The Newgate Calendar - WILLIAM BOOTH

WILLIAM BOOTH
Executed for Forgery.

            This malefactor was not impelled by poverty or distress to the commission of the crime for which he lost his life. He lived near Birmingham, and occupied two hundred acres of land; but, being desirous of acquiring wealth by speedier means than the produce of honest industry afforded, he resorted to the culpable and dangerous practice of fabricating notes, purporting to be of the Bank of England. Unlike other criminals, he was not seduced into the act by design or ignorance; he entered upon it with the full knowledge of the consequence of detection; and, as he knew that no device or stratagem could evade discovery, he resolved to bid defiance to the minions of law, and oppose force to force.

            For this purpose he had his house barricaded, the windows secured by strong iron bars, and the approach to the place of illegal manufacture secured by three doors, well and studiously fastened with bolts, &c.

            Thus shut up, as he thought, in his impregnable fortress, he considered himself out of danger; but all his precaution could not avail. It was discovered that he had issued forged notes to a large amount, and the police of Birmingham were on the alert to apprehend him. For a while he kept them at defiance; but, at length, the whole posse laid regular siege to his invulnerable castle. Various modes were devised for gaining admittance; but all proved fruitless, until one of the constables procured a ladder, which reached to one of the upper windows. As he was ascending he saw Booth run to the middle of a room over the parlour, and take some papers, of the size of bank-notes, from a rolling-press, and put them into the fire. By breaking open the attic window the constable procured an entrance, through which he was followed by several of his comrades. The interior of the house displayed not less industry to baffle assailants than the exterior. Trap-doors were ingeniously contrived for opposing an enmity or facilitating escape; but the activity of the officers of justice rendered all his precautions of no avail. They jumped through one trap-door while Booth was escaping by another; and, having pursued him from concealment to concealment he was apprehended. Part of the papers were taken out of the fire, and found to have the Bank mark in them.

            Booth was fully committed for trial, and a workman of his, being apprehended, gave information of a trunk of forged notes, which he had buried by his master's orders. These were produced on his trial, which took piece at the Stafford assizes, and along with other corroborating circumstances established his guilt to the satisfaction of the jury, and he was sentenced to be hanged.

            The 15th of August, 1812, was the day appointed for the final suffering of this unfortunate man. A most distressing occurrence took place at the time of his execution -- the rope slipping, he fell to the ground, and many people thought that he was dead; but he got up, and fell upon his knees, praying to the Almighty for mercy. The scaffold was again prepared; but, owing to a mistake the drop, remained fast when Booth gave the signal for it to fall; and it was not until much force was applied that it gave way, and the miserable criminal was launched into eternity.

 

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