John and Joseph Kello were the sons of a mercer in an extensive way of business, in Houndsditch, who placed John at a grammar-school at Ludlow in Shropshire where he attained a great proficiency in classical learning. His education being completed, he was articled to a reputable merchant; and, soon after the expiration of his clerkship, he procured three hundred pounds for the purpose of establishing himself in business, with which sum he embarked for Virginia; and, soon after his arrival there, he connected himself in partnership with a person who had been some time settled in that colony in an advantageous branch of trade. Joseph Kello had served a Blackwell Hall factor some years in the capacity of a clerk, and in that time he contracted an intimate acquaintance with Mr. Cotton, a packer, of Aldermanbury, who was employed to do a great deal of business for a gentleman named Partridge; and, from frequenting Mr. Cotton's house, Joseph had frequent opportunities of seeing Mr. Partridge's writing, and became acquainted with many of that gentleman's commercial concerns.
After a residence of about three years in Virginia John Kello returned to London, and hired lodgings in the neighbourhood of Bloomsbury Square; but, being addicted to a life of pleasure, he soon found himself in very embarrassed circumstances. The situation of Joseph was not more eligible than that of his brother; for he was equally attached to scenes of dissipation; nor was he more inclined than John to industry in his profession or economy in his expenses. With the view of relieving themselves from their embarrassments, they concerted a plan for obtaining a thousand pounds, by means of a forged draft, in the name of Mr. Partridge; and learning that, on the 28th of August, he was gone to Harlow, they determined to seize the opportunity of his absence for carrying their villainous plan into execution.
Joseph having taken one of the checks under the firm of Amyand, Staples, and Mercer, from Mr. Cotton's compting-house, carried it to his brother, at the Red Lion alehouse, in Moorfields, and there filled it up in a hand very nearly resembling Mr. Partridge's writing. The counterfeit instrument was now enclosed in a letter to Mr. Cetton, purporting to be the writing of Mr. Partridge, desiring him to receive the thousand pounds expressed in the draft in one bank-note, and leave it under cover at the bar of Sam's Coffee-house, directed for Mr. Rous. The letter enclosing the counterfeited draft was dispatched by a porter, who, upon delivering it, was asked by Mr. Cotton who was his employer; in reply to which he said he had received the letter from a gentleman in the street, and that no answer was required. The hand of Mr. Partridge being imitated with great nicety, Mr. Cotton had no suspicion of an intended fraud, and immediately set out for the banker's house in Cornhill, where he presented the draft to Mr. Mercer, who, after checking him for coming after the usual hour of paying money, paid the thousand pounds in one bank-note. Mr. Cotton immediately went to the coffee-house, and sealed the note in a cover, which he directed to Mr. Rous; but after waiting about three hours, in expectation of seeing the gentleman, he returned home, taking the note with him, and leaving word at the bar for Mr. Rous to call at his house in Aldermanbury.
When Mr. Cotton got home he found Joseph Kello there, and mentioned to him that, as the sum Mr. Partridge had authorized him to receive was considerable, he judged it not prudent to leave the note at the coffee-house, lest some mistake or accident should happen. Hereupon Joseph went to his brother, who was waiting at Seymour's Coffee-house, in Pope's-head Alley, whence they dispatched a chairman to Mr. Cotton, with a verbal message, as from Mr. Partridge, desiring him to leave the note for Mr. Rous at the coffee house. Joseph now returned to Mr. Cotton; and presently after him came the porter, and delivered his message. Mr. Cotton set out for the coffee-house, being desirous of giving the note into the possession of Mr. Rous; and, upon inquiring for a gentleman of that name, the landlady said he had been gone from the house only a few minutes, but had left word that he should return in a short time. John, who waited to receive the note under the name of Mr. Rous, went out of the house upon observing that the messenger did not return alone. Mr. Cotton, recollecting that Mr. Partridge had connexions in trade with a gentleman named Rous, who lived at Hackney, concluded that he must be the Mr. Rous for whom the thousand pounds were intended; and, after waiting at the coffee-house till near midnight, he left a note at the bar, intimating that he would the next morning wait upon Mr. Rous, at Hackney, with the bank-note.
Upon going home he found Joseph Kello at his house, and gave him an account of his conduct. Joseph Kello intimated that he was apprehensive Mr. Partridge would be highly offended upon learning that the note was not delivered according to his order. Mr. Cotton, however, still adhered to his resolution of keeping the note till he could dispose of it without hazard; and he directly went to the post-office with a letter to Mr. Partridge, assigning reasons for his conduct in the affair. Joseph slept at Mr. Cotton's that night; and the next morning (which was Sunday) he informed his brother of Mr. Cotton's design of going to Mr. Rous, at Hackney. It was now agreed that another letter, as from Mr. Partridge, should be written to Mr. Cotton, purporting that he (Partridge) had received notice by express that Mr. Rous had not received the note, and desiring the directions contained in his former letter might be immediately obeyed. This letter they artfully sent, under cover, to Mr. Partridge's house; and that gentleman's porter carried it to Mr. Cotton, who had set out for Hackney, but stopped for refreshment at the Sun alehouse, at London Wall, where the porter found him. In consequence of the forged letter Mr. Cotton immediately went to Sam's Coffee-house, and there left the note in a cover, directed for Mr. Rous. Joseph, learning that Mr. Cotton had acted agreeably to the pretended order of Mr. Partridge, communicated the circumstance to his brother, who went to the coffee house, and received the note under the name of Mr. Rous.
On the day the note was obtained by John, Mr. Cotton and Joseph dined together; after which the brothers met by appointment, and went into the fields near Sadler's Wells, where the cover was opened, and the enclosed bank-note taken out. They then adjourned to John's lodgings, in Bloomsbury, where it was resolved that he should set out in a post-chaise for Bristol, in order to procure cash for the note; and Joseph borrowed ten guineas for his expenses on the road. Not being able to obtain the money at Bristol, he proceeded to Bridgewatcr, in Somersetshire, where the clerk to the receiver-general of the land-tax changed the note. He had no sooner received the cash than he travelled post to London, and took up his residence with a woman of the town in a street near Westminster Abbey. He gave the woman with whom he cohabited a bag, in which was the cash received in exchange for the bank-note, desiring her to take care of it, and saying it contained halfpence to the amount of five pounds.
Joseph Kello being taken into custody, charged on suspicion of the forgery, he made use of some expressions which seemed to convey an indirect accusation against his brother; and, after he had been particularly questioned respecting the affair, it was agreed to admit him an evidence for the crown, in case of John being apprehended. The postilion who had driven John to town recollected the place where he had ordered his trunk to be conveyed; and that circumstance facilitated the discovery of his lodgings, where he was taken into custody by Sir John Fielding's men, who recovered more than nine hundred pounds of the money obtained by means of the counterfeit draft. John Kello being brought to trial at the Old Bailey, his brother's evidence was exceedingly strong, and supported by a great number of corroborative circumstances; and be was therefore convicted of the crime alleged in the indictment.
Being summoned to attend prayers, he refused, saying he was a Dissenter. Hereupon Mr. Akerman sent him word that he might be attended by a minister of his own persuasion, but that his presence in the chapel was expected; and to the latter part of the message Mr. Akerman is supposed to have been induced by an unwillingness to trust him in the cells alone, the servants belonging to the prison being engaged in attending the other prisoners during divine service. He obstinately persisted in refusing to be attended by any dissenting minister; and, nearly to the end of his life, appeared to be totally indifferent as to the necessary preparations for eternity.
When the morning on which he was to be executed arrived the Ordinary put several questions to him respecting his sentiments of the doctrines of Christianity, in which he declared he entertained a firm belief, and that pride alone had suggested whatever reasons he had given for an opinion to the contrary. At the place of execution he acknowledged his guilt with every appearance of unfeigned contrition; but his voice was so low, through a very decayed state of health, that he was to be heard only by those who were in or very near the cart. Being asked by the Ordinary whether he forgave his brother, his answer was, that he forgive him as far as he could, 'consistent with humanity.' His devotions being concluded, he was turned off, October the 13th, 1764; and, after hanging the usual time, his body was delivered to his friends, by whom it was privately interred in a decent manner.
From the above narrative we may learn that, however nearly allied by blood and friendship, no obligations will be found sufficient to prevent our best friends from becoming our accusers when they are impelled by the double motive of self-preservation and the desire of making some reparation for the crimes they have committed. It would be a difficult point to determine which of the brothers had the greatest share of guilt. Perhaps the ignominious death of John was not a more severe punishment than what was sustained by Joseph; for it is scarcely to be supposed that any favourable change of circumstances could restore him to happiness after having proved so material an instrument in producing the destruction of a brother. Wealth is desirable only as the means of procuring the conveniences and comforts of life: but let our readers remember that, when it is obtained by unjustifiable actions, the consciousness of guilt will perpetually obtrude upon the mind, wholly disappoint or take off the relish of every promised enjoyment, and leave us miserable slaves to the tyranny of continual alarms and dreadful apprehensions.