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563. The Proceedings at large on the Trial of George Gordon, esq.

commonly called Lord GEORGE GORDON, for High Treason, in the Court of King's-Bench, Westminster; Before the Right Hon. William Earl of Mansfield, Lord Chief Justice; Edward Willes, esq. Sir William Henry Ashhurst, knt. and Francis Buller, esq. Justices. On Monday and Tuesday, February the 5th and 6th : 21 GEORGE III. A. D. 1781. *

At the Old Bailey sessions, June, 1780, and at human wickedness as those which will

St. Margaret's Hill, under a special com- come under your consideration. mission of oyer and terminer and gaol de- “ The general circumstances under which livery (July 10th) were tried several per- those crimes were committed, are of too sons charged with committing divers out- great and shameful notoriety, to require a rages which had ensued upon the presenta- minute description; but for your information of the Petition of the Protestant Asso- tion, gentlemen, whose dutý it will be to ciation. The trials generally are not adapt- consider the nature and quality of the ed for insertion in this work, but the fol- charges in puted to such offenders as will lowing Charge which was delivered by lord be brought before you, it will be necessary Loughborough, C. J. C. B. (afterwards earl to consider the several parts of those of Rosslyn and Lord Chancellor) will not be charges, and to observe the connection of unacceptable to the reader. I print it from those parts with the whole, always applying the Annual Register of the year.

the circumstances to the particular case

under consideration. « Gentlemen of the Grand Jury,

“ I therefore think it an essential part of my “ If you are come here totally strangers to the duty to lay before you, in one general view,

transactions which have lately passed in a short account of those dangers from this neighbourhood, or if it were possible which this kingdom has been lately delivered. for any of you, who were not witnesses of I use this expression, because it will clearly them, not to have heard of the devastations appear that the mischief devised was not that have been committed, the remnants of the destruction of the lives or fortunes of the flames which have been lately blazing individuals, or of any description of menin so many parts of the metropolis, and no partial evil—but that the blow, which which must have presented themselves to it has pleased Providence to avert, was you, in your way to this place, will have aimed at the credit, the government, and sufficiently declared the occasion for which the very being and constitution of this you are called together.

state. “ His majesty's paternal care for the welfare “ The first remarkable circumstance to be at

of all his subjects, would not permit him to tended to, and which naturally demands suffer offences so daring and so enormous our notice earliest of any, is a vast conto remain longer unexamined, than was le- course of persons assembled in St. George's gally necessary to convene a jury to enter Fields on the 2d of June, called together by upon the enquiry.

a public advertisement, (signed in the name “ The commission under which you are as- of a person calling himself

the President of sembled extends only to crimes of high an Association) not only inviting many treason, or of felony, charged upon persons thousands to attend, but appointing their now detained in the common gaol of this ensign of distinction, and prescribing the county, or who shall be detained therein order and distribution of their march in difbetween the present time and the period at ferent columns to the place of their destiwhich the commission will expire. It was nation. Charity induces one to believe, not thought proper to blend the common that in such a number, there were many business of an assize, and the examination went unwarily, and unconscious of any evil of those offences, to the commission of intended; but credulity in the extreme can which the frailty of human nature is but scarcely induce any man to doubt, that too liable, with crimes of so deep a guilt, some there were who foresaw, who intended, and so much above the ordinary pitch of and who had practised to accomplish the

purposes which ensued. * Taken in short-hand by Joseph Gurney.

“ A very short time disclosed that one of the N. B. The following report is from Mr. Gurney's purposes which this multitude was collected 3d and 44. editions, compared with the report pub

to effectuate, was to overawe the legislature, lished by Mr. Blanchard, another short-hand writer. to influence their deliberations, and obtain question was signed and delivered by many attached and entered, and the furniture dethousands; and in defiance of principles liberately brought out and consumed by more ancient and more important than bonfires. And all this was done in the view any positive regulations upon the subject of of patient magistrates ! petitioning, the desire of that Petition was “Some magistrates and some individuals had to be effected by the terror of the multi- indeed in the beginning of the disturbances tude that accompanied it through the exerted themselves, and several who had streets, classed, arranged, and distinguished been active in the demolition of the amas directed by the advertisement.

the alteration of a law, by force and num- some more desperate and active remained bers.

to convince the legislature, that the meA petition was to be presented to the House naces with which they had invaded the

of Commons, for the repeal of an act, in ears of all who met them in the streets, which the petitioners had no special in- were not fruit'ess; that they had not abanterest.

doned their purpose, but meant to carry it “ [His lordship here laid down the right of into full execution. When night fell, the

the subject to petition. His doctrine upon houses of two foreign ministers in amity this head was liberal and manly, his lan- with his majesty, were attacked, and their guage clear, strong, and emphatical.] chapels plundered and set on fire. To petition for the passing or repeal of any “ If such an outrage had been committed on act (said his lordship) is the undoubted in- one of our public ministers, resident in any herent birthright of every British subject ; of those countries the most superstitious but under the name and colour of petition- and bigotted to its established religion, ing, to assume command, and to dictate to what reproach would it not have cast upon the legislature, is the annihilation of all that country? What indignation and abhororder and government. Fatal experience rence would it not have justly excited in had shevn the mischief of tumultuous pe- our breasts? Upon this tolerant and entitioning, in the course of that contest, in lightened land, has that reproach been the reign of Charles the first, which ended brought! in the overthrow of the monarchy, and the “ Upon the 3d of June there was a seeming destruction of the constitution; and one of quiet, a very memorable circumstance! for the first laws after the restoration of legal sudden tumults, when they subside, are government, was a statute passed in the over. To revive a tumult, evinces some13th year of Charles ?, ch. 5, enacting, thing of a settled influence, and something that no petition to the king, or either house so like design, that it is impossible for the of parliament, for alteration of matters es- most candid mind not to conceive that tablished by law in church or state, (unless there lies at the bottom a preconcerted, the matter thereof be approved by three settled plan of operation. Sunday, the justices, or the grand jury of the county) next day, a day set apart by the laws of shall be signed by more than twenty God and man as a day of rest, and as a day names, or delivered by more than ten per- not to be violated even by the labours of

honest industry; in broad sun-shine, build" In opposition to this law, the petition in ings and private houses in Moorfields were

bassadors' houses had been committed. h* How the leaders of that multitude demean- On Monday the mcb, who had not been

ed themselves, what was the conduct of the resisted, but had proceeded with a success crowd to the members of both Houses of which had increased their impetuosity, Parliament, it is not my intention to state. thought it necessary to shew that the law I purposely avoid stating these things, be- should not be exercised with impunity on cause at the same time that I point out the delinquents like themselves. It was the general complexion of the transaction, and business of Monday to destroy the houses relate general facts that are unfortunately of the magistrates, and other persons who too public and notorious, I choose to avoid had been instrumental in apprehending every circumstance that may have a direct thein; but these outrages, great as they and immediate relation to particular per- were, fell far short of those committed on the sons. My purpose is to inform, not to pre- Tuesday and Wednesday, which will ever judice or inflame. For this reason I feel remain a stain on our annals. Fresh inmyself obliged to pass over in silence all sults of the most daring and aggravated nasuch circumstances as cannot, and as ought ture, were offered to parliament, and every not to be treated of or expressed but in one, who was in London at the time, inust stronger language, and in more indignant remember, that it bore the appearance of a terms than I choose at present to employ. town taken by storm ; every quarter was Towards the evening, the two Houses of alarmed; neither age, nor sex, nor emiParliament were released from the state in nence of station, nor sanctity of character, which they had been held for several hours. nor even an humble though honest obThe crowd seemed to disperse. Many of scurity, were any protection against the the persons so assembled, it is not to be malevolent fury and destructive rage of the doubted, retired to their dwellings, but

lowest and worst of men,

sons.

1

" But it was not against individuals alone, that among the number of persons whose

that their operations were now directed. cases will be submitted to your consideraWhat has ever been in all ages, and in all tion, there may be some who are accused countries, the last effort of the most despe- with the guilt of high treason, it will be tierate conspirators, was now their object cessary and proper to state the law with reThe jails were attacked, the felons released spect to those species of treason under -men whose lives their crimes had for- which some of the cases may probably fall. feited to the justice of the law, were set There are two species of treason applicaloose to join their impious hands in the ble. To imagine or compass the death of work.

our sovereign lord the king, is high treason. “ The city was fired in different parts. The To levy war against the king within the

flames were kindled in the houses most realm, is also high treason. likely to spread the contlagration to distant “ The first, that of compassing the death of quarters, the distillers, and other places, the king, must be demonstrated by some where the instruments of trade upon the overt act, as the means to effect the

purpremises were sure to afford the largest pose of the heart; the fact of levying war quantity of combustible matter! And in the is an overt act of this species of treason, midst of this horror and confusion, in order

but it is also a distinct species of treason. inore effectually to prevent the extinguish

And as the present occasion calls more ing of the flames, an attempt to cut off the immediately for it, I must state to you New River water, and an attack on the more fully, in what that treason may concredit of the kingdom, by an attempt

sist. against the Bank of England, were made. “ I am peculiarly happy, that I am enabled Both these attempts were defeated, provi- to state the law on the subject, noť from dentially defeated; but they were made any reasonings or deductions of my own, under circumstances which evince that they which are liable to error, and in which a were intended to be effectual, and which change or inaccuracy of expression might increase the satisfaction and the gratitude be productive of much mischief; but from to Providence that every man must feel, the first authority, from which my mouth when he recollects the fortunate circum- only will be employed in pronouncing the stance of their having been deferred till law. I shall state it to you in the words of that stage of the business.

that great, able, and learned judge, Mr. " In four days, by the incredible activity of Justice Foster, that true friend to the liber

this band of furies parading the streets of ties of his country the metropolis with Haming torches, 72 pri- • Every insurrection which in judgment of vate houses and four public gaols were de- law is intended against the person of the stroyed, one of them the county gol, and

king, be it to dethrone or imprison him, or that built in such a manner as to justify to oblige him to alter his measures of gothe idea, that it was impregnable to an vernment, or to remove evil counsellors armed force. Religion, the sacred name of from about him,—these risings all amount religion, and of that purest and most peace- to levying war within the statute, whether able system of Christianity, the PROTES- attended with the pomp and circumstances TANT Church, was made the profane pre- of open war or not. And every conspiracy text for assaulting the government, tramp

to levy war for these purposes, though not ling upon the laws of the country, and vio- treason within the clause of levying war, is lating the first great precept of their duty yet an overt-act within the other clause of to God and to their neighbour,--the pre- compassing the king's death. text only; for there is not, I am sure, in

'Insurrections in order to throw down all Europe, a man so weak, so uncandid, or so inclosures, to alter the established law, or unjust to the character of the reformed change religion, to inhance the price of all church, as to believe, that any religious labour, or to open all prisons--allrisings in motive could by any perversion of human

order to effect these innovations of a public reason induce men to attack the magis- and a general armed force, are, in constructrates, release felons, destroy the source of tion of law, high treason, within the clause public credit, and lay in ashes the capital of of levying war. For though they are not the PROTESTANT PAUTH !

levelted at the person of the king, they are I have now related to you the rise and pro- against his royal majesty ; and besides, they gress of that calamity, from which, by the have a direct tendency to dissolve all the blessing of Providence upon his majesty's

bonds of society, and to destroy all proefforts for our preservation, this kingdom perty and government too, by numbers and hath been delivered--a situation unparallel

an armed force. Insurrections likewise ed in the history of our country--no coin

for redressing national grievances, or for motion ever having had a more desperate the expulsion of foreigners in general, or and more fatal intention. It now remains indeed of any single nation living here to state to you what parts of this subject under the protection of the king, or for the will more directly call for your attention;

reformation of real or imaginary evils of a and as it is evident from what I have said have no special interest, -risings to effect

public nature, and in which the insurgents indulgences were granted, and as attemptthese ends by force and numbers, are, by ing to render it ineffectual by numbers and construction of law, within the clause of open force, and on that ground Mr. Justice levying war. For they are levelled at the Foster declares the judgment to be proper ; king's crown and royal dignity.'

all the judges concurred in it at the time, it « In order fully to explain this, it will be only has been respected by posterity, and its

necessary to collect, repeat, and enforce the principle is necessary for the preservation several passages in Mr. Justice Foster, re- of the constitution, which we cannot lative to this subject. It may occur that have felt the value of, in that moment in several places mention is made of an when we have seen it threatened with, and armed force. In the very same chapter, in imminent danger of, immediate dissolufrom which I have read an extract, the tion. learned judge mentions two remarkable « The calendar points out a number of pricases in the latter end of the reign of queen soners who may be indicted (as appears Anne.

from their commitments) for burning and In the cases of Damaree and Purchase, pulling down, or beginning to set fire 10, which are the last printed cases which and pull down, the King's-bench prison, have come in judgment on the point of the House of Correction, and nine dwelling constructive levying war, there was nothing houses within the county; others may be given in evidence of the usual pageantry of charged with breaking open the gaols, and war, no military weapons, no banners or releasing the prisoners; others again may drums, nor any regular consultation pre- be charged with extorting money from invious to the rising; and yet the want of dividuals, under terror of the mob, which these circumstances weighed nothing with is clearly and incontrovertibly a robbery. the court, though the prisoners' counsel As some of you, gentlemen, are by your insisted on that matter. The number of professions, and all of you undoubtedly the insurgents supplied the want of military from your rank and station, acquainted weapons ; and they were provided with axes, with the ordinary administration of crimicrows, and other tools of the like nature, nal justice, it is unnecessary for me to enproper for the mischief they intended to large on the subject of these felonies. effect.'

“ Burning a house, or out-house, being parcel « It is remarkable, that the men who were of a dwelling-house, though not contiguous,

the leaders, or set on as part of that mob, nor under the same roof, was a felony at likewise assembled under pretence of reli- the common law, and by statute, the benefit gion, and the false and wicked cry then of clergy was taken away. was, that the church of England was in dan- “ To set fire to any house, or out-house, ger, on account of the just and humane in- though it is not burnt, is made a capital dulgence, which, from the happy period of felony, by 9 Geo. 1, chap. 22. And by stathe Revolution, had been granted to dissen- tute 1 Geo. 1, chap. 5, called The Riot Act, ters.

the offence of beginning to pull down build« « Upon the trial of Damaree, the cases re- ings, by 12, or more persons, is made a ca

ferred to before, were cited at the bar, and pital felony. And having mentioned the all the judges present were of opinion, that riot act, let me say a few words upon it. the prisoner was guilty of the high treason “ The two cases which I have stated, were charged upon him in the indictment. For very near this period, and the same pernihere was a rising with an avowed inten- cious principles which had been instilled tion to demolish all meeting-houses in ge- into the minds of the lowest orders of the neral; and this intent they carried into exe- people, were kept alive by the arts of faccution as far as they were able. If the tion. meeting houses of Protestant dissenters had “ It is not less true than remarkable, that the been erected and supported in defiance of same seditious spirit which had artfully all law, a rising in order to destroy such been instilled into the people in the latter houses in general, would have fallen under end of queen Anne's time, had been contithe rule laid down in Keiling, with regard nued to this time (the accession), and what to the demolishing all bawdy-houses. But a few years before had been miscalled a since the meeting-houses of Protestant dis- Protestant mob, was now a mob trained, exsenters are by the Toleration Act taken cited, and actually employed to defeat the under the protection of the law, the insur- Protestant succession. In every mugrection in the present case was to be consi- house, in every dark alley, and lurking cordered as a public declaration by the rab- ner of sedition, in this great town, artful ble against that act, and an attempt to and designing men were engaged in excitrender it ineffectual by numbers and open ing this mob to the destruction of the conforce.

stitution, and therefore this act was framed “ The objects of their attack were the meet- to make the beginning of mischief dangering-houses of the dissenters; they were ous to the perpetrators of it. To begin to considered by the judges to have declared pull down any place of religious worship, themselves against the act by which the certified and registered by the Act of Toleration, or any dwelling-house or out-house, ! stances as to justify you in sending him was made a capital felony. And any per- to another jury, who are appointed by law sons, to the number of twelve or more, un- to hear the evidence on both sides, and to lawfully, riotously, and tumultuously assem- say, whether the person charged be guilty bled, being commanded or required to dis- or not of the crime imputed to him in the perse by the magistrate, and continuing to- indictment; and if upon such trial, any adgether for one hour after such command, vantage can be derived from the nicety or are declared guilty of felony without benefit caution of the law, or any favourable cirof clergy.

cumstances appear, it will be as much the * But here I take this public opportunity of inclination, as it is the duty of the learned

mentioning a fatal mistake into which many and reverend judges with whom I have the persons have fallen. It has been imagined, honour of being in commission, to state because the law allows an hour for the dis- such circumstances. persion of a mob to whom the Riot-act has “ And if the laws declare them guilty, the been read by the magistrate, the better to offenders may still have recourse to that support the civil authority, that during that fountain of mercy, the royal breast, period of time, the civil power and the ma- where justice is always tempered with clegistracy are dísarmed, and the king's sub- mency. jects, whose duty it is at all times to sup

“ Such is the inestimable blessing of a go press riots, are to remain quiet and passive. vernment founded on law, that it extends No such meaning was within the view of its benefits to all alike, to the guilty and the legislature; nor does the operation of the innocent. To the latter the law is a the act warrant any such effect. The civil protection and a safe-guard; to the former magistrates are left in possession of those it is not a protection, but it may be consipowers which the law had given them be- dered as a house of refuge; indeed there fore; if the mob collectively, or a part of it, cannot be a greater proof of the excellence or any individual, within and before the ex- of that constitution, than by administering piration of that hour, attempts or begins to

its benefits to all men indifferently." perpetrate an outrage amounting to felony, This charge having been the topic of much to pull down a house, or by any other act to violate the laws, it is the duty of all pre

conversation, we submit it to the judgsent, of whatever description they may be,

ment of our readers. The opinions of men to endeavour to stop the mischief, and tó

respecting the legal propriety of it have

been various : apprehend the offender. I mention this,

as a piece of oratory it has rather for general information, than for the

been admired; but its tendency to influ

ence and direct the jury, and infiame their particular instruction of the gentlemen whom I have now the honour of addressing,

passions against men, who ought all to because the Riot-act I do not believe will

have been supposed innocent till found come immediately under your considera

guilty by their country, has been generally tion: fame has not reported that it was

spoken of in terms of indignation, by those

who are jealous of the rights of humanity." any where, or at any time, read during the

Annual Register. late disturbances. In all cases of burning or pulling down

buildings, the being present, aiding, abetting, and encouraging the actual actors, LORD GEORGE GORDON was apprethough there be no act proved to be done hended on the 9th of June, upon a warrant by the party himself, is a capital felony. under the hand of one of his majesty's secreThis is a doctrine solemnly delivered lately by the judges, and I believe will never be taries of state for high treason, and was comdoubted.

mitted a close prisoner to the Tower.

On the first day of Michaelmas term his “Taking goods or money, against the will, lordship applied to the court of King's-bench “Of all these offences you are to enquire, and act, to be either tried or set at liberty: A

by petition, founded upon the Habeas Corpus true presentments make. "The character and esteem in which the few days after in the same term, the follow

gentlemen I have now the honour of ad-ing indictment was presented to the grand dressing are justly held by their country, turned it into the court of King's-bench a

jury for the county of Middlesex, who rerender any admonition from me on the

true bill : subject of your duty superfluous ; in you it has long placed a confidence, nor will it, I Middleser. The jurors for our lord the am persuaded, on this occasion, have rea- king, upon their oath present, That George son to repent it.

Gordon, late of the parish of Saint Mary-le"I have to remind you, that it is your duty

only to enquire, whether the party accused lord Shaftsbury's Grand Jury, vol. 8, pp. 835, et seq. is charged with such probable* circum- See also, vol. 8, p. 822, and the celebrated “ Secu.

rity of Englisbmen's Lives,” &c. ascribed to Jord * But as to this ne Hawles's Observations on Sommers, and mentioned in that page.

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