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MODERN STATE TRIALS. *
Tius is one of those books which it one of which has some such peculiar puzzles a reviewer to deal with. It feature of interest as well deserves contains a number of trials connected preservation. “In making a selecwith state offences, or which, on one tion,” Mr. Townsend says, he “ has account or other, occupied a large endeavoured to preserve a faithful, share of public attention at the time of but abridged report of such legal protheir occurrence. It is not very easy ceedings as would be most likely to to give a definition of the word state command the attention of all members trials ; at least the editors of the col- of the community, and to be read by lections published under that vame them with pleasure and profit.” The have included in their books numerous difficulty, however, of such a work is cases unconnected with political of- not the selection of the particular fences; we might find among them ju- trials, but, as some process of abridgdicial investigations of private murders, ment is necessary, to determine on of violence to females, of witchcraft, of what principle that abridgment is to perjury, brought together on no very be made. The topics of most interest intelligible principle. There seems no to a professional student are not those reason why the Recorder of Macclesfield which engage public attention most. should not follow the example set him And again, those which engage public by Emlyn and Hargrave ; and he has attention most at the time of the ocaccordingly not hesitated to introduce currence, are often those which have in the same volume, which contains the little bearing on the real question of trials of Frost and O'Brien for high the guilt or innocence of the party. treason, and of O'Connell for conspi. Frost's trial, for instance, was of more racy, reports of proceedings against value in a professional man's estimate, Lord Cardigan for a duel, and Lord for the questions conrected with the Stirling for forgery. We quarrel not Crown's right of challenge, and the with the title of the book, as it might grounds on which it was argued, not be easy to suggest one with any and the decision of the judges upon nearer approach to accuracy. Indeed, the time at which it was necessary to there seems little object in affecting furnish the prisoner with a list of the any precision in such a matter; and witnesses, than for any of the after inciMr. Townsend ought, perhaps, to have dents of the trial. Yet these afterbeen satisfied to give his book some incidents are presented in full detail, such title as " Criminal Trials.” The especially when any personal repartee trials, of which reports are given in occurs between counsel. The play of these volames, are those of Frost, Ox- words, uttered and forgotten, and deford, and O'Brien, for bigh treason ; serving of nothing but instant oblivion, of O'Connell for conspiracy; of Hun. is thus sought to be given permater and others for murder and con- nence and importance, while all that spiracy; of Stuart, Courvoisier, and requires more severe attention of mind NI'Naughten for murder; of Lord is passed over, as not of a sufficiently Cardigan for shooting in a duel; of popular character. We fear that Mr. Alexander Alexander, titular Earl of Townsend bas attempted things inStirling, for forgery; of Lord Coch- compatible—a book useful, really userane for conspiracy; of Wakefield for ful to the student, and a book pleasant conspiracy and abduction; of Wil- to glance over, the ornament for a few liams for a libel on the Durham days or weeks of the drawing room clergy; of Pinney, mayor of Bristol, or library-table, till some newer book for neglect of duty; and of Moxon for
occupy its place. In one respect, howblasphemy; fifteen trials in all, every ever, the book asserts a claim to high
• " Modern State Trials.” By William C. Townsend, Esq., M.A. Q.C., Recorder of Macclesfizid. London: Longman, Brown, Greene, and Longmans. 1830.
consideration ; and this gives it a great and enduring value :
" In the extracts here given from some of the most celebrated speeches of modern days, the editor has also had the great advantage of the last corrections of the speakers themselves, and has thus been enabled to preserve the ipsissima verba, by which minds were captivated and verdicts won; those treasures of oratory which would have gladdened the old age of Erskine, could he have seen how his talisman had been passed from hand to hand, and the mantle of his inspiration caught. The vivid appeals of Whiteside, the magnificent defence of Cockburn, the persuasive imagery of Talfourd, will exist as ktuara és aiei, trophies of forensic eloquence, beacon lights it may be, in the midst of that prosaic mistiness which has begun to creep around our courts. age which abjures imagination, few figures are now prized save those of the countinghouse !"
That the reports of their speeches should be revised by eminent men is, no doubt, most desirable. Still we think that, even after this, it would be well that some process of mere abridg. ment should be adopted—nothing in. troduced by the editor—nothing of substance, or even of vivid or peculiar turns of language omitted. There is, necessarily perhaps, in all spoken language, and particularly in the language of the Bar, as distinguished from that of Parliament and places of public business, an amplitude and redundancy of phrase that could be trimmed away with great advantage — words that we have no doubt were uttered, but which, with the unnumbered specimens we bave of forensic oratory, might be safely left to the imagination as the common property of all the learned brethren of the mystery, and, in some day, from which, however, we are probably some half-century distant, to be numbered as among the pomps and vanities which are altogether to be eschewed.
Mr. Townsend marks emphatically the favourable contrast between the state trials of our days and all that have preceded them :
" The humanising influence of a century's civilisation has not been poured in vain upon our courts, every part of which, whether we regard the judges, counsel, or jurors, seems radiant with justice in mercy.
“ We are wiser than our forefathers, for we are more humane, and the judgments of the Bench command universal assent, since
who can doubt its anxiety to be just ? In comparison with the calm intelligence and serene urbanity of C. J. Tindal, even the demeanour of Holt, with his sharp Sirrah' to the prisoner, and 'Look ye, sirs,' to counsel, looks harsh and austere. The technicalities and bald language of Sir Bartholomew Shower appear still more unfavourable to those who have read the legal arguments and impassioned addresses of Sir F. Pollock and Sir Fitzroy Kelly. There occurs now no unseemly wrangling with the Bar, no caustic and misplaced reviling of a prisoner-such an incident would be deemed too strange for fiction—10 hard words or hanging,' the last only on occasions of rare necessity, for there is no judge like Page. Whether in reference to the profound ability of the venerable magistrates who presided one is still happily preserved to grace and dignify and inform the profession-or to the acuteness and eloquence of the counsel who prosecuted and defended-to the clear arrangement of proofs—to the arguments on points of law, or to the equable attention of the jury, who, in their anxiety for the truth, never betrayed, during an investigation of eight days, impatience or weariness; the lawyer, who rejoices in the honour of the gown, may point with proud satisfaction to the trial of John Frost under the special commission 'at Monmouth, which distinguisbed the close of 1839 and the first week of 1840. Rarely has there occurred a more grave case for solemn judicial inquiry. It scarcely seemed credible, at a time of profound peace, when work was abundant, and wages high, and provisions plentiful, that thousands of workmen, chiefly miners, should have been assembled on the hills above Newport on a Sunday night in November, according to previous concert, many of them armed with guns and pikes, to make a midnight attack on a peaceable town. It sounded more like a romance than a chapter of domestic history; and resembled rather the irruption of Indian savages upon the wigwams of some unoffending settlers, than the assemblage of fellow-countrymen. But for the tempestuousness of the night, which delayed the meeting of the three separate bands, commanded by Frost, Zachariah Williams, and Jones the watchmaker of Pontypool, who had undertaken to collect 10,000 men, the inbabitants of Newport would have been surprised in their sleep, and been exposed to the fury and excesses of an undisciplined multitude. The largest portion of these lawless marauders, under the guidance of Frost, arrived in the suburbs between eight and nine on Monday morning, Nov. 4, 5,000 in number, and attacked the little inn, in which a small detachment of the Queen's troops, under Lieutenant Grey, thirty in all, were drawn up. Taught by the disasters of Bristol, the troops entered into no parleying, no waving of caps, no shakivg of lands with the mob. Thrusts
with pikes and firing on the one side, volleys " This trial (says Mr. Townsend) also of fire-arms at the word of command on the must have furnished an excellent text, on other, brought the conflict between lawful which to strengthen their minds and soften authority and rabble rule to a crisis at once. their bearts. It was a noble spectacle to In ten minutes all was over. By the dis- witness the calm, grave stillness which percipline of a mere handful of soldiers, ju- vaded the Court, its gentle patience and digdiciously posted and well commanded, the nified repose, in striking contrast to the fierce blind fury of thousands of brave men was passions that raged without the walls. Deforthwith subdued, and they fed in a wild tachments of troops were then scouring the panic. But the punishment of these giddy hills, as a fresh rising of the masses had rioters was severe. Not less than thirty are been apprehended; yet day by day the steadcomputed to have perished. Many of the fast course of justice pursued its even path slain were carried off, and twelve bodies were with all the appearance and reality of perfect left at the threshold of the inn. Slain for unruffled security. The master-spirit, who what object? The poor, ignorant, misguided had caused such irreparable mischief, stood working-classes could not themselves tell. at the bar for his deliverance, and knew that They had been marched, without any definite he should not suffer from the general excitedesign, to gratify the turbulent fancies and ment. His crime was rather softened than factious vanity of Frost and his brother exaggerated in the temperate speeches of Chartists, to show their physical strength, counsel for the prosecution, and he met with and commence a rebellion for that high- courteous forbearance from the Court, sounding term the Charter, of the precise which he could not himself have shown. A meaning of which they had no clear con- stranger would not have surmised his guilt ception. Some vague, dim notion of im- from the manner in which his name was proving their state, coercing property, and mentioned, and the courtesy with which he getting money without work, and the re- was addressed. Monsieur Cottu alone, who liance upon en pty promises at trades-unions had studied our criminal proceedings, might and lodge-meetings, in the absence of real have guessed the grave nature of the accugrievances, seem to have urged them on." sation from this very absence of reproach The hopelessness of this insurrection
and contumely. But the full, disimpasformed the chief topic of defence with
sioned, and impartial consideration given to
his case, the complete conviction impressed Frost's counsel. They argued, from
into the minds of all that justice had been the seeming impossibility of success,
done in mercy, wrought a salutary and perthat it was impossible the attempt ceptible effect on the lower orders. The should have been contemplated ; and most unruly bowed their heads in subjection efforts were made to break down the to the supremacy of the law, so well vinditestimony in detail. To resist the evi- cated to their understandings and commend. dence by which notorious facts were ed to their feelings, and that portion of the proved, can seldom be successful with kingdom has since been at peace.” the plain-minded intelligence of a jury; a more plausible alternative was re- The trial of Oxford for shooting at lied on, when counsel struggled to the Queen is well given. The defence exhibit, supposing the facts proved, relied on was insanity; and there can be that Frost's object in appearing in little doubt that Oxford was scarcely of arms was not to seize the town of New- sufficiently sound mind to distinguish port, making this the beginning of a between right and wrong. The evigeneral rebellion, which would be high dence for the Crown, also, failed to treason, but, by the display of physical establish the fact charged in the inforce, to effect the amelioration of the dictment, that the pistol which he condition of the Chartist prisoners in fired at the Queen was loaded with Monmouth gaol, which would be but ball; and his counsel contended that a misdemeanor. Chief Justice Tindal, the special verdict which the jury stating to the jury the distinction on gave" We find the prisoner, Edward which the case turned, cautiously Oxford, guilty of discharging the conavoided intimating to them any ex- tents of two pistols ; but whether they pression of his opinion whether the in. were loaded with ball has not been surrection contemplated objects of a satisfactorily proved to us, he being of general or a particular nature.
unsound mind at the time"-was equistudiously, did the presiding judge valent to an acquittal; they certainly avoid giving the slightest aid to the did not amount to a conviction. But jury in that which was their peculiar this verdict was not received ; and province and duty, that an unfounded after some consultation, a verdict of impression was created that he was “not guilty, on the ground of indissatisfied with the verdict :
sanity," was the form finally adopted.
This case was the occasion of favour- punishment, snited to the character and conably introducing to the public Mr. dition of such intrusive poltroons, was reSidney Taylor, who conducted the de- quired; and Sir Robert Peel proposed a meafence, and who had some few years
sure better adapted to the offence than the before succeeded, in the Roscommon
high-sounding, but ineffectual charge of high Peerage case, in establishing a claim
treason, or attempt at treason. Under his
auspicies was passed the salutary statute, to the title against what at first
5 & 6 Vict., c. 51, intituled, 'An Act for seemed insuperable difficulties. Mr.
the further Security and Protection of Her Taylor had, for many years, written
Majesty's person,' and enacting, in the most with great earnestness and power comprehensive terms, that “whosoever shall against the severity of the criminal point any description of fire-arms at the law of England; and the changes to a Queen, whether the same shall or shall not milder system were, in a great degree, contain any explosive or destructive material, attributable to the influence on public
shall be guilty of a high misdemeanor, and opinion which his writings had. The liable to the same penalties as in convictions medical evidence in Oxford's case, on
for simple larceny, and, in addition, shall be which the defence mainly rested, is
publicly or privately whipped, as often, and
ir such manner, as the Court shall direct, given here at length, and is well worth
not exceeding thrice.' The bill was passed preserving - as certainly this and
with unanimous assent; and Lord John M.Naughten's case carried the defence,
Russell remarked pointedly, that, 'as the on the ground of insanity, farther than
offence to be punished was the offence of any previous judicial investigation had
base and degraded beings, a base and dewarranted ; and for a while the public grading punishment was most fitly applied to mind was possessed with apprehen- it.'” sions for the consequences of any extension of irresponsibility, which
The third trial in the selection is one have proved to have been groundless. of exceeding interest - it is that of With respect to the person of the Mr. Stuart, for killing Sir Alexander Queen, it is strange that a love of no.
Boswell in a duel. The introductory toriety seems, after Oxford's case, to remarks by which Mr. Townsend's have led to attempts by some half- abstract of this trial is prefaced, are witted persons against her life. There well worth attention. The struggle does not seem to have been any con
between the letter of the law and the nexion with political objects, or any
feelings of society, as existing in the object at all, but the strange passion minds of jurors, which prevented the for notoriety. About two
after letter of the law from being the rule Oxford's trial, John Francis, a youth
of conduct to any one, is well exempli. of nineteen, fired at the Queen on fied by the production of many remarkConstitution-hill. As in the former able cases : “During the long reign case, no bullet was found; but evi- of George the Third, which compredence of the sharp whizzing report hended nearly sixty years, about 170 with which the discharge was accom
duels are known to have been fought, panied, satisfied the jury that the and in those between sixty and seventy weapon was loaded with some destruc
persons were slain.” We should think tive substance. In respect to the these statistics are very much under Queen's own anxiety on the subject, the mark. In Ireland, certainly, the his life was spared, and the sentence numbers were vastly greater, or Sir commuted to transportation for life :- Jonah Barrington is in error_is not
that the civil word ? But a more “Scarcely had the reprieve been granted, faithworthy witness, the author of when a deformed stripling, William Bean, “ Ireland Sixty Years Ago,” satisfies crooked in mind as in body, only seventeen, us that this, for almost any one counagain presented his pistol at her Majesty, ty, would be much less than the numwhen going to the Chapel Royal. It was ber of duels fought. In most cases only loaded with powder and wadding, for
there was no prosecution ; and where he had sufficient cunning not to put his life
there were verdicts of conviction, in peril. He was sentenced to two years'
there can be little doubt that, though imprisonment for the misdemeanor, and Lord Abinger shrewdly remarked that whip
the verdict did not say it in words, it ping at the cart's tail should be the fitting
was in cases where the jury thought the sentence in future.
duel was not a fair one, and that mur. " The nuisance had become a national der was actually perpetrated. Major disgrace, and intolerable ; some shameful Campbell was sentenced to death and executeil, for a duel Ireland. But in near, came and separated them, and said, this case the antagonists met in the • Whose dog is this? I will knock him night time, and without seconds. The dowo. On which Captain Macnamara rewords of the dying man were the chief
joined, 'Ilave you the arrogance to say you evidence against the survivor, and he
will knock my dog down! you must first denied the fairness of the duel. An
knock me down.' An altercation took place.
Colonel Montgomery and his party rode up other case, worse in its character
through Piccadilly, and Captain Macnamara where the survivor was convicted and
following him, sent a friend immediately with executed_was one which was mani.
a message. They met the same day, and fest assassination-where the forms of
Colonel Montgomery was shot dead on the duelling could scarcely be said to be spot. observed at all. In Lord Byron's " The defence in this case was prepared by case, as we believe in all the cases tried Mr. Erskine, who appeared as his counsel, by the House of Lords, the finding, but was not allowed by law to address the under the most aggravated circum
jury. The defence which he prepared was stances, has been manslaughter, and
one which few British juries could resist.
He states, “I am a captain of the British the punishment but nominal. In 1794, an officer, who had been
navy. My character you can only hear from
others. But to maintain my character, I brought to a court-martial and dis
must be respected. When called upon to missed the service, told the colonel of
lead others into honourable danger, I must his late regiment that he was a coward, not be supposed to be a man who souglit a ruffian, and a scoundrel. The colo- safety by submitting to what custom has nel took no notice of this: on the taught others to consider as a disgrace. I next day he was again assailed with am not presuming to urge anything against similar language, and a whip shaken the laws of God or of this land. I know over him. On consultation with his that, in the eye of religion and reason, obefriends, it was deemed necessary that
dience to the law, though against the feelhe should send a hostile message.
ings of the world, is the first duty, and
ought to be the rule of action; but in putThey met, and he was shot dead.
ting a construction upon my motives, so as to Baron Hotham, who tried the case,
ascertain the quality of my actions, you will stated that the facts amounted to mur- make allowances for my situation. It is der. "Such is the law of the land, impossible to define in terms the proper feelwhich undoubtedly the prisoner has ings of a gentleman, but their existence has violated—though he has acted in con- supported this happy country for many ages, formity to the law of honour. His and she might perish if they were lost.' The whole demeanour in the duel was that jury instantly acquitted him.” of perfect honour and perfect humanity. Such is the law, and such are A similar defence was made in ano. the facts. If you cannot reconcile the ther case, tried by Mr. Justice Chamlatter to your consciences, you must bre, who told the jury it was in exreturn a verdict of guilty. But if the tenuation : “If you are dissatisfied contrary, though the acquittal may with the evidence that Mr. Sparling tread on the rigid rules of law, yet did commit the act which deprived Mr. the verdict will be lovely in the sight Grayson of his life, coolly and deliboth of God and man."
berately--and if, as I heartily wish, you going pretty far for a judge ; and we may be able to observe any circumconfess we think Dr. Johnson's justi. stances which will warrant you so fication of duelling, on the ground of to think, you will acquit him.” We self-defence, more tenable than this transcribe the charge, with Mr. Townsmode of stating the law to be one end's italics, who adds: “Seventy-two thing, and the extent to which juries witnesses, the number necessary by the should be governed by it a thing ecclesiastical law to convict a cardinal wholly different.
of the crime of incontinence, would The next case Mr. Townsend gives not have sufficed to satisfy the jury is one of Colonel Montgomery and after this hint, and in twenty minutes Captain Macnamara:
they returned with the verdict of not
guilty.'” We do not read this charge " It was a case of a foolish dispute about quite in the way Mr. Townsend does. two dogs which accompanied the gentlemen It seems to us clear, that, if on the when riding in the park: the dogs having jury, Chambre would have convicted. quarrelled, Colonel Montgomery, who did The cases tried by the House of not perceive that Captain Macnamara was Lords have uniformly resulted in a