Late Captain's Clerk of the Royal George Man-of-War. Executed at Winchester, 1st of September, 1749, for Forging Seamen's Tickets
THIS man was tried on several indictments: the first for stealing a certain obligation, called "a seaman's ticket," the property of Benjamin Berry; the others for forgery in endorsing the same.
When ships-of-war return from a long foreign station the crews are generally turned over to others, fit for service; and upon these occasions each man is delivered a warrant, signed by the principal officers, under whom he served, and which is called a seaman's ticket; in fact, it is a negotiable property when endorsed, like a note of hand or bill of exchange; but, because the men should not be tempted to sell their tickets under price, instead of being put into their possession they are sent with them to the captain of the ship to which they are turned over, and lodged in his hands till they are ordered to some other ship, and then these tickets are still sent with them. In this manner, the Glasgow man- of-war being laid up, part of her crew were turned over to several ships successively, and at length to the Royal George.
Soon after the peace was agreed upon, these men were of course discharged, and the tickets put into the hands of their proper owners; but those of Mr Berry and twelve seamen more were missing, and no account could be given of them. They immediately laid the fact before the Lords of the Admiralty, by way of petition, who wrote to Captain Harrison, to know the reason why the petitioners were refused their tickets. The Captain answered the letter, but was unable to give any reason, or to say more than that they could not be found. Upon which the Lords of the Admiralty thought fit to mulct the wages due to the men out of Captain Harrison's pay, who, now feeling most sensibly the case of the poor sailors, made more immediate inquiry after the lost tickets, and accordingly advertised for them, with a reward to any person who should make a discovery.
Mr Cullen, who formerly kept the inn called the India Arms, at Gosport, deposed that the identical tickets so advertised were deposited with him by the prisoner, Robert Cox, as security for twenty guineas, which he had lent him; and that on the appearance of the advertisement Cox came to him to beg he would take his bond for the twenty guineas and give him up the tickets. But the witness refused so to do; telling him if he came honestly by them he might immediately sell them, and, out of what they brought, pay him the sum lent; but that if he had not come honestly by them it was fit the truth should be known. Upon this, the witness continued, Cox went his way, and the witness hastened to give information to Captain Harrison.
Upon the trial of the first indictment no proof could be adduced that the prisoner stole the tickets, and he was accordingly acquitted; but the second was fatal to him: for it was fully proved that he forged the name of Berry to the tickets, was found guilty, and received sentence of death. He suffered at Winchester, in September, 1749.