DAVID BROWN DIGNUM
Convicted, 5th of April, 1777, of fraudulently pretending to sell Places under Government, and sentenced to Hard Labour on the Thames
THE first public complaint made against David Brown Dignum was at the public office in Bow Street, by Mr John Clarke, who deposed that between the 18th of June and the 8th of July, 1776, he paid Dignum one hundred pounds, two shillings and tenpence, for investing him with the office of Clerk of the Minutes in his Majesty's custom-house in Dublin; that the above-mentioned sum was paid at different times in cash and drafts, and that the drafts were duly honoured by the parties on whom they were drawn.
Mr Clarke produced a stamped paper bearing the signature of Lord Weymouth, and countersigned Thomas Daw, which he deposed to have received from the prisoner as a legal warrant appointing him to the office in question. Mr Daw proved that the signature of Lord Weymouth and his own name were counterfeited; and it was evident that the seals had been taken from some instrument and affixed to the pretended warrant.
Dignum was charged with a similar offence by Mr Brown, from whom he obtained one thousand pounds under pretence of causing him to be appointed writer in The London Gazette.
Mr Brown produced a warrant bearing the similar marks of imposition with those exhibited in the former charge. On the 5th of April, 1777, Dignum was indicted at the Guildhall, Westminster, for defrauding Mr Clarke by means of a forged warrant. The jury found him guilty, without leaving the court. The magistrates hesitated a long time on what punishment should be inflicted on so atrocious an offender, and at length sentenced him to work five years on the River Thames.
No time was now lost in conveying Dignum on board the ballast-lighter. Being possessed of plenty of money, and having high notions of gentility, he went to Woolwich in a post-chaise, with his negro servant behind, expecting that his money would procure every indulgence in his favour, and that his servant would still be admitted to attend him. But in this he was egregiously mistaken: the keepers of the lighter would not permit the negro to come on board, and Dignum was immediately put to the duty of the wheelbarrow.
On Monday, the 5th of May, Dignum sent a forged draft for five hundred pounds for acceptance to Mr Drummond, banker, at Charing Cross, who, discovering the imposition, carried the publishers before Sir John Fielding; but they were discharged. It was then intended to procure a habeas corpus to remove Dignum to London for examination. This plan, however, was soon seen through; for on consideration it seemed evident that Dignum, by sending the forged draft from on board the lighter, preferred death to his situation; so that no further steps were taken in the affair, and Dignum remained a victim to the equitable laws of his country.