THE KING V. SUTTON.
On Saturday morning, the Crown Court, in the County Hall, was crowded to excess, as soon as permission could be obtained, by persons of all ranks and ages, eager to hear this long pending and extraordinary trial, which had been removed from the Town to the County by the prosecutors, or instigators, of this indictment, probably with a view of administering justice more securely to Mr.. Sutton, as it might have been difficult to have found twelve such good, honest, unbiassed, and straightforward gentleman in the Town as were selected in the County, the names of whom we shall give at the close.
At nine o'clock, Baron Graham took his seat; and, after the Jury were sworn,
Mr. John Balguy opened his pleadings, by stating that this indictment was instituted by the Attorney-General against the defendant for an article which appeared in the Nottingham Review, dated the 14th of October, 1814, signed "General Ludd," and which contained libellous reflections on the conduct of his Majesty's army engaged in taking the City of Washington, in America, and also indictments to the re-commencement of those riotous proceedings which disgraced this neighbourhood a short time previous to such publication; which libel had a manifest tendency to injure the King, and this peaceable, well disposed, and loving subjects. The indictment was then read over, and contained the substance of the information filed by the Attorney-General, of which we give a copy.
"OF MICHAELMAS TERM, 55TH GEO. 3D.
"Town and County of the}
Town of Nottingham.} TO WIT.
Be it remembered that Sir William Garrow, Knight, Attorney-General of our Sovereign Lord the King, who prosecutes for our said Lord the King, in this behalf cometh here into the Court of our said Lord the King, before the King himself, at Westminster, on Monday next after the morrow of all souls in this same term, and four are said Lord the King giveth the Court here to understand and be informed, that at divers and very many times before the publication of the scandalous, malicious, and seditious libel hereinafter mentioned, to wit, in the years of our Lord 1811 and 1812, divers and very many acts of outrage had been committed by divers disorderly and ill-disposed persons, in and in the neighbourhood of Nottingham, against the property of divers of his Majesty’s liege and peaceable subjects, to and particularly against the Framework-knitted Stocking and Framework Lace Manufactory, whereby the property of many of his Majesty’s subjects had in several instances been wholly destroyed: And whereas divers of the persons engaged, and suspected to be engaged, in the perpetration of such outrages, had been reputed to act under the direction of some supposed and unknown person called General Ludd, and had been generally been called Luddites, (to wit,) at the parish of Saint Peter, in the town and county of the town of Nottingham; and that before and at the time of the publication of the scandalous, malicious, and seditious libels hereinafter-mentioned, an open and public war was prosecuted and carried on between our said Lord the King and his subjects, and the United States of America and the citizens of same States, enemies of our said Lord the King and his subjects, (to wit,) at the parish aforesaid, in the town and county of the town of Nottingham aforesaid; nevertheless—
"CHARLES SUTTON, late of the parish aforesaid, in town and county of the town aforesaid, Printer, well knowing the premises, but being a malicious and ill-disposed person, and unlawfully and maliciously devising and intending to excite discontent and disaffection in the minds of the liege subjects of our said Lord the King, against our said Lord the King and his Government, and to bring the Government of our said Lord the King into public hatred and contempt, and to excite divers persons to break and disturb the peace of our said Lord the King, and to commit acts of violence and outrage heretofore, (to wit,) of the 14th day of October, in the 54th year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord George the 3rd, by the grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland King, at the parish aforesaid, in town and county of the town aforesaid, unlawfully, maliciously, and seditiously did print and publish, and did cause and procure to be printed and published, a certain scandalous, malicious, and seditious libel, of and concerning the acts of outrage aforesaid, and the persons concerned in the perpetration thereof, and of and concerning his said Majesty’s Government, and the employment of his troops, to the tenor and effect following, (that is to say)—
(Meaning the said supposed and unknown person called General Ludd.)
"TO THE EDITOR OF THE NOTTINGHAM REVIEW
"SIR—I take the liberty of dropping you a few lines to inform you of the good fortune of one of my sons, (meaning of one of the said person called Luddites) who is come to very high honor. You must know that some time ago, owing to a little imprudent conduct, my eldest son, NED, decamped, and enlisted into his Majesty’s service, (meaning the military service of our said Lord the King,) and as he was notorious for heroism and honorable enterprize, he was entrusted with a commission to exercise his prowess against the Americans, and I am happy to say he has acquitted himself in a way which will establish his fame to generations yet unborn.
"I assure you, Mr. Editor, I scarcely know how to keep my feelings within bounds, for while all our former and united efforts in breaking frames, &c. (meaning such acts of outrage as aforesaid) were commented upon with some severity, and in a way which cast an odium upon my character and that of my family, I now find the scales are turned, and our enemies are converted into friends; they sing a new tune to an old song, and the mighty deeds of my son are trumpeted forth in every loyal paper in the kingdom. My son is not now confined to the breaking of a few frames, having the sanction of government, (meaning the government of our said Lord the King) he can now not only wield his great hammer to break printing presses and types, but he has a licence to set fire to places and property which he deems obnoxious, and now and then even a little private pillage is winked at. Even the GAZETTE EDITOR at Mr. Tupman's who was formerly one of my greatest enemies, and threatened to pursue both me and my family to the uttermost, is now in my favor, and is to become a patron, and an admirer of my son, on account of his achievements in Washington. There is one thing though in the conduct of this Gentleman which has created me some little uneasiness; a few weeks ago he strongly recommended to the magistrates to offer a very large reward, to any person who would disclose our secret system of operation in this neighbourhood: he went so far as to say 5000l. (meaning five thousand pounds) ought to be offered; enough he said to enable the informer to live independent in another country, intimating such a character would not be considered as a proper person for the society of this country, and therefore he would emigrate to seek other associates. I hope it is not true that this notorious Editor has any secrets to disclose about me and my family, and that he is waiting for this large reward to be offered, that he may avail himself of such an opportunity of making his fortune, and fleeing his country. Now, I really think, as my son is become truly loyal, and is working for his country's good, and all under the sanction of the Crown, and as his achievements have been of the first rate, ‘old grievances ought not to be repeated;’ though, bye the bye, I am of opinion that all which I and my son have done in Nottingham and neighbourhood, (meaning the said acts of outrage) is not half so bad as what my son has done in America; but then you know he has supreme orders, from indisputable authority, (meaning the authority of our said Lord the King,) for his operations in America, and that makes all the difference.
"I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
"Ludd Hall, October 5, 1814.
"In contempt of our said Lord the King and his laws, to the evil example of all others, and against the peace of our said Lord the King his crown and dignity.
The second count of the Information, charges the said CHARLES SUTTON, that "he did print and publish and cause to be printed and published a certain other scandalous malicious libel, &c.of and concerning his said Majesty’s government, and the employment of his troops.
The third count.— "That the said CHARLES SUTTON did print and publish, and cause and procure to be printed and published, a certain other scandalous malicious and seditious libel, concerning his said Majesty’s government, and the employment of his troops.
The fourth count— "That the said CHARLES SUTTON did print and publish, and cause and procure to be printed and published, a certain other scandalous, malicious and inflammatory libel containing therein, (among other things,) divers scandalous, malicious, and inflammatory matters, of and concerning acts of outrage aforesaid, and the persons concerned in the perpetration thereof.
The fifth count.—"That the said CHARLES SUTTON did print and publish, and cause to procure to be printed and published, a certain other scandalous, malicious, and inflammatory libel, containing therein, (among other things,) divers scandalous, malicious, and inflammatory matters, of and concerning the acts of outrage aforesaid, and the persons concerned the perpetration thereof.
The sixth count.—"And the said Attorney-General of our said Lord the King, for our said Lord the King giveth the Court here further to understand and be informed, that on divers and very many times before the publication of the scandalous, malicious, and seditious libel hereinafter next mentioned, (to wit,) in the said years of our Lord 1811 and 1812, divers and very many acts of outrage had been committed by divers disorderly and ill-disposed persons, in and in the neighbourhood of Nottingham, against the property of divers of his Majesty’s liege and peaceable subjects and particularly against the framework-knitted stocking and framework lace manufactories, whereby the property of his Majesty’s subjects had in several instances been wholly destroyed, (to wit,) at the parish aforesaid, in the town and county of the town of Nottingham aforesaid, and that before and at the time of the publication of the scandalous, malicious, and seditious libel hereinafter next mentioned, an open and public war was prosecuted and carried on between our said Lord the King in his subjects, and the United States of America and the citizens of the same states, enemies of our said Lord the King and his subjects, (to wit,) at the parish aforesaid, in the town and county and the town of Nottingham aforesaid; nevertheless, the said CHARLES SUTTON, well knowing the premises last aforesaid, but being such malicious and ill-disposed person, and unlawfully and maliciously devising and intending to excite disaffection and discontent in the minds of the liege subjects of our said Lord the King, against our said Lord the King in his Government, and to bring the Government of our said Lord the King into public hatred and contempt afterwards, (to wit,) of the said 14th day of October, in the 54th year of the reign aforesaid, and the parish aforesaid, in the town and county of the town of Nottingham aforesaid, unlawfully, maliciously, and seditiously did print and publish, and cause to be printed and published, a certain other scandalous, malicious, and seditious libel, containing therein, among other things, divers scandalous, malicious, and seditious matters, of and concerning the last mentioned acts of outrage and the persons concerned in the perpetration thereof, and of and concerning his said Majesty’s Government, and the employment of his troops.
The seventh count—"That the said CHARLES SUTTON, on 14th of October, in the said 54th year, at the parish aforesaid, in the town and county of the town of Nottingham aforesaid, did print and publish, and did cause and procure to be printed and published, certain other scandalous, malicious, and inflammatory libel, containing in therein among other things, divers scandalous, malicious, and inflammatory matters, of and concerning the last mentioned acts of outrage, and the persons concerned in the perpetration thereof.
"Whereupon the said Attorney-General of our said Lord the King, who for our said Lord the King in this behalf, prosecuteth for our said Lord the King, prayeth the consideration of the court here in the premises, and that due process of law may be awarded against him the said CHARLES SUTTON, in this behalf, to make him answer to our said Lord the King, touching and concerning the premises aforesaid."
Mr. Clarke then addressed the court and the jury in the following effect:—Gentleman, the libel to which my learned friend has just called your attention, is one of a most mischievous tendency, and very properly calculated to slander the brave army which was so honorably engaged against aggressive and a bitter foe; and also to produce the other consequences alluded to by my learned friend. But it is necessary to state to you, gentlemen of the jury, a few circumstances which happened previous to the publication of this libel, though such circumstances cannot but be well known to you already, from their notoriety and the locality of your situation, and the necessary and honorable duty which devolved upon many of you on those occasions. Then, gentlemen, it was notorious that great disturbances took place in this and the neighbouring counties during the years 1811 and 1812—that lawless associations were formed for the purpose of destroying frames, and doing other mischief to the property of many of his Majesty’s peaceably disposed subjects—that such associations became too formidable that the civil power to resist—that the depraved and wicked members of these associations under the name of Luddites, assailed dwelling-houses in the night—did the mischief which they intended to do, and then retired in attitudes of hostile defiance—and that, on some occasions, assassination had been the consequence.
Mr. Clarke then stated, that, at the time of the publication of this libel, a person was in prison on suspicion of frame-breaking—that a plan was agreed upon for murdering the evidence against the prisoner—that the attack was made, and an innocent man was murdered—that the publication of the libel gave general disgust—and that its tendency was to raise resistance to the laws, and to dishonor the army by comparing British soldiers with persons who had committed such outrages. I shall hope to hear, if possible, from my Learned Friend, who appears for the defendant, what other end it could possibly answer. It is, said he, a gross libel on the government. When friends were broken, the cry of the depredators was "Ned, do your duty"—was not this a proof that the supposed Ned Ludd was a framebreaker? and that the author of this libel, in signing himself "General Ludd" intended to excite frame-breaking? Mr. Clarke now read the article, charged as a libel, by piecemeal, and commented upon it as he proceeded, commencing with that part which relates to the devastation committed in America. News arrived, said he, of the capture of Washington, and out comes this libel to disgrace the army. The Editor of the Nottingham Review states that brave army to be commanded by "General Ludd," who is made to say, that though his men had previously been guilty of a little imprudent conduct in the breaking of frames, they had now the sanction of government, and can not only wield their greatest hammers to break printing-presses and types, but they have a licence to set fire to places and property; and now and then even a little private pillage is winked at—And so, continued the Counsel, frame-breaking is to be designated as a "little imprudent conduct," which is heightened into "honorable enterprise" when Ned is supposed to have the "the sanction of government" to commit outrages in America! Is it to be endured that the army, fighting honorably against an enemy that unprovokedly went to war with us in hopes of aiding a tyrant of France to blot us out from the rank of nations? an enemy that had no cause of complaint, except her own trumpeted up and imaginary grievances—is it to be endured, that our brave army, fighting against such an enemy, shall thus be libelled by comparison with the Luddites? Nay, this is a libel upon our ministers too, for it says that the acts committed in America, which are represented as so much more extensively mischievous than those committed here by the Luddites, were sanctioned by government, and that a little private pillage was winked at—nay more, this is a libel upon the King; for he is supposed to have given the orders! This is not to be borne, gentlemen, this is not to be borne! Is our good King to be libelled too by comparison with the Luddites? this is not to be borne!
The Editor of Mr. Tupman's Gazette is not spared by this libel—that gentleman is lampooned for holding out that a great award should be offered to any one that should inform of the Luddites.—The reader should here be informed that Mr. Tupman has held out, that as much money should be offered to an informer as would enable him to leave, and live out of the country; but Mr. Clarke endeavoured to cast the odium upon Mr. Sutton; for said he , is not this attempt to shew the necessity of an informer’s leaving the country, an encouragement to Luddites, by disapproving of information against them? Mr. Clarke concluded his address by cautioning the jury against having their judgments led astray by the eloquence of the defendant's Counsel.
The article charged as a libel, was then read. (The reader will find a copy of it in the information, already inserted, but he is to take notice, that that part which is in italics, was not in the original, but is an interpolation, made by the Attorney General.)
Mr. Hobhouse, attorney to the King, was now called to prove the entry of the Review at the General Stamp-Office, which having done he read, by order of the Judge, a royal proclamation, against frame-breaking and other outrages, issued in December, 1811; the London Gazette of Saturday, October 17, 1812, containing a proclamation of reprisals against the United States of America, and the preambles to the Watch and Ward, and Frame-breaking Acts, passed in 1812, the former the 20th of March, and the latter the 13th of October. The reading of these articles was legally and ably opposed by Mr. Denman, leading counsel for the defendant; but his arguments; though powerful were overruled by the Judge. This was not the case with the convictions against Pooly, Green, and Marshall, who had at a former assize been found guilty of frame-breaking, which were attempted to be read as evidence against the defendant; for, in this case, even the Judge thought the prosecuting counsel were doing too much; and they were therefore overruled.
After this dispute was ended, Serjeant Vaughan, on the part of the prosecution, put the following questions to Mr. Hobhouse:—
Q. Sir, have you read the libel?—A. Yes.
Q. What do you understand by General Ludd?—A. I understand General Ludd to mean the supposed person who led the mobs of frame-breakers in the neighbourhood.
Q. What you understand by General Ludd’s son?—A. I understand it to mean a Luddite.
Q. What do you conceive the libel to mean when it speaks of his Majesty's service?—A. The army.
Q. What you understand by frame-breaking?—A. By that I understand the consequences of the riots in this neighbourhood in 1811 and the early part of 1812.
Q. What you understand the libel to mean when it speaks of government?—A. The King’s government.
Q. What you understand the figure 5, three noughts and the letter l.to mean?—A. Five thousand pounds.
Q. I observe the words "all that I and my son have done," how did you understand that?—A. All the acts which the Luddites have committed in the neighbourhood of Nottingham.
Q. What you understand the libel to mean when it speaks of indisputable authority?—A. The Kings government.
Cross-examined by Mr. Denman.
Q. Why do you understand it as meaning the Kings government?—A. Because it says supreme government.
Q. You speak of General Ludd as being a leader, &c.; did you imagine that there was a real person, who, as General Ludd, was a real reader, &c.—A. I never supposed there was such person as General Ludd, but that he was an imaginary person.
Q. Did you understand that his Son was a Commander in the Army?—A. No.
Mr. Reader then called Mr. Woodcock.
Q. Were you a solicitor in Mansfield, in the years 1811 and 1812?—A. I was.
Q. During those years were there any riots and disturbances committed?—A. I believe there were. Question from the Judge—Was you a witness to any of them?—A. I was, at Sutton-in-Ashfield.
Q. Did you see any frames that had been broken?—A. Many.
Question by Counsel—Did they appear to you to have been recently broken?—A. Yes.
Q. Were they broken in places and houses where many persons were assembled?—A. They were broken in a place where I saw many persons running away
Question from the Judge—And some of whom you afterwards took?—A. They were taken afterwards, in houses, where frames were broken.
Question by Counsel—Was it notorious that acts of outrage, &c. had been committed?
This question was quashed.
Q. What did these persons call themselves?—A. Luddites.
Q. Was there any person under whom they pretended to act?—A. I have heard of General Ludd; and I have heard of some that were afterwards committed for frame-breaking—they were called Luddites.
Q. Then, have you never heard the frame-breakers call themselves Luddites?—A. I have heard Ludd songs sung, and seen the name of Ned Ludd written on the walls of Nottingham in chalk.
Cross-examined by Mr. Phillips.
Q. You said you had seen frames broken in Sutton-in-Ashfield.—A. I did not see any outrage committed in Sutton-in-Ashfield—I did not see any riot—saw some persons running away—did not see any great mob.
Q. Did the persons who were taken by you or your party, call themselves Luddites at the time?—A. I do not know that they did.
Question by Mr. Reader—Were there any military?—A. A part of the Mansfield Yeomanry.
Q. Did the person run away upon these military coming up?—Yes, and one of the persons was convicted, who were taken in a house in Sutton-in-Ashfield.
James Stevens examined.
Q. I believe you are a wine-merchant, of Mansfield.—A. Yes.
Q. Do you know of any outrages committed in this county?—A. Yes, in November 1811—saw a great quantity of people, and a great number of broken frames—saw them in two houses—in the inside of one house, and the outside of another—saw a number of persons late in the evening, before the house of a man named Naylor—saw them in different parts of the town afterwards—but in one place, in the front of Maylor’s house, from 50 to 100 people—Naylor’s was one of the houses where the friends were broken.
William Benson examined.
Q. Where do you live?—A. In Nottingham, with my father, a framework-knitter—he had frames in his house on 12th of January, 1812, which were broken at six o'clock at night, by about twenty persons, armed with pistols, and disguised with handkerchiefs tied round about their faces—they forced us into the back place, and told us they would take away our lives if we did not go immediately—they broke one frame and then said, "Ned, do your work well"—they afterwards went up stairs and broken seven more.
Q. What you understand by Ned?—A. They said, Ned, go up stairs and do your work well—did not understand what they meant by "Ned."
Here the case closed on the part of the prosecution, when Mr. Denman submits his Lordship, that no evidence had been adduced substantially to connect the fictitious name of Ludd, assumed by the writer of the article alleged to be a libel, with the crime of frame-breaking; not had it been proved at all, that the Luddites had broken frames in the neighbourhood of Nottingham, as stated in the Indictment, for the evidence of Benson did not substantiate the fact, since the name of Ludd was not mentioned by those who broke his father's frames; and, as to Sutton-in-Ashfield, it was fifteen miles off, and of course could not be called the neighbourhood of Nottingham; therefore, in his opinion, he was entitled to a verdict, in point of law, as well as of fact, without the case being left to the decision of the jury. But these positions were over-ruled by the Judge, when the learned Counsel addressed the jury in a most able speech, which occupied an hour, to which, we can only say, we will do the most justice in our power; being conscious we shall not support it without dignity with which it fell from the orator’s lips.
Gentlemen, said Mr. Denman, it has now fallen to my lot to address you, as the great inquest of this county, in behalf of my client; and while I feel a consciousness of my own inability to expel from your fancy that fine flow of eloquence which my Learned Friend, as leading Counsel in this case, has just impressed upon you; while I have to combat the powerful phalanx of learning and talent which we see marshalled against us on this occasion, I feel strong in the justice of my cause, coupled with the sterling integrity of a British jury, composed, as is the one I have now the honor of addressing, whose characters in life will be a sufficient guarantee against being guided by any undue influence—against being governed in their decision by prejudice or party bias. On these grounds, gentlemen, I shall expect, with full confidence, a verdict in favor of my client at your hands. My Learned Friend has proved the existence of certain outrages in this county, outrages which I, in common with every honorable man, most ardently deplore, and which no one ever deplored more than my client has done, and none more than himself hath endeavoured to suppress, in the situation of life in which he is placed; therefore we will adopt the strong phrases of my Learned Friend, with reference to these outrages, and their fullest sense. But, it is right, at the same time, to see how they apply to the case in question. I wish my Learned Friend had stated when the outrages, which principally existed in 1811-12 had ceased—if he had done so he would have proved most distinctly the contrary of what he intended to have proved—he would have proved that they could have no reference to the article which is charged in this indictment as a libel, because they had ceased long previous to the time of its publication; and all the twisting, contriving, and inventing, in the drawing up of this record might have been spared—all the attempts to connect guilt with innocence; and to make innocence accountable for guilt, would then have been unavailing, as I hope and trust they will be still. As to the attempt made by my Learned Friend to connect the outrage committed Basford, the night of the publication of this article, with the article itself,—in that he has completely failed; for the intention and plan of that outrage were well known to the magistrates of Nottingham many days before the publication of the article in question, and who had provided for the reception of the depredators; therefore to charge the commission of the outrage upon the publication, the views, or intentions of my client; or that such publications could be any wise incitive to its commission, would itself be an unpardonable outrage upon common sense, and which you, Gentlemen of the Jury cannot listen to for a moment. Had that outrage, which was streaked with the blood of innocence—which was ensanguined by the blood of guilt—which was darkened by the crime of murder—had that happened just before the publication of this article; why then my Learned Friend might have imputed some base design to my client. But here the reverse is the case; and from the subsequent conduct of my client—from the proud attitude of his universal character, for peace, humanity, and justice—from the respectable rank he holds in society—from his great liability to be made one of the first victims to infuriated violence, if, (which God forbid,) violence were to supersede law—from his close attention to the duties of domestic and social life—from these things, I take the liberty of proudly submitting, that the reverse of evil intention on his part is the case; and that the reverse of such intention must be the conclusion of every honest, every honorable mind. Let us see, said Mr. Denman, what was said of this horrid outrage in the Nottingham Review, when the defendant could not be influenced by any motive except what arose out of the nature of the case itself—when the idea of prosecuting him for a libel had scarcely been generated, even by those secret enemies who made justly be supposed to have given an impetus to the present action. His language on that, as on every occasion when it was found necessary to reprobate violations of the law, was strong, nervous, and energetic; but let his paper, in the publication immediately following the outrage at Basford speak for itself—it says, "A most painful task devolves upon us this week, in the having to record and publish to our country, acts of sanguinary violence and assassination, committed in the vicinity of Nottingham, which are disgraceful to the character of Englishmen, and to humanity. We allude to the foul and horrid attempt to murder Mr. Thomas Garton, and the actual murder of Mr. William Kilby, committed last Friday evening at New Basford; the circumstances of which have excited universal indignation and sympathy in this town and neighbourhood, &c. The surviving perpetrators of these atrocious crimes have escaped, but, however at present they may be unknown, we hope and trust they will not long elude detection, and that the just vengeance of the offended laws of God and their country, will finally overtake them." Produce me, said the learned Gentleman, a Newspaper in the whole kingdom which more properly reprobated, and painted in stronger and more feeling language this horrid deed! Indeed, continued he, with much emphasis, if we want language reprobative of violence—condemnatory of a violation of our country’s laws—illustrative of the danger of suffering the human passions to supersede the rules of reason and recommendatory of good order in the intercourse between man and man, we shall find that language pervading the columns of the Nottingham Review. If we want language to extol the merit of our brave countrymen in arms, when their deeds have called for honest praise, and when the patriot’s soul follows their martial progress, we shall find such language in the Nottingham Review; and it really shocks me to see the pains my Learned Friend has taken to connect improper motives to the conduct of my client on this occasion; when he knows so well, from his long career and almost constant practice at the bar, that the most strong and clear circumstances are necessary to prove a tendency in the conduct of the most ordinary individual in the excitement to discord; while in the case before us—to say nothing of his duty, of which we have every manifestation of a strict attention to—the undoubted interest, the universality of bias to propriety, and an unimpeached purity of intention, give a direct negative to such an intention; and, as far as presumptive evidence can go, establish the contrary fact. In the light and satirical manner in which the article in question is written, my client is charged with having committed a political sin—he is charged in the second allegation with having compared the conduct of our army and the sacking of Washington, with that of the Luddites in the pursuit of their lawless system of spoilation. And, Gentlemen of the Jury, let me bring this question home to yourselves as Englishmen—is it not a right, inherent in our constitution, for Englishmen to discuss public questions? Nay is it not a duty incumbent upon the conductors of public journals to shew us the foul as well as the fair side of the national measures? If the right of discussion be denied to men whose writings ought to be directed to the promotion of public liberty, and whose political illustrations have such an effect in directing national opinion—if the right of discussion be denied to these men, in what does the liberty of the press consists? Does this right consisting composing petty paragraphs to conceal guilt, to give a bright colouring to measures of iniquity?—in keeping from public view, by a species of hypocritical cant, the debaucheries and other immoralities too frequent in high life—and in writing panegyrics on princes? Or rather does not this right, this proud distinction of Britons, consist in a bold and manly display of independence in bringing great delinquents to the bar of public opinion; that, if screened by wealth and influence against the just retribution of the law, they may be arrested in their progress by the counteracting hand of public disapprobation? Once destroy the right of free discussion to the editors of newspapers, and a band of unprincipled men, that might have cunning enough to impose upon the good nature of the prince (and princes, we know, are subject to human infirmities like other men,) might push measures on to the utter ruin of our country—the conduct of ministers ought to be canvassed—if they be acting right, they have nothing to fear—if they be acting wrong, public discussion may save the country, by driving them from their seats. Laws have been restored for the good of society, which despotic monarchs had laid aside, and others have been made, which form alike the ground work and the outlines of the constitution; and that constitution is safeguard of discussion, as discussion is the safeguard of the constitution. I THEREFORE, said Mr. Denman, CLAIM THE RIGHT OF FREELY DISCUSSING PUBLIC QUESTIONS AS THE BIRTH-RIGHT, AS THE INHERITANCE OF EVERY ENGLISHMAN—I CLAIM THIS RIGHT FOR MR. SUTTON—I CLAIM IT FOR ALL HIS MAJESTY'S SUBJECTS—AND I CLAIM IT FOR THE WHOLE PEOPLE OF ENGLAND. That men should differ in opinion on political subjects is as natural as it is for us to breathe; but that any man should be bold enough to maintain, that the sort of warfare carried on against America was equally honorable with our achievments in Spain and Portugal, he thought morally impossible. Was it not proper said he, to discuss the merits of the expeditions sent to America, where war was made on palaces of peace, and on printing-offices? and what was more natural than to the editor of an independent newspaper, who was himself an admirer of liberality, to express his indignation against his countrymen making war on printing types; a species of warfare which directed its vengeance against literature and the general progress of information? Was the pillaging at Alexandria honorable warfare? Were our renowned deeds in arms in Europe to be disgraced by a comparison with our conquest over the inhabitants of Washington? The former were calculated to rouse the latent energies of the soul—to call forth the patriot to action—to nerve the arm of the sage—to make the sick man forget his pain, and the spendthrift his vices; while the latter was only calculated to provoke resistance and retaliation, and give activity to the angry passions of the human heart. And I maintain, said Mr. Denman, that, in writing on the subject of the capture of Washington, my client, as an Englishman, had a right to use the expressions which we find in the article alledged to be a libel. For, in using these expressions he was only honestly expressing his indignation, and what he conceived, had brought disgrace on his country; while, by comparing those proceedings with the conduct of the Luddites, he was manifestly shewing his marked disapprobation of such conduct—if you say he has disgraced the soldiers, he has, in a corresponding degree, branded the conduct of Luddites—and if you say he had a design to exalt the conduct of the Luddites, and urge them on to fresh mischief by comparison, he has not disgraced, or did not intend to disgrace the soldiers. And, as intention is necessary to constitute the libel, it is impossible that the two allegations in the indictment can stand—the one destroys the other. As to the charge made by my Learned Friend, of this being a libel against the King, the subject is almost too trifling to merit a reply; for my Learned Friend well knows that the King can do no wrong, that the ministers are the legal advisers of the crown, and that they are responsible for the advice they give; therefore the King is nowise included in this matter. I would just asked my Learned Friend, if the same observations had been made in Parliament, as those here stated to be libellous, whether he thinks the Attorney-General would have visited their author with his vengeance?—Certainly not! But, Gentlemen, there is a point in which this question should be viewed, which has entirely escaped my Learned Friend. How it has happened that the circumstances has escaped my Learned Friend—how it has happened that he has missed this point, so contrary to his usual practice, is not for me to say; for, that his towering genius—his commanding eloquence—his redundancy of thought—his keenness of expression—his insinuation of address are still in the noontide of perfection, and bid defiance to time and the silvery honors on his brow, he has this day given us the fullest proof. Still, however, by some unaccountable circumstance he has omitted to notice this one point, on which too rests the whole jet of the question. Perhaps my Learned Friend thought there was danger in alluding to it; and that will account for the omission; which omission, with its legal interest, must be placed to the credit of Mr. Sutton.—You all know, Gentlemen, that a short time ago there was a newspaper in this town called the "Nottingham Gazette;" and most of you are very well acquainted with the captious manner in which that paper frequently took up local and political questions, and that it sometimes formed an object of ridicule to the Nottingham Review. Now, Gentlemen, read the article which is the subject of this information, and you will clearly see, that it is the mere squabbling between these two papers which gave occasion to this article being written. The Gazette had proposed a sum sufficiently large being offered to any Luddite that would inform of his companions, to enable such informer to leave the country, that his life need not be in danger from his enraged associates—this was commented on in the article in question, and ludicrously perverted into an opinion, that the Editor of the Nottingham Gazette had got into the secrets of the Luddites; and that such Editor recommended this very large reward that he might take advantage of it, to enable him to leave his country and troubles altogether. And yet this silly dispute—these, attacks, replies, and rejoinders of two Editors have at length formed a subject, which has been considered by some persons (and their feelings are not to be envied) sufficiently serious to call for a visitation from the Attorney-General. Will not this action be considered in the light of political animosity, in pouring a vial of wrath upon the head of Mr. Sutton, in consequence of the defeat of his wrangling opponent? If this should, unfortunately, be a conclusion drawn, it will reduce this species of prosecution, in public estimation, very much indeed, and it is a question well worthy the mature deliberation of you Gentlemen of the Jury, before you can think for a moment of giving a verdict against Mr. Sutton.—Gentlemen, I feel almost ashamed at occupying your attention so long, and that too on a subject which, taking the full and candid view of it, which I doubt not you will, seems so easy of determination in favor of my client. But, there is one other thing which I cannot avoid calling your attention to—why has the Attorney-General been induced to take up this question by an information ex-officio, and thus pervert the law from its natural channel, by depriving the defendant of the benefit of Grand Jury? The Grand Inquest of a county [is] always supposed to act from motives the most pure—there are no acts of counsel—no influence from the bench can operate—there every case appears in its native shape, and receives a direction according to its own intrinsic merits—Then why, I ask again, has the defendant been deprived of this shield of innocence—of this grand bulwark of the law? Gentlemen, under an impression that my feeble efforts may have been useful to you, in enabling you to perform a right judgement of the case; and that you will lay your hands on your hearts, and as Englishmen give a verdict consistent with your consciences and the liberty of the subject, I cheerfully and consistently commit the case of my client into your hands; being fully convinced that your verdict will be according to the evidence given in court; and not formed from the extraneous opinions, or information received before your coming here, a position, which I have no doubt his Lordship will inform you is correct.
In reporting Mr. Clarke’s reply, we shall confine ourselves to what appeared as fresh matter; for it would be no gratification to the reader to have his first speech a second time related, with the mere variation of shape.—The substance of his speech is as follows:—Gentlemen of the Jury, it now becomes my duty, as leading Counsel for the crown on this occasion, to address you again on the part of the prosecution, and to give answers to the reasons set forth by the Learned Gentleman, who has just addressed you at such length, so eloquently, and with such ingenuity on the part of the defendant. And I am really at a loss to conceive what observations of mine could have justified him in imputing to me the views he has done respecting the riots, as bearing upon his client; for I only meant to show, that the events were alive about that time, and that the spirit of disturbance existed as strong as it ever did at any other time in this town and neighbourhood. Gentleman, a great deal has been said on political matters; but I cannot suppose that which my Learned Friend supposes on this subject—it is contended by him, that ALL public matters have a right to be brought under the pen of discussion; and that the business of our American expeditions formed one of these matters. The public writers have a right to discuss public matters I readily admit, but not in the way which this libeller has done on the subject in question! For, it is to be endured, that our brave army shall be traduced by comparison with the Luddites, merely because their conduct is punishing a most perfidious enemy did not comport with his political views and desires? The Americans had made war upon as at a moment when they flattered themselves that their aid would kick the beam against us, when the tyrant of the continent was pouring out the vials of his wrath against our very existence as a great nation. But there is no analogy between the two cases—we were at war with America; but can it be said that we were at war the Luddites? It is true, and I am sorry to say too true, that these miscreants made war upon the peaceable inhabitants of this town and neighbourhood, and that the law, as far as it's salutary effects could reach them, made war upon them in return; but it is to be endured, I ask again, that the conduct of our army in America is to be traduced, dishonored, and abused by comparison with the lawless proceedings of these wretches? Besides, we have no evidence in court, that our army committed these violences at Washington which are imputed to their conduct, nor are they to be believed; therefore, supposing for a moment that such charges were true, they cannot be admitted in extenuation, much more in exculpation of the guilt which I charge upon the defendant. But, Gentlemen, let me ask, is there any analogy in the two cases? the Luddites violated every law, human and divine—they took the peaceable inhabitants by surprise, and committed every sort of outrage which you can conceive; while at Washington there were no pillage—no private robberies—no assassinations: all was honorable warfare!!!—My Learned Friend stated to you Gentlemen of the Jury, that you were wholly to confine yourselves to the matter of fact contained in the evidence adduced in court, relative to the formation of your verdict. Here I shall take the liberty of differing with my Learned Friend; and distinctly [obscured] that the Gentleman of the Jury have a right to take into their consideration, their previous knowledge of the circumstances of the case. And, as to the intention of the libeller—that is clear—perfectly clear—the publication proves the tendency, and the tendency proves the intention. And, Gentlemen, I hope, that by your verdict you will put a step stop to such publications. My learned friend cast out some remarks on the Attorney General's interference in this business, and said, that thereby the defendant had been deprived of the benefit of a Grand Jury. In reply to which I will observe, that it is the duty of the Kings Attorney-General to guard the country against the consequences of such publications as the libel in question: and that, if the manner matter had been brought before the Grand Inquest of the county, the defendant would have stood in a far worse situation than he does at present; for he would then have had the opinion of a Grand Jury against him—to have prepossessed the court against his interest; whereas in the present case he has nothing but the honest opinions of you Gentlemen to dread; and I hope and trust, that such will be your verdict, as to convince him and the country at large, of the evil tendency of his conduct.
The Learned Judge now addressed the Jury; and in attempting to give a brief statement of what fell from his Lordship on this occasion, we are free to acknowledge, that our difficulty, in the reporting this trial, most materially increases; for, in the first place, were we to give the address as actually delivered, we should very much doubt that any man, who was not in Court at the time, would give credit to our relation; and, in the second place, the warmth and rapidity with which his Lordship spoke, rendered it impossible to follow him with that correctness, which alone would have enabled us to give his speech with precision.
His Lordship began by recapitulating the nature of the indictment, which he divided into two allegations, namely, the one relating to the riots, and the other as connected with the assault upon Washington. On the former his Lordship contended, in reply to the objections submitted by Mr. Denman of a want of evidence to connect the name of Ludd with frame-breaking as stated in the indictment, "that the libeller himself had supplied the deficiency, by attaching the name of General Ludd to his infamous publication;" and emphatically asked, whether any Englishman could lay his hand on his heart and say, that such publication was not a libel? His Lordship, the course of his address, said, God forbid, that the day should arrive when public writers should not be allowed to discuss the conduct of public men—even, I wish not myself to be spared, if my conduct should be thought worthy of animadversion: but, continued his Lordship, it is not to be borne for disaffected libellers to disseminate their poison by traducing the army by comparison with the conduct of a set of wretches that outrage all order, and resist obedience to the law. And continued his Lordship, what could be the motive of this libeller in writing the article in question? he knew that the embers of discord were laid at rest, for which it should seem he was sorry; and he writes this very libel to call them into action again, and to give fresh fury to their violence. As to the proper exercise of the Attorney-General's power being called in question on this occasion, his Lordship saw no reason for that at all; as that power was the proper bulwark of the constitution to guard it against libellers and other disaffected people; nor did any man call that power in question, except a few wild theorists, who talked about what they did not understand. His Lordship took occasion to justify the doctrine advanced by Mr. Clarke (and we believe this is the first time it was advanced in a court of justice) that a juryman has a right to bring into the box opinions on the question before him already formed, and which may enable him to give a right verdict in the case.
When the Judge had closed, the court was all anxiety, which was shortly relieved; for after a consultation by the Jury which lasted something less than a minute, Samuel Wright, Esq. the foreman, exclaimed aloud, "We pronounce the prisoner GUILTY." This however Mr. Wright was instructed to amend, and delivered with an audible voice, "We pronounce the defendant GUILTY."
NAMES OF THE JURORS.
FROM THE SPECIAL JURY LIST.
SAMUEL WRIGHT, OF GUNTHORPE, ESQ. (Foreman)
THOMAS FISHER OF CODRINGTON, ESQ.
JOHN BRETTLE, OF THURGARTON, ESQ.
JOHN NEED, OF MANSFIELD WOODHOUSE, ESQ.
CHARLES STANTON, OF MANSFIELD, ESQ.
THOMAS BOLGER, OF FISHERTON, ESQ.
HENRY HAWLEY, OF SOUTHWELL, ESQ.
JOHN HANDLEY, OF WOODTHORPE, ESQ.
We understand that six or seven of the above Gentlemen are Members of the Nottingham Pitt Club.
FROM THE PETIT JURY LIST.
RICHARD WARRINER, OF LANEHAM, GENT.
THOMAS STANTON, OF MANSFIELD, GENT.
HENRY HOLE, OF SOUTH MUSKHAM, GENT.
JOHN HARVEY, OF CODDINGTON, GENT.
COUNSEL FOR THE PROSECUTION,
MR. CLARKE, SERJEANT VAUGHAN, MR. READER, MR. REYNOLDS, and MR. JOHN BALGUY.
Solicitors—Messers. ALLSOPP and WELLS.
COUNSEL FOR THE DEFENDANT,
MR. DENMAN and MR. PHILLIPS.
Sutton was not sentenced at these Assizes: he subsequently appealed, and later articles will cover this.