Saturday, 12 January 2013

12th January 1813: Baron Thomson passes sentence on the convicted Luddites

Ten days after the Special Commission at York had been opened, all the trials were over, and all that was left was for Baron Thomson to pass sentences on those who had been convicted:
John Eadon, John Baines the elder, Charles Milnes, John Baines the younger, Wm. Blakeborough, and George Duckworth, you, the several prisoners at the bar, have been convicted of an offence, which the wisdom of the legislature has made a felony. You, John Eadon, and John Baines the elder, are convicted of having administered to different persons an unlawful oath, an oath tending to bind the persons taking it (and intended by you that it should so bind them) to join in a society of persons to disturb the public peace, to observe secresy in that association, and never to declare what they should know respecting that confederacy. You, the other four prisoners at the bar, have been convicted of being present, aiding and consenting to the administering of that unlawful oath by the prisoner John Baines the elder; and your offence is of the same degree as that of the man who actually administered that oath.

In the course of the very serious investigations, about which we have been so long employed in this place, it has but too plainly appeared what have been the dreadful effects of such oaths so taken. They certainly have been the means of inducing many unwary persons to enter into these illegal associations, and to continue in them; the effect of which associations and of which engagements in support of them, has been such as we have unfortunately witnessed in the evidence laid before us in the course of these inquiries; they have tended to the disturbance of the public peace in the most populous manufacturing part of this county; they have induced large bodies of men to engage in the most tumultuous proceedings, to attack the houses, plunder the property, begin to demolish, the mills, and to destroy the machinery employed in those mills; nay, they have had the effect of going much further, and have even induced persons to proceed to the horrid crime of murder. Strictly speaking, the administering of these oaths does not make you in law accessaries to those offences; but still they must be heavy upon your consciences, if you have any sense of right or wrong remaining.

You, John Eadon, seem to have been long practised in so administering these oaths. To the person to whom you administered it, you gave instructions to get that oath by heart, that he might qualify himself to be the administrator of it; and to a person who called upon you shortly after you had so administered that oath, you fully explained to what it was intended to bind the parties, not scrupling to admit, that the intention of it was, to overturn the very government of this country.

You, John Baines the elder, have made it your boast that your eyes have been opened for three and twenty years; and you also declared your sentiments with respect to government, and with respect to no government, plainly (according to what we have collected (from the evidence) preferring anarchy and confusion to order and subordination in society.

Such is the offence of which you, the prisoners at the bar, stand convicted; and the punishment which the legislature has provided for that offence is certainly not a severe one, if we consider only what a profanation of religion it is, to make such s daring appeal to the Almighty to witness your desperate engagements, and what are the horrid consequences that follow from it. If the offence committed by one of you, that is, by John Baines the elder, of administering this oath, had been committed only two days later than it was, the administering of that oath would have amounted to a capital felony; for the legislature, seeing that the punishment was hardly sufficient for offences of such magnitude, have enacted, that to administer any such oath, whereby a person is held bound to commit any murder or other capital felony, shall itself amount to a capital offence. That act of parliament, however, did not take place till a day after you had committed this offence.

Under all these circumstances, we feel it our duty to pronounce that judgment upon you which the law has provided, and in the extreme in which it is provided. The judgment of the Court upon you, the prisoners at the bar, is, That you be severally transported beyond the seas for the term of seven years.

The prisoners capitally convicted being next put to the bar, and asked what they had to say, why sentence of death should not be passed upon them, prayed that their lives might be spared.

Mr. Baron Thompson.—John Swallow, John Batley, Joseph Fisher, John Lumb, Job Hey, John Hill, William Hartley, James Hey, Joseph Crowther, Nathan Hoyle, James Haigh, Jonathan Dean, John Ogden, Thomas Brook, John Walker, you, unhappy prisoners at the bar, stand convicted of various offences, for which your lives are justly forfeited to the injured laws of your country You have formed a part of that desperate association of men, who, for a great length of time, have disturbed the peace and tranquillity of the West Riding of this county. You have formed yourselves into bodies; you have proceeded to the most serious extremities against the property of many individuals. The cause of your so associating appears to have been, a strange delusion which you entertained, that the use of machinery in the woollen manufacture was a detriment to the hands that were employed in another way in it; a grosser delusion never could be entertained, proceeding probably from the misrepresentations of artful and designing men, who have turned it the to the very worst purposes which riot and sedition could produce. You have proceeded to great extremities. The first object, perhaps, seems to have been that of your procuring arms, in order to carry on your nefarious designs. With that view, it seems, that some of you went about inquiring for such arms at different houses, and getting them wherever you could find them.

But not stopping there, and not contenting yourselves with getting what arms you could lay your hands upon, you proceeded to plunder the habitations with a great degree of force, and took from them property of every description, which you could find in those houses. An offence of that nature is brought home, and sufficiently established against you the prisoners John Swallow, John Batley, Joseph Fisher, John Lumb, Job Hey, John Hill, William Hartley, James Hey, Joseph Crowther, and Nathan Hoyle.

You the prisoners, Job Hey, John Hill, and William Hartley, did upon the occasion, when you went to the house of your prosecutor, carry away certainly nothing but arms, but you carried them away with great terror, and under circumstances which were sufficient unquestionably to make him deliver what he had. The other prisoners, whose names I have last recited, have been concerned in breaking a dwelling-house in the night time, some of them getting notes, money, and other things; and the last prisoners, James Hey, Joseph Crowther, and Nathan Hoyle, for robbing a person in his dwelling-house.

The evidence, that has been given against you all, was too clear to admit of any doubt; and you have all been convicted of these offences upon the most satisfactory evidence.

You, the other prisoners, James Haigh, Jonathan Dean, John Ogden, Thomas Brook, and John Walker, have been guilty of one of the greatest outrages that ever was committed in a civilized country. You had been long armed and organized, you had assembled upon this night, when the mill of Mr. Cartwright was attacked; you had assembled at the dead hour of night in great numbers; you had formed yourselves into companies under the command of different leaders; you were armed with different instruments of offence, with guns, with pistols, with axes, and with other weapons; you marched in military order and array to the mill, which was afterwards in part pulled down; you began there your attack with fire-arms, discharged into that mill, and kept up a most dreadful fire, and at the same time applied the instruments, which you had brought there, of a description calculated to do the worst of mischief, in beginning to demolish the mill, intending, as it is obvious, to do also mischief to and to demolish the machinery which that mill contained. The cries and exclamations that proceeded from this riotous and tumultuous mob thus assembled, of which you formed a very powerful part, were such as were enough to alarm a man of less firmness than that man possessed, who was the owner of the mill so attacked. Your cry was, "Get in, get in, kill them all!" and there is but little doubt, it is to be feared, that if you had made good your entry into that mill, these threats would have been put into execution, and that the mischief done would hardly have been confined to the machinery which was there. The courage and resolution, however, which that individual displayed, had the effect of making you desist at that time from the attack, and two of your wretched companions paid the forfeit of their lives on that occasion.

It is but too manifest that it was the defeat of you and your other wicked confederates, that afterwards occasioned that fatal attack upon the person of another gentleman, by which he was assassinated and murdered. It was upon that occasion that the plan of that assassination was laid, and too fatally put into execution. The persons immediately concerned in that murder hare suffered the punishment which the law inflicts, and a similar fate is about to await you, prisoners at the bar.

There is one of you, John Lumb, who have received a recommendation from the jury in your favour. A discriminating jury thought that they have seen circumstances in your case, which distinguished it from the case of the rest of your fellows in that indictment; and they have, in their wisdom, recommended you to mercy. It is possible that that mercy may be shewn to you, upon a representation elsewhere, and it is possible that your life may be spared. Whatever becomes of you after that, it is to be hoped and trusted, if that mercy should be extended to you, that you will make a proper use of it.

For the rest of you, prisoners, I wish I could discover any circumstances in your cases, that would at all warrant us in raising an expectation that the sentence which is about to be pronounced can be mitigated. It is of infinite importance, however, that no mercy should be shewn to any of you, the other prisoners. It is of importance also, that the sentence of the law for such evil works should be very speedily executed; and it is but right to tell you, that you have but a very short time to remain in this world. It is to be hoped that the forfeit of your lives, which you are about to pay, may operate as an example to all who have witnessed your trial and your condemnation, and to all without these walls, to whom the tidings of your fate may come, to be cautious how they engage in any such illegal confederacies, as you have unfortunately entered into. For they may rest assured, that it never will be in their power to say (and they will learn that from your sad example) "Hitherto will I go, and no further." They cannot stop in that career, in which they shall have once engaged, till death shall overtake them, in the shape of punishment.

In the awful situation in which you, prisoners, stand, let me seriously exhort you to set about the great work of repentance, and to spend the very short time that you must be allowed to remain in this world, in endeavouring to make your peace with your God, and to reconcile him by deep repentance. A full confession of your crime is the only atonement you can make for that which you have committed. Give yourselves up to the pious admonitions of the reverend clergyman, whose office it will be to prepare you for your awful change; and God grant, that, worthily lamenting your sins, and acknowledging your wretchedness, you may obtain of the God of all mercy perfect remission and forgiveness.

Hear the sentence which the laws of man pronounce upon your crimes. The sentence of the law is, and this court doth adjudge, that you, the several prisoners at the bar, be taken from hence to the place from whence you came, and from thence to the place of execution, where you shall be severally hanged by the neck until you are dead. The lord have mercy upon your souls!
Thirteen other prisoners were discharged by proclamation, there being no indictment against them. This was because the prosecution had decided not to proceed, deciding they had been 'controlled' by others. They were: Joshua Haigh (aged 27), John Shore (32), William Whitehead (26), Cornelius Hobson (19), Benjamin Siswick (25), Thomas Green (31), William Hanson (25), Mark Hill (26), George Rigge (29), Charles Cockcroft (19), John Walker (of Salford, West Yorkshire, 22), James Dyson (21), and Samuel Harling.

The two accomplices, Benjamin Walker and Joseph Carter, who were admitted evidence for the Crown, were also discharged by proclamation.

John Lumb was later pardoned from his death sentence, on condition that he was transported for life.

This is from Howell (1823, pp.1161-1166).

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