Slave smuggler revealed as forger
On this day in 1840, the slave smuggler Monroe Edwards was convicted of having forged a bill of sale from his partner, Christopher Dart. Although Edwards retained two distinguished lawyers, John C. Watrous and John W. Harris, the forgery was discovered during a civil trial in Brazoria. Edwards was found liable for more than $89,000 plus interest and court costs. He was also indicted and jailed. After making bond on the criminal charge, he fled to Europe, where he posed as a wealthy veteran of San Jacinto and an abolitionist. He left Europe after a threat of exposure by the Texas envoy to England and returned to the United States, where he engaged in several large-scale forgeries. He was finally arrested and incarcerated in the Tombs prison in New York. His trial was a celebrated one, with lengthy reports of each day's testimony printed in the New York Daily Tribune and other newspapers. Edwards again retained celebrated lawyers but was found guilty and sentenced to Sing Sing prison. After an escape attempt in 1847 he was severely beaten by prison authorities and died.