Already are our readers in possession of the mode of deception, and the petty depredations of the lower tribes of Israel, in London. As Judaism is marked on every Hebrew visage, so are their avocations alike in every quarter of the globe. The meaner sort are pedlars in trinkets, purchasers of second hand articles, and receivers of whatever may be brought to them. They are, in fact, for their sins and cruelties to the blessed Jesus, a wandering unlicensed race upon the earth.
But in London we have a set of privileged receivers of goods, and acting under the law, they can consequently do nothing, save what is lawful; yet, we can safely add our opinion, that it would be more for the general weal, was the act of parliament which they have obtained, abrogated. This fraternity are that proud, insolent, and unfeeling set of men, y'cleped, "Pawnbrokers." It is proverbial, that "Had we no receivers, we should have no thieves;" it is equally true, that "had we no Pawnbrokers we should have less distress." These men, under no chartered restrictions as a trade, so late as thirty years ago, conceiving themselves out of the statutes against usury, demanded what rate of interest they pleased upon pledges, generally worth double their pawn. In those times, every man who could muster cash, could open a shop for receiving pledges; and many, very many thousands of poor families, owe their ruin to these pawntakers.
About the date already mentioned a young man of ancient family, to supply his extravagance, had pledged a quantity of plate and other articles with Parker, then of Princess-street, Haymarket, but since Pawnbroker to the notorious Mrs. Clarke, while under royal protection. The gay young gentleman, again in funds, wished to redeem the ornaments of his sideboard, which, certainly had laid in Parker's strong room several months; but applying for that purpose, the demand of Mr. Pop, (we are sure Parker will pardon our familiarity, because he knows we write from record) was so enormous, that it alarmed the simple owner.
It happened that the attorney for the young man, (since succeeding to his title) was Mr. William J'anson, of Bedford-row, than whom a man of greater ability never practised in the courts of Westminster. To this gentleman, was the case stated, who in due terms of law, brought Parker, Priestman, and other pawnbrokers, into Westminster-Hall, where he recovered against them the penalty of the statute of Elizabeth, against "directly, or indirectly," taking more than lawful interest for money lent. The fraternity of usurious money-lenders were in alarm. They who had for years hoarded contrary to law, and on the miseries of mankind, were compelled, wherever an action was brought, (and the minor attorneys soon followed the tract of J'Anson,) to disgorge their ill-gotten pelf. Thus defeated, the body of Pawnmen consulted together, and procured an act of parliament for the regulation of their dealings, which limits their interest to twenty percent, and orders them, in case the pledges are not redeemed within a year, to sell the same by public auction, and return the surplus to the persons who pawned the same. This part of the act is shamefully evaded. They give a colour to a sale, it is true, but we never yet heard of a single miserable individual who benefited by it. Thus the grievance advances in this unfeeling traffic; the number of pawnbrokers increase rapidly, and the evil will continue, unless we find another J'Anson, to keep them within the strict letter of the law.
William Grant was a native of the Coast of Africa, a region of black men, but little known to Europeans. A few of this nation, and we could wish the British dominions purged of them, find their way among us. This malefactor (like most of his colour, when taken from their burning clime) was a thief. He was convicted of robbing his master, Captain Ball, of a ruby ring, which cost ninety guineas. The thief sold it (for so says the account) to one of these human sharks, a pawnbroker, for four guineas; and he parted with it to a Jew, for six! Modest, but ignorant pawnbroker: The son of Israel, somewhat more cunning in his dealings, sold it to jeweller for fifteen; and thus we see the progress of this kind of iniquity in the degradation of man—the Negro, the Pawnbroker, the Jew, and the Jeweller. But of all these, the jeweller was the greatest knave; for he best knew the value of the precious stone, and it was surely worth, even four times the purchase of the Jew. It is a vulgar adage, that "Tricking is fair in love and war" but we hold it despicable in trade. The ruby was traced to the dealer in stones; he was obliged to yield it up, and black Bill was sentenced to transportation at the Old Bailey, on the 22d of September, 1787.