THE FIRST PUBLIC DEBATE ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY IN ENGLAND
News Reports concerning
the Case of Captain Jones
NOTE: The news reports reproduced on this page relate to the conviction and subsequent pardon of Captain Robert Jones for sodomy. For an introduction and overview of the affair, see The First Public Debate about Homosexuality in England.
16-18 July 1772
The person committed to Newgate on Wednesday, from the office in Litchfield-street, for an unnatural offence, is said to be a Captain in the Army. (General Evening Post) [The same report appeared in the Daily Advertiser for 18 July.]
Saturday 18 July 1772
A Captain in the army was committed to Newgate on Wednesday evening, from the office in Litchfield-street, on a positive charge of committing an unnatural crime on a boy under fourteen years of age. On examination of the accusing parties, it appeared that the boy (an innocent lad of thirteen) had been enticed by the prisoner to his lodgings by various pretexts two or three times, tho’ the actual perpetration of the fact was swore to but once. Shame kept the boy from naming it to his friends, till the Captain buying sometehing at the shop of the lad’s uncle, and fearing he should be ordered to carry it home, he earnestly pressed that he might not, and that the uncle would carry it himself. The earnestness of the boy raised a suspicion, and created enquiries, which brought on a reluctant discovery of the whole matter. In one part of the boy’s information, he said the Captain told him he would teach him how to get a child; on which one of the Justices humorously remarked, he did not think that could be the way. (Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser) [The identical report appeared in The Craftsman; or Say’s Weekly Journal for 18 July.]
18 July 1772
Came on, at the Old Bailey, the trial of Capt. Robert Jones for an unnatural crime on the person of Henry Francis Hay, a boy about 13 years of age. This boy was ’prentice to a Jeweller, in St. Martin’s Lane, was seduced to the lodgings of the prisoner under pretence of matching a knee-buckle, and was there assaulted and the unnatural crime committed upon him, as laid in the indictment. He was desired to call again the next day for the buckle, which he did, and the prisoner repeated the same unnatural intercourse, which the boy said he suffered partly for the sake of a promised reward, and partly from fear of disobliging his Master’s customer. The boy, tho’ so very young was, it seems, very particular in his evidence, and his character being established by substantial witnesses, the jury believed him, and the prisoner was found guilty. As this trial may one time or other be drawn into president, this short account of it was thought necessary; otherwise it were well if the memory of the crime, the Captain, and the boy, were for ever buried in oblivion. The Captain has since been reprieved. (Gentleman’s Magazine, Historical Chronicle, 1772)
18 July 1772
The sessions ended at the Old-Bailey. At this sessions, ten were capitally convicted, thirty-three received sentence of transportation for seven years, and two for fourteen years.
Among those capitally convicted, was an officer in the train of artillery, charged with committing an unnatural crime. (Annual Register)
18-21 July 1772
Saturday morning last, about ten o’clock, came on at the Sessions-House in the Old-Bailey, before Mr. Justice Willes, Sir William Blackstone, Knt. and the rest of the Judges in commission, the trial of Captain Robert Jones, for committing an unnatural and detestable crime on the person of Henry Francis Hay, a boy about thirteen years of age. [then summarises the case, virtually identical to the General Evening Post]
It never can be supposed that his Majesty will extend his mercy to a man absolutely convicted of the most detestable vice that the depravity of human nature can possibly commit. Lenity to criminals of this sort is a tacit approbation of the crime, and must give encouragement to the numerous villains in this metropolis who are guilty of this unpardonable vice. In short, if Captain Jones should be pardoned, we must expect the practice to become general, and the society of women to be as much detested as it has hitherto been courted and esteemed. (London Evening Post)
18-21 July 1772
On Saturday the sessions ended at the Old Bailey, when 15 prisoners were tried, one of whom was capitally convicted, viz. Robert Jones, Esq; a Captain in the train of artillery (author of a treatise on skaiting, and several other literary performances) for committing a detestable crime upon Francis Henry Hay, a boy under 13 years of age. Ten received sentence of death, 33 for transportation for seven years, and two for 14 years. The next sessions will begin on Wednesday the 9th of September.[The singer and impressario Teresa Cornelys organized extravagant masquerades, entry by subscription only, to the fashionable and the aristrocracy, at her mansion Carlisle House, from 1762 through November 1772, when she was declared bankrupt.]
The person who was capitally convicted on Saturday last of a detestable crime, is a native of North-Wales, and has been in the army since his childhood, where, till the present time, he was greatly esteemed. He constantly kept company in the gay world, and was remarkably distinguished by his assuming the character of Punch in one of Mrs. Cornelys’s late masquerades. (General Evening Post)
18-25 July 1772
Saturday 15 prisoners were tried at the Old Bailey, one of whom was capitally convicted, viz. Robert Jones, for committing an unnatural offrence upon one Francis Hay, a lad about 13 years of age. ... (The Westminster Journal: and London Political Miscellany; the rest of the report is identical to that of the General Evening Post.)
20 July 1772
On Saturday the Sessions ended at the Old-Bailey, when 15 Prisoners were tried, one of whom was capitally convicted, viz. Robert Jones, Esq. a Captain in the Train of Artillery (Author of a Treatise on Skaiting, and several other literary Performances) for committing a detestable Crime upon Francis Henry Hay, a Boy under 13 Years of Age. (Daily Advertiser)
Monday 20 July 1772
A Captain in the army was committed to Newgate on Wednesday evening, from the Office in Litchfield-street, on a positive charge of committing an unnatural crime on a boy under fourteen years of age. On examination of the accusing parties, it appeared that the boy (an innocent lad of thirteen) had been enticed by the prisoner to his lodgings by various pretexts two or three times, though the actual perpetration of the fact was swore to but once. Shame kept the boy from naming it to his friends, till the Captain buying something at the shop of the lad's uncle, and fearing he should be ordered to carry in home, he earnestly pressed that he might not, and that the uncle would carry it himself. The earnestness of the boy raised a suspicion, and created enquiries, which brought on a reluctant discovery of the whole matter. (Salisbury and Wilthisre Journal)
Monday 20 July 1772
Robert Jones, for an unnatural connection with a boy about thirteen years of age, the nephew of a jeweller, to whom he was a customer. Mr. Jones, on his receiving sentence, insisted on his innocence, which, he said, he hoped would support him to the last. (Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser)
21-23 July 1772
An Account of the TRIAL of Capt. ROBERT JONES, on Saturday last, at the Sessions-House in the Old-Bailey, for committing an unnatural and detestale crime on the person of Henry-Francis Hay, a boy about thirteen years of age.
THE first evidence called was the boy on whom the crime was committed, who deposed, ‘that about a month ago he met with the prisoner at the bar (whom he had previously a slight knowledge of, from formerly living in that neighbourhood) in St. Martin’s-lane; that he persuaded him to go with him to his lodgings, under a pretence of matching a knee buckle (the boy being apprentice to his uncle, who was a jeweller); that he accordingly went; that upon entering the room, the prisoner locked the door, and then committed the crime charged in the indictment on him; that, after this, the prisoner gave him some halfpence, said that he could not find the buckle then, but desired he would call again next day, and tell no-body of what was done to him; that the boy accordingly went the next day, when he (the prisoner) repeated the same unnatural intercourse in every respect but the last. The boy being interrogated by the Court why he went the second day, as it was against his consent he was thus treated, he replied, he was partly tempted by the money the Captain promised him, as well as deterred from speaking of it to his uncle from shame, and the fear of his losing a good customer. In the course of the examination of this evidence, the Court received every minute satisfation which the law required relative to the confirmation of that horrid fact.[This long Account of the Trial ... is repeated in the Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser for 22 July, and in The Craftsman; or Say’s Weekly Journal for 25 July, as well as the Oxford Journal, which adds the following paragraph: This wretched criminal is a native of North Wales, and has been in the army since his childhood, where, till the present time, he was greatly esteemed. He constantly kept company in the gay world, and was remarkably distinguished by his assuming the character of Punch, in one of Mrs. Cornely's late masquerades.]
The boy’s uncle (a jeweller in St. Martin’s Lane) was next examined, who deposed, that Capt. Jones, a few days after the commission of this crime (as he afterwards found out) came into his shop, and bought a shirt-buckle with some other things, and that he took notice the boy was rather shy of him; upon which he asked him why he did not speak to his old friend Captain Jones? That the boy made some evasive answer; and upon his asking him to carry the things home to the Captain’s lodgings, he said he would rather be excused; that soon after he (the uncle) left the shop, when a Mr. Rapley being present, questioned the boy about his evasive answers to his uncle, when he confessed the whole afair in the same uniform manner he did in his evidence. He was asked by the Court what degree of reputation the boy’s veracity stood in, or whether his character was good, or not? To which he answered, he never remembered to have found him in a lie in his life.
Mr. Rapley and Mr. Prest (two friends of the boy’s uncle) were then severally examined, who both declared, that, on their separately questioning the boy, previous to their taking him before a Justice, in a very awful manner, setting before him not only the heinousness of telling a lye, but that of taking an innocent man’s life away, which his evidence must do, if he swore falsely; he repeated the same story in every particular, except in a few trifling circumstances. These evidences were likewise called to the boy’s character for veracity, who gave him a very good one.
This being the purport of the evidence against the prisoner, he was called upon his defence, who said no more than in general denying the charge, and calling some witnesses to his character, who gave him a very good one; and amongst these some women, who gave him the reputation of being a very gallant man amongst their sex. The Judge then summed up the whole of the evidence to the Jury; and, as he went along, very satisfactorily explained how far the fact was proved, as to the point of law; and that it entirely rested with them to decide, as they credited, or discredited the evidence. The Jury retired for about five minutes, and brought in their verdict guilty. About five o’clock the same evening the prisoner was remanded to the dock, when the Recorder passed sentence of death on him, which he heard seemingly with great fortitude and composure; after it was finished he bowed, and retired.
During the course of this trial, where descriptions and phrases were necessarily made use of towards the legal ascertainment of the fact, that would, in any other place but a Court of Justice, make nature revolt, there was a number of well-dress’d women in the galleries, who sat very composedly the whole time, to the scandal of all decency and feminality. [sic] (General Evening Post)
21-23 July 1772
Great interest is making for Capt. Jones; and it is an undoubted fact, that the Judge who tried him interests himself to obtain a pardon. (London Evening Post)
25 July 1772
A correspondent has favoured us with the following anecdotes of Capt. J[ones]: His father was a taylor, near St. Martin’s-lane; at the rejoicings for the taking of Louisbourg, he was a boy, and particularly active and clever in making fire-works: Mr. Pitt, now Lord Chatham, then first noticed him, and placed him as a cadet at Woolwich, from which station he raised himself by his merit to his now rank. He bore an irreproachable character till this unhappy affair; he supported his mother and sister: Add to which, he was remarkably witty and clever in whatever he undertook. He constructed the nocturnal watches to tell the hour in the darkest night, and was likewise the person who was celebrated at a late masquerade in the character of Punch. (Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser)
25 July 1772
On Saturday only one person was capitally convicted at the Old Bailey, viz.
Robert Jones, for an unnatural connection with a boy about thirteen years of age, the nephew of a jeweller, to whom he was a customer. Mr. Jones, on his receiving sentence, insisted on his innocence, which, he said, he hoped would support him to the last. (The Craftsman; or Say’s Weekly Journal)
25-28 July 1772
On Saturday last the report was made to his Majesty of the convicts under sentence of death in Newgate, when the five following were ordereed for execution next Wednesday se’nnight, viz. Geo. Lovel, for robbing Mr. Goodwin on the Paddington road; Robert Aistrop, for robbing Mr. Stearne in Park-lane; James Dempsey and John Devine, for robbing Richard Glover, Esq; in the back Road, Islington; and Robert Jones, Captain in the Train of Artillery, for committing a detestable crime on Francis Henry Hay, a boy under 13 years of age. (General Evening Post)
28-30 July 1772
It is confidently asserted, that General Conway presented a petition to the King, signed by every officer in the artillery, except Colonel Ord, in behalf of Captain Jones; yet, as an example to deter others, it is hoped his Majesty will allow this wretch to suffer the sentence of the law.
It is more than probable Captain Jones will not be pardoned.
Captain Jones, under sentence of death, was to have been married in a few days to a lady of considerable fortune. (London Evening Post)
30 July - 1 August 1772
We hear that a most audacious insult was offered last week to a great and amiable lady, by offering her a petition in favour of that miserable criminal Capt. Jones, which was rejected with the just anger it merited.
The toast of the day amongst the ladies is, Col. Ord, who refused to sign the petition in favour of a monster.
It is reported that some divorces will be the consequence of signing a certain infamous petition.
It is said, that his Majesty’s pardon will be extended to a certain criminal, if any lady of sense and virtue will declare under the gallows that she is ready to marry him.
Instead of one tradesman, we are sorry to hear, that several persons have absconded from the neighbourhood of Shoreditch, for a detestable crime.
To the honour of the present worthy Sheriffs be it said that they have publickly declared no more favour should be granted to a certain culprit on the day of execution than to other criminals. (London Evening Post) [A later report confirmed that Colonel Ord did in fact sign this petition.]
1 August 1772
On Friday the report was made to his Majesty of the convicts under sentence of death in Newgate, viz. ... Robert Jones, for an unnatural crime; ... when the following were ordered for execution, viz. George Lovell, Robert Aystrop, John Devine, James Dempsey, and Robert Jones, on Wednesday the 5th of August next. Thomas Masey, John Rogers, Richard Cole, John Fryers, and James Assent were respited during his Majesty’s pleasure. (The Craftsman; or Say’s Weekly Journal)
1-4 August 1772
Sunday the condemned sermon was preached at the Chapel at Newgate, by the Rev. Mr. Temple, from the following text: Hosea, chap. 13. ver. 14. ‘I will ransom them from the power of the grave: I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy destruction: Repentance shall be hid from my eyes.’ After which the Convicts received the holy sacrament, and all behaved with the greatest decency and reconciliation to their unhappy fate. Captain Jones was seriously and solemnly interrogated about his guilt, previously to the sacrament being administered to him: in the most resigned and affecting manner he declared himself entirely innocent of the crime he is to suffer for, which declaration he repeated before receiving the cup. (London Chronicle)
Tuesday 4 August 1772
It is thought that Capt. Jones, who is now under Sentence of Death for an unnatural Crime, will received his Majesty's most gracious Pardon; as some Gentlemen of the first Rank and fortune in the County of Suffolk, as well as the celebrated Mr. Drybr [i.e. Drybutter], and the whole Maccaroni Club, intend to convince a Great Personage [i.e. the King], that a Man or Taste should not lose his Life, for the Amore pio Pueri. (Manchester Mercury)
4-6 August 1772
From some circumstances in the behaviour of Jones, and declarations made by him since his respite, there can be no doubt of his having had an assurance of pardon, on condition of a temporary absence from the kingdom. Go on, therefore, Ye Balfes, ye M’Quirks, ye Jones’s, and ye Dbttrs, sure to escape the halter if you commit only Murder or Sodomy; certain to be hung if he steal a metal watch value fifteen shillings. (London Evening Post)
[Laurence Balfe and Edward MacQuirk, supporters of Sir William Beauchamp at the Brentford election in December 1768, had provoked a riot in which his opponent George Clark was killed. They were convicted of murder and sentenced to death, but granted a reprieve of seven days, during which time the wardens and examiners of the Surgeons Company reviewed the evidence of the surgeon who performed the autopsy on Clark, and they decided that he did not die of blows, wounds and bruises, as stated in the indictment. On 10 March 1769 Balfe and MacQuirk were pardoned by a royal warrant. Samuel Drybutter, a retailer of luxury goods, was a notorious sodomite, and is discussed in my essay on The Macaroni Club.]
5 August 1772
About noon yesterday a warrant was sent from the office of one of his Majesty’s Secretaries of State, ordering a respite of the execution of Robert Jones until Tuesday the 11th instant. (Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser)
Friday 7 August 1772
LONDON, (Thursday) JULY 30.
On Sunday a Petition in Behalf of Capt. Jones, now under Sentence of Death, was presented to the Duke of Gloucester, praying his Highness to move his Majesty for Pardon. The Duke said, the Application must be made to the Ministry, as he never interefered in such Cases.
It is confidently asserted, that General Conway presented a petition to the King, signed by every Officer in the Artillery, except Col. Ord, in Behalf of Captain Jones; yet, as an Example to deter others, it is hoped his Majesty will allow this Wretch to suffer the Sentence of the Law.
It is more than probable Captain Jones will not be paroned.
Captain Jones, under Sentence of Death, was to have been married in a few Days to a Lady of considerable Fortune. (Derby Mercury)
8 August 1772
It has been observed by many that no surgeon was evidence on the trial of Capt. Jones, as to examining whether the boy appeared to be injured, and that it would have been a very important circumstance to elucide the truth of the charge. We are however assured that application was made by the friends of the child to a surgeon, and he peremptorily refused; giving for a reason, that in a similar case he had once made an examination, and given a consequent testimony thereon, and that for some time after he had reason to think his life was pursued, and in danger, by and from some of the practisers of that infamous vice.
On the other hand a school-master, under whom the boy has been some years brought up, a man of good reputation, has drawn up a paper, to the truth of which he is ready to make affidavit (when such affidavit shall be admitted) very greatly in favour of the boy’s uncommon attachment to veracity, and a general good behaviour.
Application has been made to Sir John Fielding and other Justices to admit the affidavits of some persons in support of circumstances said to be favour in Capt. Jones; but the Magistrates have all refused, without being first authorised by an order of Privy Council. (The Craftsman; or Say’s Weekly Journal)
8-11 August 1772
Last night, about eleven o’clock, a further respite came to Newgate for Captain Jones, during his Majesty’s pleasure. (General Evening Post)
8-11 August 1772
Late last night a farther respite, during his Majesty’s pleasure, came to Newgate for Capt. Jones, who was to have been executed this day for a detestable crime; and it is said an express is despatched to York, requesting the presence of Judge Willes, who tried him in town. (London Chronicle)
Monday 10 August 1772
Sunday the condemned sermon was preached at the chapel at Newgate, from the following text: Hosea, chap. xiii. ver. 14. "I will ransom them from the power of the grave: I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy destruction: Repentance shall be hid from my eyes." After which, the convicts received the holy sacrament, and all behaved with the greatest decency and reconciliation to their unhappy fate. Capt. Jones was seriously and solemnly interrogated about his guilt, previously to the sacrament being administered to him: in the most resigned and affecting manner he declared himself entirely innocent of the crime he is to suffer for, which declaration he repeated before receiving the cup.
This day, about two o'clock, a respite of seven days came to Newgate for Captain Jones.
The citizens of London may well tremble for fear, lest divine vengeance should make this city like Sodom and Gomorrah. This nation had less to dread from Heaven if a thousand men, undiscovered, had been guilty of daily perpetrating this shameful crime, than for one man clearly and fully convicted, and solemnly condemned by the laws of this nation, to be pardoned.(Salisbury and Winchester Journal)
Monday 10 August 1772
This Day a Respite until the 11th inst. was sent from the Secretary of State's Office to Newgate for Capt. Jones, convicted of Sodomy, in consequence of a Petition presented in his Favour. (Northampton Mercury)
11 August 1772
Late last night a further respite, during his majesty's pleasure, came to Newgate for Capt. Jones, who was to have been executed this day for a detestable crime; and it is said an express is dispatched to York, requesting the presence of Judge Willes, who tried him, in town. (Annual Register)
12 August 1772
A further Respite, during his Majesty’s Pleasure, was on Monday Night sent from the Secretary of State’s Office to Newgate, for Lieut. Jones, whose former Respite expired Yesterday Morning. (Daily Advertiser)
Thursday 13 August 1772
In reading the history of the Jews contained in the Bible, the historian, after repeating a multitude of sins and offences against God and Man, of which that people were guilty, he concludes as a proof that he had not aggravated their wickedness, in saying, That there were Sodomites in the land.
The concourse of people about Newgate this morning, in expectation of seeing Jones go to Tyburn, was amazing. There was a universal murmur, when it was learnt that a respite had been received. It was thought impossible; and the execrations of the populace were liberally poured forth upon a certain great Personage.
In the reign of George II three wretches, for a detestable crime, were executed together at Tyburn. [This refers to the trials of 1726.] In the present reign, the only two convicted of the same abominable crime have been pardoned. (Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette)
14 August 1772
We hear that the boy on whose evidence Capt. Jones was capitally convicted of a detestable crime, was examined on Monday last by the Privy Council, when his answeres to the questions put to him were clear and decisive; his story in substance the same as upon the trial, and no lies or chicanery discoverable. (Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser)
15 August 1772
On Monday night about twelve o’clock, a warrant was sent from the Secretary of States office to Newgate, respiting the execution of Capt. Jones until his Majesty’s pleasure shall be further signified. (The Craftsman; or Say’s Weekly Journal)
17 August 1772
We are now told, that the boy on whose evidence Capt. Jones was capitally convicted for a detestable crime, was not examined on Monday last by the Privy Council, as mentioned in the papers, nor has he ever been examined since the trial at the Old Bailey. (Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser)
20-22 August 1772
It is said that Captain Jones will, in a few days, receive his Majesty’s pardon. He has promised to leave England and go to America, where he will have an appointment equal to what he had here. (General Evening Post)
Thursday 27 August 1772
Captain Jones in a few days will receive his Majesty's pardon.He has promised to leave England, and go to America, where his Majesty has given his Royal Word, he shall have an appointment equal to what he had here. He is to leave Newgate in the night.
It is impossible to conceive the daring advantages that have been taken of the lenity shewn to the above criminal by the detestable wretches of his complexion. Impunity in such abominable practices is inferred from it; and they seem to be right in such conclusion. Men, whose horror of the practice makes them tremble at the thought of its commission, are discouraged from apprehending the offenders, from a just apprehension of their own characters, by such an act of justice, being for ever blasted. Among the many places of resort within the metropolis for these infernal wretches, that part of Sherbone-lane [now Sherborne Lane] next Lombard-street, is not the least. Their amours are carried on in the open street; but to prevent any surprize, a watchman, or more, is placed at the avenues. And the advantages that arise to these guardians of the night, makes them not a little contentious who shall be placed upon that station. (Stamford Mercury)
27 August 1772
It is said that the Petitions which have been presented to his Majesty in Behalf of Lieut. Jones, now under Sentence of Death in Newgate, are to be referred to the Opinion of the Judges, several of whom cannot be in Town before the latter Part of next Week. (Daily Advertiser)
27-29 August 1772
Tylney House, on Epping Forest, was some time ago said to be thought of as a purchase for the Duke of Gloucester. If it should be sold at all (which we much doubt), it will be sold to the Queen, who has often expressed herself much charmed with it, and deemed it superior to any thing she has hitherto seen in architecture.
The Tylney property in Essex, besides the delightful house and the parks which surround it, is very large; 12,000l. is annually remitted to Florence to the Earl, and we are told that was the owner as attentive to his affairs as he ought to be, much more would accrue to him from this valuable estate.
The Irish Parliament has laid a very judicious tax on absentees; it is a pity that the English laws do not adopt so salutary a measure, and make the very ingratitude of those rich men who lavish the fortunes which this country yields them abroad, of real advantage to the community.
Mr. Jones will not be received into the East-India service, not withstanding what has been said to the contrary; and it is a reflection upon the gentlemen in it to think that they will rank with any man who has been dismissed with infamy from his Majesty’s. (General Evening Post) [John Tylney, Earl Tylney of Castlemaine, recently fled to Italy after rumours of a homosexual scandal. Obviously the editors of the paper knew that Tylney was homosexual, and used this opportunity to link him with Captain Jones. Tylney died unmarried in 1784.]
1-3 September 1772
The following are said to be the particulars, relating to the case of CAPTAIN JONES, which was last week laid before a great Council:
THE D. of N. declared his strong suspicions of the Captain’s guilt, but was far from thinking the boy’s deposition unexceptionable, from his visiting a person twice after such indecent liberties had been taken with him. Lord M, and Lord C both agreed, that the life of a criminal ought not to be taken away, but upon the evidence of two credible witnesses. Lord S. also thought the evidence insufficient from the tenderness of his age.
Lord R. spoke long and fully upon the subject; he asserted, that, supposing the Captain to be guilty, he by no means thought, as an assertor of the rights of humanity, the crime ought to be punished with death; that for his part, though he detested it as much as any man living, he could not think it did so much injury to society as many other offences, which the legislature does not look upon in a capital light. That it had never been treated with any great degree of severity by the wisest nations of the antients, particularly the Greeks and Romans; the greatest men among them having been known to practice it with impunity; and that in almost all the modern States, the ablest magistrates were of opinion, that its own infamy was sufficient for its punishment; that with respect to the unfortunate person in question, he thought the universal good character given of him, by his brother officers, and his behaviour at the Havannah, ought to over-balance the deposition of a child, who possibly might be parotted, by interested persons, to say things which had no foundation in truth.
Lord F. was of a very different opinion, with respect to the Captain’s innocence, and made some severe animadversions upon his conduct, which he warmly insisted had been so atrocious, that nothing ought to impede the sentence of the law being executed.
Lord N. in general corresponded with the last mentioned nobleman; and thought it was necessary, from the late rapid progress of so shocking a vice, that some striking example should be made. Lord T. accorded with the Minister, with respect to the proprietey of making an example, provided the crime was clearly proved; but said, he rather wished that fifty guilty men should escape, than that one innocent person should be condemned to death; and that as he had doubts of the captain’s criminality, he consequently chose to be on the merciful side of the question.
The debate was then taken up by a gentleman who expressed himself in the bitterest terms against the culprit, and all who protected him; which expression being resented by some of the gentlemen above mentioned, the dispute became a scene of confusion, when a Great Personage, on being appealed to, suddenly started up, and said, ‘My Lords, we have already spent too much time upon a very disgusting subject, which I by no means chuse to investigate further; but as many of you seem much better acquainted with these matters than I am, I leave it to yourselves, to determine what ought to be done.’ At these words he walked out of the room, with great dignity, and the meeting broke up immediately after. (London Evening Post)
Thursday 3 September 1772
To the LADY who wrote the Letter in favour of Capt. Jones.
IT was with infinite concern I read your letter in favour of a man who has to sever every claim to either the compassion or indulgence of your sex or mine. I thought it impossible for a WOMAN to become the advocate of an unnatural monster. And I imagined the peculiar delicacy of the sex would at least have preserved her from entering upon a subject too obscene even for the most dissolute and abandoned of mankind to write upon.
I considered your letter as an impudent forgery of the wretched criminal under sentence of death, or his desperate associates; and as the story of an intended marriage was artfuly given out after condemnation, it appeared as an ingenuous contrivance of Lieut. Jones to make his sweetheart speak to the obdurate public, and try the effects of her persuasive rhetoric on the enraged multitude. In this light was your letter considered. I have indeed, been undeceived; and though I am in possession of your name, it shall, be assured, pass with me in silence to the grave. The secret is safe within my breast, nor will I, imprudent as you have acted, expose you to the reproaches of the world. I commiserate your situation; and it is with reluctance, believe me, that I sit down to combat your prejudices.
In extenuation of your indiscreet zeal, you inform us, that you really love the criminal. Alas! Madam, have you read the bottom of his soul, or reflected that ruin and dishonour must accompany your extravagant passion? Can you suppose that man capable of a sincere affection, who has repeatedly been guilty of the most unnatural species of lust? or that he can possibly regard the honour of your sex, while he notoriously encourages the most infamous prostitution in his own? These questions naturally occur, and I am fully persuaded you cannot answer them, at least with that satisfaction which is necessarily due to a virtuous intention.
After making a declaration of your regard for this unworthy wretch, you threaten to treat the censure of the world with indifference. This may very probably be admitted as a proof of heroism, but not of either decency or prudence. It may do in romance, but not in real life; and I am sorry to find, a woman apparently possessed of abilities, wantonly guilty of an error, from which contempt and reproach only can arise. I could wish you, Madam, to examine more particularly into the nature of society, and learn the obligations you are under to it. There is a respect due to the Majority which you are as yet evidently unacquainted with; and, in the opinion of many, the mistake you have made appears rather to proceed from depravity, than either inexperience or a passionate admiration of the undeserving object of your esteem. To justify your singular attachment, you find it at once convenient and necessary to suppose the criminal innocent. Probably your forget, Madam, the violence you are dong to your own understanding, at a time when you are directly impeaching the understanding of a venerable Judge, and accusing twelve of your countrymen of premeditated perjury. Your letter must certainly have been written in the paroxism of your love, when your gloomy imagination painted every thing black but the immaculate object of your affections. However, lest in your serious moments you should encourage the dangerous falshood, and believe this unhappy man perfectly innocent, let us attend to the particulars. It is my wish to make a convert of you to reason; and tho' my endeavours may prove unsuccessful, I will at least boast the merit of attempting it.
A little boy, scarce arrived to the age of 14, is encouraged by the hopes of obtaining a few pence, to call at a gentleman's lodging. The gentleman takes the child upon his knee, who, in all the simplicity and innocence of unexperienced youth, submits to indecent treatment; and, seduc'd by the little presents he receives, repeats the visit again. The gentleman continues to take indecent liberties, but in a lesser degree; and the child becoming sensible that he is acting wrong, declines going again, though strongly solicited by the gentleman. The child, from a principle of shame, natural enough at his age, keeps the affair a secret, till the gentleman comes to the shop where he is at, and buying a shirt buckle, desires that he (the boy) may be sent with it to his lodgings the next day at eleven o'clock. The boy then begs his uncle to carry it himself, expressing much uneasiness at being ordered to take it to the gentleman's lodging; and on being interrogated, he reveals, after obtaining a promise of secrecy, the horrible transaction to a third person. This, Madam, is the substance of what preceded the commitment of Mr. Jones. In the presence of the Magistrate the boy delivered a plain, artless tale, without either variation or equivocation. The culprit heard him throughout without contradicting him; and when he was ordered to confinement, turned contemptuously upon his heel and retired, taking snuff with an air of indifference, not arising from conscious innocence, but from the certainty of escaping justice through the interest of the numerous titled rascals attached to this unnatural commerce; or, probably from a positive assurance that the magnitude of the crime alone would sufficiently recommend him to the throne as an object deserving of the royal mercy!
By an express law of the land, Captain Jones is condemned to death. The evidence was admissible and clear, or the Court must have rejected it You question the boy's integrity, so you may, with equal justice, dispute all evidence in criminal matters. If you deny it here, where will you draw the line? To allow a boy's evidence in some cases and not in others, is in fact sporting with the authority of justice, and adapting the laws to the convenience of guilty individuals, when their grand and sole object should be the welfare and advantage of the state. Besides, Madam, to invalidate the testimony on the side of the prosecution, we must suppose the boy, or his friends, to have had at least some interested motive, as it is impossible, even corrupt and degenerate as we are, for any of us wantonly to swear away the life or an unoffending individual. I have as bad an opinion of mankind as you have. Experience has brought me acquainted with their character; and though in the school of adversity I have seen much malevolence and cruelty, yet I cannot believe we are arrived to that pitch of infamy, which levels the distinction between truth and falsehood, and teaches us to destroy each other for the trifling consideration of a few pounds. This I conceive to be the last stage of vice. We are, as yet, some distance from it; but I will not answer for the preservationo f the few remaining morals among us, should either George the Third, or his favourite system of politics, continue with us half a century longer.
Mr. Jones was only a subaltern in the Artillery; a corps which assumes a martial appearance annually, for the diversion of his Majesty. They are embodied, like our militia, yearly, and for that day, I believe, like military men, they eat together. At other times they live separate, and appear total strangers to each other, in humble imitation of his Majesty's train'd bands at St. James's, who affect to despise the practice of the line, or whatever corresponds with either the soldier or the gentleman. In a regiment where a regular mess is established, the officers have an opportunity of saving money: when the whole live together, it is much cheaper to each individual than living separate. In the Artillery, they have nothing regular but their reviews. Mr. Jones had lodgings in St. Martin's-court, and like the rest of his brother officers, lived detached from the regiment. He is not possessed of a fortune, and it is impossible, that either the boy or his uncle could have any pecuniary object in view.
What they have done, therefore, proceeded from motives entirely disinterested. Their's was the cause of truth and justice. May shame and rremorse accompany the wretch, however elevated, who, in violation of the laws of his country, dares to deny the one, or interrupt the other! With respect to yourself, Madam, be advised, and abandon this man to the reproaches of his conscience. He is neither deserving of your love, nor the Royal mercy; and you would, in marrying him, be guilty of an unpardonable outrage to decency.
Your sex would for ever forsake you, and in the latest moments of your life, you would have the melanchoily mortification of finding yourself a poor solitary wretch, deserted, and despised, yet acknowledge it as a proper punishment for the indulging of a passion almost as extravagant as that of the criminal's under sentence of death. That inflexible obstinacy which delights in opposing the general sense of the nation, will, however, preserve Mr. Jones. To that alone, and not compassion, he will be idebted, if he escapes justice. And as we have abundance of vagabond capachin friars and itinerant priests, those pious gentlemen may equip him with letters of recommendation to the head of some college, or to the Superior of the Jesuits at Bruges. The Clergy of Rome are denied the happiness of a commerce with your sex, and a man of Mr. Jones's disposition, though deserving of death in London, may very possibly be received into the blessed communion of the holy Catholic church. In England you can never live together. Your fortune may enable you to survive a few years, in misery and wretchedness, in some obscure, uncharitable corner on the continent, but the bitterest reflections will accompany you in the remotest solitude, and constantly upbraid you with bringing dishonour on your family, and sacrificing your virtue and innocence unto the most undeserving and abandoned of mankind.
Such, Madam, would be your unhappy fate, should you persist in your extravagant attachment. I am not unacquainted with the passion of love; I know full well, from experience, to what extremes it is capable of transporting us. I married contrary to the cold and rigid prudence of the age, and I have been alternately applauded and condemned, while my heart, warranted in its affections by the tederest return, ejnjoys that felicity which arises from the consciousness of having acted justly. But your situation is materially different. The partner of my soul is virtuous, amidst the various temptations which surround her, but the conduct of your unfortunate favourite has made your refusal absolutely necessary; and isntead of its resting on your opinion alone, it is become an indispensible act of duty in you to forsake him. You owe it to your country, to your family, and to yourself. Adieu! may you be more fortunate for the future, and may your next lover be more deserving of you than the present miserable object of your affections to be less is impossible.
7 September 1772
His majesty's pardon, on condition of transportation during life, hath been obtained for Capt. Robert Jones, a convict in Newgate. (Annual Register)
8-10 September 1772
His Majesty’s pardon, on condition of transportation during life, hath been obtained for Capt. Robert Jones, a convict in Newgate. (General Evening Post)
10-12 September 1772
The terms upon which Mr. Jones (to speak in the language of some of the cabinet) the unfortunate man, who has been so maliciously accused, gets his pardon, are, that he transports himself for life to any one part of the world he thinks proper, in one month after his pleading it at the bar of the Old-Bailey. The residence he has fixed on, we hear, is Florence, for which he has procured several letters, both of credit and recommendation, to many people of fashion there.
The present perpetrators of a certain detestable crime have arrived at such a pitch of vicious delicacy, that by way of taking off the coarseness of the word Sodomite, they have agreed to give themselves the appellation of NONCONFORMISTS. (London Evening Post)
12 September 1772
Capt. Jones, a convict in Newgate, hath received his Majesty’s pardon, on condition of transporting himself during his natural life. (The Craftsman; or Say’s Weekly Journal)
Thursday 17 September 1772
It is truly whimsical to reflect on the religion of Princes. Gustavus of Sweden, after the cremony of enslaving his subjects, and breaking his Coronation oath, thinks it proper to "thank Almighty God." and pulling out a psalm book, sings "Te Deum." the Third [i.e. King George III], after much profession of religion, pardons a Sodomite.
The terms upon which Mr. Jones (to speak in the language of some of the cabinet) the unfortunate man, who has been so maliciously accused, gets his pardon, are, that he transports himself for life to any one part of the world he thinks proper, in one month after his pleading it at the bar of the Old Bailey. The residence he has fixed on, we hear, is Florence, for which he has procured several letters, both of credit and recommendation, to many people of fashion there.
The present perpetrators of a certain detestable crime have arrived at such a pitch of vicious delicacy, that by way of taking off the coarseness of the word Sodomite, they have agreed to give themselves the appellation of NONCONFORMISTS. (Stamford Mercury)
29-31 October 1772
The celebrated Captain Jones was discharged from Newgate yesterday. He is allowed fourteen days to transport himself. (The Middlesex Journal, or Universal Evening-Post)
31 October 1772
It is now certain that Captain J is not out of Newgate; and the reason is, that the Captain is ready to enter into the security himself of 1000l. but cannot find the two sureties of 500l. each, which are also demanded. (The Craftsman; or Say’s Weekly Journal)
Tuesday 3 November 1772
On Friday Capt. Jones gave Bail for the effectual Transportation of himself, pursuant to the Condition of his Majesty’s Pardon, and was discharged out of Newgate. (Daily Advertiser)
7-10 November 1772
Mrs. Cornelys was proved Bankrupt from the circumstance of her having bought gloves, which she afterwards sold to her Masqueraders. This lady owes one of her tradesmen no less than 8000l. (The Middlesex Journal, or Universal Evening-Post)
23 December 1772
Mrs. Cornelys’s house and furniture, in Soho-square, was sold by auction for 10,200l. (Annual Register)
15 June 1773
The famous Capt. Jones lives now in grandeur with a lovely Ganymede (his footboy) at Lyons, in the South of France. (Cutting from an unidentified newspaper or periodical, pasted into a collection of Tracts at the British Library, shelfmark Cup.363.gg.31.)
Monday, 21 April 1777
The celebrated Captain Jones, who a few years since was cast for death for committing an unnatural crime on a boy, and afterwards received his Majesty's gracious pardon on condition of transporting himself for life, is now a Commander in the Persian army, in which he now holds a very high post. (Morning Post)
Thursday 14 April 1785
Captain Jones, who was condemned about 15 years ago, for an unnatural crime at the Old Bailey, and who afterwards received his Majesty's pardon, on condition of transporting himself for life, however extraordinary it may appear, is at present Mustapha General to the Bombardiers in the service of the Grand Signor. (Hereford Journal)
Thursday, 12 June 1788
The Grand Seignior has a Captain Jones, and an Englishman too, as well as the Empress, in his service. He was formerly an officer in our artillery, but being convicted of a certain crime, more congenial witih the Turkish climate, than ours, was transported for life. He was an excellent artillerist and engineer to him it is that the Turks are indebted for the skill which they have shewn in the management of their guns, and in the defence of their fortified places. (The Times, Issue 1096)
6 December 1788
Foreign Intelligence: Presbourgh, Nov. 6. Great preparations are making for the reception of the Emperor, who is daily expected here.
By advices from Semlin we learn, that since the arrival of his Imperial Majesty there, the inhabitants have ceased to entertain any dread of an invasion. The Turks are re-inforcing themselves powerfully at Belgrade.
Captain Jones, as far as we have been able to trace him, never had employment immediately from the Grand Signior; although at different periods in the pay of several Beys; and in the service of one of them he was at the time of their rebellion against the Sublime Porte, and reported to have been put to death, with near 30,000 others of the vanquished party. (The Times, Issue 1190)
CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (ed.), "The First Public Debate about Homosexuality in England: News Reports concerning the Case of Captain Jones, 1772",
Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 19 December 2004, updated 7 Sept. 2008, enlarged 9 Jan. 2016, updated 16 Feb. 2021
Return to The First Public Debate about Homosexuality in England,
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