Offence: Royal Offences > seditious libel
Verdict: Guilty > no_subcategory; Guilty > with recommendation
Punishment: Imprisonment > hard labour; Imprisonment > hard labour
174. VLADIMIR BOURTZEFF (33), and KLEMENT WIERZBICKI (61) , For unlawfully publishing a pamphlet encouraging certain persons, whose names are unknown, to murder His Imperial Majesty Nicholas II, Emperor of the Russias. Second Count—Endeavouring to persuade certain persons to commit that offence.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL, (Sir Richard Webster, Q.C.) MR. SUTTON, Mr. CHARLES MATHEWS and MR. HORACE AVORY Prosecuted; LORDCOLERIDGE, Q.C., and MR. CORRIE GRANT Defended Bourtzeff, and MR. JOHNSON Defended Wierzbicki.
The following passages from the pamphlet were read—
"As regards our ultimate tasks we are Socialists, and in this respect weadhere frankly to those traditions which have elaborated by a series of generations of Russian Revolutionists, beginning with Tchernishovsky and ending with Jeliaboff and Heemann Lofatin, traditions to which the Russian Revolutionists have always been faithful, never doubting their truth for one moment—traditions which have been elaborated by the Socialist parties of all other countries. For the attainment of these ends we recognize all affective methods for the struggle with the present Russian Government, from the most peaceful and civilized to harsh revolutionary measures, according to the conditions of place and time. We may say in the words of the late Stepniak—"We are revolutionists not only to the extent of a direct rising of the people, but to the extent of military conspiraces, to the extent of nocturnal invasions of the Palace, to the extent of bombs and dynamite. The device under which we shall fight will be the re-establishment ofthe Narodnaya Volia party. With this call we address ourselves to the revolutionists acting in Russia and shall warmly exhort them to take as decidedly and as quickly as possible the course followed by Jeliaboff, Perovsky Halturin and their friends, and to attend to the precepts which they have bequeathed to us. Our programme is to be found in their precepts. On the question what is to be done, Alexander III. reigned happily for fourteen years and this is already the third year that Nicholas II. has reigned not less happily, and that at a time when reaction ought, it would seem, to have given rise to the strongest resistance on the part of the revolutionists, and to have caused their plan of campaign to be summoned up in one point, regicide, and if it appeared necessary a whole series of regicides and a systematic political terrorism. We shall devote all our strength and faculties to the revolutionary struggle. We shall make the service of the revolutionary cause the first and principal occupations of our lives. We shall remember the boundless
devotion to the work and the extraordinary energy of the whole constellation of workers of the Narodnaya Volia Jeliaboff Perovsky Halturin and their friends. May their activity be an example for us. They perished firmly believing that we should follow in their foot-steps. "We have addressed ourselves to all Revolutionists whom our organ may reach with the earnest and friendly advice to give a new direction to their activity, and we are anxious above all that our views may be heard by our companions in Russia, and that the revolutionary organisations may adopt the conscious and firm "resolution" to enter upon the path which was trodden by our standard bearers—Jeliaboff, Perovsky, Halturin, &c. The fearful mistake which the Terrorist party made was that after their victory of the 1st March, they for a moment, stopped systematic terrorism, for a moment put their sword in its sheath. If they had prepared everything beforehand and had stricken down Alexander III. on the day of the funeral of Alexander II. one of two things would have happened in Russia; either a revolution would have broken out, or a liberal constitution would have been declared."
WILLIAM HARNETT (Police Constable, C.I.D.) On September 24th I went to Mr. Barnett Ruderman's news vendor's shop at 71, Hanbury Street, and asked him if he had any copies of Narodovoktz for sale—he said, "I have only got one left, I have sold the others"—he handed me this copy of No. 1, for which I paid him 6d.—he took it from one of the shelves behind the counter in the ordinary way—on September 29th I went to his shop again and asked him if he had got four copies which I had ordered on the 24th—he, handed me these, two copies of No. 1, and two copies of No. 2—I paid him 2s. for them—I asked him then to get me two copies of No. 3—I went to his shop again on November 24th and saw Mrs. Ruderman, not her husband—I had seen her once previously—I asked her if she had got the papers for me; she went to a shelf and gave me these two copies of No. 3—I paid her 1s.
THOMAS CLANCY (Police Constable, C.I.D.). On Tuesday, December 14th, I went to 70, Graf ton Street, Tottenham Court Road, at three p.m.—I saw Bourtzeff in the back room, top floor—I told him I came to purchase some books—he said, "Yes, what is your name?"—I told him Johnson—he told me to write my name and address on a paper; he supplied me with pen, ink and paper, and I wrote Lubrinski, Gravesend—I told him, before giving that name, that I wanted two copies each of Nos. 1, 2 and 3 of Narodmoletz—he went to a cupboard and took from there these two copies each of Nos. 1, 2 and 3; he wrapped them in paper, gave them to me and told me they were 1s. a copy—on the back of the paper, in English, is "Printed and Published by V. Bourtzeff; London"—there were piles of them in the cupboard—I paid him 6s.—I spoke to him in English; he appeared to understand me, and he expressed himself in English to me, and I understood him without difficulty—I stayed some little time with him—he gave me a book entitled "A Century of Political Life in Russia," he said he was the author of that, and of Nos. 1, 2 and 3 of Narodmoletz.
Cross-examined. by LORD COLERIDGE. I did not send a letter to him in the name of Lubrinski, nor do I know of any such letter being sent to him.
HENRY STERCK . I am a bookbinder, of 206, King Street, Hammersmith—Wierzbicki came to my shop in April, 1897, bringing with him about 1,200 pamphets—he told me they were in Russian—these are some—we just fixed them together, and put this piece of paper on the back of them—after we had so stitched and bound them, Wierzbicki came and took the pamphlets away—he came again in May with about 1,200 copies of No. 2, and gave the same instructions as before, and we did the same work as we had done in respect of No. 1—there was some difficulty about payment and we only let him have about 200 copies to begin with, the rest he had in November following; he paid our charges.
Cross-examined. by MR. JOHNSTON. I am English; I do not understand Russian at all—Wierzbicki came and took back all the pamphlets—I am quite sure I did not send any to Bourtzeff—when Wierzbicki first came and brought these pamphlets I would not be sure if he asked me to send them on to Bourtzeff when I had bound them; I did not send any to him.
Re-examined. There was a little difficulty about the payment of the second lot and I kept my hand on them till I got the money—Wierzbicki brought the money.
MICHAEL THORPE (Police Sergeant C.I.D.). On the evening of December 17th I went to 21, Wenlock Buildings, Ironmonger Row, where a general and foreign printing business is carried on—I saw Wierzbicki standing in the road in front of the printing office—I told him I was a police officer, and was making enquiries respecting a Russian publication known as the Narodovoletz—he said, "I heard of Bourtzeff's arrest last night"—I asked him if he had got any work in hand for Bourtzeff—he said, "There are a few hundred copies in the office, but I have not got the key; I am now waiting for Mr. Canley"—he said Mr. Canley rented the office, and that he (Wierzbicki) did the printing there—he said, "I admit I am the printer of Narodovoletz; Nos. 1 and 2 I printed at Westcroft Square, Ravenscroft Park; No. 31 printed here, and Nos. 1 and 2 were stitched by Mr. Sterck, at Hammersmith"—I asked him how many numbers of those copies had been printed—he said, "1,500 copies of each number"—Mr. Canley then came up, and Wierzbicki introduced him to me and told me who he was—I had a conversation with Mr. Canley in Wierzbicki's presence—Mr. Canley said, "Although I rent the office, I am not a printer; I am a traveller, Mr. Wierzbicki," pointing to him, "does the printing"—Wierzbicki did not say anything then—I made an appointment to meet him at the office next morning, as he had not got the key with him—I went next morning December 18th, to 21, Wenlock Buildings—I there saw Mr. Canley, "Wierzbicki, and another man—Wierzbicki handed me 12 packages, done up in paper and tied with string, from a shelf—he said they were about 500 copies of each number of Narodovoletz, which were kept back for the purpose ultimately, of being put in book form—he again said he had printed 1,500 of Nos. 1 and 2 at Westcroft Square, and 1,500 of No. 8 were printed by him at these premises—he said Bourtzeff borrowed the type from 15, Augustus Road, Hammersmith, but the type was not there now, a man from Augustus Road took it away a few weeks ago—Canley said he had nothing to do with the printing and knew nothing about it; that Wierzbicki did all the printing—he said that when he, was printing the pamphlets
not understanding Russian, he asked Wierzbicki if there was anything the matter with them, and that Wierzbicki assured, him there was not—Wierzbicki upon that said, "Yes, I am the printer, I am entirely responsible"—I brought away the 12 packages and examined them—the pamphlets in them were unstitched—I found 493 complete copies of Nos. 1 and 2; there were 256 of No. 1, and 237 of No. 2—there were also a number of incomplete copies of Nos. 1 and 2—there were 324 copies of No. 3, all incomplete and unstitched—on December 21st a warrant was placed in my hands for the arrest of Wierzbicki—I executed it the same day at 82, St. Stephen's Avenue, Shepherd's Bush—I read the warrant to him—he said he was very sorry for the sake of his poor wife and children—he had three young children, all British born—he said, "I have nothing further to say than what I told you on Friday evening, and on Saturday morning at the printing office, I admit printing them; I printed 1,500 copies of each, all was done for Bourtzeff"—I took him to Bow Street—in reply to the charge there he said, "I have got nothing further to say than that I printed the pamphlets"—when I arrested him he repeated that the type for the pamphlets came from 15, Augustus Road—the conversations I had on these several occasions with Wier Zbicki were all in English.
Cross-examined. by MR. JOHNSTON. The house at Shepherd's Bush was the prisoner's private residence—I found him there with his wife and three children—all the information he gave me when I went to get the copies was volunteered; it was not given in answer to questions by me—he told me all there was to be told about the whole business—when he gave me the 12 packages of pamphlets, he said, "this is all we have got belonging to Bourtzeff"—I have not made any enquiries about Wierzbicki, or what he has been doing before this; I understand he has been a printer for many years—I believe he has been employed by wellknown firms in London—it is possible he has been employed four years at one firm, three at a second, and eleven at a third; I know nothing about it—nobody has made enquiries about him so far as I am aware—I do not suggest there is anything against him in any way—I do not consider it my business to make enquiries—I know nothing about the printer's business, or how it is carried on.
By the COURT. I believe he was engaged by English printers; he prints English.
Re-examined. He is a Pole.
WILLIAM MELVILLE (Chief Inspector of Police). On December 16th a warrant was placed in my hands for Bourtzeff's arrest—at 3.15 p.m. that day I saw him in one of the halls of the British Museum—I called him on one side, and speaking in English, I told him who I was—he said, "I don't understand English; will you speak French t" and, "Parlez vous Francais"—I said, "Oui"—I then said, speaking in French, "I have a warrant for your arrest; it is for encouraging and soliciting, and conspiring against the life of His Majesty, the Czar of Russia; it is what you have written in the Narodovoletz"—he said, "Yes, lam the editor; I wrote it"—he had with him this portfolio, which he said was his—I took him and the portfolio to Bow Street, where he was charged and detained—at the police-station I searched the portfolio, and found it contained two copies of No. 2, and
four copies of No. 3, of the Narodovoktz, and three copies of the book, "A century of Political Life in Russia," printed in Russian—Bourtzeff said, "I am also the author of those books"—two of the three books were packed as though ready for the post; one was addressed to "Leo Beitner, 6, Eue Codel, Geneva, Switzerland"—and the other was partly addressed, "The Russian Library, 5, Rue—"—Bourtzeff said that book was going to Lausanne—when I undid that particular packet, I found in it a copy of No. 3 of the Narodovoletz—the prisoner told me I would find it inside—I found a letter in the Russian language, coming from America, and addressed to the prisoner as the editor of the Narodovoletz, first to Westcroft Square, and afterwards to 12, Osman Road, Hammersmith—Bourtzeff gave me two keys, one the key of the front door of No. 70 Grafton Street, Tottenham Court Road, the address he gave as his, and the other the key of his bedroom there—Sergeant Thorpe and other officers went on ahead with the keys to 70, Grafton Street, at 5.15 that afternoon—the door of the bedroom was opened when I came there with the second key received from the prisoner—in that room there was a portmanteau and a cupboard, among other things—they were searched, and there were found 580 copies, of No. 1, 679 copies of No. 2, and 71 copies of No. 8 of Narodovoletz—I found there, also, a book of delivery receipt forms—it had originally contained 100 forms—forms from No. 101 to 128 inclusive had been torn from the counterfoils, and they had been used as between May 28th and November 29th, 1897, according to the counterfoils—further examination purported to show that copies of the Narodovoletz had been forwarded to different destinations abroad, and to three different persons or firms in London—counterfoil No. 117 purports to show a sale of two copies to Sampson, Low, and Marston, of Fetter Lane, on October 27th, 1897;. one of No. 1, and one of No. 2—counterfoil No. 126 purports to show a sale to Mudie's Library of one copy of No. 3 on October 80th, 1897—I also found among the papers these two receipt forms, the first relating to No. 117, and showing a receipt by Messrs. Sampson, Low, and Marston, of the pamphlets, and the second relating to No. 126—I found a form of delivery receipt by Messrs. Mudie, with this written across, "Not ordered," with initials—I made a further and complete search of that bedroom on the second floor, and found a large quantity of manuscript, letters, postcards, books, pamphlets, newspaper cuttings, mainly in Russian, but also in French, and a little in Polish—I found some cuttings from English newspapers there; the extracts are here—I found a piece of permanent setup Russian type, and I found on comparison it was page 91 of No. 3 of Narodovoletz.
Cross-examined. by LORD COLERIDGE. I know nothing of my own knowledge of Bourtzeff's history—I have heard of it—I have heard that, in 1885, he was arrested in Russia—I could not say if that was with several hundred others, or whether he was thrown into prison without trial—I do not know what an administrative order is in Russia; I never heard of it—I do not know that he was imprisoned in the fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul; I have not heard it—I know nothing about that fortress—I have heard the name mentioned incidentally—I have heard that he was sent to Siberia, some 5,000 miles away from civilization, I never heard on what charge; I understood it was for something political, or some offence of that kind; that is all I know about it—I have heard that he escaped
from Siberia—I don't know that he has since been pursued by the agents of the Russian Government—I have seen in print that he escaped on board a British ship at Constantinople—I have read that the Russian Government demanded that he should be delivered over to them—the captain of the vessel was Captain Lee—I have heard he refused to deliver him over, and that he brought him safe to this country—I have not heard that he has been the object of Russian spies or informers in this country—I do not know the name of Madame Seeding—I have heard of the Yecoutz massacres; I could not say if they were about the time Bourtzeft was in Siberia—I don't know if, after the Yecoutz massacres, Madame Senedin was flogged to death in gaol; I never heard of that incident—I do not know the name of Maria Vet off; I think I have heard of the incident—I have made no enquiry about it—I have not heard of demonstrations in regard to that incident.
MR. CRIBB. I am chief of the foreign department of Messrs. Sampson, Low, and Marston—on October 2nd, 1897, I received from a Continental customer orders for a copy of No. 2 and a copy of No. 3 of the Narodowletz, and on October 5th I sent on that order to Bonrtzeff at 70, Grafton Street—I got no answer at first—I repeated the order, and ultimately I got the copies I had asked for, with this delivery form H—I returned that invoice with the amount of the charge, 1s.—I do not understand Russian.
WILLIAM VON KNOBLANCH . I am the foreign librarian at Messrs. Mudie's Library, 30 to 34, New Oxford Street—at the beginning of November last I received by post a copy of this pamphlet Narodovolcta—this invoice came with it—I did not read the pamphlet, I only looked at the title—I learned by enquiry it had not been ordered by Messrs. Mudie—I saw the name and address of "Y. Bourtzeff; 70, Grafton Street, Tottenham Court Road," at the back of it, and I returned the pamphlet with the invoice, after writing across the invoice "Not Ordered—W.V.K."
Cross-examined. by LORD COLEBIDGE. This is a book from our circulating library—I could not say how long it has been in circulation—it is by Stepniak—I read of his death in the newspapers—he wrote a good many books, and they enjoy a certain circulation—this is called "Nihilism as it is"; others of his books are "Underground Russia," and "The Convert"—this and "Underground Russia," and a French translation, have been among Mudie's books, and, I daresay, in the hands of a good many people—I find in this book the following passage: "We believe that the worthless gang which now rules over Russia, taking advantage of a misunderstanding of the peasant masses, can be overthrown only by force, and to this end we see no other means than force. In politics we are revolutionists, recognizing not only popular insurrection, but military plots, nocturnal attacks upon the palace, bombs and dynamite."
GEORGE FREDERICK FAIRHOLME . I am a clerk in the Foreign Office—I am familiar with the Russian language—I have been in the habit of making translations out of and into Russian—I have had the pamphlets Nos. 1, 2 and 3 of Narodovoletz, which are in Russian, put before me, and I have translated them into English to the best of my ability—these white paper prints are my translations; I believe them to be accurate—the author of this book, "A Century of Political Life in
Russia," found in Bourtzeff's possession, purports on the title page to be Bourtzeff—the second part of the book is arranged under years—I have translated that to the best of my ability—it is a chronological series of events.
GUILTY .—The JURY recommended Wierzbicki to mercy. BOURTZEFF— Eighteen Months' Hard Labour. WIERZBICKI— Two Months' Hard Labour.