Samuel was tried alongside his previously-convicted father, Lyon Levy, in 1814. Although they were both found not guilty, Samuel went on - like his father - offending, eventually resulting in transportation to Van Diemen's Land.
Samuel was born in 1799, most probably in London. His father is likely to have been Lyon Levy, another convicted criminal, who appeared at several Old Bailey trials, four of which would have been during Samuel’s childhood. His father’s criminal activities seem to have had an effect on Samuel, as the two were tried together in 1814 (they were acquitted), and Samuel later followed in his father’s footsteps when he was convicted at the Old Bailey in 1821.
Samuel’s first appearance at the Old Bailey was in 1814, when he was tried alongside his father for the crime of theft. At this point he would have been 15 years old. The accused were acquitted of this crime when Samuel’s father, Lyon, called into question the credibility and reliability of the witnesses’ testimonies.
Years later in 1821, by which time Samuel was 22, he found himself again standing trial at the Old Bailey, but this time his father was not present to assist him. He was accused of pickpocketing, and after the victim and the victim’s wife testified against him, he was found guilty and sentenced to six months' imprisonment.
In 1824 he was tried at the Old Bailey for a third time – again for the crime of pickpocketing, for which he was found guilty and this time sentenced to transportation to Tasmania aboard the Sir Charles Forbes.
Samuel’s initial sentence of imprisonment does not seem to have successfully deterred him from criminal activities, given that he reoffended three years later. His second sentence of transportation, which was harsher than six months imprisonment, was likely a result of his previous convictions and trials at the Old Bailey, even though the crime he committed in both in 1821 and 1824 trials was the same. His conduct record from his time in Tasmania reveals that even this harsher sentence did not reform his behaviour completely – he received lashes many times for the offences of drunkenness, showing insolence towards his masters and neglecting his duties during his time in Tasmania. Although his behaviour in Tasmania earned him many punishments, the severity of the offences he committed do not seem to have increased after transportation, and his conduct record suggests that he did not commit theft as he had done prior to his transportation.
Few personal details are found of Samuel Levy from his records. In his 1821 trial his occupation is listed as a labourer, and in 1824 his occupation is recorded as a costermonger. He was 25 years of age when he was transported to Tasmania, and it is very likely that he is the son of fellow convict Lyon Levy. Given that his father is known to have been Jewish, it is likely that Samuel was also Jewish. There are no marriage records for him in Tasmania, although there are a small number in London for men named "Samuel Levy" from the late 1830s/early 1840s which may refer to the convict, but apart from the name there is little else to link these records together with any degree certainty. Therefore, it is unknown whether or not Samuel went on to get married and have children after his transportation sentence was over, but given the absence of any documentary evidence in Tasmania it is unlikely that, if he ever did marry, he did so in Tasmania.
Apart from his conduct record, it is very difficult to trace Samuel Levy’s life once he arrived in Tasmania. His initial sentence was for seven years, and so it is possible that he returned to Britain following his sentence. There are a number of marriage and death records in London from periods that may broadly match with Samuel Levy if he did return to London following his sentence, but many of the people in question are of a different age to Samuel, or the person’s age is not known at all, which makes linking these records with the records for the Samuel we are looking at problematic. Given the fragmentary and sometimes missing data we have for Samuel after he arrived in Tasmania, it cannot also be completely discounted that he remained there for the rest of his life, even though there no documentary references to him in Tasmania following his sentence.
There was a belief prevalent during the later eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that criminality was hereditary – criminal parents would produce criminal children, and that the main source of criminal offending was a dysfunctional family. As the case of Lyon and Samuel Levy shows, perhaps this perception was not unfounded, and from Samuel’s first trial in 1814 alongside his father, his criminal activities continued in the footsteps of his father. Therefore, the idea that Lyon may have inducted Samuel into crime can be seen as part of wider familial and inter-generational patterns of crime during this period, and that the children of criminals would themselves go on to commit crimes was perhaps not unusual.
Larceny, Pickpocketing, Transportation, Imprisonment, Whipping, Recidivism, Juvenile
This page was written by Alex Traves with additional contributions by other members of the Digital Panopticon project team.