An American Loyalist, convicted in the Court of King's Bench at Westminster, 21st of February, 1812, of Forgery at Common Law, and Sentenced to Imprisonment in Newgate
THIS was an information against the defendant, Colonel Browne, for a forgery at common law. The information charged him with having forged certain instruments, purporting to be signed by George Harrison, Esq., one of the law clerks to the Treasury, and by the Hon. Cecil Jenkinson, Esq., one of the under-secretaries of State, with a view to defrauding the Government, by surreptitiously obtaining a grant of six thousand acres of land in the island of St Vincent.
Mr Attorney-General stated the circumstances of the case as follows.
In the year 1809 Colonel Browne represented to the Government that he had a large gang of negroes which he had nurtured with particular care, and had succeeded in reducing them to such domestic habits that they multiplied as fast as by the course of nature they would die off, and he prayed for an allotment of the Crown lands in the island of St Vincent. It was thought that he had claims on the Government of this country, having suffered as an American Loyalist; and as the Government had at that time a part of the lands formerly allotted to the Caribs, in consequence a grant was made to him of six thousand acres. It was discovered that a part of these lands had been granted to other occupiers, who held at the will of the Crown, and as they had expended their money to reduce the land to a state of cultivation it was thought inequitable to expel them, and they therefore were allowed to purchase, which was done to the amount of sixty thousand pounds. But, in order to indemnify Colonel Browne for this disappointment, Government gave him half the money -- namely, thirty thousand pounds -- which was considered a munificent recompense. It happened however shortly afterwards, in the year 1810, that Sir Charles Brisbane, the Governor of St Vincent, received a dispatch, under the official seal of the Secretary of State's office, directing him to make a grant of the same quantity of land which had been deducted from the six thousand acres of land originally granted to Colonel Browne, which direction purported to be by order of the Lords of the Treasury, and was signed by Mr Jenkinson, the Under- Secretary of State. A discussion, however, ensuing with Colonel's Browne's agent, the Governor thought proper to send home for instructions, when it was discovered that the whole was a forgery, no such orders having ever issued from the Secretary of State's office in England. How Colonel Browne got possession of the seal of office the Attorney-General was unable to state, but he was able to prove that the papers were written, all but the signatures, in the office of a Mr Stevens, a law stationer in Chancery Lane, and that Colonel Browne brought the rough draft, and took them away when finished. The plan which accompanied them was drawn by a clerk in the Duke of Bedford's office, who was employed by Colonel Browne, who was traced through giving directions for the forged instruments. It was also proved no other persons had any interest in the fraud. Under these circumstances no doubt could be entertained of the guilt of the defendant.
These circumstances were proved by Sir Charles Brisbane, Mr Harrison, and Mr Stevens and his clerks, who engrossed the papers by Colonel Browne's direction.
Lord Moira, Sir Alfred Clarke, and several gentlemen of rank, gave a high character to Colonel Browne; but the jury, without hesitation, found him guilty. He was sentenced to imprisonment in Newgate.