William Hone.

Hone's interesting history of the memorable Blood Conspiracy online

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7)rtnr/t fhi/n Li/i ///

From the Scarce Oiioinal ftint .


Ex Libria









IN 1755,











With a Portrait of Mac Daniel, after he icas Pilloried.




One Shilling,

J. AMLA&D, i'riuter, siJ, Bartholomew Close.



L? v



RIGHT Reverend Prelate once informed the good people of
this country, that they had nothing to do with the laws but to obey
them ; and many genteel persons are so favourable to the doctrine,
that they are scandalised at every expression of honest indignation
excited by some notable proof of their impolicy, partiality, or in-
justice. The indulgence claimed for the laws, too, must be ex-
tended to their administrators; and we are gravely called upon, not
only to make the usual allowances for human infirmity, bnt abso-
lutely to forego that vigilance and exposure of abuses, without
which laws would soon become the mere discretion of the magistracy.
Now, with ail due respect to the powers that be, it may be con-
tended that almost every improvement, both in theory and practice^
has original ed in this country f torn EXTRA-OFFICIAL interference i
and that public opinion, freely but decently expressed, is as essen-
tial to the regulation of the magistrate as the criminal. All the
world knows what implicit confidence engenders in this respect, and
how round and voluble the exclamation of "All's well" is re-
echoed from one worshipful quarter to another, until humane and
public-spirited individuals penetrate into the painted sepulchre, and
draw forth the rottenness and bones. Away, then, with this trust
and this apathy, which cannot be afforded to any body of men. If an
administrator of criminal law be seen presiding over a case of life
and death with the spirit of a rat-catcher, acting as counsel, nay as
a friend, to the prosecutors ; and if, disregarding the light and
shade of circumstance, a human being should be hurried out of
the world whose guilt is more than doubtful, let not " respectable
persons" stifle their genuine feelings, and exclaim " It is a sad
thing, to be sure ; but the individual is hanged now, and if we
meddle it will only unsettle the minds of the lower orders."
J.oirer orders ! it would be dim' cult to discover an order lower
than that which contains minds to whom urh abuses are indif-

The title of these sheets will naturally lead the intelligent reader
to the immediate cause of the foregoing observations. He will
perceive that they are suggested by the recent discovery of the ne-
farious proceedings of certain retainers of the police; the publicity
of which is another awkward particular for the philanthropists whose
sympathy evaporates in " Dear me ! a sad thing, indeed !" &c. &c.
If this abominable iniquity were new to the country, or one of those
isolated instances of human depravity which now and then arise to
disturb the settled conceptions of society, it would afford little
room for observation ; but such is not the fact. Almost every one
has heard of Jonathan Wild, and seen the Beggar's Opera : Jona-
than, by polite people, is doubtless put upon the shelf with Nero,
as an impossible repetition in these humane and civilised times, and
the Beggar's Opera laughed at as a joke. Be it known, therefore,
to the worthy souls who so pique themselves upon superior national
morality, that English Jonathans exist in this said year 1816; and
that the Beggar's Opera, which was only a slight caricature of the
abuses of the day in which it was written, is not wholly pointless at
present. Be it known, also, that in the year 1 756 a similar disco-
very of conspiracy, murder, and perjury, for reward, was discovered
among the attendants of justice, as at present; and hence the
scandal of persevering in a system so calculated to confirm guilt and
ensnare innocence as that of blood-money, which is a premium for
the cultivation of petty criminality into the high or rewardable.
The extreme licence given to the men whose interest it is to con-
vict, cannot be too much decried; and the preference with which
their bare unsupported testimony is frequently received, is a perfect
anomaly to the doctrine laid down in other cases. What may be
we learn by what is discovered; but how frequently innocence has
suffered, dishonesty been tempted, and justice deluded, we know
not. Of this we are certain, that in 1756 a system of horrible
treachery, conspiracy, and murder, took place, which is repeated in
18 16, with permission, and with such a nicety of resemblance that,
as far as the examinations have hitherto proceeded, the one may be
considered an echo to the other. It is this resemblance which
suggests the present account of the thief-takers, MACDANIEL,
BERRY, SALMON, and EGAN. To display the results of a like
discovery many years ago, may tend to enlighten the public on
the subject of such crying evils. It may do more it may shew
that a system, which from time to time has produced such monstrous
iniquity, is radically defective, and, in this sense, assist a noble-
minded individual (Sir Samuel Romilly) in his ill-repaid labours.
There is also a Police Committee of the House of Commons exist-
ing, to whom the account, accompanied with a little brief annota-
tion, suggested by the striking coincidences of the present day, may
be welcome. An account published at that period, from which
several of the ensuing facts have been extracted, opens with coarse,
but honest and even eloquent, simplicity, as follows:



NEVER was wjckedness carried to so monstrous a height, or so
long escaped with impunity, as the horrible villainies of these
miscreants, whose history we here offer to the public view. Nor
can the records of any nation upon earth, how barbarous and sa-
vage soever they may be represented, furnish such a continued series
of inhuman and unprovoked cruelties and murders, executed by
any set of men, as have been perpetrated by these incarnate demons,
under the mask of doing public justice : nay, it may be truly af-
firmed, that, were we to search the journals of the OLD BAILEY
for an hundred years past, we shall not mid their equals in relentless
cruelty.* They made no scruple of sacrificing the lives of a great
number of innocent persons, with no other view than to get money;
and, as an aggravation of their crimes, they always added perjury to
murder. They laid snares for the unwary, forged robberies for
those who were never guilty of them, and fixed them in open court,
by the most solemn appeal to God, when, at the same moment,
their consciences told them that every fact they swore to was abso-
lutely false. And so artfully were their iniquitous schemes con-
trived, that it was almost impossible for the person whom they
doomed to the slaughter to escape the snare. They had their ter-
riers to start the game, while tins pack of bloodhounds were watch-
ing to devour it. They always had their under-agents to seek out
the object for a victim, which they themselves undertook to butcher
at the altar.

Nor was London the only stage on which they exhibited their
barbarous practices ; for they were frequently seen at assizes in se-
veral parts of the country, pursuing the same hellish designs of
swearing innocent people out of their lives for the reward.

For twenty years and upwards had these blood-suckers been
preying upon the lives of poor heedless creatures, who had beert
griped to death by their merciless talons. Scarce a sessions was held
at the Old Bailey for many years before, but some unhappy wretch
liad been sacrificed to their cruel avarice. And so hardened, so lost
to all sense of humanity, compassion, and remorse, were these

* Is this an anti-climax? if so, it is excusable while contemplating a
ease like that which it introduces. It is pleasant to read the observations
of certain high-toned journalists upon the demoralization of a neighbouring
country let them look at home. If a conspiracy resembling the recent
discovery had transpired in France, with what remarks should we not have
been edified. The mischief would instantly be traced in a right line to
Rousseau and Voltaire, whose horrible volumes, some sapient private
letter-writer would assure us, held a conspicuous station on the book-shelyes
flf the Parisian Mr, Vaughan.


abandoned villains, that, upon sharing the reward on the conviction
of any criminal, whom their perjuries had made so, they always
had an entertainment, which they very justly called the Blood-
Feast ; at the conclusion of which they concerted measures for
their next enterprise, and consulted for pitching upon the unfortunate
wretch who was to be the new object of their sanguinary prosecu-
tion, and accordingly gave directions to their indefatigable agents,
who never failed to bring in the prey they were ordered to hunt for.
So frolicsome were they on these occasions, that, if any one of them
happened to miscarry in the prosecution, he was sure to be the
jest and banter of the whole company.

In 1740, John Berry enticed LYON ALEXANDER, a poor Jew
boy, into a house, where were Currant, Deadman, and Unwin,
all thief-takers, under pretence of giving him a shilling to carry a
bundle. They spirited him off to Greenwich as a runaway seaman;
they beat him with their sticks, and broke his fingers ; they then
gave him in charge to a constable as a footpad, carried him before
a magistrate, and Berry and Deadman swore to being robbed by
him, and Unwin and Currant that he had been an evidence at the
Old Bailey, and hanged five or six people. The unfortunate Jew
lad was committed to Maidstone gaol for trial, about a week before
the assizes ; but, having friends who employed a lawyer in his de-
fence, Berry and his gang never appeared to support the indictment
they preferred against him, and one PRITCHARD (whom they had
previously got committed, but ran away) ; and Alexander and Prit-
chard, an equally innocent lad, entrapped by the wretches in the
same way, were cleared. Alexander's friends happening to say in a
tavern at Rochester that they would give 501. to have the villains
apprehended, a kinsman of Un win's undertook to effect it, and
Berry was actually taken, arraigned, pleaded guilty, fined, and im-
prisoned. Unwiu's friends compromised for 201. ; Currant was
taken, but escaped out of a coach, and was never afterwards heard
of; and Deadman was never taken, though often attempted, always
going armed : he once shot at his pursuers, afterwards commuted a
highway robbery, was taken for that at Oxford, lodged in gaol
there, and, attempting to escape by murdering the keeper, was
himself killed.

In 1744, STOCKDALE and JOHNSON robbed and murdered the
penny-postman at Enfield, and were tried for it, and hung in chains
near the spot ; shortly afterwards two letters were written to the
Earl of Leicester, one of the postmasters general, threatening him
with fire and sword if the bodies were not taken down. The Earl
offered 5001. to any person discovering the writer of the letters,
copies of which were published in the advertisement. John Berry,
one of the gang, afterwards detected, wrote copies of the letters with
a design of slipping them into the pocket of some person of bad
character, and then, by having a constable ready to search him, and
I he letters being found upon him, witnesses were to be produced to
swear they were his hand-writing ; and thus Berry was to become

Entitled to the 5001. reward. The plan, however, was not executed;
but it was believed at the time that Berry was the author of the
original letters, in expectation of a large reward being oftered, to
give him an opportunity of convicting an innocent person.

Some years afterwards, James Gahagan, otherwise Egan, another
of the conspirators, prosecuted a young fellow for robbing him in
the fields. At the trial, he first swore he was asleep under a hay-
cock ; but, being furtlier examined by the court, he declared he
was walking in the fields. On so manifest a contradiction, the
prisoner was acquitted. This was a large field for Stephen Mac-
daniel, another blood-money man, to play upon Egan, and he did
not spare to rally him sufficiently for his awkward and ridiculous
management; telling him lhat, when he himself prosecuted, he al-
ways made, sure woi'fc of it*

It were easy to fill a large volume with accounts of the horrid
schemes and diabolical practices of these monsters of human na-
ture ; but we choose to confine our history to the time \vhen thief-
taking was followed as a trade, and when these execrable wretches
4>egan to be supported and encouraged by some magistrates, who,
it may reasonably be presumed, profited by their labours ; since, in
public advertisements, they had not been ashamed to call them
-very honest fcltotvs, and men who hazarded their lives for the sake
of their country. f

Macdaniel had been a highwayman, and was taken with his com-
panion, whom he became King's evidence against, and hanged.
He was afterwards a Marshalsea-court officer and professed thief-
taker. In 1?50, he prosecuted THOMAS DUNKIN and EDWARD
BRUSBY, at the Old Bailey, for robbing him in Pancras Fields of
2s. 2d. in money, and shooting at him ; but a man who was with
Macdaniel at the time swore that the prisoners were not the men,
but that, coming by shortly after the robbery, Macdaniel seized
them. They were acquitted, aud Macdaniel lost the blood-money.
The first enterprise we shall detail, in which Macdaniel, Berry,
James Salmon, and Egan, were engaged, was in the year 1/51. It
was the prosecution of NEWMAN and MARCH, two unfortunate
young lads, whom they had singled out as very proper objects for
their purpose.

William Newman and James March were indicted for that they,
in a certain passage or open place near the King's highway, ou
James Daniel did make an assault, and steal from his person oue haf,
value 1. 6'd. one silk handkerchief, one pair of leather shoes, one
penknife, and Is. 6d. in money, on September 2d, 1750. This was

* The same elegant raillery appears to have mingled in the conversation
/of the conspirators of 1816.

t Times are not materially altered in this respect ; we may all recollect
instances of magisterial protection quite as disinterested and judicious.
We know that, in spite of notorious fact, an important prison was long
left under the suprimeridaace of an individual who merited one of its
cells, Whj?

the crime charged in the indictment, but had no foundation i
truth or fact. The scheme was artfully contrived by Macdaniel,
Berry, Salmon, and Egan, in order to take away the lives of these
two silly youths, whose follies and bad conduct they knew had ren-
dered them fit for their purpose : however, as they did not think
proper to appear themselves as witnesses, it was judged necessary to
list some others into the service, to do the dirty work for them, for
which they were promised an equal share in the reward. Pursuant
to this plan of operation, they procured one James Daniel to be
the person who was to be robbed ; Timothy Brads was to corrqbcv
rate Daniel's evidence, by swearing he was in the prisoners' company
when the robbery was committed ; and Woodward Harlow, a thief-'
taker , was to be the person to seize them.

Accordingly, when the trial came on, James Daniel swore posi-
tively that, on the day laid in the indictment, he had been witli a
young fellow part of the way to Coventry, and on his return home
called at the Two Brewers ait Hockley-in-lhe-Hole, where he drank
a pint of beer. Coming out into -the street, he saw three men
standing by a lamp, two of them had hats and the other a cap.
They crossed over to them, and one of them laid hold of his collar,
and swore he would knock his brains out if he stirred ; and the
other took off his hat, and put it on March's head. Then Newman
put his hand in his pocket, and took out one shilling and sixpence.
They took from him likewise a penknife and a handkerchief, in
which was tied up a pair of shoes. They then ran away, and he
went on.

Timothy Brads, who was the instrument which the gang made
use of to decoy Newman and March into a robbery, did for that
end make himself a party with them ; but, to prevent his being
involved in the same fate, these demons we are treating of took care
to have him admitted an evidence. Accordingly, he swore on the
trial that he and the two prisoners went out together with the fuU
intent to rob ; and, coming up with the prosecutor on Saffron-hill,
he followed them into George-yard, and with the help of the two
prisoners robbed him of the things above-mentioned, which they
divided among them.

A robbery being thus plainly proved by positive evidence, the
falsity of which it was impossible either for the prisoners to make
appear or the court and jury to detect, they were both found Guilty

Newman, in the confession he made a little before his execution,
said he was near twenty-one years of age, and born in St. Giles's
in the Fields; and that, as to the fact for which he suffered, it was
a scheme laid to take away his life for the sake of the reward : that
indeed he and Brads did go out together, and wandered they scarce
knew where, but happened to stumble into George-yard, where
they saw a man sleeping in a cart, from whom he owned the things
were taken ; but they went off, and left the man as fast asleep as
they found him. From hence he concluded that it was the desigu

of Brads to ensnare him and March, because, as soon as they left
the man, Brads went away, and he saw him no more till he was
apprehended by the thief-taker, who was directed by Brads where
to rind him.* March was but 1 7 years old, had no education, and was
apprenticed to a waterman, whose service he quitted to associate with
all the idle vagabond boys he could meet with ; which at length
proved his ruin. He was ignorant almost to stupidity, and there-
fore it was no wonder he said nothing. Nor is it at all surprising
that these two poor unhappy creatures should fall into the snare so
artfully prepared for them by the villainous intrigues of this rapa-
cious and bloody gang. Harlow, who had been let into a share in the
blood-monev, refused to allow Mac Daniel any part of it, because
he tlid not mount that is, appear on the trial as an evidence ; but
Mac Daniel arrested Harlow, who, afraid of the story coming out,
gave Mac Daniel forty pounds to compromise the matter.f

James Daniel died soon after, and, with great anguish of mind,
confessed that the boys were innocent.

The gang now took into their service Thomas Blee, the future
evidence against themselves, and consulted with him to find out a
fit man for their purpose, who was poor and destitute ;| accord-
ingly he met one CHRISTOPHER WOODLAND, to whom he gave
a dram, and soon got acquainted with him. The scheme laid to
entrap him was contrived in this manner : Egan was to take the
lower part of Berry's house on Saffron-hill, which he did, and some
goods were to be borrowed of Mrs. Jones the broker; Tom Blee
was to engage Woodland to assist him in breaking open the house
and taking the goods; Woodland was to be seized, and Blee

Blee and Woodland went together ; Blee took off the padlock,
vvhicli he had been concerned in putting on, and brought out the
things in a bag left there on purpose, and gave them to Woodland
to carry off: it was concerted that the goods should be carried to

* Brads was a tailor's apprentice, inveigled by a promise of an equal
share in the reward, which amounted to 2801.! and which the gang received.
They gave him only nine shillings; and he, with a most rational appre-
hension of becoming a victim to his own companions when ihey might be
at a loss, sold himself to the American plantations.

r Macdaniel was more successful than his companion Harlow; for John
Simmons, alias Spanish Jack, who was executed at Maidstone in April
1756, there confessed that he had had dealings with the thief-takers then
in Newgate, as well as with those at liberty ; and declared that, in Sep.
tember 1751, at the instigation of Macdaniel and others, he enticed WM.
bery in Whitechapel, who were apprehended by ihe gang, tried, and exe-
cuted at Tyburn, he being admitted an evidence; and further, that they
had 4201. reward, but that they got only 101., Macdaniel cheating him of
the rest of his share !

% Poor and destitute ! Go to Newgate, reader; or, if now happily too
late, enquire after the poverty and destitution of the three unfortunate
Irishmen thus ensnared and couvioted of coining.


Mrs. Jones's, from whence they came, which was done that night;
end, after bargaining for them, she gave them a shilling in part, and
they were to call the next day for the rest.

This scheme was pursued in every particular, and Woodland was
seized the next day, and brought to his trial, and indicted for that
lie, on the 3d of December, about the hour of nine at night, the
dwelling-house of James Egan did break and enter, three linen
Bhirts, value 4s. one pair of blankets, value 5s. one linen counter*
pane, two smoothing-irons, four candlesticks, four plates, and a
pair of metal shoe-buckles, the goods of the said James, in the said
dwelling-house, did steal, take, and carry away.

In order to prove the fact charged in the indictment, Egan swore
that about eight o'clock at night of the day above-mentioned he
went out, and, coming in a little before ten, he found the padlock
taken from off from the door, and the stock-lock broke ; that his
.house was fast before he went out ; that he found a strong chissel in
the house, with which he supposed it was broke open. Upon his
missing the things, and talking of it publicly, one Mrs. Jones, who
keeps a broker's shop in Broker's-alley, sent to him the next day to
acquaint him that she had the things. Accordingly, he went and
received them. The prisoner was taken, and carried before Justice
St. Lawrence, who asked him how he came by the things? he said,
he was at the house with some other company, and that he held the
bag while they put them in ; and that it was the first fact. Then
Egan, upon searching him, found the buckles wrapt up in his

Mary Jones, who had lent these goods to Egan on purpose that
he might be robbed of them, deposed that she lived in Broker's-
alley, by Drury-Iane; that the prisoner and another person (meaning
Tom Blee) came on the day laid in the indictment, about four
o'clock in the afternoon, to her house, and asked her if she would
buy some things. She desired to know what they were ? They
said they would bring them presently, went away, and came again
about nine o'clock, and brought the things. She told them she
would not look at them that night, because it was too late. They
came to her again the next day for the money for the goods. She
bid them go to some place, and stay a little. Accordingly they
\vent to a public-house in Long Acre, where she followed them, in
order to have them secured. She stopt the prisoner, but the other
ran away ; and the prisoner then said he brought the things from a
house on Little Saffron-hill. She said, How did you get into the
house ? he replied, There was a fellow who broke open the door,
who went in, and he after him, and he put the things in the bag,
aud brought them away. She then sent a man to Saffron-hill, to
enquire what house \vas broke open, who found the prosecutor dis-
coursing about it, and brought him back with him, and they took
the prisoner to Justice St. Lawrence, who, after examination, com-
mitted him.

The prisoner, in his defence, said, It was the first fact he wa%


ver guilty of in his life, and did this for want. Guilty of Felony

But, however dexterously this fine scheme was contrived, the
projectors missed their aim; for, the jury finding the prisoner guilty

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Online LibraryWilliam HoneHone's interesting history of the memorable Blood Conspiracy → online text (page 1 of 4)