Old Bailey Proceedings supplementary material. William Bartlett.
11th January 1786
Reference Numbero17860111-1

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No 151 Page 247, Trial of William Bartle [ William Bartlett ]

Where it saith Mr Garrow objected to a Witness being examined but his Objection was over ruled by the Court this is the whole of the Altercation Verbatim between Mr Justice Heath and Mr Garrow the Prisoner's Councel which was omitted in the Sessions Paper.

Mr Garrow I confess my Lord I begin to fancy my self almost an Ideot if not a dumb man my Objection is that there is no way in which you can possibly communicate with a deaf and dumb man.

Court, You assume that.

Mr. Garrow I assume it on the authority of my Lord Hale who lays it down that a man who is Sudus et Mutus &c. is in presumption & Ideot.Court upon what Authority

Mr. Garrow Upon the Authority of my Ld. Hale

Court Every body knows that there are certain signs.

Mr Garrow the Argument is this that you have

no way of communicating with a deaf & dumb man but by signs which convey total Ideas.

Court You must not interrupt your objection is premature.

Mr Garrow. My Lord I was not objecting I was going on with my Examination & your Lordship did me the honor to Interrupt me.

Court You will examine your Witness with some degree of decency your Conduct & behaviour are very improper what you do here is by permission of the Court in a Criminal Case.

Mr Garrow My Lord I Object to the Witness being examined & I take the liberty to state my objection to the Court.

Court You must examine you Witness.

Mr. Garrow I have a right to my Objection.

Court If you do not examine your Witness you shall sit down

Mr. Garrow My Lord I shall not sit down.

Court Then I shall Commit you

Mr. Garrow So your Lordship may

Court Then I certainly will commit you

Mr Garrow There is a point of Law to be argued.

Court there is no point of Law and if there was you are to be assigned to the Court but you are to behave with Decency

Mr Garrow So I do my Lord I have not been used to be interrupted I am here to argue points of Law for the prisoner.

Court You have no right till you are Assigned

Mr. Garrow If you tell me so my Lord I sit down

Court I tell you so.

Mr Garrow I sit down

Mr Scott I am Councel for the Prisoner on the same side with Mr Garrow

Court to Witness (Q) Now how is it that you wod. communicate the question you wod. ask to your brother are they signs that you make or are they expressive of any particular words or are they expressive of letters or Syllables?

(A) Not letters or Syllables but by motion of words.

Court can you express this Idea to your brother?

whether or no he knows the nature of an Oath?

(A) So far as a short motion he has been taught that by others not by me.

Court can you make him sensible of the meaning of this question?

(A) Yes he has a very great sence of Scripture, tho' he cannot express it.

(Q) Is he acquainted with the principles of the Christian Religion?

(A) He is very well Acquainted with them.

(Q) Has proper pains been taken to Instruct him in it? (A) they have.

(Q)Have you any doubt at all whether you can convey the meaning of this question whether he has any Idea of the Nature of an Oath?

(A) I have no doubt but he understands it.

Court to Mr. Garrow (Q) Do you examine your Witness?

Mr Garrow (Q) Does your Lordship Assign me Councel for the Prisoner?

Court So long as you behave with decency

Mr. Garrow I must repeat I have not been disposed to behave indecently I never was disposed & I never intend such behaviour.

Mr. Garrow to Witness (Q) you have no doubt but you can Communicate to him the nature of an Oath?

(A) I have not.

(Q) Could you venture to say you are sure that he understands you?

(A) I cannot pretend to swear to his thoughts but as far as motion.

(Q) How shall you be able to communicate to him that if he was to tell a falsity upon his Oath he will be put in the Pillory for Perjury?

(A) Oh Sir he is very well convinced of that.

(Q) Does he read?

(A) He does not understand reading but he will look over & we explain to him.

(Q) can he write?

(A) Not to correspond.

(Q) Then you guess that he understands you &

you guess at the responses he gives you?

(A) Yes.

(Q) Suppose you was to tell him that Mr Lunardi had arisen into the Air in a Balloon, how sho'd you communicate that Idea?

(A) Oh very well.

(Q) Do you think he would understand that without seeing it?

(A) I am sure by his motion in return.

Mr. Garrow Now my Lord I take the liberty of troubling your Lordship with my objection - I do admit this young woman having conversed with him if we may so call it from the time of his Nativity does believe that there is a certain degree of rationality about him, therefore he does understand some simple Ideas; but the evidence does not prove that he has any Idea of Complex Ideas; this young Woman tells you that he has an Idea of the Christian System now it is impossible my Lord that he has more Ideas of that Complex System than that which a Common Savage has who has a

notion of a God, he is taught that there is a religion to which he ought to be obedient & that there is a state of rewards & punishments so far they may communicate to him on the score of natural religion but that they can communicate to this man who can receive no Ideas but thro' the Organs of vision, or that this man who can receive no Ideas but thro' these mere Organs should have taken in the vast complicated system of religion that he should have imbibed the notion of all the happiness & all the Punishments that belongs to its votaries is not to be credited: that this young woman believes what she says I have no doubt: but let us see whether this Witness can possibly be examined on that score Take an Infidel & bring him here, take somebody who does not believe in a God, wod. your Lordship examine him? By what sanction temporal or eternal could you bind him? Now suppose this poor creature to be aware of all the eternal sanctions that awaite on falsehood or, [final line cut off] can be conveyed to his understanding? How can they be represented? Why this a complex Idea? the Idea of mans stealing my Watch out of my pocket and conveying away to somebody else is a Complex Idea which requires rationality about it first to perceive and afterwards to describe; I said my Lord what idea of temporal punishment can be conveyed to his understandings & now let me address myself to your Lordship as a great Lawyer which you certainly are & I presume to ask of your Lordship in what possible way this Man is to be punished if he is guilty of Perjury to right I presume my Lord to ask how he could possibly be punished? Could he be Indicted in a Capital Case, he is first to be presented to the grand Jury he is then to be called to that bar he he is asked whether he is guilty or not guilty of the perjury imputed to him by the Indictment he he make no answer he cannot answer Why your Lordship know that in this day According to the [final line cut off] and not pleading to the Indictment an Inquest must be sworn to enquire if he is Dumby by the visitation of God, that Inquest must in his case return that he was Dumb the Visitation of God - Would the Law of England punish the Man to conviction Would the Law of England say that because the Man would not plead when he could not plead that he should be adjudged guilty of the Crime of Perjury: he is brought to that bar he is Indicted for perjury, the Indictment is read over to him, it is to be explained to him, this Woman is to explain it to him, how is she to explain it to him? Is she to tell him that your Lordship and Sir Wm. Henry Ashurst & the Recorder of London & the Aldermen & Gentlemen named in the Commission met here to deliver the Goal of Newgate on this day that this Prisr. Wm. Bartlett was Indicted for a Grand Larceny, that the question came on to be tried & that on that trial he did not commit wilfull & corrupt Perjury How is all that to be Interpreted to him on his Arraignment? But that is not all, when this Indictment is read to him by the Assistance of the Interpretress thro' the medium of the Clerk of the Arraigns, And the Clerk asks him thro' the same Assistance are you Guilty or not Guilty. - Why my Lord the Man stands like the block behind him! Can your Lordship or any of the other Judges try him? Can you try him till he has pleaded? You cannot: he his Dumb & cannot Answer to the Indictment. How then upon the Idea of this man committing the Crime of Perjury can my Client the Prisoner now at the Bar receive any retribution. Another thing my Lord permit me to observe that there are motions and signs which are to convey to this Man Complex Ideas: If it had been as your Lordship certainly supposed when you took up this Subject that it might be verbally or by communication of [partially lost line]syllables if that had been so my argument would have been weaker that it is, but your Lordship sees if it is by looking up to heaven. Now how will these questions so complex to be communicated to him, upon you Oath will you venture to swear that than Man at the Bar did so and so? Did you know him before? Is there any thing remarkable in is features? How are these Ideas to be seperated in their communication to Him? I ask again in the Name of Common sense how that poor woman can Communicate to him that complex question? My Lord I wish I could also address that Jury on this trial I should be glad to ask them whether they would chuse to convict a man of felony upon the testimony of a man with whom they could not hold a conversation who has not more rationality than an Automaton, who does not appear more competent (if I may be allowed to make such a Simily) than that learned Pig which is now exhibited to the publick. My Lord if I conceived I had in the Course of this trial behaved myself with intemperance or with indecency [text lost at the bottom of the page] term it I do assure your Lordship I should not feel that I was hurt in making an Apology: I never do mean to behave to the Court with any thing like indecency: I thought it my Duty to Examine this Interpretress upon the Voire dire perhaps it was improper Zeal on the part of my Client but God forbid that I should ever set an example or that the meanest spectator in this Court should think I wanted or wished to set an example of treating great & brave & Venerable and learned Judges of the Law of England with anything like disrespect

Court I am of Opinion that under all the circumstances of his case the Witness is a Competent Witness ought to be sworn after he is sworn it will remain with the Jury to consider what degree of respect he ought to have I am sure every body knows on what slight Notions Witnesses are permitted to give evidence we admit Children of ten eleven & twelve years of age to give evidence can they be initiated in the misteries of the Christian religion? can they be Acquainted with [line lost at the bottom of page?]

the Scheme of Redemption? It is utterly impossible, we reckon it Sufficient if they have some Idea of a future state of rewards & punishments & if they think that the Oath they take is Obligatory on them & they shall be punished hereafter, it has been said this is as if the Man spoke on unknown language I do not know that there is any objection to that if the language can be Interpreted to the Satisfaction of the Jury; It has been said too that he is not Ameniable in the Case of Perjury, that is a very Monstrous doctrine to say & it is laid down by the Councel with great Confidence as if it could be supported, Now I am unacquainted with any Authority that says that a man that is born dead & dumb shall not be punished, that if he commits Treason & Assasinates his Sovereign he is dispunishable, or if he Murders any of his fellow subjects I should think if ever an Interpreter could be found to a person guilty of such a Crime that would be Sufficient put him on his defence the Result wod. be the task and I cannot say the event if a Prisoner should appear to be deaf & dumb there were no means to convey the signes to him what was going forwards for in that Case it would be trying an absent Man but in the present Case suppose the Witness was to Commit Perjury then here is a person who could communicate to him and report the question of the Prisoner to the Court & Jury so that a fair & full trial may be had therefore that monstrous doctrine will not ensue.I shall therefore certainly Admit this Witness considering him as Competent & I shall leave his Credit to you Gentlemen & you will consider it under all the Circumstances of the Case.

This altercation was not printed. The price of fo 42 -- 1.1.0


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