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Warden's and Lloyd's defences at the Liverpool Assizes

Warden and Lloyd were arrested following Chartist disturbances in Lancashire in 1839. Their trials took place the following year and both were found "Not Guilty". The following account is of the trials.

Attorney General, (Sergeant Atcherley), in opening this case, said this was a prosecution of a serious character. The l2th of August last, it would be remembered was the day intended for the National Holiday.... In the town of Bolton on that occasion mobs of people assembled of an alarming character, a stop was put to all public confidence and security, and public business was suspended; the military had to be called in; and the Riot Act had to be read. The indictment charged the two defendants (John Warden and George Lloyd) with being concerned in that riot...

Frederick M. Barker called - Witness said he was a police officer at Bolton... A great number of people assembled during the day; and the effect was that the shopkeepers closed their shops, and business was almost entirely suspended... On the morning of the l2th, he saw Lloyd about six o'clock addressing the mob... He heard him say they were not to cause disturbance, but if interfered with, to act like men determined to have their rights. Let their tyrants see that they were not to be frightened into surrender of their birthright, but that they were determined to have it, and willing to die for the cause. They dispersed after that, and assembled again in the Marketplace... Lloyd then addressed them, and said he was not an advocate for rioting, but he would have them remember that the Reform Bill was gained by the riots at Bristol. The mob continued to meet during the day. In the evening many thousands assembled again, and it was such a multitude that the civil force could not contend with... They then paraded the streets, some of them carrying bludgeons. There was great shouting, hooting the police, and creating great terror in the people. Even the shutters of private houses were closed. Witness, after the proceedings of the l2th received directions to apprehend the prisoners...

A police officer named Bradshaw was next called, and stated that the crowd on the 12th of August went about to a number of factories and induced the workmen to leave their work... The defendants were leaders of the crowd. Would give instances. They fell in rank when Lloyd told them, and they insisted on rescuing him when he told them to be quiet. (A laugh.)

John Nicholson. Tea-dealer, Hotel-street, Bolton, was a special constable on the l2th August. At seven o'clock in the morning of that day, he saw a crowd there of 500 or more. He heard Lloyd say, the time is now arrived when the Charter must either become the law of the land, or we must remain passive slaves in the hands of our enemies. Be firm, be resolute, and the victory is ours. Peaceably if we if we can, but forcibly if we must. He then advised the crowd to take a walk round the town with him before breakfast. They did so...

John Warden,

My Lord and Gentlemen of the jury...

Gentlemen, the principles of which I have been the feeble but fearless advocate and defender, are identical with those which in former days were promulgated by the Miltons, the Hampdens, and the Sydneys... They tend not in their effects, as you may have been led to suppose, to the production of bloodshed, of anarchy and of strife; but they contribute on the contrary, to the conservation of the best interests of man - to the protection of property, to the preservation of social harmony, and to the defence of all that is time-hallowed and true in our institutions whether moral, political or religious... For if you once destroy the aspirations of the great mass of the people for political privileges, or debar them from the exercise or rights which they feel they ought to possess, you crush them into an abyss of slavery and, having degraded them into slaves, you must expect from them nothing but the vices of slaves; immorality in all its multiplied forms; social misery with social degradation; political hatred with political wrong. Once bestow upon the men who produce all your wealth - who build you houses - who fill your granaries - who make your table groan beneath the accumulated luxuries - who provide for your wants in peace, and who protect you in the hour of danger - who man your fleets, and who fight your battles - once bestow upon these men the power of exercising those privileges which none have a right to deprive them of, and which all ought to possess, and you will put a stop to those political animosities which always disturb, and often destroy those social relations, without which no community can long exist, and without which no nation can be powerful and happy. We, the Chartists, have asked no more than this, and depend upon it, the great and growing wants of the people can never be satisfied with less.

Gentlemen, we live in new times - the labourer is no longer content to live as a mere passive serf, created only to minister to the wants of some feudal lord, or some rich commercial speculator. He has nobler aims and higher aspirations. He feels that he was not made for the purpose of conforming to institutions which he had not the power of modifying, according to his wants, and which, instead of multiplying his pleasures, tend in their general effects to extend the number of his miseries... He feels that the welfare of the people can only be promoted and secured when the laws, so potent in their influences over the happiness of the community, are made by all and for the interest of all...

What then, Gentlemen, do the Chartists require? They ask simply for a voice in the enactment of the laws which they are called upon to obey; a voice in the distribution of the taxes to which they are compelled to contribute. They demand the Ballot, in order that the vote which they give may be substantially their own; they require no Property Qualification for Members, in order that they may not be restricted in their choice; and they desire that those whom they elect may not have the power of remaining in office in opposition to the fairly expressed opinions and interests of the constituency. Do they ask too much? Do they ask anything incompatible with the dictates of common sense, on the principles of the Constitution? It may be said that the great mass of the people are too ignorant to exercise the elective franchise with interest to themselves individually, or to the community in the aggregate. Those, however, who profess this opinion forget that the great body of the people is actually appealed to on all questions of paramount public interest; and experience tells us that on most occasions the public mind has been far ahead of the Legislature of the Ministry. The repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts, Catholic Emancipation and the Reform Bill... may be mentioned in illustrations of this fact...

And even now, is not the existence of the working classes, aye, of the working classes, invoked on all great questions? Do the rich manufacturers desire a repeal of the Corn Laws? They appeal to the people. Is the reform in the corporations considered desirable? The people are appealed to. Does one great party advocate church extension? Lecturers are sent out, and the people are appealed to. Does another party advocate the voluntary system? It appeals to the people. Does an armed body of insurgents appear at Newport or at Sheffield? The government, through the means of a royal speech, expresses its confidence in the good sense and the loyalty of the people.

From the most insignificant local subject up to the most important national question, the working classes are appealed to by party interests, and yet with an inconsistency which is altogether unaccountable, we are told by the very same parties who make these appeals, that the people are too ignorant to perceive their own immediate and most palpable interests! It would not be difficult to prove... that the laws which restrict the number of electors are in opposition to the constitution as it existed in its pristine purity. To effect the restoration of that constitution has been the object of our labours... I have not sought to effect it by threats and violence... but by calmly waiting for the time when our principles should be universally diffused or by energetically assisting in their diffusion - by means of meetings - of discussion - of enquiry - which, and which alone, can lead to a concentration of public opinion...

... It was well observed by Mr. Gibbon Wakefield, during the agitation of the Reform Bill, that making the possession of property the criterion of fitness for political right, would inevitably tend to the severance oft wealthy from the indigent, to the complete alienation of one class from another in sentiment, in feeling and in action. The present state of the public mind attests the truth of the observation. To reunite the classes whose real interests are identical, but who have been thus fatally severed, has been our only object...

Gentlemen, I have thought it necessary to trespass on your attention at some length, in order to dissipate the calumnies and the misrepresentations which have been so industriously circulated. I have thought it necessary you should be informed that we desire not to reduce the rich to poverty, but to raise the poor from indigence to comfort - I have thought it necessary you should know that we were not men who wished to destroy property, but that our only desire was to secure to the labourer his due reward - we desired not to destroy wealth, but to prevent wealth from destroying us - we desired to put an end to that state of things which made the possession of wealth the standard of intelligence, and gave to the possessors of bricks and mortar the fit qualifications of an elector or a statesman...

George Lloyd

My Lord and Gentlemen of the jury,...

I shall content myself with offering to you a very few observations in defence of the principles I entertain, and of my conduct in advocating those principles. It has been my fate, my Lord, perhaps to know various conditions of society. I have suffered, perhaps, as much poverty as any man in Britain; and I have known too what domestic comfort has been.

And, my Lord, and Gentlemen of the Jury, knowing and feeling these things, I have made it my business in many of the manufacturing districts - feeling the rankling shaft of poverty in my own bosom - destroying my own peace as well as that of my family - I have made it my business to look at the condition of others, and I have found in following up my enquiries among the people, that in our boasted, our civilised England, such scenes of human misery and wretchedness exist as would disgrace the most barbarous land that spots the face of our globe. I have seen whole families, I have seen the widower, and his motherless children sitting down upon the cold floor, without a stool or a table, in wretchedness and rags which would scarcely cover the naked person from indecent exposure. I have seen such families sitting down to a boiled potato for their Sunday's meals; and when I tell you that such is the fact, I feel convinced that you, as men, as Englishmen, as a Jury, in whose hands rests my liberty and my future prospects will hardly wonder that the conviction has been forced upon me eve n against my will that something was rotten in our system of Government, or in the administration of our laws, for had it not been so, such scenes as these which I have thus faintly described, could never have existed...

My Lord and Gentlemen of the Jury, it has been frequently asserted by those who have opposed the cause which I and others have espoused, that those who have taken a leading part in it, have had their own purposes and their own interests to serve; but I will ask your Lordship whether, after the facts which I am about to state, this agitation has served any interest of mine, or placed me in a position at all superior to that which I might have enjoyed, had I not felt for the wrongs of others, and sought on their behalf to obtain redress. I have to state, my Lord, that in my case the part has been the very reverse - that simply for holding principles which did not accord with the principles of those from whom I had previously to obtain my bread, I have to state, that for the sake of holding those principles for the last seventeen or eighteen months, I have been prevented from following my usual employment. I have been forced, my Lord, unwillingly forced, in consequence of having seen the unparalleled amount of wretchedness which exists in this country: I have been forced to adopt those principles. I find that I want protection; I find that my family want protection: and I also find that in connection with this cause, I have suffered much, more than I really deserve to suffer, even, supposing that it had been clearly proved that I was guilty of the serious crime laid to my charge.

My Lord, what have I suffered? I was arrested early on the morning of the day after 12th August - a day on which there had been no disturbance - no riot - no breach of the peace; I was hurried away after my examination before the magistrates, who committed me without anything like evidence, and who have instituted this prosecution rather to screen themselves from their own negligence and imprudence than to punish me for any supposed crime - I was carried away and denied the constitutional privilege of bail - I was hurried away from my home and from my family, guarded by two troops of dragoons, one of each side of the carriage which brought me to prison, as thought I had been guilty of some enormous offence - I was hurried away to Kirkdale, there to remain without the privilege of putting in bail, which could have procured bail or sufficient responsibility, I was hurried along to the prison, where I remained for six weeks, and had afterwards to sit in a dark cell, under this Court, during the whole of the proceedings of the last Assizes; and all this I had to suffer, simply for asserting the rights of my fellow-creatures. And my Lord and Gentlemen of the Jury, when I tell you that I have suffered this much, and that while I was in this confinement news was brought to me that my wife and two children had died in consequence of the illegal and sudden arrest made upon my person, then I say, my Lord and the Gentlemen of the jury, knowing that you are not without the feelings of men, and of Englishmen, will admit that I have suffered more than enough, even supposing the worst charges in that indictment should be fully proved against me.

I will not, however, deceive your Lordships and the Jury. The report to which I have just alluded, although calculated to induce, in the mind of any man, the most painful sensations, and to render under such circumstances an illegal imprisonment more dreadful than death in its worst forms, did not turn out to be true. My wife did not die in consequence of my imprisonment, although she had had a premature confinement brought on by it. When I came out of prison, the first thing I had to do was to endeavour to tranquillise a dear and affectionate child, who, in consequence of the arrest of her father, had been deprived of reason. I succoured that child, but in vain - she died in my arms; and when dead, my circumstances were such, that I had to beg the price of materials to make her a coffin, and even had with my own hands to make that coffin, before her remains could be committed to the dust...

These things, my Lord, and Gentlemen of the Jury I have suffered simply for asserting the rights of my fellow creatures - (Here Mr. Lloyd himself seemed to be much affected, and overpowered for a moment, but with a nerve that few men have been known to possess he resumed his address in a tone of manly dignity, and proceeded:) - my Lord and Gentlemen of the Jury, afflicting as those circumstances are to me - afflicting as they must have been to any man placed in my situation, I am prepared for the sake of those principles, to part with everything which is dear to me - with everything which can be called sacred in the enjoyment of domestic society and domestic peace, and to suffer ten times more than I have suffered, or more than I can imagine myself capable of suffering, rather than give up that which I am persuaded it is the right of every Englishman to enjoy. My Lord, and Gentlemen of the Jury, I will not trouble you with any further observations. I leave my case in your hands with confidence, knowing that I shall receive justice. My Lord, justice is all I ask; mercy I do not need.

reported in Northern Star, 11 April 1840.

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