On August 14th 1670,the Quaker William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, preached to a large crowd on a London Street. The peace was disturbed and Penn, with his co-religionist William Mead, was arrested. The two men stood trial at the Old Bailey in the first days of September. They conducted their own defence and Penn recorded the trial in great detail. His record was preserved in the State Trials which were collected in 1719. In this series we will present Penn’s account in its entirety. In it Penn is the “Observer” who makes frequent comments throughout and sums up the conclusion of the Trial. This trial was, in effect, the first on record to explore the limits of Free Speech – a subject that is still a matter of concern in the 21st. Century. Here is the fourth instalment.
NewgateTHE TRYAL of WILLIAM PENN and WILLIAM MEAD,at the Sessions held at the Old Baily in London, the 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th of September, 1670.
Done by themselves.Day 2: The third and fourth of September 1670, the Court sat.OBSERV. The Jury were commanded up to agree upon their Verdict, the Prisoners remaining in the stinking Hole. After an Hour and half’s time eight came down agreed, but four remained above; the Court sent an Officer for them, and they accordingly came down. The Bench used many unworthy Threats to the four that dissented; and the Recorder, addressing himself to Bushel, said, Sir, You are the Cause of this Disturbance, and manifestly shew your self an Abettor of Faction; I shall set a Mark upon you, Sir.J. ROBINSON. Mr. Bushel, I have known you near this fourteen Years; you have thrust your self upon this Jury, because you think there is some Service for you. I tell you, you deserve to be indicted more than any Man that hath been brought to the Bar this Day.BUSHEL. No, Sir John, there were threescore before me, and I would willingly have got off, but could not.BLOODWORTH. I said, when I saw Mr. Bushel, what I see is come to pass, for I knew he would never yield. Mr. Bushel, we know what you are.MAYOR. Sirrah, you are an impudent Fellow, I will put a Mark upon you.OBSERV. They used much menacing Language, and behaved themselves very imperiously to the Jury, as Persons not more void of Justice than sober Education: After this barbarous Usage, they sent them to consider of bringing in their Verdict, and after some considerable time they returned to the Court. Silence was call’d for, and the Jury call’d by their Names.CLERK Are you agreed upon your Verdict?JURY. Yes.CLERK Who shall speak for you?JURY. Our Fore-man.CLERK Look upon the Prisoners at the Bar. How say you? Is William Penn Guilty of the Matter whereof he stands indicted in Manner and Form, or Not Guilty?FOREMAN. Guilty of Speaking in Gracechurch-Street.COURT. Is that all?FOREMAN. That is all I have in Commission.RECORDER. You had as good say nothing.MAYOR. Was it not an unlawful Assembly? You mean he was speaking to a Tumult of People there?FOREMAN. My Lord, This is all I had in Commission.OBSERV. Here some of the Jury seemed to buckle to the Questions of the Court; upon which, Bushel, Hammond, and some others, opposed themselves, and said, they allowed of no such Word, as an unlawful Assembly in their Verdict; at which the Recorder, Mayor, Robinson and Bloodworth took great occasion to villifie them with most opprobrious Language; and this Verdict not serving their Turns, the Recorder express’d himself thus.RECORDER. The Law of England will not allow you to part till you have given in your Verdict.JURY. We have given in our Verdict, and we can give in no other.RECORDER. Gentlemen, you have not given in your Verdict, and you had as good say nothing; therefore go and consider it once more, that we may make an end of this troublesome Business.JURY. We desire we may have Pen, Ink and Paper.OBSERV. The Court adjourn’d for half an Hour; which being expired, the Court returns, and the Jury not long after.The Prisoners were brought to the Bar, and the Jury’s Names called over.CLERK Are you agreed of your Verdict?JURY. Yes.CLERK Who shall speak for you?JURY. Our Fore-man.CLERK What say you, look upon the Prisoners: Is William Penn Guilty in Manner and Form, as he stands indicted, or Not Guilty?FOREMAN. Here is our Verdict, holding forth a piece of Paper to the Clerk of the Peace, which follows;”We the Jurors, hereafter named, do find William Penn to be Guilty of Speaking or Preaching to an Assembly, met together in Gracechurch-Street, the 14th of August last, 1670. And that William Mead is Not guilty of the said Indictment.”
Foreman. Thomas Veer, Edward Bushel, John Hammond, Henry Henley, Henry Michel, John Brightman, Charles Milson, Gregory Walklet, John Baily, William Lever, James Damask, Wil. Plumsted.OBSERV. This both Mayor and Recorder resented as so high a rate, that they exceeded the Bounds of all Reason and Civility.MAYOR. What will you be led by such a silly Fellow as Bushel? an impudent canting Fellow? I warrant you, you shall come no more upon Juries in haste: You are a Fore-man indeed, addressing himself to the Fore-man, I thought you had understood your Place better.RECORDER. Gentlemen, you shall not be dismist till we have a Verdict, that the Court will accept; and you shall be lock’d up, without Meat, Drink, Fire, and Tobacco; you shall not think thus to abuse the Court; we will have a Verdict, by the help of God, or you shall starve for it.PEN. My Jury, who are my Judges, ought not to be thus menaced; their Verdict should be free, and not compelled; the Bench ought to wait upon them, but not forestall them. I do desire that Justice may be done me, and that the Arbitrary Resolves of the Bench may not be made the Measure of my Jury’s Verdict.RECORDER. Stop that prating Fellow’s Mouth, or put him out of the Court.MAYOR. You have heard that he preach’d, that he gathered a Company of tumultuous People, and that they do not only disobey the Martial Power, but Civil also.PEN. It is a great Mistake; we did not make the Tumult, but they that interrupted us: The Jury cannot be so ignorant, as to think, that we met there, with a Design to disturb the Civil Peace, since (1st.) we were by Force of Arms kept out of our lawful House, and met as near it in the Street, as their soldiers would give us leave; and (2dly.) because it was no new thing (nor with the Circumstances expres’d in the Indictment) but what was usual and customary with us; ’tis very well known that we are a peaceable People, and cannot offer Violence to any Man.OBSERV. The Court being ready to break up, and willing to huddle the Prisoners to their Goal, and the Jury to their Chamber, Penn spoke as follows:PEN. The Agreement of Twelve Men is a Verdict in Law, and such a one being given by the Jury, I require the Clerk of the Peace to record it, as he will answer it at his Peril. And if the Jury bring in another Verdict contradictory to this, I affirm they are perjur’d Men in Law. And looking upon the Jury, said, You are Englishmen, mind your Privilege, give not away your Right.BUSHEL ETC. Nor will we ever do it.OBSERV. One of the Jury-men pleaded Indisposition of Body, and therefore desired to be dismist.MAYOR. You are as strong as any of them; starve with them; and hold your Principles.RECORDER. Gentlemen, You must be contented with your hard Fate, let your Patience overcome it; for the Court is resolved to have a Verdict, and that before you can be dismist.JURY. We are agreed, we are agreed, we are agreed.OBSERV. The Court swore several Persons, to keep the Jury all Night without Meat, Drink, Fire, or any other Accommodation; they had not so much as a Chamberpot, tho’ desired.CRYER. OYez, etc.OBSERV. The Court adjourns till Seven of the Clock next Morning (being the 4th Instant, vulgarly call’d Sunday) at which time the Prisoners were brought to the Bar: The Court sat, and the Jury called to bring in their Verdict.CRYER. OYez, etc. Silence in the Court, upon pain of Imprisonment.The Jury’s Names called over.CLERK Are you agreed upon your Verdict?JURY. Yes.CLERK Who shall speak for you?JURY. Our Foreman.CLERK What say you? Look upon the Prisoners at the Bar. Is William Penn Guilty of the Matter whereof he stands indicted, in Manner and Form as aforesaid, or Not guilty?FOREMAN. William Penn is guilty of Speaking in Gracechurch-Street.MAYOR. To an unlawful Assembly?BUSHEL. No, my Lord, we give no other Verdict than what we gave last Night; we have no other Verdict to give.MAYOR. You are a factious Fellow, I’ll take a Course with you.BLOODWORTHL. I knew Mr. Bushel would not yield.BUSHEL. Sir Thomas I have done according to my Conscience.MAYOR. That Conscience of yours would cut my Throat.BUSHEL. No, my Lord, it never shall.MAYOR. But I will cut yours so soon as I can.RECORDER. He has inspired the Jury; he has the Spirit of Divination, methinks I feel him. I will have a positive Verdict, or you shall starve for it.PEN. I desire to ask the Recorder one Question, Do you allow of the Verdict given of William Mead?RECORDER. It cannot be a Verdict, because you were indicted for a Conspiracy, and one being found Not guilty, and not the other, it could not be a Verdict.PEN. If Not guilty be not a Verdict, then you make of the Jury and Magna Charta but a meer Nose of Wax.MEAD How! is Not guilty no Verdict?RECORDER. No, ’tis no Verdict.PEN. I affirm, that the Consent of a Jury is a Verdict in Law; and if William Mead be Not guilty, it consequently follows, that I am clear, since you have indicted us of a Conspiracy, and I could not possibly conspire alone.OBSERV. There were many Passages, that could not be taken, which past between the Jury and the Court. The Jury went up again, having received a fresh Charge from the Bench, if possible to extort an unjust Verdict.CRYER. O Yes, etc. Silence in the Court.COURT Call over the Jury. Which was done.CLERK What say you? Is William Penn Guilty of the Matter whereof he stands indicted, in Manner and Form aforesaid, or Not Guilty?FOREMAN Guilty of speaking in Gracechurch-Street.RECORDER. What is this to the Purpose? I say, I will have a Verdict. And speaking to Edw. Bushel, said, You are a factious Fellow; I will set a Mark upon you; and whilst I have anything to do in the City, I will have an eye upon you.MAYOR. Have you no more Wit than to be led by such a pitiful Fellow? I will cut his Nose.PEN. It is intolerable that my Jury should be thus menaced: Is this according to the Fundamental Laws? Are not they my proper Judges by the great Charter of England? What hope is there of ever having Justice done, when Juries are threatened, and their Verdicts rejected? I am concerned to speak and grieved to see such Arbitrary Proceedings. Did not the Lieutenant of the Tower render one of them worse than a Felon? And do you not plainly seem to condemn such for factious Fellows, who answer not your Ends? Unhappy are those Juries, who are threatened to be fined, and starved, and ruined, if they give not in Verdicts contrary to their Consciences.RECORDER. My Lord, you must take a Course with that same Fellow.MAYOR. Stop his Mouth; Jaylor, bring Fetters, and stake him to the Ground.PEN. Do your Pleasure, I matter not your Fetters.RECORDER. Till now I never understood the Reason of the Policy and Prudence of the Spaniards, in suffering the Inquisition among them: And certainly it will never be well with us, till something like unto the Spanish Inquisition be in England.OBSERV. The Jury being required to go together to find another Verdict, and steadfastly refusing it (saying they could give no other Verdict than what was already given) the Recorder in great Passion was running off the Bench, with these Words in his Mouth,”I protest I will sit here no longer to hear these Things;”at which the Mayor calling, Stay, stay, he returned, and directed himself unto the Jury, and spoke as followeth:RECORDER. Gentlemen, we shall not be at this trade always with you; you will find the next Sessions of Parliament there will be a Law made, that those that will not conform shall not have the Protection of the Law. Mr. Lee, draw up another Verdict, that they may bring it in special.LEE. I cannot tell how to do it.JURY. We ought not to be return’d, having all agreed, and set our Hands to the Verdict.RECORDER. Your Verdict is nothing, you play upon the Court; I say you shall go together, and bring in another Verdict, or you shall starve; and I will have you charted about the City, as in Edward the Third’s time.FOREMAN. We have given in our Verdict, and all agreed to it; and if we give in another, it will be a Force upon us to save our Lives.MAYOR. Take them up.OFFICER . My Lord, they will not go up.OBSERV. The Mayor spoke to the Sheriff, and he came off of his seat, and said.SHERIFF. Come, Gentlemen, you must go up; you see I am commanded to make you go.OBSERV. Upon which the Jury went up; and several sworn to keep them without any Accommodation, as aforesaid, till they brought in their Verdict.CRYER. Oyez, etc. The Court adjourns till to Morrow Morning, at seven of the Clock.