Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

directing and authorizing justices of the peace and that too privately out of sessions) to convict, fine, and by their warrants distrain upon offenders against it, directly contrary to the Great Charter.” It was impossible that an act like this could pass without becoming a source of new suffering to William Penn, situated as he then was, first, as a minister of the Gospel, and secondly, as a man who always dared to do what he thought to be his duty. Accordingly he was one of the earliest victims to its decrees : for, going as usual with others of his own religious society to their meeting-house in Gracechurch-street to perform divine worship, they found it guarded by a band of soldiers. Being thus hindered from entering it,' they stopped for a while about the doors. Others who came up joined the former, and stopped also, so that in a little time there was a considerable assembly on the spot. By this tiine William Penn felt himself called upon to preach ; but he had not advanced far in his discourse, when he and another of the society, William Mead, were seized by constables, who produced warrants signed by Sir Samuel Starling, then lord mayor, VOL. I. ' F

for

for that purpose. The whole plan of the arrest had been previously concerted, and the warrants contrived accordingly. The constables, after they had seized them, conveyed them to Newgate, where they were lodged, that they might be ready to take their trial at the next session at the Old Bailey.

On the first of September the trial came on; and here I have to express my regret that the limits which I have proposed to this work should prevent me from presenting it at full length to the notice of the reader, because altogether it is a very interesting event in our history, and one of which no part that is recorded, ought to be lost to posterity. I will, however, give, as far as I am able, the most prominent features in it.

The persons who were present on the bench as Justices on this day, were Sir Samuel Starling, lord mayor; John Howel, recorder; Thomas Bludworth, William Peak, Richard Ford, John Robinson, Joseph Shelden, aldermen; and Richard Brown, John Smith, and James Edwards, sheriffs.

The Jury, who were impanelled, and whose names ought to be handed down to

the

the love and gratitude of posterity, were Thomas Veer, Edward Bushel, John Hammond, Charles Milson, Gregory Walklet, John Brightman, William Plumstead, Henry Henley, James Damask, Henry Michel, William Lever, and John Baily.

The indictment stated among other falsehoods, that the prisoners had preached to an unlawful, seditious, and riotous assembly ; that they had assembled by agreement made beforehand ; and that they had met together with force and arms, and this to the great terror and disturbance of many of His Majesty's liege-subjects.

Very little was done on this day. The prisoners were brought to the bar; and having made their observations on several things as they passed, they pleaded Not guilty to the indictment. The Court was then adjourned. In the afternoon they were brought to the bar again; but they were afterwards set aside, being made to wait till after the trial of other prisoners.

On the third of September, the trial of those last mentioned being over, William Penn and Williain Mead were brought again into court. One of the officers, as they

F 2

entered,

entered, pulled off their hats. Upon this the Lord Mayor became furious, and in a stern voice ordered him to put them on again. This being done, the Recorder fined each of the prisoners forty marks, observing that the circumstance of being covered there amounted to a contempt of Court.

The witnesses were then called in and examined. It appeared from their testimony, that on the fifteenth of August between three and four hundred persons were assembled in Gracechurch-street, and that they saw William Penn speaking to the people, but could not distinguish what he said. One, and one only, swore that he heard him preach ; but on further examination he said, that he could not, on account of the noise; understand any one of the words spoken. With respect to William Mead, it was proved that he was there also, and that he was heard to say something; but nobody could tell what. This was in substance the whole of the evidence against them.

The witnesses having finished their testimony, William Penn acknowledged that both he and his friend were present at the place and time mentioned. Their object in being there was to worship God. “We are so far (says he) from, recanting, or declining to vindicate the assembling of ourselves to preach, pray, or worship the eternal, holy, just God, that we declare to all the world, that we do believe it to be our indispensable duty to meet incessantly upon so good an account; nor shall all the powers upon earth be able to divert us from reverencing and adoring our God, who made us." These words were scarcely pronounced, when Brown, one of the sheriffs, exclaimed, that he was not there for worshiping God, but for breaking the law. William Penn replied, that he had broken no law, and desired to know by what law it was that chey prosecuted him, and upon what law it was that they founded the indictment. The Recorder replied, The common law. William asked, where that law. was. The Recorder did not think it worth while, he said, to run over all those adjudged cases for so many years, which they called common law, to satisfy his cųriosity. William Penn thought, if the law were common, it should not be so hard to preduce. He was then desired to plead to the indictment; but on delivering his senti

ments

« ZurückWeiter »