Page images

The first instance of his lordship’s malice, that will be produced, will be his giving him notice to quit a beneficial farm that Mr. Johnson had obtained a promise of from the Earl, or his relations, before he was appointed receiver ; but when it appeared that the trustees had made good the promise, and had granted him a lease, my lord was obliged to desist from that attempt.

When he found it was impossible to remove him from the farm, his resentment against Mr. Johnson increased, and he took at last determined resolution within himself to commit the horrid fact for which he now stands arraigned.

My lords, I find several causes assigned by the prisoner for this indignation expressed against the deceased; he charged him with having colluded secretly with his adversaries, with being in the interest of those he was pleased to call his enemies, and instrumental in procuring the Act of Parliament: whether these charges were justly founded or not, is totally immaterial; such as they were, he had conceived them. His lordship, who best knew the malice of his own heart, has confessed that he harbuured these suspicions.

Another thing he suspected was, that, in confederacy with Mr. Burslem and Mr. Curzon, he agreed to disappoint his lordship, in regard to a certain contract for coal mines. These notions, though void of truth, had so poisoned his lordship's mind, that he was determined at last to gratify his revenge by murder.

This determination being once settled and fixed in his mind, your lordships will see, with what art and deliberation it was pursued : notwithstanding these seeming causes of disgust, he dissembled all appearance of ill-will or resentment; his countenance towards the deceased for some months seemed greatly to be changed, and his behaviour was affable and good-humoured.

The poor man, deluded with these appearances, was brought to believe he was in no danger, and that he might safely trust himself alone with his lordship

Matters being thus prepared, on Sunday, the 13th January, the prisoner made an appointment to Mr. Johnson to come to him on the Friday following:

His lordship, though the appointment was five or six days before, remembered it perfectly; nay, he remembered the very hour he was to come, and took bis measures accordingly; for your lordships will find, that in order to clear the house, Mrs. Clifford, a woman who lives with his lordship, and four children, were directed by him, at three o'clock precisely, to absent themselves; they were ordered to walk out to Mrs. Clifford's father, about two miles from my lord's house, and not to return till five, or half an hour after five.

The two men-servants likewise, the only servants of that sex then residing with them, were contrived to be sent out of the way; so that when Mr. Johnson repaired to Stanton, my lord's house, at three o'clock, there was no person in the house, except his lordship, and three maid-servants.

Mr. Johnson, when he came to the house, rapt at the door, and was received by his lordship, and directed to wait some time in the still room; then his lordship ordered him into the parlour, where they both entered together, and the door was immediately locked on the inside.

What passed in that interval, between the time of Mr. Johnson's first going in, and the time of his being shot, can only be now known to your lordships by the noble Earl's confession, which has been very ample indeed upon the present occasion.

After Mr. Johnson had been there the best part of an hour, one of the maids in the kitchen, hearing some high words in the parlour, went to the door to see if she could discover what was doing; she listened, and heard my lord, as she was at the kitchen door, say, down upon your knees ; your time is come; you must die; and presently after heard a pistol go off; upon that, she removed from the kitchen, and retired to another part of the house ; for she did not care to venture into his lordship's presence.

Though it appeared, afterwards, that Mr. Johnson had then received that wound of which he died, he did not then immediately drop; he arose, and was able to walk.

Just then, my Lord Ferrers, as he confessed afterwards, felt a few momentary touches of compassion : he permitted Mr. Johnson to be led up stairs to bed, till better assistance could be called; he suffered a surgeon to be sent for, nay, the very surgeon that Mr. Johnson himself had desired; and Mr. Johnson's children, by his lordship's order, were acquainted with the accident, and sent for to see him.

Mr. Johnson's daughter was the first person that came ; she met the noble lord, and the first greeting she had from him was, that he had shot her father, and that he had done it on purpose, and deliberately. Mrs. Clifford, who had been apprized of this accident by the servants, came not long after; and, in an hour and a half, or two hours, Mr. Kirkland, the surgeon, who was from home when the servant was dispatched, and at a neighbouring village, hastened with the best expedition he could make, to Stanton. When he came to Stanton he met my lord in the passage.

Here your lordship will observe, that the noble lord's conduct and behaviour, from this time to the time that Mr. Johnson was removed to his own house, seemed all along calculated for his escape; and that the only anxiety he expressed was the dread of being seized, and brought to punishment in case Mr. Johnson should die.

Upon Mr. Kirkland's first appearance, my lord had told him, that he had shot Mr. Johnson, and that he had done it coolly; he desired he might not be seized till it was known with certainty whether Mr. Johnson would die or not; and threatened, that if any person attempted to seize him, he would shoot them. Mr. Kirkland told him, he would take care nobody should meddle with him.

Mr. Kirkland was then brought up to Mr. Johnson, who was upon the bed; the surgeon examined the wound, and found that the ball had penetrated a little below the ribs on the left side; he took an instrument in his hand, called a director, in order to probe the wound: here my lord interrupted him, and said, You need not be at that trouble ; pass your instrument downwards ; I, when I shot off the pistol, directed it that way; and Mr. Kirkland found this, upon examination, to be true; the ball had not passed through the body, but remained lodged in the cavities of the abdomen.

When my lord found that the ball was in the body, he grew uneasy ; for he was apprehensive that the ball, if it remained there, might prove fatal ; he asked Mr. Kirkland, if it could be extracted ; Mr. Kirkland told him, from what he observed, it would be impracticable to extract the ball: but to give him better hopes he told him, that many persons had lived a long while after they had been shot, though the ball had remained within them.

Presently after this, the surgeon went down stairs to prepare a fomentation, and soon after returned: when he came back into the room, Mr. Johnson complained of the strangury. This alarmed his lordship again : he then asked Mr. Kirkland, what would be the consequence, if the bladder or kidneys were hurt? Mr. Kirkland having laid down his rule of conduct, wherein his prudence deserves to be commended, answered, that though the bladder should be wounded, or the kidneys hurt, there had been many cures performed upon such like wounds.

This made his lordship tolerably easy: he then began to be in better spirits, which, I am sorry to say, at that time were somewhat heightened with liquor : for, although he was cool and fresh when he did the fact, yet the moment it was done, he began to drink, and continued drinking, at times, till twelve o'clock at night : this liquor, however, only contributed to raise his spirits, without disordering his understanding; for he appeared to be complete master of himself the whole day.

After Mr. Kirkland had given him so much encouragement, they together went down to the still room; and now his lordship verily believing that Mr. Johnson would recover, he grew less cautious in avowing the deliberation with which he did the fact, and declaring all the circumstances that attended it.

And here, because I will not wrong the noble lord, by adding a single letter to my brief, your lordships shall hear his confession, from thence, in his own words.

Kirkland, says he, I believe Johnson is more frightened than hurt ; my intention was to have shot him dead; but, finding that he did not fall at the first shot, I intended to have shot him again, but the pain he complained of made me forbear; there nature did take place, in opposition to the resolution I had formed. I desire you will take care of him ; for it would be cruel not to give him ease, now I have spared his life.

"When you speak of this afterwards, do not say (though I desire he may be eased of his pain) that I repented of what I have done: I am not sorry for it; it was not done without consideration; I own it was premeditated; I had, some time before, charged a pistol for the purpose, being determined to kill him, for he is a villain, and deserves death ; but as he is not dead, I desire you will not suffer my being seized; for, if he dies, I will go and surrender myself to the House of Lords; I have enough to justify the action ; they will not excuse me, but it will satisfy my own conscience : but be sure you don't go in the morning without letting me see you, that I may know if he is likely to recover or not ; 1 will get up at any time; at four o'clock in the morning.

“ To this very strange and horrid declaration Mr. Kirkland answered, by promising his lordship, that he would certainly give him the first intelligence touchiny Mr. Johnson's condition; and, as it was proper, for very prudent reasons, as well with respect to himself as Mr. Johnson, to dissemble with his lordship, be proceeded further, and told him, that he would give a favourable account of this matter. The noble lord then asked him, what he would say if he was called upon ; he told him he would say, that though Johnson was shot, that he was in a fair way of recovery. His lordship asked Mr. Kirkland, if he would make oath of that? He said, yes.

“Mr. Kirkland then went to see Mr. Johnson again, and found him better; they then went to supper, and, during the time they were at supper, his lordship mentioned several other particulars : he said, he was astonished, that the bullet should remain in his body; for, says he, I have made a trial with this pistol, and it pierced through a board an inch and a half thick; I am astonished it did not pass through his body ; I took good aim, and I held the pistol in this manner ; and then he shewed Mr. Kirkland the manner of his holding the pistol.”

He also declared the grounds, and motives for his killing Johnson ; that he had been a villain ; that he was in the interest of his enemies; that he had joined with those who had injured him, and taken away his estate, by an act of parliament; that he had colluded with Mr. Curzon and Mr. Burslem, with respect to the coal contract.

Another thing he mentioned with respect to the farm ; says he, “I have long wanted to drive Johnson out of the farm ; if he recovers, he will go back to Cheshire, where he came from.” Mr, Kirkland said, no doubt but this accident would drive him home again.

After they had supped, Mrs. Clifford came into the room, and she proposed, that Mr. Johnson should be removed to the Lount, which is the name of Mr. Johnson's house, and lies about a mile from Stanton ; his lordship refused to consent to that, not because he thought Mr. Johnson might be hurt by the removal, but, to use his own words, because he would have him under his own roof, to plague the villain.

When the supper was over, they returned back to Mr. Johnson, who was then under the greatest uneasiness; he was restless, and the complaint of strangury increased : then my lord was alarmed again ; he enquired of the surgeon what would be the consequence, in case the guts were shot through ? Mr. Kirkland gave him a favourable answer, that revived his spirits ; he went out of the room, and invited Mr. Kirkland to take a bottle of port; they then drank together, and during that time, the same, or the like expressions were repeated. I will not trouble your lordships with them again; but he all along declared, he did not do it hastily, but coolly and deliberately: that his intention was to have killed him : and that the reason why he did it at the time was, because he would not sign a paper of recantation, acknowledging all the injuries he had done his lordship.

They then again returned to Mr. Johnson, after they had drank out the bottle: whether the liquor was prevalent or not, I don't know ; your lordships will observe what followed: his behaviour to the poor man, though he lay there under the surgeon's hands, was totally changed, and his resentment grew outrageous ; my lord again attacked him upon the same charge as before, compelled him to acknowledge before all the company (of which his daughter was one) that he was a villain ; nay, he was about to drag him out of bed upon the floor, which would hardly have been prevented, if Mr. Johnson, who was tutored by a wink from Mr. Kirkland, had not said, I do confess I am a villain : my lord at last went to bed; but, before he departed, he said with great earnestness to Mr. Kirkland, may I rely upon you? Are you sure there is no danger ? May I go to bed in safety ? Mr. Kirkland said, yes, your lordship may. When his lordship was gone, poor Johnson begged to be removed to his own house. Mr. Kirkland wished it as much ; for, besides that he could not have that free access to his patient that was necessary, if he was to remain there, he thought himself in the utmost peril. My lord had confessed too much, and Mr. Kirkland too little ; so that if Mr. Johnson had died there, no man in Mr. Kirkland's situation would have wished to have been alone with his lordship, considering the dangerous conversation that had passed between them.

Mr. Kirkland, therefore, immediately went to the Lount, procured six or seven armed men, and came back by two o'clock in the morning. They removed Mr. Johnson, put him into a great chair, and wrapped him up in blankets, and so conveyed him home. Towards morning the poor man's symptoms grew worse, and Mr. Kirkland then went away.

Mr. Johnson lay languishing till seven or eight in the morning, and then died.

In the mean time Mr. Kirkland had procured a number of armed men to go down to Stanton, and to seize his lordship. When they came there, my lord was just out of bed; he had his garters in his hand, and was seen passing towards the stable. The horses were all saddled, and everything got in readiness for his escape.

Mr. Springthorpe advanced towards him; and when his lordship found he was really to be attacked, he fled back to his house, and there stood a siege of four or Sre hours. While he was thus beset, he appeared at the garret windows, and thinking himself secure in that place, he began to parley, and asked, what they wanted with him? They told him, Mr. Johnson was dead, and that they were come to secure him. He said, he knew that was false ; for Mr. Johnson was not dead : that he wished it might be true: that he would not believe it, unless Mr. Kirkland would declare it : that he would pay no regard to any body else. He did not think fit to surrender ; but continued in the house, till he thought he had an opportunity of escaping through the garden. He was there discovered by one Cutler, a collier, who was a bold man, and determined to take him : he marched up to him; and though his lordship was armed with a blunderbuss, two or three pistols, and a dagger, he submitted to the collier's taking him, without making the least resistance: and the moment he was in custody, he declared he gloried in the fact; and again declared, that he intended to kill Johnson. He was then carried to Mr. Kinsey's house, and remained there till after the coroner sat upon the body.

I must mention to your lordships, that upon Mr. Hall, a clergyman, being introduced to him, he told him, he knew bis duty as well as he or any other clergyman : that the fact he had committed was coolly and deliberately done. So that your lordships see his declarations were consistent and uniform, from the beginning to the end.

I shall neither aggravate nor observe.

These are the circumstances which attended this horrid murder. ] have opened them faithfully from my instructions. The case is rather stronger than I have made it.

The witnesses are to acquaint your lordships, whether I have opened the case truly. If the evidence comes out as I have represented it to your lordships, then your lordships' sentence must be agreeable to law. The noble Earl at the bar must be found guilty.

If he has any defence, God forbid that he should not have a fair

« PreviousContinue »