Offence: Killing > murder
Punishment: Death > death and dissection
NAMES OF THE JURY.
The case was stated by Mr. Attorney General.
WILLIAM SMITH , ESQ. Q. You are a member in the present Commons House of Parliament - A. Yes. On the 11th of this month (last Monday) I was going through the lobby towards the door of the House of Commons . As I was passing through the lobby, I stopped to speak to a gentleman whom I met with there; while in conversation with that gentleman I heard the report of a pistol, which appeared to have been fired close by the entrance of the door of the lobby.
Q. By that door, do you mean the door by which members coming from their residences get into the house - A. Yes, the first door of the lobby. This appeared to have been fired from that door; immediately upon hearing the report I turned my head towards the place from whence the noise appeared to have proceeded, and observed a tumult, and probably a dozen or more persons gathering about the spot, almost at the same instant a person rushed hastily from among the crowd, and several voices cried out shut the door, and let no one escape. The person who came from among the crowd came towards me, looking first one way and then another, and as I thought at the moment rather like one seeking for shelter, than as the person who had received the wound, but taking two or three steps towards me, as he approached he rather reeled by me, and almost instantly fell upon the floor, with his face downwards. Before he fell I heard a cry not very distinctly, what appeared to come from him, in which were the words, murder, or something very much like that. When he first fell I thought he might be slightly wounded, and expected to see him make an effort to rise, but gazing at him a few moments, I observed that he did not stir at all; I therefore immediately stooped down to raise him from the ground, requesting the assistance of a gentleman who stood close by me for that purpose. As soon as we had turned his face towards us, and not till then, I perceived it was Mr. Perceval. We then took him in our arms, the other gentleman on his left side, and I on his right. We carried him into the office of the speaker's secretary, and ourselves on a table there with Mr. Perceval between us also sitting on the table, resting in our at that time completely pale, the small quantity from each corner of its month, and as I then thought probably not more than two minutes had elapsed since the pistol had been fired there were not scarcely any signs of life remaining; his eyes were still open. but he did not appear to know me, nor take any notice of any person that came about him, nor had he uttered the least articulate sound from the moment that he fell. A few convulsive sobs, which lasted three or four minutes, together with scarcely a perceptible pulse, were the only signs of life remaining, and this continued but for a short time longer, and when I felt his wrist for the last time assisted by Mr. Lynn a surgeon, who had arrived, it appeared to me that he was totally dead; I remained in the same situation with the body till we carried it into the speaker's house. I am incapable of giving any account of whatever passed afterwards in the lobby respecting the detension or conduct of the prisoner at the bar.
Q. Had you afterwards any opportunity of seeing where Mr. Perceval was wounded - A. Mr. Perceval still remained on my arm when Mr. Lynn examined the wound; he came into the room, and examined the wound while we remained in the same posture. The body not having been moved at all; I saw the wound from which but little blood appeared to have issued.
Q. Where was the wound - A. The wound was very near the nipple of the left breast, a little above it and within it; the orifice appeared to me to be large for a pistol ball, and when Mr. Lynn probed it; it seemed clearly that the ball had slaunted downwards, but it appeared clearly that the ball had penetrated the cavity of the breast, for the probe did not touch it.
Q. Mr. Perceval, I believe, was a person of low stature - A. Unquestionably.
Q. State the hour of the day that this happened - A. I recollect from various circumstances that it
Q. I know you have been long a member of that place, is that about the time that Mr. Perceval, in his public situation, would come to the house - A. It is about the time that Mr. Perceval, in his public situation would come, and about that time he was constantly expected, and nearer to that time than any other.
Q. Was the gentleman that assisted of the name of Phillips - A. I believe it was.
Q. Were you sent for, and did you go to the House of Commons on Monday the 11th instant - A. I did.
Q. What time in the afternoon - A. About a quarter past five in the afternoon.
Q. What part of the House of Commons, or about it did you go to - A. I went through the lobby into the passage to the speaker's secretary's room.
Q. When you got there what did you see - A. I saw Mr. Perceval lay partly upon the table with his feet in two chairs one foot on each chair; I then saw some blood upon the white waistcoat and shirt; I turned it aside and saw an opening in the skin; I examined his pulse, he had no pulsation, and appeared quite dead.
Q. Did you probe the wound - A. I probed it, the probe passed three inches obliquely downwards and inwards, it being immediately over the heart, about the further rib: I had no doubt that the ball had passed into the heart, if not through it. It was a large pistol ball apparently.
Q. Could you from the appearance judge, sir, that that was the cause of his death - A. I have no doubt of that.
Q. In the afternoon of Monday were you in the lobby of the House of Commons - A. I was.
Q. A little after five o'clock did you hear the report of a pistol - A. I did.
Q. From what part of the lobby did that report proceed from - A. From the entrance.
Q. What did you observe next after the report of the pistol - A. I saw a person coming forwards along the lobby from the entrance towards the House, staggering, and just before he came to the pillars next the door I saw him put his hand to his breast, or nigh his breast, he said, oh, faintly, and fell forwards on his face; I heard some people say, that is the man, and I saw a man pointing towards a bench by the side of the fire place, at the side of the lobby. I immediately at the same instant went to the bench, I saw the prisoner sitting on the bench in great agitation, I looked at both hands, and saw his left hand on the bench, and in his hand, or under his hand I saw the pistol, I immediately took the pistol in my hand and asked him what could have induced him to do such a thing, or act; he replied, want of redress of grievance, and refusal by government; it was to that effect, I do not say these were the exact words; I said, you have another pistol in your pocket; he replied, yes; I asked him if it was loaded; he said, yes; I saw some person take it from the left side of the prisoner's person about the coat or breeches.
Q. When you took hold of the first pistol which you found in his hand, or under his hand in what condition was it - A. It was warm, it had the appearance of having been recently discharged; I have the pistol here, this is it.
Q. Is it a large or a small bore to the pistol - A. I thought it was a very large bore. When he told me that the other pistol was loaded, I immediately put my hand into his right waistcoat pocket, and took out a pen-knife and a pencil, and a bunch of keys, and some money; at the same time I saw the pistol taken from him, and a bundle of papers.
Q. Was the prisoner detained in custody - A. He was.
Q. Was he examined shortly afterwards - A. Yes.
Q. Was he taken up stairs in order, with other witnesses to be examined before the magistrate - A. He was.
Q. Did you before the magistrate in the presence of the prisoner relate the facts which you have today related - A. I did.
Q. When you had concluded your narrative did he make any observation up it - A. He did, he said as nigh as I can recollect, I wish to correct Mr. Burgess's statement in one part, but I believe he is perfectly correct in any other; instead of my hand, as Mr. Burgess has stated, being on or near the pistol, I think he took it from my hand, or out of my hand; I do not know whether he said from my hand or out of my hand.
Q. Did he make any other observation upon your evidence - A. He did not.
Mr. Alley. I take it for granted you have stated every thing that occurred - A. No, I cannot recollect every thing that he stated; I have recollected every thing of importance.
Q. He said he had been ill used, and when you asked him why he did it, that is the reason he gave you, mere want of redress of grievance on the part of government - A. Redress of grievance, and a refusal by government.
Q. That is all he said to you - A. No; he said, I will relate to you why I did it.
Q. And when you asked him why he did it that is the reason he gave you - A. That is nearly the reason.
Q. He did not state any personal resentment to Mr. Perceval - A. He did not.
Q. There were a great many persons in the lobby - A. Not a great many, not more than twenty.
Q. Do you mean at the time the pistol was fired - A. I do. I do not think there were twenty at the time the pistol was fired.
Q. There was an order given to shut the door of the lobby, had that order been given before or after your conversation - A. I will not pretend to say; I heard the order given.
Q. You say the man was very much agitated - A. Very much.
Q. Might not he have absconded after he had fired the pistol, before the door had been ordered to be shut - A. I will not say.
Mr. Gurney. How long did that agitation continue - A. He was extremely agitated the whole time
Q. With respect to the possibility of escape from the firing of the pistol must the prisoner have been within the lobby or without - A. I don't know, I should suppose there is no doubt he was in the lobby, I have no doubt he was in the lobby in my own mind.
Q. I believe down three steps from the door of the lobby there is an officer stationed - A. Two steps from the lobby.
Q. And then four or five steps down there is an officer - A. There are persons belonging to the house stationed.
Q. At the bottom of these four steps there are two persons stationed, are there not - A. I generally see one, sometimes there are two, I generally see one.
Q. Could any person go out of the lobby without going close by that person - A. He must have gone within a yard of him or less.
Q. Were you in one of the committee rooms in the afternoon of Monday last the 11th inst. - A. About five o'clock on Monday last I went to the House with a petition, to let Mr. Perceval see it by his own desire, previous to that petition being presented to the House. Before five o'clock the House resolved itself into a committee of the whole House, to proceed further respecting the Order of Council. Mr. Perceval then not being come down to the House, I postponed, till his arrival, presenting that petition, and went up stairs into the committee room, close by the ballustrades which look down into the lobby, the door open towards that ballustrade, it was merely the same thing as to hearing, as to being in the lobby of the House. I heard the loud report of a pistol shot, and almost instantaneously the cry of close the door. I rushed down stairs, through the House into the lobby; the door facing of the ballustrade was open. The moment I came into the lobby, I saw a crowd collected about some individual whom I could not see, and to whom the attention of almost every person was directed, I mean the generality; a person near me, whom I should not know if I were to see him, immediately said, that is the man that fired the pistol, pointing to John Bellingham , who stands there, whose person I well knew, and whose name I was acquainted with; I flew towards him, he was then sitting with one or two others upon the bench, at the right hand side of the fire-place of the lobby, supposing your back turned towards that fire.
Q. Between the fire-place and the entrance door of the lobby - A. Just so. I seized him by the breast, I think, and as he lifted up his hand, it appeared to me that a pistol was in that hand, either cocked, or upon the half cock, it appeared to me cocked. The The first impression in my mind was, that it was to be used against himself. I saw the pistol in his hand grasped, I therefore kept down his arm with all my strength, and a person, whom I believe to be the last witness, Mr. Burgess, whom I then did not know, took that pistol from under his hand, his hand being so held that there was little or no resistance from him. I heard that person ask him whether he had another pistol, I heard his reply - that he had; I proceeded to search for it, there were then others searching him. I put my hand into his coat pocket, I think one of the inside pockets, I had my hand in several of his pockets, I pulled out a bundle of papers, tied together with red tape; the pressure was great at that moment, I found myself closely pressed at that time, I was fearful of losing these papers and of losing the prisoner. I held up the papers, and Mr. Hume, a member of the House of Commons, took the papers out of my hand, with my consent; it appeared to me at that time, as it were the prisoner was dragged from my hold, I have no doubt now but it was the effect of persons to secure him; at that time I thought it was to drag him out of the lobby. I fastened both my hands upon him, told him he could not escape, that I knew him well, and that I would not lose sight of him, he said he had submitted, as if it were not to use him ill, I believe he rather complained of my using his arm rather roughly, he said that he had submitted, that he was the person that fired the shot; some other questions were asked, but I cannot now distinctly speak to them, nor to the answers, but with the assistance of other she was dragged into the body of the house and placed at the bar, in the custody of the two messengers. I mentioned to him his name, which he admitted.
Q. From the body of the house he was taken to another place where he and you were examined - A. Yes.
Q. You were examined, and that examination took place in his presence - A. It did.
Q. After you had made your deposition did the prisoner make any remark upon it - A. Something to this effect: General Gascoyne is too correct for me to question what he has said. He must have been less agitated than I was; he complained of the violence to his arm.
Q. When you first laid hold of him did he appear to be in a state of agitation - A. He certainly appeared to be in a state of agitation, as any man, would be, guilty of a crime, in a perspiration.
Q. Did he appear to have recovered from that agitation after your deposition was over - A. Completely composed, as I had known him before this occurrence happened.
Q. You stated that you knew him, how lately before had you seen him - A. The precise day I cannot mention, I can recollect some time in April, I saw him and conversed with him at my own house at Liverpool.
Q. You represent Liverpool - A. I do. He left his name the day before, saying he would call on the morrow; and when he came, I sent word with my servant to let him in, he came by my appointment.
Q. Is that in the neighbourhood of Millman-street - A. Very near it.
Q. Do you know the prisoner at the bar - A. I do know him.
Q. How long have you known him - A. Ever since the 5th of last March.
Q. Have you ever been employed in the way of your business by the prisoner - A. Only twice.
Q. When first - A. The first time that ever I saw Mr. Bellingham was on the 5th of March; he came into my shop as a chance customer.
Q. He came as a stranger - A. Yes, he gave me an order for a pair of pantaloons and a striped waistcoat. I made them and took them home myself, and he paid me for them.
Q. Where did you take them home to - A. No. 11, New Millman-street, in Guildford-street.
Q. Did you take them according to the directions that you received from the customer at the time of the order - A. Entirely so, he gave me the directions in my hand; he wrote his own address in my presence.
Q. You carried them home, and he paid you - A. Yes, he approved of them, and he paid me.
Q. Did you learn from him whether he kept the house, or was a lodger - A. I do not know.
Q. How soon after you carried home this first article did you see the prisoner again - A. The next time was about the 25th of April, the other was on the 5th of March. On the 25th of April I met him in Guildford-street, he informed me that he had a small job to do, and if I would step back with him he would give it me immediately.
Q. Did you go back with him to the same house that you took the former articles - A. I did. When I got to the house he asked me into the parlour, he then went up stairs and brought me a dark coloured coat, he gave me directions to make him an inside pocket on the left side, so as he could get at it conveniently, he wished to have it a particular depth, he accordingly gave me a bit of paper about the length of nine inches.
Q. He gave you a bit of paper about nine inches in length, did he bring that from up stairs, or from what other place did he produce it - A. He brought it all down stairs together; I saw him go up stairs and come down; he brought the coat and the pattern paper.
Q. How long had you waited from the time that he asked you to sit down and wait for his coming down stairs - A. I suppose about ten minutes.
Q. Did you execute that order - A. I did, he was very particular to have it home that evening.
Q. Did you carry it home yourself - A. Yes, I delivered it to the maid-servant, I met him about six days ago in Gray's Inn-lane.
COURT. Did any thing pass between you and the prisoner when you met him in Gray's Inn-lane - A. Yes, I bowed to him, and he informed me that in the course of a few days hence he should have something for me to do; I never saw him from that till this morning.
A. Can you recollect what day this was - A. It was about six days before I heard of the death of Mr. Perceval.
Q. Did you go down to the house for that purpose on Monday last - A. I did.
Q. In passing to the stair case of that gallery do you necessarily go through the outer door of the house - A. Certainly.
Q. About what time did you arrive at that spot - A. About five o'clock, or from five to ten minutes past five at the outside. I arrived at the door of the lobby.
Q. Did you observe any person who is now here standing near that door - A. I did, I observed the prisoner at the bar.
Q. Describe particularly where he stood - A. I observed him standing in the lobby, by the side of that part of the door that is generally closed.
Q. It is a double door, and the other part open for the members to go through into the lobby - A. Yes.
Q. There is one half closed and the other half opened - A. Yes, he stood at the lobby door, at that part which is generally closed.
Q. How near might that be to where a person must pass the avenue, who are members - A. Within an arms length. I observed him, as if watching for somebody that was coming; perhaps the impression is stronger on my mind now than it was then. I thought he appeared to be anxiously watching, and as my recollection serves me his right hand was within the breast of his coat in this way; I passed on to the stair case of the gallery.
Q. How soon after you had passed that door where the prisoner was that you described did you hear any noise - A. Almost as soon as I got on the top of the stairs that leads to the gallery for strangers there is a sort of an anti-lobby as you pass part of that gallery there, I had just got into the upper lobby.
Q. About twenty steps - A. Yes, about that. When I got up there I heard the report of a pistol, I immediately heard the general confusion, and somebody said Mr. Perceval was dead. Then I came down stairs.
Q. Are you certain that the prisoner was the person that you thus saw at that place - A. I am perfectly certain; I had frequently seen him before.
Q. Had you any private acquaintance with him - A. None; I had seen him in the gallery of the House of Commons, and about the passages of the House.
Q. That is the gallery if any person wishes to be present at the debates - A. It is.
Q. Did you go to the lodgings of the prisoner - A. I received a paper, desiring me to go to No. 9, New Millmann-street, it was last Monday.
Q. Did you search his lodging - A. I did, I found in a drawer up stairs in a bed-room, a pair of pistol bags, in the same drawer I found a small powder-flask, this pistol key, it fits the pistol exactly, and a quantity of letters and papers; and I found a mould and some balls. This ball fits the pistol exactly, and it was made in this mould I have no doubt.
Q. Did you there see the prisoner at the bar - A. I did; I took from his small clothes pocket, on the left hand side, this pistol.
Q. Did you keep it in your possession until it was examined to see whether it was loaded - A. I examined it myself almost immediately after I took the prisoner, it was loaded with powder and ball that is now in it. It was primed as well as loaded. This ball fits one pistol as well as the other.
Q. Are the pistols a pair - A. They are; they bear the same maker's name.
Q. Had you seen the prisoner ever before - A. Several times. I had seen him several times in galleries in the House of Commons, and the avenues leading to it.
Q. According to your best recollection about how long is it ago since you have seen him - A. About a week or six days back, from my seeing him last Monday.
Q. I apprehend you are frequently in the galleries during the debates - A. Frequently; on one occasion I sat immediately next to him, while the House was in debate; I sat next to him about half an hour; I cannot say the precise time; there was a sort of general conversation between him and myself, and some other person that was sitting near me.
Q. The prisoner was brought into your custody after he was apprehended on Monday last - A. He was. I have a coat I was desired to produce.
Q. Is that the coat that he wore at the time he came into your custody - A. I believe so; the prisoner has been wearing this coat till yesterday, I believe. It was delivered to me by Bowman, the man that came in with him.
Q. Then you are an assistant. Did you deliver any coat to Mr. Newman - A. I did.
Q. Did you see it delivered to him - A. I did not.
Q. Did you ever see that coat before - A. I saw it in a room adjoining the chapel, the present prisoner occupied that room.
Q. The prisoner has been confined in that room since Monday last - A. Yes.
Q. Have you been frequently in that room while the prisoner was there - A. I was there on Tuesday evening last between eight and nine o'clock, and I remained there until eight or nine o'clock the following evening.
Q. Do you know any thing of this coat which is now produced - A. I was in the room when the prisoner acknowledged this coat to be his coat; he said that in the scuffle at the lobby in the House of Commons the coat was torn, and that he wished to have it mended, it had been torn by some person endeavouring to take the papers from his pocket; he wished to have a taylor to mend the coat; there was a man in the chapel-yard in the room under the prisoner's room, that was a taylor, and the coat was lowered down to him by a string to the window to be mended.
Q. Is that the coat - A. It is the coat.
Q. to James Taylor . Look at that coat of the prisoner's, do you know the coat - A. Yes, sir, that is the same coat that I put the pocket in it, and this is the pocket I made in consequence of his pattern.
Q. to General Gascoyne. Do you know the Christian name of the late Mr. Perceval - A. His Christian name was Spencer.
COURT. Prisoner, the evidence being gone through on the part of the prosecution, now is the time for you to make any defence you have to offer or to produce any witnesses that you wish to be examined.
Prisoner. The documents and papers are necessary to my defence which were taken out of my pocket in the House of Commons, I beg to be indulged with them.
Mr. Attorney General. The papers must first be proved that they were taken from the prisoner, and when that is done they shall be returned.
Q. Did you observe any papers taken from the prisoner - A. Yes. They have been in my possession ever since. They are the whole, there is none kept back; I took them out of the hand of General Gascoyne . I saw him take them from the prisoner.
General Gascoyne. I delivered them into Mr. Hume's hand, and he had all.
(The papers handed to the prisoner.
Prisoner's Defence. I feel great personal obligations to the learned Attorney General for the objections that he made to the defence set up by my counsel on account of insanity, it is far more fortunate for me that such a plea as that should be unfounded, and at the same time I am under the same obligation to my learned counsels for their zeal in my defence in setting up the plea that I am insane by the desire of my friends, or that I have been insane. I am not apprised of a single instance in Russia where my insanity was made public except in one single instance, when the pressure of my sufferings had exposed me to that imputation.
Gentlemen, I beg pardon. This is the first time I ever was in public in this kind of way, and you I am sure will look at the substance of what I say more than the manner of my offering it.
Gentlemen, As to the lamentable catastrophe for which I am now on my trial before this court, if I am the man that I am supposed to be, to go and deliberately shoot Mr. Perceval without malice, I should consider myself a monster, and not fit to live in this world or the next. The learned Attorney General has candidly stated to you, that till this fatal time of this catastrophe, which I heartily regret, no man more so, not even one of the family of Mr. Perceval. I had no personal or premeditated malice towards that gentleman; the unfortunate lot had fallen upon him as the leading member of that administration which had repeatedly refused me any reparation for the unparalled injuries I had sustained in Russia for eight years with the cognizance and sanction of the minister of the country at the court of St. Petersburg.
Gentlemen, I must begin to explain the origin ofGranville Leveson Gower , then at the Russian court, stating my case. Lord Gower wrote to the military governor of Archangel, desiring that if I was not detained for any legal cause I might be liberated as a British subject, but the governor answered, that I was detained in prison for a legal cause, and that I had conducted myself in a very indecorous manner. From this time Lord Gower and the British Consul positively declined any further interference in the business, and I was detained in durance for near two years, in spite of all my endeavours to induce the British Minister to interfere with the Emperor of Russia for an investigation of my case. At length, however, after being banded from prison to prison, and from dungeon to dungeon, fed on bread and water, treated with the utmost cruelty, and frequently marched through the streets under a military guard with felons and criminals of the most atrocious description, even before the residence of the British Minister, who might view from his window, this degrading severity towards a British subject who had committed no crime to the disgrace and insult of the British nation. I was afterwards enabled to make my case known through the Procureur - it was investigated, and he obtained a judgment against the military governour, and the senate. Notwithstanding this decision I was immediately sent to another prison, and a demand was made on me for two thousand rubles, alledged to be due by me to a Russian merchant who was a bankrupt. I refused to pay this demand for a debt which I did not owe, and the Senate, finding me determined to resist the demand, I was declared a bankrupt, and continued in prison under the pretence I had made answer that I could not pay it, because all my property was in England. No such answer was ever given by me; under this pretence I was detained in prison.
Gentlemen - It is a custom in Russia, that if a foreigner is declared a bankrupt, three months are allowed for all his creditors in Russia to make their claims, and eighteen months more for creditors resident in other parts of the world; but notwithstanding that, the three months had elapsed and not a single claimant appeared, although the Senate sent forth their clerks to enquire of all strangers who arrived, whether they had any demands against me. Still I was detained in prison, and sent from gaol to gaol, and I was finally handed over to the College of Commerce; the two thousand rubles were still demanded of me, and Lord Gower refused to interfere in the business, and the Consul told me I must pay the money. I was not destitute of the means of payment, but I resisted the claim, on account of its gross injustice. When the Marquis of Douglas arrived in Russia I made my case known to him, and said I only wished it to be shewn that the money was justly due, and I would pay it. The Marquis of Douglas made a representation, and stated, that it was only desired that the justice of the claim should be shewn and the money should be paid; this application was ineffectual, and I was still required to pay the two thousand rubles, or even twenty rubles, to acknowledge, in some degree, the justice of the demand; but I was aware if I had done this, I should justify the conduct of the Senate, and the military Governour of Archangel, against whom I had obtained a legal decision, with an acknowledgement that I had been unjustly treated. The necessary consequence would be, that for my supposed contumacy in bringing a false charge against the Senate and Governor, I should be sent to Siberia, I persisted in refusing to comply with the claims.
Gentlemen, All this while my wife, a young woman of only twenty years of age, with an infant at her breast, remained at St. Petersburg, in expectation of my arrival, and at length, in the eighth month of her pregnancy, disappointed of her hopes, was obliged to set out, unprotected, on her voyage to England. At last, after a series of six years persesution in the manner I have described, and after the repeated refusal of Lord Gower and the British Consul to represent my case to the Emperor, a circumstance occurred which proved, in a more particular degree the peculiar negligence which I had experienced. A captain Gardiner, of a Hull ship, arrived at Archangel, he had a little squabble with the commander of a guard ship about a demand of a few rubles for pilotage, and yet this man's complaint was represented to the Emperor four times within a month by the British ambassador, while, for a series of six years unparalleled persecution I was not able to obtain any interference on my behalf. At length the Senate, quite tired out by these severities, in 1809 I received, at midnight, a discharge from my confinement, with a pass, and an order to quit the Russian dominions, which was in fact an acknowledgment of the justice of my cause. On my return in England I laid a statement of my grievances before the Marquis Wellesley, accompanied by authentic documents, and claiming some redress for the injuries I had sustained through the British minister in Russia, which injuries it was impossible I should have suffered, if they had not been sanctioned by that minister. The noble Marquis is now in Court, and could contradict my statement if false, but I represent the circumstances as they really were, and not as personally concerning myself but as involving the honour of the British Government, I was referred by the Marquis to the Privy Council, and from the Privy Council to the Treasury; and thus baffled from one party to another,
(Here the prisoner read a petition to the Prince Regent.)
Foreign Office, January 31, 1810.
"SIR, I am directed by the Marquis Wellesley to transmit to you the papers which you sent to this office, accompanied with your letter of the 27th of last month; and I am to inform you, that his Majesty's Government is precluded from interfering in the support of your cause in some measure by the circumstances of the case itself, and entirely so at the present moment by the suspension of intercourse with the Court of St. Petersburgh."
Council Office, Whitehall, May 16, 1810.
SIR, I am directed by the Lords of the Council to acquaint you that their Lordships have taken into consideration your petition on the subject of your arrest in Russia, do not find that it is a matter in which their Lordship's can interfere.
I am, Sir, your most obedient humble servant, W. FAWKENER."
Whitehall, 20th March, 1812.
"SIR, I am directed by Mr. Secretary Ryder to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 17th instant, requesting permission on the part of his Majesty's Ministers to present your petition to the House of Commons, and in reply I am to acquaint you, that you should address your application to the Right Honourable the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
I am, Sir, your most obedient servant, J. BECKETT."
Some time afterwards I received an answer from Colonel M'Mahon, stating, that by some accident my petition was mislaid. I then wrote another petitition to his Royal Highness, and I understood it was referred to the Treasury, as appeared by a letter I received from Mr. Ryder at Whitehall. Gentlemen - under these circumstances I was plunged into ruin, and involved in debt; and the learned Attorney General has admitted there was not a spot on my character until this fatal catastrophe, which when I reflect on it I could burst into a flood of tears. I was totally refused any redress. Gentlemen, what would be your feelings - what would be your alternative; as the affair was national, and as his Majesty's Ministers recommended me backwards and forwards from one to another. I wrote another petition to his Royal Highness, but was informed by a letter from Mr. Ryder, that his Royal Highness had not been pleased to give any commands on the subject.
Gentlemen. - As my petition was of a pecuniary nature I was informed by General Gascoyne, that it was impossible to come into the house without the consent of one of his Majesty's Ministers, for which I thank General Gascoyne for his politeness in giving me that information, and as I was very well known in Liverpool, I could have got the signatures of the whole town. I began to flatter myself I should get redress, but instead of redress, his Majesty's Ministers, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer told me I was not to expect any thing. I was obliged to give notice about six week since to the magistrates at the public office Bow-street, in a letter stating my grievances, intreating their interference, by application to Government, and adding, that if all redress was refused me, I must be obliged to do myself justice by taking such steps as those must be responsible for who resisted all my applications.
(Here the prisoner read a letter to Mr. Read, of Bow-street.)
To their Worships the Police Magistrates of the Public Office, Bow-street.
"SIRS, I much regret it being my lot to apply to your Worships under most peculiar and novel circumstances, for the particulars of the case I refer you to the enclosed letter from Mr. Secretary Ryder, the notification from Mr. Perceval, and my petition Parliament, together with the printed papers herewith. The affair requires no further remark, than that I consider his Majesty's Government to have completely closed the door of justice, in declining to have or even permit my grievances to be brought before Parliament for redress, which privilege is the birth-right of every individual. The purport of the present, is, therefore once more to solicit his Majesty's Ministers, through your medium, to let what is right and proper be done in my instance, which is all I require. Should this reasonable request be finally denied, I shall then feel myself justified in executing justice myself, in which case I shall be ready to argue the merits of so reluctant a measure with his Majesty's Attorney General, wherever and whenever I may be called upon so to do; in the hopes of averting so abhorrent but compulsive an alternative,
9, New Milman-street.
Whitehall, April 18, 1812.
"SIR, I am directed by Mr. Secretary Ryder to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 12th instant, requesting to be informed in what stage your claim on his Majesty's Government for criminal detention in Russia now is. In reply, I am to refer you to my several letters of the 18th of February, 9th and 20th of March, by which you have been already informed that your first petition to his Royal Highness the Prince Regent, praying for remuneration, had been refered to the Lords of the Council, that upon your second memorial, praying his Royal Highness to give orders that the subject should be brought before Parliament, his Royal Highness has not been pleased to signify any commands; and lastly, in answer to your application to Mr. Ryder, requesting permission on the part of his Majesty's Ministers to present your petition to the House of Commons, you were informed that your application should be addressed to the Right Honourable the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
I am, Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant, J. BECKITT."
Finding myself thus bereft of all hopes of redress, my affairs ruined by my long imprisonment in Russia through the fault of the British minister, my property all dispersed for want of my own attention, my family driven into tribulation and want, my wife and child claiming support, which I was unable to give them, myself involved in difficulties, and pressed on all sides by claims I could not answer; and that justice refused to me which is the duty of government to give, not as a matter of favour, but of right; and Mr. Perceval obstinately refusing to sanction my claims in Parliament; and I trust this fatal catastrophe will be warning to other ministers. If they had listened to my case this court would not have been engaged in this case, but Mr. Perceval obstinately refusing to sanction my claim in Parliament I was driven to despair, and under these agonizing feelings I was impelled to that desperate alternative which I unfortunately adopted. My arm was the instrument that shot Mr. Perceval, but, gentlemen, ought I not to be redressed; instead of that Mr. Ryder referred me to the Treasury, and after several weeks the Treasury sent me to the Secretary of State's office; Mr. Hill informed me that it would be useless to apply to government any more; Mr. Beckitt added, Mr. Perceval has been consulted, he would not let my petition come forward.
Gentlemen, A refusal of justice was the sole cause of this fatal catastrophe; his Majesty's ministers have now to reflect upon their conduct for what has happened. Lord Gower is now in court, I call on him to contradict, if he can, the statement I have made, and, gentlemen, if he does not, I hope you will then take my statement to be correct. Mr. Perceval has unfortunately fallen the victim of my desperate resolution. No man, I am sure, laments the calamitous event more than I do. If I had met Lord Gower he would have received the ball, and not Mr. Perceval. As to death, if it were to be suffered five hundred times, I should prefer it to the injuries and indignities which I have experienced in Russia, I should consider it as the wearied traveller does the inn which affords him an asylum for repose, but government, in the injustice they have done me, were infinitely more criminal than the wretch, who, for depriving the traveller of a few shillings on the highway, forfeits his life to the law. What is the comparison of this man's offence to government? or, gentlemen, what is my crime to the crime of government itself? It is no more than a mite to a mountain, unless it was proved that I had malice propense towards the unfortunate gentleman for whose death I am now upon my trial. I disclaim all personal or intentional malice against Mr. Perceval.
Q. When did you arrive in London - A. Last night.
Q. What induced you to come to London - A. I thought I knew more of Mr. Bellingham than any other friend that would come forward. I have known him from his childhood.
Q. Where did he live latterly - A. In Liverpool.
Q. Do you know how long ago it is that he left Liverpool to come to London - A. I think that he came at Christmas.
Q. Does his wife and children now reside there - - A. Yes, they do.
Q. What situation of life has he been in - A. Something in the mercantile Liverpool business.
Q. Did you know his father - A. Yes, he died insane in Titchfield-street, Oxford-street; he died there in a state of insanity.
Mr. Attorney General. Do you know that of your own knowledge - A. Yes, and my knowing of it was a great inducement of bringing me to London, and within this last three or four years it is known to myself and Mr. Bellingham's friends that he has been in a state of perfect derangement with respect to this business he has been pursuing.
Q. Have you had an opportunity of seeing him in London lately - A. No, not lately; it is more than a twelvemonth ago that I saw him.
Q. At that time how was he - A. Deranged, when he spoke of this business.
Q. Do you know for what purpose he was in London at that time - A. Pursuing the same plan.
Q. Before that had you seen him at Liverpool - A. I saw him at Liverpool about a year and a half ago.
Q. In what state of mind was he at that time - A. He was in a deranged state when any thing of this was mentioned to him. I did not mention it to him because of the state of mind he was in.
Mr. Garrow. This purpose of being in London a year ago was for the purpose of pursuing the same object, what do you mean by pursuing the same object - A. That of going to government for redress of grievances.
Q. And to use your own words in you own opinion you considered he was in a state of perfect derangement - A. Yes, I do. He has been more than three years in a state of derangement, and since he has been in London he has been pursuing the same plan, and for a long time before that. When he was in Russia when he was pursuing the same object as soon as he returned home all his friends were well convinced that was the case.
Q. I think you spoke of him as a married man - A. Yes, he has a wife, she carries on the millenery business at Liverpool.
Q. I suppose that he some male friends - A. Yes.
Q. Do you know that he was engaged as a merchant - A. Yes.
Q. Do you know any of the persons that he was engaged in business with - A. No.
Q. Do not you know the name of any one person that he was in business with at Liverpool - A. No, not one. I was in the house with his family at Liverpool, I did not know any body that he was concerned in trade with. I was in the house more than a week. I would wish to mention one circumstance which strongly confirmed me in my opinion, and a strong mark of insanity. Two years ago last Christmas
Q. How long is this ago, pray ma'am - A. This was last Christmas two years.
Q. I think you stated that he has been in town from last Christmas - A. Yes.
Q. Has he been staying in London all that time - A. Yes.
Q. Has he been pursuing the same plan - A. I understood all along that he was here pursuing the same object at the public offices.
Q. And upon that object you always considered him in a perfect state of derangement - A. I did.
Q. Mr. Smith received you with politeness and attention - A. Yes he did.
Q. How long did you remain in town after that - A. Till the next midsummer.
Q. In the same family with the prisoner - A. No, I saw him frequent.
Q. Was he under any restraint at that time - A. Not at that time.
Q. Were you in habits of intimacy with his family - A. Yes.
Q. If he was coersed you must have known it - A. I think I must.
Q. If there had been any restraint do you think it would have happened without your knowing it - A. I do not know that it could.
Q. Where did he live when you were in London, at the time you went to the secretary's office - A. I think Theobald's road; his wife was in town then, she was on a visit with me.
Q. And he was living by himself at the time that all his friends' thought him in a state of perfect derangement - A. Yes.
Q. Can you state any period or month, or a week, or a single day, he was ever - A. No.
Q. At no period from his return from Russia - A. Not as I know of.
Q. Has he been left to act upon his own will as much as me, or of any body else - A. Yes. I believe he was.
Q. Did you ever communicate to the government that he was in a deranged state - A. No.
Q. After your visit to Mr. Smith, at the secretary of state's office he remained in town, and after that, either you nor his wife give any intimation to Mr. Smith that he was a deranged man, or to any of the officers of government - A. No.
Q. How long is it ago since you saw him - A. More than a twelve month ago.
Q. Did it consist with your knowledge that he carried fire arms about him - A. No.
Q. Did you ever know him confined for a single day - A. No.
MARY CLARK . Q. Where do you live - A. No. 7, Bagnio court, Newgate-street. I have known the prisoner since his return from Russia, I have known him several years, but I have known most of him since he returned from Russia, about two years and a half, I have been in company with him several times.
Q. Can you form any judgment respecting the state of his mind ever since he came from Russia - A. It is my opinion that he has been disordered in his mind. I have seen him six or seven times; the last time I saw him was last January; I saw him at No. 20, North-street, Red Lion-square, I did not see any particular derangement then, I had but very little conversation with him then, he said he came upon business, he might not stay above ten days or a week, I did not see him above ten minutes at that time.
Mr. Attorney General. He came up from Liverpool to London he came up alone - A. Yes, he left his wife, and he came up alone, to the best of my knowledge, he told me that he was come on business.
Q. He transacted business for himself then, did not he - A. I did not know any thing about his business.
Q. You do not know any body that transacted business for him do you - A. No, I heard that he was confined in Russia.
Q. For all that he was suffered to go about here in this country - A. I do not know of any control over him.
Q. Or do you know of any medical person being consulted about him - A. No, I do not know.
Q. You do not know of any precautions that were taken to prevent him from squandering his property, in this state of derangement, do you - A. I do not.
Q. You do not know of any course pursued to him by his friends, that would not be pursued to any rational man - A. I do not.
Q. Why is not Mrs. Roberts here, she was served with a subpoena - A. My mistress is unwell, she lives at No. 9, New Millman-street.
Q. Do you recollect the day he was taken in custody - A. Last Monday.
Q. On the day before, on Sunday, did you make any observations on the conduct of the prisoner - A. I did rather, I thought he seemed confused, and was so for some time.
Q. Had you made that observation for some time before - A. I had.
Q. On the day before he was taken, tell me whether any thing particular occurred in the house - A. No.
Q. Were you at home on that day - A. I was out in the evening about two hours and a half.
Q. On the Monday, before you went out, had you noticed any thing particular - A. I noticed a word and his actions, I thought he was not so well as he had been for some time past.
Mr. Garrow. How long had you lived with Mrs. Roberts - A. Only two months.
Q. Why he had been there four months, had not he - A. Yes. My sister lived there before me.
Q. Mr. Bellingham was respected by the family, I believe - A. Yes, I believe they respected him very much.
Q. Did he dine at home - A. Very seldom, he dined once with the family.
Q. What hours did he use to keep - A. Very regular hours, a remarkable regular man.
Q. What place of worship did he go to - A. He went with Mrs. Roberts and her little boy in the morning.
Q. They went to the Foundling did not they - A. Yes.
Q. That was the last Sunday of all - A. Yes.
Q. Did he dine at home that day - A. Yes, he dined alone, and I think it was too late for them to go to the Magdalen, my mistress and Mr. Bellingham went to the Foundling in the evening, the service of the Foundling is over in the evening between eight and nine.
Q. He went to bed as usual - A. Yes.
Q. What time did he go out the next day - A. The first time about twelve o'clock, he came home to accompany my mistress and her little boy to the European museum about one, and they went off altogether.
Q. Had they a coach - A. No, they walked, my mistress and her little boy came home about a quarter after five.
Q. Then they came home without Mr. Bellingham - A. Yes.
Q. Were his pistols usually in the bags or loose - A. I never knew that he had pistols.
Q. Though you had attended him in his room for two months, you did not know that he had pistols, did you use to brush his clothes - A. No.
Q. What was the taylor's name that brought home a coat that had a little job done to it - A. I never knew his name; I remember a man bringing home a coat.
Q. How long before the last Sunday was it that the taylor brought home a coat that there had been a little job done to it - A. That is three weeks or a month ago.
Q. Did he pay the washer woman's bill on the Monday - A. Yes, there was a dispute what was to be paid for washing a dressing gown; he settled the bill before he went out that morning; he breakfasted at home.
Q. Are you sure that you never saw either of these pistols - A. Yes.
Q. Nor noticed the bag for pistols - A. No, I never noticed any thing of the kind.
Q. Did you ever know of any surgeon or apothecary attending him - A. No.
Mr. Alley, counsel for the prisoner, directed the door-keeper to call at the door for the purpose of ascertaining whether any witnesses had arrived from Liverpool; shortly after, Mr. Sheriff Heygate announced to the bench that he had been informed two persons had, within the few last minutes, arrived from Liverpool in a post chaise and four, to give evidence in favour of the prisoner, these persons being admitted into court, looked at the prisoner, but declared he was not the person they supposed him to be; they mentioned the circumstance of their having heard of the apprehension of the prisoner, and knowing something of a person bearing his description, in whose conduct they had seen frequent marks of derangement.
Lord Chief Justice Mansfield. Gentlemen of the jury, you are now to try an indictment which charges the prisoner at the bar with the wilful murder (here the learned judge was so hurt by his feelings, that he could not proceed for several seconds) of Mr. Spencer Perceval, (in a faint voice) who was murdered with a pistol loaded with a bullet; when he mentioned the name of (here again his lordship was sincerely affected, and burst into tears, in which he was joined by the greatest portion of the persons in court) a man so dear, and so revered as that of Mr. Spencer Perceval, I find it difficult to suppress my feelings. As, however, to say any thing of the distinguished talents and virtues of that excellent man, might tend to excite improper emotions in the minds of the jury, but would with-hold these feelings which pressed for utterance from my heart, and leave you, gentlemen, to form your judgment upon the evidence which has been adduced in support of the case, undressed by any unfair indignation which you might feel against his murderer, by any description, however faint, of the excellent qualities of the deceased. Gentlemen, you are to try the unfortunate man at the bar, in the same manner, as if he was arraigned for the murder of any other man. The law protected all his Majesty's subjects alike, and the crime was the same whether committed upon the person of the highest and most distinguished character in the country, as upon that of the lowest. The only question you have to try, is, whether the prisoner did wilfully and maliciously murder Mr. Spencer Perceval or not. It is not necessary to go very minutely into the evidence which has been produced to the fact, as there is little doubt as to the main object of your enquiry. The first thing you have to say is, whether the person charged with having murdered him; and whether that murder had been committed with a pistol bullet. The learned judgeMary Figgins , his Lordship concluded by advising the jury to take all the facts into their most serious consideration. If you have any doubt, you will give the prisoner the benefit of that doubt; but if you conceive him guilty of the crime alledged against him, in that case you will find him guilty.
The jury, after a consultation of two minutes and a half in the box, expressed a wish to retire; and an officer of the court, being sworn, accompanied them to the jury-room. As they passed out, the prisoner regarded them separately with a look of mingled confidence and complacency. They were absent fourteen minutes; and on their return into court, their countenances acting as indices to their minds, at once unfolded the determination for which they had come. The prisoner again directed his attention to them in the same manner as before.
The names being called over, and the verdict being asked for in the usual form, the foreman announced the fatal decission of - GUILTY upon the indictment for MURDER, and upon the Coroner's Inquisition.
Mr. Shelton. Q. (to Prisoner.) John Bellingham , you stand convicted of the wilful murder of the Right Honourable Spencer Perceval; what have you to say why the court should not give you judgment to die according to law.
To this interrogatory the prisoner made no reply.
The Recorder passed sentence in a most solemn and affecting manner, which was as follows: -
"Prisoner at the bar! you have been convicted by a most attentive and a most merciful jury, of one of the most malicious and atrocious crimes it is in the power of human nature to perpetrate - that of wilful and premeditated murder! A crime which in all ages and in all nations has been held in the deepest detestation - a: crime as odious and abominable in the eyes of God, as it is hateful and abhorrent to the feelings of man. A crime which, although thus heinous in itself, in your case has been heightened by every possible feature of aggravation. You have shed the blood of a man admired for every virtue which can adorn public or private life - a man, whose suavity and meekness of manner was calculated to disarm all political rancour, and to deprive violence of its asperity. By his death, charity has lost one of its greatest promoters; religion, one of its firmest supporters; domestic society, one of its happiest and sweetest examples; and the country, one of its brightest ornaments - a man, whose ability and worth was likely to produce lasting advantages to this
"that he that sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." In conformity to these laws, which God hath ordained, and men have obeyed, your disgraced and indignant country, by the example of your ignominious fate, will appreciate the horror of your offence, and set up a warning to all others who might hereafter be tempted to the perpetration of a crime of so deep a dye. A short time, a very short time, remains for you to supplicate for that mercy in another world, which public justice forbids you to expect in this. Sincerely do I hope that the short interval that; has elapsed since the commission of this atrocious offence has not been unemployed by you in soliciting that pardon from the Almighty which I trust your prayers may obtain, through the merits of your Redeemer, whose first attribute is mercy. It only now remains for me to pass the dreadful sentence of the law, which is -
"That you be taken from hence to the place from whence you came, and from thence to a place of execution, where you shall be hanged by the neck until you be dead; your body to be dissected and anatomized ."