The Trial of Robert Jones for Blackmail, 1792
ROBERT JONES otherwise called CHARLES WARNER was indicted for that he, on the 3d of November , knowingly and unlawfully did send a certain letter, the names of James Cook and William Brown subscribed thereto [i.e. signed using these names], to Thomas Horne, threatening to accuse the said Thomas Horne of the crime of sodomy, with a view and intent to extort money from him against the form of the statute and against the Kings peace; and
ANN SIMPSON was indicted, for that she, on the same day, knowingly and unlawfully did deliver the said letter.
(The case was opened by Mr. Garrow.)
THOMAS HORNE sworn.
I am by profession a stock-broker; I was born in this city, and have transacted my business in the Royal-exchange many years; I sent an advertisement to the paper for inserton on Friday, but it was not inserted till the next day, Saturday the 3d of November; on that Saturday morning I saw the woman Burton at my office about twelve oclock, she delivered me that letter; in consequence Mr. Harris went out with the woman and brought the woman and man back.
Q. How soon did you see Phillis Jones or Warner; was you present when any questions were asked of him with respect to the knowledge of that letter?
I was, the woman was brought in again, and him in about five or ten minutes, as soon as he came in into the office, he said to me, it was a very extraordinary thing that I should have him brought into my office who knew nothing at all about the business, for (he added) I am sure I can know nothing, for I never saw you before in my life, and I dare say you never saw me; I told him that was nothing at all to the matter in dispute; I told him that a very extraordinary letter was brought to me into my office, and I should insist of knowing from him, before he left my office, where he got that letter; then he threatened me with an action for false imprisonment [p.182] for detaining him; I answered, I would run that risk; I then sent a man immediately for a cosntable, and he brought one in about ten minutes, he kept continually saying, he knew nothing more of the letter; when the constable came he took him immediately before my Lord Mayor; I did not ask him any questions, I thought it was best to reserve that for the magistrate; when they were taken before the Lord Mayor they gave a most contradictory evidence to what he gave me, the woman was examined first, as soon as he was brought in and examined he was asked if he knew nothing at all of the letter; he said, no; my Lord Mayor then asked him his name; he said, Robert Jones, and that he lived at an oyster shop some where in Chancery-lane; the Lord Mayor asked him what apartment; he said, a front room and a chamber, he said 15l. a year for it, at last he said, that the womans husband threw the letter after her, that he, the prisoner, had taken it up and given it to her and came to shew her where to come.
Q. I observe the letter is not directed to any particular place but only Mr. Horne, Stock-broker; I suppose in your advertisement you had stated where you did your business?
Yes, he was then asked again about his profession and what he was; he said, he was a gentleman; he asked him what he had to live upon; he said 50l. a year, which was remitted from his father in Ireland; the Lord Mayor then asked him, whether it was remitted in bills or Bank notes; he said, in Bank bills; then he was asked whether he had not a great many of those covers by him; he said, he certainly had; he was asked whether he had any of those about him; he said, no, he was very glad he had not, because he did not choose they should be exhibited to every body; he was then asked about the letter, and then he said, he did give it to that woman, and a woman in the street gave it to him; then the Lord Mayor said, it is very extraordinary that he should bring a letter and take a letter from a stranger; have not you been at Tothill-fields Bridewell? he said, no, he had never been there, and then he said at last, he had been there that very morning; he did not say that he had the letter from thence, but he seemed to imply it; then he was asked again if he knew the contents of the letter; he said, no; then he was asked if he was the writer; he said, he could not write; then he was asked if he knew either or the parties who signed the letter; he said, he believed he might know them by sight; then he was asked whether he was not a member of this club in question, at last he acknowleded that he had been there some time and that he knew the man at the house.
Q. Did you learn from him in any examinations whether he could write?
The Lord Mayor on Monday desired him to write, and he took a pen and made a scrawl; the Lord Mayors clerk asked him if he had not been there charging a man with robbing him of money and signed his name; he said, if he had signed it was very badly wrote; the Lord Mayor asked him if that robbery had been tried; he said, no, the grand jury threw out the bill. On Monday he said, that every thing that he said on Saturday was wrong.
Q. Did you enquire to see whether he lived at the oyster shop?
They neither of them lived where they said. I went to Tothill-fields Bridewell; I saw Brown there; I never saw him before, and he acknowledged he never saw me.
Q. Mr. Horne I will put a quetion to you though it has not any thing to do in the subject; was there the smallest truths in these insinuations?
Not the least in the world.
Mr. Knowlys. Mr. Horne I am extremely sorry they have been thrown out. I can assure you that in my brief [p.183] there is not a tittle suggested to your prejudice, and God forbid I should throw any imputation.
PHILLIP NICHOLS sworn.
I was with Mr. Horne at the time the woman brought this letter, I have known him thirty-four years; I was present also when the man was brought in.
Q. You have heard Mr. Horne, was it as he said?
WILLIAM HAYNES sworn.
I have been clerk to Mr. Horne thirteen or fourteen years; I was at the office when the woman first came, she asked if Mr. Horne was at home, I told her he was not, she said, she would call again, I wwent out merely from curiosity to the door, and I saw her in company with Warner; he was at the Royal Exchange Gate, he appeared to be there waiting, and when they came past the door, she said, there was somebody there, or with him, and so I said nothing about it; in half an hour after, I saw the man in Exchange Alley, I was out on business, then he was waiting by himself, on my going on to the office, I found the woman there, I found Mr. Horne had received the letter, he asked the woman where she brought it from, she said, a man gave it her in the street, I went out and fetched the man in, he was still waiting in Exchange Alley; I asked him to go along with me, he said, he would not, he was waiting for a lady, I told him the lady wanted to speak with him, and I laid hold of his arm, he says, dont behave rude to me, I will not go with you; I then went into the office, and told the woman, the man would not come, O says she, then I will fetch him in, and then I, and the woman went out together to fetch him in, he was gone, then I brought the woman back, and Mr. Horne gave me the latter to go to his attorney, when I came out, I saw the same man at the Royal Exchange Gate, and as soon as I came in sight he ran away, I soon overtook him, and laid hold of him, and brought him back to the office.
The letter read by the clerk, as follows:
Saturday morning, sir, I am sorry to inform you, that I have been unfortunate with the rest on Monday last, in Clements-lane, as I suppose you must have seen in the papers, and have been in prison ever since, not being able to get bail as some have done, I have been solicited to say who supported me in the least, which I would not do, till I sent to you and another friend likewise, who I believe is out of town; I believe, I could get bail, if I could but make up 10l. which would settle every thing intirely, for it is very hard, as you know, and as I know, you are a considerate man, for me to lay in prison six months, in a starving condition, therefore I hope you will send me at the assistance by the bearer, &c.
Mr. Knowlys spoke on the part of the defendant.
From yours to command,
J. Cook W. Brown.
We shall be brought up again, at the office, this evening, when with your kind assistance, I shall be able to settle everything quietly.
To Mr. Horne, stock-broker.
Robert Jones otherwise Charles Warner: