4th April 1779
Reference Numbert17790404-41
VerdictGuilty > with recommendation

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240. JAMES MAJOR was indicted the 18th of January , for that he unlawfully, wickedly, knowingly, and feloniously, did send a certain letter in writing without any name thereto subscribed, to William Musgrave , baronet , directed to the said Sir William Musgrave , by the name and description of Sir William Musgrave , baronet, Arlington-street, Piccadilly, threatening to kill and murther the said Sir William Musgrave . - Which said letter is in the words and figures following. (That is to say.)

" Sir,

"The father of a ruined family, and that by you, calls for redress. Here is heat, and heart burns strong; and by the lite of the morning now ensuing, it must be administered between this and next Thursday. You may easily judge where this comes from, for reasons well known, or by G - d may depend nothing but justice being administered by you will be the saving of your life; the thoughts of this honest man will not veer, his life will not be spared to save his family from ruin and destraction. Here he express his duty towards them.

I am, Sir,

Your most humble servant, A TRUE-BORN ENGLISHMAN."

January 18, 1779.

Take heed how you dispose of yourself. Sir William Musgrave , Baronet.

To the great damage of the said Sir William and against the form of the statute, &c.

2d Count. Laying the letter to be signed with a fictitious name (to wit) A True-born Englishman.

3d Count. The same as the first, only omitting to state the letter.

4th Count. The same as the second, only not stating the letter.


I keep a post-office in Haye's Court, Newport Market (looks at the letter.) This letter has my mark upon it; it was put into my office, but I cannot tell at what time, or by whom; the letters go from our office to the office the corner of Coventry Court.

Do you know the prisoner? - Yes, by sight.

Whether he used to put in letters at your office! - He has put letters into my office about twice, I believe.


I belong to the Penny-post-office, the corner of Coventry-street; we receive the letters from Solden's office (looks at the letter) I received this letter at the post-office the corner of Coventry-street; I cannot tell the time I received it from the office, I delivered it according to the direction.

How long is it from the time the letter is taken out of the office to its delivery? - I had it out of the office about one o'clock; I delivered it about three.

What time must it have come to Solden's office? - Before eleven o'clock.

Cross Examination of SOLDEN.

Does any body else take letters at your office besides yourself? - Yes; whoever is in the way.

Court. Who puts the marks on them? - Whoever receives them.

Is it a stamp mark? - Yes; it is my name.


On the 18th of January, I went out, between ten and eleven o'clock; I returned between three and four o'clock. When I returned, I found three or four letters on my table, which my servants said they received by the penny-post; this was one of the letters. Upon observing this letter, I thought there appeared to be an attempt to disguise the hand; and being satisfied it was the manner of the prisoner's doing his business at the custom-house. I indorsed it, as coming from him, and put the day of the month on it on which I received it.

You are one of the Commissioners of the Custom-house? - Yes; the prisoner was employed in 1775, and in the year 1776.

Cross Examination.

You never saw the prisoner write? - No, I did not.


I have been acquainted with the prisoner ever since the year 1769, I have seen him write frequently.

Look at that letter; from the knowledge you have of his hand-writing, have you any reason to believe that is his hand-writing? - I have every reason in the world to believe it is his hand-writing, every word of it.

Cross Examination.

The hand is not disguised at all? - It is not disguised to me, who know so much of his hand-writing.

Counsel for the Crown.

Explain what you mean by it not being disguised to you. - From being well acquainted with his hand, there may be some strokes disguised; but I have seen so much of

his writing, I cannot have the least doubt of its being his. ( Shown two other letters.)

Are those his hand-writing? - Yes; I am satisfied they are both his hand-writing.

Prisoner. How often have you seen me write? - I suppose more than ten times; he has wrote more than ten memorials to the Treasury in my office.

Counsel for the Prisoner.

Whether you have never said the letter was disguised or appeared to you to be disguised? - There are some strokes written with a larger pen.

Have you or not said before a magistrate, that the letter was disguised? - I do not recollect that I have; to the best of my knowledge I never did say so.

Counsel for the Crown.

You said it was not disguised to you? - There are particular strokes appear to me to be written with a different pen from what the other letters are written with; and some of the capitals are made in a different manner from his usual writing, but not sufficient to disguise it.


I am clerk to the Secretary's Office, in the Custom-house. I have known Mr. Major near ten years.

Have you frequently seen him write? - I have seen him write frequently ( Looks at the letter.) I believe this to be the handwriting of the prisoner; there is an appearance of an attempt to disguise the hand from his usual manner of writing; but it runs in some parts in his usual stile. I verily believe this to be his hand-writing (looks at the other two letters.) This is his usual stile and manner of writing; they appear to me most evidently to be the writing of the prisoner at the bar, both of them.


I am a clerk in the Secretary's Office in the Custom-house. I have known the prisoner about ten years; I have seen him write very often.

Look at that letter; see if you can form a judgement if that is his writing? - That is his hand-writing.

Does it appear to you to be disguised at all? - There is a little alteration, an attempt to disguise it (looks at the other two letters.) I am certain they are his hand-writing.

(The letter set out in the indictment was read in court.)

( A letter of the 9th of November, 1778, addressed to Sir William Musgrave , Baronet, Church-Street, St. Anne's, Soho, read.)


"From the loss and sufferings my family have felt, and the trouble I am now in, I should think some redress should be given me. I now earnestly intreat you to take my hard case into consideration, settle my accounts, and pay my just balance, according to your promise, as I call God to witness. When you inforced my acceptance of the command of the Charlotte, the very gross behaviour of you to me for doing a just duty, has so alarmed many men where it has undergone the least examination, that, as sollicitor for my children, anxious to procure justice for them, will follow this matter with the uttermost attention. I desire you will immediately get the account settled, that my children and I may obtain the most speedy justice. Sir, you should know, as this is become a family-concern, that address and despath in these matters will be required of you. I hope and trust, by the first convenience, to have your answer. Believe me, Sir,

Your humble servant, JAMES MAJOR ."

Sir William Musgrave, Bart.

(Another letter addressed to Sir William Musgrave , Bart. dated March 16th, 1779, read.)


"This day the report of the Commissioners was read to the Board of Treasury. I have for answer, the report being so pointed against me, the Lords could do nothing for me, was very sorry for it. Now, Sir, if you do not instantly proceed to do justice, depend justice I will have if I can, my children call for redress, my life will not be spared to save them from distraction. Sir William, your immediate answer is required, shall not wait but a short space of time for it; you brought me into this trouble, must bring me out. In the mean time, believe me to be, Sir, your humble servant,



I have known the prisoner five years? - Have you heard him speak about Sir William Musgrave ? - Yes; on the 20th of March, to the best of my recollection, he asked me what news at the Custom-house? I said, I did not hear any; but his case was to be reconsidered; he said he was very glad of it; he asked me, when I had seen Sir William Musgrave ? and then said, D - n his blood, if his affairs was not settled to his advantage or satisfaction, he would blow Sir William's brains out. I said, sye, don't think of it; he said, Damn him if he did not.

Was there any other conversation at that time? - No.

Any conversation at any other time? - None.

What are you? - A messenger at the Custom-house.


I am a clerk at the Secretary's Office in the Custom-house. I know the prisoner.

Did you ever hear him say any thing respecting Sir William Musgrave ? - About eight or nine months ago I saw him in the office; he used to come frequently; he told me he had been deceived by Sir William, and if he had not redress he would have revenge. I met the prisoner, I think, it was in the month of December, coming out from the Piazzas, Covent Garden. I asked him where he was going? He said, he was in pursuit of the command of a privateer. I said I was glad to hear it, and hoped it would turn out to his advantage. He said, D - n Sir William Musgrave , he was a villain and a scoundrel; he had been ruined by his promises; and if he did not do him justice he would be revenged.


I know the prisoner; I have heard many expressions from him against Sir William Musgrave ; particularly in September last, the prisoner accosted me, as I was going into the lobby, and asked me if Sir William was gone. I said I did not know. He said, by God I will know it, and said he had a brace of pistols, and threw open his coat, and I saw a large horse pistol, and said, D - n his blood, he would have satisfaction, pointing to the board room. I have heard several times general words against Sir William.


I am a clerk in the Secretary's Office; I have known the prisoner four or five years. About the 12th of August, to the best of my recollection, in the lobby, he told me that he was a ruined man; and unless Sir William did something for him, if he had a drop of blood he would find where it lay. I think in the month of September he told me he was ruined; and if Sir William did not do something for him, nothing but his blood should satisfy for it; he swore revenge.


My Lords and Gentlemen of the Jury,

The charge now against me I am very innocent of; the letter signed a True-born Englishman is not my letter; I am very innocent of that letters. The other letters where my name is signed, I acknowledge to be mine.

I now declare to your lordship and the jury, that I hear Sir William no malice, no hatred, no one thing to his prejudice. I declare, that upon my conscience, there are not three men in the world I love more than Sir William; all I ask in his interest.

For the Prisoner.


Do you remember the witness Samuel Brown being before Sir John Fielding ? - I do; he said he believed the letter to be the hand-writing of Captain Major, but that the letters seemed to be disguised.

Did he make any distinction of the letters, or say in general that they were disguised. - I don't recollect that he made any distinction; he said, the letters were disguised.

Mr. IVEY sworn.

I was at Sir John Fielding's when Brown was examined; the letter was shown him; he said he had seen Captain Major write often; that he believed it was his writing in a disguised hand; that many of the letters were disguised.

The prisoner called five other witnesses, who gave him a good character.

GUILTY Death .

Tried by the Second Middlesex Jury, before Mr. Baron EYRE .

He was recommended by the Jury to his Majesty's Mercy.

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