Page images

they may arrive at that pass, that when the forces of the King are brought to suppress them, the rioters may oppose those forces. Now, was that the case here? On the contrary, long before one Soldier had appeared upon the hills, these persons had repented of their long march on a wet night—they had got no bread and cheese except at the public-house at which they stopped-they were cold and hungry, and they dispersed to get their breakfast.

As these circumstances now bring it to my mind, I will here observe, upon one of the most important facts, the Attorney General stated, as proving the object of the conspiracy, my Friend said, that when Brandreth talked of the expences at the public-house, where they halted to eat and drink, which amounted to eight and twenty shillings for all this body of men, he should prove that Brandreth promised to pay the bill when the Revolution should be effected, and the New Government established. This important fact is negatived by his witnesses, they prove not only that that did not pass, but that some thing else did pass ; for' he said, he would see him paid, but did not mention the Revolution, Gentlemen, what do I infer from that? that the Attorney General has been deceived ; that gross and exaggerated statements have been made to him; and that these parties are exposed to danger in consequence. Every little miserable man, whose property has been affected or endangered by the bustle, has an interest in making the worst of what passed, and therefore you find that they represent these things which the Attorney, General has been instructed to state in his opening speech, but which are expressly negatived on oath by his own witnesses. I say, that is the natural consequence of these transactions, that the alarm of danger leads to nothing so certainly as that persons should say, Oh, it was not merely to rob, or to plunder our pantries; it was the Government which was in danger, we were in a common peril with the Constitution of the Country; we have lost our bread and cheese and beer, but we have been but fellow sufferers with our sovereign Lord the King. That is the sort of course which has been pursued on

this occasion; the difference between the statement and the evidence warrants my assertion.

Gentlemen, I would advert, in the same line of observation, to what I said before of the Prisoner being supposed to have been previously at some place where this meeting on Sunday was arranged. My learned Friend, the Attórney General, said, that meri meeting in several partiés, had previously conspired to overset the Government; that the Prisoner was present; and, that from his conduct, it was plain he was privy to what passed. I am not at all unwilling, Gentlemen, to put the case upon that issue, upon which my learned Friend has put it. Did they intend, in reasonable language, had they any thing like a practicable contemplation of subverting the Government, and levying wát against His Majesty, the mightiest monarch on the face of the earth, with those few miserable men as their army, with even their neighbours against them; with more than overpowering resistance at every house to which they came, with the exception of a few, and particularly that where the unfortúnáte occurrence took place, of which you have só often heard ? they were defeated almost without opposition, and put down without a blow. If others had acted with the good sense and spirit of Mr. Goodwin, and above all, if those who had reason to suspect the intended mischief before hand, had disclosed what they knew to the Magistrates, it would never have even bad a beginning.

My learned Friend has said, that no man who does not wish to encourage rebellion will deny that this is a levying of war. Gentlemen, I put it to you that not only may we so argue, but that the Legislature themselves ex. pressly so declared, when they made an Act to prevent twelve persons or more assembling riotously together, and declared it felony not to separate after warning given ; was not the object of that Act to prevent this being called High Treason? and if that statute had been attended to, if the magistrates had interposed their timely authority, the riot would have been crushed in a moment, and no charge of Treason would ever have been preferred.

Gentlemen, I know and feel assured my learned Friend wishes these cases should be tried without prejudice; but it is extremely unfortunate that the case should be first selected for trial which is connected with circumstances so distressing as the present. It is unfortunate even that the man first singled out for trial should appear here in this sort of disguise ; not that it can be insinuated that he has meant to disguise himself from the knowledge of witnesses, for he has been instantly recognized by them all :' but whether from some crazy imagination of his own, or some folly equal only to the folly of that night, he has chosen so to appear I know not, but I do think it is un-' fortunate that his case should be the first presented to a Jury.

My learned Friend has assured you, Gentlemen, that he has no object but that this case should be fairly laid before you;

and I am confident he would not for any consideration wish you to convict a man, who, however guilty and unhappy, is not guilty of the particular crime with which he stands charged. I have had to observe upon the times when attornies general were a disgrace instead of an ornament to the profession, and when the Judges intrapped men into conviction instead of affording them the defences which the laws had provided. Such cases cannot now take place, but I think I have satisfied you that that construction of law, by which the prisoner is attempted to be convicted, was the work of bad times, that it was the creature of bad passions, that it has been in such times the degraded instrument of a corrupt Court, that it is a palpable perversion of the sense and meaning of a statute especially intended to protect the lives and liberties of the subjects of this country against the evils attending such arbitrary constructions.

Gentlemen, it is not only the case of the Prisoner at the bar which is involved in your decision, there are five and thirty who stand in the same predicament, for I am afraid it will be very difficult to distinguish their cases, though they may not have been guilty of precisely the same acts. I do not see how it is possible to contend, if

[ocr errors]

this man’s object was Treason, that theirs was otherwise than Treason. Will you then upon the vague unsatisfactory evidence of two special constables, who give in various respects a different account of what happened, will you fix

upon these five and thirty men the dreadful consequences of High Treason: will you strain the statute beyond its legal bearing? when its object was to exclude all constructions, how can you conscientiously extend it beyond its letter?

Gentlemen, I fear as I have fatigued myself I must have addressed you much longer than can have been agreeable to you to hear me, more particularly after the speech my learned Friend addressed to you, of which I hope every word is engraven upon your memories. I have endeavoured to repeat his arguments because the mere repetition in other terms of that with which you were not conversant, may lead you to understand the whole case more perfectly.

We have treated this as altogether a question upon the Statute of Edward III. It is a levying of war under that Statute, or it is nothing; and so I understood my learned Friend to state it. There are two other counts which resolve themselves into the first, and if this is not a levying of war against the King, then none of the counts are established; and, more particularly, as the previous conspiracy, though stated by him from his instructions, has not been attempted to be proved by any witness whatever. You have then these outrageous acts for which there is by law a punishment. You have the act of going about and seizing arms, which is a felony by the law of this country. You have the breaking open of houses in the night for the purpose of collecting them. Let the parties be tried for the offences they have committed ; but I repeat again, this is not a levying of war against the King, under the Statute of Edward III. I submit most confidently that the act which gives you jurisdiction limits your duties, and that you are bound, upon the oaths you have taken, to pronounce a verdict, acquitting this Prisoner of the high crime imputed to him by this Indictment.

Lord Chief Baron Richards. Jeremiah Brandreth, if you wish to address any thing to the Jury, in your own defence, this is the time for you to do so.

Prisoner. No, my Lord.


[ocr errors]


May it please your Lordship. Gentlemen of the Jury. It now becomes my duty to address you in this case, and I regret extremely that in the discharge of this duty I am under the necessity of asking you for a further continuance of that long and patient attention which you have paid to this investigation, at the same time that I am sure you will not think any length of time misemployed in the examination and determination of this very important case ; important not merely as it regards the unfor tunate man at the bar, but as it affects, in the issue of this trial, the public at large, and become even still more important in my view of it from the doctrines and legal pro . positions which have been boldly advanced and laid down in the addresses which you have just heard; for if one thing can be of more consequence than another to a British Subi ject, it is the due administration of justice, and the adherence to those distinctions, which the wisdom of our ancestors sanctioned by the practice of ages, has established between the province of the Judge and that of the Jury. If however I correctly understand my learned Friend, Mr. Denman, (who last addressed you with considerable ability) he has more than once insisted, that the question now before us is one solely and entirely for your determination; that you are not only to be judges of the facts which have been proved in this case, but that you are to decide also upon the law as applicable to them; and that although you have the assistance of the learned Judges

« PreviousContinue »