Davidson Addresses the Court


These extracts are taken from the speech William Davidson made to the court before sentence was passed. In it, he passionately affirms the right of the individual to bear arms against a repressive state and invokes Magna Carta as the justification for this. The Peterloo Massacre of the previous year, in which local yeomanry attacked a political meeting in Manchester killing 11, had politicised many, including Davidson; and many radicals now believed they had to arm themselves for protection from the government. In the circumstances, Davidson claims, the acts of the conspirators were not treasonable.

Both during the trial and in his final speech to the Court, Davidson continued to deny any involvement in the conspiracy, and some of the evidence would appear to be questionable. Many of the witnesses gave evidence about a Black man or a 'man of colour' - but they did so without actually identifying Davidson as that man.

Howell’s State Trials, vol. 33, cols.1549-51 (1826)

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