Transcript

Davidson Addresses the Court
Howell's State Trials, vol. 33, cols. 1549-51


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...I appeal to any man that was in court, whether, in the summing up of the evidence, Judge Garrow did justice to me, as a prisoner at the bar. Was he not inveterate against me? did he not influence the minds of the jurymen, and almost insist upon their pronouncing me guilty? did any person identify me to be the identical person except those officers who, we all know, and every Englishman must know, have always been instrumental to the death of innocent men. I have never been in a public life. I appeal to all those gentlemen, whether I have ever engaged in any plot, if I had fifty lives, and they were wanting for the public good, they should have them; and if it were my blood, they should take every drop, and I would stand here while they took it, and fall a victim to my enemies; but in what manner is it I could ever be guilty of high treason? it was never pretended I had ever said any thing, directly or indirectly; I must have been a silent spectator from the nature of my colour. I should have been immediately remarked if I had taken an active part. I have got a deal to say for myself where I feel it to be proper; but there is not one single witness has ever said that I said any thing, consequently I could not be a person that was in the conspiracy; they have said, only that there was a man of colour, and, unfortunately, I was caught near the spot, and was fixed on by them; but still justice ought to be done to every man, and especially where it is done in the revered name of British justice….

…but suppose I was found with a sword in my hand, who can prove that I meant to overturn the government? who can prove that I meant to assassinate the ministers? who can prove that I meant to lay my hand on my sovereign? Is my character so black as for it to be said in this country, or where I have travelled, that I am an assassin or a murderer? I appeal to every man who knows me, whether I am a man of that character or stamp directly or indirectly, to do such a thing; but even if the sword was in my hand; and my intention was even to join with those people, I do not see that it was a conspiracy against the lives of any ministers or of the king himself; because in the passages of Magna Charta, when king John granted that charter, the passage runs in this form; that the people should choose twenty-five barons from among them, with an intent that those twenty-five barons shall see that the acts of this charter are not violated by his majesty or any of his ministers; and if any of them be violated by the king or his ministers, four of those barons shall go and insist on redress; and if redress is not given within twenty-five days, they are to return and compel them to give it – how? with empty hands? no; with arms to stand and claim their rights as Englishmen; and if every Englishman felt as I do, they would always do that. But it goes on further to say; and if redress be not forthwith given, they shall seize on his revenues and his castles, and place such persons in his castles as will see and observe the duties imposed upon him by the barons. And our history goes on further to say, that when another of their majesties the kings of England tried to infringe upon those rights, the people armed, and told him that if he did not give them the privileges of Englishmen, they would compel him by the point of the sword; that is language never used by me, or those with whom I acted, and yet those persons were not considered as beneath the character of Englishmen, and to be condemned to death. Would you not rather govern a country of spirited men, than cowards?

…they have come forward to swear my life away on this charge, and I now tender my life to your service; I can die but once in this world, and the only regret left is, that I have a large family of small children, and when I think of that, it unmans me, and I shall say no more.


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