The Spafields rioters, 1817
IN consequence of an advertisement which was placarded throughout the metropolis, stating that a meeting of manufacturers, artisans, etc., would be convened in these fields, to take into consideration the propriety of petitioning the prince regent upon the present distressed state of the country, an immense concourse of people was on Friday assembled. The meeting was advertised to be held at 12 o'clock, for 1; but long previous to that hour crowds were seen to flock from all parts to attend it.
At about half-past twelve, a hackney coach, containing four persons, was seen to drive into the fields, pelted with dirt and mud by the mob. Upon its arrival in the midst of the crowd, Mr Parkes addressed them from the window, and requested them to be tranquil. He then mounted upon the roof, and harangued the surrounding multitude till about 1 o'clock, when Mr Henry Hunt made his appearance, and commenced his harangue from one of the windows of the front room, and after declaiming in his usual manner about the corruption of the government and the distresses of the country, concluded by moving his resolutions; one of which was, that the assembly should meet again on the Monday fortnight following, in order to hear the prince regent's answer to the petition.
Hand-bills were afterwards diligently distributed, and a large concourse of people accordingly took place on the 2nd December, and is supposed to have consisted of at least 10,000 persons.
The Merlin's Cave (the public-house from which the meeting was formerly addressed) was surrounded by 12 o'clock with a great assemblage, that crowned the height before the door, and various detached parties spread over the fields, ready to fall into the general current directed to the quarter where Mr Hunt was expected to make his appearance. As a prelude to the scene that followed, a coal waggon, filled with persons of mean appearance, was stationed, shortly after 12 o'clock, at that part of the Spafields next the House of Correction. The waggon had two tri-coloured flags borne by its company: on one was inscribed, in large letters, the following inflammatory sentences:
'The brave Soldiers are our Brothers, treat them kindly.'
On the other were these words:
'Nature Feeds the Hungry,
'Truth Protects the Oppressed,
'Justice Punishes Crimes.'
About one o'clock the body of the persons in front of Merlin's Cave, had increased to at least twenty thousand; and about that time, Mr Hunt, the grand mover, made his appearance, seated in his gig drawn in tandem by a grey horse and a bay leader. He was alone, muffled in a coachman's box coat, and a pair of pistols were stuck in holsters within the gig. His reception, of course, was tumultuous. A servant walked by his leader, and the gig moved slowly through the people to the door of the Merlin's Cave public-house, where a person said to be Dyall, and others, who promoted the meeting, waited his coming. Mr W. Clark, the chairman of the last meeting, was immediately called to the same office on this occasion, and exhorted the meeting to commit no riots, as spies and informers were among them.
Mr Hunt then came forward amid the most tumultuous applause, and addressing the crowd by the usual title of 'Friends and fellow-countrymen,' exhorted them in the usual joke to keep silence, by holding their tongues, and not by calling out silence. He then harangued them as before for a considerable time, and in the course of his speech read his correspondence with lord Sidmouth, on the subject of the late petition. The meeting as usual was not guilty of any unlawful proceedings, but became an opportunity to the thieves, the ruffians, and the deluded, to take advantage of. Those actually engaged in the excesses, about 200 in number, separated from it about or a little before the arrival of the orator, and proceeded in a tumultuous manner through the streets of the metropolis.
On reaching Skinner-street, one of the body advancing before the rest entered the shop of Mr Beckwith, the gun-smith, calling out 'Arms, arms!' A gentleman who happened to be in the shop, named Platt, affably attempting to remonstrate, said, 'My friend, you are mistaken; this is not the place for arms.' The ruffian instantly drew forth a pistol, and lodged the contents of it in the hip or groin of Mr Platt, but the wound was happily not mortal. The shop-door was instantly closed upon the assassin, whom Mr Beckwith's shopman with great spirit seized, and hurried into the back shop, where he was given in charge to a constable, who negligently permitted the prisoner to go upstairs. The latter instantly sprung to the window, threw up the sash, waved his handkerchief, and addressing the mob, assured them that they had nothing to fear, as there were but few persons in the house, and he might easily be rescued. Hereupon the mob attacked the house, and, besides committing various ravages, carried off the prisoner. On their departure they also plundered the shop of a quantity of guns, pistols, &c. Fortunately a number of fire-arms were deposited out of sight, which they did not find. These afterwards were safely lodged in Newgate. The ruffians, thus armed, pursued their course into the city, with the view, it was apprehended, of attacking the Bank. As they proceeded along Cheapside, they loaded and discharged their pieces, and displayed various menacing gestures, as if to intimidate the spectators. Having arrived at the Royal Exchange, they entered that building in marching order. Here they were met by the lord mayor, alderman sir James Shaw, and a strong party of the police. As soon as the greatest part of the rioters had passed through the north side, directions were given to close all the gates leading out of the Exchange, by which means three men with arms, having on them the name of Beckwith, were taken into custody. Sir James Shaw seized the man, with the colours, and one of the guns.
The remainder of the insurgents became exceedingly furious on learning the capture of their comrades and their banners; and not being able to force the Exchange-gates, they raised each other upon their shoulders, and fired over the top of the gates at the lord mayor and his party, whilst others fired under the gates. A fresh force, however, arriving to his lordship's aid, the ruffians departed, taking the direction of the Minories, where they entered the shops of Mr Brander and Mr Ray, gunsmiths. From the former they took a quantity of arms, and from the latter they seized not only guns and pistols, but we understand also plate to a considerable amount. They also took from the premises of Mr Ray two small brass field-pieces on wheels, one of which was afterwards seized and lodged in the Mansion-house. They entirely destroyed all the windows and window-frames in the house of both these tradesmen. Happily the plunderers did not look into a storehouse belonging to Mr Brander, which contained at least 3,000 stand of arms. A party of horse was afterwards stationed in the Minories to protect the arms and valuable shops in that quarter. Many of the gun-makers in the eastern part of the town sent their arms to the Tower for protection, where, it is said, they were refused admission. All the prisons in and round the metropolis were put into a state of defence, and had some of the military stationed within for protection.
The city had been well provided with soldiers, both horse and foot, previous to the meeting; the horse paraded all parts of the metropolis during the evening and the night, to preserve order.
The Bank and East India House were provided with sufficient force to repel any attack, and the City Militia kept watch in the Royal Exchange. The inns of court had their gates closed, and the shops in almost all the principal streets of the city were shut.
In consequence of the recommendation of the lord mayor, the respectable inhabitants of the several wards pressed forward to be sworn in as special constables; and in Candlewick Ward alone more than one half of the householders were enrolled in less than an hour. It is supposed that several thousands were upon the whole sworn in, and among others, the members of Lloyd's and the Stock Exchange.
Two of the ruffians who were seized, were taken up to the committee-room at Lloyd's; the first was a shoe-maker, named Hooper, and the second, a sailor, named Cashman. They were both taken with arms in their possession; one of them had his pistol loaded. The sailor said, on being questioned by the city marshal, that he had but one life to lose, and he did not care; he had no work, could get none, and could not starve. Being asked where his parish was, he said he was born at sea, and had no parish. Hooper would not answer any question put to him; he would only say his name was John Hooper.
Another portion of the mob from Spafields, after indulging themselves for an hour or two, proceeded by the way of St. Giles's, and down Catherine-street, into the Strand, making pretty free wherever it suited their purpose. Holywell-street, St. Clement's, seemed particularly to invite them. Their chief object of attack there, about seven o'clock, was the Dog tavern. They broke almost all the front windows, and carried off the whole of the exposed larder. Next they assailed the premises of an elderly man, a Mr Gilbert, who sells a variety of clothing articles. From his shop, after smashing a few panes, they took different articles of wearing apparrel. Thence, in the same narrow street, they proceeded to a piece broker's, of the Israelitish name of Levi, where they helped themselves to whatever his second-hand assortment afforded them of great coats and under-coats, waistcoats, and other convenient articles of dress. There were strong symptoms of the disposition of the misled mob about Lambeth and the adjacent roads at four o'clock; but these manifestations of a spirit of rioting were happily checked by the march of a body of the military over Westminster Bridge into St. George's Fields, which consisted of a detachment of foot guards and of dragoons, followed up by more foot guards and artillery men, all with bayonets fixed and swords drawn. The effect of this was to cause the would-be depredators to skulk into lanes and corners, and mutter the discontent which they were afraid openly to avow.
These disgraceful scenes being happily ended, the next subject of importance was to bring the rioters to justice, and a great degree of anxiety was manifested on Tuesday morning, at the Mansion-house, in expectation that a public examination would take place upon the cases of Hooper, Cashman, and Carter, who were seized on Monday, at the Royal Exchange. It appeared that one was a shoemaker, and the other two sailors. Hooper, who was the person seized with the colours in his hand, was the treasurer of the Spafields meeting.
The lord mayor being of opinion that some clue might be discovered into the whole system, determined on a private examination as the most likely means to accomplish such an object. The prisoners were accordingly removed from the justice-room into another apartment; but nothing of importance transpired. They all acknowledged that they were concerned in the disturbance, and bore arms, which were given to them by persons of whom they knew nothing; but denied that they had any intention of doing mischief.
Richard Gambell, who is about seventeen years of age, was brought up by Goff, the officer, who said that he had stopped him in Queen-street, in the Borough, about two o'clock on Monday last, with a gun in his hand, his face being then blackened over, as the officer supposed for the purpose of disguise. The name of Beckwith appeared on the gun, and the prisoner was walking in the direction from Blackfriars.
Thursday, the lord mayor entered into a private examination of the case of Hooper, charged with being connected with the Watsons, and being present at the time Mr Platt was shot. At about a quarter after three his lordship proceeded to the public examination of Cashman.
Fogg, the marshalman, said, that he saw the prisoner with a fowling-piece in his hand, at the very moment sir James Shaw secured the man who held the flag. The witness struck the prisoner on the arm, and the fowling-piece fell to the ground: there was no bayonet on the gun, and the distance between him who held it and the person who was waving the colours was about thirty feet. The scene of this action was the Royal Exchange.
Cashman, who said he was anxious to speak in justification of himself, declared that the gun had been given to him at the corner of St. Paul's, while he was talking to the street-sweeper. There were, he said, two other men present and a woman, all of whom saw the transaction. The person who put the arms into his possession was not known to him, and be should find it difficult to recognize him amongst the great variety of persons who were furnished with weapons of the same description.
Cashman, in further explanation, said he was not in Spafields, or in any other fields, on the day of the disturbance; and denied that he knew the direction in which Skinner street was. In answer to a question from the lord mayor, be said he had not worn a cockade in his hat on Monday.
He admitted that he joined the mob, but not until they had passed the end of St. Paul's Church-yard; and declared that his conduct while he was in the crowd was inoffensive in every respect. The cause, he said, of his being in the streets on Monday was humanity, which compelled him to be the bearer of a letter from a messmate in the hospital to admiral Martin; at whose house, in the Admiralty, he had called, from which he was directed to the admiral's office, Somerset-house. He said he delivered the letter to a gentleman who wore spectacles, but could not tell at what hour he had done so. Cartwright, the marshalman, said, that Cashman told him as his reason for going out that day, that he had applied both to the lord mayor and the admiralty for relief in vain, and was determined to kill or be killed. Remanded.
Carter was next put to the bar, also charged with being one of the rioters. The witnesses were not present against him, owing to the late hour of the day; but the lord mayor said, that the prisoner confessed to him, in his private examination, that he had taken a spell at holding the colours, and had them taken from him because he held them too clumsily, and could not furl them. He also owned that he had been at the Spafields meeting.
Several witnesses appeared on behalf of the prisoner, to give him a good character, but he was remanded for further examination.
The lord mayor then adjourned to his private room, for the purpose of examining Preston.
Preston advanced with great boldness and intrepidity, and seemed in much better health than when at Spafields.
The lord mayor reminded the prisoner, that it was in evidence against him, that he not only was in the Minories with the mob, but the waggon at Spafields along with its acknowledged leaders.
Mr Bradford, who saw him there, deposed to this fact. Preston did not dispute or deny this evidence. He was secretary to the committee that managed the business of the Spafields meeting. If his conduct while acting in that capacity was a crime, it was a crime which he would be proud to commit again. He acknowledged he was in the waggon from which the pretended conspirators descended; but he was there exerting his influence to prevent riot, and giving his advice to behave orderly and peaceably. This was likewise the wish and the endeavour of that great and good man, that patriotic and worthy character Mr Hunt who, he was sure, had no knowledge of what was going forward in the city at the time be was addressing his countrymen in Spafields. That great man was exerting all his endeavours to restore the rights and to reduce the distresses of his country -- to reform public abuses, and to weaken the influence of those who destroyed the constitution of their country, and degraded the royal dignity.
The lord mayor remanded the prisoner till Saturday, telling him that in the mean time be might prepare for his defence, or call his friends or advisers to his assistance.
The pistols found upon Hooper were produced; and William Mills, shopman to Mr Parker, Holborn, stated, that he sold them on Saturday week, to a person who said his name was Watson.
Hooper said Watson gave the pistols to him on the Sunday previous to the meeting. He judged they were loaded, but did not try, and never fired them.
William Mills said, that the person who bought the pistols returned in an hour and a half and purchased another brace. The witness identified the pistol found upon Watson senior as one of them; and that found in Mr Beckwith's shop, and with which Mr Platt was wounded, as the other. He traced the notes given in payment for them with the name of Watson on them, which the witness had himself written.
Hooper said he received the pistols at No. 9 Graystock place, from young Watson: Preston was present at the time. The prisoner here gave an inconsistent account of the manner in which he became possessed of the pistols. He denied that Watson said a word to him about them, or offered them to him, but mentioned that he understood he was to take the pistols into his possession.
William Gunnell and Thomas Tyrell, two draymen, were then called, and put to the bar.
Mr Griffin of Skinner-street said that the first man that broke the windows of Mr Beckwith's shop was certainly a drayman: but I fear it is not possible for me to recollect either of the parties now at the bar.
[Here the lord mayor ordered the prisoners each to put on his hat, when the last witness continued] -- The man who broke the windows had, I think, smaller features than the prisoners; but the shortest prisoner of the two (Gunnell) I certainly saw in Skinner-street.
John Wilson -- I am a private in the first regiment of life guards, and was in the Minories on the day of the riots, where I saw a man very active in the mob. I cannot say he was a drayman, but he wielded a weapon like an axe very dexterously, and made a cut at my arm.
The lord mayor -- The shorter man (Gunnell) I saw myself, but who can speak to Tyrell?
Brand, the marshalman -- The prisoner, my lord, was pointed out to me as one of the rioters, and when I went to take him into custody, he said he knew he was wanted.
Mr Hirnish -- I was passing Skinner-street the day of the riots, and saw the mob turning towards the house of Mr Beckwith; they had a flag flying, and I saw a drayman advance to the shop, and with the butt-end of a musket break in the windows. The piece with which he did it was very large and heavy.
E. Hone, the foreman to Mr Beckwith, confirmed the testimony of the last gentleman, as to the outrage upon the shop being first committed by a drayman.
The lord mayor -- Can you, Tyrell, bring evidence as to where you were on the day of the riots?
Prisoner -- I can, my lord, I was in Spaflelds on that day for about half an hour, and then went to a public-house. I afterwards went to another public-house where I remained until four o'clock. A person named Gossett was with me.
The lord mayor -- Then let the individual you mention be brought forward on Thursday. The case against you is slight, and I shall not detain you longer than I can help.
Tyrell was discharged the following Thursday.
The lord mayor -- The fullest consideration up to the present time has been given to the different cases, and the best opinion taken which could be obtained. The result of these are, that the prisoners could all be indicted for the felony in breaking the house of Mr Beckwith, and plundering it of arms, etc. The city solicitor does not wish to decide too rapidly, and though all may be committed for the offence stated, there are of course shades of distinction in the guilt of the parties.
On Monday, the 20th of January, Mr Justice Park, and Mr Justice Burrough, accompanied by the lord mayor and the common serjeant, took their seats on the bench, when John Hooper, Richard Gamble, John Cashman, William Gunnell, and John Carpenter, were put to the bar to be arraigned before a London jury. They severally pleaded Not Guilty to the indictment, which imputed to them capital felony, in stealing, on the 2nd of December, in the parish of St. Sepulchre, two blunderbusses, ten pair of pistols, a great number of muskets, and twenty steel shot charges, worth about 250L., the property of Andrew Beckwith, in his dwelling-house. The indictment went on to state, that at the time of the said robbery, Charles Griffin, John Roberts, and Henry Beckwith, being then and there in the said dwelling-house, were put in great fear and bodily danger. Mr Bolland proceeded to call witnesses, but as the substance of their evidence has already been given in the general history of these riots and in the examinations at the Mansion-house, we deem it unnecessary to occupy the time of our readers by the detail of questions and answers, which would only swell the size of the volume, without giving any additional information.
Mr Justice Park said, that there had been no attempt, on the part of the prosecution, to establish high treason, and therefore if the indictment was sufficient to support the offence charged in it, it was enough; all that the jury had to decide was, whether the prisoners had committed the felony imputed to them or not; if they should be afterwards tried for high treason, it would then be the business of the judges who tried them to determine whether it were high treason or not.
The learned judge then called on Cashman to state what he had to say in his defence, to which he replied, that he had been on the morning of the riot to see a sick man in the London hospital, and then went to Rosemary-lane to get his breakfast. He afterwards went with a letter to admiral Martin's house at the admiralty, and delivered it to a gentleman, who looked at it; as he was returning home, he saw a mob near St. Paul's; the people were running along, but he did not join in any of the excesses which they committed.
John Hooper said, that after having been in custody three weeks, there was no material evidence against him, and that the lord mayor then admitted him to bail. To-day however, most frightful, terrible evidence had been brought against him, which he was wholly unprepared to meet. He had a tri-coloured cockade, but his motive was to take the colours from young Watson. He never entered Mr Beckwith's shop; his object in going into the city was to beg the lord mayor to keep the people quiet, as he was afraid of their proceedings. He could have had respectable witnesses, but the time was so short, probably they were not present.
Richard Gamble being called on for his defence, said, that on the 2nd of December he went to look for work, and saw a great many people in Holborn. They told him they were going to Spafields, and he accompanied them, thinking something good was to be proposed for mechanics; but he could not get near enough to hear what was said. When he came down to Mr Beckwith's shop, it was broken open, and the mob were very riotous; he picked up a gun in Skinner-street, and three men exclaimed, D--n his eyes, shoot him! he then went to Union-street, in the Borough, where he arrived about half past one -- a friend had seen him pick up the gun. He then called some persons to his character.
William Gunnell said, he did not break Mr Beckwith's windows, nor was he in the shop.
John Carpenter stated, that on the day in question he was out of employment, and went to the London-docks to look for work, but could not get any. He then went to Spital-fields to see a cousin, when he heard there was a riot at the Mansion-house; a man put a pistol and some powder and shot into his hand, but he said he had no use for it. He and Gunnell then called some witnesses to their characters, and Mr Justice Park then proceeded to sum up the evidence. He informed the jury, that the five prisoners at the bar stood indicted for feloniously stealing, at the parish of St. Sepulchre, in this city, a vast quantity of arms in the dwelling-house of William Andrew Beckwith, several persons being then in the dwelling-house, and put in fear. It was not necessary to prove that all the bodies and persons of the prisoners had been in Mr Beckwith's house; if any of them were without aiding, abetting, and comporting, they were equally guilty with those within. At the conclusion of his address, the jury desired leave to withdraw; they remained in their retirement from half past four o'clock till a quarter past six, and then pronounced the following verdict:
John Cashman, guilty -- John Hooper, Richard Gamble, William Gunnell, and John Carpenter, not guilty.
The Recorder was then alone on the bench, and seemed by his manner to express surprise at the acquittal of the four last: and thinking he had not heard the foreman distinctly, said Hooper not guilty!
He then added, Let the four last be detained to be tried for the misdemeanour; and, we believe, Let another London jury be summoned for to-morrow at ten o'clock.
Cashman was executed on the 12th of March, and to make the example the more striking, it was determined that his punishment should take place where his crime had been committed. At a quarter before five in the morning the platform was drawn from the session's house-yard to Skinner-street, and placed in front of Mr Beckwith's house. At six, one of the gentlemen who sat up with Cashman quitted his cell. The wretched man, during the early part of the night, indulged himself in observations on the injustice of his sentence, and the hardship with which he had been treated by government, as well as on his adventures; but towards morning he became more composed, having had about two hours sleep. Clean linen being brought him, he changed his shirt and drawers, put on a sailor's blue jacket, and white trousers, and tied a black silk handkerchief round his neck; he then expressed his readiness to die, and as the door of his cell opened to admit the sheriffs, stepped forward with alacrity, and said, "Am I to go now?"
About ten minutes before eight, he took his seat in the cart between the executioner and his assistant; his firmness was unabated, and not a muscle of his face betrayed any internal fear.
As the sheriffs came forward, the mob expressed the strongest feelings of indignation; groans and hisses burst from every quarter, and attempts were made to rush forward. The officers, however, stood firm to their posts, and being supported by the wooden rails, succeeded in preventing mischief. This conduct was frequently repeated before the cart reached its destination, Cashman joining with the multitude, and saying, "Hurrah, my boys, I'll die like a man!" On his quitting the cart, and ascending the scaffold, the groans were redoubled, and the criminal seemed fully to enter into the spirit of the spectators -- he joined in their cries with a horrible shout, and repeated his observations on the hardship of his case. His face was at first towards Holborn, but he afterwards turned round to greet the multitude on every side of him, crying, "Hurra, my hearties in the cause -- success -- cheer up."
When the executioner advanced to put the rope round his neck, the tumult increased to an alarming degree, and exclamations of disgust burst forth with greater violence than before. On the night-cap being put over his face, he said, "For God's sake let me see till the last -- I want no cap;" in this wish he was indulged, by the cap being withdrawn, when he immediately turned towards Mr Beckwith's house, and said "I'll be with you there" as if to signify that he would haunt the house after his death; and then, addressing the crowd again, he said, "I am the last of seven of us that fought for our king and country; I could not get my own, and that has brought me here."
The executioner having quitted the platform to perform his office underneath it, the miserable man addressed that part of the crowd nearest to him, exclaiming, "Now you give me three cheers when I trip hurra, you --!" and then calling to the executioner, he cried "Come, Jack, let go the jib-boom." The remaining short period of his existence he employed in a similar manner, and was in the act of cheering when the board fell from under his feet -- the cap was then drawn over his face, and he died with a very slight struggle. A dead silence instantly prevailed; but, after the lapse of a few minutes, expressions of indignation were again heard against every person who had taken any part in the awful scene. Cries of "murder!, murder!" "shame!, shame!" were heard from innumerable mouths; "Where are the conspirators? Why not hang them?" That part of the crowd most distant from the platform, soon began to retire, but many thousands remained until the body was cut down. At nine o'clock, a black deal shell was brought, and the body was placed in it by the executioner, under direction of the sheriffs; on seeing which, the populace made an attempt to get underneath the barriers, but were successfully resisted.
Cashman, from his own account, was born at sea, and lived for some time in America. His mother resides near Cork, in Ireland, and he said he had two brothers living, in the king's service, but where they were just previous to his death he did not know. On the morning before his execution he was visited by his aunt and cousin, and took an affectionate leave of them. After his conviction be was repeatedly visited by Watson and Preston, who, it is said, told him be would be set at liberty, through them, before long. He said that he had often seen the former previous to the meeting in Spaflelds and his name was on a list found upon Watson when be was apprehended.
Officers were instantly dispatched in search of the younger Watson in every direction, and the lord mayor hourly received communications respecting him.
At one time, when the lord mayor was in the justice-room, he received positive information that young Watson was seen on his way from London-bridge towards St. Thomas's hospital. His lordship lost no time in taking the proper steps to have the person so described overtaken and secured, which was effected, but it was not the desired party. Information of a still stronger nature was given to his lordship of a young man, whose person, dress, &c. corresponded in every way with those of young Watson, being in a house in the vicinity of the King's Bench. Leadbetter and another were dispatched to the place, and secured the person in his bed about two o'clock in the morning. In the possession of the young man there was found a number of papers, from which it appeared, that he was formerly a medical person, and had been in the army. Upon a strict examination, however, of his person and features, nearly as be resembled in every particular save one, it was evident that young Watson bad still continued to elude s vigilance perhaps unequalled. A young man was detained at Cambridge for three days, because he had the misfortune to be like young Watson!
When his lordship's anxiety for the apprehension of Watson was known, innumerable letters poured in from all parts of the country; and, after the business of the justice-room, he was frequently occupied till nearly one o'clock in the morning with examining their contents; some were descriptive of individuals who were supposed to be the offender, and others purported to come from himself. A great many, however, bearing the face of forgeries, were not thought worthy of notice.
After his escape from the house of Mr Beckwith, where he had shot Mr Platt, it is believed he returned hastily to his lodgings, and possessed himself of some papers and trifling articles, and then went to a public-house in the neighbourhood of Fetter-lane, where he fell in with his father, and, with him and another person, left London, on their way to Northampton. At Highgate, however, they were intercepted by the horse patrole, who took them for highwaymen, and a desperate scuffle ensued, which ended in the capture of the elder Watson, and the dispersion of the others. Young Watson had the good fortune to get safe to London, and notwithstanding the large reward offered for his apprehension, received protection from several families. The circumstance of his effectual concealment is the more remarkable, from his hiding-place being known to above eighty individuals, many of whom were in indigent circumstances. One family in whose house he was concealed, dismissed their female servants, and the daughters did the household drudgery.
He was ultimately secreted in the house of a respectable shoe-maker in the neighbourhood of Newgate-street, where he underwent a deliberate and effectual preparation for his reppearance among those most anxious to seize him. His hair was cut and dressed in a particular way, and his forehead and face were burnt with caustic, to give him a blotchy and scrofulous appearance. Clothes in the Quaker fashion were prepared for him, and they were so made and stuffed as to make him, when dressed in them, look very corpulent, and shoes of an ingenious make were contrived to deceive all observers as to his real height; when on his feet the shoes seemed to be made with double soles and heels, as if for the purpose of elevating a person of very short stature, whereas they had in reality scarcely any sole or heel at all, and by this clever contrivance those who knew the young man well, would suppose the person who stood before them to be much shorter than he really was.
All these precautionary steps being taken, a passage to America was engaged for him on board the Venus, and it was considered prudent for him to apply personally, in his new character of the Quaker Pearson (the name assumed by him), for his passport. The vessel lay at Gravesend, whither he repaired. In his departure from town he again experienced an extraordinary degree of good fortune, for the police had received an obscure hint of the place of his concealment, and actually visited and searched the house within an hour or two after he had left it, but they had no clue whatever to the road he had taken, or indeed positive information of his having been actually concealed in the place pointed out to them.
At Gravesend he applied at the Alien Office for, and received, personally, his passport, he then went on board the ship, which remained in the Thames from Tuesday to Saturday, during which time it was searched by three different parties of magistrates and police officers, accompanied by persons who knew him well, yet he never once lost his self-possession, always made himself conspicuous, and had the good fortune to be passed over without exciting the least suspicion. He repeatedly entered into conversation with the passengers about himself and his escape, in which he affected so blunt and dogmatical a style, as to obtain the name of the 'Proud Farmer'.
Having arrived safely in America, he wrote a letter to his mother, which was received in July 1817, and gives a most glowing and enthusiastic account of that country, as the land of liberty and plenty, says he is in excellent health, and promises to have his mother and her family with him very shortly; but in these, as well as in his political calculations, he appears to have reckoned with more zeal than wisdom, for in October 1817, when Mr Fearon visited America, we find him sunk to the lowest possible depth of wretchedness and contempt, a loathsome sot, murdering his time in miserable drinking-houses, alike shunned by and shunning all respectable society and social intercourse. Mr Fearon's is the last account we have of this intemperate, misguided, and guilty young man.