SPECIAL COMMISSION — BERKS. — This Commission was opened on Monday, by Sir James
Park, Baron Rolland, and Sir John Pattesson. Mr. Justice Park delivered the opening address ; which will probably be printed, as Baron Vaughan's in Hampshiee has been—at least we should think it had been prepared with that view. After noticing the distress- ing nature of an assize at Christmas, and the special purposes which the Commission was meant to serve,—namely, to give assurance to the well- disposed, and to bring down speedy punishment on the criminal,—Sir James went on to describe the mighty advantages !lowing from the
knowledge—" that in these our criminal tribunals no in n at the conduct of individuals will lead to any departure from the straight rule of law on the one hand, nor Win any base or cowardly fear, on the other, prevent the doing of that justice which the necessity of the case may merit, and to root out religion from the minds of men." To the Seventeen more were tried for a similar offence; Burgess, the ex- " impudent and base slander " that the "upper ranks of society care little cepted mania the former trial, was of the number. They were all found about the poor," he replies—" I deny this positively, upon a very eaten- guilty.
sive means of knowledge upon subjects of this nature. Every man can Five men were next tried, also for machine-breaking. The Jury, on deny it who looks about him and sees the vast institutions in every part finding them guilty, observed that they were not anxious about recom- of the kingdom for the relief of the young and the old, the deaf, the mending them to mercy, as they relied on the feeling of the Court. lame, the blind, the widow, the orphan, and every child of wretched- Mr. Justice Park—" I can assure you, gentlemen, that you have not ness and wo. There is not a calamity or distress incident to humanity, made an improper estimate of the feeling of the Court."
either of body or of mind, that is not humbly endeavoured to be miti. Wirscnnsren.—The trials under this Commission are still pro. gated or relieved by the powerful and the affluent, either of high or ceeding. On Monday, Charles Bratcher and six others were tried middling rank, in this our happy land, which, for its benevolence, for conspiring to raise wages, and compelling others to join them. charity, and boundless humanity, has been the admiration of the world." The first witness examined was one Cheney, a farmer, the overseer of the
Court and Jury seem to have been in equal haste to get rid of. which they draw along the road. The cart was alluded to in the course On Tuesday the trials of the rioters proceeded. There were 138 on the of the examination. Cheney was asked, " Was there not a parish cart ?" calendar ; and of these only 25 could write, and only 37 could read ! Mr. —" Yes there was." " Were there not men and women attached to Justice Park, in enumerating the benevolent acts of the powerful and it ?" dr. Justice Alderson—" What has that to do with it ? " Mr. affluent, of the high and middling ranks, forgot the support which they Poulter—" My Lord, we want to show the cause." Mr. Justice Alder- gave to Mr. Whitbread's and Mr. Brougham's parochial School Bills. son—" We do not come here to inquire into grievances. We come here to Perhaps Sir James, as we are afraid too many of the powerful and decide law." affluent people do, thinks that a Special Commission is the best instruo. The Court seem to have relaxed in this determination not to inquire tor—it certainly is the speediest. into grievances ; for we find them afterwards examining several wit-
The first batch of prisoners put in the -dock were charged with rob. nesses touching the rate of wages—the rate of wages, it is known, has bing John Wiles, Esq., of five sovereigns. The robbery took place at been in every case the chief grievance complained of. The mob went to Hungerford, on the 22d of November. Mr. Willes is a magistrate of the the mansion oF Lord Cavan, with a view to induce his Lordship's county, and much respected by the country people. The mob, of which labourers to jo'n them. On this part of the charge, Lady Cavan was the prisoners were charged as leaders, was formed of two bands, one examined : she seems to have behaved with equal prudence and spirit.— from Kintbury, the other collected in the town of Hungerford itself. "I went to the mob," said her Ladyship, "in consequence of Lord The object of the mob was to obtain a rise of wages 2s. a-day during Cavan being out. I said, You are my neighbours, and armed, yet, -winter, and 2s. 6d. from Lady-day. The prisoners seem to have threat- as I am an unprotected woman, I am sure you will do no harm.' They ened high, though it does not appear that they used any violence. One said they would not. . I asked them their object. They said an increase of the witnesses, Mr. Joseph Atherton, stated that he went to the of wages. I said the magistrates were then meeting to see what could Town-hall, Hungerford, with Messrs. Wilks, Pearse, and others, to be done for them, and requested them to wait a little longer. They meet the men. Mr. Atherton estimated the two mobs at about five hun- said, We will wait no longer, but we will meet the magistrates and dred ; and stated that many of the men were armed with bludgeons, force them to give us what we want.' I said it would do no good ; but sledge-hammers, anti iron bars. Mr. Wines requested that deputations I could do nothing. They said, Your Ladyship can do nothing.' I of five each should be sent from the Hungerford and Kintbury mobs. asked them why they rose then ; there was no apparent distress round This was complied with. Oakley, one of the prisoners, called out the Eaglehurst, and the—wages were the same as they had been for several names of the Kintbury deputation. The Hungerford deputation, on years. I have been in several of their cottages, and never saw any receiving a promise of a rise of wages, retired peaceably; but when the appearance of distress. They said they had been oppressed long, and Kintbury deputation was introduced, Oakley said, "You have not such would bear it no longer. One said he had a large family ; he received d—d flats to deal with now, as you had before ; we will have 2s. 9s. a week for labour, and 3s. from the parish, but that he was told the a-day till Lady-day, and 2s. 6d. afterwards for labourers, and 3s. 6d. for 3s. were to be discontinued. He said he had received the 3s. a week the tradesmen ; and, as we are here, we will have 5/. before we will leave last week. I told him if it was not yet discontinued he was not ag- the place, or we will smash it." Oakley then, addressing himself to grieved, and that he would not benefit his family by idling his time Mr. Pearse, said," You, gentlemen, have been living long enough on there. He said that he and the rest of them would take care that it the good things; now is our time, and we will have them. You, gen. should be made good to them. I then turned to my own labourers, and tlemen would not speak to us now, only you are afraid and intimidated." stated I hoped not one of them would join the mob. The mob A person in the room, of the name of Osborne, put his hand on Win- said they should come, if not by fair means, they should by foul ; it terborne's shoulder, to speak to him, when Winterborne (another of the should be the act of one and all. They were very civil. Webb, H. prisoners) turned round, and said, " If any man puts his hand upon me, Bundy, and Samuel Bundy, were there. Webb did not speak. I asked I will knock him down or split his skull." Be had an iron bar, three or them, the •Bundys, their names, and they told them. They said they four feet long in his hand (it looked like the spindle of a machine); would, do no harm that day; their object was to collect all the parish, Oakley had an iron bar, Bates a sledge-hammer, and Steel a stick, or and to compel the magistrates to grant what they wanted. One said he something else. Winterborne said to Bates," Brother, we have lived 'only received 98.; that his labour was worth 12s. and 12s. he would together, and we will die together." Bates raised his sledge-hammer, have.".
and striking it hard on the floor, said, ". Yes, we will have it, or we will A witness for the Prisoners was called to speak to-the parish cart, and have blood, and down with the place." Mr. Wiles talked fo to the misery of the pcior people that Were compelled to 'drag it, who had demand. For one of the ablest criminal judges, and one of the best of Bates, and Bates flourished his hammer over Mr. Willes's head, who Christians, (whose name has been mentioned in that sacred place which said " If you kill me, you only shorten the days of an old man." we have visited to-day), had constantly before his eyes this weighty con- " Hearing this, I," said Mr. Atherton, " turned round, and thinking sideratinn, which he has left in his immortal writings for the guidance of all our lives in danger, and having a brace of pistols in my pocket, I laid those who are to come after him on the seat of judgment,—namely, that my hand on one of them. (not, however, exhibiting it), and got it ready. in business capital, though his nature prompt him to pity, yet must he Afterwards Mr. Willes did give five sovereigns to prisoners (to which of consider that there was also a pity due to the country." There was them I can't say), who all went away, and I saw no more of them." another object of the Special Commission, which Sir James was anxious The prisoners were defended by counsel, who contended that there was to enforce. It was intended—to instruct the ignorant and deluded— no extortion practised ; but the Court decided that there was. They those who had been led into these circumstances by wicked and crafty were all found guilty, but one of them was recommended to mercy, be- men—to point out to them in what an awful predicament they stand, cause of his previous excellent charatter.
many having committed offences, some of which are punished with The next charge was a similar one : the party said to be robbed was the death, others by transportation and other punishments. " For I would Rev. G. J. Thomas, curate of Inkpen. The proof failed, and the pri- fain flatter myself," added the judge, " and I would believe that many soner—there was but one—was discharged. The man was immediately of these men are t dolly ignorant of the extent of their guilt, though they reconducted to the bar on a charge of damaging a thrashing-machine at must know that they ha-e- done wrong, and that they have been told by some Kintbury, and found guilty. of their more wicked accomplices that they were justified in what they have David Hawkins, and sixteen others, among whom were all the pri- been doing; tints drawing upon them not only the vengeance of the soners tried on the first indictment, were next charged with riotously law, but bringing upon their families an accumulation of that misery assembling and destroying property. The property destroyed was the and wretchedness which they affect to relieve." Sir James's comment iron-foundry of Mr. Gibbons, in Hungerford. These prisoners were, on the definition of robbery is ingenious—" The offence of robbery is with one exception labourers. The mob destroyed every thing they stated to be the felonious taking of money or goods of any value from could lay their hands on. As they came out of the foundry, two of the the person of another, or in his presence, against his will, by violence, prisoners asked and obtained a couple of sovereigns from Mr. Viner ,a or putting him in fear.' You will therefore perceive by this definition wine-merchant of Hungerford, and neighbour of Mr. Gibbons, who had that the value of the thing taken is not material, for the words are of endeavoured, but in vain, to turn them away from the foundry. Fifteen any value ; ' therefore, if it be of some value, however small, it is suffi. of the prisoners were found guilty ; and two, against whom no evidence cieut to constitute the offence." After having laid down the law as ap. was offered, were acquitted. plicable to the cases on the calendar, Sir James proceeded to lay it down Thomas Hicks, and sixteen others, were tried on Wednesday, where applicable to the cases that were not on the calendar ; a super- for machine-breaking at Waring on the 19th of November. This iluity.of instruction which may be pardoned in a Christmas assize, trial presents a curious specimen of the management of these cases. which does not, happily, come every year, though Christmas does— One great object of the Special Commission was expedition, and to that " Another offence provided for by this law (7 and 8 Geo. IV., cap. 304 object accuracy seems to have been considered as subordinate. The Jury is that which I am about to mention, and which, it will be seen, is had been sworn the counsel for the Crown had spoken his address, and punishable with death ; but I do not perceive any such to be in your four witnesses had been examined and cross-examined, when it was ac- calendar, and I devoutly hope that none such may occur during thepro- cidentally discovered that a man was included in the indictment against gress of our present labours. By section 2 it is declared, 'that if any whom the Grand Jury had found no bill ! In its progress the trial seems person shall unlawfully and maliciously set fire to any church or chapel, to have afforded an opportunity for a display of that playfulness of ha- or to any chapel for the religious worship of any persons dissenting from mour in which the Bench now and then indulges even in cases of grave the United Church of England and Ireland, duly registered and recorded, concernment. Mr. Stone, counsel for one of the prisoners, was proceed- or shall/unlawfully and maliciously set fire to any house' stable, coach- ing to cross-examine a witness respecting the conduct of one George house, outhouse, warehouse, office, shop, &c. &c. &c. he shall suffer Williams' alias Staffordshire Jack, when he was cut short by Mr. Jus- death as a .felon." Sir James admits that the distresses of the country tice Park with—" Stop, Mr. Stone, recollect Williams is not your client. are such as no man living can deny ; but he is doubtful whether they Don't hang my client—hang your own, if you like !" The whole of the have not been exaggerated " by the lawless and profligate, who, by sedi- prisoners were found guilty, with the exception of the man against tious speeches, and by seditious writings, wish, by exciting such feel- whom no bill had been returned; had not the mistake been discovered logs, to bring about a revolution, and to overturn all law and govern- in time, he would probably have been found guilty also.
The only case disposed of on Monday was a poor lunatic, whom the parish ; where, it appears, the paupers are occasionally yoked in a cart often nothing to sustain them but a few potatoes ; but the Co in Os jected to the lined examination, for this reason—that men might come to distress by drinking. So, doubtless, they might by eating, but there was neither drunkenness nor gluttony alleged. The prisoners were all found guilty. Indeed nothing can surpass the perfect uuanimity that has prevailed between the Court and the Juries in all there trials : we have noticed but one instance (and it seemed an accident) out of the whole number in which a prisoner has been ac- quitted, unless on the direction of the Judge. On Tuesday night, twelve men, found guilty of an assault on Lord Cavan, were condemned to imprisonment for various periods, from one year to three months. The men found guilty of rioting at Eaglehurst, Lord Cavan's mansion, were condemned to three months' hard labour.
Five men were tried on Tuesday for remaining assembled after the riot act had been read. The act was read by Dr. Jones, one of the county magistrates, from a card on which he had copied it ; but unfor- tunately he omitted the " God save the King." The Judge told the Jury, that the omission was fatal. Dr. Jones—" I copied the act from Burns' Justice." Such trifling cases, which might be amply punished by an ordinary justice of the peace, take from the dignity of the Special Commission.
The principal case on Wednesday was one of " compelling a clergy- man to sign a paper to reduce his tithes." The clergyman was the Reverend Mr. Cobbold, of Selborne parish, whose tithes amount to Mk, but who, the mob thought, would be amply paid with 300/. ; which was at the rate, according to these rustic calculators, of 4/. a week ! Mr. Cobbold mentioned, that several farmers were present—not fewer than ten. He considered his person in danger. One of the farmers came forward to speak to the character of the prisoners. Mr. Baron Vaughan—" I hope you are not one of those farmers who were present inciting the mob to make the demand on the clergyman." 1Vitness—" illy Lord, I was present at Mr. Cobbold's when the mob were there."
"Mr. Baron Vaughan—" Sir, you ought to be ashamed of your con- duct. You who, from your station, should know better, first incite these poor men to commit a very serious offence, and then you appear here to give one of them a character."
In answer to a question from the Attorney-General, witness said that he was one of the farmers who signed the agreement as a witness.
Mr. Baron Vaughan—" Then, Sir, I must tell you that you may con- sider yourself very lucky that you are not standing in that dock, charged with this offence. I think yon merit it as much, or more than any of those poor men who now stand before me. It is really disgraceful to see such a transaction as this by men in your condition." An attempt to reduce tithes seems to have been viewed by Mr. Baron Vaughan in a Very heinous light. " The present," he observed, " was a most serious offence, compelling by force and threats a clergyman to give up a portion of his tithes : and the worst part of the case was, that in this illegal act, the mob were incited by persons who should have known better. It must be well known to those persons, that the tithes were as much the property of the clergyman, as any man's property could be said to be his own. That was not the place to consider the:policy of the present mode of paying the clergyman or of collecting his tithe. If the Legislature should deem it necessary to make any change with re- spect to either, it would be for the Court, in that case, as in the pre- sent, to administer the law as they found it ; and certainly, according to law, nothing could be more clearly illegal than the attempt by force to compel a clergyman to resign that which was by law his property. Those
farmers who' fs
to their disrace, had entered into this sort of understand- ing with the
labourers—''We will undertake to raise your wages, but you must undertake. to obtain a reduction of the tithes '—had as little right to take that course as they had to urge the same mob to wi and take the money from the clergyman's pocket." The same men had been found guilty of destroying the Selborne work-house. They were condemned some to two years and others to six months' imprisonment.
John byes, a farmer, and several others, were charged with robbing (or, more correctly, of extorting money from) Lord Northesk's steward, at Roschill, on the 23rd of November. This case seems to have exhibited more system than most of the others in the long catalogue of these assizes. The mob were accompanied in all the peregrinations by Boyes, who carried round a paper which he called on the occupiers and owners of land to sign, the former pledging themselves to increase wages, the latter to abate rents. Besides a five-pound note from Lord Northesk's steward, the mob obtained five sovereigns at Mr. Lons.'s ; and taking it altogether, the "mail" raised during the day seems to have amounted to 20/. It was impartially distributed, at the rate of two shillings per man, before the mob finally dispersed. Mr. Justice Parke, summed up against Boyes ; but the Jury acquitted him. The rest, except the two who received the money, were also acquitted. William Brookstone, a solitary machine-breaker, being called on to defend himself, said—He had been working on the roads for the last five years and a half, for the Commissioners, and they had put him to super- intend five miles of road. The mob took him away with his stone ham- mer in his hand, just as he was when at work. He wished to leave his tools, but they said that they would be useful in destroying the ma- chinery. They told him that it was by an order of the Government that they were going to break all the thrashing-machines. Mr. Justice Parke—" You should not have believed them."
Prisoner—" My Lbrd, I am no scholar. I can neither write nor read. There were several respectable tradesmen, carpenters, and others in that mob, and when they told me so, I could not but believe them."
Mr. Justice Parke, said, it appeared from the evidence, that this thrashing-machine had been broken at a place three miles from that in which the prisoner stated himself to have been taken by the mob. Now, unless he had been a willing agent, he would not have carried his ham- mer three miles, but would have thrown it away, instead of allowing it to be used in the demolition of this machinery. [The learned Judge forgot that a hammer was of some little value to a poor man. Where was Brookstone to pick up another? if any one had practised upon the prisoner such a deception as that which he had described, that man was undoubtedly extremely wicked. Every man must be supposed to know that Government had no power to issue awls an order, and ignorance never could he allowed as an excuse for violating the law of Ilse laud. • The maxim of ignorantia non eactuat is, like many other maxims,
an extremely nonsensical oat!. any is a man to whom the Legislature has „denied, even wheu thereto urged, and urged vehemently and long, the means of education, tu know what is or is not the extent of the power of Government, when not one in a hundred of those who have the means, and haVe employed them earnestly, know what Govern- ment can do or not do ? In this very trial, we have an example of the doubts that may exist in those qua: ters which so imperatively exact from the lowest of the community. a perfect knowledge of the law Of England. statute and 'common. Mr. Sergeant Wilde, on a verdict • of guilty being recorded- against Brookstone, tendered a certificate of a former conviction.
Mr. Justice Parke—" This is not regular : it ought to have been done before."
Mr. Serjeant Wilde said, that his only reason for not offering it before; was his wish not to prejudice the prisoner with the Jury. , Mr. Justice Parke said, there was a difference of opinion among t'm Judges as to the practice upon this point, which had never yet been' settled. When he went the Northern Circuit with his brother Parke,' one of them thought that the evidence of a prior conviction should he tendered before the Jury gave their verdict, and the other that it should be tendered afterwards. Ile thought that it should be tendered before. To preserve uniformity, his learned brother and himself had determined to pursue the same course on the Circuit ; but which was the correct coarse, had not yet been decided by the Judges. But although no derision had been come to, the Judge agreed to re- ceive the certificate. It stated the prisoner's conviction for fowl-stealing in December, 1820, and his sentence to transportation for seven years beyond the seas. Prisoner—" My Lord, that is ten years ago. By my good conduct in New South Wales, I gained his Majesty's free pardon, before half my time was out. I have a certificate of my good conduct there ; and since I came home, I defy any man to say a word against me till this unhappy transaction. I have been back now for five years—I have worked for the same master all that time."
No judgment was passed, but the language of the Judge on hearing the explanation of the prisoner was rather encouraging.
Our space will not admit of our giving any more of a series of trials which are in all respects the dullest and least instructive of any that ever we happen to have seen reported. The following sentences were passed at Winchester on Thursday—there have been four men executed for these riots in different parts of the country already—Death against. James Thomas Cooper, Henry Elridge, and John Gihnore, Robert Holdaway, James Atnall (the aggravation in this man's case, as stated by Baron Vaughan, was a suspicion of arson, of which no proof was given on the trial), and Henry Cooke,* aged sixty. Sentence of death was recorded, with an announcement that the ultimate punishment would be banishment for life; about forty others were condemned to various periods of banishment and imprisonment, and seventy dis- charged. The Berks commission has not yet finished its labours.
*The man who made the violent attack on Mr.Bingbam Baring—the one solitary instance of personal violence which the trials supply. Could so much be affirmed of art series of extended riots in any country under heaven but England?