Category Archives: Trials

Item of the Day: A Copy of the Deposition of Francis Branson (1680)

A copy of the Deposition of Francis Branson.

Found In: Letters from the English Kings and Queens Charles II, James II, William and Mary, Anne, George II, &c. To the governors of the Colony of Connecticut, together with the Answers  thereto, from 1635 to 1749; and Other Original, Ancient, Literary and Curious Documents, Compiled from Files and Records in the Office of the Secretary of the State of Connecticut. By R. R. Hinman, A. M. Secretary of the State of Connecticut. Hartford: John D. Eldredge, Printer, 1836. [pp. 119-120]


Francis Branson, commander of the ship Anne and Hester, aged 30 years or thereabouts, in the behalf of his Majestie testifieth, that William Kelso, Chirurgeon, and John Bowland, mate of the said ship, being aboard, in the great cabbin at sea, the 16th day of April last, 1680, amongst other discourses that then passed between them, the said William Kelso in hearing of this Deponent, did declare in the great cabbin, that he was the Chirurgeon Generall, in the late rebellion in Scottland, and that after the Duke of Monmouth had been there and qualified them, Kelso cutt of his hair and wore a Perriwigg, and made his escape into the north of Ireland, and from thence transported himself to Dublin, and was there some small time, and from thence he made his excape to Bristol, and there he stayed a while, and after went up to London. He then at the same time did declare, that he knew those persons that murdered the Arch Bishop of St. Andrews, and that they had made their escape disguised, and could not be found; that there were sixe of them that sett upon him, when he was in his coach, going over a plain 3 miles from a village, that they hauled him out of his coach and told him that he had betrayed them, and therefore nothing should satisfie them but his blood. His Daughter being in the coach with him, opened her bosome, and desired them to spare her father and kill her, but they fell upon him with pistols, first pistolling him, and then hewed him in pieces with their swores ; all which words were spoken by the said Kelso, when we wee coming from England, being then bound for the Isle of May.

Sworn to in Court, the 4th January, 1680, in Boston, New England. That this is a true coppie taken and compared with the original, 4th January 1680.




Leave a comment

Filed under 1680's, Crime and punishment, England, Great Britain, Ireland, Legal, New England, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Trials

Item of the Day: Proceedings on the Trial against John Stockdale (1790)

Full Title: The Whole Proceedings on the Trial of an Information Exhibited Ex Officio, by the King’s Attorney General, against John Stockdale; for a Libel on the House of Commons, Tried in the Court of King’s-Bench Westminster, on Wednesday, the Ninth of December, 1789, before the Right Hon. Lloyed Lord Kenyon, Chief Justice of England. Tanken in Short Hand by Joseph Gurney. To which is subjoined, An Argument in Support of the Rights of Juries. London: Printed for John Stockdale, opposite Burlington-House, Piccadilly, M,DCC,XC.



The Pamphlet which gave rise to the following Trial, was written by the Reverend Mr. Logan, some time one of the ministers of Leith, near Edinburgh; — “A gentleman formed to be the ornament and instructor of the age in which he lived: All his writings are distinguished by the segacity of their reasonings, the brilliancy of their imaginations, and the depth of their philosophical principles. Though cut off in the flower of his age, while the prosecution against his publisher was depending, he left behind himseveral respectable productions, and particularly Elements of Lectures upon the Philosophy of Ancient History; which, though imperfect, and unfinished, will afford to the discerning, sufficient reason to regret that his talents did not remain to be matured by age, and expanded by the fostering breath of public applause.”

Such is the character, given of Mr. Logan in the last New Annual Register; but as his Review of the Charges against Mr. Hastings has made so much noise in the world, it may not be uninteresting to state by what means, he became so intimately acquainted, with the politics of India.

For some time previous to his decease, Mr. Logan was the principal author of that part of the English Review, which gives the general state of foreign and domestic politics. The enquiries in the House of Commons, which led to the impeachment of Mr. Hastings, formed very naturally the most material part of that Review for a considerable time; and his Strictures upon the arguments, and the decision on the Benares and the Begum charges, are written with great force and elegance; and contain reflections infinitely more pointed, than any of those which Mr. Fox objected to in his pamphlet.

Having qualified himself by the information that he had acquired, from intense application, to give the world what he conceived to be a fair and impartial account of the administration of Mr. Hastings, he sat down voluntarily, without a wish or prospect of personal advantage, to examine those articles which had been presented to the House of Commons by the Managers, then a Committee of Secresy, and which now form the articles before the Lords. When he had compleated his pamphlet, he submitted it in manuscript to the perusal of a gentleman, who is intimately connected with Mr. Hastings. That gentleman was certainly very ill qualified to advise him, as a lawyer; it never having entered into his imagination, that after the torrent of abuse that had been poured out upon Mr. Hastings, for years, any thing said in reply could be deemed libellous, and therefore he merely examined whether Mr. Logan was correct in his statement of facts, and communicated to him every particular relative to the last thirteen articles. Not satisfied with this communication, Mr. Logan examined the votes and the speeches, as printed and circulated throughout Great Britain. After an accurate investigation, he thought himself justified in inserting in his pamphlet, what a member had said in the House, that the Commons had voted thirteen out of twenty articles, without reading them.

The booksellar to whom Mr. Logan originally presented him pahmphet, offered a sum for it, which he conceived so inadequate to its importance, that he carried it to Mr. Stockdale, to whom he gave it; taking for himself a few copies only, which were sent in his name to men of the first eminence in letters, both in London and Edinburgh.

After it had been some time in circulation, and read with great avidity, it was publicly complained of by Mr. Fox. That gentleman quoted what he conceived to be the libellous passages. The following day he moved an address to his Majesty, to direct his Attorney General to prosecute the authors and publishers, and the motion was carried nemine contradicente; but owing to the sickness of the principal witness, the trial was deferred for nearly two years. This prosecution which has been attended with a very heavy expence to Mr. Stockdale, and has been nearly two years depending, hath excited universal attention.

The acknowledged accuraacy of Mr. Gurney, is too well known to require any particular praise on this occasion; but it never was more remarkable than in the present instance; yet the eloquent and excellent speech of Mr. Erskine, will appear to great disadvantage to those who had the good fortune to hear it, so much, even the best speeches depend upon the power of delivery. It was spoke in as croweded a Court, as ever appeared in the King’s-Bench. The exertions of that gentleman in support of his clients are too well known, to acquire new force from any thing that can be said of him here; but on no occasion, and at no period, did he display those wonderful abilities that he possesses in a higher degree, and Mr. Erskine will be quoted as the steady friend, and supporter of the Constitutional Rights of the people of Great-Britain, as long as the sacred flame of Liberty shall animate the breast of an Englishman.

The result of this Trial proves how dangerous to public liberty it would be, were any body of men, parties and judges in their own cause. No good subject will call into question unnecessarily, any of the privileges claimed by the House of Commons; but if in the instance before us, the House, consulting former prededents, had taken upon itself to state the crime, and to pronounce judgment, a British subject might have been seized and imprisoned some months, probably to the ruin of himself and his family, without the possibility of reparation. It may therefore with the greatest truth be observed, that the exertions of Mr. Erskine, and by the decision of this prosecution, the Freedom of the Press, and the Liberty of the Subject, are fully secured.

January 13th, 1790.




Leave a comment

Filed under 1790's, England, Legal, Liberty, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Press, Printing, Trials

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 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.


Leave a comment

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

Item of the Day: The Trial of Elizabeth Dutchess Dowager of Kingston for Bigamy (1776)

Full Title:  The Trial of Elizabeth Dutchess Dowager of Kingston for Bigamy before the Right Honourable The House of Peers, in Westminster-Hall, in Full Parliament, on Monday the 15th, Tuesday the 16th, Friday the 19th, Saturday the 20th, and Monday the 22d of April, 1776; on the last of which Days the said Elizabeth Duchess Dowager of Kingston was found Guilty.  Published by Order of the House of Peers.  London:  Printed for Charles Bathurst, in Fleet-Street.  M.DCC.LXXVI.

Monday, April the 15th, 1776.

In the Court erected in Westminster-Hall, for the Trial of Elizabeth Duchess Dowager of Kingston for Bigamy.

About ten of the clock the Lords came from their own House into the Court erected in Westminster Hall, for the Trial of Elizabeth Duchess Dowager of Kingston, in the Manner following:

The Lord High Steward’s Gentlemen Attendants, Two and Two.

The Clerks Assistant to the House of Lords, and the Clerk of the Parliament.

Clerk of the Crown in Chancery, bearing the King’s Commission to the Lord High Steward, and the Clerk of the Crown in the King’s Bench.

The Masters in Chancery, Two and Two.

The Judges, Two and Two.

The Peers eldest Sons, Two and Two.

Peers Minors, Two and Two.

Chester and Somerset Heralds.

Four Serjeants at Arms with their Maces, Two and Two.

The Yeoman Usher of the House.

The Barons, Two and Two, beginning with the youngest Baron.

The Bishops, Two and Two.

The Viscounts and other Peers, Two and Two.

The Lord Privy Seal and Lord President.

The Archbishop of York and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Four Serjeants at Arms and their Maces, Two and Two.

The Serjeant at Arms attending the Great Seal, and Purse-Bearer.

Then Garter King at Arms, and the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod carrying the White Staff before the Lord High Steward.

Henry Earl Bathurst, Chancellor of Great Britain, Lord High Steward, alone, his Train Borne.

His Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland, his Train borne.

The Lords being placed in their proper Seats, and the Lord High Steward upon the Woolpack, the House was resumed.

The Clerk of the Crown in Chancery, having his Majesty’s Commission to the Lord High Steward in his Hand, and the Clerk of the Crown in the King’s Bench, standing before the Clerk’s Table with their Faces towards the State, made Three Reverences; the First at the Table, the Second in the Midway, and the third near the Woolpack, then kneeled down; and the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery, on his Knee, presented the Commission to the Lord High Steward, who delivered the same to the Clerk of the Crown in the King’s Bench to read:  Then rising, they made Three Reverences, and returned to the Table.  And then Proclamation was made for Silence, in this Manner:

Serjeant at Arms.  Oyez, Oyez, Oyez!  Our Sovereign Lord the King strictly charges and commands all Manner of Persons to keep Silence, upon Pain of imprisonment.

Then the Lord High Steward stood up, and spoke to the Peers.

Lord High Steward.  His Majesty’s commission is about to be read:  Your Lordships are desired to attend to it in the usual Manner; and all others are likewise to stand up uncovered while the Commission is reading.

All the Peers uncovered themselves; and they, and all others, stood up uncovered, while the Commission was read.

George R.

George the Third, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, and so forth.  To our Right Trusty and Right well-beloved Cousin and Counsellor Henry Earl Bathurst, our Chancellor of Great Britain, greeting.  Know ye, that whereas Elizabeth the Wife of August John Hervey, late of the Parish of Saint George, Hanover Square, in our County of Middlesex, Esquire, before our Justices of Oyer and Terminer, at Hick’s Hall, in Saint John-Street, in and for Our County of Middlesex, upon the Oath of Twelve Jurors, good and lawful Men of the said County of Middlesex, then and there sworn and charged to enquire for Us for the Body of the said County, stands indicted of Polygamy and feloniously marrying Evelyn Pierrepont late Duke of Kingston, she being married, and the wife of the said August John Hervey:  We, considering that Justice is an excellent Virtue, and pleasing to the Most High, and being willing that the said Elizabeth, of and for the Felony whereof she is indicted as aforesaid, before Us, in Our present Parliament, according to the Law and Custom of Our Kingdom of Great Britain, may be heard, examined, sentenced, and adjudged; and that all other Things which are necessary in this Behalf may be duly exercised and executed; and for that the Office of High Steward of Great Britain, (whose Presence in this Behalf is required) is now vacant (as We are informed) We, very much confiding in your fidelity, Prudence, provident circumspection, and industry, have for this Cause ordained and constituted you Steward of Great Britain, to hear, execute, and exercise for this Time and said Office, with all Things due and belonging to the same Office in this Behalf:  And therefore We command you, that you diligently set about the Premises, and for this Time do exercise and execute with Effect all those Things which belong to the Office of Steward of Great Britain, and which are required in this Behalf.  In Witness whereof We have caused these Our Letters to be made Patent.  Witness Ourself at Westminster the Fifteenth Day of April, in the Sixteenth Year of Our Reign.

By the KING Himself, signed with his own Hand.   YORKE.

Serjeant at Arms.  God save the King!

Then Garter, and the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, after Three Reverences, kneeling, jointly presented the white Staff to his Grace the Lord High Steward:  And then his Grace, attended by Garter, Block Rod, and the Purse-Bearer (making his proper Reverences towards the Throne) removed from the Woolpack to an armed Chair, which was placed on the uppermost Step but one of the throne, as it was prepared for that Purpose; and then seated himself in the Chair, and delivered the Staff to the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod on his Right Hand, the Purse-Bearer holding the Purse on his Left.

Clerk of the Crown.  Serjeant at Arms, make Proclamation.

Serjeant at Arms.  Oyez, Oyez, Oyez! Our Sovereign Lord the King strictly charges and commands all manner of Persons to keep Silence, upon Pain of Imprisonment.

. . .

Lord High Steward.


You stand indicted for having married a Second Husband, your First Husband being living.

A Crime so destructive of the Peace and Happiness of private Families, and so injurious in its Consequences to the Welfare and good Order of Society, that by the Statute Law of this Kingdom it was for many Years (in your Sex) punishable with Death; the Lenity, however, of later Times has substituted a milder Punishment in its Stead.

This Consideration must necessarily tend to lessen the Perturbation of our Spirits upon this awful occasion.

But that, Madam! which, next to the inward feelings of your own conscience, will afford you most comfort is, reflecting upon the Honour, the Wisdom, and the Candour of the High Court of criminal Jurisdiction.

It is, Madam, by your particular Desire that you now stand at that Bar:  You were not brought there by any Prosecutor.

In your Petition to the Lords, praying for a speedy Trial, you assumed the Title of Duchess Dowager of Kingston, and it was by that Title that the Court of King’s Bench admitted you to Bail; in your Petition you likewise averrred, that Augustus John Hervey, whose Wife the Indictment charges you with being, is at this Time Earl of Bristol:  Upon examining their Records the Lords were satisfied of the Truth of the Averrment; and have accordingly allowed you the Privilege you petitioned for, of being tried by your Peers in full Parliament, and from them you will be sure to meet with nothing but Justice tempered with Humanity. . . .

Lord High Steward.  Madam, your Ladyship will do well to give Attention, while you are arriagned on your Indictment.

Then Proclamation was made for Silence.

After which Elizabeth Duchess Dowager of Kingston was arraigned, in the Form of the said Indictment against her, by the clerk of the Crown in the King’s Bench.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1770's, England, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Trials

Item of the Day: The Trial at Large of Thomas Paine (1792)

 Full Title:  The Trial at Large of Thomas Paine for a Libel, in The Second Part of Rights of Man. Before Lord Kenyon and a Special Jury, in the Court of King’s Bench, Guildhall, Dec. 18, 1792. By A Student or the Inner Temple.  London:  Printed for James Ridgway, York-Street, St. James’s Square.

Mr. Percival opened the pleadings on the part of the Crown.  he said, this was an information against Thomas Paine, for that he being a person of a wicked, malicious, and seditious disposition; and wishing to introduce disorder and confusion, and to cause it to be believed, that the Crown of this kingdom was contrary to the Rights of the Inhabitants of this kingdom; and to cause it to be believed also, that the Bill of Rights was a Bill of Wrongs and Insults; all tending to bring the government of this country into contempt, and endeavouring to cause it to be believed, that the Parliament of this country was openly corrupt in the face of day; and in order to withdraw the affection of the people of this kingdom, against the Law and Constitution of this country; that he, Thomas Paine, wishing and intending this mischief, did, on the 16th of February, 1791, wickedly, falsely, maliciously, scandalously, and seditiously publish a certain book, called Second Part of the Rights of Man, signed Thomas Paine, containing many false, wicked, scandalous, malicious, and seditious assertions; with which he should not trouble the Jury, as they would have them from the Attorney General.  The Defendant had pleaded Not Guilty, upon which issue was joined.

The Attorney General said, the Jury would permit him to state, in this stage of the proceeding, that in his mind a cause, which brought its own merit with it, a cause more plain, more clear, more certain, and indisputable, never came before a Court.  Was it not that certain circumstances had happened, and contributed to make the book in question an object of considerable magnitude, and rendered it important, he should at once propose reading the pages of the book, as they were included in the information, to the Jury, and then have left the case to be disposed by their good sense; but the particular mischief that naturally flowed from this wicked publication, had rendered it necessary for him to open the case in a fuller way than usual upon such occasions.  To speak of himself was what he had no delight in, and what could not be entertaining to the Jury; but as circumstances made it necessary, he hoped the Jury would forgive it.  A rumour had been spread, that this prosecution did not correspond with his private judgment.  To this he answered, that if he did not think this a fit object for prosecution, he should think such an opinion disqualified him from holding the office he now filled, he would be degraded in the estimation of every professional man, and he ought to be despised if he felt any unwillingness to bring this enormous case before a Jury of this Country.

This was not the first of the kind which this defendant had thought fit to published against Government.  He was not, perhaps, warranted in not bringing the first before the Gentlemen of the Jury.  He passed it by, however, as it was ushered into the world in that shape, that it was likely to fall only into the hands of tolerably informed persons, who would have the sense to see the poison, and consequently would be able to apply the antidote, and refute it as they went along; but when another appeared in a smaller size, printed on white-brown paper, and thrust into the hands of all persons, of all ages, sexes, and conditions: they were even wrapped up with sweetmeats for children.  Such were the steps that had been taken to forward the publication, and he did what his duty demanded of him, he filed an information against the defendant the first day of the succeeding term, putting the queestion upon record, which they, the Jury had to try.

What it was that was the intention of this man by these publications, would not be matter of difficulty for the Jury to discover; it was manifested by every test that could apply to the explanation of a man’s intention, and the Jury would have to say, whether they were not satisfied that the whole of the book in question did not deserve the flame which had been imputed to it by the information.  It was written with a view to villify, degrade, and to bring into abhorrence and contempt all the establishments of this country in all the departments of the state.  The whole of the book, the Jury would see, was artfully written for the purpose for which it was intended, namely to make the lower orders of society disaffected to Government, and it was the most gross artifice that ever imposed upon the credulous part of mankind.  It was all written in the dogmatical manner.  It consisted of so many ready made propositions; without regard to truth, and without the least application to circumstances, and also without the least reasoning or deduction whatever; addressed to men who were very properly anxious about their rights, but who, from too little knowledge of our Constitution, and from being too little habituated to reflection, were easily imposed upon by shallow artifice,  and when these honest, but deluded men, came to be persuaded, that they were deprived by the despotic temper of government of Rights, to which they were certainly intitled, it was a matter of no wonder they should manifest an abhorrence at the whole fabric.  He defied any man to shew a system capable of creating more mischief than this book.   It stated that the regular system of our legislation was inherently corrupt, that the Legislature altogether was, without a single exception, grounded upon usurpation; that this usurped authority framed what was called law, but that in reality there was scarcely such a thing as law in the country.  thus ten or twelve millions of people were told they were governed by usurpation; and that of course, as there was no such thing as law, each individual would be left to govern all his actions by his own partial notions of moral duty.  Were we indeed to follow these doctrines?  Were we to fall into a lawless banditti?  Were we to be reduced back again into a savage state of nature, where man was the enemy of man, where all his faculties were useless, except strength and cunning?  Were we to return to this state?  The Jury knew what the answer was to these questions.  What was to be said to a man who would thus, with a general sweep take away all law, or the force of all law, by asserting that all laws which had been hitherto made, are null and void; this sort of artifice was very  gross, it was true, but it did not appear so to those who could not detect the artifice.  Objections too were stated in this book to Monarchy, in general terms, without one word being said of its advantages.  The power of the Aristocracy was objected to, but not a word was said about the Democratic part of our Constitution.  It was well known that England had a powerful Democracy, but not a word of that, because it would not make the lower classes of the people discontented; this was the common artifice; and artifice so very shallow, that some people might wonder perhaps at the success of it; but to whom were these things addressed?  To the ignorant, the credulous, and the desperate — the latter were naturally the enemies of all government, order, or regularity; every restraint was irksome to them, and nothing was so plausible or convincing to them, even upon the point of propriety, as to inform them we shall have no government at all; the others were easily to be imposed upon, and made the dupes of the crafty and designing, who might chuse to deceive them.

1 Comment

Filed under 1790's, England, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Trials

Item of the Day: Trial of Louis XVI (1793)

Full Title:  Proceedings of the French National Convention on the Trial of Louis XVI. Late King of France and Navarre; To Which Are Added, Several Interesting Occurrences and Particulars Attending the Treatment, Sentence, and Execution of the Ill-Fated Monarch; The Whole Carefully collected from Authentic Documents, and Republished with Additions, from the Paper of The World by Joseph Trapp, A.M.   London: Printed for the Author; Sold by Messrs. Murray, Kearsley, and Wenman and co. Fleet-street; Ridgeway, York-street, St. James’s; Deighton, Holborn; Downes, and McQueen, Strand; and at the World Office, 1793.

 From pp. 53 – 58

I  shall now state the proceedings of the Convention before the King was permitted to be at the bar.  Barrere was the member who occupied the chair as President.

In the beginning of this sitting, which will ever be memorable in the annals of history, Barbaroux presented the declaratory act of the crimes of Louis XVI. — On the motion of several members, various additions were made to the black catalogue of accusation, which, with the act, was passed a decree.  The members and tribunes were ordered to keep profound silence, and to express their sentiments neither by murmurs nor applause.  It was next decreed, that Louis XVI. should be immediately summoned to the Convention, and to wait for orders to be put to the bar.  It was next decreed that the series of questions to be asked of Louis, and which were presented by Valaze, in the name of the United Committees, should be suppressed, and that the whole act of accusation should be read to Louis XVI. article by article:  and that at the end of each charge, he should be asked — What have you to answer?  It was likewise decreed, on the motion of Fremont, that a chair should be put within the bar, and Louis permitted to sit down.  The convention were about entering on some other discussions, when Barrere, the President, rose and addressed the Convention.

President. — I inform the Assembly, that Louis is at the gate of the Feuillans.


“You are on the point of exercising the right of national justice; you made yourselves answerable to all the citizens, for the wise and firm conduct which you are to pursue on this momentous occasion.

“Europe observes you; history records your thoughts and actions; incorruptible posterity will judge you with inflexible severity.  Let your attitudes correspond with the new functions you are about to perform; impassibility and silence become judges; the dignity of your sitting ought to be responsible to the majesty of the French Nation; she is ready by your organ to give a great lesson to Kings, and to set an useful example for the emancipation of nations.

Citizens in the Tribunes.

You are associated with the glory and freedom of the nation you make a part of.  You know that justice presides only in quiet deliberations.  the National Convention reposes entirely in your devotion to your country, and in your respect towards the representations of the people.  The citizens of Paris will not forego this fresh opportunity of evincing the patriotism and the public spirit with which they are animated.  Let them only remember the awful silence which followed Louis, when he was brought back from Varennes — a precursory silence of the judgment of Kings by nations.

Half past Two o’clock.

General Santerre Commander in Chief of the Parisian Forces. — “I have the honour to inform you that I have put your decree in execution. — Louis Capet waits your orders.”

(Louis entered the bar, dressed in a yellow great coat, with firm countenance, attended by the Mayor, two Municipal Officers, and Generals Santerre and Witenkof.  The guards remained without the hall, and the most awful silence reigned throughout the Convention.)

President.– Louis, the French Nation accuses you.  The National Convention have decreed, on the 3d of December, that you should be judged by them; they have decreed on the 6th of December, that you shall be arraigned at their bar.  We are ready to read to you the declaratory act, of the crimes laid to your charge. — You may sit down.  (Louis sat down!)

[Here Mailhe, the Secretary, read the whole act; at every distinct charge, the president summoned Louis XVI. to answer each separate article.]

President. — “Louis, the French Nation accuses you of having committed a multitude of crimes to establish your tyranny, in destroying her freedom.  You have, on the 20th of June, 1789, attempted the sovereignty of the people, by suspending the assemblies of their representatives, and driving them with violence from the places of their sittings.  This is proved  in the Proces Veral set up at the Tennis-Court of Versailles by the members of the Constituent Assembly.  On the 23d of June you wanted to dictate laws to the nation — you surrounded their representatives with troops — you presented to them two royal declarations, subversive of all liberty, and ordered them to separate.  Your own declarations, and the minutes of the Assembly prove these attempts — What have you to answer?”

Louis. — “No laws were then existing to prevent me from it.”

President. — “You ordered an army to march against the citizens of Paris.  Your satellites have spilt the blood of several of them, and you would not remove this army til the taking of the Bastille, and a general insurrection announced to you that the people were victorious.  The speeches you made on the 9th, 12th, and 14th of July, to the divers deputations of the constituent Assembly, shew what were your intentions; and the massacres of the Thuilleries rise in evidence against you. — What have you to answer?”

Louis. — “I was master at that time to order the troops to march; but I never had an intention of spilling blood.”

President. — “After these events, and in spite of the promises which you made on the 15th, in the Constituent Assembly, and on the 17th in the Townhouse of Paris, you have persisted in your projects against national liberty; you have long eluded the execution of the decree of the 11th of August, respecting the abolition of personal servitude, the feudal government and tithes.  You have long refused acknowledging the rights of man; you have doubled the number of the life-guards, and called the regiment of Flanders to Versailles:  You have permitted, in orgies held before your eyes, the national cockade to be trampled under foot, the white cockade to be hoisted, and the nation to be blasphemed.  At last, you have rendered necessary a fresh insurrection; occasioned the death of several citizens, and not changed your language till after your guards had been defeated, when you renewed your perfidious promises.  The proofs of these facts are in your observations of the 18th of September, in the decrees of the 11th of August, in the minutes of the Constituent Assembly, the the events of Versailles, of the 5th and 6th of October, and in the conversation you had on the same day, with a deputation of the Constituent Assembly, when you told them, You would enlighten yourself with their councils, and never recede from them. — What have you to answer?

Louis. — “I have made the observations which I thought just on the two first heads.  As to the cockade, it is false:  it did not happen before me.”

President — “You have taken an oath, at the Federation of the 14th of July, which you did not keep.  You soon tried to corrupt the public opinion, with the assistance of Talon, who acted in Paris, and Mirabeau, who was to have excited counter-revolutionary movements in the provinces. — What have you to answer?”

Louis — “I do not recollect what happened at that time, but the whole is anterior to my acceptance of the Constitution.”

President — “You have lavished millions of money to effect this corruption, and you would even use popularity as a means of enslaving the people.  These facts are the result of a memorial of Talon, which you have made your marginal comments on in your own hand writing, and of a letter which Laporte wrote to you on the 19th of April, in which recapitulating a conversation he had with Rivarol, he told you, that the millions which you had been prevailed upon to throw away, had been productive of nothing.  For a long time you had meditated on a plan of escape.  A memorial was delivered to you on the 18th of February, which pointed out the means for you to effect it; you approve of it by marginal notes. — What have you to answer?”

Louis. — “I felt no greater pleasure, than that of relieving the needy — This proves no design.”

President. — On the 18th a great number of the nobles and military came into your apartments in the castle of the Thuilleries, to favour that escape; you wanted to quit Paris on the 10th of April to go to St. Cloud. — what have you to answer?

Louis. –“The accusation is absurd.”

President. — But the resistance of the citizens made you sensible that distrust was great; you endeavoured to discard it by communicating to the Constituent Assembly a letter which you addressed to the agents of the nation near foreign powers, to announce to them, that you had freely accepted the Constitutional Articles, which had been presented to you; and notwithstanding on the 21st you took flight with a false passport; you left behind a protest against these self-same Constitutional Articles.  You ordered the ministers to sign none of the acts issued by the National Assembly; and you forbid the minister of justice to deliver up the seals of states.  The public money was lavished to insure the success of this treachery, and the public force was to protect it, under the orders of Bouille, who shortly before had been charged with the massacre of Nancy, and to whom you wrote on this head, To take care of his popularity, because it would be of service to you.  These facts are proved by the memorial of the 23d of February, wth marginal comments in your own hand-writing:  by your declaration of the 20th of June, wholly in your own hand-writing: by your letter of the 4th of September, 1790, to Bouille; and by a note of the latter, in which he gives you an account of the use he made of 993,000 livres, given by you, and employed partly in the trepanning of the troops who were to escort you.  — What have you to answer?

Louis. — “I have no knowledge whatever of the memorial of the 23d of February.  As to what related to my journey to Varennes, I appeal to what I said to the Commissaries of the Constituent Assembly, at that period.”

1 Comment

Filed under 1790's, France, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Trials