This important trial came on before Sir S. Le Blanc and a special jury. The defendant, Joseph Hanson, Esq. was indicted for having unlawfully encouraged a number of persons to riot.
Serjeant Cockell addressed the jury on the part of the crown. It appeared that the weavers assembled in great numbers on the 24th of May, near Manchester; that the next morning they again assembled, much increased in numbers; that Mr. Starkie, the Borough-reeve, strove to persuade them to disperse, but in vain. In the afternoon, they were increased to about ten thousand; and the magistrates, preceded by a party of the 4th dragoons, came to the ground, and the riot act was read. About this time the defendant arrived on horseback, attended by his groom; he went up to Capt. Trafford, who commanded the dragoons, and asked, if he might speak to the people? Capt. Trafford said, Not unless he could persuade them to depart peaceably; but he thought his (the defendant's) presence would irritate them; and he told him, he would oblige him if he would leave the field. This he did not immediately; but as he rode along, the people huzza'd, and he pulled off his hat, and spoke to them. The witnesses for the prosecution swore that they heard him use expressions to the following effect: "My lads, your cause is good—be firm, and you will succeed. I will support you as far as three thousand pounds will go; and if that will not do, I will go further. Nadin and his faction shall not drive you from the field this day. I am sorry your hill is lost—My father was a weaver, I am a weaver, and have got my money by your industry—and I am the weaver's friend." He afterwards left the field, and rode towards his own house. To prove this, a sergeant, and two corporals, of the 11th dragoons, and two constables, were called.
Mr. Raine made a most eloquent speech for the defendant; and said, he should call many respectable witnesses to prove that he, on that day, was constantly advising the people to be peaceable, and retire to their homes. The groom, who attended the defendant the whole of the time, said he never heard his master make use of the expressions sworn to by the other witnesses: that when the dragoons drew their swords, his master's horse becoming restive, he slipped off, walked a little way, and then mounted the groom's horse and rode off.
Mr. Stennett, Mr. Norris, Mr. C. Sattarthwaite, Mr. Brierley, and a number of others, deposed to the defendant's exhorting the people to refrain from mischief. None of these witnesses had heard him make use of any of the other expressions ascribed to him. Serjeant Cockell, in a warm and animated speech of an hour and ten minutes, observed upon the evidence for the defendant; and insisted, that, with the exception of the groom's, it corroborated that given by the witness for the crown: as they deposed as to the defendant's conduct and speeches after he had been heard and seen by the witnesses for the prosecution. He said, he had no doubt of what his intentions were; if they were as peaceable as they had been represented, why did he not join and assist the magistrates ?—instead of which he addressed the people (although requested not by Capt. Trafford) who became more unruly, huzzaing when he spoke, and he returning the compliment. . The jury, after a few minutes' consideration, returned a verdict of Guilty; which subjected the defendant to fine and imprisonment.