Saturday, 17 March 2012

17th March 1812: The trials of William Carnell & Joseph Maples at Nottingham Assizes

The Nottingham Review of 20th March contains the trial of the first prisoners accused of frame-breaking on Tuesday 17th March 1812:
On Tuesday morning the Court was crowded to an unusual degree, by persons of all ranks, who were desirous to hear the trials of those persons confined on suspicion of frame-breaking; but, before we proceed to detail these highly important trials, it may be proper to state, Mr. Bond, of Leicester, as Solicitor for the prisoners, had, as much as seven weeks ago, retained Sergeant Vaughan and Mr. Reader, as their advocates. On Friday last, however, Mr. Bond was informed by those Learned Gentleman, that, when at Lincoln, the preceding Wednesday, they had received an order from the Treasury to act as Counsel against the prisoners, along with Mr. Clarke and Mr. Reynolds. John Ingham, charged with writing a threatening letter to William Nunn, Esq. Lace Manufacturer, was exactly in the same predicament; who, along with William Parkes and George Shaw, charged with frame-breaking had been removed, at the suit of the crown, from the Town to the County Proson. On this account Sergeant Rough and Mr. Copley were retained, by Mr. Bond, for the persons charged with frame-breaking.

After the jury had been sworn in, William Carnel, aged 22, and Joseph Maples, aged 16, both of Basford, were brought to the bar, pleaded not guilty to the charge. After which, Mr. Clarke, as leading Counsel for the Crown, opened the charge in a violent philippic against the prisoners. He began by observing, that this was no ordinary case, for here we saw men, under the name of the Luddites, disciplined and marshalled under different leaders, and armed with various instruments of death, acting in open violation of the laws and constituted authorities of the land. An exception was here taken by the Counsel for the prisoners, to this strain of declamation, as tending to prejudice the Jury against them: and the Judge allowed the exception to be a good one, and ordered the witnesses to be called.

Elizabeth Braithwaite was the first witness called. She stated, that in January last, she resided at Old Basford; that her husband, John Braithwaite, was a Stocking-maker, and at the time above-stated, he kept seven plain cotton frames, which were occupied by five apprentices, one journeyman, of the name of Towlson, and himself. She further stated, that on the 3d of January, about ten minutes before eight in the evening, a person knocked at the door, and asked for Towlson; that the door was bolted; and, before she could open it, it was forced, and a man entered, whom she saw have hold of the outer handle of the door, he fell over a chair, and believes it was Carnel, mentioned in the indictment, that he walked into the shop with a hammer over his arm, and broke the end of a slur-bar; that eleven more entered after him; and that the first man who entered stood as guard to the rest; and that one man whom she knew, and who used a hammer, is not yet taken. Here the witness was desired to look round the Court, appoint the prisoner, Carnel, out. She turned round very attentively several times, and declared she could not see him, and that if he was there, he must held down his head—thought his imprisonment in prison would alter his appearance; but not so much as to prevent her from knowing him, except he was disguised, for she had known him from a child. She was then ordered to mount the table in the centre of the Court, to try if by that means she could identify him—she did so, and, after twice pacing it round, she pointed out a man who was mixed among the spectators, whose features she thought was like Carnel. She was then desired to look at one of the Sheriff’s officers, who stood near to Carnel, and gave her opinion if that was the man. On fixing her eyes closely upon that quarter, she pointed out the man, and said, “that is Carnel!” She was then asked whether she knew any other person near him, when she pointed to another in the prisoner’s box, and said, “that is Maples.” On being asked why she knew Carnel to be one of the men, who had violated the premises of her husband, she said, that when the scuffle was going on in the shop, she called out for her husband and to be brought out, and that Carnel (after having given her husband a nudge over the shoulder with a hammer, in consequence of which he had been lame ever since,) complied with her request; and that in the bustle the mask was pulled off his face, which she immediately recognised, though his cheeks and nose were black, and his upper-lip red. She declared, she was nowise dismayed, and why should she, for she saw they were bent upon destroying their property, and it was of no use to oppose them. She knew Carnel by his voice, but dared not to call him by his name; but that it was him, she had no doubt. Maples clapped a pistol to a breast, with this exclamation, “damn you for a bitch! I will shoot you if you don't hold your noise;” she seized the pistol, turned the muzzle inwards his throat, and drew the tracker, and had it gone off it must have shot him; but believed it was not charged, because it struck fire without going off. While this was going on she heard some one call out, “my lads, work on!” which order, she thought, was obeyed, as, she said, the hammers went like those in a smith’s shop. When the seven frames broken, she stated that seven men went through the shop windows, and five out at the house door; among the latter of whom was Maples, who she saw charging a pistol, after he went out; nor, according to her own account, had she any other way of identifying his person, than those above described. She stated the mischief to be done in 20 or 22 minutes; which makes the ending of the time 12 minutes after eight; and that Carnel returned in 20 minutes after on pretence of looking at the ruins; and said, if Ned had not done his work well, he was come to complete it; when she said, you rogue, are you come again? you are not the man you was some time ago; to which he replied, I have not been here before, – – you have, said she, for I know you right well! She then said, that his head was wet, as if he had been washing himself; that black streaks were visible from his ears to his chin; and that she said, you have been to the upper pump to wash you, and you are not now disguised.

On her cross-examination she admitted, that she had said to a Mrs. Jackson, that a person of the name of Wootton had first entered the house, and that he absconded the next day. At the same time she stated, that such admission was only with intent to “gorge” Mrs. Jackson, whom she knew was “pumping” her for the purpose of telling tales. Never said positively Holroyd was the second man. This witness entered into many other trifling particulars, which would rather encumber than Illustrate her evidence, in this summary; after which, her husband,

John Braithwaite was called, who stated his fears and surprise at seeing thirteen men rush into his shop, when himself, apprentices, and journeyman were at work; in particular when he saw them all disfigured, with hammers in their hounds, except one, who carried a hatchet. To his arguments about full price of full fashioned work, they returned reproaches upon himself, and blows upon his frames: and on being taken out of the shop, according to his wife's desire, he was dragged over a chair by the collar, as he believed by Carnel, whose face he knew, through the mask being turned aside in the scuffle, though he was not well acquainted with him; and who, he believed, gave him a stroke over the shoulder with a hammer, which had caused a lameness in his arm ever since. Of Maples’ person he knew nothing, though he spoke as to Carnel coming to his house a second time, as described in his wife's evidence.

The prisoners were charged with burglary, for entering a dwelling house, as the Judge said, after the light of heaven have ceased to enable one man to distinguish the features of another; and stealing thereout two files, one rasp, two pairs of pliers, and a hand-vice, as well as for feloniously breaking the stocking-frames. But here Serjeant Rough put it as a question to the Judge, whether, to constitute a theft, the intention of thieving was not necessary to be proved? To this opinion the Judge assented; and as it was his opinion that the frame-breakers had no other object in view than that of breaking frames, he wished the Jury to divest their minds of that part of the charge which related to stealing the articles named above: in particular as nothing of the kind had been found upon the premises or persons of the prisoners.

On the cross-examination of this witness by Mr. Copley, he admitted that the frame-breakers were so disguised, that he did not know any of them; that some of the candles were knocked out; and that while they remained, all was bustle and confusion

John Griffin and ____ Burrows, two constables, deposed that they seized and searched Maples, on the 4th of January, and found upon his person a pistol and some flints, which were produced in Court. Mrs. Braithwaite, however, believe that the pistol then produced was not one she had seen in the possession of Maples; and he said his father had lent it him to shoot sparrows with some months ago, who had found it in a particular place in the parish of Wollaton, which he described. The evidence on the part of the Crown being closed, the prisoners were called upon for their defence, (it being, according to the declaration of the Judge, contrary to the practice of courts of justice, in cases of felony, the defendant’s counsel to address the Jury in an harangue,) when Carnel declared that Mrs. Braithwaite had made a different statement before the Magistrates at the time of his commitment to what she had done then, respecting his treatment of her husband at the time the frames were broken: and on her re-examination, she admitted that instead of Carnel “nudging” her husband with a hammer, he had, she believed, been the means of saving his life. The Judge noted the circumstance down in his book, and said it would stand in Carnel's favor another day, providing he was then found guilty.

On the part of Maples, who is a bricklayer by trade, it was severally stated on oath, by Sarah Rawson, Ann Rawson, and Joseph Rawson, that he, on the evening the frames were broken, was at the house of the latter, from a quarter before seven o'clock until past twelve: that he had never been off the said premises during the whole time, nor out of the house more than from two to five minutes and then not out of the hearing of them all; and that from half past seven to eleven, he was busily engaged in whitewashing a room. In the cross examination of these witnesses they differed a little in their testimonies as to who supped together after the white-washing was done, and whether beer or water, was used as a beverage at their suppers; but all agreed in stating the whitewashing was not finished till eleven o'clock.

Francis Syson, a man of property, in Basford, made oath, that Carnel was at his house on business from half past six till ten minutes before eight the night the frames were broken; and that they then should not have parted had not the witness been going out; and that he saw the prisoner again a little before nine. Richard Clay, journeyman to Mr. Walker, Blacksmith in Basford, made oath that he saw Carnel just about eight o'clock the same evening at his Master’s shop, who came there to get a bobbin-wire made; and that he stopped there at least three quarters of an hour, that there was some ale drank in the shop during the time. John Chamberlain and George Chamberlain, Father and Son, farmers in Basford, made oath, that they were at Walker’s shop along with Carnel from eight till a quarter before nine o'clock. Here with the exception of what related to character, which was much to the credit of both the prisoners, the whole of the evidence ended: and the Learned Judge, in delivering his charge the Jury, stated, that notwithstanding the time had been apparently so connectively accounted for on the part of the prisoners, during the space in which the frames were stated to have been broken, yet it was very possible, for these persons to have been deceived in the time to the extent of 15 or 20 minutes, and especially in the case of Carnel, because they had measured the time rather by the occurrences of the evening, than by the accurate movements of a time-piece; and this rendered it very possible for Carnel to have been at the scene of action.

After a patient hearing of six hours, the Jury returned a verdict of Not Guilty, for Maples, and Guilty of Frame-breaking against Carnel; when his Lordship desired them to reconsider their verdict, and pointed out to them the impropriety of disuniting the burglarious entry into the house from the act of simple felony, occasioned by breaking the frames. All the alteration, however, which the Jury chose to make, was that of uniting Maples with Carnel, and finding them both Guilty of Frame-breaking only, thus doing away with a capital part of the charge.—The verdict being recorded, his Lordship addressed the prisoners in a most solemn and impressive manner. He deeply lamented, that two young men, whose character, till then, had stood unimpeached, should have so far forgotten their duty to themselves and the laws of their country, as to let their misguided zeal, and the evil councils of others, older and possessing more corrupt hearts than themselves, ever have led them into so perilous situation; a situation which would have been far more perilous, if the burglarious part of the charge had been found against them; for in that case, as in the present, he should have felt himself constrained, for the sake of example, in order to put an end to such disgraceful outrages, to have exerted the full authority of the law nor did he know but he should have ordered it to have been carried into execution. As it now stands, the extent of his power was to order them to be transported for the term of Fourteen Years, to any part of his Majesty's foreign settlements to which his Majesty's Privy Council might decree: which sentence he accordingly pronounced. At the same time, he gave them to understand, if they behaved themselves, and the tumults in the neighbourhood ceased, they might expect the hand of mercy to be extended towards them, in lessening their punishment.

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