Margate Crime and Margate Punishment

Anthony Lee

Appendix IV Report 1824

Advertisement: Report of the meeting to consider the case of James Taylor, 30 June 1824.  [Kentish Chronicle, July 2 1824]

Margate, June 30th, 1824.

At a very Numerous and highly Respectable Meeting of Inhabitants convened by the DEPUTY, and held this day at the Town Hall, at Twelve o'clock, “for the purpose of laying before them the Measures which have been adopted with the view of obtaining the Pardon of  JAMES TAYLOR, now at Botany Bay, under a  commuted sentence of Transportation for Life, but who it is believed, is guiltless of the Crime, for which he is transported; and to adopt such further means in the Case, as shall be deemed most advisable."

FRANCIS COBB, Esq., Deputy,
In the Chair,

This Meeting having  fully considered the  Case of JAMES TAYLOR, who, with Eighteen others, were tried before the Honourable Baron Wood, at the Spring  Assizes for the County of Kent, held at Maidstone, in the Year One Thousand Eight Hundred and Twenty-two, under the Statute fifty-second George the Third, upon a charge of having, on the Second Day of September, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Twenty-one, feloniously assembled together with Fire Arms, and other offensive Weapons, at, or near Marsh Bay, in the Parish of Saint John the Baptist, in this County, for the purpose of removing Smuggled Goods. It appears that upon the Trial of the said Indictment, Thomas Cooke, James Justice, Samuel Kerby Meredith, and Thomas Mears, were examined, on the part of the Crown, not one of whom (except Cooke) charged the said James Taylor with being in the affray which was the subject of the Indictment;  that Cooke, upon his Cross Examination, admitted that there was much confusion and noise, that he himself was in a state of considerable alarm, and that the morning was dark and hazy at the time at which it appeared to him that he saw and heard Taylor in the Affray; that it is evident, that if Taylor was in the Affray, his presence there must have been known to Justice, Meredith, and Mears, in as much as they were Accomplices in the Offence with which Taylor was charged; that on the part of Taylor, Three Witnesses, namely, Robert Harman, Charles Winch, and James Saunders, were separately examined; all of whom proved most clearly and distinctly, that Taylor was engaged with them, from Twelve to Three o'Clock in the Morning, in another transaction at one of the Bathing Houses, at Margate, a distance of nearly Two Miles from the place at which the Affray happened, for which Taylor stood Indicted; that although the Transaction in which Taylor was so engaged, was one of an illicit nature, yet it amounted however, only to a Misdemeanour, and was totally unconnected with the Affair which took place at Marsh Bay, as is fully proved by the  Affidavits of the said Robert Harman, John Saunders, Charles Winch, and one John Jones; that Taylor being naturally anxious, not only on his own account, but for the protection of the persons concerned with him in the illicit Transaction at Margate, was induced on his first Examination, to suppress that fact, and consequently, to give an unfaithful account of what he was doing during the time of the Affray at Marsh Bay; the minds of the Jury being unduly impressed with this Circumstance, found Taylor, together with the other Eighteen Persons who were indicted with him, guilty of the capital Felony with which they were charged; it appears also that Mr. Adolphus who had been retained as Counsel for Taylor, handed over his Brief to Mr Walford, and he left it to Mr Ryland, who had not read one word of it.

That the learned Judge, who presided at the trial, being convinced that Cooke was mistaken as to the identity of Taylor, and being, therefore, dissatisfied with the verdict of the Jury, recommended Taylor to his Majesty for a Free Pardon; that, notwithstanding this recommendation, Taylor has been Transported for Life, contrary to what has been uniformly the benign course pursued, in similar cases, by his Majesty’s illustrious Family, since their Accession to the Throne of these Realms.

It is acknowledged by the Secretary of State, that Mr Baron Wood did recommend Taylor for Pardon, but it is stated the Judge altered his opinion after he had received further information from Mr Peel; from whence he obtained it, or how he could ascertain its truth, is very  difficult to understand.

That, in addition to the case made by Taylor at his trial, further proofs of his innocence are to be found in the dying depositions of the four persons, who were executed for the offence charged upon Taylor, all negativing Taylor’s presence at, or participation in, the crime for which they suffered; and also in Stephen Laurence, who employed all the persons who were engaged in the said affray, at Marsh Bay, declaring to several persons of the most respectable rank and character at Margate, that  Taylor was wholly innocent of the charge brought against him, and that he (Laurence) was the person who spoke the words, and did the acts, attributed by Cooke to Taylor.

That therefore whether regard be had to the evidence given at the trial, or that which has been subsequently obtained, but more especially when both are taken together into consideration, there is abundant proof of Taylor’s innocence; for it is clear that of the four witnesses who were produced on the part of the prosecution, one only affected to identify Taylor; and that witness admitted that he was at the time to which his Testimony referred, placed in such circumstances as necessarily to  induce much suspicion as to the possibility of his accuracy: for there was great noise and confusion then prevailing, and he was in a state of much personal alarm, and the night was dark and hazy;  and moreover if such testimony stood alone, it ought to be deemed insufficient to ground a judgement of Guilty upon; but Taylor’s defence is fortified by the negative testimony of three of the witnesses produced on the part of the Crown, by the direct and positive evidence of three consistent witnesses produced by the Prisoner, who could not be mistaken as to the fact to which they deposed, by the dying depositions of four convicts who were executed; and by the declaration of Laurence, who admitted himself to be the person whom Cooke mistook for Taylor; so that the charge against Taylor is sustained by the testimony of one witness only, who was placed in circumstances which furnish strong ground to conclude that he was mistaken; while his innocence is attested by eleven witnesses, neither of whom could be under any mistake or delusion as to the Prisoner’s identity.

And again it appears, that upon a late application to the Honourable House of Commons in behalf of James Taylor; Mr Peel stated his wish to do justice to the Man, and had been so careful that when one individual had described himself to have heard words spoken while in his own house, at the time of the affray, which made in favour of Taylor, that he had caused the distance between that House and the Spot to be measured; the consequence was, the House was found to be fifteen roods more than half a mile from the place where the words were said to be spoken. Now it appears, from the direct evidence of several persons present at this Meeting, that in the Evening of Tuesday the twenty second instant, the experiment was tried; - when only four sentences were spoken by Mr Jarvis, at Mr Cramp’s House, and every word was distinctly heard at the place  of the outrage.

This meeting therefore Unanimously Resolves that they consider James Taylor innocent of the crime for which he is punished; and earnestly entreat the Committee to take such further steps in the case, as shall appear to them advisable.

Resolved Unanimously

That a subscription be forthwith entered into to relieve the immediate necessities of Taylor’s Wife and Children.