8th December 1790
Reference Numbert17901208-32
VerdictGuilty > with recommendation

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32. ROBERT BREEZE and JOHN HART were indicted, for that they together, with several other persons, on the 4th of November , in the 30th year of his Majesty's reign; being on board a certain vessel, called the Mary, on the sea, about the distance of one mile from Thornham, in Norfolk; within the limits of the port of Lynn Regis , being one of the ports of Great Britain, bearing certain guns loaded, did shoot at a certain boat, within the limits of the said port, against the statute .

A second Count, For that they, on the same day, being on board of a certain other vessel, called the Mary, on the sea, near Thornham, in the same county, with force and arms at Lynn Regis, on the sea aforesaid, within four leagues of the shore, certain guns, to wit, two guns loaded with gunpowder and leaden shot, did shoot on a certain boat.

A third Count, For being on board the same boat, and in the same situation as in the first count, with four guns loaded with gunpowder and leaden shot, did shoot at William Vitty , one of the officers of his Majesty's Customs, attempting to go on board, in the due execution of his duty.

A fourth Count, Describing the same situation as in the second count, for that they with four guns loaded with gunpowder and leaden shot, unlawfully, feloniously, and maliciously did shoot at the said William Vitty , attempting to go on board.

A fifth and sixth Counts, like to the third and fourth, for shooting at William Vitty , in the due execution of his office, omitting that he was attempting to go on board the said vessel, called the Mary.

Counsel for the prosecution.

Mr. Attorney General.

Mr. Wood.

Mr. Fielding.

Mr. Litchfield.

Mr. Garrow.

Counsel for the prisoner Breeze.

Mr. Knowlys.

The indictment was opened by Mr. Garrow: and the case by Mr. Attorney General, as follows -

Mr. Attorney General. May it please your lordship. Gentlemen of the jury; I have thought it necessary to bring these two prisoners before you, namely, Robert Breeze and John Hart , for the commission of an offence, which must deserve a severe reprehension; the offence of using fire arms, and shooting at a boat, in the service of the revenue; and likewise at an officer in the execution of his duty; gentlemen you will

agree with me, and I dare say, you go before me, in the observation, that the use of fire arms differs most materially from any other obstruction of the revenue; because it is not possible a man should be protected otherwise than by using fire arms against fire arms; and by that means introducing bloodshed; and perhaps the necessity of introducing those who best know the use of fire arms; and by that protection which the law provides: gentlemen, if the last species of protection is in due and fitting cases in time given, it will answer the end of all human punishment; namely, that of mercy to numbers, tho' perhaps of severity to individuals: for if some are deterred from that species of obstruction, which may possibly introduce that which I have alluded to, it may operate with a salutary effect to deter other persons: gentlemen, in the present instance, I would generally state to you, that this is not the sort of a case that some times happens; namely, that a quarrel, small in its origin, may, by the heating of men's minds, rise up to a pitch that was not intended; but you will find, that the intention to use fire arms was deliberate; that the arms were provided at Rotterdam, for the purpose of resisting the officers, if they had met any, and here the first thing that took place, was to fire on any officers they might meet, and they shot one man in the shoulder: gentlemen, on the 4th of November, 1789, a revenue officer, of the name of Vitty, was informed a vessel was expected that night on the coast; he went into a boat, to see whether this vessel had any illicit cargo on board, and it happened that it was so: the night was peculiarly favourable, and particularly bright; they were enabled very easily to discover the vessel, upon this they made towards the vessel, and on coming within thirty or forty yards of it, they were asked who they were: gentlemen, they had understood, that the crew on board were to be met by a person of the name of Ringwood, who had property on board that vessel, and they masked themselves under the name of Ringwood, and said it was Ringwood's boat. [Here the witnesses were ordered to be examined separate]. Gentlemen, upon saying they were Ringwood's, they were invited on board, but having got nearer the vessel, they directed the vessel to bring to; upon this, the vessel fired on them, and the consequence was, one man was shot in the shoulder; the persons on board the vessel could easily distinguish that they were a Custom-house boat, and the men were determined not to proceed any further, but rowed back immediately; the vessel therefore with the cargo escaped, and they effected the purpose for which they made the resistance. Gentlemen, the sum and substance of the whole is this, that with deliberate intention, these people provided themselves with the means, and the only effectual means, of preventing the revenue officers from doing their duty; you know the dangerous nature of their emploment, and it is necessary these officers should be protected, and that this case should be made out in a full, and clear, and satisfactory manner to your understandings; if it is, you will be under the disagreeable necessity of pronouncing a verdict against these persons; but if it should so happen, contrary to my expectations, that there is any ambiguity in the relation, or any uncertainty in the case, you will avoid doing that which is a much greater evil than that these men should escape, namely, that of giving a verdict against men, against whom there is no satisfactory evidence: gentlemen, I trust this case will be made out; but it becomes me to shew you what the witnesses are; one of the witnesses is subject to exception, or at least subject to much scrutiny, being one of those that were on board the vessel; cases like these make it necessary to have such assistance, but he must be very narrowly and carefully watched by you, and if this man was the principal witness, or if he was unsupported by other testimony, unquestionably I should have hardly thought of giving you this trouble; nothing but extreme necessity could have induced me so to do at any rate, but in fact, he is but a confirmatory witness, for you will find by the evidence of Vitty, that they could with easediscern who the persons were, that were on board the vessel, and you will hear who they were, from one that was invited to go on board; he declined, and he afterwards, in conversation with his fellows, learned from them all the circumstances of the transaction, therefore you have that testimony which will be corroborated by the testimony of all the persons on board: gentlemen, if this story is confirmed in the manner I expect, it will, I hope, be of use, in order to prevent confusion, contest, and bloodshed, on any future occasion; gentlemen, this is the nature of the case, and I shall call the witnesses to prove it.


Examined by Mr. Wood.

I am surveyor of the customs; I was at Thornham, Norfolk, the 4th of November, last year.

Tell us whether on the 4th of November, you went out, in order to meet a sloop called the Mary? - I did.

Tell us how you proceeded? - On the 4th of November, about six in the evening, I had information that the Mary, belonging to John Clarke , of Hunstanton; one Henry Graver , master; was then on the coast, with a cargo of smuggled goods; I live at a place called Holme, from thence I went to Thornham, to call one of my officers; we went then and hired a boat, and four men; John Harris , Joseph Coston , senior; Joseph Coston , the younger; Simon Winterbourne , Coston; about eight at night, on the 4th of November, 1789; we went out to sea, from the east harbour of Thornham, in an open boat, when we perceived a sloop under sail, a little to the north of the harbour, which the sailors said they knew to be the Mary, belonging to Hunstanton, Henry Graver , master; it was a very clear moon-light night; the moon shone very bright, with that we rowed as fast as we could, after the sloop, in hopes to board her, by the time we got within hail of the vessel, the master called out to know what boat it was; I knew the master very well, his name is Henry Graver ; John Harris , one of my assistants, said it was Ringwood's boat, the master then bid us come on board, with that we rowed as fast as we could towards the sloop, when we came within the distance of thirty or forty yards; I called out to the master, to bring to; I called him by his name; as soon as I had spoke, I saw the flash of a musket or a pistol, or something of that kind, and immediately after a second, and the report of a gun or a musket.

Jury. Could you distinguish whether it was a pistol or a gun? - I could not at the distance I was, which was about thirty yards; the ball came close past my ear; I heard it hiss as it past me.

Court. At the distance of thirty yards, if it had been a pistol, could you have heard the hiss of it? - I do not know whether it was a pistol or a gun; I rather think it must be a gun; I could not tell: a second and a third gun were fired, which hit Jack Harris in the shoulder, and one ball came right thro' his arm, and another stuck in his shoulder; he called out he was sadly wounded, as indeed I was sure he must; a fourth gun was fired, which appeared to have a great many balls in it, for they rattled very much in the boat, with that I returned the fire with a musket; I had two small muskets and two little pistols; we had no more amunition, so we could not reload again; and two of my assistants called out, we shall be all murdered, and would not row any further nearer the vessel, but rowed back again from the vessel; with that we received two more fires, after we returned from the sloop; the sloop bore away; and we rowed towards Thornham harbour again, we soon perceived a boat coming from the west harbour; one John Ringwood was on board, and another man called long Tom, what his name was, I cannot tell.

Did you observe how many men there were, that were on board the sloop? - I could perceive five plainly.

Did you know any of them? - None but Henry Graver ; I had not been long in the country.

Did you know him well by sight? - I knew him perfectly well, and he knew me very well; it was so light we could read the name on the stern very plain.

What distance was the sloop from the shore, when she fired? - About a mile.

Is it within the limits of the port of Lynn? - Yes; within the limits of the port of Lynn.

For what purpose was you going on board this sloop? - To take her as a smuggler.

Mr. Knowlys, prisoner Breeze's Counsel.

The nearest distance that you was, was thirty or forty yards? - Yes.

How long do you think this might take up? - After I called to them to come to, Graver knew me very well, and the shot was fired immediately.

How long do you think this might take up? - Very little time.

You were glad to sheer off, no doubt? - After we got the man wounded, we were glad; I would have staid, but could not.

Where do you live? - I live two miles from Hunstanton, and two miles from Thornham.

This was so late ago as November, 1789? - Yes.

Breeze I believe was not taken up, till May following? - No.

I believe you know Breeze lived at Hunstanton? - Yes.

Had you been there frequently between the 4th of November, and May? - Frequently.

Had you seen Breeze frequently in that time? - I had seen him, but did not know him.

Therefore you knew perfectly well, that Breeze was at Hunstanton? - As far as I knew.

How many times did you see him at Hunstanton? - I cannot say; I did not know him.

Therefore you have seen Breeze at Hunstanton several times? - I have, several times.

And he, as of course every body in that part of the country did, knew that you was a custom-house officer? - Certainly.

Was he taken at Hunstanton? Yes he was, by a warrant.

I believe he was in custody at Norwich, and to be tried there, but the trial was put off, on affidavit of the absence of Harris? - Yes.

Do you know where Harris was? - He was at sea, somewhere.

I rather think he was at Norwich, at that time? - He came to Norwich that very night it was put off.


Mr. Fielding. You was an assistant to Mr. Vitty, on the 4th of November, 1789? - Yes.

What time in the night was it, that you went on board the boat with Mr. Vitty? - It was between seven and eight, when we first went on board the boat.

How many people were in the boat? - There were six of them.

Do you know the names of them? - I know four of them.

Repeat the names of those four? - There was Mr. Vitty, John Bunn , Joseph Coston the elder, and Joseph Coston the younger, and me.

Do you remember the name of the other man? - There was another Coston; there were three Costons.

When you was in the boat, how far did you go from the shore, before you came up with the sloop? - It might be the course of a couple of miles.

Then you came near to a vessel? - Yes.

Do you know what the name of the vessel was? - The Mary.

Did you see her name on the stern? - Yes.

When you got towards her, was any thing said to you from the vessel? - They hailed the boat; they asked what boat it was.

Did you hear them distinctly? - Yes.

What distance was you from them? - It might be about forty yards.

What answer did you make to them? - I

made the answer in John Ringwood 's name.

You made the answer, and said it was John Ringwood 's boat? - Yes.

What immediately followed upon that? - They bid us come along-side.

Jury. Can you speak with precision, Harris, that you suppose you was above two miles from shore? - I cannot tell.

Recollect yourself, and speak with deliberation? - Above a mile, it was one or two miles, but I cannot tell to a little, I am sure.

Mr. Fielding. Are you any judge of the distance you stood from the shore, or do you speak with any correct knowledge of the place? - We were between one and two miles from the shore.

Not more than two, you think? - No; I think we were not.

Court. They bid you come on board? - Yes.

Mr. Fielding. Do you think you know the voice of the person, that bid you come on board? - Yes; I think I do; I think it was the master of the vessel.

Who was he? - Henry Graver .

You think it was his voice? - Yes.

Did you know Graver before? - Yes.

Where did he live? - He lived in Thornham, where I live.

When they told you to come on board, what did they say to you? - They told us they expected a custom-house boat.

Court. What did you say? - At first they asked what boat it was; and I answered them, John Ringwood 's; so they told us to come along-side, for they expected a custom-house boat.

They said so? - Yes; they were afraid of it.

Was any thing more said between you, before you rowed to the vessel? - No; we pulled towards the vessel immediately.

How much nearer to the vessel did you get, from this time, before any thing happened? - Before any thing happened, we might get the space of ten or a dozen yards.

Court. Then did you say any thing to them? - Then Mr. Vitty spoke, and told them to heave to, or else he should fire into them.

Did he say who he was, or what he was? - Sir; they distinguished him, and knew who he was, they said that was Mr. Vitty sitting on the stern; I cannot tell who said it, but it was spoke.

What followed upon this? - A gun flashed, but missed fire, then they fired a pistol, and then after that they fired another; they fired off two, and then they fired a third gun, a musket, at me, that wounded me; I do not think they fired any more.

Whereabouts was you wounded? - In the left shoulder.

Did the ball lodge, or go through? - It is in my shoulder now.

Did you feel the wound immediately? - Yes; I felt it very much.

How near do you think you was, at the time you was shot? - About thirty yards off the vessel.

It was a moon-light night? - Yes; very bright indeed.

You had seen the name on the sloop before you was wounded? - Yes; Mr. Vitty saw it, and we all saw it.

Then you got nearer to the vessel when you was wounded? - Yes; we pulled two or three strokes after.

Were you near enough to the vessel, to distinguish the people on board? - Yes; we were.

You have told my lord before, that you knew Graver by his voice? - Yes.

Did you know him by looking at him? - He was standing by the stern of the vessel.

Then you knew that was Mr. Graver? - Yes.

Now look at the prisoners at the bar, do you know them? - Yes.

Do you know them both? - Yes; one is Breeze, and the other is Jack Hart .

Did you see either of them on board the vessel at that time? - Yes; I think I saw Hart standing along-side of Graver.

Did you see Breeze on board the vessel? - Yes.

Whereabouts was his situation? - He was just by the quarter deck.

Did you distinguish what he was doing, or had done? - I distinguished him so much, that I saw Breeze go off the quarter deck with a musket.

Did you see what he did after he got off the quarter deck, and had this musket in his hand? - He fired it off, he laid the musket on a rail, and fired it off.

When you saw him lay the musket on the rail, and saw the flash, what became of that ball, did you know? - I felt the smart as soon as the report of the gun was.

Was that the gun from which you received the wound? - Yes; the third gun.

That was the gun, then, that wounded you? - Yes.

Hart, you say, stood next to Graver? - Yes.

Do you know what he did? - He flashed the first pistol.

Court. Hart stood next to Graver? - Yes; close to the cabin house.

Mr. Fielding. Did you observe yourself to see any thing more? - No.

Did you hear thing more pass on board the vessel, from Graver to the men or the men to him? - No; immediately upon this, the boat was pulled round, and we went on shore.

Was you wounded in more than one place? - No; another ball went thro' my jacket, but never touched my flesh no where, that I could perceive.

Was that ball from the same piece, at the same time? - Yes; they were both from one piece, they fired them very slowly.

Now my man, I will only ask you, you say it was a very moon-light night? - Yes.

I will ask you whether you can say that your recollection serves you to say positively, that you could see the persons that were on board the ship? - Yes.

Mr. Knowlys. It was so light, that you saw the name of the Mary, on the vessel? - Your Honor, I cannot read, but I know the vessel very well.

Did not you tell us just now, that you read the name on the vessel? - I could see the letters, but I could not put them together.

You say that you saw the letters, but could not put them together? - Yes.

Then by seeing the letters, did you know that it was the Mary? - Yes; I know the vessel.

Did you know the vessel by seeing the letters? - Yes Sir; there was the same letters as was on the vessel, they were painted with white; I know it was the Mary by seeing the same letters.

Did you know the vessel by seeing the letters? - No; your Honor, not only by seeing the letters, but by seeing the vessel.

You say, when you first came up to the vessel, they called to you, and asked what boat it was? - Yes.

Now when you came to, you say Mr. Vitty told them they must heave to, or they would fire into them? - Yes.

That, you are sure Mr. Vitty said? - Yes.

Then you are sure, that before any thing else passed, Vitty said to them, heave to, or I will fire into you? - Yes; before they fired upon us.

And you are sure, that Vitty made use of that expression; that was the first beginning of it? - Yes.

We have not learned that from him; now you say, that you are sure, that the people distinguished Vitty, for they said that is Vitty, that is standing on the stern of the boat? - Yes.

That you are sure of? - Yes.

I take it that was said loud enough for every body in the boat to hear? - Yes.

They pointed and said that is Vitty, that is standing on the stern of the boat; every body on board your boat might hear it? - I cannot tell whether every body on board heard it, but I heard it; I was standing right forward.

Was it spoke loud enough for every body to hear it? - Yes; it was spoken loud.

Now you are sure it was the third gun that hit you? - Yes.

The third gun was the last gun that was fired? - There was another after they turned the boat round that did not hurt us.

You told us there were six people in the custom-house boat? - Yes.

Then there were only five people on board the Mary? - Yes, there were six of them.

That you are sure of? - Yes.

Every body might see there were six? - Yes.

You are sure it was the third gun that hit you? - Yes.

These people were all on deck, were they? this was a deck vessel? - Yes.

All the six people were on deck? - They were on deck some time, some of them went below.

Were they all on deck at one time, so that you could very plainly perceive there were six? - Yes, there were.

That you could plainly see from your boat? - Yes, it was very bright, indeed.

Where do you live? - At Thornham.

How far is that from Hunstanton? - Four miles.

Do you know Hunstanton well? - Yes, I have been there frequently.

Was you there after this matter happened? - I was not there at all to the best of my knowledge.

Was not this man, Breeze, in Norwich gaol last summer? - Yes, he was.

He expected to be tried? - Yes.

I believe you went into Norwich gaol, did not you? - I went in to speak to one Dennis.

Now I ask you this upon your oath, did not you declare in Norwich gaol, that a man there of the name of Hook was the man that struck you? and I will call two persons witnesses; did not you declare in Norwich gaol, that a man of the name of Hook was the man that shot you? - No, my Lord, I was very fuddled when I was there; I do not know that I ever saw such a man; I just saw Breeze in the yard one morning.

What did you go into Norwich gaol for? - To speak to the two Dennis's that were there.

Were they acquaintances of yours? - Yes, very old people.

Were they prisoners? - Yes.

What for? - They were bound for their son.

And they were there for debt? - Yes.

When you went there, they were on the debtor's side; how came you to see Breeze? - I was walking about there a good while.

Have you a clear recollection that you was walking about there a good while? - I was walking out of one room into another, but I was very fuddled.

What did you go the Dennis's about? - I just went to speak to them as neighbours do, to let them know their wives were well.

Did not you there declare that one Hook was the man that shot you? - No, your honour, I never said such a word; I said that how I would freely forgive this man; I did not want to hurt him, I am sure.

Did not you declare there that one Hook was the man that shot you? - No, Breeze, I said was the man.

And you said, in the gaol that Breeze was the man that fired the gun at you, and shot you? - Yes; I am not sure that I said so at the time; I was very fuddled, but the people tell me so since.

Did you, in the gaol at Norwich, last summer declare, that Breeze was the man that shot you? - No, I did not.

Did not you declare, and point to the man, that Hook was the man that shot you on that occasion, on the 4th of November? - If I did I was greatly mistaken.

I ask you, if you did or did not? - I am not advised of it; and I do not think I did.

Will you swear you did or did not? - I cannot say, I was fuddled; I should be very loth to take a false oath; I am sure I would not not do it for the world.

Will you swear that you did not there declare that Hook was the man that shot you? - I will not; if I did, it was not to my knowledge.

Was not the trial at Norwich put off on account of your absence? - So I have understood, I do not know.

And was you at Norwich during the assizes? - No, I came from Swansea.

Upon your oath did not you go into the gaol at Norwich, to see the person who was confined on this charge, and had been concerned in this transaction? - No, that I did not.

That you swear you did not? - I knew the man before for several years.

Did not you go to see the person that was confined on this charge, to tell whether you could know him or not? - To the best of my knowledge I never asked for the man.

Do you recollect perfectly the errand for which you went to the gaol? - I know that the coachman told me, who carried me up, that I went to enquire after the Dennis's; I was so fuddled that I did not know how to walk in the gaol.

Why you walked about the rooms, you have just now told me? - I went into the room where Miles sleeps, he is the man that drew the beer.

Are you sure that you was with Miles on that occasion on that day? - Yes, I might, but I do not know that I did that day, when I went into the prison at first.

Were you in the prison more than once? - Yes, I was there twice; I went once to receive a letter to carry to Dennis's wife.

Court. What was the purpose that originally carried you to Norwich gaol, or to see whom? - To see the Dennis's.

That was the reason that carried you there? - Yes, the whole reason.

Mr. Knowlys. They desired you to call for a letter to carry to their wives? - They sent a man to me the next morning to tell me to call.

Did you know a man of the name of Hook? - No, I did not.

You have never seen a man of the name of Hook? - Yes, I saw a man at Wells of the name of Tom Hook , a carpenter.

Do you know no man of the name of Hook now? - No, not the best of my knowledge.

Not in Norwich gaol? - No, I did not.

Did you know a Hook at Hunstanton? - I may know the man by sight, but I did not know the name.

Who else did you see in the prison the day you went to see the Dennis's; did you see Mr. Simpson? - Who is that?

Why the turnkey? - Yes, I must see him; somebody let me in.

Why, do not you know Mr. Simpson the turnkey? - Yes, I knew one of them; he is here.

Did you know that man before? - I once saw him before, but I did not know him that day.

Will you swear you had no conversation with Mr. Simpson that day that you called on the Dennis's? - Not to the best of my knowledge, I had not.

Did you see a man of the name of Lawes there? - No, I do not know that I did, I might, I cannot say, I am sure.

Mr. Fielding. You went to prison for the purpose of seeing the two Dennis's? - Yes, I did.

You was very fuddled when you went to prison? - Yes, I was very fuddled when the man first took me; I was fuddled when I went into Norwich.

And was you more fuddled when you went into the prison? - Yes, I drank in Norwich.

Did you get any more liquor when you went into the prison? - Yes, I did.

You do not remember having accused a person of the name of Hook being the man that shot you? - No, I do not.

When you was on board this boat, you was in the bow of the boat? - Yes.

Then you was the nearest man to the vessel? - I was.

You had known the sloop before, and seen her after? - Yes, I had been on board of her.

And although you could not read, yet the mark in her stern was the mark by which you knew her? - Yes.

Now I will ask you again, after all you have heard, after all the questions that have been asked you, are you sure that Breeze was the man that fired the musquet, by which you think you was wounded? - Yes, I saw it in his hand, and he laid it across the rail.


(Examined by Mr. Litchfield.)

What are you? - A labouring man.

Do you know the prisoners at the bar? - Yes, I know one of them perfectly well, but I am not perfect to the other.

Which of them do you know? - I know Robert Breeze .

Do you remember being in company with Robert Breeze any time in November 1789? - I cannot say rightly that it was 1789.

Was it the last November but one? - Yes, it was.

Where was it? - At Hunstanton.

Do you recollect what the day was? - I cannot say exactly what day it was, but I think it was on Gunpowder Treason.

Was it the day after this transaction happened between the sloop Mary and the Custom-house boat? - Yes, it was the day after it was reported.

Had you any conversation with him about that transaction? - Yes, we talked about many sorts of things.

Recollect, as well as you can, whether he said any thing, and what he said relative to the sloop Mary? - Yes, he told me he came on shore at a place called Hulcombe Bar; he did not tell me from what vessel.

Court. Did he tell you when he came on shore? - No, he did not; he only said he came on shore from Hulcombe Bar, without saying when or from what place.

Mr. Litchfield. He did not tell you in what vessel he came ashore? - No, Sir, nor when.

Had you any conversation with him, respecting the Custom-house officers? - Yes.

Relate, as accurately as you can, what that conversation was? - He told me that he shot at a boat, that he supposed was a Custom-house boat.

Court. Did he say when? - No.

Had you any conversation about a thing that had happened lately, or a thing that had happened ten years ago; what did your conversation turn upon? - Why, my Lord, it was about a vessel that had lately fired on the Custom-house officers.

Mr. Litchfield. How lately? - I cannot say; he did not exactly say what time it was.

Did he say who was in the boat? - No, he did not, to my knowledge; but he said he supposed it to be the Custom-house boat.

Did he say what vessel he himself was in? - No, he did not mention the vessel.

Did he say in whose company he was? - No, he did not, to my knowledge.

Recollect yourself, Mr. March, remember you must tell us the whole truth? - Yes, I will tell you the truth as far as I know.

Well do then; did he mention any other person's name that was in company with him at the time he fired on this boat? - He told me he was along with one Graver, that one Graver was master of her.

Master of her; what did you understand by her? - Master of the vessel which he was on board.

What led to this conversation between you and Breeze? - Led! Sir.

What occasioned it; what brought it on? - By reason I had some goods in this vessel, and I went to his house to hear.

In what vessel had you some goods? - It was a vessel that Graver was master of.

What is her name? - They call her the Mary.

And you had some goods on board the Mary, and you went to Breeze's house to hear of them? - Yes.

Then you had not much doubt about what vessel he was talking of? - I paid very little regard to it, but I knew what vessel he was mentioning.

Now the next day, recollect yourself, and tell me whether you did not go on board this vessel? - Yes, I did; it was the Saturday after Gun-powder Treason, that I went on board of her.

That was the next day? - I cannot say as to the next day.

Who did you see when you went on board of her? - I saw Henry Graver , and one Smith, and one Scott, and one Miles.

Were they part of the crew, or did they belong to the vessel? - They belonged to the vessel.

Was there any body else? - Yes, there was one Jack.

Is that Jack, that is standing there? - I do not know, Sir, I cannot tell,

Look at him? - I cannot be sure; I saw him but once, and then it was dark; that is, it was moon-light, and I cannot tell.

Look at him again, and tell me whether you saw that man on board, whatever his name may be? - I cannot say.

How long did you stay on board at that time? - I staid the biggest part of the night, all the night after I went on board.

And you saw all the crew that were on board? - Yes, I did.

Do you remember having any conversation with any part of the crew at that time? - Yes, I know that Graver and some of them were talking about whether I had heard any thing on shore.

Mr. Knowlys. Was that in the presence of either of those two prisoners? - I did not see Breeze there.

Nor Hart? - Yes; Hart I do not know, they call him Jack.

Jury. Did you know Jack at that time? - I did not.

Mr. Knowlys. I submit that is not evidence against this man.

Court. You have evidence that Graver was the captain, but what he said cannot be used as evidence against these men.

Mr. Fielding. We wish to inform you of the whole transaction, namely, of the knowledge that this man had of it.

Court. It either signifies something or nothing; if it applies at all to either of these prisoners, what another man said, as tending to prove the fact upon the prisoners, I apprehend cannot be evidence.

Mr. Litchfield. If we shew that Jack was was on board, then it will be evidence.

Mr. Justice Buller. How far you may make it evidence by intervening evidence is not before the Court now; but the point is settled, that what a man says about a person who was not present, is not to be received as evidence against that prisoner.

Mr. Litchfield. You did not know Jack before? - No.

Mr. Knowlys. Now we are in December? - Yes.

It is a long while ago that you are talking of? - Yes, it is.

When were you applied to, to recollect any conversation of this sort? - What, of these people.

Yes? - I cannot say when it was.

I take it that is a particular thing; have you often been witness in a court of justice? - No, Sir, never before this time.

Cannot you recollect what time you was applied to, to be a witness? - I cannot indeed; I think I was applied to in June following.

In June? - Yes, I believe it was in June.

That you are sure of? - Yes, I am sure it was in June.

Mr. Litchfield. Where did you expect your goods from? - From Rotterdam.

Was you ever applied to, to go on board this vessel the Mary, by Graver? - Yes, I was asked to go over with her.

What were your reasons for refusing to go on board?

Mr. Knowlys. I submit that is not evidence.

March. I refused, because they put it to me, that they meant to have some guns, and I did not like it, and I would not go.

Mr. Knowlys. Breeze lived in Hunstanton; did not he? - Yes.

He was there publicly seen by every body? - I cannot tell that.

Do you live at Hunstanton yourself? - No, Sir, I live ten miles off.

Had you seen Breeze before he was taken up? - Yes, Sir, frequently, I saw him in his own house, when I saw him.

He has a wife and four children? - I cannot say how many children he has.

You know that the shooting with firearms was a capital offence? - I thought it was a thing that I should not have done.

You know very well that it is an offence for which a man is liable to be hanged? - Yes, it is so reported.

Was you ever in conversation with a man who told you he had committed a murder? - No.

Never? - No.

Was you ever in company with a man who told you he had committed a highway robbery? - No.

This man was telling you, glibly enough, that he had been guilty of a capital offence? - Yes, he said he had shot from the vessel.

That made no impression on your memory? - Yes, I thought about it.

But not so far as to take any notice of dates, or places, or any thing of that sort? - No.

Pray what may you be? - I am a labourer, I go to sea now.

In what way do you go to sea? - In a smack of my own, a little sloop.

Was you in any visible way of employment last year? - Yes, I was a day labourer, and the things helped me that I sent for over.

Did you get your bread as a day labourer? - Yes, and it was labour for these things helped me.

So you dealt a little in smuggling? - Yes.

Upon your oath now, did you work as a day labourer? - Yes.

How often in a week? - I cannot say that, some weeks I laboured the whole week.

You, I suppose, took your leisure about day labouring? - Yes, Sir, I worked when I was forced to it.

(March ordered out of Court.)


Mr. Attorney General. What are you? - A labouring man.

Do you go to sea? - I was at sea twice.

Where were you on the 4th of November, 1789? - I do not know the day of the month.

Was you at sea or on shore the beginning of November, 1789? - Please you, I am no scholar, I did not keep an account of the time; I was at sea after last Michaelmas was a twelvemonth.

Where did you go to? - To Holland.

What part of Holland? - Rotterdam.

On board of what ship? - The Mary.

What time did the Mary return? - After last Michaelmas, about a month or five weeks; I cannot speak to the day, because I am no scholar.

Who was the master of the Mary? - Henry Graver .

Who were your ship-mates, who were the others on board? - Bill Miles , John Hart .

Court. What, that man there? - Yes; Robert Breeze , Thomas Scott , and Henry Smith ; there were no more on board but myself.

Then there was no more men on board of the name of John, but John Hart ? - No, Sir.

What did you usually call him? - Jack Hart .

Were you on the coast of Norfolk? - Yes, near Thornham.

What time of the evening was it? - It was the fore part of the evening, but I cannot swear to the hour, because I had no watch.

Did any boat come to you on that evening? - Yes.

What boat was it? - It was a boat with some officers in it.

What do you mean by officers? - Custom-house officers; they did not come on board though.

How near did that come to you? - Between twenty and thirty yards, as near as I can guess.

Between twenty and thirty yards you think? - Yes.

Did you see who was in the boat? - Yes; I saw there were some men in the boat, but I could not tell who they were.

What passed when this boat came up? - When we first saw the boat, we hailed them, and asked what boat it was.

What answer was made to you when you hailed them? - The answer was, it was John Ringwood 's boat.

Was any thing said in return, when they said it was John Ringwood 's boat? - When we came nearer, somebody in the boat said, heave to; and with that Henry Graver said

there is Vitty, fire; and John Hart fired a pistol, and Robert Breeze fired the musquet, and John Hart fired the pistol again; after he had fired again, he was going to fire a third time, and I got hold of his arm, and said, pray John, do not fire any more; then we bore the vessel away to the Lincolnshire coast.

Do you know where these fire arms were got, or the ammunition was got? - They were both got at Rotterdam, both the arms and ammunition.

What arms were there on board? - Only a pistol and musket.

What sort of weather was it? - It was clear weather, a very fine evening.

How was the moon? - The moon I cannot speak to, it was light, but whether it was the moon or not, I say it was not very dark, a fine evening; but I forget whether it was moon-light or not.

Where did you land your cargo? - We landed part on Snatcham Beach, in Norfolk.

What did it consist of? - Gin, small keggs of gin.

Where were the rest landed? - About a score were landed at Hunstanton.

Do you know a person of the name of March? - Yes.

Do you recollect seeing him on board the Mary at this time? - Yes, he came on board at Hunstanton.

Who was on board at the time he came on board? - I was on board, Jack Hart was on board, Henry Graver , Will. Miles, Henry Smith ; Breeze was not on board then.

Do you remember any talk about this matter, that Jack Hart was present and heard, when March was on board? - They talked about it to March in Jack Hart 's presence, so that he might hear it.

What was the talk? - I cannot tell you all the talk they had together about the officers coming, and such.

Such as you can remember you will tell? - They told James March about the officers coming on board, and that they fired at them and kept them off.

Jury. Pray Sir, tell us whether or no those two pistols that were fired by Hart, were small pistols or large ones? - They were pistols about an arm's length.

Was that near enough to do execution? - I do not know what a pistol will do, they were good large stout pistols; I do not know the consequence of a pistol.

Did Hart fire the same pistol twice? - Yes.

Do you say that there were no more than three fires? - No more than three.

Mr. Knowlys. So the evening was not very dark? - It was a fine evening, but whether the moon shone, I cannot say.

Could you see your hand? - Yes.

You heard them say they must heave to, or else they would fire into you? - I heard them say heave too, I did not hear the other.

Where did you come from to give your evidence; where did you come from last into this Court? - From Norwich.

No, but you came from Newgate, did not you, here? - Yes.

From what part of Norwich did you come from to Newgate? - I know nothing about Norwich.

Did not you come from the gaol of Norwich? - Yes.

They were going to hang you for this; was not they? - I was taken up.

You expected to be hanged? - I did not do any thing to be hanged for; though it was done, it was against my will.

Upon your oath, have not you said, that you should be hanged, unless you could give evidence against any body? - I never said such a word in my life.

You are perfectly sure of that? - Yes.

You cannot be mistaken in that? - I am not mistaken.

And you know very well you would have been prosecuted for a capital offence if you did not give evidence? - I know it was contrary to my will, and I sent to the gentlemen directly.

Now, that is every thing but an answer; I ask you if you did not expect to be prosecuted unless you gave evidence; do you understand me? - No, Sir.

Then I will explain myself, and speak a little louder; did not you expect to be hanged, unless you gave evidence? - I do not know the consequence of such a thing.

Do you mean to say, man, that you, being concerned in smuggling, did not know that it was a capital offence to fire on custom-house officers? - Certainly it is a bad fact.

Do not you know it is a fact that affects people's lives when they are convicted? Look at the Gentlemen of the Jury, and speak out; why do you hesitate, man? I will give you as much time as you like; I will repeat the question. - I hope the law will be more merciful.

I dare say you, being an old smuggler, do wish it may be so; upon your oath, do you, or do you not, know that it is a capital offence to shoot at a custom-house officer? - Yes, I do; but I did not understand you, indeed.

Do you mean now to tell the Jury that you did not understand that question; was not you taken up for this offence? - I was taken up, and put into Norwich gaol.

Did not you expect to be prosecuted for that offence? - Yes; I know it is at your mercy.

You know you are not to be prosecuted; as you have given evidence, it would be very wrong you should; you know you are King's evidence, and you are not to be prosecuted? - I do not know that I am not, I am sure.

Court. You do not expect now to be prosecuted? - I hope in God I shall not.

And you give your evidence now under that hope, do you not? - Yes, I do.

Mr. Attorney General. My Lord, I have done.

Prisoner Hart. I have nothing to say.

Prisoner Breeze. I was not there at the time the accident happened, nor do I know any thing about it.


Mr. Knowlys. You are the turnkey of Norwich gaol? - I am.

Do you know Harris? - From his coming into the gaol to speak to Breeze; this is the man.

Was he ever in Norwich gaol at the time that Breeze was in custody there? - He was: an affidavit being made in Court, when Breeze should have been tried, that an evidence was at sea, the trial was put off; that evidence was Harris: the prisoner was then told by the counsel, that he might be bailed out at the next assizes; on my going to the learned Judge, to inform him that bail was ready, his Lordship informed me there was a mistake, he must remain in prison; on my return back, I found Harris in the prison, and he being a stranger, I asked him who he was, and what he wanted; he said, he came to speak to Breeze; says I, have you ever seen him? he said, yes, here he sits; and that was another man, and not Breeze; the man's name was Hook, he was along with the debtors, he was a stranger to me.

Was Breeze present at that time? - He was not present; for we never suffer any body to speak to a felon but in the presence of the turnkey, in our prison.

In your judgement was the man so drunk at that time that he did not know what he was about? - I do not know, Sir, but he might have been drinking; but I asked him why he was not there the day before, and he said it was late before he came into the town.

That was a sensible answer to that question? - Yes; another witness, who you will call, will prove that he got a lodging for Harris.

Did he appear to be in a drunken, insensible state, not to know what he did? - No, Sir; he did not appear so to me, indeed; he appeared to be come from a journey, but he did not appear to be so drunk and insensible; I asked him personally, myself, says I, how long have you known Breeze? his answer to me was, three or four years; I then told him that was not Breeze; he told me he knew Breeze better than I did.

You are in a place of considerable trust, how long have you been in that place? - Ten years; I believe I am pretty well known

to some of the Gentlemen at the Bar, and to the learned Judge.

I believe Scott was in your custody? - He was.

Did you ever hear him say any thing respecting his giving evidence? - Yes; we had an order to keep Scott separate; the gaol being in a state of repair, we were obliged to lock him up in a room by himself; Scott asked me to let him out into the yard an hour or two in a day for the benefit of his health; I told him I dare not do it without the order of a magistrate; because, if any thing should be done to him, any personal hurt, we should be deprived of an evidence for the crown: he said he hoped the poor men would not come to any hurt, for if he did not swear against somebody, he should be hanged himself; and that he should not have said any thing, if his wife had not persuaded him, that he might come home to his family: I said I thought it very strange that Breeze did not flee for it as well as he had done; for Scott had fled the country, and he and Hart were taken up on suspicion of a robbery; that was the way they came to be taken up: his answer to that was, he did not know any thing he did; he hoped the poor man would not come to any hurt, for the sake of his babes.

Are you quite sure he made use of that expression, that if he did not swear against somebody, he should be hanged himself? - I hope I know better than to come into a court of justice to say any thing that is not true.

That is to the best of your recollection? - Them were the words he made use of.

Did Harris say any thing about Hook before you mentioned the mistake to him? - No, he did not.

Did you know Breeze? - I never knew him till he was brought into custody.

You do not know, in point of fact, whether he did stay at home or not? - I do not.

Mr. Attorney-General. I know you perfectly well; but I will ask you a few questions: the truth is, that you apprized Harris of his mistake? - I did, Sir: Hook was not a debtor, but he came in to see the debtors; but I have since heard that Hook was a brother-in-law of Breeze's; Hook is a man perfectly well known, he belongs to Thornham.

Still he persisted in it, that that man was Breeze? - He did; and he acknowledged since the trial came on to two or three people who can prove it; he acknowledged he charged a wrong man: I said to him, how long have you known Breeze, John Harris ? says he, two or three years: I should be very sorry to tell an untruth.

Harris. Your honour, I said I might do it, but I was so fuddled I did not know; I did not deny it to this gentleman.

Did he say he was drunk at the time? - No, Sir, he did not: he said so to me.

Did this Harris, in conversation with you just now, say he had been drinking? - Yes, he said that, and that he charged a wrong man: I knew none of the parties but Mr. Vitty; I have known him for years; and a more respectable character, I take upon me to say, is not to be found in Norwich, or any where else.

You do not know where March had been before he came into the prison? - No.

Had he any liquor in the prison? - We do not sell any; our rules and orders are for debtors and their friends to be allowed one quart of beer a day for themselves and guests.

He was not then so disguised in liquor as not to give a reasonable answer? - I perceived the man was tired.

With respect to the expression that Scott used, if he did not swear against somebody, he should be hanged himself, did that give you the impression that he would accuse any body wrongfully, or that he should save himself by turning King's evidence? - Indeed I supposed, by what he meant by it then, that he meant he should save himself by turning King's evidence; it impressed me in that way; for I am always most willing to take the most favourable side.

Did it appear to you, that, although he knew nothing of the matter, he would swear what was untrue? - No, I cannot say.

What impression did the other expression give you, that he should have said nothing about it, if his wife had not persuaded him; did you collect that he knew nothing of it, or that his wife had persuaded him to become King's evidence? - It struck me in the light that he would turn King's evidence, to get home to his family.

Mr. Knowlys. What passes in a person's breast you cannot tell? - No, Sir.

But he did say, that if he did not give evidence against somebody, he must be hanged himself? - He did.

Did you at all suspect, from Harris's appearance at that time that he made this declaration, that he was at all in liquor? - I do not think it; he came twice to see them, and there was a note that he sent, that he did not know them, and would not know them when he came before the judge.

Jury. How long did Harris persist in that error? - He went away in that manner: I sent for Breeze out, and brought him up among the debtors.

How came he to discover his error? - That was on the Friday; he came again, and signed a note; he did not see Breeze on the Friday again; I met him again on the Saturday, the 31st of July, in the market; I said, John, you must be very cautious of what you swear at the trial, for I shall certainly be obliged to swear; oh, says he, I do not care, I know him very well.

Do you think there is much personal resemblance between these two men? - Not the least.

Did he seem sober the next day? - Quite so; and so he was on the Saturday.


I am a worsted weaver; I was in the prison when Harris was there.

Did you hear Harris say any thing about Breeze, who Breeze was? - Yes; I was in a room where a man of the name of Miles slept, and there was a man of the name of Thomas Hook; this man he had taken for Breeze, as I understood, and called him Joe Breeze .

Now did any thing of that sort pass while you was there? - Yes, Sir, in my presence, not only once, but many different times, he called him Joe Breeze .

How long was you there? - It might be four or five hours.

He still called him Joe Breeze ? - Yes.

Then in your judgement did he appear to be far gone in liquor? - He was when I first went into the prison, but he slept in Miles's bed I suppose two hours, and when he awaked he still persevered in calling him so; I then asked him, how long he had known Breeze; he said he had known him three years or more; I asked him if he was often in his company; he said many times in the course of that time.

Jury. Are you a housekeeper? - Yes.

Mr. Knowlys. Did he say any thing about this Hook? - He said, pointing to Hook, I am wounded, and you are the very man that wounded me.

Court. Did Harris, after he had slept there two hours, see that man again whom he called Breeze? - Yes; Hook did not quit the room.

Was it after or before he slept that he said to Hook, you are the man that wounded me? - Both before and after, not only once, but several times.

Are Breeze and Hook at all alike? - Not in the least, nor in size.

Cross examined by Mr. Wood.

What was Hook's Christian name? - Thomas: I asked him; he said his name was Thomas.

You say he was in liquor in prison? - I saw him in liquor when he was in prison; he was asleep for two hours, and with his eyes open, which was very remarkable; he was there till six at night.

Jury. Did you ever see Harris sober? - Yes, Sir; I saw him sober the next day in the prison.

Did he still persist in his error? - Equally so.

Court. Was Hook present the next day? - Yes, he was.

Mr. Wood. Did not you tell him, that

Breeze's name was Robert, and not Joseph? - I did not tell him that, I did not contradict him in any thing.

Hook is Breeze's brother-in-law, is not he? - So I understand.

Jury. Are you related to either of the parties? - No, Sir; quite a stranger; I never saw either of them till they came to Norwich.

The learned Judge summed up the evidence; after which the Jury retired for half an hour, and returned with a verdict,


Tried by the second Middlesex Jury before Mr. Justice ASHURST.

Foreman of the Jury. My lord, it is the earnest wish of my brethren, and myself, that you will recommend the prisoners to mercy.

Court. I am desired to ask you, gentlemen, the reason you found your application on.

Jury. The reason we make this application is, the bad characters of some of the witnesses, and the notorious one of him who led the prisoners into this crime, and who has escaped justice.

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