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saying he had rather have found a good piece of bread and cheese, for that he had not broke his fast for a whole day; then wishes the gentleman would give him something for them, that he might buy him a pair of shoes, a coat, &c. The cull immediately bites, and, thinking to make a cheap purchase of an ignorant fellow, gives him perhaps twenty shillings, for four or five brass rings washed over.
The next set attend at inns, and as porters sometimes entrust their servants to carry boxes or parcels that come from the country, the gambler takes notice of the directions, and sends his comrade immediately to the house, where he waits for the arrival of the porter, meets him within a few doors of the house; or if the door be shut he stands on the steps, and begins immediately to abuse the porter for his delay; damns him and tells him he was just a coming for it; that he had a great mind to give him nothing; the porter asks pardon, the gambler pays him and takes possession of the goods, with which he decamps the instant the 'porter's back is turned. And as tradesmen generally employ country fellows for porters in their houses, two or three of these gamblers are generally waiting at the corner of the streets, near some of the great inns, and if they hear one of the porters loaded with a box or bundle, ask his way to the inn, one of them steps up to him, very civilly tells him that he is going that way, and will shew him the house. The countryman implicitly follows his guide, whilst the gambler's comrade takes the hint, marches before, and plants himself at some convenient passage, puts his hat in his pocket, and sticks a pen in his wig to represent a bookkeeper ; the guide acquaints the countryman that that is the book-keeper of the inn, who immediately lays down his burden, and the book-keeper desires him to go over the way to his wife for the key of the warehouse, and in the mean time the two gambler's march off with the goods.
The next class use the following stratagein: one of them goes in the dress of a footman, and desires some tradesman to carry goods to his master, which are generally sent by the journeyman, who is carried into a parlour hired for that purpose, by the footman, who tells him he will carry the goods up to his master, and will bring down the account of what he chuses; but the moment he has got possession of the goods, he shuts the parlour door, and marches out of the passage; or if the master has a mind to assist the servant, he sends the tradesman back for other sorts, but before he returns, makes off with what he has got. Servants who have lived with tailors, mantua-makers, milliners, and other trades that send frequently to the shops, have, when they have been discharged, gone in the name of the masters and mistresses to the said shops, and taken up great quantities of goods; in which they have succeeded the easier, from their being known to the shopkeeper. Might it not then be useful to give notice to the shopkeepers used by the said tradespeople, of their discharge of such servants?
There is another set who defraud tradesmen, by taking on themselves false names, and by pretending to be related to, or connected with, some persons of credit and fashion, and produce false letters to prove this intimacy. Some of these gamblers attend most of the fairs in the country, where they make it their business to inquire at inds, who serve them with their wines and brandies from London; and fish out of shopkeepers the names of the tradesmen here who supply thein with goods: furnished with this knowledge they come to London, and one day appearing in the character of a country inn-keeper, they go to the distiller, whose name they have learned, telling him he has taken an inn in such a country; that he was recommended to him by one of his customers whose name he tells him, and describes his house and family: the distiller's suspicion being lulled asleep by this stratagem, he cheerfully supplies his new customer with some of his best goods, and sends them to some appointed inn in town, from whence they are conveyed by the gambler, and converted into cash by selling them as run goods for half price. The very same scheme is practised on grocers and other shopkeepers, only by changing their character into that of a country shopkeeper: it is immaterial to them what goods they purchase. A gambler the other day bought of a farmer ten ton of potatoes, to be delivered one ton at a time, and when two ton were delivered they were to be paid for; but when the second ton came, the gambler disappeared; and had not the farmer been a man of spirit he would have lost his property, but finding himself defrauded he took possession of the gambler's warehouse, and rescued his goods out of his hands.
There is another set of gamblers, commonly called duffers, who attend at Charing-cross, at St. Clement's Church, and Ludgate-hill, and invite you to go down some alley, and buy some cheap India handkerchiefs and waistcoats; but this cheat being grown stale, they use another method, which of late has been very successful. They apply themselves to some young publican to borrow 20 or 30 pounds to make up a sum, and to shew they do not want inoney in general, they produce a large purse well crammed with eounters and brass medals, which they give the publican a distant view of, that he may take it for money; they then produce some silk waistcoats embroidered with tinsel, which, if not strictly examined, may pass for silver; these waistcoats they propose, with other India goods made in Spitalfields, to leave in the hands of the publican, or his wife, as a security for the money they want, who, ignorant of the value of the said goods, generally fall into their trap.
The highest rank of cheats who attack the understanding, have made use of the following stratagems: one of the gang who is happiest in his person, and has the best address, is pitched upon to take a house, which, by means of the extreme good character given of him by his comrades to the landlord, is soon accomplished. The next consideration is to furnish it, when Mr. Softly, a young ironmonger just set up, is pitched upon to provide the squire's grates; who, glad of so fine an order, soon ornaments the squire's chimnies with those of the newest fashion. This being done, Mr. Greengoose, the upholder, is immediate.y applied to for other furniture, and is brought to the house in order that he may see the grates, which he no sooner beholds than he tells his honour that he could have furnished him likewise with grates of the best kind at the njost reasonable rates; to which Squire Gambler replies, that he iniends taking some little villa in the country, where Mr. Greengoose shall furnish every thing he can. The house being now completely furnished, the squire dresses himself in his morning gown, velvet cap, and red Morocco slippers ; puts one or more of his comrades into livery, then sends for a tailor, linen-draper, silversmith, jeweller, &c. takes upon him the character of a merchant, and by getting credit of one, by pawning the goods the moment he has got them, he is enabled to pay ready money to others; by which means he extends his credit and increases his orders till he is detected; which sometimes does not happen till he has defrauded tradesmen of goods to a very considerable value. Nay, I have known them sometimes carry their scheme so far, as to fix one of their comrades at some rendezvous in Wapping, in the character of the captain of a vessel lying at such stairs, and bound to some of the American plantations; by which means the aforesaid merchant procures goods to be sent aboard; and as his credit advances, he makes use of drafts, which are constantly accepted by his comrades, who have as constantly changed their lodgings when the said drafts become due.
There is a set of sharpers who have lately purchased
several estates without money, in the following manner: they make a bargain with the seller or his agent for the estate, in consequence of which they draw articles of agreement, by which they oblige themselves to pay the purchase money at such a time, and give a bond for the performance of covenants. They then immediately go to the tenant to shew him the articles of agreement, and tell him that he will soon have a new landlord; upon which the farmer begins to complain of the old one, and hopes his honour will repair this, rebuild that, and alter something else, which the new landlord promises to do. Credit being thus gained with the tenant, the new landlord falls in love perhaps with the farmer's daughter, or with a fine horse, or else borrows money of him, and gives him a draft upon his banker in town, who seldom has any cash in hand, and often is not to be found.
A new species of cheat has lately been practised by a gambler and his gang, who, to my knowledge, have practised every other with impunity, and is what follows the head of the party calls himself a coal-merchant, in which character he applies to some tradesman to buy goods in his way; tells him he is out of cash, but if he chuses will pay him in coals, of which he is rather overstocked. The tradesman approving of this, the gambler goes down to some wharf, and orders one or more chaldrons of coals to be delivered at that tradesman's house for his use. Thus far for the gambler who attacks the understanding.
I shall now mention a set of cheats who make a dupe of the heart, and impose on the benevolence and compassion of the charitable; these are called sky-farmers, and execute their schemes in the following manner. One of them dresses himself extremely genteel, takes upon himself the character of a private gentleman, or reputable tradesman; he is attended by two men in the character of country farmers, with clumsy boots, horsemen's coats, &c. The objects pitched upon for imposition are good old charitable ladies, to whom the solicitor tells a dreadful story of losses by fire, inundations, &c. to the utter ruin of these two poor farmers, and all their families; their wives are big with child, their children down in the small pox, &c. a book is then produced by the solicitor, who undertakes this disagreeable office purely out of good nature, knowing the story to be true. In this book are the names of several of the nobility and gentry set down by himself, who have contributed to this charity; and by setting out with false names they at length get real ones, which are of great service to them in carrying
on their fraud; and well-disposed persons are daily imposed upon by false appearances of distress. And there are persons in this town who get a very good livelihood by writing letters and petitions of this stamp, with which those noblemen and gentlemen who are distinguished for their generosity and benevolence, are constantiy tormented; and these wretches often obtain relief for their false distresses, whilst the really miserable suffer, from their modesty, the acutest afflictions. A woman stuffed up as if she was ready to lie in, with two or three borrowed children, and a letter, giving an account of her husband's falling off a scaffold, and breaking his limbs, or being drowned at sea, &c. is an irresistible object.
To enumerate the infinite variety of devices that have been or may be practised by sharpers of all kinds, is impossible; all those I have mentioned have come to my knowledge in the course of my practice as a magistrate, and, I am sorry to say it, that though I have committed many gamblers to prison, most of them have escaped justice. The use therefore I propose in this publication of their artifices, is, to stop the progress of their imposition on trades, men, until the legislature shall provide some effectual remedy to bring them to justice, as often as they shall offend; and as I have drawn an act of parliament for this purpose, I shall here set down the causes of their escaping justice, with what, I think, may in some measure be a remedy for the evil.
In the first place, though a fraud be an offence against the public, and differs only from a felony in the manner of obtaining the goods, yet the person injured may accept of restitution, and discharge the prisoner; whereby the public example is lost, and a body of villains, who have succeeded twenty times, to the ruin perhaps of as many families, if they can make the last person injured satisfaction, are immediately let loose to cheat other people; and, as they act in a body, have a treasurer, solicitor, &c. they always have it in their power to make it up with the party that detects them, who has generally more regard for himself than the public. If therefore the magistrate bad power to bind over the persons aggrieved to prosecute, the cheat would be sure of being brought to his trial. Indeed it has sometimes happened, that tradesmen have had spirit enough to pursue a gamester into the first court of justice, namely, quartersessions; but when the cheat finds this, as he is as slippery as an eel, he removes his cause by certiorari into some higher court, where the prosecution becomes more