Executed at Tyburn, December 23, 1712, for Fraudulent Bankruptcy
Notwithstanding the law makes it death to any bankrupt, who shall be convicted of fraudulently concealing, embezzling, or making away with any goods or money to the value of twenty pounds, yet offences of this nature are constantly committed in the most clandestine manner, and too often escape detection.
On the trial of Richard Town, who was the first that suffered under this Act of Parliament, which passed only five years before his execution, a number of witnesses were called to prove his being a regular trader, and to make it appear that he had committed an act of bankruptcy; but the principal of these was Mr. Hodgson, who deposed, that, being sent after the prisoner by the commissioners of bankrupts, he apprehended him at Sandwich; and searching him, by virtue of his warrant, found in his pocket twenty guineas in gold, and about five pound, seven shillings, and sixpence in silver; and that he had three gold rings on his fingers; that he took from him the gold, and five pounds in silver, and left him the odd silver.
Town had intended to sail in a ship which was bound to Amsterdam; but, being too late, he went on board a packet-boat bound to Ostend; and, being taken sea-sick, he went to the side of the vessel; and stooping down, dropped eight hundred guineas, which were in two bags between his coat and waistcoat, into the sea.
A storm arising at sea, the packet-boat was driven back, and obliged to put into Sandwich; in consequence of which Town was apprehended by Hodgson, as above mentioned.
When Town was examined before the commissioners, be acknowledged that he had ordered Thomas Norris to carry off his books and accounts, plate, and papers of value, and like wise to convey a large quantity of tallow, which he supposed was then arrived in Holland.
Now the counsel for Town insisted that, as Norris was a joint agent with him, the act of one was the act of both; and that he could not legally be convicted till the other (who was then abroad) could be apprehended, and tried with him. But, in order to frustrate this argument, it was proved that Town had shipped off large quantities of goods on his own account: besides, the circumstance of his being taken at Sandwich, by Mr. Hodgson, with more than twenty pounds of his creditors' money in his possession, was a sufficient proof of his guilt; wherefore the jury did not hesitate on his case, and, he received sentence of death.
This unhappy man was a native of the county of Oxford, end for some time had carried on a considerable business as a tallow-chandler, with great reputation; but it appears too evident that be had formed a design of defrauding his creditors, because at the time of his absconding, he had considerable property in the funds, and was otherwise in good circumstances.
Before his conviction, he was indulged, with a chamber to himself in the press-yard; but after sentence was passed on him, he was put into the condemned hole, with the other prisoners: but here he caught a violent cold, which brought on a deafness, a disorder to which he had been subject; wherefore, on complaining of this circumstance, he was removed to his former apartments.
While under sentence of death, he refused to acknowledge the justice of his sentences declaring that a person whom he had relieved, and preserved from ruin, had occasioned his destruction. He attended the devotions of the place, declared that he forgave his enemies, and begged that God would like wise forgive them. He was exactly forty-one years of age the day of his execution; a circumstance which with great composure, he mentioned to the Ordinary of Newgate, on his way to the place of execution.