Seldom have we presented a case with a malefactor so young, and yet so consummately artful. This young adept was born at Portsmouth, of creditable parents, and who, after giving him a good education, placed him as midshipman in the royal navy. However, he had not been long on board the man of war to which he was appointed, then stationed at Sheerness, ere he deserted, and began his career of vice at a tavern called the Silver Oar, at Rochester, before he had completed his sixteenth year. There he was invited by some gentlemen to partake of their dinner, which was no sooner over than they perceived he had no money, and appeared dejected, and upon interrogation, he confessed his name and needy circumstances; the company, much to their credit, agreed to supply him with money, and he was kept there till his friends were made acquainted with his situation; when, according to their desire, he was forwarded to London. He returned some time after to the Silver Oar, saying he had been to sea, ordered a dinner, and treated his former friends.
Afterwards he took a route to the West of England, following his nefarious practices. However, on the 18th of November, 1805, under the name of Alexander Innes, captain in the navy, he was brought to Marlborough-street Police-office, in custody of an officer belonging to Surrey, to answer a charge preferred against him by a Mr. Jeff, a liveryman, in Silver-street, Golden square.
Mr. Jeff stated that the prisoner called at his stables on the ninth day of November, representing himself as the person above described, and residing at No 49, Howland-street, and hired a chestnut mare to go to Richmond. The mare was never returned to her owner; and after a week had elapsed, Mr. Jeff suspected he had been swindled. He consequently went to the given address, and had there further cause of suspicion; for the house was a brothel, and he was only known to have slept there one night.
In consequence of some information Mr. Jeff had received, he went to the house of an eminent tradesman in the Borough, where, it was said, the prisoner was known, having drawn money by bills, &c., Mr. Jeff was there informed of the circumstance alluded to, and that Capt. Innes had sent thither a mare from the country, which had been attended with unpleasant circumstances. The parties, however, said, they knew but little of the prisoner. He was detected by calling at the Gloucester Coffee house, Piccadilly, which house he had frequented with a person of the name of Kennesley, who left it without discharging his bill. The prisoner called to enquire after his friend, and on leaving the house, two of the waiters followed him, suspecting him to be the person advertised by Mr. Jeff. At a convenient spot near Vauxhall, the waiters gave him in charge of an officer.
It was stated to the magistrates, that the prisoner had been at the Castle, at Richmond, where the waiter was refused his bill; but, by assistance, the visitors were detained, and a watch was left as security for the bill. Mr. Jeff had never heard of his mare, but it was reported she was at Andover, Hants. When at Richmond, on Sunday, at the Castle-Inn, he was informed that a mare, answering the description of the one hired, was sold on Wednesday last, at Croydon, to a butcher at Richmond; but he had not an opportunity of seeing her, the butcher being from home. On the prisoner being questioned respecting what he had done with the mare, he merely answered, he had spoken to Mr. Jeff on that subject. He was dressed in the first style of fashion, and his person was very well known in the lobby at the Theatres.
The next day the concourse of people that assembled at Malborough-street Office was immense. Several naval officers attended, for the purpose of proving that there were only two captains in the navy of the name of Innes; they are brothers, and gentlemen of the highest respectability; the one Alexander, is now captain on board the Eurus frigate, in the Cove of Cork; and the other, John, is a prisoner in France, having been taken in the Ranger. Several persons intimated their intentions of exhibiting charges against the prisoner on the next examination, which took place November 21. Numerous fresh charges were adduced against him; and it appeared by the evidence, that an insinuating confident address, with a commanding person, had enabled him to enter the circles of gentlemen, whom he is said to have defrauded, as well as trades-people, inn-keepers, &c. in town and country.
The horse he hired of Mr. Jeff had been traced to George yard, Drury-lane. John Rich, ostler to Mr. Cartwright, Camden-place, Piccadilly, stated, that the prisoner hired a brown gelding six weeks since, in the absence of his master. He said he resided in St. James's-street; that he merely wanted to ride out for two or three hours, and on his return he would send the horse home by his servant. He, however, never returned, nor had the horse ever been heard of. A person in the office (Mr. Nuns) informed Mr. Cartwright, that a horse, answering the description he had given, was left at his Livery-stables, Vauxhall, on the 14th of October, and he believed by the prisoner. He hired a horse and chaise of Mr. Nuns, and left the horse in his care, until he should return, which event never took place. The prisoner said his name was Becket, and that he resided at Gravesend. Mr. Nuns, finding the prisoner did not return, went to Gravesend, and Mr. Becket proved to be a banker, who informed him, that a person answering the description of the prisoner, had forged on his bank. Mr. Nuns had travelled three or four hundred miles after his horse and chaise; and at length, by an advertisement, he received a letter, stating, that the horse was at Alton, in Hampshire, and the chaise was at Honiton, in Devonshire, the prisoner having left the horse as he had done at other places, and hired a fresh one.
It was proved by another witness, that the prisoner had committed depredations in the West of England, by representing himself as a Mr Pigeon, son of Mr. Pigeon, belonging to a distillery firm in the Borough. By this imposition, affecting to be travelling on account of the firm he was very successful in obtaining money, by swindling bills, &c. In this part of the country he drove about in a post-chaise and four, associated with the best company, joined their hunting parties, and became the complete man of fashion. At Exeter he drove through the city a week before the news of the victory over the combined fleets, as a naval officer with dispatches from the fleet. The gentlemen belonging to a subscription-house, and the leading men of the city, desirous of hearing good news, politely requested to be informed if the news was good. The prisoner, who represented himself as the son of Lord Mulgrave, assured them it was good news, and that it was from the hero, Nelson. The gentlemen were desirous of further information; but fearing to put the question too pointedly, they asked, if it equalled the business of the Nile? The prisoner replied, "The Nile is a fool to it;" and he immediately drove off, having diffused joy throughout the ancient city of Exeter.
A number of other charges were preferred against him. A gentleman positively proved the prisoner to be an impostor, in representing himself as Capt. Innes. The prisoner said his name was Innes, and he was addressed as a captain by naval characters. On being questioned by the magistrates, if he was ever in the navy, and what rank he held the prisoner replied, "He was a midshipman in the Magnanime, of sixty-four guns, but he had not been in the service since the last war. He was before that in the Active, of thirty two guns." He was remanded again, to give country people an opportunity to attend and on the day appointed, the office was crowded so excessively, that many who repaired thither to take a view of the prisoner were disappointed.
Among other circumstances, Hamilton, the officer, said, that he was authorized by the gentlemen of the Gravesend Bank, to state a circumstance that recently occurred there, the complainants being unable to attend this examination; the prisoner, in the name of Charles Young, presented to them a bill of exchange for eighty pounds, purporting to have been drawn upon Simmons and Co. at the Canterbury Bank, for which he received cash and notes, and it was soon afterwards discovered to be a forgery.
There was also another serious charge against the prisoner, for a transaction during his tour in the West of England. It had been stated, that the prisoner diffused joy throughout the city of Exeter, by proclaiming a victory, said to have been gained by the departed hero Nelson, a week before that of Trafalgar. He also, it appeared, represented himself as the bearer of the joyful tidings, when the glorious victory was obtained. Being on the Portsmouth road when Lord Fitzroy was traveling to the Admiralty, with the important news, and having obtained some slight information respecting it, or at least that his lordship was going with dispatches to town, he immediately ordered a post-chaise and four, and was driven after the messenger at full speed. On his entering the town of Basingstoke, his chaise was surrounded by the multitude, who were more ready to be imposed on, a ray of hope having spread itself that a victory had been gained. In the habit of a naval officer, the prisoner went to the Bank, called himself Lord Fitzroy, drew 100l. in his name, and gave a forged draft. He apologized to the gentlemen of the Bank for the sudden intrusion, and alleged that his cash was insufficient to carry him to the Admiralty. This imposition was soon detected, the prisoner was followed, and the money recovered. On his being asked, if he had anything to say, he replied, "he had not, in his present disagreeable situation."
The magistrate observed, that it would be necessary to remand the prisoner again, in order to give time to the people from the country to attend , when a gentleman from the Gravesend Bank attended, and the prisoner was fully committed to take his trial, and soon after removed to Maidstone (the forgery having been done in Kent), where he was indicted March 18, 1806, for feloniously and falsely making, forging, and counterfeiting, and feloniously uttering and publishing, as true, at Gravesend, a certain false, forged, and counterfeited bill of exchange, for the sum of eighty pounds, purporting to have been drawn by one Charles Young, and to be directed to Messrs. Simmons, Poley, and Co. at Canterbury, with intent to defraud John Brenchly, Charles Becket, and George Rich, of Gravesend, aforesaid. He also stood indicted upon the oaths of John Rich, and others, with stealing one brown gelding, the property of Edward Cartwright. He also stood indicted upon the oath of Richard Nuns with stealing at Lambeth, in the county of Surry, one black mare, a chaise, and harness, his property.
On the first indictment, it appeared he came to the Gravesend Bank, and represented himself as a person under the tuition of Mr. Stevenson (steward to the Earl of Darnley), for a knowledge of agricultural improvement, which afterwards proved to be false. The fraud on the Bank being substantiated by the clerk, the jury after a little deliberation, found the prisoner guilty; and being found guilty upon the first charge, the judge would not try him on the others. From the time of the judge's passing sentence on him, and informing him he could not expect any mercy, the crime being so great an offence, he became much dejected, and behaved himself in a very becoming manner.
On the 28th of March, the unfortunate prisoner wrote a letter from the cell to the Gravesend Bank, acknowledging the crime laid to his charge, thanking the prosecutors for their humanity in recommending him to the Judge for mercy, and requesting they would sign a petition to the King; which had been done before, but which the prisoner was not aware of. He stated in his letter, that he was deranged at the time of committing the fact. He also said, it had ever been his father's wish to train him in the world to friendly society.
He made the following speech at the place of execution, from a written paper, which he gave to a friend, upon his request:-
"For my own part, I confess, with the greatest contrition, the crime which has brought me to this horrid place, and admit the justice of my sentence, while I am sinking under its severity; and I earnestly exhort you all, my fellow prisoners, and young men at liberty, to acknowledge the offences you have been guilty of, and to bequeath to your country that confidence in public justice, without which there can be neither peace nor safety in this world.
"As few of you suffer for the first offences, it is necessary to enquire how far confession ought to be extended. Whatever good remains in our power we must diligently perform. We must prevent, to the utmost of our power, all the evil consequences of our crimes. We must forgive all who injure us. We must, by fervency of prayer, and always praying to God, in constancy and meditation, endeavour to repress all worldly passions; and generate in our minds that love of goodness, and hatred of sin, which may fit us for the society of heavenly minds; and finally, we must commend and entrust our soul to Him that died for the sins of men, with earnest wishes and humble hopes that he will admit us with the labourers who entered the vineyard at the last hour, and associate us with the thief whom he pardoned on the Cross.
"Thus, we humbly trust, our sorrowful prayers and tears will be acceptable in his sight. Thus shall we be qualified, through Christ, to exchange this dismal body and these uneasy fetters, for the glorious liberty of the sons of God, and then our legal doom upon earth be changed into a comfortable declaration of mercy in the highest heaven, and all through the most precious and all sufficient merits of the blessed Saviour of mankind.
"I wish you all the happiness that this land affords, and the enjoyment of life in all its branches. You, my brothers and sisters, will, I hope, take caution of so young a man as I am, whose years are only eighteen, and to think that I should suffer this ignominious and awful death before so many of you. Our happiness or misery only begins when we die.
"It is but your sins that can make you afraid of dying. It concerns us more than our lives is worth, to know what will become of us when we die."
This speech, which was spoken in a manly and distinct tone, made a deep impression on an unusual number of spectators (many of whom were soldiers). Shortly after he seemed to reflect on the jury, and the severity of the laws of this country, by saying "So young a man as he was, might have been useful by being sent abroad;" because the petition had been presented, and interest made, in vain, to his Majesty, to save his life. He behaved, however, with the greatest decorum at the place of execution, praying in the most penitent manner, till the platform fell from under him.
"Be thy pursuits, then giddy youth
"The paths of industry and truth;
"For those who follow wicked ways,
"With shame must terminate their days.
Along with the unfortunate Honeyman, the following unhappy men also underwent, the final sentence of the law:-
James Danes, convicted of burglariously breaking and entering the dwelling-house of the Rev. Joseph Andrews, at Marden, in the county of Kent, and stealing therefrom twenty shirts, 20l. in money, and other articles, to the amount of 150l. Samuel Clarke, alias Hagger, convicted of breaking into the shop of John Elliott, watchmaker, at Ashford on the 25th of January, and stealing therein divers watches, chains, seals, &c., and of having the same in his possession. John Staines, who was found guilty of stealing two Welsh heifers, the property of Edward Back, of Mershaun. Danes had been a smuggler, well known in the county of Kent, having lived at Trottescliffe, where he left a wife and four children. Clarke, whose friends lived at Rochester, had been master's mate on board a man of war; his character was notorious, having, it is said, returned from transportation he declared himself, however, innocent of the charge for which he was condemned. Staines likewise made the same declaration.
These four malefactors died sincere penitents.