A long course of iniquity brought this malefactor to the gallows. The first mention we bear of him was in the debates in the House of Commons on the conduct of the Duke of York; where it appeared Kennett, though not worth a shilling, proposed lending his royal highness seventy thousand pounds upon annuity, with the additional consideration of a place to be obtained for him under government, through the interest of the royal duke.
The address with which Kennett imposed on his royal highness may be inferred from the several letters*[See Note] which were made public, and strongly evinced the zeal and pertinacity with which situations were solicited for him, in return for the supposed accommodation he was to afford the royal duke.
Before Kennett, however, succeeded in effectually imposing upon his royal highness, his character was discovered, and consequently all correspondence ceased. From that time he subsisted on ways and means; which, as they were practised in private, it is impossible for us to be acquainted with.
In 1812 he became acquainted with Richardson and Cooke, the two accomplices, who discovered the villainy of Badcock and others, whose case will be next given. With these men he planned and forged a bill of exchange on an unwary tradesman, for the sum of one hundred and sixty pounds, which they too securely obtained without detection or prosecution, and lodged in the funds. Having obtained this sum, they found access to Messrs. Trowers and Co. stock-brokers, who sold for them the stock they had so recently lodged, and paid them with a draft on Messrs. Glyn and Co.
Possessing this draft, they forged one like it for two thousand pounds, and Kennett obtained cash for it in the following manner:-- He took a lodging in Frances Street; and a young man, having advertised for a clerkship, was engaged by Kennett. This lad he sent with the check, which was paid in two large notes; after which he went, as directed, to the Bank, and obtained small notes for them in exchange. He then went to Moorgate Coffee House, where Kennett, who had assumed the name of Blunt, promised to meet him. He was not there, but a note was left appointing another place. of meeting, where he did not attend; but the young man at length met him in Warwick Court, Holborn, where he delivered him the money. At this time he was concealed in a strange dress -- having on a large wig, brown great coat, top boots, &c.
Richardson and Cooke having informed against all those with whom they were connected, Kennett was amongst the number; and accordingly he was apprehended, and brought to trial at the Old Bailey; when he was found Guilty on the evidence of his accomplices, which was fully corroborated by the testimony of other witnesses.
When brought up to receive sentence, and asked the usual question what he had to say why sentence of death should not be passed on him, he addressed the Court, saying that he was convicted on the testimony of those who, he urged, were not entitled to credit. He then adverted to the deplorable state of his family, consisting of a wife and four children; and added, that his eldest son died fighting for his king and country; a circumstance for which he thanked God, as he was thereby saved from the horror of witnessing the ignominious fate of his miserable father. He then remarked that some of his ancestors had obtained the highest honours which the city of London had to bestow; and that his uncle (Alderman Kennett) had filled that chair, as chief magistrate, from whence sentence of death was about to be passed on him. He concluded by imploring mercy. After which the Recorder passed sentence in the usual form.
On Wednesday, June the 16th, 1813, this unhappy man was executed in front of Newgate. He was brought upon the scaffold at eight o'clock, dressed in a plain suit of mourning, and attended by the Ordinary of Newgate, with whom he remained some time in prayer During this short and awful period be appeared to be perfectly resigned to his fate, which he met with becoming fortitude.
*Note: The Letters referred to are as follows:--
Lieutenant-Colonel Taylor presents his compliments to Mr. Kennett, and is directed by the Duke of York to transmit to him a copy of a letter from Mr. Pitt's private secretary, in reply to the application which his Royal Highness made in Mr. Kennett's favour for the Collectorship of the Customs of Surinam; which answer, his Royal Highness regrets, is not conformable to his wishes. Colonel Taylor would have sent it earlier, had he not been absent from London when it was sent to the Horse Guards.
August 7th, 1804.
Downing Street, Friday, 2d August, 1804.
My Dear Sir,-- I have not failed to state to Mr. Pitt the wishes of his Royal Highness the Duke of York, communicated through you, that he would nominate Mr. Kennett to the office of Collector of his Majesty's Customs at Surinam; and I am directed to request that you will submit to his Royal Highness, that, desirous as Mr. Pitt must at all times be to attend to his Royal Highness's commands, he is fearful that, from prior engagements, he is so circumstanced, as not to have it in his power to do so on the present occasion.
I am, &. (Signed) W. D. Adams.'
ADDRESSED-- 'Lieut.-Colonel Taylor.'
Colonel Taylor presents his compliments to Mr. Kennett, and is extremely sorry that be could not wait, as the Duke's carriage was waiting for him. He is directed by. his Royal Highness to say, that he will apply for the situation of Assistant Commissary-General, &c. &c. at Surinam; but that he will be able to do it with more effect, if Sir H. Mann will write to his Royal Highness, recommending Mr. Kennett.
Robert Kennett, Esq. &c. &c. &c
Horse Guards, Aug. 15.
Bromley Hill, Kent, Aug 30th.
Sir,-- I am sure Mr. Pitt would have been very happy to have attended to your request, respecting Mr. Kennett; but I know, upon the application of the Duke of York, he was informed that the office of collector had been appointed to. As to the other office, having received a letter, written by the desire of his Royal Highness the Duke, I made the inquiries respecting it, and I do not find that there is any such office as Assistant-Commissary and Agent for Prisoners, (or Commissary-General, as it was called in the Duke's letter,) to be appointed from hence: the Commissary-General in the West Indies, Mr. Glassford, recommends such deputies as he finds necessary for conducting the business of his department; and they are usually appointed the Treasury in consequence. The office of Agent for prisoners I conceive to be under the direction of the Transport Board.
Believe me, Sir, most faithfully yours,
Lieutenant-Colonel Taylor encloses, for Mr. Kennett's perusal, a letter from Mr. Chapman, and is very sorry to find from it that the situation of Vendue Master is disposed of. Mr. Chapman has been out of town, which accounts for the delay in regard to the receipt of the information now given. Should Mr. Kennett wish to see Colonel Taylor, he will be here to-morrow, between three and five o'clock.
Horse Guards, 22d Nov. 1804.
Downing Street, 22d Nov. 1804.
DEAR TAYLOR,--Lord Camden desires me to request you will express to the Duke of York his great regret that the office of Vendue Master of Surinam was disposed of before your communicated his Royal Highness's wish in favour at Mr. Kennett.
Believe me, very sincerely yours,
I should have give you an earlier answer, but have been out of town.'
ADDRESSED--Lieut-Col Taylor, in an envelope, To Mr. Kennett, &c.