Page images

tution and government which in this world never had its equal, whose hand is strengthened by the law as well as by the sword, who is supported by both Houses of Parliament in every act which has been advised or pursued for some years past; the commander of a numerous and invincible army, under the bravest and most illustrious general of the age, against whom this pauper Captain is said to have made war to dethrone the King, a Captain who did not even face a single dragoon, but who with the rest of his troops vanished and melted away in a few hours like a heap of snow, no resistance made against any persons in authority: a magistrate went to meet them, but before he could pull the riot act out of his pocket to give them warning of their danger, they disappeared. Gentlemen, if they had waited to hear the riot act you would never have heard of this prosecution for High Treason, if the magistrate had read the proclamation in the terms the law has ordained, “Our Sovereign Lord the King chargeth and commandeth all persons being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves and peaceably to depart to their habitations or to their lawful business, on the pains of the Act made in the reign of King George, against riotous assemblages.” Gentlemen, if they had remained together for an hour after this notice, their lives would have been forfeited, but this law has, you see, provided that a misguided British subject who runs his head against a stone wall, shall have the benefit of a warning, before his life is forfeited to the laws of his country ; but how was this, it was just like sending for a doctor and saying you must make haste or the patient will be well before you arrive, for though the magistrate went in all haste to fetch in the military, he could not find work for more than one dragoon and himself. The King's army, consisting of one dragoon put them all to rout-but, Gentlemen, there was another thing would have routed them much sooner-a round of beef and a few barrels of ale, for if Mr. Goodwin, that good humoured gentleman, who warned them of their danger, had set before them this long wished round of beef and big loaf, as they call it,

the military would have had nothing to do the Justice would not have had, as he has not had yet, an opportunity of reading the proclamation and the riot aci.

Gentlemen, these are the circumstances; I have taken leave to state to you the law as I understand it, and you are now, perhaps, in a condition to judge for yourselves, and to say upon your oaths, whether this was a war against the King of England, for the purpose of hurling him from his Throne, or was one of those heedless and mad riots which have been often excited by hunger in all countries, and in all ages. You find it was the case in the reign of Queen Mary, when it was made felony with a caution from the Justices; and you see, that even in that age," as in this, when people are hungry--when food is scarce -when there is a famine in the land, disturbances will break out. Those who have food from day to day from the cradle to the grave, can have no conception of the emotions of a fellow creature with a famished family about him with a wife and children wanting food; we can have no adequate conception of these things; but, alas! these five and thirty wretched creatures could feel them-the law has provided for the case of poor illiterate people occasionally driven to despair by famine, and has said that when that happens, they shall have the benefit of a notice by proclamation from a Justice of the Peace before their lives shall be forfeited, but these men had not the benefit of that notice, for they dispersed without it, so that although this was a riot of great enormity undoubtedly of great enormity, yet I trust you will feel that it was but a riot still. I suspect that the Attorney General is fully aware of that; I cannot belp suspecting that if you shall be of opinion, as I trust you will, this was not war, but riot, that the Attorney General has his indictments ready for the Grand Jury, and it is open to him still to take that course, though I should humbly hope, in mercy to these misguided men, he may consider their long imprisonment, the causes that led to it, and the peril in which their lives have stood during the time of their imprisonment-sufficient atonement for their offence.

Gentlemen, there never were two seasons in the bistory of this country, that differed more than the season of the last year and the present ; instead of a hungry and for mished people, wanting employment as well as food, gradually the commerce of the country is reviving, and the circulation of property and employment restored, it has pleased providence to bless us with a bountiful season, which has contributed more than any thing that could possibly have been provided by human ingenuity, to subdue all discontent among us; it looks now as if the time had really commenced when we can indeed begin with united hands and hearts, to enjoy the fruits and blessings of our long expected peace, and it would give me satisfaction to the latest hour of my life, if in addition to having had the good fortune to defend the people of England from the extension of the law of treason, any thing that I could say or do in this place, could contribute to re. store the affections of the people of this country, and above all, to restore the alienated affections of some few of His Majesty's subjects in this country, to their venerable sovereign. Gentlemen, I trust that when this trial is over, if we see these men restored to their families ; if we see that they are not to be offered up as victims on the altar of public justice-if we find that they are to mingle again with their friends and their families, we cannot doubt that they will have received a lesson by these prosecutions, from which they will derive benefit for the remainder of their lives; the example which has been afforded to all who are out of doors, of the danger into which men fall by com. mitting such outrages as these the observations that will come from the learned Judges, with more weight than from any body else, to convince them of the folly and futility of their proceedings, will, I trust, do us all good, and will restore that harmony and good humour which ought ever to subsist amongst Englishmen, who will now and then, however, have a few angry words about public affairs, but without much meaning. : Gentlemen, permit me in a few words to remind you what it is that I humbly conceive will deserve your atten

tive consideration on the behalf of the person accused : there is no function of a Jury, as you must by this time be well aware, that is of half the importance of that to which I have alluded, namely, that of carefully keeping the laws of treason within due bounds, of carefully protecting the subject from the rigour and severity of those laws; unless in your consciences you believe the accused is proved to have violated them, it is a duty you owe to yourselves and to posterity to keep a vigilant eye upon those laws, and not to suffer them to be unnecessarily extended. In this case, I trust you will find no facts sufficient to make out a case of High Treason ; the acts done must in all cases of crime, and in this as well as in others, I do not say be adequate to the end, for then there would be no such thing as High Treason, but there must be some proportion between the means and the end; for if a man attempt a thing by means utterly inadequate, there can be no greater evidence that he did not seriously intend to do the thing ; supposing a man stood at the end of the road towards London, and had been told a person was in London, and he had said, lifting up his gun, here goes, I will fire at him: he might have the folly to suppose it would reach its destination, but unless there was a probable reason to believe that the end would be attained, the folly of the means is a protection against its being supposed that he had the end distinctly in view. You see then, Gentlemen, that if this evidence does not sustain the charge, I have humbly submitted that the Prisoner will be entitled to your acquittal ; that whatever course it may be thought advisable to take against the accused hereafter, for this riot is matter with which you have nothing to do; you have nothing to do undoubtedly on the present occasion, but to consider whether or not this higher species of crime has been committed; the evidence has not only not proved a case of High Treason, but it has not, as I have submitted, proved a felony under the riot acts because the proclamation, that is the caution, was not given; and under these circumstances, and particularly, Gentlemen, and I beg leave before I conclude my address to you to

repeat, that if the case be doubtful, if there be a reasonable doubt whether it is High Treason or riot, I beg leave : to remind you of the language of my Lord Chief Justice Mansfield to the Jury in the year 1780, that you will give the accused the benefit of that doubt. I conceive that it is always for the advantage and for the interests of the country, that if a doubtful case of treason is presented to the consideration of a Jury, indeed I may say that by ancient usage and common sense, the scale should always preponderate in favour of the subject; that I think is the substance of what Lord Mansfield stated in conclusion to the Jury in the case of Lord George Gordon.

Gentlemen, with that observation I will close what I have to submit to you ; the offences of these persons have been atrocious, but they have not been Treason; or if you doubt whether they have been Treason or not, you will give the accused the benefit of that doubt, and say that they have not been guilty of that crime, and thereby rescue your county from the imputation of being the only county in England where this species of Treason has been held to have been committed twice in a century, in the year 1745, and again in 1817. I trust that reproach will not fall upon your county. Gentlemen I will not trouble

you further.


John Hazard, sworn.

Examined by Mr. Cross.

Q. I believe you are the overseer of the Township of Wilford ?

A. Yes.
Q. How far is that from this place?

A, About seventeen or eighteen miles; it is not in this county:

« PreviousContinue »