Executed at Maidstone, in March, 1778, for a Forgery on the Bank of England, attended with Circumstances which were left to the Twelve Judges for determination
JAMES ELLIOT had committed forgeries on the Bank of England; but, some intricacy appearing in the case, the solicitor laid five different counts in his indictment, and, though convicted, his case went before the twelve judges, as is customary whenever a doubt arises in the breast of the judge who may try the prisoner.
The following is a sketch of the evidence given upon his trial, which came on at Maidstone, the 24th of July, 1777.
The prisoner had applied to a mould-maker for a pair of fine moulds, in the manner of bills of exchange or notes of hand. He brought three copper-plates, purporting to be notes of the Governor and Company of the Bank of England -- one for one hundred pounds, one for fifty pounds, and one for twenty pounds -- and he gave ten guineas for the three.
A copper-plate printer, of the name of Ryland, swore that he had printed off twenty-five fifty-pound notes and twenty-five of the twenty-pound plate, for which Elliot gave him three guineas, though the usual price was no more than one shilling and sixpence per hundred. These notes were produced in court, and Ryland swore they were the same which he printed, and one in particular of the fifty pounds which was filled up, and upon which the indictment was founded.
This note was very defective, and, among other faults, the word pounds was even left out after the word fifty. Upon this, Elliot's counsel started a point of law on this question: whether that could be called a counterfeit where so essential a part was omitted, without which no specific value could be fixed.
The prisoner was, however, found guilty, but his case was reserved for the opinion of the twelve judges. Sentence was accordingly deferred.
On the 5th of March, 1778, he was again called to the bar, and informed that the judges had overruled his motion; and sentence of death was immediately passed upon him.