Monday, 23 November 2015

23rd November 1815: 3 threshing machines destroyed by 100 labourers in Suffolk villages

On Thursday 23rd November 1815, mass machine-breaking broke out in Suffolk. The Bury & Norwich Post of 29th November carried a brief article about the events:
On Thursday last nearly 100 labourers in the parishes of Kenton, Ashfield, and Monk Soham, assembled in a tumultuous manner, with the avowed design of destroying the threshing machines in the neighbourhood, and threatening violence to all who refused to join with them. Three of these machines were destroyed in a short time: but it is hoped that the interference of the magistrates will put a stop to their unlawful proceedings
Three days prior to this, a barn belonging to a Henry Luffe, which contained 100 coombs of barley, had been torched at Benhall, 14 miles from the later machine breaking outbreak.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

22nd November 1815: Chepstow Magistrates write to the Home Secretary about the recent destruction of Threshing Machines

Chepstow 22nd November

My Lord

We the undersigned Magistrates acting for the County of Monmouth conceived it to be our duty to inform your Lordship of the following circumstances & most respectfully Solicit your advice and Assistance

On the night of the 7th of October 1815 two Barns belonging to William Curre Esqr were set on Fire as detailed in the account we have the Honor of enclosing and the Jury who sat on view of the Body of the Man who perished in the Flames having returned a Verdict of Wilful Murder against some person or persons unknown, a meeting was held by the principal Inhabitants of Chepstow and its Neighbourhood to consider of means for discovering the Incendiary, the minutes of which meeting we have the Honor of enclosing also to your Lordship,

The reason of our delay of making this Application was our wishing to obtain some information which might lead to a Suspicion of the probable perpetrators of this outrage and laying such circumstances before your Lordship respectfully to request your advice as to what other steps ought to be taken and your assistance in obtaining (should your Lordship think such a measure adviseable) His Majesty's Pardon for an accomplice making a discovery and a reward from Government to any person giving such information as may lead to the Conviction of the offenders.

We have the Honor to be My Lord
Your Lordships
most obedient Servants

[N. Wells]
[J: Robson]

To the Rt. Honourable
Lord Sidmouth Secretary
of State &c. &c. &c. . .

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

10th November 1815: The death of the prisoner William Walker

'A view near Woolwich in Kent, shewing the employment of the convicts from the hulks', a hand-coloured engraving printed for Bowles and Carver, no. 69 St. Pauls Church Yard, c.1790-1800
On Friday 10th November 1815, William Walker, a Collier from Gee Cross in Cheshire, found guilty of riotous assembly and grand larceny on 21st April 1812, died on board the Retribution prison hulk at Woolwich.

Walker had been sentenced to 7 years transportation at Chester Special Commission, and seemed to have been singled out for punishment principally because he dubbed himself 'General Ludd' during the events of 21 April 1812. However, despite the sentence, he had evidently never left England.

The prison hulk register is the only source of information about Walker's fate, and the cause of death is not recorded there. He would have been aged around 62-63 at the time. Given his age, Walker had done well to survive for over 3 years - the prison hulks were notorious for their poor conditions.

It is not known where Walker's remains are buried.

Monday, 9 November 2015

9th November 1815: Simon Orgill case is brought before the Court of King's Bench

On Thursday 9th November 1815, the appeal of the Hundred of Westgoscote against the awarding of damages to Simon Orgill, whose lace frames had been destroyed in a Luddite attack in 1814, was heard at the Court of King's Bench in London. The Nottingham Review of Friday 17th November 1815 carried a report about the hearing:

Court of King's Bench, November 9. 
Mr. Clarke moved for a rule to shew cause why the verdict for the Plaintiff in this case should not be set aside, and a non-suit entered. It was an action brought on the statute of the 52d of the King, chap 130, and was tried before Mr. Baron Graham, at Leicester. The action was brought against the Hundred, and the declaration stated, "that certain persons had riotously and in a disorderly manner assembled, and unlawfully demolished and destroyed twelve frames, the property of the Plaintiff, and some frames being ENGINES employed in carrying on his manufactory of framework lace." The objection which he (Mr. Clarke) made at the time, was, that these frames did not come within the meaning of the statute under which the action was brought. The Learned Judge however, directed the Jury otherwise, but gave him leave to move the Court upon the subject. In consequence of which permission, he now addressed their Lordships. It was proved that a number of persons had entered the shop of the Plaintiff, and had destroyed the frames in question. 
Sir S. Le Blanc—"There was no doubt as to the manner in which these frames were destroyed!" 
Mr. Clarke—"None, my Lord; the only doubt is, whether the frames come within the meaning of the Statute." 
The Learned Counsel then proceeded to read the Statute in question, which, after reciting various Acts, which had been previously passed, enacted, that any person destroying or demolishing engines, &c. should be guilty of felony, and upon conviction thereof, the person whose engines, &c. had been destroyed, would be entitled to a remuneration for his loss, from the hundred or county in which he resided. He now had to contend, that the frames, which formed the subject of the present action, were mere movable machines, six or seven of which might stand in one shop, and be removed from room to room at pleasure, and therefore not such engines as contemplated by the Act, which he considered ought to be fixtures. 
Lord Ellenborough—Is there nothing to steady them? 
Mr. Clarke—They are heavy enough to steady themselves. They are not fixed to the floor. 
Lord Ellenborough—With reference to the subject of this Act of Parliament, you consend that an engine must be fixed. Now I think ex vi termini, an engine not be fixed. The engine one is best acquainted with, namely a fire-engine, is movable very rapidly. It is said this particular frame is fixed by its own weight. I remember an incident of an ingenious engineer who proposed to erect a bridge at Hexham without piles. He succeeded in his plan, but the very first flood that occurred, carried his bridge away. This, to be sure, proves the necessity of fixing some engines. 
Mr. J. Dampier—Mangles are seldom fixed. 
Lord Ellenborough—I think the point deserves some consideration, but if you can agree upon the facts, with the assistance of the Learned Judge's notes, it had better be turned into a case. 
Mr. Clarke acquiesced in this suggestion, but for the present took a Rule to shew cause why the verdict should not be set aside and a Non-suit entered.
It would be another 18 months before this case would return to the Court.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

7th November 1815: Charles Sutton appeals to the Court of King's Bench

Almost four months after his trial for political libel and guilty verdict at Nottingham Assizes, Charles Sutton and his legal team had applied to have the verdict set aside. The hearing was held on Tuesday 7th November 1815 at the Court of King's Bench in London.

The Nottingham Review of 10th November 1815 carried a lengthy account of the hearing, which is below:
Tuesday, Nov. 7.
Mr. Denman moved to set aside the verdict given against the Defendant, who was tried in Nottingham for a Libel, the last Lammas Assizes. The grounds on which he made this motion were first, that improper evidence had been received; second, that the learned Judge had misdirected the Jury in point of law. It had been found necessary, on the part of the prosecution, to introduce into the information a variety of averments of facts regarding the riots that took place in Nottingham and in its neighbourhood, headed, or supposed to be headed, by a person of the name of Ludd. One of the averments was, that divers of the persons engaged in the perpetration of these offences, &c. were reputed to act under the direction and orders of some supposed and unknown person, called General Ludd, and that the rioters were generally called and known by that name of Luddites. In order to make intelligible the innuendos charged in the libel, it was necessary these allegations should be proved, and for that purpose, after evidence of the publication, the Counsel for the prosecution put in the Proclamation of the Prince Regent, of December 18, 1811, which stated "that it had been represented to his Royal Highness, that such acts of outrage had been committed." The Counsel for the defendant objected to this piece of evidence, contending, that even supposing it had distinctly and positively asserted the fact, the Proclamation could then only be considered as a certificate, which, in the case in Wills, 556, had been rejected as inadmissible. Mr. Baron Graham, however, over-ruled the objection at the trial. 
Mr. Justice LeBlanc.—From your statement of the averment, it seems that certain persons called Luddites were reputed to act under the control of a supposed person called General Ludd. Does that appear in the Proclamation? 
Mr. Denman.—I am not certain of that, 
Lord Ellenborough.—If it had, that might have been evidence of the supposed person, because the Prince Regent recites such a supposition. 
Mr. Denman could state most distinctly, that the Proclamation was adduced as evidence, not of the supposition, but the acts of outrage stated in the information. He conceived also, that the next head of evidence had been improperly admitted by the learned Judge. It consisted of the preambles of two Acts of Parliament, 52 Geo. III. c.16 and 17, the first of which, without mentioning the name of Ludd, recited, merely, that the provisions of former acts had been found insufficient to prevent the outrages, and that they had been carried to an alarming extent: and the second, that a number of disorderly persons had assembled together, and had had recourse to measures of force and violence, whereby the property of his Majesty's subjects, &c. was injured. The defendant’s Counsel at the trial had also resisted the admission of this evidence, on the ground that the recital of a fact in the preamble of a statute was not evidence to go to jury, and that even supposing the act had contained an assertion, that the house of an individual named had been feloniously destroyed, so as to enable the owner to bring an action against the Hundred, yet that the preamble of the statute could not be sufficient evidence to support such action. All the facts that were to influence the Jury in their verdict, ought to be proved by witnesses upon oath. 
The Court observed, that these were public Acts of Parliament. 
 Mr. Denman admitted, that upon all great state questions of peace or war, the recital of the legislature was to be taken as the best evidence, but there was, he conceived, a material distinction between those and the present. In order to put this in a clearer point of view, he had extracted the preambles of two acts, the first of which was the 7th Anne, c.12 reciting that most that "whereas several turbulent and disorderly persons have, in a most outrageous manner, insulted the person of the Ambassador of the Emperor of Russia, &c., by arresting him, and taking him by violence out of his coach, in the public street," &c. He submitted, that if it were necessary, in any proceeding, to prove that arrest, it would not be enough merely to produce the statue. The second was the 9th Anne, c.16. reciting that, "whereas Anthony de Gulscard, &c. was charged with holding a traitorous correspondence with France, &c. and being under examination before the Privy Council for the same, perceiving his said treason to have been fully detected, being fully conscious of his guilt, and dreading the pain and infamy of his approaching punishment, &c. did with a pen-knife in a barbarous and felonious manner, stab the Right Honorable Robert Harley, Esq. &c. and endeavoured to wound others of her Majesty's Privy Council, &c." If the Marquis de Gulscard, had survived the momentary indignation excited by that attempt, and had been incited for murder, Mr. D. apprehended that the Act could not be employed as proof of the murder. For the same reasons in the present case, the preambles of the 58d Geo. III. c.16 and 17, could not be admissible evidence of the averments in the information. The distinction, he submitted, was this, that Acts of Parliament were evidence of all great acts of State, such as the making of peace, declaring war, treaties, &c. of which all persons are bound to take notice. 
Mr Justice Baillie.—As you state it, the Acts of Parliament would not establish all the allegations, and the residue was made out by the proclamation. 
Mr. Denman continued, that some parole evidence had been adduced in addition, but so defective, that he had contended that the prosecutors had made out no case to go to the jury. The learned Judge, however, was of a different opinion and it was then argued by the counsel for the defendant that the averments were not sufficiently established. The second ground on which Mr. D. now supported his motion to set aside the verdict was, the misdirection of Mr. Baron Graham in point of law, who, in his charge to the jury, had supported the assertion of the counsel for the prosecution, that to supply any defects in evidence the jury might retort resort to their own personal knowledge. 
Lord Ellenborough—I apprehended that the rule now is, that if any one of the Jury is to supply a defect by his own knowledge, he must be regularly sworn, and examined as a witness. 
Mr. Denman, in support of his Lordship’s opinion, read the following passage from Blackst. Com. III. 375, "But this doctrine was gradually exploded when attaints began to be disused, and new trials introduced in their stead. And therefore the practice seems to have been first introduced, which now universally obtains, that of a Juror knows any thing of the matter in issue, he may be sworn as a witness, and give his evidence publicly to Court." 
Lord Ellenborough wished to hear the precise terms of the Learned Judge’s direction; and Mr. Denman read them from his own note taken at the time, stating that the Jury was at liberty to resort to their own personal knowledge, if they had ever seen any acts of outrage committed. 
The rule to shew cause was granted, and the Attorney-General consented, that the defendant (whose presence on such applications is required in Court) should continue at large under his former recognizance.
Sutton's case would not be heard until the new year.