THE scheme laid by this man for the purpose of plunder, in art and consummate hypocrisy, had not been equalled by any of his fraternity. His plan was to rob a whole county. Every robbery committed, the hundred where it happens, or the county at large, are responsible for the amount of the loss which the injured, in certain cases, may sustain. In his attempt at this kind of fraud, he implicated three innocent men, by whom he pretended to have been robbed, and which, had his tale met credit, would have consequently affected their lives. Happily his diabolical attempt was frustrated, and we are almost led to regret that the utmost vengeance of the law could not overtake him.
There is a palpable contradiction between the laws and the natural sentiments of mankind in the case of oaths which are administered to a criminal to make him speak the truth, when the contrary is his greatest interest; as if a man could think himself obliged to contribute to his own destruction, and as if, when interest speaks, religion is not generally silent: religion, which in all ages hath, of all other things, been most commonly abused. And indeed, upon what motive should it be respected by the wicked, when it has been thus violated by those who were esteemed the wisest of men? The motives which religion opposes to the fear of impending evil and the love of life are too weak, as they are too distant, to make any impression on the senses. The affairs of the other world are regulated by laws entirely different from those by which human affairs are directed; why then should you endeavour to compromise matters between them? why should a man, be reduced to the terrible alternative either of offending God, or of contributing to his own immediate destruction? The laws which require an oath in such a case, leave him only' the choice of becoming a bad Christian or a martyr. For this reason, oaths become, by degrees, a mere formality, and all sentiments of religion, perhaps the only motive of honesty in the greatest part of mankind, are destroyed. Experience proves their inutility. I appeal to every judge whether he has ever known that an oath alone has brought truth from the lips of a criminal? and reason tells us it must be so; for all laws are useless, and in consequence destructive, which contradict the natural feelings of mankind. Such laws are like a dike, opposed directly to the course of a torrent; it is either immediately overwhelmed, or by a whirlpool formed by itself, it is gradually undermined and destroyed.
Perjury is an offence particularly prevalent among the inferior ranks in society; it is to be attributed in no small degree to the want of proper solemnity, and previous explanation on the administration of oaths. Nothing can exceed the unimpressive and careless manner which is in practice in calling upon witnesses to make this solemn appeal to the Supreme Being. It would seem highly necessary that all oaths should he administered in the most impressive manner by the judge, and that a form should be devised, calculated, in the greatest possible degree, to impress upon the mind of the party a high sense of the obligation he or she has come under to speak the truth.
On the whole, it may be asserted that nothing could tend to improve the police of the country and the metropolis more than a general revision of the laws respecting misdemeanors, and particularly the act of the 17 Geo. II. cap. 5, and subsequent acts respecting vagrants and rogues, and vagabonds; so as to assimilate them in a greater degree to the present state of society, and to render their execution more certain and beneficial to the community.
The Irish formerly used to swear BY THE HAND. This mode of taking an oath they, perhaps, adopted from the Prophet Isaiah, ch. lxii, v. 8. "The Lord hath sworn by his right hand, and by the arm of his strength."
If Virgil had suffered Mezentius to swear, who could say "Dextra mihi Deus," Æn. x. 773, it would have been, no doubt, by his HAND.
Dean Swift, who was an Irishman, has exemplified this oath of his countrymen, in his description of an Irish feast
"By my hand you dance rarely"
William Chandler was the only child of Mr. Thomas Chandler, of Woodborough, near the Devizes, a gentleman farmer, of two hundred pounds a year, who at the age of about seventeen, fixed him with Mr. Banks, clerk of the goldsmiths' company, from whom, by reason of frequent disputes, he was turned over before two years had passed, to Mr. Hill of Clifford's Inn, and here he gained the love of his master, and respect of his clients.
Chandler, while he was with Mr: Banks, had married the maid servant, but so artfully concealed it, that it was never suspected by either of his masters, nor any of his own family; and Mr. Hill having a long contested lawsuit in hand for the father, the profits of which he made over to his son, he was enabled to keep his wife in lodgings. Chandler's clerkship being nearly expired, he had projected a scheme to double his fortune. This scheme was to get as much money into his hands as he could possibly raise, to set out with it to the country, upon some plausible pretence, swear he was robbed of it by the way, and then sue the hundred. To do this in the ordinary way he knew was hazardous, and liable to many miscarriages, he therefore laid his plot so deep, that, as he thought, it should be beyond the reach of human discovery.
In the first place it was necessary to raise a sum, which could not be done without deceiving both his father and master; he therefore told the former that he had an advantageous match in view, and the latter, that he had a rich uncle in Suffolk, whom he pretended to visit, and to have received from him several bank bills, which he shewed to favour the deceit. By these artifices he obtained from his father, the possession of an estate worth about four hundred pounds, and accounted to his master for his having five hundred pounds more, which it does not appear how he acquired.
He then applied to his master, to advance five hundred pounds upon his new estate, which, with his other five hundred pounds, he was going, he said, to lend to one Mrs. Strait, of Salisbury, on an estate at Enford, within six or seven miles from his father's house, on which there was a prior mortgage of five hundred pounds, with interest due to one Mr. Poor, of Enford, who wanted to call in his money.
Mr. Hill believing his clerk implicitly, even with respect to the value of his estate, procured the five hundred pounds of one Mr. Winter. While the mortgage was making, Mr. Chandler went down to Mrs. Strait and offered to pay Mr. Poor his five hundred pounds and interest, and to advance to her five hundred pounds more, on the same estate, which she readily accepted; and though it was now the 14th of March, 1747, he appointed her to meet him at Enford, on the 25th of the same month, to receive the money. He then hurried home, and immediately prepared a proper assignment for Mr. Poor's mortgage, to himself, with receipts for the thousand pounds, and wrote to Mrs. Strait, not to forget the day, (March 24, 1748,) appointing ten as the hour of meeting. Now on the 22d the mortgage of Chandler's own estate to Winter was executed, and the money paid in three banknotes, which Chandler the next day changed, at the bank, for eight of fifty pounds, and five of twenty pounds each, all of the same date, and payable to Henry Taylor.
On the 24th early, having got most of his cash in small bills, to the amount of nine hundred pounds, he found, when he came to put these in canvas bags under his garters; where he proposed to carry them for safety, that they made too great a bundle, and therefore he took several of the small bills, with some cash, amounting to four hundred and forty pounds, and exchanged them at the bank for two notes, one of four hundred pounds, and the other of forty pounds; the first of which, in his way home, he changed in his master's name at Sir Richard Hoare's, for one note of two hundred pounds, and two of one hundred pounds each; but told his master, that the bank clerks were a little out of humour at the trouble he had already given them, and that he had changed his small notes with a stranger in the bank-hall for the notes which he in reality, had received at Sir Richard Hoare's. Mr. Hill, at Chandler's request, having wrote down the numbers and dates of the several bills, and seen them put safe up, Chandler took leave of him, and about twelve o'clock set out.
About four the same afternoon, though he had ninety miles to go by ten on the morrow, he had reached no further than Hare-hatch, about thirty miles from London, where he stopped at Mr. Butler's to refresh, and about five, just as he had left his inn, was, as he said, unfortunately met by three bargemen on foot, who, after they had robbed him of his watch and money, took him to a pit close by the road, and there stripped him of all his bank notes, bound his hands and feet, and left him, threatening to return and shoot him, if he made the least noise. In this woeful condition he lay three hours, though the pit was so hear the road that not a single horse could pass without his hearing; yet when night came he could jump, bound as he was, near half a mile all up hill, till, luckily for his purpose, he met one Avery, a silly shepherd, who cut the strings, but could give no account what they were or how fastened.
The first question Chandler asked Avery after he had unbound him was, where a constable or tythingman lived; upon which Avery conducted him to Richard Kelly the constable's just by, and with him Mr. Chandler left the notices required by the statutes; with the description of the persons who robbed him, so exactly, that Mr. Young of Hare-hatch remembered three such men to have passed by his house about the very time the robbery was said to have been committed, who were also seen and known by Mr. Dredge; the mayor of Reading, on Maidenhead thicket, between four and five the same day. Chandler then returned to the inn where he had refreshed, and after telling his deplorable tale, and acquainting his landlord with his intentions of suing the hundred, he ordered a good supper, with a bowl of punch, and sat down with as little concern as if nothing had happened.
Next day Chandler returned to London, acquainted his master with what had happened, and requested his assistance.
Mr. Hill gave him the memorandum he had of the numbers, dates, and sums of the notes, and sent him to the bank to stop payment, but instead of that he went to Mr. Tufley, a silversmith in Cannon-street, bought a silver tankard, and in payment changed one of the notes for one hundred pounds which he received the day before at Sir Richard Hoare's; and on his return to his master, told him that the bank did no business that day because the hurry the city was in on account of the fire in Cornhill, which happened the night before; he therefore went again next morning, and when came back being asked by Mr. Hill for the paper on which he had taken down the numbers, &c. he said, he had left it with the clerks of the bank, who were to stop the notes; but that he had taken an exact copy of it; which was false, for he had reserved Mr. Hill's copy, and left another at the bank, in which he had so craftily altered the numbers and dates of the three notes he received at Sir Richard Hoare's, amounting to four hundred pounds, as to prevent their being stopped, and Mr. Hill's remembering the difference. Thus, he opened a way for getting four hundred pounds into his hands, without obstruction. But when it appeared that three of the notes had been falsely described, there having been none such given out by the bank, and Chandler was questioned by his master about it, and ordered to bring back the original paper, he made a pretence of going to the bank, and then brought back word, that the clerks could not find it; and said, they never kept such papers after they had made an entry.
On the 26th, he inserted a list of his notes, being fifteen in all, with their dates and numbers, in the daily papers, offering a reward of fifty pounds for the recovery of the whole, or in proportion for any part; and on the afternoon of the same day withdrew his advertisement in all the daily papers and, took his own written copy away at each place. And on the 29th of March, 1748, he put the notice of the robbery and the description of the robbers in the London Gazette, as the law directs, except that he did not particularize the notes, as he had done in the other papers.
On the 12th of May following, he made the proper information before a justice of the peace; but though Mr. Hill, his master, was with him, and had undertaken to manage the cause for him, yet he made the same omission in his information, as in his advertisement in the London Gazette.
All things being prepared on the 19th of July, 1748, Chandler proceeded to try his cause, and after a hearing of twelve hours, by a special jury at Abingdon assizes, obtained a verdict for nine hundred and seventy pounds, subject, however, to a case reserved for the opinion of the Court of Common Pleas, concerning the sufficiency of the description of the bank notes in the London Gazette, and the information; which case was afterwards decided in favour of the county.
In the mean time Chandler, fearing that by what came out upon the trial, he should soon be suspected, and that he might be arrested by Mr. Winter, who had now discovered that his mortgage was insufficient, obtained a protection from Lord Willoughby de Brooke, and gave out that he was removed into Suffolk, to reside, as he had before pretended, with his rich uncle; but in reality, he retired to Colchester, where his brother-in-law, Humphry Smart, had taken an inn, with whom he entered into co-partnership, and never came publicly to London afterwards. He was, however, obliged to correspond with his master, on account of the point of law, which was soon to be argued; and therefore, to come at his letters Without discovering his place of abode, he ordered them to be directed, "To Mr. Thomas Chandler, at Easton, in Suffolk; to be left for him at the Crown at Audley, near Colchester, in Essex."
Mr. Hill having written several letters to Mr. Chandler, pressing, him to come to town, (as the term grew near) and he evading it by trifling excuses, began to suspect him, even before the point of law was determined.
Just before this event, twelve of the notes, of which Mr. Chandler pretended to be robbed, were all brought to the bank together, having been bought, October 31, 1748, at Amsterdam, of one John Smith, by Barent Solomon, a broker, there; and by him transmitted to his kin Nathan Solomon, a broker, at London. Upon further inquiry, it appeared, that John Smith, who sold the notes, stayed but a few days in Holland, that he was seen in company with Mr. Casson, a Holland trader, and came over in the packet with him; Mr. Casson was then found, and his description of John Smith answered the person of Chandler, who was then pressed, by letter, to come to town and face Casson, to remove suspicion, but he refused.
And now the scene began to open apace; about this time the very paper which Chandler left when he stopped payment of the notes at the bank, was found; which, when Mr. Hill saw, and that it was not his writing, he quite gave up his clerk, and from that time, assisted in the prosecution. By means of the bank books, they traced every circumstance that has been related of his taking out the 400l. note; afterwards changing it at Sir Richard Hoare, for three lesser notes, his passing these notes, and by whom received; and even his buying the tankard of Tufley; which tankard was afterwards produced in evidence against him. All that now remained was to come at his person; and with this view, Mr. Wise, Mr. Hill, and Mr. Casson, about Midsummer, 1749, set out for Colchester, from thence went to the Crown, at Audley, and there inquiring for Easton, were directed first to one place, and then to another of that name; and after a fruitless journey of one hundred and fifty miles, they returned to the very inn then kept by Chandler at Colchester, and departed for London, without gaining any intelligence.
Chandler, who himself saw them at his house, immediately sold his goods, and: took a small inn at Coventry, where, though one hundred and fifty miles from Colchester, and ninety-one miles from London, he was still apprehensive of being arrested by Mr. Winter; and therefore he sent a draft to Mr. Gauntlet, a linen-draper of his acquaintance, for one hundred and fifty pounds to be paid to Mr. Hill, and by him to Mr. Winter. This draft he procured at Northampton, and there put it into the post. By the post-mark of this letter he was at length traced to his new habitation at Coventry, where an indictment for perjury having been found against him; he was apprehended by a judge's warrant, and detained in gaol there, till by an habeas corpus he was removed to Reading, in order to take his trial at Abingdon assizes, on the 22d of July, 1750. But though the prosecutors were ready, with their Witnesses, at a vast expense, yet he traversed the indictment, as by law he might, and put off his trial, to the Lent assizes held at Reading; where the facts, already related being proved, he was sentenced to stand on the pillory the then market-day, and to be transported for seven years. But the former part of this sentence was changed by the judge into three month's imprisonment, for fear the populace, who were greatly enraged, should kill him
[This prosecution produced two acts of parliament, one for remedying inconveniencies that may happen proceedings in actions on the statue of Hue and Cry, and the other to render prosecutions for perjury and subornation of perjury more easy and effectual.]