Tuesday, 21 June 2016

21st June 1816: William Bolland writes his final letter from Ely Special Commission

Dear Beckett.

Since I wrote yesterday James Camell & Wm: Beamiss the Elder have been convicted of Robbery, & John Easy, Robert Butcher, George Crow, & John Walker of Stealing above 40 [shillings] in a dwelling House (Waddelow’s) making in all 24 capital convictions and one for Larceny. We have here thought right to pause and all the other prisoners 39 in number are at this moment at the Bar and Gurney is in the Act of rising to state our intentions to the Court of writ at [present] putting them on their Trials; but of holding by recognizance each of them bound to appear at any future Assizes if called upon by the Crown.

Gurney has just finished I may truly say a most excellent address. Abbott is now speaking to the Prisoners.

Abbott has ended, and his address was well calculated to produce upon the minds of the Prisoners the best effects.—

The form of our recognizance is the form as was useful in York.

Sentence will be passed tomorrow.—

Thus is our duty as Counsel for the Crown finished and I hope we have performed it in a manner that will meet the approbation of those, who considered us worthy of so important, and confidential a trust.

I have just requested Mr. Gurney to write out his brother’s Speech and if he can finish it in time I will enclose it.

We mean to reach London tomorrow night. I will call upon you on Saturday morning – as I find by Hobhouse's letter of this morning that his account & mine differ I have given you below an accurate list

[List of prisoners and results]

Altho I have classed the offences under the general head of Robbery they are to be divided into Robberies on the Highway and in the dwelling House. The list certainly comprehends all the worst offenders, and there are some in it who may be entitled to favourable Consideration.—

I have procured the Speech.

In haste
Very Sincerely
W. Bolland
Ely June 21. 1816.—

[Gurney's speech:]

My Lords My learned Friend and myself have had informed upon us a very painful but a very important duty that of presenting to the consideration of your Lordship and the Jury those lamentable Cases of outrage and of plunder which have occupied this Court for several days last past

My Lord there now stand at the Bar nineteen prisoners charged with capital offences—four who are charged with Larcenies and two who are charged with assaults with intent to rob—In the transactions which have been the Subject of your Lordship’s consideration there were I fear not fewer than three hundred persons engaged—of those about eighty were committed for trial and we have preferred Indictments against about seventy and in every instance the commitment of the Magistrate has been justified by the finding of the Grand Jury

It is been the anxious wish of His Majesty's Government not to call for justice in more instances than there was absolutely versus necessity and my very learned Friends and myself have been invested with a discretion to pause whenever we thought a sufficient number of instances of the various kinds of cases had been brought under the [consideration] of the Court and the Verdict of a Jury pronounced upon my them

My Lords we have been anxiously looking for the limit to our very painful labors and to those of your Lordship and the Jury and we trust that in pausing here we have not been inattentive to the interests of the public on the one hand or on the other to the claims of humanity—With your Lordships permission we shall consent that as to the Prisoners who now stand at the Bar they shall not be put upon their Trial—that they shall be enlarged upon such small security as they may be able to give for the their appearance at a future time if they [should] be called upon by the Crown to appear understanding that if they make the proper return to the lenity of the Crown by their future good conduct they will not be called upon to answer with their lives as their associates have been for the crimes with which they stand charged—we trust my Lords that enough has been done in this case to reach the Inhabitants of the Isle the necessity as well as the propriety of obedience to the laws and respect for the peace of the Country and for the property of Individuals—We trust that if such excesses as these should again occur well disposed infinitely the larger part of the Inhabitants will see that it is as much their interest as it is their duty instantly to associate and to put down any riotous assemblages as they now find that they acquire encouragement and strength from compliance and submission and that they are then led on to greater excesses and to greater crimes—My Lord I hope too enough has been done to teach those who are not to be taught but by such awful lessons as have been read here of the danger of mixing in such transactions as they find that mixing with a mob at first perhaps intending only a violation of the peace they are led on to the commission of the blackest crimes and that those crimes inevitably lead to destruction

My Lords I have thought it necessary to say these few words in the present stage of this business and I trust that we shall never have occasion to repeat the having shewn clemency to the unhappy misguided men who now stand at the Bar—

This letter can be found at HO 42/151.

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