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have foreseen mischief, but whether he wickedly in decency, to be silent. I see the effect this cir. and traitorously preconcerted and designed it. cumstance has upon you, and I know I m war But if he be an object of censure for not foresee- ranted in my assertion of the fact. If I am not, ing it, what shall we say to GOVERNMENT, that why did not the Attorney General produce the took no step to prevent it, that issued no procla- record of some convictions, and compare it with mation, warning the people of the danger and the list? I thank them, therefore, for the preillegality of such an assembly? If a peaceable cious compilation, which, though they did not multitude, with a petition in their hands, be an produce, they can not stand up and dery. army, and is the noise and confusion inseparable Solomon (Job) says, “Oh that mine adversary from numbers, though without violence or the had written a book !" My adversary has writ. purpose of violence, constitute war, what shall be ten a book, and out of it I am entitled to pro. said of that GOVERNMENT which remained from nounce, that it can not again be decently assertTuesday to Friday, knowing ihat an army was ed that Lord George Gordon, in exhorting an incollecting to levy war by public advertisement, nocent and unimpeached multitude to be peace. yet had not a single soldier, no, nor even a con- able and quiet, was exciting them to violence stable, to protect the state ?
against the state. Gentlemen, I come forth to do that for gove What is the evidence, then, on which this conernment which its own servant, the Attorney nection with the mob is to be proved? Only that General, has not done. I come forth to rescue it they had blue cockades.20 Are you or am I an. from the eternal infamy which would fall upon its swerable for every man who wears a blue cock. head, if the language of its own advocate were ade? If a man commits murder in my livery to be believed. But government has an unan- or in yours, without command, counsel, or conswerable desense. It neither did nor could pos- sent, is the murder ours? In all cumulative, consibly enter into the head of any man in authority structive treasons, you are to judge from the to prophesy-human wisdom could not divine tenor of a man's behavior, not from crooked and that wicked and desperate men, taking advant- disjointed parts of it. “Nemo repentè fuit tur. age of the occasion which, perhaps, an impru- pissimus."1 No man can possibly be guilty of dent zeal for religion had produced, would dis- this crime by a sudden impulse of the mind, as honor the cause of all religions, by the disgrace- he may of some others; and, certainly, Lord ful acts which followed.
George Gordon stands upon the evidence at Why, then, is it to be said that Lord George Coachmakers' Hall as pure and white as snow. Gordon is a traitor, who, without proof of any He stands so upon the evidence of a man who hostile purpose to the government of his coun- had differed with him as to the expediency of try, only did not foresee what no body else foresaw his conduct, yet who swears that from the time -what those people whose business it is to fore he took the chair till the period which is the subsee every danger that threatens the state, and to ject of inquiry, there was no blame in him. avert it by the interserence of magistracy, though You, therefore, are bound as Christian men they could not but read the advertisement, neither to believe that, when he came to St. George's did nor could possibly apprehend ?19
Fields that morning, he did not come there with How are these observations attempted to be the hostile purpose of repealing a law by re
answered? Only by asserting, with. bellion. petonse of de out evidence or even reasonable ar. But still it seems all his behavior at Coach
gument, that all this was color and makers' Hall was color and deceit. Let us see, prisoner.
deceit. Gentlemen, I again say that therefore, whether this body of men, when asit is scandalous and reproachful, and not to be sembled, answered the description of that which justified by any duty which can possibly belong I have stated to be the purpose of him who aso an advocate at the bar of an English court of sembled them. Were they a multitude arrayed justice, to declare, without any proof or attempt for terror or force ? On the contrary, you have at proof, that all a man's expressions, however heard, upon the evidence of men whose veracity peaceable, however quiet, however constitution is not to be impeached, that they were sober, al, however loyal, are all fraud and villainy. decent, quiet, peaceable tradesmen; that they Look, gentlemen, to the issues of life, which I were all of the better sort; all well-dressed and before called the evidence of Heaven: I call well-behaved; and that there was not a man them so still. Truly may I call them so, when, among them who had any one weapon, offensive out of a book compiled by the Crown from the or defensive. Sir Philip Jennings Clerke"? tells petition in the House of Commons, and containing the names of all who signed it, and which 20 The members of the Association, at the meetwas printed in order to prevent any of that num. ing of St. George's Fields, were distinguist-ed by ber being summoned upon the jury to try this wearing cockades, on which were inscribed the
words “No Popery !" indictment, not one criminal, or even a suspected
21 No one has ever at once reached the extreme name is to be found, among this defamed host of point of wickedness. petitioners !
22 This gentleman, in giving evidence on behall 1 .
After this, gentlemen, I think the Crown ought, of the prisoner, deposed to the peaceable behavior
19 This was the great turning point of the case, of the members of the Association, who formed the and it would have been impossible to state it in original procession to carry up the petition, and more simple or more powerful terms.
whom he distinguished from the mob which after
Answer to the
reption on the tart of the
Paper given by
you, he went into the Fields; that he drove office, I would not accept of it on the terms of through them, talked to many individuals among being obliged to produce against a fellow-citizen them, who all told him that it was not their wish that which I have been witness to this day. For to persecute the Papists, but that they were Mr. Attorney General perfectly well knew the alarmed at the progress of their religion from innocent and laudable motive with their schools. Sir Philip further told you, that which the protection was given, that the prisoner to he never saw a more peaceable multitude in his he exhibited as an evidence of guilt ;25 from being life; and it appears upon the oaths of all who yet it was produced to insinuate that were present, 3 that Lord George Gordon went Lord George Gordon, knowing himself to be the vound among them, desiring peace and quietness. ruler of those villains, set himself up as a savior
Mark his conduct, when he heard from Mr. from their fury. We called Lord Stormont tc Evans that a low, riotous set of people were explain this matter to you, who told you that assembled in Palace Yard. Mr. Evans, being a Lord George Gordon came to Buckingham member of the Protestant Association, and being House, and begged to see the King, saying, he desirous that nothing bad might happen from might be of great use in quelling the riots; and the assembly, went in his carriage with Mr. can there be on earth a greater proof of con. Spinage to St. George's Fields, to inform Lord scious innocence ? For if he had been the wick. George that there were such people assembled ed mover of them, would he have gone to the (probably Papists), who were determined to do King to have confessed it, by offering to recall mischief. The moment he told him of what he his followers from the mischiefs he had provoked ? heard, whatever his original plan might have No! But since, notwithstanding a public protest been, he instantly changed it on seeing the im- issued by himself and the Association, reviling propriety of it. “Do you intend,” said Mr. Ev- the authors of mischief, the Protestant cause was ans, “to carry up all these men with the petition still made the pretext, he thought his public exto the House of Commons ?'' "Oh no! no! not ertions might be useful, as they might tend to by any means; I do not mean to carry them all remove the prejudices which wicked men had up.” “Will you give me leave," said Mr. Ev- diffused. The King thought so likewise, and ans, "to go round to the different divisions, and therefore (as appears by Lord Stormont) resused tell the people it is not your Lordship’s purpose ?" to see Lord George till he had given the test of He answered, “By all means." And Mr. Evans his loyalty by such exertions. But sure I am, accordingly went, but it was impossible to guide our gracious sovereign meant no trap for innosuch a number of people, peaceable as they were. cence, nor ever recommended it as such to his They were all desirous to go forward; and Lord servants. George was at last obliged to leave the Fields, Lord George's language was simply this: exhausted with heat and fatigue, beseeching “The multitude pretend to be perpetrating these them to be peaceable and quiet. Mrs. Whiting- acts, under the authority of the Protestant peti. ham set him down at the House of Commons; tion; I assure your Majesty they are not the and at the very time that he thus lest them in Protestant Association, and I shall be glad to be persect harmony and good order, it appears, by of any service in suppressing them.” I say, by the evidence of Sir Philip Jennings Clerke, that God, that man is a ruffian who shall, after this, Palace Yard was in an uproar, filled with mis- presume to build upon such honest, artless conchievous boys and the lowest dregs of the peo- duct, as an evidence of guilt.26 Gentlemen, if ple. Gentlemen, I have all along told you that the in support of the prosecution, had sworn that, hear.
25 A witness, of the name of Richard Pond, called Crown was aware that it had no case of treason, ing his house was about to be pulled down, he apwithout connecting the noble prisoner with con- plied to the prisoner for protection, and in consesequences, which it was in some luck to find ad-quence received the following document signed by vocates to state, without proof to support it. I him: “All true friends to Protestants, I hope, will can only speak for myself
, that, small as my be particular, and do no injury to the property of chance is (as times go) of ever arriving at high any true Protestant, as I am well assured the proLord (recrge Gordon had been guilty of high | whole of it together; to reflect on all you have treason (as is assumed to-day) in the face of the heard concerning him; to trace him in your whole Parliament, how are all its members to recollection through every part of the transacdefend themselves from the misprisiona? of suf- tion; and, considering it with one manly, liberal sering such a person to go at large and to ap- view, to ask your own honest hearts, whether proach his sovereign ? The man who conceals you can say that this noble and unfortunate the perpetration of treason is himself a traitor; youth is a wicked and deliberate traitor, who but they are all perfectly safe, for nobody thought deserves by your verdict to su:Ter a shameful and of treason till fears arising from another quarter ignominious death, which will stain the ancient bewildered their senses. The King, therefore, honors of his house forever. and his servants, very wisely accepted his prom- The crime which the Crown would have fixed ise of assistance, and he flew with honest zeal to upon him is, that he assembled the Protestant fulfill it. Sir Philip Jennings Clerke tells you Association round tho House of Commons, not that he made use of every expression which it merely to influence and persuade Parliament by was possible for a man in such circumstances to the earnestness of their supplications, but actu. employ. He begged them, for God's sake, to ally to coerce it by hostile, rebellious force; that, disperse and go home; declared his hope that finding himself disappointed in the success of the petition would be granted, but that rioting that coercion, he afterward incited his followers was not the way to effect it. Sir Philip said he to abolish the legal indulgences to Papists, which felt himself bound, without being particularly the object of the petition was to repeal, by the asked, to say every thing he could in protection burning of their houses of worship, and the deof an injured and innocent man, and repeated struction of their property, which ended, at last, again, that there was not an art which the pris- in a general attack on the property of all orders oner could possibly make use of, that he did not of men, religious and civil, on the public treas. zealously employ; but that it was all in vain. ures of the nation, and on the very being of the “I began," says he, "to tremble for myself, government. 23 when Lord George read the resolution of the To support a charge of so atrocious and unHouse, which was hostile to them, and said their natural a complexion, the laws of the most arbipetition would not be taken into consideration trary nations would require the most incontrotill they were quiet.” But did he say, “there- vertible proof. Either the villain must have fore go on to burn and destroy ?" On the con- been taken in the overt act of wickedness, or, il trary, he helped to pen that motion, and read it he worked in secret upon others, his guilt must to the multitude, as one which he himself had have been brought out by the discovery of a conapproved. After this ho went into the coach spiracy, or by the consistent tenor of criminality: with Sheriff Pugh, in the city; and there it was, The very worst inquisitor that ever dealt in blood in the presence of the very magistrate whom he would vindicate the torture, by plausibility at was assisting to keep the peace, that he publicly least, and by the semblance of truth. signed the protection which has been read in What evidence, then, will a jury of Englishevidence against him ; although Mr. Fisher, who men expect from the servants of the Crown of now stands in my presence, confessed in the England, before they deliver up a brother accused Privy Council that he himself bad granted sim- before them to ignominy and death? What ilar protections to various people-yet he was dis- proof will their consciences require? What will Flissed, as having done nothing but his duty. their plain and manly understandings accept of?
prietor of this house is a staunch and worthy friend ward assembled tumultuously about the House of to the cause.-G. GORDON." Commons.
26 The effect produced on the jury and spectators 23 Sir James Lowther, another of the prisoner's by this sudden burst of feeling, is represented by witnesses, proved that Lord George Gordon and Sir eye-witnesses to have been such as to baffle all Philip Jennings Clerke accompanied him in his car- powers of description. It was wholly unpremedi. riage from the House, and the former entreated the tated, the instantaneous result of that sympathy multitudes collected to disperse quietly to their which exists between a successful speaker and his homes.
audience. In uttering this appeal to his Maker, Mr. 24 A surgeon, who also was examined for the
de. Erskine's tone was one of awe and deep reverence, fense, and deposed that he saw Lord George Gor. without the slightest approach toward the profane don in the midst of one of the companies in St. use of the words, but giving them all the solemnity George's Fields, and that it appeared his wish at of a judicial oath. The magic of his eye, gesture, that time, from his conduct and expressions, that, to and countenance beaming with emotion, completed prevent all disorder, he should not be attended by the impression, and made it irresistible. It was a the multitude across Westminster Bridge. This thing which no man could do but once in bis life gentleman's eviderce was confirmed by that of oth. Mr. Erskine attempted it again in the House of e: witnesses.
Commons, and utterly failed.
This is the plain and simple truth; and for What does the immemorial custom of their fa. 'nis just obedience to his Majesty's request, do thers, and the written law of this land, warrant the King's servants come to-day into his court, them in demanding ? Nothing less, in any case where he is supposed in person to sit, to turn of blood, than the clearest and most unequivocal that obedience into the crime of high treason, conviction of guilt. But in this case the Act has and to ask you to put him to death for it. not even trusted to the humanity and justice of Gentlemen, you have now heard, upon the our general law, but has said, in plain, rough,
solemn oaths of honest, disinterested expressive terms-provably; that is, says Lorá Recapitnation.
men, a faithful history of the conduct Coke, not upon conjectural presumptions, or in. of Lord George Gordon, from the day that he ferences, or strains of wil, but upon direct and became a member of the Protestant Association plain proof. “For the King, Lords, and Comto the day that he was committed a prisoner to mons," continues that great lawyer, “ did not the Tower. And I have no doubt, from the at. use the word probably, for then a common argutention with which I have been honored from the ment might have served, but provably, which beginning, that you have still kept in your minds signifies the highest force of demonstration." the principles to which I entreated you would And what evidence, gentlemen of the jury, does apply it, and that you have measured it by that the Crown offer to you in compliance with these standard.
sound and sacred doctrines of justice? A few You have, therefore, only to look back to the
38 At the time of the interference of the military, 27 Misprision of treason consists in the bare knowl. the mob had attacked the Pay Office, and were at: edge and concealment of treason, without any degree tempting to break into the Bank; and, to aid the of assent thereto, for any assent makes the party a work of the incendiaries, a large party had been priacipal traitor.-Blackstone's Comm., iv., 120. sent to cut the pipes of the New River
broken, interrupted, disjointed words, without | retired to bed, where he lay unconscious that context or connection-uttered by the speaker ruffians were ruining him by their disorders in in agitation and heat-heard, by those who relate the night—that on Monday he published an ad. them to you, in the midst of tumult and confu- vertisement, reviling the authors of the riots, sion--and even those words, mutilated as they and, as the Protestant cause had been wickedly are, in direct opposition to, and inconsistent with made the pretext for theni, solemnly enjoined all repeated and earnest declarations delivered at who wished well to it to be obedient to the laws the very same time and on the very same occa- (nor has the Crown even attempted to prove sion, related to you by a much greater number that he had either given, or that he afterward of persons, and absolutely incompatible with the gave secret instructions in opposition to that whole tenor of his conduct. Which of us all, public admonition)—that he afterward begged gentlemen, would be safe, standing at the bar an audience to receive the King's commandsof God or man, if we were not to be judged by that he waited on the ministers—that he attend. the regular current of our lives and conversa ed his duty in Parliament—and when the multitions, but by detached and unguarded expres- tude (among whom there was not a man of the sions, picked out by malice, and recorded, with associated Protestants) again assembled on the out context or circumstances, against us? Yet Tuesday, under pretense of the Protestant cause, such is the only evidence on which the Crown he offered his services, and read a resolution of asks you to dip your hands, and to stain your the House to them, accompanied with every exconsciences, in the innocent blood of the noble postulation which a zeal for peace could possibly and unfortunate youth who stands before you— inspire-ihat he afterward, in pursuance of the on the single evidence of the words you have King's direction, attended the magistrates in heard from their witnesses (for of what but words their duty; honestly and honorably exerting all have you heard ?), which, even if they had stood his powers to quell the sury of the multitude; a uncontroverted by the proofs that have swallowed conduct which, to the dishonor of the Crown, has them up, or unexplained by circumstances which been scandalously turned against him, by crimdestroy their malignity, could not, at the very inating him with protections granted publicly in worst, amount in law to more than a breach of the coach of the Sheriff of London, whom he was the Act against tumultuous petitioning (if such assisting in his office of magistracy; although an act still exists); since the worst malice of protections of a similar nature were, to the his enemies has not been able to bring up one knowledge of the whole Privy Council, granted single witness to say that he ever directed, coun- by Mr. Fisher himself, who now stands in my tenanced, or approved rebellious force against the presence unaccused and unreproved, but who, if Legislature of this country. It is, therefore, a the Crown that summoned him durst have called matter of astonishment to me that men can keep him, would have dispersed to their confusion the the natural color in their cheeks when they ask slightest imputation of guilt. for human life, even on the Crown's original What, then, has produced this trial for high case, though the prisoner had made no defense. treason, or given it, when produced, Cause ofile
But will they still continue to ask for it after the seriousness and solemnity it wears? prisecelion what they save heard? I will just remind the What but the inversion of all justice, by judging Solicitor General, before he begins his reply, from consequences, instead of from causes and dewhat matter he has to encounter. He has to signs ? What but the artful manner in which the encounter this : That the going up in a body Crown has endeavored to blend the petitioning was not even originated by Lord George, but by in a body, and the zeal with which an animated others in his absence—that when proposed by disposition conducted it, with the melancholy him officially as chairman, it was adopted by the crimes that followed ? crimes which the shame. whole Association, and consequently was their ful indolence of our magistrates—which the toact as much as his—that it was adopted, not in tal extinction of all police and government sufa cunclave, but with open doors, and the resolu- fered to be committed in broad day, and in the tion published to all the world that it was delirium of drunkenness, by an unarmed banditti, known, of course, to the ministers and magis- without a head—without plan or object-and trates of the country, who did not even signify without a resuge from the instant gripe of justo him, or to any body else, its illegality or dan- tice: a banditti with whom the associated Prot. ger—that decency and peace were enjoined and estants and their president had no manner of commanded—that the regularity of the proces- connection, and whose cause they overturned, sion, and those badges of distinction, which are dishonored, and ruined. now cruelly turned into the charge of an hostile How unchristian, then, is it to attempt, witharray against him, were expressly and publicly out evidence, to insect the imaginations of men directed for the preservation of peace and the who are sworn, dispassionately and disinterest. prevention of tumult—that while the House was edly, to try the trivial offense of issembling a deliberating, he repeatedly entreated them to be multitude with a petition to repea, a law (which have with decency and peace, and to retire to has happened so often in all our memories), by their houses, though he knew not that he was blending it with the fatal catastrophe, on which speaking to the enemies of his cause—that when every man's mind may be supposed to retain they at last dispersed, no man thought or imag- some degree of irritation! O fie! O fie! Is ined that treason had been committed--that he the intellectual seat of justice to be thus impious ly shaken ? Are your benevolent propensities found who could even attempt to save his own to be thus disappointed and abused ? Do they life by the plausible promise of giving evidence wish you, while you are listening to the evidence, to-day. to connect it with unforeseen consequences, in What can overturn such a proof as this? spite of reason and truth? Is it their object to Surely a good man might, without superstition, hang the millstone of prejudice around his inno-believe that such a union of events was somecent neck to sink him ? If there be such men, thing more than natural, and that a Divine Prov. may Heaven forgive them for the attempt, and idence was watchful for the protection of innoinspire you with fortitude and wisdom to dis- cence and truth. charge your duty with calm, steady, and reflect- I may now, therefore, relieve you from the ing minds !
pain of hearing me any longer, and be myself Gentlemen, I have no manner of doubt that relieved from speaking on a subject which agiPeroration, you will.29 I am sure you can not but tates and distresses me. Since Lord George
see, notwithstanding my great inability, Gordon stands clear of every hostile act or pur. increased by a perturbation of mind ( arising, pose against the Legislature of his country, or thank God! from no dishonest cause), that there the properties of his fellow-subjects—since the has been not only no evidence on the part of the whole tenor of his conduct repels the belief of Crown to fix the guilt of the late commotions the traitorous intention charged by the indictrpon the prisoner, but that, on the contrary, we ment-my task is finished. I shall make no have been able to resist the probability, I might address to your passions. I will not remind you almost say the possibility of the charge, not only of the long and rigorous imprisonment he bas by living witnesses, whom we only ceased to call suffered; I will not speak to you of his great because the trial would never have ended, but by youth, of his illustrious birth, and of his uniform. the evidence of all the blood that has paid the ly animated and generons zeal in Parliament for forfeit of that guilt already; an evidence that I the Constitution of his country. Such topics will take upon me to say is the strongest and might be useful in the balance of a doubtsul case; most unanswerable which the combination of yet, even then, I should have trusted to the honnatural events ever brought together since the est hearts of Englishmen to have felt them withbeginning of the world for the deliverance of the out excitation. At present, the plain and rigid oppressed : since, in the late numerous trials for rules of justice and truth are sufficient to entitle acts of violence and depredation, though con- me to your verdict. ducted by the ablest servants of the Crown, with a laudable eye to the investigation of the subject The jury, after being charged by Lord Mana which now engages us, no one fact appeared field, windrew at three o'clock in the morning, which showed any plan, any object, any leader; and speedily returned with the verdict - Not since, out of forty-four thousand persons who Guilty. The decision was satisfactory, in a signed the petition of the Protestants, not one high degree, to all reflecting men. Even those was to be found among those who were convict- who considered his conduct as deeply criminal, ed, tried, or even apprehendeu on suspicion ; and felt with Dr. Johnson : "I am glad Lord George since, out of all the felons who were let loose Gordon has escaped, rather than a precedent rom prisons, and who assisted in the destruction should be established of hanging a man for con
our property, not a single wretch was to be structive treason.”
SPEECH OF NR. ERSKINE ON THE RIGHTS OF JURIES, DELIVERED BEFORE THE COURT OF KING'S BENCH,
IN THE CASE OF THE DEAN OF ASAPH, NOVEMBER 15, 1784.
INTRODUCTION. SIR WILLIAM JONES, just before he went to India in 1783, wrote a small tract in favor of Parliament. ary Reform, entitled a "Dialogue between a Gentleman and a Farmer," which was published by his brother-in-law Dr. Shipley, dean of St. Asaph, with an advertisement stating his reasons for so doing. Though barmless in its tendency, it gave umbrage to some high Tories of the neighborhood, and the Dean was indicted, at their instance, for printing a seditious libel. The trial came on at Shrewsbury, August 6th, 1784, and Mr. Bearcroft, counsel for the prosecution, satisfied that no English jury would ever find it a libel (as the court, in fact, afterward declared there was nothing in it illegal) took the
29 This peroration is remarkable for the quiet and of a perfect understanding between him and the sabdaed tone which reigns throughout it. A less jury, that the verdict of acquittal was already made skillful advocate would have closed with a powerful up in their minds, so that any appeal to their feel. appeal to the feelings of the jury. But Mr. Erskine, ings would be wholly out of place. His allusion to with that quick instinct which enabled him to read the providence of God as watching over the innothe emotio of men in their countenances, saw that cent, beautifully coincides with this sentiment; and his cause was gained. He chose, therefore, to in his closing sentence he does not ask a decision throw rver his concluding remarks the appearance in his favor bat takes it as a matter of course.