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The Newgate Calendar - JOSEPH RELPH


Who was indicted for Murder, and found guilty of Manslaughter.

Relph being burned in the hand

AT the sessions held at the Old Bailey, in December, 1778, Joseph Relph, mariner, was indicted for the wilful murder of Andrew Schultz on the 26th of November preceding; and he likewise stood charged on the coroner's inquisition, for feloniously killing and slaying the said Andrew. The prisoner was employed in the impress service, and the following is the state of the evidence adduced on the trial.

John Clear swore, that he was a beadle of Wapping; that Mr James Stewart, a tallow-chandler, called him from the Mason's lodge, and told him a man was murdered: that he went to the sign of the Gibraltar, where he found the prisoner leaning down in a box, having the fingers of his left hand, which were bloody, tied in a handkerchief: that on this deponent's asking what was the matter, Relph said he had been used ill, and cut to pieces; that he went with him quietly to the Round-house, and the next day before a magistrate, who committed him to New prison.

John Hageman deposed, that he was a servant to Mr Compton, sugar-baker, in Brewer's-lane; there were five of his companions, all of whom were going home to Mr Compton's; that they were all on the foot-pavement, and the deceased was running before him: that he saw a woman with a lantern in her hand crossing the way, and a girl about eight years old with her; and that Hardwicke (one of the company) lifted up the woman's peticoats behind.

The counsel now interposed, and said he should prove that the woman and child were the wife and daughter of the prisoner.

Hageman proceeded, and said that the woman having walked a hundred yards, the prisoner overtook them; on which his wife pointed to Hardwicke, and said 'This is the young man that laid hold of my gown.' The prisoner crossed to Hardwicke, and asked him what business he had to meddle with the woman's gown. Hardwicke made no reply; and one Kello coming up at the juncture, said to the lieutenant, (Relph) 'Sir, I am your prisoner, and will go with you where you like.' This evidence farther deposed, that the lieutenant took Hardwicke by the neck, and pulled his hat off.

John Kello was now sworn; but not being perfect in the English language, an interpreter was sworn to deliver his evidence, which was to the following effect: that Andrew Schultz was one of the party, returning with his fellowservants to Mr Compton's; that he himself was sober, but doubted if Hardwicke was not somewhat in liquor: that he did not see the prisoner till he came and put a hanger to his breast; on which this deponent acknowledged himself his prisoner, and consented to go where he pleased; but that he thrust the hanger through his clothes, and slightly wounded him in the breast.

When this deponent felt the sword hurt him, he jumped aside; and then Schultz said 'You had better put your sword by.' After some struggling Kello took the hanger from the lieutenant, but did not observe whether Schultz was wounded or not; that the prisoner went to a publichouse, and afterwards heard that Schultz was wounded; and that the lieutenant was cut in the hand.

Frederick Hardwicke, being sworn, acknowledged that he had touched the bottom of the woman's gown as he was passing her; owned he was a little disguised in liquor, and that, after he had touched the woman's gown, he received a blow from behind on his neck, and his hat fell off; but he could not tell by whom the blow was given. When he recovered himself, and got to his companions, be observed that Schultz was wounded, and that the lieutenant was going to the public house with a drawn hanger in his hand; he followed him, and stayed there two minutes: he observed that the lieutenant's hand was bloody, and immediately went home to his own lodgings.

Sarah Hoskins, an oyster woman, wife of William Hoskins of Bell-dock, saw four young men in the highway, and observed the lieutenant collar Hardwicke, and likewise saw a woman on the other side of the way, whom she heard say 'you dirty fellow, how dare you meddle with my gown?' or petticoat, the deponent could not be sure which. Her husband, the lieutenant, then came up, and said 'My dear, what is the matter?' to which she replied, 'the dirty fellow has been pulling my gown,' or words to that purpose.

Mrs Hoskins then saw the lieutenant collar Frederick Hardwicke, and say 'If you don't go along with me, I will draw my sword and stab you.' They then struggled from the Bell ale-house door, till they got between a brazier's and tin-shop, at the distance of nine or ten yards. In the mean time one of the men, who had a stick, hit the lieutenant on the back while Hardwicke and he were struggling. During this commotion the lieutenant's wife was hanging round his neck in the highway; but this deponent did not see the sword drawn, only heard the threat that it should be done: nor did she know whether the sword was drawn before or after the lieutenant was struck.

About five or six minutes after the lieutenant was struck with the stick, she heard somebody cry out, 'Stop him, stop him, the young man is dead in the tin-shop.' The lieutenant then went into the ale-house.

This was the substance of the evidence; and the judge then said to the counsel for the prisoner, 'Do you mean to make this less than manslaughter?' To which the counsel replied in the following words: 'No, my lord, we cannot make it less than manslaughter. The lieutenant was used very ill while his wife was hanging round his neck to prevent any further fighting. She was cut a-cross her neck, and the lieutenant had his hand and his coat cut in two places, and was beat all over his arm and shoulders.'

The court now observing that, if the jury were satisfied, nothing farther need be heard, but if not they would proceed; the jury said, 'My lord, we are all satisfied;' and soon afterwards they gave a verdict that the prisoner was 'Not guilty of the murder, but guilty of manslaughter only;' on which he was branded and discharged.

We see that, in the instance before us, a life had been lost, yet the party accused could not be convicted of murder; and we have the rather inserted this trial, to caution people to avoid occasional quarrels in the streets, which can never be attended with any good consequences, and are frequently productive of the most fatal.

In the present case we find that the accused party was what is called a lieutenant of a press-gang; that is, the principal savage among savages. The custom of impressing, let counsellors plead, and senators debate till they are hoarse, is incompatible with every idea we can frame of the natural right to that freedom which God has bestowed equally on us all; and which, from the very nature of the donation, it appears to be every man's duty to support.

There is nothing very particular in the case before us which tends to prove any insolence on the part of the lieutenant; but these volumes are growing to a conclusion, and we could not think of putting a period to them, without entering our protest against a practice which opposes every sentiment of humanity, and militates against all the finer feelings of the soul.

What! because a man has served his country faithfully for a series of years by sea, and has at length retired in the fond hope of enjoying the sweets of domestic felicity, shall he be dragged from the fond wife, and the helpless innocents, when he wishes not again to tempt the danger of the seas? Honour, common honesty, plain sense, humanity, and even law, reprobate the idea!

We have had of late two or three instances of freemen of London being impressed; but they have been discharged: the hardiest, the most callous of our lawyers dare not bring the matter to a legal issue: they know that sound sense and the laws of the realm are against the practice; they therefore fly from the subject, and, like the Parthians, conquer in retreat.

Setting aside all moral considerations, and permitting even humanity to sleep on this subject, sound policy forbids this infernal practice. The British tars are full free to serve their country. Let proper bounties be offered, let proper encouragements be held forth, and the navy will never want a man. It will be said that the giving high bounties to sailors will occasion an increase of those taxes which are already nearly insupportable. No doubt but our taxes are very burthensome; but let our pensioners be reduced in number and in pay, and we shall not want a sum to reward our daring sailors. Besides, the bounties given to these men, politically considered, cost nothing. Every man knows that a seaman carries nothing abroad with him but his jacket, his trowsers, and his valour. He spends his bounty-money where he receives it; and the cash circulates among those who gave it.



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