East India Company.

Proceedings of the court of directors and of a secret select committee appointed by the court ... 2d May 1827, to investigate transactions connected with an abuse of patronage; together with a report of the trial in the Court of king's bench online

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Online LibraryEast India CompanyProceedings of the court of directors and of a secret select committee appointed by the court ... 2d May 1827, to investigate transactions connected with an abuse of patronage; together with a report of the trial in the Court of king's bench → online text (page 8 of 17)
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Gibbons says, " I come on behalf of myself and Mr. Wright, to get the diffe-
" rence between the sum we first named and the sum you have got it for ;
" for, as I told you it would cost nine hundred guineas and you have got it
" for £800, there is £145 to spare; and I mean to have the odd £45, and give
" Wright the £100." That shews the connexion between all the parties, from
the first to the last.

That, Gentlemen, is pretty much the outline of the case against the first



seven of the Defendants ; and upon that evidence, even if it had not been Coun
corroborated, as it is now beyond all dispute, by the acts of the parties *^«^'"^^

themselves pleading guilty to the indictment, and one of them taking a

verdict by consent, there could be no doubt in the minds of gentlemen of ^Q^g^^f"^
your intelligence, that they were all of them, and not part, guilty of the trans-

But I come now to state the facts that relate to Mr. Prescott : and I begin
by stating that there is not the least charge against him, nor am I instructed to
state that he was guilty of any actual participation in the money given for this
appointment. He is charged only with having abused the situation he held,
by knowing, or at least having certain means of knowledge of that which had
taken place in the course of this transaction by Sutton, and yet lending his aid
to it, by giving Sutton the patronage to be so disposed of.

Now what is the exact connexion between Sutton and Mr. Prescott, I am
not able to trace out : they are friends, and have long been intimate and ac-
quainted. That Sutton is a person who has served Mr. Prescott very much
in the course of some elections that have taken place, that I believe I shall be
able to prove ; and whether, by having this patronage in his power. Captain
Prescott thinks proper actually to sell it and convert the money to his own
use, or whether he thinks proper to give it to a person from whom he has
received services and is indebted, that that person may convert it into money
and apply it to his own purposes, does not make any material degree of dis-
tinction between the parties accused. In either case, it is a gross perversion
of the purposes for which this public trust is reposed in him : it is rather a
shade, a degree in guilt, than in the degree of fraud.

But I now proceed to state the evidence that will affect Mr. Prescott. It will
appear that on Thursday, the 26th of April, he made application to another
Director, Colonel Toone, a gentleman who has been a Director of the
Company for the last thirty years, in order to lend him (which is by no means
an uncommon transaction) an appointment for that year of a Cadetship in the
Madras Cavalry. Colonel Toone said he was extremely welcome to it; that
no man in England was more welcome to his patronage than Mr. Prescott.
This was on Thursday, the 26th of April; and I have already stated,
while I was mentioning the other steps in the transaction, that this vras



Court the day immediately following that upon which the £800 had been completely

Bench. deposited in the city with Gibbons or Captain Anstice. It seems that on the.

., ~~: . Friday some conversation had taken place at the East-India House, which it

Mr. Solicitor •' ...

General, is unnecessary for me to state. I only state it as occasioning an act done
by Colonel Toone : but some conversation took place at the India House, that
made Colonel Toone uneasy at the promise he had made to Mr. Prescott to
lend him this appointment, and in consequence of that. Colonel Toone called
upon Mr. Prescott, or met him at the India-House, and a conversation ensues^
that it will be extremely important for you to bear in your minds. You will
perceive, when this paper is put into your hands, that there is a letter signed
by the party who recommends any young man to an appointment under the
East-India Company, in which he states that he declares upon his honour that
he received the nomination of Cadet for the Madras Cavalry from one of the
Directors gratuitously, " and that I have given it gratuitously to Mr. Edward
" Drake Back, with whose family and connexions I am well acquainted."
There is upon every one of the papers, before a Cadet can be passed, a letter
written by the recommending person to the Directors, from which it is called
" a recommendatory letter ;" and there is an assertion from this person so
recommending, that he is well acquainted with the connexions and the family
of the person so recommended to notice. In fact, that is the only security the
Directors have that their patronage shall not be abused. They know nothing
of the young men brought forward ; but each individual Director knows the
person to whom he has given his patronage, and if he can trust him j he sees
his name at the bottom of the letter, that he is either the parent of the party, or,
well acquainted with the party recommended. The only pledge the Directors
have left that improper persons shall not be admitted into the service of the
Company, is this letter of the party so recommending.

Gentlemen : — Upon this occasion, instead of being signed, as the letter
ought to have been, by some person who had actually recommended young
Mr. Back to this patronage of the Company, this document is irregularly and
is unusually, and therefore I say improperly, signed by Mr. Prescott himself.
What does Mr. Prescott assert in this letter? He asserts that young Mr. Back
is a person with whose family and connexions he is well acquainted. This is
Sjigned by Mr. Prescott at the East-India House, on Saturday the 28th of,



April. I liave told you, on Friday afternoon something had occurred to render Court
the mind of Colonel Toone uneasy that he had given this office, and a conver- ^Bench ^

sation takes place to which I wish to call your attention. Colonel Toone asks

Mr. Prescott what he knows of young Mr. Back, what he knows of his con- GeneraL^
nexions — the answer given (I wish to give it in the very words) is this: — he
stated that he knew the young man's father, that he was a respectable cler-
gyman residing in Devonshire, that the young man wanted only two months
to be twenty-two years of age, and that he was as fine a youth as any in
England. I am sorry to say. Gentlemen, that not one part of this assertion is
borne out by the fact. Mr. Prescott did not know the father of Mr. Back,
he had never seen or heard of the father before this transaction. Dr. Back was
not a clergyman in Devonshire ; for the last twelve years he had been living
abroad, and I believe has not been in Devonshire for a longer period than the
twelve years in question. The young man wanted more than two months of
twenty-two ; he was not at this period more than twenty-one and a half. And
this is not an immaterial allegation, because the time at which a young man
would be superannuated being twenty-two, the nearer he approaches to that
age the more necessary it is that all due diligence shall be used to procure the
appointment : there is the more occasion to look about to see that the young
man is provided for. That assertion was one not founded in fact ; and when
he asserts he is as fine a youth as any in England, I am told that that is by
no means a proper and just description of the gentleman. However, he will
be called as a witness, and you will see whether that is a proper description of
the party. So that you have the letter filled up irregularly by the person who
ought not to have subscribed it, but who ought to have insisted on the party
who had obtained the recommendation from him to have been the recom-
mender upon the face of the letter. And who is that party ? I have no scruple
in saying it is Sutton : — the facts of the case shew it was Sutton, and Sutton
only. Sutton ought to have written this letter ; and Mr. Prescott, instead of
being the party recommending, ought to have been the nominator : he ought
to have been the Director nominating, and Sutton the party recommending.
Why was this alteration ? why was not Sutton used as the name ? Why was
not he brought forward, on this occasion, as the party who recommended the
young man ? I must draw the inference, and the justice or the want of pro-

o priety


Court priety in making the inference must be left to you. I must say, because a
°B^'ch ^ very short period before that, in the month of February, the very same trans-

action took place, his giving an appointment to Sutton ; and Sutton has signed

^General, the recommendatory letter in February before that, and Mr. Prescott had been
the nominating Director. I say, therefore, you will judge whether the in-
ference is a just one, that the object was not to bring forward the name of
Sutton in these papers ; that recourse was had to this mode of filling up the
paper, and that the ordinary business and regular course of making this ap-
pointment was not adopted.

Gentlemen: — We have now got to Saturday the 28th, on which day the
conversation takes place I have alluded to. In the course of the morning of
the 28th, Mr. Prescott goes or sends to the ofSce of the Cadet clerks, Mr.
Prescott havmg a right to do that, as all the other Directors have. A clerk
of the name of Sharp, a person who will be called to you, will state what took
place. Mr. Prescott produced this printed paper, filled up in the manner I
have stated to you. I pause to ask you how could this paper have come into
the hands of Mr. Prescott. I have shewn that this paper was given by his friend
and former manager in this transaction to Dr. Back, to be filled up to a certain
extent. I have shewn you it was transmitted back to Gibbons ; and it is a
perfect blank. What becomes of the paper from its reaching Gibbons to its
appearing in the hands of Mr. Prescott ? Let that be explained. I suppose
an explanation of it, that Sutton is the person whom I have shewn to be
colleaguing with the others, and one of the parties in the conspiracy ; that
Sutton must have been the person who, as he had asked this favour of Mr.
Prescott, so he had put this appointment into the hands of Mr. Gibbons. He
tells Sharp the manner in which the remaining part shall be filled up ; but
as if he felt conscious at the moment there was something irregular in this, he
says, " but will this be regular ?" •* No," says the clerk, " that is not regular,
" the name of the person who solicited the appointment and obtained it from
" the Director, the person who recommends the candidate, the friend of the
" young man who is recommended to the notice of the Director, should be
" the person to sign it. You ought not to sign it: you are the nominator,
•* and although it is your own, you have borrowed it from Colonel Toone,
" and you ought to have signed it, and the real party should have nominated

" him.


« him. Shall I make out the paper in the usual way ?" He says, "No: I ^^^""^'.^

" have given Colonel Toone a great deal of trouble, fill it up in the usual Bench.

«' way and I will sign it myself:" and he signs it, and a note is to be written jyj^"^^.^^^^

accompanying this, and it is to be sent to Colonel Toone at the west end of General.

the town. About nine o'clock in the evening a sealed paper comes containing

this which I hold in my hand, containing also a note written in the name of

Mr. Abington, who was the head clerk of the office, but who had been absent

that day from illness, but in whose name it was written at the express request

of Mr. Prescott. A sealed paper, inclosing this note and these documents,

arrives at the house of Colonel Toone ; it being necessary for him to make

the ultimate signature at the bottom of it, as the party who declares that to his

belief all is correct. I have already told you what had taken place in Colonel

Toone's mind : he was still so dissatisfied, even that night he writes one note

to Mr. Abington at the East-India House, requesting that the young man

should not pass until he had seen him himself; and he writes another note,

which he sent by his own servant to Mr. Prescott, the defendant, telling him

he must not bring him to the India-House, to pass him, until he has seen him,

and he is satisfied he is the person he is represented to be.

Gentlemen : Let us follow up this sealed parcel. It takes a very different
course from that which was intended ; it arrives at Colonel Toone's, and he,
after signing it, re-directs it to Mr. Abington, the head clerk of the office.
An East-India House messenger, who had received his previous instructions,
instead of carrying it to Mr. Abington, carries it on to the house of Mr. Pres-
cott, and Mr. Prescott breaks open the seal and obtains possession of this
paper. The next day is Sunday, and nothing is done upon this part of the
transaction. I have already stated what the other members were occupied
on this day j they were calling at Mr. Andrews's private house. — Monday
morning comes. You recollect the note written to Mr. Prescott, requesting
him to attend with the young man, and produce him before any thing was
done with the papers. On the Monday morning Colonel Toone goes to the
India House. No one appears from Captain Prescott, nor the young man
himself; therefore, although Mr. Prescott had received this intimation of the
doubt existing on Colonel Toone's mind, and his anxiety that all should be set
right before the appointment was ultimately made, he does not do that which,

o2 I must


Court I must say, any man who was occupied in a straight forward course would be

"Ben'clf,* most anxious to do, to stop these papers and prevent their being carried

through the office, until that explanation had been given to Colonel Toone,

Mr. Solicitor . , . . i • i i i i i

General. *"© nominator, which he demanded.

Then, again, on the Tuesday morning I have stated what took place. There
is nothing further as to Mr. Prescott, except this, that while the young man
is there, he calls the young man before him, and asks him how old he is, and
whether he likes to go to India ? But not a syllable upon that point which
ought to have excited a suspicion in his mind j not a word about the party
recommending him, or whether it was obtained gratuitously or not. All that
which he must have known was passing in the mind of Colonel Toone, and
most anxiously passing there, all that is kept back ; there is nothing but that
simple inquiry.

Gentlemen : These are the facts of the case. Upon the particular circum-
stances that appear to me to constitute a case against the other defendants, I
shall not trouble you with a word. These are the facts which, I say, appear to
me to constitute a case, if not of conviction, at least of such great suspicion
against the defendant, Mr. Prescott, that I do take on me to say, the Directors
would not have performed their duty to the public, if they had not included his
name in the present indictment. — First, I think it is perfectly clear, that a sale
had been effected of a cavalry appointment for the sum of £800 ; that is put
beyond all dispute. It is, in the next place, clear that the party who obtained
the advantage of the appointment obtained it through the meansof Mr.
Prescott : — it is clear, he is a stranger to Mr. Prescott ; and it is clear,
that the party who had recommended him to Mr. Prescott had, a short
time before, obtained a similar appointment for another person. It is
clear, that Mr. Prescott has signed this recommendatory letter not in the
ordinary course. It is clear, that the recommendation, to which his name
is subscribed, contains facts that are not founded in truth. It will be proved
to you, beyond dispute, that when his particular attention is called to these
facts, a conversation takes place between Colonel Toone and himself, in which
he states, his attention being called to it, facts not consistent with the truth.
It is clear, that the paper which we have traced into the hands of Mr. Gibbons,
by some means or other comes into the hands of Mr. Prescott. It is clear, that



when that paper is sent by itself, at night, directed to Colonel Toone, it gets Court of
back into his hands again: not in the mode in which it was intended by Colonel Bench!
Toone; for by hira it was directed and addressed, and intended to be passed — r.

Jify SoltcttoT

back to the regular office. But there is, at least, this fact which appears to me General.
to afford the most pregnant evidence against him, that when all those suspi-
cions were raised, he knew what Colonel Toone's mind was working upon ;
and when he had it in his power to stop the papers till a satisfactory explana-
tion was given, he does not only not keep the appointment back for that pur-
pose, but he allows, as far as he is concerned, the previous paper to pass. It is
not necessary to state that the Chairman, and Directors, and Committee, had
taken effectual care that the paper should not pass, and that was the course

These are the facts of the case. If any observations I have made do not
appear to you to deserve the weight that, in my mind, I am giving them, you
will reject them. If there is any doubt in this case, I am sure I only speak the
sentiments of the Directors, in saying that they would be most happy, if, after
this full investigation, the name of Mr. Prescott should appear perfectly uncon-
nected with the transaction ; and, as far as I am concerned, it will give me the
greatest pleasure also : but I should have deserted the duty that has placed me
here, if I had not made the observations that appeared to me fairly to be drawn
from the evidence to be brought before you.


The Rev. EDWARD BACK, D. D., sworn.
Examined by^ Mr. Se?jeant Bosanquet.
Where do you reside ? — At Little Hampton. Rev.E.Bad.

How long have you resided there ? — About a year and a half, or very nearly
two years.
Where did you reside before that? — In various parts of the Continent.
How many years ? — Fourteen or fifteen years.
Have you ever lived in Devonshire ? — Yes.



Court of How long ago r — About that time, fourteen or fifteen years. ,!*«» },

King s -yy^g yQjjj. gQjj jjQ^j^ jjjgj-g ^ — y^^^ jjg ^gg_

In the autumn of 1826, was your attention attracted by any advertisement ? —

Rev.E.Back. Yes, it was: an advertisement in the Morning Herald.

What did it relate to? — To a good situation for a young man who was inclined
to go abroad : a young man under twenty.

In consequence of that advertisement, without going through the particulars
in this part, did you obtain an interview with any of the defendants ? — Yes.

Which of them ? — Mr. Wright.

At what place ? — At his own house. I believe it was in AUsop's Buildings.

Is that near the Regent's Park ? — Yes, I believe it is.

Did you call upon him ? — Yes.

Just look at that advertisement (handing a nexvspaper to the witness), is that
it? — Yes, this is the advertisement.

The same was handed in and read, as follows :

•' Morning Herald, Friday, August 11th, 1826.
" To Parents and Guardians. A permanent situation of a respectable
'* nature now offers for a Youth under twenty to go abroad. His outfit
" would require means, without which none need apply. Address, by
*' letter only, post-paid, to M. N., 33, Craven Street, Strand.'*

You called at Allsop's Buildings ? — I did.

Did you see Mr. Wright ?— Yes.

Did you call in your own name ?^— No.

In what name ? — The name of Edwards. It was intimated to me that the
Parent or Guardian would not be treated with. I was first of all told that no
one else would be treated with.

You called in the name of Edwards ? — Yes.

Was it " Mr. Edwards" or " Colonel Edwards" ?— Colonel Edwards.

At that time had you any cards with that name ? — I had then : I have not any
with me.

You did happen to have some of those cards? — Yes.

At the time you called upon Mr. Wright, did he mention the nature of the
appointment to you, and how it was to be obtained ? — Yes.

Will you state that? — He said £600 or £800 would be necessary.

What was the nature of the appointment ?— A Cadetship to India in the
Company's service.



Whatdidhesay about £600? — ^That it would be £600 if it was in the in- Court
fantry, and £800 or £900 if in the Cavalry. of King's

About what time was this ? — May I be allowed to look at a memorandum I ^^i^-
made ? Rm.E.Back.

About what time, it is not necessary to be very particular? — A little more
than twelve months since. I have a memorandum I made, if you will allow me
to look at it.

Before that time, had you learnt that any price was to be paid for the ap-
pointment? — No, 1 understood quite the contrary.

Did you tell Mr. Wright that?— Yes, I did.

After you learnt that those prices were asked for the appointment, did you
continue the negociation ? — No, I broke it off.

After this, did you communicate to the Chairman of the East-India Company
the circumstances that had taken place ? — Not before I intended to renew the
negociation. I intended to renew the negociation, and before I did that I com-
municated to the Chairman of the Company; because circumstances had
altered, in a pecuniary point of view. My son had become of age, and was
entitled to a small property of his own.

Then you wished to renew the negociation; but before you did so, you com-
municated with the Chairman of the Company ? — Yes, I did ; because there
appeared to be a mystery about it, and I was afraid that all was not fair.

Did you take any step for the renewal of that negociation before you had
communicated with the Chairman of the East-India Company ?— No, I did not.

Did you renew that negociation at the request of the Chairman ? — Yes ; after
he had told me the dangerous situation I was likely to be in, and that it was
totally against the law, against the Act of Parliament.

Did you, from time to time, communicate to the Chairman of the East-India
Company, the different steps you took in this transaction? — Yes, 1 did.

In consequence of that, did you call again at Allsop's Buildings ? — Yes, I did.

On what day ?

Lord Tenter den. — Upon Mr. Wright?

Mr. Serjeant Bosanquet.— It led to that. Did you succeed in seeing Mr.
Wright there upon that occasion ? — No, I did not.

Did you become acquainted with Mr. Wright's hand-writing? — No, I cannot
say I did.

Did you receive this letter ? (^handing one to the witness). You had called at
Allsop's Buildings ?

Lord Tenterden. — Did he leave his name or his card ? — I left my card, in the
name of Colonel Edwards.



Court Mr. Serjeant Bosanquet. Were you referred at AUsop's Buildings to any

of King's place ? — Yes, I certainly received this letter.

Lord Tenterde?!.— How soon afterwards? — I suppose about two or three

Jtev.E.BacL days. I can tell by a memorandum I made at the time.

Lord Tenterden. — If you made a memorandum at the time you can tell us.

Mr. Serjeant Bosanquet. — It bears date the 27th of February, did you receive

it about that date ? — Yes, most likely the following day.


Examined by Mr. Serjeant Bosanquet.

Mr-T.Varley. Are you acquainted with the defendant, Wright's hand-writing? — I am.

Look at that letter (handing a paper to the witness) ; is that his hand-
writing? — Yes, it is.

Lord Tenterden. — Have you any more of Mr. Wright's letters ? You may
put them into his hands at once.

Mr. Serjeant Bosanquet. — No, my Lord.

Lord Tenterden. — Will you have it read now?

Mr. Serjeant Bosanquet.-— If your Lordship pleases, it would be more conve-

The same was read as follows : dated " 63, Upper Norton Street, Portland
Road, February 27th 1827." Addressed by Mr. Wright to " Colonel Edwards,
to the care of the Rev. Dr. Back."

" Mr. Wright presents his compliments to Colonel Edwards, and begs to
" say that the opportunity now exists for opening the treaty alluded to in
" his note ; but that he is going out of town to-morrow for a week or ten
" days, and will commission a friend of his to attend to any communication
" or appointment that Colonel Edwards may think proper to niake for that
" purpose, being perfectly conversant in those matters. Mr. W. begs to
" say, that he only came to town on Sunday, which is the cause of Colonel
" Edwards not having had an earlier reply, and shall feel obliged by his

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Online LibraryEast India CompanyProceedings of the court of directors and of a secret select committee appointed by the court ... 2d May 1827, to investigate transactions connected with an abuse of patronage; together with a report of the trial in the Court of king's bench → online text (page 8 of 17)