HC Deb 13 February 1818 vol 37 cc399-416
Mr. Bennet

said, he held in his hand a Petition from one of those unfortunate men who had suffered so much severity and real cruelty under the Suspension act. It was from Joseph Mitchell, of Liverpool. He was in that situation which had been said to render men un-worthy of credit. He had beyond all question suffered imprisonment without indictment or trial, but whether he was therefore unworthy of credit he would leave to others to determine. He most certainly believed the representations of harsh usage, unauthorized cruelty, and wanton treatment in the petition to be true. The facts were such as claimed the most serious attention of the House, and the prayer of the petition called upon them not to pass a bill of indemnity to screen ministers from the consequences of their abuse of the powers intrusted to them. Mr. Bennet having moved, that the petition be printed, the chancellor of the exchequer asked, if the hon. member could state that it was couched in respectful language? Mr. Bennet, said, that there might be a harsh expression, but the tenor of the petition was respectful.

The petition was then ordered to be printed. It set forth:

"That the Petitioner, whilst attending on his business as agent to several publishers, had, on the evening of the 2nd of March 1817, his lodgings in Manchester forcibly entered, his bed-room searched for his person and papers, and his portmanteau attempted to be opened by false keys and picklocks, by Joseph Nadin, deputy constable of Manchester, and two of his men called runners; that the peti- tioner being informed of this nocturnal visit by a person who happened to be in the house at the time, and heard the landlord threatened with the loss of his licence if he informed the petitioner thereof, the petitioner, having a wife and six young children to provide for, sought refuge in the house of a friend; that the petitioner was driven from this retreat by Nadin and his assistants, who forcibly entered his friend's house in the night, and searched the same; and in this manner was the petitioner driven from house to house, Nadin threatening he would have him locked up in prison if it cost him (Nadin) 500l.; thus was he pursued until the 9th of March, when he left Manchester to seek a resting place in the country, but being still pursued he fled to his disconsolate family in Liverpool; that the petitioner had not remained many days with his agonized family before he was informed that the police were about to search his house, and fearing that the shock occasioned by his being dragged from home in the dead of the night (that being the time generally chosen for tearing reformers from their beloved families) would be too great for an afflicted wife, and six young but affectionate children to bear, he therefore again sought an asylum in the country; that the petitioner, having returned in the vicinity of Manchester, was instantly informed that a number of persons had been apprehended at a public house in Manchester, charged with having conspired together for the purpose of destroying that town, many of which persons (if at all connected with such a plot) were believed to have been led and instigated thereto by spies and informers, who had gone about for the avowed purpose (as the petitioner was informed) of making Manchester, as' they called it, a second Moscow; that the petitioner, finding this to be no resting place for him, proceeded into, Yorkshire, where he was advised to proceed to London and state these facts, with the popular opinion thereon, to some men who were both able and willing if possible to trace these plots to their true source; that the petitioner whilst in London met with a person named Oliver, who professed to be a reformer, and who urged the petitioner to leave London with him, stating that the petitioner was in danger of being apprehended in London, and that he (Oliver) was in constant apprehension of being taken up, and that he had therefore de- termined to leave the country, and was then going to Liverpool to see a friend of his set sail for America, and also to prepare a passage for himself and family, that the petitioner left London in company with the said Oliver on the 24th of April, who on the road requested the petitioner to introduce him to a few steady reformers in any of the towns through which they passed where the petitioner had any acquaintance, which he accordingly did, in Birmingham, Wakefield, and Leeds, believing him to be a real reformer; that on the 4th of May the petitioner was seized by two ruffians, who took him by the collar as he was walking on the highway towards Huddersfield, and commanded him to return to some men who (these) ruffians said) wanted him, which command the petitioner refused to comply with, asking them by what authority they stopped him on the king's highway? to which question they returning no answer, the petitioner attempted to proceed on his journey, when the ruffians, again seizing him by the collar, said, "We will let you see our authority;" that the petitioner was by them detained on the king's highway until five or six other men came up to them, who ordered him to go along with them; the petitioner then inquired by what authority they detained and ordered him to go along with them, when two of them said that they were special constables, and that the petitioner should know farther when he got to the place to which they intended to take him, adding, that, if the petitioner refused to go with them, they would compel him, bidding some of their fellows to drag him along; that the petitioner was therefore obliged to go with them to a public house, situated in a lonely place called Golker Hill, where he was taunted and otherwise abused through the whole of the evening; that when the petitioner retired to bed, a person was put into his room, who pretending to be a reformer, expressed much regret that it should have fallen to his lot to guard a person whom he could not but respect as a brother, and who exclaimed in bitter terms against those who were the cause of such unjust proceedings, adding, that not only a total change in Kings,' Castlereaghs, and Commons,' must take place, but that' all must be pulled down 'before any good would be done for the people,' which wretch the petitioner believes (as he then told him) was placed there for the purpose of leading the peti- tioner into some violent expression, and the petitioner was confirmed in this opinion, by hearing another person cough behind the door, on which the petitioner demanded that this vile fellow should leave the room: that the petitioner was next day taken before justice Haigh, of Huddersfield, who on one Brooks of Golker Hill stating that the petitioner was a reformer, and had attended public meetings, and that a reward was offered by government for his apprehension, ordered him to be remanded; on the petitioner remonstrating against being detained on so vague a charge, the worthy justice replied, 'He' would take all responsibility upon himself,' and delivered the petitioner into the care of a police officer named Whitehead; that the petitioner was conducted by Whitehead into a room in the George-Inn, Huddersfield, where he asked the petitioner if he would pay for a person to guard him, on which the petitioner replied that he had neither the power nor the will to pay money for any such purpose; then Whitehead bade the petitioner to follow him to a lodging which he said was much better than the petitioner deserved; that the petitioner was then put into a place called Towzer, the most damp and nauseous dungeon imaginable, having no fire in it, the floor of which was nearly covered with human excrements, the bedding beyond description filthy, and the whole place was fœtid to such a degree that the petitioner scarcely thought it possible to exist therein until the next day; that the petitioner remained in this nauseous place twenty-six hours, after which he was removed to a room where Oliver appeared as a prisoner in great agitation; the petitioner was shortly removed to another house, where he was ironed, then placed between two thief-takers in a chaise and conveyed to Manchester Police-office, and thence to the New Bayley prison; that the petitioner, when in the police-office, and also in the New Bayley, demanded to be informed for what he was detained, and by what authority he had been apprehended, but no answer was given to him until the 7th of May, when the petitioner was brought before a number of gentlemen in a room belonging to the New Bayley, where one of them appeared to preside; here Nadin, the deputy constable, deposed that he had seen a warrant, signed (he doubted not) by the secretary of state, authorizing the apprehension of Mr. Mitchell on a charge of high treason; that this warrant had been returned to the home office, because they had heard that the petitioner was gone to America; that the petitioner requested to know whether the gentleman who presided intended to keep him in custody on the mere deposition of Nadin? when he was informed that it was their intention to detain him until they heard farther from the home office; the petitioner then requested to withdraw to his cell and straw bed, which was granted, where he remained until about twelve o'clock on the night of the 8th of May, when he was ordered to prepare for London; during his confinement in the New Bayley, the petitioner was insulted with the felons allowance of food, and was told that Nadin had given orders that nothing else should be given to him; that the petitioner was then handcuffed, and so conducted to the police-office, thence to the coach, and was there very heavily ironed, which irons he bore all the way to London; being arrived there, the petitioner was taken to a public-house in Bow-street, and from thence before the secretary of state, who ordered him to be put into close confinement, until the 20th of May, when he was to be brought up for examination, as he understood; that the petitioner was then taken to Cold-bath-fields prison, and put into a room with another prisoner, where he became dangerously ill, through, as he supposes, the baneful effects of that pestilential place in which he was confined at Huddersfield: the petitioner wishes to state, that although he still feels the ill effects of that destructive place at Huddersfield, he considers his present state of health to be owing to the kind attentions of his fellow prisoner, the doctor, and the governor; that the petitioner was again taken before the secretary of state, who committed him to close confinement on suspicion of high treason; he was therefore remanded to Cold-bath-fields prison, where he remained in close and solitary confinement, except being visited by Oliver three successive days on or about the 21st, 22nd, and 23d of May, on each of which days the petitioner was fetched by a turnkey into a room in the governor's house, where his interviews with Oliver took place; that on the 30th of Dec. 1817, the petitioner was liberated, as he understood, without recognizance, until, on the 21st of January 1818, he was informed by the mayor of Liverpool, that he had received a letter from the home secretary, which stated, that in consequence of his lordship having heard nothing against him since his liberation, his appearance on the first day of term in the court of King's-bench would be dispensed with, and hoping that his future conduct would be such as never to render it necessary to call him into a court of justice; that the petitioner, in consequence of the mayor's communication, deemed it necessary, though at a great and very inconvenient expense, to appear in the said court of King's-bench, in order to get such supposed recognizance nullified, that he might not in future be subjected to extraordinary penalties on the misrepresentations of malevolent or interested men; that the petitioner, though altogether unconscious of having violated, or intending to violate, any constitutional principle or law of the land, but who on the contrary has made considerable efforts to preserve the peace of the country and the lives of his much aggrieved countrymen, whom he considered in danger of being goaded on by hunger and by spies to acts of desperation; that, in consequence of the petitioner's unjust imprisonment, his business is totally ruined, himself involved in very considerable embarrassments, his character traduced, and his friends and connexions enormously imposed upon, by the misrepresentations of spies and informers, which spies and informers have introduced themselves to the petitioner's acquaintance under the pretence of collecting money for his or his family's use, and have otherwise so made use of his name to excite the more distressed parts of the labouring class to acts of violence whilst the petitioner was in prison; that the doors of his friends are shut against him, and himself precluded the possibility of providing for his helpless family through the common course of trade; that though the petitioner considers that the House furnished the ministers of the Crown with that power which they have so wantonly and unprovokedly used against him, in dragging him from his family and immuring him in a solitary dungeon 211 days, yet the petitioner trusting that such powers were granted for the wisest of purposes, implores that the House will not only refuse to give its sanction to a bill of indemnity, to screen those ministers who have abused the powers the House confided to them, but, as in times less oppressive, when the House interposed their powerful aid to stop the torrent of unjust persecution, they will now so take the petitioner's case into their most serious consideration, as to grant him that redress which will enable him to bring to justice such individuals as have so incalculably injured him, and also enable him to meet his friends and connexions as he should have done had he not been so unjustly imprisoned; and the petitioner, forgetting the sorrows of a solitary imprisonment, will, as in duty bound, ever pray."

Mr. Bennet

also presented a Petition from Thomas Evans, of No. 8, Newcastle-street, Strand, setting forth;

"That the Petitioner solicits the car-nest attention of the House, to the grievous and illegal persecutions which he is about to detail, in full confidence that he is able to adduce undeniable proof of the correctness of every allegation, and in ardent hope that the House, as the constitutional guardian of public right, and avenger of individual oppression, will interpose their high authority to enable him to obtain plenary justice; that on the 18th of April, 1198, the petitioner was seized, pursuant to a warrant charging him with high treason, issued by the late duke of Portland, then one of his majesty's principal secretaries of state; that the petitioner was held under re-examination until the bill for suspending the Habeas Corpus act was passed, and was then committed, on pretence of treasonable practices, to the house of correction for Middlesex, from whence he was transported to the county gaol at Winchester, and again to that at Chelmsford, at which gaols he was treated with more rigour than the common felons, being denied, during the whole period of this long imprisonment, the use of books, or the possession of pen, ink, or paper, or the access of friends or relations; indeed so severe was the nature and so lengthened the duration of this unjust confinement, that after his liberation, the petitioner was frequently afflicted with a dropsical malady, or species of erysipelas in his limbs, which has greatly impaired his former excellent state of health, and sometimes rendered him an invalid eighteen months together; that on the day following his arrest, the wife of the petitioner, though far advanced in pregnancy, was, with their infant son, committed on the same false charge to the house of correction, amongst the female felons, from whence she was taken and examined before the lords of his ma- jesty's most honourable privy council, through which nefarious artifice sufficient time having elapsed, she was, after enduring three days imprisonment, permitted to return to the petitioner's house, which she found had, during her absence, been filled with police officers of the lowest and most brutal kind, who had been sent thither to apprehend every person that might visit the house whilst they held unlawful possession, which supposed authority they had acted upon to the extreme, even inviting some of the friends of the petitioner into the house, in order to comprise them within their assumed jurisdiction; and the police officers, when they had satisfied themselves with the number of their seizures, had abandoned the house to whatever accident might have befallen it, had not the sister of the petitioner's wife fortunately arrived and prevented farther mischief by her presence; that at the end of two years and eleven months, the petitioner was liberated, without trial or any recompence for the manifold injuries he had sustained, and before he could proceed to obtain legal redress, the authors and inflictors of those injuries procured from parliament an especial act of indemnity for this and other similar abuses of their ministerial trust; so that thus ruined in property, debilitated in health, and calumniated in character, his profession reduced, his connexions broken up, and all the fruits of his previous industry dissipated, he found himself at length suddenly cast upon the world to maintain his family, under circumstances which seemed to forebode years of penury and privation; that the petitioner, since his liberation from this confessedly illegal imprisonment, had not taken any part in political affairs of any description, but had been sedulously engaged in the business which he had taken up, and from the labours of which for sixteen years he had never indulged in two successive days of recreation, his former persecution and unrequited losses having rendered the utmost industry and carefulness necessary on his part to provide for his declining years, and against the dangerous attacks of the incurable malady contracted in consequence of the rigour and closeness of his imprisonment; that the petitioner had succeeded, through his unremitting exertions, in establishing a manufactory of patent braces and spiral steel springs, to which he looked up as a secure shelter from the approaches of future distress, when, notwithstanding his inoffensive conduct, he was again assailed in a manner equally as unjustifiable and malignant as his first persecution was acknowledged to have been, by the measures enacted to prevent the punishment of his oppressors; that early on Sunday the 9th of Feb. 1817, the petitioner and his only son were seized by a party of the police, led by John Stafford, who produced for his authority a warrant from viscount Sid-mouth, one of his majesty's principal secretaries of state, imputiag to them suspicion of high treason, and directing the captors to seize their private papers, which having been obtained, the petitioner and his son were conveyed to the police office, Bow-street, where they were furnished with breakfast, but not brought or examined before any magistrate; that the petitioner and his son were about noon conveyed to the office of the secretary of state for the home department at Whitehall, and put into a room with James Watson, Thomas Preston, John Keens, and John Castle, with whom they remained until the evening, when the petitioner was singly taken before the lords of his majesty's most honourable privy council, and informed that he had been arrested and stood charged on suspicion of high treason, which the petitioner immediately denied, pointing out to their lordships that the suspicion was wholly grounded on the assertion of lord Sidmouth, inasmuch as his lordship had not issued his warrant on the oath of any existing person; and the petitioner farther challenged lord Sidmouth, or any other person, to depose that he had committed any breach of the law whatever, nor was the petitioner then, or at any other subsequent time, questioned before their lordships or any other magistrate relative to any criminal misconduct on his part; that towards 11 o'clock at night, the petitioner was conveyed alone to the house of correction for the county of Middlesex, on his arrival at which place he instantly, in the presence of the king's messenger, demanded a copy of his commitment; he was then conducted to what are called the Staterooms, and lodged in one of them, in company with Thomas Curtis, a pardoned criminal, who had become an evidence for the Crown, and was then in custody to be forthcoming at the trials of some of his confederates; that on the 11th day of February and third of his confinement, the petitioner obtained permission to write at the office of the prison, where he drew up a petition to the House, complaining of the outrage against the personal liberty of the petitioner and his son, perpetrated by lord Sidmouth, which petition, addressed to lord Cochrane or sir Francis Burdett, per favour of Samuel Brooks, esq. Strand, the petitioner the same morning delivered to Mr. William Adkins, the governor, to be sent according to its direction, but it was sent to Whitehall, and there detained, and in consequence it never was presented to the House; that the petitioner discovered, on his first interview with his wife after his incarceration, that this petition had not been presented to the House, on which the petitioner wrote to his solicitor, directing him to call at the office of lord Sidmouth, and demand that petition, or to procure an order for admission to the petitioner to receive another petition, or to sue out a writ of Habeas Corpus in order to bring the petitioner into court, that some definite legal accusation might be enforced, or his discharge obtained; that on the next interview with the secretary of state, the petitioner complained to his lordship of the detention of his petition at his office; his lordship however denied any knowledge of the circumstance, and stated he would order an inquiry, but on the petitioner meeting sir Nathaniel Conant below, sir Nathaniel, in the presence of Mr. Adkins, told the petitioner that 'the paper was in 'the office, and that any person might have it that called for it, but that he (sir Nathaniel) did not think himself a proper medium of communication between per-sons charged with high treason and sir F. Burdett;' a day or two following, on the 25th of Feb. sir Nathaniel forwarded this petition to the solicitor of the petitioner, accompanied with a note, stating similar reasons for its detention at his office; that on the 27th of Feb. the petitioner was visited by his solicitor, when the petitioner furnished him with a second petition, which was the same evening presented to the House by the hon. Henry Grey Bennet; that the petitioner was taken six times before the secretary of state at Whitehall, on each of which occasions the petitioner did invariably solicit, in the most earnest manner, to be confronted with his accuser, or that the act of treason sworn to should be named, which being invariably refused, the petitioner constantly challenged the pretended charge of high treason as false and unfounded, unsupportable by evidence, and totally groundless in fact; and the petitioner moreover observed to their lordships, that he was held by mere arbitrary authority, inasmuch as no proceedings in Jaw had been instituted against him, nor could he be legally restrained from retiring from that office to his own home; that on the first five times of the petitioner's examinations (as they were improperly denominated) he was each time remanded to prison on commitments by lord Sidmouth and sir Nathaniel Conant, both stating that the petitioner was charged before them on oath, and during this period the petitioner was denied the possession of pen, ink, or paper, or intercourse with his friends, or the knowledge of public affairs, his lordship having assumed the power to dispose of the petitioner at his will and pleasure, although the laws for the security of personal freedom were then in full force; that on the sixth and last time of the petitioner's examinations, he was remanded on a commitment by lord Sidmouth only, the Habeas Corpus Suspension bill being then passed, in which commitment his lordship desisted from inserting the mention of any oath against the petitioner; that the petitioner, apprehensive that he would be detained for an indefinite length of imprisonment, did, on the 10th of April, deliver to Mr. Adkins, the governor of the. house of correction, a petition addressed to the lords of his majesty's most honourable privy council, praying, that if any legal charge had been preferred against him he might be liberated on bail, or investigation be instituted into his case forthwith, in order to enable him to prevent the utter ruin of his manufactory, and the reduction of his wife to extreme poverty; but in the afternoon of the same clay, the petitioner and his son (who had been kept separate from the petitioner since the first moment of his confinement) were removed to the Surrey county gaol, Horsemonger-lane, where they were again separated, the petitioner was put ill irons like a felon, and carried to one of the strong rooms or condemned dungeons, in which he remained till the 27th of July, in utter solitude, accommodated with a bag of chopped woollen rags for a bed, a tub in one corner for a water-closet, a pail to hold water, a tressel for a table, a chair, a chamber-pot, a stick for a poker, and a bit of an old tin pot for a shovel, the use of candle was prohibited, and fire ordered to be extinguished at dusk; the petitioner was moreover denied the introduction of a box to hold his clothes, and his flute was taken away the instant of his arrival; that in the room beneath the petitioner's were confined three or four condemned criminals, whose lamentations, moans, and death-songs or hymns, till the day of execution, were so piercing and incessant, that the feelings excited in the petitioner in that dreary situation, altogether precluded him from enjoying any repose, and greatly aggravated his sufferings both personal and mental; that three magistrates visited the petitioner whilst he was ironed, and approved of his accommodation in every respect, unless the secretary of state should give contrary orders; the irons were however removed on the third day; that the petitioner was only allowed to have interviews with his wife through a grated door twice a week, in the presence of the turnkey, and the petitioner's wife was circumscribed to a single hour to visit the petitioner and his son, who was placed quite at the other end of the prison; that the petitioner in the month of June did petition the House for redress, in consequence of which he was visited by some members of the House, after whose visitation the petitioner was admitted to walk for exercise in a passage between two rows of cells, and he was allowed to have his musical instruments, a feather-bed was furnished, and the use of candles was permitted; that the petitioner learns, with astonishment and indignation, that some of the allegations of that petition were contradicted, for the petitioner assures the House, that there is no allegation in that petition which he is not prepared to prove at their bar to be strictly and literally true; that on the 27th of July, the petitioner was removed to the room of his son, who had been similarly ill treated during their separation; that throughout the period of the petitioner's recent imprisonment, with the exception of his wife, all his friends and relatives were prohibited from visiting him, notwithstanding his urgent solicitations to the contrary; that on the first day of this present month, the petitioner and his son were taken to the office of sir N. Conant at Whitehall, and there offered to be released on entering into resognizances in the sum of 100l. each to appear in the court of King's-bench on the first day of the present term, and from day to day to answer to such matters and charges as should then and there be produced against them, and not to depart the court without leave, with which conditions the petitioner and his son refused to comply, insisting upon being brought to trial for the offences imputed to them, or being discharged unconditionally; that the petitioner and his son were liberated on the evening of the 20th instant, by order of lord Sidmouth, without being required to enter into any acknowledgments, and without any compensation for this illegal, unmerited, and protracted persecution; that the petitioner particularly wishes to impress upon the attention of the House, that at each of his interviews with lord Sidmouth, between the period of his arrest and final commitment, the petitioner did uniformly insist upon being confronted with the person who was said to have made oath against him, but that no intreaty or demand could induce lord Sidmouth to comply with this just and legal request; and the petitioner consequently believes, that the pretended charge of high treason against himself and his son, was altogether a mere fabrication for the most wicked purposes, and that no person ever did make oath against them relative to any matter or thing which could warrant a suspicion of high treason; that the petitioner finds his business completely ruined, his future prospects overcast, and his character deeply injured by many false and scandalous rumours, originating from this persecution: he has been treated with the greatest indignity, cruelty, and injustice, for no assignable cause whatever, except the personal hostility of lord Sidmouth; the petitioner therefore prays that the House will institute an immediate inquiry into the allegations herein set forth, in order that the grievances of the petitioner may be fully redressed."

Sir M. Ridley,

on the question being put, that the petition be printed, rose to protest against any precedent that might be established by the chancellor of the exchequer having asked, when the question of printing a former petition was put, whether it contained any thing disrespectful, as if a petition respectful enough to be laid upon the table were not respectful enough to be printed. The chancellor of the exchequer might put such a question before the petition was laid on the table, but every petition laid on the table was entitled to be printed.

Mr. C Wynn

said, that petitions might be laid on the table which contained statements that might make it improper to print them. It might be proper that the House should know their contents, and yet it might be improper to give them farther publicity. The House ought therefore to use its discretion as to printing a petition in each particular case.

Lord Folkestone

thought the hon. member's argument went rather to show the propriety of printing all petitions. How-were the House to know the contents of a petition, if it was neither read by the clerk nor printed with the votes? What was the advantage of having a petition laid on the table, if it remained thus unread and unprinted He saw with surprise so many innovations introduced by those who made innovation one of their main arguments against the most important improvements. It was only since the last eight or nine months, that it became necessary to make a distinct motion for the printing of a petition. In his memory, every petition presented was printed at full length. They were gradually shortened; and at length, a particular motion became necessary for the printing of a petition at all. He had on a former occasion expressed his regret at this vote. It was a palpable injury to the people that every petition should not be printed, in order to come readily under the observation of the House; for they were only the servants, the representatives of the people. He should not, however, be surprised, although he should be sorry to find it ordered, that no petition be printed.

Mr. Bennet

next presented a Petition from William Ogden, of Manchester, Printer; setting forth,

"That the Petitioner is an old man, 74 years of age, with a large family dependent on him for support, and during his absence his wife solicited the overseers of Manchester for relief, but was rudely refused any, as he the said petitioner was an advocate for parliamentary reform, although he has paid the poor-rate in Manchester for thirty-six years, and by his two wives had seventeen children: he was seized, by a warrant from lord Sidmouth, on Sunday morning the 9th of March 1817. while in bed, the day before the meeting of the 10th; his house was rummaged, his property carried away, and all his papers, and though nothing was found but what was perfectly legal, he was committed to prison in solitary confinement, nor had he any meat allowed him from Sunday morning till Tuesday at three o'clock in the afternoon, when, on complaint to col. Sylvester, the magistrate, he was ordered a three-penny pye, which was all the meat allowed him at that prison; he also informed the said magistrate that his shoes were broke, and not fit for such a journey, on which the magistrate said, "Get him a pair, Nadin, get him a pair;" but the catchpole replied, "Why did you not send for another pair?" to which the petitioner replied, "I have not always two pair, and did not know of marching orders;" but Nadin replied, "It's too late now," and over-ruled the colonel, as none were given the petitioner; he was then loaded with a manacle not less than thirty pounds weight, and treated in the most brutal manner by the constable, and Nadin his deputy, whom the petitioner has every reason to conclude was the informant against him; as he had for six weeks before declared to the petitioner personally, that if he did not discontinue his attendance at the public meetings, he would apprehend him; conscious of the rectitude of his conduct, the petitioner disregarded his rude threat; but before the meeting of the 10th of March commenced he was apprehended by the said Nadin, and therefore did not attend; on application to face any informant, the petitioner was treated indignantly by the ferocious Nadin, and immediately posted off; the ponderous irons the petitioner was loaded with broke his belly, and caused an hernia to ensue about eight o'clock in the evening, when going to bed, and it was impossible to alarm the gaoler; the petitioner remained in that dreadful state for more than sixteen hours in the most excruciating torture; on the turnkey appearing in the morning, two surgeons were sent for, who, after using such means as seemed to them necessary, found nothing would do but the knife, and apprehended, from the petitioner's age (seventy-four), he should die under the severe operation; the pain he endured was so great, that he insisted on that means being resorted to; they unwillingly commenced the operation, which continued for one hour and forty minutes; and, praised be God, and the skill of the surgeons, the petitioner survived it, contrary to the surgeons' expectation, but much debilitated in his constitution, and he is fearful he shall never be able to follow his employ as a printer; Mr. Dixon, the surgeon, and his partner, performed the operation in Horsemonger gaol, and can witness to the truth of this statement; the wound in the groin of the petitioner was above seven inches in length, and Mr. Dixon had his entrails out of his belly in his fingers, like a link of sausages; Mr. Walters the governor was also there, and can speak to the fact here recorded; thus has an old man been torn from his family, and ruined in his business, by the base municipality of Manchester alone, who alone were the rioters, one of whom was a clergyman, the Rev. Mr. C. Ethelston; for the petitioner declares before God, who is both omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, he had done no wrong, though he has suffered all this, and has been near nine months in solitary confinement, through the machinations of mean unworthy men, who have disgraced the very source that created them; the petitioner, therefore, humbly hopes that the House will not pass an act of indemnity so as to preclude him from seeking that redress his hard case merits, and that remuneration which he is in justice entitled to."

Sir Francis Burdett

rose to present a petition of a similar nature. It was scandalous that so many innocent men should be seized and subjected to imprisonment. They had been arrested without a charge, confined and punished according to the pleasure of ministers, and most illegally discharged without an opportunity of proving their innocence and their sufferings. They had always pressed for a trial, but when the time came their accusers shrunk from such a test of their conduct.

The Petition was read. It was from John Stewart, weaver in Glasgow; setting forth,

"That the Petitioner was apprehended by the sheriff of Lanarkshire on the 22d of February last year, and put in prison, where he remained seven weeks and three days, when he was liberated on bail, without having been charged with any specific crime; that from the 22d till the 26th of the said month he continued in gaol without fire, candle, provisions, or even a bed to rest upon, in that cold and inclement season of the year; that his prison allowance was only 4s. 8d. per week, 2s. 6d. of which was expended in the articles of coals, candles, and other necessary things, leaving only 2s. 2d. to find him in weekly subsistence; that the petitioner has a wife and three children who suffered severely from the want of his labour and company, while the loss of work, the expense of a bail bond, and other charges connected with his confine- ment and liberation, have reduced his circumstances and require redress; may it therefore please the House to take the above into serious consideration, and grant such redress as to them may seem meet."

Mr. Bennet

presented a petition from William Benbow, late of Manchester, setting forth,

"That the Petitioner on the 16th of May 1817, was arrested in the city of Dublin without apparent legal authority for that purpose, and detained in custody after examination for four days, without being able to obtain any information as to the cause of his arrest or detention in custody; that on the 20th of May 1817, the petitioner being still in custody, a messenger arrived from England, and rearrested him, by virtue of a warrant from lord Sidmouth, upon a pretended suspicion of high treason, and the petitioner was conveyed in irons from Dublin to London, and committed to the House of Correction in Cold Bath Fields, there to remain until delivered by due course of law; that the petitioner was then promised a fair trial, and that the list of witnesses intended to be brought against him, with whatever other information might be necessary, should be furnished him in due time; that the petitioner was confined for the space of eight months in the House of Correction as aforesaid, and treated with much unnecessary cruelty and insult, and exposed to much studied deprivation of those comforts that his situation required; the petitioner not being permitted to correspond freely even with his wife, the letters of the petitioner to his wife being detained by lord Sidmouth, and those of his wife to the petitioner by the gaoler of the House of Correction, as if it were necessary to add all the pain to the petitioner's miserable situation, of which his persecutors were capable; the petitioner's letters, or rather such of them as lord Sidmouth thought proper, were forwarded free of expense, this was not requested by the petitioner, but afterwards the petitioner was informed that no more correspondence could be franked for state prisoners; that the petitioner requested the secretary of state to furnish him with such necessaries as the deprivation of liberty prevented him from procuring for himself, when he was insulted by being told he might have such things as were provided for persons committed on felonious charges; that after eight months of such unmerited confinement and violent treatment, the petitioner was offered his liberation upon terms which he deemed himself bound to reject, as degrading, oppressive, unjust, and calculated to shield his persecutors from the consequences of their despotic conduct; that the petitioner therefore refused to accept his liberty upon any other than an unconditional discharge, and a full admission of the unnecessary violation of the laws which had taken place in his person; that the petitioner did receive such unconditional discharge on the 20th of this month, and after having been thus confined and ill-treated by his persecutors, is now discharged without trial, and thrown upon the world without means, at a distance of nearly two hundred miles from his home and family, without the least assistance to carry him thither, or to compensate in any way his losses and privations by such a wanton violation of the principles of justice, and the constitutional laws of the land; the petitioner therefore feels himself in duty called upon to lay his sufferings and his grievances before the House, and to call upon its honourable members for such redress as may become their regard for the liberty of the people, and the sanctity of the laws, both of which have been violated in the treatment experienced by the petitioner."

The Petitions were ordered to lie on the table, and be printed.