THE ORDINARY of NEWGATE'S ACCOUNT of the Behaviour, Confession, and Dying Words, Of the TWO MALEFACTORS, Who was executed at TYBURN, On WEDNESDAY the 26th of June, 1754,
NUMBER VII. for the said YEAR.
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THE ORDINARY of NEWGATE'S ACCOUNT of the Behaviour, Confession, &c.
BY virtue of the King's commission of the peace, Oyer and Terminer, and jail-delivery of Newgate, held before the right honourable Thomas Rawlison , esq ; lord-mayor of the city of London, lord chief justice Willes, Mr. justice Dennison, Mr. baron Smythe, William Moreton , esq; recorder, and others of His Majesty's justices of Oyer and Terminer, for the city of London, and jail-delivery of Newgate, for the county of Middlesex, holden at Justice-hall in the Old-Bailey, on Thursday the 30th, Friday the 31st of May, and Saturday the 1st of June, in the 27th year of His Majesty's Reign, Thomas Wommersley, and George Watson, were capitally convicted, and received sentence of death accordingly.
Their behaviour has been since conviction very much as became men, expecting the time of their dissolution, and their attendance at prayers constant and devout. On Friday the 21st instant, Mr. Recorder attended His Majesty with the report of two malefactors; when he was pleased to order them, Thomas Wommersley, and George Watson, for execution, on Wednesday the 26th instant.
1. Thomas Wommersley was indicted, for forging a certain acceptance, under the hand of James Dickson , merchant , of London, to a certain paper writing, purporting to be a bill of exchange, and to have been signed by one John Richardson , with intent to defraud Hinton Brown , and Company of the sum of 36 l. and also for forging a counterfet warrant, underneath the same, under the hand of the said Mr. Dickson, directed to the said Mess. Brown and Company, for payment November 15, 1754 .
2. George Watson was indicted, for forging a certain bill of exchange, signed by the name of David Thomas ; and for publishing the same, with an intent to defraud Mess. Shewel and Fender of the sum of 40 l. 15 s. February the 8th, 1754 .
The 25th instant, a further reprieve was sent from the secretary of state's office, setting forth that after the reprieve granted by His Majesty the 31st of May last was respited, then execution of Hugh Mac Kabe convicted formerly for rape, should be respited till farther signification of His Majesty's pleasure .
1. Thomas Wommersley , was 35 years of age, and says, he was born at a village near Leeds in Yorkshire. He descended on the one side from a family of note in that county, and had all the advantages of education, which might have made an appearance in the world in law, physic, or divinity. He says, he went through a scholastic regimen of classics, both Latin and Greek, and was intended for a university education: but, it was not his taste to go into either profession, he chose rather to be put into the way of trade and merchandize.
He was continued at school, he says, to the age, when youth are sent off to the universities, if so designed. But, not approving of going into such way of life, he was permitted to choose for himself, and was according to his own desire sent for to London by some of his friends, when he was about 19 years of age. At this time he was about to be put out apprentice to a linnen draper. And, had not some difference among the contracting parties happened with respect to the money to be given with him in apprenticeship, this business had been his introduction into life, as we may say. But, he was disappointed of this intention, as more money was asked than perhaps the family, though reputable, could atthat time afford to part with for such purpose.
He was pretty well versed in writing, accounts, and grammar, and fit to be entertained in the capacity of a clerk by any gentleman, that could be assured of his honesty. He at that time had a recommendation, upon account of his capacity, to an eminent person in Tower-street, a contractor at the Navy Office, for what is commonly called Slops, with whom he might have lived very happily, and done very well; but for that he could not keep command of his temper, nor confine himself within due bounds. So he left this place, which was the most likely he ever had to do well in; not so much of his own choice, as for that he did not behave so, as to gain the esteem and regard of his master, who was not at any loss, or under any concern, at parting with him. Wommersley owns it was the worst day's work he ever did, when he went from this his entrance into the world.
Though he had been bred, as he says, a scholar, yet it does not follow, that he was the most advised man in the world for his own good. The contrary rather appears by his whole conduct through life, after he had left the business he first engaged in; as he more than once repeated this to be a great grievance and mortifying reflection to him in his present melancholy situation.
He followed after new schemes almost every day, and contrivances to succeed after a method of his own invention, were the constant employment of his thoughts. He try'd every practice the fruitfulness of his brain could invent, but nothing went on with him so well, as to engage him to fix for any time in any way of life.
In this fluctuating state did he remain a long time, till at length he joined himself to, and became an assistant, or clerk , to a person that lived upon Tower-hill, who was so unhappy as to lay violent hands on himself.
And now, he began to come into the method of dealing in poor sailors tickets, wills, and powers, &c. in which he has not been a little industrious, as he owned, but says, he never was the better for all he did in that way. He has been one of those, who helped to grind the face of these men, and to reduce their getting by dangers and hard labour to the half, if not a third part.
He managed things so in this situation of life, that he was obliged to get out of the way, for fear of justice overtaking him, and went into the army during the late war,
and was abroad, where he behaved very ill, though he might have done well, had not all the seeds of virtue been rooted out of his constitution. Being an able penman and accomptant, he was taken notice of, and would have had encouragement in the army, if he'd had the grace to deserve it: but, he proved a thief, and was one of the number that was discharged out of the army after the peace was concluded.
Being discharged the army, he got again into the service he last lived in before he went abroad, and continued till, as before observed, his master made away with himself. And, when all means failed him, and there was no longer opportunity to get money by cheating a set of men, who, for the good they do the public weal, by employing their time and labour in its service deserve much better treatment. He betook himself, he says, to deal in corn, and became, what he calls, a cornfactor . He says, he used to buy by commission, and send quantities down to the north, and among the rest, Jones (to whom the bill of exchange, for forging, and uttering of which he was convicted, was payable, or to his order) was one of his customers, for whom he was used to buy by commission. Of this man he still continued to say and declare, he had that bill of exchange; whether he had it of him, or not, God and his own conscience knew best; but this was what he always said, before the warrant for execution was ordered.
However, upon his presenting this bill of exchange for payment, it was suspected to be a forgery, and being told so, Wommersley said, he had it of a Lincolnshire grazier. But, being taken before the lord-mayor, he could give no satisfactory account to induce him to believe he was not the forger of it.
He pretended to send for the grazier, but no such one appeared, and as there was all the reason in the world to believe he was the author of it, as well as publisher, he was committed. And,
In January sessions an indictment was found against him, for forging a certain paper writing, purporting to be a bill of exchange for 36 l. and publishing it, knowing it to be forged, with intent to defraud James Dickson. But, the indictment being not laid as the law required, he was then acquitted, but detained to be tried on another indictment next sessions. The reasons why that indictment could not be maintained against him was, first, because no such person was to be found as John
Richardson, the pretended drawer of the bill of exchange; secondly, because it was not with intent to defraud Mr. Dickson, but Messrs. Brown and Co. so he remained till February sessions; at which time he was so very ill, as not to be fit to be called upon trial; and the indictment went off to the next sessions.
At the sessions in April last he was try'd, and charged with having forged the acceptance of Mr. Dickson to this bill, drawn by one John Richardson. But the bill of exchange being laid in the indictment as a true bill, and the prosecutor not being able to prove that point, of course failed in his evidence, and Wommersley was a second time acquitted; not upon the merits of his innocence, but as the indictment was not fully prov'd.
However, the court thought proper to bring such an offender to justice, and he was again ordered to remain. And,
At the sessions in May last he was try'd upon the indictment as mentioned above; which being proved to the satisfaction of the court, the jury found him guilty.
He behaved very decently and quitely after conviction, and said he had no thoughts of saving his life now, though before he had kept up his spirits with strong hopes that he should slip thro' this affair with impunity.
Whenever I spoke to him about the affair, he still continued in the same strain of declaration, that he had the bill of exchange from Thomas Jones, as he always before had said, nor would he by any means be persuaded to own the forgery of the body of the bill, as there was reason to believe he did do it himself; and tho' pressed ever so close upon the subject, he positively persisted in the negative.
Thus resolved was he upon denial, till he found his petition could meet with no countenance, notwithstanding all the interest his friends used to save his life; and the day before execution he began to be more open, and in earnest; so he owned the fact, with all its aggravating circumstances; and he said; had Mr. Dickson come to him, instead of sending his servant, he might have been more explicit.
He acknowledged having given great offence in the world, and that he had been a very wicked liver; which he said was too well known to such as he ever had any thing to do with, to think of concealing. He laid this general charge upon himself, he said, that such as he had injured might be induced to forget, and forgive him, upon the forfeiture of his life here; and died in hope of mercy hereafter, thro' his merits who died for the purpose of saving repenting sinners.
2 George Watson , was scarce 21 years of age, being born at Scarborough, in Yorkshire, of good and reputable parents, as he says, tho' in no great circumstances of life. They were scarce able themselves to give him any education, but a neighbouring school master taking a liking to the boy, generously taught him to read and write, and cast accompts.
He was bred, he says, to no business, but continued in his native place till about five years ago, when his school-master recommended him to a gentleman, who brought him up to London with him. With this gentleman he lived as a servant till he had no further business for him, and then he parted with his master with a fair character, recommended to another.
His next master knew him in his former service, and says, he behav'd well in his service upwards of 20 months after, and he took him to be a very sober industrious lad. All that knew him from the time of his coming to town, till this unhappy affair befel him, gave him a very good character; but there must be a time (if a man is remarkably so) when he begins to be naughty, and to do what he ought not to do.
After he had left service a second time, only because his master had no further commands for him, he went down to Scarborough, and there staid most part of the last summer, to visit his friends, and take his pleasure. At his return to town he got into service where this transaction passed, which, though it has cost him his life, he frequently declared he knew not the consequence of; though he did not pretend to be so ignorant as not to know he was doing what he ought not.
The matter of fact stands thus: Watson one day gave Mr. Shewel to understand, that a bill of exchange was brought by a servant from Child and Co. for payment. Mr. Shewel accordingly left a draught upon his banker to pay the bill when it became due. The draught was disposed of by Watson, and the money received, before Watson was charged with the forgery.
When Mr. Shewel came to look upon the bill, he suspected it to be forged, and that it was Watson's hand-writing; but his partner, Mr. Fender, being then in the country, he did not choose to make any stir about it till his return, which was not till about ten days after.
Upon his return, both agreed it was a forgery, and Watson was charged with it. He pretended to be surprized, and denied the fact; but as they thought they had sufficient ground for it, he was carried before an alderman, when he also denied it; but there was enough appeared to commit him, as it agreed with the writing of several of his letters. He lay in the Compter for about a week, or ten days, and then, upon another examination, acknowledged the forging the bill, having owned it before in the Compter; and he again stood committed.
At this examination he declared, it was at the instigation of other people that he forged this bill upon his masters; and when he first confessed it to them, he told them, that Mr. A-dc-ff was the person who put him upon it; upon which they desired him to write a letter to Mr. A-dc-ff, to come to him, that they might see them face to face, as it might be a means of coming at the truth. Accordingly Watson wrote a letter, acquainting him with his confinement, and desiring to see him upon receipt of it, otherwise he would discover who was concerned in this vile attempt or act. In words to this effect he says he wrote, and sent the letter by one Robert Bryan, who brought for answer, says Watson, that he would come to him in the evening. Accordingly he came, and, with others, went to Wood-street-Compter, when Watson declared the same, and Mr. Shewel desired A-dc-ff to get bail for his appearance; but some people present passing their word for him, he
went home that night, in order to appear another day.
And when, another day, Watson was had before an alderman, A-dc-ff appeared, and the bill being read to him, and produced upon the table, it was shewn to Watson, who said that was the very bill he forged by A-dc-ff's direction. He says, he then mentioned the several circumstances in relation to their beginning to be acquainted, and the steps introductory to this affair; but as he had no method of proving his assertions, it all passed for nothing. Mr. A-dc-ff having many persons of credit to his character, he was discharged with a great deal of honour, and Watson was sent to jail.
An indictment being found against him for this offence, sufficient proof of the bill's being Watson's hand-writing, as well as of his own confession, appearing, the jury had no difficulty in bringing in their verdict guilty.
Since conviction he behaved very quietly and decently, not omitting to make use of what friends he could, to get his life saved, but to no purpose. And what wonder, when the fact committed was so flagrantly evident! And tho' he should have been put upon doing the fact, that in no-wise takes off the guilt from him; for not the adviser, but the perpetrator, suffers the punishment allotted to the crime, according to all law, and the reason of the thing.
He continued, however, to declare, not only to me, but to others concerned, who went to see him, as he had done before the alderman, and persisted in the same to the last. As witness the petition he had got drawn up to get introduced to the king, which is no secret.
He left a wife and child behind him, which he in a moving manner took leave of the night before execution, friendless and forlorn. Whom recommending to him that careth for the fatherless and widow, he resigned himself forgiving, as he hoped to be forgiven.
And now, courteous reader, give me leave to be indulged in a few reflections on the pernicious nature, and mischievous tendency of this now prevalent offence, for the commission of which these two unhappy malefactors have deservedly suffered the severe, though just, punishment, appointed for such offenders.To an opinion, it is to be feared, too generally received among the less discerning part of mankind, that it is violence alone that constitutes the guilt; and, consequently, ought to determine the measure of expiation; to such an opinion, I say, may not improbably be ascribed, the so frequent perpetration of this so unlawful an offence, not less repugnant to divine, than human, laws.
But, be it remembered, that the same sacred, all-wise, authority, which has in the most solemn manner, and under threats of the most dreadful judgments, prohibited theft and murder, under equal threatnings, also enjoins, that
" Thou shalt not
" bear false witness against thy
" neighbour!" Under which injunction, not only open and avowed perjury, or the dispersion of private scandal are comprehended; but, likewise, in whatsoever manner the name of another is employed to his prejudice, whether verbally, or in writing, it may with the greatest propriety be deemed the bearing a false testimony of the person. And the delinquent becomes liable to that vengeance, threatened to be inflicted on those, who shall wilfully disobey, and act contrary to the commands of the almighty. Such is the case in general, and such was the case of the two unhappy men, the subject of the foregoing lines.
Who is there that cannot, upon a little recollection, be convinced of the absurdity of the above-mentioned opinion, wherever it is to be found? Who is not much more afraid of the secret poisoner, than of the open assassin? By seasonable precaution, the malevolent efforts of the latter my be easily disappointed. But what means can be taken for effectual security against the former!
Such is the case of the dextrous forger! The highwayman, or street-robber (though bad enough in themselves) takes from me only the little I carry about me. But, a man's whole substance, and credit, and the provision for his whole house, may be exposed to the mischievous inventions and schemes of the other. For instance, how many poor seamen, after having toiled and laboured abroad for years, come home at last, expecting to receive the reward of their labours; when, to their great astonishment and surprize, a forger has been beforehand with them, who, by his machinationsand frauds, has, like a lazy drone, swallowed and wasted all that honey in a moment, which the industrous bee had been long time laying in store: nor can the utmost vigilance, or resolution, sufficiently guard against his crafty and wicked devices. Many instances are recent, since the last war, by which men have been totally and suddenly undone, without being oft-times able to learn who was the author of their undoing.
Nor are the mischiefs arising from this detestable practice confined to individuals. It is equally fatal to society in general. Property is hereby rendered universally precarious. And, in a commercial state, the source of whose wealth, and the continuance of whose power depends principally upon trade; whatever is injurious to public credit, may be said to give a dangerous stab to the very vitals of the community.
The utility, nay, necessity of circulating paper in matters of commerce, is too obvious to need illustration. And, consequently, every attempt to lessen the value, or invalidate the authenticity of such paper currency, is a crime scarce less pernicious, than that of debasing, or counterfeiting, the established coin of the kingdom. For, should the mutual confidence that ever ought inviolably to subsist between man and man, be once destroyed, trade itself will not only droop, but must in the end cease to exist. The modern increase of this offence will, it is hoped, render these animadversions, at least excusable, if not acceptable. And, a man might think it the greatest happiness of this life, if hereby, even but one person shall be taught to avoid the guilt accruing from this dangerous crime.