise of remuneration had been given. When, however, the retiring party had accomplished his ends, the promise-crammed confidant was forgotten, who, in revenge, went to the insurance-office and informed the directors of the manner in which they had been robbed. The guilty party, after a true bill was found against him, moved his case by certiorari into the King's Bench, where he was tried and sentenced to eighteen months' imprisonment. A few days before Hunton left London to embark for America, he went into Newgate, and earnestly solicited this prisoner to become security for him to the amount of 9501., (they having transacted business together for some years previously, but was refused the favour though strongly urged ; had it been granted him, it is probable that he (Hunton) would have been enabled to redeem the bills for the forging of which he lost his life.
It may be supposed that the meeting of these parties, both prisoners in Newgate, a few days after this interview, could not be very agree able to Hunton's feelings; he was aware that his conduct was liable to the worst imputations, under the circumstances in which he was then placed; and the other did not hesitate to declare it to be an in, tended robbery on Hunton's part, in order to make a purse with which to leave the country.
I will now compare Hunton's with another case of forgery which occurred precisely at the same time, viz. that of Fenn's, the schoolmaster, commonly called Parson Fenn; but I must first be allowed to make a passing remark upon the insurance case I have above succinctly related. The offender was a cunning man, what in the city would be called a man of the world—one who had a smile for everybody when they were not in his debt, but wholly neglected the cultivation of the amiable virtues; he was indeed a perfectly selfish being, and sus. ceptible of no punishment but the loss of his money.
That crime of every description should be punished is indisputable;