Tuesday, 2 January 2018

2nd January 1818: Francis Ward publishes an account of his arrest and imprisonment on grounds of High Treason

The 31st December 1817 edition of the Black Dwarf contained this letter from the Nottingham framework-knitter and political activist Francis Ward, who had been detained on charges of High Treason for several months in 1817. The letter is his response to an article from the (London) Observer newspaper, which stated that the government spy William Oliver had met with him and Gravenor Henson and others prior to the Pentrich Rising. The Nottingham Review of Friday 2nd January 1818 published it in full.


[From a London Paper.]


SIR―In a number of your paper for November, your correspondent, signed M.P., solicits a particular account of the arrest, treatment &c of those persons who have been confined under the suspension act—In compliance with that request, I beg leave to lay before you the following remarks.

I reside in Hollow stone, parish of St. Mary's, Nottingham. At the time of my being arrested, was employed in the fancy-work manufactured here. Have a wife and four children; and a mother of ninety years of age, all dependent on me for support. On the 10th of June last, twelve or thirteen police officers entered my house, one of them (Mr. Lawson) said, "Mr. Ward, we are come to search your house." I asked by what authority they came to do so, some of them said, "you may be sure we are not come without authority;" I replied, shew me it, or you shall not search my house; immediately Mr. Lawson held up in his hand a paper, and said, "here it is." I requested him to read it; he said, "the law would not justify him in reading it until we got before a magistrate"—While this conversation was passing between me and Lawson, all the rest of the constables went into different parts of my house, and I, perceiving there was no alternative, suffered them to search without seeing or hearing the warrant read, after a long and fruitless effort. When they had reached down a CANISTER, and even peeped into a THIMBLE, they frankly acknowledged "there was nothing to be found which they were looking for." I asked what they were looking for; one of them observed, "you have THAT to find out," and then they all went away! Not being satisfied with such unreasonable, and, as I thought, unlawful proceedings, I went and consulted an attorney; he advised me to make application for a copy of the warrant by which my house was searched, and the names of the constables it was delivered to. I applied accordingly to the Town Clerk, but he observed, "you have no right to a copy," this he repeated, and added, with considerable emphasis, "you may make application, but, know what advice I shall give." I went directly to the police office, what I saw Mr. Alderman Soars, and acquainted him with my business, he said, "go backwards," and immediately ordered a Constable to take me into custody. After being in this situation more than an hour, Mr. Alderman Barber, a near neighbour, came to me, and said, "I am sorry for you, as I believe you to be an honest industrious man, but I would advise you to withdraw your application," (this he repeated several times,) "it is a dangerous case to press; however, you will not by any means consider me as talking to you as a Magistrate, but as a friend." I told that the treatment I had already received was unmerited; at all events, I was determined to press my application for that which I had a right to demand: he then left me. Not more than an hour had expired after this interview, when I was taken before a Bench of Magistrates that was then sitting. Mr. Enfield then inquired me what my application was; I informed him, it was a copy of the warrant issued for the searching of my house, and the names of the Constables it was delivered to; he ordered me to be taken away for some time, until the Magistrates had consulted how they might dispose of my case. In half an hour, I was again introduced to the Magistrates, when Mr. Enfield informed me that they have agreed NOT to grant my request, and that I was still detained for being concerned in the Loughborough Outrage. Here he (the Town Clerk) alluded to the framebreaking which took place in Loughborough, on the 28th or 29th of June, 1816. I was taken to the town jail, where I remained in one of the dampest holes that none was ever combined in; and although it is more than six months ago, I at this time experience upon my lungs the bad effects of lying in that damp cell. I continued in that wretched place until the 14th, having nothing allowed me but bread and water for sustenance, with a bed such as felons lay upon, and not only damp, but smelling so strong of brimstone, that it was almost intolerable. On that day, Mr. Alderman Barber, Mr. Enfield, a King's Messenger, and a Bow-street Officer, came to the jail, and informed me I must prepare for a journey, as there was a warrant from the Secretary of State; Mr. Alderman Barber then observed, "the Loughborough business must stand over, (and I have heard no more of it since.) They then went away, and in the course of an hour after the King's messenger and a Bow-street officer, came again and chained me hand and foot to a man of the name of Haynes; before I got into the chaise, he (the Bow-street officer) said, "if I heaved my hand to let the chains be seen, I should be the first that should fail," at the same time holding a pistol in his hand. On the road to London the fetters round my hand gave me such pain, which caused me to comment upon the inherited unmerited punishment I 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 dangerous man to be a large." On the 15th we arrived in London and were taken to the Coold-bath-fields prison. On the 21st I was taken before Lord Sidmouth; his lordship asked me how old I was, I informed him; he told me I was apprehended under a warrant from him, on suspicion of high treason, and that he would commit to close confinement until delivered by due course of law, and added if you have any thing to say, you are at liberty to speak. To this I replied, if every action of my life was painted your lordship in its proper colour, you would say I merited reward, rather than punishment. In vain did I declare my innocence, and challenge proof of my guilt; he observed I was not just unjustly punished, for his information was from a respectable source, and that I should have a list of the evidence against me, and proper notice of my trial before it commenced. I was then conveyed to Cold-bath-fields prison: and on the 24th was with William Cliff, (a young man from Derby,) removed or Oxford Castle: at my arrival at that place, I was confined by myself in a dismal dungeon, (or cell for condemned criminals,) about nine feet square, and when I had a fire in it, I was nearly suffocated with smoke; here I continued for near three months, without being permitted to see any person except the governor or turnkey. Reflect, Sir, for a moment, how I must feel in such a situation, and of so long continuance, when you are told that I had never been within the walls were of a prison before the 10th of June last. In September the number of criminal prisoners were so much increased, that it was found necessary to admit Cliff, and myself into one of the turnkey’s lodges, where I was far more comfortable, enjoying the company of an innocent fellow-sufferer (William Cliff). We had three shillings each per day are allowed for our maintenance. While in solitary confinement the turnkey boarded me for seventeen shillings and sixpence per week. After joining my companion we received our weekly allowance and provided our own food, until the 13th of November, when we were liberated on our own recognizance, to appear in the Court of King's Bench on the first day of next term, and to continue from day to day, and not depart that Court without leave. In the last five or six weeks we had more liberty and better accommodation. The facts, Sir, which I have stated, after to the best of my knowledge correct, and I shall not, if called upon, hesitate to confirm on oath before any magistrate. It is a generally received opinion, self-praise is no recommendation, I shall therefore decline saying any thing of my own character; but as I have been resident in Nottingham between twenty and thirty years, several respectable manufacturers here, who are well acquainted with me as a husband, father, servant, and neighbour, are ready to give every satisfaction which may be required with respect to character but of many I will only select the following: Mr. G. Bradley, lace-manufacturer; Mr. H. Levers, lace-manufacturer; Mr. T. Goodburn, hosier; and Mr. Alderman Barber (at this time Mayor) beforementioned. The above persons may be referred to at any time. I do most solemnly declare, that I never was any way concerned in breaking frames at Loughborough, or joined to the Luddites. Nor was I ever on a political Committee, or attended any such Committee, either secretly or openly; nor have I been a member of any political club whatever. I have been an advocate for Parliamentary Reform, for more than thirty years,—if that is High Treason, I am guilty. But notwithstanding my character stands unimpeached, as numbers can testify, a detestable attempt has been made to ruin it, as the sequel will prove. On the 10th of November, a writer in the Observer has, with all the malignity of an ________, endeavoured to traduce my character to the last degree in his publication of that day: and to make the business more certain, he published that number gratuitously in Nottingham and Derby, (and how much further I cannot say) to both public and private families, to subscribers and non-subscribers,―in fact, after a diligent search with much trouble, I can only find one subscriber to that paper in Nottingham. For the particulars of that diabolical attempt I refer you to the work itself. Now, Sir, after losing my seat of work, being torn away from an affectionate wife, from beloved children, and a poor helpless aged mother, all dependent upon me for support, after being deprived of my liberty, shut up in a dungeon, my health impaired, and on the 10th of November, (three days before my liberation) my character traduced, by a vile wretch, a hireling journalist, I ask in the name of reason, and common honestly, is there no redress for such a complication of grievances? is there not a shadow of justice to be obtained for multiplied injuries? Is a bill of indemnity obtained by corrupt majority, all the satisfaction I and my suffering family are to receive, for unmerited, unheard of persecutions, and losses we have hereby sustained? These remarks, my persecuted friend, I send you, if you, or any of your patriotically acquaintance can turn them to good account in our own, or country’s cause, they are your service―I am, dear Sir,

Your obedient Servant 

P.S.—I take the liberty of saying, that I have not received one shilling, either from a subscription or otherwise, as an indemnity for pecuniary damage sustained, neither do I require it. If I am favored with health and strength, and employment to exercise it, and the blessing of heaven upon my industry, I hope to maintain myself and family with credit and respectability as heretofore. If you think it would answer any good purpose to petition the House of Commons, I should esteem it a great favor to receive the form of a petition from you.

*The Editor has taken no liberty with the style of this letter, but to print a few words in italic characters. This part of the statement is an excellent exposition of the system of the Ministers, As they are not respected, every one who is, is a dangerous character.

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