Executed for Forgery.

THAT the punishment of death does not deter from the commission of crime is very evident in cases of forgery; for though an offence rarely pardoned, yet its progressive increase had now become an undoubted fact, at once alarming and melancholy. In 1814 the number of detected one-pound forged notes on the Bank of England was 10,342; in 1815, 14,035; in 1816, 21,860; in 1817, 21,421; and from the 1st of January to the 10th of April, 1818, 8,937. The facility of imitating the Bank of England notes at this period, and the ease with which they were put into circulation, were the inducement to hundreds who embarked in this dangerous trade; and though they knew the consequence of detection, yet each hoped he was the fortunate one who was to escape. This is the 'flattering unction' which every criminal lays to his soul, and no fact can more forcibly illustrate the impolicy of capital punishments.

At this period, 1818, the victims of forgery were more than ordinarily numerous. Days were occupied at the Old Bailey with their trials and convictions only; while Newgate was crowded to excess with those who waited, in horrid suspense, for the Recorder's report. The public mind, ever alive to sympathize with the unhappy, took the alarm, and felt great indignation at the conduct of the Bank, who, they thought, should have procured a bank-note, impossible to imitate by the ordinary process of engraving.

In consequence of this general complaint, a committee of scientific men sat to examine all specimens that might be submitted to them by artists. Many curious engravings from copper, wood, &c. were sent in, but none of these, it seems, though some of them were ingenious and beautifully executed, were of a nature that would warrant their adoption, as engravers were found who could exactly imitate them in a few days. From this it appears nothing could be fabricated, but what could be imitated by ingenious villainy.

At the same time, it must be observed that the public were too easily imposed upon; for most of the forgeries were so indifferently executed that the least attention would be sufficient to detect the counterfeit. It was a very erroneous. though very prevalent, opinion, that the Bank had a private mark by which they instantly detected a forgery. They had not, nor could not have, any such distinguishing mark.

Another complaint was, that the Bank had no right to assume the office of prosecutor, when they never sustained any loss. But it was necessary for them to protect the public, among whom their paper passed with as much facility as the current coin of the realm, and in discharging this duty they incurred incredible expense.*[see note]

The public voice, in some measure, prevailed; the Bank was compelled to change its mode of proceeding, and allow the accused to plead guilty to a minor charge, which subjected them to transportation, whereas the evidence against them would have proved the capital charge. Numbers availed themselves of this privilege, and even those who traversed were tried only on the minor charge; a course rendered absolutely necessary from the number of convictions, as the public could not, at the time, have endured the spectacle of twenty or thirty persons suspended on the gallows for passing forged notes. In that case, indeed, the satirist might exclaim:--


Scarce can our fields, such crowds at Tyburn die,
With hemp the gallows and the fleet supply

Driscol, Weller, and Cashman, were three of those, however, on whom the law was allowed to take its course. They were tried, on separate charges, at the Old Bailey, September the 12th, 1818, and were individually convicted of having sold forged notes. Driscol pleaded guilty at first, but was prevailed upon to alter his plea. The witnesses against them were two persons of bad character, but there was no doubt of their guilt. Whether they had been entrapped into the crime is not exactly known. Driscol was an illiterate Irish labourer, and likely to be operated on by a designing villain; but Weller and Cashman were old offenders, and could not be suspected for dupes. Cashman was a Jew, and had not long returned from the hulks. The fate of these men was no sooner known with certainty, than a meeting was held in the 'Bread Street Ward,' where a petition in their behalf was agreed to. They were also induced to apply themselves to the fountain of mercy. These applications proved, however, unavailing, and the unhappy men were left to their fate. A man of the name of Williams was to suffer with them, and he and Weller received the sacrament on Sunday, when the Rev. Mr. Cotton preached a very appropriate sermon. Driscol, being a Roman Catholic, did not attend, and Cashman, being a Jew, was visited, in his cell, by members of his persuasion, who were constant in their attentions. It is a custom with the Jews to watch every motion of a brother, for some hours before the fatal moment arrives. Ten men sat up with Cashman the whole of the night. The visits during the day were all cheerfully received, with the exception of those from a wife or child, which sometimes broke in upon the train of meditation from which so much relief had been obtained.

On Tuesday morning, December the 15th, 1818, at five o'clock, the usual apparatus, preparatory to the execution of criminals, was moved to the front of the debtors'-door of Newgate. From this moment to the time of execution the crowd increased till the Old Bailey and all the avenues to it were completely filled. At half past seven the sheriff entered the inner yard, when the prisoners, Driscol, Weller, Williams, and Cashman, had their irons knocked off. At eight o'clock the bell tolled as usual, and the prisoners were brought out.

A Quaker lady (Mrs. Ripley) had been admitted to the prisoners, and had taken much pains to give them religious instruction; she was with them again by six o'clock on Tuesday morning, by their own desire. Driscol was the first who mounted the platform, which he did in almost hurried manner, and with great agitation. Having ascended it, he gazed wildly around upon the spectators, and once or twice pushed his cap from his mouth. Weller was the next ushered to the scaffold, and he exhibited a considerable portion of firmness. Williams followed. Cashman, alias Emanuel, followed: he was a Jew, and, by the tenet of the Mosaic religion was not permitted to sleep during the night; he was attended by a priest of his own persuasion, and Mrs. Ripley, who manifested great anxiety for his future state. She accompanied him even to the scaffold, but there her feelings overcame her, and she burst into tears. The priest who attended him furnished the executioner with a peculiar kind of cap, which was substituted for the ordinary one used upon such occasions. By a quarter past eight, all the malefactors were arranged, Driscol labouring under great emotion and agitation. The Mosaic priest, the Rev. Mr. Devereux, and the Rev. Mr. Cotton, continued for a few minutes addressing prayers to the delinquents, when Mr. Cotton gave the signal, and thus they were launched into eternity.-- Immediately upon the unfortunate culprits being launched off, some of the populace vociferated --'Shame! shame! Murder! murder!!'-- After hanging the usual time, their bodies were cut down, and given over to their friends for interment.-- The Rabbis who attended Cashman were permitted to cut him down. They took away the rope along with the body. Shortly after, a great crowd of Irish, men, women, and children, applied for the body of Driscol, which they bore away with the usual custom of howling. The bodies of the other two were taken into the prison, to be delivered to their friends.

So much had been apprehended from the public indignation on this occasion, that the Bank had a body of guards down lest an attack might be made, by the mob, upon that establishment. Within the walls of Newgate preparation had also been made to resist any attack, and similar precaution was manifested in other places. Happily no disturbance took place on the melancholy occasion.

Note: An account of the number of persons prosecuted by the Bank for forgery, or for uttering or possessing forged notes, from the 1st of January, 1798, to the 1st of January, 1819; stating where prosecuted, and the total expense incurred each year on account of such prosecutions up to the 1st of October, 1818, being the latest period to which the account could then be made up, was laid before parliament about this time, of which the following is a brief abstract.

In the year 1798 the prosecutions took place in four counties; the number amounted to twelve, and the expense was 4,130l. 16s.








5,705 0 10




12,753 7 6




11,349 18 7




15,618 19 1




3,861 1 6




6,148 3 4




9,873 1 7




2,849 17 9




11,844 12 3




8,136 16 7




16,414 9 3




8,070 19 9




7,536 12 6




15,752 1 5




15,306 17 1




10,952 10 11




13,818 13 3




25,971 8 11




29,910 4 1




34,357 7 0

Next to Middlesex, Lancaster presents the greatest number of prosecutions: indeed, during the first half of the years here quoted, the number prosecuted at Lancaster considerably exceeded those tried at the Old Bailey.

From another paper prosecuted, including the same period, from January, 1798, to January, 1819, it appears, that Bank forgeries have increased in number from 1,102 to 30,476, and, in value, from 8,139l. to S6,301l. The account stands thus:--


Total Number.

Total Net Value.

Year 1798






There is a curious disproportion between the value, as compared with the number, in these two cases: which is explained by the fact, that in the first of the years quoted, there were 139 forged notes above 20l.; and in the last only one above that value.


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