ON a retrospect of the various characters who are a pest to society we find none, in a certain degree, more obnoxious than coachmen in and about the metropolis. Impositions upon their employers, and ill-treatment to their horses, is a leading trait in the character of the inferior order of the gemmen of the whip. The depredations, impositions, and insolence, of the drivers of licensed hackney coaches in London are well known to all who occasionally use those vehicles.
These fellows are never wanting to lend a turn to thieves of every description. To detail their abuses would occupy volumes, not a day passing without some complaint against the Jehu fraternity; who, nine times out of ten, escape with impunity because their ill-treated fare is either ignorant of the mode of punishing them, or cannot afford time to bring them to justice. Many a time had we suffered the mortification of imposition and abuse from these ruffians, ere we took the resolution of seeking redress. Succeeding therein, we gladly point out the road to our readers.
The first attack they make is, to demand, almost invariably, more than their fare. Should you demur, they generally deal out oaths and curses, by way of supporting their imposition—swearing two miles into three, and an eighteen-penny fare into half-a-crown. As they generally proceed to inforce their exactions let them take it, but under protest that you will summon them to the Hackney-coach-office in the Strand. Now as they calculate the odds at ten to one, that you will not trouble yourself further about them, they, at best, only laugh at you. But, next day, if you would do justice to yourself—in fact, to the public, go to the said coach-office, and, before the commissioners, tender your complaint (remembering the number of the coach, or they cannot fix upon the driver,) and you will convict him of extortion, and be entitled to one half the fine which will be laid upon him. In cases of aggravated ill-treatment, Master Whip is also sent to the House of Correction. The following case respects one of that order who had been promoted to drive a lawyer's coach; and which, of course, will point out the mode of punishment of a Gentleman Jehu.
JOHN SEARLE, a coachman, in the service of Mr. Richard Dann, a respectable solicitor, was indicted for a wanton and outrageous assault committed on the persons of William Noble and Mary Ann, his wife. Mr. Noble deposed, that he was proceeding along the Hackney Road, going down to his dwelling in the country. It was dark in the evening, and he was in a one horse chaise, when he observed a man driving a coach and a pair of grey horses at a most furious rate, going zigzag from one side of the way to the other; he cried out, but to no purpose; he endeavoured to avoid him, but the coach was driven more furiously towards him: at length, the wheel of the coach took the wheel and shaft of his chaise, and turned it over. He was thrown out, as was his wife; he fell under the horse, and the horse rolled over him and dragged the chaise upwards of 40 yards, pulling Mrs. Noble along, with her head fixed between the splinter-bar and the body of the carriage, and she was lacerated and torn most shockingly, insomuch that she has laboured under the consequences ever since, and must be a cripple the rest of her life. He was found guilty, and sentenced to six months' imprisonment.
A complaint was about this time made by John Robey, a boot-maker, of St. Andrew-street, Seven Dials, against WILLIAM ROGERS, the driver of the hackney coach, No. 627; at the instant he was applying for a summons, the same coachman and coach drove up to the office door with some prisoners in it; the complainant recognized them, and coachey appeared before Mr. Birnie, the sitting magistrate, when it appeared that the prisoner, in East-street, Manchester-square, drove the pole of his coach against the prosecutor's breast, which knocked him down backwards, and for the instant he was senseless. When he came to himself, he found he was under the horses; when he got up, and was taking the number of the coach, the prisoner flogged him so violently that he cut the flesh off his hands, and with the most horrid oaths and blackguard language, threatened to cut his head off, &c.
The prisoner, in his defence, did not deny the charge. Mr. Birnie told him the less he said the better; and had no doubt if he was indicted, but he would receive a sentence of six months' imprisonment, and ordered him to find bail.
This audacious fellow escaped on making satisfaction to the complainant, after giving bail to answer the charge at the quarter sessions.
A porter of the White Horse Inn, in Piccadilly, (another insolent and imposing servant, whose frauds we shall soon fully expose) was fined by the same active magistrate 40 shillings and costs, for charging eight-pence for a parcel, the distance being under a mile, and sixpence being his fare.
About the same time, JAMES GRANT, (a Gentleman Jehu) was sentenced to a similar punishment. The offence with which he stood charged is nightly committed at places of public resort, and it seldom occurs that the offenders are brought to justice. At the close of the performance on the night stated, Mr. Lambert's carriage was drawn up in regular turn at the Bow-street door, his party consisting of Mrs. Lambert (in a state of pregnancy), and three children, besides a gentleman afflicted with the gout. The defendant was out of the rank; and on the prosecutor's coachman attempting orderly to draw off after another carriage, the defendant with full force drove the splinter-bar, or pole, betwixt the horses and the carriage of the prosecutor, and one of the horses was thrown down, whilst the other was driven on the pavement. Neither the remonstrance of the prosecutor, nor the screams of his lady and children, had any effect, as the defendant persisted in flogging his horses until the carriage had several times been nearly upset. The guards interfered, whilst Mrs. Lambert and the party alighted; the carriage having been previously damaged, and so entangled by the defendant's violence, as to render the situation of the parties truly dangerous. The defendant refused to tell whose service he disgraced, but Mr. Lambert waited and ascertained that fact, and prosecuted him.
The same day, at the police office in Marlborough-street, a hackney coachman, of the name of TWEED, was fined for extortion, in demanding and receiving three shillings more than his fare from a Mr. Scott and two ladies, whom he drove from the Opera to Paddington. The coachman as usual was plying for fare at the edge of the pavement, and the prosecutor and his friends were handed into the coach by a link-man, but the driver refused to proceed under six shillings. The party did not choose to alight, and Mr. Scott promised to satisfy the coachman, which he attempted to do by paying him two shillings. The coachman, however, demanded five shillings; and the prosecutor, rather than subject himself to insult, paid it, and very properly brought the extortioner to justice.
FRANCIS MYERS, a hackney coachman, was capitally indicted for stealing a portable writing-desk, with ten guineas therein, the property of Capt. Hotham. It appeared in evidence, that Capt. Hotham came to town by the York mail coach; that his luggage was transferred into the prisoner's coach, among which was the writing-desk. He was driven to his lodgings in Duke-street, St. James's; and, on alighting, ordered the prisoner to give his luggage to his servant, but he concealed the desk, and drove away with it. On its being advertised, it was found at a cabinet-maker's, to whose house the prisoner himself had taken it, and had it broken open with a chisel, and took the money out. The jury found him guilty of simple felony. Imprisoned. [It is to be hoped that this will prove a warning to hackney-coachmen, and teach them the danger of concealing and appropriating to themselves, as lawful prize, articles of value inadvertently forgotten in their vehicles.]
We shall conclude our long history of the abuses of the "Gemmen of the Whip" with the case of a stage coachman, in the words of the reporter, which will show that they not only meet with punishment for ill-treating and imposing upon their passengers, but that they are liable to answer for their ill conduct to the proprietors
MIDDLESEX-SHERIFF's COURT, Dec. 19, 1810.
BOLTON AND OTHERS v. HILL.
The plaintiffs in this case are proprietors of the coaches from the Golden-cross, Charing-cross. The defendant is a coachman lately employed by them in driving one of their stages. It appeared in evidence, that in April last an action had been brought against the proprietors, by a person to recover damages for the injury he had sustained in consequence of their servant (the present defendant) having driven their coach against him while on horseback, whereby he was thrown from the horse and much hurt, and the horse killed; and in which action it being proved that the accident arose through the extreme negligence and improper conduct of the coachman, the person injured recovered damages against the proprietors, who therefore brought this action against the coachman, to recover back the amount of the damages incurred by them through his improper conduct.—Damages for the proprietors, 133l. 9s.