This unfortunate culprit was a young man, twenty-three years of age, of most respectable connexions, and held a situation as clerk in the Victualling Office, where he had various opportunities of becoming acquainted with the forms of bills, as well as a correct knowledge of the handwriting of those by whom they were usually signed.
Thoughtless extravagance plunged him into pecuniary difficulties, from which he resolved to relieve himself by committing forgery. Desperate and criminal as the resolution was, he carried it into effect by fabricating a bill for eight hundred and sixty-eight pounds, nine shillings, and sixpence, purporting to be drawn on the commissioners of his majesty's Victualling Office by Robert Tieverton, purser of the Acasto, and certified by Alexander Robert Kerr, the captain.
Bradford then procured an unsuspecting friend, named Williams, to carry the bill for acceptance to the Victualling Office; and so well was it executed, and every thing managed with such adroitness, that it passed through all the necessary offices without exciting the least suspicion. He next sent it to the Bank of England, and got it discounted.
Suspicion was, however, subsequently excited, and Bradford was taken into custody. A fifty-pound note was found in his lodging, which turned out to be one of those paid for the bill at the Bank: and eventually every one of the notes was traced to his possession; even a ten-pound note, with which he redeemed his watch, proved to have been one of these.
The trial of this miserable young man came on at the Old Bailey, October the 28th 1816, and lasted for five hours. The evidence was conclusive, and he was accordingly found Guilty. When he was removing from the bar he fainted, so great was the impression made upon him by the verdict.
The efforts of his friends to procure a commutation of his sentence proved unavailing, arid the law was left to take its course. On December the 8th, he was visited by his two younger brothers, for the purpose of taking leave of him; but when the hour of parting came, their feelings were wound up to such a pitch, that the keepers with difficulty separated them from the unhappy sufferer; and, even after they had been taken from the cell, the younger brother clung to every object in his way, exclaiming, in a dreadful paroxysm of grief, 'My brother! oh, my unhappy brother!' At length they were tranquillized, but did not quit the mansion of misery for some time.
During Tuesday night Bradford was attended by, the Rev. Mr. Budge, and he appeared tranquil, joining most fervently in prayer with his friend. In the course of the night he took a little negus, but it did not remain on his stomach. He slept for about two hours, and afterwards partook of some toast and water. The next morning, Wednesday, December the 10th, 1816, being the time appointed for his execution, he was brought, at eight o'clock, to the Press-yard, and disencumbered of his irons: after which he walked with a firm step to the scaffold; and his last words were – 'O Lord, spare my soul; for I am a miserable sinner!'