HC Deb 27 February 1818 vol 37 cc674-8
Mr. Bennet

presented a Petition from Samuel Bamford, of Middleton, Lancaster; setting forth,

"That at dusk on the 11th of March, 1817, a young man was introduced to the petitioner by Dr. Joseph Healey at Middleton aforesaid: that the said young man stated himself to have been deputed by some persons in Manchester, to propose to the Petitioner and the rest of the Middleton reformers, the burning and sacking of Manchester aforesaid, the storming of the Barracks and New Bailey prison, and the liberation of the blanketeers confined in that place; that the above proposal was by the petitioner rejected with horror, and the petitioner, considering the young man as an innocent dupe to some spy, urged him by every legal, humane, and honourable consideration to have nothing more to do with the business; that the young man appearing affected, promised that he would never more propose such a thing to any person, and he shortly afterwards returned to Manchester, on his way to which place he told a person who accompanied him a short distance, that one Lomax, of Bank Top, in Manchester, was one of the persons who sent him to Middleton; that notwithstanding the above demonstration of the petitioner's reverence to the laws of his country, of his love to the principles of humanity, of his abhorrence to rapine and plunder, the petitioner was, on the morning of the 29th of March, arrested on suspicion of high treason, by authority of a warrant signed by the secretary of state for the home department; that the petitioner was, by the deputy constable of Manchester, handcuffed like a common thief, and by the said deputy escorted by a party of the king's dragoon guards, conveyed to the New Bailey prison in Salford, where he was put into a common cell, in which were four other persons who were charged with felony; that the petitioner frequently requested the governor and turnkeys to let him have a blanket to shelter him from the intense cold, but that the petitioner's request was not attended unto; that on the following morning the petitioner was, with seven other persons, heavily ironed, and put into a stage-coach, in order to be conveyed to London; that the petitioner was accordingly, in company with the above seven persons, conveyed to London, by two king's messengers and two police runners; that on the night of the petitioner's arrival in London, when he retired to rest, he was chained in bed to two other fellow prisoners (Healey and Lancashire); that on the 1st of April, the petitioner was taken to lord Sidmouth's office, at Whitehall, when lord Sidmouth informed the petitioner, that he was arrested by virtue of a warrant signed by the said lord Sidmouth; that afterwards the petitioner was taken to the House of Corection in Cold Bath-fields; that on or about the 8th of April, the petitioner was again examined by lord Sidmouth, who repeated to him the aforesaid charge, and that the petitioner in his defence affirmed, that no just ground of suspicion could exist against him, for that instead of having done, or encouraged to be done, any thing of a treasonable nature, his conduct had always been the reverse; the petitioner at the same time acknowledged himself to be a reformer, and did then, as he still does, take credit to himself for so being, but strenuously denied having ever recommended violence in the accomplishment of a reform; that during the month of April the petitioner was frequently examined, at one of which examinations, lord Sidmouth questioned him respecting his knowledge of a person named Lomax, whether the petitioner was ever in company of said Lomax, upon what occasion the petitioner was in company of said Lomax, and what was the subject of discourse during the time the petitioner was in said company, to all of which questions the Petitioner answered simply and truly, whereupon lord Sidmouth observed, "This cannot be the man," or words to that effect, for the petitioner had understood lord Sidmouth as having alluded to a near neighbour of the petitioner's, residing at Middleton; but when the petitioner in his prison room began to reflect upon every circumstance, he saw the improbability of his former conjecture, and was convinced that lord Sidmouth meant one Lomax, who resided at Bank Top at Manchester, and who, after the arrests which took place at that town, was recognized by the whole country as a spy in the pay of the police, the same Lomax, at whose instigation the young man, mentioned in the beginning of this petition, proposed to the petitioner the burning and sacking of Manchester, which proposal was rejected by the petitioner as before stated; that on the 29th of April, the petitioner was liberated from his confinement in Cold Bath-fields prison, and was allowed 3l to carry him home to Middleton aforesaid; that from the foregoing circumstances, the petitioner ventures to express confidence, that the House will perceive the extreme probability of the petitioner's arrest having taken place in consequence of false information furnished by the aforesaid notorious Lomax; but that whatever may be the opinion of the House respecting this conclusion, they will not fail to express that strong feeling of indignation and abhorrence which ought always to animate the guardians of the lives and liberties of Englishmen, when, as in the case of the petitioner, their lives are basely endangered and their liberties violated; wherefore the petitioner prays that the House will no longer countenance a system of terror, of blood, and of oppression, by granting to his majesty's ministers a bill, indemnifying them from the consequences of the numerous outrages by them committed against the constitution of this realm."

Mr. Bennet

also presented a Petition from Elijah Dixon, of Manchester; setting forth,

"That the Petitioner was, on the 12th of March 1817, whilst following his lawful occupation, apprehended by a warrant issued by lord Sidmouth, and carried to London in double irons, and was on the 15th of the same month committed to Tothil-fields bridewell, by the same noble lord, on suspicion of high treason, and there detained till the 13th of November, although the same noble lord must, or might have known, that he was perfectly innocent of the crime imputed to him; the petitioner therefore prays, that the House will be pleased to consider the justice of making the said noble lord responsible for the loss of time of the petitioner, and for the injuries which his family has suf- fered, in consequence of his long, unjust, and unredressed imprisonment; he also prays, that they will be pleased to adopt such a reform in the election of members to serve in the House, as shall give each man a feeling sense that he is really represented, and enable him once more proudly to boast of our glorious constitution, in King, Lords, and Commons."

Mr. Bennet

also presented a Petition from Robert Pilkington, of Bury, Lancaster; setting forth,

"That on the 18th April, 1817, a king's messenger, attended by three special constables, entered his house, demanding his attendance, and, when he disputed the authority of these intruders to seize on his person, the only authority they exhibited was, the gorget of the messenger; this he considered insufficient, but was under the necessity of submitting, as one of the messenger's attendants seized him by the collar of his coat, and dragged him from his family, which consisted of a wife and six small children, with whom he was about to retire to rest; and when he remonstrated with the messenger's attendants on being conducted in so brutal a manner (reminding them that he had not attempted to escape), only oaths and imprecations added to the disgraceful scene; he also charges these unlawful visitants with robbing his house of a number of papers and publications; also, when he was loaded with irons and seated in the mail, he heard the deputy constable of Manchester say to his emissaries that were to attend the petitioner, that he would give them five pounds if they could hang him; the petitioner hopes that the House will not suffer such violations of decorum in its officers of peace without manifesting its displeasure; after the petitioner arrived in London, he was three times conveyed to Whitehall, and twice given to expect an examination and twice disappointed; at first these officious gentlemen affected not to have sufficient information, and, when this twice-promised examination came on, he had to endure the mortification of only hearing declarations without foundation, without one word or act being specified that he had said or done, and without being asked one question; after this mock examination, he was committed on suspicion of a crime of which he was not guilty, and has had since to endure the torture of solitary incarceration for upwards of seven months, without being permitted to walk in the open air for a single hour; and in opposition to a positive declaration of lord Castlereagh in the House, his wife had been refused the privilege of seeing him during his confinement in Manchester, and that two gentlemen of respectability had met with the same denial from the governor of Surrey gaol; that, in consequence of his late imprisonment, his family has had to endure sufferings too complicated for this statement; his house has been broke up, and his family necessitated to enter the workhouse, and have there been treated in an inhuman manner; although his oldest child was then only eleven years of age, two of them, and his wife, have been confined in the workhouse dungeon, one has been in irons for three days, one has been confined a night and a day without meat, or even water to drink, with many other abuses; and when this inhuman governor was remonstrated with respecting his conduct, he had the audacity to say he had received orders how to treat them; the petitioner now hopes that, after suffering in his mind, body, character, and family, the House will not preclude him, by any bill of indemnity, from obtaining a just redress by virtue of the law of the land; but, should they pass a bill that will indemnify all those that have, under the auspices of government, committed their ravages on society during the suspension of the Habeas Corpus, to the injury of individuals and to the ruin of families, it may be assured that both law and legislators will cease to possess that respect originally paid to the British House of Commons and its admirable laws; the petitioner is of opinion that there are traitors of the blackest hue; if he be one, he refuses not to suffer; and, except the House enters into a rigid inquiry for the purpose of bringing them to condign punishment, the petitioner is convinced that it must in the sight of God, and injured society, be guilty of all the flagrant enormities that have taken place during the suspension of its own laws; the petitioner, therefore, for the honour of the nation, the welfare of society, the punishment of offenders, and the redress of injured innocence, hopes the House will possess its original dignity, in honestly, manfully, and courageously refusing to pass a bill that will indemnify villains who have committed notorious depredations with impunity."

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