This was a crime of so public a nature, so very artfully planned, and so daringly attempted to be carried into execution, that in order to give the reader a general view of the transaction, we shall transcribe, verbatim, from the sessions-paper, the speech of Mr. Silvester, then leading counsel for the crown, and now recorder of London; and which was very clearly and fully proved in evidence, on his trial, which began at eleven in the morning, and lasted till eight at night. The case was thus opened by Mr. Silvester, as follows:
"May it please your lordship, and you, gentlemen of the jury.
"This indictment has been stated to you, charging several persons with a conspiracy, Robert Jaques, John Tronson alias James Smith, Richard Bailey, Elizabeth Tronson, and Francis Shanley. The conspiracy is, that these persons conspired to charge the warden of the Fleet with a sum of one thousand three hundred pounds, he being answerable in case of the escape of any of his prisoners.
"The prosecutor is the warden of the Fleet: the defendant, Mr. Jaques, is a person whose character, perhaps, you have heard of, if not you will find it recorded in the several commitments and records of the several courts of justice in this kingdom: the defendant, Mr. Tronson, was originally a servant, he then became apothecary, afterwards a perfumer, and last of all a quack doctor; the next de fendant, Richard Bailey, is the brother-in-law of Jaques, keeping a public house in Lime Street, a man in great distress; Elizabeth Smith, otherwise Tronson, is the mistress of Mr. Tronson, who I described to you before; and Francis Shanley, alias Loftus, is a young man, an Irishman, who having spent most of his fortune, and spent great part of his time in the several prisons of this metropolis, and the last we hear of him is in Newgate, where Tronson was confined for debt.
"The question is, whether they are or are not concerned in one of the foulest conspiracies that ever was invented? Jaques, the prime mover and planner of the conspiracy, applied to the warden of the Fleet that he might be admitted to the place of clerk of the papers, stating that there was nothing against him but his character, particularly that there were men like him, who had been guilty of the worst offences, and had afterwards become useful officers; we have his letter to the warden, in which he writes as follows: 'Whoever you engage with let it be a man that knows the world, that he may be able to guard against the tricks which your situation subjects you to.' Jaques then, perfectly aware that the situation of the warden of the Fleet subjected him to many tricks and contrivances, and he, being that person of experience, knew very well his power, upon which Jaques having been offended with the warden locking him up, having broke through the rules, the first thing he does is to apply to a person of the name of Abbot, to get some person who was willing to be arrested, that he might escape, and the warden to be fixed with the debt; Abbot refused: the next was a man of the name of Kane; he told him it was a matter very easily managed, if he could get any one person that was willing to be arrested, that whatever was the debt, they would fix the warden and divide the money. Kane refused: the next person he applied to was Tronson; Tronson, the friend of Jaques, was applied to, to get a proper person, who from his appearance might impose on the turnkey, and escape disguised; Tronson recollecting that his friend Shanley, with whom he had spent his time in Newgate, was of a fair complexion, small, and likely to be disguised as a woman, applied to him; he was the man fixed on to be the prime mover in this transaction, of which Jaques was the planner: the way to do it was to have two warrants of attorney; upon which Alder, the relation of Tronson's mistress, was to be the plaintiff in one, that was four hundred and fifty pounds; Tronson, to carry this into execution, applied on the 5th of August to Mr. Crossley, the attorney; he told him that he wished to arrest a person for a friend of his, a Mr. Alder, a gentleman who was a money-broker, one of those people who lend money to distressed officers, living at Chelsea, in Sloane Street: he lent a sum of money to an extravagant young man, and they were afraid he was going to Ireland; upon which a warrant of attorney was produced, and he was directed particularly, immediately to arrest Shanley: Shanley was described as a young gentleman of character and fortune, a dressy man, known by being dressed in blue and gold; upon which a particular direction was given to Mell, the officer, that this Shanley was to be arrested: he was arrested on the 15th of August, and carried down by Mell, the officer, to Simpson's house; Tronson was continually there, and it created some little suspicion in the officer, and likewise in the attorney, that the man who was so active to arrest the defendant that they should be in habits of intimacy together; but so it was, Tronson was continually with Shanley while he was there; having given this description of Alder, the plaintiff, that he was a money broker, and it turning out afterwards that Mr. Alder kept a little register office in Fetter-lane, only having a back room, so distressed that he had not a bed to lay on, forced in the summer to work at hay-making, and obliged to live for three days on the produce of a pair of nut crackers; but, says Mr. Tronson, he has offered to pay part of the money; Mr. Crossley went to the officer's where he saw Mr. Shanley in custody; he admitted the debt was just and true: you see by this means Tronson had got Shanley into the custody of the officer; this was on the 15th of August.
"The next thing is, Jaques comes; and therefore it is necessary his warrant of attorney should be for a more considerable sum; he has a warrant of attorney likewise for eight hundred and sixty-nine pounds; the plaintiff upon that is Bailey, the brother-in-law of Jaques, keeping this public-house in Lime-street, a distressed man, his goods having been seized, and himself ruined; Jaques writes to Price, his attorney, and sends him the warrant of attorney with this letter: 'Sir, I have sent you a warrant of attorney, which I shall be obliged to you to enter up, and take out execution on immediately; as the defendant is in custody at Simpson's, in Brook-street, and I am told he will settle the matter, you may depend on this being a straight forward business: you see I have not taken the warrant in my own name, nor never will any more; but you will see, by the indorsement on the back, that it is in truth for me; if you have any offer of settlement you may take half down, and a warrant of attorney for the remainder, but not otherwise; I have sent two guineas per bearer, for money out of purse: you need only lodge the writ in the Sheriff's-office; in the other writ you sent me there is a mistake, therefore I shall not serve it till I see you. I am, Sir, your humble servant, Robert Jaques.-Pray send me an answer by the bearer. The witness to the warrant of attorney is my brother.' So that the supposed plaintiff is my brother-in-law, the supposed witness is my brother Jaques, but I, Mr. Robert Jaques, am the real plaintiff in the business.
"Having thus got him arrested, and charged in the office of the Sheriff, the next thing is to get him into the Fleet; how is that to be done? Jaques knew that is to be done by habeas corpus; who should be the attorney? there are a number of attorneys, and we will open the book and see how many there are of one name; it turns out there are two Mr. Martins: Martin is the man; there are but two Martins, and they will not know which of the two it was; now it turns out to be neither of them, for they are both here; so that from the beginning to the end it is a complete fabrication; now the next thing was how to get him out of the Fleet; that was to be done; because unless that could be done it would not do, the warden would not be charged with the debt.
On Saturday the 22d, I think he was brought to the Fleet: on the Sunday they dined together; the company consisted of Mr. Robert Jaques, and his lady, Mr. John Jaques, and his wife, who from her size and appearance might very well pass for a man, and Mr. Shanley being from his appearance to pass for a woman, the transition was easy; Mr. Robert Hopper, and his wife, Mr. Shanley, and Mr. Tronson; Mrs. Hopper and Mr. Hopper coming in about four o'clock on the Sunday: Mr. John Jaques, with his lady Mrs. Jaques: they transferred their appearances, Mr. Shanley placed his blue and gold coat round his waist, to make some hips, and with a gown of Mrs. Jaques's he walked out; Mrs. John Jaques was left in company with Mr. Robert Jaques, Mr. Shanley went out of the gate between eight and nine in the evening, in the very same gown, in the very same dress and appearance that Mrs. John Jaques came in about four; they led a child out with them. Unfortunately Clipsom the turnkey (now whether Jaques knew this before) had been sent for to his mother, in the country, and therefore the door was kept by an under-turnkey; he had not the least suspicion; was not on his guard: the next day it was found that Mr. Shanley had escaped out of prison, and he was traced by some means or other to the lodgings of Mr. Tronson, in Sloane-street: they took coach directly, and went there; Mrs. John Jaques sent for her clothes, and they were returned; the next thing was to get Shanley out of the kingdom; because if he was here he might be taken by an escape warrant, and the whole would be discovered; he therefore the next day took a post chaise and went to Dover, and in company with Mr. Shakeshaft, a person he met with on the road, took boat, and went to Calais. They went to Tronson's the 29th; Tronson's lodgings was in the most miserable situation, scarce a table or a chair: Clipson charged him immediately with having aided and assisted in the escape; Tronson was exceedingly angry at it, and being told that he should be charged with a conspiracy, said, he did not care, that as to going to the Fleet again, he never would put his foot there again, for now he had got his friend out that was all he wished; he had his ends, therefore he did not care a penny about it.
"Gentlemen, upon this Tronson wrote a letter, and sent it to a friend of his, of the name of Alder, who was the plaintiff in that business; now in that letter he writes in these words: 'Dear Frank, I have this moment received yours; and have only time to inform you that there has been six men here searching for you this moment. Matters are arrived to such a height, that I can neither call on Jaques, nor can he send to me at present, therefore I must request you will defer drawing, till you hear from me again. Rely upon it, I shall either call or send to him as soon as I can with safety. They have threatened to indict us all for a conspiracy. I must once more request you will live as saving as you can: God bless you. Yours sincerely, James Smith.' Here Tronson takes the name of Smith, and writes to his friend, Frank Shanley, at France, 'You must direct no more at Chelsea, as follows: Mr. Smith, 97, Fetter-lane, Holborn,' (that being the place where this man, Alder, had a place for a register office.) 'I hope you will have the goodness to excuse this this scrawl, for by G-d, nothing but Botany-bay stares us in the face. Do not doctor me over any more in your letters." This letter is directed to Monsieur Loftus, Calais, France.
"This letter was afterwards produced; and by that means it was found that Shanley was in France, under the name of Loftus. Many letters afterwards passed from one to the other, from Shanley to Tronson, and from Tronson to Shanley; those directed from Shanley were directed to Mr. Smith, Fetter-lane; those from Tronson were directed to Mr. Loftus, in France. The next correspondence is a letter from Jaques; and I will just read one of them to you, (for there are more than one;) for Jaques who not only is a very good manager, but a very good actor, not only can plan, but can execute very well, either in his own hand or in a feigned hand sometimes, which this day will be proved to you; for some of those letters are in a feigned hand; but his tricks are so well known, that it will be proved to be his own hand writing.—'Dear Sir, if this meets you, our friend Tom (Thomas Hopper) will have seen you, and informed you that villain, Clipson, the turnkey, set off for Calais this morning to you, to get you to do some wicked act against your friends, they all rely upon you with the greatest confidence. You will have heard that some of your letters fell into the enemy's hands, in consequence of a traitor; but all will yet be well, so you are safe, and out of Old England. October 16th, 1782,' directed to 'Monsieur Loftus, Calais.'
"Then there is another letter to his friend Tom, which says,—'Dear Tom, if this should meet you, it is just to inform you that Clipson set off for Calais, to endeavour to find the same person you went in search of, to persuade him into something: I think some step might be taken to punish the villain; you have nothing to fear from us; everything here goes on to your satisfaction: particulars I cannot relate. I wrote to L—s, that is Loftus. Yours, sincerely, you know who.' This is Mr Jaques's letter likewise.
"Now, Gentlemen, these letters, you will say how came we into the possession of them because application being made to the Secretary of State's office, these letters were intercepted. Mr. Jaques I see had not heard of this before; he now hears of it; and he will see the letters produced, and proved to be his hand-writing. Gentlemen, the information he gave, was perfectly true and correct; for having learned that this man was in France, that Shanley was in France by the name of Loftus, on the road he met with Mr. Thomas Hopper, who went by the name of Johnson, and said he was clerk to Lady Loftus, in France. Clipson came and found at the French hotel there Mr. Shanley under the name of Loftus; Shanley being accused of this, went before a magistrate, and has made a full and clear discovery of the whole transaction; he has discovered how the plot was laid by Jaques; he has discovered how he escaped out of prison; and he, in short, has related every fact, and how he escaped.
"Gentlemen, that will be read in evidence before you; for he is one of the defendants in this very conspiracy; you will therefore have not only what has passed between Tronson who is not here (though he ought to be here, having given notice of his trial,) but you will have what passed between Shanley and the persons concerned, during the transaction of the persons being in pursuit of Shanley. Jaques was not idle: Tronson was not asleep: it was necessary, if possible, to recover the money; and therefore instructions were to be given by Tronson to Mr. Crossley, to sue the warden for the debt due to Alder; and Jaques applied to his attorney, Mr. Price, to sue the warden for the debt due under the warrant of attorney.
"Gentlemen, this scheme would have taken place; the actions would have gone on; but the iniquity was so full, the acts came out so strong that the attorneys who were applied to, gave up their papers, and gave every information in their power.
"Gentlemen, Tronson having applied very frequently to Mr. Crossley, giving intimation to a lady, a Miss Brooks, who lived in London, that he had escaped, telling her to come abroad to him, desiring Mr. Crossley, to proceed on it; by way of imposing on Crossley, to bring the action, clothes were sent by Tronson to Mr. Alder, for the purpose of dressing himself up to go to Mr. Crossley, to desire him to go on with the action. Alder was out; he had been passing the day with Tronson; he returned, and complained of being ill (for he began to be shocked at the idea of the iniquity); he soon died; he died, and then application was made to the widow, with an offer to her, if she would stand in the shoes of her husband, they offered her two hundred pounds; the clothes which he had to dress himself in were returned to Tronson. Jaques, with in a very few days after the escape, was the first person to carry the intelligence; to be sure he was the person that knew it better than anybody; he applies to Price, and desired him to proceed to recover the money, which was eight hundred and sixty pounds, anxious to get it on, thinking if he could get the money, he should be able to put it into his own pocket, or share it among them.
"Gentlemen, in this state of the case, it will appear to you clearly, that these two warrants of attorney are fabricated: the witness to one, is a Mr. Brown, who will not appear to prove his signature. The situation of Alder was such, that he could not lend Shanley a farthing. In regard to Jaques's warrant of attorney, he confesses it was his own; he writes to his attorney; it is his own, though taken in the name of his brother; and the witness, his brother, John Jaques, who I believe he will not call, I wish to see him here; I wish to examine him. Then as to Mr. Bailey; Bailey is a brother-in-law of Jaques; so distressed, that he borrowed money before he went to the public house in Lime-street: so distressed, that he borrowed it of his brewer and of his distiller; and before he borrowed that money, he assigned all his effects over to Jaques his brother; this is the man he made use of as the plaintiff in the charge; and Mr. Bailey being applied to for money, says, why says he, I shall not be able to pay you now; but the moment we can recover some money from the the warden, I shall be able to pay some of my debts; so that he is to have some share in the concerns.
"Gentlemen, these are the facts I am instructed to lay before you; I have endeavoured to state them to you as shortly as I possibly could; because a case like this requires no comment; it requires a mere narrative of facts in the plainest way it possibly can; and I am sure if I prove them in evidence, there cannot be a doubt in the mind of any man that hears me, that a fouler conspiracy could not enter the mind of man. Jaques knew perfectly well from his situation, that the warden of the Fleet was answerable for the persons in custody; he knew very well the warden was answerable for the escape; the only question therefore was, how he was to get this money in his pocket; that was to get fictitious plaintiffs and fictitious defendants; and to get a man that would look like a woman, and dress him in the habits of a woman, and impose upon the poor turnkey.
"Gentlemen, a fouler conspiracy I believe never came before this court, and any jury. I have not opened a circumstance which I am not instructed I shall prove: these facts in my mind are irresistible; they prove the connection between Jaques and Tronson: they prove the connection between Jaques and Shanley; they prove that Shanley was sent to France after the escape had been contrived.
"Gentlemen, so accustomed is Mr. Jaques to prisons of this kind, so hardened in iniquity, that he has not done it for the first time; but this is a common trick.
"Gentlemen, I do not wish that the character of Jaques, infamous as it is, should have any weight on your minds at all; judge him on the facts I have opened to you; and if he is as guilty as I am instructed he is, you will have no difficulty in pronouncing your verdict. As to Tronson, his character is not so black as Jaques's, but black enough of conscience. Shanley, if he is a gentleman, has disgraced himself by associating himself with these people: as to Bailey, a relation of Jaques's, I shall say nothing of. I set down perfectly satisfied, that I shall prove such facts, such connections, between the parties, as not to leave the least doubt in the mind of any man, but that they are all guilty of this charge; and it is high time that justice should overtake these delinquents."
The prisoner conducted his own defence, and cross-examined the witnesses with some ingenuity. He addressed the court with considerable ability; and when his case was going to the jury, he exclaimed, "For God's sake, Gentlemen, consider my family; I have a large family." He was however, without hesitation, found guilty of the conspiracy. He then made the following appeal to the Bench:
Mr. Jaques. My Lord, can I ask on which account I am found guilty?
Court. Yes, you may ask that certainly.
Mr. Silvester. Third and fifth.
Mr. Jaques. My Lord, I trust your lordship will, in passing sentence, have some consideration as to my family: I have a very large family entirely dependent on myself.
Court. It is not my province to pass the sentence; but now you have brought it to my mind, I find by the evidence, you had it in contemplation to bring an action against the worthy Recorder; if he therefore has any difficulty in passing the sentence, I shall solicit the assistance of my brother Wilson, and pass it for him.
Mr. Jaques. My Lord, if I had been indicted under the act for effecting the escape of a prisoner, you know the punishment that is inflicted under that act; if you will suffer me to transport myself from this country; or otherwise I should be glad if sentence of death could be passed upon me.
SENTENCE.—"Robert Jaques, the offence of which you stand convicted is one of the foulest crimes which man can commit; it is so extensive in its consequences, and so dangerous in its example, that at all times the Court are bound to inflict a very heavy and severe punishment for it: in your case it has been attended with every circumstance than can aggravate so black a crime as this; and therefore in passing the sentence upon you, which the court in their discretion think the case requires, I cannot make any allowances for any supposed mischiefs or inconveniences, which may arise from what you have yourself stated to have been your former situation of life: you have deprecated of the jury, that they would not incline against you, because your life hitherto has been very bad: it is a strange defence to come out of the mouth of any person: perhaps you may have heard that it did succeed here in one case better than it ought, and therefore might succeed again in blinding a jury. The fact has been clearly proved against you beyond all possible doubt: and the offence is of that enormity, that the Court think themselves bound to inflict that punishment which the justice of the case requires, and they must rely on the officers of the Court that the sentence is executed with proper severity. The sentence of this Court is: that you be Imprisoned in his Majesty's gaol of Newgate for the space of three years, and that during that time you be once set in and upon the pillory at the Royal Exchange for the space of one hour, between the hours of twelve and two o'clock."
During Jaques's imprisonment, in pursuance of this sentence, Sir James Saunderson was robbed to a considerable amount in cash and notes. Part of the latter were brought into Newgate, (that receptacle of stolen property.) and Jaques contriving to get possession of them, under pretence of raising money thereon, gave immediate notice to Sir James, who, by this means, recovered the principal part of his property. We are not, however, to believe, that this was a spontaneous act of virtue in Jaques; he saw in it a gleam of hope, in prevailing upon Sir James, in return, to do him the kind office of getting, at least, the more hateful part of his sentence, the pillory, remitted. In this he succeeded; Sir James was a man of influence, and Jaques was pardoned. Yet, it seems, that this fortunate escape was not warning sufficient to Jaques, who often appeared at the criminal bar; for we find him, shortly afterwards, convicted of wilful perjury, from which he fled to parts beyond the seas.