From the Cincinnati Intelligencer of September 13.
A great excitement has existed in our city for these two or three days past. The cause of it, as far as we learn the facts, is as follows—Mr. J. Washington Mason, by way of a joke on some of his Jackson friends, (Mr. Mason has been one of the warmest supporters of gen. Jackson), got Mr. Wilson McGrew of our city, one of our most respectable jewellers, and a gentleman who is well known in this city and highly respected, to gild him six of the new 25 cent pieces, in order to have a laugh at some of his Jackson sriends, by showing them that the me talic currency could be as easily counterfeited as the notes of the United States bank, or any other bank. Mr. McGrew placed the silver pieces in the hands of Mr. Huyser, an artist of this city, to have the work executed—informing Mr. Huyser, at the time, for what purpose the pieces were to be gilded. Mr. Huyser did the work accordingly; while he was doing it, many saw him at it. The facts were known to in any in the community, that such a joke was to be practised, and among others, to the editor of the Republican, who became, in the sequel, the prosecuting witness against Mr. McGrew. The editor of the Republican himself, requested to have one of the gilt coins, which was promised to him. Mr. Huyser while gilding the coins, called on Mr. Lytle, our representative in congress, with a request that Mr. Lytle would obtain for him, papers of naturalization, which Mr. Lytle promised to do. Mr. Huyser in this interview with Mr. Lytle, communicated to him the fact, that he was gilding the coins. Mr. Lytle told him when he had finished the gilding, to bring them to him, in the presence of a third person, as he wished to have a witness to the fact, owing to the relation in which he, (Mr. Lytle), stood to this community. At, or after the interview, the third person alluded to, than whom no one in this city stands higher, believing it to be a joke, advised that no more should be said about the matter, After this, Mr. Lytle held at his rooms a meeting of several of his political friends, and there the editor of the Republican determined to become prosecutor. Accordingly, the prosecution was commenced before the mayor. No witness on either side pretended to charge Mr. McGrew with any fraudulent intentions, whatever. Mr. McGrew was, of course, acquitted by the mayor, who refused from the outset of the business, to take any bail in the case. Thus terminated the “golden humbug.” This business needs no comment now, we may speak of it hereafter.
The following, from the Cincinnati Phoenix, presents the other side of this matter—but it omits to state the very material fact, that the mayor dismissed the case, in the manner stated above:
Yesterday evening, Mr. Wilson McGrew, watchmaker and jeweller, of this city, was brought before the mayor, on a charge of counterfeiting the gold coin of the United States, by obliterating the figure 2 and letter C from the reverse side of some 25 cent pieces, and gilding them, so us to make them pass for, or be taken for half eagles.
Mr. Huyser, an artist, was produced, who testified that he had been in the employment of Mr. McGrew, and that in the course of his business, he had received from him, under a charge of secrecy, some quarter dollar pieces of silver, from which was obliterated the figure 2 and the letter C, leaving the figure 5 under the eagle on the reverse side of the coin; that he was directed by Mr. McGrew to gild the pieces, so that they might have the appearance of half eagles; that he executed the work to the satisfaction of his employer, who said they would be taken readily by the farmers for half eagles; that when the work was completed, he had credit given him by his employer in his account; that he did not know who obliterated the figure and the letter.
Several persons were summoned to appear and give testimony; some of Mr. McGrew’s workmen, touching the act of defacing the silver coin, and some that were reported to have been seen with the counterfeit coin in possession. Some of the latter came to the mayor's office, but did not come further than the door, and, when called, did not answer or come forth.
We have a full account of the examination before the mayor of Cincinnati. It does not seem necessary to say more than that the intention to “counterfeit!!!” was freely made known! Even Mr. Lytle, the member of congress, (and at whose lodgings the meeting was held at which it was agreed to prosecute Mr. McGrew), in his examination, stated, that “he thought the gilding was merely intended for political effect, to bring the gold bill into disrepute, and thus affect the election.” Several witnesses had heard of this thing for a week previously, and that it was intended only as a joke, &c. Others had seen them publicly in the streets, and been told that they were gilded quarter dollars. The gilding was a matter of notoriety in McGrew's shop, and one of the workmen testified that he had heard it spoken of in fifty other places. Another testified that the holder of them called the pieces “goldibus gildobus!” Mr. Moses Dawson's reading of the statute, however, satisfied himself and some others of the party, that the act of counterfeiting completed the offence, without a criminal intention!!! Now we humbly beg leave to express an opinion, that, in many of the uses making of the new gold coin, there is a more sure “offence” than in the proceedings stated. We believe that the new coins have been feloniously counterfeited—and, to shew the people how easily it may be done, and thus put them on their guard, must rather be considered as rendering a public service, than as committing an offence against the laws. The mayor discharged Mr. McGrew, saying there was not the slightest evidence of a criminal design, but the clearest proof of the contrary. In a series of years, gold coins may come into common use, and, we hope, will break down the circulation of small bank notes—but, at present, very few persons have sufficient knowledge of gold to give them confidence in receiving it, from strangers. A few days ago, a friend, who, out of curiosity, had obtained a few half eagles, being without other money in his pocket, offered them in payment for some wood that he had purchased on the wharf–but they were refused. The master of the boat was not to be “caught, (as he said), by the shiners,” and insisted that the gentleman should pay him in bank notes, which he knew the value of.
Source: Niles' Weekly Register - 27th September 1834