Offence: Royal Offences > coining offences
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124. Usher Gahagan , late of London , was indicted for high treason; for that he with certain tools, called files and sheers, and other instruments, did diminish the current coin of Great Britain , Sept. 6 .
Q. Did the prisoner at the bar clip or file any pieces of gold?
Coffe. He did, my Lord, both guineas and Portugal pieces; I saw him do it, he worked at the same table I was at. We continued at this place three weeks, or thereabouts; then we remov'd from thence to one Grant's, at the duke of Cumberland's head, in the Butcher Row; we lodged in a two pair of stairs room, and there followed the same business to file and clip guineas and Portugal gold.
Q. Did you see him diminish guineas in this way?
Coffe. I saw him clip and file both there. We continued there between three weeks and a month; during which time, we continued to clip and file guineas and Portugal gold. We remov'd from thence to one Todd's in Hemlock court, Cary-street. We remained there about a month, and all that time we continued filing guineas, and thirty-six shilling pieces. We remov'd after to little Wild-street, to one Mr. Cooper's, and continued there about a month; there we carry'd on the same practice. We remov'd from that place to one Greenhill's, a peruke maker in Bread-street, in the city, we continued there about three weeks, or a month; there we continued filing and clipping guineas and Portugal pieces; we filed there as many guineas as we could get for our use. We came next to Salisbury court, in Fleet-street, to the house of Mr. Woodall; I saw the prisoner there file and clip guineas and Portugal gold; we staid there about fourteen nights. From thence we went to Mrs. Smart's in Dorset court, Fleet-street; there we filed guineas and Portugal gold.
Q. Did you see him file and clip guineas there?
Coffe. Yes, my Lord, I did.
Q. How long did you continue there?
Coffe. From the 1st of July, to the 6th of Sept. Mrs. Smart asked the prisoner, what business he was of? he said a doctor.
Q. What was done in pursuance of that, as a doctor?
Coffe. Nothing at all, he had a few bottles in a cupboard. All I know of, he had a man came once who had the foul disease, and he gave him some receipts to cure it.
Q. Was there no salves prepar'd on Mrs. Smart's fire?
Coffe. We took a crucible and put the clippings and filings of gold into it, then we put in some salt peter to it, then put it into the fire till it was melted.
Q. Did that require much blowing with bellows?
Coffe. Not much with a good and proper fire; but in a kitchen fire it would require much blowing.
Q. What do you know of melting of gold at Mrs. Smart's?
Q. What did you do when it was melted?
Coffe. We put the crucible into water to cool it, and then turned it down, and threw out the lump of gold.
Q. Was the prisoner at the bar concerned in this?
Coffe. Yes, he put the gold into the crucible, and then put the crucible into the fire; I took it out of the fire, and he was standing by, after that we carry'd it to Mr. Scott, the refiner.
Q. Which of you carry'd it there?
Coffe. Mr. Gahagan and I generally went there.
Q. Did you go together?
Coffe. No, my Lord, but he went several times and accounted it to me. We used to have an essay made of it.
Q. What rooms had the prisoner and you at Mrs. Smart's?
Coffe. A parlour and a bed chamber, the bed chamber looked backwards, the other towards Dorset Court.
Q. In which of those rooms did you commonly file the gold?
Coffe. In the bed chamber.
Q. Did Mrs. Smart continue to let you melt in her kitchen?
Coffe. No, she charged us two-pence per week for coals, and upon that we did not melt there any more; then we melted in our parlour. A book was put into his hand.
Q. Look at this book, and see what it is, and whose writing?
Coffe. The first leaf is the prisoner at the bar's writing.
Q. Look at the particular leaves that are marked with red ink; he looked on one leaf, this is my writing, another the same, another the same, another
Q. Explain that.
Coffe. There is 18 guineas and half, moidores three, Ports. 19 l. 16 s. that is eleven 36 pieces. This is a memorandum to see what money we had in our hands. Here is Mr. Scott, July 11, 1748.
l. s. d.
7 17 6.
June 12th, 2 2 0.
That is money receiv'd of Mr. Scott, for melted gold; we put the money we had into a common stock till I was committed, and it happened I had eleven 36 pieces, and he had twenty.
Q. How did you get this gold?
Coffe. We chang'd guineas for 36 pieces with pawnbrokers, we were afraid of doing this at the bank.
Q. How did you manage your window, to prevent being overlooked?
Coffe. We shut up one half of the shutters, and got the window a row above, and a row below blinded with gum'd paper, so we had the middle for light.
Q. Did you take care to secure your door?
Coffe. When we filed we generally did.
Q. Pray what had you per ounce for melted gold?
Coffe. Three pound seventeen shillings and six-pence.
Q. Had not you various pieces?
Coffe. Only one, that was when we was in Bow-lane; in melting, Mr. Gahagan there melted a farthing with the gold filings, &c. and then we had a lower price for it.
Q. How long have you been in England?
Coffe. Betwixt six and seven years; I have been acquainted with the prisoner in Ireland, ever since I was a boy.
Q. Who came to England first?
Coffe. I was two or three years before I saw him here; my last acquaintance has been but four years, but have not been concerned in clipping and filing gold, till within this twelve month.
Q. Did you advise him, or he you?
Coffe. He was very willing to come into it, when he found the profit arising from it; I first propos'd this trade to him.
Q. Was there any windows at this last mention'd place that overlooked you?
Coffe. Yes, for that reason we blinded part of our windows; but yet I believe it was possible to overlook us.
Q. Was Mr. Fretwell with you?
Coffe. He was acquainted with the prisoner and I both; my first acquaintance with him was at the Bank.
Q. Have not you within this four or five months made solemn declarations that you knew nothing of this matter?
Coffe. When I was taken and brought before the Lord Mayor I said so; I think every person on such occasions will make the greatest denial as is possible, this was after I was taken; I did not make any discovery before.
Prisoner. On what occasion did you come to lodge with me, in Cary-street?
Coffe. I had made my escape from the bailiff, &c.
Prisoner. Did not you take water every day to go to Bow-lane?
Coffe. No, not every day.
Prisoner. What was your business to Mrs. Rutherford ?
Coffe. I will not tell you.
Prisoner. Did not you file Portugal pieces there?
Coffe. Yes I did, and you too.
Prisoner. Did not you say to Mr. Fretwell, don't on any account let Gahagan know of this business?
Coffe. Yes I did, and that was by your own order.
Prisoner. Do you know one Mr. Darling a silversmith?
Coffe. Yes I do.
Prisoner. Did not you go by the name of Foster to that man?
Coffe. I did tell him that was my name.
Prisoner. Did not you write a note to Mr. Scott, and figmit, J. Foster ?
Coffe. Yes I did, and for this reason, I saw people's names in his book as it lay on the counter, and I did not care people should see my name in the book, and to find me out.
Mr. Fretwell. I am a teller at the Bank of England.
Fretwell. Yes, he made application to me about the latter end of July, for thirty-six shilling pieces, and brought me guineas and silver in exchange.
Q. Relate the particulars?
Fretwell. After he had made application to me
Q. Did Coffe open himself farther to you?
Fretwell. He told me he should be glad to be acquainted with me, and if I would take a ride out on sunday morning, he would find me a horse; I thank'd him, and seemed to acquiesce &c. that I might be the better able to make a discovery, but did not ride out with him; then he apply'd another time for our meeting, and it was a day or two after at the Crown tavern behind the Change. The same evening we met at the Cross-keys, and from thence we went to the Crown tavern; we there drank some tent wine, and there he said to me, you gentleman do not chuse trouble, for meerly a glass of wine, it will be more acceptable to have a small present; and if you will supply me with such thirty-six shilling pieces as suit my commission, I will assure you ten pounds a year, but he thought to make it fifteen. I thanked him, and seemed to acquiesce; the next morning I discover'd the whole affair to the proper person at the Bank, who allow'd me to acquiesce in every thing, in order to come at a discovery; then I had directions to let him have whatever he came for; he or the prisoner would come every day, and sometimes oftner. The prisoner at the b ar came generally after Mr. Coffe, sometimes a little before; one would ask me if I had seen the other; I have delivered 36 s. pieces, and 3 l. 12 s. such they commonly asked for, to each of them; then after this, Mr. Coffe and I took a walk together round by London-spaw; and as we came over Clarkenwell-green, I said to Mr. Coffe, I suppose those persons must file them, &c. Says Coffe, what is that to me, provided I have my commission; says I, they must get a good deal of money; he asked me where I would spend the evening; I reply'd at the Crown tavern near Cripplegate; when we came there, he asked for French wine, and ordered a waiter to bring in a pen, ink and paper. Now, says he, about what you and I were talking coming over Clarkenwell-green; he there calculated how much might be got, if they reduced them to nine penny weight; provided a man did but one hundred a day, it would amount to 968 l. odd shillings per year; he added, it was a charming thing, a man, said he, could get an estate in a hurry, provided he could get it done privately; but says he, I should be very cautious how I enter into such a state, I am as eager of gain as any body. I sat still seemingly to smile at him, fearing to give him room to think I designed to make a discovery. I ask'd him how many a man could file in a day, says he, I don't know, no more than the man in the moon. Says he, did you ever see jewellers file rings? they have, says he, a leather to catch their filings, &c. then they put the filings into a crucible, and melt it in a solid lump, then carry it to a goldsmith, and they will buy it; he began to be more free, and told me he thought a man could do two hundred in a day; says I, I have nothing against that proposal, could you get a man to do it? yes, says he, I know a man that is under obligations to me, who would be glad of it; when will you set about it, said I? in about a week's time, said he, as soon as I can get conveniences for a man. After this he came to me, likewise the prisoner, but not together. I inspected into the money. I receiv'd of each of them, and amongst the money I took of the prisoner, I found a guinea appeared to be fresh filed; I shewed it to our gentlemen, and they ordered me to take care of it.
Q. How much does it want of the true weight?
Fretwell. About eight grains, value 16 pence.
Q. How many times might Coffe come to you before you saw the prisoner?
Fretwell. The first time I drank a glass of wine with Coffe, the prisoner was there.
Q. Whether after you had been at the tavern, the prisoner was not ordered to withdraw?
Fretwell. No, not one moment.
Q. Was the prisoner at the Crown tavern with you?
Q. Was the prisoner with you on Clarkenwell-green ?
Fretwell. Yes sometimes.
Mrs. Smart. I know the prisoner at the bar, he came to lodge with me the first of July; I live in Dorset-court, in Salisbury-court; he and Coffe continued there till Coffe was taken up. The prisoner pretended to be a physician, but we took them both at first to be lawyers clarks.
Q. Did any body apply to the prisoner as a Physician?
Smart. I don't know that any body did; on the 9th of July, he said he wanted to melt some salve for a person's fore leg, and asked if we had a fire below in the kitchen; he brought down a thing I cannot swear what; he put it into the fire and cover'd it with coals; then they blowed to it, and made it red hot. Then they quench'd it in water, and they ask'd me for a hammer to break it; I having a pestle lent them that, then they carry'd it up stairs into their own apartment and broke it there. I said I hoped this will not be done often, the prisoner said the fore leg might be well in about a fortnight or three weeks time; they did not make use of my kitchen fire after this. I could hear them in their room a blowing very hard with bellows, but they always fastened their door. I have also heard a small noise, I took it to be like washing in a bason; I have since supposed it might be filing.
Q. Where do you live?
Smart. In Dorset-court Salisbury-court, Coffe and the prisoner lodged together with me; when the door was fastened, they were all three together, the other person was named Conner; they were all three in my kitchen when they melted at my fire, what they call'd salve.
Q. How do the windows of the two rooms look which they had?
Smart. The parlour looks into the court, and the bed chamber looks to the back of Bridewell.
Q. What windows overlook theirs?
Smart. There is Mr. Philips's warehouse, and Mr. Dell's, so that out of each warehouse with a clear light a person may see into the prisoner's room.
Q. Which room did they make a fire in?
Smart. The parlour that looks into the court.
Q. In which room did you hear that noise like washing?
Smart. In the bed chamber, that looks towards Mr. Dell's warehouse.
Q. Do you know any thing of blinding those windows?
Smart. I did it at the prisoner's request; there was an inside shutter; he said he might want to put on a clean shirt; says I, there is an inside shutter, the window is three squares of glass each way. I blinded the bottom row, some of them blinded the upper row.
Q. Do you think it was possible after this, for a person in Mr. Dell's warehouse, to see into this room?
Smart. Yes, sir, I suppose he might
Q. What persons frequented their company while they lodged there with you?
Smart. The chief persons were one Daff, and one Mr. Conner, and rarely any body else
Q. Who were the three persons chiefly together?
Smart. Mr. Gahagan, Mr. Coffe, and Mr. Conner.
Q. Who came to take the lodgings of you?
Smart. Mr. Gahagan and Mr. Coffe.
Q. Had that stuff that was on the fire a nauseous smell or not?
Smart. No, sir.
Q. Did you before my Lord Mayor say any thing of a pot a melting? &c.
Smart. No, I believe not, I am not certain.
Q. Had not you something in a physical way of the prisoner?
Smart. I told him once I was not very well, and he asked me if I would have some of Stoughton's drops in a glass of water.
Q. How do you know they always fasten'd their door?
Spark. I have often heard them fasten it, but I never tried to open it; and I never went into the room but when they call'd me.
Q. How far is it from Mr. Dell's warehouse to their window?
Smart. Not above five yards, I believe Mr. Dell's warehouse window is higher than theirs.
Q. Did not two men go yesterday to take the dimensions of the window, and you refused to let them?
Smart. My sister saw them, they told her who they came from; she said they had had trouble enough about the prisoners. I don't know they asked to go into the yard.
William Dell , I am a gold and silver lace-maker. I have windows directly over against Mrs. Smart's house, and in the beginning of August last, I saw the prisoner at the bar and two other men; I thought they had been jewellers for some time; I used to say frequently in the coffee-house, there was a
Q. How far is it from your warehouse to their window?
Dell. I believe it is about 14 foot.
Q. What time of the day did you make this observation?
Dell. Sometimes at eleven, twelve, or two. I saw the filings at last, and saw them wrap them up carefully; one of them used to sit side ways to me, which I believe to be the prisoner at the bar.
Q. How came it, you did not give information before?
Dell. I spoke of them to several gentlemen at the coffee house and places where I went, and some of my customers I took up to see them at work; and a gentleman to whom I had told it, happened to be at the Bank the time one of them was taken: Says he, this is the very man my neighbour was speaking of, and came directly to me, &c.
Q. If you had met the Prisoner at the Change, should you have known him?
Dell. Yes, sir, although I never was in his company, I have seen him often, and I knew him when in prison, without being told; I told the person that was with me, they need not shew me any farther, for I had seen one of these men.
Q. Did you know Coffe before?
Dell. I saw him many times before in the yard, and knew him well.
Prisoner. Did you see us round a table in the room?
Dell. There generally lay three sheets of white paper on the table, and three men sitting over them working.
Q. To Mrs. Smart. How far is it from the window to the bed?
Smart. Just room to go by, but the bed turn'd up and they had frequently a table by the window.
John Sandal . I am employ'd as porter of the mint; I happen'd to be one day at Mr. Scott's the refiner, and observed him to have several small pieces of gold like a button that had been melted down in a crucible; I suspected some unlawful proceedings in those who brought it there to sell. He upon my declaring my suspicion gave me leave to attend there, which I did several times. There came Mr. Coffe and Mr. Gahagan the prisoner, and sold gold, and I said before him to Mr. Scott, there is a great deal of gold coin fil'd; we are in great hopes of coming up with those money filers. Another time being there, the prisoner came to sell some more gold; I repeated much the same; after he was gone, I said to Mr. Scott that as he heard there were means using to detect such persons, and he coming again, it seemed to imply to me he was not one of the sort; I saw no more of him till Mr. Coffe was taken, which was the 6th of Sept. Hearing Coffe was taken; I took a constable and went to Mrs. Foster's house in Bow-lane. Upon coming there, they told me there was no such woman in the house; I said I must see all the lodgers in the house, and in a one pair of stairs room, I saw Mrs. Foster, who, when I came to take hold of her, said, her name was Margaret Rutherford : I took her up, when I had her in custody, she let me know where Mr. Coffe lodged; upon which I went to Mrs. Smart's house in Salisbury-court, there I was informed that Mr. Coffe and the prisoner had staid in the house about an hour after the other was taken, and had carryed away all that I expected to have seen. I did find two days after in their apartment a bit of a file with the filings of gold in the teeth of it, and a bit of gold clipping from off some gold coin; it appears to me to be a bit of a guinea; in their chimney there were many bits of broken crucibles of the small sort and some filings of gold. On the 29th of October, Mr. Cook the solicitor of the Mint sent me word, there had been a person with him to give him notice where Mr. Gahagan was secreted: On the next day, I and three other persons went to a place call'd Chalk Farm under Primrose hill; I went into the house, and saw the prisoner and Conner sitting by the fire; I took
Q. What do you know of this book?
Sandal. This very book I took out of Conner's pocket; he went then for the prisoner's servant; he desired it again, saying there was in it some memorandums of the linen sent to the washerwoman, &c. but by looking I found it might be of use here, so I took it into my possession, and Mr. Scot's apprentice can speak particularly to some of the contents of it.
Q. When did you search him?
Sandal. Immediately in the kitchen.
Q. Pray may not the honestest man in the world have two or three guineas in such a quantity under weight?
Sandal. I do not think it impossible.
Q. Did the prisoner make any confession?
Sandal. No, sir, he said that Mr. Coffe had made the Cat's paw of him; that is all he said.
Robert Hurt . I had an acquaintance that was sick at a place call'd Chalk Farm, and going to see him there, I observ'd the prisoner's clothes and person seemed to answer the advertisement; I went divers times to be better certified. I borrow'd a gun of the man of the house and carry'd powder and shot with me under a pretence to shoot sparrows; and when I was satisfied the prisoner was the person advertised, I gave intelligence to Mr. Cook accordingly; then Mr. Sandal, I, and Mr. Destine, and a Constable went and took the Prisoner and Conner sitting by the fire, at the place called the Chalk Farm.
Q. What have you to say concerning the prisoner at the bar?
Destine. I have seen him I believe twenty times at our shop. The first time was about May or June last.
Q. How long did he continue to come there?
Destine. I cannot exactly tell; he and Coffe us'd to come together; I have bought gold of them, sometimes an ounce, sometimes more.
Q. In what shape was the gold?
Destine. It was set in the pot, not cast off: we us'd generally to weigh it and give them a note of it, and some money in part, and they left it 'till such time as a report was made of it, when we have the essay of it, then we settle the account and give them the money due to them.
Q. Did you ever see the prisoner receive any money for such gold as he brought?
Destine. Yes, my lord.
Q. Do you know any thing concerning the account of the gold that was brought to your master which the prisoners were paid for?
Destine. I saw some account which exactly tallies with our book. [The book is put into his hand.] This is it, sir, and the articles, mark'd with red ink, agree with our book.
Q. to Coffe. Look into this book for the prisoner's hand writing. [He looks at a leaf.] This is the prisoner's writing. [It was shew'd to Mr. Destine.]
Destine. This agrees with our book, I compar'd it with it; there are three more places agree with our book, that is, four articles in the whole are the prisoner's hand-writing, and I am well acquainted with the several payments by my master for this gold. The four articles are these:
l. s. d.
Scot. July 26 8 6 7
27 3 8 0
Aug. 1 3 9 0
2 3 13 6
Prisoner to Destine. Do you always give 3 l. 17 s. 6 d. per ounce for gold?
Destine. Yes, for all that was reported standard by the essay.
Prisoner. Do you not remember you in one payment gave me Portugal gold?
Prisoner. Do you remember you gave me one too light, and I could not pass it?
Destine. I do not remember it.
Q. Who was in company with him?
Prettie. He came by himself often; sometimes Coffe and he came together; the prisoner told me if they were full weight he would give me two-pence or three-pence per piece,
Prettie. Yes, and have return'd them to him again, some have wanted 16 grains.
Prisoner's Defence. When Coffe came first to me he pull'd out a lump of gold; says I, how do you come by it, it is like a button? says he, I got it of one Foster a goldsmith in the country, adding he had sold a great quantity for him; in about 7 or eight days after, he produc'd another of the same kind, and said it was worth 7 l. says he, as you have some business at the Admiralty, and I am under a cloud, if you will take Love-lane in your way, there you will find one Mr. Scott a refiner; accordingly he wrap'd it up, and I call'd in his name with it to sell; I was answer'd his name was Foster: said I, it is not, it is Coffe: this was the first way I was brought in, he came eight or ten times to desire me to do this for him; at last he was retaken, for he had run away from the Bailiffs before, so I ceas'd going to Scott's: this is what I meant by telling Mr. Sandal he made a cat's paw of me; on this we chang'd lodgings, because he would not be found out. When we were in Bread-street he said to me, was you ever at the Bank of England? do you know the nature of it? it is worth your curiosity to go. As he fear'd trouble I comply'd: he gave me 18 l. some gold and some silver to go to one Mr. Fretwell, which I did, and I told him I came from Mr. Coffe; I not knowing the hours, came there too late; I return'd and told him, and after I was well inform'd as to that, he said I must go there for him pretty often until he could make it up with his creditor; and, says he, as you go that way, you may give him a guinea, and it may be, he will be kept off in that manner. Thus he made use of me to go 5 or 6 times for him to the Bank; I gave him in the whole 5 guineas: I believe the gentleman always made an entry of it; and when I found he was released from the distress he lay under from Mr. Burt, I went no more: As to my manner of living, when I came first here, I liv'd with Mr. Ansel in Gray's-inn, and acted there as a clerk; then I undertook to translate Mr. Pope's Essay on Man into Latin; this I did by direction, and I frequently got money thus for a twelvemonth. To account for my absconding. I was coming through Paul's church-yard and met one Clayton, who told me Coffe was in Newgate; and, says he, as you are a lodger, perhaps there may be a watching for you; and you will, says he, be put to a great deal of expence, if they should take you into custody; upon this I withdrew a night or two from my lodgings; and when I found they were broke open, then I absconded, and in three week's time I found my name in the Gazette. Now, as to my witnesses, if your Lordship pleases, I'll call them.
Bernard Hanley. I heard Mr. Coffe say in the presence of Mr. Dalton, and another that is lying ill and cannot come to give evidence, that he would undergo a thousand deaths rather than subject any innocent blood to be spilt on this occasion; he took a book out of his pocket and swore upon it, that he never intended to turn king's evidence in prejudice of either of those, declaring the prisoner innocent; and he added, as he did expect to be at his liberty he would follow the same practice as before: this was in Newgate before the others were removed from New Prison; they were then in Clerkenwell; I am an Irishman, and have been in England about three years?
Faulkner Marple. I believe I have known Coffe twelve or fourteen years, and he was always a man of an indifferent character.
Robert Wright . About two years and a half ago a friend of mine recommended the prisoner to be clerk to me, he was with me about six months, he received money for me, and during that time he behaved honestly; but he was not fit for my business, poetry was his chief taste; he left me two years ago.
Guilty Death .