HC Deb 06 February 1818 vol 37 cc192-200
Lord Folkestone

presented a Petition from John Knight of Manchester, setting forth;

"That although the petitioner is unconscious of any crime or breach of law, by him committed, yet in the night between the 8th and 9th of March 1817, his house was forcibly entered, his family, which consists of a lame wife, five children, and a dependent niece, disturbed and terrified by a posse of police officers, who searched his house, and carried off such books and papers as they thought proper; that, after this nocturnal visit, the petitioner was prevailed upon to quit his home and family and retire to the house of a friend; that on the evening of the 29th of March, the petitioner was arrested by a constable of Sowerby, and by him taken to his, the constable's house; that this constable refused to show his warrant, and when urged thereto talked of his pistols, and shouted for his assistants; that about one o'clock in the morning of the 31st of March the petitioner was called out of bed by Mr. Naden, the deputy constable of Manchester, and by him was ordered to be handcuffed, and so conveyed to the New Bayley Manchester, where he was confined in a cell 8 feet by 6½ feet (in which were two beds) from Monday morning early until late on Saturday night, during which time he was not four hours out of doors; that his chief food was bread and cheese and a quart of beer per day; that his wife was not permitted to see him; that he wrote to the magistrates one day, and the next day to the boroughreeve and constables, requesting to be informed of what and by whom he was accused, but received no answer from either of them; that on Sunday morning the 6th of April the petitioner was heavily ironed, and so conveyed to London, 182 miles; that whilst in a public house in Bow-street, the landlord thereof said to the petitioner, that if he had any friend in town to whom he wished to write, his son should convey the letter; in consequence of this proposal the petitioner wrote two letters, one of which he addressed to sir F. Burdett, the other to the hon. H. G. Bennet, which letters he saw in the hands of the under secretary of state the same afternoon, when he was ordered to Tothill-fields bridewell until the ensuing Wednesday; that on Wednesday the 9th of April the petitioner was again brought to the secretary of state's office, where no questions were asked him relative to his supposed offence, nor any thing stated to him on that subject, yet he was committed to close and solitary confinement on suspicion of high treason; that about 4 in the afternoon of the 10th of April the petitioner was taken from Tothill-fields, where he had been kindly treated, and was removed to Reading gaol: on the road the petitioner saw a newspaper, which mentioned his arrival at the secretary of state's office the day before, and added, that the papers found in his trunk were of a treasonable nature, although in fact the only papers therein at that time were a list of the articles of raiment it contained, and copies of two love-songs, which songs so pleased the keeper of Tothill-fields bridewell, that he requested the petitioner to give him copies of them, which he did; on showing this newspaper paragraph to Mr. Adkins, the Bow-street officer, and asking him how such a falsehood could get there? he said, "that a guinea might do such a thing as that;" the petitioner, astonished, then asked him if any body would get a guinea for writing such a downright lie? he replied, "he should not wonder if they did;" that, on the petitioner's arrival at Reading gaol, together with two other state prisoners, about half past 9 in the evening, it was with the utmost difficulty, and after much expostulation, that they obtained a supper, although they stated to the keeper that they had come about 40 miles without food; that on the following morning a turnkey came to the petitioner, and said the governor could only give them the county allowance, (i.e. bread and water), until he got farther orders; the petitioner then requested to have some coffee to breakfast, and also to see the governor: the three state prisoners were then conducted into a common prison-room, into the upper story of which were put for their use two beds stuffed with straw, and no bolsters whatever; in this manner they were lodged, and here they remained for 16 days; coffee was brought for breakfast, and in the course of the forenoon some mutton, potatoes, & c. & c. which they cooked for themselves: during these 16 days, the petitioner paid for some things, others they procured from (what is called in prisons) the shopman, and some others the keeper sent in; on the 16th of April they were informed, that their allowance was a guinea a week each, and which they might lay out as they pleased; then they thought they could save some money towards clothing, or for their families; for 16 days they had nothing but water to drink, and never could obtain either reckoning or settlement with the governor, nor could the petitioner get reimbursed the money he had paid for the joint use of the three state prisoners, until the very moment he left that place; on the 27th of April, without their being consulted or their consent asked, they were informed, that in future they were to have dinners from the governor's table, and have a pint of beer per day, breakfast, & c. they must cook for themselves as heretofore; at this time they were separated, and put into different and better rooms, the sash-windows of which were previously and purposely nailed down, although they were well barricadoed on the outside with strong iron bars; for 18 days after the petitioner and his fellow prisoners were separated, they had only a pint of beer per day, afterwards they had two pints per day; here the petitioner never could obtain a candle, even at his own expense; that on the 9th of July the petitioner was removed to Salisbury gaol, where he was put into a small, gloomy, stinking felons cell, and surrounded by noisy, brutal prisoners of that description; that, on his arrival at this gaol, all his letters and papers, even to a roll of blank paper, were taken from him; here, for several days, he could obtain only water to drink, nor ever could procure either knife or fork to eat with; this place was soaill ventilated, that it ruined his health in a few hours; he spoke to the gaoler, and requested a better room; was told there was none to be had: on the 11th of July, the petitioner wrote to the secretary of state, informing him of the situation in which he was placed, and of the ruined state of his health, requesting also to be removed; which request was, on the 18th of the same month, complied with, when he was removed to Worcester; here again the petitioner was confined two nights and one day in a small cell, whilst a room was prepared for his reception in this room his health soon recovered, because it was much larger than the Salisbury cell, the air was good, and he could admit it at pleasure; here, however, he was never more than half an hour per day out of doors, and many days never out at all; here also the petitioner had to write four times to the governor before he could obtain a candle, and at last only obtained a small one for each night, which would not burn three hours, even in the depth of winter; that a short time before the petitioner's liberation he wanted a garment made, and so rigorously strict were his keepers in keeping him from his fellow-creatures, that before a tailor could have access to him, it was deemed necessary to procure a justice's order for that purpose, and the petitioner was told that this delayed the tailor's visit more than a week, and whenever the petitioner mentioned his want of clothing to his keepers, he was told he might have the prison uniform whenever he pleased; that on the 3lst of December, after more than nine months close, and, generally, solitary confinement, the petitioner was informed, that his liberation was come, and that he would be instantly discharged on the same terms as others, that is, by giving his own recognizance for 100l. to appear in the court of King's-bench next term, which condition he accepted; he was only allowed 2l. for his journey home, more than 100 miles, and which would not pay the inside fare of the coach, although it was in the depth of winter, and the petitioner advanced in years, and also after such a long and close confinement; that during the petitioner's confinement, several letters, which he addressed to his wife and children, and also several which they addressed to him, were never delivered according to their superscriptions; that on the 6th or 7th of January, 1818, the petitioner wrote to the secretary of state, requesting to be informed whether his attendance in the court of King's-bench would be required, but received no answer, therefore he deemed it necessary to hold himself in readiness to attend the said court; that about 12 o'clock on the 21st day of January, the first day of terra being the 23d, the petitioner was verbally informed, that the secretary of state had sent a letter to the police office, Manchester, which said, "that the state prisoners mentioned therein need not go to London, as they would not be called upon;" that in consequence of this information, although himself and three others had engaged a coach for London, the petitioner, with Samuel Drumraond, went to the police, and was again told he needed not to go to London; he then asked if the recognizances were set aside or nullified? they were then told that they would have printed copies of his lordship's letter that night; the petitioner and Drummond said, "that would not do, as they had engaged coach for three o'clock, they must therefore be satisfied on that point immediately, or they would feel themselves obliged to go to London;" they were answered, "they might go to hell if they pleased," and ordered out of the room; they however staid whilst the letter was sent for and brought, but were not permitted to read it; however, it was read to them; after which the petitioner again inquired, if they, the magistrates, were authorized by that letter to set aside the recognizances? Mr. Evans, a magistrate and counsellor at law, in a rage replied, "We will not tell you, it is not our business to put any construction on his lordship's words;" having said so, he hurried out of the room; that therefore the petitioner, at a great and inconvenient expense, and at the great hazard of his health, came to London; that being arrived there, Mr. Johnstone, Mr. Bagguley, Mr. Drum-mond, and himself, addressed a note to lord Sidmouth, requesting an interview on the subject of their recognizances, but his lordship refused to see them; they therefore immediately went to the court of King's-bench, and individually claimed of the court either to be tried or to have their recognizances set aside and discharged; they were informed (to their astonishment) by the court, that they (the court) could neither do the one nor the other, having no charge against them, nor having the power to nullify their recognizances; that therefore, at a great expense, the petitioner felt it necessary to attend the said court from the 23d to the 3lst of January, 1818, when the attorney-general was prevailed upon to move for the discharge of all the state prisoners' recognizances; that the petitioner has been repeatedly, wantonly, and wickedly vilified, calumniated, and slandered in the public papers, his business quite deranged and ruined, his body vastly impaired by his long and close imprisonment, and his family and pecuniary affairs incalculably injured, and that this is the second time he has so suffered, and for the same cause, namely, the promotion of a reform in the House; that in the year 1812, the petitioner, when in company with more than thirty others, for the sole purpose of forwarding petitions to the Prince Regent and the House, were broke in upon, and seized by the police officers of Manchester, aided by armed soldiers, who conducted the whole to prison, and on the deliberately wilful and false oath of an hired spy, they were committed to Lancaster, being 38 in number, most of them heads and fathers of families, and there stood a fourteen-hours' trial, on an ignominious but groundless charge; and, although' acquitted, the petitioner was thereby separated from his family twelve weeks, and also his affairs completely deranged; that the petitioner, therefore, earnestly prays, that the House will take his case into their serious and candid consideration, and not only refuse to pass the Indemnity Bill, but bring those ministers and magistrates to justice who have so wantonly and cruelly violated the liberties and privileges of Englishmen in the person of the petitioner.'

Lord Folkestone

also presented a petition from Samuel Haynes of Nottingham; setting forth,

"That the petitioner was on Thursday morning June 13th, 1817, without any provocation on his part, taken out of a bed of sickness, handcuffed and guarded to a prison, and locked up in a dreary damp and gloomy cell; what then must have been the surprise and astonishment of the petitioner when he was locked up in such a horrible den of misery and in a bad state of health, when at the same time he was conscious he had never done an injury to any man: on the Saturday following it was communicated to the petitioner that he was to go to London: the petitioner civilly asked when and what for, but received no answer, but on Saturday afternoon a chaise came to the prison door, when the prisoner was fetched out of his den of misery, and chained hand and foot to a person of the name of Francis Ward, and was conveyed to London to lord Sidmouth's office, when his lordship rose and addressed the prisoner in nearly the following words: 'You, Sa-muel Haynes, are brought here, charged upon oath of high treason; you will be taken from here into close confinement, and there kept till you are delivered by a due course of law, and you will have due notice to prepare for your trial, and you will have the names of evidence against you, &c: and if you have got any thing to say we will hear you;" the petitioner told his lordship he had nothing to say, for he knew nothing about any body's business but his own; his lordship then sat down, and the petitioner retired with a heart that leaped with gladness, for he fondly though vainly thought he should soon be brought before some tribunal of justice where he would have proved his innocence as cicalas the noon-day sun: but on the Monday following, Mr. Atkins, keeper of Cold-bath-fields prison, informed the petitioner that he was to be sent to Lincoln castle; when the petitioner with two other state prisoners arrived at Lincoln-castle, the petitioner with his two fellow prisoners was ordered to strip, and was strictly searched by the turnkey; the turnkey took the petitioner's watch, though not without the petitioner remonstrating with him at such an arbitrary proceeding: the petitioner was, with his two unfortunatefel-low-prisoners, put in a dismal-looking little habitation; the petitioner and his two fellow prisoners gave the turnkey some money to get some bread and cheese and some beer; when the petitioner with his two fellow prisoners had got their bread and cheese and beer, and had just began to eat, the gaoler came in and said, the petitioner and his fellow prisoners must be separated immediately; the petitioner intreated the gaoler to let him and his unfortunate companions be together for half an hour while they partook of their refreshment; but no, the bread and cheese was pulled in three pieces and divided with the beer, while the petitioner with his two unfortunate companions gazed on each other with wonder and astonishment, and was instantly separated in three dreary apartments, and as it seemed then never to behold each other any more; what the petitioner felt at such merciless treatment the House can better conceive than he can describe to them; night soon came on, and the petitioner was taken from his dreary habitation to a cell to sleep; having passed a melancholy and sleepless night, the next morning the petitioner was taken to his daily den of misery again; the petitioner being in a bad state of health soon felt the pernicious effects of close and solitary imprisonment, for in five or six weeks he was reduced to a mere skeleton; it was then he began to contemplate his wretched situation, and could then perceive that lord Sidmouth's promise concerning a trial was a mere delusion; in that dreary habitation that the petitioner had to pass away his murdered hours by day in cruel solitude, there was nothing but a wooden block to sit on; the petitioner's debility had so increased that he became so weak he could not sit up, and he asked several times for a chair, but he might as well have asked the winds for a chair; so the petitioner contrived to put his block in a corner of his den, and prop himself between the two walls; the petitioner requests the serious attention of the House to this point; now let them fancy for a moment they are peeping into the dismal habitation of the petitioner in Lincoln-castle, there beholding a poor forlorn and helpless fellow creature, brooding over his misfortunes in gloomy solitude; ah! cruel remembrance: the petitioner when in this deplorable situation, his death being daily expected, wrote a letter to lord Sidmouth, intreating his lordship to let his wife come and see him before he died, and at the same time solemnly declared his innocence to lord Sidmouth, and told his lordship, that that base charge that he charged him with would never be proved against him, no, neither on earth nor in Heaven; in a few days after the petitioner was liberated, and when he came home his ghastly appearance quite shocked his family and friends, and they all thought then that before this time be would have been sleeping in his grave; the petitioner has sent this petition to the House for their consideration, whether he must bear with such an outrageous, cruel, and unprovoked attack on his person, as to be savagely dragged out of his bed in the dead of the night, and sent to a prison from a comfortable home, from a wife and six helpless and unprotected children, in this our boasted land of liberty and Christianity: and the petitioner humbly requests leave to state to the Mouse, that he views with regret the conduct of his oppressors, men who pretend to be true followers in the faith of Him who expired on the cross in bitter agony by cruel torture on Mount Calvary; but whatever their pretensions may be to Christianity, could they have a Christian feeling when they coolly and deliberately ordered a fellow creature into solitary imprisonment, there to remain day after day and week after week, in a bad state of health, as was the case of the petitioner, though in that deplorable state, pent up in a miserable dungeon, and deprived of the dearest privilege of society and the felicity of friendship; under all this oppression the petitioner must confess that he had some pleasing reflections in contemplating his own innocence, trusting that a time would come when he would be at liberty to lay his case before the House for their humane and serious con- sideration; the petitioner seeks not the punishment of his oppressors, though he has been distressed and brought to indigence by them, but he appeals to the humanity and protection of the House, to redress his injuries in being so wrongfully and cruelly persecuted; but if there are any members in the House who have a doubt on their minds as to the truth of this petition, then the petitioner most earnestly implores them to hear him at the bar of the House, as he is ready to prove every assertion contained in this petition."

Ordered to lie on the table.