Offences: Breaking Peace > wounding; Breaking Peace > wounding; Breaking Peace > wounding
Verdicts: Guilty; Guilty; Guilty
Punishments: Imprisonment > newgate; Miscellaneous > sureties
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ON Monday morning, the 13th of December, 1790, at ten o'Clock, RHYNWICK, otherwise RENWICK WILLIAMS, was brought from Newgate to the new Sessions-house on Clerkenwell-green, to take his trial for several assaults
Have you any counsel, prisoner?
Mr. Swift. Sir, I am counsel for him.
Do you know, prisoner, that you have a right to put off your trial till the next session, if you chuse it?
Mr. Swift. Sir, he would rather meet his fate at once, and know it; he has a clear and most indisputable alibi; but there has been such strange swearing; and as the former alibi was not credited, I am decidedly of opinion that no one witness shall be called; not that I am afraid to call them.
Chairman. I could wish not one single word should be said of any former trial till this time.
Prisoner. Mr. Chairman, and gentlemen of the jury -
Court. If you are going at all to open your case, it is improper what you seem to be about; if you have any thing to say with respect to your trial going on, or not going on, this is the proper time; but every other circumstance will come more properly when you come to make your defence.
Mr. Swift. I should conceive you would not object to any thing he may be going to say.
Prisoner. The prejudice of the times being somewhat abated, I look round to those who are to protect my innocence, with more confidence of impartiality than I formerly experienced in another place. I trust they will this day restore me to society: the same Almighty being who has so recently chastized me, will, I trust, not always extend his rod, but will this day defend me from my enemies; relying not more on your justice than on your humanity, I at once plead not guilty; for should I plead guilty for the sake of form, a mistaken world might be apt to think I actually am guilty, not knowing the reasons and motives that might induce me so to do: I said I would plead guilty; but I have since determined not to confess guilt under those circumstances, though by so doing I should avoid much perjury from my prosecutors. Sir, your deep penetration, will, I trust, pierce the veil with which my accusers have endeavoured to conceal the truth from your sight; and your well-known candor and impartiality will not suffer falshood to triumph over truth and innocence. You sit there not clothed in the terrors of an angry and sanguinary judge, but with that mildness of humanity with which you always smile at innocence. In your hands I feel myself safe, and I look up to you with conscious hope for support, in the whole of this trial: yours is the voice of justice, because it is the voice also of humanity: to talk to you of prejudice were an insult, not more to your justice than to your understanding. That I have suffered from prejudice, is certain; but I forgive my prosecutrix, and esteem the former jury for the very verdict they gave me, because they gave it as they believed it: in the same manner I shall respect yours, let it be what it may: I am confident that no other than truth will prevail: if you think me guilty, in the name of God pronounce me that very monster that my soul abhors, and from whose savage hands, I would this moment, at the risk of my life, rescue the very woman who has so barbarously pursued me: to your verdict I submit without a murmur; and should you think me guilty, let the pains of the law be what they may, I shall continue to trust in Almighty God, to enable me to support those sufferings with the fortitude of a man. Once more, Sir, I address myself to you: neither my poverty, my distresses, nor my long confinement, save me from the obloquy of those, whose purses have long been open to criminate me at all events; you, Sir, are neither a severe nor unjust judge; and though I have suffered one conviction, trusting to your mildness and to your candour, I submit to take my trial.
Counsel for the prisoner.
(The witnesses examined separate, at the request of Mr. Swift, counsel for the defendant.)
The prisoner was indicted by the name of RENWICK WILLIAMS, late of the parish of St. James , otherwise called RHYNWICK , for that he being a person of a wicked and cruel disposition, did, on the 18th of January last, make an assault on Ann Porter , spinster , and did then and there with force and arms, maliciously beat, wound, and ill-treat her, with wicked intention, feloniously, wilfully, and of his malice aforethought, to kill and murder her; and that he did then and there, with a certain knife, maliciously cut, strike, and wound her, giving her by such cutting, striking, and wounding, with the knife aforesaid, a dangerous wound in and on the right thigh of her, the said Ann, of the length of nine inches, and the depth of four inches, by means of which she was in great pain and anguish, and lost a great quantity of blood, and was in great danger of losing her life .
A second Count, charging him, for that he, on the 18th of January, in the parish aforesaid, did maliciously make an assault on Ann Porter , and then and there with a certain knife, maliciously did strike, cut, and wound her, giving her by such striking, cutting, and wounding, with the knife aforesaid, a dangerous wound on her right thigh, of the length of nine inches, and the depth of four inches, by means whereof, &c.
A third Count, charging him on the 18th of January, for that he with force and arms did maliciously make an assault on her, and then and there did maliciously beat and bruise her, so that her life was despaired of.
The indictment opened by Mr. Shepherd, and the case by Mr. Pigott, as follows -
Gentlemen of the Jury. You have probably many of you, perhaps all of you, been so frequently called upon to assist in the administration of the justice of your country in that important character, in which you are now invested, that it would be very unnecessary for me to attempt to give you any description of that offence which the law in the technical language it is accustomed to use, has denominated an assault and battery; you know very well the nature of that offence; you know in general to what you are to apply the evidence you hear when such an offence is opened. Gentlemen, if this description of the prisoner's offence would convey to your minds any adequate idea of it, it would be very unnecessary either for me, or for any person Counsel against the prisoner charged with an offence like this, to give you any very laboured or detailed description of it, undoubtedly it would; but Gentlemen, such is the state of the law in this country, (tho' I am sure you will presently see, on the smallest consideration, it is no reproach to that law,) that that very peculiar, and very extraordinary crime, unprecedented as it is, and which I hope will furnish no example to others, that extraordinary crime which it is my duty to day to open to you, those who prosecute are reduced to the necessity of prosecuting it as an assault and battery only. Gentlemen, the business of legislation in making laws by which the peace and welfare of society are to be secured, is the effort of civil wisdom, founded on common experience; the legislators are not speculatists on crimes, legislators are not speculatists on the human heart, they cannot foresee all the miserable courses of depravity, which it will take, they must therefore proceed according to experience and to civil wisdom; they must provide for such crimes as that experience shews to have been committed; we are perfectly familiar, therefore, with those crimes by which the high roads are infested, and with those lesser depredations
"out of the ordinary course of nature," that is Doctor Johnson's description of a Monster. Gentlemen, having said this, if the prisoner at the bar had not anticipated me, I should have anticipated him, in requesting that you will efface from your minds all recollection of every syllable you have read and heard about that Monster; that you will not recollect, you have ever heard of his name before; that you will not recollect any one of his transactions; that you will totally blot from your memory any conversation in which you have borne a share, or at which you may have been present, in which he, or his transactions may have been the subject: Gentlemen, if it was necessary so to do to men of your experience, I should conjure you to do so, not to believe the prisoner is the man, until you have it established in a Court of justice; not to apply that epithet till you know he is the man. Gentlemen, God knows the object of those, who have with a publick spirit, of which it were desirable that there were more examples, undertaken this prosecution; and their object would not be obtained, if it were possible that even the prisoner at the bar, whom I charge to have been so forgetful to every right of humanity, should owe his conviction to the smallest degree of popular prejudice: I deprecate it as much as he does; and I declare to you, if there be a man in Court, so ignorant of that Gentleman, to whom the publick is so much indebted for this prosecution, and for bringing the perpetrator of this crime to justice, and so ignorant of those, unworthy as they may be, to whom he has committed the conduct of this prosecution, as to suppose it wants the assistance of popularSarah Porter , went into the gallery of the ball-room, at St. James's, as perhaps they had done before, in order to see the ball, &c. (Here the learned Counsel minutely related the circumstances of the case, as were after repeated by the Miss Porters and the other witnesses, declaring that he had not words to express the dreadful injury, the shocking barbarity, the brutality, the ferocity of the prisoner, who in total want of all morality, of all humanity, and of all the claims of manhood, had made this attack on the person of Miss Porter. On the point of identity, Mr. Pigott observed)
"If those circumstances
"leave reasonable doubts about identity, there
"is an end of human testimony; no man can
"be identified, that one does not live with,
"and eat and drink with, and see all day:
"Gentlemen, this is the outline of the case
"I shall have to lay before you; I shall not
"anticipate the nature of the prisoner's defence.
"Gentlemen, in the discharge of the
"duty, which is now upon you, you have
"this satisfaction, that whereas, in other
"cases, though the law will have sacrifice,
"yet undoubtedly, your hearts often bleed
"over the victims that we are obliged to
"drag to the altar of justice; but in the present
"case, all the sensibilities of a good
"mind must have the contrary effect here;
"we know that the consequence will be,
"that this man will be prevented from doing
"such mischief for a time at least, and
"we are to hope, that he will be disposed
"of, after he has suffered the sentence of
"the law; he has had the benefit of that
"law already; the venerable Judges, who
"administer and interpret it, have been of
"opinion, that even against him, when
"they had in contemplation such a crime
"as his, that the spirit and letter of a statute
"is not to be stretched an iota, even in
"his case: Therefore, Gentlemen, here
"we are before you, on an indictment of an
"assault and battery, and I am persuaded
"you will do in this case, between the publick
"and the prisoner, that justice which
"will give the most complete satisfaction."
(Examined by Mr. Fielding.)
Every man here, Miss Porter, must feel for your situation; and let me desire you to be collected, and to put on the fortitude that is necessary for the end of public justice, and do not suffer yourself to be overcome by any alarm.
Miss Ann Porter then gave her evidence to the same effect as on the former trial, only mentioning several other times, in which the prisoner had previously insulted her and her sister; one of the jury asking, whether the language he had used was indecent or threatening? Mr. Fielding said, Madam, if you happen to know that sort of language, was it swearing, threatening, or indecent? To which she replied it was all; when she had finished, Mr. Fielding said,
"Miss Porter, now only let me desire you not to be alarmed but collected; recollect the object of public justice, which alone you pursue; and any questions that are put to you by the gentleman concerned for the prisoner, answer them coolly."
Mr. Swift. Whatever opinions have gone abroad of me, I can only say no person has felt more for your situation than I have; I only wish to obtain the truth from you, and shall disappoint these gentlemen in their expectations.
You are sure it was not a quarter after twelve when you left the ball-room? - I am sure it was not.
Was not you much agitated when you felt the blow? - However agitated I might have been, I should have known the prisoner.
Mr. Swift dwelt very much on the circumstance of some lamps, which were obstructed by two bow windows, which might prevent her from seeing the prisoner's person; to which she said, there was a sufficiency of light to see, and she was sure it was him. Miss Porter being just ready to faint at the manner of Mr. Swift's putting his questions, he was reminded by the Chairman, that the mode he adopted was not the most likely to get at truth; upon which he apologized and said, it was only his impetuous manner, and he would endeavour to be more temperate.
When you got home, after all the abuse you had met with in the various walks; whether you told your friends of that conversation? - I do not know what you mean by the various walks, I always told my friends when I went home; my situation always betrayed what I had met with.
Whether the lady did not say at Bow-street, the prisoner had brown hair? - I always said, I thought he had brown hair, but whether light or dark I could not say, because it was always powdered.
Did not you describe him with a remarkable large nose, and very thin? - I said he was by no means a very thin, slim man; for he rather was stout made; I described him in the best manner I could he appeared to me to be about twenty-eight or thirty.
Mr. Fielding. I forgot to ask a question of infinite importance to the public, and I ask it by way of introducing hereafter, the most respectable testimony that ever was introduced into a court of justice; I mean Mr. Angerstein; Have you ever received any reward for the evidence you have given? - Reward! Sir; my God.
You never had? - Never, Sir; Mr. Angerstein told me I was entitled to part of the reward; and I was surprised at the proposal, but I rejected it.
Mr. Swift. Had you directly or indirectly any interest through the medium of Mr. Coleman? - Interest! Sir; I wonder how you can ask me such a question; what connection have I with Mr. Coleman? good God, Sir, no.
M. Fielding. If any body should have said, that you have received fourteen hundred pounds on account of this; is it true or false? - The most infamous falsehood that any body can advance.
SARAH PORTER sworn.
Gave her evidence to the same effect as on the former trial, and was perfectly sure to the person of the prisoner; she added that it was three years since she first saw him; she was cross-examined by Mr. Swift, at considerable length, which she supported with more spirit than her sister, but nothing more material transpired on her cross-examination. Of the language used, she said it was the most shocking and indecent, she ever heard; and that it was indecent, inhuman, and abusive; she gave an account of the blow he gave her, and had said he was in the extreme twenty-five, twenty-eight, or thirty years of age; but upon the question being repeated, she said, she did not recollect exactly what she said, but she never spoke positively about his age; she also said she never saw him before without powder.
Deposed also to the same effect as on the former trial, and were also cross-examined by Mr. Swift; they also never saw the prisoner without powder, and had seen the prisoner when he had not spoken to them before.
Mrs. NEALL sworn.
Who was not examined on the former trial, deposed to being with Miss Porters, and confirmed their testimony, but did not see the prisoner's face; as she was going up to Mr. Porter's door, she received a blow on the left side of her temple, which for a moment stunned her; she saw a light like a flash of fire from her eye; as soon as she recovered herself, she saw a man couching down, but did not see his face; she said there was plenty of light in the street, and every subscription house in the street was illuminated.
Deposed that he was almost fifteen years of age, that he remembered opening the door to his sisters, and a man stood behind them looking in; he never saw him before, and could not swear to him.
Mr. TOMKINS, the Surgeon, sworn.
Described the wound given to Miss Porter, as in the former trial; and added, that he had been in many scenes of horror, but never saw any thing that affected him so much before; that the room was full of blood, and the poor girl laying like a dead corpse; he said that if he had been to have made an incision as a surgeon, he could not have made a clearer wound; the instrument must be very sharp; she had a fever, and was five or six weeks before she could walk.
Subsequent to the last trial of the prisoner, some days, I sent for Mr. Porter, and told him there was a reward to be given of fifty pounds, on the monster's being committed, and fifty pounds more on his being convicted; and I thought his daughter being so accessary in the finding of him, that she was intitled to half; and Mr. Coleman was to have the other; the father thanked me, and gave me no answer; he brought his daughter the next morning, I repeated to her as I did to the father, told her that I thought she was intitled to fifty pounds, as the reward, in being so accessary in taking of Williams; she thanked me, and refused the money, and said she would not touch a farthing of it, on any consideration whatever; the father then said, Sir, I approve of my daughter's conduct.
Sir, in point of fact, they have, neither this man, nor any part of the family, either directly, or indirectly, had any part of it? - If the contrary has been asserted, it is a mistake.
Mr. Swift. Has Mr. Coleman had any share in it? - Yes; I sent to Mr. Coleman some days after, and told him I had made an offer of half to Miss Porter, and that he was intitled to fifty pounds; he desired some days to consider of it; and some days after
Mr. Swift then began the Prisoner's Defence, as follows:
Gentlemen of the Jury. I never felt myself in a more aukward situation in my life than I do at this moment; not that I have a bad case to defend, for I think that I have an exceeding good one; but the difficulty I have to contend with is, with gentlemen of great abilities, so great, that I cannot add to them by any praises of mine; I feel my own deficiency; I have been bred to the profession, as you see, but very unhappily I am very much out of the habits of it; I shall therefore hope for some candour and allowance, if through the impetuosity of my temper, or any other cause, I should fall into a mistake: I have another circumstance to encounter; a popular idea has gone forth, but I trust it is very ill founded indeed, that I have an enmity to the sex, and that no man would take up the cause that had not; these are calumnies, however, that no man will venture to my face, and I am sure there is no woman that will: Gentlemen, the cause of beauty is that cause which every man must be proud to be engaged in; but, on the other side, on the closest investigation of the case, the more I examined into it the more innocent I found the man: as for the alibi, I assure you I set it at naught; not that I think that the witnesses are not to be called, but I advised them not to be called; however, I hope you will presently hear them, their testimony will be such which will sufficiently set aside the evidence against the prisoner: the learned Gentleman, whom I must follow at a very humble distance, and in the lowest of his train, he opened this matter, and appeared very much moved; he said he would this day establish the case beyond the possibility of a cavil: I am in the correction of the Court as to the expression, but I will not grant him that he has established it beyond the possibility of a most substantial contradiction; he has described this person, whoever he was, that committed this outrage, as a monster; and I do think that, when he joined his voice with that of the publick, he could not give it a more strong name; it is that sort of name which perhaps may be the strongest our language affords; I heartily join issue with the Gentleman that he also has very humanely and candidly desired you to withdraw your minds from all prejudice I think the prisoner very happy in so enlightened a jury, and I am sure that no circumstance of a former trial will weigh one single feather in the scale this day: Gentlemen, the learned counsel, Mr. Pigot (and I do not mean to impeach the principles, integrity, and virtue, of the worthy Gentleman), observed, that the character of Mr. Angerstein could not be impeached; now, although a man may mean extremely well, yet rewards of a very high and exorbitant nature are attended with a dangerous influence, and in the calendar of the country instances may be found of men who have not only trumpt up evidence to obtain rewards themselves, but to get it in others; I do not mean it is so this day; the legislators have fixed on rewards of a certain sum; and I must say, when a private individual steps out of that line which is constitutionally appointed on those occasions, however he may not err in his heart, he certainly errs in his judgement; the influence which rewards have, if it has not been employed on some part of the evidence you have heard to-day, has been received by others, and you will judge what credit you will give to that man, I mean Coleman: Gentlemen, I am very unused to publick speaking; I have been about this business all day; and if I am in a labyrinth, you will get me out: my learned friend, who first addressed you, called the address that the poor prisoner made to you cant and hypocrisy; he said it was nothing more than cant to call his Maker to his innocence, that it was a mockery of publick justice;Sarah Porter tells you, that just as she passed, a chair was going by, and she felt at that instant a stroke from somebody, who I am very ready to admit was the person that wounded her sister; that they ran all together, and both described that the person, whoever he was, struck that woman, and stooped down; one knew him as he stooped down, and the other knew him as he stood up: Gentlemen, I shall call a witness to you, that shall prove to you, that there is literally a bow window on each side the door, which sufficiently intercept the lights: Gentlemen, your own reason, without my proving it, will tell you, that if there is an interception of light on the right and on the left, if a man stands with his back to the light, it is impossible the light can fall on his face; the only question is, whether, under all the circumstances of the case, this was the man who committed that outrage. Miss Sarah says she knew him by the lights in the passage; that she saw a man, and afterwards believed him to be the man; that I will not dispute; the brother, however, though he held the door in his hand, recollects nothing of him; why not? he did not know him before; therefore the sisters they go on their fore-knowledge, and one of them tells you, if she had not known him before, she should not have known him then; she knows the man that abused her, she knows the man that insulted her, but not the man that wounded her; they have been more circumstantial than they were before: Gentlemen, I happened to use a term very much made use of in the profession, I called it bolstering up of evidence; I do repeat it again; let it give what offence it will, they have found it convenient to bolster up the weak part; they have produced the brother, to prove nothing; they have produced Mrs. Neale, because she has done them no good; they produced her, in order to bolster it up, by a number of evidences, to bring out such matter as was not brought out before; they chuse to bolster it, and I will repeat it here in, and out of Court: Gentlemen, on the former trial I must make an observation; when the Miss Porters told their story there, they did not say one single syllable that, when they got into the house, they mentioned the man to their father, mother, or brother; only that they were wounded by some man or other; to-day they begin and produce the same people, and they themselves get out of them what they know would have been extorted from them in private conversation; therefore I repeat, they are brought to bolster up the weak parts of the former trial. With respect to the number of times that they say they saw the man, I do confess that they saw some man extremely like the prisoner. If there is any one fact that can strengthen the case, that at times a man like the prisoner, and at other times some man, would stop them, and use words the most dreadful; that a man should at one time be so wanton, so savage, lay aside his dignity, and that at another time he should pass on, and not speak to them; this is extraordinary, and I am not disposed to believe it; however, Thomas Davenport , was robbed somewhere in the vicinity of London; he, his wife, his coachman and footman, and I do not know how many more, swore in a very formal manner to two men; Sir Thomas went so far as to swear to the horse; Lady Davenport would not swear to the horse; I think there were thirty as respectable people as Sir Thomas himself, who proved an alibi, and the men were both honourably acquitted; and yet it was admitted, on all hands, that Sir Thomas swore with the utmost purity of mind; and so the mistake is here; I say it is no impeachment of her veracity, when I say that Sir Thomas himself was mistaken; I only mention this to shew, that though the witnesses speak positively as they thought, yet that they may be deceived; and if I should bring such witnesses to you to night, who shall tell you that they are not mistaken, on another occasion, that they could not be mistaken, I trust you will at least doubt the evidence on the other side, and give the same degree of credit to the testimony on the part of the prisoner: the Gentlemen know the witnesses I have to call; they have had a long time to inquire into the characters of them; if they will bring any one to impeach their characters, I will give them up; I defy them, and dare them to it; Gentlemen, I knew the credit of them before I undertook this cause; I inquired into their credit: Gentlemen, the learned Gentleman has been long versed in the school of eloquence; I have been a retired man; I took up this cause with the feelings of a man; the learned Gentleman can wind round you, he knows all the roads to your hearts; he can talk of a fine family, to work on your feelings; I do not possess those powers; I must tell you, in direct terms, that from my soul I most sincerely believe the prisoner innocent: Gentlemen, the evidence of Miss Sarah Porter , the second sister, is pretty nearly the same as the first; I say, she, in conjunction with her sister, was mistaken: God knows how far her anger against some man that has offended her may induce her to say, let us take up this man: on the other hand, I must observe, that it is a very easy thing to cry, A mad dog! and if you let such a one loose, he may be hanged: you know the story of the Quaker; says he to his dog,
"neither hurt thee, nor kick thee, nor
"starve thee; but I will do this; I will
"give thee a bad name, and let thee loose;
"halloo, mad dog!" I have that confidence in the Gentlemen on the other side, that they would not take a step that is irregular: it has been usual, in Courts that I have attended, if a counsel on the other side goes to object to the witnesses, and he wishes to know what they call them for; I hope there is impartiality in the Court, and that I am not beat out of that either by the authority above, or numbers below; very likely the Gentleman, when he comes to reply to me, will tell you a very different story: I must say again, that if these two witnesses do not say positively that the prisoner was the man that stabbed Miss Ann Porter , they prove nothing at all; I fancy I shall not be able to prove, because unhappily the poor prisoner is the only person that can prove it; but there has been indisputably an acquaintance between the prisoner and the witnesses, and yet it happens very fatally that there is a flat resemblance between the prisoner and some other man, and that the conversation and the knowledge which the prisoner and the witnesses have was of a very different nature indeed; I will not stain the word justice, by saying that there were private motives behind the curtain, but that there were conversations of a very different nature, such as excited the present prosecution: Gentlemen, one thing you will observe, some of the witnesses - (but, faith, I am so fluttered) - they say that when he used to assault them the mother was not with them; and yet it comes out, that sometimes he did not assault them when
Catherine Armet , Amiable Mitchell, and Frances Bowfield , attempted to establish an alibi, as on a former trial, with some variation, however, in respect to some circumstances; for on being asked how they knew he did not leave Mitchell's till half past twelve, they said they knew the time by the quantity of work that was done, and did not look at a watch or clock; and one of the witnesses said the prisoner might have gone out, and she not have seen him. John Jerceaux proved by an order given to Mitchel for a dress for Mrs. Abington, as mentioned in the former trial. Two of the witnesses said he never went out at the street door, and it was impossible he should, without their knowing, because of a bell. Mr. Swift then informed the Court that he could call five or six witnesses to the prisoner's character, but that as it was so late, he would not detain the Court. Mr. Pigot replied at considerable length, in a very forcible manner, to Mr. Swift's observations, and concluded with reminding the jury of the situation some of their families might be in, if by their verdict the wretch should be set at liberty again. After which the chairman summed up the case, recapitulating the whole evidence very minutely, with many pertinent observations, and begging the jury, for God's sake! to divest themselves of all prejudice; and at one o'clock the jury retired for half an hour, doubting only whether they should find the prisoner guilty of an assault, with an intent to murder, or only of a common assault, when they returned with a verdict,
GUILTY of the whole indictment.
At half after one in the morning, the Court adjourned to the next morning, at eleven o'clock, when being resumed, the prisoner was again set to the bar; and the same jury, with a variation only of Mr. R. Young, in the room of Mr. Trotter, were charged with him; he was indicted for a similar assault , on Elizabeth, the wife of Thomas Davis , with two other counts.
The indictment opened by Mr. Shepherd: and the case by Mr. Fielding, as follows:
Mr. Chairman. Gentleman of the jury, before I call your attention to the particular circumstances of this case, I cannot help availing myself of the opportunity which is now offered me of congratulating you on the justice you have done to your country; and I will say without a particle of flattery, that there never was an instance in this kingdom, of a more patient, a more deliberate, and a more unprejudiced enquiry, then was manifested by you yesterday, when that trial was before you. Gentlemen, you had the satisfaction not only of doing a noble piece of justice to this country, of quieting those alarms that were excessive indeed through this metropolis, but you have likewise the satisfaction, I will now tell you, of restoring peace to an innocent family, that have been for a considerable time in the most miserable agitation: for from the first commission of the crime on Miss Porter, that whole family have had no peace; and by this time you are aware that a late publication must have contributed extremely to their uneasiness. Gentleman, I very well know the quarter from whence that publication came; and I cannot from my soul think but it proceeded from a laudable, though mistaken motive: it frequently happens, that looking at some objects with a particular attention, and not regarding some which do not obtrude themselves to the view, a prejudice is begotten in the human mind; and under the influence of that prejudice, a man is led into a variety of mistakes. [Mr. Fielding proceeded to state the circumstances of his case.] Mr. Swift observed, that let the writer of the publication alluded to, be whom he might, he knew
( Examined by Mr. Shepherd.)
I am the wife of Thomas Davis . In May last, I lived in Clarke's-court, Holborn, very near Little Turnstile: I was coming up Holborn, last May, the 5th , between nine and ten in the evening: a man spoke to me; the first word he said, was, where are you going? I did not immediately answer him; he met me, and turned back with me; I did not know he spoke to me; he said again, where are you going? I said, home; he said, where is your home? I said, not far; he said no more to me for some time; he continued walking a little before me, and sometimes a little behind, from the top of Chancery-lane , to near the Bull and Gate; he then accosted me with a nosegay he had in his hand, and said, are not these very pretty flowers? to the best of my recollection; but I cannot say to this last word; it was a largish nosegay; I said, yes, Sir; I did not take particular notice of the flowers; he put it to my nose, but I did not let it touch me.
Had you an opportunity of observing his face and his person? - I took particular notice of him every time he spoke to me; I looked at him when he spoke to me; he then said, will you smell at them? and I said, no, I thank you, Sir, I am not partial to flowers; and I did not think they were natural flowers, but I did not say what I thought.
Did it occur to you at the time that he had the nosegay in his hand, that they were not natural flowers? - Yes, it did; after that, he directly caught me by the throat, and with his other hand he gave me a blow across the thigh; and at that time I heard my clothes rent.
Did you feel the wound at that moment? - No, Sir; I pushed his hand from my throat, and he struck me a blow on my breast; I cried out, to the best of my knowledge, murder; I cannot tell what became of him; he went on, and I turned up my own court, I was so near my own home; there is but one house between the yard and the court; I knocked at the door, and they let me in; I first saw my landlady, Sarah Garrison ; I was so much alarmed, I was not sensible; I did not know what I said; I fell into a fit, and was laid on my landlady's bed.
Do you recollect what coat this man had on? - To the best of my knowledge ( it was candle-light) it was a light coat, with buttons of the same; it appeared to have a lappel, with buttons on the breast.
Had you an opportunity of seeing his face at the different times he spoke to you? - Yes, a great opportunity, because all the shops were open.
Turn round, and see if you can see the same man again? - Yes, that is the man.
Have you the least doubt? - Not the least in the world. I went to Bow-street; my landlady was with me; I saw him in the yard among a great number of other persons; and I said to Mrs. Garrison, that is the man that cut me.
Had you any body to point him out to you, except your own recollection of his person? - No, Sir, there was no person there to say any thing to me; and as soon as I came out of the house into the yard, I saw him, and singled him out directly; he was dressed in buff and blue.
Had you ever been taken to Bow-street by other people? - No, never.
Do look at him again, and tell the jury whether you have any doubt at all of that being the same man that struck you? - No; I have no doubt of the features of his face; his hair was dressed with powder at that time.
Mr. Swift. I have an alibi to this case; I will not ask you a question; as it happens, it is the alibi of yesterday.
Mr. Shepherd. Have you received any reward for giving this evidence, of any sort? - No, not one single farthing, nor any promise of any from any body.
Court. How long after that did you see
(Examined by Mr. Fielding.)
I keep the house where this poor woman lodges; I remember her coming home on the 5th of May; she hallooed aloud in the court; I did not know her voice; I thought it was a common prostitute; I did not open the door directly; she knocked twice before I opened it; and when I opened it, I asked her what was the matter? she did not answer me any farther, than she said, oh, the man! the man! I shut the door, and she dropped down in a fit; I went with her afterwards to Bow-street; and she went into the yard and pitched on the prisoner; there were a great many people in the yard; I thought it was a gentleman that was walking under the Piazzas; she said, no; it was a gentleman in blue, with a buff waistcoat; I never saw the prisoner before; she said she did not think the flowers were natural.
Did you see the wound on this poor woman? - Yes; she was ill about nine days.
Was it a cut with a sharp instrument? - It was like a scar; but the blood was within the scar; no blood besides; it seemed to be a small instrument; the clothes were cut all through at the same part as the wound was.
Did you go at any time to No. 52, in Jermyn-street? - Yes.
Did you find any clothes there? - Yes; that is the house where the prisoner's mother lived; I went there after I had been to his lodgings; he lived at the George Alehouse in Bury-street; I found this coat at his mother's, a light coloured lappelled coat, with buttons of the same; the prisoner said it was his coat; he did not deny it at all.
Court. Did you ever describe the dress? - Yes, to Mr. Angerstein, at the house, before the prisoner was taken.
I saw this poor woman, I believe, a day or two after this happened; she came very ill to my house; she described the coat to be a light-coloured coat; I do not recollect the circumstance of the lappels; I was not well myself at the time; I took particular notice of it, as it was different from the other description.
Did you hear her say any thing of the buttons? - No, Sir; the first description I had of the monster, was a blue coat; and she differed in the colour of the coat so much, that I took notice of it in another advertisement.
The prisoner was going to enter on his defence; but Mr. Swift said, not a word, Mr. Williams; you was prevented from speaking last night, and you shall not be permitted to speak to day.
Prisoner. I shall take the advice of the gentleman, my counsel.
Mr. Chairman. Gentlemen of the jury, I must say, that I never saw either in this, or any other court of justice, a jury conduct themselves with more impartiality, more coolness, more fairness, more deliberation, and more propriety, than you did yesterday; you have done yourselves great honour; you have done your country great service. I am now, gentlemen, to call upon you, and endeavour to impose upon you a still harder task; that you would endeavour, if possible, to forget every thing that passed even yesterday; and to treat this as a new offence; and to treat the prisoner, in your judgment upon him, as if you had never heard of him before, but that he was now, for the first time, brought before you, charged with an assault, proved only by one witness, but with certain corroborating circumstances. Here the chairman summed up the evidence; and the jury immediately found the prisoner
I remember being with my sister Frances on Westminster-bridge, on the 6th of December, 1789, about a quarter past seven at night; I was coming towards Parliament-street; I observed a man following us pretty close in Bridge-street ; he kept grumbling in a low tone; I could not hear what he said; he came to the side of me, and walked almost to the end of Bridge-street; I saw him very clearly; he endeavoured to push himself between my sister and the rails; he hit my sister about the small of her back, and then he struck me just at the small of my back; he struck me only once; my clothes were cut to pieces, and a streak on my back; it must have been with some sharp instrument; I saw the prisoner at Sir Sampson's, and pointed him out immediately among others, by my recollection of his person, and by nothing else.
Look at him now? - That is the person.
Have you any doubt? - Not the least: I went to see some other persons at Bow-street, but they were not the right persons. (A blue silk gown produced.) It is cut about half a yard; it was folded up round me; I did not hear it rent at the time; the rest of my clothes were cut, and I am positive they were not cut before, and the scratch corresponded with the cutting of the gown.
Mr. Swift. Unfortunately we have an alibi.
I was in Bridge-street with my sister. I heard the prisoner say (with his mouth close to my ear) blast you, is it you; he swore bitterly all the way The blow on my back threw me forward, and I turned round and observed him strike my sister, and he kneeled nearly on one knee when he struck my sister, which was with great violence, and he swore at the time; I saw his face very plain, but not at first; and it came to my recollection, that I thought I had seen him, and knew his voice before; I did not know him so much by seeing him that night, as two years before, when he insulted me from the King's Palace to May's-buildings, and never from that time did I forget him; he insulted me very grossly, insomuch that I slapped his face in the park; I cannot positively say it was the same man; but I think it was from his voice and person.
Look at him now? - I do not forget him.
The prisoner made no defence. The Chairman summed up the evidence.
Mr. Fielding said, there was an indictment against the prisoner, for an assault on Miss Sarah Porter ; but he was instructed to say, the family did not mean to prosecute him farther. There were several other indictments against him; but the ends of public justice being answered, for which alone these prosecutions were set on foot, he would not go on with them.
The Court considering their verdict, the Chairman addressed the prisoner thus:
Rhynwick Williams, you have been indicted for an assault on Ann Porter ; you have been tried and found guilty, by a cool, impartial, dispassionate, and deliberating jury, much to the satisfaction of the Court, and much to their honour; for I must again say, that I never saw a jury conduct themselves with more propriety in all the experience I have had of courts of justice; they seemed to have divested themselves of all prejudice, and to be unconnected with the general mass of people. The sentence of the Court on you, therefore, is, that for the assault on Miss Ann Porter , you beElizabeth Baughan , you be also confined for Two Years, to commence from the expiration of the former four : that at the end of the Six Years, you shall find bail for your good behaviour for Seven Years, yourself in the sum of two hundred pounds, and two sureties in one hundred pounds each , and to return in the custody in which you came.