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Newgate Calendar - JOHN ANDREWS


Executed for Forgery, 23d of March, 1752

            This offender was born in Essex, and, having commenced grazier, sent a number of cattle to Smithfield market; but, after a series of trade in this way, he sailed to the East Indies, where he acquired a sufficient sum to enable him to deal in seamen's tickets on his return to England. This business, sufficiently oppressive to the poor sailors, he carried to the height of extortion, and frequently obtained of them fifty per cent, on the advancing money on their tickets. After thus lending money for some time, he adventured on the dangerous practice of forging the wills of seamen, in order to defraud their widows; and met with a narrow escape at Maidstone, on a charge of publishing a forged letter of attorney. Andrews employed some women of his acquaintance in London, to whom he used to give small gratuities to personate the widows of seamen; and by their perjuries he frequently acquired considerable sums of money.

            This mode of practice at length brought him to destruction, as will appear from the following narrative. Quarrelling with a woman named Elizabeth Nicholls, with whom he was connected, blows ensued, and the woman determined to be revenged, but disguised her sentiments till she had an opportunity of injuring him in the most essential manner. He applied to her on a particular occasion to personate the widow of a seaman to whom thirty pounds were due, and to swear that she had a will in her favour. The woman, with a view first to make an advantage of Andrews, and then to betray him, did as she was directed, and signed her name to a forged will in Doctors' Commons, in consequence of which Andrews received thirty pounds at the Navy-office, and became possessed of the seaman's ticket for fourteen pounds. This ticket he offered for sale to a man who kept an alehouse in Oxford Road; but the latter refused to buy it, unless the woman would sign the receipt for it, which she readily did, expecting Andrews would give her a good part of the money thus illegally obtained; but, on his refusal to give her more than half a guinea, she determined on immediate revenge. To carry her scheme into effectual execution, she went to another woman with whom Andrews was connected; and, both of them having given information against him, he was taken into custody, and lodged in Newgate. As it was presumed that his offences had been numerous, the following scheme was adopted to find full evidence of his guilt. The lord mayor commissioned a person who had formerly known him to go to Newgate, and hint to him that a warrant would be issued to search his lodgings. Andrews, having papers which he thought it of great consequence to conceal, desired his supposed friend to pack them in a basket, and leave them with an acquaintance in the Minories. Hereupon the prisoner gave the man his keys, and he went and packed up the goods, and carried them as directed. This was done to discover, if possible, whether Andrews had any accomplices; that, if he had, his guilt might be the more clearly ascertained by procuring strong evidence against him. When the papers were deposited in the Minories, the lord mayor issued a search warrant, in consequence of which his officers found sixty-four forged wills and powers of attorney; but no proof arose that he had any accomplices, except the women whom he had employed as his agents. One of these women, however, deposed that she had received above five hundred pounds for him, by swearing to forged wills; but that half a guinea for each perjury was all the gratification she received. Andrews, who was in possession of a considerable sum of money when he was committed to Newgate, had no idea that sufficient evidence could be adduced of his guilt; but, when he was brought to trial, the testimony of the two women was so positive against him, that the jury did not hesitate to convict him, and sentence of death passed of course. His behaviour after conviction was remarkably morose, reserved, and untractable. He absolutely refused the good offices of the Ordinary of Newgate, which at first caused a suspicion that he was a Roman Catholic; but, as he was not visited by any priests of that persuasion, this suspicion wore off, and his refusal was attributed to the obstinacy and gloom of his own mind. He refused to acknowledge the justice of the sentence by which he was condemned; alleging, in excuse for his conduct, that, having lost large sums of money by some seamen, he was justified in endeavouring to make others pay the deficiency. He seemed agitated in the highest degree when he was put into the cart on the morning of execution. His whole frame was convulsed; and, when at the fatal tree, despair seemed to have taken possession of his soul. He only said a short prayer, but refused to address the surrounding multitude. He was hanged at Tyburn on the 23d of March, 1752. The crimes of this man were of the greatest magnitude, a continued series of fraud and robbery, supported by the perjuries of ignorant creatures whom he employed: and it is hardly a breach of charity to say that he was equally guilty of those perjuries with the poor wretches who actually committed them: perhaps more so, as his knowledge must be supposed to have been superior to theirs.

            If the crime of forgery was less enormous than it is, one would think the excess of danger attending it would prevent any man from being guilty of it. Fatal experience, nevertheless, too frequently proves the contrary. Let us hope, however, that the fatal examples of the many unhappy victims to the rigid (and in this case necessary) justice of their country will have a good effect in future; and that this crime may decrease in proportion as, for some years past, it has unhappily increased, to the injury of many an individual, and the utter ruin of many a worthy family. It is dreadful to reflect on the vast numbers who have become widows and orphans through the horrid prevalence of this practice; which, as it is generally committed by persons in a rank of life above the vulgar, it is to be hoped those who may be tempted to the commission of it will have sense and virtue enough to make the proper use of these admonitions, and to consult their own safety, while they have a due regard not to infringe on the property of their neighbours.


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