In February 1798, the Secretary’s Office at East India House in London, James Wood, was indicted for feloniously stealing five pounds weight of paper as well as a book ‘bolted in leather’. A search revealed that a number of records were missing. Wood had been selling important documents for three or four years to the local shops, which were using the paper to wrap their merchandise.
The jury found Wood guilty and he was sentenced to seven years’ transportation. However in May 1798 a petition in support of Wood was sent to the Home Office by 17 people from Whitechapel, Bethnal Green, Bank, St George’s Field, and Southwark. The grounds given for clemency were: Wood’s service of 18 years with the East India Company; his previous good character; this being his first offence; his wife and six children needing to be supported; his age (45 years) and infirmity. The Company directors made known their ‘wish to decline interfering on the occasion’. The petition was successful and a free pardon was granted to Wood on 3 August 1798.
The image of the Proceedings shown on this Blog is reproduced by permission of Harvard University Library from the microfilm, “The Old Bailey Proceedings”, (Harvester Microform, a former imprint of the Gale Group, 1983). Commercial use is prohibited without permission of the owner of the original.