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Title: [Testimony from Fleming Saunders and Marmaduke Baker Accusing Thomas Benton of Stealing Their Money], March 19, 1799: Electronic Edition.
Author: University of North Carolina (1793-1962). General Faculty
Funding from the University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill supported the electronic publication of this title.
Text transcribed by Caitlin R. Donnelly
Images scanned by Caitlin R. Donnelly
Text encoded by Stephanie Adamson
First Edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: ca. 40K
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text
The electronic edition is a part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-01-03, Stephanie Adamson finished TEI/XML encoding.
Source(s):
Title of collection: Records of the General Faculty and Faculty Council of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (#40106), University Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Title of document: [Testimony from Fleming Saunders and Marmaduke Baker Accusing Thomas Benton of Stealing Their Money], March 19, 1799
Author: [University of North Carolina (1793-1962). General Faculty]
Description: 10 pages, 11 page images
Note: Call number 40106 (University Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
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[Testimony from Fleming Saunders and Marmaduke Baker Accusing Thomas Benton of Stealing Their Money], March 19, 1799
University of North Carolina (1793-1962). General Faculty



Page [9]

Files &c.
No 1. March 19. 1799
Sometime about the first of February last, the undersigned Fleming Saunders & Marmaduke Baker deposited a certain sum of money in Mr Thomas Benton’s trunk, the key of which said Benton , at all times carefully kept in his own possession. About six or eight days after the deposit had been made, the undersigned Saunders applied to Benton for some money, Benton opened the trunk & the undersigned Saunders taking hold of his purse immediately exclaimed, that some of his money was lost. This exclamation he was induced to make from a conviction that both the size & weight of his purse was considerably diminished. Benton appeared to be much surprised at this declaration, & began to move his cloaths in the trunk, by the moving of which several loose Dollars were discovered, but these were not sufficient in number to make the sum which was lost. Some short time afterwards said Saunders recommended to the undersigned Baker to examine whether any of his money was also lost. The undersigned Baker accordingly

Page [10]
examined & declared that he also had lost a few Dollars. This declaration appeared to add much to Benton’s surprise & uneasiness.
As the money had been deposited in Benton’s own trunk the key of which he kept with remarkable carefulness, the undersigned thought that he must know something about the manner in which their money had been taken & disposed of, but were unwilling to indulge the suspicion of Benton having taken it himself. Some circumstances however occurred about this time which confirmed them in the beleif of his guilt. As they lived in the same room with Benton they had an opportunity of knowing almost every part of his conduct. They could not help taking notice that instead of being extremely parsimonious, as he had been in the early part of the session, he had now become remarkably prodigal & extravagant. This change of conduct together with several other circumstances, confirmed the undersigned in the opinion that Benton had taken their money
On the night of the eighth of March, the pocket-book of the undersigned William Cherry

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was stolen out of his coat pocket after he had gone to bed, & with the pocket book, eight Dollars in cash, one of which was a federal Dollar of the latest emission, & which was as the undersigned believe, the only one of the kind in College. On the same night the sum of sixteen Dollars was stolen out of the pocket-book of the undersigned Marmeduke Baker, also a shilling bill which was marked with the initial letters of said Bakers name. As the Dollar & shilling-bill were thus remarkable, it was thought that they might afford an easy opportunity of detection. The undersigned Saunders & Baker therefore went to the different Merchants & Tavern-keepers in the village, described the Dollar & shilling bill, & requested that if either should fall into their hands, that they should give said Saunders & Baker immediate notice & also inform them of the person from whom they obtained it. A few days afterwards the undersigned Saunders was informed by Hugh Nunn (a clerk in Mr Scott’s store) that he had seen the above mentioned Dollar in Thomas Benton’s possession, & that he had endeavored to obtain the Dollar by giving other money in exchange for it, but that Benton refused to exchange it, or by any means part from it.
Another circumstance which had

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great weight with the undersigned was, that Benton had, for some nights past, sat up much later than any of his room-mates, & that the undersigned Saunders, lying awake in his bed when Benton beleived him to be asleep, discovered said Benton very carefully tie on his neck-handkerchief immediately before he went to bed. That the night following he discovered Benton (as he beleives with a pocket-book open on the table before him) carefully fold up his neck-handkerchief & then tie it on as he had done the night before. Said Saunders declares that he beleived at that time & does still beleive that in that handkerchief Benton carried the paper money which he had stolen from Messrs Baker & Cherry & which amounted to somewhat more than twenty Dollars. He farther states it as his opinion that Benton was on the second night, mentioned above, adjusting the money in his neck-handkerchief in such a manner as that it might neither be discovered nor lost.
Hitherto the undersigned were, by no means, disposed to communicate to any person, the suspicions which they had entertained of Benton . But being now fully convinced of his guilt, they determined to fall on some plan to make a thorough detection, & as they were apprehensive that it might be attended with a serious quarrel

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& perhaps be the cause of a challenge from Benton , they determined to make some of the officers of the University acquainted with their suspicions & the reasons of them; & also to enquire what plan should be thought most advisable for the undersigned to pursue. The undersigned Saunders accordingly waited on Mr Caldwell on the 14 instant, & informed him as above. In the evening of the same day the undersigned Saunders with Mr Caldwell waited on Mr. Gillaspie & communicated the whole to him, in order that they might have his opinion & advice with respect to the method which ought to be adopted. Among many other plans which were suggested, it was proposed that the undersigned Saunders should not return to College until late at night when Benton would most probably be asleep & that said Saunders should then search his pocket-book, to see whether the Dollar or any of the money which had been stolen could be found in it.
Between the hours of eleven & twelve at night the undersigned Saunders left Mr Gillaspie’s , & when he entered his room, found that Benton was abed & asleep. He walked easily across the room, took Benton’s pocket-book out of his coat pocket, & on examining it, found the identical Dollar which Cherry had lost. This he shortly afterwards communicated

Page [14]
to the undersigned Baker & Cherry. It was then agreed that they should take Benton out & search him. To obtain an opportunity of doing so, they agreed (with the knowledge & permission of Messrs Caldwell & Gillaspie ) to go into the country for breakfast & to take Benton along. In the morning the undersigned Saunders went to Mr Caldwell & borrowed of him a Dollar of the common federal stamp, with the intention of trying whether by bantering the company on the beauty of his Dollar, he could not induce Benton to shew the Dollar which they were all now convinced he had in his possession. The undersigned had recourse to this expedient from a conviction that if Benton had obtained the Dollar any other way than by stealth, he would feel no reluctance in shewing it. Said Saunders when he returned to the room proposed to the undersigned Baker & Cherry to go into the country with him to breakfast, & added that if any of the others would go with them, & eat ten eggs & drink five dishes of coffee that he would pay for the breakfast. Benton immediately accepted the offer, but when the time of starting approached, he declined. The undersigned by using a number of expedients at length prevailed & Benton went with them. While on their way to the house at which they were to breakfast, the undersigned Saunders made many attempts to induce Benton to

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shew his Dollar but without any success. As they returned from breakfast Benton appeared no ways inclined to converse or to keep near to any of the undersigned, but kept some distance before them. The undersigned Saunders at length called to him not to walk so fast, adding that he wished to have some conversation with him, on a particular subject. Benton slackened his pace, & when the undersigned came up Saunders mentioned to him the suspicions that they had of his having taken their money, & that the only way of eradicating those suspicions was to submit to an immediate search. Benton denied the charge & with uplifted hands called the gods to bear witness to his innocence. Saunders replied that this would not convince him, & told Benton that he must submit to a search. Benton then put his hand into his pocket, pulled out his pocket-handkerchief & offered Saunders his key telling him that he might search his trunk. Saunders refused the key telling Benton that he must search his pocket-book. After finding that Saunders would not be put off with the key, he agreed that his pocket-book should be searched. In the mean time however, he kept his hand employed in his pocket & the undersigned believe did then actually

Page [16]
take the above mentioned Dollar out of his pocket-book. With many & solemn asseverations of his innocence, he at length delivered his pocket-book to Saunders; but on examination it was found that the Dollar was not in it. The undersigned Saunders immediately put his hand into Benton’s pocket & pulled out the Dollar which he had discovered the night before, & which the undersigned Cherry did not hesitate to claim as his own. Benton appeared to be much agitated & after many prevarications & self-evident falshoods, he confessed that he had taken the money which the undersigned Cherry had lost, but denied taking any more. He added that he took the pocket-book on the supposition that Cherry would imagine he had lost it out of his own pocket; & that he intended to replace the money in a short time by putting the pocket-book into some place where said Cherry would certainly find it. On being asked what he had done with the pocket-book, he replied that he had thrown it to the bottom of the little-house. After a number of other prevarications, he confessed that he had taken a few Dollars from the undersigned Saunders, but denied that he had taken any from Baker. In the course of a day or two, Benton acknowleged that he had taken from the undersigned

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at different times the sum of thirty four Dollars viz from Saunders the sum of nine Dollars, from Baker the sum of eighteen Dollars & a shilling & from Cherry the sum of seven Dollars.
The undersigned Fleming Saunders, Marmaduke Baker & William Cherry affirm that the above is substantially a true statement.

Fleming Saunders

Marmaduke Baker

Wm. Cherry

Signed in presence of the Faculty

J. S. Gillaspie

Jos. Caldwell

Sam. A. Holmes,

A D Murphey

On the 22nd of February or thereabouts the sum of twenty Dollars in silver was taken out of the chest of the undersigned Thomas King. Said King had no particular suspicion of the person who had taken it but rather supposed that it

Page [18]
must have been some negro. But when he understood that Thomas Benton had, according to his own confession, stolen the money of Messrs Saunders, Baker & Cherry, he supposed it most probable that he had taken his also. Some circumstances which had heretofore escaped unnoticed now recurred to his recollection, & as Benton had left the University he determined to pursue & enquire after his money. On the evening of the 20th of March he set out in company with Messrs Saunders & Baker whose assistance he had sollicited & procured, & on the 21st found Benton at his mother’s. Benton was called out & when the question was proposed Whether he had taken the undersigned King’s money? he replied that he had. He was then asked whether the chest was locked when he came to it? he replied that it was, but that he had some short time before, procured a lock the key of which exactly fitted the lock of the chest & with which he opened it.
The undersigned Thomas King affirms that the above is substantially a true statement.

Thomas King

Signed in presence of the Faculty

J. S. Gillaspie

S A Holmes

Jos. Caldwell


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