In 1889, the conviction of Thomas Narcisse George Clare for ‘tiefinda people’s money’ while in public office, caused his election, as the Member for Harbour Island, to be declared void. Thomas Clare’s own guilty plea, to embezzlement and larceny and a five-year prison sentence, occasioned him, by immediate disqualification, to vacate his seat in the House of Assembly.

Thomas Narcisse George Clare, born in England in 1846, was only 21 years old, when he had been elected to represent the Eastern District of St. Anne’s Parish, Nassau in October 1867. Just the year before, on Thursday 2nd August 1866, he married one Mary Elizabeth Anne Farrington, of Nassau, Bahamas. She was, it was speculated, without family due to one of the many disease epidemics, which had struck islands, and was around 13 years old – the customary age of marriage in the 19th century. Thomas and Mary went on to have seven children.

Twenty-two years later, in 1889, Thomas Clare would be a desperate man; an embezzler, running from law.

Thomas Clare, the Postmaster and Representative for Harbour Island Suddenly Disappears – August 1889

On 10th., August 1889, the whereabouts of the Postmaster and Representative for Harbour Island, Thomas Narcisse George Clare, was actively being sought. The circumstances were of an urgent nature. His sudden disappearance may have had something to do with the impending audit of the books of the Post Office in Nassau. In the late 19th century, the Post Office played an important role in effecting countless financial and fiduciary transactions in the Bahama Islands. Postmasters had to be men of impeccable and unimpeachable character. They were akin to bankers in some respects. Their accurate record-keeping was counted on by government. A lot of money, as well as, debt and receivable notes, passed through their hands. For Thomas Narcisse George Clare, the temptation proved too much.

The Nassau Guardian and Bahama Islands Advocate and Intelligencer, Saturday 10 August 1889

Thomas Clare Found Hiding On Boat At Ragged Island, Charged With Embezzlement and Larceny

Thomas Clare boarded the first schooner leaving Nassau in early August 1889. An all island search was being made after it was quickly discovered that serious amounts of money were missing from the Post Office. Thomas Clare – originally from Lewes, Sussex, England, born in 1846 – was found hiding on a boat, all the way down in Ragged Island. Clare was an educated man. Using this, he was able to falsify the records to show money transactions and balances, which were purely a figment of his imagination. Thomas Clare, upon his arrest and return to Nassau, was promptly charged with three counts of embezzlement and larceny.

The Nassau Guardian and Bahama Islands Advocate and Intelligencer, Saturday 17 August 1889

Three counts of embezzlement and larceny were read against Thomas Clare. He pleaded guilty to one count. Made no offer of restitution

The Nassau Guardian and Bahama Islands Advocate and Intelligencer, Wednesday 16 October 1889

Regina v Clare – Larceny of monies to wit intrusted to him and which came into his custody in virtue of his employment in the Public Service, to wit as Postmaster.

There were three criminal counts against Thomas Clare. He only pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement and larceny of £1,663 in 1889. All things being equal, in today’s money, £1663 in 1889 is worth £219,204.36 today. And £219,204.36 pounds, in dollars is about US$303,844.64.

“Someone remarks of the Chief Justice in passing sentence:- You have pleaded guilty. A confession is the surest foundation for Justice. What you have confessed to having embezzled and stolen is £1662 0s 10d public monies which came in your custody as postmaster: monies of depositors in the Post Office Savings Bank, and belonging to the Money Orders’ System of the Office. There are two other Information is filed against you. The law regards your crime as a most serious one – deserving of severe punishment. It is the character of the crime which has to be considered in all cases. This is a gross fraud and breach of trust.

The Nassau Guardian and Bahama Islands Advocate and Intelligencer, Wednesday 23 October 1889

Our law says you are liable to be kept in penal servitude for any term not exceeding 14 years and not less than three, or to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years with or without hard labour. The punishment is left to the discretion of the Court. You have made no offer of restitution of anything you have embezzled and stolen. You content yourself by pleading guilty.

Thomas Clare sentenced to 5 years in prison

“You have brought a scandal and disgrace upon the public service of the Colony – and perhaps caused a serious loss to the Colony. An example has to be made. The sentence of the Court is that you be kept in penal servitude for 5 years, to date from your committal.”

The Nassau Guardian and Bahama Islands Advocate and Intelligencer, Wednesday 33 October 1889

WRIT OF ELECTION FOR VACATED HAROUR ISLAND SEAT on account of Thomas Narcisse George Clare’s election being void and declared ineligible. Nassau 14th February 1890

The Nassau Guardian and Bahama Islands Advocate and Intelligencer, Wednesday 19 February 1890

At the opening of the House of Assembly in February 1890, the Governor Sir Ambrose Shea, K.C.MG. made remarks on the larceny conviction of Thomas Clare and the resulting vacancy for the seat to represent the Harbour Island district.

The Nassau Guardian and Bahama Islands Advocate and Intelligencer, Wednesday 12 February 1890

Thomas Narcisse George Clare

Thomas was born in Lewes, Sussex, England on 1846 to Thomas Felix Clare Clear and Mary Ann Brockway. Thomas Narcisse George Clare married Mary Elizabeth Ann Farrington and had 7 children. He passed away on 31 Aug 1914 in Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas; buried in St. Matthews Cemetery & the Eastern Burial Ground.

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