Monday 29 January 2018

29th January 1818: Francis Ward's case is raised in Parliament, alongside a petition on his behalf


Lord Folkestone  said, he had a Petition to present from Francis Ward, one of the persons whose case had that day been under discussion. It was perhaps not drawn up in the manner which might have been best fitted to procure it attention, but it contained nothing offensive to the House. The Petition was then read, setting forth,

"That the petitioner is a lace-maker, and has resided in the town of Nottingham, upwards of 28 years, having a wife, four children, and a mother 90 years of age, dependent upon him for support; that on the 10th of June 1817, a number of the Nottingham police officers entered the petitioner's dwelling house, and one of them (Mr. Lawson) said to the petitioner, 'Mr. Ward, we are come to 'search your house; the petitioner asked by what authority they came to do so; one of them observed, 'You may be sure we are not come without authority;' the petitioner replied, 'Show me it, or you shall not search my premises;' immediately Mr. Lawson held up in his hand a paper, and said, Here it is;' the petitioner requested him to read it, he replied, 'The law will not justify me in reading it, until we get before a magistrate; while this conversation was passing between the petitioner and Lawson, the other police officers were gone into different parts of the petitioner's dwelling house and premises; therefore seeing all remonstrance in vain, the petitioner reluctantly submitted to that which he thought diametrically opposed to both law and justice; the petitioner has no doubt but the sequel will prove to the House that he did not oppose the police from motives of fear; no, the man who is guided by this rule, 'Do unto others as you would they should do unto you,' has nothing to fear; and that rule which was laid down by no less a personage than Jesus Christ, has long been adopted and acted upon by the petitioner, so that he had no reason to dread the thoughts often or twelve constables searching his premises for seditious and treasonable documents; it was not from fear, but from a consciousness of the rectitude of the petitioner's conduct as a man and a subject, and from a persuasion of the illegality of those proceedings, that the petitioner opposed the searching of his house; when the police officers had took down a cannister, looked into a thimble, and searched the petitioner's house in vain, they frankly acknowledged there was nothing to be found which they were searching for; the petitioner asked them what they were looking for; one of them observed, 'You have that to find out.' Not being satisfied with such proceedings, the petitioner consulted an attorney, and was by him advised to make application for a copy of the warrant or authority by which the petitioner's house was searched, and for the names of the constables it was directed and delivered to; that the petitioner applied to Mr. Enfield, town clerk; he observed, 'You have no 'right to a copy,' and he repeated that assertion several times, and added with considerable emphasis, 'You may make application, but I know what advice I shall give.' The petitioner went directly to the police office, where he saw Mr. Alderman Saars, and acquainted him with the petitioner's business; the alderman said, 'Go backwards,' and immediately ordered a constable to take the petitioner into custody; that after remaining in that situation upwards of an hour, Mr. Alderman Barber (a near neighbour of the petitioner) came to him and said, 'I am very sorry for you Francis, as I believe you to be an honest industrious man, but I would advise you 'to withdraw your application.' He repeated that several times, and farther added, It is a dangerous case to press, however you will not consider me as advising you as a magistrate, but as a friend.' The petitioner informed him that the treatment he had received was altogether unmerited, and that, at all events, he was determined to press his application, conceiving he had an incontrovertible right to make the demand; that soon after this interview the petitioner was taken before the bench of magistrates at the police office, when the town clerk inquired of the petitioner what his application was; he informed the town clerk it was for a copy of the warrant issued ordering his dwelling house and premises to be searched, and for the names of the constables it was directed and delivered to; that the town clerk ordered the petitioner to be taken away until his case was disposed of. In a short, time the petitioner was again introduced to the magistrates, and the town clerk then informed him that they had agreed not to grant the request, and that the petitioner must be detained for being concerned in the Loughborough outrage, alluding as the petitioner supposed to frame-breaking, which took place in Loughborough in June 1816. That the petitioner was taken to the town gaol, where (except what food his wife brought him) he had nothing but bread and water, felons allowance, and slept in one of the dampest cells that ever man was put into; added to this his bed was not only damp but had a strong sulphureous smell, which rendered it almost intolerable. Thus the petitioner was taken from his abode of comfort, without reason or justice, and cut off from society, except in the day-time, being immured in a small room with a felon; and although confined in this prison but four days, the petitioner there caught a severe cold, which is so firmly fixed upon his lungs, he has too much reason to fear it can never be removed. That on the 14th of June, the fourth day after his arrest, Mr. Alderman Barber, the town clerk, a king's messenger, and a Bow-street officer, came to the gaol, and informed the petitioner that he must prepare for a journey, as there was a warrant from the secretary of state. Mr. Barber then observed, 'The Loughborough business must stand over,' and the petitioner has heard no more of it from that time to the present; that he denies any participation or knowledge, either directly or indirectly, in the breaking of frames at Loughborough or elsewhere, or with the parties concerned therein, and he here challenges inquiry, and insists that the imputation so made upon him is groundless, and founded only in malice. That in about an hour afterwards the king's messenger and Bowstreet officer came again to the gaol, and chained the petitioner hand and foot to a man of the name of Haynes; that before they got into the chaise the Bowstreet officer said to the petitioner, 'If you heave your hands to let the chains be seen, you shall be the first that shall fall;' at the same time holding a pistol in his hand. On the road to London the fetters round the petitioner's hand gave him much pain, which caused him to comment upon the severe and unmerited treatment he was suffering; the officer observed, 'You wish to make it appear that you are not a disaffected person; the town clerk informed me that you are much respected by the mechanics of Loughborough and Leicester, and the working people in general, so that you are a dangerous man to be at large.' That on the 15th the petitioner arrived in London, and was placed in Cold Bath Fields prison, and on the 21st was taken before lord Sidmouth and other gentlemen; after inquiring the petitioner's age, he was informed that he was apprehended under a warrant from the secretary of state on suspicion of high treason, and that he should commit the petitioner to close confinement until delivered by due course of law; and farther observed, 'If you have any thing to say, you are at liberty to speak;' To that the petitioner replied, 'I declare my innocence, and if every action of my life was painted in its proper colour, your lordship would say I merited reward rather than punishment.' In vain did the petitioner declare his innocence, and challenge inquiry and proof of his guilt; his lordship observed, 'You are not unjustly punished, 'for my information is from a respectable 'source, and you shall have a list of the 'evidence against you, and proper notice of your trial before its commencement.' That the petitioner was then conveyed back to Cold Bath Fields prison, and on the 24th was, with William Cliff (a young man from Derby), removed to Oxford Castle; that on the petitioner's arrival at that place he was confined by himself in one of the most dismal cells ever made for criminals under sentence of death, about eleven feet by seven; that when there was a fire in it the petitioner was nearly suffocated with smoke, and driven to the necessity of removing into the privy for air, in order to be enabled to respire. But what is here stated is not all the wretchedness connected with that excessively miserable cell that the petitioner was confined in, for such a stench descended the chimney during the night, that the dungeon was rendered almost intolerable, endangering the life of the petitioner; that he frequently applied to the governor to remove that intolerable evil, but in vain; that after remaining four days in such cell, William Cliff was brought down to it, and the petitioner taken up into a small room called the turnkey's lodge, and such alternate change was made every four days for between three and four months; and although the petitioner and Cliff passed each other once each fourth day, they were not permitted to hold any conversation, or even speak to each other; that near Michaelmas the petitioner and Cliff were allowed to be together a few hours each day; that circumstance was so far alleviating the rigorous treatment of the petitioner, although he had no previous acquaintance with, or knowledge of Cliff; that in the last few weeks of the petitioner's imprisonment, the prisoners in the Castle became so numerous, that it was found absolutely necessary for the petitioner and Cliff to be confined constantly in a turnkey's lodge, and in that situation the petitioner continued until the 13th of November, 1817, and was then liberated on his own recognizance of 100l. to appear in the court of King's-bench, Westminster, on the 23d of January, 1818, and there remain from day to day until discharged, and not depart the court without leave. That in the foregoing statement, the petitioner has attempted to give the House a plain detailed account of the sufferings, without exaggeration, he has undergone while detained under the suspension act; but, alas! this attempt comes far short of giving a full and clear description of the unheard-of cruelty he has been treated with, as no mention has been made of the excruciating torture of mind the petitioner has undergone;—here language fails, and to form any conception of his case, it will be necessary to figure to the imagination a man, who through life has taken a very active part in it, being accustomed to labour hard for his bread, by frequently having to work twelve, fourteen, sixteen hours a day, and sometimes more, the existence of a family depending on his exertions, which all at once ceases, and the intolerable state of inactivity succeeds; added to this, being possessed of all the finer feelings that adorn human nature, and those are for a long period stretched on the rack by his being dragged away from all that is near and dear to man in life; thus the glowing affection of a son, a husband, and a father, being simultaneously aroused, contributed not to sweeten the bitter cup of life, but to render it insupportable; for such an one, who has never been within the walls of a prison before, to be cut off from society, and immured within the walls of a dungeon not fit for a murderer to be confined in; what inconceivable sufferings must such an one experience! nothing but the thoughts of his innocence could enable him to bear up under the intolerable load! and this is precisely the case of the petitioner; and, if the patience of the House is not exhausted, the petitioner will mention some of the damages he has sustained while in prison; he has before stated, that his own health was so much injured, that he has too much reason to fear the complaint upon his lungs cannot be removed; his wife's constitution has been so much injured by uneasiness of mind, that she at present continues ill, and in all human probability is likely so to do. When the petitioner was arrested, he had ten machines employed in his shop, and a good seat of work for himself, but during his confinement the latter was lost, and he has not been able to obtain any more to the present time, and he found only two machines out of the ten employed at his return; since the 10th of June, 1817, to the present time, he has been unemployed, and is likely to continue so; that the petitioner's character and reputation, which is the main-spring of a poor mans existence, and in some cases as valuable as life, have received such a stab, by his being committed and detained on suspicion of high treason, that unless the petitioner is afforded an opportunity of clearing himself, it may contribute greatly to his total ruin; the petitioner therefore respectfully and earnestly requests the House to order that he may be brought to its bar, and undergo the strictest examination, and that he may be brought to trial according to law, and meet his accusers face to face, and thereby have the benefit and justice of the laws; and the petitioner also prays, that having thus detailed the sufferings he has unjustly endured, the House will afford him such redress as in their great wisdom seems fit, or that they will take such steps as shall lead to the punishment of the wrong-doers, and effectually prevent, in any other case,, the recurrence of such unjust and cruel proceedings."

Lord Folkestone  said, that the circumstances detailed in the petition were of so serious a nature, that it was his intention to move, that a committee be appointed for the purpose of inquiring into the truth of what it stated. If there was no objection, he would do so then; if otherwise, he would give notice of bringing it before the House as early as possible.

Mr. Bennet  said, he hoped his noble friend would give notice of his motion. He could assure the House, the system was not confined to that miserable man, but that others had suffered under barbarous, inhuman, and illegal treatment; such as mixing them with felons, and loading them with irons for months together. Numerous petitions would be presented on the subject, and it would be the bounden duty of the House, as the representatives of the people, to inquire into them.

Lord Folkestone  then presented a petition from certain inhabitants of Nottingham, setting forth, "That the petitioners are neighbours of, and have been for some years acquainted with Mr. Francis Ward, lately in confinement under a warrant from the secretary of state, on suspicion of high treason; that they have lately seen a petition which the said Francis Ward is about to offer to the House; that they wish to state to the House, that the said Francis Ward has always merited the character of a hard-working, sober, honest, industrious man, and has conducted himself with propriety and respectability in his station in life, and that the petitioners are fully assured that he is incapable of committing any act of treason, or of doing any thing which would justify the proceedings had against him; that he has, in consequence of his imprisonment, sustained much injury in his business; and that the petitioners pray the House to take his case into their most serious consideration, in order that they may provide the said Francis Ward with such relief as to their wisdom may appear just, and take such steps as shall effectually prevent the recurrence of such proceedings."

The petitions were ordered to be printed, and lord Folkestone gave notice of his intended motion for this day se'nnight.

This is from Hansard.

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