Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Lives of Remarkable Criminals: Robert Harpham


a Coiner

In my former volume I have taken occasion, in the life of Barbara Spencer, to mention the laws against coining as they stand at present in this kingdom. I shall not, therefore, detain my readers here with the unnecessary introduction, but proceed to inform them that a multitude of false guineas being talked of--the natural consequence of a few being detected--great pains were taken by the officers belonging to the Mint for detecting those by whom such frauds had been committed.

It was not long before information was had of one Robert Harpham and Thomas Broom, who were suspected of being the persons by whom such false guineas had been made. Upon these suspicions search warrants were granted, and a large engine of iron was discovered at Harpham's house, with other tools supposed to be made use of for that purpose. On this, the mob immediately gave out that a cart-load of guineas had been carried from thence, because those instruments were so cumberous as to be fetched in that manner; though the truth, indeed, was that no great number of false guineas had been coined, though the instruments undoubtedly were fitted and made use of for that purpose. Harpham, who well knew what evidence might be produced against him, never flattered himself with hopes after he came to Newgate, but as he believed he should die, so he prepared himself for it as well as he could.

At his trial the evidence against him was very full and direct. Mr. Pinket deposed flatly that the instruments produced in Court, and which were sworn to be taken from the prisoner's house, could not serve for any other purpose than that of coining. These instruments were an iron press of very great weight, a cutting instrument for forming blanks, an edging tool for indenting, with two dies for guineas and two dies for half-guineas. To strengthen this, William Fornham deposed in relation to the prisoners' possession, and Mr. Gornbey swore directly to his striking a half-guinea in his presence. Mr. Oakley and Mr. Tardley deposing further, that they flatted very considerable quantities of a mixed metal for the prisoner, made up of brass, copper, etc., sometimes to the quantity of 30 or 40 pound weight at a time.

The defence he made was very weak and trifling, and after a very short consideration the jury brought him in guilty of the indictment, and he, never entertaining any hopes of pardon, bent all his endeavours in making his peace with God. Some persons in the prison had been very civil to him, and one of them presuming thereon, asked him wherein the great secret of his art of coining lay? Mr. Harpham thanked him for the kindnesses he had received of him, but said that he should make a very bad return for the time afforded him by the law of repentance, if he should leave behind him anything of that kind which might farther detriment his country. Some instances were also made to him that he should discover certain persons of that same profession with himself, who were likely to carry on the same frauds long after his decease. Mr. Harpham, notwithstanding the answer he had made to the other gentleman, refused to comply with this request; for he said that the instruments seized would effectually prevent that, and he would not take away their lives and ruin their families, when he was sure they were incapacitated from coining anything for the future. However, that he might discharge his conscience as far as he could, he wrote several pathetic letters to the persons concerned; earnestly exhorting them for the sake of themselves and their families to leave off this wicked employment, and not hazard their lives and their salvation in any further attempt of that sort.

Having thus disengaged himself from all worldly concerns, he dedicated the last moments of his life entirely to the service of God; and having, received the Sacrament the day before his execution, he was conveyed the next noon to Tyburn in a sledge, where he was not a little disturbed, even in the agonies of death, by the tumult and insults the mob offered to Jonathan Wild, which he complained much of and seemed very uneasy at. He suffered on the same day with the last mentioned malefactor, appealing to be about two- or three-and-forty years of age.

Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals