Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports compiled by Rictor Norton

Jonathan Wild

Saturday, 6 January 1722

We hear that Jonathan Wild, Gentleman, has projected a scheme for raising a great sum of money by an insurance on robberies; this policy is calculated for the advantage of the insurers as well as the projector; and seems to carry with it more fairness and demonstration than any modern scheme either of our own or our neighbouring countries: It differs from other policies in this remarkable instance, that whereas in those the adventurers were robb’d, and none escaped but such who had no dealings with them; in this the projector can demonstrate that no persons shall be robb’d, except such as do not insure; which must raise the value of this stock above any other, because it will put all people under a necessity of insuring in their own defence.
          N. B. Insurances will be taken in for small persons as well as for houses, by which superannuated lovers, who walk the streets late, drunk or sober, may preserve their watches, rings, or handkerchiefs, from contingencies, which will prevent a great many bawdy trials, and depisitions, De usu Flagrorum, in Re venerea..
          As the number of thieves must very soon be lessen’d, if this proposal should take; the projector intends to give his intimate friend, the Hangman, an equivalent, for his loss of trade; since he is like to be the greatest sufferer by this scheme. (Weekly Journal or Saturday’s-Post)

22 May 1725

1. It appears by several informations upon oath, that Jonathan Wild hath, for many years past, been a confederate with great numbers of highwaymen, pick-pockets, house-breakers, shop-lifters, and other thieves.
          2. That he hath form'd a kind of Corporation of Thieves, of which he is the Head, or Director, and that notwithstanding his pretended services in detecting and prosecuting offenders, he procurred such only to be hang'd as conceal'd their booty, or refused to share it with him.
          3. That he hath divided the town and country into so many districts, and appointed distinct gangs for each, who regularly accounted with him for their robberies. He had also a particular set to steal at churches in time of divine service, and also other moving detachments to attend at Court on Birth-Days, Balls, &c. and upon both Houses of Parliament, Circuits, and Country Fairs.
          4. That the persons employed by him were, for the most part, felons convict, who have return'd from transportation before the time for which they were transported was expired, and that he made choice of them to be his agents, because they could not be legal evidence against him, and because he had it in his power to take from them what part of the stolen goods he thought fit, and otherwise use them ill, or hang them, as he pleased.
          5. That he hath from time to time supplied such convicted felons with money and cloaths, and lodged them in his own hosue, the better to conceal them; particularly some against whom there are now informations for diminishing the counterfeiting broad-pieces and guineas.
          6. That he hath not only been a receiver of stolen goods, as well as of writings of all kinds for near fifteen years last past, but frequently been a confederate, and robb'd along with the above-mentioned convicted felons.
          7. That in order to carry on these vile practices to gain some credit with the ignorant multitude, he usually carried about him a short silver staff, as a badge of his authority from the Government, which he used to produce when he himself was concerned in robbing.
          8. That he had under his care and direction several warehouses for receiving and concealing stolen goods; and also a ship for carrying off jewels, watches, and other vlauable goods to Holland, where he hath a superannuated thief for his factor.
          9. That he kept in pay several artists to make alterations, and transform watches, seals, snuff-boxes, rings, and other valuable things, that they might not be known; several of which he used to present to such persons as he thought might be of service to him.
          10.That he seldom or ever helped the owners to their notes and papers they had lost, unless he found them able exactly to specify and describe them, and then often insisted on more than half the value.
          11. Lastly, it appears that he hath frequently sold human blood, by procuring false evidence to swear persons into facts they were not guilty of, sometimes to prevent them from being evidence against himself; at others, for the sake of the great reward given by the Government.
          Tho' there might have been many indictments preferred against Jonathan Wild, it was thought sufficient to lay four only, viz. 1. For being a principal in stealing a large quantity of lace, from a woman near Holborn-bridge. 2. For helping the woman to her lace again, for a reward of 10 guineas, contrary to an Act of Parliament which makes it felony so to do. 3. For being a principal in stealing four guineas out of a shop in Pall-Mall. 4. For helping a person to a bank note he had lost, for a reward of fifty pounds, contrary to the said Act.

(Mist's Weekly Journal)

(Texts have been modernized with regard to capitalization, italicization, and punctuation, but original spelling has been retained. This edition copyright Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited. These extracts may not be archived, republished or redistributed without the permission of the compiler.)

CITATION: Rictor Norton, Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports: A Sourcebook, "Jonathan Wild", 23 July 2004, updated 5 June 2007 <http://grubstreet.rictornorton.co.uk/wild2.htm>

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