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Decisions of the Nineteenth Century Tasmanian Superior Courts

R. v. Solomon [1829]

convict escape - habeas corpus - delays in court - bail

Source: Colonial Times, 6 November 1829 [1]


Far be it from us ever to rejoice at another's woe; otherwise, the act of justice that has been rendered to the community - the signal example of promptness and decision shewn both by the English and Local Governments, and the warning to evil-doers, exemplified in the arrival of a Mes[s]enger by the Lady of the Lake, with a Warrant from the Secretary of State, for the apprehension of the notorious Ikey Solomons, who had done us the honor of making choice of this Island for his residence, has we believe excited but one feeling, and that is, entire satisfaction among all lovers of good and orderly conduct.
We have reason to know, that the domestic arrangements of this family have been viewed with jealousy by many industrious well-behaved persons in unfortunate circumstances, who were at a loss to reconcile the apparent injustice of a certain marked indulgence they received, that had been refused to other and much more deserving objects; but the murder is now out, and it is evident Ikey Solomons has been caught in his own trap. The warrant for his apprehension arrived on Sunday, and was put in force the next day, when he was lodged in the gaol, where we understand he is carefully watched, until he embarks for England, there to abide the due course of law. We hope such of his family as have the power, will be so good as to accompany him. We shall readily say to the whole of them "Pax vobiscum."

Pedder C.J., November 1829
Source: Colonial Times, 20 November 1829

In one of our late publications, we mentioned that an individual, named IKEY SOLOMON well known to the English Police, as a finished specimen of the accomplishments that have brought many a hapless being to destruction, and who had taken up his voluntary abode in this Colony, had fallen within the power of the strong arm of the Law, and been committed to Gaol, preparatory to being sent back to England. - The intelligence so communicated, although mainly true, was not quite correct, in one important particular, inasmuch, as instead of a Messenger with a Secretary's Warrant, having arrived b the Lady of the Lake, as was at first generally understood, it turned out that the orders for his being sent to England, were contained in a dispatch to the Lieutenant Governor from the Under Secretary, accompanied by an affidavit from Mr. WONTNER, the Keeper of Newgate, stating the particulars under which Solomon made his escape from custody, whilst proceeding to one of the Police-offices, to undergo examination. It must be admitted, either that the Home Government have a very exalted opinion of their own power, in controlling in a summary manner, the proceedings of their Colonies, or they consider the institutions of Van Diemen's Land as perfectly insignificant, when placed in the scale against their orders, otherwise in a measure of so much importance to the well-doing of Society, as the bringing to justice a notorious offender, a loop-hole would not have been left, for legal ingenuity, opening the door to discussion upon the validity of every part of the proceedings.
A silver key, it is said, will open any lock. No wonder therefore, that the gold, silver, and precious stones, possessed by the wealthy Israelite, as the fruits of his vocation, should have been able to place at his command the best legal advice of this Colony; nor that, considering the acknowledged talents of the Gentleman so employed, doubts should have arisen in the mind of the Chief Justice, when the question that consequently arose, was argued. It is now a fortnight ago that Solomon was brought before the Chief Justice by Habeas Corpus, with the view to his being discharged, under the plea of insufficiency of power to detain him - and perhaps a more clear, forcible, and eloquent speech than was delivered by Mr. GELLIBRAND, on the occasion, has seldom, if ever, graced the walls of the Court-house.
The Attorney-General, in reply, advanced many positions, and cited many cases, taking no opposite view to Mr. GELLIBRAND, and tending still farther to create doubt where there were doubts enough before. Judgment was accordingly deferred, and adjournment after adjournment has since taken place, the case being still undecided.
The power of riches is so great, that we believe it capable of any miracle, no matter what.
We have heard of few things, however, more remarkable amongst its attributes, than its efficacy in transforming vice, frightful, hideous vice, into all the natural beauty and comeliness of virtue. It is not very surprising, considering the panacea contained in this sovereign remedy, that Ikey Solomon should find in such a Colony as Van Diemen's Land, here and there, an adherent who now looks upon him in the light of a Martyr, nor that writers and speakers should be found who can preach a parcel of cant hypocrisy, and fine feeling, connected with his case.
We are not of this number ourselves. We hate and detest vice, whether it be exhibited by a Christian? Or a Jew - a Crowned Head, of a Peasant - an Emigrant, or a Convict. -- On the other hand, we equally love and admire virtue, and the more so always, in proportion to the lowly circumstances of him by whom it is exhibited. Our sentiments towards Ikey Solomon arise therefore from this principle. We know little of the man, excepting in connection with the offences laid to his charge, and to the general worthlessness of his character, as it has been represented to us by those who have known him of other day. We always wish to adhere to the principle of considering a man innocent, till he be proved guilty; but that sometimes requires a stretch of forbearance, we cannot very well bestow - in such a case as this, for instance; and, as we desire to see this Colony thrive and flourish, not become the theatre of those who dare not stay in England - to be a receptacle for avowed, acknowledged, and convicted criminals, who are known and treated accordingly, rather than open our arms to the much more dangerous character, the unconvicted felon, we repeat the satisfaction we have before expressed, at the measures that have been taken towards relieving us of Ikey Solomon's presence.
We regret that there should have been any hitch - any stumbling in the affair; for the more perfect and complete are the operations of Government in matters of Peace, the more are offenders struck with terror. So far as crime receives an accession upon our shores, we consider that the arrival of one such character as Ikey Solomon, does more mischief, than a whole cargo of the worst convicts that ever left England; and we are sure, upon mature deliberate r[e]flection, that it is only those who are of a similar feather, that will think, or will venture to speak differently. ...
A rumour has very generally prevailed, for the last three weeks, in the east end of the town, the theatre of the principal part of his exploits, that Ikey Solomons had terminated his career in South America, whither he had escaped from New York to avoid the consequences of some extensive frauds and forgeries, which he, in concert with two others, who had been tried and convicted, had perpetrated on the banking-houses of that city. The rumour, from what has subsequently transpire[d] proves to have been utterly unfounded, and appears to h[ave] been put in circulation by some of his friends here for the tw[o] fold purpose of burying every enquiry into his fate, and co[n]cealing his meditated intention of going to Van Diemen's La[nd]. To this rash step he is said to have been impelled by the on[ly] good feeling that had a place in his bosom, viz. a strong affection for his wife and family, the former of whom being after his flight tried, and found guilty of receiving stolen property, was transported, together with her children, at her own solicitation, to that colony. Ikey embarked at Rio de Janeiro, under an assumed name, on board the Coronet trader, for Van Diemen's Land, but scarce had he entered Hobart Town when he was recognized under his fictitious appellation, and his studied disguise, by some of his old customers, who congratulated him on his safe arrival among them, and complimented him on the dexterity he had evinced in his several hair-breadth escapes both in England and North and South America. The recognition proved most unfortunate for the fugitive, for it having reached the ears of the Authorities that no less a personage than the celebrated Ikey had reached the Colony, they had him taken into custody to await a communication from this country as to the propriety of his being transmitted home to undergo his trial for the numerous offences with which he stood charged when he outwitted the turnkeys of Newgate. That this was the fact was last week communicated to his father, but he discredited it altogether, and, shaking his head, significantly said to his informant, "I don't believe it. Ikey is too good a judge, and knows better." - 
(Sun, April, 1829.)

Pedder C.J., 1 December 1829
Source: Colonial Times, 4 December 1829

In the course of the arguments that have arisen upon Ikey Solomon's case, in the Supreme Court, the Attorney-General took occasion on Tuesday last, in strong and energetic language, to deprecate the continued delays that have hitherto deferred the judgment of the Court. We sincerely hope that what he then said, may be of some service, towards putting an end to the extraordinary procrastination that marks the system of our Criminal Law proceedings, and which is become proverbial. Talk of Lord ELDON. Why, he is nothing to what we in Van Diemen's Land can exhibit; and we are not at all surprised that the principal Law Officer of the Crown is heartily tired of adjournments, which prevent his ever knowing when his work is finished - we might almost say commenced. Better, according to our opinion, to expedite the course of justice, even at the risk of an occasional error in judgment, than to purchase superior accuracy at the enormous price now paid for it; but we very much question whether or not, in nineteen cases out of twenty, the first impression is not the correct one.

Pedder C.J., 2 January 1830
Source: Colonial Times, 8 January 1830

The long pending arguments in the Supreme Court, arising under the Writ of Habeas Corpus, that had been granted in the case of Ikey Solomons have at length been decided nominally, in favour of the liberty of the subject. Ikey Solomons, whose case is so fully before the Public, as to need no farther comment at our hands, was ordered on Saturday last, to be discharged upon finding satisfactory bail, himself in Two Thousand Pounds and four sureties of Five Hundred Pounds each, that he should be forthcoming whenever required. He has since proposed bail, but it was not approved and consequently still remains in Gaol. So much for all the able, elaborate, and unanswerable arguments of his Counsel, and the effect they have produced! We are still of the same opinion we have heretofore expressed, that we agree with the Attorney General it was not a case, where the Writ ought to have been granted; but, when once it was, we are sorry to see the powerful arguments that were advanced in support of the man's discharge, so got rid of by a side wind, as we consider the decision of the Court; for really it amounts to nothing else but incarceration under another shape.

Source: Colonial Times, 29 January 1830 [2]

Ikey Solomon embarked on board the Prince Regent, for England, in the course of last Sunday night, under charge of Mr. Capon, the Chief Constable; who expects, we understand, although we know not upon what precise grounds, to come in for a very considerable share of the reward that was offered for his apprehension. We have already freely expressed our opinions upon this man's case, and although we may feel for the individual, as we would for any other child of misfortune, separated in this manner from his ties of kindred, we cannot yet arrive at any other conclusion, than that justice - strict even handed justice, imperatively demanded the sacrifice that has been made. We hate whining and "Cant," and do not profess to shed crocodile tears. If Ikey Solomon be acquitted of the crimes laid to his charge, and return to this Colony, he would be received by us like any other free emigrant, and respected or otherwise, according to his conduct. If he return a convict, we shall extend to him the same pity, and, if we have the opportunity, encouragement that we withhold not from all, similarly circumstanced, be they whom they may, who behave themselves well. In either case therefore, our hostility towards him has ceased, now that the non-descript character he assumed whilst he sojourned upon our shores, has terminated by his having left them. We had but one opinion through the whole of the discussions that took place, relative to the Writ of Habeas Corpus that was granted in this case, and our opinion has been fully confirmed by the result.


[1] Solomon was a celebrated criminal, see J.J. Tobias, Prince of Fences: The Life and Crimes of Ikey Solomons (London, 1974).
[2] See also Colonial Times, 19 February 1830. The Tasmanian and Austral-Asiatic Review, 3 December 1830, was highly critical of the judgment of Pedder C.J., saying that under his construction it "is neither more nor less than a mere check upon the accuracy of Magistrates' Clerks, in filling up warrants, which if they do accurately, according to a prescribed form, no matter what be the merits of the case, tha accused must remain in gaol, be his innocence ever so apparent." This, the newspaper said, was humbug of the very worst sort.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University and the School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania