Part 2

The Victims of Whiggery - George Loveless - Part 2

On the 15th of March, we were taken to the County Hall to await our trial. As soon as we arrived we were ushered down some steps into a miserable dungeon, opened but twice a year, with only a glimmering light; and to make it more disagreeable, some wet and green brushwood was served for firing. The smoke of this place, together with its natural dampness, amounted to nearly suffocation. and in this most dreadful situation we passed nearly three whole days.
As to the trial I need mention but little; the whole proceedings were characterised by a shameful disregard of justice and decency; the most unfair means were resorted to in order to frame an indictment against us; the grand jury appeared to ransack heaven and earth to get some clue against us, but in vain; our characters were investigated from our infancy to the then present moment; our masters were inquired to know if we were not idle, or attended public houses, or some other fault in us; and much as they were opposed to us, they had common honesty enough to declare that we were good labouring servants, and that they had never heard a word against any of us; and when nothing whatever could be raked together, the unjust and cruel judge, John Williams, ordered us to be tried for mutiny and conspiracy, under an act Geo.III., cap. 123, for the suppression of mutiny amongst the marines and seamen, several years ago, at the Nore.
The greatest part of the evidence against us on our trial, was put into the mouths of the witnesses by the judge; and when he evidently wished them to say any particular thing, and the witness would say: “I cannot remember.” - He would say, “Now think; I will give you another minute to consider;” and he would then repeat over the words, and ask, “Cannot you remember?” Sometimes by charging them to be careful what they said, by way of intimidation, they would merely answer, “yes;” and the judge would set the words down as proceeding from the witness.
I shall not soon forget his address to the jury, in summing up the evidence: among other things he told them, that if such societies were allowed to exist, it would ruin masters, cause a stagnation in trade, destroy property, - and if they should not find us guilty, he was certain that they would forfeit the opinion of the grand jury. I thought to myself, there is no danger but we shall be found guilty, as we have a special jury for the purpose, selected from among those who are most unfriendly towards us - the grand jury, landowners, the petty jury, land renters. Under such a charge, from such a quarter, self interest alone would induce them to say, “Guilty.”
The judge then inquired if we had anything to say. I instantly forwarded the following short defence, in writing, to him: “My Lord, if we have violated any law, it was not done intentionally: we have injured no man‘s reputation person or property: we were uniting together to preserve ourselves, our wives, and our children, from utter degradation and starvation. We challenge any man, or number of men to prove that we have acted, or intend to act different from the above statement The judge asked if I wished it to be read in court. I answered, Yes. It was then mumbled over to a part of the jury, in such an inaudible manner, that although I knew what was there, I could not comprehend it. And here one of the counsel prevented sentence being passed, by declaring that not one charge brought against any of the prisoners was proved, and that if we were found guilty a great number of persons would be dissatisfied; and I shall be for one, said he.
Two days after this we were again placed at the bar to receive sentence, when the judge (John Williams) told us, that not for anything that we had done, or, as he could prove, we intended to do, but for an example to others, he considered it his duty to pass the sentence of seven years‘ transportation across his Majesty‘s high seas upon each and every one of us. As soon as the sentence was passed, I got a pencil and a scrap of paper, and wrote the following lines:-
God is our guide! from field, from wave,
From plough, from anvil, and from loom;
We come, our country's rights to save,
And speak a tyrant faction's doom:
We raise the watch-word liberty;
We will, we will, we will be free!
God is our guide! no swords we draw,
We kindle not war's battle fires;
By reason, union, justice, law,
We claim the birth-right of our sires;
We raise the watch-word, liberty,
We will, we will, we will be free!
While we were being guarded back to prison, our hands locked together, I tossed the above lines to some people that we passed; the guard, however, seizing hold of them, they were instantly carried back to the judge; and by some this was considered a crime of no less magnitude than high treason.
Almost instantly after this I was taken ill, occasioned by being kept in the dungeon already spoken of, and two days after getting worse, requested to be allowed to see the doctor, and consequently was taken to the hospital. As soon as I entered I had to cope with a new antagonist, Dr. Arden, surgeon of the hospital. I told him I was too ill for conversation, and requested him to allow me to go to bed; but he appeared so angry as not to regard what I said. At length I threw myself on a bed and answered his questions, until he was very mild, and after this he manifested the greatest possible kindness and attention towards me until I left Dorchester Castle . I told him they could hang me with as much justice as transport me for what I had done.
On Wednesday, April the 2nd, Mr Woolaston, magistrate paid me a visit, and inquiring how I did, I thanked him, and told him I was much better. He said, “I am sorry, Loveless, to see a man like you in such a situation, but it is your own fault, you are now suffering for your own stubbornness and obstinacy; you have such a proud spirit, you would not pay attention to the cautions of the magistrates; but would rather hearken to idle fellows that were going about the country, who now have deceived you.” - I told him I had not been deceived by any, for I knew of no such persons as he had been describing. - “Yes, you do, for you have hearkened to them rather than pay attention to the magistrate‘s cautions; for I am certain you saw them, one of them being found on your person when you went to prison.” - “Is Mr. Woolaston in his right mind?” said I. - “What do you mean?” - “The circumstance concerning which the witnesses swore against us, took place on the 9th of December, and the magistrate‘s cautions did not appear till the 21st of February, following; so that we have been tried for what took place at least nine weeks before the cautions had existence; and yet you say I paid no attention to the magistrates, but listened to idle fellows going about the country; within three days after the cautions appeared I was in the body of the gaol.” - “Ah,” said he, “it is of no use talking to you.” - “No, Sir, unless you talk more reasonable.”
I entreated the doctor to allow me to be sent away, as I had just heard that my companions were gone. I did this with a view to overtake them; and on Saturday, April the 5th, early in the morning, I was called, to prepare for a journey to Portsmouth; after getting irons on my legs, and locked on the coach, we proceeded to Salisbury, and at the entrance of the town, Mr. Glinister, clerk of the prison, who accompanied me, offered to take the irons off my legs. I inquired if he meant to put them on again on leaving Salisbury : he said “Yes,” but as I should have to walk through some part of the town, I had better have them taken off, as the rattling of the chain would cause people to be looking after us. I told him I did not wish for any such thing, as I was not ashamed to wear the chain, conscious of my innocence.