THIS youthful malefactor evinced an extraordinary propensity for that species of crime which at length brought him to a premature and ignominious death. He was the son of a respectable tradesman of the city of London, who placed him, at the age of sixteen, in the countinghouse of an opulent bargemaster near Blackfriars He had not been long there when he forged a check on his employer's bankers, for one thousand pounds, and obtained the money. The fact was discovered; but his master, in pity to his youth, and from respect to his family, declined to prosecute, in consideration of being reimbursed. The father of the guilty youth paid the thousand pounds, and sent the boy to Portsmouth, where he entered him on board a ship of war then bound for the West Indies, thinking such a course most likely to prevent him from the commission of future crimes.
He went the voyage, but on his return be deserted from the ship, and again bent his course to London, where he renewed his former habits. From his knowledge of many commercial houses, and of the bankers with whom they did business, he contrived to acquire large sums through the means of blank checks, which he filled up, and committed forgeries to a vast extent, there being no less than thirteen indictments against him, at the time of his conviction.
During the month of July, 1810, he frequented the Surrey Theatre, and the Equestrian Coffee-house, contiguous to it, the waiter of which he sent to Messrs. Smith and Co. to get the banking book of Messrs. Diffell. This enabled him to ascertain the balance of money which Messrs. Diffell had in the hands of their banker. He then sent back the book by the same person, with a request to have a check-book, upon receiving which he filled up a check for four hundred pounds, eight shillings, and delivered it to Mr. Johnson, the box and house keeper of the Surrey Theatre, with whom he appeared to be on intimate terms, telling him he had some custom and excise duties to pay, requesting him to get payment of the check in notes of ten and twenty pounds.
Johnson went to Messrs. Smith's; but, as they could not pay him as he wished, he received from them two notes of two hundred pounds each, which he immediately took to the bank, and exchanged for the notes Thomas wanted. The forgery being soon detected, Thomas was taken into custody, in company with a woman with whom he cohabited. Upon searching her, a twenty-pound note was found, which was identified by a clerk of the Bank as one of those paid to Johnson in exchange for the two-hundred-pound notes. The woman, being asked where she got it, answered Thomas gave it her; when he, being locked up in an adjoining room, called out 'No, you got it from a gentleman.'
In a privy which communicated with Thomas's room fragments of ten-pound and twenty-pound notes were found, and upon several of the pieces the date corresponded with the entry in the Bank.
In addition to this, Mrs. Johnson, mistress of the Equestrian Coffeehouse, produced a twenty-pound note which she had received from Thomas on the same day the check was presented; and which, with the fragments, &c. made up exactly the sum of four hundred pounds. These facts being proved on his trial, and the forgery established, he was found Guilty, and sentenced to be hanged on Monday, September 3, 1810.
From the day of his conviction, August the 20th, until the Saturday preceding his execution, notwithstanding the zealous exhortation of the chaplain, who daily attended him, he could scarcely be aroused from an apathetic indifference to his fate, or to a penitent sense of the crime for which he was to suffer. On Sunday he attended divine service in the chapel of the gaol, where near three hundred persons of respectable appearance were also present, most of whom appeared to be more deeply affected by the situation of the prisoner than he himself.
He was attired in a fashionable and gentlemanly style. His dress consisted of a blue coat with gilt buttons, lined through with black silk; white waistcoat, with black silk breeches, and stockings; his hair unpowdered, and his upper lip adorned with Hussar mustachios. His coffin, covered with black, was placed before him; and when the chaplain stated that the unfortunate youth, who had now but a few hours to live, was a veteran in the species of crime for which he was convicted, although he had not yet completed his nineteenth year, the whole auditory were dissolved in tears; not excepting the gaoler, who sat by him, though familiar with such scenes; while the youth himself manifested a pensive firmness, and was the only person present who appeared indifferent to his fate.
Next morning, September 3, 1810, he was brought to the top of Horsemonger Lane gaol. His dress was precisely the same as that already described; and he met his fate with decorous resignation.