Betrayed his Employer's Confidence, committed Forgery, and was executed before Newgate, 6th of July, 1796
HENRY WESTON belonged to a very respectable family in Ireland, and was recommended to Mr Cowan, of Ely Place, to manage his army agency concerns. Henry's attention to business was such as soon gained him the confidence of his employer. Mr Cowan, about the year 1794, having occasion to be absent in the country, gave Weston an unlimited order to draw upon his banker for any sums he might want; and to this implicit confidence upon his part may be dated the origin of the young man's ruin, for, having no person to overlook or to be a check upon him, he was tempted to hazard a large sum of money at a gaming-house in Pall Mail, which he lost; and, having gamed away nearly the whole property of his employer, he was at length induced, in the hope of recovering it, to forge the name of General Tonyn to a warrant of attorney, whereby he received upwards of ten thousand pounds at the bank, which sum did not uphold his extravagance more than two nights.
This matter lay undiscovered for some time, as he remitted the General's dividends regularly upon their becoming due. He likewise obtained from his cousin, Sir Hugh Walter, a large part of the fortune left him by his uncles, under the pretence of laying it out to advantage in the stocks, all of which was sunk at the gaming-table. This brought him to such a state of desperation that, to obtain more money, he had the audacity to take a woman to the bank to personate the sister of General Tonyn, and in consequence obtained another considerable sum. This he had a favourable opportunity of doing, as he was in the habit of transacting money affairs for that lady, who had met him about two months before at the Panorama, where she accused him of neglecting her payments.
Finding at length he could hold out no longer, he set off, about four o'clock on Friday, for Liverpool, where he was arrested on board a vessel on the point of sailing for America. He made several attempts to destroy himself, by cutting his throat.
His trial came on on 14th of May, at the sessions-house in the Old Bailey, before Mr Common Serjeant. The prisoner, after a most affecting trial, was found guilty. Thejury having delivered their verdict, the prisoner addressed the Court in these words:
"My Lord and gentlemen of the jury, the verdict which has now been passed upon me I hear with calmness and resignation, which I am happy in possessing upon so awful an occasion. I am, my Lord, as my appearance may easily show, a very young man. I hope the numerous young men who surround me will take example by my fate, and avoid those excesses, and fatal vice of gambling, which have brought me to ruin and disgrace, and I hope too that those further advanced in years will be cautious not to confine with too unlimited a control the management of their concerns to the care of inexperienced young men. The justice of my condemnation I acknowledge, and shall submit to it with patience and, I hope, with fortitude."
Sentence of death was passed; and as Weston entertained an abhorrence of being seen by the mob upon the scaffold he expressed an earnest desire that the platform should drop the moment he was tied to the gallows.
Another malefactor, named John Roberts, was sentenced to die at the same time, and Weston found it necessary to have his consent. One of the clergymen who attended Weston undertook to negotiate the melancholy business.
Upon Roberts being informed of the wish of his fellow- sufferer he replied "What! Is Weston afraid of being seen? That is not my case. I am not only willing that the people should see me, but likewise take warning by my untimely end; and therefore I desire to have the usual prayers under the gallows." The ordinary replied that he had a right to that indulgence, and it should be granted.
On the morning of the execution the Sacrament was administered by the ordinary, who afterwards prayed with the unhappy prisoners on the scaffold, attended by one of the divines alone, as the other two could not make up their minds to go on the platform, though requested by the unhappy young Weston.
When the executioner put on the cap, Weston pulled it as far as he possibly could over his face, and at the same time held a white handkerchief to his mouth, so that, during prayers, the populace could by no means see his countenance. He wept abundantly just before he was turned off, and squeezed the minister's hand, being no doubt at that time much agitated.