Offence: Deception > forgery
Verdict: Guilty > with recommendation
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591. SAMUEL BURT was indicted, for that he on the 17th day of July last, feloniously, and falsly, did make, forge, and counterfeit, and cause and procure to be made forged and counterfeited, and willingly act and assist in the false making, forging, and counterfeiting, a certain order for the payment of money, with the name Richard Evans thereto subscribed, dated the 17th of July, 1786, directed to Sir Herbert Mackworth , Baronet, and Co. for one hundred pounds , the tenor of which said order is as follows:
"No. 68, Bond-street, London; July 17th, 1786, Sir Herbert Mackworth , Baronet Dorset, and Wilkinson Johnson, pay bearer one hundred pounds for Robert Evans ," with intention to defraud Sir Herbert Mackworth and Co.
A second count, for uttering the same, knowing it to be forged, with the like intention.
The case opened by Mr. Silvester.
Mr. Garrow, prisoner's counsel. My defence is, that this young man was insane at the time he did it.
I live in Harley-street, my Banking house is in New-Bond street; the firm is, Sir Herbert Mackworth , George Dorset , John Johnson , and myself; on Monday morning last, the 17th of July, about half after nine, I was engaged in business, at the house in Bond-street, the prisoner at the bar brought this draft and gave it our head clerk; he asked him a s he took it of him how he would have it, he replied in money, to which the clerk made no reply to him, but shewed the draft to me; upon shewing the draft to me, I immediately looked round to see who brought the draft; the prisoner stood with his back to me; I immediately saw it was a person I had long known, coming from Mr. Evans; I did not know that he was his apprentice; I knew he had been frequently in the habit of bringing his book, and bringing bills for him; I said, is your master well, he said yes, he is very well, and he is in town; I told him, there is a vast difference in his hand writing, are you sure he wrote this; upon which he said yes it was, and he was to carry him the money; I ordered one of the clerks to shew
"68, Bond Bond-street, No. London,
"July the 17th, 1786. Sir Herbert
"Mackworth, Baronet, Dorset, Johnson,
"and Wilkinson; pay the bearer
Mr. Garrow. How long has Mr. Evans kept cash with you? - Our house has not been in being in the present firm before the first of January, 1785; I was then principal clerk where Mr. Evans kept cash; he began keeping cash the 1st of January 1785.
You had been so conversant with Mr. Evans's hand writing, that on the first inspection of it you took it not to be his? - I did.
You mentioned that to the young man? - Yes.
You pursued that idea, and said, are you sure it is his? - Yes.
How long was it after he went away that you saw him again? - Not till between eight and nine that evening.
Where did you see him then? - At Bow street at the publick office.
You sent your clerk to Mr. Evans? - Yes.
You learned from your clerk (for I have no objection to all the hear say ) that this was not Mr. Evans's hand writing? - I did.
Upon the inspection of it, it did not appear to be at all like Mr. Evans's hand-writing? - There was some similarity but not such as to deceive a clerk, unless it was overlooked; it is not well done.
I am a gold-beater; I live in Long-acre, the prisoner was bound apprentice to me about four years ago.
Was he a servant to you at the time this happened? - I cannot say he actually was a servant at the time this happened, because he quitted my house the day before, the Sunday, in the forenoon, and did not return again.
Now, Sir, that draft, is it your hand writing? - No, Sir, it is not.
Mr. Garrow. Was he your apprentice? - Yes, for seven years.
You say that it was not your hand writing? - No, Sir.
He lived in your house? - He did.
He continued there down to the Sunday preceding this fact? - Yes.
At what time did you learn from Mr. Wilkinson that such a draft had been presented? - I believe it was near about ten.
At what time did you receive this letter? - On the Tuesday, and I believe it was on the Monday the banker's clerk came to me with the draft, and the hundred pounds, I received this letter on the Tuesday in the forenoon about eleven; I was dressing, I am positive it was not on the Monday, it was delivered to me by a servant of mine, and appears to have a penny-post mark upon it.
You know his hand writing very well? - Yes.
Is that his hand writing? - I believe it to be his hand writing.
Do you believe that to be his hand writing? - (Shewing him another paper.) - I do.
Perhaps you know where this was found? - It was taken from him when he was searched.
What was the first intimation you had of this young man's being in custody? -
At that time had they had any intimation of the prisoner? - None that I know of.
You then gave some intimation? - Yes, Sir, to Mr. Addington; about three a person came from the public office in Bow-street, to tell me that the prisoner was in custody.
You gave the information in Bow-street? - Yes.
Was the prisoner in consequence of that apprehended, or did he surrender himself; - I do not know, I heard he was in Bow-street; I went to him, but I did not ask him the question; my servant told me he was in custody, and had surrendered himself.
Do you know whether he was apprehended? - I do not know, I have heard he surrendered.
Court. I cannot take that either for or against the prisoner; he does not know.
You found him in custody, and you do not know that he was apprehended? - Yes, I have reason to believe that he surrendered, but I do not know it.
Court. If it turns out to be a material fact, I shall be glad, for somebody from Bow street to be sent for.
Prosecutor. I recollect the first account was from my own servant, and afterwards a man met me and said, he was in custody, but whether he said, he was apprehended, or whether he surrendered, I do not know; the general account was, that he surrendered, I really believe he surrendered himself, but I cannot say upon my oath that he did.
Have you had occasion to know the state of the mother's health? - I can say nothing of myself of the state of the mother.
I ask you, whether from universal reputation, you know what the state of her intellects are?
Court. Reputation is no proof of a fact that is capable of being proved; it is with great pain that I reject any evidence that can make for the prisoner, but I must do my duty.
Mr. Garrow. Do you know what the state of that boy's health was, who was living in your house, during the last eight months? - I looked upon him to be in as good a state of health as most.
Then you did not know of any disorder under which he laboured? - I did not.
Do you know that there was a disorder which was concealed from you? - Yes, Sir, a surgeon attended him for eight months.
Do you, of your own knowledge, know whether he was taking mercurials or not? - No, Sir, if he did, he concealed it from me.
How old is he now? - I take him now to be eighteen or thereabouts, rather more I believe.
He was very much entrusted by you? - Within these three or four months he was; he has been within that time in the habit of selling goods in the shop.
When you went to Bow-street, I believe you very humanely made this man an offer, that he might, if he pleased, go to the East Indies? - I did; that was previous to the examination.
I cannot ask you legally what his answer was; but I may ask you this, did he accept it? - He did not.
That was after he was in custody, and after he was charged with the commission of a capital crime, which he perfectly well knew would affect his life? - Yes.
Have you now at the time I am speaking to you, any reason to believe that the prisoner at the bar committed this offence in order to be detected, in order to be brought
I will repeat the question, have you now, at the time I am speaking to you any reason to believe that the prisoner at the bar committed this offence in order to be detected, in order to be brought to justice, and in order to destroy his own life? - I believe he committed that offence with intention to obtain the money.
Have you or have you not reason to believe that the boy did this, actuated by desperation, and with intent to destroy his own existence? - No, I do not.
Mr. Garrow. I wish to read the letters and papers; I have already stated the ground on which I mean to defend this young man, which is, that he was insane: when I state that as an answer to an offence of this sort, I undertake a very difficult and arduous task; it is a sort of fact that carries with it some evidence against the prisoner; we have had a very melancholy instance of that sort, and the defence of insanity has been proposed as an answer to the commission of the greatest offence, that of murder; it has been asked of the witnesses, whether they had observed any thing in the conduct of the party, that induced them to form an opinion that the mind of that party was disordered; you cannot ask that question as to any one single fact, whether at that instant his mind was under the influence of insanity; but you are to lay before the Jury, a sufficient quantity of acts, in order to draw the inference for the Jury to presume that this person is not accountable; we therefore always ask what has the party done and said; and conducted himself; what has been your observation on the conduct of the party originally? and it is upon that idea I state to your Lordship the principle upon which I produce this as evidence; the acts of the party cannot be evidence for him, because they may be framed and fabricated for the purpose of defence; but the case of insanity differs from all other cases, because the law presumes that these are not the acts of the man that does them, but that he is as much a mere machine in the hands of something that governs him, as the beast in the street; in that view you take all the acts of the party as done before, and at the time of the fact: If I was to state to you that this was not a forgery, if I was to state to you that this was not the hand writing of Mr. Evans, I admit I could not make the acts of the young man evidence for him; but I say, he is insane at the time he did this; and if I shew he was rolling in the streets, that he was running about the streets with a fire brand in his hand, that he did not know his nearest relation; I should bring convincing proofs of his insanity: but if I cannot give that evidence, may I not shew that on the morning of this fact, he conducted himself as an ideot, that he did that which no man in his sound mind could do, that at the same time he was writing this draft, he wrote a letter to his master to shew that he had done it with a design to be brought to justice, that soon he hoped to meet his friends in eternity, and that his only object was to get rid of the troubles and inconveniences of life; if I might shew that he was running about with a sword to murder his own father and mother, may not I shew this? though it may not go the whole length of that evidence; surely I might shew that at that very instant he was making confessions under his own hands, stating that it was complete, and that his object was accomplished; if now, my Lord, after I have done that, I was to stop short there, you might answer why it is the act of the man contrived for the purpose; but I have other evidence; I know there are differences of opinion on the subject, but I mean to shew that antecedent to the birth of this young man, there has been a fatal lunacy in the family; I mean to shew acts of the most confirmed madness of this boy's mother, antecedent to his birth, and from his birth, and to this time; and that it has not been confined only to that branch of the family, so that madness certainly has descended to this unhappy family; what ever the opinions of the faculty may
Court. I think you come short, and require something to introduce the evidence of these papers, and that in the present state of the business, they cannot be received; I am of opinion, that the acts of the prisoner are evidence in all cases, both for and against him, but not so of his declarations, either by word or by writing; now you state a supposition which is putting it in the strongest way, and would stagger me very much, with respect to the general rule of evidence; for the reading a letter from the prisoner without shewing when, in what manner, or on what occasion that letter was written, certainly falls very short of the case; thus far I think myself bound to declare my opinion, that you cannot be permitted to read these letters, unless you prove them written prior to the time of this tender: when you have done that, I will consider and give my opinion, as to the propriety of receiving them.
Mr. Garrow. It is in evidence, that this was received early in the forenoon of Tuesday, I mean to produce it with the post mark upon it.
Court to Evans. Was you present when Elizabeth Williams received this letter? - I was from home, and was informed that the postman had brought this letter; it was in my possession between three and four; the young woman is not here; I was there about three, and I was questioning this young woman, and soon after the letter came, it was about ten minutes after three.
Mr. Silvester. Do you know when it was put in the post? - No, Sir, I do not.
Mr. Garrow. How soon was it that you saw this young man searched? - I believe it was in a quarter of an hour after; it was all before four; as soon as I was informed he was in custody I went to Bow-street; I did not stay twenty minutes; when I returned I received this letter.
Court. I think every thing found in his pockets when he was apprehended may be produced and read, but I wish to hear you Mr. Silvester.
Mr. Silvester. What is found in his pockets is evidence against him, but not evidence for him.
Court. It is evidence to operate as it may. You call a witness who apprehended the prisoner, or to whom he surrendered, you ask him, did you search that prisoner? yes; what did you find upon him? why I have found these papers; then the papers are to be examined by those conversant in the administration of justice, they are to have what operation they may; but it would be too much to say, I will read these over, I will burn all the rest: I am inclined to think at present, that whatever papers or property are found on him may be produced, and the papers read: now, put it another way, what did he say when he was apprehended; he says something that makes for him; can you exclude the operation of the answer?
Mr. Silvester. I have always heard it laid down, that what a prisoner says in confession of his guilt, is strong evidence against him, but what he says in extenuation of his offence cannot go to prove his innocence.
Court. You have it in every day's practice; did the prisoner make the same confession when he was taken up that he does now? It is carrying the nicety too far, it is injustice to garble the declarations of a prisoner, now that principle will not go to the other letter found in the hands of another person, because it cannot be introduced as
Prosecutor. I was present when he was searched; I saw the letter taken out of his pocket.
Mr. Garrow. Do you know this young man at the bar? - Yes.
Do you know his father and mother? - Yes; I lived servant with them, I have known them for these last seven years; I have lived at several places since, and when I was out of place, it used to be my home.
Now from your observation of the mother, do you take her to be a woman in her senses or a complete mad woman? - I take her to be out of her senses.
How long have you so understood her? - Ever since I lived with her; the prisoner had two sisters, one of which attempted to hang herself, and I cut her down, it was without any provocation; she was about fourteen.
Mr. Silvester. Are they confined? - No, Sir, she stays at home, but she is not capable of doing any thing like another woman; it is melancholy madness that depresses the spirits, and that I have observed in the family.
The mother of this boy lived in our house many years; two years ago.
Did you consider her as a woman in her senses or as a mad woman? - Always as a mad woman, rather melancholy and childish; I knew her daughter, who made an attempt on her life; I did not take her to be quite right in her mind.
Mr. Garrow. Now I call witnesses to the conduct or the prisoner himself.
I am journeyman to Mr. Evans; I have known the prisoner a year and an half.
Have you observed any thing particular in his conduct, previous to his leaving his master's house? - Two days only I took particular notice of him, that was Friday and Saturday before he went away; I sat next to him, and I observed him to be very low spirited and pensive, I asked him what was the matter with him, and he did not give me any answer, I told him he was very serious, I wondered what was the matter with him; both days I spoke to him the same.
Then it struck you particularly? - Not till this affair happened, then I recollected it.
Jury. Has the prisoner ever signified to you that he was in distress or had been in debt? - No, Sir, never.
Do you know the state of his health? - I believe he had the soul disease upon him full ten months to my knowledge.
Had he been taking mercurial medicines for the last ten months? - He was, I have seen such things about the shop; it was a secret to my master.
I am another journeyman of Mr. Evans's; I worked with this lad on the Friday and Saturday, he seemed to be very dull, I asked him the reason, and this day week he was very dull; I said, Sam what makes you so dull, he made no answer at all to me.
Do you happen to know what the state of his health has been for some time past? - He has at times been ailing.
Did he take any mercurial medicines? - I believe he did privately.
I am another journeyman; last Saturday he was very sad and melancholy; I asked him what was the matter, he would not return me any answer; I mentioned it to my shopma tes.
Do you know the state of his health.
Court. That is sufficiently proved.
I am another journeyman; I observed no more at the time than that he was remarkably
Jury to Prosecutor. Had you ever heard the prisoner was particularly connected with any woman in the neighbourhood? - Never, Sir, till after he was in custody.
Did you ever suppose him to be any way insane? - No, Sir, most assuredly not, if I had, I would not have continued him in my service in confidence.
No acts of his have caused you to suspect so? - No.
Mr. Garrow. You did not understand at all that it was a criminal connection? - No, Sir, I did not.
Jury. We wish to have the letters read, if the prosecutor consents.
Prosecutor. If Mr. Garrow thinks it will be of service to the prisoner, I have no objection.
Court. That is very honourable.
"Sir, I take this opportunity
"of informing you, that I have this morning
"forged on your banker, for the sum
"of an hundred pounds; I am ready and
"willing to resign myself into the hands
"of justice, life is a burden to me, and as
"I have forefeited it to the laws of my
"country, I am ready and willing to re-
"it sign into the hands of him that gave
"it me." S. Burt, July 17th, 1786.
"girl, by the time you have received
"this letter, I shall have committed a
"crime which I sincerely hope to suffer
"for, as I think it is the only thing I can
"do to extricate myself from the difficulties
"of this world to the happiness of another
"world; I cannot find words adequate
"to my meaning, as my mind is
"very far from being composed, but let
"me intreat you not to repine, as I commit
"this with the view of meeting you in
"heaven; adieu, my dear, till I see you,
"which will, I hope, he before I am
"launched into eternity. S. Burt."
An unfinished letter read, which was found in his pocket when he was apprehended,
"My dear girl, since I wrote
"you this morning I have committed a
"crime which I told you I am to suffer
"for, but I am not yet in the hands of
"justice, I am quite tired of this world, as
"it is impossible for me to make myself
"happy in it. -
(A messenger, who was sent to Sir Sampson Wright's to fetch Carpmeal to whom the prisoner surrendered, returned and informed the Court, that Carpmeal was gone to Vauxhall upon duty.)
Court to Mr. Garrow. Can you carry this case any farther? - No, my lord.
Court to Jury. Gentlemen of the jury, the prisoner is indicted for a capital felony in forging, or uttering knowing it to be forged, which is an offence of equal magnitude, a draft for one hundred pounds, with intent to defraud Sir Herbert Macworth and Co. and also with intent to defraud Mr. Robert Evans ; this trial has taken a turn which makes the consideration of it painful; from the nature of the offence, as the fact is so clearly proved, you can have no doubt in this case that the forgery was committed, that this draft was tendered in payment by the prisoner, knowing it not to be the draft of Mr. Evans; but the defence set up is of such a nature, that it is right, in order to from your judgment upon it, that you should fully understand the way in which it points: The defence of insanity or disorder of mind where it is carried to a sufficient degree, is a defence for all crimes whatever, from the highest to the lowest, because, in order to constitute criminality, the act must be the act of the mind of the party that does it, it must be knowingly and voluntarily done; now if a person is not in his senses, or is so disordered as to take away the faculty of distinguishing between right and wrong, and of knowing the tendency
The Jury retired for some time and returned with a verdict.
GUILTY, Death .
Jury. It is our particular request that some mercy may be shewn to the prisoner.
Prosecutor. I humbly beg leave to join in the recommendation.
Court to Jury. Gentlemen, I presume you ground your recommendation upon the idea, that though it fell short of that absolute insanity to justify the crime altogether, yet that the prisoner laboured under some degree of disorder.
Jury. That is our opinion.
Tried by the London Jury before Mr. RECORDER.
When this prisoner was ordered to receive sentence, he addressed the Court as follows:
"My Lord, I am too sensible
"of the crime which I have committed,
"and for which I justly deserve to suffer;
"my life I have forfeited, and wish to resign
"it into the hands of him who gave
"it me; to recount my reason for wishing
"to die, would only satisfy an idle
"curiosity; no one can feel a more sensible
"heartfelt satisfaction than I do at
"the thoughts of quitting time for eternity;
"wherein I trust I shall meet with
"great felicity; I have not the least desire
"to live, but, on the contrary, if his
"Majesty should grant me a respite
"in consequence of my being recommended
"to mercy; I here avow in the
"face of heaven, I will put an end to my
"own existence; it is death that I wish
"for, it is death I seek; for nothing but
"death can extricate me out of the troubles
"which my follies have brought
Mr. Recorder. Samuel Burt , as you appear to have still remaining on your mind, some impressions of conscience, a sense of the submission that you owe to your Creator, and of a future state of existence, I think it my duty to address a few words to you in particular, in the melancholy situation in which you stand; happy shall I be if any thing I can say to you in your unhappy state, could ripen those seeds of conscience and of religion in your mind, into a proper sense of your duty to your Creator; you have expressed a submission to the laws of your country, which is highly praise worthy, but you must not deceive yourself by imagining, that a desire to die stands in the same situation with that submission; it is the duty of those that have violated the law to submit with patience to its punishment; but it is a crime against your Creator to wish to throw away your own life, and that unhappy wish appears from what you have now said, as well as from some unhappy circumstances upon your trial, to have actuated you to the commission of a capital offence. To come uncalled into the presence of your Creator is highly criminal of itself; he who made you best knows when you shall have fulfilled those purposes for which you were created, and he best knows when to call you out of this world; it is therefore the highest degree of presumption in you, to take that secret judgment to yourself, and to wish to throw away your
The Court then passed sentence of death on him and the other capital convicts.