21. "He Had Got His Business Done"

IN THIS SECOND ROUND, Isaac Newton took no chances. He made sure that the jailers held his man close. Through November and December 1698, Chaloner found himself as isolated as his captors could make him. From his cell, the accused complained that the only visitor he had been permitted was his small child, adding piteously, "why am I so strictly confined I do not know."

Jail did not rob Chaloner of his confidence, though. The Malt ticket plate remained hidden, and Chaloner claimed he had nothing to do with it anyway. When he was taken, he had no false tickets on his person. There was Carter's testimony to consider. But faithful, garrulous Thomas Carter—now also lodged at Newgate—was the only member of the alleged conspiracy known to have been paid for passing the counterfeits. If anyone were to fall for that crime, Chaloner was sure it would not be he: in his cell "he made very slight of the matter, bragging that he had a Trick left yet."

It pleased Newton to let him think so. The Warden had learned from the debacle of the previous year. Even before Vernon's reward brought Chaloner in, Newton had begun to reconstruct his adversary's entire career. Most of what he had learned was background, not really actionable, but useful nonetheless. For example, in May 1698, Edward Ivy (aka Ivey, aka Ivie, aka Jones) swore before Newton to having direct knowledge of an impressive range of currency criminals. Ivy was a confidant of John Jennings, one of the Earl of Monmouth's footmen, who traded in high-quality false currency; he knew Edward Brady, who "made it his constant business to utter counterfeit Gineas"; he testified against Whitehall's famous porter, the vicious John Gibbons—who, Ivy claimed, had conspired with Brady in the occasional highway robbery. He knew John and Mary Hicks and their daughter, Mary Huett, who together ran a family business clipping the old currency; he was willing to reveal name after name: "one Jacob," Samuel Jackson, George Emerson, Joseph Horster, "and other Emint. Coynes and Clippers."

William Chaloner played only a minor role in Ivy's catalogue. Ivy mentioned the object of Newton's interest just once, when he testified that he had asked Jennings if his fakes were as good as Chaloner's, and Jennings said they were, that "Chaloner was a fool to him that made the said Gineas." Ivy added that he believed—but clearly was unwilling to swear that he knew—that Brady had received some of his supply of false guineas from Chaloner.

Newton took dozens of depositions like Ivy's, at first concentrating on quantity rather than quality. Most of the testimony he gathered through the spring and summer of 1698 was hearsay. Many of the depositions devolved into lists of all the coiners and crimes the witness could remember. Some implicated Chaloner, some did not, but Newton was accumulating a picture of London's coining ecosystem. He was gathering names and noting the links, the web of criminal connections within which Chaloner himself had to move.

Over the months, more and more of the people to whom those names attached turned up in their own depositions—which meant, in practice, they waited on Newton's pleasure in Newgate or some other jail. Those scattered references led to more witnesses, and then to yet more—a scaffolding of information received on which Newton planned to hang William Chaloner.

By January 1699 Newton was spending almost all of his working days at the Mint, conducting the interrogations that would form the heart of the prosecution. By February, his commitment had become total—at one point he spent ten days in a row questioning witnesses. The record is far from complete, but more than 140 surviving statements give a sense of his procedure.

The form of Newton's interrogations was always much the same. Most began by identifying the witness, usually by trade or profession and parish, though some of the women were identified merely as wives or companions of other targets of Newton's inquiries. Newton's questions do not survive, but his approach seems to have been more or less chronological: when did the deponent meet Chaloner; what crimes did he or she witness or hear of, and in what order. The witnesses all talked, often at length, telling tales of crimes the better part of a decade gone by—every detail they could remember, and perhaps some invented to satisfy the terrifyingly persistent man who bent to every word. When Newton was done, he would dictate a summary of what he had heard to a clerk. Either Newton or the clerk would read back this gloss on the testimony to each witness, who could then add to or alter the account. Once both were satisfied, Newton and his witness signed the document and the clerk would produce a fair copy to be entered into the Mint's records.

Over time, Newton found that some of his best leads came from the wives or mistresses of the men Chaloner had partnered with and betrayed. Elizabeth Ivy, identified only as "Widdow"—presumably Edward's—said she had known Chaloner to make false coins at the very start of his career. More important, so did Katherine Coffee, wife of Patrick Coffee, the goldsmith who had first taught Chaloner the rudiments of coining.

Here was the kind of testimony a jury loved to hear: that of an eyewitness who had observed an actual criminal act. Katherine Coffee swore that "abot. 7 or 8 years ago she hath seen Will[iam] Chaloner now prison[er] in Newgate often coyn French pistolls with stamps and a hammer in Oat Lane by Noble street up 3 pair of staires." Katherine Matthews, Thomas Carter's wife, backed up her husband's stories with a meticulous memory for detail. She had seen with her own eyes, she said, Chaloner gilding false guineas "at the lodging she had hired for him at Mr. Clarkes behind Westmr. Abby." What's more, she had held those coins in her hand, "abot 10 of thes counterfeit Gineas from Chaloner, and gave him 8s a piece for them."

The parade of witnesses lengthened, and with it the catalogue of incriminating testimony. A Humphrey Hanwell added details to the story of the pistoles; Chaloner hammered them out of silver, he said, to produce coins that could be gilded by both Coffee and "one Hitchcock." Hanwell went further, adding that he had seen Chaloner clip coins in the late 1680s, and that soon after, Chaloner had showed him counterpunches for making shillings and "either Ginea Dyes or half Crown Dyes but which the Depont doth not now rem[em]ber."

This last may have been a fantasy, or rather, a desperate attempt to please the interrogator. If pressed, Hanwell would probably have connected Chaloner to Monmouth's uprising, the Gunpowder Plot, and perhaps even to the archer who pierced Saxon King Harald's eye. For his part, Newton was by now experienced enough not to believe everything he was told. In his summary dossier of the investigation, a document he titled "Chaloner Case," he emphasized the Coffee-Chaloner connection and the manufacture of the pistoles as the first coining crime to be laid at his prisoner's feet, passing over in silence Hanwell's wilder claims.

Newton persisted, moving on to the central witness in Chaloner's most recent crimes. In January, Thomas Carter told Newton that while he was at work on the Malt Lottery scheme, the metal trader John Abbot had conspired with Chaloner to make better versions of the pewter shillings that had failed to pass muster the previous June. Two weeks later, Newton hauled Abbot into the Tower, and Abbot poured out everything he knew: Chaloner had shown him his set of coining dies; Chaloner had bought silver from him as raw stock for false guineas; Chaloner had once told him that he and his brother-in-law produced six hundred pounds of false half-crowns in just nine weeks.

And so it went: Elizabeth Holloway finally revealed the whole intricate story of her family's journey to Scotland, which had allowed Chaloner to escape Newton's first prosecution. Consistent to the end, she revealed, Chaloner had cheated her husband, paying him a dozen pounds instead of the promised twenty. (According to Elizabeth, the sea captain contracted to carry the Holloway children north also got shorted eleven shillings out of a fare of three pounds eleven shillings.)

Newton pushed on, voracious, almost indiscriminate. Cecilia Labree, in Newgate awaiting execution, was urged by a friend to "save her self by confession"—admission, that is, of more than her own crimes. So "for making her confession more effectuall," her friend told her that Chaloner and a confederate "had then a Coyning Press at Chiswick" and that they "were then concerned togeather in making Gineas there." Labree followed that advice, trotting out the story for Newton. The gambit did not save her—she was condemned to die later in 1699—but it added to the pile of similar accounts Newton was compiling.

His approach was taking shape: the particulars provided by any given witness mattered less than establishing that an army of men and women were prepared to say that they had seen/helped/heard of Chaloner making shillings/half-crowns/ crowns/pistoles/guineas seven years ago, or five, or three years past, or last summer. Newton was making sure he could overwhelm any jury, to the point where the details of exactly what happened when simply wouldn't matter.

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