(A Singular piece of Jewish Iniquity)
A most desperate attempt was made on the fourth of April, 1795, in the morning, between one and two o'clock, to rescue Isdwell, a Jew, who stood charged with being concerned in a forgery on the stamp Office, but who in the scuffle lost his life in the following manner: Isdwell, who was confined in New Prison, Clerkenwell, persuaded two of the turnkeys that an aunt of his, who was very rich, then lay at the point of death, and that he had been informed, that, could she see him before she died, she would give him a thousand pounds; and therefore, if they would let him out, and accompany him to the place, he would give them fifty guineas each for their trouble; and that the matter might be effected without the knowledge of the keeper of the prison, or any other person, they having the keys of it at night, and the time required being very short.
To this proposal the turnkeys agreed; and accordingly about one o'clock in the morning, the gates were opened, and Isdwell, with his irons on, was conducted in a hackney-coach by one of them, armed with a blunderbuss, to the place directed, which was in Artillery-lane, Bishopsgate-street, where they gained immediate admittance on ringing a bell; and, enquiring for the sick lady, were ushered up one pair of stairs. Isdwell went in to the room first, on which several fellows rushed forth and attempted to keep the turnkey out; but not succeeding in that respect, they put the candles out, wrested the blunderbuss out of his hand, and discharged it at him; at this instant, it was supposed Isdwell was endeavouring to make his escape out of the door, as he received the principal part of the contents of the blunderbuss in his back, and fell dead; the turnkey also fell, one of the slugs grazing the upper part of his head; and the villains, by some means finding their mistake, though in the dark, beat him in so shocking a manner with the butt end of the blunderbuss, while he lay on the ground, as to break it to pieces, fractured his skull in two places, and bruised him dreadfully about the body; the noise which the affair occasioned brought a number of watchmen and patrols to the house, who secured ten persons therein, mostly Jews.
There is every reason to suppose, that they would have completely murdered the turnkeys, had not timely assistance been afforded. They were all examined on the fourth, before the above magistrate; as also the turnkeys, who related the foregoing story, and who, as well as the others, were ordered to be committed for further examination. The plan of Isdwell's escape appeared to have been formed by the widow of the late notorious Laurence Jones, she having taken the lodgings in Artillery Lane, and though in reality aunt to Isdwell, had cohabited with him ever since her husband's death. The bed in the room where the business happened was decorated with all the paraphernalia of a sick person; a number of phials standing on an adjoining table, and to make the farce (which in the last act proved a tragedy) more perfect, the image of a woman's head, with a cap on, appeared just above the bed-clothes.
The parties supposed to be concerned in this assault and murder were tried at the Old Bailey, on the 21st of April, and after a trial which lasted from eleven to half past one next morning, acquitted; the darkness of the deed excluding the possibility of full proof; but they were detained, on an indictment for a conspiracy.
Day, one of the turnkeys, related the story of his and Croswell's agreeing to let Isdwell go to Artillery Lane; that Tilley and Jacobs frequently came to the prison; and on Good Friday the former said to Isdwell, that Moses Solomons (who was confined in Bridewell upon the same charge) was to be suffered to go home and keep the passover with his family. This had some weight in inducing the witness to consent, and at night he accompanied him to Artillery Lane, in which he met Tilley, but did not go in to the house where he was so dreadfully beat, and Isdwell was shot.
Moses Solomons was a servant of Isdwell, and, as on the former trial, gave a detail of the circumstances of Jonathan Jones taking the lodging in Artillery Lane; of Isdwell's being expected that night; that the trick of a sick aunt was to be played off on the turnkey; that Isdwell did come; that most of the prisoners were there; and that after the accident, he, and all the rest, were taken into custody. Mrs. Cumming, who kept the house, and a little boy, her son, proved that they had seen Hardwick, Jacobs, and Hayden, come to Mrs. Isdwell.
Ray, Spencer, and Brummel, were the persons who apprehended all the prisoners but Tilley, Jones, and Croswell, in and about the house; and they were all particularly sworn to by Day and Moses Solomons, as being in some way concerned, except Delaney, who was no otherwise identified than as being taken in the house.
In their defence, Tilley said he was employed by the Isdwells, as their attorney: and as the two brothers were confined in two different prisons, the going backwards and forwards from one to the other, occasioned his seeing them oftener than he otherwise should. He denied that he ever made use of the expression about Moses going out, as sworn to by Mr. Day, or that he had the smallest knowledge of any intention of an escape.
John Crosswell left his defence to the council.
Jonathan Jones, also indicted, did not deny that he had taken the lodging for Mrs. Isdwell, but he had not done it secretly; for, on her husband's being taken up, she sent for him to come to town from Gosport; he did so; and as she was obliged to leave her house at St. Mary Axe, he had taken this lodging for her; and in so doing, thought he did no more than his duty for a niece. Before the accident happened, he had returned into the country; all of which was admitted to be true by the witness Solomons.
George Hardwick stated himself to have been employed as a porter, to assist in carrying the goods to the lodging, and not having been paid the whole of his demand, had gone that night, and was waiting to get the remainder.
— Hayden said, his wife washed for Mrs. Isdwell; and that she being lame, he had gone to Mrs. Isdwell's with some things that night, and was staying for some money. John Hayden had been out drinking, not being able to work from its being Good Friday, and was so much intoxicated, that he could not say how he came into the house.
Henry Delaney, also in the same indictment, said, he was passing by the door, just after the accident, that he stopped to see what was the matter, that he was pushed in by the mob, and had not been in the house before.
Simon Jacobs described himself to be a brother-in-law to Isdwell, that he was constantly going backwards and forwards to him; and that by his desire, he passed most of his time at their lodgings. He had no doubt but Day was the man who shot his brother. He then entered into a long and vehement attack upon the keepers of Clerkenwell, both for their conduct to Isdwell and to himself, after he was taken; drawing a conclusion with respect to the former, that the governor, lieutenant-governor, and turnkeys, were principals in the escape; and that he and his fellow prisoners, even had they intended to assist, could only be accomplices; and that it could not be just to punish accomplices before the principals; nay, more, he insisted the escape was made the moment he was out of prison, and consequently long before they could be concerned with it.
John Phillips and John Solomons related the same story, namely, that upon a promise of a reward of two hundred pounds, they were endeavouring to get the dies from Mrs. Isdwell, by which the stamps had been forged; and upon their making her some promises, she had appointed them to come that evening. John Henley said, he had called upon Mrs. Isdwell, that night, respecting a watch he had bought, and which had been stopped. A great number of very respectable witnesses were then called to their different characters. Mr. Justice Buller summed up the evidence with much attention and perspicuity; after which the jury went out for near half an hour, and then returned a verdict of guilty, against the nine already named, acquitting Jonathan Jones and Henry Delaney. They received sentence of transportation.