Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

disturbance of many of his liege people and subjects, to the ill-example of all others in the like case offenders, and against the peace of the said lord the King, his crown and dignity.'

Such was the form and matter of a charge which was to be a memorable fact in the development of our civic liberties. No other verdict than acquittal could have been expected by a man with eyes to see and sense to understand. The very date assigned to the offence was wrong for Penn was taken on Sunday, August 14, and the indictment charged him with addressing a tumultuous and disorderly assembly in Gracechurch Street, on Monday, August 15, when he was living at the Black Dog. Penn and Mead were indicted for 'conspiring together by agreement, before made between them. They had never met, never spoken, never written to each other; they were perfect strangers till they found themselves in custody on a common charge. They were accused of being armed. Both Penn and Mead had long ago laid down their swords; and both were men of peace, in that extreme degree that they would not have raised a weapon even in self-defence.

"What say you, William Penn and William Mead, are you guilty as you stand indicted, in manner and form as aforesaid, or not guilty ?'

Penn: ‘It is impossible that we should be able to remember the indictment verbatim, and therefore we desire a copy of it, as is customary on the like occasions.'

Howell: You must first plead to the indictment before you can have a copy of it.'

Penn: 'I am unacquainted with the formality of the law, and before I shall answer, I request two things of the court :-first, that no advantage be taken against me, nor I be deprived of any benefit I might otherwise have received ; secondly, that you will promise me a fair hearing and liberty of making my defence.'

Court: “No advantage shall be taken against you. You shall have liberty; you shall be heard.'

Penn: "Then I plead not guilty in manner and form.'

Like questions being put to Captain Mead, and the same assurances being given to him, he also pleaded not guilty in manner and form; on which the court adjourned for dinner until three o'clock.

Assembling after dinner, the court commanded Penn and Mead to be placed at the bar. They took their places; but the judges changed their minds; and Howell the Recorder, called the ordinary felons on his list. Penn, Mead, and the twelve jurymen were detained till eight o'clock at night, when they were told the court would take their case on Saturday.

CHAPTER XII.
OLD BAILEY (1670).

On Saturday, September 3, the court assembled for the case of Captain Mead and William Penn.

The prisoners were coming into court with their hats on; a too zealous officer knocked them off; on which Sir Samuel Starling bellowed from the bench, ‘Sirrah! Who bade you put off their hats ? Put them on again.' As neither Mead nor Penn resisted, the officer picked their hats from the floor and set them on the prisoners' heads. When they had thus been covered by command of the court, Recorder Howell asked them if they knew where they were, to which Penn answered that they knew.

Howell: Do you know it is the King's court?'

Penn: ‘I know it to be a court, and I suppose it to be the King's court.'

Howell: Do you know there is respect due to the court?'

Penn: 'Yes.'
Howell: “Why do you not pay it then?'
Penn: 'I do so.'

Howell: Why do you not pull off your hat then ?

Penn: “Because I do not believe that to be any respect.'

Howell: Well, the court sets forty marks apiece on your heads as a fine for your contempt of court.

Penn: “I desire it may be observed that we came into court with our hats off-that is, taken

off-and if they have been put on since, it was by order of the Bench; and therefore not we, but the Bench should be fined.'

The jury being sworn, Sir John Robinson, suspecting that Edward Bushel, one of the jurors, known to be a religious man, objected to take an oath, pretended not to have seen him kiss the book, and desired him to be sworn again. Bushel was sworn a second time. Lieutenant James Cook was called.

Cook: 'I was sent for from the Exchange to go and disperse a meeting in Gracechurch Street, where I saw Mr. Penn speaking to the people, but I could not hear what was said on account of the noise. I endeavoured to make way to take him, but I could not get near him for the crowd of people; upon which Captain Mead came to me about the kennel of the street and desired me to to let him go on, for when he had done he would bring Mr. Penn to me.'

Court: What number do you think there might be there?'

Cook: ‘About three or four hundred people.' Richard Read, a constable, was called.

Howell: "What do you know concerning the prisoners at the bar?'

Read: My lord, I went to Gracechurch Street, where I found a great crowd of people, and I heard Mr. Penn preach to them, and I saw Captain Mead speaking to Lieutenant Cook, but what he said I could not tell.'

Mead: “What did William Penn say?'

Read: There was such a great noise I could not tell what he said.'

Mead: “Observe this evidence; he saith, he heard him preach; and yet saith, he doth not know what he said.-Take notice (to the jury) he means now a clean contrary thing to what he swore before the Mayor when we were committed. I appeal to the Mayor himself if this be not true.'

Sir Samuel Starling would not answer yea or nay.

Court: "What number do you think there might be there?

Read: ‘About four or five hundred.'

Penn: 'I desire to know of the witness what day it was?'

Read: The 14th day of August.'

Penn: “Did he speak to me, or let me know he was there? For I am very sure I never saw him.'

The court would not allow this question to be put.

Another witness was called : his name not given.

Unknown Witness: 'My lord, I saw a great number of people, and Mr. Penn I suppose was speaking for I saw him make a motion with his hands and heard some noise, but could not understand what was said. But for Captain Mead, I did not see him there.'

Howell: What say you, Mr. Mead,-were you there?'

Mead: It is a maxim in your own law, Nemo tenetur accusare seipsum-which, if it be not true Latin, I am sure it is true English-No man is bound to accuse himself. And why dost thou offer to ensnare me with such a question ? Howell: 'Hold your tongue, sir.'

Penn: 'I desire we may come more close to the point, and that silence be commanded.' 'Silence in the court !' said the crier.

Penn: “We confess ourselves so far from recanting or declining to vindicate the assembling of ourselves to preach, to pray, or worship God that we declare to all the world, we believe it to be our

« ZurückWeiter »