Thursday, 10 January 2013

10th January 1813: Henry Hobhouse writes to the Home Office about executions & pleas for mercy

Private & Confidential

Jan. 10. [1813]

Dear Sir,

Park has been with Mr. Justice LeBlanc, & conversed with him (in the absence of Baron Thomson) on the Subject of the Executions. He says it is probable that when they have attentively considered the Cases, & decided on the fittest Cases for Execution, they will order the Executions to take place at an early Period than usual (as they did at Lancaster), but not without allowing a sufficient Interval for the Convicts to make an application to the mercy of the Crown, if they shall think fit. But they have not yet made their minds up on the Subject. He added that if there had been no Conviction for Murder, they would probably have accelerated the Execution of some of the other Offenders, but that they consider the Impression made by the Execution which has already taken place, to render it less necessary to make another very early Example.

One of the men convicted yesterday sent to Cartwright afterwards to bargain for his Recommendation for mercy upon the Terms of making a full Disclosure. I told Cartwright that the only Language he ought to hold on this Head should be, that the only Hope of mercy was in an ample Confession, but that it was impossible for any one here to give the slightest Assurance that Mercy would be the Effect even of Confession. I have since seen Mr Blackburn the Prisoner’s Attorney in the presence of Mr. Park, & we both held the same Language as I have above expressed. I further told him that in these Cases the application must be to the Crown, & not the Prosecutor, for that the Prosecution having been taken out of the Prosecutors Hands by Government, his Recommendation would not be of any greater Weight than that of any other Individual. I promised to transmit to Ld. Sidmouth any Petition which may be put into my Hands while I remain at York, & Mr. Park advised him to expedite any Discovery which any of the Prisoners my propose to make, on, Account of the Probability of the Judge’s ordering as speedy an Execution as they had done at Lancaster.

Mr. Williams the Barrister, who has been Counsel for some of the Prisoners, has told Mr. Park that he is convinced there is a Depot of Arms somewhere, & Blackburn admits his Belief that it contains 400 Stand. This is the most important Fact that can be expected from Confession. But I feel some Doubts, whether any of the Convicts except the Murderers, are likely to be in possession of the Secret. From them I do not find that any material Fact was obtained, & I must apprize Lord Sidmouth that in the State of this Gaol it is scarcely probable that there should be a Confession in any case. He will be astonished to learn that in this great County, the Gaol contains but one condemned Cell. Here the three murderers were placed together, giving Countenance to & upholding each other of course, instead of leaving each Individual to the Workings of his own mind, & fitting him for making his Peace with God & the best Reparation in his power to the injured Laws of his Country. There are other points in which this appears to me to be a very ill-regulated Gaol, upon which I shall probably trouble you with a Letter, if I do not find that the Observations which I have made on the Subject to some of the magistrates are likely to be attended with good Effect.

I hope we shall finish on Tuesday, & shall be very happy to find that Lord Sidmouth approves as much of our whole Proceedings as I learn by your Letter just received that he did up to Wednesday Eveng

I am
Dear Sir
Yours most faithfully
H. Hobhouse

If you have seen the Leeds Mercury of yesterday, you will observe it to be stated that the Jury recommended to mercy Smith the Murderer. There being no Truth in this, I have directed a contradiction of it to be inserted in the York Paper tomorrow, as well as of the Statement in yesterday's York Herald that a long List of Men have been acquitted, who have not been tried.

[To] J Beckett Esq

This letter can be found at HO 42/132.

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