Illustration: Oxford Shooting at Queen Victoria
While yet the public mind was occupied with the contemplation of the crimes of Courvoisier and Gould, which we have just related, and before the termination of the inquiries which took place in reference to those culprits, an occurrence of a yet more striking character,-- more calculated to excite interest, because levelled at the life of the sovereign, and therefore, at the welfare of the country,-- an attempt to shoot her Majesty, Queen Victoria, took place. Happily for the honour of the country, this attack turned out to be that of a maniac; but melancholy indeed would have been the result, if an attempt, so dreadful in its consequences to the nation, had not been rendered unsuccessful by the all-powerful hand of Providence. In the case of Courvoisier, we have seen the inscrutability of the ways of the Almighty exhibited in the detection of a murderer; here we perceive His all-seeing eye watching over and protecting our Queen from the assassin's blow, and thereby best securing the interest of our country.
The circumstances immediately attending this dreadful attempt, as well as the early life of the offender, will be best described by our reciting the proceedings which took place at the trial of Oxford, for the offence charged against him, at the Central Criminal Court, on Thursday the 9th of July, 1840, before Lord Denman, Mr. Baron Alderson, and Mr. Justice Patteson.
The prisoner had been indicted at the previous sessions; but his trial was postponed, on the ground of the absence of witnesses, whose evidence was material to the defence of insanity, which it was intended to set up on the part of the prisoner. Upon the occasion of the arraignment of the prisoner, and throughout the whole of his imprisonment previously to his trial, he exhibited an extraordinary degree of apathy. His observations during his confinement were principally directed to the degree of excitement which his case had made in the world, and the interest which was exhibited to see him; and he appeared to view his crime and its consequences to himself as of slight importance in comparison with the notoriety which he was likely to obtain. On his being placed at the bar, to plead to the indictment preferred against him, he looked round the court with a self-complacent gaze, at the same moment eagerly inquiring of the jailor whether any person of distinction was present. A smile was observed to be constantly lingering on his lips; and on the reading of the indictment, which we subjoin, he frequently burst into tits of laughter. He was a well-looking youth, and was attired in a manner superior to his situation in life. The indictment was in the following terms:--
"Central Criminal Court, to wit.-- The jurors for our lady the Queen, upon their oath present, that Edward Oxford, late of Westminster, in the county of Middlesex, labourer, being a subject of our lady the Queen, heretofore, to wit on the 10th of June, in the year of our Lord 1840, within the jurisdiction of the said court, as a false traitor to our lady the Queen, maliciously and traitorously, with force and arms, &c., did compass, imagine, and intend to bring and put our said lady the Queen to death. And to fulfil, perfect, and bring to effect his most evil and wicked treason, and treasonable compassing and imagination aforesaid, he the said Edward Oxford, as such false traitor as aforesaid, to wit, on the said 10th day of June, in the year of our Lord, 1840, aforesaid, and within the jurisdiction of the said court, with force and arms, maliciously and traitorously did shoot off and discharge a certain pistol, the same then and there being loaded with gunpowder and a certain bullet, and which pistol he the said Edward Oxford then and there had and held in one of his hands at the person of our said lady the Queen, with intent thereby and therewith maliciously and traitorously to shoot, assassinate, kill, and put to death our said lady the Queen. And further, to fulfil, perfect, and bring to effect his most evil and wicked treason and treasonable compassing and imagination aforesaid, he the said Edward Oxford, as such false traitor as aforesaid, afterwards, to wit, on the said 10th day of June, in the year of our lord 1840, aforesaid, and within the jurisdiction of the said court, with force and arms maliciously and traitorously did shoot off and discharge a certain other pistol, the same then and there being loaded with gunpowder and a certain bullet, and which pistol he the said Edward Oxford then and there had and held in one of his hands, at the person of our said lady the Queen, with intent thereby and therewith maliciously and traitorously to shoot, assassinate, kill, and put to death our said lady the Queen, and thereby then and there traitorously made a direct attempt against the life of our said lady the Queen, against the duty of the allegiance of him the said Edward Oxford, against the form of the statute in that case made and provided, and against the peace of our said lady the Queen, her crown, and dignity."
To this indictment the prisoner pleaded "Not Guilty," and upon the application for the postponement of his trial being granted, he appeared considerably disappointed at his being unable to remain any longer in court.
On the day of his trial, he observed the same demeanour, but he occasionally became more serious, and gave evident signs of his being now aware of the danger of his position. The same smile was, however, still observable, and the same eager curiosity and gratification at the crowded state of the court were exhibited by him.
The prosecution was conducted by the Attorney-General, the Solicitor-General, Sir F. Pollock, Mr. Adolphus, Mr. Wightman, and Mr. Gurney; and Mr. Sidney Taylor, and Mr. Bodkin, appeared for the defence.
The court was crowded to excess during the two days occupied by the trial, by persons of distinction.
The Attorney-General opened the case to the jury in the following address. He said "Gentlemen, the prisoner stands charged with the crime of high treason, the greatest crime known to the law, and he stands charged with that offence in its most aggravated form; he is charged with having made a direct attempt on the life of the sovereign. Gentlemen, that crime, according to the law of this country, and, indeed, of all countries in which monarchy is the form of government, must be considered as very heinous. By an act passed in the twenty-fifth year of the reign of King Edward III., by which the law of high treason in this country was defined, it is enacted, that if any one shall imagine and compass the death of the sovereign, and be guilty of an overt act to show the intention of such a crime, he shall be guilty of high treason. The offence is imagining and compassing the death of the sovereign, and that is to be proved by some overt act. It is upon this act, which has constituted the great safety for the liberties of England ever since it passed, that the prisoner is now indicted. The mode of conducting the trial is regulated by an act passed in the 40th year of the reign of King George III., the effect of which is this, that where in a trial for high treason the overt act to be proved shall be a direct attempt on the life of the sovereign, the trial shall be conducted in the same manner as in cases of murder. The object of this act was to give to the life of the sovereign the same protection as is afforded to the meanest subject of the land, because, before this statute, it was necessary, on an indictment for high treason, even where the life of the sovereign was attempted, or where that life had fallen a sacrifice to the wicked attempt, to prove the overt act by the testimony of two witnesses; and there were a number of forms required, which are most salutary and proper when the charge bears a political aspect, where the treason under consideration is allied to a rebellious conspiracy, where the circumstances to be considered may constitute constructive treason, or where the case presents a supposed difficulty in bringing the charge home to the prisoner, but which, when the overt act is an attempt directly at the life of the sovereign, the law, in its wisdom, has not deemed necessary. Gentlemen, the party now accused will have an ample opportunity for his defence; on his own application his trial was postponed, and he is now defended by my two learned friends opposite, of great ability and experience, and my learned friend, Mr. Sidney Taylor, will have an opportunity of addressing you, and of bringing forward all that can be urged in his favour. From the affidavit which was made in support of the application to the learned judge (Lord Chief Justice Tindal), we are informed that two questions will be submitted to your consideration. The first is, whether, supposing the prisoner to be accountable for his actions, he is guilty of the offence laid to his charge; and the second will be whether, at the time he committed the act, he was accountable for his actions. Now, gentlemen, the burden of the first issue is entirely upon the prosecution. The prisoner is still presumed to be innocent, and, unless clear and satisfactory evidence be produced to establish his guilt, it will be your duty to acquit him; but if, upon the evidence which I am instructed to lay before you, you should see no reason to disbelieve the witnesses, I cannot anticipate that any reasonable doubt can arise. The prisoner at the bar is, as you perceive, a young man, about eighteen or nineteen years of age, although you would hardly suppose that he was so old. He was born, as I understand, at Birmingham. He came when very young to London, and was sent to school at Lambeth. He afterwards served in many public-houses, in the capacity of what is called a barman. He first went, as I understand, to superintend the arrangement of the business of the bar at a public-house in Houndsditch, and then at one in High-street, Marylebone. He was next at another public-house, in Oxford-street. It seems that he left that service about the end of April. He then went into lodgings at No.6, West-place, West-square, Lambeth, and that lodging he made his home till the period when this offence was committed. Gentlemen, it would appear that he had formed and matured a plan to make an attempt on the life of the sovereign. On the 4th of May, in the present year, when he was at his lodgings, he bought a pair of pistols from a person named Hayes, living in Blackfriars-road, for the sum of 2l. He bought at the same time a powder-flask. It will appear by the evidence that he practised shooting in shooting-galleries. He was at a shooting-gallery in Leicester-square, at a gallery in the Strand, and at another at the west end of the town. On Wednesday, the 3rd of June, a week before the day laid in the indictment, he went into the shop of a person named Gray, with whom he had been at school, in Bridge-road, Lambeth, and bought half a hundred copper caps to be used for firing. He asked Gray at the same time where he could buy some bullets, and three-penny worth of gunpowder. He was told where the bullets could be had, and Gray sold him some gunpowder. On the evening of the 9th of June he showed a loaded pistol; and when asked what he meant to do with it, he refused to tell, but said that he had been firing at a target. I now come, gentlemen, to the day in question, the 10th of June. You are probably aware that it is the custom of Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, since she has been united with Prince Albert, frequently to take an airing in the afternoon or evening in the Parks without any military escort, and with the simplicity of private life. This custom was well known to all her loyal subjects, and indeed to the whole community. It will appear that on this day, Wednesday, about four o'clock, the prisoner went into the Park. He saw Prince Albert returning from Woolwich, and going to the palace. The prisoner then went to Constitution-hill, and there remained expecting the appearance of the Queen. About six o'clock, the Queen, accompanied by her royal consort, left the palace in a low open carriage, drawn by four horses, and with two outriders, who went before, but with no other attendants. Her Majesty was seated on the left side of the carriage, and Prince Albert on the right. The carriage was driven up Constitution-hill. About one hundred and twenty yards from the Palace -- that is, about one-third of the distance between the Palace and the Triumphal Arch there was the prisoner, Edward Oxford, watching their progress. He walked backwards and forwards, with his arms under the lapels of his coat. He was on the right-hand side, near the iron railings which divide Constitution-hill from the Green Park. When he saw the carriage, he turned round towards it; he drew a pistol from his breast, and then, as the carriage went on, discharged it. The providence of God averted the blow from her Majesty. The ball was heard to whiz by on the opposite side. In all probability her Majesty was quite unconscious at that moment that any attempt had been made upon her life. The carriage proceeded. The prisoner then looked back to see if any one was near to perceive him; he drew another pistol from his breast, whether with his right hand or his left is uncertain, and aimed at her Majesty. It would appear that her Majesty saw him fire, because she stooped down. Again the providence of God interfered. The prisoner fired, the ball was heard to whiz on the other side -- her Majesty escaped. The Queen immediately drove on, to allay the alarms which might be caused by news brought to her august parent with respect to an event so momentous. There was a considerable number of persons on the side of the Park between the road and the gardens of Buckingham Palace. Curiosity and loyalty had led many persons to that spot, in the expectation of her Majesty showing herself to her subjects. There was a man named Lowe, whom I shall call as a witness, who immediately rushed across, seized Oxford, and took the pistols from him. That person at first was believed to be the offender by the parties around, who said, 'You confounded rascal, how dare you shoot at our Queen?' On which Oxford said, 'It was I.' He was immediately taken into custody, and taken to the station-house, where he voluntarily put the question, 'Is the Queen hurt? 'and on being told the Queen was not hurt, he was asked whether there were not bullets in the pistols, and he admitted at once that there were bullets. When he had been secured, and when it had been ascertained that his lodgings were, as he said, in West-place, West-square, a policeman was immediately despatched to search them. The prisoner occupied a room on the first pair back. The door of the room was open. The policemen found a box which undoubtedly belonged to the prisoner. That box was locked; but I shall show that he had in his pocket a key that fitted it, and that he acknowledged that it was his box, as were also the contents. The box was opened, and in it were found the following articles:-- A sword and scabbard, two pistol-bags, some black crape, a powder-flask, three ounces of powder, a bullet-mould, five leaden bullets, and some percussion caps marked, and which had been bought by the prisoner from Gray, his school-fellow. There was also found a pocketbook containing some papers. The box and its contents were brought to the station-house and shown to the prisoner, who stated that the papers belonged to him and that he meant to have destroyed them in the morning before he went out. These papers I will now read. The first bears no date: it is headed 'Young England; 'and the rules and regulations are eleven in number. The learned gentleman then read the following paper:--
RULES AND REGULATIONS.
"1. That every member shall be provided with a brace of pistols, a sword, a rifle, and a dagger. The two latter to be kept at the committee-room.
"2. That every member must, on entering, take the oath of allegiance to be true to the cause he has joined.
"3. That every member must, on entering the house, give a signal to the sentry.
"4. That every officer shall have a factitious name. His right name and address to be kept with the secretary.
"5. That every member shall, when he is ordered to meet, be armed with a brace of pistols (loaded) and a sword to repel any attack; and also be provided with a black crape cap, to cover his face, with his marks of distinction outside.
"6. That whenever. any member wishes to introduce any new member, he must give satisfactory accounts of him to their superiors, and from thence to the counsel.
"7. Any member who can procure an hundred men shall be promoted to the rank of captain.
"8. Any member holding communications with any country agents must instantly forward the intelligence to the secretary.
"9. That whenever any member is ordered down the country or abroad, he must take various disguises with him (as the labourer, the mechanic, and the gentleman), all of which he can obtain at the committee-room.
"10. That any member wishing to absent himself for more than one month must obtain leave from the commander-in-chief.
"11. That no member will be allowed to speak during any debate, nor allowed to ask more than two questions.
"All the printed rules to be kept at the committee-room."
LIST OF PRINCIPAL MEMBERS.
MARKS OF DISTINCTION.
"Counsel -- A large white cockade. President -- A black bow. General -- Three red bows. Captain -- Two red bows. Lieutenant -- One red bow.
"A. W. Smith, Secretary.
"There were in the same pocket-book three letters, purporting to be orders addressed by the same secretary, Smith, to Oxford: the first was as follows: --
"Young England, May 16, 1839.
"Sir -- Our commander-in-chief was very glad to find that you answered his questions in such a straight-forward manner; you will be wanted to attend on the 21st of this month, as we expect one of the country agents in town on business of importance. Be sure and attend.
"A. W. Smith, Secretary.
"P.S. You must not take any notice to the boy, nor ask him any questions."
"Addressed -- Mr. Oxford, at Mr. Minton's, High-street, Marylebone.
"The next letter ran thus: --
"Young England, Nov. 14, 1839.
"Sir -- I am very glad to hear that you improve so much in your speeches. Your speech the last time you were here was beautiful. There was another one introduced last night by Lieutenant Mars, a fine, tall, gentlemanly-looking fellow, and it is said that he is a military officer, but his name has not yet transpired. Soon after he was introduced, we were alarmed by a violent knocking at the door; in an instant our faces were covered, we cocked our pistols, and with drawn swords stood waiting to receive the enemy. While one stood over the fire with the papers, another stood with lighted torch to fire the house. We then sent the old woman to open the door, and it proved to be some little boys who knocked at the door and ran away.
"A. W. Smith, Secretary.
"You must attend on Wednesday next,
"Addressed -- 'Mr. Oxford, at Mr. Farr's, Hat and Feathers, Goswell-street.'
"The last was in the following terms: --
"Young England, April 3, 1840."
Sir -- You are requested to attend to-night, as there is an extraordinary meeting to be holden, in consequence of having received some communications of an important nature from Hanover. You must attend, and if your master will not give you leave, you must come in defiance of him.
"A. W. Smith, Secretary.
"Addressed -- 'Mr. Oxford, at Mr. Robinson's, Hog-in-the-Pound, Oxford-street.'"
"Under these circumstances, gentlemen, if the prisoner is accountable for his acts, will you say whether there is any reasonable doubt of his guilt? I should tell you that the balls, after a strict search has been made, have not been found; but I think that no one can entertain any serious doubt that the pistols were loaded with balls. I understand there were marks on the wall, which were examined immediately afterwards, and which some conceive must have been made by the balls from the pistols. I shall lay this evidence before you, but I acknowledge to you freely my own conviction that much weight is not to be attached to it. To my own mind it seems more probable that the balls went over the wall. I shall show that Oxford was not skilful in the use of pistols; and it is probable, in the confusion and flurry under which he must have laboured at such a moment, that the pistols were directed unsteadily, and that the balls went over the wall. Can there, however, be a doubt that the pistols were loaded? He buys bullets, he had them at his lodgings, there was also a mould in which to cast bullets in his box; he had been firing at a target; he had been practising at a shooting-gallery; and at the time, whatever he may have said since, after asking whether the queen was hurt, he voluntarily declared that the pistols were loaded. Under these circumstances, it appears to me that if the prisoner was at the time accountable for his actions, there can be no doubt of his guilt. But it is for you to hear the evidence that shall be given, and you are the judges of the fact. I now come to the second question, Whether the prisoner was accountable for his actions at the time when the offence was committed? And I will at once admit, under the law of England, that if he was then of unsound mind -- if he was incapable of judging between right and wrong-- if he was labouring under any delusion or insanity, so as not to be sensible of his crime, or conscious of the act which he committed -- if at the time when that act was committed he was afflicted with insanity, he will be entitled to be acquitted on that ground. In former times, it was said that there was some doubt upon the law, and some difficulty of acquittal on the ground of insanity. There was, as their lordships will recollect, an act passed in the time of Henry VIII., raising some doubt upon this point, when there was an attempt against the life of the sovereign. Happily, however, that act has been repealed, and now we have both reason and justice on the side of the law of the land. But it lies upon a party setting up such a plea to make it out clearly and satisfactorily. It must be shown on his behalf, not merely that he was at times guilty of strangeness of conduct, or of extravagant acts -- not merely that violence had been done by him, or offences committed -- but it must be shown that at the particular time when the offence charged was committed, he was not an accountable being; that he was then labouring under some delusion, that he could not distinguish right from wrong, and that he was unconscious of committing any offence. Such, I apprehend, is clearly the law of the land, as it will be expounded to you by my Lord Denman and his learned brethren; and as this law is expounded to you by them, I have no doubt you will consider yourselves bound. It would be most dangerous to admit the plea of insanity, merely when it is shown that the prisoner labours occasionally under a degree of excitement, and that at former times he has been guilty of violence, if at the time when the crime is committed the party was not actually labouring under a delusion, but was aware of the object he had in view, and its consequences. I may mention for your information, that by the law of England, if exemption be claimed from a criminal charge on the plea of insanity, there is a greater necessity that mental aberration should be proved, than in civil transactions in which it is sought to annul a contract or to take away the management of a man's affairs. In criminal matters it must be proved that the insanity is existing at the time of the crime, and that it is connected with the crime committed. In civil matters it is enough to show that the party is of unsound mind, although it is not connected with the particular transaction." The learned Attorney-general having then referred to a great number of cases in support of the proposition which he had laid down, proceeded to say,-- "I will now implore you, gentlemen, to consider whether, upon the evidence which will be produced, you are bound to say that the prisoner was insane at the time this crime was committed. I say most unaffectedly, that I should rejoice if such had been the case. I feel that I only speak the sentiments of all present at the time when he was guilty of this most atrocious attempt, when I say so. The crime, though levelled against any person of rank inferior to that of her majesty -- putting out of the question the allegiance we owe to the head of the state, and the lamentable consequences which must have followed had this attack been successful -- is of the deepest possible dye, and I say, that it would be a great relief to all who have respect for our common nature, if it be shown that the person who was capable of such an act was unconscious of what he was doing. But I have a duty to discharge to the crown and to the public, and I must say, that, so far as I have yet learned, there is no reason to believe that the prisoner at the time he committed this crime was in a state of mind which takes away his criminal responsibility for the deed. We do not find that, previously to this occurrence, he was ever treated by his friends as a maniac; but, on the contrary, he was placed in situations of trust and confidence, where he was called upon to perform duties of some difficulty, which he went through to the satisfaction of his employers, and as a reasonable being would. He is not an idiot, but, on the contrary, his proceedings throughout the whole course of his life show him to be a person of singular acuteness. I will refer to what passed when the prisoner was before the Privy Council. The witnesses were examined; the prisoner had an opportunity, which he exercised, of cross-examining them; and, at the conclusion of the evidence, he was asked whether he wished to say anything or not. He was told that he was at liberty to give any explanation or not, as he pleased; and he was informed, that anything he said would be taken down, and read against him another day. On that occasion these were the words which he voluntarily uttered:-- 'A great many witnesses against me; some say that I shot with my left, others with my right. They vary as to the distance. After I fired the first pistol, Prince Albert got up, as if he would jump out of the carriage, and sat down again, as if he thought better of it. Then I fired the second pistol. This is all I shall say at present.' Pie was asked whether he would sign the statement? He said that he had no objection, and he signed it 'Edward Oxford.' This, gentlemen, may be material in two points of view -- first, because at this time he did not say that there were no balls in the pistols; he made no allegation of that kind, but to the contrary; and, next, that he was then fully sensible of the act he had committed. Upon these facts, gentlemen, it is for you to say whether, at the time this act was committed, the prisoner was accountable for his actions. You will, I am satisfied, come to a right conclusion upon the evidence; you will consider all the facts that are proved; but, at the same time, you will consider that you have a great duty to perform; that duty you will perform with caution and with conscientiousness; you will, from the evidence, come to your decision, and of that decision the country will have no reason to complain."
The evidence for the prosecution was then gone through in corroboration of the statements of the learned Attorney-general, and Mr. Sidney Taylor addressed the jury for the defence. Having argued upon the facts of the case proved by the witnesses for the prosecution, upon which he contended, first, that it was quite consistent that the pistols were not fired at the queen, but with a view only to excite alarm; and, secondly, that the pistols might not have been loaded with ball, both of which were necessary ingredients of the crime; he proceeded, thirdly, to the equally important issue of insanity. With regard to this part of the case, he entreated the jury to pay the most earnest and solemn attention to it, for the issue raised upon it was of a most important character to the interests of the prisoner, and he hoped to be able to convince them of that which he was sure would shed universal satisfaction through the country, that the prisoner was not a person who wilfully and in the possession of his senses would commit this crime. He was sure that if they could conscientiously come to this conclusion, they would most willingly free the subjects of this realm from the imputation of having them one who would, under such circumstances, dye his hands in the blood of the sovereign. It was not the first time, unhappily, that the life of the sovereign of this country had been attempted to be taken away; but he rejoiced to say, for the sake of our national character, that in no one instance had such an act been done by a person possessing a sane mind. It had been proved in evidence that certain papers had been found in the possession of the prisoner; and that fact, which had been opened by the learned Attorney-general as an important feature in this case, he placed before them as a proof of the prisoner's insanity; and he contended that that only showed in him a mind diseased, which induced him to suppose the existence of a society which, in fact, was never heard of, and of which certainly he was not a member. That no such society in fact existed, he thought he might take for granted, because if in truth there had been any such, beyond all question its members and its proceedings would have been discovered through the indefatigable exertions made through the means of the highly effective police possessed by this country, the operations of which would be called forth from the necessity of finding whether there was anything in reality beyond the mere act of the prisoner which portended danger to the state. He contended that it was morally impossible that such a society could be in existence, for he was sure that the executive government of the country would not be accessory to the throwing any slur upon its own character by admitting that such was the fact, and that all its ramifications had not been brought to light. The prisoner, he contended, must be taken to have believed that he belonged to such a society; but in order to prove the utter absurdity of such a belief, he would prove to the jury that the rules, as well as the letters and papers which had been found, were all in the handwriting of the boy at the bar -- a striking and cogent proof, he thought, of his insanity. Every effort had been made to trace the real existence of such a society, but in vain; and he thought that the only inference which could be drawn from the existence of these papers was, that the mind of the prisoner had been worked upon by his own absurd fancy. With regard to the probability of his being selected to put into operation such a plan as that of the assassination of her Majesty, he would ask them whether it was likely that any political society would have employed a boy of his years and want of discretion to complete a scheme so important and yet so horrible? How was the act itself committed? The prisoner, amongst a number of other persons, in the open day, depriving himself of every chance of escape, had voluntarily been guilty of an offence which subjected him to condign punishment. Did he then attempt to escape? He did not; and even when another person was taken under the supposition that he was the man, he immediately came forward with a declaration that he was the person, as if courting publicity and apprehension. What, but insanity, could be inferred from these circumstances? Might he not well have dreaded his destruction by a mob inflamed and excited against the perpetrator of an attack so dreadful upon our young Queen? Yet, with a feeling which could be deemed nothing but insanity, he persisted in forcing himself into that very situation in which he could hope to meet with nothing but punishment. He was taken; having been seized, he was teased and excited, and gave answers which must not be taken into account as admissions that there were balls in the pistols. Since that time he had been the subject of great curiosity, and various statements, many of them false, had been made concerning him. He felt that the jury must come to the conclusion that he was of unsound mind at the time of the commission of the act, and that it would be as cruel as the supposed intended assassination itself to deliver him up to the same doom as a sane criminal. He should produce evidence to show the tendency of the boy's mind to insanity. His age was just that at which such a failing would be likely to develop itself; and as in all cases some particular period must occur at which such an aberration of intellect would first appear, so, notwithstanding all the apparent premeditation and contrivance which he had exhibited, the moment of his attack upon the life of his sovereign might be that at which it would exhibit itself. He should show that the paternal grandfather of the prisoner had been insane, and died in a lunatic asylum. The father, it would be proved, had been guilty of acts which clearly proved he ought not to have been permitted to be at large. The opinion of the most eminent medical men was that the greatest proportion of cases admitted into lunatic asylums were cases of hereditary insanity, and if they were to refuse to consider the case of the prisoner in this light, they would be proving the truth of the words of a celebrated physician, that 'man's vengeance followed God's visitation.' Let them bear in mind that no ill consequences had followed this attempt. Her Majesty the next day had entertained a party at dinner, and had the evening after gone to a concert. That showed that her Majesty felt that this must have been the act of an isolated madman, and that she had nothing to fear from the machinations of any secret society. A great and illustrious female predecessor of hers was told by some officious courtiers of a conspiracy against her life; but she said 'I will not believe of my subjects anything that a mother would not believe of her children;' and such, he was convinced, were the sentiments of the present illustrious occupant of the throne. The papers found in the box of the prisoner seemed to be the commencement of the insanity, and the attempt itself the consummation of the insanity. The whole of the persons mentioned in the papers found in his box were creatures of his imagination; and the crape with the bows, the sword, and the documents showed that he was the victim of pitiable mental delusion, and the object rather of compassion than of vengeance. It was impossible to say in what variety of shapes the noble structure of the human mind might be ruined; and he contended, that the whole course of conduct of the prisoner, subsequently, as well as at the time of the commission of this supposed offence, exhibited him to be the victim of an absurd delusion, driving him to seek notoriety, by whatever means it was obtained, and not a person capable of any crime so dreadful as that alleged against him. His inquiries after the safety of the Queen showed his apprehensions, that by some accident her Majesty might have been unintentionally injured by the wadding from the weapons which he had discharged; and his declaration that the pistols were loaded with ball might equally be taken as a proof of his insanity, as the absurd desire for celebrity which had prompted him to the commission of such an act.
A vast body of evidence was then adduced with a view to support the defence of insanity which was set up. From it, it appeared, that the grandfather of the prisoner was a person of colour, and that he was frequently, when intoxicated, guilty of acts of the wildest and most wanton description. He was a sailor, and when on shore was constantly drunk; but in his old age he received the benefits of Greenwich Hospital, where he died, having from his good conduct gained for himself the rank of boatswain in the establishment, by virtue of which he was bound to mount guard at one of the gates. Expressions were proved to have been occasionally used by him, indicating a mind bereft of reason, and he was stated to have suffered severely at one period of his life from a fever. With regard to the father of the prisoner, evidence of a similar tendency was adduced. His wife, the mother of the prisoner, was called, and she gave a dreadful detail of the injuries which he had inflicted upon her subsequently to her marriage with him, and of the brutal treatment to which he had subjected her. He had several times taken poison in her presence, and had otherwise been guilty of the most extraordinary and outrageous conduct. The prisoner, she proved, had been born in the year 1822, and throughout his he had exhibited symptoms of imbecility. he would frequently burst into tears, or into fits of laughing, without any assignable cause, and was in the habit of talking in a strain which exhibited a most anxious desire on his part to obtain celebrity in the world. He was always fond of the use of fire-arms, and frequently presented pistols at the head of his sister or his mother. Medical witnesses were also examined, who gave their decided opinion that the prisoner was in an unsound state of mind. The general result of their testimony went to show, that the ordinary senses of affection, and of personal fear for the consequences of the crime charged against him, the heinous nature of which he could not comprehend, as well as of memory, had disappeared from his mind; that he appeared incapable of estimating the importance of his trial as regarded his interests, and that he neither possessed any regret for the disgrace or pain which might be produced to his relations, nor apprehension for his own safety.
In reply to this evidence, the Solicitor-general (Sir T. Wilde) made a most powerful speech, with consummate skill arguing upon every branch of the proofs adduced to show the insanity of the prisoner, and contending that the jury should in nowise be influenced by any of the topics advanced in his favour upon the case for the prosecution, all of which tended to show his perfect calmness and self-possession, and the greatest degree of acuteness. He urged that the evidence of the madness of the prisoner's father and grandfather was incomplete and inconclusive, and that their drunken freaks could not be taken to have had any influence in producing the disease sought to be proved in the mind of the prisoner, and that the facts sworn to with regard to the early life of the latter were marks of the waywardness of an indulged child, and not of that species of madness which could free him from criminal responsibility.
Lord Denman summed up the evidence, and at the end of the second day's trial the jury returned a verdict, acquitting the prisoner, upon the ground of insanity.
He was ordered to be detained, in obedience to the terms of the statute, during her Majesty's pleasure, and was subsequently conveyed to Bedlam.