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Sir F. Burdett,
ON A CHARGE OF A SEDITIOUS
AGAINST HIS MAJESTY'S GOVERNMENT;
AT FULL LENGTH.
Tried at Leicester, on Wednesday, the 22d of March, 1820,
before Mr. Justice Best, and a Special Jury.
2, Broadway, Ludgate-Hill.
SIR FRANCIS BURDETT.
On Thursday, March 23, 1920, this long-expected and important case was brought on for trial before Sir William Draper Best, and a Special Jury.
The interest which ihis trial excited in the town and neighbourhood of Leicester, was as great as any that has ever been witnessed on a similar occasion. The Court was opened at halfpast seven in the morning, and in a very short time the outside passages were entirely filled ; but in consequence of the very judicious arrangements that had been previously made by the officers of the Court, no great pressure or inconvenience was felt in the interior of the place. Here we think it but justice to take notice of the very handsome conduct of Mr. Burbidge, the under-sheriff of Leicestershire, towards all the gentlemen connected with the public press, who attended to take a report of the trial. He first of all told them, that they should be accommodated at the barristers' table ; but having afterwards observed that those learned gentlemen were numerous enough to occupy all their benches, he caused a commodious place, with seats erected for the purpose, to be fitted up for their accommodation near the jury-box on the right side of the bench. Every vacant place on the bench was filled by persons of the first distinction in the county. Among them we observed Lady Noel, the mother of Lady Byron, Lady Foulke, Lady Elizabeth Norman, Lord Denbigh, Lady Palk, and numerous other persons of rank, together with most of the magistrates of the county.
About a quarter past nine o'clock, loud huzzas on the part of the populace oatside the Court, announced the approach of Sir Francis Burdett; and, in a few minutes after, the Baronet en. tered the Court, accompanied by a friend, and took his seat at the barristers' table, nearly under the bench. The moment be entered, the eyes of all the spectators were directed with eager
Printed and published by John Fairburn, 2, Broadway, Ludgate-hill.
curiosity towards him. A little before ten o'clock, Mr. Harmer, solicitor to Sir Francis Burdett, arrived, with a great quantity of books, papers, and other documents, intended to be read by his client in the course of his defence.
Mr. Justice Best having taken his seat on the bench, the fol. lowing gentlemen were then called and sworn, as a Special Jury, to try the case :-
Edward Farnham, of Quorndon, Esq.
John Goodacre, of Ullesthorpe, Esq.
Mr. Balguy, the junior counsel on the part of the prosecution, opened the proceedings. He stated, that this was an information filed by his Majesty's Attorney-General against the defendant, Sir Francis Burdett, for a libel. The first count charged, that the defendant,' being an ill-disposed person, and intending to excile hatred and contempt of his Majesty's government, and particularly among the soldiers of the King, and wishing to have it believed that certain troops of the King, on the 16th of August, 1819, wantonly and cruelly cut down certain of his Majesty's subjects, did, on the 22d of the same month of August, publish a certain libel. The count then set out the libel verbatim, which was in these words ;
" TO THE ELECTORS OF WESTMINSTER. “ Gentlemen, - On reading the newspaper this morning, having arrived late yesterday evening, I was filled with shame, grief, and indignation at the account of the blood spilt at Manchester. This, then, is the answer of the boroughmongers to the petitioning people-- this is the practical proof of our standing in no need of reform, these the practical blessings of our glorious boroughmonger domination, this the use of a standing army in time of peace. It seems our fathers were not such fools as some would make us believe, in opposing the establishment of a standing army, and sending King William's Dutch Guards out of the
country. Yet, would to Heaven they had been Dutchmen, or Switzers, or Hessians, or Hanoverians, or any ihing rather than Englishmen, who have done such deeds.
What! kill men unarmed, unresisting !-and, gracious God, women too, disfigured, maimed, cut down, and trampled upon by dragoons ! Is this England? This a Christian land ? A land of freedom ? Can such things be, and pass us by like a summer cloud unheeded? Forbid it every drop of English blood, in every vein, that does not proclaim its owner bastard ! Will the gentlemen of England support or wink at such proceedings! They have a great stake in their country. They hold great estates, and they are bound in duty, and in honour, to consider them as retaining fees on the part of their country for upholding its rights and liberties. Surely, they will at length awake! and find they have other duties to perform besides fattening bullocks and planting cabbages. They never can stand tamely by, as lookers-on, while bloudy Neroes rip open their mothers' wombs! They must join the general voice, loudly demanding justice and redress; and head public meetings throughout the United Kingdom, to put a stop, in its commencement, to a reign of terror and of blood. To afford consolation, as far as it can be afforded, and legal redress to the widows and orphans and mutilated victims of this unparalleled and barbarous outrage. For this purpose, I propose that a meeting should be called in Westminster, which the gentlemen of the committee will arrange, and whose summons I will hold myself in readiness to attend. Whether the penalty of our meeting will be death, by military execution, I know not ; but this I know, a man can die but once; and never better, than in vindicating the laws and liberties of his country.
“ Excuse this hasty address. I can scarcely tell what I have written. It may be a libel ; or the Attorney-General may call it so--- just as he pleases. When the seven bishops were tried for a libel, the army of James II., then encamped on Hounslowheath, for supporting arbitrary power, gave three cheers on hearing of their acquittal : the King, startled at the noise, asked
What's that ?'' Nothing, Sir!'« was the answer, • but the soldiers shouting at the acquittal of the seven bishops.? Do ye call that nothing ? replied the misgiving tyrant; and shortly after abdicated the government. "Tis true, James could not inflict the torture on his soldiers !. could not tear the living flesh from their bones with a cat of nine tails !-could not flay them alive! - Be this as it may, our duty is to meet ! and Englands expects every man to do his duty !' “ I remain, Gentlemen, most truly and faithfully,
“ Your most obedient servant,
“F. BURDETT.” " Kirby-park, Aug. 22, 1819."