Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 25 March 2019), July 1784, trial of CHARLES PEAT (t17840707-6).

CHARLES PEAT, Miscellaneous > returning from transportation, 7th July 1784.

666. CHARLES PEAT was indicted for feloniously returning from transportation, and being found at large in this kingdom without any lawful cause before the expiration of the term of seven years, for which he was so transported .

The record examined by Edward Reynolds , Esq; Clerk of the Arraigns.

GEORGE HOLT sworn.

I was Steward of the ship Mercury; I know the prisoner was a convict, and came on board that ship in the Gallions, which is within the River Thames, below Woolwich; the Gallions is a piece of water that terminates from point to point, a little below Woolwich Reach.

When did he come on board? - I am not sure whether he came from the Censor hulk, or whether he came from Newgate; it was either on the 30th or 31st of March last, I gave a receipt for him; if he came from Newgate he came on the 30th.

Look at his person? - I know his person well, it is an unhappy circumstance to me, I do not wish to be a cruel man, and I have had all of them to reconnoitre, and it has hurt me much; we had one hundred and seventy-nine convicts in the hold, one hundred and fifty-seven of them were men; the man that stands at the bar came on board by the name of Charles Peat .

Did he answer by the name of Charles Peat ? - He did, and under that name he was taken out of the irons that he came on board in, and was put into the irons belonging to the owners of the ship, which was the ship's irons.

Did you see that? - I did.

How long afterwards might you see the prisoner on board that ship? - I saw him every day from the time I have related, which was the 30th or 31st of March, until the 8th day of April, which was the day they arose upon us, it was Thursday morning, eight o'clock, I had then the pleasure of wearing what the gentlemen here call darbies; we were about twenty-five leagues to westward of St. Mary's, on the West India Rocks, I saw him several days after that, but not every day during the six days they held the possession of the ship as commanders; I might see him three or four days I believe out of those six, before they went on shore.

What was his conduct on board that ship? - His conduct with respect to the rising do you mean?

His conduct in general? - I do not recollect that he was any ways worse than the rest of them, he never did me any harm or injury, not particularly, no more than aiding and assisting the rest, I saw him go from the ship's side in one of the ship's boats, and he never returned, therefore I had no doubt but he went on shore in Devonshire.

Did those boats row towards the shore? - Yes.

Where was the vessel sailing? - We were sailing in the Western Ocean, steering west-north-west.

Prisoner. Bound to Virginia.

Court. Where was the ship destined? - We were first destined for Baltimore in Maryland, from thence to Honduras, and from thence to Virginia, (for we had sixteen or seventeen thousand pounds cargo on board ) and from thence to Nova Scotia , to deliver the servants, as they are entitled indented servants.

Had you any instructions with respect to this particular man? - No, my Lord, they were all to go to Nova Scotia .

Mr. Sylvester. Was not you to part with the convicts at Honduras? - No.

Court. If you had been going directly to Nova Scotia , you would have had no occasion to go to these different parts, would not you have made a different course provided you had no cargo but convicts? - We should have made within a point the very same, but not the same course exactly, going out of the Channel's mouth, because we always make it a point to get clear of the islands.

Prisoner. Can you upon your oath say, that our ship was bound to Nova Scotia , when you know we were to be indented for five years in Virginia? - The instructions I read, and upon my oath we were not.

Mr. Sylvester. Were you to part with any convicts before you came to Nova Scotia ? - No, Sir, we did not, they robbed the Captain of his papers, and carried them away.

ROBERT GREGORY sworn.

I am servant to Mr. Smith of Tothill-fields Bridewell, I cannot say how long I had the prisoner in custody, but it was very nigh a fortnight or three weeks, I apprehended him in Smithfield, on the 4th of June, I cannot be mistaken about him, he behaved very well when I took him.

JOHN OWEN sworn.

I know the prisoner, he was convicted here in December 1781, of a highway robbery, I was present; he remained in Newgate a great while; he afterwards received his Majesty's mercy, and in July 1783, he accepted of the conditions, I was present then, and brought him to the bar, the conditions were, his being transported to Nova Scotia for the term of his natural life.

Court. Who was he convicted of robbing? - I do not know who it was he robbed, it was for robbing a gentleman in his carriage, he is the man, he was sent down to Woolwich to the hulks, to remain there till the ship was ready, I went to the waterside with him, I saw him on board the barge that was to convey him on board the bulks.

Prisoner. I beg permission of the Court to read my defence.

My Lord, from the well known justice of this honourable Court, I have not the least doubt of a patient hearing, especially as the hardness of my case is unparalelled in the records of the Old Bailey. I stood here convicted of a robbery, and afterwards received his Majesty's pardon; on the 4th of June I was apprehended in Smithfield, and brought to prison; I pleaded Not Guilty to this indictment, not with intent to give the Court any unnecessary trouble, but to explain the hardness of my case; the robbery I was cast for was attended with such circumstances of behaviour on my part, that the Court thought me not unworthy of clemency, and I was accordingly recommended to his Majesty's mercy, and I was afterwards pardoned on condition of serving in the royal army in the East Indies; but some difficulty arising in putting this pardon into execution, my prosecutor applied to Mr. Townsend, now Lord Sydney, for a free pardon; then I had a pardon on condition of serving on board any of his Majesty's ships or vessels of war; I went on board his Majesty's ship the Prince Edward, two months after, having been six months at my liberty, and I was taken up for not complying with the terms of my pardon, and committed to Newgate, where I continued six months, and was had up every Sessions, and was informed I should be discharged: during the time I was in Newgate, I had a severe illness, which rendered me insensible, and whilst I was in that state I was brought before Counsellor Harrison, who sat as Deputy Recorder. When the sentence of the Court was read to me to be transported to Nova Scotia for the term of my natural life, it may be said I acquiesced, but I was then in a state of insensibility: I apply to Mr. Akerman, that during my long confinement, I never was charged with any offence; I have served his Majesty in the royal navy, and had the honour of bearing a commission. Whilst I was on board the hulk, I had the mortification of seeing my fellow sufferers die daily, to the amount of two hundred and fifty? several who have had pardons similar to mine, such as Charles Stone and others, have been committed on the same charge, but discharged: my behaviour on board the Duke of Tuscany was such as I have no reason to blame my feelings for, having endeavoured to preserve the property of the Captain; we were to be disposed of by sale as indented servants for five years; I hope the Court will take my case into their consideration, and view the whole matter, considering I only in one offence fell a victim to the laws, and received his Majesty's pardon, and have never committed a fresh offence; I have his Majesty's pardon dated in October 1782, to enter on board any of his Majesty's vessels or ships of war, and on that pardon I rest my defence.

Court. Hand up that defence.

Prisoner. My Lord, I have a pardon dated the 12th of July which is two months before the other pardon.

Court. Gentlemen of the Jury, I need scarcely tell you that this is an indictment which if made out by evidence, materially affects the life of the prisoner, for the returning from transportation is a capital offence: Charles Peat is charged in this indictment for returning from transportation, and without any lawful cause, being found at large in this kingdom; this fact the prisoner at the bar has denied: It appears from the record that has been read, that a person of the name of Charles Peat was indicted for a highway robbery on Richard Downs , and that is sufficient evidence to prove that same person was tried in this Court by the name of Charles Peat and convicted of a highway robbery; it likewise appears by these records, that the said Charles Peat received his Majesty's pardon, on the condition of going to Nova Scotia , for the term of his natural life, but it must be proved that that Charles Peat is the person that was tried, and that he had been actually in the way of transportation, George Holt is called, and he tells you - (here the learned judge summed up the evidence, and added:) Gentlemen, in favour of the prisoner's life, it is very fair to presume that prisoners take many names, and we may very fairly presume that another man of the name of Charles Peat has been tried at the sessions; therefore you are to consider upon this evidence whether you are completely satisfied that that very Charles Peat who was found at large, and is now brought to the bar, is the same Charles Peat that was tried and convicted for this highway robbery, and Owen who speaks to the identity of the prisoner, does not go all the length I have seen gone in those cases, for he falls short as to the identity of the man, that was tried in this Court for the robbery of Mr. Downes, now although the prisoner was on board this ship, yet unless he is the man that was convicted of that robbery, he is not the man described by this indictment, and Owen only says the prisoner was convicted for robbing a gentleman in his carriage, now upon reading the indictment, it does not appear how the gentleman was robbed, he cannot even tell you where it was, he says indeed that he was present when the prisoner was brought to the bar, and that he was to be transported afterwards, and that he saw him in the lighter; but the question is whether you are satisfied under all the circumstances of the evidence, that this is the very man who was tried for a robbery on Mr. Downes; if you are satisfied that he was tried for that robbery on Mr. Downes, that this is the identical person, and that he was found at large here, in that case you must find him guilty.

Jury. My Lord, in his defence he says he was pardoned on condition of serving on board a man of war.

Court. With respect to his defence I did not state it to you, because the facts respecting these convicts will be examined by the Judges, and he has proved nothing, but the facts can very easily be known.

Jury to Owen. Can you positively swear to the identity of the man who was convicted for robbing Mr. Downs?

Court. He has not swore that.

Mr. Silvester. Somebody ought to prove certainly that he was the man that was tried here for that identical robbery.

Court. The indictment charges it to be a robbery on Mr. Downs, and Owen cannot go that length, I believe, Gentlemen, I can save you some trouble, I for my own part giving my opinion, am not satisfied with this evidence, I do not think the case is made out; for it must be proved that the prisoner was the man that robbed Mr. Downes, now that he has not been able to prove; Owen certainly does not prove that that man committed the robbery as laid in the indictment.

Jury. Owen said that he neither recollected the Gentleman's name that was robbed, nor the place where it was committed.

Court. He says he has seen the prisoner before, he was convicted in December 1781, of a highway robbery, he was present, it was for robbing a Gentleman in his carriage, he knew no more; certainly that does not prove that this was the man.

Court. If the prisoner makes out his case he then will be discharged, if he does not he will then be sent to his former sentence, and every proper enquiry will be made.

NOT GUILTY .

Tried by the London Jury, before Mr. ROSE.