IMPORTANT FACTS RELATING TO THE LATE ELECTION RIOTS AND CRIMINAL
TRIALS IN SCOTLAND.
[The Scotch Reform Bill is to be read a second time next week. The Election Riots, as they are called, will no doubt form a considerable topic in !the Anti-Reformers' speeches. Let the following letter answer those speeches. It has been in our hands for some weeks, and is written by one who is intimately conversant with the facts and characters he de- scribes. We make no excuse for its apparently local application : the principles it advocates are of universal interest ; and some of its facts are evidently of a kind to claim the consideration of Parliament, apart from the merits of the Reform question.]
TO TEE EDITOR OF TIIE SPECTATOR.
SIR—I read the notice in one of your late numbers, entitled "EDIN- BURGH RIOTS," with pleasure. Scotch Judges, especially in their Supreme Criminal Court, have hitherto been too much disposed to usurp the pro- vince of Juries—to tell the Jury, when they acquit, that they ought to have condemned, and even to lecture the individual acquitted, if they, for- sooth, think him improperly acquitted, as if he had been found guilty. Juries ought always to keep in mind, that the verdict rests with them alone. Our judicial constitution considers them better qualified than the Judge to arrive at a just conclusion, after hearing and weighing evi- dence. They may with equal propriety interfere with the way in which a trial is conducted by a Judge, as he with their verdict. The person tried, too, is at liberty, as soon as a verdict of acquittal is pronounced, and as much entitled to reprehend the Judge as the Judge to censure him. The motives of Judges should always be viewed with suspicion, when they press with evident anxiety for a conviction ; most of all, when they take it upon them to censure a Jury for a verdict of acquittal. When did Scotch Judges find fault with a Jury for a verdict of guilty ?—Never, so far as my memory serves me. Not even in the infamous convictions, without a tittle of evidence to support them, of the ill-fated Mote and GERALD, the record of whose trials I yet hope to live to see erased from the journals of their court. I am wandering, however, from my object, in even this brief allusion to your very useful article. Its title, "The Edinburgh Riots," led me to expect further information than has yet been communicated to the pub- lic on the subject of these riots, and generally of the Scotch Election Riots, of which so much has been said in both Houses of Parliament, and so little hitherto known in or out of them. Your object in alluding to. them was, however, I found, of a different kind. Allow me, then, to en- deavour to supply you with materials for affording something like an aca
count of the real causes of the excitement or irritation which prevailed n some parts of Scotland on occasion of the late elections. I undertake ihis task the rather now, because the Scotch Riots will again, of course, turnish weighty arguments, when the Scotch Reform Bill is read a second time, for refusing the elective franchise to the Scotch people,—in plain English, for excluding them from the privileges of the British Constitution. Great surprise exists in Scotland at this moment in consequence of the scantiness of information on this subject afforded by members of both Houses of Parliament well acquainted with the facts. The causes of the excitement are well known ; and it is truly astonishing, that the real features of the case were not communicated by any one of the- members
on the Liberal side in either House. Mr. DIXON, it is true, came forward with great manliness, after Sir GEORGE CLERK had in the Commons attempted to calumniate his countrymen, by pointing out the danger of
investing them with popular rights. Mr. DIXON was called to order by the Speaker, for making use of an unparliamentary word. He may, however, mat assured that his exertions on this occasion are duly ap- preciated in his own country ; and that if he will persevere in stating facts correctly and undisguisedly, as often as the necessity occurs in .consequence of misrepresentation, he will very soon find that there is no difficulty in speaking his mind, even according to Parliamentary rule, and that neither his constituents nor his country will be wanting in gratitude. The Elections at which any considerable excitement took place, were those in the counties of Ayr, Lanark, and Dumbarton, and for the city of Edinburgh. First, of the election at Ayr. Here the gratuitous and unnecessary appearance of the Lord Justice Clerk, in opposition to a measure by which, for the first time, the Scotch people are to be admitted to partici- pate in the blessings of the British Constitution, so astonished the people as to lead them to a somewhat premature expression of opinion. Is this to be wondered at ?
The Lord Justice Clerk,—Mr. Justice BOYI.E, as you call him,— a Privy Counsellor, is the President of the Supreme Criminal Court in Scotland,
as well as of one of the two Supreme Civil Courts of Scotland. He has been the head of those Courts for a period of twenty years, during which he has received about eighty thousand pounds from the people. His allowances yield him about eleven pounds a day. Yet this Judge deserted his Courts during the period of session, in order to proceed to Ayr, dis- tant not much less than one hundred miles from the seat of his Courts, on purpose to vote for the candidate adverse to the Reform Bill ; who was elected by' a considerable majority, in opposition to a most respect- -able candidate, who had pledged himself to support the great measure of Parliamentary Reform.
The Scotch people have at all times viewed the interference of persons clothed with the judicial character at political meetings, as inconsistent with the sacred character of a Supreme Judge. How much more so, at such a time as the present, when the Judge displayed his array in opposi- tion to an Administration based on public opinion, on Reform and Re- trenchment, and in opposition to a me,Isure the most deservedly popular that has been sanctioned by any Sovereign and proposed by any Minister since the Revolution ? How much more so, when the people knew that if any rioting took place in consequence of the excitement produced by • the appearance of the hostility of the Judge to the privileges proposed to be conferred on them, the rioter or rioters must necessarily be indicted to be tri6d before that Judge, who was hiMself the chief cause of any ebullition of sentiment on the part of the people ?
The appearance of the Lord Justice Clerk on this occasion was merely ' ostentatious and for display. He knew well, that the majority was such that the Anti-Reform candidate must have succeeded, although he and several other freeholders had staid away ; but " it was incumbent on him" to show his hostility to popular rights, his aversion to admit the in- telligent, well-educated, and moral people of Scotland, within the pale of
• the constitution—his wish to preserve the Scottish aristocracy from their contamination. If, therefore, the excitement of the people at Ayr had merely led them to show their most marked disapprobation of the inde- cent conduct of the Judge, and he had been, very unnecessarily as we understand, panic-struck, and had resorted to concealment and skulk- ing-places to shield himself from what he mistakenly supposed to be the fury of the people, no great harm would have been done. We are yet to learn that much more happened. The Anti-Reformists have been more frightened than hurt in Scotland. If they had been present even at one well-contested election in England, they would have seen far more appearance of tumultuous proceeding in a single day, than took place at the whole of the much-denounced recent Scotch elections.
After all that has been said about this election at Ayr, not one rioter has been identified,—most fortunately, we most sincerely say, for the Lord Justice Clerk, before whom he would have fallen to be indicted for trial. But in what capacity would his Lordship have appeared— judge, witness, or party ?
Secondly, the somewhat uproarious zeal of the people for the Reform candidate at the election for the county of Dumbarton, is not less easily accounted for.
The chief resident proprietor in this county is Sir ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL, Baronet, formerly one of the Judges of the Supreme Civil and Criminal Courts of Scotland; who retired from his duties, some years ago, in the prime and vigour of life, on a superannuation of I,95U/. per annum. How this was managed, Sir Ronzwr PEEL will be able to explain. • He knows, that at the period of this Judge's retirement, it was said, and probably certified, that he had an attack of sore or weak eyes; but, most undoubtedly, the attack was of no long duration, for the discontinuance of the green silk eye-shade, in due course of time, followed the superannuation ; and the Baronet is now well known as the most accomplished bon vivant in the West of Scotland, as the greatest connoisseur and purchaser of pictures and works of art, and, as we have heard, the best shot, in the county ; certainly as the most active, the leading man at all county meetings, and of late most remarkably so in framing resolutions in opposition to the present and in favour of a Tory Administration. He it was who brought forward the resolutions at Dumbarton on the 28th of March last, de- .scribing the Reform Bill as "a rash and ill-digested experiment, dangerous to the Crown, and degrading to the aristocracy, and calculated to overturn the existing constitution of Scotland, which has long been the admiration of the world."
It is not difficult to show from what causes Sir ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL'S hostility to the Reform Bill arises. Is it possible, that in a Reformed Parliament his superannuated allowance will be continued ? (" Hinc ilia lachrymm.") It would be refused, and refused without pity. Sir Archibald Campbell is one of the few very rich men in Scotland, both in land and money ; inheriting a great landed estate from his father, the late President of the Court of Session, Sir ILAY CAMPBELL, and having be- come possessed of an immense fortune in money by his wife Lady CAMPBELL. Sir ARCHIBALD has great political influence attached to his tstate according to the present way of making freeholds in Scotland, without giving away the property of the land, by making what are called paper votes. His son, who lately died, was member for the county of
Dumbarton, as I believe (but I am not sure of the fact), at the time of the superannuation. I do not mention the Peers, and members of the House of Commons, all of the true Anti-Reforming creed, nearly allied
to him,—not because I do not know them, or am ignorant of what they have done, but because I have said enough—more than enough—to induce Sir ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL to take the hint, which the Reformers gave him, to follow Mr. MARSDEN'S example, and in time to give up what the people will not long allow him to require from them.
The people were not only shocked to find a person in his peculiar dr.: cumstanees taking the lead against them, and in violent and decided
opposition to the privileges held out to them• by the Reform Bill, but
were irritated in no ordinary degree, when they observed him coming forward a second time, on the 30th of April last, to get a public censure
of the county of Dumbarton pronounced by a meeting consisting of only sixteen individuals, and inserted in the newspapers, with his own name at the top of them, against the language in which the members of the meeting on the 28th of March, who differed. from him, had embodied their reasons of dissent.
Was it wonderful, that in these circumstances, there was a greater convocation of people than usual at Dumbarton, on the day of election ; and that the people showed their displeasure, when they found that Sir ARCHIBALD Camin:Ws Anti-Reform candidate had been victorious? But what happened ?—Sir ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL'S party got a fright. Who was hurt ?— No one. Who has been tried ?—No one.
Thirdly,- at the city of Edinburgh election, there was, undoubtedly, a considerable assemblage of people. Something like an English election-day was, for the first time, seen at ,Edinburgh. The people took a warm in- terest in the success of an individual who does honour to their country and to the age,—the present Lord Advocate for Scotland, FRANCIS JEF■ PRF.Y ; whom they conceived to have claims for the representation far greater than those of any other person, founded not only on his great public services, but on the celebrity he had long imparted to his native city by his literary and professional eminence, and on the universal re- spect and esteem in which he had been always held by all classes of his fellow citizens. The Lord Advocate was opposed by Mr. DUNDAS, a gen- tleman little known, but whose sentiments were understood to be adverse to the Reform Bill. Even in this close corporation, Mr. DUNDAS had only a majority Of three votes ; among whom, the present Provost or Mayor of the city, Mr. ALLAN of Glen, a banker, was the most conspicuous individual.
Mr. ALLAN, by voting for Mr. DUNDAS, had not only acted in opposi- tion to the declared wish of the people, but in the face of earnest re- quests made by the merchants, the Chamber of Commerce, and the re- spectable inhabitants of Edinburgh, who had held special meetings, and had transmitted written applications to him and to the Corporation to sup- port their distinguished townsman, and in supporting him, to forward a measure by which not merely great privileges were to be bestowed on the people, but the inhabitants were to havAwo representatives instead of one, and Leith, the port of Edinburgh and within a mile of it, was for the first time to have a right, in conjunction with some neighbour ng v 1- lageS, to send a representative to Parliament. What was the duty of the Provost, after, at the election, offering such violence to the feelings of his fellow-citizens ? Ought he not, as you remark, to have gone quietly home in his carriage, in the least ostenta- tious manner, and without unnecessary parade? But he must, forsooth, make a display on foot, alone, as he afterwards admitted in the Court of Justiciary, in the midst of the people, in the most crowded part of the then crowded streets of the metropolis of Scotland! Weil, what hap- pened? Was a hair of his head touched ?—No. He was jostled and pushed about, which every man is liable to be, who volunteers into the middle of a crowd, but he was not hurt; and at last, finding his situation uncomfortable, or taking fright, he escaped from the mob into a shop, and sent for some troops, who escorted him to his house. For this exploit, rash and provoking to the people as it could not fail to be, the Provost has been lauded in open Court ; and his firmness and mode- ration, and " the manner in which lie had performed an important duty," extolled, according to the Caledonian Mercury newspaper, by Lord Justice Clerk BOYLE, and Lord MEADOWBANK, or Mr. Justice MACONOCHIE, as you call him. One person, and one person only, was recognized as having been seen in the mob, and near the person of the Provost, calling out to him, very naturally and significantly, " See what you have done for the town of Edinburgh I" This person has been tried, as mentioned in your paper, before the Lord Justice Clerk BOYLE and the Supreme Criminal Court ; and was merely found guilty of mobbing and rioting, but not of an assault on the Provost, with which also he was charged. On this occasion it was, that the Court, assuming the functions of the Jury, said, that they would have found him guilty of the assault; and condemned him to nine months' imprisonment, and to find security to keep the-peace, or to a farther imprisonment of three months. The Court called this a mitigated punishment; and Lord MEADOWBANE said, in the very teeth of the verdict of the Jury, " that the prisoner had been accessory to an attempt to murder the Provost." This person, allowed to be previously of respect- able character as a mercantile clerk, is now imprisoned in the society of felons, for doing that of which thousands were equally guilty on the elec- tion day !
It is clear from the foregoing statement, that whatever violence was shown by the mob on this occasion, must be ascribed to the rashness and most absurd conduct of the Provost himself. And be it always re- membered, that here, and at all the other Elections, the interest which the people were taking, was not, as at ordinary elections, for Tom whom they liked better than Harry, but it was to have candidates returned favourable to a measure by which Scotchmen were for the first time to be alloesed to par- take of the blessings and privileges of the British Constitution.
Fourthly, the irritation which the people expressed at the election at Lanark, seems to have been entirely owing to excitement of feeling, when they, who had been long accustomed to meet a candidate who sympathized with them—the tried, active, and persevering Lord ARCHIBALD HAMILTON, always favourable to Reform—found that his Lordship's death had, at this most important period for their interest, thrown the representation into the hands of a gentleman, who, however respectable, had expressed de- cided hostility to the Reform Bill. Afterthe election, some stones or other missiles seem to have been thrown ; and two persons have been convicted. One of them threw a halfpenny or penny piece ; and the Court, consi- dering, as Lord MACKENZIE expressed it, that there could be no premedi- tation, imprisoned him only fora year. The other person was imprisoned for nine months. One of them addressed the Court, in explanation of his conduct, saying, that " the chair had been taken by the Honourable Charles Douglas, a man who had all his life opposed every thing in the shape of Reform;" but the Court interfered, and would not allow him to proceed.
The Who' ttigs have thus ended in the imprisonment of three indivi- duals, for periods not exceeding a year. This fact, and the fact that not one person was seriously hurt, speak volumes as to the extent and de- scription of the riots. No disposition to riot was shown in any place, where some strong rea- son for irritation did not exist. Forty thousand persons were present at
Mr. FERGUSON'S election for the burghs of Kirkaldy, Kinghorn, &c. in Fifeshire; and they separated in the most orderly manner. The election for the county of Fife, though keenly contested, and carried by a candi- date hostile to the Bill, was conducted quite peaceably. But it is unne- cessary to multiply examples, as all the other elections were free from tu- mult of every kind.
It yet remains to be noticed, that since the period of the election at Ayr, certain persons have been tried before the Lord Justice Clerk BOTTLE, and the Supreme Criminal Court, for proceedings at Dundee, relative to the Reform Bill, or the Illuminations that followed the news of its being read a second time in the Commons ; and that the Lord Justice Clerk pro- nounced sentence of transportation beyond seas for seven and fourteen years against some of them. The extent of the punishment in this case— the prisoners being found guilty of mobbing and rioting, but admitted by the Court to be previously of good character—as well as of the punishment in the later cases mentioned in the course of this paper, remained with the Court, and has been generally in Scotland considered far too severe. The editor of the Caledonian Mercury newspaper of Edinburgh, expresses his belief " that in England the guiltiest of the offenders at Dundee would not have been visited with more than two years' imprisonment at the utmost." I am not perhaps so competent to judge of this ; but I maintain fearlessly, that the presiding Judge should not, for any considera- tion on earth, have placed himself in a situation so likely to create pre- judices in his own breast against the prisoners : at all events, he should have abstained from presiding, or being present on the trials.
If the foregoing facts be correctly stated, I might ask, whether the Lord Justice Clerk's feelings, or those of the persons tried and convicted
before him, were most to be pitied at the moment when he was pro: nouncing sentences on them ; but I forbear making observations on a
case which cannot fail, from the mere statement of it, to attract notice in the highest quarters. I may, in case Parliament interfere, give farther information respecting several of the Scotch Judges, not less astonishing. At present, I only allude to the appalling fact, of nine or ten thousand pounds a year of superannuations being paid to retired Scotch Judges, previous to the formation of the present Administration. If the rule laid down by the present Administration, in their Treasury minute, June 1831, be a sound one, that Superannuations are only given in cases " in which the services performed have been more than ordinarily meritorious, and have engrossed fully the time and attention of the individual, except- ing during a moderate period reserved for relaxation and health,"—how will any one of the Scotch superannuations stand ? The services of Scotch Judges occupying fully their time and attention ! Nothing can be more different than the habits and conduct of Scotch and English Judges. We are delighted to observe, that the Reform Bill provides that Scotch Judges are henceforth to be debarred from voting at elections. Was the Lord Justice Clerk aware of this, when he went to Ayr ? The question of Superannuations, to which I shall probably soon recur, is all-important : they have increased from 94,450/. in 1310, to 430,031/. in 1831.
But I must conclude; and, reverting to the subject of this paper, in- quire—were the facts relative to the Scotch Elections, which I have
stated, known to the Scotch members at the period of the late discus- sions; and if known, why were they not brought to light ? I entirely acquit the Lord Advocate, He is the first law officer on the part of the Government in the Supreme Criminal Court, and could not with pro- priety have made such important explanations as were necessary, when the head of the Court was so much connected with them ; and if he was precluded from giving information in one case, he could not well have done it in others. But where were — and and done it in others. But where were — and and