Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE EVIDENCE.

The testimony against Russell was substantially the same as that given against Crockett (1 Am. St. Tr. 443-451), with the addition of Russell's own admission to Chief Engineer Hammond, Captain Case and Constable Shute and Andrews. To Mr. Hammond, Russell stated, that he "ought to have gone and complained against Crockett, and then he should have got clear himself.” To Capt. Case he said, he had been with Freeman and Crockett in M'Vity's house, and was also at the wood pile, but that he knew nothing about setting the house on fire, or that any one intended to do it. Russell also told Captain Case that he did not hear Crockett tell Freeman about it, because he went up to the wood pile to speak to him, and left Russell standing off at a little distance. To Constable Shute, he said he was with Crockett, but when Crockett touched the fire, he was a little ways from him; and that

Crockett told him he had touched it. To Andrews, he said he was with Crockett the whole time, but that he did not set the fire, but had no doubt that Crockett did set the fire. He told Andrews that he was very sorry he had got into the difficulty, and was a damned fool for not complaining of others, and saved himself.

Freeman (See 1 Am. St. Tr. 446) disclosed some facts, not important, which he did not allude to, in the first trial, and a great number of incidental, but immaterial circumstances, roborating Freeman, were elicited from the other witnesses, that were not brought out on Crockett's trial-such as the misunderstanding in M'Vity's house, (See 1 Am. St. Tr. 447). John M. Salmon saw Russell at the fire and he heard him telling half a dozen men, that he saw the fire when there were only some shavings burning in the cellar.

cor

Mr. Choate admitted that Freeman had testified truly against Crockett, and that his evidence had justly handed him over to the gallows; but he contended that Freeman had intentionally misrepresented and invented the facts which pressed against Russell; and argued that Russell and Freeman were both precisely in the same predicament and were equally and clearly guilty of a misprision of felony, but not of the crime charged in the indictment. Mr. Choate, in support of his position, relied strongly on the fact stated by Crockett to Freeman (and confessed by Russell to his counsel) that he was criminally associated with the "strange woman,” by the Cooper's shop at the time Crockett fired the building. Mr. Choate reminded the jury that though they might not convict

Russell, yet he would not be returned to the bosom of the community, but must enevitably be shut up in the State Prison for the minor offense of which he had been guilty.

Mr. Austin relied upon the clandestine movements of Russell and Crockett throughout the whole evening and nightthe secret manner in which they left South Boston and Russell's inquiry for Crockett at M'Vity's, at the very moment he knew Crockett was at the door and almost every other circumstance in the case, as proving an original agreement to set the building in a blaze.

JUDGE WILDE charged the jury very fully upon the law respecting aiding, abetting and consenting to a felony, and instructed them that if they considered the fact established, that Russell, after he started to accompany Crockett in his second attempt to fire the house, abandoned Crockett to consort with the woman, then he must, according to law, be considered as having ceased to aid and abet Crockett in the commission of the crime charged, but His Honor at the same time adverted to the imperfect character of the testimony upon that point.

The Jury retired at 20 minutes after 6, and at a quarter before 9, returned with a verdict of Guilty and a recommendation to mercy.

The Prisoner was sentenced to death and executed along with Crockett in the Boston Jail Yard on the morning of Wednesday, March 16, 1836. See 1 Am. St. Tr. 452.

THE TRIAL OF WILLIAM COBBETT FOR LIBEL.

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA, 1797.

THE NARRATIVE.

As the prosecutions for breach of neutrality in Washington's administration clearly show (see 4 Am. St. Tr., 600) the people of the United States were violent partisans of the different belligerents in the European war, though a large majority supported the French Republic. And when Washington was succeeded in the Presidency by John Adams, the spirit of party broke loose in its worst shape and the newspapers of the day took the lead in invective and abuse. France was greatly displeased with the Jay treaty made with England and the Spanish minister to the United States, Don Carlos Martinez De Yrujo, presented a note to the American Secretary of State protesting in the name of his King against the treaty. The newspapers that favored England declared that though the Spanish note came from Madrid it was dictated at Paris and that the King of Spain was nothing but a puppet of the French Directory. The most scurrilous of these writers was an English emigrant named William Cobbett, who in Philadelphia published a paper called Porcupine's Gazette. The Spanish note and the Spanish Minister, whom he called Don Yarico, "a frivolous Spaniard, half Don and half Sans Culotte,” were both attacked by Cobbett.

1

COBBETT, WILLIAM. He was born on a farm in Farnham, Surrey, “As he grew up his business was to drive robins from the turnip seeds and rooks from the peas. Then he went to clip box edgings, and weed beds of flowers in the Bishop of Winchester's garden, and at last set off to Kew Gardens where a good-natured Scotchman gave him a lodging and found him work. From Kew he went back to Farnham and from Farnham wandered up to London. There he toiled as a copying clerk in a lawyer's office, till one bright morning he took the King's shilling and joined the fifty-fourth regiment of foot. For eight years he was a soldier. But in 1792 he came over to Philadelphia and began to teach Frenchmen to speak English, for Ever since Spain, observed the writer, has been ruled by princes of the Bourbon family, her name has been disgraced in peace and in war. Every important measure has been directed by the crooked politics of France. This had always been apparent, but never so apparent, as in the present reign and at the present time. The degenerate prince who then sat upon the Spanish throne seemed destitute, not only of the dig. nity of a King, but of the common virtues of a man. To ally himself to the murderers of a benevolent prince, the flower of his family, was not enough. He had become the tool of their most nefarious politics. As was the King at home, so was the Minister abroad. The nod of the five despots at Paris governed Charles. The French agents in America ruled Don Yarico. The infidel tyrants had seen fit to insult and rob the United States. The obsequious, imitative Don must therefore attempt the same.

The Spanish Minister complained to the American Secretary of State, Timothy Pickering, and Cobbett was bound over for trial in the Federal District Court. But Don Yrujo, not content with this, had another prosecution begun in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania before Chief Justice McKean, whose daughter he was engaged to marry.

When the trial came on McKean took the part of a witness and a judge. His charge to the jury was an able one and his explanation of the law of libel did him credit. His condem

he had himself spent six months in France." See McMaster's Hist. People U. S.

He wrote a pamphlet on Dr. Priestly signed Peter Porcupine which had a large sale and gave him much reputation, he was encouraged by those who wanted to use his vigorous pen, and his Porcupine letters soon became a feature of the political strife. But he libelled so many people, that to escape the judgments against him he fled back to England where he died, aged 71, after a tumultuous career in his native land. See ante, preface.

2 PICKERING, TIMOTHY. (1745-1829.) Born and died in Salem, Massachusetts. One of the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas, Essex Co., Mass., and sole Maritime Judge, 1776. Adjutant General, 1777. Postmaster General, 1791-1795. Secretary of War, 1795-1796. Secretary of State, 1795-1800. United State Senator, 1803-1811. Representative in Congress, 1813-1817.

nation of the ribaldry, the scurrility, the slanderous charges made daily by the writers of pamphlets, and contributors to Federal and Republican journals was richly deserved. Libeling, he declared, has become a kind of national crime. It marked off the American people not only from neighboring countries, but from the whole civilized world. American satire was billingsgate. The struggle had been, who could call names with the greatest variety of phrase, who could mangle the largest number of characters, who could tell the most shameful lies. Had he ended his charge with these remarks, he would have done well. But he went on, forgot that he was a judge, became an advocate, and in turn, libeled the prisoner at the bar. Impressed with the duties of his station, the jury were told to “use some endeavors for checking the evils by binding over the editor and printer of one of them, licentious and virulent, beyond all former example, to his good behavior."

But the Grand Jury refused to return a true bill.

THE TRIAL.4

In the Supreme Court of Oyer and Terminer, Philadelphia,

Pennsylvania, November, 1797.
HON. THOMAS MCKEAN, Chief Justice.

November 16. The November Session of the Oyer and Terminer for the County of Philadelphia opened today and the Grand Jury being assembled, the following charge was delivered to them.

32 McMaster, 353.
4 See Wharton's State Trials, 4 Am. St. Tr. 616.

5 McKEAN, THOMAS. (1734-1817.) Born New London, Pa. Was elected in 1762 to the Delaware Assembly and continued to be returned for eleven years. Delegate to New York Congress, 1765. Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware. A signer of the Declaration of Independence and of the Articles of Confederation. Delegate from Delaware to the Continental Congress, 1774, 1776, 1778, 1783. President of the Congress, 1781. Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, 1777-1799. Governor of Pennsylvania, 1799-1808. Died in Philadelphia.

« PreviousContinue »