Pilloried for extortion, 1751.
THERE are a set of villains constantly prowling for plunder in the metropolis and its environs, who extort money from men of property under threats of accusing them with some heinous or abominable crime.
Oftentimes the gentleman thus singled out by these conspirators, though innocent, dreading even the breath of suspicion against his character, is terrified into consent to give them money; and, when once the devoted victim has thus yielded to their design, there is no end to the extortions from time to time made upon him; his whole fortune would scarce satisfy the rapacity of such rascals.
In the present case the Hon. Edward Walpole became the mark of these extortioners. It appeared in evidence, on the trial of these men, that Mr. Walpole had been secretary to the Duke of Devonshire, while his grace was lord-lieutenant of Ireland; and, on his return to London, being in want of a confidential servant, he wrote to his friend Lord Boyle to procure him one, who some time after sent to England John Cather, the culprit above named, who was the son of one of his lordship's Irish tenants; but Mr. Walpole having in the meantime hired an English servant, with whom he was well satisfied, he declined taking him; but told him to remain in his house until a place could be found for him.
Thus was Cather, when he committed the basest act of ingratitude, maintained like a gentleman, Mr. Walpole having, from time to time, even supplied him with pocket money.
One day he was observed by one of Mr. Walpole's servants in new gay clothes, which he put on and off with much privacy, and slipped in and out of the house in a way that showed he did not wish to be seen in his new dress. This soon came to the knowledge of the master, who, confident that he could not honestly come by the means of procuring such articles, suspected he had been plundered, and forbade him his house.
From this moment the ingrate meditated revenge; and, when the mind is prone to vice, we soon find an opportunity of putting it into practice. Cather, during the time he enjoyed Mr. Walpole's bounty, having no employ, formed acquaintance with bad characters; among whom were a gang of his own countrymen, who supported their excesses by extorting money: one of these was William Smith, who was hanged the 3d of October then last past.
These villains laid their snare for Mr. Walpole, but were therein caught themselves. He resisted their attempts, and caused them to be apprehended.
On the 5th of July, John Cather, Patrick Kane, Daniel Alexander, and Dixon, were brought up to the King's Bench, charged with a conspiracy in swearing a disgraceful crime against the Hon. Edward Walpole. The trial lasted several hours, when they were found guilty, and received the following sentence:
John Cather to stand three times in and upon the pillory: the first time at Charing Cross, the second in Fleet Street, and the third in Cornhill; to be kept to hard labour in Clerkenwell Bridewell for the term of four years; then to give security, himself in forty
pounds, and two sureties in twenty pounds each, for his good behaviour for four years more.
Patrick Kane to stand once upon the pillory, amid to be kept to hard labour in Clerkenwell Bridewell two years; then to give the like security for five years more.
Daniel Alexander -- This man,
'O Name it not in Gath --
Proclaim it not in the streets of Ascalon,'
was an attorney-at-law, and solicitor to the conspirators!
The attorney, undoubtedly the greatest villain of the gang, was sentenced to stand once upon the pillory; to be imprisoned three years in the King's Bench Prison; to give security for good behaviour for three years more, himself in two hundred pounds, and two sureties in one hundred pounds each; and to be struck off the roll of attornies.
Dixon ran away from his merited fate.
The law, which confiscates a man's estate for stealing a penny, and hangs him for thieving to the amount of a shilling, had hardly provided adequate punishment for extortioners, conspirators, perjurers, swindlers, gamblers, and rogues of those descriptions.
To some men (and surely all such men must be lost to shame) the pillory would be no punishment. To stand with the head and hands fastened to a block of wood for an hour, and where no pain arises from the punishment, would hold up no terror to evil-doers, were not the honest populace, indignant at the law's not hanging such diabolical villains by the neck on a gallows, in some measure to make good the defect. This was amply done on the present villains; they were most severely pelted and hooted.
These exemplary punishments were exhibited in the latter end of the year 1751.
Dixon, above mentioned, for a while eluded the search made after him; but, being at length taken, he was brought to trial, and on the 4th of May, 1752, sentenced by the Court of King's Bench to be imprisoned two years, to find sureties for his good behaviour, and to stand once upon the pillory at Charing Cross, where the mob treated him with no less severity than they had already done his quondam friends in villainy.