Item of the Day: The Late Trial and Conviction of Count Tariff [1713]

Found In: The Works of the Late Right Honorable Joseph Addison, Esq’ Volume the Fourth. Complete with Index. Birmingham: Printed by John Baskerville, for J. and R. Tonson, at Shakespear’s Head in the Strand, MDCCLXI. [1761]

THE LATE TRIAL and CONVICTION of Count TARIFF.

THE whole Nation is at present very inquisitive after the proceedings in the cause of Goodman Fact, Plaintiff, and Count Tariff, Defendant; as it was tried on the 18th of June, in the thirteenth year of her Majesty’s reign, and in the year of the Lord 1713. I shall therfore give my countrymen a short and faithful account of that whole matter. And in order to it, must in the first place premise some particulars relating to the person and character of the said Plaintiff Goodman Fact.

Goodman Fact  is allowed by every body to be a plain-spoken person, and a man of very few words. Tropes and figures are his aversion. He affirms every thing roundly, without any art, rhetoric, or circumlocution. He is a declared enemy to all kinds of ceremony and complaisance. He flatters no body. Yet so great is his natural eloquence, that he cuts down the finest orator, and destroys the best-contrived argument, as soon as ever he gets himself to be heard. He never applies to the passions or prejudices of his audience; when they listen with attention and honest minds, he never fails of carrying his point. He appeared in a suit of English broad-cloth, very plain, but rich. Every thing he wore was substantial, honest, home-spun ware. His cane indeed came from the East-Indies, and two or three little superfluities from Turkey, and other parts. It is said that he encouraged himself with a bottle of neat Port, before he appeared at the trial. He was huzzaed into the Court by several thousands of Weavers, Clothiers, Fullers, Dyers, Packers, Calenders, Setters, Silk-men, Spinners, Dressers, Whitsters, Winders, Mercers, Throwsters, Sugar-bakers, Distillers, Drapers, Hosiers, Planters, Merchants, and Fishermen; who all unanimously declared that they could not live above two months longer, if their friend Fact did not gain his cause.

Every body was overjoyed to hear that the good man was to come to town. He no sooner made his appeance in Court, but several of his friends fell a weeping at the sight of him: for indeed he had not been seen there three years before.

The charge he exhibited against Count Tariff was drawn up in the following articles.

I. That the said Count had given in false and fraudulent reports on the name of the Plaintiff.

II. That the said Count had tampered with the said Plaintiff, and made use of many indirect methods to bring him over to his party.

III. That the said Count had wilfully and knowingly traduced the said Plaintiff, having misrepresented him in many cunningly-devised speeches, as a person in the French interest.

IV. That the said Count had averred in the presence of above five hundred persons, that he had heard the Plaintiff speak in derogation of the Portugese, Spaniards, Italians, Hollanders, and others, who were the persons whom the said Plaintiff had always favored in his discourse, and whom he should always continue to favor.

V. That the said Count had given a very disadvantageous relation of the three great farms which had long florished under the care and superintendency of the Plaintiff.

VI. That he would have obliged the owners of said farms to buy up many commodities which grew upon their own lands. That he would have taken away the labor from the tenants, and put it into the hands of strangers. That he would have lessened and destroyed the produce of the said farms.

That by these and many other wicked devices he would have starved many honest day-labouers: have impoverished the owner, and have filled his farm with beggars, &c.

VII. That the said Count had either sunk or mislaid several books, papers, and receipts, by which the Plaintiff might sooner have found means to vindicate himself from such calumnies, aspersions, and misrepresentations.

In all these particulars Goodman Fact was very short, but pithy: for, as I said before, he was a plain home-spun man. He yea was yea, and his nay, nay. He had farther so much of the Quaker in him, that he never swore, but his affirmation was as valid as another’s oath.

It was observed, that Count Tariff endeavoured to brow-beat the Plaintiff all the while he was speaking: but though he was not so impudent as the Count, he was every whit as sturdy; and when it came to the Count’s turn to speak, old Fact so stared him in the face, after his plain, downright way, that the Count was very often struck dumb, and forced to hold his tongue in the middle of his discourse.

More witnesses appeared on this occasion to attest Goodman Fact‘s veracity, than ever were seen in a court of justice. His cause was pleaded by the ablest men in the kingdom: among whom was a Gentleman of Suffolk, who did him signal service.

Count Tariff appeared just the reverse of Goodman Fact. He was dressed in a fine brocade waistcoat, curiously embroidered with Flower-de-luces. He wore also a broad-brimmed hat, a sholder-knot, and a pair of silver-clocked stockings. His speeches were accompanied with much gesture and grimace. He abounded in empty phrases, superficial florishes, violent assertions, and feeble proofs. To be brief, he had all the French assurance, cunning, and volubility of tongue; and would most certainly have carried his cause, had he dealt with any one antogonist in the world besides Goodman Fact.

The Count being called upon to answer to the charge which had been made against him, did it after a manner peculiar to the family of the Tariffs, viz. by railing and calling names.

He in the first place accused his adversary of Scandalum magnatum, and of speaking against his superiors with sauciness and contempt. As the plain good man was not of a make to have any friends at Court, he was a little startled at this accusation, till at length he made it appear, that it was impossible for any of his family to be either suacy or cringing; for that their character was, above all others in the world, to do what was required of them by the Court, that is, To speak the Truth and nothing but the Truth.

The Count in the next place assured the Court, that his antagonist had taken upon him a wrong name, having curtailed it of two or three letters; for that in reality his name was not Fact, but Faction. The Count was so pleased with this conceit, that for an hour together he repeated it in every sentence; calling his antagonist’s assertions, the reports of faction: his friends, the sons of faction; the testimonies of his witnesses, the dictates of faction: nay, with such a degree of impudence did he push this matter, that when he heard the cries of above a million of people begging for their bread, he termed the prayers and importunities of such a starving multitude, the Clamors of Faction.

As soon as the Count was driven out of this device, he affirmed roundly in the Court that Fact was not an Englishman by birth, but that he was of Dutch extraction, and born in Holland. In consequence of this assertion he began to rally the poor Plaintiff, under the title of Mynheer Van Fact; which took pretty well with the simpletons of his party, but the men of sense did not think the jest worth all their lands and tenements.

When the Count had finished his speech, he desired leave to call in his witnesses, which was granted; when immediately there came to the bar a man with a hat drawn over his eyes in such a manner that it was impossible to see his face. He spoke in the spirit, nay in the very language of the Count, repeated his arguments, and confirmed his assertions. Being asked his name; he said the world called him Mercator; but as for his true name, his age, his lineage, his religion, his place of abode, they were particulars, which for certain reasons he was obliged to conceal. The Court found him such a false, shuffling, prevaricating rascal, that they set him aside as a person unqualified to give his testimony in a Court of Justice; advising him at the same time, as he tendered his ears, to forbear uttering such notorious falsehoods as he had then published. The witness however persisted in  his contumacy, telling them he was very sorry to find, that notwithstanding what he had said, they were resovled to be as arrant fools as all their forefathers had been for a hundred years before them.

There came up antoher witness, who spoke much to the reputation of Count Tariff. This was a tall, black, blustering preson, dressed in a Spanish habit, with a plume of feathers on his head, a Golillio about his neck and a long Toledo sticking out by his side: his garments were so covered with tinsel and spangles, that at a distance he seemed to be made up of silver and gold. He called himself Don Assiento, and mentioned several nations that had sought his friendship; but declared that he had been gained over by the Count; and that he was come into these parts to enrich every one that heard him. The Court was at first very well pleased with his figure, and the promises he made them; but upon examination found him a true Spaniard: nothing but shew and beggary. For it was fully proved, that notwithstanding the boasts and appearance which he made, he was not worth a groat: nay, that upon casting up his annual expences, with the debts and incumbrances which lay upon his estate, he was worse than nothing.

There appeared another witness in favor of the Count, who spoke with so much violence and warmth, that the Court began to listen to him very attentively; till upon hearing his name they found he was a notorious Knight of the post, being kept inpay, to give his testimony on all occasions where it was wanted. This was the Examiner; a person who had abused almost every man in England, that deserved well for his country. He called Goodman Fact a liar, a seditious person, a traitor, and a rebel; and so much incensed the honest man, that he would certainly have knocked him down if he could have come at him. It was allowed by every body, that so foul-mouthed a witness never appeared in any cause. Seeing seveal persons of great eminence, who had maintained the cause of Goodman Fact, he called them edeots, blockheads, villains, knaves, infidels, atheists, apostates, fiends, and devils: never did man shew so much eloquence in ribaldry. The Court was at length so justly provoked with this fellow’s behavior, who spared no age, nor sex, nor possession, which had shewn any friendship or inclinatin for the Plaintiff, that seveal began to whisper to one another, it was high time to bring him to punishment. But the witness over-hearing the word Pillory repeated twice or thrice, slunk away privately, and hid himself among the people.

After a full haring on both sides, Count Tariff was cast, and Goodman Fact got his cause; but the court sitting late, did not think it fit at that time to give him costs, or indeed to enter into that matter. The honest man immediately retired, after having assured his friends, that at any time when the Count should appear on the like occasion, he would undertake their defence, and come to their assistance, if they would be at the pains to find him out.

It is incredible, how general a joy Goodman Fact’s success created in the city of London; there was nothing to be seen or heard the next day, but shaking of hands, congratulations, reflections on the danger they had escaped; and gratitude to those who had deliverd them from it.

The night concluded with balls, bonfires, ringing of bells, and the like public demonstrations of joy.

 

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Filed under 1710's, Eighteenth century, Foreign Relations, Great Britain, Political Commentary, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Trials

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