At the Summer Assizes at Antrim 1812, Montgomery Brown stood indicted for the murder of Charles Moore, at Belfast, on the 3d of September 1811. This trial had been put off last Assizes, on account of the absence of a material witness on behalf of the prisoner; and an application was now made to the Court for a similar purpose upon the affidavit of the prisoner, but refused by the Judge.
Counsellor Macartney rose on behalf of the prosecution. He stated, that on the 3d of September, 1811, prisoner was Captain of a vessel then lying at the quay of Belfast; the deceased was a respectable victualler in Belfast, and prisoner came to his shop to purchase some meat; deceased had been married about a year, and a young child, the fruit of such marriage, was then in the shop; and deceased, taking up the child, asked prisoner, "Was not that a fine fellow?" Prisoner answered, "Yes, to be the child of an Irish b—r." Deceased replied, "Why not by an Irish as well as a Scotch b—r?", prisoner being a Scotchman. Prisoner replied, "He would make him repent saying that." Deceased then turned away, not expecting so fatal a result, when the prisoner seized a large knife which lay in the shop, and stabbed the deceased in the back of his loin; of which wound he languished for a few days, and then died. Several witnesses were examined, whose unanimous testimony went to establish those facts.
The Jury, after retiring about ten minutes, returned a verdict of—Guilty. The Clerk of the Crown then addressed the prisoner in the usual form:
"You, Montgomery Brown, heretofore stood indicted for the wilful murder of Charles Moore, for trial of which you put yourself on God and your country, which country have found you guilty: what have you to say, why judgment of death and execution should not be awarded against you according to law?"
Prisoner—"My Lord, if I am guilty of it I know nothing of it; I had no malice to the gentleman; I did not know I acted the crime."
The Judge then addressed the prisoner in nearly the following terms:—
"Montgomery Brown, you have been found guilty of murder, on clear and most satisfactory evidence. It is very true you had no previous malice to this unfortunate man. Your jury have been told so; but they have found you guilty of inflicting a mortal wound, without the slightest provocation. It is proper that the equity of the law under which you suffer should be laid before the eyes of this country. You have been found guilty of plunging a knife into the body of the innocent victim—a deadly weapon—with the utmost malignity of heart, and hurried a young man, recently married, out of the world. A greater crime you could not be guilty of: precipitating him to the grave in the prime of life; depriving his child of a father, and his wife of a loving husband. You have committed that crime which stands marked with the utmost abhorrence of heaven. You stepped between him and that Providence, of that God, who alone has a right to dispose of human life; and you are deprived of the unavailing plea of unconsciousness in the commission of this direful crime, unless your having no provocation is to be considered a proof of your madness. This was the madness of wickedness; and you have given vent to your brutal fury in the sacrifice of this innocent man. I am now bound to tell you, you are to expect no mercy in this world; here you have but a short time to live. The law, to mark its abhorrence of your crime, has shortened the period of your existence. That short interval employ in seeking the mercy of Heaven. Let not your mind be distracted with any vain hopes of mercy in this world."
His Lordship then proceeded to pronounce the awful sentence of the law, in the usual solemn terms, viz. To be hanged on Monday, and his body to be delivered to the Surgeons of the County Infirmary for dissection. The prisoner made no reply, but was silently removed to the gaol.
This unfortunate man, from the period of receiving sentence of death, spent his few remaining hours in acts of devotion, in which he was assisted by the Presbyterian clergyman of the parish. His wife was also his companion during these solemn hours of preparation for death. Monday, about three in the afternoon, she was withdrawn from him, as also his daughter. But previous to his leaving the gaol, about half-past five o'clock, they were permitted to have a last interview with him for a few minutes. He was then conducted from the prison to a chaise, in which also the clergyman accompanied him; and, thus attended, he was conveyed to the common place of execution, escorted by the Sheriff, and a very strong guard of the Pembrokeshire sharp-shooters, stationed at Carrickfergus. Having arrived at the fatal spot, he spent nearly half an hour in devotional exercises, and then the necessary preparations were made for the finishing of the law. He ascended a car with the executioner; and, having addressed the surrounding spectators, an immense multitude, he admonished them in a particular manner to avoid the sin of drunkenness, and to guard against passion.
After he had delivered a few words to this effect, he was launched into eternity; and, when the body had been suspended the usual length of time, it was taken down and carried to the Old Court house; where his afflicted family waited to receive it.