Saturday, August 9, 2008

His Detective Work



Colonel Monroe Edwards' Threat to Kill the Recorder, Which Was Not Carried Out — A Noted Duel Which Grew Out of the Trial — Evarts Was In the Case.

Richard Vaux was not only famous as a jurist and statesman, but over half a century ago achieved widespread fame as a detective in the case of Colonel Monroe Edwards in Philadelphia, in October, 1841. Edwards, who was a native of Russellville, Ky., astounded the world by the boldness and success of his operations as a forger, his last offense realizing $44,000, which was secured by a series of forged letters and cotton warehouse receipts.

Judge Loundes, a famous criminal lawyer, was engaged to hunt down the culprit. He was located in Philadelphia, and Richard Vaux, then recorder of the city, by shrewd detective work, discovered the forger's stopping place. On going to the house the recorder rang the bell, leaving Judge Loundes and Mr. Hart a little to one side from the door. A servant girl answered to the bell.

"I want to see Colonel Monroe Edwards," said the recorder. "Is he in?"

She replied that he was, and Mr. Vaux immediately walked into the parlor. Between the parlor and the back room there was a door, and it was evident from the rattle of the knives and forks that those within the other apartment were engaged in a meal. There was no one in the parlor, and the girl went through the door and said something. A moment later a fine looking man came into the parlor. He was about 5 feet 9 inches in height, admirably proportioned, with hair as black as the raven's wing and dark eyes that shot a piercing glance from under dark eyebrows. He was dressed with scrupulous exactness and wore a large amount of fine jewelry, evidently paying a great deal of attention to his personal appearance. The recorder approached him and said:

"Good evening, Colonel Monroe Edwards. I believe you are Colonel Monroe Edwards, if I recollect aright?"

"I am that person," was the reply, "and am very glad to see you."

The identity ascertained, the recorder gave the preconcerted signal, and Judge Loundes, Mr. Hart, Captain Young and the police entered the room. Mr. Vaux directed Captain Young to put the handcuffs on Edwards, which was done. The prisoner made no remarks of any kind, and said not a word. The recorder, having completed his duties in the affair, was about to leave the room, when a very agile, slim, light colored mulatto boy of about 16 years rushed at the official with a long knife in his hand, and made a lunge at him with the weapon. So quick was the movement that there was nothing for the recorder to do but knock his assailant down and take the knife from him, which he did. Two or three persons, probably boarders, came into the room at that moment, and the mulatto disappeared, and was never afterward seen in this city, though "he" was afterward found to be a woman who traveled with Edwards in male attire.

The forger's trunks were secured, and Recorder Vaux gathered the evidence with peculiar detective ability.

The trial came off in the city of New York before Judge William Kent, a son of Chancellor Kent. Thomas Francis Marshall of Kentucky, Mr. Edmunds and a young gentleman named Evarts were counsel for the accused. Mr. Vaux, in recognition of the judicial functions of his office, was invited to take a seat beside the Judge on the bench. The appearance and demeanor of the young lawyer named Evarts attracting his attention, he said to Judge Kent, "Who is that young gentleman?"

"His name is Evarts," replied the judge, and I think he has the making of a lawyer in him."

It was the famous William M. Evarts, since then admittedly at the head of the American bar.

Edwards was convicted and sentenced to ten years' imprisonment, mainly upon the testimony of Recorder Vaux. At the close of the trial the prisoner, with studied politeness, looked Mr. Vaux piercingly in the eyes. "I am glad to have this opportunity of speaking to you," he said. "I want to say one thing to you that is important for you to remember. I am going to kill you the moment I come out of Sing Sing. I give you this notice as from one gentleman to another."

"I am very thankful to you, Colonel Edwards," replied the recorder, with the same politeness, "for giving me this timely notice. It is very gentlemanly of you to do so. I will give you the opportunity at any time you desire. I have only done my duty and am prepared to take the consequences. I only ask of you that when you make the attempt you will look me in the face."

As Mr. Vaux said these words he gazed fixedly into the forger's face. The man turned white and trembled, for he read in his captor's countenance the justifiable determination to kill him should he ever dare to face him after his release. Not another word was spoken between them, for at that moment the officers led the prisoner away. He never attempted to carry his threat into effect, for he died in prison in January, 1847.

As a sequel to the trial came the duel between Tom Marshall and Colonel James Watson Webb. Marshall was a member of congress at the time of the Edwards trial, and for defending the brilliant criminal at the same time that he was a representative of the American people in Washington he was severely criticised by Colonel James Watson Webb in the columns of the New York Courier and Enquirer, of which journal that gentleman was the editor. In his address to the jury Marshall answered the newspaper criticism in that bitter style of invective of which he was the master. This led to a challenge and a meeting on the so called "field of honor." The congressman shot the famous editor in the knee and lamed him for life. — Cincinnati Enquirer.

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