27th February 1788
Reference Numbert17880227-110

Related Material

ActionsCite this text | Print-friendly version | Report an error
Navigation< Previous text (front matter) | Next text (trial account) >

250. THOMAS BURGESS , THOMAS FRANCIS , and JOHN FRANCIS were indicted, for that they, on the 11th of December, upon Thomas Edmunds , an officer of the excise, then being on shore in the due execution of his office, in seizing for our said Lord the King, fifty gallons of Geneva, which were then liable to be seized by the said Thomas Edmunds , did unlawfully make an assault, and did unlawfully hinder, oppose and obstruct the said Thomas Edmunds , in the due execution of his duty .

Mr. Fielding opened the Indictment, and Mr. Solicitor General the Case.


Examined by Mr. Silvester.

What are you? - An excise officer; on the 11th of December, about the middle of the day, Thomas Rhodes , William Turner and I, were going across the country near Starchfield, in the county of Kent; we left Rhodes with our horses in a wood, while we went two or three lanes further, to see if we could trace any horses, and in about ten minutes or a quarter of an hour after we were gone, Rhodes came after us, and told us, there were a great many horses gone past; we traced them to a little bit of a valley, we could see them in the bottom, they were got off their horses, and they were tapping some of the tubs, and drinking.

How many were there? - I believe six or seven; we rode up to them; I told them I was an excise-officer, that I should seize the tubs and the horses; they swore they would be d - nd if I should; I should not have a single tub; I told them if they would be easy and quiet, and let us have the liquor and casks, we would give them their horses; no, they swore we should not have a single tub; some of them attacked us with whips, and two others ran and pulled out some hedge-stakes about five or six feet long, and then they came and knocked my horse down, which brought me down; then one of them hit me over the back with an hedge-stake; one of them halloo'd out, do him! do him! or something to that purpose; then Turner rode in with his cutlass, and that saved me; I then caught hold of one of their horses that had got a tub strapped on upon a little bit of a pad behind the saddle, and got up upon him as soon as I could; then they began pelting us with flint stones; one of them swore I had stole his horse; I shot at them seven or eight times, and I believe one of the balls went into Burgess's thigh; they followed us, pelting us with stones, and beating us, till at last, though I happened to have an iron hat on, they threw a stone, that made a dent in my head, and it bounded up, a matter of fourteen or twenty yards; one of my comrades said, ride! ride! or you will be killed; I had fired pretty nigh all my ammunition;

Turner called them by their names, and told them, I was an officer, and that they had better not obstruct us, for it would be at their peril, and that they must suffer for it, and cautioned them over and over again; we rode half a mile further, and then we took one of the tubs and spiled it; and found it to be gin; we put that tub into a ditch, and rode on to four or five houses, trying to get a gun; for they did not mind being shot at with pistols; we got a gun and some powder and shot; when we came back, there were five or six of them assembled in the middle of a field where there were stones as thick as they could lay; it joined the valley where we first attacked them; they ran away from the tubs into the wood, but before we could get to load any of them upon the horses, they came out of the wood again, and swore we should not have any of them away; I told them if they did not keep off, I would fire at them with a gun; I shot at the legs of two of them, and they ran again into the wood.

Why did you shoot at their legs? - Because I did not want to hurt them, I thought to frighten them; they assembled again, and swore we should not take them; I told them if they came any nigher, I would shoot at them; they pulled their coats off, and pelted us with stones; one of the stones hit the barrel of the gun I had in my hand; Thomas Francis was very resolute.

Are you perfectly sure it was he? - Yes; I pointed the gun at him, and he held up his arms before his face, and said, shoot and be d - n'd, I dont care for you; I fired at them wit powder and small shot, and that drove them off; then we got the goods and drove them about the wood.

What did the casks contain? - The twenty-two tubs contained Holland's gin; I tasted them.

You are sure that Thomas Francis was the man? - Yes, and Burgess, I cannot swear to the other.

Cross examined by Mr. Downer.

How long have you been in the Excise? - Six or seven years.

Who went with you? - Rhodes and Turner, they went to execute a warrant at Dunkirk in Kent.

Do you know Paul Jones ? - Yes, alias William Turner .

Upon your coming up to them, upon your oath, did not you fire upon them immediately? - No, not till they began to knock our horses about.

Mr. Solicitor General. How long did this affair last? - About two hours and a half, or three hours.


Examined by Mr. Fielding.

You are in the Excise? - No, I am not, nor was not at that time; I was going across the country to execute a warrant; Mr. Edmunds and Rhodes were going the same way, and I went with them.

What time of day was it when you went to Starchfield? - About 12 o'clock; when we got to Starchfield, we put our horses into a copse, and left Rhodes with them; we walked across two fields, when Rhodes came after us, and told us the smugglers were gone past; we pursued them, and overtook them in a mile and a quarter tapping their tubs; Mr. Edmunds and I rode up to them, Rhodes was rather behind.

How many were there? - I am sure there were five, but I cannot say exactly to the number; Mr. Edmunds told them he must seize the goods; they swore he should not; they blasted their eyes, and used other imprecations; three of them went to the hedge, and pulled out hedge stakes five or six feet long; one of them struck Mr. Edmunds's horse, and knocked him down; he was going to strike Edmunds with his stick, and said, damn your eyes, I'll do for you, which, if I had not intercepted that blow,

it would have killed him; one of them hit me with a stick and made me drop my reins; they followed us and beat us very much; they pelted us with stones; Edmunds had an iron crown to his hat, and one of the stones bounded from his head as high as this cieling; we retreated when we found we could do nothing for the stones; Rhodes had fired, but my pistols were damp, and would not go off at all; Edmunds's face was so violently swelled with the beating, that a person that had not been very well acquainted with him, would not have known him; the swelling came on gradually.

Edmunds had fired? - Yes.

They were in a field where there were plenty of stones? - Yes.

Which seemed to be the most formidable workmen, the stones or the pistol? - When they found they could not do any thing with me with the sword, they found the stones best; Edmunds got upon one of the smugglers horses, and we retreated when we found stones come so fast.

Did you know any of the men before? - Yes, I knew them well before; I had formerly been an officer in that part of the country; we went and got a gun and another person to assist us; when we came back they were in the field; they were off their horses, and the tubs unloaded, bidding defiance to any body that should oppose; we went up and attacked them; they retreated; Edmunds told them he should certainly fire upon them, for that he had regularly seized them; says I, Burgess, you know very well you are acting against the law; the other two persons I knew as well, but not by name.

Mr. Solicitor General. How long had you known the persons? - I had known Burgess several years; I had known the other about a year and a half.

(Cross-examined by Mr. Downer.)

You say they are known to you; perhaps you are as well known to them? - Perhaps so.

You have the name of Paul Jones , I understand? - Yes, that is the name the smugglers gave me.

How happened it that you was removed from the custom-house? - I was moved to an inland place, and having a vast quantity of liquors under the staving act, and unsettled, that was the reason of my going out.

You had time enough to have taken them and the tubs too, before they could have had an opportunity of getting hedge-stakes? - I believe it might have been done if Rhodes had come up, but he was behind, and we did not wish to be desperate.

Mr. Fielding. The smugglers gave you the name of Paul Jones , because you had formerly been very active and valiant against them? - I suppose that was it.


(Examined by Mr. Silvester.)

You was with Turner and Edmunds? - Yes.

You saw five smugglers with tubs? - Yes.

Did you know any of them? - Yes, all of them.

Look at the prisoners? - Yes, they were there; the middle one is Burgess, and the other two Francis's.

How long had you known them? - Two or three months.

Are you certain? - Yes, I am certain sure of it; it was in the middle of the day.

Mr. Downer. What are you? - A butcher.

How came you to go into this part of the country upon such an occasion? - Edmunds called upon me to go with him; my father is a surveyor of the customs.


To be imprisoned two years .

Tried by the second Middlesex Jury before Mr. RECORDER.

View as XML