It has been recently stated that "New York is indisputably the global capital of the counterfeit world," 1 and even under the rule of the Dutch its earliest currency, wampum, 2 was being imitated, evidently before 1650, when an ordinance of the director and council of New Netherland, passed on May 30 of that year for the better regulation of the currency, was prefaced by this complaint: "We have by experience and for a long time seen the decline and daily depreciation of the loose Wampum, among which are circulating many without holes and half finished, also some of Stone, Bone, Glass, Muscle shells, yea even of Wood and Broken Beads." 3 It is possible that both whites and Indians indulged on the practice, though the Indians may have been the chief or sole counterfeiters of their medium of exchange, as appears to have been the case in Rhode Island at about the same time. 4
In any event, the colonists in New York were not slow to put out silver pieces in imitation of those issued by the Massachusetts Bay Province. 5 The earliest cases recorded are those of John Burrell and William Shore, of New Jersey, who in 1680 were presented by John Archer, Sheriff of New York City, "for Coyning of ffalse Boston money in or about the beginning of this instant month of May, and for puting it of for Currt Coyne wth in the Cytie aforesaid wch is contrary to the Laws of our Souraign Lord the King." 6 Burrell, who was committed into safe custody on May 4, 1680, "for bringing false Boston Coyns" into New York and putting them off there, 7 made a confession and on May 27 was ordered to make restitution and was fined, while Shore was on the same date tried, convicted and ordered to receive thirty lashes. 8
The "Boston Coyns" were probably the Massachusetts shillings, sixpences, threepences, and twopences known as "Pine Tree" coinage, for the earlier 1652 issue of coins of the denominations of one shilling and of one sixpence had soon been discontinued because they were so readily and so widely clipped. 9 It is probable that both Burrell and Shore did not actually make the false pieces but only imported them from Massachusetts, where they were being counterfeited, and then circulated them in New York. On December 29, 1693, the governor and council of New York, meeting at Fort James, issued a warrant for the apprehension of passers of counterfeits. It pointed out that divers persons had given very credible information that several false Boston, Spanish and other kinds of money were circulating in New York. It was therefore ordered that any person putting off such coins should at once be carried before the mayor, one of the aldermen, the nearest justice of the peace or lawful magistrate to give a sufficient account "from whence he or they Received the same." In case the account was not satisfactory, the person apprehended was to be proceeded against according to law. The warrant was directed to the mayor and aldermen of New York City to be published. 10
Less than two months later, on February 23, 1684, "upon information to ye Governor of som false Coyne in Boston, Spanish moneys not weighty, & Counterfeited by som of ye neighboring Colonies," it was ordered by the governor's council that "a proclamation be drawn & published to prevent it." 11 The proclamation, which was dated February 20 and published three days later, was the warrant which had been issued by the governor and council on December 29 of the preceding year. 12
A deposition made on April 7, 1685, by Captain Jonathan Selleck before the governor and council shows that the amount of clipped Spanish money circulating in New York was considerable. Selleck stated upon oath that he had received from Benjamin Blagge sixteen parcels of clipped money to the value of 290 pieces of eight, 13 but it is not clear whether Blagge had passed the coin or whether he had obtained it in trade or seized it and turned it over to Selleck.
The next counterfeiter to be mentioned in the province of New York is one John Rush of Philadelphia. In 1683 the Provincial Council of Pennsylvania issued a warrant "to make search ye Shop and Lodging of Isack ye Smith, Humphrey Best and Jno. Rush, doe worke for mettles Coyned or uncoyned, Stampt or unstampt, Iron or Steel only excepted." 14 Although nothing is known of the results of the search, it may be safely assumed that the Council was justified in issuing the search warrant, for Rush's activities later involved him in difficulties with the law. During the winter of 1690/91 Cornelius Jacobs, master of a ship bound for Jamaica, discovered that a passenger, John Rush, was a "false Coyner" and had nine pounds and fifteen shillings in counterfeit money in a bag, "which he Delivered to Jacobs heaving something over board in Jamaica." Rush was imprisoned on the island during Jacobs' abode there, and, since the crime had not been committed in Jamaica, Jacobs brought back Rush as a prisoner to New York, where Rush admitted that he owned the money but claimed he had it from a certain Edward Coffee of Pennsylvania. Since the crime had probably been committed in that province and since Rush said he had a family there, the Council of the Province of New York wrote to the Governor of Pennsylvania that they were sending him Rush as a prisoner with a copy of Cornelius Jacobs' deposition in order that justice might take place and the truth be better discovered. 15
A warrant issued by the council on the same day commanded that Rush with his bag of counterfeit money be conveyed from constable to constable as far as Elizabethtown in East Jersey. It desired that then the justices of the peace or some of them in that town cause the prisoner to be conveyed to some justices of the peace in West Jersey, who were requested to perform the like service until the prisoner be delivered with his bag of money to the governor or the chief magistrate in Philadelphia, there to be proceeded against according to law. 16 The matter was thus submitted to the "prudence and discretion" of the Pennsylvania authorities.
The next case of counterfeiting involved a merchant of some prominence, Gabriel Ludlow, who was born on November 2, 1663, at Castle Cary, Somerset, England. Ludlow arrived in New York on November 24, 1694, built and owned vessels in the coasting trade and set up a place of business in Queen Street. Three years after his arrival he married Sarah Hanmer, the daughter of the Reverend Joseph Hanmer, Chaplain to the King's forces in the Province of New York, and in 1697 became a vestryman of Trinity Church. 17
His trouble with the law is told in the minutes of Special Sessions of the Peace which was held in Trinity Church on October 12, 1698. They read as follows:
After the last supream Court of Judicature of this Province was adjourn'd the Grand Jurors of this City that attended the said Court Recommended to the Justices a Matter that was under Consideration (to witt) that Gabriel Ludlow of this City had offered several Counterfeit Dollars. Whereupon the Justices sent for the said Gabriel Ludlow and Examined him upon the premisses who declared that he had Received att sundry times several parcells of Money from sundry people being a Trader in the Country and that upon his Examination and making up of his Cash he did find seaventy three Dollars which he Imagined were not soo good as those that are current in the Province and that he had not the Confidence to pay them away himself but being acquainted with one Mr. Montagne apprentice with Mr. Wonham told him he was accustomed to Receive and pay great Sums of Money for his Master whereupon he proposed to him that if he would take the said Quantity of Dollars and pay them away he would allow him four pence in each Dollar and accordingly the said Montagne Received the said Dollars from the said Ludlow and offered them accordingly & the Dollars being produced one of them was sent to Alderman Boelen a Goldsmith to tell the Essay of the Mettle of the said Dollars who accordingly did and Reports the said Dollars are made of Aspers 18 melted down which is very little worse than the Currant Dollars. And the said Gabriel Ludlow humbly prays that the Justice will make a favourable Construction on the matter he being a person of unstained Reputation. Whereupon the Justices having duly Considered doe order and adjudge that the said Gabriel Ludlow doe pay good Money to such persons as the said Corrupt Dollars have been Issued unto and that he pay as a fine the Sum of three pounds Currant Money of New Yorke for the use of Trinity Church and that he give Security for his good behaviour for three Months from the date hereof and also Pay the Costs of this Special Sessions. 19
Ludlow and his security, John Hutchins, one of the justices who had tried him, gave recognizance in the sum of fifty pounds for Ludlow's good behavior, and henceforth he not only kept out of trouble but became a person of considerable importance in the colony. In 1699 he was made clerk of the New York Assembly and in the following year clerk of the vestry of Trinity Church, both of which posts he held until his death in 1733. 20 A letter dated May 15, 1699, from the Governor of New York, the Earl of Bellomont, to the Lords of Trade explained how Ludlow secured the position of clerk of the Assembly. "I am sorry to say it," wrote Bellomont, "but 'tis an undoubted truth, the English here are soe profligate that I can not find a man fitt to be trusted, that's capable of businesse ... I was obliged to employ one Ludlow a merchant to be Clerk of the Assembly this Session, one that was lately convict of cliping and coining in this towne. I think proper to acquaint your Lordships of this circumstance, that you may see how impossible a thing it is to make a right choyce of men in this place, and what sort of men I have to doe with. Those that are honest of the Dutch, being formerly kept out of imployment and businesse are very ignorant, and can neither speak nor write proper English." 21
|1||Lawrence Dwight Smith, Counterfeiting (N. Y.: W.W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1944), p.54.|
|2||The currency in the early period consisted of peltry and wampum; the black beads were reckoned from four to eight beads for a stiver, and one black bead was regarded as worth two white. See John H. Hickcox, A History of the Bills of Credit or Paper Money issued by New York from 1709 to 1789 (Albany: J. H. Hickcox & Co., 1866), pp. 1–2 and William Graham Sumner, A History of American Currency (N.Y.: Henry Holt and Company, 1884), p. 3.|
|3||E. B. O'Callaghan, Laws and Ordinances of New Netherland (Albany: Weed, Parsons & Co., 1868), 115–116.|
|4||Richard LeBaron Bowen, Rhode Island Colonial Money and its Counterfeiting (Providence: Society of Colonial Wars, 1942), pp. 4–5, cites an order of the Rhode Island General Court of Elections in May, 1647, concerning the Indians' "false peag string beads" and Roger Williams' assertion that the Indians counterfeited their very black beads with stone and other materials.|
|5||The earliest Massachusetts coins were issued in 1652. See William Graham Sumner, op. cit., p. 11.|
|6||NY Col. Mss. 29, p. 96.|
|7||Ms. Mins. Mayor's Court, 1677–82, pp. 200 and 202.|
|8||NY Col. Mss. 29, p. 106.|
|9||Richard LeBaron Bowen, op. cit., pp. 5–6.|
|10||NY Col. Mss. 34, p. 14.|
|11||Ms. Mins. Council 5, p. 49.|
|12||Minutes of the Common Council of the City of New York (N.Y.: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1905) I, p. 126.|
|13||Ms. Mins. Council 5, p. 109.|
|14||See Harrold E. Gillingham, Counterfeiting in Colonial Pennsylvania (N.Y.: American Numismatic Society, 1939), p. 5.|
|15||NY Col. Mss. 37, p. 173a: a letter dated June, 24, 1691.|
|16||NY Col. Mss. 37, p. 137b.|
|17||William Seton Gordon, "Gabriel Ludlow and his Descendants," New York Genealogical and Biographical Record 50 (1919), pp. 1ff.|
|18||The asper was a Turkish silver coin.|
|19||Ms. Mins. NYC QS 1694–1731/32, pp. 42–43.|
|20||William Seton Gordon, op. cit., p. 38.|
|21||E. B. O'Callaghan, Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York , IV, p. 520.|
At the beginning of the eighteenth century the courts in New York looked upon counterfeiters as cheats and prosecuted those charged with the crime for misdemeanors. As a result cases which in England would have been tried at Assizes were cognizable in Sessions. 1 The clipping and passing of Spanish coins was fairly common, and on February 5, 1701, the grand jurors found a bill against a certain Susannah Elliott for uttering and putting away clipped and hammered money. She pleaded not guilty in the Court of Quarter Sessions and brought the King's writ of certiorari for removing the indictment and record to the next Supreme Court of Judicature, which was allowed and ordered to be returned. 2 The Supreme Court on October 7, 1701, ordered the record of the Widow Elliott to be brought up from Quarter Sessions in the afternoon 3 but there is no indication of the disposal of the case.
On May 7, 1701, Richard Thomas, a mariner, who had been indicted by the grand jury on the previous day for uttering counterfeit dollars, was tried in Quarter Sessions and found not guilty. 4 The next winter, on February 4, 1702, William Fowler, charged with passing sundry clipped "Ryalls" in New York City, appeared in Quarter Sessions and managed to make an explanation which satisfied the court. His story was that the clipped coins in question were intermixed with a large sum of money, that he did not know the persons who had clipped them, that he did not know there were such pieces among the coins he paid out until he had paid the same, and finally that he believed he had received the said money from Rhode Island. Thereupon several persons of note came forward and vouched for his honesty and good fame and reputation. The court then ordered that the clipped coins, 131 in number, be melted down and given to the defendant, who was discharged, paying his fees. 5
The clipping and counterfeiting which was going on prompted the common council of the City of New York on October 26, 1702, to resolve to petition the General Assembly of the province that a "Law be made Prohibiting the Coyning & Clipping of the Currt. Money & for uttering base Money in the Room of good." 6 Even before the assembly took action on the petition, two more persons were indicted, the first of whom was Garrett Onclebagg, a silversmith and assistant alderman. 7 Onclebagg appeared in Quarter Sessions on November 3, 1702, and with his surety, Ahasuerus Hendrickse, gave bail in the amount of £100 not to depart the court without permission. The next day the grand jury indicted him for coining and uttering "false Money of base & mixt Mettalls." The defendant prayed that he have time till the next court to traverse the indictment and that he have a copy thereof. His requests were granted, and he provided bail in the amount of £200, and his sureties, Ahasuerus Hendrickse and Lawrence Vanhooke, each in the amount of £100. When the next court met on February 3, 1703, Onclebagg at first pleaded not guilty and requested that his trial be postponed until the following morning, to which the court gave its consent. Later in the day, however, he reconsidered, withdrew his plea with the court's permission, and, though protesting he was not guilty of the "fraud" mentioned in the indictment, nevertheless submitted himself to a fine and prayed the mercy of the court. He was thereupon fined twenty pounds and fees, ordered to stand committed until the same were paid and also to give sureties in the sum of £100 for his good behavior for one year. 8 Henceforth he apparently did no more counterfeiting, although he was in the courts not infrequently, for example in 1710 for bastardy and in 1712 for champerty, 9 and for a time he located in New Jersey to escape accusations but later returned to New York. 10
On the day after the indictment of Onclebagg for coining and uttering the grand jurors presented a certain Sophia Thomas "for having in her Custody sundry Clippings of Currt. Silver Money & beaten plate." At the next court, on February 3, 1703, the defendant demurred to the insufficiency of the indictment. When the attorney general joined in the demurrer and the court had heard the argument, it was ordered that the indictment be quashed as insufficient and that the defendant be discharged from her recognizance, paying fees. 11
Possibly the cases of Onclebagg and Sophia Thomas helped the sponsors of a bill to prohibit coining and clipping which had
been proposed by the City Council in October. In any event, a law was passed by the assembly entitled "An Act against Forging,
Counterfeiting and Clipping of Foreign Coyn, which is Current Money in the Collony of New-York." The text of this act, which was signed by the governor on November 27, 1702, is as follows:
For as much as by the Laws of this Collony no Condigne Punishment is at this time provided for such evil disposed Persons
as shall Counterfeit, Forge, Clip, File or otherwise lessen and debase such kind of Gold or Silver of other Realms, as current
Money within this Collony of New-York, where by divers evil disposed Persons as well without this Collony as within, are encouraged and imboldened Dayly to Counterfeit,
Forge, Clip, File and otherwise lessen and debase such kind of Gold and Silver, and utter the same in this Collony, to the
great detriment of her Majestys Subjects. Be it therefore Enacted by the Governour and Council and Representatives conven'd
in General Assembly, and by the Authority of the same, That
if any Person or Persons hereafter shall falsely Forge, Counterfeit, Clip, File or otherwise lessen or debase such kind of
Gold or Silver as is the current Money of this Collony, and is permitted to be current within the same the Offenders therein,
their promoters, aiders and abettors, being convicted thereof, according to the Laws of her Majesties Kingdom of England, of such Offences, shall be Imprisoned for the space of one whole Year and a Day, and forfeit all their Goods and Chattels,
any Law, Usage or Custom to the contrary hereof in any wise notwithstanding. Provided That this Act shall be of force for
the space of One Year, and no longer.
It was not long before a grand jury indicted, on February 3, 1703, one Anna Vanderspiegel for having uttered on January 24 newly clipped and filed Spanish money which was current in New York. On May 4 the defendant demurred to the insufficiency of the indictment, the attorney general joined in the demurrer and the Court of Quarter Sessions ordered the prisoner discharged. 13
The authorities were with reason concerned about the clipping of coin and the importation of clipped pieces, and on April 17, 1705, the governor and council ordered that a proclamation issue forbidding the importation of clipped bitts and double bitts. 14 On the first of May two persons were indicted for clipping Spanish coin and uttering the clippings. One of them was Mary Barnes, a victualler, who was charged with having "fraudulently deceitfully and Craftilly" clipped Spanish Ryalls and pieces of Eight and on April 18 in the East Ward of the city paid out the clippings. She pleaded not guilty, was prosecuted in Quarter Sessions on August 8 by Attorney General Bickley, and was acquitted by the jury. The other individual, likewise accused of clipping "Royalls and double Royalls" and passing the clippings on April 7 in the East Ward, was a baker named John Kingston, who pleaded not guilty and, like Mary Barnes, was acquitted by the jury. 15
Before these cases had come to trial, the governor, Viscount Cornbury, in a speech to the assembly on June 14, 1705, said: "I am of opinion it will be necessary to pass An Act to prevent ye clipping & Defacing ye Forreign Coin wch has Currency in this Province." 16 No act was passed, however, and at a meeting of the governor and council on December 13, 1705, a newly appointed member of that body, John Barberie, acquainted the board that notwithstanding the endeavors that had been made to prevent the importation of clipped bitts and double bitts great sums of them were daily being brought into New York from neighboring colonies. He therefore prayed that some measures be taken to prevent this in the future, and the consideration of the matter was deferred until the next meeting of the council. 17
In the spring of 1705 the authorities in New York had their first contact with a counterfeiter of paper money, an extremely slippery individual named Thomas Odell. In July of the preceding year Governor Dudley of Massachusetts was so alarmed by the counterfeiting of the twenty shilling bill of his province that he had issued a reward of £50 for the apprehension of anyone concerned in the matter. Within a week two blacksmiths, Peregrine White and Benons White, a carpenter, John Brewer, and a winecooper, Daniel Amos, were in the Boston jail, and their plate and press had been seized. 18 Odell, however, "one of the principal Actors in that Villany & cousenage," had fled, and on August 8 a reward of £30 was offered for the apprehension of Odell, who was described as of middle stature, slender and straight body, black hair, thin visage, holding his head somewhat on one side in his walk. 19 Apparently he was taken up in Pennsylvania, whence he was sent to New York. 20 The minutes of the council of New York under the date of May 17, 1705, reveal that his captors were Jno. Cawley, Nicholas Thomas Jones and Robert Sanders, and that the prisoner was to be forwarded to Massachusetts. 21 On the last day of May Odell, who was in irons on the sloop Derrick Adolph, escaped at Newport, Rhode Island, but was recaptured on June 6 in a barn two miles outside of that town. 22 He finally was delivered to the authorities in Boston, was tried on November 6, found guilty, fined £300 and costs and sentenced to serve a year in prison. 23 Nine years later he was again in the Boston jail for counterfeiting and this time he escaped and seemingly was not taken again despite the reward of £30 offered by the governor for his apprehension. 24 It would be interesting to know if he fled to Orange County, New York, and is the same Thomas Odell who was the defendant in a criminal action at a meeting of the General Sessions for that county held at Goshen on October 29, 1740. 25
In the spring of 1706 two coiners were convicted in New York City and severely punished. They were Bartholomew Vank and Thomas Roberts, who were indicted on March 14 and two days later entered pleas of not guilty in the Supreme Court of Judicature. Their trial took place on June 7, and the witnesses for the Queen were James Wright, William Anderson, Jeremiah Caldcutt, Ebenezer Willson, William Peartree, George Booth, Cornelius Clopper, John Tuder and John McLannen. Both defendants were found guilty and the following day judgment was pronounced that they be "severally whypt att the Carts Tail in the Broadway in sight of the Town Hall, at the Well in the Broad way, att the End of Bever Street, att the End of Pearl Street, att the Cage, att the most publick part of the markett Place at Burghers path, att the Corner of Wall Street, and att the City Hall, three Lashes each at each place, this to be done on Wednesday next being the Twelfth instant between the hours of ten and one; and the Wednesday then next following both to be sett on and in the Pillory for one hour between the hours of eleven & one with an inscription in Capitall letters fixt over each of their heads on the Pillory with these words for Counterfeiting Dollars when they have undergone these punishments to be respectively discharged paying their fees." 26
The law which had been passed in 1702 forbidding the clipping of foreign coin had expired after one year but as the colony was still plagued by clipped money the assembly in September, 1708, passed an act to revive the law of 1702, and the measure was signed by Governor Cornbury on October 6. This act revived the earlier law in its entirety and unchanged, save that it was now to be in effect for a period of ten years, until October 6, 1718. 27 Some months later the council had further evidence of the circulation of clipped money when it was informed that Mr. Grassett, the weighmaster, had a considerable sum of such coin which had been received as revenue. 28
On June 8, 1709, an act for the currency of bills of credit in the amount of £5,000, the first for the emission of paper currency, became law. It contained the following provision: "... to prevent the Counterfeiting any of the said Bills they shall be Dated, and Indented on the top thereof with the Arms of the City of New York Stamp'd or printed on the left Side thereon, towards the bottom of every of the said Bills, and the Indent shall pair with a Suit a Counterpart thereof, bound in A book for that purpose, and Subscribed by the parties herein appointed to do the same, to be kept by them of the same tenor and Date and so neer in Similitude in all Circumstances as possible may be..." It was likewise provided that any person convicted of counterfeiting any of these bills should incur the pains and penalties of felony without benefit of clergy. 29 In two further acts of the same year for the emission of paper money, one passed on November 1 for issuing £4,000 and the other, passed on November 12, for issuing bills of credit in the amount of 10,000 ounces of plate or 14,545 Lyon dollars, the penalty for those convicted of counterfeiting the money was the same as in the law of June 8. 30
A change was made on October 30, 1710, in the law of 1702, revived in 1708, prohibiting the forging, filing, counterfeiting and clipping of foreign coin. The act of October 30, 1710, provided that whatever was contained in the earlier law so far as it related to clipping only was repealed. It was further enacted that all clippings of foreign coin current in the colony that should make up the weight of money received or passed, should have the appearance of the stamp of the foreign coin on some part of the clipping. It was likewise specified that no dollars or half dollars or any other coin than Spanish coin of "Civil, Pillar & Mexico Plate" was permitted by this act to be clipped. 31 Governor Robert Hunter, informing the Lords of Trade that he had signed this act, explained that it was "only intended to prevent their [the colonists'] slaves from stealing their Household Plate to clip." 32
|1||Julius Goebel, Jr., and T. Raymond Naughton, Law Enforcement in Colonial New York (N.Y.: Commonwealth Foundation, 1946), p. 95.|
|2||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1694–1731/32, pp. 60–61.|
|3||The Minutes of the Supreme Court of Judicature of the Province of New York 1691–1704 (N.Y.: New-York Historical Society, 1952) II, p. 42.|
|4||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1694–1731/32, p. 63.|
|5||Ibid., p. 68.|
|6||Minutes of the Common Council of New York II, p. 206.|
|7||Stephen G. C. Ensko, American Silversmiths and Their Marks (N. Y.: Robert Ensko, Inc., 1948) III, p. 100.|
|8||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1694–1731/32, pp. 70, 71, 74, 77.|
|9||Ibid., p. 192 and Ms. Mins. SCJ 1710–1714, p. 426.|
|10||Stephen G. C. Ensko, loc. cit.|
|11||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1694–1731/32, pp. 71, 72, 78.|
|12||Journal of the Legislative Council of the Colony of New York 1691–1775 (Weed, Parsons & Co., 1861) I, pp. 1881–89 and The Colonial Laws of New York (Albany: James B. Lyon, 1894) I, p. 521.|
|13||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1694–1731/32, pp. 78–79.|
|14||Ms. Mins. Council 9, p. 517.|
|15||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1694–1731/32, pp. 96–99 and 102–104.|
|16||Journal of the Legislative Council of the Colony of New York I, p. 225.|
|17||Ms. Mins. Council 9, p. 575.|
|18||Boston News-Letter, July 31, 1704, p. 2.|
|19||Ibid., Aug. 17, 1704, p. 2.|
|20||Ibid., Nov. 12, 1705, pp. 1–2.|
|21||Ms. Mins. Council 9, p. 520.|
|22||Boston News-Letter, June 4, 1705, p. 2 and June 11, 1705.|
|23||Ibid., Nov. 12, 1705.|
|24||Ibid., Nov. 8, 1714, p. 2.|
|25||Ms. Mins. Orange Co. Sess. 1727–1779, p. 53.|
|26||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1704/05–1709, pp. 54, 57, 68, 69, 72.|
|27||Journal of the Legislative Council of the Colony of New York I, pp. 263, 264, 267 and The Colonial Laws of New York I, p. 621.|
|28||Ms. Mins. Council 10, pp. 261–262.|
|29||The Colonial Laws of New York I, pp. 667–668.|
|30||Ibid., I, pp. 689–692 and 695–697.|
|31||Journal of the Legislative Council of the Colony of New York I, pp. 301–303 and The Colonial Laws of New York I, p. 714.|
|32||E. B. O'Callaghan, Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New York V, pp. 181 and 185.|
From 1710 until the affair of Wallace and Willson in 1727 evidence of counterfeiting is not very extensive. On July 26, 1711, a law was enacted for the emission of bills of credit in the amount of 25,000 ounces of plate, and this act contained the usual provision making the convicted counterfeiter of this money subject to the pains and penalties of felony without benefit of clergy. 1 On August 7 of the same year one Peter Watson, who had been bound over on suspicion of coining false dollars, came into Quarter Sessions but when no one appeared to prosecute him it was ordered that he and his surety be discharged from their recognizance, paying fees. 2
A New York dispatch dated July 20, 1713, which was printed in the Boston News-Letter, 3 reads as follows: "One Berry a Taylor and one James Mark who lately came from Boston and Rhode-Island, are in Goal for Counterfeiting our Paper Money, And 'tis said they have both confessed the Fact, which is Felony without benefit of Clergy. Mark was apprehended at Philadelphia, and brought hither; a third Person was concerned, who is gone to Maryland."
Mark was arraigned in the Supreme Court of Judicature on September 4 and pleaded guilty to an indictment for counterfeiting the bills of credit of the government. Joseph Berry, being arraigned the same day, pleaded not guilty, was tried and convicted by the jury, which found that he had no lands, tenements, goods or chattels at the time the felony was committed. On the next day the court sentenced both to be hanged on the following Wednesday between eleven in the morning and one in the afternoon. 4
The Boston newspaper in reporting the outcome yielded the information that the money they had counterfeited was the £4 bill of credit, of which they had not made more than thirteen bills. Mark, it was said, claimed that their plate was broken and that he had lost it in Pennsylvania. 5 It seemed that the tailor and engraver were both to pay for their crime with their lives, but on Tuesday, the day before that set for their execution, "most of the Gentlewomen" of New York, according to the Boston newspaper, 6 "waited upon his Excellency our Governour, addressing him earnestly with Prayers and Tears for the Life of Berry & Mark ... whereupon his Excellency was pleased to pardon them."
Their pardon was actually issued on October 13, 7 and on the seventeenth of the month, "being brought to ye Barr," they were asked what they had to say for themselves why execution should not be awarded against them. At this they produced the Queen's pardon and prayed that it be allowed them, to which the Court acceded and ordered that they be discharged, paying their fees. Then Berry presented gloves to each of the judges "as in ye 4th. Edward 4th," while "the other Defendt. Mark being very poor in Respect of his poverty the Judges Remitted to him ye Ceremony of presenting Gloves." 8
Three further acts for striking bills of credit, passed on September 4, 1714, July 5, 1715, and December 23, 1717, respectively, carried the usual provision making counterfeiting of the money felony without benefit of clergy. 9 But even the death penalty did not prevent some individuals from committing that crime, as is shown by Governor Hunter's speech to the House on April 28, 1719. It read: "The late Attempt of some wicked Men, to counterfeit your Bills of Credit, I hope is in a great Measure disappointed, by the early Discovery and the Flight of the Persons guilty in all Appearance, for the finding and securing of whom, I have used all possible Diligence. I submit to you, whether it may not be necessary to pass a Law, forbidding the Currency of all Bills above a certain Value, which shall be pasted on the Backside, after a certain Time fixed, by which Time the Treasurer may change true Bills, so pasted with others which he is to sink; for this Counterfeit is concealed by the Means of such Pasting, as these false Bills will convince you." 10 To this the General Assembly two days later made the following reply: "The Endeavours you have used to apprehend the Persons supposed guilty of Counterfeiting the publick Bills of Credit, we hope will at last, be attended with the desired Effect, of bringing them to public Justice, and in the mean Time put a Stop to the Currency of such Bills: We will consider that and all the other Parts of your Excellency's Speech; and will endeavour to do what will be most conducive to his Majesty's Service and the Benefit of this Province." 11
Perhaps that same year but more likely early in 1720 a certain Abner Hunt of Westchester, as reported by the American Weekly Mercury (Philadelphia) of March 17, 1720, was arrested in New York for counterfeiting and passing a six pound bill of New York. On Friday, March 11, he was tried in the Supreme Court and acquitted by the jury of the charge of felony in counterfeiting the bill but found guilty of a misdemeanor in passing it, knowing it to be counterfeit.
Some idea of the extent of the counterfeiting of the money of New York may be obtained from the record of false bills destroyed in Quarter Sessions in New York City. On November 2, 1720, Jacobus Van Cortlandt, late mayor of the city, brought into that court two counterfeits, a four pounds bill and a ten shillings bill which had been lodged with him during his mayorality. At the same time John Cruger presented in court the following counterfeits: two bills of eight pounds each, numbered 4204 and 2039; one six pound bill, no. 3940; one five pound bill, no. 1031; one four pound bill, no. 5207. They had all been brought to him as false but upon examination he had not been able to discover the persons who made them. By order of the court the above bills were then and there burned to ashes. 12
An act passed on November 19, 1720, provided that "if any Person or Persons whatsoever, shall Presume to Counterfeit any of the Bills of Credit made Current by this or any other Act of the General Assembly of this Province or Shall alter any of the Said Bills made Current as aforesaid so that they Shall appeare to be of Greater Value than by any of the Said Acts the Same Bills so Altered were Enacted Signed and Numbered to Pass Current for or Shall knowingly Pass any of the Bills aforesaid So Counterfeited or altered, every Person Guilty of Counterfeiting or altering the said Bills as aforesaid shall be Guilty of Felony and Convicted of Such Counterfeiting or altering shall suffer death Accordingly, and not have the benefit of Clergy and every Person knowingly passing any Such Counterfeit or alter'd Bill and Convicted thereof Shall also Suffer the Paines of Death without Benefit of Clergy." 13 It may further be noted that these same provisions were incorporated in another law passed on July 24, 1724. 14
Early in 1723 the government was much disturbed by the discovery that one Thomas Lynstead of Hempstead, Long Island, had been engaged in counterfeiting twenty shilling bills. Some of the documents which could have shed light on the affair
were destroyed in the burning of the State House at Albany in 1911, but a good general account is found in the
New-England Courant (Boston) of June 3, 1723, which under the dateline of "Rhode-Island, May 30" reads as follows:
We are advis'd from Hemstead on Long-Island, that one Thomas Lenstead, who came lately from England to that Place, left a Bundle of Papers at his Lodging, which a young Woman in the House opening, found to be New-York Bills of Credit, seven of which she carryed to New-York, and offer'd to put them off; but was soon discover'd, by reason the Bills were none of them sign'd: And the said Lenstead,
hearing of his Bills being
discover'd, went home and hang'd himself soon after. He left a Paper behind him signifying he had met with a great deal of
Trouble, of which this was the greatest; but that he receiv'd the Bills from some in this Country, and had not put any of
them off, tho' People conclude they were made in England. He was accounted one of those call'd Free-Thinkers, and had formerly belong'd to that Tribe in England. He was a Man of bright Parts, and great Learning, in good Credit at Long-Island, and was to have been marry'd that day he was buried. He left a Memorandum of 3000 l. of these Bills, but they have found
250 l. of it.
A number of Lynstead's twenty shilling notes were found in his handkerchief,
and the government left no stone unturned in searching for the remaining bills. The governor reported to the council on May
9 that Mr. Samuel Clowes, the Coroner of Queens County,
had found some Books and Papers, belonging to Thomas Lynstead who hanged himself on Saturday last, which Papers and Books
discovered That the said Lynstead [had been] concerned in Counterfeiting Public Bills of Credit of this Province. Upon which
the said Clows was called in and delivered those Books and Papers to the Board and Informed them of what he had observed from
the said Books and Papers and that [he] Believed or knew that one Sherrard a Taylor of Oyster Bay, and Likewise one Thomas Kable of the same place had been intimate acquaintance of the said Lynstead particularly since his
last coming from England, and likewise appearing to this Board by the affidavit of one Sarah Albertsen that the said Sherrard was in Company with
Lynstead on the same day and at the House of Albertsen where Lynstead delivered a number of Counterfeit Bills to the aforesaid
Sarah Albertsen, It is ordered by this Board that the Sheriff of Queens County do forthwith search the Houses of the said Sherrard and Kable and Deborah Wright...
At this point the document just quoted is partially destroyed but the greater part of what follows is preserved. The Sheriff was instructed to break open trunks or any other place of concealment in order to discover if there were any counterfeit bills, paper or tools or anything which might throw light on the matter. He was also to apprehend Sherrard and Kable and bring them before the governor and council with all convenient speed. The justices of Queens County were given orders to make diligent enquiry as to what persons had been intimately connected with Lynstead and strictly to examine and search as many persons as they had reason to suspect were concerned with him in his evil practices in counterfeiting and issuing false bills. And finally the Sheriff of New York was instructed to repair to the house of Thomas Pullen in New York City and there make a thorough search of all chests, trunks and any other place in the house. He was in case of need to break open any of these "in order to discover any Counterfeit Bills or Papers or Letters relating thereto or shewing any Correspondence with Thomas Lynstead who appears to this Board to have great Quantitys of the said false Bills and to have been intimate with the said Pullen." 16
On the fourteenth of May the High Sheriff of the County of New York reported to the council that he had searched Pullen's house but found neither counterfeits nor papers nor letters relating thereto nor evidence that Pullen had had any correspondence with Lynstead. 17 On the following day Sherrard, Kable and Pullen were called before the council, where they made depositions and were dismissed. Merchant Pullen's deposition was concerned with Lynstead's having offered him money that was counterfeit, as was the deposition of Sherrerd and also a statement made the same day by one Samuel Burdsell. 18
The council next ordered that the justices of Queens County be directed to examine a certain Samuel Burcham of Oyster Bay concerning what he might know relating to Lynstead's having sealed up a parcel of counterfeit bills in his, Burcham's, presence. And finally the council appointed Captain Walter, Mr. Harrison and Doctor Colden to be a select committee to examine all persons concerning Lynstead's counterfeiting of bills or any matters relating thereto. 19 Nothing further is known of the affair but it may be surmised that Lynstead had a plate made in England for counterfeiting the twenty shilling bill of New York and perhaps other denominations.
At the time that Lynstead's affairs were under investigation a number of counterfeit bills were brought into the Court of Quarter Sessions in New York City and there burned on May 8, 1723: Robert Walker, the mayor, produced a bill of three pounds, no. 3010, one of twenty shillings without any number, one of five pounds, no. 1475, another of five pounds, no. 77, and one of thirty shillings, no. 1114; Mr. Justice Kip produced one other bill of ten shillings, "all which were taken upon Persons that were passing the same but that no discovery could be made of the Person or Persons who Counterfeited the same being traced back to a great many Persons who had taken the same Bills as good & passed the same from One to another without discovering the fraud." 20
In the same year the passing of counterfeit coin was brought to the attention of the Court of General Sessions of Ulster County meeting in Kingston on December 18, when John Crook and Jurian Tappan complained of one Benjamin Wentwood and Isaak More for tendering false Lyon dollars 21 for payments. Jurian Tappan made deposition that on that day a person who gave his name as Benjamin Wentwood came to Tappan's father's house and bought a pair of shoe buckles from Jurian. Wentwood paid with a Lyon dollar. When Tappan expressed doubt concerning its genuineness, Wentwood explained that the dollar looked so "by Reason he had worn the doller with some penneys," whereupon Tappan accepted the piece and gave him the change. Soon after this John Crook came to Tappan with a false Lyon dollar and asked him if he had not received the fellow of it. Tappan then compared the coin he had just received with the one brought by Mr. Crook and realized that both were false.
The next day Wentwood was sworn on the holy evangelists and declared that he had obtained the Lyon dollar which he paid to Tappan from a certain Thomas Steel, who had since fled. A hue and cry for Steel was ordered, while Wentwood was jailed. Isaak More prayed that he might not be sent to jail and promised to stay in town until he had leave to depart, and his petition was granted. Before the day was over William Plough, the constable, captured Steel, who was intrusted to the custody of the constable until the court met the next day. Both prisoners were then required to give recognizance in the amount of £25 each to appear at the next sessions. 22 There is no evidence as to the disposal of these cases nor is it recorded whether Isaak More escaped prosecution.
That the counterfeiting of the currency continued is shown by the fact that at a meeting of the Quarter Sessions in New York City on May 6, 1724, Alderman Cruger produced a false bill which he had stopped in the hands of Thomas Mayor and another of twelve shillings in the hands of John Cayal; the Mayor of New York brought into court a twelve shillings bill taken with Nicholas Dally; Alderman Kip produced two half crown counterfeit bills, one of them stopped in the hands of Caleb Hunt of Westchester; Alderman Cortlandt brought in a twelve shillings bill taken in the hands of the daughter of Justice Hunt in Westchester. 23 At a later session, on August 5, 1724, a counterfeit six shillings bill produced by the mayor and a twenty shillings bill produced by Alderman Phillipse were destroyed. 24 Again, on November 4, Alderman Cortlandt brought in a counterfeit twenty shillings bill and a thirty shillings bill, while Alderman Cruger produced a false twenty shillings bill. 25 In the Supreme Court of Judicature on November 28, 1724, Robert Walker, the second justice of that court, sent a twelve shillings bill to the Grand Jury, which returned it to the court as false, and it was ordered that the bill should be burnt. 26
This counterfeit bill may have figured as evidence in the case of one Isaac Mense, 27 who was on the same day arraigned in the Supreme Court and pleaded not guilty. He was tried on November 30, and the following persons were evidences for the King: Marguerite Ferrand, Alderman Cortlandt, Alderman Kip, the sheriff, the mayor, and Alderman Cruger. The jury found Mense not guilty, whereupon the attorney general moved that the indictment for the misdemeanor be quashed for insufficiency thereof, which was ordered accordingly. 28 James Alexander somewhat later drew up four indictments against Mense, one for counterfeiting a York bill, one for altering a York bill, one for issuing and passing a counterfeit, and one for passing an altered bill. Alexander, who assisted at the subsequent trial as Counsel for the King, wrote that the indictments cost him a great deal of thought, pains and care to draw. 29 On March 12, 1725, the grand jury found the four indictments billa vera. 30 On the fifteenth the trial took place on the indictments for altering and for knowingly passing and uttering in payment a bill of credit of New York. There were eighteen witnesses for the defendant, while the evidences for the King were Margaret Ferrand, Elizabeth Viele, Tunis Quirk, Abraham Hoyt, Alderman Cortlandt, Daniel Quigley, William Dugdale, William Osburn, John Cruger, Richard Ashfield and Richard Bradley. It may by assumed with considerable probability that Mense was charged with passing an altered bill to Margaret Ferrand. In any event the jury acquitted the defendant. 31 There remained two indictments on which Mense was still to be tried, but on the next day he presented his humble petition that he be discharged, he "having by his Country been acquitted of the Crimes whereon he was Indicted Arraigned & Tryed whereupon the Attorney Generall ... declared that he would not prosecute upon either of the Indictments..." 32
Further indications of counterfeiting are found in the records of Quarter Sessions, where on February 3, 1725, Alderman Cruger produced two false bills, one of eight shillings and one of sixteen shillings, the first stopped from D. Halse of Elizabeth Town and the other from a certain Peter Mitchell. 33
On June 4, 1725, the Grand Jury indicted one John Jones "for uttering a bill of Credit of one Shilling for Twenty," and, after the indictment was read on the following day, Jones pleaded not guilty. His trial was held in the Supreme Court on June 8, with Messers Shennancup, Sharper and Bobine as witnesses for the King; probably the bill had been passed to Shennancup. The Jury found the defendant guilty of knowingly passing the altered bill. 34 Sentence, however, was not passed at that time, and on December 6 Jones produced before the court the King's pardon, which was read by the court and allowed. 35
Counterfeited bills continued to be stopped by the magistrates, for on August 4, 1725, the mayor brought into Quarter Sessions a false twenty shillings bill passed to a Mr. Vernon and also a counterfeit twelve shillings bill passed to a Mr. Schermerhoorn; Alderman Phillipse produced at the same time a false forty shillings bill; Alderman Cortlandt brought in five counterfeits, one of forty shillings, stopped in the hands of Johannes Graef, who received it from Mrs. Fanouil, one of twelve shillings, stopped in the possession of one Myer, a blacksmith of Hackinsack, one of twelve shillings, one of twenty shillings, stopped in the hands of Peter Bowden, and one of six shillings, stopped in the hands of Mrs. Hawkins, who received it of William Ponsonby, who swore that he had obtained it from Gabriel Luff of Long Island. 36 Robert Walker on October 18, 1726, produced in the Supreme Court a false bill of twelve shillings, 37 and at a meeting of Quarter Sessions on November 1, 1726, Alderman Cruger brought in two counterfeit six shillings bills, one of which was taken with John Gara and the other with John Liddle. 38
A law of November 11, 1726, authorized the stopping of counterfeit or altered bills in these terms:
... be it further Enacted by the Authority Aforesaid That if any Bill or Bills of Credit Shall be brought to the Treasurer
of this Colony for Exchanging as in this Act is Directed or in payment of Dutys or taxes due by Virtue of any other Act or
Acts of the General Assembly of this Colony which he shall have Good reason to Suspect Are Counterfeited or Altered to Appear
of A higher Value than they were originally Struck for it Shall and may be lawfull for the said Treasurer to Stop and detain
Such Suspected Bills and to endorse thereon the Name of the Person tendring the same and the time when, And all Such Bills
he shall so Stop or detain Shall by him be Delivered from time to time to the Court or Courts of the Quarter Sessions to be
held for the City and County of New York who thereupon are either to Destroy the Same in the Said Court or to Proceed thereon As in their Discretion Shall Seem meet
and it Shall and may be Lawfull to and for the Mayor Recorder and Aldermen of the City of New York to Stop and Detain Suspected bills and to do in that behalf what is hereby mentioned to be done by the said Treasurer.
AND it Shall and may also be lawfull for all Justices of the peace Within their respective Counties In this Colony to Stop
and detain Such Suspected Bills as aforesaid and (making the abovementioned Endorsement thereon) Deliver them from time to
time at the next General Sessions of the peace to be held for Such County, who are thereupon Either to destroy the Same in
Such Court or Courts or to proceed thereon as in their Discretion shall Seem meet And the Said Court or Courts are hereby
required from time to time respectively to Certify to the said treasurer the Number and Value of the Bills which they shall
destroy in the manner aforesaid PROVIDED Nevertheless that nothing herein Contained Shall alter or lessen the Punishments
inflicted by any former act or Acts of the General Assembly of this Colony on persons Counterfeiting the Bills of Credit thereby
made Current in the said Coloby.
|1||The Colonial Laws of New York I, pp. 737–740.|
|2||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1694–1731/32, p. 202.|
|3||July 27, 1713, p. 2.|
|4||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1710–1714, pp. 466, 472, 475–477.|
|5||Boston News-Letter, Sept. 14, 1713, p. 2.|
|6||Ibid., Sept. 21, 1713, p. 2.|
|7||Calendar of New York Colonial Commissions (N. Y.: New-York Historical Society, 1929), p. 16.|
|8||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1710–1714, p. 500.|
|9||The Colonial Laws of New York I, pp. 821, 855, 943.|
|10||Journal of the Votes and Proceedings of the General Assembly of the Colony of New York (N. Y.: Hugh Gaine, 1764) I, pp. 427–428.|
|11||Ibid., I, p. 428.|
|12||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1694–1731/32, p. 385.|
|13||The Colonial Laws of New York II, p. 25.|
|14||Ibid. II, pp. 198–205.|
|15||E. B. O'Callaghan, Calendar of Historical Manuscripts in the Office of the Secretary of State, Albany, New York, Part II, English Manuscripts, 1664–1776 (Albany: Weed, Parsons and Co., 1886), p. 477. This work will henceforth be referred to at O'Callaghan, Eng. Mss.|
|16||Ms. Mins. Council 14, pp. 150–152.|
|17||Ibid. 14, pp. 158–159.|
|18||Ibid. 14, p. 159 and O'Callaghan, Eng. Mss., p. 478.|
|19||Ms. Mins. Council 14, p. 160.|
|20||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1694–1731/32, p. 422.|
|21||The lion dollar was a silver coin of Holland, bearing as type a rampant lion.|
|22||Miscellaneous Manuscripts New York State Library, 7460–20.|
|23||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1694–1731/32, p. 437.|
|24||Ibid., p. 442.|
|25||Ibid., p. 447.|
|26||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1723–1727, p. 118.|
|27||Goebel and Naughton, op. cit., p. 353, note 101, do not appear to have used the Minutes of the Supreme Court of Judicature for this case and they give the name of the defendant, taken from James Alexander's Supreme Court Register, as Mene. In the Register and the Minutes, however, the name is clearly Mense.|
|28||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1723–1727, pp. 118, 120–121.|
|29||James Alexander, Supreme Court Register 1721–1742 (NYHS), p. 11.|
|30||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1723–1727, p. 131.|
|31||Ibid., p. 134.|
|32||Ibid., p. 136.|
|33||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1694–1731/32, p. 448.|
|34||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1723–1727, pp. 143, 146.|
|35||Ibid., p. 170.|
|36||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1694–1731/32, p. 453.|
|37||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1723–1727, p. 220.|
|38||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1694–1731/32, p. 471.|
|39||The Colonial Laws of New York II, pp. 344–345.|
In the New-York Gazette of March 13, 1727, appeared the following advertisement: "Public Notice is hereby given, That at Philadelphia they have found out some Twelve Shilling Jersey Bills that are Counterfeits: They are newly Printed and very artfully Signed. In the flourish at the top of the Bill there is the representation of a Basket, which in the Counterfeit is much finer than in the True Bills; and the great T is much plainer than in the True Bills."
The next day two men were arrested in New York City for passing three counterfeits. This account of their seizure was printed in the
New-York Gazette of March 20:
On the 14th Instant in the Morning, One David Willson and one David Wallace, were Apprehended and Committed to the common
Goal of this City for Utterung Counterfeit Bills of Credit, made Current by Act of Assembly, of this Province, and of the
. Upon their Examinations before the Mayor and other Magistrates they Confess they brought about Eight Hundred Pounds of that
Money from Maryland. David Willson denyed that he knew it to be Counterfeit, but David Wallace ingeniously confessed that about four Months ago,
he brought about a Thousand Pound, of the Counterfeit Money, over in the Ship Richmond to Philadelphia from Dublin. That he had the said Money from one Thomas Morough (who lately lived at Elk River, in Maryland) but was then in Dublin, and that the said Thomas Morough told him they were Counterfeit Bills, but that he knows not who
Printed or signed them. That he was to have a third of the said Counterfeit Money for putting it off. That the said Thomas
Morough designs into
(to Maryland as he believes) with more of that Counterfeit Money, not thinking it prudent to Venture the whole in one Vessel. The whole
Counterfeit Money, that was made being Three Thousand Pounds or upwards, That the aforesaid David Willson was Employ'd by
the said David Wallace to Exchange and put off the said
Counterfeit Bills, for which he was to have Four or Five Shillings in the Pound. That there was some Pensilvania Counterfeit
Five Shilling Bills, among the Counterfeit Bills he brought from Dublin, some of which he burnt in Maryland, they not being well signed. That he and the said David Willson had not fully Resolved how to steer their Course, but had
some thought of going towards
. That he paid to the said Thomas Morough in Dublin, about Ten Pound for his share of the Printing and signing the said Counterfeit
Bills, and was to pay him something more when he came over. When the said David Willson and David Wallace were taken, they
had 184 Counterfeit Jersey Bills at Three Pounds each, 93 ditto (at Three Shillings: They had also 23 Counterfeit Pennsylvania Bills at Five Shillings, and one ditto at One Shilling. And they had 646 Counterfeit
Bills at Four Shillings each, and 3 ditto at Fifteen Pence each which were Sign'd)
. D. Provoost, Jacobus Kip, G. Beekman, John Cruger, Besides upwards of 100 l. in Counterfeit
Jersey Bills, which they pass'd here the day before they were apprehended, and one 4s. York Bill.
The Counterfeit Bills may be known from the True, by taking Notice, That in the Counterfeit Three Pounds
Jersey Bills, the Letter b is left out of the word Publick. That in the Counterfeit Twelve Shillings Jersey Bills, the Flourishing at
the Top is hansomer and finer, and the Letter T Blacker. That in the Counterfeit Six Shilling
Jersey Bills, the Words Six Shillings, at Top, are larger, and the figure 4 in 1724 is larger, and the Down stroke of the great T Narrower. That in the 18d. Jersey, and Four Shillings, and 15d.
Counterfeit Bills, the Figure 4 in 1724 is much larger and the Names of the Signers to all the Counterfeit
Jersey Bills, are sullied and Rub'd, and writ with Ink inclineable to a red Purple, & the Paper courser and thinner than the true Bills.
On March 16 the grand jury presented both Wallace and Willson for counterfeiting and passing bills of credit of the Province
of New York,
and about a month later the
New-York Gazette of April 17 published the following advertisement bearing on the case:
Publick Notice is hereby given, That Besides the Directions formerly given how to distinguish the Counterfeit New-Jersey Bills from the True Ones, you will find that the Name Parker (in many of the Counterfeit Bills) is writ with an h, thus Parher,
and, in others where they have writ the Name Parker, there is a great difference in the Letter K from the True Bills signed
by Coll. John Parker.
Notice is also hereby given, That there is found in the Possession of David Williams [sic!] and David Wallace (who are now in New-York Goal for Counterfeiting and Uttering some of the Bills of Credit of this and the Neighbouring Governments) a Jewel of some
Value, and two Horses. If any Person have any just Claim to said Jewel and Horses, they may apply to the Publisher of this
Gazette, and be further Informed.
At a meeting of the Supreme Court on June 9 Wallace was presented for counterfeiting a four shillings bill and also for passing
it to Mr. Livingston, while similar indictments were found against Willson. The next day the jurors also indicted Wallace
for counterfeiting a bill, no. 378, and for passing a bad bill to Mary, the wife of James Livingston; at the same time they
presented Willson for counterfeiting a four shillings bill and passing it to Mary Livingston. To all indictments the prisoners
pleaded not guilty and they requested that they be given time until Wednesday in the next term of the court to prepare for
trial, a prayer which was granted.
Both defendants were put on trial on October 12, 1727, "for passing & Counterfeiting the bills of Creditt of this province." The witnesses for the King were Mr. and Mrs. Livingston, Samuel Heath, George Nicholls, Roger Groves, Mr. Sharper, the Attorney General and the Mayor, and the examinations of the prisoners were also read. Both were acquitted, so they were not subject to the death penalty pre-scribed for counterfeiting New York bills. 4 They were, however, "found guilty of a cheat in passing some bad bills that were made counterfeits of the bills of Creditt of New Jersey," and on December 5 sentence was passed: in October they were to be put in the pillory of New York County for one hour, then be carted through the streets with halters round their necks to the publick whipping post, where they were to be flogged, Wallace thirty-nine lashes and Willson twenty-eight; then they were to be transferred to the jail in Kings County and in January spend an hour in the pillory of Flatbush and be given the same number of lashes as they had received in New York; in February the punishment inflicted in Flatbush was to be repeated at Jamaica in Queens County; after that the prisoners were to be jailed in Westchester County until March, when they were to be pilloried for an hour in the borough town of that county and then whipped, Wallace twenty lashes and Willson ten; upon this they were to be returned to Manhattan and there serve terms in jail, Wallace for six months and Willson for three, after which they were to be discharged, paying their fees. 5
Of two entries in the minutes of the Supreme Court of Judicature under the date of March 19, 1728, one, and perhaps both,
are concerned with the counterfeits passed by Wallace and Willson. The entries read:
The two following Counterfeited bills of the bills of Creditt of the province of New Jersey being handed into Court at the tryall of David Wallace & David Willson for Counterfeiting the bills of Creditt of the said
Mr. Heath brought in Court the following Counterfeited bills of the bills of Creditt of the province of New Jersey to witt twenty eight bills of three pounds each Seven bills of Six Shillings each and nine of twelve shillings each and Mr George Nicholls brought in Court other Counterfeited bills to witt three bills of three pounds each and one of Six Shillings All which said bills were ordered to be burnt which was done in the presence of the Court accordingly. 6
Possibly some of the bills owned by Wallace and Willson had also been included in the parcel of altered and counterfeited New York bills amounting to the sum of sixty-three pounds, seven shillings and sixpence which Abraham De Peyster, Treasurer of the Colony of New York, brought into Quarter Sessions on May 3, 1727. 7 As for false Jersey bills, so many of these bearing the date March 24, 1724, had been made, that the province of New Jersey struck new bills to be exchanged for the emission in question, and advertisements were printed in the New-York Gazette informing the public when the exchange could be made and that the final date for exchanging the bills was to be November 1, 1729. 8
The only court case of counterfeiting recorded in 1729 was that of Jacob Forman (also spelled in the copy of the minutes as Furman and Horman), who at a meeting of the General Sessions of the Peace of Queens County held at Jamaica on May 20, 1729, was indicted "for Counter Fitting." He pleaded not guilty, was tried at the next court, held on September 16, 1729, and was acquitted. 9
In July of this year, however, two anonymous letters were placed under the door of William Bradford, printer of New York's first newspaper, the New-York Gazette. The first epistle, which was shoved beneath his door on the night of July 15 and discovered the following morning, read thus: "Whereas several of these parts of America have sustained various Damages by Counterfeit Paper Money, especially New-England, Connecticut and the Jerseys, Therefore its no less than the indispensible Duty of every Well wisher to his Country, to advise the Inhabitants of approaching Danger of that kind; The Author therefore being some-what conscious of a design to that Purpose intended, is (as their friend) desirous they may be careful of what large Bills they receive, to wit, 40 s. or 3 l. or from whom they receive them. This will immediately be put in Execution, if not stopt by timely Notice, and the Evil consequence being such, as the Innocent may suffer as soon or perhaps sooner than the Guilty. It is believed by the Author the Design is chiefly against Connecticut."
In printing this item Bradford added: "If the Author of the above Letter does know any thing of Counterfeit Bills of Credit as by his Letter he intimates, its expected that he will discover the same. And if he will apply to some Magistrate in this Province, and make a full Discovery of such Counterfeit Bills being made or that are making, he will be suitably Rewarded by the Government for such his Discovery." 10
The Saturday morning after Bradford published the above he found a second message which he printed in his newspaper on Monday.
Its text was as follows:
Your Recommending that Letter which was found under your Door Wednesday Morning, July the 16th, to the Press, has been of
very valuable Service both to this Government, and other Governments; tho' the Author cou'd give no visible Proof that he
had seen any thing, further than the Proposal of such and such Person to him. concerning the matter; and the Circumstantial
Evidences that followed their Proposals. You say, it was expected the Author would give his information against them; which
cou'd tend neither to the advantage or disadvantage of the about-to-be Offended, Accused, or Informer, more than render the
Informer obnoxious, having no more (probable) to say than has been already here mentioned, which in the Author's Opinion,
are not sufficient Evidences. However its desired you may in your next Paper also warn the Inhabitants of receiving 3 l. 40
s. or 30 s. Bills of Credit. I am much convinced the Design is already stop'd; however, I cannot see wherein a second Caution
may be amiss The Author is desirous you may produce the Letter you first received, to none, save to such as can produce the
True Tokens of it: which may happen to tend greatly to the Advantage of
Your Friend and Servant
The Author – – –
N.B. The former Letter has at the Bottom of it certain Marks, which (I suppose) are those that this Author calls the True
Tokens of it. And according to his Request the two Letters shall be kept and ready to produce (in order to serve or save him
– – –) when he produces the True Tokens (as he calls 'em).
Nothing further is known of the author of the letters or the counterfeiting to which he referred. Perhaps the warnings in the newspaper frightened the criminals and caused them to desist from their plans.
Soon after this, on August 3, the New-York Gazette contained this brief item: "A School-master on Staten-Island is apprehended and put in Prison there, for Counterfeiting the 30 s. and 3 l. Bills of New-Jersey . He did the whole with his Pencil, and so exact that the Difference was not easily discovered. He had passed about 10 or 12 l. before it was discovered." Unfortunately there seems to be no evidence as to the name of the teacher or his fate.
On October 17, 1730, an act was passed for striking bills of credit in the amount of £3,000 which were to be deposited in the treasury to be exchanged for shattered, torn and defaced bills. The act contained the same provisions about counterfeiting as were included in the earlier act of November 11, 1726. 12
The next counterfeiter to be apprehended, however, had not been making bills but coin. He was a certain John Conner, who on November 30, 1730, was indicted for felony and on five other counts, the last of which was "for a Cheat in having Several ps of false coin with tools & Instruments about for the coining of such false coin." To all of these the prisoner pleaded not guilty. The next day he was tried in the Supreme Court, and the following persons were evidences for the King: John Vanhorne, James Vanhorne, Abraham Vanhorne, Thomas Wenman, Jacob Bratt, Evert Bratt, Mrs. Serjeant and Mrs. Zenger. The jury found the defendant guilty of the indictment of Mr. Van- horne to the value of upwards of forty shillings and of the indictment of Mr. Zenger to the value of six shillings. At the same time they stated that the prisoner had no goods or chattels to their knowledge. Thereupon the court at once pronounced sentence that Conner "be hanged by the neck till he be Dead On Tuesday the twenty second of this Instant." 13
Early in 1732 false dollars were circulating in New York City, for an item bearing the dateline "New-York, January 18" appeared in the American Weekly Mercury of January 25, 1732, and also in the New-England Weekly Journal of February 7, 1732. It read: "There has been a Suspicion of some Counterfeit Dollars being made here in this City; upon which, last Week, a special Warrant was issued, and one of the Persons suspected, is absconded; but no Proof appearing against the other, he is discharged; however this may caution People to take care what Dollars they receive."
Neither the pillory, carting, whipping nor the gallows put an end to counterfeiting. About the end of May, 1734, the New-York Weekly Journal reports: 14 "one Thomas Copley, was apprehended here, on Suspicion of Coining and uttering false Dollars, when he found himself discover'd he flung 18 in a Purse over the Fence into a Neighbouring Yard, some that he kept loose in his Pocket he dropt into the Privy, the Purse was immediately found but it is supposed that those which he dropt into the Privy are not all found."
On August 3 Copley was arraigned in the Supreme Court and pleaded not guilty to an indictment for uttering a counterfeit dollar. His trial took place on August 5, and the witnesses for the King were Mr. and Mrs. Eastham, John Eastham and Jane McDermot, so it is probable that Copley passed the dollar to the Easthams. He was found guilty and the next day the court sentenced him to be set in the public pillory of New York City on August 7 from eleven in the morning until noon and on August 9 at the same hour to be given thirty lashes at the public whipping post and then be discharged, paying his fees. 15 It is recorded that, on the same day that Copley was pilloried, Justice Cruger brought into Quarter Sessions eighteen false dollars which had been found on Copley, and these counterfeits were then broken to pieces in open court. 16
A law of November 28, 1734, authorizing the striking of £10,000 of new bills, fixed the penalty of death without benefit of clergy for any who should alter, counterfeit, or knowingly pass altered or counterfeited bills of this emission. 17 The next case to cause a stir in the colony, however, was one concerned with the counterfeiting of the ten shillings bills of an earlier emission, that of October 20, 1730. The governor and council on February 3, 1735, took cognizance of the situation by deciding to issue a proclamation. "It appearing to this board," read their minutes, "that severall of the ten Shillings bills made of that Denomination or vallue with a design to pass them as for the true & reall bills of Creditt of this Collony and that Severall of Such bills have of late been utter'd in payment which if not timely prevented may tend to the great Hurt and damage of many of his Matiës liege subjects within this Collony It is therefore Ordered by his Excellency by and with the advice and consent of his Matiës Councill that a Proclamation issue with a promise of a reward of fifty pounds to any person or persons who Shall discover the author or authors of the aforesaid false or counterfeit bills to be paid to Such person or persons upon the Conviction of such author or authors with a promise likewise of pardon to anyone of the accomplices that are privy to interested or concerned therein who Shall make Such discovery." 18
The proclamation, voted by the council and dated February 5, was duly issued by Governor William Cosby and published in the
New-York Gazette of February 11. It read:
It having been Represented to me, that several of the Ten Shilling Bills of Credit of this Colony have been lately counterfeited, or false Bills made of that Denomination, – – – with a Design to pass them
as for the true
and real Bill of Credit of this Colony; and that several of such False Bills have of late been uttered in Payment, which, if not timely prevented, may tend to the great hurt and damage of many of his
Majesty's Liege Subjects within this Colony. I have therefore thought fit with the Advice of his Majesty's Council to issue
this Proclamation, hereby promising a Reward of Fifty Pounds to any Person or Persons who shall Discover the Author or Authors of the aforesaid False or Counterfeit Bills to be paid
to the Person or Persons discovering the same, upon the Conviction of such Author or Authors. And I do likewise hereby Promise
a Pardon to any of the Accomplices that were privy, aiding or assisting to, interested, employed or concerned therein, who
shall make such Discovery as aforesaid.
The same number of the Gazette which carried the proclamation also gave the following account of one Joseph Johnson, the probable author of the counterfeits:
On Monday they [sic!] 4th Instant some false Ten Shilling Bills of Credit, Dated October xx 1730 were disovred [sic!] in this City and the Person that had taken some of these Counterfeit Bills, return'd them to one
Joseph Johnson of this City, a Journey-Man Printer, who being told they were Counterfeit Bills, did not deny the passing of
them, but said, I will change them, and gave good Money for them, being in an Agony and Trembled: This was about 7 at night,
and about an hour after he began to pack up his goods, and in the dead of the Night removed them; and about 3 in the Morning
went off in a Boat, and we hear he landed in the Jerseys with design to go to Philadelphia. This being known on Tuesday Morning, caused People to examine the Bills of Credit they had by them, and said Johnsons Wife
change a pretty many of them. This gave a suspicion that said Johnson was the Maker as well as Passer of these false Bills.
Upon this his Excellency the Governor sent to the Jerseys to have this Johnson apprehended, and also called a Council and
by their advice issued a Proclamation, Promising the Sum of Fifty Pounds for the discovery of the Author or Authors of these Counterfeit Ten Shilling Bills of Credit, which are pretty difficult to be distinguished from the True Bills, the Signers Names being nearly Imitated, but upon a
nice observation there is some difference, more Particularly in the Vanes of the Wind-mill, the Flour Cask, and the Letter
N in the Arms of the City of
The first action taken against Johnson was by the Court of Quarter Sessions on February 4, whose minutes read: "Whereas Joseph Johnson Bookbinder is suspected to have Counterfeited Several Ten Shilling Bills current money of this Colony; and that he lyes Concealed in this City; ordered, the Constables attending this Court do Immediately make diligent Search for the said Joseph Johnson, & him to apprehend, and forthwith bring him before this Court to be Examined, and also to make diligent Search for such Counterfeit money." 19
As the article in the New-York Gazette disclosed, Johnson made off for Philadelphia via the Jerseys. The last that was known of him is a paragraph in a letter from that city which was printed in the New-York Gazette of February 18, 1735, and read: "On the arrival of the Post and reading of yours, I took a Constable and went to the Lodging of Joseph Johnson, & the Person where he lodged told us, that so soon as the Post came by his Door, he went out to the Office, and had not seen him since, & on Sunday Morning I sent one of my Negros to his Lodging, and the Man told him that Johnson had not been at home that Night, so that I believe he is gone towards Virginia, for I hear that such a Man went over our upper Ferry on Schoolkill."
Johnson left behind him in New York a small son, also named Joseph, and on May 7 the Court of Quarter Sessions made following provision for the child:
Whereas Joseph Johnson aged six years the four and twentieth Day of January last past (son of Joseph Johnson late of this
City, Book binder, who was lately presented in this Court for uttering a Great number of false Bills in the Room and stead
of good Bills made current Money of this Colony for which he is fled from Justice and hath left the said Joseph Johnson his
son, who is likely to become a Charge to the parish) It is therefore ordered, that the said Child Joseph Johnson be put out
apprenticed by the Church Wardens to William Bradford of this City Printer untill he attain the Age of one and twenty years,
the said William Bradford Covenanting to teach him the art and Trade of a Printer; to Read Write and Cypher, and the Expiration
of the Term to Give him one good new suit of apparell, both linen and wollen from head to foot, besides his usual apparel;
and During the Term to find and provide for him sufficient Meat, Drink and apparel, Washing and Lodging.
It has been seen that Johnson's wife was indicted in Quarter Sessions for uttering counterfeit bills. Catherine Johnson's case was transferred to the Supreme Court of Judicature, where on April 19 she was arraigned on an indictment for "a misdemeanour" and pleaded not guilty. Two days later Edward Mann and Garret Kettletas provided bail, each in the amount of twenty pounds, for her appearance at the next term in July. Her trial was held on August 1, and John Bell, Mr. Mann. Mr. Kettletas, Mrs. Bosch, and Mr. and Mrs. Bradford appeared as witnesses for the King. She was found guilty and on the following day was sentenced to receive twenty-one lashes on her bare back and then be discharged, paying her fees. 21 It is likely that she had passed bad bills to John Bell and perhaps to others of the witnesses, and it may well be that her husband had been employed by William Bradford.
Catherine Johnson was later in serious trouble with the law: in 1766 she was convicted of stealing from one William Kirby a piece of check linen worth thirty shillings; on this occasion she pleaded her clergy, which was granted and she was burned in her left thumb in the presence of the court; 22 again, in 1773, she was indicted for keeping a disorderly house. 23
It is highly probable that six counterfeit ten shillings bills which were burnt to ashes in the presence of the grand jury in Quarter Sessions 24 had been passed by either Johnson or his wife. On September 30, 1735, it was ordered by a Court of Record held at the City Hall that the counterfeit bills formerly lodged with Robert Lurting, late Mayor of New York, and now in the possession of George Lurting, be by him delivered to the Clerk of the Court and that the clerk take an account of the bills when received. 25 There is, however, no indication of the quantity, denomination or date of issue of these bills.
One counterfeiter, Obediah Smith, was more fortunate than Catherine Johnson had been, for he escaped punishment through the negligence of a magistrate. At a Court of Oyer and Terminer and General Gaol Delivery held at Haverstraw for Orange County on June 4, 1735, the grand jury presented Michael Dunning of Goshen, one of the justices of the peace for that county, "for not apprehending one Obediah Smith who Produced to him Severall bills of credit of the Province of New York which the said Obediah Smith had altered from 40/ bills to £5 bills but ordered The Said Obediah Smith To Destroy them." 26
|1||The section within parentheses is missing in the only extant copy of this number of the New York newspaper. Fortunately the item was reprinted in the American Weekly Mercury of March 23, 1727, pp. 1–2 and in the Boston Gazette of April 3, 1727, which makes it possible to fill in the lacuna.|
|2||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1723–1727, p. 245.|
|3||Ibid., pp. 368, 270.|
|4||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1727–1732, pp. 9–11.|
|5||Ibid., pp. 24–27 and the New-York Gazette, Dec. 11, 1727, p. 2.|
|6||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1727–1732, pp. 42, 44.|
|7||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1694–1731/32, p. 485.|
|8||This advertisement appeared first in the New-York Gazette of April 19, 1728, and was repeated up to July 21, 1729.|
|9||Ms. Mins. Queens Co. Sess. 1722–1789, May 20, 1729, and Sept. 16, 1729.|
|10||New-York Gazette, July 21, 1729, p. 3.|
|11||Ibid., July 28, 1729, p. 2.|
|12||The Colonial Laws of New York II, pp. 648–655.|
|13||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1727–1732, pp. 244, 249, 250.|
|14||June 3, 1734, p. 3.|
|15||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1732–1739, pp. 115, 116. 122.|
|16||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1732–1762, Aug. 7, 1734.|
|17||The Colonial Laws of New York II, p. 888.|
|18||Ms. Mins. Council 17, p. 37.|
|19||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1732–1762, p. 47.|
|20||Ibid., p. 51.|
|21||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1732–1739, pp. 158, 162, 172, 173, 175.|
|22||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1764–1766, pp. 374, 377 and Ms. Mins. SCJ 1764–1767, pp. 135, 139; H. R. Parch. RR–189–K 9.|
|23||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1772–1776, pp. 130, 133.|
|24||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1732–1762, p. 52.|
|25||Ms. Mins. Mayor's Court 1731–1735/36, p. 530.|
|26||Ms. Mins. Circ. I.|
At a meeting of the Governor and Council on April 15, 1736, the clerk, Fred Morris, laid before that body a dollar mold and seventeen counterfeit dollars which on an occasional search had lately been found in the Secretary's office. It was ordered that Messers Cortlandt and Horsmanden cause the mold to be "broken defaced & burnt" and the dollars to be defaced and broken to pieces in their presence, of all of which they were to make a report at the next meeting of the council. 1 It is quite possible that the dollars were among those which had been in the possession of Thomas Copley or they and the mold may have belonged to John Conner. Although these coins had apparently been seized at some earlier date, there is evidence that counterfeiting and passing continued in New York, for on November 2, 1736, three false bills, one of ten shillings, one of seven shillings sixpence, and one of two shillings sixpence were produced and burned in Quarter Sessions. 2
According to a New York dispatch, dated May 3 and printed in the American Weekly Mercury of May 6, 1736, a few days before an Irishman had been seen in New York City with a quantity of counterfeit New Castle bills of the denominations of eighteen pence and of twenty shillings. The notes were quite new, the signatures were pretty well imitated, but the engraved part differed from that of genuine ones.
New-York Gazette of March 8, 1737, informed its readers of the arrest and punishment of another counterfeiter:
Last week a man who goes by the Names of
Patrick Buttler, John Lovell, Luce
, and several other Names, was taken up here for passing counterfeit
Pistoles & Dollars, he is a Tinker, and in his Budget was found Tools & some Mettle for making such false Money. Being tryed
he was convicted, and pursuant to his Sentence, on Thursday last he stood in the Pillory, on Friday he was whipt thorow the
Town and banished out of the County. Some time ago he stole a Horse and a Mare in Connecticut, they pursued him to Westchester in this Province, and carried him back, where, according to their Law, they Whipt him, then he came back to Westchester, and there Marries a Wife, and has another in
. He meets with a poor Widdow in
, who had a suit of her Husbands Cloaths to sell, he pretends to buy them, and ask'd leave to put them on to try if they did
fit him, & then ran away with them. Many other Thefts and Cheats, its said, he has committed.
The case of Butler is found in greater detail in the record of the tinker's trial before Mayor Paul Richard and Aldermen William
Roome and Simon Johnson at the City Hall on March 3, 1737. The minutes read:
Patrick Butler A Wandring Tincker late of the Burrough of Westchester in the Colony of New York being accused before the Mayor and Aldermen aforesaid with uttering a false Counterfeit Dollar within this City & delivering
to one Patrick Fitz Patrick three other counterfeit Dollars privately, desiring him to throw them away and with having been
seen with ten other Counterfeit Dollars in his Custody and two Counterfeit half Pistoles and several Brass or Copper Rings
unfinished and divers Sorts of Materialls fitt for Making Counterfeit Dollars and Counterfeit Gold whereby the [sic!] deceive
and defraud his Majestys Liege People which might prove of dangerous Consequence to all his Majesties Liege People Inhabiting
within this Colony and that the said Patrick Butler is a wandring Vagabond of evil fame and Reputation and a dangerous Person
and has wandred about by divers Names (to witt) Patrick Butler. Samuell Gall. Oliver Lovewell and divers other Names & is
guilty of many great misdemeanors agt his Majestys Peace &c; to which accusation the said Patrick Butler (which he owned to
be his true Name) pleaded not Guilty, and in his defense offered nothing Material more than frivolous and Evasive Matters
and answers, and it appearing to the Mayor and Aldermen abovesaid by the view of several of the said Counterfeit Dollars,
two of the said half Pistoles and the several Materialls found upon him fitt for making Counter-
feit Dollars & Counterfeit Gold & Silver and by the evidence of divers credible Wittnesses of his having uttered one or more
of the said Counter-Dollars, and greatly suspected of Making and Coining Counterfeit Dollars and Counterfeit hal[f] Pistoles
and that he is a Wandring Vagabond of all which accusations the Mayor and Aldermen abovesaid upon full proof declare him the
said Patrick Butler to be guilty of the accusations against him and of divers other Crimes and Misdemeanors agt his Majesties
Peace & thereof to be Convict. it is therfore Ordered by the said Mayor and Aldermen (Pursuant to an Act of General Assembly
of this Colony made in the sixth year of his present Majestys Reign Entituled An Act for the speedy punishing and Releasing
such Persons from Imprisonment as shall Commit any Criminal Offences in the City of New York under the Degree of Grand Larceny. That the said Patrick Butler do stand in the Pillory of this City Immediately for one
quarter of an hour and then be returned from thence to the Common Gaol the place from whence he Came. that the said Patrick
Butler to morrow at Noon be carried from thence and fastened to the Tail of a Cart and be stripped from the middle upwards
and then drawn round the Town on the south side of fresh Water and Receive upon his Naked back Nine and thirty Lashes by the
Common Whipper and Return'd again into Custody and from thence be Conveyed from Constable to Constable to the Burrough of
Westchester the place of his last legal Settlement and there be delivered to a Constable of the said Burrough. and that if the said Patrick
Butler shall Return to this City within Six Months that he shall then be forthwith apprehended and again Receive such further
Corporal punishment as the said Magistrates by Vertue of the act aforesaid in their discretion shall order and direct.
On December 16 an act for emitting bills was passed containing the now customary provision of death without benefit of clergy for all convicted of counterfeiting, altering, or passing counterfeited or altered bills. There was added, however, the following clause: "... and tho Such Counterfeiting altering or knowingly passing counterfeit or altered Bills Shall be done out of this Colony, yet any Grand Jury within the Colony is hereby Impowered to present the Same & to Set forth in the Indictment the place where by their Evidence it appeared that the fact was Committed, which Indictment is hereby Declared good not withstanding that the place alleged be out of this Colony, and the petty Juries on the Tryals of all Such Forreign Issues Shall be returned from the Body of the City & County of New York, any Law useage or Custom to the contrary notwithstanding." 5
In February, 1739, two New Englanders sought to have a plate made in New York City for printing New Hampshire bills of credit. The following account of their attempt was sent on March 5 to Mr. Bradford, with the request that he print
it in his newspaper "for the benefit of the Publick, and as a Caution against Counterfeits." The item, which appeared in the
New-York Gazette of March 6, read:
On Saturday the 24th of February ult. Samuel Flud, alias Flood came with one Joseph Steel to the House of John Hastier of
this City, Goldsmith, and desired to be with him in private, who accordingly went into a Room, and Flud produced to him a
Five Shilling Bill of
, and asked him if he could engrave a Copper-plate for him like that who answer'd, That he could. Flud desired that he would
be expeditious about it, and he would reward him handsomly; and said, he would call again on Monday Morning following, and so Flud & Steel departed. Whereupon Mr. Hastier went immediately to a Magistrate and acquainted him
of the Case, who desired Hastier to give notice when Flud came to him again, that he might be apprehended. He accordingly
came again, with the said Steel, to the Goldsmith on Monday Morning, and said, he was glad that he had met with a Work-man for his Turn; He brought a Ten Shilling Rhode-Island Bill, and bespoke a Plate for that also, promising the Gold-smith, that he should be well rewarded, he should have Money
enough, and he would supply him with those Bills. But the Goldsmith having given Notice to the Magistrate, that those Men
were at his House, they were immediately apprehended; and upon Examination there were found in
eleven Counterfeit Five Pound Rhode-Island Bills, and afterwards two more of the same sort were discovered, which Steel had passed & changed that Morning. Upon their
Examination Flud pretended to have come from Andover and Steel from Middletown in the Massachusetts Government; that they had met in their Travels at Springfield in Connecticut, and had been in pursuit of Iron-Works, and accordingly had taken a Lease of one in Partnership of one Haywood in the Highlands,
on the Land of Coll. Beekman; and Steel being a Bloomer, and pretending to understand the business, Flud was to pay him 100
l. as a Consideration for letting him into Partnership with him, That Flud had accordingly paid him 50 l. in part of the 100
l. in the Bills now found upon him, which Flud denyes. How this Case will turn out, as to Steel we cannot yet say; but they
are both committed to Prison, and we hear they are like to remain till further Information can be had concerning them.
The Number of the Bills, and Names of the Signers, are as followeth, viz.
Two 5 l. Counterfeit Bills of Credit of
, dated 14th of June, 1725. Numb. 349.379. with the years 1728, 1731, 1733. signed
Daniel Updike, Jahleel Brenton, Geo. Goulding
Eleven 5 l. Counterfeit Bills of Credit, of
, dated 14th of June, 1725, Numb. 128, 340, 365, 470, 478, 750, 1740, 1786, 3478, 4318, 4870, with the years 1728, 1731. Signed
Jahleel Brenton, Geo. Goulding, Wm Coddington, John Wanton
N.B. These several Bills seemed all to have been rub'd over with a Pommace-stone.
Flood was brought before a meeting of the mayor, Paul Richard, the recorder, Daniel Horsmanden, and the aldermen, Gerardus Stuyvesant, William Roome, John Moore, Christopher Banker and Peter Jay, assembled at the City Hall on May 3, 1739. The minutes of this court read:
Samuel Flood the Defendant late of Andover in the Province of Massachusetts Bay in New England
Carpenter was accused for that he ... did attempt to prevail upon, and seduce Mr. John Hastier of this City Goldsmith to engrave
for him Copper Plates whereby to make and Counterfeit five Shilling Bills & ten Shilling Bills Current Money of the said Province
of the Massachusetts Bay & brought to him the said John Hastier a five shilling Bill and a ten Shilling Bill to engrave the said Plates by, in
to Counterfeit the same promising him amply to Reward him, and that he should make thousands &c. all which the said Mr. Hastier
Informed a Magistrate of, & Caused the said Samual Flood to be apprehended, to which accusation the said Samuel Flood pleaded
guilty and said he was now sensible of his error and hoped God would give him more Grace for the future &c: and the said Samuell
Flood being Convict of the Crime and Misdemeanor aforesaid as well by his own Confession as by full Proof. It is therefore
Ordered by the abovesaid Mayor Recorder and Aldermen... That the said Samuel Flood be carried from hence to the place from
whence he came, and to morrow in the fornoon between the Hours of eleven and twelve from thence be Carried to the Public Whipping
Post and there be Stripped from the Middle upwards and then fastened to the Tail of a Cart and drawn through the Principal
Streets of this City and be Whipped nine and thirty Lashes on the naked back and then to be discharged from his Imprisonment
And the said Samuel Flood is hereby further ordered to depart this City & Province in eight and forty hours thereafter on
pain of suffering such further Corporal Punishment as the aforesaid act directs if he shall Return into this City within six
Joseph Steel was more fortunate in his treatment by the Mayor's Court, whose minutes, also for May 3, 1739, stated:
Joseph Steel born at Providence and late of Middletown in the Colony of the Massachusetts Bay in New England – – Labourer at the same time was accused before the Mayor Recorder and aldermen aforesaid of uttering two Counterfeit Rhode Island Bills each of five pounds knowing them to be false and counterfeit, and having found upon him eleven other five pound Counterfeit
Rhode Island Bills, whereby he was suspected to be the Maker of the Counterfeit Bills. Notwithstanding which accusation no evidence appearing
to the Justices aforesaid that the said Joseph Steel knew the said Bills to be false and Counterfeit (he declaring his Innocency
and that he took them all in payment of the aforesaid Samuel Flood for good and lawful Money of Rhode Island.) it is therefore Considered by the Mayor Recorder and Aldermen aforesaid that the said Joseph Steel be discharged from his
Some two weeks earlier the Mayor's Court, on April 16, 1739, passed sentence on one Margaret Haynnie, convicted as a public cheat for knowingly endeavoring to utter and uttering a counterfeit milled Spanish dollar made of pewter. She was condemned by the court on the following Wednesday publicly to be given twenty-one lashes on the naked back at the public whipping post. Thence she was to be taken to the House of Correction in New York City, there to be kept at hard labor for three months and then to be discharged. 8
The next counterfeits to appear in New York were imported from Ireland. A good account of the affair appeared in the
New-York Gazette of June 25 and read as follows:
On Saturday last one Garrit van Voorhees was apprehended and committed to Goal for uttering three Counterfeit Forty Shilling Bills, Money of this Province, issued in the year 1737. He arrived in
in the Snow Eagle, Capt. Jacobus Keirstead Master from Dublin, the 21st Instant. He uttered 3 of these Counterfeit Bills on Friday last: The
3 Names of the Signers (viz. Ja. Alexander, S. Johnson
and Ja. Roosevell) seem all to have been wrote by the same hand (and a very bad Hand). The Impression looks some-what feint
and obscure in comparison with the Original, and done upon much worse Paper. Upon the Examination of the above Van Voorhees
he confessed, that he had those 3 Bills of Samuel Mames, who came Passenger in the same Vessel, and went on board a Sloop
for Albany on Friday last, who (he said) had a Roll of them as big as the Small of his Leg. Upon which Information an Express was immediately
, in order for his being apprehended, and to caution People against being imposed upon.
The governor and council were alarmed not only because of these false forty shillings bills but also on account of various
other denominations which appeared in circulation and decided to issue a proclamation. The minutes of the council for July
3, 1739, read:
This Board being Informed that Several of the Bills of Credit of this Colony of the Denomination of ten Shillings and five
Shillings Struck and Issued in the year 1734 were lately altered or forged so as to make the said bills appear of a much greater
Vallue than what they were originally.
And the Board being likewise Informed that Several large parcells of the forty shillings Bills of Credit of this Colony Struck
and Issued in the year 1737 were also Counterfeited or forged by Bills printed in Ireland and lately Imported, And that Several of those forged or Counterfeited Bills as well as of the forged or Altered Bills abovementioned
have been uttered or past in payment to many of his Matiés Subjects in this Province which Mischief if not timely prevented
may tend to the great Damage (if not the utter ruin) of many of his Matiés people within the same.
And the Board being Informed of the particular manner of forging or altering the above mentioned Bills of Credit of ten Shillings
and five shillings each.
It is Ordered by his Honor by and with the advice and Consent of his Matiés Council that a proclamation Issue notifying the
particular Informations this Board has received concerning the same which are as follow, That the false or forged bills of
five pounds were altered from a five shillings bill into that vallue by raising out the word (shillings) and in the stead
thereof pasting on the word (pounds) in a print of different Types at the Top of the sd. false bills as well as in the body
and at the foot of them In the true five pound bill the word (five) appears in letters placed at each corner of the Escutcheon
or Flourishing in the Top thereof seperate and apart each from the other and in the Circle of the Castle in the middle of
the said Flourishing the letter (V) which don't appear in the forged five pounds bills.
The forged ten pound bills were altered into that vallue from the ten shilling bills by raising out the word (shillings) and
in the stead Thereof inserting the word (pounds) and at the Top of the said forged bills and in the body and at the bottom
thereof the word (pounds) is pasted on of different Types from the rest of the bill, but in the true Ten pounds bills at the
beginning of the flourishing at the Top the Letter (T) is placed & at the end of that line the Letter (E) In the under part
of the Flourishing underneath the Letter (T) is the letter (N) and at the end the Letter (P) and in the middle of the Flourishing
towards the bottom of it is the Letter (X) none of which marks are in the bills forged and as a further mark to distinguish
the true bills of this Denomination from the false the Letter (S) appears in the false bills to be in the middle of the Escutcheon
or Flourishing at the Top and it is further ordered by and with the advice & consent aforesd. that in the proclamation so
as aforesd. to be Iss[ued] There be
Inserted a promise of reward of to a[ny] person or persons who shall discover the author or authors of the aforesd. forged
Ten Shillings & five shillings bills of credit, or of the Counterfeit or forged bills of the aforementioned 40 s bills of
Credit of this Colony or of the accomplice or accomplices to any or either of them to be paid on the conviction of such author
or authors so discovered, with a promise likewise of pardon to any such accomplice or accomplices who shall make discovery
of the author or authors of the sd. forged altered or counterfeited bills or any of them, And that in the proclamation so
as aforesd to be Issued there be further Inserted a Notification that all persons who allready may have received or hereafter
may receive any of the aforesd. forged altered or Counterfeited bills or any bill of any Denomination whatsoever that they
may suspect to be such that they Imediately Stop the said bills in their hands and bring them together with the person that
uttered them in paymt. for any cause matter or Thing whatsoever before the next neighbouring Magistrate or Justice of the
peace for the county where such utterance of the bills aforesd. shall happen to be made in order to be examined Thereon and
further ordered that his majesties attorney General be directed to prepare a Drt. of a proclamation for the purposes aforesd.
and lay it before the board for their approbation Thereof.
The proclamation which appeared in the New-York Gazette of July 9, 1739, had been slightly revised by the Attorney General but the first part of it and the description of the forged bills is almost identical with the above wording in the minutes of the council. The proclamation, however, although promising pardon to accomplices who might inform, offered no reward. The final paragraph of this document, which was signed by Governor George Clarke and dated July 3, 1739, did not appear in the minutes of the council and read as follows: "And Whereas Garrit van Vooris, who was lately committed to the Goal of this City, for uttering several of the before mentioned Counterfeit Forty Shillings Bills, and caused a great Number of the same to be Printed in Ireland, and imported into this City, on Wednesday Evening last broke out of Prison, and has made his escape, There- fore all Justices and other Peace Officers within any part of this Province, are hereby Required to make diligent Search within their respective Jurisdictions, and if the said Van Vooris can be discovered, that they cause him to be taken and committed to safe Custody in the Goal of the County wherein he shall happen to be apprehended, until further Order."
In spite of the governor's proclamation Van Voorhees seems to have remained at large. On August 8, 1739, the minutes of Quarter Sessions contain the following entry: "Whereas Garret Van Voorhees Mariner was lately Committed for feloniously Counterfeiting the Two pounds Bills of the Current money of this Province were taken upon him and by his Direction Thirty nine of those bills which were Counterfeit Signed for which Crime before Conviction the said Garret Van Voorhees broke Gaol and made his Escape and the said Counterfeit Bills being brought into Court by the Mayor of this City It is ordered by this Court that the said Counterfeit Bills be Immediately Destroyed and Burnt. Whereupon Thirty nine Six pound Counterfeit Bills which were Signed and Two hundred and Ninty Nine Two pounds Counterfeit Bills unsigned of the said Counterfeit Bill were in Open Court Consumed Destroyed & Burnt to Ashes." 10
The wide variety of counterfeit bills in circulation at this time is shown by the fact that on the following day, August 9, Abraham Depeyster, Treasurer of the Colony, brought into Quarter Sessions false bills amounting to twelve pounds, fourteen shillings and sixpence. There were five of 2 shillings, one of 2/6, two of 5/, two of 3/6, three of 4/, five of 6/, four of 10/, two of 12/, one of 15/, two of 16/, and one of £3/2. At the same time Peter Jay produced two counterfeits of 10/ and two of 5/. All were burnt in the presence of the court. 11 Some two months later Christopher Banker brought into the same court other counterfeits, one of £10, one of £5, stopped from John van Zandt, two of 5/, and part of another five shillings bill. 12
On October 25, 1739, a law was passed to continue the excise duty and currency of bills of credit emitted thereon, as well as to strike new bills to exchange for old ones unfit to circulate. In this act the duties of the treasurer of the colony were set forth as in the law of November 11, 1726, while those who should venture to counterfeit, alter or knowingly pass the new bills if so counterfeited or altered were to be subject to the same "Pains Penalties & Forfeitures" as prescribed in the act of December 16, 1737. 13
The denominations of counterfeit New York bills circulating in the early months of 1740 were £10 and £5 and 10/ and 5/, as is revealed by court records: on February 6 Christopher Banker produced in Quarter Sessions four false bills formerly stopped by Mayor Paul Richard, one £10 bill, two of £5, and one of 10/; he also brought in one of 5/ which he had stopped and two more of the same denomination, of which one had been stopped by John Cruger and the other by John Moore. 14 Again, on May 6, Banker produced in the same court two false bills of 5/ and Simon Johnson one of 10/, 15 while the next day Peter Jay brought in a counterfeit 10/bill. 16 On the twentieth of the same month Judge Thomas Hicks produced four counterfeits in the court of General Sessions of the Peace of Queens County, held at Jamaica, three £5 bills, nos. 2733, 4504 and 2495, and one 10/ bill, no. 2686. 17 The New-York Gazette of March 31, 1740, warned that counterfeit New Jersey bills were also passing about, namely those of 12/ and 14/. Later in the same year, on November 4, Simon Johnson brought into Quarter Sessions a false £5 bill, Alderman Pintard one of 5/, and the mayor a counterfeit milled piece of eight. 18
In the court of General Sessions of the Peace of Ulster County, held at Kingston on May 8, 1740, a certain William Walles was indicted by the grand jury "for uttering falls money." It was ordered that process issue against the defendant and that he be in court at the next sessions. 19 There is, however, no further record of his case.
On the twenty-third of the next month the authorities in New York City apprehended a counterfeiter for whose arrival they had been waiting. The New-York Weekly Journal of June 23, 1740, reported that affair as follows: "Friday last was committed to our Goal a Sailor who came over Cook to Capt. Gill, for having in his Possession several false and counterfeit New Castle Bills, to the value of about 1000 l. they were conceal'd in his Chest which had a false bottom. The Magistrates of this Place had received Advice of the Intention and as soon as the Ship Came in the Chests were all search'd and the Money found as above before the Man had endeavoured to pass any off. But the Bills we hear were not Signed."
The man arrested was Robert Jenkins of Salem, New Jersey, who had taken samples of genuine bills to Abraham Ilive, a printer of Southwark, and from him secured the counterfeits which he brought over in his chest. Ilive, after making the money, had reported the matter to the authorities in England and on December 28, 1739, had made a deposition about the matter before Andrew Stone and S. Buckley, presumably justices of the peace. The authorities in both New York and Philadelphia had been warned by the English government to be on the lookout for Jenkins. From New York he was sent to Salem, New Jersey, for trial. 20
No arrests for counterfeiting are recorded during the years 1741 and 1742, but false notes continued to circulate, especially those of five and ten shillings, as is shown by the minutes of Quarter Sessions. On February 4, 1741, Simon Johnson brought into court a counterfeit of 10/ and John Pintard one of 5/, 21 while William Roome produced a false bill of 5/ in Quarter Sessions on November 4. 22 On August 4, 1742, the following counterfeits were produced in that court: one £1 bill and one 5/ bill by Simon Johnson; one of £1, one of 7/6, and three of 5/ each by John Pintard; one of £5, one of £4, and one of 5/ by John Moore. 23 On May 4, 1743, further counterfeits were brought into Quarter Sessions: one of £3 and one of 10/ by John Moore; one of £5 by Christopher Bancker; one of £1 by John Marshall. 24
The appearance of the £3 bill should be noted, for soon New York City was to be plagued with them and in this connection the New-York Weekly Post-Boy of August 1, 1743 reported: "Friday last a man was committed to the Jail of this City, for uttering a Counterfeit 3 l. Bill: And as there are several about the Town and the Neighbouring Provinces, People are desired to take Notice, that these Bills are not printed, but done by Hand, and all the Signers Names are wrote with one Pen, and the Letters are of the same Thickness: In our next we Shall endeavour to give our Readers a more particular Description of them. We are inform'd, that they are publickly made by a Man in the Jerseys, but no Notice has as yet been taken of him there."
The publisher of the
New-York Weekly Post-Boy was as good as his word, for on August 8 his newspaper contained the following item:
In our last an Account was given of a counterfeit 3 l. Bill, and a Promise of a further Description thereof in this Paper;
the Publick is desired to take Notice, that as they are done by Hand, they may all differ, and consequently no other certain
Description can be given: However we shall give what is most remarkable in the Bill that is stopt: It is an Imitation of those
dated the 10th December, 1737, signed S. Johnson, Ja. Alexander. A DPeyster. In the false Bill the Coat of Arms is larger
than in the true Bills, as is also the Words THREE POUNDS both on the Top and Middle of the Bill; the three Stamps of Pounds
in the true Bills are gradually sloping to the Bottom, but in the false Bill they are as small at Bottom as in the Middle,
and they are higher up in the false Bill than the Words THREE POUNDS, whereas in the true Bills those Words and the Stamp
are near on a Line.
There apparently exists no definite indication as to the identity of the man committed to jail in New York about the end of July, so it is probable that the person was released and not prosecuted. The "Man in the Jerseys" referred to by the newspaper was a certain John Stevens, who was apprehended on or about October 16, 1743. 25 It is surely to Stevens that the following item in the New-York Weekly Post-Boy of December 26, 1743, refers: "A few Nights ago, a Person lately committed to the Jail of this City on Suspicion of counterfeiting our Paper-Currency, attempted to make his Escape from thence, in order to which he had got out of the Prison Window, and let himself down by Rope; but the Watch happening to discover him before he had quitted his aireal Posture, very kindly received him at his lighting, and civilly conducted him back to his Lodgings again."
Although the minutes of the Supreme Court of Judicature are lost for this period, James Alexander's brief of the case reveals the evidence used against Stevens, who was indicted at the January term of the court for counterfeiting three £3 bills of New York. The story is, in brief, as follows. Sometime in the spring of 1743 John Stevens purchased a horse from Daniel Pierce for £3/10 and gave his note for this sum. When Pierce came for payment he noticed that Stevens had a good deal of money and not only received his £3/10 but borrowed three £3 New York bills, giving Stevens his note for £5/10. Later Pierce paid out one of the bills to a storekeeper, who returned it as false and wrote "counterfeit" on it. At that Pierce took the bill to Stevens and complained that he had given him bad money. Stevens, swearing at the person who had written "counterfeit" on it, took the bill into his house and left Pierce at the door. Within a few minutes he returned and gave what he called a good bill to Pierce, who later concluded that Stevens had merely erased the word "counterfeit" and given the same piece of money back to him again.
Daniel Pierce now gave the bill in question to his parents, Silas and Sarah Pierce. Sarah soon paid it out to Doctor Samuel Walker, who claimed it was false and refused it, so that she took it back again. Doctor Walker further related the matter to Justice Nodiah Potter, who issued a warrant for the arrest of Silas and Sarah. When they, and eventually their son, had been examined by the magistrate, Justice Potter gave a summons against Stevens to Daniel Pierce for the value of the horse and also prepared a mittimus against him as a cheat in case he should appear. Stevens, however, shrewdly sent one Hepburn to appear for him at the trial, at which the jury found for Daniel Pierce in the amount of £9/16/11. The £3 bill which was the cause of Stevens' undoing was lodged with Justice Potter and subsequently endorsed "James Alexander Nodiah Potter No. 1." The second £3 bill had been passed by Daniel Pierce to Nathaniel Rolf, who returned it as counterfeit, and Daniel also delivered it to Justice Potter and it was endorsed "James Alexander Nodiah Potter No. 2." Daniel claimed that half of the third £3 bill was accidentally blown into the Passaic River as he was crossing it. It may be added that Sarah Pierce once told Stevens that she feared he had done her son a damage by paying him money of his own making and she claimed often to have heard that Stevens made money.
Before the case came to trial the Crown had other witnesses against Stevens. One Isaac Steele stated that on or about May 20, 1743, John Stevens of Ash Swamp came to his house in Piscataway. When Stevens entered the room there were several persons present and soon he took pen and ink and wrote this note: "Mr. Steele can you favour me with letting me have a Bill of one two or three pounds York Money." The two men soon withdrew to another room and Steele asked his visitor why he wanted a York bill. Stevens explained that he had lately lost his pocketbook with some thirty or forty pounds. He added that he had then "a large Quantity of Money by him which he could not finish for want of a pattern" and it was for this purpose that he desired a bill. Steele refused to accomodate him and told him that "if he did he should be as bad as he."
A certain John Wynantz recounted a tale which did him little credit. He went, he said, to Stevens and asked if he had money of his make, whereupon Stevens answered in the affirmative and produced several bills, particularly one of 40 shillings. At this Wynantz asked if he had any to put out at interest, to which Stevens replied that he had none then but "could soon get enough." When Wynantz requested some of the bills, Stevens said that they were not yet finished. When his visitor inquired on what terms he let out money, Stevens informed him that "he trusted to Mens Generosity but several had acted like Knaves by him." Wynantz added that Stevens once gave him a 40 shillings bill of his make to see if it would pass, whereupon he showed it to one Robert North, who took it to be a good one. When Wynantz returned the bill to Stevens again, Stevens said he could do even better and that "no man in the Government could come near him."
Before long, however, the men of the government quite literally did "come near him," for on October 16, 1743, William Chetwood, Samuel Burrows, and several other persons, armed with a warrant, went to Stevens' house and took him in custody. In searching a chest there they found three pieces of paper with several marks on each in the shape of Bills of Credit of New York. These papers Chetwood took to Robert Hunter Morris, James Alexander and Elisha Parker, and the papers were endorsed with their names and those of Chetwood and Burrows and numbered on the back 1, 2, and 3. Robert Morris delivered them into the hands of James Alexander. 26
The conduct of Wynantz, by his own account, was most improper, to say the least, and others whose testimony was desired as
evidence for the King at the trial were apparently apprehensive that they in turn might be prosecuted if they ventured into
the Province of New York. The governor's council learned that several of the witnesses living in East Jersey had been frightened by Stevens' emissaries,
who, it seems, said that Stevens would turn King's evidence "and impeach all those who should come to appear against him."
The minutes of the council for July 17, 1744, which are concerned with this matter, read:
And it being of the highest consequence to this Colony that the said John Stevens should be prosecuted with the utmost Rigour
of the law to deter others from the like pernicious practices for the future. His Excellency by and with advice of his Majesty's
Council for this province was pleased to declare and doth hereby declare and assure all persons whatsoever who shall Come
to give evidence agt the said John Stevens at his Tryal at the next Supreme Court shall be safe in their persons and freed
from any Arrest, Imprisonment or punishment whatsoever for their being concerned with him the said John Stevens as an accomplice
in the crime afd. and shall if required have their pardons under the Great Seal of this province for their offences committed
as accomplices with him and also will be protected by the Supreme Court agt all other arrests whatsoever.
It was ordered that the Deputy Clerk of the Council give notice of this forthwith.
Stevens' trial was reported as follows in the New-York Weekly Post-Boy of August 13, 1744: "On Friday se'nnight last came on before the Supreme Court for this Province, the Trial of John Stevens, late of Ash-Swamp in East New-Jersey , for counterfeiting the Bills of Credit of this Province, and uttering them knowing them to be counterfeit; when the Jury, after a short Stay, brought in the Prisoner Guilty; and on Tuesday last, Sentence of Death was passed on him, and he is to be executed on Friday se'nnight next. Tho' we hear he complains much of a Hurt in his Right Thumb, and it is thought he will have it cut off for fear of a general Mortification."
Stevens petitioned the governor for a pardon, but when the council had read the document the board was of the opinion that the petitioner had not set forth or offered anything which might entitle him to his Excellency's favor. 28 The New-York Weekly Post-Boy of August 27, commenting on Stevens' execution, stated: "He died penitent; but his Crime was too well known for him to have pretended to extenuate it by any Speech from the Gallows: and as it was thought he expected a Reprieve, it may reasonably be suppos'd he refrain'd making one till too late. If some of our neighbouring Governments would but act with equal Justice, it might be presumed, these Pests of Society would be something scarcer."
John Stevens was by no means the only money maker at work in 1744. On May 11 of that year the governor signed a warrant for £26/2 to George Joseph Moore for money paid by him on account of the prosecution of a counterfeiter of the bills of credit of New York. 29 It is possible that the criminal was Stevens, though the amount of money expended would suggest that Moore had pursued investigations of considerable extent and perhaps outside the province. Indeed, it was reported from Philadelphia on August 2: "A Fellow was this Morning taken up and committed to our Goal, for Counterfeiting the Bills of Credit of several of the neighbouring Governments: He was discover'd by Tom Bell, 30 to whom he apply'd for Assistance, not having finished all. There was about 17 l. of counterfeit New-York Money found upon him, some of which 'tis suppos'd he has uttered." 31 A second dispatch from Philadelphia, dated one week later, threw further light on this matter. "Five or six Men and two Women," it read, "are apprehended and committed to our Goal as Accomplices in counterfeiting the New-York Five Shilling and Forty Shilling Bills, of the Year 1737, and Search is making after others concerned. The Bills are printed from a Plate, very ill engraved, and the Signer's Names to the Five Shilling Bills, are engraved and printed with the Bill. Their Mint was in a Log-house, in a remote Part of the Jerseys. The Discovery was first made by Tom Bell, to whom one of the Gang applied, endeavouring to engage him to be concern'd with them, and to assist in signing their Bills. They propos'd, if they met with Suc- cess, to counterfeit several other sorts of Money, of the neighbouring Provinces." 32
The operations of this gang may perhaps have been responsible for some of the following counterfeits which were brought into Quarter Sessions and destroyed: on August 8, 1744, John Cruger produced one of £5, one of £3, three of £2, one of £1, and one of 5/, while Abraham Mills brought in one of 5/; 33 on November 7, 1744, John Pintard produced one of £10, two of £5 each, one of 20/, one of 10/, and one of 5/, while John Marshall brought in two of £3 each, one of 10/, three of 5/, and a false Spanish piece of eight. 34
|1||Ms. Mins. Council 17, p. 85.|
|2||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1732–1762, p. 69.|
|3||The minutes are bound with a volume of the Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1722–1742/43 (rough), pp. 343–344.|
|4||Minutes of the Common Council of the City of New York IV, p. 363.|
|5||The Colonial Laws of New York II, pp. 1028–1029.|
|6||Ms. Mins. of the Meeting of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Aldermen of New York City, 1733–1743, bound with Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1722–1742/43 (Rough), pp. 362–363.|
|7||Ibid., p. 363.|
|8||Ibid., p. 361.|
|9||Ms. Mins. Council 19, pp. 21–24.|
|10||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1732–1762, p. 102.|
|11||Ibid., p. 103.|
|12||Ibid., p. 107.|
|13||The Colonial Laws of New York III, p. 29.|
|14||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1732–1762, p. 111.|
|15||Ibid., p. 114.|
|16||Ibid., p. 115.|
|17||Ms. Mins. Queens Co. Sess. 1722–1787, May 20, 1740.|
|18||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1732–1762, p. 124.|
|19||Ms. Mins. Ulster Co. Sess. 1737–1750, May 8, 1740.|
|20||Harrold E. Gillingham, op. cit., pp. 15–19.|
|21||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1732–1762, p. 127.|
|22||Ibid., p. 134.|
|23||Ibid., p. 140.|
|24||Ibid., p. 153.|
|25||See the testimony of William Chetwood in the James Alexander Papers (NYHS), Box 46.|
|26||James Alexander Papers, Box 46.|
|27||Ms. Mins. Council 19, pp. 265–266.|
|28||Ibid., 19, p. 277.|
|29||Ibid., 19, p. 240.|
|30||Tom Bell was an accomplished rogue who saw the interior of many of the jails in numerous provinces. A dispatch from Charlestown, South Carolina, dated March 11 and printed in the New-York Evening-Post of March 25, 1745, described him thus: "He wears a light colour'd Coat, and a light Wig, and Walks very quick... He is a slim Fellow, thin Visage, appears like a Gentleman, talks of all Persons of Note as intimately acquainted with them, and changes his Name and Cloaths very often." Some idea of his rascality may be gleaned, for example, from numbers 8, 26, 29, 40, 49, 52, 78, 87, 94, and 114 of the New-York Weekly Post-Boy.|
|31||New-York Weekly Post-Boy, Aug. 6, 1744, p. 3.|
|32||Ibid., Aug. 13, 1744, p. 3.|
|33||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1732–1762, p. 170.|
|34||Ibid., p. 174.|
In 1744 and 1745 a gang of counterfeiters were plying their trade in a district known as the Oblong or Equivalent Tract, which had been ceded by Connecticut to New York on May 14, 1731. 1 Their detection would seem to have started with a letter, dated August 18, 1744, from Governor Morris to Governor George Clinton of New York. It was concerned with some counterfeiters of the paper money and was apparently accompanied by several examinations and papers relating thereto, all of which Governor Clinton laid before his council on August 25. 2 Clinton also probably communicated his information about the money makers to Governor Jonathan Law of Connecticut, who on September 23 made this reply: "I have made the best Enquiries I could and have ordered the Justices in that Quarter of ye Government to enquire after the men you describ'd to me, as concerned in that wickedness about Bills of Creditt and to give me an Acct but as yet learn nothing." 3 It was, indeed, not until the second of January, 1745, that Law gave Clinton further news. On that day he wrote: "I have lately received an Acct from one of our Justices near ye Western Borders of this Govt that he has committed one Andrew Nelson to Goal for putting off a Counterfeit 20s Bill of Rhoad Island equal to 4 "wth wm he found 72" of ye same sort and the place where this Wickedness is supposed to be carryd on is the Oblong and it is possible that great Quantities of it are handed about by a confederated Gang of wch I thôt fitt to advise you..." 4
On April 4 Governor Clinton placed before his council "several papers and affidavits relating to some persons living in Dutches County counterfeiting
or suspected to counterfeit the bills of credit of the Colony of Rhode Island." Upon consideration of the documents the board advised that some of the justices be required to make inquiry into this affair.
Soon after this, on April 27, Governor William Shirley wrote to Governors Law and Clinton and revealed the identity of some of the Oblong Gang. In his letter to Law, Shirley wrote:
Having by means of one Robert Clarke the Bearer got Intelligence that John Scious [also spelled Scias or Syas], Joseph Boyce,
and one Bosworth conceal themselves at and near a Place called the Oblong in New York Government & sometimes in your Government that borders thereupon occasions my present Writing to your Honour.
They are men that have been Guilty of enormous Crimes in this Government having been two of them tried and convicted at Salem
for forging & Emitting Counterfeit Bills of Credit & upon praying the Same had the Benefit of their clergy allowed them since
which upon perpetrating fresh Crimes of the like Nature they were taken & Committed to Salem Goal from whence they escaped
& have for the most part with their Associates & others that joined, ever since continued the like Practices so as to be a
Pest to this & the Adjoining Government.
It is expected they will be taken in New York Government or Yours & the Bearer who has been so instrumental in discovering them is resolved to Act every thing in his power
for the taking & convicting of them & therefore what is in your Power for countenancing, protecting or Assisting him in the
Doing thereof without Question will be complyed with in your part. The Heads of this Confederacy have been bold and daring
in their Villanies and have practised the same hitherto with so much success that it will be next to impossible to Suppress
this great Mischief without Suppressing them and therefore what is in your Power to do towards it without Question will be
On November 27, 1744, one William Browning of the Oblong in Dutchess County made a deposition to the effect that sometime in October, 1744, he had received as good money from Elnathan Smith of Derby, Connecticut, some forty shillings bills of Rhode Island which proved to be counterfeits. 7 The deposition was taken by Samuel Canfield, a justice of the peace of New Haven County, Connecticut, who proceeded to make further investigations. As a result he secured on January 12, 1745, the deposition of Elnathan Smith, who swore that he had received the Rhode Island bills in question in October from a certain Daniel Hunt of the Oblong in Dutchess County. 8 On the same day Smith made a written statement relative to a conversation he heard in the Oblong between Austin Hunt and Squire Daniel Hunt. The purport of it was that Daniel Hunt had said that he would send one Joseph Plummer out of the way and then swear on him the counterfeit money they had put off and they would do well enough. 9 In confirmation of this Nathan Birdsall, John Akins, William Russell, Abraham Wing, George Soule, William Brownell and Elisha Johnson on March 19, 1745, signed a certificate in which they stated that they had heard that Daniel Hunt had put off counterfeit money to one Elnathan Smith of Connecticut and that these bills then were in the hands of Justice Canfield of New Milford. They also had heard that Justice Daniel Hunt had been in company with Captain Austin Hunt sometime in the month of October, 1744, and that Captain Hunt was heard to ask Daniel Hunt what they should do about the counterfeit money they had passed in New York, where they had put off a considerable amount. They seemingly expected that the authorities would come after them but Squire Hunt said he sent Plummer out of the way and they would then swear the money on him. The seven signers of the document also stated that they understood that Plummer absconded about the same time and that they had never since seen him or heard what had become of him. 10 Finally, Nathan Birdsall on March 30, 1745, signed a certificate in which he claimed, as far as the partially burned document can be read, that Daniel Hunt received money from Joseph Plummer for the purchase of a negro man; further that Hunt paid out ten counterfeit 20/ Rhode Island bills to one Smith from New England and later made oath that he, Hunt, had received the bills in question from Plummer. 11 The above documents are very likely the "several papers and affidavits relating to some persons living in Dutches County counterfeiting or suspected to counterfeit the bills of credit of the Colony of Rhode Island" which Governor Clinton placed before his council on April 4.
The council had advised on that occasion that some of the justices be required to make inquiries into the affair. Jacobus Swartwout, Justice of the Peace of Dutchess County, at once investigated the charges against Daniel Hunt. On April 4 he secured depositions from William Browning, 12 George Soule, 13 and Elisha Johnson, 14 all of whom disclaimed any knowledge of Daniel Hunt's having made or passed false money. On the next day Justice Swartwout took the depositions of George Allen, 15 and Abraham Wing 16 to the same effect, as well as one from Peter Potts, who stated, however, that he had "heard" that Hunt had passed some counterfeits to one Smith. 17 On April 7 the justice took the deposition of John Aikins, who denied any knowledge of Hunt's having made money but affirmed that he had heard of such a thing from William Browning. 18 Swartwout also took a deposition of Augustine Hunt relative to counterfeit money, though the purport of the document is unknown, as it was destroyed by fire. 19 William Russell, who on March 19 had signed the paper which implicated Daniel Hunt in counterfeiting and passing, on April 4 made a deposition before Swartwout in which he retracted all. He said that when the paper was brought to him he had signed it without having read it or having had it read to him and that he did not know Hunt's name was in it. He knew nothing against Hunt and expressed the opinion that the paper "was writ out of spight." 20 As a result of his investigation Swartwout on April 5 signed a certificate exculpating a number of inhabitants of the Oblong from having any knowledge of the charge made against Daniel Hunt for passing counterfeit money. 21
The minutes of the governor's council, under the date of May 9, read thus: "His Excellency communicated to the Board some Examinations and Depositions Relating to some persons who have Counterfeited the bills of credit of this, and several other provinces, which persons lived near or about the oblong in this province." 22 The governor doubtless produced a deposition made by Elnathan Smith on April 18, 1745, before Justice John Hubbard, relative to Daniel Hunt's passing counterfeit money. 23 Among the examinations and depositions there probably figured some, at least, of those taken by Justice Swartwout, who at a meeting of the governor's council on May 9 was called in and examined. After him Robert Clarke was also summoned and questioned "concerning the counterfeiting the bills of credit of this and several other provinces. And the examination being reduced into writing the same was sworn to." 24
It is possible to obtain a fairly comprehensive picture of Clarke's evidence. On April 27 Clarke was sent by Governor Shirley of Massachusetts with a letter to Governor Clinton in which it was stated that a band of counterfeiters was at work in the Oblong making bills of the colony of Rhode Island. The leaders of the "Clan" were John Scias of "Derham," New Hampshire, Joseph Boyce of Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts, and one Bosworth, also of Essex County. The gang was passing off the money in great parcels for valuable effects. Scias and Boyce had been tried and convicted of counterfeiting and passing in Salem and had had the benefit of clergy on such conviction. They had later repeated their crimes, been recommitted to the jail in Salem but had broken out and made good their escape. Governor Shirley requested Clinton's help and protection for Clarke in everything needful to suppress the mischief. 25
On May 9 Robert Clarke (or Clark) of Uxbridge, Massachusetts, made deposition that he had been informed by one Israel Keith of New Sherburn, that Samuel Thompson, Joseph Plummer, one Bosworth, Justice Hunt and John Hunt were engaged in making counterfeit money. 26 At the same time Clarke deposited with the governor's council an affidavit which he had made and signed in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, on April 24, 1745. The document, part of which is badly burned, reveals that Clarke had become acquainted with Joseph Verry and Joseph Boyce of Salem, Massachusetts, John Scious of "Derham," New Hampshire, and their gang through their cheating him by means of a bond which he, Clarke, had had to pay. When he complained of their cheat, they "always Endeavour'd to make him one of their party, and to tempt thereto more effectually offered to Recompense him in their counterfeit bills for this Injury, and to Tempt him more effectually offered to give him counterfeit bills of Rhode Island & the New Jerseys to put of as he could, whereupon the Informant seem'd to Incline to them and their evil doings..." Through pretending to be tempted by them Clarke was much with them. They were constantly making counterfeit money and had plates to counterfeit the bills of Rhode Island and New Jersey. Clarke believed they were making plates to imitate the money of three or four other provinces. The money makers were constantly sending out to various places at a distance their emissaries who purchased horses, cattle and other things of worth to a great value. The gang expected that Clarke would soon accept a great quantity of false bills "to purchase things of Value with their allowance & so become a partner & associate with them in their evil practices." 27
When on May 9 these documents were read,
the Council was of opinion, and did advise that his Excellency should issue his orders to the Sherif and Magistrates of the
County of Dutchess, to aid & assist Robert Clarke in apprehending John Scious & Joseph Boyce, and them and their papers strictly to Examine,
and to convey them with their papers to some safe place in the Colony of Connecticut and also to apprehend such other persons, with their papers, as they shall have cause to suspect, and carry them before one
or more of the Judges of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas for the said county; and that the said Judge or Judges be directed
to examine the said persons, and their papers. And if they find any Counterfeit Bills or plates for Counterfeiting Bills,
on such persons, or suspt. proof of their having Counterfeited, or uttered Counterfeit Money knowing it to be such, that they
secure the said persons & papers and Commit the offenders to the County Goal, there to remain to be dealt with according to
Law; that in doing Thereof they take to their assistance such persons as they shall think fit to Command, and that they transmit
to his Excellency an account of their proceedings.
Justice Swartwout of Poughkeepsie apparently carried out further investigations, very likely concerned with the possible connection of Daniel Hunt with the counterfeiters. On May 24 he wrote a letter to Governor Clinton and enclosed proceedings had before him relating to counterfeit money passed in Dutchess County. 29 The governor, at a council meeting on May 30, laid before the board Swartwout's letter and the papers and depositions sent with it. 30 On June 10 Samuel Canfield, a justice of the peace from Connecticut, was brought before Governor Clinton and his council and examined concerning the account given him by one Ephraim Seely about some persons making counterfeit money. 31 On the same day Clinton wrote as follows to Governor Law of Connecticut: "I Received Your favour of the Eighth Instant p Mr Samuel Canfield whose Deposition I have this Day taken and on advising thereon with his Majesty's Council for this province Find that there is nothing Sworn by Mr Canfield on which a Warrant can be regularly granted All that he knows being by Hearsay. But as it is probable Seely hath or soon will have a perfect knowledge of all the proceedings I think it would be best to Get him into Your Government & there take his Affidavit of what he knows of his own knowledge in the presence of some person to be sent here who can testify that he saw the said Seely sworn. And I shall thereon issue my Warrant for the apprehending the persons accused." 32
More is learned about the activities of Canfield in his attempt to bring the Oblong Gang to justice through the following
letter written on June 19, 1745, by Governor Law to Governor Shirley (of which a copy or another very similar was undoubtedly dispatched at the same time to Governor Clinton):
Saturday night was Sennit a Justice of peace on our western Borders informed me of one who Contrived to Expose young Boyce
and others to be taken in ye Very act of using ye Counterfeit plates in a Certain Swamp in ye Oblong on tuesday following
but it b(e)ing out of this Govermt I sent ye Justice directly to Govr Clinton to Inform of ye Stratagem thinking nothing was wanting but an authority & assistance
Sufficient would readily be had of our people within ten miles of ye Spot, he Shewed me two rhoad island xxs bills one with Divers mistakes in it ye other with these errors in ye plate rectified taken of ye day before, and ye Justice
returned with a Letter ye Govr Signifying yt ye Council were of opinion
yt yr was no foundation for a warrant, ye Justice being able to Sware only to here Says but ye undertaker had found ye plates
a 20s Rh and a half a Crown Plate & a N.Y. plate of 20s not perfectly Compleated, Press cloths and other implements &c: Sends them over ye Line, Decoys Boyce & one Hurlburt a partner
into ye Edge of this Govmt Seizeth them & they are in N. Haven Goal Hurlburt Confesseth himself Guilty and accuseth 22 persons as Confederate with them
Boyces father & Scious were transported through this Govrmt to you some time Since.
On July 18 Jonathan Law again wrote to Governor Clinton to inform him that young Boyce and Hurlburt were safe in the New Haven jail and that a third person concerned in passing counterfeits had been committed and released on bail. The two Rhode Island plates and the New York twenty shilling plate, not fully completed, were in safe keeping. The twenty-two confederates accused by Hurlburt at his examination were for the most part in New York. "I sent Gentlemen," wrote Law, "to take ye Accusers Oath in order to comply with ye Opinion of your Council, but the penitent palliated ye matter so that he was not admitted for an Evidence. Our chief Justices are in doubt whether ye Matters of fact comitted in your Govt can be tryd here, so crave your Advice whether they shall be sent for Tryal in your Courts..." 34
Since the specialty of the Oblong counterfeiters was the money of Rhode Island, it was only natural that Governor Law should communicate to Governor Gideon Wanton of Rhode Island the recent developments. From this correspondence it is revealed that at some time between July 18 and August 21 both Hurlburt and Boyce had escaped from the New Haven jail and had not been recaptured, so that only the plates remained in the custody of the Connecticut authorities. 35 When Governor Wanton laid several letters of Governor Law before the Rhode Island assembly with the suggestion that the province of Rhode Island give a reward to those who discovered the counterfeiters, the assembly refused and expressed the opinion that all charges arising from prosecuting and convicting persons guilty of this crime should be defrayed by the government where the crime was perpetrated. 36
Before September 7, according to the Boston Evening Post of September 10, 1744, Joseph Boyce and his associate, John Syas (or Scias or Scious), had been taken up and jailed in Boyce's home town of Salem, Massachusetts. They were, however, difficult to hold, for on the night of September 7 they broke out and fled. Sheriff John Wolcott promptly offered a reward of ten pounds, old tenor, for the capture of either one and described them as follows: "They are good looking strong able bodied Men; Boyce wore his own Hair, which was short and black, Syas wears a Wig or Cap. They were both burnt in the Hand about two Years ago, mark'd with the Letter T, being then convicted of counterfeiting Bills of Credit."
|1||See Marshall H. Montgomery, "The Oblong Otherwise Known As The Equivalent Tract ... and How It Came Into the Possession of New York State," The New Canaan Historical Society Annual III (1951), pp. 24–32 and E. Marie Becker, "The 801 West-chester County Freeholders of 1763," New-York Historical Society Quarterly XXXV (1951), p. 308 and footnote 58.|
|2||Ms. Mins. Council 19, pp. 278–279.|
|3||The Law Papers I (Connecticut Historical Society Collections XI. Hartford: Connecticut Historical Society, 1907), p. 227.|
|4||Ibid., p. 248.|
|5||Ms. Mins. Council 21, pp. 13–14.|
|6||The Law Papers I, pp. 284–285.|
|7||NY Col. Mss. 74, p. 205b.|
|8||Ibid., 74, 205b.|
|9||Ibid., 74, p. 206.|
|10||Ibid., 74, p. 207.|
|11||Ibid., 74, p. 202.|
|12||Ibid., 74, p. 198b.|
|13||O'Callaghan, Eng. Mss., p. 572. The document, NY Col. Mss. 74, p. 200, was burned.|
|14||O'Callaghan, Eng. Mss., p. 572. The original, NY Col. Mss. 74, p. 199, was destroyed in the burning of the State House in Albany.|
|15||NY Col. Mss. 74, p. 200b.|
|16||Ibid., 74, p. 200c.|
|17||Ibid., 74, p. 198c.|
|18||Ibid., 74, p. 201b.|
|19||O'Callaghan, Eng. Mss., p. 572. The document, NY Col. Mss. 74, p. 198, was burned.|
|20||NY Col. Mss. 74, p. 199b.|
|21||O'Callaghan, Eng. Mss., p. 572. The document, NY Col. Mss. 74, p. 201, was lost through fire.|
|22||Ms. Mins. Council 21, p. 19.|
|23||The document, NY Col. Mss 74, p. 208, is so badly injured by fire that the contents cannot be fully established, It appears from the remains that Smith had purchased a mare from one Brownell and paid for it with counterfeit bills which he had obtained from Daniel Hunt.|
|24||Ms. Mins. Council 21, p. 19.|
|25||NY Col. Mss. 74, p. 196. The document is badly scorched and only partly legible. The first arrest of Scias and Boyce, for making £5 bills of Rhode Island, is probably that recorded in the Boston Weekly News-Letter of Nov. 24, 1738, and the second arrest for the same offence is probably that mentioned in the same newspaper of Sept. 27, 1739.|
|26||O'Callaghan, Eng. Mss., p. 573. The deposition, NY Col. Mss. 74, p. 203, was destroyed by fire.|
|27||NY Col. Mss. 74, p. 204.|
|28||Ms. Mins. Council 21, p. 19.|
|29||NY Col. Mss. 74, p. 199 (the letter is almost completely burned) and O'Callaghan, Eng. Mss., p. 572.|
|30||Ms. Mins. Council 21, p. 27.|
|31||Ibid., 21, p. 28.|
|32||The Law Papers I, p. 302.|
|33||Ibid. I, p. 312. A letter dated June 26 from Clinton to Law (The Law Papers I, p. 321) reads: "I am glad Mr Canfield had ye good fortune in his return to secure the Counterfeit Plates & to send the two to Goal."|
|34||The Law Papers I, p. 345.|
|35||Ibid., II, pp. 2 and 31.|
|36||Ibid., II, pp. 93 and 64–65.|
The Oblong Gang did not monopolize the attention of the New York authorities in 1745, as is shown by the following letter written on August 19, 1745, by Governor Clinton of New York to Governor Law of Connecticut: "You'l see by the Examination herewith That two persons named therein are Charged with Coining of Spanish money & passing the same in this City, and that the Father of one of them lives near New London: probably the Fellow may Stroll your way, For which reason I should be very glad You would make Strict Inquiry abt him, as the taking him would be of great service to the Colony. The Examint made the Discovery after he suffered Punishmt here, as a Party concerned & is Still confined." 1
The affidavit of Peter Moore, sworn to before Stephen Bayard, Mayor of New York, on August 16, 1745, read thus:
Examined Peter Moore who declareth that Bastian Killet and John Ryan came to him some time in March last at Bermudas and after
some time drinking with them he told them he was going a privateering they told him he need not for that they would furnish
him with money and that he should be worth £1000 in a few days gave him some ps 8/8 and some Doubloons to pass that they had at least 3000 ps of 8/8 and 50 Doubloons which they passed in the Island and left him with very little money After his Arrival here he met
Killet who told him he now should be worth the money he told him of at Bermudas and bid him get a Chafen dish with Coals and
a Bellows he then took a piece of Chalk and pounded it to Dust having made it moist and with a Mill Dollars made the impression
in the Chalk mixing some Copper and Brass which they melted and Cast in less than an Hour about 150 Ps of 8/8 which he Glazed over with Quick Silver and gave the said Moore ten of them which he passed before he wrote to the
Governour to Apprehend them. They being gone out of Town and Moore having no
money he fell to making of Ps of 8/8 of pewter in the manner Killet had shown him; By what they told Moore one of them is gone to Brunswick and the other
to Albany That Kellets Father lives between New London and Boston and is a Brazier and a Noted Man in that Country and when he parted with him last he had a large purse with Doubloons which
he had made but with what Composition he Cannot tell but did promise to lead him into the Secret. This was a day before he
waited upon the Governour.
Bastian Killet a young Man of full faced fair Complexion middle Stature wears a light Wigg a Red laced Jacket a blue Coat
and sometimes a Callico Banyan.
John Ryan about five feet ten Inches high a fair full faced Man about forty years of Age Wears some times a light Wigg and
sometimes a black one, wears a black Waist Coat & Breeches of Velvet and a blue Coat lined with Red.
There was apparently a subsequent examination of Moore taken upon oath on September 9 before the mayor and one of the aldermen of New York City. It was read before the governor and council on September 12 and added the details that Killet and Ryan coined 150 false dollars at the house of a certain Patrick Phagan in New York City. Moore also asserted that the pair coined more than 400 false dollars and some doubloons in Bermuda while he was there. 3 Nothing more if known of Ryan and Killet and it is probable that they were never apprehended.
Moore himself, as was reported in the American Weekly Mercury of August 15, 1745, was convicted in the Supreme Court on August 5 of passing counterfeit milled pieces of eight, knowing them to be such, and on August 8 he was given thirty-nine lashes at the public whipping post. On August 13 he was supposed to stand in the pillory (and doubtless the sentence was carried out) "and there part with some Memorials of his Honesty, as the just Reward of his Ingenuity."
Another case of the counterfeiting of Spanish coin was discovered when at a court of general sessions of the peace of Orange County held at Goshen on October 31, 1745, one Jacob Maser pleaded guilty to an indictment for striving to pass brass pieces for Spanish pistoles. The Court imposed a fine of five pounds and costs. 4 This amazingly light punishment was doubtless due to the fact that the last law imposing severe penalties – – imprisonment for a year and a day and forfeit of all goods and chattels – – for the counterfeiting of foreign gold and silver coin had expired in 1718. On the heels of the crimes of Killet, Ryan, Moore and Maser came a dispatch, dated Philadelphia, November 21, which was published in the New-York Weekly Post-Boy of November 25. It stated: "Several counterfeit Pistoles made of fine Brass, have lately appeared among us. They may be known by their extream Lightness; a Piece of Brass equal in Bulk to a Piece of Gold, not being quite half its Weight."
This situation, and above all the activities of Killet, Ryan, Moore and Maser, led the assembly to pass on November 29, 1745, a law fixing the penalty of death without benefit of clergy for those convicted of counterfeiting or passing certain foreign coins. The first line of the act read as follows: "Whereas Evil disposed Persons have Lately attempted to Counterfeit the Spanish French & Portuguese Gold Coins & the Spanish Pieces of Eight & other Spanish Silver Coins imported in to this Colony, To the great Hurt & Damage of the Inhabitants for the Prevention thereof for the future..." 5 Thus the same penalty was fixed for the counterfeiting of either the bills of credit or foreign gold or silver as mentioned above.
The circulation of false bills also continued at this time, for on September 10, 1745, at a Court of Oyer and Terminer for Suffolk County four counterfeits, one of £3, two of 10/, and one of 5/, were presented and burnt in the presence of the court. 5 On May 7, 1746, the Mayor of New York City brought into Quarter Sessions three false bills, one of £10 and two of £5, while Justice Brandt Schuyler at the same time produced one of 5/. 6
In 1747 the authorities succeeded in taking up four members of a gang of counterfeiters. As early as March 21, 1747, Governor
Law of Connecticut wrote to Governor Shirley of Massachusetts: "I would inform your Excellency That here has been taken some Counterfeit Plates among which are a 40s or 8l and a 9d or 3l Plate of your money and 'tis thôt great Use has been made of them. one man now in Irons (who has since delivered up the Plates)
is secured in New haven Goal."
It is quite possible that the person imprisoned in New Haven was the John Dexter mentioned in the
New-York Gazette, revived in the Weekly Post-Boy of June 29, 1747. The newspaper account read:
Yesterday one John Dexter was committed to our Goal, taken up at Newhaven in Connecticut, to which place he had been followed from Dutchess County in this Province, on suspicion of having counterfeited Spanish Pieces of Eight and Pistoles, several of which, 'tis said,
have been found upon him." The same paper of July 6, 1747, in an item headed "New-York, July 6," stated: "There are now no less than four Persons in the Goal of this City, taken up on Suspicion of counterfeiting
Gold and Silver Coin, viz. John Bellemy,
Samuel Shermer, Elias Haynes, and John Dexter; which is Death by a Law of this Province, if the Fact be prov'd against them.
We hear, their Transactions were carrying on at Peek's Kill in Dutchess-County, where the first three were apprehended, the other fled but was follow'd, and overtaken at Newhaven, as mentioned in our last.
The examinations of several persons in the jail of New York City (presumably the four mentioned above) relating to the counterfeiting of Spanish silver and gold coin and of the bills of credit of several colonies were laid before the governor's council on July 28, 1747, by Justice Horsmanden and read by the board. Thereupon the council ordered that the names of the several persons concerned therein who did not reside in the Province of New York should be notified to the several governors of the neighboring provinces in which the said persons resided in order that they might speedily be apprehended and brought to justice. 9 Since the minutes of the Supreme Court of Judicature for this year are lost and since no further newspaper account is to be found, the outcome of the case is not known.
Soon the people of New York City were plagued by the appearance of false bills of New Jersey. The New-York Gazette, revived in the Weekly Post-Boy of October 26, 1747, warned: "The latest Impression of the
Fifteen Shilling Bills, is discovered to be counterfeited, a description of them will be given in our next." And the next
issue of the newspaper did carry the promised description of the 15/ denomination of the emission dated July 2, 1746, the
counterfeits of which were "just beginning to appear." The description read:
The Paper of the Counterfeits is thin and smooth, and when look'd thro' in the Light, appears fair and free from Knots: The
Paper of the true Bill is thicker, rougher, and when look'd thro' in the Light, appears clouded and uneven: The Counterfeits
are wholly done from a Copperplate, the Back as well as the Foreside; the true Bills are printed from common Types, in the
common Printing-Press: The three Crowns by the Side of the Arms in the Counterfeits are unlike each other, and more round
than those of the true Bills, which are like each other, and the same with thus : The Flowers above and below those Crowns in the true Bills the same with this in the Counterfeit they are nothing like: The Value of the Bill just over the Signers Names in the true Bills, is the same
Characters as here XV SHILLINGS. in the Counterfeits the Letters of the Word Shillings are larger. There are many other Marks by which they may be distinguished, but these, we hope, will be sufficient at present.
Within the same month two other denominations of the New Jersey currency had been counterfeited and the
New-York Gazette, revived in the Weekly Post-Boy of November 23 warned:
OUR Readers are cautioned to beware of new Counterfeit Six Shillings Jersey
Bills; they are in Imitation of those dated July 2, 1746. are done wholly from an engraved Copper-plate, whereas the true
Ones are printed by common Types. Besides other Marks, the Counterfeits may be known by the S in the Word SILVER being remarkably
larger than the Rest of the same Word, thus (Silver) and the s in the Word Grains very badly made.
There is likewise a great deal of Difference in the Border of Flowers round the Sage Leaf on the Back; the flourishing being
more open, loose and irregular, in the Counterfeits than in the true Bills; and the Strokes that represent the Fib[er of the]
Leaf, not appearing so naturally rough as they do in the true Bills. The Letter S in the Word SIX, at the Top of the Counterfeit
Bill, is much smaller than the IX, and the Letters in the Word SHILLINGS, at the Top of the Counterfeit stand very crooked.
A Twelve Shilling Jersey
Bill of 1733, is lately discovered to be counterfeited also, and is done from a Copper plate, but may be easily distinguished
by its Brightness, when compared with any of the true Bills.
Naturally enough the New Jersey government was alarmed, and Governor Jonathan Belcher in a speech to the general assembly of that province on November 19 took cognizance of the situation. "I have reason to believe," he said, "there is a Knot, or Combination of villainous Persons, that are making a Trade of forging the Bills of this Province; And this Matter well deserves your speedy Care and strict Enquiry, as it strikes at the very Vitals of your Currency, and so must nearly affect not only your Commerce, but your other Estates also." 10
Two of the counterfeiters were seized at the beginning of December in New Jersey and committed to the Bergen County jail. One gave his name as Dr. Joseph Bradford, born in New London, and the other as John Lummis, born in Narraganset, a blacksmith. When they were first apprehended, one of them made an excuse to go out and when he had gone behind a barrack he was seen to stick something in it. A search was promptly made, and a large bundle of bills was found, 102 of fifteen shillings, of which thirty-six were signed, 142 of twelve shillings, of which eight were signed, and eighty-nine of six shillings, of which twenty-seven were signed. All were done from copper plate and were of the type of counterfeits recently described in the New-York Gazette, revived in the Weekly Post-Boy. Some of the six shillings bills imitated those dated 1743 and others those dated 1746. The New-York Gazette, revived in the Weekly Post-Boy of December 6, 1747, commented: "'Tis th'ot, these are some of the Gang mentioned in the Governor's Speech in this Paper; and 'tis hoped those Pests of Society, may now meet with the just Reward due to their knavish Ingenuity." Joseph Bradford was, as will be shown later, only an alias used by one James (or Joseph) Bill.
The following year it would seem that persons at Dover in the province of New York were counterfeiting the Massachusetts bills, for on July 21, 1748, Governor Clinton communicated to his council a letter dated July 14 from one John Chandler to Governor Shirley of Massachusetts on the subject. Thereupon the Chief Justice informed the council that he would issue a warrant for the arrest of the suspected persons at Dover. 11 There is, however, no evidence as to the results. The bills which were counterfeited were very likely in imitation of the Massachusetts thirty shillings New Tenor notes, for the Boston Weekly News-Letter of March 24, 1748, warned against such false bills and gave information how to detect them.
Early in March, 1749, the Massachusetts authorities issued a proclamation for the arrest of two counterfeiters, one of whom was Isaac Jones and the other Joseph (or James) Bill, alias Joseph Bradford. The men were caught in a wood near Weston, Massachusetts, and brought as far as Watertown, where they made their escape. The plates from which they had been striking off Connecticut bills were found upon them and were taken to Boston. 12
In Pennsylvania also the government was concerned with false money in circulation, and the New-York Gazette, revived in the Weekly Post-Boy early in January printed a warning about counterfeit doubloons passing in Philadelphia, 13 while in November of 1750 the same newspaper published a warning concerning counterfeited Pennsylvania half crown bills passing in Philadelphia and which were thought to have been made in Germany. 14 New York, too, was not rid of counterfeits, for on August 8, 1750, the following false bills were brought into Quarter Sessions and destroyed: one of £10, no. 555, two of £5, nos. 349 and 245, and one of £2, all of which were produced by the recorder; one of £10, no. 481, three of £5, nos. 4499, 2792 and 663, three of £2, nos. 4384, 598 and 139, and one of 7/6, no. 1315, were brought in by the grand jurors. 15 On November 7 the grand jurors produced in the same court other counterfeits, one of £4, no. 1722, two of £2, nos. 2535 and 143, and two of 10/, nos. 180 and 1436. These were all burnt, and on the following day the court also had destroyed a counterfeit £3 bill, no. 8556. 16
Some of the counterfeiting which was being done at this time was the work of three rogues, Jonathan Woodman, Samuel Dunston
(or Dunsten) and James (or Joseph) Bill, who has been previously mentioned and who used the alias of Joseph Bradford. The
story of the apprehension of the first of them was given as follows by the
New-York Gazette, revived in the Weekly Post-Boy of July 29, 1751:
Friday last one Jonathan Woodman, a Native of Narraganset was committed to our Jail, for uttering Counterfeit Twenty Shilling Bills of this Colony, in Imitation of the Impression dated December 10, 1737: He confesses he has passed ten of them: They
are done on a Copper-Plate, and may be easily distinguished by those who know the Difference of Copper-Plate from common Printing-Letters:
But that the unskill'd may not be impos'd on, it is noted, that the two xxs near the Arms, are not of an equal Size in the Counterfeit, but are in the True, and the Word N. YORK in the Flourish, has
no Point between the N. and YORK, as in the true Bills;
also the Word EBORAC in the Arms, is EBORAO in the Counterfeit, and the whole Bill appears more irregular than in the true
Bills: – – He says there are two others concerned with him, one of whom was in Town when he was taken up, but immediately
made off, and went by the Name of Dr. Dunsten, whom he believes to be the Signer of the Bills, and 'tis probable he has passed
more of them, these two being just on going home when apprehended. There was found on him a Number of
New Hampshire Four Pound Bills, which is supposed to be counterfeit, and which the Man himself confesses he believes to be so. The other Person concerned,
he says he does not know, but as he heard from his Accomplice, from whom he says he had the Bills; but as he often prevaricates
in his Stories, we must leave it to Time to unriddle this Mystery of Iniquity: – – Supreme Court comes on here To-morrow.
(It seems those who come for the better peopling of the Colonies, are not the only Folks that deserve hanging.
One accomplice of Woodman was quickly taken. "Tuesday last," reported the same newspaper of August 5, 1751, "one James Bill, alias Bradford, a Narraganset Man, was apprehended near Second-River in New-Jersey, and committed to our Jail, as one of those concerned with Jonathan Woodman, mentioned in our last, in counterfeiting the Twenty Shilling Bills of Credit of this Province: The other called Dr. Dunsten it not yet taken. 'Tis said, this Bill had been taken up and committed to Jail in Hackinsack a few Years ago, for uttering counterfeit Jersey Bills, from whence he made his Escape; but tis hoped he will now meet with the Reward of his Ingenuity. Their Trials, we heard, are put off till next Term." 18
The grand jury brought indictments against Woodman for counterfeiting twenty shilling New York bills and four pound New Hampshire bills and for passing those of New York; against Dunsten for counterfeiting twenty shilling New York bills and passing them; against Bill for counterfeiting and passing twenty shilling New York bills.
Woodman nor Bill, however, came to trial, for Woodman decided to cheat the hangman. The
New-York Gazette, revived in the Weekly Post-Boy of September 9, 1751, stated:
On Friday morning last, Jonathan Woodman, the Person who was committed to our Goal some Time ago, for uttering counterfeit
Twenty Shilling Bills of this Province, was found hanging dead in his Garters at the Grate of his Prison; – – – 'Tis said
he had been under Terrors and Anguish of Mind for some Time past. which his Confederate has been pleased to say, was occasioned
by his Guilt for impeaching of him, and is now in Hopes, as there is no other material Evidence against him, that he will
get clear, tho' he appears to have been the greatest Rogue of the two; However that be, this Woodman from the first Commitment,
apprehended he must die; and therefore is supposed to be either so charitable, as to think to save the Hangman his Labour,
or else hung himself to save his Life: and 'tis aPity, the other would not follow his Example; as all such Pests of Society
ought to be look'd on as scarce worthy of the Labour of a Hangman. – – – There were two Men in the same Jail with him, who
were asleep when he did it, and knew nothing of the Matter 'till they found him hanging in the Morning.
Bill was apparently released for want of material evidence. Their accomplice, Dr. Dunsten, had made off for New England. The New-York Evening Post of August 19, 1751, printed a dispatch from Weathersfield, dated August 3, which read: "The Person that is mentioned in the New-York News to have uttered counterfeit Money, viz. Four Pound Bills of New Hampshire and One Pound or Twenty Shilling Bills of New-York, is pass'd through this Colony,and utter'd or pass'd them in many Places, and has been pursued, but as yet hath escaped: He is a tall slim Man, wears red plush Breeches, a black Wig, and is bound to Haverhill, and perhaps the Publick being informed of this may be of some Benefit: he goes by the Name of Doctor Dunston."
Dunsten was taken up in New Hampshire and tried, as a dispatch from Portsmouth in that province, dated October 25, 1751, informed
the public. It appeared in the
New-York Gazette, revived in the Weekly Post-Boy of November 4, 1751, and read:
At the Superior Court of Judicature now sitting at Portsmouth, in and for the Province of New-Hampshire, one Samuel Dunsten has been tried for uttering counterfeit Bills of Public Credit on said Province, and acquitted by the
Jury; since which Trial a false Plate of a Twenty Shilling Bill, and one of a Two and six Penny Bill of said Province have
been found, and in the Presence of the Judges of said Court been defaced. This is probably the Doctor, that was concerned with Jonathan Woodman and James Bill, late in our Jail, on suspicion of counterfeiting
Bills of Credit; and it could hardly be unknown to the People of Portsmouth; since the Account of his flying from hence was in the Boston Papers, but as those Governments are soon to have no more Paper Money, they may tis like, be little concerned about it.
It would seem that the persons who succeeded in arresting Jonathan Woodman and Bill were Robert Benson and Abraham Mills, for on August 23, 1751, the Common Council of the City of New York ordered the mayor to pay Benson £14/12/- "being so much money by him Disbu[r]sed to Abraham Mills for horse hire and their Trouble and Expences in pursuing & apprehending the Criminals who Lately Counterfeited the bills of Credit of this Colony." 22 There remained, however, work enough for those who would undertake to ferret out counterfeiters, for both false bills and coin continued to appear. Thus, on May 7, 1752, the Mayor of New York delivered into Quarter Sessions two counterfeits, a £1 bill, no. 245, and a 10/ bill, no. 1184, 23 while some three weeks later one James McBride, a soldier in the fort at New York City, was committed to jail on suspicion of counterfeiting Spanish pieces of eight. It appears that about a year before a false dollar and several pieces of metal had been found in his possession. At the time he fled but finally turned up again in New York City and was arrested. 24 There is no indication that he was convicted, and he may perhaps be the James Smith McBride who was found guilty in 1755 of having murdered a certain Isaac Winter, who had served together with him in the New Jersey regiment, and for whom a pardon was recommended. 25
On October 2, 1752, the New-York Gazette, revived in the Weekly Post-Boy warned against false pieces of eight circulating in New York City. "On Thursday last," it reported, "a New-Jersey Man, tall and pockfretten, paid Ten Pieces of Eight in a Shop in this City; and on Friday it was discovered that three of them were counterfeited: The Bulk, Impression and Letters are so well imitated, that one would scarcely suspect them; they ring almost as other Pieces of Eight; the Colour nearly but not quite the same; but on cutting they are soft almost as Pewter, and on weighing, they are 2s. lighter than Pieces of Eight; Which are the only sure Means we know of discovering them. This is published to put People on their Guard, and that if possible the Authors of this Villany may be discovered."
At about the same time altered money appeared, for the same newspaper of October 9, 1752, warned: "Last Week a Jersey One Shilling Bill was pas'd in this City for Six Shillings; the Word One being cut out, and the Word Six put in, and the other Parts of the Bill so defac'd, as not to be distinguish'd at first Sight, but may easily be known on close Examination: As there may possibly be more of the same sort People are caution'd to beware of them."
In October of this year a strange case concerned with the passing of, apparently, counterfeit coin is found in Orange County, where on the last Tuesday in the month one Peter Bakcas appeared as a defendant before the Court of General Sessions of the Peace. The next day the grand jury delivered a presentment against him for passing brass and other base metal for good gold. The defendant appeared and, when the indictment had been read, pleaded guilty and submitted himself to the mercy of the court, which promptly sentenced him to pay a fine of forty shillings and costs and to stand committed until they were paid. 26 As the law passed on November 29, 1745, fixed the penalty of death without benefit of clergy for anyone convicted of knowingly passing false Spanish, French or Portuguese gold coins, it would almost seem that Bakcas must have been passing uncoined pieces of base metal for gold and hence received the comparatively trifling fine of two pounds.
|1||The Law Papers II, pp. 28–29.|
|2||Ibid. II, pp. 26–27.|
|3||Ms. Mins. Council 21, p. 44.|
|4||The Colonial Laws of New York III, p. 511.|
|5||Ms. Mins. Circ. I, Court of Oyer and Terminer for Suffolk County, Sept. 10, 1745.|
|6||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1732–1762, p. 200.|
|7||The Law Papers III (Connecticut Historical Society Collections XV. Hartford: The Connecticut Historical Society, 1914), p. 26.|
|8||John Bellemy (or Bellamy) about three years before had been suspected of counterfeiting Spanish pistoles. He had left his pocketbook at the house of one Edmund Robinson in Morris County, New Jersey, presumably in or near Greenwich. Thomas Dote, a constable, was sent to the house with other persons upon orders of a justice of the peace, and in Bellemy's purse found a counterfeit pistole, about eighty pounds of counterfeit Rhode Island money, and a false New York five shilling note. The above information is contained in the deposition made by a certain Stephen Barnes, a blacksmith, on October 7, 1747, before Chief Justice John Kinsey in Philadelphia. The document is now in the possession of Mr. J. N. Spiro of Maplewood, N. J.|
|9||Ms. Mins. Council 21, p. 263.|
|10||The New-York Gazette, revived in the Weekly Post-Boy, Dec. 6, 1747, p. 1.|
|11||Ms. Mins. Council 21, p. 311.|
|12||The Boston Weekly News-Letter, Sept, 29, 1748, p. 2, March 16, 1749, p. 1 and March 24, 1749, p. 2. The Boston Evening-Post, March 20, 1749, p. 2.|
|13||The New-York Gazette, revived in the Weekly Post-Boy, Jan. 2, 1749, p. 2.|
|14||Ibid., Nov. 19, 1750, p. 2.|
|15||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1732–1762, p. 279.|
|16||Ibid., pp. 282–283.|
|17||See also the New-York Evening Post, July 29, 1751, p. 3.|
|18||See also the New-York Evening Post of Aug. 5, 1751, p. 3, where Bill's first name is given as Joseph.|
|19||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1750–1751 (Rough), pp. 53–54 and Ms. Mins. SCJ 1750–1754 (Engrossed), p. 66.|
|20||See also the New-York Evening Post, Sept. 9, 1751, p. 2.|
|21||See also the Boston Weekly News-Letter, Oct. 31, 1751, p. 2 and the New-York Evening Post, Nov. 4, 1751, p. 3.|
|22||Minutes of the Common Council of the City of New York V, p. 345.|
|23||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1732–1762, May 7, 1752.|
|24||The New-York Gazette, revived in the Weekly Post-Boy, June 1, 1752, p. 2.|
|25||O'Callaghan, Eng. Mss., p. 647 (see NY Col. Mss. 82, pp. 38–39) and Ms. Mins. Council 25, p. 126.|
|26||Ms. Mins. Orange Co. Sess. 1727–1779, pp. 96 and 98.|
Counterfeiting in the period from the beginning of the year 1753 through almost the first half of 1761 is, with the exception of the affair of the false British halfpence, which will be considered separately, very largely concerned with Dutchess County, though there was some counterfeiting elsewhere. Thus, on May 1, 1753, in Quarter Sessions in New York City the mayor produced four false bills, one of £10, no. 79, one of £5, no. 210, one of £2, no. 4344, and one of £1, no. 2542, all of which were destroyed before the court. 1
On May 16, 1753, action was taken against two suspected counterfeiters in Dutchess County, Joseph Boyce, who had been one of the Oblong Gang, and one Joseph Hix. On that day at a meeting of the General Sessions of the Peace of Dutchess County Boyce, "on Indictment for passing Counterfeit Money in Imitation of Rhode Island Bills," appeared and was bound over to the next Supreme Court. He gave bail in the amount of £100, as did his surety, Samuel Shearman of Poughkeepsie, in the like amount. On the same day it was ordered that Joseph Hix, "on Indictment for Passing Counterfeit money," should remain in jail until the next Supreme Court. 2 As there is no mention of them in the minutes of the General Sessions of Dutchess County or in those of the Supreme Court of Judicature, it may be surmised that Boyce forfeited bail and decamped and that Hix either escaped or was released, although the cases may have simply been dropped without record being made.
A grand jury, headed by one Noah Gillett, on June 8, 1753, presented three persons, Benjamin Chase, Jacob Mace and one "Solevin," alias James Shiffel or Benjamin Parlon, for stamping Rhode Island money and forging the signers' hands, all on the evidence of a certain Samuel Southworth. 3 On July 31 Attorney General William Kempe informed the Supreme Court that these three men, all described as labourers and late of Poughkeepsie, had committed fraud by making, having in their custody and passing in Poughkeepsie false paper bills of Rhode Island. 4 On Saturday, January 19, 1754, in the case of the King versus Benjamin Chase, Jacob Mace et al., the Supreme Court minutes read: "The Sherif of Dutches County returns Cepi Corpus on motion of Mr. Attorney General and the Defendant having indorsed his Writt ordered that his appearance be entered and that he plead in twenty days or Judgment." 5 At a meeting of the same court on October 24, 1754, it was ordered that Chase and Mace "plead in twenty days or Judgment" and Mr. Alsop, who appeared for Chase, entered a plea of not guilty for his client. 6 With this entry their cases disappear from the minutes of the Supreme Court and it may with great probability be assumed that they simply were not prosecuted. Sullivan had, for the moment, escaped capture and, indeed, was not apprehended until 1756, though he and other counterfeiters had by no means suspended their operations, as is shown by the variety and number of false bills in circulation.
New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy of January 28, 1754, specifically warned of counterfeit £2 bills in these terms:
The Publick are caution'd to beware of Counterfeit Forty Shilling Bills, that have been lately brought and issued in this
Province; they are artfully done, and Persons of small Attention can not readily apprehend the Fraud: For the Benefit of unwary
People we give the following Description of the false Bills differing from the true Ones, To wit, First, They are all dated December 10, 1737, marked lx. ∫. and are signed, Peter Schuyler, Peter Jay, Stephen Wood, Second, 1737 in the False, seems something larger than in True. Third, And so is the Letters lx. Fourth, the II. 1, under the
Arms, seems in the III. in False something more crooked, and the Strokes of the II, smaller than in the True Bills. Fifth, In the Arms of the true Bills, EBORAC. is with a C. and in the False it is a G. Sixth, lx ∫. after Number, is not so plain in False as in True. Seventh, In the Flourish on left Hand, after N. YORK, between the two . There is a Mark in false Bills thus . unclosed at the Top, and in True, O is closed. Eight, First and last Signers Names is pretty well immitated, but Peter Jay's Names is ill done.
These false forty shilling bills appear, with other denominations, among those produced during 1754 in Quarter Sessions. On February 6, 1754, the following counterfeits were brought into that court: one of £3 and one of 20/ by the Mayor; nine of 20/ by Alderman Benson; one of £5 by Alderman Cortlandt; one of £10, three of 40/, and one of 20/ by Alderman Livingston. 7 On May 8 Mr. Livingston brought in one of £1 and one of 40/, while Alderman De Peyster produced one of 10/. 8 Again, on August 7, the Mayor brought into Quarter Sessions three £3 bills and two of 40/, and at the same time Justice Francis Filkin produced one false bill of 40/. 9
This prevalence of £3 counterfeits called forth, as might have been expected, this warning in the New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy of August 12, 1754: "Counterfeit THREE POUNDS BILLS are now passing amongst us, and without some Nicety in the Comparison, they will not easily be found such. – – They are of the Emission of 1746. Signers Names PAUL RICHARDS, CORNELIUS VANHORNE, ROBERT LIVINGSTON, jun. They are of a very indifferent Impression, and a considerable Variation appears in the Writing of the Name Paul Richards. In the Crown immediately over the New-York Arms, can be discover'd a great Difference from the true Ones. In the Word BILL, will be found a great Space between the B and I, a very little between the I and L and none at all between the LL; but in the good Ones there is an equal Space between each. The Whole is judg'd to be rais'd Work in Metal, whereas the true Ones are proper Printing Types."
On September 16 the same newspaper gave a further description which read:
False Three Pound Bills are again creeping in amongst us: They are dated the 10th of May, 1746, and are signed by
Paul Richard, Cornelius Vanhorne, Robert Livingston
, jun. 1st. The two Barrels in the false Bills, on each side of the Vanes of the Wind-Mill, appear not to be full hooped, but a blank
Space is left in the Middle of each Barrel; whereas in the true Bills, Barrels appear to be full hooped. 2d. The Top of Figure 7 in 1746, is somewhat higher in the false Bills than the other Figures: In the true Ones they are even.
3d. The Letter s. after 60, under the Arms, is more crooked, and not so plain as in true Bills. 4th. The Line at the Bottom of the false Bills, is much thicker than in the true Bills. 5th. On the Back of the false Bills the Print can hardly be perceived; but in the true Bills the Print can be plainly seen. We
noticed these Bills to the Public a few Weeks ago.
The New-York Mercury of the same date gives the same five distinguishing marks but adds two others, which are numbers 4 and 5 in the seven items it indicated. Point 4 reads: "In the false Bills, in the lower Part of the Flourish under the Arms on the Left Hand Side, there is a Mark where the Stroke in the Middle goes quite through: But in the true Bills the Stroke in the Middle goes but half way," and point 5, "After the above Mark in the false Bills, are two Flourishes something like ω which are closed: But in the true Bills there is a Space between inclosed. something like ᴜ."
It has been shown that eleven false 20/ bills were produced in Quarter Sessions at its meeting on February 6, 1754. It is then small wonder that the governor's council took up the matter on March 18, when the governor informed the board that John Livingston had delivered to him two letters containing information about counterfeit twenty shilling bills of New York. One letter, dated March 10, from G. Saltonstall to Mr. Livingston, inclosed a false twenty shilling bill taken from the same plate with four that had been passed in New London to Captain Durfey by one Nathaniel Key. Key, the letter said, had been arrested and searched, and nineteen more bills of the same denomination and date were found in his pocket. The other letter, dated March 7, from Matthew Greswold, Attorney General of Connecticut, to Captain Durfey, advised that it was necessary to send one of the said twenty shilling bills to New York in order that the difference between that and the true bills might be pointed out.
The advice of the council on this matter was that the Governor "desire the Governor of Connecticut would be pleased to give directions for the said Key to be sent here, in order for his Tryal, assuring him that any request of the like nature will be readily complyed with on the part of this Government. But if the said Key should be tryed there (where if convicted he can only receive corporal punishment) and it should appear on Examination that he can and will discover any accomplices, That his Honour in this case be pleased to desire that Government to send the said Nathaniel Key hither to be examined as an Evidence against such accomplices, with Promise on this Condition of his receiving his Majesty's most gracious Pardon." 10
On the following day Governor James De Lancey wrote in accordance with the advice of his council to Governor Roger Wolcott of Connecticut:
I have received information that one Nathaniel Key had passed in your Colony four, 20/bills counterfeits of the bills of this
Province to Capt Durfy for which he was apprehended, and now is in Goal; upon my communicating this information to his Majesty's
Council here, they advised me to apply to your Government that the said Key might be sent to this Province to receive his
Trial here: I do therefore request the favor of you, that you would be pleased to order him under a sufficient guard to Byrom
River, where the officers of this Province shall receive him, in order to his Tryal or if he can & will discover the counterfeiters
& his accomplices that he may be a witness. I promise you that in a like case, I shall give orders that offenders against
the Credit of your Currency shall be sent to you.
Wolcott on April 5 sent the disappointing reply that he had sent at once to New London in order to have Key dispatched to New York but had received a letter from Colonel Saltonstall that Key had some time before broken out of prison and escaped. 12
This same spring of the year 1755, in the last week in March, three young lads were committed to the City Hall in New York on evidence of their making and passing counterfeit Spanish one shilling pieces. 13 The three youths, Christopher Barnwell, Richard New and John Vanheusen, were indicted by the grand jury on April 18, 1755, for counterfeiting ten pieces of Spanish silver money. All three on the following day pleaded not guilty and were tried on April 22, Barnwell and Vanheusen for counterfeiting the coin and New as an accessory before the fact. The witnesses for the King were John Van Derhoope, August Van Cortlandt, Simon Johnson and John Cruger, while William Taylor, Joseph Northrup and Sarah Mc Kenen gave evidence for the defendants, all three of whom were acquitted and discharged, paying their fees. 14
An idea of the various denominations of counterfeits circulating in New York City in 1755 is afforded by the record of those brought into Quarter Sessions. On May 6 Alderman Cruger produced three bills of £3 each and one of 10/; on August 6 the Mayor and Alderman De Lancey brought in three 40/ bills, nos. 13652, 5661 and 1690, one of £5, no. 1530, and one of £3, no. 1544; on November 5 the justices delivered into court fourteen false bills, one of £5, five of £3, four of £2, one of 20/, and three of 10/. 15
The counterfeits of the emission dated May 10, 1746, had apparently become so numerous that the treasury office of the province in New York City on October 24 issued a notice, published in the New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy of October 27, 1755, directing all persons who had any bills of the above mentioned emission to bring them to the Treasury by the next November first "in order that they may be cancelled, and where other Bills will be given in Exchange for them."
Early in 1756 one of the most hardened and villainous counterfeiters in Colonial New York, one Owen Sullivan, at length fell into the hands of the authorities through the initiative of Cornet Eliphalet Beacher of New Haven, Connecticut. Sullivan, it will be recalled, had been indicted, along with Chase and Mace, in 1753 for making, having in his custody and passing false bills of Rhode Island. The first notice of him is found in the Boston Weekly News-Letter of August 31, 1749, which reported: "Last Monday Night, Owen Sullivan, and John Tyas, of Roxbury, were apprehended and committed to Goal here, for uttering counterfeit Ten Shilling Bills of this Province of the last Emission, about 30 of which were found upon them. Sullivan lately come from Louisburg where he had been convicted of uttering counterfeit Dollars; and in searching his Chest, there was found a Mould for casting them, as also Ink, and other things used in printing off a Copper Plate, and Pieces of Paper whereon attempts were made to imitate the Hand-Writing of the Signers of the Bills: The Bills were done off very black, and may be easily distinguished from the true ones by comparing them, especially the backside." Both prisoners were convicted at the assizes held in Boston and on September 13, 1750, Sullivan stood in the pillory for two hours and received twenty stripes, while Tyas was pilloried for one hour and given fifteen lashes. 16
Sullivan next seems to have transferred his activities to Rhode Island, for the Boston Evening Post of October 9, 1752, printed a report from Providence that "Sullivan, a well-known Engraver, has lately had both his Ears crop'd, and been branded on both his Cheeks with the Letter C, for counterfeiting the Bills of Credit of that Colony."
The punishment was severe, and Sullivan temporarily dropped out of the limelight but, it would seem, retired to the Oblong in Dutchess County, New York, where he continued to counterfeit the money of various colonies. On September 4, 1754, his name again appeared in the press, when the Boston Weekly New-Letter of that date remarked: "We hear from Newport, Rhode-Island, That several Persons have been taken up, and tried there last Week for counterfeiting the £16 Bills of that Colony, four of which were found guilty of passing them, knowing them to be such, and that they had confessed, that the noted Sullivan was the Engraver of the Plate; that they had struck off about 50,000 £. old Tenor, but spoiled 10,000 £. in signing them: A great Reward was offered to apprehend Sullivan, but was not taken." Lieutenant Governor De Lancey of New York was notified in a letter from Peter Bours of Newport that Sullivan, for whose capture the General Assembly of Rhode Island had offered a reward of £400, was at a place called the Oblong in New York, apparently under the alias of John Pierson. 17
Nothing, however, seems to have been accomplished by the government of New York, but one Eliphalet Beacher of New Haven, "having in the course of his private business, travelling forth & back through the country, made some Discoveries of a Villainous Company of men near to the Western parts of this Colony [Connecticut], who made a trade of Counterfeiting the publick bills of Credit on this Colony, & being Desirous to break up a nest of so great Mischief, applied to this & the neighbouring Government of New York for help to Effect the Same." 18
Beacher's application to the Connecticut General Assembly in session at New Haven on January 21, 1756, resulted in the following vote of that body:
Whereas it hath been sufficiently made appear unto this Assembly, that a certain person known by the name of Johnson, alias
Sullivan, living at or near a place called Dover in Dutchess County in the Province of New York, is a person of ill fame and strongly suspected of having made and
counterfeited great quantities of the bills of credit of this Colony, and also the bills of the Provinces of New York, Rhode Island and New Hampshire, and uttering and passing the same, and that one Elisha Morehouse, one Hunt, a brother of Ambrose Hunt, two other persons
whose names as yet unknown, are accomplices with said Johnson in making and passing said bills: Resolved by this Assembly,
that in case Eliphalet Beecher, of New Haven, shall undertake and use his best endeavours to take and apprehend the persons abovenamed, or any of them, and accomplices,
he, the said Eliphalet Beecher, shall have all his reasonable expences and charges borne and paid by this Colony, and for
his further encouragement in the service aforesaid, the said Eliphalet Beecher shall have the same reward (for each of said
persons and their accomplices by him taken and tendered to justice and convicted of counterfeiting or passing any of the bills
of credit of this Colony) as is already provided by the law of this Colony.
Beacher had secured on December 29, 1755, a warrant signed by James De Lancey, Chief Justice, and two other justices of the Supreme Court of Judicature of New York. Armed with this and the support of the General Assembly of Connecticut, Beacher seized one Samuel Griswould, living at Dover in Dutchess County and Jacob Mace, his accomplice, and brought them before Messers Haviland and Humphrey, justices of the peace of that county, who on February 10 and 11 examined the suspected counterfeiters. The justices, according to Beacher, were uncooperative. They made him give recognizance to prosecute the prisoners and refused, without sufficient proof of the crime, to give him a warrant to take Griswould and Mace to Connecticut. At the time Beacher found it impracticable for him to bring the necessary evidences before the justices, so the prisoners were released on bail of £50 each to appear and later procure bail for their presence at the Supreme Court to be held in Poughkeepsie in May. The justices required Beacher to pay all costs of the examination and process before them. 20
After having heard Beacher's complaint as set forth in his deposition taken by Justice Hamlin, the Connecticut Assembly concluded that "many Difficulties have attended his prosecuting said affair with Success for want of the Encouagement & assistance of the Civil Authority in said County." The legislators therefore asked the governor of Connecticut to write to Sir Charles Hardy, governor of New York, requesting him "to give all such further & necessary authority & directions to the said Eliphalet Beacher, or to other proper persons, as may enable him or them to apprehend such Suspected persons & Secure them in the Government, or send them into this, for Trial according as the Cases may appear to be Cognizable by the Courts there or here." 21 The treasurer of the province was ordered to pay Beacher £10 in lawful money and a similar amount in proclamation bills to enable him to prosecute those suspected of counterfeiting. 22
By paying them and promising them a share in rewards, Beacher secured the assistance of Eliphalet Beacher, Junior, for 27 days, of John Thomas for 20 days, of Howkiah Thompson for 15 days, of Captain Josiah Starr for 16 days, of Daniel Starr for 8 days, of John Beecher for 18 days, of Caleb Beecher for 6 days, of Eleazar Berry for 6 days, of Gabriel Dickson for 15 days, of John Dickson for 18 days and of Timothy Delivan for 24 days. In each case the assistants were mounted. Beacher himself worked on the case for 95 days. The costs for which he was reimbursed by the Province of Connecticut came to £134/3. 23 The efforts of Beacher and his associates were at last crowned with success, for a dispatch, dated New Haven, March 20, which was published in the Boston Weekly News-Letter of April 1, 1756, read: "On Wednesday last was brought to the Goal in this Town, Sullivan, alias Johnson, the famous Money-maker, who was detected and taken in Dutchess County, on Hudson's River, about 120 Miles above New York, in that Government by the extraordinary Address and Resolution of Cornet Eliphalet Beecher."
The New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy of March 29, 1756, gave its readers the following account: "Wednesday last was brought to this City, under a strong Guard from New-England, and committed to our Goal, one Sullivan, alias Johnson, a Man notorious for counterfeiting and passing counterfeit Money of the New-England Colonies, as well as, lately, some of this Government. He was taken near the Line, between Dutchess County and Connecticut, about 120 Miles from this City, where 'tis said a large Gang of Villains have harboured for a considerable Time past, few of which but have a Crop or a Brand-Mark upon them, as it is a Sort of Disgrace for one reputed honest to be seen among them: 'Tis now hoped this Gentleman will at last, meet with the Reward due to his Labour."
On April 24, 1756, the prisoner was set at the bar and arraigned upon an indictment for counterfeiting the bills of New York, to which he pleaded not guilty. 24 He was tried in the Supreme Court, presided over by De Lancey, Chambers and Horsmanden. The witnesses for the King were David Sanford, Nehemiah Lyon, Jonathan Miller, Edward Hugford and Eliphalet Beacher. The jury 25 found Sullivan guilty and that he had no lands, tenements goods or chattels, except a saddle valued at five pounds, and April 29 he was sentenced to be hanged between the hours of ten and twelve in the forenoon of May 7. 26
The execution, however, did not take place as scheduled, partly because of the efforts of Sullivan's friends or accomplices. The New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy of May 10 gave this story of the delay: "Owen Syllavan, ... the forty thousand Pound Money-maker, who was to be executed on Friday last pursuant to his Sentence, for the Want of a Hangman was respited until Saturday; but the Gallows being cut down on Friday Night by Persons unknown, and Jack Ketch, Esq; being still wanting, his Time was further prolong'd to this Day, when he is certainly to make his exit."
The same newspaper on May 17 thus described the last moments of the condemned counterfeiter:
Owen Syllavan, before he was turn'd off on Monday last, declared, That some Years ago he struck off near Twelve Thousand Pounds of Rhode-Island Money, and passed above Sixteen Hundred of it in one Day: – – – That of the New Hampshire Currency he made Ten or Twelve Thousand Pounds: – – – Of Connecticut Cash he struck off about Three Thousand Pounds: – – – And of the New-York Currency he printed large Sums of four different Emissions; the last of which was the Bills signed
Oliver De Lancey, John Livingston
, and Isaac De Peyster, and dated so late as March 25, 1755; to do which he had four Sets of Accomplices, who, he said, printed
and passed other large Sums at Times unknown to him: And that he left the several different Plates and Stamps with his Confederates,
all of whom he allow'd deserv'd the Gallows as well as himself; but would not betray one of them, or be guilty (as he term'd
it) of shedding their Blood: – – – Soon after which he took a large Cud of Tobacco, and turning round to the People said,
I cannot help smiling, as 'tis the Nature of the Beast. And being ask'd, for the Benefit of the Publick, of what Denomination the Bills were which he printed of the New-York Money, answered, You must find that out by your Learning; and so died obstinate.
The New-York Mercury of the same day stated that Sullivan "approached Death with the greatest Resolution imaginable, confessed his Sentence was just, and wished his Accomplices (having 29, which he would not discover) would destroy the Plates they had, and quit the Money-making Business." His genuine speech, it added, might be had at Henry Deforrests.
Sullivan's captor, Eliphalet Beacher, also succeeded in apprehending other counterfeiters, who were bound over to appear at the Superior Court which was to meet in Fairfield, Connecticut, in February. These individuals, however, chose to forfeit their bonds, and the General Assembly of Connecticut directed that the King's Attorney in Fairfield pay over to Beacher £10 from the forfeited bonds. This reward was voted him, since the fact that Sullivan was tried and convicted in New York prevented the grant of such bounty as would have been possible if the criminal had been convicted in Connecticut. 27
The knowledge that Sullivan had left his plates in the hands of his accomplices occasioned the passing on July 9, 1756, of
a law entitled "An Act more effectually to Suppress and prevent the Counterfeiting of the Paper Currency of this Colony."
The text of the act was as follows:
WHEREAS it appears by the Confession of Owen Sullivan lately Executed for Counterfeiting the Bills of Credit of this Colony that there are sundry Plates Engraved in imitation
and Semblance of the Plates of this Colony and many other Implements and Materials concealed by his accomplices in order to
carry on that pernicious Practice with which they have already Counterfeited many Bills of Credit of this Colony particularly
the Emission of the Twenty fifth of March One thousand Seven hundred and fifty five which he Conceded AND WHEREAS the well-being
and preservation of this Colony does in a great measure depend on the good Credit and Reputation of its Paper Emissions.
BE IT THEREFORE Enacted by his Excellency the Governor the Council and the General Assembly and it is hereby Enacted by the
Authority of the same that if Any person or Persons Shall be detected in Concealing or aiding to Conceal Such Plates Bills
Materials or Implements or any of them Shall be found in his her or their possession and Custody or any Person or Persons
hereafter Shall Engrave or otherwise Contrive any such Plate or Plates Materials or Implements or in any wise aid or assist
in Counterfeiting the paper Currency of this Colony Such Person or Persons Shall for any such Offence (being thereof Convicted)
Suffer the pains OF Death without benefit of Clergy as in Cases of Felony any Law usage or Custom to the Contrary Notwithstanding.
During 1756 there are two records of counterfeits being stopped: at a meeting of Quarter Sessions of the Peace of Dutchess County on May 20, 1756, when the court sat all night, Justice Noxon delivered several bills of Rhode Island which were supposed to be counterfeit and which had been taken from a person named Wells. Noxon also produced two false Spanish dollars, one of which he took from Thomas Sheldon and the other from Hugh Galarby. At the same time Justice Soule brought into court a false dollar sworn on a certain John Brackett. 29 In New York City Alderman Cuyler delivered into the Court of Quarter Sessions on November 3, 1756, ten counterfeit bills: four of £3, nos. 1650, 151, 1690 and 5675; one of £5, no. 2745; four of £2, nos. 5668, 1365, 3657 and 1365; one of 20 shillings, no. 87521. 30 Again, in 1757, especially two and one pound bills were being counterfeited, as is shown by the record of those produced in Quarter Sessions in New York: on February 2 the recorder brought in two counterfeits of £3, nos. 1532 and 1702, four of £2, nos. 5684, 5628, 1537 and 5671, and one bill of £1, no. 1148. At a meeting of the same court on May 4 Alderman Livingston produced two false £3 bills, nos. 1555 and 1563, and one of £2, no. 5615. 31 It seems quite probable that most, if not all, of these counterfeits were printed from plates made by Sullivan and left in the hands of his confederates in Dutchess County or elsewhere.
So serious was the evil in that county that two of its justices of the peace, Jacobus Ter Bos and Matthew Du Bois, in behalf
of themselves and other inhabitants of the county, on November 1, 1757, petitioned De Lancey, humbly showing:
That for many years bypast, a Gang of Certain wicked & Evil disposed persons, hath Infested this part of the Province, who
have made it their chief business to counterfeit the Public Bills of this & other his Majesty's Provinces in America, and to make false and Counterfeit Dollars and other moneys, and to Impose said Counterfeit Bills and Moneys on many of the
poor Ignorant People in this Province and others to the great hurt Injury & Damage of his Majesty's Liege Subjects in these
That your Petitioners with great Risque trouble and Charge have secured several of these Offenders in the Common Goal of this
County, where some of them have been confined for a Considerable time at a great Expence to said County.
That the said County Goal is by no means strong and secure enough to keep these and other offenders now in Confinment there,
without the greatest Care and risque, and your Petitioners are greatly affraid the said Prisoners will find means to break
the said Prison & make their Escape and thereby not only evade punishment but be of the utmost pernitious Consequence to the
good people of this Province for the Future & especially as there are diverse others of their Gang not yet taken who lurk
secretly in said County.
That by reason of War and the Incursions of the Enemy a Considerable time hath elapsed since there hath been any Court of
Assize or Goal Delivery in this County, and in all probability if the war continues may not be held for some time to come,
by which means the said Prisoners may have further opportunity to make their Escape and pass unpunished.
Your Petrs therefore humbly pray your Honor to take the premises into Consideration and to appoint a Court of Goal delivery to be held
in said County so soon as conveniently may be & that the said Prisoners may be transmitted to the Goal in New York & there secured, or else to Grant such other relief in the premises as your Honor in your goodness shall think proper...
The document was signed by the two justices named above and also by Lawrence Van Kleeck, Leonard van Cleeck, Henry Ter Bos and John Bayley. 32
It is not improbable that much of the counterfeit money circulating in the province in 1758 originated with the Dutchess County Gang. At a meeting of the Quarter Sessions of the county on May 16 Justice Hamblin produced a false Boston shilling which was sworn on one Caspar Rows. Another justice, Augustinus Turck, brought in a counterfeit pistareen and a shilling piece, both Spanish, which were sworn upon Hans Peter Snyder. 33 At the Court of Quarter Sessions in New York CityAlderman Coventry on August 2 produced eight false bills, one of £3, no. 1502, five of £2, nos. 5634, 5670, 5674, 5679 and 5680, one of £1, no. 2121, and one of 10/, no. 1717. 34
Perhaps the activities of the justices of the peace in Dutchess County were very effective, for there is recorded in 1759 the destruction in Quarter Sessions in New York City of only one counterfeit bill, one of £3, no. 1667, produced on February 6 by Alderman Cuyler. 35 Concrete evidence of the work of the justices of Dutchess County is provided by the minutes of the governor's council for May 1, 1759, which read: "His Honour acquainted the Council that one Richard Maeslyes confined in Goal in dutches County, on Suspicion of his having counterfeited the Bills of Credit of this Province, but that he was informed there was not sufficient Evidence to Convict him, and that the Man was desirous to inlist in the Provincial Regiment." The Council then advised that the governor promise Maeslyes a pardon on condition that he enlist and serve the campaign in the New York regiment. 36
On July 3, 1759, a law was passed for the emission of bills of credit to the amount of £150,000, and the same penalty, death without benefit of clergy, was provided for convicted counterfeiters and passers in the same terms as in the law of December 16, 1737. 37 Another law, passed on March 22, 1760, for the emission of £60,000, also fixed the same punishment. 38
During the year 1760 there is no evidence of counterfeits being brought into court or of much counterfeiting in the province. A certain Sam Ellis, who said that he came from Fish Kills in New York, was detected uttering counterfeit dollars at Ashford, Connecticut. In his examination he confessed that he had passed seven or eight of them and had concealed thirty in some coal at a blacksmith's where he had stopped to have his horse shod. When he was committed to Windham jail, he hinted that he could bring out a great deal of business of the same sort for the King's Attorney in Connecticut. 39 It is possible that Ellis had made his dollars in New York and had come to Connecticut to pass them.
Later in this year, on October 17, one Patrick Moore, described as a laborer, was examined before John Cruger in New York City. His examination, to which Moore affixed his mark, has been preserved and reads as follows: "Patrick Moore... Saith, that on Saturday Last, in the Evening of the same day, he the Deponent found a Number of pieces of pewter in Imitation of Two Shilling pieces of Spanish Coin, in the publick Street wrapt up in an old handkerchief, one of which he some short time thereafter Exchanged to a woman in order to pay for a paper of Tobacco which he bought of her, and Rec. the Change from her in Coppers and the Remainder of the said pieces he threw into a piss Tub in the New Goal, that the piece now shown to him is much Like the one, he Exchanged to pay for the said paper of Tobacco, that there was also a Number of Ribbons in said Handkerchief, and further saith not."' 40
It is not known whether Moore was prosecuted. There was a Patrick Moore, said to be a tailor, who in August, 1752, had been committed to jail at New Bern, North Carolina, as a member of a gang which, about thirty miles from that town, in a great swamp, had been counterfeiting doubloons, pistoles, pieces of eight and half pistereens. Moore turned evidence against his confederates and so escaped punishment. 41 If the Patrick Moore examined in New York in 1760 is the same individual, then his story of finding false two shilling pieces wrapped up in a handkerchief does not seem too credible.
Besides, it seems beyond reasonable doubt that the Patrick Moore of the false shilling pieces is the same person who, according to the Boston Evening Post of January 26, 1761, on Saturday evening, January 24, 1761, was discovered in a dwelling at the south end of Boston. The man had entered the house and ascended the stairs so quietly as not to be heard, while an accomplice, James Doit, alias Hamilton, stood at the door and inquired for a person under a fictitious name. The intruder on the second floor was detected, brought before a justice of the peace and examined. He said that his name was Patrick Moore, alias Plunket, and that he was from New York. He had arrived in that city in August, 1760, in the ship "Sampson," commanded by Captain Greatrakes, and stated that, along with the crew, he had been tried and cleared of the charge of firing on his Majesty's ship "Winchester," wherein three men were killed.
The cases of counterfeiting which came to the attention of the law in the early part of 1761 were in Orange and Dutchess Counties. On February 18 Justice Denton committed to the Goshen jail two men from Paulin's Kill in New Jersey who were accused of making and uttering false Spanish milled dollars. The counterfeits appeared larger than the true coins and were made of soft metal. Likewise a ridge of the parting of the mould appeared on the edge of the coins. 42
In Dutchess County Charles Hamilton, a silversmith of Poughkeepsie, 43 was involved in counterfeiting Spanish coin. He was apprehended on either April 20 or 21, 1761, and one Lewis Bennet of Stratford, a shoemaker, made a deposition on April 21 before Justice Lawrence Van Kleek that on the night of Saturday, April 18, he saw Charles Hamilton have a parcel of Spanish cobbs which Hamilton said were of his make. Bennet further deposed that the cobbs of base metal shown him on the table in the presence of the justice he took to be the same sort of money or pieces which Hamilton showed him on Saturday night at the home of John Ryan in Beekmans precinct in Dutchess County. 44
Hamilton was taken up on a warrant issued by Justice Bartholomew Noxon and was examined in the house of Baltus Van Kleek in Poughkeepsie before Noxon and two other justices of the peace, Lawrence Van Kleek and Anthony Yelverton. According to a copy of Hamilton's examination made on April 21 "Justice Noxon Delivered on the Table Nine Pieces of Base Mettal in Imitation of Spanish Coin Which was found upon one Gersham Hubble which Hubble said he had them from the Examinant this Examinant being Shewn the nine pieces and said that he hath these pieces from one Samuel Cogsdale Being Drunk and when he got sober found they were Base and threw them on the Ground and the said Hubble Took them up Whereupon this Examinant saith to Hubble I will Refine them, Justice Noxon found a Bottle of Quick Silver with Hamilton and Hamilton said that he saw Cogsdale Have about a Hundred such false pieces of Base Metal in Imitation of Spanish Cobbs and says farther That he knew Cogsdale to have made such bad pieces above two years ago." 45
On the next day, April 22, the same justices, with a colleague, Leonard Van Kleek, proceeded to examine Gersham Hubble, Junior, yeoman, of Fairfield, Connecticut. Hubble declared that he gave Hamilton a good dollar for nine counterfeits. When he told Hamilton that he suspected they were bad, Hamilton admitted that he had made them and said he could make better ones. According to Hubble, Hamilton told him that one Cogsdell was a good fellow and intimated that he was one of the fraternity. Hamilton also said that he could make gold and that if the pieces then delivered to him, Hubble, passed well, he could supply him with as many more as Hubble wished to take. In addition Hamilton claimed he could make "round Dollars." The examinant stated that he received the nine counterfeit coins from Hamilton on Sunday, April 19, in the forenoon outside the door of John Ryon in Beekman Precinct. He closed his testimony by reporting that Hamilton said he had a mine at Cornwell where he could work and make base dollars. 46
Hubble's friends in Connecticut composed a recommendation of him and this was directed to James Livingston. On April 26 Justice Noxon wrote to Mr. Livingston to the effect that the document should have been directed to the judges of the Supreme Court in New York City, as the sole desire of Hubble's friends was to obtain permission for him to give bail. The next day Livingston sent Noxon's letter to Justice Chambers, whom he informed that James Hubble, brother of the prisoner, had taken with him the letter of recommendation from Fairfield, saying it might facilitate his securing bail for his brother. 47
Justice Chambers promptly referred the question of bail to Attorney General Kempe, who, after studying the evidence, wrote Chambers on May 1 recommending bail be permitted but in such amount as to compel Gresham Hubble's appearance as a witness against Hamilton. Hubble, he felt, had neither made nor passed any counterfeits and before this affair had been a person of good credit and hence should make an excellent witness. 48 On the other hand, Kempe was taking no chances with Hamilton, whom he designated in his letter to Justice Chambers as "a notorious offender." On May 1 Kempe sent the following letter to Charles Everit, Sheriff of Dutchess County: "I understand you have in your Custody one Charles Hamilton for counterfeiting Dollars, and that one Cogsdale is likely to be apprehended for the same offence and others hereafter may. – – I know not in what Condition your Goal is in, but trust that you will keep them secure that they make not their Escape from Justice, The Reason of my mentioning this to you, is because several Criminals have broke Goal & made their Escape lately from some of the Counties, particularly last year one did from Westchester – – and I should be very sorry should you be liable to be punished so severely as the Law directs for the Escape of a Felon, you will excuse my mentioning this to you, as I have no other Inducement but to take care Justice be done and as far as in one lies to prevent a publick Officer like you from being put to Trouble." 49
After this admonitory letter the Sheriff of Dutchess County must have been relieved when Hamilton, a few days after he was confined in the jail in Poughkeepsie, made fast his handkerchief to a spike that was driven into the wall of the jail and then hanged himself. 50
|1||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1732–1762, May 1, 1753.|
|2||Ms. Mins. Dutchess Co. Sess., Liber B, May 16, 1753.|
|3||H.R. Parch. 189 A 4.|
|4||H.R. Pleadings K 957. Cf. Ms. Mins. SCJ 1750–1754 (Engrossed), p. 274.|
|5||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1750–1754 (Engrossed), p. 349.|
|6||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1754–1757 (Engrossed), p. 87.|
|7||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1732–1762, Feb. 6, 1754.|
|8||Ibid., May 8, 1754.|
|9||Ibid., Aug. 7, 1754.|
|10||Ms. Mins. Council 23, pp. 166–167.|
|11||The Wolcott Papers (Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society XVI, Hartford: The Connecticut Historical Society, 1916), p. 438.|
|12||Ibid., p. 439.|
|13||The New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy, March 31, 1755, p. 3.|
|14||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1750–1756 (Rough), pp. 235, 237, 239, 240 and Ms. Mins. SCJ 1754-1757 (Engrossed), pp. 146–147, 150–151.|
|15||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1732–1762, May 6, Aug. 6 and Nov. 5, 1755.|
|16||The Boston Weekly News-Letter, Sept. 13, 1750, p. 2 and the New-York Gazette, revived in the Weekly Post-Boy, Sept. 17, 1750, p. 2.|
|17||O'Callaghan, Eng. Mss., p. 614.|
|18||Conn. Archives, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Series 1, Vol. 5, p. 16: memorial of Beacher to the General Assembly, dated May 7, 1756.|
|19||The Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut X (Hartford: Press of the Case, Lockwood, & Brainard Co., 1877), p. 455.|
|20||Conn. Archives, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Series 1, Vol. 4, doc. 265, pp. a b: deposition of Beacher before Justice Jabez Hamlin on Feb. 16, 1756.|
|21||Conn. Archives, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Series 1, Vol. 4, doc. 266.|
|22||The Public Records of Connecticut X, p. 462.|
|23||Conn. Archives, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Series 1, Vol. 5, p. 18.|
|24||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1754–1757 (Engrossed), p. 253 and Ms. Mins. SCJ 1756–1761 (Rough), p. 10.|
|25||See H.R. Pleadings K 900 for the list of persons summoned to serve on the jury.|
|26||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1754–1757 (Engrossed), pp. 255, 261 and Ms. Mins. SCJ 1756–1761 (Rough), pp. 18–19. The New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy of May 3, 1756, gives two of his aliases as John Livingston and John Brown and affords the information that the New York bills which he counterfeited were those emitted in 1737. See also the New-York Mercury of May 3, 1756, p. 3.|
|27||Conn. Archives, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Series 1, Vol. 5, p. 17 and The Public Records of Connecticut X, p. 539.|
|28||The Colonial Laws of New York IV, pp. 92–93.|
|29||Ms. Mins. Dutchess Co. Sess., Liber B, May 20, 1756.|
|30||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1732–1762, Nov. 3, 1756.|
|31||Ibid., Feb. 2, 1757 and May 4, 1757.|
|32||NY Col. Mss. 85, p. 38.|
|33||Ms. Mins. Dutchess Co. Sess., Liber C, May 16, 1758.|
|34||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1732–1762, Aug. 2, 1758.|
|35||Ibid., Feb. 6, 1759.|
|36||Ms. Mins. Council 25, p. 283.|
|37||The Colonial Laws of New York IV, pp. 353–354.|
|38||Ibid. IV, p. 495.|
|39||(Weyman's) New-York Gazette, May 26, 1760.|
|40||H.R. Pleadings K 725.|
|41||The Boston Weekly News-Letter, Dec. 7, 1752, p. 2 and the New-York Mercury, Nov. 27, p. 2 and Dec. 18, 1752, p. 3.|
|42||The Boston News-Letter, March 12, 1761, p. 1.|
|43||Hamilton is the earliest known silversmith in Poughkeepsie. See George Barton Cutten and Amy Pearce Ver Nooy, "The Silversmiths of Poughkeepsie," Year Book of the Dutchess County Historical Society XXX (1945), p. 23.|
|44||J. T. Kempe Letters, J–G.: Dutchess Co.: copy of deposition of Lewis Bennet.|
|45||Ibid.: examination of Charles Hamilton, Silver Smith & Miner.|
|46||Ibid.: examination of Gersham Hubble.|
|47||Ibid.: letter of Noxon of April 26 and of Livingston of April 27.|
|48||Ibid.: letter of Kempe of May 1 to John Chambers.|
|49||Ibid.: letter of Kempe to Charles Everit.|
|50||The New-York Mercury, July 13, 1761, p. 3 and The New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy, July 16, 1761, p. 3.|
An act was passed on December 16, 1737, to prevent the further importation into New York of copper money. If any was brought in for more than the amount of ten shillings, it was subject to seizure, and one third of any thus confiscated was to go to the informer, whether the money was found on ship or on shore. The master of every vessel was required to report any copper money on board. 1 There appears, however, to have been no special interest in the matter until an article appeared in the Independent Reflector of May 24, 1753, in which the writer dealt with the overvaluing of copper pence in the Province of New York and pointed out that it paid to import them.
If it was worth the while to import genuine halfpence, it would naturally be much more profitable to introduce counterfeits into the colony, and this is exactly what happened. A dispatch dated New York, August 6, appeared in the Boston Weekly News-Letter of August 16 and read as follows: "The Publick are desired to take Notice, that Some, who undoudtedly have the Welfare of their Country much at Heart, have lately introduced among us, a large Quantity of bad Half pence; last Week a Gentleman in this City, found no less than 36 s. in a Bag of 6 l. the Means of their Discovery were, their weighing 2 lb. less than they should do. They are cast in Sand, look very rough, fil'd round the Edge, Letters bad, very thin and light, and may as well be discovered by the Sound, as any other Method of Tryal; and 'tis suppos'd are some of those that were so current in London some Time ago, and offer'd to Sale there for 7 d. per lb. They are of different Sorts and Dates."
On September 27, 1753, Mr. Draper, publisher of the same Boston newspaper, printed the following communication which had been addressed to him:
Mr. Draper, For the Warning of all Persons from being cheated by counterfeit Copper Money, I desire you to insert in your
Paper a publick Letter I have just now received from Mr. Agent Bollan. J. Willard. Pall-Mall, July 9, 1753.
"Some Months past great Quantities of counterfeit Half-pence were made at Birmingham, each of them being considerably less in Value than a Farthing, and many of them passed in Payments before the Fraud was
known; but after its Discovery, the Government by seizing diverse large Parcels of them, and taking other proper Measures,
sometime past entirely prevented their further Currency here: Whereupon, as I have lately understood, large Parcels of them
were collected together in order to be sent to
, to be passed off in Payments there, part whereof according to my Intelligence was shipt in some of the last Ships and the
rest are intended to be sent in some of the next. I have endeavour'd to find out what now remain here with a Design to have
them immediately seized, having made the proper Application for that Purpose, but have not yet been able to meet with them:
Whether my Motions, or any thing else will prevent their being shipt off according to the Intent of the Parties who collected
them, I cannot say; but think it my Duty to send you this Intelligence, so that this villanous Design may not take Effect
in the Province."
The false coins, as foreseen, made their way to Boston, where, during the last week in October, 1753, a great number of them were uttered. A search was instituted and several bags of the halfpence were found in the custody of a passenger come from London on the last ship in under the command of Captain Cary. This passenger was arrested and committed to jail, but later admitted to bail. 2 The metal in the halfpence was base, and, in addition, the pieces were so light that six of them would weigh but four of the true ones. 3 In New York, however, really great damage was done. The New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy of December 3, 1753, reported: "The Confusion in this City, occasioned by counterfeit Copper English Halfpence amongst us, is almost inconceivable; – – – for notwithstanding the large Quantities of good Pence we have now long had, there is now hardly any Sum offered, but there are counterfeit Ones intermixed; and to such a Degree of Suspicion, is the common People raised, that many good Pence, which have passed current perhaps for about 20 Years past are now refused. – – – What Punishment must be owing to those Pests of Society, who have thus artfully and villanously introduced those base Half-pence amongst us, by which the Fair-Traders as well as the Poor, are thus injured!" 4
Toward the close of November legislation was considered as a partial remedy for the situation, 5 and the result was an act, passed on December 12, 1753, to prevent the importation or passing of counterfeits of British halfpence or farthings. 6 By this each person importing the coins or causing them to be imported was subject to a fine of £100; the passers of such money were to pay a forfeit of ten times the value, on the oath of an informer, while the justice of the peace had full power if the amount involved no more than £6. Any person to whom these counterfeits were offered was to seize them and take them to a magistrate. Passers were liable to make good the sum if the recipient delivered the money to a magistrate within a week. In disputes over these false pieces, if the sum was under 40/, their goodness could be determined by a justice. In the case of larger amounts, the justice on request was required to take two freeholders to assist him in reaching a decision. Each year the court of sessions was to have the false halfpence and farthings melted down, sell the metal, and give the proceeds to the overseers of the poor for the use of the needy. Anyone knowingly retaining these counterfeits in his custody for ten days was to be treated as if he were an importer of them. Finally, a search warrant was to be issued if information on oath was given to a magistrate.
To cope with the chaotic condition brought about by the circulation of the false copper coins, some seventy-two merchants
and shopkeepers of New York City drew up and signed on December 18, 1753, a manifesto. They pointed out that the halfpence were short in weight and alloyed.
Money, they remarked, for which a sinking fund was not provided, had to be considered in the light of its intrinsic value.
In regard to Pennies, how shall we sink, or where ship them? Certainly no where, while they pass at such an unreasonable Rate,
higher than in any His Majesty's Dominions; and this unhappy Colony must, in the End, be the general Sink of all that worthless
Money, and when the Remedy is found absolutely necessary (and that such a Time must come, needs no Argument to prove it) how
wretched and confused shall we be to reflect, that tho' we saw the Evil growing every Day more and more burthensome, we wanted
Steadiness to administer a Remedy, 'till the Disease became incurable, without shocking the whole Frame. At Home, while they
have Copper in the Kingdom, they cannot follow a better Business than supply us in the Manner above stated; nor can all the
Monies this Colony has, put together, strike at its Quiet and Interest more effectually.
The above Reasoning, clearly shews the Necessity there is, for every true Lover of his Country, to endeavour as much as in
him lays, the reducing Pennies to Fourteen for a Shilling.
We the Subscribers, being sensible that the Importation of British Copper Half-Pence, is prejudicial to the Interest of this Colony, and a great Means of depreciating our Currency, legally
established, Do, for the Prevention thereof, on our Words of Honour, declare, That we will not, after this Day, receive Copper
Half-Pence, otherwise than Fourteen for a Shilling, and that we will pay them away at the same Rate; provided Fifty of the
principal Merchants of this City, sign this Paper, In that Case we hereby give Leave to the Printers in this City, in their
next Week's News-Papers, to make this our Resolution publick.
Within a short time, it was reported, other dealers in addition to the seventy-two signers, decided to follow the same procedure, especially the majority of the Coenties Club. 8
The Pennsylvania Gazette of January 22, 1754, printed the following dispatch of January 14 from New York: "We are credibly informed, That their Worships the Mayor and Aldermen of this City, in granting Licences for the Excise, last Week, would not take Pence in any other Manner than Fourteen to the Shilling, and recommended it to there-spective Retailers, to receive and pay them out in no other ways; which, no doubt, will give the greatest Sanction to so reasonable a Scheme, calculated for the real Benefit of every Individual in this Province. In short, the Generality of the Inhabitants of this City, are now so truly sensible, that the lowering of the Pence to fourteen to the Shilling, will be attended with salutary Effect, that very few, if any, will now take them any other Way."
The situation, however, led to a riot in New York City and three persons were arrested, one man for beating a drum, and Wendal Ham and Mathias Sleght, who, it was alleged, encouraged
the mob to riot by throwing halfpence among them.
Further details about the confusion in the city were given in an extract from a letter sent to Philadelphia from New York City dated December 25, 1753, and printed in the
Boston Weekly News-Letter of January 24, 1754. It read:
The Papers shew you what have been done about the Penn(ies) but it is yet uncertain whether they will go at Twelve or Fourteen
to a Shilling. They not only refuse the Taking of the Pennies lately counterfeited, but all that have not a plain Head and
Tail of King William, which you know are very many; all those of the same King, which look any Thing whitish. I give you this
Caution in Time, that the Rubbish be not palm'd upon the Pennsylvanians.
Pennies of bad Copper are easily detected, by making them red hot, and striking them with a Hammer, which will make them fly
to Pieces; while good Copper will bear forging in a red hot State, and in a lower Degree of Heat, like Iron.
Last Night was seized on board the Prince of Wales, just arrived from London, a great Quantity of Copper Counterfeits; and, 'tis said, that about Three Hundred Pounds Worth of them (had they been worth
any Thing) were thrown overboard, to prevent Seizure.
In Philadelphia, however, according to a letter of January 16, 1754, there was not the least talk of taking the pence at twelve to a shilling. The people would rather lower them to eighteen for a shilling, and, in case of a shortage of change, print a number of penny tickets. 10
The Court of Quarter Sessions in New York prepared to handle counterfeit copper coins which should be stopped. Mr. William Taylor, a brass founder, on February 6, 1754, was sworn in open court to deliver back the full produce of whatever copper halfpence should be handed over to him by the magistrates to be melted down. 11 On August 7 the mayor delivered into this court 128 pounds weight of them and Alderman Filkin produced 613 pounds weight of the counterfeits, all of which were turned over to William Taylor to be melted down. 12 Informers contributed to such successful seizures, as is shown by the fact that the Common Council of New York City arranged to have £10/9 paid to the Surveyor of Customs, George Harrison, "for the Like sum by him advanced and paid to severall persons as Informers against severall parcells of Counterfeit half pence." 13
The activities of Mr. Harrison were recorded in the New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy of March 25, 1754, which stated that on the preceding Tuesday morning a large quantity of counterfeit British half pence was seized by the surveyor and searcher of his Majesty's Customs and lodged with the mayor. The same number of this newspaper also printed the following item signed by Mr. Harrison: "Whereas on the 18th of March, Inst. Information was given to G. Harrison, Surveror and Searcher of his Majesty's Customs, of a large Quantity of counterfeit Half Pence being lodged in a certain House in this City, which were accordingly seized, and the Informer fully satisfied. Now these are to give publick Notice, that whoever will be pleased to inform and aid the said G. Harrison, where any such Counterfeits may be found, that upon Conviction they shall be intitled to the whole Penalty given by the Act, to wit, One Hundred Pounds, upon the Importer, or such as retain them, or in whose Custody they are found ten Days after the Publication of the Act, with Costs, without being put to the Trouble of prosecuting, or having their Names discovered."
Two weeks later the same newspaper of April 8, 1754, thus reported a further haul: "A large Quantity of Counterfeit British Half Pence, supposed to be near One Hundred and Fifty Pounds, was by Mr. G. Harrison, Surveyor and Searcher of his Majesty's Customs for the Port of New-York on Tuesday morning last seized in a Store in this City, and the Whole lodg'd in the Hands of Alderman Filkin's. Such Assiduity as this, in making two considerable Seizures within a Fortnight's Time, will, we trust, be an effectual Step towards preventing the Importation of counterfeit Copper Halfpence, into this Province, so prejudicial to the Country in general, and the fair Trader in particular; and will, undoubtedly, reflect no less Honour on one so zealous for the good of the Common Weal, than Dishonour on the Person or Persons who may at Times import them, contrary to the express Words of the Act of Assembly of this Province, lately made and provided in that Behalf."
The confidence of the public in the halfpence was, quite naturally, undermined, so that the same paper on April 24, 1754,
printed this comment:
The Confusion among the Inhabitants of this Place, occasioned by the Counterfeit Half-pence, seems to increase daily; and
the Infatuation of Mistrust, if it may be so termed, is so unaccountable, that the King William Half-pence, are now almost
universally refused as counterfeits, altho' it is certain, that there are fewer of that sort bad, than of others; and that
they have been passing amongst us without Suspicion these many Years: – – – At the lowering of Half-pence it was a popular
Cry, that the Merchants did it, with a Design to ship them away, and now we are taking
the only possible Measure to oblige them to do it, by refusing almost all of the King William Half-pence, even against the
Convictions of our own Sense and Reason, on Pretence of their being counterfeits; whilst we know, they are only worn with
Use, or scratch'd a little by the Boys playing chuck-farthing with them in the Sand. Where or how this unreasonable Practice
will end, God knows; but methinks, every Individual of us, should reflect seriously on the ills we are bringing on ourselves,
and which more or less every one must daily feel (unless they are those Incendiaries that imported the bad Ones) and for our
own sakes, cause the Matter to be speedily determined; for as we have a greater Number of those Half-pence than others amongst
us; we should either continue the Currency of all that are not counterfeits, or else absolutely refuse them all at once; which
last will be found to be a heavier Tax than the lowering them; besides the depriving the Place of so much of its running Cash;
and yet to continue under the present Infatuation is an Evil greater than either.
Apparently the author of the above need not have been so alarmed, for the panic seems to have subsided soon after this. The New-York Mercury of May 16, 1754, informed its readers that the previous week George Harrison had made another seizure of between £30 and £40 of counterfeit British halfpence. With that notice the matter disappeared from the public press, and it may be presumed that the legislation that had been enacted, the energetic searches and seizures made by Mr. Harrison, and the new rating of the coins largely cured the evil.
|1||The Colonial Laws of New York II, pp. 962–963.|
|2||The Boston Weekly News-Letter, Nov. 2, 1753, p. 2.|
|3||The New-York Mercury, Nov. 5, 1753, p. 2 and the New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy, Nov. 5, 1753, p. 4.|
|4||The same item was printed in the Boston Weekly News-Letter, Dec. 27, 1753.|
|5||Journal of the Legislative Council of the Colony of New York , pp. 1132, 1136, 1139-1140.|
|6||The Colonial Laws of New York III, pp. 948–951; cf. Goebel and Naughton, op cit., p. 133.|
|7||The New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy, Dec. 24, 1753, p. 2.|
|8||Ibid., Dec. 31, 1753, p. 2.|
|9||Ms. Mins. Council 23, pp. 133–134.|
|10||Boston Weekly News-Letter, Jan. 31, 1754, p. 1.|
|11||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1732–1762, Feb. 6, 1754.|
|12||Ibid., Aug. 7, 1754.|
|13||Minutes of the Common Council of the City of New York VI, p. 166, March 20, 1759.|
In June, 1761, New York City was plagued with a flood of altered New Jersay and New York bills. The first warning of their appearance was sounded by the following item in [Weyman's] New-York Gazette of June 8: "The Public is desired to be cautious how they receive New-Jersey SIX POUND Bills, as there are Counterfeits of that Denomination now in this City. – – They are dated April 10, 1759, and are made out of Six Shilling Bills of the same Date. – – The Words Six Pounds, are ill done with common printing Types, on the Erasure of the Words Six Shillings; and the Word Ounces is in larger Letters than those the Bills are printed with. But they are easily discovered, as the true Ones are printed on Copper Plate, and the others on common printing Types." 1
The New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy of June II reprinted the above account verbatim and then added: "Cautions of this kind, whenever necessary, are certainly right and as it ought to be every Ones Care to bring the Offenders to Punishment, one would imagine a Man could hardly take such a large Bill without knowing from whom he had it, or at least, if acquainted with those Bills, might easily, as the Writer says, have discovered it; – – – Indeed, the true Six Pound Bill, being so much unlike any other Bill of Credit, that it must be an Affront upon Common Sense for any Person to offer to pass a Bill counterfeited in the above Manner."
On June 22 [Weyman's] New-York Gazette published another caution: "The Public are desired to be cautious how they receive New-York Ten Pound Bills, as there are Counterfeits of that Denomination now in this City. – – They are dated the second of April 1759, and made out of Two Pound Bills of the same Date. – – They may be noticed by the Erasure of the Word Two, both in the front and left Escutcheons, and the Word Ten nicely stamped in with printing Types, vastly plainer than in those of the true Bills. – – The Emblem of the Two Pound Weight in the Middle of the Forty Shillings Bills, are likewise almost erased, and two Letters, thus (V V) struck in their Stead, in Imitation of those of the true Bills." The New-York Mercury which appeared the same day also warned of the counterfeit ten pound bills, which, it stated, were dated April 21, 1760. It noted that the E and N on every part of the bill were pasted on and appeared smaller than the T. "The V on each of the Weights," it concluded, "are pasted on also, as is the X at the Left Corner, and all the Figures throughout the Bill." Finally the New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy of June 25 repeated the description given in the New-York Mercury but gave the date of the bill as April 2, 1759, and suggested that the bill be held to the light in order to discover the letters or figures pasted on.
This same number of the newspaper, which appeared on Thursday, stated that on the afternoon of Tuesday three men, one of whom had long been an inhabitant of New York City, were apprehended and committed to jail on suspicion of altering New York two pound bills to ten pound bills. The account continued: "Soon after their Commitment, one of them made a pretty ample Confession of the Fact, and is the same Person in whose Custody the counterfeit Six Pound Jersey Bills mentioned in this Paper two Weeks ago, were found... It is said, there are some others concern'd, who are absent in order to distribute some of these Bills, but that proper Measures are taken for securing them, and there is no honest Man but what must sincerely wish they may all meet with a Reward suitable to their Demerits."
On the same day that the suspected counterfeiters were arrested, June 23, the magistrates proceeded to examine the prisoners.
One examination read thus:
City of New York
Archilaus Lewis of the said City Inholder being duly Examined and on his Examination saith that about Six Weeks ago, one John
Higgins came to his the Examinants House, and after being there a few days, Higgins asked him If he could Change Some Bills
for him, that
he the Examinant replied no upon which the said Higgins [said] thats not the Case I can make money, that the Examinant said
he would have no thing to do with any thing of that kind but at Length the said Higgins overpersuaded him to Receive some
Counterfeit Bills of this province of Ten pounds, in order to Change for Good ones the one half of all which he Cou'd exchange
he should have as a Reward for his trouble, that the Ten pound Bill he paid to the Mayor, was one of the Bills he Rec'd of
the said John Higgins that at the time of paying away the said Bill he knew it to be a false & Counterfeit one, that he also
paid one other Ten pound Bill to one Dillison, that the Ten pound Bill now shown to him the Examinant and which was found
in his Custody he Recd. of the said Higgins in order to pass upon the Terms aforesaid, that the forty Shilling Bill... shown to him the Examinant
and Likewise... Twelve shilling Bill he also Recd. of the said Higgins; and the Examinant further saith that during Higgins's stay at his House, one New Berry
Dawson he the Examinant verily believes was Concerned with the said Higgins in altering and Issueing the said Bills of Credit,
came into his the Examinants House, and Stopt in a private Room, & upon his Comeing in he even heard the said Higgins ask
the said Dawson, what Luck he had, to which the said Dawson Replied Very good Luck, and at the same Clapt his hand to his
pocket and Gingled some silver that all the said Counterfeit Bills which Could be passed both by himself and the said Higgins,
he was to have the one half thereof but that the Ten pound Bill which the said Higgins passed to one Mr. Rusco he never accounted to him the Examinant for any part thereof, as he ought to have done by the first agreement, that
he also Received two false Jersey Bills of Six pounds from the said Higgins which he pass'd to Mr. Henry Cruger, that before which, the said Higgins told him the Examinant he had made them of Six Shilling Bills, that he
Gave the said Higgins Two forty Shillings Bills of this Currency to alter into Ten pound Bills and five or Six Jersey Bills
of Six Shillings each to alter for him in Six pound Bills, that two of the said Six Shillings Bills so by him Given as afd. to the said Higgins and which was turn'd into Six pound Bills, he pd. to the said Mr. Henry Cruger, that he the Examinant also passed in his House three false Jersey Bills, of twelve Shillings each, which were
altered & made from three shilling Jersey Bills, by the said Higgins and further saith not."
The above examination was taken before John Cruger, J. Livingston, Phil. Livingston, John Bogert, Jr., and Peter Mesier.
Another of the men apprehended on June 23, Ichabod Higgins, at once gave an affidavit
against Archilaus Lewis, Greenbury Dawson, John Higgins, and Richard Cooly. It read:
City of New York I Ichobad Higgins of the said City Mariner being Duely sworn, did Declare, that about five weeks ago whilst he Lay sick at
Archilaus Lewis's, a Tavernkeeper in this City, one John Higgins who had been there some time before he the Deponent came
there, told him the Deponent, that he had altered Severall Jersey Shilling Bills into twelve Shilling Bills, Eighteen Penny.
Bills into Three pound Bills, three Shilling Bills also into three pound Bills, six shilling Bills into Six pound Bills, and
many forty shilling Bills of New York Currency into Ten pound Bills, that the said John Higgins also informed him the Deponent that he had Delivered to the said
Archilaus Lewis Seventy five or Eighty five pounds of these false Bills in order to Change for good ones one half of which
the said Lewis was to have for his Trouble deducting the originall Sum of the Good Bills which the said Lewis delivered to
the said Higgins and the other half was to be Returned to him, that the said John Higgins also told him the Deponent, that
he had passed Severall false Bills of his own make as well in Albany as in this City, that he the Deponent has Severall times seen the said John Higgins alter Severall good Bills so as to make
them of greater Value than they were before, that one Greenberry Dawson told him the Deponent, that he came from Maryland to this City, with the said John Higgins – – that he the Deponent has seen the said Dawson alter Severall forty shilling
Bills of New York Currency into Ten pound Bills, and pay away Severall of them for Good ones, that the said Deponent saw the said Greenberry
Dawson Deliver to one Richard Cooly two false Ten pound Bills in order to Change for him, part of which the said Cooly was
to have for his Trouble; that the said Dawson told the said Cooly, that the said Ten pound Bills were altered and made by
him from forty shilling Bills, and that he the Deponent, saw the said Cooly pass one of these false Bills in a House near
the white Hall Kip that he the Deponent Saw the said Dawson pay to one Isaac Tellar who lives in New
highlands in Dutches County one of these false Ten pound Bills in part of a mare he had bought of him and further saith not.
Further developments in the case were given in the following item in [Weyman's]
New-York Gazette of June 29, 1761:
Since the Caution given in this Gazette of the 8th Instant, about the New-Jersey SIX POUND Bills, dated April 10, 1759; and That in our last Monday's, about Ten Pound Bills passing amongst us. there have been discovered false Jersey Bills of other Denominations, bearing different Dates,
viz. Twelve Shilling Bills made out of One Shilling ditto, dated April 12, 1760, Three Pound Bills, made out of Three Shilling ditto, dated June 14, 1757; and it is thought there are Numbers of the like dispersed abroad.
false Ten Pound Bills, also appear to be of various Dates; and are all altered after the same Manner as described in our last, by having
the proper Words, Figures and Devices rased out, and others pasted on in Lieu thereof: The same has been done on both Sides, with regard to the Jersey Bills.
Some of the
Bills, that are rendered false, are printed on thin, others on thick Paper: – – To discover those of the First, hold it against
the Light, when the Falsehood will appear very perceptible: To discover those of the latter, bend the Bill back direct across
the word TEN, and the Letters will instantly scale off more or less at Top and Bottom; as will also all the other Alterations.
– – The like is to be observed with the Jersey Bills. - -
It appears that there has been five or six Men concerned in this very base and villainous Affair; – – Three of whom were committed
on Tuesday last to Goal, on Suspicion of altering and uttering the Bills, viz. Achelles Lewis (Tavern-keeper, near the White-hall,)
who made a very large Confession of the Fact soon after he was detected in uttering them, Ichabud Higgins, and Richard Cooly.
– – On the Confession of Lewis, one John Higgins, brother to Ichabud, appeared to be concerned, and that he was gone towards
Philadelphia: – – Warrants being immediately issued, he was apprehended on Wednesday last, on his return to New-York, between Bordentown and Amboy Ferry; carried to Amboy Goal, fetter'd there for a Night, and was brought handcuff'd last Friday to this City, is now lodged separate
from his Accomplices in the New Goal, and there is no doubt made but that they will meet with the Reward due to their Demerits.
It is said that John Higgins, when taken, had a large Sum of Half Johannes's about him, which he had gathered by changing
the false Money throught the Jerseys and Pennsylvania.
The New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy of July 2, 1761,informed its readers that John Higgins had been apprehended at Cranbury. It also noted that New Jersey bills had been altered from three shillings to three pounds and from one shilling into twelve shillings. It continued: "It is probable that all those corrupt Streams have flowed from one and the same poisonous Fountain. – – – – Now, if the Publick will but take Notice of what Bills they receive of the Jersey Money, they may observe that every Bill mentions the Ounces, Penny-weights and Grains of Silver they were made current for, exclusive of the Nomination of the Bill, so that unless the whole Bill be so defaced that it cannot be read, it may be easily discovered; when any Bill is so sullied, either designedly or accidentally, that it cannot be read, it is high Time it was return'd into the Treasury, where there is always other Money ready to exchange it."
As a salutary warning to any who might consider altering the bills [Weyman's] New-York Gazette of July 6, 1761, printed on pages two and three the text of the act of December 16, 1737, which fixed the penalty of death without benefit of clergy for those convicted of altering or counterfeiting any of the bills of credit of New York.
Before the prisoners came to trial, one of them broke jail. The New-York Mercury of August 3 reported: "Tuesday Night last Ichabud Higgins, committed on Suspicion of counterfeiting the Bills of Credit of this Colony, in Company with a Sailor and a Soldier, crept up the Chimney of the Room in which they were confined, let themselves down by the Help of their Bed Cloaths into the Goal Yard, and got clear off."
On July 31, 1761, the grand jury preferred the following indictments in the Supreme Court of Judicature in New York City: against John Higgins for altering and passing bills of credit of New York; against Newberry Dawson for the same; against Archilaus Lewis for passing an altered bill of New York; against Richard Cooley, of New York, Peruke Maker, for having on June 23, 1761, in the Dock Ward passed a £2 New York bill altered to £10, and the witnesses against him were given as Ichabod Higgins, Elizabeth Bellknap and Daniel Sullivan. 5 During the January, 1762, term of the Supreme Court John Higgins was tried, convicted, and sentenced to be executed on Friday, February, 12, but because of the shortness of the term the cases of Lewis and Cooley were turned over until the April assize. 6 On the appointed day Higgins, alias Blair, was hanged at Fresh-Water. He was born at Alexandria, Virginia, of reputable parents, and was about thirty years of age at the time of his execution. He died very penitently, making no other speech at the gallows than the declaration that he was innocent of what was sworn against him but owning that he had deserved death for passing counterfeit bills of New York and for formerly having counterfeited those of Philadelphia. 7
It would seem that Dawson was not taken, as his case was not to come up at the April term. The fate of Lewis and Cooley is not known, as neither the newspapers nor court records yield any further evidence. There does exist, however, a document in which the attorney general marshalled the evidence to be presented by each witness against Richard Cooley "on Tryal 27th April 1762." The evidences for the King were Daniel Sullivan, Elizabeth Bellknap, Robert Bren, Joseph Whitehead, William Depyster, Jacobus Rosevelt, Jne Markel, Michael Butler, Lewis Hamilton and Mary Van Kueren. The notes, because of their brevity and disjointed nature, are not absolutely clear, but the story they tell is essentially as follows. Cooley and a certain Chase came to the house of Daniel Sullivan, who changed a bill for them, giving them twenty-five dollars for it. Later Sullivan told one Lewis Hamilton of a ten pound bill he had received of a Captain Skinner but Hamilton believed it had really been passed by Chase. Hamilton evidently was suspicious of Cooley and told Sullivan he was sorry for Cooley, since a man had paid Cooley for a wig with a bad bill. Sullivan then went to the City Hall, taxed Cooley with passing the bill, and Cooley begged him to burn the bill, promising to repay him a dollar at a time by making wigs for Sullivan's lodgers. He refused, however, to tell who had given him, Cooley, the bill.
Cooley went to the shop of Elizabeth Bellknap and bought some china, for which he offered a ten pound bill. Mrs. Bellknap, as she could not change it, sent it to a neighbor, Mr. Markel, for that purpose. Mr. Markel said that his negro wench brought him the bill but, as he deemed it false, he sent it to the mayor.
Again, Cooley gave a servant a ten pound bill and asked him to take it to Mrs. Mary Van Kueren, from whom he was to purchase some linens. Mrs. Van Kueren sent her wench with the bill to be changed to Jacobus Rosevelt and William Depyster, both of whom refused it as false. She also sent it to a Mr. Boswell, who returned it with the message that it was counterfeit. She then went in person to Robert Bren and desired him to come to her house, as a man was buying linens there and had a false bill of ten pounds denomination. Cooley was next summoned, and, when he came, admitted that he had given the bill to Mr. Whitehead's servant. Cooley was then taken to Alderman Benson and, it seems, placed under arrest.
The evidence which Michael Butler, apparently an innkeeper, gave was to the effect that in March, 1761, he saw Cooley, Higgins and Dawson upstairs in a room with two soldiers. He heard one of the soldiers say he would not do it, while the other insisted he should. Later he noticed that Higgins, Cooley and Dawson went privately up to his garret, and, suspecting that they were about making false bills, he followed them upstairs but met them already coming down. 8 If Lewis and Cooley were brought to trial, it would seem that there was evidence enough to convict them. It is, however, strange that no ac- count of their trial or punishment was given in the minutes of the Supreme Court or in the press.
The hanging of Higgins did not put an end, even for a short space of time, to counterfeiting and passing. On February 3, 1762, the mayor produced in Quarter Sessions in New York City a five shillings bill altered to five pounds and another of five shillings altered to ten shillings, with the numbers defaced on both bills. He also brought in a counterfeit bill of £3, no. 527, and a false one of £2, no. 13652. 9
The New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy of February 4, 1762, printed a warning that counterfeit dollars of the cobb kind, made of bell metal and silvered over, had appeared in New York City and could not easily be distinguished from the genuine. [Weyman's] New-York Gazette of February 8 repeated the caution about the false dollars and added that counterfeit four shillings, two shillings, and one shilling milled pieces were in circulation in the city. They were of very base metal, had all the appearance of the true ones, but would break at once if one attempted to bend them. The same newspaper on November 29, 1762, published the following item: "The PUBLICK is desired to beware of Counterfeit New-Jersey Thirty Shilling Bills. – – They may be discovered at first Sight, the whole Bill being extremely ill cut, the Letters in no Sort of Proportion, and stand very irregular; whereas the true Bills are neatly done in the common Printing Manner."
One counterfeiter and passer of the cobb type of dollars was apparently James Campbell of Orange Town, yeoman, who on February 3, 1763, agreed with one John Peterse Smith to lodge with him. On April 26 Campbell was indicted by a grand jury for having, on May 1, 1762, counterfeited and passed several Spanish milled dollars and other Spanish silver money, making them of pewter and other base metal. The undersheriff, Barent Martling, finally succeeded in capturing Campbell and called on Robert Campbell, the brother of James, Archibald Livingston and Alexander Coleman to assist in securing and carrying James to prison. They refused, a scuffle ensued, but no rescue was, it seems, effected, 10 though evidence is lacking as to the outcome of the case.
At a meeting of Quarter Sessions at New York City on June 1, 1763, the mayor produced five counterfeit bills of £10 each altered from 40/ bills, nos. 10907, 4959, 4329, 522 (issued in the year 1760) and 10516 (issued in 1755). 11 The only recorded arrest of a suspected counterfeiter in this year was for passing false coin and the individual was Abraham Arie Ackerman, who sometime in the spring of the year was indicted by a grand jury of Orange County for knowingly passing a piece of base metal in the likeness of a good Spanish milled dollar. He was bound over to appear in the Supreme Court of Judicature, where his appearance was recorded on July 26. The following day the court ordered his appearance to be respited to the first day of the next term. On July 30, however, it was ordered that the matter be notified to the judges of the Supreme Court of New Jersey, the province where the offence was committed, and it was requested that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New York signify the same and transmit a copy of the indictment. 12 It seems not unlikely that Ackerman and James Campbell had been associated in counterfeiting or passing false dollars, especially as Ackerman was a co-defendant with Archibald Livingston, John Peterse Smith, and Campbell's brother, Robert. 13 Incidentally, almost a decade later Ackerman and his wife Lentice are described as "in a poor and destitute Condition, very infirm and unable to get their living." 14
A dispatch from New York, dated May 28, which appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette of May 31, 1764, warned that an abundance of bad pence was to be found in circulation in New York City, and on July 9, 1764, both the New-York Mercury and [Weyman's] New-York Gazette printed this caution: "The Publick are desired to be cautious in receiving Twenty Shilling Bills of this Province, as one was detected last Week in this City, dated the 10th of December 1737, Counterfeit, being done from a Copper Plate, the whole badly executed." The latter newspaper on August 6 thus warned of a new false bill in circulation: "The counterfeit TWELVE SHILLING Jersey Bills, that made their Appearance in 1761, have again broke out amongst us. – – It requires no great Description to detect the Villany; – – the Public need only take Notice of the Words of the Denomination of the Bill, and they will easily find the Deception in a thin Bit of Paper being pasted on the original Word of THREE."
In 1765 numbers of false forty shilling New York bills were circulating. On February 6, 1765, the Mayor of New York delivered into Quarter Sessions two counterfeits, one of a £3 bill with its number defaced and the other one of 40/, no. 5677. At the meeting of this court on August 8 the mayor produced two counterfeits of 40/ each, nos. 1182 and 1202, while at the meeting of this court on November 7 the recorder brought in three false bills of 40/ each, nos. 1212, 1047, and 6755. 15 The reason for the appearance of these bills was the fact that a gang was hard at work in passing them. One member of the group was taken, and the New-York Mercury of November 18 printed the following notice: "On Friday last, Ashur Baton, was, by Order of the Justices of Monmouth County Court, in New-Jersey, pilloried for uttering New-York counterfeit Bills, knowing them to be such; – – – 'Tis affirmed he had upwards of £1400 with him; – – – and his Accomplices were about the Country, distributing a greater Quantity of false Bills, even below Philadelphia. The Fellow was most terribly bruised with Eggs, Stones, Dirt, &c. It is certain these Bills are now tendering in New-York; they are printed on Copper Plate, most vilainously done, and signed Livingston, Bogart, and Van Horne. – – – Be ye therefore careful." And to this the New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy of November 21 added its warning that counterfeit forty shilling New-York bills were "passing about."
|1||New-York Mercury, June 15, 1761, p. 1, reprinted this notice from [Weyman's] New-York Gazette.|
|2||H.R. Pleadings K 726.|
|3||H.R. Pleadings K 677. The document was sworn to before John Cruger, S. Johnson John Bogert, Jr., and Peter Mesier.|
|4||Harrold E. Gillingham, op. cit., pp. 30–31, states that John Higgins had been making frequent trips to Philadelphia.|
|5||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1756–1761 (Rough), p. 246 and H.R. Pleadings K 613.|
|6||[Weyman's] New-York Gazette, Jan. 25, 1762, p. 2, The New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy, Jan. 28, 1762, p. 3 and The New-York Mercury, Feb. 1, 1762, p. 3.|
|7||The New-York Mercury, Feb. 22, 1762, p. 3; [Weyman's] New-York Gazette, Feb. 22, 1762, p. 3; The New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy, Feb. 25, 1762, p. 3.|
|8||H.R. Pleadings K 693.|
|9||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1732–1762, Feb. 3, 1762.|
|10||H.R. Pleadings K 774, K 1002, K 1061; H.R. Parch. 130 K 8 and 160 G 10; Goebel and Naughton, op. cit., p. 182.|
|11||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1760–1772, June 1, 1763.|
|12||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1762–1764 (Engrossed), pp. 213, 217, 224; Goebel and Naughton, op. cit., p. 297.|
|13||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1762–1764 (Engrossed), pp. 268 and 343.|
|14||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1772–1790, pp. 29–30.|
|15||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1760–1772, Feb. 6. Aug. 8 and Nov. 7, 1765.|
On February 3, 1766, both the New-York Mercury and [Weyman's] New-York Gazette cautioned the public to beware of false New Jersey £3 bills dated April 23, 1761 and 30/ bills dated April 8, 1762, April 16, 1764. The same two newspapers on February 17 carried, under a Philadelphia dateline of February 13, the following description of the counterfeit New Jersey bills: "There are three Emissions of them, two of Thirty Shillings, dated in 1762, and 1764; the first are badly done, and may be discovered from the whole Face of the Bill, the printing Letters running into the Escutcheon; but those of 1764 are so well done, that they are very difficult to be discovered; the only sure Mark is, that on the Back, at the Stem of the Sage Leaf, in the true Bills, is 30 s. but the false bills have only the s. 30 is left out. – – The Counterfeit Three Pound Bills are dated 1761, and not so well printed as the true Ones; the Impression is deeper in the Paper, and in the Word PLATE the P is right over the A of April, in the false Bills, which is not so in the true Ones. – – It is supposed these Counterfeit Bills came to New-York in one of the last Vessels from England, and that a large sum is already passed there." To this account, identical in both papers, the New-York Mercury added: "One of the Accomplices, we hear, is in New-York Goal, and another of them, one Michael Smith, is said to be gone into New-Jersey, with a large Sum of false Money, to purchase Cattle. – – – – – The above Description is the best we can give at present, from Information we have received, not having seen any of the Counterfeit Bills." 1
A second Philadelphia dispatch, dated February 20, appeared in both [Weyman's]
New-York Gazette and the
New-York Mercury of February 24, and read:
In our last we cautioned the Public to beware of counterfeit New-Jersey Three Pound Bills, dated in 1761; and Thirty Shilling Bills, dated 1762 and 1764; since which we have seen the following
Counterfeits of that Money, viz. Three Pound Bills, two different Sorts of Twelve Shilling Bills, and a Six Shilling Bill.
They are all badly done on Copperplate, the Letters being very irregular, and standing much out of the Line; whereas the true
Bills are neatly and regularly done, in the common printing Manner. In the first Line of the Face of the Counterfeit Three
Pound Bills, the O in POUNDS is shorter and thicker than the other Letters in that Word; and in the third Line the last E
in JERSEY is not like a Printing E, but is made in the Manner commonly used in Writing. — The Twelve Shilling Bills are both
dated April 12, 1760. one Sort may be discovered by having a black Line about the Flowers which are around the T, in the Word
THIS; also in the Arms, the lower Part of the Unicorn's Body appears naked, and the Words in the Garter, and of the Motto,
are plainer than in the True Bills; and at the Back instead of the Printer's Name, Parker, it is made Parke. The other Sort
is printed on Writing Paper; in the third Line, after the Word Ounce, instead of  Fifteen, is made  Fifteen. – – The Six Shilling Bills are dated December 31, 1763; in the Escutcheon, in the Word JERSEY, the J is made Bottom
upwards; in the third Line, the S in JERSEY is smaller than the other Letters of that Word; and in the next Line, after Grains,
is of which should be of — The above Counterfeits are all printed on three Folds of Paper, pasted together (except the last
of the Twelve Shilling Bills) but the true Bills are only on two Folds. In short, they are all so ill executed, that we think,
after this Notice, no Body can be imposed on by them. The Three Pound Bills are dated April 8, 1762.
There have likewise appeared some New-Jersey Three Shilling Bills altered to Twelve, by having the Word Twelve pasted over the Place where Three should be, which may
be discovered by its looking fresher than the other Part of the Bill.
The person responsible for the appearance of these false New Jersey bills was one "Captain" John Davis. The New-York Mercury of March 24, 1766, announced: "A certain Gentleman, who goes by the Name of John Davis, alias Joseph Daniels, and lately brought into this Government a large Quantity of New-Jersey Bills of Credit, printed in England, was, a few Days ago, apprehended in Orange County, and committed to Tappan Goal; and upon searching it was found he had about him no less than £3500 of that Cash, all signed by himself, but he declared he never had passed any of it." He was removed from Orange County jail and on April 8th lodged in the City Hall of New York. 2 The grand jury on April 22 preferred two indictments against John Davis, late of the City of New York, laborer: one was for deceit in passing counterfeit New Jersey bills and the other for deceit in procuring false Jersey bills of credit to be passed. It was in the latter specifically charged that Davis on January 23, 1766, in the West Ward of New York City delivered to Michael Smith three counterfeit £3 bills of New Jersey and four 30 shilling bills of the same province and to William Gilliland three 30 shilling Jersey bills with the intent that these men pass the false bills in question. It was also charged that on that day Smith passed off New Jersey counterfeits as follows: one of £3 to John Divan, one of £3 and one of 30/ to Moses Sherwood, one of 30/ to Theophilus Hardenbrook, one of £3 to John Plantaine, one of 30/ to Arnout Cannon, and one of 30/ to John Cox. The jurors also presented that Gilliland passed three false bills, one of 30/ to Dennis McCreedy, one of 30/ to William Newman, and one of 30/ to John O'Bryan. The witnesses for the King included Smith, Gilliland, the persons to whom they passed the bills, and also James Leary, John Mott, Joseph Towers, Catharine Johnson, Susannah Burrows, Thomas Welch, William Chease and Mary Chease. 3
The following day in the Supreme Court Davis pleaded not guilty. He was tried on April 24, when, together with some of those mentioned above, John De Noyelles and Mary Clarke gave evidence against him. The jury convicted him on both indictments, and on July 31 the court sentenced him to stand on August 6 in the pillory for one hour between the hours of ten and twelve in the forenoon. Then he was to be committed to the custody of the Sheriff of New York until the first Thursday in the October term and from then until bail should be given in the amount of £500 by himself and in the amount of £250 each by two sureties for his good behavior for one year from the date of such recognizance. 4 On November 1, 1766, Davis entered into the prescribed recognizance, as did his two sureties, Dennis Hicks of Peeks Kill, Westchester County, ship carpenter, and Thomas Martin of New York City, skinner. 5
Davis' agents, Michael Smith and William Gilliland, were indicted, Smith on April 22 for deceit in passing counterfeit New Jersey bills. Two days later Smith entered into a recognizance in the amount of £100, with two sureties, Moses Sherwood of New York City, vintner, and John Young, of New York City, vintner, each in the amount of £50, for Smith's appearance before the Supreme Court in July. On August 1, however, when three proclamations were made and no one appeared to prosecute, the court ordered that he be discharged, paying his fees. 6
The Supreme Court on August 26 ordered the attorney general to file an information against Gilliland, who was to stand committed until he should provide bail on the same terms as Smith to appear at the July term. The information "for passing Jersey Counterfeit Bills of Credit" was filed on July 29 and on the next day he pleaded not guilty. His case then disappears from the minutes of the court and it is very likely that there was no prosecution. 7 During the October term of the court in the following year Gilliland was again indicted, this time for allowing men and women of bad name in his house "Drinking Tipling whoreing and misbehaving themselves," of which he was convicted, and he was sentenced to stand an hour in the pillory, to be imprisoned for twelve months, and to put up a bond of £100 for his good behavior for two years. 8
Others probably implicated by John Davis were Bernardus Bratt, Daniel Coe and Jeremiah Knap. Bratt was apparently indicted for a "deceit" the same day as Davis and Smith, and on November 1, 1766, a jury gave judgment for the King against Bratt. 9 As for Coe and Knap, it will be recalled that Davis was arrested in Orange County in March with £3500 in counterfeit bills on him. On May 14 at a court of general sessions of the peace of Orange County, held at Orange Town, Coe and Knap were presented by a grand jury "for passing Counterfeit Bills." 10 It seems probable that they, like Smith and Gilliland, and probably Bratt, were passing false bills supplied by Davis. There is no further entry in the court minutes concerning Knap, but Coe appeared at a court held at Goshen on November 11, when his case was continued until the next sessions. At that court, held in Orange Town on May 12, 1767, Coe was called and, when he did not appear, his recognizance was respited until the following day. He again did not appear and it was ordered that his bail be forfeited. 11 It would seem that he feared conviction and fled.
It was the activity of Davis and his accomplices which caused the New York assembly to pass on July 3, 1766, an "Act to make it Felony without Benefit of Clergy to counterfeit the Bills of Credit
of any of his Majesty's Colonies, which pass in Payment in the Colony of New York." As has been noted, Davis was indicted and punished after conviction merely for a "deceit," since his counterfeits were
the bills of another province. The new act, intended to deal with such situations by fixing the most severe penalty, read:
WHEREAS many evil disposed and wicked Persons have lately counterfeited, and circulated in this Colony, large Parcels of Bills,
in Imitation of
the true Bills of Credit struck emitted and Issued in the Colony of New Jersey; and have passed the same as good and true Bills of Credit, to the great Hurt and Damage of his Majesty's Subjects of this
Colony. For prevention whereof and other the like Mischiefs for the future.
BE IT ENACTED by his Excellency the Governor, the Council and the General Assembly, And it is hereby enacted by the authority
of the same, That if any Person or Persons shall hereafter counterfeit any the true Bill or Bills of Credit now or which shall
hereafter be Struck emitted and issued in the said Colony of New Jersey; or the Bill or Bills of Credit now or hereafter to be Struck emitted and issued by any other of his Majesty's Colonies,
or Shall alter any of the said Bills of Credit, so that they shall appear to be of greater Value than the same by the Law
of such respective Colony, or shall or may be intended to pass for; or shall pass or give in payment any such counterfeit
or altered Bill as aforesaid knowing the same to be Counterfeit or altered every person who shall so counterfeit or alter
any the said Bills of Credit, or knowingly pass or give in Payment any such Counterfeit or altered Bill as aforesaid, shall
be guilty of Felony, and being thereof convicted, shall suffer the Pains of Death as in Cases of Felony without the Benefit
of Clergy any Law usage or Custom to the Contrary hereof in any wise Notwithstanding.
On Tuesday, August 26, 1767, an elderly man named Timothy Green, lately from North Carolina, applied to Elisha Gallaudet, an engraver in New York City, to procure of him plates to counterfeit the current money bills of the province from which he had come. Gallaudet, however, had the would-be-counterfeiter taken before an alderman, who, after examining him and finding two false dollars in his possession, committed him to jail. Green was indicted in the Supreme Court on October 29 "for a Misdemeanor," pleaded not guilty, and on October 30 was tried. The jury, without going from the bar, convicted him, and when, on the next day, the attorney general moved for judgment, the court ordered that the prisoner stand in the pillory on Wednesday next for one hour between the hours of ten and twelve in the forenoon and that on Thursday next he be whipped through the town at the cart's tail and receive thirty-nine lashes on the bare back. 13
Although the plague of false Jersey bills had been checked, New Yorkers had to be on their guard against counterfeits of their own currency and also spurious dollars. In Quarter Sessions in New York City the mayor produced the following counterfeit New York bills: at the meeting of February 4, 1766, one £10 bill altered from a 40/ bill, no. 19355 and dated April 2, 1759, a £6 bill, no. 82061, dated July 1, 1714, a £2 bill, no. 2263, dated April 20, 1760, and also two 40/ bills without any number and dated April 21, 1760; at the session of August 7, 1766, fifteen 40/ bills, of which three bore the numbers 5362, 173 and 5650 respectively, while the remaining twelve, all dated April 21, 1760, were neither numbered nor signed. 14
Warnings to the public about false dollars in circulation began to appear in the press in November, 1766, and continued into
June of the next year. The
New-York Mercury of November 10, 1766, printed the following: "The Publick are desired to take Notice, that there are Counterfeit Dollars
now passing among us, dated in the year 1756, and so well executed that it is difficult to discover them from the true Ones
Plate XIII,I]; they are stamped from whited Copper, almost full Weight, and the best method to discover them is by rubbing the Edge on
Leather or Woolen Cloth; the false ones will leave a Yellow Mark behind, and the true, white: The Crown on the Top of the
Right Hand Pillar, is not so full nor so close to the Pillar as the true Ones."
On June 1, 1767, the same newspaper published a notice that counterfeit dollars, dated 1747, which were rather larger than
the good ones and which might be easily distinguished by the sound were circulating
in New York.
And finally the
New-York Journal; or, the General Advertiser of June 25, 1767, warned:
The Publick are hereby caution'd to beware of counterfeit Dollars, many of which have lately been discover'd. They are so
well finish'd, as hardly to be distinguish'd from good ones by a close Inspection. We have only now an Opportunity to describe
those of one of the Dates, viz. Ferdinand's of 1747. The Metal is rather duller than the generality of the true ones, and
often one Side or t'other a little scratch'd as if touched with a File, the Size a small Matter broader and thicker, and does
not ring so well as the true ones. The Inscription is nearer to the Edge of the Metal on one Side than the other, and the
indenting on the Edges is less distinct and neat than the true ones, but the most remarkable Distinction is on the Edge right
over the Point (.) after FERDND. on the Arms Side; and over the Rose, after VNUM, on the Pillar Side, where there is in some
of them an Inequality, in others a Flaw, as if in that Place the Metal had been pour'd into the Mould.
Plate XIII, 2 for illustration of genuine piece.]
Attention has been already called to the rather large number of counterfeit forty shilling bills of New York which were destroyed in Quarter Sessions in 1766. This denomination of counterfeit kept appearing during the next three years. The New-York Journal; or the General Advertiser of August 13, 1767, informed its readers that several of these bills had been lately discovered passing in New York City. They were dated April 21, 1760, and very badly executed, with the letters and figures not well formed and the lines crooked. The notice concluded thus: "The two Weights are without the black Dots on the Sides which the true ones have, the Words Two Pounds (after the Arms) which are placed across the end of the Bill, are remarkably ill done, crooked, ill formed and disproportioned; the least Attention will discover them to be Counterfeit." 18 The New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury of December 12, 1768, also published the caution that many New York £2 bills were current, done from a copper plate and so badly executed as to be discovered easily on close inspection. They were dated April 21, 1760, signed John Van Horne, Ellias Desbrosses and R. G. Livingston, and one of them was in the possession of the printer of the Mercury. And again, on February 20, 1769, the New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy issued a warning to the public to beware of this denomination with the three signers mentioned above and with the date of April 12, 1760. The notice continued: "They are very ill done, and may be discovered upon the first View, by any Person acquainted with Paper Money. – – There were three found on Friday last, that has been passed by one Woman. The House was searched by Authority, but no Discovery could be made of any more. – – She keeps a Tavern, and upon her being examined, could not give any Account from whom she had them, but said she had them by her for some Time. – – A bad Bill of the same Emission, was stopped some Time ago by the Mayor, which had been passed by a Man from New-England; and another by a Justice in Dutchess County." 19
It is probable that some of the New York forty shillings bills were the handiwork of Gideon Casey and his associates, and he may also have made some of the false
dollars against which the public had been cautioned. The
New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury of February 15, 1768, gave the following report concerning Casey:
Last Week the Hon. WILLIAM SMITH, jun. Esq., received a Letter from a Gentleman at Fairfield, in Connecticut, acquainting him, that a Schooner had lately been at that Place, and remained there 6 Weeks, with 5 Men on board, that they
had passed some Counterfeit York Bills, that they came from Rhode-Island, and that he imagined they were come our Way; this Intelligence being communicated to the Mayor, he immediately sent proper
Officers in Search of the Schooner, who found her just on the Point of sailing, and in the said Vessel also found Gideon Casey,
and his two Sons, Tibbits Hopkins, and Daniel Willcocks, alias Chase, also a small
Bag containing all the Instruments for coining and milling of Dollars, of the Years 1763, and 1764, Plates for North-Carolina Money, Instruments for making Pistereens, and several Forty Shilling Bills of this Province, dated April 21, 1760. They were
all committed to Goal, and being examined, Casey said, that some of the bad Bills were passed in this City but that all the
Instruments were left in his Possession about three Years since, and given to him by one Howe, a noted Money Maker from Boston Government.
The New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy of February 15 gave essentially the same account but added a few details: they had, it seemed, passed some bills at Fairfield and had changed a sum with a young man of that province for Connecticut bills; Casey claimed he had never made any use of the implements left in his custody by Howe; Casey and his associates maintained that they were going up the North River, but the general belief was that they were bound for North Carolina; Hopkins was the master of the schooner. The item concluded: "The New-York Bills are very badly done, from a Plate, and may be easily distinguished from the true Ones by comparing. It is supposed that they have vended many in different Parts, tho' only two has been found yet passed in this City. They were all committed to Goal, and stand fair for meeting the Reward due to their great Ingenuity."
The Supplement to the New-York Journal; or, the General Advertiser of February 20, 1768, reproduced the account from the New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury, but with the following addition: "We hear from Fairfield, that several Men suspected to belong to the same Gang as the above, are in Goal in that Town for Counterfeiting Money. – – That it is said they have established a regular Chain of Communication throughout the whole Extent of the British Dominions in America, and that there are about an Hundred of them concerned in the different Provinces."
Two days later the New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy of February 22 added new developments: "We hear from Fairfield, in Connecticut, that no less than 9 Persons were apprehended there last Week, as Confederates with Gideon Casey, and the four others now in our Jail on Suspicion of counterfeiting Money; five of which were committed to Jail there for Trial, the other four admitted to Bail; It is said they have Confederates in several other Governments, and it is to be hoped the Bottom of that iniquitous Affair will now be discovered."
The outcome of proceedings in Fairfield was given by the Supplement to the Massachusetts Gazette of March 24, 1768, in a dispatch from New Haven, dated February 26. It read: "Last Friday, pursuant to the sentence of the Superior Court, then sitting at Fairfirld, Archibald Fippeny, Lewis Bennet, John Mallet, and Nathaniel Bunnell, were crop't, and branded with the letter C on their Foreheads, for counterfeiting the lawful money bills of this colony, New-York bills, dollars, &c. – – Seven others, were try'd, at the same court, on suspicion of being their accomplices, with them in the same crimes, but the evidence not being sufficient to convict them, they were discharged. – – Seth Porter, and — — — Sturges, not chusing to be try'd forfeited their bonds for appearance, the former one thousand pounds, and the other five hundred. – – They were in partnership with a gang lately taken up at New-York ..." The newspaper then briefly told the story of the apprehension of Casey and his party and added that on their schooner were found recipes for smelting and varnishing metals.
It might have seemed that Casey and the four with him would have been convicted and punished, but such was not the case, and the printer of the New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy of April 4, 1768, was obviously puzzled when he wrote: "The five Persons committed on suspicion of counterfeiting Money (tho' both Stamp and Plates for the Purpose were found in their Possession) were indicted; but were cleared, for want of sufficient Evidence." It may be added that Joshua Howe, who had supposedly left counterfeiting equipment with Casey, was taken in April at Cohass in New Hampshire and committed in that province on suspicion of counterfeiting dollars. The New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury of April 18, 1768, in recounting Howe's arrest, commented: "It is said there is a Clan of these Gentry of at least 500, who correspond thro' all the Colonies, as far as North-Carolina. Howe denies being concerned in manufacturing any money, but acknowledges he lets out certain Tools at ten Dollars per Day."
Perhaps one member of the counterfeiting "clan" was a certain William Stevens. All that is known of him is that on January 4, 1769, he came under bail into the Court of Quarter Sessions of the Peace of Dutchess County and his appearance was entered in the minutes, while the following day Justice Humfrey delivered a counterfeit forty shillings bill of New York and it was sworn to William Stevens. 20
One person who in all probability was connected with Gideon Casey's gang was John Jubeart, whose arrest was thus reported in the New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury of May 15, 1769: "Wednesday last was committed to our Goal, for passing counterfeit Dollars, a certain John Jubeart, born on Staten-Island, a Blacksmith by Trade, The Quantity found upon him was ten in Number, 9 of which were dated 1763, and one 1761: They are struck with a Die, the Edges milled, and appear of a dirty white Colour, tinged with yellow. they are very little lighter than the true Ones, the Impression is not so high or broad, the two Globes between the Pillars appear Sunk, and the Edge of an unequal Thickness, the Milling of which in one Place is not joined: They ring well, and are supposed to be a Compound of Copper and Tin, lightly silvered over, which may be easily scraped off."
Two other New York newspapers of the same date added other details. The
New-York Chronicle reported:
On Thursday last one John Jubeart, was committed to Goal for passing false Dollars. Upon Examination before Alderman Gautier, he said that he was born upon
Staten-Island, and followed the Business of a Tinker. There was a Millinx
found upon him, and an Instrument which he said he used to straiten Gun Barrels. – He had passed some of the bad Dollars
in this City, which were brought in and delivered to the Alderman. Upon
his being detected and threatened to be carried before a Magistrate, he endeavoured to make his Escape, and went into the
Old Slip-Market, where he buried some Dollars among a Parcel of Rubish, which were taken up by some People who had observed
him, and produced at his Examination. — The Public are desired to observe, that the Mounts upon the Side of the false Dollars,
instead of being raised are indented, and the Milling upon the Edges open and distinguishable from a Genuine Spanish Dollar.
The other newspaper account, that in the
New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy, ran as follows:
Tuesday last an elderly Man who calls himself John Jubeart, was apprehended and carried before a Magistrate in this City, on suspicion of counterfeiting Spanish Mill'd Dollars: – –
He had pass'd two or three of them, with different Persons, one of which, suspecting the Fraud, detected him, whereupon he
pretended to want to ease himself, and went down to the Dock, where he was seen to attempt hiding something in the Dirt, which
being searched, a Purse with six more Dollars of the same kind, and several Implements for counterfeiting were found. On his
Examination he said, he was born on Staten-Island; was a Blacksmith by Trade, and had formerly followed that of a Tinker, in all the Colonies from Boston to North-Carolina: – – That he had lived near three Years past at Stockbridge in
, and the back Parts of Dutchess County; that he had received the Dollars from some People at the Fish Kills, and did not know they were false, and came to this City on Monday Night last: – – The Dollars seem to be artificially made,
except a small Notch or Breach in the Milling, which does not join well, and the Globes on the Face of them appear to be sunk
in rather than rais'd; they ring well, but are of a base Metal, and bad Colour: – – Several Pieces of Metal of the same base
kind were found upon him, with some other Implements, and by some loose Hints he appears to have been acquainted with Casey's
Gang, there is not much Room to doubt his being one of them: He was committed to Jail, for further Examination.
Jubeart was indicted on July 26 in the Supreme Court on two counts, for passing a false piece of eight to Evert Byvanck, Jr., and for passing another to Susannah Marshall. His trial took place on July 28. The witnesses for the King on the first indictment were Evert Byvanck, Jr., and Andrew Gautier, while the evidences for the prisoner were John Vanderspeigle and Dirik Schuyler. On the second indictment witnesses for the King were Susannah Marshall, Ann Burk, Thomas Moore and Matthew McDaniel. The jury found the defendant guilty on both indictments and that he had no goods or chattels. On July 29 the court sentenced him to be hanged on Wednesday, August 23. 22
It was, however, represented to the governor's council that, if Jubeart should be reprieved for a short time, there was a probability that he might make some useful discoveries, and the governor, with the advice of the board, respited Jubeart until Wednesday, August 30. 23 His sentence was again respited, this time to Wednesday, September 6, 24 when he was finally executed at Stonefence near the city, seemingly very penitent and denying that he had any accomplices. 25
Another suspected counterfeiter, one Peter Lynch, was more fortunate. The grand jury indicted him on August 4, 1769, in Quarter Sessions in New York City for altering a New Jersey bill from three shillings to three pounds and passing the same, and it was ordered that the clerk of court deliver the indictment into the Supreme Court of Judicature. 26 Lynch appeared before that court on October 28 and declared that material witnesses for him were absent. When the attorney general further informed the court that the evidence for the King was, he believed, insufficient to convict the defendant, the court ordered that Lynch be admitted to bail. Thereupon Lynch entered into recognizance in the amount of £100, and one William Deane of New York City, coachmaker, in the amount of £50 for Lynch's appearance at the Supreme Court to be held at City Hall on the third Tuesday in January next. The trial was held on January 17, 1770. The witness for the King was Abraham Rice, while Ann Lynch, Elkanah Deane, Peter Hall and Elizabeth Hernon were witnesses for the prisoner. The jury, without going from the bar, acquitted Lynch, who was ordered discharged on the payment of his fees. 27
Lynch had been charged with altering and passing a Jersey bill, and some false money of that province was, indeed, passing in New York City. On August 24, 1767, the New-York Mercury cautioned the public to take care in receiving six shilling New Jersey bills, dated December 31, 1763, and signed Smith, Johnston and Skinner. They were described as done from a copper plate and so badly executed as to be distinguished easily. In the word, December, there was an r for an m, and most of the t's in the bill ressembled f's. The New-York Journal; or, the General Advertiser of November 23, 1769, printed a Philadelphia dispatch, dated November 16, cautioning people to beware of New Jersey twelve shilling bills dated June 22, 1756. They were done with common printing types; the arms were badly cut, as also the leaf on the back; the face and back were printed on two pieces of paper pasted together, not as thick as the true bills, and the counterfeits appeared much soiled to prevent their being detected; the number and signer's names seemed to be written by the same hand and in the same ink and appeared to be done lately; the names of the signers were not intelligible.
At the close of 1769 the New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy warned, in a Philadelphia dispatch dated December 7, of counterfeit £3 bills of New Jersey which were dated April 16, 1769. It then gave the following description of them: "They are very badly cut, and stamped; the letters most irregular, and in general larger than the true bills; the arms, and other ornaments, ill done, and appear very pale: The Three POUNDS, at the top of the bill, are placed at a greater distance from the left-hand ornament, than in the true ones. The A, in the Word April, remarkably large, and the THREE POUNDS, at the bottom of the bill, considerably larger than in the true bills. There are two sorts of them, but both so badly done, that they may easily be detected, after this notice. The backs appear to be done with a pen, and the word Woodbridge, in some of them, is spelt Woodbrige." The same notice was printed in the New-York Chronicle of December 18 and in the New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury of the same date, except that the Chronicle stated the counterfeits were dated April 16, 1764, rather than 1769.
|1||The same Philadelphia dispatch was reprinted in the Supplement to Holt's New-York Thursday's Gazette of February 27, 1766, pp. 2–3.|
|2||New-York Mercury, April 14, 1766, p. 2.|
|3||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1764–1766, p. 380 and the original indictment of John Davis "for procuring false Jersey Bills to be passed," now among New York Documents in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.|
|4||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1764–1766, pp. 380, 381, 394 and Ms. Mins. SCJ 1764–1767, p. 153.|
|5||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1764–1767, p. 193 and Ms. Mins. SCJ 1766–1769, p. 29.|
|6||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1764–1766, pp. 381, 382, 396 and Ms. Mins. SCJ 1764–1767, p. 154.|
|7||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1764–1766, pp. 380, 382, 383, 390 and Ms. Mins. SCJ 1764–1767, pp. 145, 147, 150.|
|8||H.R. Pleadings K 343 and Ms. Mins. SCJ 1766–1769, pp. 317–324.|
|9||Goebel and Naughton, op. cit., p. 449, note 45 and Ms. Mins. SCJ 1764–1767, p. 193 and Ms. Mins. SCJ 1766–1769, p. 29.|
|10||Ms. Mins. Orange Co. Sess. 1727–1779, p. 156.|
|11||Ibid., pp. 158, 160, 161.|
|12||The Colonial Laws of New York IV, p. 906 and the New-York Journal, or General Advertiser, July 10, 1766, p. 3.|
|13||The New-York Journal, or the General Advertiser, Aug. 27, 1767, p. 3; the New-York Mercury, Aug. 31, 1767, p. 3; Ms. Mins. SCJ 1766–1769, pp. 317, 319, 323, 326.|
|14||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1760–1772, Feb. 4 and Aug. 7, 1766.|
|15||Holt's New-York Journal, or General Advertiser of Dec. 11, 1766, p. 3 tells of the discovery of false dollars and bills elsewhere and urges that people therefore be careful in receiving money.|
|16||This item was reprinted in the New-York Journal; or, the General Advertiser of June 4, 1767, p. 3.|
|17||The New-York Mercury of June 29, 1767, p. 3 and [Weyman's] New-York Gazette of June 29, 1767, p. 4 reprinted this item.|
|18||The same was also printed in [Weyman's] New-York Gazette of Aug. 17, 1767, p. 3.|
|19||The New-York Journal; or, the General Advertiser of Feb. 23, 1769, p. 3 reprinted this account.|
|20||Ms. Mins. Dutchess Co. Sess., Liber D, Jan. 4 and 5, 1769.|
|21||Millinx probably is a misspelling for millink, a piece of iron crossing the hole in the upper millstone by which the stone is supported on the spindle.|
|22||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1769–1772, pp. 62, 63, 64, 65, 69; the New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy, July 31, 1769, p. 3; New-York Chronicle, Aug. 3, 1769, p. 111; New-York Journal; or, the General Advertiser Aug. 3, 1769, p. 3.|
|23||Ms. Mins. Council 26, p. 155; New-York Chronicle, Aug. 24, 1769, p. 135; New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy, Aug. 28, 1769, p. 3.|
|24||New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy, Sept. 4, 1769, p. 3.|
|25||New-York Chronicle, Sept. 7, 1769, p. 151; New-York Journal; or, the General Advertiser, Sept. 7, 1769, p. 3; New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy, Sept. 11, 1769, p. 3.|
|26||Ms. Mins. NYCQS 1760–1772, Aug. 4, 1769.|
|27||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1769–1772, pp. 120 and 143.|
Early in 1770 counterfeit dollars were circulating on Long Island and in New York City. One Isaac Ketcham was apprehended at Huntington, Long Island, by order of the magistrates of that place for passing counterfeit dollars but escaped from the constables on February 5. He was described as about five feet eight inches high, with a blemish on one of his eyes, appeared well dressed and rode a good horse. A reward of three pounds was offered to anyone who should apprehend him and bring him to Constable Timothy Conkling at Huntington. Ketcham's coins, dated 1762 and 1765, seemed to be made very neatly but on being rubbed would appear copperish, since they were mostly of that metal. 1 Ketcham had previously been in trouble with the law, for during the July, 1753, term of the Supreme Court Attorney General William Kempe informed that Ketcham the younger of Huntington had assaulted a certain Samuel Plumbe "so that of his Life it was greatly despaired;" 2 later, in October, 1762, Ketcham appeared before the Court of General Sessions of the Peace of Suffolk County – – the charge is not known – – and submitted to the mercy of the court and was fined forty shillings. 3
A warning about false dollars was printed in the New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury of April 2, 1770, and reprinted in the New-York Journal; or the General Advertiser of April 12. It read: "The Public are caution'd to beware of counterfeit DOLLARS, which are now passing among us; they appear to be made of Blanched Copper, and are extremely well done, except, that the I, and H, in the Word HISPAN, are at too great a Distance; and the I, S, P, and A, in the same Word, very much crouded; and the S, and A, much smaller than the other Letters. They may easily be discovered by the ringing of them, as they sound much shriller than the true ones."
The public was notified two weeks later by an item in the New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury of April 14 that there were passing in the city counterfeit New Jersey bills of twelve shillings, dated December 31, 1763, and signed Johnston, Smith and Skinner [Plate II]. They were printed with common types and so badly done they could easily be discovered on close inspection. Twelve shilling bills altered from three shillings had also made their appearance in New York City. 4 One Lewis Jones of that city, a printer, was arrested, apparently on April 4, on the charge of passing counterfeit New Jersey money, and two innkeepers made depositions before Justice Whitehead Hicks that they had received false money from Jones. One witness, Thomas White, swore that on the previous Thursday or Friday evening Jones, accompanied by a man whom they called Hill [probably Martin Still] came to his inn about nine o'clock and stayed until eleven. They had supper, for which Jones paid with a twelve shilling bill of New Jersey. White later paid out the bill to a gardener, Daniel McKindley, who returned it to him as false. 5 The other witness, Peter Peiser, swore upon oath that on the preceding Saturday or Sunday night Jones, accompanied by another person [perhaps Richard Edwards], came to his tavern and had a bowl of punch. Jones gave his companion a twelve shilling Jersey bill dated December 31, 1763, with which to pay for the punch. Peiser subsequently paid out the bill to a certain John Fowler, who returned it as counterfeit. 6
In the Supreme Court on April 21, 1770, one Martin Still, probably a companion of Jones, was indicted "for passing counterfeit Jersey money," while three indictments were brought against Jones: one for having on April 1, 1770, "at Montgomerie Ward" of New York City knowingly passed a three shilling Jersey bill altered to twelve shillings to Joseph Towers; one for having on March 31, 1770, in the North Ward of the city passed a counterfeit twelve shilling Jersey bill to Peter Peiser; and one for having on March 29, 1770, at the Outward passed a counterfeit twelve shillings Jersey bill to Thomas White. Jones pleaded not guilty to all three indictments. 7 His trial took place on April 23, and the witnesses for the King, on the indictment for passing the bill to Peter Peiser, were Peter and Henry Peiser, John Fowler, Catherine Rice and Whitehead Hicks; the evidence for the prisoner was Richard Edwards. On the indictment for passing the bill to Thomas White, the evidences for the King were Thomas White and Daniel McKindley, while those for the prisoner were Philip Kissick, Joshua Watson, John Jones and James Parker. The jury promptly acquitted Jones on both counts, and on April 25 he was placed on trial on the third indictment, with Joseph Towers, Gregory Springhall and Hugh Gaine, the printer, as witnesses for the King. Again Jones was acquitted and discharged, 8 and the minutes of the Supreme Court make no further mention of Martin Still.
In December two dispatches from Philadelphia appeared in the New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury. The first, printed in the number of December 3, was a caution that in Philadelphia false half Johanneses were passing. They were dated 1746, were made of base metal thinly gilded, were somewhat broader and thicker, though lighter, than the true ones, and the letters were not as regular nor the workmanship as good as in the true ones. The other item, in the number of December 10, informed that in Philadelphia counterfeit English guineas were circulating. They were merely English shillings which had been gilded. By February 11, 1771, the false half Joes were passing in New York City, according to the New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury of that date. The coins were dated 1761, were not above six pennyweight, and one of them was in the hands of the printer of the newspaper.
About this time two acts for the emission of New York bills of credit were passed, each in the amount of £120,000. The first was passed on January 5, 1770, and the other on February 16, 1771. Both set the penalty of death for counterfeiting and passing in the same formula which had been adopted in the law of December 16, 1737. 9 There were, however, those who were willing to run such a risk, for on June 6, 1771, the New-York Journal; or, the General Advertiser advised the public that the £10 bills of the latest emission had been counterfeited 10 . A week later the same newspaper printed the following still more disquieting news: "The Public are caution'd to be careful how they receive New-York Money Bills of the late Emission (Feb. 1771) as it appears that every Denomination of the said Bills, have been counterfeited; We have not yet had an Opportunity to note and describe the Marks of Distinction between the true and counterfeit Bills of each Value, but in general it may be observed that the true Bills are printed with Printing Types, the Counterfeits with Copper-plate, the Letters of which are disproportioned in Size and Shape, and stand irregularly, easily discernable by nice Inspection. In the counterfeit Ten Shilling Bills, after the Words Ten Shillings, in the Body of the Bill, there is no Point or Stop, whereas in the true One's there is a Full point." 11
Counterfeiters of coin were detected at about this time in Dutchess County. The
New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury of June 24, 1771, gave the following account of the affair:
Three Men were committed to Poughkeepsie Goal, a few Days since, on Suspicion of coining and passing Dollars made of base Metal: The following Description of them
may be of public Utility. crown side. The O in Carolus, badly done. the L in the true ones, exactly over the Rose; in the
Counterfeits, between the L and V . The I and P in Hispan. too broad;
the Rose under the false; in the true ; in the true there is a Vacancy between ET IND much wider than the false; the 8 and the two Roses at each End, much larger
than the true; the Space between IND. and REX too small, the Dot very much, and all the Roses; likewise the Crown too large.
Pillar Side. In the false, the A in VTRAQUE too far from the Top of the Pillar; in the true, it nearly touches. False, the
two M, the O at Top too thin, and in a Line with PLUS on the Pillar; the Globes badly done; they are something larger than
the true, about 8 Grains lighter, dated 1766 [See
Plate XIII, 3, for illustration of genuine coin.]; they sound well, and are made of blanched or whited Copper.
In September, 1771, counterfeit New Jersey bills of thirty shillings and of fifteen shillings [Plate IV] made their appearance in New York City. The New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy of September 9 warned of the fifteen shillings bill but could give no description, as the printer of the newspaper had seen no specimen. The bills, however, were said to be poorly done and easily recognized. The New-York Journal; or, the General Advertiser of September 12 repeated the warning but could give no description. It added, however, that false Jersey thirty shillings bills, dated April 16, 1764 [Plate VI], were circulating. They were badly executed, especially in the arms and border. They seemed fresh and clean and were signed with the names of John Johnson, Rich. Smith and S. Smith but the signing imperfectly resembled that in the true money. 12
This same month or shortly thereafter a cordwainer named Samuel Mount was arrested and was indicted in the Supreme Court on October 25, 1771. In one indictment it was charged that Mount "not having the Fear of God before his Eyes but being moved and seduced by the Instigation of the Devil" on July 27, 1771, at the East Ward of New York City, altered a one shilling Jersey bill dated 1763 to fifteen shillings and passed it in payment to Robert Hunt and also that he altered a three shilling Jersey bill to fifteen shillings. The charge in the other indictment was that on October 19, 1771, in the East Ward of the city he tried to pay to Phineas Hunt a three shillings Jersey bill altered to fifteen shillings. 13 He was tried the same day, and the witnesses for the King were Robert Hunt, Constable Abraham Van Gelder, and Justice George Brewerton on the one indictment; on the other the witness for the King was Phineas Hunt, while the evidences for the prisoner were Mary Fox, Thomas Randall, Eleanor Bean, John Garno, John Stag, George Ulrick, Cristophel Van Witch, Catherine Ulrick, Margaret Van Witch and Cleora Jacobs. The jury found Mount not guilty of the several charges against him and the court ordered him discharged. 14
New-York Journal; or the General Advertiser of October 31, 1771, printed an advertisement, dated October 22, which afforded new evidence of the counterfeiting of the
New York bills of the latest emission. The advertisement, signed by Joseph Hanford, read as follows:
A Caution to the Public: About the 3d inst. a small young man, who call'd his Name Ward, (in Company with two others, who
went by the Names of Thompson and Johnson) came to my Store in Fairfield and passed a Five Pound Bill, which proved to be a Counterfeit of the last Emission of New-York Money Bills; and it is thought these Men had with them Counterfeit Money of all Sorts, New-Jersey and New-York Bills, and Dollars. Ward is about 6 [sic!] Feet 5 Inches high, had on a short brown lapelled Coat, a red double breasted Waistcoat, and black Breeches. Thompson about
5 Feet 10 Inches high, thin Visage, black Complexion and Hair; had on a dark broad Cloath Coat, and a striped Waistcoat. Johnson,
about 5 Feet 11 Inches high, fair Complection, light Hair, and had on a light blue Coat. Whoever detects and brings these
Fellows to Justice, will do a Benefit to the Public.
One of the trio might have been a certain John Smith, who in any event was a counterfeiter of New Jersey and New York money. He was arrested and convicted in Connecticut before the Superior Court of counterfeiting such bills and was imprisoned in the Hartford jail. On the night of January 27, 1772, he broke out and escaped. He had for some years been a resident of Suffield, where it was believed that his chief occupation was the making, in company with others, of false bills. 15 Sheriff Ezekiel Williams, in an advertisement inserted in the Connecticut Courant of January 28, 1772, described Smith as "a likely prompt looked youngerly man, somewhat short of stature, wears his own hair," and offered for his capture the sum of six pounds. The same newspaper of March 17, 1772, reveals that Smith was apprehended and sentenced in the Superiour Court in Hartford "to have his right ear cut off, and be branded on the forehead with the letter C, his estate confiscated, be confined to a workhouse for life, and be kept to hard labour under the care of a master, and that he not depart therefrom, under penalty of being severely whip'd."
The New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury of December 16, 1771, printed the following caution to the public: "To beware of Counterfeit Money, several Kinds of which, both Gold and Paper (New-York, and New-Jersey Bills) have lately been circulated, particularly Half Joes, which tho' of due Weight, have in each 12 s. Sterling of base Metal; and New-Jersey 30 s. Bills dated the 16th of April 1764 [Plate VIII].
"The Counterfeits of the Half Joes, are somewhat thicker, the Figures less prominent, and the colour paler than the true ones."
The item continued by giving marks of distinction by which to tell the false from the true thirty shilling Jersey bills. The true bills were on yellowish paper; the number was plain and distinct; the sage leaf was perfect, spreading from the stem; the arms were blurred and indistinct, as was the border; the red letters were lighter than in the false bills and were more perfectly formed and proportioned. The counterfeits were on a paper of a blueish cast; the number was indistinct; the sage leaf was imperfect, for the part where it rises from the stem was cut off; the arms were distinct and plain and the border was plain and open, resembling a vine with leaves. The red letters were deeper than in the true bills and of a purple cast; the letters were ill formed, disproportionate, and irregular, particularly in the word "Shillings" at the top of the bill.
Another counterfeited Jersey bill [Plate X] was thus described in the same newspaper of February 3, 1772: "Several Counterfeit Jersey Three Pound Bills are are now current among us, dated 31st of Dec. 1763, signed Smith, Johnston and Skinner: They are well executed, but the Coat of Arms and bordering appear more plain than in the true Ones: The Words, New-Jersey, Three Pounds, on the Margin of the Sun, is very visible and plain on the counterfeits, and scarcely to be observed in the true Ones; the Coat of Arms is very remarkable in the Plainness of the Supporters. – – – In the Word THREE in the Counterfeits, under the Sun, the two E E'S, are shorter than the Rest of the Word. – – – In the true Bills, on the right Hand Border, are two remarkable black Spots, near the upper and lower End, which are wanting in the Counterfeits: The Signers Names is wrote well, and rather better than the true Ones."
And again, about a month later, the New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury of March 3, 1772, printed a notice from Philadelphia that counterfeit milled dollars of base metal were passing there. They were supposed to be cast and pretty well done, but were darker than the true ones and almost five pennyweights too light.
At the meeting of the Court of Quarter Sessions of the Peace of Dutchess County on May 22, 1772, the grand jury presented an indictment for passing counterfeit money against one John Finkell, and it was ordered that a bench warrant issue. Finkell was duly apprehended but made his escape through the help of a certain George White, perhaps a constable. White was indicted on October 9, 1772, for having permitted the prisoner to flee. 16
The various denominations of the February, 1771, emission of New York bills had been quickly counterfeited, and in March, 1772, a discovery was made which revealed the source of some, at least, of the false money. The New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury of March 30, 1772, reported: "We hear that last Week counterfeit Bills of the last Emission of our Money, to the Amount of £739 were found in a Stack of Wheat on Dr. William Hooker Smith's Farm, at Pine's Bridge, near Croton's River, in this Province. The following is a List of the Bills found, viz. 112 of £5 each, not signed, £560; 28 of £5 signed, £140; 10 of £1, signed £10; 50 of 10s. not signed, £25; 8 of Do signed, £40 Total £739." 17 The New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy of June 8, 1772, gave a report from Dutchess County that Dr. Smith was in the county jail for passing two false £5 bills of the last emission of New York. Further the New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury of June 15 stated that the preceeding week a certain Felix Meigs of Connecticut was committed to jail in New York City for passing several false £3 bills of the last emission of New York currency. He had been examined, and it was strongly suspected that he was an accomplice of Dr. William Hooker Smith. 18
Before the end of June there came a further development. The
New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury of June 29, 1772, published a dispatch dated Newport, June, 22, which read as follows:
Last Tuesday James Bud and Lemuel Gustine, Were apprehended and committed to goal in this town, on suspicion of being concerned
in counterfeiting and passing New-York and Jersey paper money. About a week before, they, with some others, came from Nantucket in a sloop, and anchored in Mackerel Cove, a little within our light house, where these two left her and came to this town,
and agreed, with an engraver to cut them a plate for the escutcheon or border of a New-York forty shilling bill, for which purpose they cut out the printed part of the bill, and gave the engraver the other part cut
into three or four pieces. But before the engraver had quite finished the plate, he accidentally saw a New-York bill, which Bud had passed to another man, by which he discovered the real business he was about, and immediately informed
Judge Hazard of
the same. After Bud and Gustine were examined, the sloop was brought into this harbour, and being searched, upwards of fifty
pounds of York and Jersey money was found, including a small sum Bud and Gustine had about them. They confessed but little
on the examination: But it might be easily perceived that one Wills of Connecticut, one Smith of New York, and a number of others were concerned in this affair.
The money above mentioned consists of sixty, twenty, ten and five shilling bills, principally of New-York currency, most of which are well known to be counterfeits; the Jersey bills are doubtful, and may probably be some of those
taken out of the treasury when robbed.
There is one five pound bill not signed: The forty shilling bill by which the plate was to have been made, is a true one.
The two men, according to the Providence Gazette of June 27, 1772, had been in Providence some ten weeks before, had passed counterfeit bills there at that time, and then had gone eastward and purchased a vessel, supposedly with false money.
It is interesting to note that someone, probably an associate of Bud and Gustine, tried to secure types, perhaps to print in the letters on bills from the plate which Bud and Gustine were to have obtained. The Massachusetts Gazette; and the Boston Weekly News-Letter of July 2, 1772, stated: "Tuesday last a Person applied to the Printer hereof, for a Number of Types; and said they were for printing some Lines to go to the Bottom of a Family Coat of Arms, 5 of which had been done for as many Brothers by the Name of Sutton. There were about a Dozen Lines, ten Words in a Line, and did not seem applicable to any Arms; upon Enquiry, he said he came from the Borders of New-York Government, by which it was suspected he wanted the Types for some other Design, and was dismissed." 21
The apprehension of Bud and Gustine came to the notice of the governor and council of New York. His excellency reported on June 25, 1772, to his board that he had received information that several persons had lately been arrested and committed to jail in Rhode-Island for passing counterfeit bills of New York and New Jersey. He had also heard that a number of persons were collected together at Pittsfield in Dutchess County and, the better to answer their wicked purpose of counterfeiting the bills of New York, formed themselves into a company called the Money Company, and, although it was generally known there, yet, from their number, the magistrates were deterred from taking the proper steps to punish them. The council thereupon advised the governor to write to the justices of the peace in Dutchess County, exhorting them to a vigorous and active execution of their authority and to use every method in their power to break up so dangerous a combination by apprehending and bringing the offenders to justice. 22
On July 1, 1772, the matter came up again in council, for Chief Justice Horsmanden delivered to the governor a letter which he had received from Metcalf Bowler, a justice of assize in Rhode Island, dated June 20 and inclosing the examination of James Bud. When this had been read, it was recommended that the chief justice take the proper measures to have Bud and Gustine brought to New York for trial and it was ordered that the expenses of bringing them be defrayed by the province. 23
Bud was tried in October at the Superior Court held in Newport for passing counterfeit money. He pleaded guilty to the charge and was fined £100 and costs. 24 Gustine, however, in August had escaped from jail with the aid of one Andrew Aldrich, who in September, 1773, was indicted for having broken the jail in Providence and liberated Lemuel Gustine and also for having counterfeited dollars. 25 Constables Abraham Van Gelder and Benjamin Quereau of New York City went to Rhode Island to bring Bud and Gustine to New York, and their bill of £25/4/8 was paid by the treasurer of the province. 26 At best, however, they can have brought back only Bud, and nothing further is known of him.
There is, however, much more evidence concerning another supposed confederate of William Hooker Smith, namely Felix Meigs, a boatman. On July 30 four indictments were filed against him and on July 5 a fifth one. They were as follows: for passing on June 10, 1772, at Montgomery Ward, a false £3 New York bill to Arabela, the wife of John Rutter; for passing on June 5, 1772, at the Out Ward of New York City, a counterfeit £3 New York bill to Jacob Shourt; for passing on June 10, 1772, in Montgomery Ward, a false £3 bill of New York to Philip Rhinelander; for passing on the same day and in the same ward another spurious £3 bill to Vincent Montanije; and finally for passing on June 5, 1772, in the Dock Ward of the City, a false £3 bill to Catherine Dumont, to all of which he pleaded not guilty. 27
For some unknown reason Meigs was not tried on the last indictment but instead on another for passing a £3 bill to John Lockhart.
A certain John Outhout, brother of Catherine Dumont, made a deposition which shed some light on Meigs' actions before he was
taken into custody. The text of this document read:
Evidence of Mr John Outhout says that on the 9th Day of June, his Sister Catharine Dumont gave him a New York Bill of Three Pounds and two Bills of 5/ which this Deponent immediately declared to be counterfeited, that he went in Pursuit
of the Person who had passed the said Bills but could not find him untill the next Day, he heard that a Person had
been detected in paying false money at the East End of Town. — That this Deponent then went to Alderman Blags where he was
informed that the Alderman and a Man who had passed the false money were gone down to the white Hall, in Quest of a Person
of whom it was pretended the false money had been recd. for a Moses Built Boat, but no such Person could be found, that this Deponent met Alderman Blag on the white Hall Dock,
and informed him that he was in Quest of a Man who has pass'd a false Three Pound Bill & two five Shillings Bills at this
Deponents House for a Piece of Callico Alderman Blag then told the Deponent he would bring the man to the Deponents House
which he did the tenth Day of June, the Man at first denyed having bought any thing at that Shop, but on being reminded by
this Deponent of some Circumstances which happened confessed that he had purchased a Piece of Callico there, for which he
had given the said Three Pound & five shilling Bills shown him by this Deponent being the identical Bills now in this Deponents
Possession — that this Deponent then went with the Man to his Boat, where he opened his Chest and delivered to him the said
Piece of Callico That this Deponent does not recollect the Person's Name who passed the said false Three Pound & five Shillings
Bills, but heard he was committed to Prison, where he still is, and this Deponent would know him on seeing him again.
To the close of the above is added the evidence of John Lockhart, who said that about the end of May a man came to his shop, asked for some linen, and requested that he cut off five yards of this. The man made payment with a New York £3 bill which proved to be false. 28
Meigs was tried before the Supreme Court on July 30 and found guilty on four of the five indictments. Sentence was passed on August 1 that he be executed on September 11. 29 The witnesses for the King were Jacob Shourt, Peter Ryker, Susannah Shourt, Jane Ryker, John Lockhart, Vincent Montaine, John Rutter, Arabella Rutter, Philip Rhinelander, George Hopson, Alderman George Brewerton and Alderman Blagge, Whitehead Hicks, Catharine McAvy, De Pyster, Abraham De Peyster, Abraham Lott, and William Rhinelander. The witnesses for the prisoner were Jediah Meigs, Arthur McNiel, Jerediah Greswould and William Samuel Johnson. 30
Fortunately for Meigs, who, according to the Connecticut Courant of August 11, 1772, belonged to East Guilford and had a wife and several children there, the governor and lieutenant governor of Connecticut requested the governor of New York to pardon or reprieve him. Governor Tryon, on the advice of his council, reprieved Meigs for nine months until the King's pleasure could be known. 31 The Earl of Dartmouth on December 8, 1772, replied that Tryon should act according to his own judgment. 32 On April 12, 1773, Tryon placed before his council two letters of March 18 from the governor and lieutenant governor of Connecticut and also the copy of a letter, dated October 9, 1772, from the Governor of Connecticut to the Earl of Hillsborough, in which Governor Trumbull recommended Felix Meigs as an object of the royal clemency. The council then advised Governor Tryon to pardon Meigs, 33 and on April 19, 1773, the pardon was actually issued. 34
|1||The New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury, Feb. 19, 1770, p. 3; The Massachusetts Gazette; and the Boston Weekly News-Letter, March 1, 1770.|
|2||H.R. Pleadings K 628.|
|3||Ms. Mins. Suffolk Co, Sess. 1760–1775, Oct. 6, 1762.|
|4||This same notice was given in the New-York Journal; or, the General Advertiser, April 19, 1770, p. 3.|
|5||H.R. Pleadings K 688: deposition of Thomas White.|
|6||H.R. Pleadings K 688: deposition of Peter Peiser.|
|7||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1769–1772, p. 181; H.R. Pleadings K 315, 262 and 383.|
|8||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1769–1772, pp. 184, 187.|
|9||The Colonial Laws of New York V, pp. 24–46 and 149–170.|
|10||The warning was reprinted in the New-York Journal; or, the General Advertiser, June 13, 1771, p. 3.|
|11||The New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury of June 17, 1771, p. 3 and the New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy of June 17, 1771, p. 2 reprinted the notice verbatim from the New-York Journal; or, the General Advertiser.|
|12||Also printed in the New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy, Sept. 16, 1771, p. 3.|
|13||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1769–1772, pp. 444–445; H.R. Pleadings K 350 and 237; J. T. Kempe, Lawsuits, Samuel Mount.|
|14||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1769–1772, pp. 445–447; the New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury, Nov. 4, 1771, p. 3; the New-York Journal; or, the General Advertiser, Nov. 7, 1771, p. 3.|
|15||The Massachusetts Gazette; and the Boston Weekly News-Letter, Feb. 6, 1772, p. 2.|
|16||Ms. Mins. Dutchess Co. Sess. Liber E, May 22 and October 9, 1772.|
|17||The same account is found in the New-York Journal; or, the General Advertiser, April 2, 1772, pp. 2–3.|
|18||See also the New-York Journal; or, the General Advertiser, June 18, 1772, p. 3 and the New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy, June 22, 1772, p. 2.|
|19||For the story of the robbery of the office of the treasurer of the Eastern Division of New Jersey, see the New-York Journal; or, the General Advertiser, July 28, 1768, p. 3.|
|20||See also the same account in the New-York Gazette: or the Weekly Post-Boy, June 29, 1772, pp. 2–3 and in the New-York Journal; or, the General Advertiser, July 2, 1772, pp. 1–2.|
|21||The same item was printed in the New-York Journal; or, the General Advertiser, July 16, 1772, p. 5.|
|22||Ms. Mins. Council 26, p. 304.|
|23||Ibid., 26, p. 307.|
|24||New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy, Oct. 12, 1772, p. 3.|
|25||New-York Journal; or, the General Advertiser, Sept. 23, 1773, p. 3 and the Providence Gazette, Sept. 11, 1773, p. 3.|
|26||Ms. Mins. Council 26, p. 332.|
|27||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1772–1776, pp. 26, 28–30; H.R. Pleadings K 392, 464, 508, 507, 518.|
|28||H.R. Pleadings K 459.|
|29||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1772–1776, pp. 32, 35, 37; the New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury, Aug. 3, 1772, p. 3; the New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy, Aug. 3, 1772, p. 3.|
|30||Ms. Mins. SCJ 1772–1776, p. 31.|
|31||Ms. Mins. Council 26, pp. 316–317 and the New-York Journal; or, the General Advertiser, Sept. 17, 1772, p. 3.|
|32||O'Callaghan, Doc. Rel. Hist. NY VIII, p. 38; NY Col. Mss. 100, p. 48; Ms. Mins. Council 26, pp. 336–337.|
|33||Ms. Mins. Council 26, p. 351.|
|34||Book of Commissions 1770–1789, Pardons, Felix Meigs, p. 76.|
During the summer of 1772 warnings from Philadelphia were printed in the New York newspapers cautioning against false thirty shilling bills of New Jersey dated April 16, 1764, 1 and a counterfeit Pennsylvania bill of twenty shillings. 2 But the New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury of October 5, 1772, revealed that a New York bill [Plate XI] had been counterfeited also. The account was headed "COUNTERFEITS" and read:
The Publick are hereby notified, That within these few Days, Counterfeit Three Pound Bills have made their Appearance amongst us, so well executed that it requires the greatest Care to discover them from the true Bills, and are supposed to be done by a Copper plate, constructed on a new Method, that is, by raising, instead of, sinking the Letter, which makes the Bills appear as if done with a printing Type. The Bills are dated, New-York, February 16, 1771. The false Bills may be discovered from the true, by the following Observations: The Mark III L at the Bottom of the Print of the true Bills, near the Arms stand regular, in the false they are irregular, the first I standing higher than the other two, and the L is sunk much below the Line of the other two II's. The upper part of the Letter K, in the Word NEW-YORK, in the false Bills, is blotted, and the Comma at the End of the K is split; in the true, the K and Comma stand fair; — in general the Counterfeits may be discovered by the Face of the Bill, the Paper being smooth as if worked in a rolling Press, and the Arms and Escutcheons are better executed than in the true Ones. These remarks must suffice for the present.
There was good reason for the provincial authorities to be concerned both for their paper currency and for the foreign coin which circulated. On October 21, 1772, Governor Tryon communicated to his council a letter, dated October 3, which he had received from Sir William Johnson, advising that sundry persons from New England had lately in their traffic with the Indians passed many counterfeit Spanish dollars, three of which had been delivered to him. Sir William sent these counterfeits to the governor and expressed the fear that if some means were not quickly devised to prevent this imposition on the Indians, they might retaliate by carrying off the horses and cattle of the whites. It was advised by the council that Sir William recommend to the Indians that they exert themselves in apprehending all such offenders, that they might be brought to justice. 3
Early in November great numbers of counterfeiters were discovered in Albany County. The New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury of November 9, 1772, reported: "We hear, that a few Days ago no less than 9 Men were committed to Goal in Albany, on suspicion of being concerned in counterfeiting our last Emission of Paper Money, as a Quantity of the same, and many bad Dollars, with Instruments for operating on both, were found in their Possession." Even more would, doubtless, have been imprisoned, had it not been for the large numbers concerned and the support they received, even, in one case, at least, from constables.
The seriousness of the situation is revealed by a letter sent to Governor Tryon on November 24, 1772, by John Munro of Fowlis, a justice of the peace of Albany County. He wrote:
It is with the greatest reluctance that I would offer to trouble your Excellency with any more complaints but when the Public
Interest and the wellfare of this Government is so much conserned, I think it my indispensible duty to report the same to
My chief business for these Ten days past was nothing but taking Examinations of Felons and their associates of which this
I have now in my Custody the Stamps Moulds Mills and several other Materials for coining of Dollars (dated 1760) one crown
piece dated 1752,
one dollar dated 1766, and one dated 1768 which are all counterfeits & found in the custody of John Searles of Arlington and
Comfort Carpenter of Shafsbury which with their own confession upon Oath, was sufficient Evidence to me and after discovering from them all
that I could upon Oath I wrote their Mittimus and sent them off to Goal in the charge of two constables and desired as many
to their assistance as they thought necessary — the same night they suffered Carpenter to make his Escape, then one of the
said Constables pursued after Carpenter and the other went to Goal with Searles, but stoped upon the Road ten days and at
last let Searles go about his Business.
What can a Justice do when the whole Country combinds against him — The very night that I sent these two to Goal some of their
associates Brock and Destroyed one of my Potash works, which cost me upward of fifty Pound my property is destroyed night
and day & durst not say Ill done — by the confession of these Felons (there is a line of money makers from New Jersey to a place called the Cowas back of New Hampshire) I have got the names of 17 more. I have sent after them, but I know that the Constables will not be faithfull for they are
its my opinion less or more conserned — Mr Justice Morison has declined Serving and I hope your Excellency will be pleased
to Excuse my acting any longer for I got myself ruined by the conduct of My Good Neighbour...
Governor Tryon communicated the contents of Justice Munro's letter to his council on December 16 and the board ordered that its clerk write to the justice and desire him to transmit the utensils and examinations to the Court of Oyer and Terminer then sitting in Albany. 5 It is possible that these utensils were the "certain Moulds and other Instruments for Counterfeiting Spanish Mill'd Pieces of Eight" which the governor produced in council on June 9, 1773, which were then defaced and ordered to be lodged in the secretary's office until wanted for the trial of any criminals charged with making or passing such false coin. 6
At about the same time that Justice Munro had made his examination of Carpenter and Searles, other justices of Albany County had
also been at work. In the
New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury of November 30, 1772, was published the following extract of a letter from that county:
The Justices of King's District, Matthew Adgate, William B. Whiting, James Savage, and Nathaniel Culver, Esquires, have distinguished
themselves by an exemplary Vigilance, in the Discovery and Commitment of no less than twelve Persons, for the dangerous Offence
of counterfeiting our Paper Currency, and passing counterfeited bills. – – – Upon a close Examination of the first Person,
apprehended for the Offence, the Justices found out that several of the Offenders were in different Places, who appear to
have been confederated together for carrying on this pernicious Practice: – – – And having issued several Warrants, and dispatched
a Number of Officers at once, they so concerted Measures, that most of the Delinquents were apprehended nearly about the same
Time, and before the Alarm of the Fate of their Associates could reach any of them. The most noted of these Offenders is one
Joseph Bill, who was at White Plains, whither Colonel Elijah Williams, a Gentleman of Character, in Boston Government, accompanied by an Officer, who had a Warrant from the above-mentioned Justices, went in Pursuit of him, and by
an uncommon Dispatch, apprehended the Offender, before he had the least Intimation of his being discovered. There were found
in the Possession of the different Offenders, several Plates for striking three Pounds and five Shillings, New-York Bills, and Jersey Bills of different Denominations, also two Presses and a Quantity of Types; a Stamp for Dollars, and other
Implements, with a Quantity of Bills, some finished and some unfinished. The Conduct, not only of the Magistrates in King's
District, but of the Constables and inferior Officers also, is highly commendable, and the Public is indebted to them, as
well as to Colonel Williams, for detecting, apprehending, and bringing to condign Punishment, a Number of Persons, united
in one of the most pernicious Confederacies that have been known in the Province for a long Time.
The names of the money makers taken in Albany County were printed in the Massachusetts Gazette; and the Boston Weekly News- Letter of December 10, 1772, as Joseph Bill, John Williamson, John Wall Lovely, William Hurlbut, Festus Drake, Silas Robison, Gill Belcher, Wane Case, John Johnson, John Stannard, Simon Claviland, and Humphrey Dening. The New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy of December 14, 1772, gave the following list which differs slightly from the above: John Smith, John Williamson, John Wall Lovely, John Standly, John Johnson, Joseph Bills Parker, Wane Base, Simon Cleveland, Hambleton Deaney, Gill Belcher, William Holbert, Phester Drake, Silas Robison.
The prisoners were dangerous and no doubt even more turbulent because smallpox broke out in the county jail. Simon Cleveland died of this disease and, according to the New-York Gazette: or, the Weekly Post-Boy of December 14, 1772, "four more of them caught the Contagion, and the Remainder were under Apprehensions of getting the distemper." On the night of Wednesday, December 9, the counterfeiters almost effected an escape by breaking out of the prison near the chimney but they were heard by the guard which had been kept over the jail since their confinement. After their attempted break was frustrated, they were thereafter kept more closely confined. 8
A special court of Oyer and Terminer was opened in Albany on December 11, 9 and eighteen persons were indicted for counterfeiting or knowingly passing false bills of credit or Spanish dollars. 10 The Court had before it a letter, dated December 13, 1772, from Justices Whiting and Adgate, certifying that two of the prisoners, John Wall Lovely and William Hulbert, had given important information which led to the arrest of Joseph Bill and other counterfeiters. 11 This letter, partially destroyed, shows that Lovely was arrested in the latter part of October, 1772, for having passed counterfeit bills of New York. The justices promised him to intercede with the Court of Oyer and Terminer before which he must be tried in case he should give truthful information about the company of money makers. Thereupon Lovely freely gave the names of persons whom he knew and directed how to find where a money press had been used a short time before in Sheffield. His information proved to be correct and enabled the magistrates to apprehend many of the gang and to find numerous instruments. After the arrests had been made, the justices secured information from one Daniel Lewis and Joshua Adams that Joseph Bill was in the lower part of the Oblong and the authorities were able to seize him. 12
The confession of William Hulbert, made on December 21, 1772, implicated Dr. Smith, Th. Smith, Dr. Bill, James Sutton, Jack Williams and Abner Burrows, of Connecticut, Lewis Lett, Phineas Granger, Colonel Hogaboom and Stephen Hogaboom in the business of counterfeiting. 13 The document is badly charred and only legible in part. It states that Hulbert knew of no makers of dollar stamps save Bill and one J. Williams of Goshen, Connecticut, with whom a certain Abner Burrows was connected. Tha. Lett and Phineas Granger had 300 or 400 counterfeits. One Younglove stated that he had received counterfeit money from Colonel Hogaboom. A person who had died in jail, probably Simon Cleveland, had told Hulbert that Stephen Hogaboom had promised to find him what dollars he could to mix with copper in order to make dollars. Hulbert also understood that directions for making counterfeit bills were furnished to Dr. Smith and his associates by Colonel Hogaboom, who likewise was supposed to have given directions for numbering bills to persons concerned in making counterfeit money in Sheffield. A certain Abijah Smith was also implicated in the business. 14
At the Court of Oyer and Terminer which opened on December 11 five persons were convicted, John Smith, William Hulbert, Joseph
Bills Parker, Gilbert Belcher and John Wall Lovely, only one of whom, Smith, was sentenced to be executed on February 6, 1773.
The proceedings were complicated by the fact that a jurisdictional question was involved, since some of the prisoners had
been apprehended in a section of Berkshire County, Massachusetts, which was also claimed by New York. Reaction in Massachusetts was represented by the following account which appeared in the Supplement to the Massachusetts Gazette of January 21, 1773:
We hear from the County of Berkshire, That about five weeks since one of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the County of Albany, issued his Warrant against several persons of the Towns of Sheffield and Stockbridge upon a suspicion that they had been concerned in counterfeiting the Bills of Credit of the province of New York. The Complainants accompanied with Mr. Williams, Sheriff of the County of Berkshire, applied to the Hon. Timothy Woodbridge, Esq; of Stockbridge, for a Warrant to apprehend said Persons, and transmit them to the authority of Albany County, to be examined touching the susposed Offence. Mr. Woodbridge utterly refused to grant a Warrant of such an extraordinary
tenor; but consented to grant a Warrant to apprehend and convene said Persons before him or some other Magistrate of the County
of Berkshire, to be examined touching that Matter: but the Sheriff and others with him
declined Mr. Woodbridge's Offer, expressly declaring that such Proceedure would not answer what they proposed to effect. And
thereupon immediately and very abruptly left Mr. Woodbridge and proceeded thro' the Town of Great-Barrington (wherein resided three Justices for Berkshire County, two of whom, viz. David Ingersoll, jun. and Mark Hopkins, Esqrs. were learned in the Law) to the Town of Sheffield, to Joshua
Ashley, Esq; who granted a Warrant according to their Wishes; by Virtue of which the said Sheriff apprehended those Persons
and hastily dragged them out of Berkshire County into the County of Albany, where they were very rigorously and partially treated, and directly hurried away to Albany Goal, then greatly infected with the Small Pox. Some of them have since been seized with that contagious Distemper and died,
and there has been a special Court appointed to try those who survive. The Court has met and tried four of them, who are all
convicted, and one is now under Sentence of Death. The Court is adjourned till next June, and Justice Livingston gave in Charge to the Grand Jury to enquire into all Offences that should be committed any where West of the West Banks of
Connecticut River, which they accordingly did, and in the Indictments expressly alledged that the Crime was committed in the said Sheffield,
&c. in the County of Albany, &c.
On what foundation they ground so extravagant a Claim we would gladly be informed.
Justice Woodbridge has forwarded a Letter to his Excellency Governor Hutchinson, relative to this extraordinary Proceeding,
which was immediately laid before the Great and General Court now sitting here, and a Committee of both Houses appointed to
take it into Consideration.
Governor Tryon of New York, who in a speech to his council and the General Assembly on January 6, 1773, had called their attention to "the Mischief
arising from the Circulation of a large Quantity of Counterfeit Currency lately brought into this Country,"
laid before his council on January 27 a letter, dated January 25, from Justice Livingston, who had presided over the Court of Oyer and Terminer. The letter stated:
At the last Court of Oyer and Terminer and Goal Delivery held at Albany, there were five persons convicted, to wit, William Hulbert, Joseph Bill, John Wall Lovely, Gilbert Beletier and John Smith.
On the last only of whom he had passed Sentence of Death. That one Reason for deferring Judgment on the rest was that their
Crimes of Counterfeiting or passing Counterfeit Money, were committed in Sheffield, where for many years last past the Government
of Massachusetts-Bay has exercised an uncontroll'd Jurisdiction. But that a late act having included the place within the County of Albany, he was under the Necessity of trying them there, and that unless his Excellency shall think it proper to interpose a pardon,
the same Act will oblige him to proceed to Judgment. And that if Mercy should be extended to any one of them only, he would
recommend William Hulbert, who tho evidently guilty had made an ample Confession, and has been instrumental in discovering
the principal Offender one Bill, as appears by a Certificate of the Justices Adgate and Whiting and his own Confession.
The governor's council also had before it the following petitions for pardon: two, one of December 28, 1772, and one of January 9, 1773, from William Hulbert (or Hulbard), one from his father, Obediah, of Enfield, Connecticut, begging mercy for his son, one from the inhabitants of Enfield and Suffield in favor of young Hulbert, two, one dated January 5 and the other January 12, 1773, from John Smith, one from Joseph Bill, dated January 12, one from John Wall Lovely, and one from Gilbert Belcher. 18 When the letter from Justice Livingston, the certificate of Justices Adgate and Whiting, and the petitions had been read, the council advised the governor to pardon only William Hulbert because his early confession appeared to have been a consequence of the justices' promise to recommend mercy. The council observed that, although the same justices had likewise recommended John Wall Lovely, he had already been punished in one of the eastern colonies for the like offence, and they were therefore of the opinion that the law should be allowed to take its course. 19 At an earlier meeting, on January 6, they had recommended against a pardon for Smith. 20
Two of the petitions which the council rejected are preserved in a fragmentary condition: Gilbert Belcher in a document written in the Albany jail on January 5 protested he had never had any counterfeit money in his possession and prayed the governor to "take pity on a helpless mortal who has but a poor helpless famely of a wife and nine children the oldest not but twelve years old;" all had but the petitioner's labor on which to exist, and he was, further, his aged mother's only child. 21 John Wall Lovely, in his petition of January 12, admitted that he had passed two £3 bills, but, as he could neither read or write a word, he had no idea that they were counterfeit. In fact, he claimed that he had sold a good horse for them and further that the people to whom he passed the bills at first took them but some time after on close inspection found that they were bad. He asserted also that the person who returned them to him was repaid with good money but did not give back the false bills and also prosecuted him. The petition closed with the plaint that he had been born in England and thus had neither friend nor relative to whom he might apply. 22
Hulbert alone, then, had his petition granted and a pardon was issued on January 28, 1773, for his crime in counterfeiting New York bills and counterfeiting and passing Spanish pieces of eight. 23 The governor's council, however, ordered a new Commission of Oyer and Terminer and General Goal Delivery to issue for the County of Albany and to be in force for the space of six months and advised Governor Tryon to recommend to the judges that they oblige William Hulbert before receiving his pardon to enter into recognizance with proper security to appear at any time when required to give evidence against any of the criminals then in jail or who should be indicted for the like offence. 24
During the month of February and before the Commission of Oyer and Terminer met there was much feeling in Massachusetts over the arrest of certain counterfeiters in what was claimed by that province as its territory. On February 10, according to the minutes of the governor's council, 25
His Excellency communicated two Letters one from the Sherif of Albany dated the 6th. Instant, the other from Mr Justice Adgate of the County of Albany, dated the 2d Instant, which was read, by which it appears that a Warrant issued by the Court of Oyer and Terminer lately held at Albany, against Ichabod Miller, charged with Counterfeiting or knowingly passing Counterfeit Bills of Credit of this Colony, who was apprehended a little to the Eastward of the supposed Temporary Jurisdiction Line; That two of the under Sherif's Assistants had been since taken on a Warrant issued by Mr Justice Woodbridge of the Massachusetts Bay province, charging them as Rioters, and obliged to give Bail for their appearance at a Court of Sessions to be held for the County of Berkshire, in that Government. And that they were under apprehensions of being treated with great Rigour, as the Prosecution is carried on by Mr Woodbridge with Resentment, from an Opinion that the Jurisdiction of his County, was infringed by the Officer who apprehended Miller.
The Council humbly advised his Excellency to inform Governor Hutchinson of the Circumstances of this Affair, to assure him that had the Case been reversed, he should chearfully have granted a Noli prosequi to prevent so unreasonable a proceedure, and to intimate that he has no doubt this Measure will be adopted by him, as it seems absolutely necessary even if the Limits between the two provinces had never been drawn into Dispute.
The minutes of the council for February 15 continued the story as follows:
His Excellency communicated the Draft of a Letter to Governor Hutchinson
relative to the persons who are now under prosecution in the province of the Massachusetts Bay, for assisting the under Sherif of the County of Albany in apprehending Ichabod Miller, charged with Felony, and who was taken a small Distance to the Eastward of the supposed Temporary
Line of Jurisdiction — informing Governor Hutchinson of the Facts as represented by the Officer of this Government, and intimating
the propriety of his putting an immediate Stop to that Prosecution, and That if this Measure should appear inexpedient, the
parties under Prosecution can have no other Remedy than to plead to the Jurisdiction of the Courts of that Province, and in
Case their Plea is rejected, to carry the Cause by Appeal to his Majesty, in which they cannot Fail of being powerfully supported
by this Government. And the Draft of the Letter being Read and amended was approved of by the Board.
Justice Woodbridge of Stockbridge in his "resentment" made certain charges to Governor Hutchinson against Colonel Williams, Sheriff of Berkshire, and Justice Ashley, relative to their conduct against counterfeiters, and all this was reported to Governor Tryon in a letter, dated Kinderhook, February 10, written by H. van Schaak. 28 On February 17 this letter from van Schaak was read to the governor's council informing that Williams and Ashley, "who were Instrumental in apprehending several of the persons charged with counterfeiting the Bills of Credit of this Colony, and had assisted in breaking up the Dangerous Confederacy formed to carry on this atrocious Crime, were summoned to attend both Branches of the Legislature of that Province, to answer for their conduct." Thereupon the council advised Governor Tryon to signify to Governor Hutchinson the "grateful Acknowledgements" of New York "for the laudable Zeal manifested by those Gentlemen on this Public Occasion, and to recommend them in the warmest manner to his Countenance and Protection." 29
Feeling in Massachusetts, however, had been aroused over the affair, and on February 20 the council and General Assembly of Massachusetts passed a resolution protesting the arrest and detention in jail in Albany of Gilbert Belcher and others, inhabitants of Berkshire County, for crimes alleged to have been committed west of the line. 30 Governor Hutchinson on February 20 wrote to Tryon enclosing the resolution passed by the council and House of Representatives of Massachusetts. It was requested that the sentence of Gilbert Belcher and the other inhabitants of Massachusetts be not carried out unless it were proved that they had committed crimes to the westward of the line allegedly submitted to by both provinces for several years.
After consideration of the situation the council on March 1 advised Governor Tryon that the law should take its course and that a committee of the board should formulate reasons for this opinion that they might be communicated to Governor Hutchinson. This committee, headed by William Smith, on March 3 made a lengthy and highly informative report. It pointed out that four of the convicted counterfeiters had committed their crimes beyond twenty miles to the eastward of the Hudson River and that one of them, William Hulbert, had been pardoned, leaving Joseph Bill, John Wall Lovely and Gilbert Belcher subject to capital punishment. The committee further noted that for many years the province of New York had treated the counterfeiting or altering of its currency – – no matter where the crime was committed – – as felony without benefit of clergy. The committee conceived this practice "is founded upon the aggravated Nature of the Offence, and the great and invincible Law of Necessity, for if the mere Circumstance of Counterfeiting the Coin of any Country, beyond the precise Line of its Territory, will render the agent dispunishable, the power of providing for the publick safety, a power essential to every Legislative Body, cannot be enjoyed in its proper Extent, and this pernicious practice will receive such Countenance and Encouragement, as must be subversive of Commerce and Confidence, and all the Security of Civil Society."
No act, the report continued, passed for this purpose was disallowed by the Crown nor until now had given umbrage to any of the neighboring colonies, some of which had assisted in the surrender of offenders to the justice of New York. The committee expressed surprise at the intervention of Massachusetts for such criminals and also alarm, as the principle on which the Massachusetts government seemed to proceed appeared unfriendly to all the colonies, especially at a time when complaints of the corrupting of the currency of the provinces was general and the practice was prevalent in several parts of the continent. The intercession of Massachusetts, in the eyes of the committee, seemed to spring from a principle "that renders it impossible to every one of the Colonies to prevent the Corruption of its Coin, and leaves them only the power of punishing the Offence of passing it, an Offence rarely to be proved from the Difficulty of evincing the Scienter, an Offence less malignant than that of coining the Money, and which if this Solecism in polity, is to be submitted to, must nevertheless pass with Impunity, tho the Offender be apprehended within the Limits of the province that is injured."
Governor Hutchinson, the committee pointed out, claimed that the authority of New York extended only to a line twenty miles east of the Hudson River and that the offence of Belcher and the others, being committed in Berkshire County to the east of the said line, was by the law of Massachusetts no more than a trespass. In answer to this the committee asserted that, even if the jurisdiction of Massachusetts up to a line twenty miles east of the Hudson River had been uncontrovertable, it might be expected that an excess of eagerness on the part of constables in capturing the criminals
would scarce have exposed them to censure, since the Guilt of such Offenders ought to render them obnoxious as pirates are
by the Law of Nations to be proceeded against in the Courts of all States to what Prince
soever they may be Subject — and tho' the Committee does not mean to assert that a Counterfeiter of public Coin of any Country
is subject to the same universal Law, yet from the peculiar Malignity of the Crime and its extensive and pestilent Effects
the Obligation upon Colonies (which tho' independent of each other are nevertheless connected by the indissoluble Ties of
Interest and Subject to the same Sovereign) to act upon a principle of mutual Sympathy, seems to stand upon so solid and immovable
a Foundation, as that which justifies independent Nations in proceeding against the Subjects of any other State for such Crimes
as are incompatible with human Safety – – Instead therefore of complaining of the Execution of our Laws against such enormous
Offenders, we might rather have expected the Aid of the Massachusetts Bay for their punishment, and that by Laws of their own they would have conspired to prevent the Infraction of ours.
The committee observed that Massachusetts did not complain that any New York officers had crossed the aforesaid twenty mile line armed with the authority of New York against offenders. And, if they had, the territory from the Hudson to the Connecticut River was as much subject to the jurisdiction of New York as of Massachusetts. It added that the late act of New York including lands to the eastward of the twenty mile line was "to prevent any Conclusions from being drawn to the prejudice of our Claims in future."
The report continued:
It was therefore a mere Accident that these Criminals were tried in the County of Albany, thô the Event has however shewn the Act to be of use in a much more important Article than the Legislature had in Contemplation
when it was framed.
But for that Act, the District in Controversy would have been the only place where the Currency of this province might have
been counterfeited, and the Counterfeiter unimpeachable, thô apprehended in the Colony and clearly chargeable with the Fact:
For as the Laws made to Guard against the Corruption of our Currency Stood before that Act was passed, the Counterfeiter in
that Quarter could not have been prosecuted at all, it having escaped the Legislature to provide against the Commission of
the Offence, at a place within the Province and yet not within any of its Counties.
And as there is good Reason to believe that a very great part if not all the false Money in Circulation, was made in this
very district, the province would have been reduced to the disagreeable Necessity of passing an ex post Facto Law or of considering
the Agents in this infamous Traffic as chargeable with no Crime, unless they could be convicted of passing the Bills knowing
them to be counterfeited.
There was, the report held, no reason for any interposition in their favor even if their crimes had been committed in Boston or any other place beyond the territorial extent of New York. The report continued as follows:
The Offence of counterfeiting the publick Coin by the Laws of England and of many other States is punished as a Species of Treason, and it seems strange to the Committee that so henious an Act
should nevertheless by the Laws of the Massachusetts Bay be considered merely as a Trespass, for which the party injured is only to be recompensed in Damages, as thô it was a
meer private Wrong committed without Force.
To the extreme Laxity of the New England Laws towards this Species of Offenders it may be owing that the Bills of Credit of this Colony are so generally and greatly
disparaged. No less than thirty six Indictments were found against the Makers and passers of false Money at the late Court
in Albany. New Offenders have been since apprehended and await their Trials in several other Parts of the province. False Bills to
an Amount of more than twelve hundred Pounds have already been Stop'd by the Magistrates, and we hear of fresh Discoveries
of Knots of Money Makers in divers Places, so that some exemplary punishment seems to be requisite not only in Justice to
the public, but in Mercy to Individuals, who by the blameable Indulgence of Government, may be induced to participate in the
Guilt of an Offence that threatens an almost universal prevalence in all parts of the Continent.
It appeared that the prisoners had no grounds to complain about the conduct of the court by which they were tried. The only point they made was that their offence was in Massachusetts a trespass but in New York a felony. The committee, however, observed that these criminals would have suffered death if their offence had been com- mitted in any other colony and that the infliction of that penalty now would probably be a motive to hasten the settlement of the boundary dispute between the two provinces. Further, the committee added, the including of the disputed land in the County of Albany was no more blameable than its inclusion by Massachusetts in the County of Berkshire. 31
The Honorable Robert Livingston arrived in Albany on March 1,
and on the following day opened the Court of Oyer and Terminer. On March 6 he took William Hulbert's deposition concerning
his association with Ethan Lewis of Sheffield and Gilbert Belcher in striking off counterfeit money.
Justice Livingston on March 9, 1773, sent from Claremont this letter in which he informed the governor of the proceedings of the court. He wrote:
I opened the Court of Oyer & Terminer the 2d Instant, & on Friday passed Sentence of Death on Joseph Bill, Gilbert Belcher, and John Wall Lovely. — Their Execution is
ordered on the 2d of April. I have given his Majesty's Pardon to Wm. Hulbert, after which I took his Deposition and left him confined till
he finds security for his Appearance at the next Court of Oyer & Terminer in Dutchess County. The two Witnesses Lewis, and Adams on whose Testimony Bill and Belcher were convicted did not appear tho' they were bound
in very large Sums, wch. obliged us to leave two Witnesses, on whose Testimony he could be convicted: He swore that he saw Belcher in a Wood striking
5/ Bills while others were striking £3 Bills, that he struck four or five wch. were afterwards signed. Your Excellency will observe the difference between this, and the Testimony of Hulbert which Mr
Morris will lay before you — The Prisoner was acquainted by Hulbert himself with what he could say, and insisted much on this,
that Lewis' Testimony was false. You will also observe, that tho they differ in Circumstances, that Hulbert's Testimony is
as much against him as Lewis's. How far this ought to operate in this poor wretches Favour, I must Leave your Excellency to
consider. I write this in Haste as I send it, after Mr. Morris who is going down. I expected him here but have just received
Excuse for not calling. I beg Leave therefore to refer to him for a particular account of our Transactions.
The fate of Belcher, Packer and Lovely was sealed but before their execution they afforded the people of Albany no little excitement, as the following extract from a letter from Albany dated April 3, 1773, shows. It read:
John Wall, and two others were executed here yesterday, for being concerned in counterfeiting the Paper Currency of this province:
— Wall was a hardened villain, and I believe a great rogue; after he hung on the gallows, I had the curiosity to take off
his cap, and saw, as I before heard, that he was cropt. — Such work as he and his fellow prisoners made the day before they
were executed was never known here before; they got off their bolts in the night, and made their escape out of goal, but were
soon apprehended, and their irons renew'd, the next morning (when they were to have been executed) they had them off again,
barr'd the room they were confined in, bid defiance to the Sheriff and his party and were determined to kill any person that
should attempt to take them out; the militia of the whole city was obliged to be got under arms. Wall and his two fellows
kept them off, and none dare go in, as they were to die at any rate. Wall sat fire to the goal, and expected to die so; but
the inhabitants soon brought the engines and extinguished it. — His next contrivance was thus; he got about two pounds of
powder from some malicious fellows, put it in a bottle, and a match to put to it when the Sheriff or any other person dare
venture in: Thus they kept the city in an uproar for some time; at last a party suddenly broke in upon them, and according
to his scheme, fix'd his match to the bottle, which he held in his hand, but thro' the mercy of providence, the powder did not take fire. — After which they were carried to the gallows, and executed according to their desert. Wall
seem'd to die penitent, and sung psalms at the place of execution.
Belcher's dying speech, if sincere, indicated penitence. He stated that he was a New Englander of good family and a silversmith by trade, always "of an unsocial, refractory disposition." About seven years earlier he had gone to reside in Great Barrington, where he met with people as perversely inclined as himself. He soon became associated with them and concerted schemes which had no tendency to promote the interests of their neighbors. "No gain," he said, "afforded me so much pleasure as that which I acquired by illicit means. Coining and counterfeiting engrossed my attention, and those who first advised me to transgress, persuaded me to continue my inquitous practices." He added bitterly that those more guilty than he had escaped the danger through the mediation of friends or the powerful efficacy of a sum of money, properly applied. 36
Joseph Bill Packer, of whose life and travels a cursory narrative had been already published, in his speech and confession touched thus upon
his counterfeiting operations:
I never considered that it was criminal for a mechanic to finish any piece of work that he is employed to execute, whatever
mischievous purposes the instrument he makes is applied to, after the artist delivers it out of his hands: For example a gun-smith
makes a musket, an assassin purchases it, and with it shoots twenty men, whose lives were very valuable to society, is the
innocent mechanic to be made answerable for the damage done by the villain?
My case is exactly similar; I engraved plates in North-Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the Jersies, for people who made a practice of counterfeiting the currency of those provinces; but I never passed any
bills of credit fabricated by them.
In the months of March and February last I was applied to, by William Hulbert and Daniel Lewis, to engrave two copper plates,
the one to resemble a three pounds, and the other a five shillings bill, dated February 16, 1771, of the late emission of
New-York bills of credit; I compleated the work, and received a reward of eighteen pounds when I delivered the plate to Hulbert and
Afterwards I saw Hulbert strike, or impress, about forty bills on the same copper-plates that I had engraved.
Daniel Lewis signed the bills, and his sister (Miss Polly, an active, accomplished young lady) distributed the ink upon the
plates when the
impression was struck. James Budd was in the room when the work was performed, and Deacon Kelleck came to Lewis's house with
a watch, in order to exchange it for bills of their manufacture. And, in my opinion, the father of Daniel Lewis was not ignorant
of the illegal transactions of his son and associates.