The Newgate Calendar - JAMES MATHISON


Who forged Bank-Notes so cleverly that they could not be distinguished from Genuine Ones. Executed at Tyburn, 28th of July, 1779

JAMES MATHISON was one of the cleverest bank-note forgers ever brought to justice. His counterfeits deceived the greatest experts, and he succeeded in passing many of his notes in different parts of the country. The particular forgery here charged on him was for making and uttering a note for payment of twenty pounds, with intent to defraud Mr Mann, of Coventry, and the Bank of England. The note was produced in court, and witnesses were brought to prove its having been negotiated by him.

This fact being established, the next circumstance in consideration was to prove that the note was absolutely a counterfeit one. This his prosecutors were totally unable to do by any testimony they could adduce, so minutely and so dexterously had he feigned all the different marks. The note itself was not only so made as to render it altogether impossible for any human eyes to perceive a difference, but the very hands of the cashier and the entering clerk were also so counterfeited as entirely to preclude a positive discrimination even by those persons themselves. The watermark in the paper too -- namely, "Bank of England" -- which the bankers had considered as an infallible criterion of fair notes, a mark which could not be resembled by any possible means, was also hit off by this man, so as to put it out of the power of the most exact observer to perceive a difference. Several paper-makers were of opinion that this mark must have been put on in the making of the paper; but Mathison declared that he put it on afterwards by a peculiar method, known only to himself. The extreme similitude of the fair and false notes had such an effect upon the judge and jury that the prisoner would certainly have been discharged, for want of evidence to prove the counterfeit, if his own information, taken at Fielding's, had not been produced against him, which immediately turned the scale, and he was found guilty.

He was executed at Tyburn, pursuant to his sentence, on 28th of July, 1779. At the place of execution he made a speech which took up some minutes, wherein he acknowledged his guilt, and hoped for forgiveness from the Almighty. He also warned others to avoid the crime for which he suffered, and forgave his prosecutors.


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