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Trial of Mr. THOMAS WALKER of Manchester,
Merchant, and six other Persons, indicted for a Conspiracy to overthrow the Constitution and Government of this Kingdom ; and to aid and assist the French, being the King's Enemies, in case they should invade this Kingdom. Tried at Lancaster before Mr. Justice Heath, one of the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas, and a Special Jury, on the 2d of April 1794.
SUBJECT, &c. We have not found it necessary for the full understanding of this interesting and extraordinary case, to print the evidence given upon the trial; because, to the honour of Lord Ellenborough, then Mr. Law, who conducted the prosecution for the Crown, after hearing a positive contradiction of the only witness in support of it, by several unexceptionable persons, he expressed himself as follows :
“ I know the characters of several of the gentlemen “ who have been examined, particularly of Mr.
“ Jones. I cannot expect one witness alone, uncon“firmed, to stand against the testimony of all these “ witnesses; I ought not to desire it.” To which just declaration, which ended the trial, Mr. Justice. Heath said, " You act very properly, Mr. Law.”
The Jury found Mr. Walker Not Guilty; and the witness was immediately committed, indicted for per jury, and convicted at the same assizes.
We have printed Mr. Law's able and manly Speech to the Jury, which contains the whole case, afterwards proved by the witness who was disbelieved. The Speech of Mr. Erskine in unswer to it states the evidence afterwards given to contradict it.
Mr. Walker was an eminent merchant at Man. chester, and a truly honest and respectable man ; and nothing can show the fever of those times, more than the alarming prosecution of such a person upon such evidence. It is not to every Attorney General, that such a case could have been safely trusted.--The conduct of Mr. Law was highly to his honour, and a prognostic of his future character as a Judge.
The Indictment having been opened by Mr. JAMES,
Mr. Law addressed the Jury as follows:
GENTLEMEN OF THE JURY,
THE Indictment which has been read to you, imputes to the Defendants a species of treasonable misdemeanor, second only in degree, and inferior. only in malignity, to the crime of high treason itself. It imputes to them a conspiracy for the pur. pose of adhering with effect to the King's enemies, in case the calamity of foreign invasion or of internal and domestic tumult should afford them the desired opportunity of so doing--a conspiracy for the purpose of employing against our country those arms which should be devoted to its defence; and of overthrowing a constitution, the work of long-continued wisdom and virtue in the ages that have gone before 11s, and which, I trust, the sober-minded virtue and wisdom of the present age will transmit unimpaired to ages that are yet to succeed us. It imputes to them a conspiracy, not indeed levelled at the person and life of our Sovereign, but at that constitution at the head of which he is placed, and at that system of beneficial laws which it is his pride and his duty to administer ;--at that constitution which makes us what we are, a great, free, and, I trust, with a few
exceptions only, a happy and united people. Gentlemen, a conspiracy formed for these porposes, and to be effected eventually by means of arms ;--a conspiracy which had either for its immediate aim or probable consequence, the introduction into this country, upon the model of France, of all the miseries that disgrace and desolate that unhappy land, is the crime for which the Defendants stand arraigned before
you this day; and it is for you to say, in the first instance, and for my Lord hereafter, what shall be the result and effect in respect to persons, against whom a conspiracy of such enormous magnitude and mischief shall be substantiated in evidence.
· Gentlemen, whatever subjects of political difference may subsist amongst us,
amongst us, I trust we are in general agreed in venerating the great principles of our constitution, and in wishing to sustain and render them permanent. Whatever toleration and indulgence we may be willing to allow to differences in matters of less importance, upon some subjects we can allow none ;---to the friends of France, leagued in unity of council, inclination, and interests with France, against the arms and interests of our country, however tolerant in other respects, we can afford no grains of allowance,--no sentiments of indulgence, ór toleration whatsoever ; to do so, at a time when those arms and councils are directed against our political and civil, against not our national only, but natural existence (and at such a period you will find that the very conspiracy now under considera