THE MARQUIS OF SLIGO
Convicted of enticing British Seamen to desert, fined Five Thousand Pounds, and imprisoned Four Months in Newgate, 16th of December, 1812
AT nine o'clock Sir William Scott attended, and charged the grand jury. The Court then adjourned till ten o'clock, at which hour Sir William Scott returned, accompanied by Lord Ellenborough, Mr Baron Thompson and several Doctors of Law. The Duke of Clarence was on the bench. The jury were then sworn to try the Marquis of Sligo, who appeared in court, and sat by his counsel, Messrs Dauncey, Dampier and Scarlett.
Before the trial began, Mr Dauncey stated that his lordship wished to plead guilty as to part, and not guilty as to the rest; and wished, therefore, only one part now to be entered into.
Dr Robinson, on the other side, was not unwilling to accede to this arrangement; but Lord Ellenborough said that the indictment must not be garbled. He must plead guilty to the whole, or not guilty to the whole.
After some conversation between the counsel the trial proceeded; the indictment was read, charging the Marquis with unlawfully receiving on board his ship William Elden, a seaman in the King's service, and detaining, concealing and secreting him. The second count charged him with enticing and persuading the said seaman to desert; the third count, with receiving the said Elden, knowing him to have deserted.
There were other counts with respect to other seamen, and a count for an assault and false imprisonment.
Dr Robinson (the Advocate-General) stated the case. Captain Sprainger (examined by the Attorney-General) stated that in April, 1810, the Marquis was introduced to him by letter from Admiral Martin; his lordship appeared desirous of making a tour, and for that purpose hired a vessel called the Pylades. The witness gave him all the assistance in his power, by sending to him riggers and carpenters and gunners, who were lent to him for the purpose of outfitting his vessel, but still remained part of his (Captain Sprainger's) crew. In the course of these transactions his lordship passed and repassed in a boat called the gig, which was rowed by four men: Charles Lee, Robert Lloyd, James Foljambe and John Walker; they had belonged to the boat for three years, and were constantly in it. The defendant observed that they were fine clever- looking men. Afterwards, about a week before he sailed, he missed two of these men, which the more surprised him as they were very trusty seamen, had never been absent or irregular, and, though frequently suffered to go on shore without a midshipman, had never in any instance abused this confidence. They had, besides, the wages of three years due to them. On the 13th, before he sailed, he went on board the Pylades, to see Lord Sligo, and told him of the extraordinary circumstance of his missing these two men, whom his lordship probably recollected. He was then going to communicate to his lordship some suspicions which his officers had suggested to him, when Lord Sligo interrupted him, saying surely he (Captain Sprainger) could not think him so base as to take away these men, after the civilities by him shown to his lordship. He further said that some of the men whom he had lent to him had offered to desert, but that he refused to accept them. Witness then replied to Lord Sligo that he trusted he had not his men, and that he would not take them or any others from his Majesty's service; but, lest they should come to him, he (Captain S.) would leave a description of their persons, and take his lordship's word of honour that he would not receive them, but give them up to the commanding officer at Malta, who had orders to keep them till his return. He then left his lordship, having received his promise and word of honour, and having remarked to his lordship how serious a thing it was to entice his Majesty's seamen. The fleet was at that time nearly two thousand below its complement, and it was very difficult to procure British seamen. He did not muster his lordship's crew; they seemed to be foreigners, in number about twenty or thirty. His lordship had proposed to take fifty men, as his vessel was to be a letter of marque. A few would have been sufficient for the purposes of navigation. As soon as he reached the ship he ordered a description of the two men to be made out, and it was sent to Lord Sligo; he received no answer then, though he afterwards had a letter from his lordship. He had never seen Lee or Lloyd since. (The letter was here read, in which Lord Sligo stated that in the course of his voyage he found that he had on board some men-of-war's men, and that he was determined to send them on shore the first opportunity. Whatever expenses he might incur on their account he should put down to the score of humanity, and glory in it. He thought this explanation necessary to Captain Sprainger, who had treated him like a gentleman; but the other captain who complained he should not notice. If the business was brought into court he should do his best to defend himself; and if he did not succeed he had an ample fortune, and could pay the fines.) This letter was dated Constantinople.
William Elden, a seaman -- who was in the navy nearly thirteen years, and at the time mentioned was on board the Montague, off Malta, and had a ticket-of-leave to go ashore there on the 13th of that month, in the morning -- said he and other seamen, belonging to the Montague, four of them in all, were going back to their ships when they were accosted by two men in livery, and another, who was dressed in a white jacket. The men in livery were servants of the Marquis of Sligo, and the other was the second mate of his lordship's vessel. They gave him drink, and so intoxicated him that he knew not how he got on board the Pylades, where he found himself placed in the pump well, abaft the mainmast, when he recovered his senses; and there he also saw two more of his shipmates, and a stranger, who was in a sailor's dress. Witness then came on deck, where he saw MacDermot, Thompson, Cook, Fisher and Brown on the deck. He also saw Lord Sligo on board, that evening on deck, who asked him his name, when witness told his name, and that he belonged to the Montague. They were then two miles from shore. Next morning he again saw Lord Sligo, being then perfectly sober, when he was walking the deck with a shipmate of the Montague, of which they were talking. Lord Sligo again asked their names, and they answered that they were Elden and Story, and that those were the names by which they went on board that ship; but Story told his lordship that being men-of-war's men it would not do to go by their own names, and Lord Sligo immediately said: "Come to me, and I will alter them." They went on the quarterdeck, and defendant gave the name of William Smith to the witness. A few days afterwards his lordship told him that he would be useful in exercising the guns, to which he replied that he saw none there who did not know the use of the guns as well as himself. He then saw nine men of the Montague there: Cook, Fisher, Brown, Story, Sullivan, Thompson, MacDermot and Travers. Lord Sligo took an active part in the management of the vessel, and assigned to them all their duties. At Palermo he asked Lord Sligo for leave to go on shore to get clothes; his lordship gave him five four-dollar pieces for wages. He went onshore and returned, not surrendering himself to any King's ship. At Messina he begged leave to quit the Pylades, and offered to return all the money and clothes he had received; his lordship would not suffer him, and foreign sentinels were placed in arms over the crew to prevent any from escaping. Lord Sligo at Palermo told the crew that he had procured a protection from Admiral Martin, having pledged his honour that he had no men-of-war's men on board. They were afterwards chased by the Active frigate and a brig, and were brought to, and a King's boat came alongside. Lord Sligo then desired witness to go below, who said he would rather stay where he was. The rest were then below. Lord Sligo left him for a few minutes; but returned, and told him he must go down. He then went down into the after-hold underneath the cabin, where were the rest of the seamen of the Warrior and the Montague; the hatch was closed over them, and a ladder placed at top. In about half-an- hour they were called up. They then proceeded to Patmos, where he and some more had leave of absence for a few days. The next day Lord Sligo sailed without giving them any notice, and left him and six more in great distress. They were forced to sell their clothing; they had nothing but what they stood upright in. They got a boat, but could not overtake the Pylades; they then went to Scio, and went with a British consul to the Pylades; but Lord Sligo refused to take them in, and threatened to fire at them; he knew them very well, as they were all upon deck; he took four of them on board -- the carpenter, the surgeon, the man of the Warrior (Lee), and the sailmaker. The witness had been since tried, and sentenced to receive two hundred lashes; but his punishment had been remitted.
Fisher, Sullivan and Brown, all belonging to the Montague, corroborated Elden's statement. Captain Hayes deposed to his having searched the Pylades, when the Marquis declared, upon his word, no men were concealed on board.
After a short consultation in the box the jury found his lordship guilty of all the counts in the indictment, except one for false imprisonment.
The judge (Sir William Scott) then ordered that his lordship, who was in court, should enter into recognisance to appear the next day to receive judgment.
The trial lasted till nearly two o'clock in the morning.
The Marquis of Sligo on Thursday appeared in court to receive sentence; an affidavit was put in, which purported that he knew nothing of the circumstance of his having men-of-war's men on board till the time of the search.
Lord Ellenborough interrupted it by observing that the affidavit must not impeach the evidence.
Mr Scarlett said that was not its object.
The affidavit was then continued, stating that as soon as he found he had two of the Warrior's men he was anxious to dismiss them; it then expressed contrition for his folly and rashness, and a hope that the letter which was written to Captain Sprainger (which was never intended for the public) would not be thought to convey any disrespect for the laws of his country, which he was ready and anxious to uphold.
Sir William Scott then, after an impressive speech, passed the sentence of the Court upon his lordship, which was, that his lordship should pay to the King a fine of five thousand pounds, and be imprisoned four months in Newgate.
His lordship bowed, and was conducted by the keepers through the private door to the jail.