Legal Papers of John Adams, volume 2

Oliver Whipple's Minutes of the Argument

Editorial Note

Rex v. Richardson: 1770–1772 Rex v. Richardson: 1770–1772
Rex v. Richardson
Editorial Note Editorial Note
Editorial Note

On 22 February 1770, a man named Ebenezer Richardson fatally shot an eleven-year-old German boy. The circumstances of the shooting and the conditions of Richardson's subsequent trial for murder so emphasize the peculiarly disturbed status of the law in Boston at the time that documents pertaining to the case are included in this collection, even though Adams does not appear to have been actively engaged in the matter. The fact is that defense counsel's notes (Document I) remain among the Adams Papers and were docketed “Rex v. Richardson” in Adams' hand; moreover, the legal points raised in Richardson's trial and its aftermath bore particular relevance at the Massacre trials in 1770 (Nos. 63, 64).

Ebenezer Richardson was born in Woburn in 1718, married a Woburn woman, and some time thereafter came to Boston.1 There he was at least a reputed member of the customs establishment and commensurately disliked. Although the Customs Commissioners were later to deny that he had ever been a customs officer,2 Richardson had for “many years” before 1770 “been known by the name of The Informer,” according to the Boston Gazette. 3 Even John Adams was in later times to fulminate against 397him: “If there was even a color of justice in the public opinion, he was the most abandoned wretch in America. Adultery, incest, perjury were reputed to be his ordinary crimes. His life would exhibit an atrocious volume.”4 Whatever Richardson's other faults may or may not have been, later events demonstrated indubitably that he had a short temper.

All this, added to the rough-and-tumble of the fall and winter of 1769–1770 in Boston,5 almost insured that Richardson would soon collide with the patriots. The occasion arrived on 22 February 1770, a Thursday, which, like all Thursdays, was by Boston custom a market day and a school holiday;6 plenty of idle schoolboys as well as numerous up-country farmers stood available to bolster the already powerful Boston mob.

The latter's principal object for some time had been the enforcement of the nonimportation agreement. Temporarily checked by the resourceful stubbornness of John Mein,7 the “well-disposed” were beginning to move against the few holdouts. One of these, Theophilus Lillie, a near-neighbor of Richardson's and “a very inoffensive man, except in the offense of importation”8 resisted with language which, for sarcasm, at least, rivaled even Mein's: “I cannot help saying,” Lillie had written in January 1770, “although I never entered far into the mysteries of government, having applied myself to my shop and my business, that it always seemed strange to me that People who contend so much for civil and religious Liberty should be so ready to deprive others of their natural liberty—that Men who are guarding against being subject to Laws to which they never gave their consent in person or by their representative, should at the same time make Laws, and in the most effectual manner execute them upon me and others, to which Laws I am sure I never gave my consent either in person or by my representative. . . . I own I had rather be a slave under one Master; for if I know who he is, I may, perhaps, be able to please him, than a slave to an hundred or more, who I don't know where to find, nor what they will expect from me.”9

For some time, the technique used against men like Lillie had been the 398 “exhibition,” a sign or placard planted before the offending shop, carrying language whose general import was “Don't Buy from the Traitor.” This was usually coupled with the 18th-century equivalent of a picket line, a crowd of schoolboys.10 As Gordon was to write a few years later, “Boys, small and great, and undoubtedly men, had been and were encouraged, and well paid by certain leaders . . . and still persevered.”11 But, though boys were the actors, Thomas Hutchinson, at least, did not doubt that they were being “set on by Men.”12

On the day in question, a gang of boys (the witnesses at the trial varied in their estimates: one said as few as sixty, another said as many as three hundred) paraded to Lillie's and placed before his door a large wooden head bearing caricatures of the four leading importers and a hand pointed toward the house.13 Richardson, seeing the “hundreds” of boys gathered at Lillie's, tried to persuade first “a countryman,” then a charcoal vendor, to run their respective wagons against the sign. In desperation, he even took a cart and horse standing in the street and tried to do the job himself. At this, the crowd began to add more solid missiles to the epithets it was already hurling. As Richardson retreated to his house, he passed several of the patriots, including Edward Proctor and Thomas Knox. Crying “Perjury! Perjury!” in apparent reference to what Richardson considered the false nature of the charges implied by the sign, Richardson paused to exchange insults with these men and two others besides. At the trial, there was testimony that Richardson had sworn to “make it too hot” for Proctor and the others; there was also testimony that they in turn had called him a “damn Son of Bitch” and had threatened to have his heart and liver out.

Lieutenant Governor Hutchinson, meanwhile, hearing of the trouble, “gave express directions to the Sheriff to go and suppress this unlawful assembly before the accident happened, but he did not think it safe to attempt it nor is there a J. of P. in the town who will appear upon such an occasion.”14

With Richardson back in his house, the battle raged on. A witness at the trial was later to testify that stones shattered the windows, carrying away even the lead and frames. George Wilmot, a sailor employed in the 399customs service, was at Richardson's house, the reason for his visit not being clear, although the patriots claimed he had originally been sent to tell Richardson to take down the sign.15 As the violence increased, and the crowd began to push at the doors, Wilmot told Richardson, one of the witnesses later said, “he would stand by him as Long as he had breath.” The pelting continued, and Richardson thrust a gun through a window, “snapping” it at the mob. Finally, he fired a charge of bird shot, eleven of which struck and mortally wounded Christopher Seider (or Snider), some after striking the hand of another boy.

Immediately a bell was set ringing and, according to the Evening-Post account, a crowd surrounded the house front and rear. The mob completed the breaking and entering, subdued Wilmot and Richardson, and hustled them outside. “[T]he first thought was to hang him up at once and a halter was brought and a sign post picked upon, but one who is supposed to have stirred up the tumultuous proceedings took great pains and prevented it.”16

The men were dragged through the town, “cruelly abused by the Mob,”17 and put before Justice of the Peace John Ruddock, who ordered them on to Faneuil Hall, where in the presence of a thousand people, he, along with Justices of the Peace Richard Dana, Samuel Pemberton, and Edmund Quincy, examined them and had them committed to jail.18 “After the Examination, when the Sheriff was carrying them to Gaol, several attempts were made to get a Rope around Richardson's neck.”19 It should be noted that the boy did not die until that evening,20 so that at the time of their commitment and near-lynching, Richardson and Wilmot could not, by any reasoning, be guilty of murder.

Of course the “Sons of Liberty took care to Improve this Affair to the utmost advantage.”21 On 26 February 1770 the Gazette ran an inflammatory report of the “late barbarous Murder” insinuating that the customs officers were behind it all. “Inhumanly murdered” the Gazette said of “the unfortunate boy,” “the young lad who last week fell a sacrifice to the Rage 400and Malice of an Old Offender and his Abettors.” Richardson was called “infamous” three times, no less, once all in capital letters.22 Even the loyalists had to acknowledge the propaganda triumph of the patriots. “So artful were they in their account that it was almost universally believed that the Commiss[ioners of Customs] were Abettors in this Affair.”23

The funeral was a somber and effective climax to the press attacks. John Rowe, in whose company John Adams attended the rites, was “very sure two thousand people” were there,24 and Adams' “Eyes never beheld such a funeral.”25 As the cortege wound its way past the Liberty Tree, the mourners could read on a board tacked thereto these appropriate sentiments: “Thou shalt take no Satisfaction for the Life of a Murderer. He shall surely be put to Death. Though Hand join in Hand, the Wicked shall not pass unpunished.” 26 Adams wrote afterward in his diary: “This Shewes, there are many more Lives to spend if wanted in the Service of their Country. It Shews, too that the Faction is not yet expiring—that the Ardor of the People is not to be quelled by the Slaughter of one Child and the Wounding of another.”27 If the articles and the demonstration could have this effect on Adams, whose ability to distinguish patriotic heroes from “saucy boys” was to receive a public demonstration within the year,28 how well had the affair fulfilled its designed purpose “to raise the passions of the people, and to strengthen” the cause “in which their leaders had engaged them.”29 It is probably fair to say that if the troops had not fired on the mob less than two weeks after Richardson killed young Seider, the Sons would have celebrated not 5 March, but 22 February, as the anniversary of the first effusion of patriotic blood. As Hutchinson pointed out, the funeral of young Allen, killed in the St. George's Fields riot over John Wilkes in 1768 was a good recent example of the technique.30

But the King Street riot did occur, and, though its long-run effect on Richardson was to thrust him from center stage, its immediate result was 401to render his chance of a fair trial minimal and of acquittal zero. Two things assured this. First, popular prejudice, already heated by the newspapers and the funeral, burst into passionate flame over the actions of the soldiers; Revenge! was the cry, anything loyalist and powerless the object. Second, the rancor against Captain Preston and the soldiers was so great, and, apparently, the official interest in defending them so much higher than in Richardson's case,31 that, although the court “chose to postpone the Trials, untill there might be some Chance of Justice being uninterrupted,”32 when Sam Adams and a delegation “waited on the Superior Court and insisted upon their proceeding without any adjournment on the tryal of Preston, &c.,”33 the judges were forced to bargain. At first, it is true, the judges “notwithstanding this demand and the risque they run of being torn to pieces should they counteract the will of this Sovereign Committee . . . continued to try civil Causes only.” But “The people being very uneasy that the criminal tryals were not brought on, the Court found it necessary in order to keep them a little quiet to arraign Richardson.”34

“The existence of a state of public opinion which prevents a fair trial is a danger to which the jury system is always open,” Holdsworth has written. “And it is a danger against which there is no remedy except the existence of an impartial, a humane, a courageous, and a learned bench.”35 He might have added “and a strong civil authority.” In the opinion of Judge Oliver, “had a Trial been refused, it was rather more than an equal chance that the Prisoners [i.e. Preston and the soldiers as well as Richardson] would have been murdered by the Rabble; and the Judges been exposed to Assassinations.”36

According to the anonymous reporter whose narrative is in the Bernard Papers, “Richardson was arraign'd on a Monday and directed to prepare for his tryal on the Friday following. Accordingly on the Friday he was brought to the Bar and ask'd by the Court if he was then ready. He observ'd to the Court that he had made application to almost every Lawyer in town to undertake his cause, which no one would do, that the Constables had refused summoning his Witnesses,37 that the Jailer, had used him in so 402cruel a manner that he was even frequently debarred the Liberty of conversing with his friends, that every Newspaper was crouded with the most infamous and false libels against him in order to prejudice the minds of his jury; that without Counsel, without the privilege of calling upon his Witnesses to support his innocence he was now to be tried for his life. The Judges moved with compassion at this representation put off the trial to a further day. The Court then made application to the several Lawyers present to appear as his Counsel but this one and all of them declined. The court finding that a requisition had no effect asserted their Authority and order'd Mr. Fitch the advocate General to appear on his behalf on his trial. Fitch made use of a variety of arguments in order to excuse himself which the Court did not judge sufficient. He concluded with saying that since the Court had peremptorily ordered him, he would undertake it, but not otherways.”38

The right to counsel availed Richardson little, because Fitch was sick on the two occasions the case was called for trial, the last one being 17 April.39 The court thereupon appointed Josiah Quincy; three days later Richardson and Wilmot went on trial.40 For the Crown, Solicitor General 403Samuel Quincy and Robert Treat Paine divided the prosecution, establishing the pattern they were to follow later that year in the Massacre trials.41 According to a later newspaper account, “The cause was opened, and the evidence examined in behalf of the Crown by a Gentleman of superiour ability, who was assisted by another Gentleman, employed by the Town of Boston 42 perfectly acquainted with the law, who performed his part with such distinguished talents, as did honour to himself, and gave intire satisfaction to his constituents. The evidence in behalf of the Prisoner being examined by a Gentleman who did not speak to the case, gave the other Gentleman who was his Attorney a greater opportunity to enlarge on the law and evidence in his favour; who, actuated solely from the motive of humanity, as he did it without fee or reward, and at the hazard of losing his popular reputation, so ably managed the law and evidence, in bringing such pertinent authorities to support the facts, and making such just remarks on the same, as fully convinced me of his abili-404ties as an Attorney and of his benevolence as a citizen, in endeavouring to preserve the life of a fellow-subject; although his appointment to this task did not add to his reputation among the people at that time, yet the faithfulness and impartiality he shewed for the Prisoner must certainly more than compensate for any loss he might sustain in this or any other respect.”43

Paine's notes of the trial appear as Document II, below. They set out the evidence and most of the arguments, but do not describe the atmosphere of the courtroom. Some of the passion and hatred that filled the onlookers and tainted the proceedings filters through the subsequent testimony of the jurors and the keeper. But the contemporary accounts detail the picture even more vividly. To appreciate the legal context, it must be realized that Richardson's principal defense had been that, because the mob had attacked him in his own house and endangered his life, he had been entitled to protect himself in any way possible, including killing one or more of his assailants; the prosecution sought to show and to argue that the crowd was composed of nothing more than rowdy schoolboys, whose insults and stone-throwing had never endangered Richardson's life. Moreover, the Crown contended, whatever anyone else was doing, the boy Seider was not, at the moment Richardson fired, threatening his life. These were also the patriot views, and they have generally prevailed among historians.44 To this last, the defense argued that, because Seider had been part of the illegal enterprise, his killing, although perhaps not justifiable as self-defense, amounted only to manslaughter. Even if Seider had been a wholly innocent bystander, if Richardson had been justified in firing the gun at all, he would not be guilty of murder.

“Richardson's Trial continued till late on Friday night. After the witnesses were examined and the lawyers had done pleading the Judges gave their charge to the Jury. They said it appeared by the Evidence that the prisoner was attacked in his own house by a number of tumultuous people. That what he had done was in his own defence. That self-defence was a right inherent in every man. That the persons who had encouraged putting up these hands were guilty of the murder and not the prisoner and they were convinced the jury could find him guilty of nothing more than manslaughter.”45

“There was a vast Concourse of Rabble at the Trial.”46

“The Court upon summing up the Evidence to the Jury were all of 405opinion that if what the witnesses on both sides had sworn was believed the fact could amount to no more than Manslaughter. Mr. Just. Oliver doubted whether it could amount to that and with great spirit charged the death of the Boy upon the Promoters of the Effigies and the Exhibitions which had drawn the people together and caused unlawful and tumultuous assemblies and he did not excuse such as had neglected suppressing these Assemblies as the Civil Magistrate had done.”47

“[W]hilst one of the Judges was delivering his Charge to the Jury, and declaring his Opinion, that the Case was justifiable Homicide, one of the Rabble broke out, 'D—n that Judge, if I was nigh him, I would give it to him'; but this was not a Time, to attempt to preserve Decorum; Preservation of Life was as much as a Judge dared to aim at.”48

“After the Judges had done speaking the mob became very outrageous, called out that they hoped no Jury dare acquit him. 'Remember jury you are upon Oath.' 'Blood requires blood.'”49

“[The mob] designed to have hanged the Prisoner as he came out of the Court House, to be returned to Prison untill the Jurors Verdict was settled; and they provided an Halter, ready at the Door of the Court Room, for the Purpose; but the Court had ordered the Sheriff, with the Peace Officers, to lock him into the Court Room untill the Mob had dispersed.”50

“The judges found it necessary to remain in Court for upwards of an hour, and also to detain the prisoner till the mob were in some measure dispersed least they should destroy him in his way from the Court house to the Jail. It is said they had a rope in Court ready to hang him. The judges were hissed and abused in a most shameful manner in passing from the bench to their carriages.”51

The jury (none of whose members came from Boston) began its deliberations at 11 p.m. 52 and, without food, drink, or sleep, debated until 8 or 9 o'clock the next morning.53 The verdict as to Wilmot was Not Guilty;54 406as to Richardson, Guilty of Murder. “An universal clap ensued,”55 and “the Court Room resounded with Expressions of Pleasure; 'till, even one of the Faction, who had some of the Feelings of Humanity not quite erased, cried out, 'for Shame, for shame Gentlemen!' This hushed the clamorous Joy.”56

At first, the grounds for the verdict were unknown. “I have not yet heard whether the Jury did not believe the W[itnesses] for the Prisoner or whether they thought themselves better J[udges of] the Law than the Court or whether they were intimidated by die of the Inhabitants of Boston.”57 Notwithstanding, the defense apparently moved immediately for a new trial. This was a difficult motion to carry in the 18th century under the best of circumstances, and the court did not consider it seriously at that time. As Hutchinson noted, “The court was at first in distress. It was hard to be obliged to give judgment upon a verdict which appeared to them directly against law; and it was difficult, in the state of the town, to order the jury out a second time, or to refuse or delay sentence after the verdict was received.”58 So the court compromised. “The Verdict was received and recorded,”59 but the court adjourned without passing sentence until 29 May 1770.60

On that date, two of the judges being ill, the court further continued the matter to 31 May and then to 6 September.61 At last, on 6 September, at least one judge and all the lawyers having dined together at John Adams', the jurors were called back in and individually examined.62 Judging from Paine's minutes (Document III), the verdict had rested on at least two of the grounds which Hutchinson had hypothesized. The jury had pretty clearly found the facts the Crown's way and it had certainly been exposed to the rancor of the courtroom mob, although the shouts of the crowd were “not mentioned in the Jury Room.”63 But the jury apparently did not consciously take to itself the decision of the law. Indeed, the willingness of eleven jurors to leave the law to the court was the lever which ultimately moved the last man, Thomas Lothrop, who finally agreed to vote Guilty on the assurance of the others that “if the verdict was not agreeable to Law the Court would not receive it.”64


The jurors having testified (whether on oath or not is unclear), the court heard defense counsel's argument for a new trial. From Paine's minutes, it appears that Blowers made three alternative points: first, that the jury intended to follow the court's direction and find manslaughter, so the court should effectuate that intention; second, that the shouts as the jurors were retiring amounted to conversations with the jury sufficient to nullify a verdict of Guilty; third, that the verdict was so contrary to law and evidence that the court should order a new trial.

There was some authority for granting a new trial to a defendant whom the court considered to have been improperly convicted, and Blowers (or whoever was arguing that branch of the motion) appears to have brought it all to the court's attention. The trouble was that the opinions cited dealt with noncapital offenses, and the English law did not allow new trials in capital cases.65

It is apparent from the notes that counsel was very much aware of the doctrine, soon to be tested anew in the English criminal libel trials,66 that the jury was the proper finder not only of fact, but of law as well. Everyone agreed, and had for a hundred years, that no matter how blatantly a jury disregarded the court's directions, neither it nor any of its twelve members could be punished for so doing.67 This was true in civil and criminal cases alike. In the former class of litigation, “if the Jury find against Evidence and the Direction of the Court,” the judges could alleviate the problem by granting a new trial.68 Thus, in capital criminal matters, the most that lay in a court's power was to remind the jury that it was on oath to find according to law, that the court knew the law better than the jury, and that the jury would be risking its conscience by finding contrary to the rules laid down by the court. And as Lord Mansfield himself noted, the jury could always end the question by bringing in a Not Guilty verdict, right or wrong.69 The court could also advise the jury that, if it had any doubts of the law, its safest course was to bring in a special verdict. If the jury followed the recommendation, its verdict would take the form of a series of recited facts, found from the evidence, concluding with a prayer to the court to decide on the basis of those facts whether the defendant was guilty or not.70

But the jury, in the last analysis, did have the “final power” to decide 408according to its own view of the law. “This power,” as James Bradley Thayer has noted, “where it was uncontrollable, has been considered by some to be not distinguishable from a right; and it is not at all uncommon to describe it thus—as a right to judge of both fact and law.”71

Faced with the double problem of apparent jury omnipotence and inability to grant a new trial, the Massachusetts court temporized and followed the advice of the 17th-century criminal-law writer, Sir Matthew Hale, “to reprieve the person convict before judgment, and to aquaint the king, and certify for his pardon.”72 This made better political sense, too, than passing sentence and then having the Lieutenant Governor suspend execution pending receipt of the pardon, at which “the people would have been more enraged, than merely at the court's suspending their own determination.”73

Hutchinson apparently wrote Lord Hillsborough, at an unspecified time after the verdict, recommending a pardon; the Hutchinson letterbooks in the Massachusetts Archives contain nothing precisely on this point. However, in a letter to Hillsborough dated 15 May 1771, Hutchinson referred to “the Instrument which accompanied” one of Hillsborough's earlier letters; this, Hutchinson said, “I have caused to be communicated to the Judges of the Superior Court. Some of them are struck with the informalities of it for the purpose for which it is intended, and they have thought it advisable to defer their determination until their Court which is to be held on the third Tuesday of June in the County of Essex. Whatever it may be as to the sufficiency of the Instrument in point of form, it carries such evidence with it of His Majesty's most gracious pleasure with respect to the immediate Subject of it that must stop all further proceedings against him.” The “Instrument” can only be the copy of the pardon order, dated 12 February 1771.74 When one recalls that the Court did not examine the jurors until 6 September 1770, the probable chronology appears to be this:

After the examination, the court concluded it could do nothing, and Hutchinson wrote to England, asking for a pardon. As a result of the usual delays attendant upon a North Atlantic passage, coupled with the slowness of official action, the pardon order did not issue until 12 February 1771, and was not received in Boston until the beginning of May 1771.

Throughout the summer the judges and Hutchinson temporized. Their chief concern was the form of the “Instrument,” which was really only a copy of an order from the King to the Recorder of London to insert Richardson's name in the next “Newgate” Pardon—so-called because it referred to “our poor convicts in Newgate” Prison. As Hutchinson wrote to former Governor Pownall in August, “Neither the Judges nor the Attorney General 409are clear in the discharge of Richardson without some further evidence of His Majesty's pardon. We have no precedent upon record in this province. They say that if there was no other Exception to the form of the Instrument yet it is no more than a Warrant to insert the name of Richardson in a pardon which it does not appear to them has ever been done. If a Copy could be procured of the pardon attested I hope it may be sufficient. I am not acquainted in what manner pardons are passed for such persons whose sentences are respited in the several Counties in England but if it be usual to insert the names of such persons in the Newgate pardons I wish to be furnished with a Certificate that it is so.” Hutchinson even proposed that a Royal Warrant issue, permitting Hutchinson to issue the pardon himself, under the Province seal. This was rejected, but not until 3 March 1772 did Hutchinson receive his final instructions.75

Meanwhile, Richardson remained in jail, while the patriot press flayed him and his protectors. The Massachusetts Spy and the Boston Gazette claimed that the court planned to enlarge the benefit of clergy by admitting him to it.76 By early 1772, the patriots were becoming impatient over Richardson's fate. The Massachusetts Spy published some bitter doggerel referring to the two soldiers' having pleaded clergy as well as Richardson's remaining alive: “The basest murderers, full of guilt and crimes / Have gone unhung by reason of old LINES / So we were disappointed in our hopes / But for the future they'll be hung by Ropes.” 77 The Boston Gazette ran a lengthy piece signed “Callisthenes” which urged that Richardson was either innocent, and should be released, or guilty, and should be executed. “Is Richardson kept in goal in order to recommend him to mercy?” “Callisthenes” asked. “The honour of magistracy ought openly to avow it:—the wisdom of the recommenders ought to justify it. . . . Let not the infamy of the man give origin to an acquiescence in unjustifiable confinement. . . . What is law for a Richardson is law for a Sidney. If oppression is warranted by law, the Patriot is much more likely to fall a victim than the pimp and pander. Hampdens will stain the scaffold with blood, while a robber or murderer finds a city of refuge.78 No tyranny so secure, none so intolerable, none so dangerous, none so remediless, as that of Executive Courts.” 79


This remarkable document, although too lengthy to be quoted in full, is well worth examination. On the one hand it seems to be urging Richardson's death, on the other it appears to be vigorously asserting his rights. Its appearance in the Boston Gazette suggests that its author was certainly of the patriot party. This suggestion is accurate: “Callisthenes” was none other than Josiah Quincy himself.80 But his purpose in writing the letter defies explanation. It is possible that he knew of the pardon, inaccurately suspected its arrival in Boston, and hoped to stimulate Richardson's release. Another view might be that “Callisthenes” perhaps purposed to provoke the execution. If this was Quincy's aim, it would seem to contrast sharply not only with his duty as an attorney to his erstwhile client, but also with his stand in the Massacre trials.

Whatever Quincy's motive, shortly after his piece appeared, the Chief Justice told the Suffolk County Grand Jury, in apparent response to “a certain Paper, the Contents whereof have not yet transpired,” that the court believed the jurors “were ignorant that the Case of Ebenezer Richardson was then before his Majesty.”81

The suspense increased, even after the pardon safely arrived, for Hutchinson, despite his belief that “The people have never been in so good a temper to submit to his discharge at any time since he was first committed,”82 thought it best to wait a few days longer, until 10 March 1772, when the inhabitants were engaged at their town meeting. Then Richardson was taken hastily into court and brought to the bar, where on his knees he pleaded his pardon, recognized in the sum of £500 to appear again and plead the pardon whenever the court should require him (an empty formality), and then “fled with precipitation and crossed the ferry before the inhabitants were informed of it.”83 “The Rabble heard of it, and pursued him to execute their own Law upon him, but he happily escaped.”84

So Richardson left Boston, but his reputation remained as soiled as ever. Apparently he lived “at or near Stoneham” for about a year following his 411release, and then received an appointment in the customs service at Philadelphia.85 But, as late as 1774, the mere rumor of his presence in Boston was enough to raise a mob.86


Stark, Loyalists of Mass. 422; William R. Cutter, Broadside Regarding Ebenezer Richardson, the Informer, Found in the Library of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia 9 (n.d.).


See Boston Evening-Post, 5 March 1770, p. 3, col. 1; Boston Gazette, 5 March 1770, p. 2, col. 1.


Boston Gazette, 5 March 1770, p. 2, col. 1. The Gazette claimed that Richardson had sworn before a grand jury “not many years past” that he had acted on a “commission or warrant” from Charles Paxton; this Paxton denied, calling Richardson “a d——d villain.” According to the Gazette, the grand jurors had complained of Richardson's perjury to a magistrate, with no result. The entire story should probably be treated suspiciously. In the first place, grand jury deliberations were secret, or at least were supposed to be; see form of oath, Act of 25 Nov. 1692, 1 A&R 78, 79. Second, if the grand jury believed Richardson to have perjured himself, it could have presented him; finally, even if the story is true, it establishes only that Richardson did not hold a post requiring a commission. Hutchinson referred to him as “a landwaiter, or inferior custom-house officer, and before that, an informer against illicit traders.” 3 Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 193. And Peter Oliver called him “a Custom House Officer.” Oliver, Origin and Progress 84. Note, however, that Oliver dates the incident as “the beginning of March 1770.” Ibid. See also Hutchinson to ——, 28 Feb. 1770, 26 Mass. Arch. 450: “Richardson, whose name you must remember as an Informer.” Richardson could well have acted as informer without a commission at first and been commissioned after the grand jury incident.


JA to Dr. J. Morse, 20 Jan. 1816, 10 JA, Works 204, 210; Cutter, Broadside Regarding Richardson, reprints a broadside containing the following couplets: “Woburn, my native place can tell / My crimes are blacker far than Hell / What great disturbance there I made / Against the people and their Head. / A wretch of wretches prov'd with child / By me I know, at which I smil'd / To think the PARSON he must bare / The guilt of me, and I go clear.” Cutter attributes the allusion to a protracted incident of 1752, in which the widow Keziah Henshaw gave birth to a child and “at the time of her travail . . . laid it to” the Reverend Edward Jackson. See the details in Samuel Sewall, History of Woburn 319–325 (Boston, 1868). Keziah was a sister of Richardson's wife, Rebecca, which explains JA's “incest” charge. Cutter, Broadside Regarding Richardson.


See No. 12.


Anonymous report, 3 Bernard Papers 70, MH.


See No. 12.


Hutchinson to Hood, 23 Feb. 1770, 26 Mass. Arch. 444.


Massachusetts Gazette, 11 Jan. 1770, p. 2, col. 3.


The Sons of Liberty, Hutchinson said, “thought it best that great numbers of Boys should Meet upon such occasions rather than Men.” See text at note 6 above.


1 Gordon, History of Independence 277.


Hutchinson to Gage, 25 Feb. 1770, 26 Mass. Arch. 445. For Mein's correspondence with Hutchinson, see 25 Mass. Arch. 455–459.


The events of 22 Feb. are largely drawn from the report in the Boston Evening-Post, 26 Feb. 1770, p. 3, col. 1. Although the published story was “almost entirely made up from the facts detailed by [Richardson's] enemies,” see Drake, History and Antiquities of Boston 777, even the anonymous and patently anti-patriot author of the Reports in the Bernard Papers referred his reader to the Evening-Post account without serious correction. 3 Bernard Papers 70, MH. Lillie's shop was located on Middle (now Hanover) Street near the New Brick Church. Stark, Loyalists of Mass. 310; Thwing, Crooked and Narrow Streets of Boston 60.


Hutchinson to Gage, 25 Feb. 1770, 26 Mass. Arch. 445, 448. See also Hutchinson to Bernard, 20 Oct. 1770, 27 Mass. Arch. 26, 30.


Boston Gazette, 26 Feb. 1770, p. 5, col. 2. Wilmot had “lived in Boston since 1736 as a master mariner.” Jones, Loyalists of Mass. 298. He was employed as a seaman on the sloop Liberty when she was a revenue vessel, and was serving aboard her when she was destroyed. Richard Reeves in Boston Evening-Post, 3 May 1770, p. 3, col. 1.


Hutchinson to Gage, 25 Feb. 1770, 26 Mass. Arch. 445, 448. See also Hutchinson to Hood, 23 Feb. 1770, 26 Mass. Arch. 444, 445, in which Hutchinson identifies Richardson's benefactor as “M——x [Molineux] who probably was afraid how he might be attacked himself by such an action.”


3 Bernard Papers 70, MH.


Boston Evening-Post, 26 Feb. 1770, p. 3, col. 1.


3 Bernard Papers 70, MH. See also William Palfrey to John Wilkes, 5 March 1770, printed in Elsey, “John Wilkes and William Palfrey,” 34 Col. Soc. Mass., Pubns. 411, 415–417 (1941).


Boston Evening-Post, 26 Feb. 1770, p. 3, col. 1. Dr. Joseph Warren performed the subsequent autopsy and extracted the eleven shot, each the size of a big pea. Ibid. See also the coroner's inquest, SF 102009.


3 Bernard Papers 70, MH.


Boston Gazette, 26 Feb. 1770, p. 5, col. 2.


3 Bernard Papers 70, MH. One of the latter-day believers is O. M. Dickerson. But his “The Commissioners of Customs and the Boston Massacre,” 27 NEQ 310 (1954), is only lightly based on the sources.


Rowe, Letters and Diary 197.


1 JA, Diary and Autobiography 350.


Boston Gazette, 5 March 1770, p. 2, col. 2.


1 JA, Diary and Autobiography 350.


No. 64, text at note 49 226 .


3 Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 194. The patriots had moved quickly into print to avert any chance of postponing the trial until passions cooled. “It is whispered that the trial of Richardson and Wilmot will be put off until ——.” Boston Gazette, 5 March 1770, p. 2, col. 2.


3 Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 194. For details of the Allen incident and its aftermath, see R. W. Postgate, That Devil Wilkes 134–135 (N.Y., 1929). The Wilkes propagandists, by the way, labeled the doings in St. George's Fields a “massacre,” which term may have inspired the patriots later on. Incidentally, Wilkes himself received a highly charged account of the Richardson affair from one of the patriot leaders. See William Palfrey to John Wilkes, 5 March 1770, in Elsey, “John Wilkes and William Palfrey,” 34 Col. Soc. Mass., Pubns. 411, 416–417 (1941).


See editorial note to Nos. 63 and 64.


Oliver, Origin and Progress 86.


3 Bernard Papers 76, MH; see 3 Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 205; Oliver, Origin and Progress 87, also refers to this visit, but seems to place it after Richardson's trial. Compare Lynde, Diary 194 (14 March 1770): “Com[mitte]e of Boston with Court after Warren.”


3 Bernard Papers 76, MH.


9 Holdsworth, History of English Law 231–232.


Oliver, Origin and Progress 86.


In England, there was “no express provision that the defendant in felony shall have process to bring in his witnesses.” I Chitty, Criminal Law 625 note. Hawkins, however, thought that although in capital cases the defendant had “no Right by the Common Law to any Process against his Witnesses without a special Order of the Court . . . it seems that since the Statute of 1 Annae [c.] 9 . . . which ordains, That the Witnesses for the Prisoner shall be sworn, Process may be taken out against them of Course in any Case whatsoever.” 2 Hawkins, Pleas of the Crown 435. No Massachusetts statute appears to cover criminal cases, although from early pro vincial days, the parties in civil causes were entitled to subpoena witnesses. Preston and the soldiers were afforded process to summon witnesses. See editorial note to Nos. 63 and 64, note 63.


3 Bernard Papers 76, MH.


3 Bernard Papers 76, MH; Lynde, Diary 195 (17 April 1770). The following tentative chronology is based on (1) 3 Bernard Papers 76; (2) Lynde, Diary ; (3) Paine Diary; (4) the Minute Books for this and the Charlestown terms:

13 March (Tuesday), Court convenes; indictment sometime during that week.

19 March (Monday), Richardson arraigned.

23 March (Friday), Richardson requests counsel.

27 March (Tuesday), “Attorney General to Ipswich Court; so we on civil actions all the week.” Lynde, Diary 194.

2–7 April (Monday-Saturday), civil and routine criminal cases.

10 April (Tuesday), Charlestown term commenced.

13 April (Friday), Charlestown term adjourned.

17 April (Tuesday), second postponement.

20 April (Friday), trial.

21 April (Saturday), verdict; court adjourned to 29 May.

29 May (Tuesday), court adjourned to 31 May.

31 May (Thursday), court meets, adjourned to 6 September.

6 September (Thursday), motion for new trial and jury examined.

7 September (Friday), motion argued.


3 Bernard Papers 76, MH. Drake, History and Antiquities of Boston 777, says without citation that Sampson Salter Blowers was associated with Quincy. A contemporary account (note 43 below) shows that Quincy had help, and the Paine notes indicate that Blowers participated in the late stages of the affair at least. Quincy's service in Richardson's defense has received almost no attention or even notice. Gordon, for example, did not mention it (see note 11 above); nor did Josiah Quincy in his memoir, Josiah Quincy, Jr., or Samuel M. Quincy in his introduction and notes to Quincy's Reports. Yet in many respects Quincy's defense of Richardson was even more significant than his participation in the Massacre trials.

It is worth noting that whereas in provincial Massachusetts, the court would apparently appoint counsel for a man accused of murder who had none, in contemporary England (and, for that matter, in New York), defendants in felony trials could not be represented by counsel at all. The rule, it is true, was gradually being relaxed in England, and in at least one reported case of 1758, counsel was cross-examining the witnesses. But not until the Prisoners' Counsel Act, 6 & 7 Will. 4, c. 114, §1 (1837), was a prisoner accused of felonies given the right to have counsel present his full defense. And, even in the mid-18th-century English trials which conceded counsel the right to cross-examine, the attorney was not permitted to address the jury on the prisoner's behalf. See generally, 9 Holdsworth, History of English Law 235; 1 Stephen, History of Criminal Law 424–425, which discusses the English case, Rex v. Barnard, 19 State Trials 815 (London Sessions, 1758). On the New York practice, see Julius Goebel and T. Raymond Naughton, Law Enforcement in Colonial New York 573–574 (N.Y. 1944). The Massachusetts right to counsel may stem from general legislation on attorneys. The “Act for the Establishing of Judicatories and Courts of Justice Within This Province,” after conferring on the Superior Court of Judicature “cognizance . . . in all pleas of the crown, and in all matters relating to the conservation of the peace and punishment of offenders,” enacted that “it shall be in the liberty of every plaintiff or defendant . . . to plead and defend his own cause in his proper person, or with the assistance of such other as he shall procure being a person not scandalous or otherwise offensive to the Court.” Act of 25 Nov. 1692, 1 A&R 72, 73–74, 75. This act and several successors were disallowed, 1 A&R 72; Act of 19 June 1697, 1 A&R 283; Act of 18 July 1699, 1 A&R 372; but finally, in 1701, after the Superior Court received the jurisdiction of the three English common-law courts (“An Act for The Establishing a Superiour Court of Judicature, Court of Assize and General Goal Delivery Within This Province,” 26 June 1699, 1 A&R 370, 371) and the Privy Council approved, the General Court passed “An Act Relating to Attorneys,” providing that “the plaintiffe or defendant in any suit may plead or defend his cause by himselfe in his proper person, or with the assistance of such other person as he shall procure.” Act of 20 June 1701, 1 A&R 467. Arguably, despite its language, this act applied to criminal as well as civil matters.


Paine Diary, 20 April 1770; Drake, History and Antiquities of Boston 777.


This was Paine, who had probably been retained as a result of the following resolution:

“Voted, that the Selectmen be desired to employ one or more Council to offer to the Kings Attorney as Assistance to him in the tryal of the Murtherers now committed; and in case the Kings Attorney should refuse such Assistance, and the Relatives of those Persons who were murthered should apply for it, that then the Town will bear the Expence that may accrue thereby.” Town Meeting, 13 March 1770. 18 Boston Record Commissioners, Reports 14.


Boston Censor, 28 March 1772, p. 77.


1 Gordon, History of Independence 276: “Provoked, rather than endangered by the assault, he fired and killed.” George Bancroft, History of the United States of America, 3:371 (N.Y., 1895): “Provoked but not endangered.” Edward Channing, A History of the United States, 3:119 (N.Y., 1912): “[A]n informer, being attacked by a mob, fired at his assailants from a window and killed a harmless eleven-year-old boy; but beyond a demonstration at the boy's funeral, nothing happened.”


3 Bernard Papers 76, MH.


Oliver, Origin and Progress 86. At least three of the spectators had their pockets picked. See Confession of John Bemis, SF 89524; Min. Bk., Suffolk Sess., Aug. [i.e. July] 1770.


Hutchinson to Lord ——, 21 April 1770, 26 Mass. Arch. 463.


Oliver, Origin and Progress 86.


3 Bernard Papers 76, MH. This extract has been punctuated for clarity and quotation marks have been inserted.


Oliver, Origin and Progress 86.


3 Bernard Papers 76, MH.


Oliver, Origin and Progress 86. Lynde, Diary 195, 20 April 1770, says “jury went out after noon,” which does not seem correct in view of the trial's length. On the jurors' domiciles, see SF 101646b.


Oliver, Origin and Progress 86, says eight; Lynde, Diary 195, 21 April 1770, says nine.


Wilmot seems to have been almost ignored by lawyers, witnesses, and court, and, except for some early flurries, by the patriot press, too. Boston Gazette, 26 Feb. 1770, p. 5, col. 2; Boston Gazette, 5 March 1770, p. 2, col. 1. Paine's notes indicate that some effort was made, consistent with English practice, to prove him a principal in the affair, although he had been indicted for “aiding, helping, abetting, assisting, and maintaining” Richardson. Indictment, SF 102009. See testimony of Robert Hewes and Phil Ridgaway, and the authorities cited on the law of accomplices, Doc. II below. But the evidence against him was so weak that not even the mob could demand his life.


3 Bernard Papers 76, MH.


Oliver, Origin and Progress 86.


Hutchinson to Lord ——, 21 April 1770, 26 Mass. Arch. 463.


3 Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 206.


Oliver, Origin and Progress 86.


Hutchinson to Lord ——, 21 April 1770, 26 Mass. Arch. 463; Paine Diary, 21 April 1770; Lynde, Diary 195, 21 April 1770.


Paine Diary, 29 May 1770; see also Lynde, Diary 196, 29 May 1770. Min. Bk. 91.


Lynde, Diary 198. Regrettably, there are no entries in JA's diary in 1770 after August. Hutchinson is apparently wrong in his implication that the court continued the case for further consideration only after learning what went on in the jury room. See 3 Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 206. The subpoenas, dated 1 Sept. 1770, summoned the jurors to appear in court at 9 a.m. on 6 Sept. to “be enquired of touching” the trial. SF 101646b.


Testimony of Jonathan Ellis, Doc. III below.


Testimony of Thomas Lothrop, Doc. III below.


James B. Thayer, A Preliminary Treatise on Evidence at the Common Law 178 (Boston, 1898); 1 Stephen, History of Criminal Law 311; 1 Chitty, Criminal Law 654. And see Rex v. Marchant, 2 Keble 403, 84 Eng. Rep. 253 (K.B. 1699): trial for perjury; the trial judge certified that the verdict was against evidence (that is, that there was no evidence tending to convict, not that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence; see No. 12, text at note 49). Held: motion for new trial denied, because “there can be no trial de novo for, or against the King.” 21 Viner, Abridgment 479, tit. Trial, also cites this holding.


See No. 12, notes 4 74 and 40 110 .


Bushell's Case, Vaughan 135, 124 Eng. Rep. 1006 (C.P. 1670), discussed in No. 12, text at notes 56–60.


3 Bacon, Abridgment 278.


Rex v. Miller, 20 Howell, State Trials 869, 894 (Guildhall 1770).


5 Bacon, Abridgment 286.


Thayer, Evidence at Common Law 253.


2 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 309–310. The entire passage is set out, note 57 173 below.


3 Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 206–207 note.


Hutchinson to Hillsborough, 15 May 1771, 27 Mass. Arch. 167–168; the Instrument itself is in SF 102009.


Hutchinson to Pownall, Aug. 1771, 27 Mass. Arch. 210–211; Hutchinson to Lord——, 12 March 1772, 26 Mass. Arch. 301. See also 3 Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 206–207 note; Oliver, Origin and Progress 87; Hutchinson to Hillsborough, 8 Sept. 1771, 27 Mass. Arch. 224.


Boston Gazette, 1 April 1771, p. 1, col. 1, reprinting a note from the Massachusetts Spy, 21 March 1771. Because benefit of clergy (respite from execution by reason of literacy) extended only to those convicted of manslaughter, allowing Richardson, who had been convicted of murder, to plead it, would have enlarged the privilege.


Reprinted, Boston Gazette, 27 Feb. 1772, p. 3, col. 2. Nathaniel Ropes had been appointed to the Superior Court on 15 Jan. 1772 upon the resignation of Chief Justice Benjamin Lynde. Whitmore, Mass. Civil List 70.


This expression had been used in the course of the trial. See Doc. II, text at note 15 131 .


Boston Gazette, 10 Feb. 1772, p. 2, cols. 1, 2.


Josiah Quincy, Josiah Quincy, Jr. 51–52.


The courtroom colloquy took place 22 Feb. 1772. Boston Gazette, 24 Feb. 1772, p. 3, cols. 1, 2.


Hutchinson to “JP Esq.,” 18 March 1772, 26 Mass. Arch. 305.


Boston Gazette, 16 March 1772, p. 3, col. 2.


Oliver, Origin and Progress 87. Min. Bk. 95, SCJ Suffolk; Rec. 1772, fols. 15–16. The doggerel of the previous month was echoed in “A Monumental Inscription on the Fifth of March. Together with a few Lines On the Enlargement of Ebenezer Richardson, Convicted of Murder” (Boston?, 1772), reproduced in Massachusetts Historical Society, Some Early Massachusetts Broadsides,No. 26 (Boston, 1964):

“Oh! Wretched man! the monster of the times, / You were not hung 'by reason of old Lines,' / Old Lines thrown by, 'twas then we were in hopes, / That you would soon be hung with new made Ropes; / But neither Ropes nor Lines, will satisfy / for seider's blood! But GOD is ever nigh, / And guilty souls will not unpunish'd go / Tho' they're excus'd by judges here below! / You are enlarg'd but cursed is your fate / Tho' Cushing's eas'd you from the prison gate / The—Bridge of Tories, it has borne you o'er / Yet you e'er long may meet with HELL's shore.”

Compare text at note 77 above. The “Bridge” was Judge Trowbridge. See Clarence S. Brigham, Paul Revere's Engravings Plate 18 (Worcester, 1954).


Boston Gazette, 3 May 1773, p. 3, col. 1; id., 24 May 1773, p. 2, col. 3.


Hutchinson to Earl of Dartmouth, 28 Jan. 1774, reprinted in Hersey, “Tar and Feathers: The Adventures of Captain John Malcom,” 34 Col. Soc. Mass., Pubns. 429, 449 (1943)

Defense Counsel’s Notes<a xmlns="" href="#LJA02d087n1" class="note" id="LJA02d087n1a">1</a>: Suffolk Superior Court, Boston, April 1770 Quincy, Josiah Jr.


Defense Counsel’s Notes: Suffolk Superior Court, Boston, April 1770 Quincy, Josiah Jr.
Defense Counsel's Notes1
Suffolk Superior Court, Boston, April 1770
Dom: Rex vs. Richardson and Wilmot Upon an Indictment for Murder

1st. To open the Defence with a proper Address to the Jury to remove all popular Prejudices and Passions and engage them to make a fair, candid and impartial Enquiry and to give their Verdict agreeable to Law and the Evidence, uninfluenc'd by any other Motive; to mention the manner of my becoming engaged as Council for the Prisoners, explain my Duty and the Part I ought and am determin'd to act.

2d. The Witnesses for the Crown having been carefully and thoroughly cross-examined, to produce those for the Prisoners, and endeavour to find out what the Nature and Degree of Provocation offered; how far the Attack upon the house was carried; Whether and to what Degree the Windows were demolished before the firing, and whether the Door was broke open, and any Attempt made upon it; whether any actual Attempt was made to enter; or any Evidence of such Design from threatning Words; Whether Men as well as Boys were not concerned in that Attack; What Weapons were used or thrown into the house; and whether any One within was wounded; and upon the whole whether this is not to be consider'd as an Attack upon the Persons of the Prisoners.

3d. To sum up the Evidence and state the Facts as they shall appear upon Evidence.

4thly. To explain the Nature of the Crime of Murder and the different Kinds of Homicide, as justifiable, excusable (as se defendendo) and felonious: and to shew the Distinction between felonious Homicide of Malice prepense, which is properly Murder, and without 412such Malice, which is Manslaughter. Foster 273. 4. 7.2 1. H.H.P.C. 449.3 4 Black. Com:

The Crime in the present Case cannot at most amount to more than Manslaughter, as he was in his house peceably and there assaulted, by breaking his Windows and throwing Stones at him. And if an Intent to enter and commit a Felony appear, whether from threatening Words, or an Attempt to break the Door or the manner and Degree of the Attack, it is excusable Homicide Se defendendo, at least, if not justifiable. A Man's house is his Castle and he may defend it by himself alone or with such as he calls to assist him. 1 H.H.P.C. 445. 487.5 5 Coke Repts. 91b. Semane's Case.6 11 Coke Repts. 82b. Lewis Bowles Case.7

A Man is not obliged to retire from his house. 1 H.H.P.C. 486.8

So he may justify killing one that attempts to break open his house in the Day time with an attempt to Rob or commit other Felony. 4 Black: Com. 180. 3. 182.9 1 H.P.C. Page 71 Chap. 28 Sect. 21 and by Sect. 23 of this and Sect. 13 of the next Chap. it appears that ware 413one kills another who assaults him in his house in the Day Time with Intent to beat him only is guilty of Homicide Se defendendo and if he appears to have a Design of killing him it is justifiable Homicide. Vid. Sect. 124.10 Vide also Hales P.C. 40 the reason why it is not justifiable but excusable only is that “they came not to commit a known Felony,” and “it cannot be judged whether he meant to kill me.” 11 But if a man in the Daytime breaks the Windows of the house of another and endeavours to enter in order to execute a civil Process, and he within kills him this is Manslaughter and no more. Cooks Case in Cro. Car.: 537. 8.12 And it appears by Lord Hales brief State of this Case 1 H.H.P.C. 458 that had Cook not known the other to be a Bailiff, it had been no Felony because done in Defence of his house. 13 So if A endeavours to enter a house and shoots an arrow at those within and B shoots another out at those who wou'd enter and kills one of the Company. This is ruled not to be se defendendo, but Manslaughter because there was no Danger of their Lives by the Arrow so shot into the house upon them. Harcourts Case 1 H.H.P.C. 485. 6.14 Vid. also the Case of Drayton Basset in 1 H.H.P.C. 440. 1 and also in Page 444. 5 which shews who shall be said to be present, aiding, abetting &c.15


If upon angry Words one man assault another either by pulling him by the Nose or even filliping him upon the Forehead, and he who is so assaulted immediately runs the other through, it is but Manslaughter, for the Peace is broken by him that is killed; and he that receives such Indignity may reasonably apprehend a further Design upon him; Maugridges Case, in Keyling's Repts. 135 adjudged and reported by Lord Holt.16

D. Williams on a sudden and slight Provocation only of Words kills Marbury, ruled to be only Manslaughter, 1 H.H.P.C. 469 and in 470,17 another Case mentioned also by Foster 298. 299 where no 18 given but an Officer had violently entered a Room to make an arrest.19

Two Boys fight, one is beat and runs home blody and complains to his Father who goes three quarters of a mile and kills the other Boy ruled to be Manslaughter by Reason of the sudden heat &c. 1 H.H.P.C. 453 Rowley's Case taken from 12 Coke Repts. 87.20 Vide also a Case in Strange Repts. 499 &c. ruled to be manslaughter only a strong Case. 21

On a sudden Affray or Quarrel if the Party has declined the Combat and retreated as far as he Can with Safety and kills his Adversary thro' Necessity and to avoid immediate Death, it is Se defendendo; 415but if the Combat on both sides is kept up to the time the mortal Stroke is given, and he who gave it was not at that Time in emminent Danger of Death it is Manslaughter, Foster 277.22

A Woman strikes Stedman a Soldier who returns the Blow with the pummel of his Sword. She fled he pursued and stabbed her in the back this ruled to be no more than Manslaughter: by Holt. Foster 292.23 Vide the general Observation by the same author Page 296 which Note.24

If A shoots at B misses him and kills C, if it wou'd have been Murder supposing he had killed B; it will amount to the same Offence, tho' C is killed, whom he did not intend to hurt. On the other hand if the Blow intended against B arose from a sudden Transport of Passion which if B had died by it wou'd have reduced the Offence to Manslaughter, the Fact will admit of the same Alleviation if C shou'd happen to fall by it. Foster 261. 2.25 1 H.H.P.C. 442.26

By Foster 295 Sect. 3d. it is apparent that tho' base Words of Reproach or Gestures are not such Provocation as to lessen the Crime to Manslaughter. Yet when there is any assault on the Person arising from thence, it is otherwise: This Distinction appears from Maugridges Case:27 Whenever the Assault is very slight, as two persons justling against a Wall A kills B who had justled him, or if B had 416whipt A's horse out of the Path and A had alighted and killed B, it had been only Manslaughter, 1 H.H.P.C. 455. 456.28 Where it also appears that Words of Menace of Bodily harm wou'd reduce the Crime to Manslaughter, though Words of Reproach only, woud not.29 Vid. these Distinctions 1 Hawkins P.C. Page 82 and 83 Sect. 34. 35. 36. 37.30


In an unidentified hand, probably Josiah Quincy's; docketed by JA: “Rex v. Richardson.” Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 185.


The references are to Foster, Crown Cases 273, 274, and 277, all of which are within Chapter III, entitled “Homicide founded in Necessity.”


1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 449: “Chapter XXXVI: Touching murder, what it is, and the kinds thereof.”


4 Blackstone, Commentaries *190–192 distinguishes murder and manslaughter.


1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 445: “But if A. comes to enter with force, and in order thereunto shoots at his house, and B. the possessor, having other company in his house, shoots and kills A. this is manslaughter in B.” 1 id. at 487: “[H]is house is his castle of defense, and therefore he may justify assembling of persons for the safeguard of his house.”


Semayne v. Gresham, 5 Co. Rep. 91, 77 Eng. Rep. 194 (K.B. 1605).

“[T]he house of every one is to him as his castle and fortress, as well for his defence against injury and violence, as for his repose; and altho' the life of man is a thing precious and favoured in law . . . if thieves come to a man's house to rob him, or murder, and the owner or his servants kill any of the thieves in defence of himself and his house, it is not felony, and he shall lose nothing. . . . [E]very one may assemble his friends and neighbours to defend his house against violence.”


Bowles v. Bury, 11 Co. Rep. 79, 82, 77 Eng. Rep. 1252, 1258 (K.B. 1616): “If a Man is in his House, and hears that others will come to his House to beat him, he may call together his Friends, &c. into his House to aid him in Safety of his Person; for as it has been said, A Man's House is his Castle and his Defense, and where he properly ought to remain.”


1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 486: “[A man] being in his own house need not fly, as far as he can, as in other cases of se defendendo, for he hath the protection of his house to excuse him from flying, for that would be to give up the possession of his house to his adversary by his flight.”


4 Blackstone, Commentaries *180:

“If any person attempts a robbery or murder of another, or attempts to break open a house in the night time . . . and shall be killed in such attempt, the slayer shall be acquitted and discharged. This reaches not to any crime unaccompanied with force, as picking of pockets; or to the breaking open of any house in the day time, unless it carries with it an attempt of robbery also.”

4 id. at * 182–183 discusses “homicide per infortunium, or misadventure,”


1 Hawkins, Pleas of the Crown 71, §21 lists various justifiable killings of wrongdoers. Id. at 72, §23:

“[H]e who in his own Defence kills another that assaults him in his House in the Day-Time, and plainly appears to intend to beat him only, is guilty of Homicide se defendendo, for which he forfeits his Goods, but is pardoned of Course; yet it seems that a private Person . . . who happens unavoidably to kill another in endeavouring to defend himself from, or suppress dangerous Rioters, may justify the Fact, inasmuch as he only does his Duty in Aid of the publick Justice.”

Id. at 74–75, §13, defines homicide se defendendo:

“where one, who has no other possible Means of preserving his Life from one who combats with him on a sudden Quarrel, or of defending his Person from one who attempts to beat him (especially if such Attempt be made upon him in his own House,) kills the Person by whom he is reduced to such an inevitable Necessity.”

Probably 1 id. at 72, §24:

“And I can see no Reason why a Person, who without Provocation is assaulted by another in any Place whatsoever, in such a Manner as plainly shews an Intent to murder him, as by discharging a Pistol, or pushing at him with a drawn Sword, &c. may not justify killing such an Assailant, as much as if he had attempted to rob him.”


Hale, Pleas of the Crown (Summary) 40: “But if the assault in my House were not to rob me, but to beat me, &c. there would be only se defendendo and Goods forfeited, and a Pardon of course to be granted,” and so as in the text. Quotation marks have been supplied in text.


Rex v. Cook, Cro. Car. 537, 79 Eng. Rep. 1063 (K.B. 1639). The text states the case.


1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 458. Hale does not mention that the breaking took place in the daytime, which, according to the report, it did. It seems likely, therefore, that whoever wrote the instant note had examined the original report in Croke.


1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 485–486. The text states the case.


The Drayton Basset Case, 1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 440–441, and the discussion in id. at 444–445, concern liability of each member of an unlawful gathering for death caused by any one of them.


Reg. v. Mawgridge, Kelyng 119, 135, 84 Eng. Rep. 1107, 1114, Holt K.B. 484, 90 Eng. Rep. 1167 (Q.B. 1707). JA had dealt with this case recently when arguing Rex v. Corbet, No. 56. His notes for that argument, together with the footnotes thereto, fairly state the case.


Rex v. Williams, W. Jones 432, 82 Eng. Rep. 227 (K.B. 1640). Williams, a Welshman, on being taunted by R., threw a hammer at him, but missed, striking and killing M. Held: Manslaughter and, because not within the Statute of Stabbing, 1 Jac. 1, c. 8 (1604), clergy allowed, 1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 470 note, notes the view of Holt, C.J. in Reg. v. Mawgridge, Kelyng 119, 131–132, 84 Eng. Rep. 1107, 1113 (Q'B. 1707), that if the indictment had been for murder Williams ought to have been found guilty for lack of sufficient provocation.


Blank in MS.


Foster, Crown Cases 298–299, in a discussion of the Statute of Stabbing, recites the anonymous case here stated, 1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 470, to which Foster cites, attributes the case to the 1657 Newgate sittings before Glynn, C.J.Held: The killing was not within the Statute, and so clergy allowed.


Rex v. Royley, Cro. Jac. 296, 79 Eng. Rep. 254 (K.B. 1612), reported anonymously 12 Co. Rep. 87, 77 Eng. Rep. 1364, and set out substantially as in the text, 1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 453.


Rex v. Reason & Tranter, 1 Str. 499, 93 Eng. Rep. 659 (K.B. 1722), discussed at length, Foster, Crown Cases 292–294. Held: where two against one, deceased stabbed nine times, then shot as he lay on the floor, defendants guilty only of manslaughter, because the evidence supported a finding that the deceased struck the first blow and threatened the defendants.


Foster, Crown Cases 277:

“He therefore who in the Case of a mutual Conflict would excuse Himself upon the Foot of Self-Defence must shew, that before a Mortal Stroke given He had declined any further Combat and retreated as far as He could with Safety: and also that He Killed his Adversary through meer Necessity, and to avoid immediate Death. If He faileth in Either of these Circumstances He will incur the Penalties of Manslaughter.”


Reg. v. Stedman, Foster, Crown Cases 292 (Old Bailey, 1704):

Holt was at first of Opinion that this was Murder, a single Box on the Ear from a Woman not being a sufficient Provocation to Kill in this Manner, after He had given Her a Blow in return for the Box on the Ear. And it was proposed to have the Matter found Special. But it afterwards appearing in the Progress of the Trial, that the Woman struck the Soldier in the Face with an Iron Patten, and drew a great Deal of Blood, it was held clearly to be no more than Manslaughter.”

JA considered this case in the course of Rex v. Corbet, No. 56.


Foster, Crown Cases 296:

“To what I have offered with regard to sudden Rencounters let Me add, that the Blood, already too much Heated, kindleth afresh at every Pass or Blow. And in the Tumult of the Passions in which meer Instinct Self-Preservation, hath no inconsiderable Share, the Voice of Reason is not heard. And therefore the Law in Condescension to the Infirmities of Flesh and Blood hath extenuated the Offence.”


Foster, Crown Cases 261–262, sets out substantially the point here summarized.


1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 442, supports this point.


Foster, Crown Cases 295:

A. useth provoking Language or Behaviour towards B. B. striketh Him, upon which a Combat ensueth, in which A. is Killed. This is held to be Manslaughter, for it was a sudden Affray and They fought upon equal Terms. And in such Combats upon sudden Quarrels it mattereth not Who gave the first Blow.

For Mawgridge's Case, see note 16 102 above.


1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 455–456, sets out these examples.


1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 456: “[W]ords of menace of bodily harm would come within the reason of such a provocation, as would make the offense to be but manslaughter.”


1 Hawkins, Pleas of the Crown 82–83, discusses the various provocations and excuses, and collects the applicable cases.

Paine’s Minutes of the Trial<a xmlns="" href="#LJA02d088n1" class="note" id="LJA02d088n1a">1</a>: Suffolk. Supr. Ct. April 1770. Paine, Robert Treat


Paine’s Minutes of the Trial: Suffolk. Supr. Ct. April 1770. Paine, Robert Treat
Paine's Minutes of the Trial1
Suffolk. Supr. Ct. April 1770.
Dom. Rex vs. Ebenezer Richardson and George Wilmot

S. Quincy.

Wm. Gray, day before Some mention of Effigies. R said he hoped if these was before Importers Doors there be a Dust beat up, wish'd the 14. Regiment there. They would Cut up the d——d Yankees. Some time before he said he would give the Devil a Supper of them if— He has also said he would not hurt any body unless they hurt him.

Deb. Warner. I was Looking out of my Shop door, I saw R by the Effigy. He came by with the Gentlemen and cry'd out Perjury Perjury, and said not you. Went into his house, and then came out and he came out in a great Rage, doubling his Fists and called challenged the Gentlemen to the Door. Said it should be hot enough before night. This brought the Boys from the Eff. The Boys threw light stuff. He came out with a Stick, and threatned and then went in the Step of the Door and went in and a brick Batt came out of the House and struck a Man who took it up and threw it in and that was the first of the Windows being broken.

On saying Perjury, he said it shall be hot enough before night.

Before Window broke he swore if they did not disperse he would make a Lane thro them.

Front Door open when the Gun fired. No body had attempted to 417enter; months ago, I have heard R say Let 'em come on me I'm ready, for I've Guns loaded. I said I am not safe.

Hannah Warner. The first I saw, R. was with Gentlemen called P.P.2 Challenged em up to Door. Boys came, R in great Rage. He ordered em to go off. They said they would not, Kings high Way. He said he had a Gun loaded and would fire. Swore by G— he would make a lane, no Men.

Edwd. Procter. I was coming from North 1/4 past 10, with Some Gentlemen to see Pagentry before Lilly's Door. R cry'd Perjury, Perjury. I said what do you mean. He said by the Eternal G—d I'll make it too hot for you before night. I withdrew. I saw the brick strike Soldier. He returned it and broke 20 Squares. Soon after the Gun fired. R. doubled his Fist and said Damn ye come here I'm ready for you.

When the Boys threw, I don't remember any Men among 'em.

Saml. Appleton. I heard Boys huzza. The first I saw by Lilly was R. He spake to Mrs. L——, then spake to Country man with Waggon. R. shoke hand and said Perjury. Knox asked him what he meant. He said damn your blood come here, I'll make it too hot for you before night. Boys got to the Door, threw things. Woman came out. Egg struke Woman.

R: came out and said if you dont go away I'll blow a hole thro you enough to Drive a Cart and Oxen.

At the back Door, I saw R. and W's. Guns. R said Dam their Blood I don't care what I have done. He had a Cutlass drawn, and resisted. He said he would resign himself to proper Officer.

Nathl. Noyes. I saw R. level Gun and snapt it at the Door, and went into the House. No Glass broke at that time. Then Boys threw Sticks. At first Snapping Boys were playing elswhere.

Saml. Lock. I was in Town to sell milk. I saw Boys bringing Show. I was at Lillys, read it, saw People at the Door. He said begone to the Boys. 3 or 4 of us stood before R. Window. Saw 'em thro',3 no Windows broke. He said if they did not go off he'd make it too hot for 'em, as sure as there was a G— in heaven, he'd blow a Lane thro 'em. He flashed a Gun in the House pointed to the Street.

Robert Paterson. I went up to R, and I saw R fire the Gun, from within the House. The Boy fell. The Shot went thro' my Trowsers.

Charles Atkins. I saw him walking in the Room with the Gun on 418his Arm. Saw him pull the Tricker. Syder was stooping to take up a Stone as I thought, and was Shot down. 60 or 70 Boys.

Jona. Kenny. The first I saw was 4 or 5 Stones flung out of R. Windows. None had been then flung at the House. I saw R knell down and point the Gun out of the Window, and I saw him shoot.

Syder threw nothing stood looking.

One stone struck me.

I was by Syder 5. minutes. Saw him throw nothing.

John Home. Woman run out and whipt the Boys. Then they threw Sticks; I saw him load, saw him point the Gun and fire.

When he loaded the Gun no Window broke.

R. came out swore by G— if they did not go away he'd make a Lane.

Robert Bricks. Heard R. cry Perj:, your a pack of perjd. Villians. Knox come here. R. presented the Gun out of the Door.

Robert Hews

David Bradley. Windows broke when I got there. I saw 3 or 4 Stones come out of the Window. I saw one or two Men in the Room with Guns in their hands. R put a Gun on edge of Window. I heard the Gun, and run to the back of the house. R clapt the Gun at me.

The Boys ceased throwing till R. threw again.

Wilmot was there. He said it was not I but R.

Robt. Hewes. After Guns fired, I saw R at Window. Boy threw. He presented again. Wilmot said he was assisting him. Wil: presented his Gun out of Window and said Stand off or I'll fire.

Phil Ridgaway. I saw W. at Rs.

When I first came, no Windows broke. Large Stones thrown from house. Then Saw W and R in Yard with Guns. R. said I don't care what I've done when they told him he had killd a Boy. I took from W. a Gun loaded with 179 Shots. 17. Swan Shot. The rest Goose and Duck. She looked as if flashed. Wilmot said he could not have fired for the Screw pin was gone.

Some men laughed, 10 or 15 Stones thrown by Men with violence, but remember none in particular.

Thos. Young. 4 Wound mortal.

John Loring. Wound mortal.

Black. Anal. 119. Murder and Manslaughter.5


Hales Pl. Cr. 31: Murder what, if the act unlawful.6 44. If a man do an act by which Death must ensue, consider, if intended.7 45. An Intention of Evil tho not against a particular Person.8

F.C. Law. 255. The fact proved, prisoner must excuse.9

F.CL 291. §2. The Weapon. Murder.10

HHPC. 451. Def. of Malice in fact.11

2 Ray. 1489. Malice express, if a Man do an Act that must do harm.12


Sarah Richardson. Mr. Knox and Capt. Matchet followed Father up to the Door and said come out you damn Son of Bitch, I'll have your Heart out your Liver out. Boys came there. Knox, Procter and Machet stood behind the Boys. Dont know how long. They threatned to kill us all. I staid till no Lead, no Frame, and then went away.13 Stones hitt my Father, hitt me, could not tarry without danger of Life. Outer Door shut when they threw Stones. Broke Cieling. They broke Doors open. Stones hit Mother. Wilmot said he would stand by 420him as Long as he had breath. Wilmot asked if he had any Gun. R. said he must get his Gun.

Kezia Richardson. Knox, Matchet and Procter Challenged my Father. Knox challengd him and he said he'd have his Heart and Liver in his Hand. They broke the Door open. It was locked. Mother and father Wounded with a Stone. The Wall broken. Father desired Wilmot to .

John Codman. School Boys Surrounded R's House, throwing Dirt and Stones at the House. They said he had Snapt a Gun at us. Not large Stones. A Man said to me you dont know What provocation the Boys had had. Windows broke when I came. Men did not seem to have any Concern. The Doors open. Girls there, unconcerned. A Stone came from the back of Richardsons House. It could not come from Boys.

Mrs. Ann Caldwel. The Boys were assembled and said they were a going to have a Frolick. More than 50 The Side of the House battered.

Katherine Winch. My back Yard and R join. I saw the Boys throw Stones after R apprehended Wall broke.

Lee Esqr. I saw R. Windows broke, Codman reproving the Boys. Man from other side way came and said he did not know the Provocation. Only Boys active. Little or no throwing while there, 15 or 20 men in Sight of R. house. I saw no Body in the house. No Passion in any Body.

Willm. Eustice. I saw Boys thro. Stones. Sailor threw short clubb broke the Lead. The Gun went off. 200 men before firing.

Andrew Tewksbury. The Boys said R was an Informer. They threw Limon Peels then Stones. Some Men looked on Boys and they threw faster. Men shew'd no signs of Approbation but laughing. No Glass broke when I got there. 200 or 300 Boys and Men, 20 or 30 men over the Way. Large Stones. None from the House.

Dr. Hill. I was there before Stones thrown, 1 1/2 minutes before Gun fired. The Windows were demolishd. Not broke when I first went. The affair intirely among the Boys. Men not concern'd.

Dr. Perkins. Some Glass broke when I got there. Some Boys threw Carelessly. Not there more than a minute.

Elias Dupee. The boys carried the Pagentry. I tarried till all Glass broke. I spoke to the Boys. A man said the Town will pay for it tis none of my Business. A brick bat thrown out of the Window and a Soldier threw it back after Stones were thrown. I saw a Gun pointed and fired.


David Pulsifer. R. said if ever a mobb come before my house, call away your Friends. The Girls said Wilmot ask'd R. where his Arms and Ammunition was. Some Men about in the Street. Did not heard any threats, but Matchet, Said they deserved to be hang'd 7 years ago.

H. Laughton

Freeman Pulsiver.


A man of universal Bad Character, apt to be prejudiced. @ Danger of its Working tother Way.14

Theocracy of Jewes. @ City of Refuge.15

4 Blackstone [191]. Manslaughter is killing without malice.16

HHPC. 449. Murder and manslaughter. What. A sudden falling out.17

FCL. 273. Injured Person may justify when known Felony intended. 277.18

Keyling 51: The case of turning out of Tavern Room.19 60. The Circumstance to reduce to manslaughter must be some striving.20 2 422Ray. 1301. Where the Liberty of one Subject is invaded the Liberty of the whole is affected.21

@. Fost. 312. Tooleys case denied.22

2 Inst. 51; Malice must be with a calm deliberate mind.23 57. Manslaughter where it happens on Sudden Shuffling.24

12 Co. Boy with bloody nose.25 Mem. Foster Contra. 295. 326

HHPC 445. A comes to enter, with force.27 485. Killing those who come to do Injury to the House.28 486. Come to Take Goods a Trespasser.29

5 Co. 91. Semaines Case, attacking a House.30

11. Co. 84. Bowles Case, a man may call other to defend himself in his house.31


Hale PC 40, if a man come to enter.”32

HAPC. 72.33

Cro. Car. 537. Cokes Case, killing Bailiff.34 Vid. it was ruled Manslaughter because he might have resisted him without killing him. Ergo were it not he was a Bailiff and broke the House it would be Murder.35

Kelynge. 131. Pulling nose, and running thro with Sword.36

HHPC: 458: had it not known him to be a Bailiff no felony.37

Fos. 298. 99. An officer push'd into room to arrest.38

HHPC: 442.39

Fost. 261. When a Blow aimed at one Person killeth another, but where the first is evil it is murder.40 292: Lutteralls Case.41

HPC. 81. 27.42 83. 39.43


Fos. 350. 5. Accomplice.44 391. bottom. Ditto Plummer Case.45 35346

Haw. P.C.: 193: Libel whats provoking.47

A Man's house his Castle a Doctrine highly approved.

The Pagantry must not be considered as Lawful.

A Crime of this Sort not to be presumed. @ R. must Excuse.

A man not obliged to fly from his own House. @ When the assaliant is in his House.

Snider was among Trespassers and therefore not murder to kill him.

HHPC: 441. Woman killd by throwing a Stone.48

439. 440. Accomplice.49

New Trials50

5 Bac. 244.51


Str. 1106.52 1142. Evidence on both sides.53 887.54

May be granted when Defendant found guilty.

Str. 104. 968. 1106.55

Bla. Com. 354. The Jury have an unquestionable right to determine on all the Circumstances and to find a general verdict.56 2. Hal. 310.57


In Robert Treat Paine's hand. Paine Law Notes. As usual in Paine's legal MSS, the handwriting is hasty, careless, and often cryptic, the punctuation chaotic, and the meaning, therefore, sometimes obscure. Some editorial regularization has had to be imposed to make the notes intelligible; doubtless some misreadings remain.


That is, “Perjury, Perjury.”


Either the witness saw the boys throw at the window, or saw Richardson and Wilmot through the window.


Dr. Thomas Young (1731–1777), one of the patriot leaders. See Edes, “Memoir of Dr. Thomas Young,” 11 Col. Soc. Mass., Pubns. 2 (1910).


William Blackstone, Analysis of the Laws of England 119 (Dublin, 5th edn., 1766):

Manslaughter is the unlawful Killing of another; without Malice, express or implied. This is Felony, but within Clergy; except in the Case of Stabbing.” “Murder is when a Person of sound Memory and Discretion, unlawfully killeth any reasonable Creature, in Being, and under the King's Peace; with Malice aforethought, either express or implied. This is Felony, without Clergy; punished with speedy Death, and Hanging in Chains, or Dissection.”


Hale, Pleas of the Crown (Summary) 31: “But if the act be unlawful, then death ensuing, Manslaughter or Murder.” Id. at 32: “So that an unlawful act, without an ill intent, Manslaughter; with an ill intent, Murder.”


Hale, Pleas of the Crown (Summary) 44: “Malice implied in the manner of doing. . . . If a Man do an act that apparently must introduce harm, and Death ensue. . . . But note, that if it were with an intention to do harm, then Murder; if without such intention, Manslaughter.”


Hale, Pleas of the Crown (Summary) 45: “For an Intention of Evil, though not against a particular Person, makes a Malice.”


Foster, Crown Cases 255: “In every Charge of Murder, the Fact of Killing being first proved, all the Circumstances of Accident, Necessity, or Infirmity are to be satisfactorily proved by the Prisoner, unless they arise out of the Evidence produced against Him: for the Law presumeth the Fact to have been founded in Malice, until the Contrary appeareth.”


Foster, Crown Cases 291: “And it ought to be remembered, that in all other Cases of Homicide upon slight Provocation, if it may be reasonably collected from the Weapon made use of, or from any other Circumstance, that the Party intended to Kill, or to do some great bodily Harm, such Homicide will be Murder.”


1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 451: “Malice in fact is a deliberate intention of doing some corporal harm to the person of another. . . . Malice in fact is a deliberate intention of doing any bodily harm to another, whereunto by law he is not authorized.”


Rex v. Oneby, 2 Ld. Raym. 1485, 1489, 92 Eng. Rep. 465, 468 (K.B. 1727): “Malice express, is a design formed of taking away another man's life, or of doing some mischief to another, in the execution of which design death ensues.”


That is, she remained until the window lead and frame were destroyed. The Knox referred to is Thomas Knox. See indictment, SF 102009, where he is listed as a witness.


Paine apparently used “@” to denote counterarguments or answers to points made by his opponents.


Numbers 35:14–33:

“Ye shall give three cities on this side Jordan, and three cities shall ye give in the land of Canaan, which shall be cities of refuge. These six cities shall be a refuge both for the children of Israel, and for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them: that every one that killeth any person unawares may flee thither. . . . Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die. Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death. And ye shall take no satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge, that he should come again to dwell in the land, until the death of the priest. So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.”

A similar reference appears in Rex v. Goodwin (SCJ, Falmouth, 1772), Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 185. See also No. 63, text at note 8 165 , and No. 64, text at note 14 135


See also note 5 121 above.


1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 449: “Murder and manslaughter differ not in the kind or nature of the offense, but only in the degree, the former being the killing of a man of malice prepense, the latter upon a sudden provocation and falling out.”


Foster, Crown Cases 273: “In the Case of Justifiable Self-Defence the injured Party may repel Force with Force in Defence of his Person, Habitation, or Property, against one who manifestly intendeth and endeavoureth with Violence or Surprize to commit a known Felony upon either.” At 277, Foster discusses the difference between manslaughter and excusable self-defense.


Ford's Case, Kelyng 51, 84 Eng. Rep. 1078 (K.B. temp. Hyde, C.J.): killing a man while defending one's right to possession of a room in a tavern held justifiable.


Lord Morley's Case, Kelyng 60–61, 84 Eng. Rep. 1082 (K.B. temp. Kelyng, C. J.): “[W]e held that such a provocation as must take off the killing of a man from Murder to be but Manslaughter, must be some open Violence, or actual striving with, or striking one another.”


Reg. v. Tooley, 2 Ld. Raym. 1296, 1301, 92 Eng. Rep. 349, 352 (Q.B. 1710): “[W]here the liberty of the subject is invaded, it is a provocation to all the subjects of England.”


Foster, Crown Cases 312: “The Doctrine advanced in the Case of The Queen against Tooly and Others hath, I conceive, carried the Law in favour of Private Persons Officiously interposing farther than sound Reason founded in the Principles of true Policy will warrant.”


Probably 3 Coke, Institutes *51: “Malice prepensed is, when one compasseth to kill, wound, or beat another, and doth it sedato animo.”


Probably 3 Coke, Institutes *57: “Homicide is called chancemedley or chancemelle, for that it is done by chance (without premeditation) upon a sudden brawle, shuffling, or contention.” Id. at *55: “There is no difference between murder, and manslaughter; but that the one is upon malice forethought, and the other upon a sudden occasion: and therefore is called chancemedley.”


Rex v. Royley, Cro. Jac. 296, 79 Eng. Rep. 254, 12 Co. Rep. 87, 77 Eng. Rep. 1364 (K.B. 1612). See note 20 106 above.


Foster, Crown Cases 295: “[T]he Accident happened by a single Stroke with a Cudgel not likely to destroy and . . . Death did not immediately ensue. . . . I observe that Lord Raymond layeth great Stress on this Circumstance, that the Stroke was with a Cudgel not likely to Kill.” Id. at 293 is a discussion of Rex v. Reason & Tranter, 1 Str. 499, 93 Eng. Rep. 659 (K.B. 1722). See note 21 107 above.


1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 445. See note 5 91 above.


1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 485, treats “what the offence is in killing him, that takes the goods, or doth injury to the house or possession of another.” See also note 14 100 above.


1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 486: “If a man come to take my goods as a trespasser, I may justify the beating of him in defence of my goods, as hath been said, but if I kill him, it is manslaughter. But if a man come to rob me, or take my goods as a felon, and in my resistance of his attempt I kill him, it is me defendendo at least, and in some cases not so much.”


Semayne v. Gresham, 5 Co. Rep. 91, 77 Eng. Rep. 194 (K.B. 1605). See note 6 92 above.


Bowles v. Bury, 11 Co. Rep. 79, 84, 77 Eng. Rep. 1252, 1260 (K.B. 1605). The reference appears to be an inadvertence for 11 Co. Rep. at 82, 77 Eng. Rep. at 1258. See note 7 93 above.


Hale, Pleas of the Crown (Summary) 40: “If one come to enter into my House, claiming Title, and I kill him, Manslaughter. If A. enter wrongfully into the House of B. riotously and forcibly, B. and others endeavour to fire the house, A kills, Manslaughter.” See also note 11 97 above.


Apparently 1 Hawkins, Pleas of the Crown 72, which discusses justifiable homicide.


Rex v. Cook, Cro. Car. 537, 79 Eng. Rep. 1063 (K.B. 1639). See text at note 12 98 above.


The two preceding sentences were inserted in the MS in a very small hand, not Paine's. They refer to the court's ruling that the killing was not excusable, but “manslaughter, because he seeing and knowing him, shot at him voluntarily, and slew him.” Cro. Car. at 539, 79 Eng. Rep. at 1064. As to the contention that if it were not for the fact of the house-breaking, the killing, being voluntary, would be murder, compare 1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 485. See text at note 14 100 above.


Reg. v. Mawgridge, Kelyng 119, 84 Eng. Rep. 1107 (Q.B. 1707). See note 16 102 above. The reference appears to be an inadvertence for Kelyng 135, 84 Eng. Rep. 1114.


1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 458. See note 13 99 above.


Foster, Crown Cases 298–299. See note 19 105 above.


1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 442. See note 26 112 above.


Foster, Crown Cases 261. See note 25 111 above.


Rex v. Reason & Tranter, 1 Str. 499, 93 Eng. Rep. 659 (K.B. 1722), discussed in Foster, Crown Cases 292. See note 21 107 above.


1 Hawkins, Pleas of the Crown 81, §27:

“And it hath been adjudged, That even upon a sudden Quarrel, if a Man be so far provoked by any bare Words or Gestures of another, as to make a push at him with a Sword, or to strike at him with any other such Weapon as manifestly endangers his Life, before the other's Sword is drawn, and thereupon a Fight ensue, and he who made such Assault kill the other, he is guilty of Murder; because that by assaulting the other in such an outrageous Manner, without giving him an Opportunity to defend himself, he shewed that he intended not to fight with him, but to kill him, which violent Revenge is no more excused by such a slight Provocation, than if there had been none at all.”


1 Hawkins, Pleas of the Crown 83, §39:

“Also it seems, That he, who upon a sudden Provocation executeth his Revenge in such a cruel Manner, as shews a cruel and deliberate Intent to do Mischief, is guilty of Murder, if Death ensue; as where the Keeper of a Park, finding a Boy stealing Wood, tied him to a Horse's Tail and beat him, whereupon the Horse ran away and killed him.”


Foster, Crown Cases 350, 355, treats the law of accomplices and abettors.


Foster, Crown Cases 351–352, discusses Rex v. Plummer, Kelyng 109, 84 Eng. Rep. 1103 (K.B. 1701), in which the court held that the shooting of A by B, where both were members of the same gang attempting over the physical opposition of a Crown officer to export English wool contrary to law, was not murder in C (another gang member), it not having been found that the shot was discharged against the officer.


Foster, Crown Cases 353–354:

“A general Resolution against All Opposers, whether such Resolution appeareth upon Evidence to have been Actually and Explicitly entered into by the Confederates, or may be reasonably collected from their Number, Arms, or Behaviour at or before the Scene of Action, such Resolutions so proved have always been considered as strong Ingredients in Cases of this kind. And in Cases of Homicide committed in consequence of them, every Person present in the Sense of the Law when the Homicide hath been Committed, hath been involved in the Guilt of Him that gave the mortal Blow.”


1 Hawkins, Pleas of the Crown 193: “[S]ince the plain Meaning of such Scandal as is expressed by Signs or Pictures, is as obvious to common Sense, and as easily understood by every common Capacity, and altogether as provoking, as that which is expressed by Writing or Printing, why should it not be equally criminal?” This citation indicates that the defense argued that the criminal nature of the sign or “show” at Lillie's rendered the whole affair unlawful and that Richardson had been justified in attempting to destroy it.


1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 441, setting out Mansell and Herbert's Case, Dyer 128, 73 Eng. Rep. 279 (1556–1557), concerning an attempt by a “great multitude of men” to take goods out of a house. A woman who came out of the house unarmed was struck and killed by a rock thrown by one of the multitude at another. Held: Murder (according to the headnote—the report itself is less clear).


1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 439–440, a discussion of accessories to felony.


The MS page on which the immediately preceding citations appear is left three quarters blank. On the next page is set out (with some alterations) Isabella's speech from Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, Act II, scene 2, commencing “Could great men thunder.” On the page after that, upside down, appears the material on new trials ending Doc. II. The rest of that MS page is blank, and the following page commences with “SC. Augt. 1770.” (See Doc. III.) What role, if any, Shakespeare's lines played in the proceedings, the editors cannot presently say.


5 Bacon, Abridgment 244, concerning new trials, which cites the cases in the two footnotes next following. For a discussion of Bacon's authorities, see No. 12, text at notes 50–55.


Smith dem. Dormer v. Parkhurst et al., 2 Str. 1105, 1106, 93 Eng. Rep. 1061 (K.B. 1739): “[T]he point upon which the new trial in this case was denied was, because they said the evidence was doubtful, and in such a case a verdict at bar ought to stand,” even though the finding had been against the weight of the evidence.


Ashley v. Ashley, 2 Str. 1142, 93 Eng. Rep. 1088 (K.B. 1741):

“The Judge who tried this cause (which was upon a promisory note for £5000 which the defendant insisted was forged) certified that the weight of the evidence was with the plaintiff, and he thought the jury would find for the plaintiff; but they found for the defendant. Et per curiam, As there was evidence on the part of the defendant, the jury are the proper judges which scale preponderates. It cannot be said to be a verdict against evidence, and therefore we will grant no new Trial.”

See also Smith v. Huggins et al., 2 Str. 1142, 93 Eng. Rep. 1089 (K.B. 1741), decided the day after Ashley v. Ashley: “[A] new trial denied; though there was but a weak evidence for the plaintiff, and the Chief Justice summed it up strongly for the defendant.”


Rex v. Huggins, 2 Str. 882, 887, 93 Eng. Rep. 915, 918 (K.B. 1731), reported somewhat more fully, 2 Ld. Raym. 1574, 92 Eng. Rep. 518. This was an indictment against the warden of the Fleet Prison for the murder of a prisoner by a servant of the deputy warden, who had confined the deceased “six weeks without fire, chamber-pot or close-stool, the walls being damp and unwholesome, and the room built over the common shore.” The jury found specially: that the servant had kept the deceased as alleged, whereof he had died; that Huggins knew the condition of the room at least fifteen days before the deceased's death, having seen him there and then having turned away. But Huggins' guilt or innocence they left to the court. Held: No finding of Huggins' consent to the deputy's acts, the circumstances of Huggins' presence

“were they ever so strong an evidence of consent, they will not be sufficient for us to ground a judgment upon: we are to determine upon facts, and not on evidence of facts. . . . It would be the most dangerous thing in the world, if we should once give into the doctrine of inferring facts from evidence; which is the proper business of a jury, and not of the court.”

2 Str. at 886, 93 Eng. Rep. at 917–918, per Lord Raymond, C.J. The Crown lawyers argued that inasmuch as the courts, since Rex v. Oneby, 2 Ld. Raym. 1485, 92 Eng. Rep. 465 (K.B. 1727), note 12 128 above, had not required the jury to find malice, the judges could as well adjudge the consent as a matter of law. This, Lord Raymond rejected, noting that “malice is matter of law arising from a legal construction of the act, . . . but consent is an act of the mind.” 2 Str. at 886, 93 Eng. Rep. at 918. Finally, the Crown contended that the verdict was too uncertain to found a judgment upon, and the court should therefore require a new trial. Noting first that “no instance could be produced where, in a criminal case, it was ever done for a fault in the verdict itself,” Lord Raymond went on to hold the verdict good.

“There is no incertainty as to the facts that are found: the only fault is, that there are not such facts found as will amount to murder. The consequence of which is, that the defendant is Not guilty of murder; and it would be endless to send it back to a jury, till they find facts enough to make it murder; besides its being contrary to law, in exposing a man to a second hazard of life.” Id. at 887, 93 Eng. Rep. at 918.


See notes 20 193 , 21 194 , below, and 52 168 above.


4 Blackstone, Commentaries *354–355:

“But an open verdict may be either general, guilty, or not guilty; or special, setting forth all the circumstances of the case, and praying the judgment of the court, whether, for instance, on the facts stated, it be murder, manslaughter, or no crime at all. That is where they doubt the matter of law, and therefore chuse to leave it to the determination of the court; though they have an unquestionable right of determining upon all the circumstances, and finding a general verdict, if they think proper so to hazard a breach of their oaths. . . . Yet in many instances, where contrary to evidence the jury have found the prisoner guilty, their verdict hath been mercifully set aside, and a new trial granted by the court of king's bench. . . . But there hath yet been no instance of granting a new trial, where the prisoner was acquitted upon the first.”


2 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 309–310:

“But what if a jury give a verdict against all reason, convicting or acquitting a person indicted against all evidence, what shall be done? I say, if the jury will convict a man against or without evidence, and against the direction or opinion of the court, the court hath this salve[,] to reprieve the person convict before judgment, and to acquaint the king, and certify for his pardon.”

426 Paine’s Minutes of the Proceedings on the Motion for a New Trial<a xmlns="" href="#LJA02d089n1" class="note" id="LJA02d089n1a">1</a>: Suffolk Superior Court, Boston, September 1770 Paine, Robert Treat


Paine’s Minutes of the Proceedings on the Motion for a New Trial: Suffolk Superior Court, Boston, September 1770 Paine, Robert Treat
Paine's Minutes of the Proceedings on the Motion for a New Trial1
Suffolk Superior Court, Boston, September 1770
SC. Augt. Term 1770
Rex v. Richardson

Motion for new Trial.

Deming. Foreman.2 Mr. Lothrop was satisfied as to Fact, but not Law. Mr. Clap not so fully satisfied as to Law. I told him the Court knew the Law. We all agreed about 1/2 an hour before we came in on Richardson.

Lothrop. I did not fall in so soon as some, for I thought the time might be as well spent in Argument. Jury in General thought if the verdict was not agreeable to Law the Court would not receive it. It was a motive with me.3

I heard some Body say as we passed up stairs Damn him don't bring it in Manslaughter.

Clap. At first going out I was not so clear as afterwards, for the 427Reason offered, such as its being in the Day.4 Something was said that the Court would not receive it if not right, but it did not weigh with me.

Withington. The Rabble as we were going out said hang the Dog hang him. 5

Stoddard. I heard no such thing.

Leveret. A great hiddalo. But I heard northing.

John Smith. As I passed and turn'd the Stairs down the Stairs some said hang him no Manslaughter, but no Body minded it.

Elisha Gardner. I heard a tumultuous noise, no Manslaughter but Murder, it appeared with no Connections to the Jury.

Jona. Ellis. I heard some Body cry out damn him hang him Murder no Manslaughter. It seemed down stairs. Not mentioned in the Jury Room.

Jos. Hawes. As the Jury were going out I heard some Body say hang him a dog, but from whom I dont know. There was some such talk that if the Court did not like the Verdict they would not receive it.

Ephm. Pratt. There was a noise but I heard no Words.

Ebe. Adams. I heard a Noise below but heard no Body speak so as to be understood. Something like hang him. I did not take it to be directed to the Jury.

Mr. Usher. Keeper of the Jury. Many People below till 12 or 1 oClock. I heard no Cry of hang 'em &c.


Cro. 778. Wats & Braine. Jury sent out again, 2 dissenting on Examination.6

State Tri. 417. Vol. X. Ashley v. Simons the Jew; Jury mistook their Verdict.

5 Bac. 243. SC.7


Cr. El. 189. A Witness examined again by Jury.8

Trial pr. Pais. A paper delivered to the Jury by Stranger. 224.9

225. A Breviate delivered.10

222. If the Party says to the Jury 'my Case is Clear' it is new Evidence.11

Styles 383. The delivering a Breviate to the Jury before Tryal, mistryal: Tayler v. Webb.12

1 Vent. 124. Duke Richmond v. Wise. If any of Party say I hope youll find for Plaintiff tis mistryal. 13

Vin. Tryal 452. §25. One said to a Jury he'd take care what for it was better for the Bishop than Duke.14


11 Mod. 118. Lady Herbert vs. Shaw. A Letter wrote to Jury to attend, to consider the Plaintiff was a poor man, mistrial.15

Burr. 390. Bright vs. Eynon.16

Foster 266. A Breviate delivered to a Juryman.17

T. Jones 163. Rex v. Smith. Verdicts vs. Evidence.18

3 Keeble 525. New Tryal, SC.19

Str. 104,20 968,21 1102.22

1 L. Ray. 62, 63.23


2 HPC.24

5 Bac. 292. Ld. Vaghn Law denied.25

2 Ld. R. 1494 Onebys Case.26

12 Mod. 336. If Judge in his Conscience is satisfied the Cause deserves a new Tryal.27


CL: 228. Jury may give general verdict.28

4 Black. 354. Same vid.29

2 Hale 310. Same.30

Str. 1142.31

3 Black. 375.32

Fos. 255.33


In Paine's hand. Paine Law Notes. See note 50 166 above.


 [T]he Jurors were inquired of the Foundation of their Verdict. The Foreman, with a sullen Pride of Revenge, replied, 'that he was not obliged to give any Reasons of his Conduct.'” Oliver, Origin and Progress 86–87. The jurors, all of whom testified, were Jonathan Deming (foreman), Thomas Lothrop, Seth Clap, Philip Withington, Jeremy Stoddard, Israel Everet, John Smith, Elisha Gardner, Jonathan Ellis, Joseph Hawes, Ephraim Pratt, and Ebenezer Adams. Min. Bk. 91, SCJ Suffolk, Aug. 1770.


“One of the Jurors declared, that he thought him innocent, and had persisted all Night in that Opinion, against the united Sentiment of the other eleven; but in the Morning, after a tedious whole Nights Fatigue, his Bretheren overperswaded him to unite with them, by urging this Argument upon him, vizt. 'that the Court had delivered their Opinion, in Law, that the Prisoner was innocent, and that his Life would be saved; therefore, that it was not worth while to stand out any longer.' These Arguments alone, he said, prevailed with him to join with the others in their Verdict.”Oliver, Origin and Progress 87.


“One of them said, 'that he should have acquitted the Prisoner, had the killing happened in the Night instead of the Day.'” Oliver Origin and Progress 87.


“Some of them acknowledged, that, as they past thro' the Mob, from the Court to their Apartment, they were called upon to bring the Prisoner in guilty.” Oliver, Origin and Progress 87.


Wats v. Brains, Cro. Eliz. 778–779, 78 Eng. Rep. 1009 (Q.B. 1601): On an appeal of murder, “notwithstanding the Evidence was pregnant against the defendant,” eight, and then ten of the jurors voted “not guilty.” The two others proposed that the jury bring in a “not guilty” verdict on condition that if the court “disliked thereof,” the verdict would be changed to “guilty.” When, however, the foreman pronounced “not guilty” the court, “much misliking thereof, being contrary to their direction,” polled the jury, discovered the scheme, sent the jury out again, received a verdict of guilty, and fined or reprimanded all the jurors.


Rex v. Simonds, 5 Bacon, Abridgment 243–244 (Unreported, K.B. 1752):

“The Defendant was indicted for having put some Ducats into the Pocket of the Prosecutor with an Intent to charge him with Felony. The Jury found the Defendant guilty generally: But upon a Motion for a new Trial Affidavits of all the Jurors were produced, in which they swore that they only intended to find him guilty of the Fact of having put the Ducats into the Prosecutor's Pocket but not of the Intent; and Foster, J. before whom the Indictment was tried reported that his Direction to the Jury was, that in Case they did not think the Defendant guilty of the Intent as well as of the Fact of having put the Ducats into the Prosecutor's Pocket they ought to acquit him. A new Trial was granted; and by Lee Ch. J. we do not grant a new Trial in this Case on the Account of any after Thought of the Jurors, for the doing of this might be a very bad Precedent; but because the Verdict was contrary to the Direction of the Judge in a Matter of Law. By Denison J. if the Verdict had been as the Jury intended it, that the Defendant was guilty of the Fact but not of the Intent there must have been a Venire facias de Novo for it would have been an incompleat Verdict.”

The case was also reported in 10 State Trials 411, sub nom. Ashley v. Simons the Jew. (Ashley was the prosecutor.) The report sets out interesting background information, the indictment, the affidavits of the individual jurors, the judge's additional charge, and the outcome of the second trial (12 July 1752—acquitted).


Probably Metcalfe v. Deane, Cro. Eliz. 189, 78 Eng. Rep. 445 (Q.B. 1590): The jury, having withdrawn, reexamined one of the defendant's witnesses, and then returned a defendant's verdict. Held: verdict not good, venire facias de novo issued.


Duncombe, Trials per Pais 224, reports Taylor v. Webb [Style 383, 82 Eng. Rep. 797 (K.B. 1653)]: verdict set aside because jury received writings “after Evidence,” notwithstanding affidavit by foreman that the jury made no use of the writings in reaching the verdict.


Duncombe, Trials per Pais 225, refers to YB 11 Hen. 4, 18: delivery of brief of evidence to jury, even though it contained no more than was proved in court, avoids the verdict.


Duncombe, Trials per Pais 222: “If one of the Parties say to the Jury after they are gone from the Bar, You are weak Men, it is as clear of my Side as the Nose in a Man's Face; this is new Evidence, for his Affirmation may very much perswade the Jury and therefore shall quash the Verdict.” This can refer only to the litigant's forensic skill, and not to the introduction of new evidence, for a party was incompetent to testify.


See note 9 182 above.


The Duke of Richmond v. Wise, I Ventris 124, 125, 86 Eng. Rep. 86, (K.B. 1672):

“[I]f any of the Parties, their Attorneys or Sollicitors speak any thing to the Jury, before they are agreed relating to the Cause, (viz.) That it is a clear Cause, or I hope You will find for such an one, or the like, and they find accordingly, it shall avoid the Verdict; but if words of Salutation, or the like pass between them, (as was endeavoured to be proved in this Case) they shall not.”


21 Viner, Abridgment 452–453, tit. Trial, §25: Court being held out of doors in a trial between the Bishop of L. and the Earl of Kent, a “Tempest of Thunder and Lightning” drove one of the jurors into a house, “where diverse said to him that he take Care what he did, for the Matter was better for the Earl of Kent than for the Bishop; and pray'd him to drink with them, and so he did.” After verdict for the Bishop the case was argued in the Exchequer Chamber, where “the best Opinion was that Fine [of the Juror, for drinking]shall be made, and the Verdict good, and not void.”


Lady Herbert v. Shaw, 11 Mod. 118, 88 Eng. Rep. 937 (Q.B. 1707): Plaintiff's father, the Duke of Leeds, wrote to each juror requesting his appearance at the trial, saying: “Which I shall take as a great Obligation, particularly from your self, and shall be glad of an Occasion to shew how much I am, Sir, your Humble Servant.” On defendant's motion for new trial, held, motion denied: defendant had notice of the letter long before trial and should have raised the issue sooner. Powell, J. referred to an unidentified case in the Common Pleas “where a Stranger writ to a Juryman to consider that the Plaintiff was a poor Man; for which a new Trial was granted.”


Bright, Executor v. Eynon, 1 Burr. 390, 397, 97 Eng. Rep. 365, 369 (K.B. 1757): New trial granted where jury drew the “wrong conclusion from facts admitted on both sides.”


Foster, Crown Cases 266, reports a case in which a coroner's jury found that a man run over by a wagon had been killed by the wheel only, and not the horses and cart too. Held: neither the higher court nor the coroner “can oblige the Jury to conclude otherwise than They have done.” The page contains no mention of the breviate; see, however, text at notes 9, 10, 12 182, 183, 185 , above; Paine, therefore, may possibly be recording two separate references.


Rex v. Smith, T. Jones 163, 84 Eng. Rep. 1197 (K.B. 1682): new trial awarded where, on information for perjury, “an obstinate Jury against the Direction of the Judge, found the Defendant guilty.” Dolbin, J., cited precedents where verdicts against the evidence were set aside.


Rex v. Cornelius, 3 Keble 525, 84 Eng. Rep. 858 (K.B. 1676): conviction of perjury for swearing that S. “was at a conventicle, who was not; but it appearing the defendant never made any such oath, and that the foreman was owner of the barn [where the conventicle was held], and challenged, and yet sworn on the jury; which per Curiam is a great challenge to the favor; and a new trial was awarded.”


Rex v. Bennett, 1 Str. 101, 105, 93 Eng. Rep. 412, 414 (K.B. 1718): Information in nature of quo warranto; after verdict for defendant against evidence, held (after consulting all the other judges), equal division, therefore no new trial.


Rex v. Gibson, 2 Str. 968, 93 Eng. Rep. 972 (K.B. 1734): Defendant must be in court to move for new trial.


Rex v. Armstrong, 2 Str. 1102, 93 Eng. Rep. 1059 (K.B. 1739): After judgment signed, defendant may not move for new trial.


Smith v. Frampton, 1 Ld. Raym. 62, 63, 91 Eng. Rep. 938 (K.B. 1695): Action for negligent keeping of fire resulting in plaintiff's house being burnt; verdict for defendant; motion for new trial for verdict's being against evidence. Held: “This being a case of hardship, and the jurors being judges of the fact, no new trial should be granted, although Holt chief justice, before whom it was tried, was dissatisfied with the verdict.”


This may be 2 Hawkins, Pleas of the Crown 442:

“However it is settled, That the Court cannot set aside a Verdict which acquits a Defendant of a Prosecution properly criminal, as it seems that they may a Verdict that convicts him for having been given contrary to Evidence, and the Directions of the Judge, or any Verdict whatever for a Mistrial.”

The minute may also refer to a page in 2 Hale, Pleas of the Crown , although that was generally cited as “HHPC.”


5 Bacon, Abridgment 292:

“It is indeed said in one Book [citing Bushel's Case, Vaughan 135, 147, 124 Eng. Rep. 1006, 1012 (C.P. 1670)], that the Jurors are not obliged to ground their Verdict upon the Evidence given in Court; for that this may be grounded upon their own personal Knowledge. But no Authority is cited in Support of this Doctrine, and the contrary Opinion to be the better one. . . . It may moreover be very fairly inferred, from the constant Practice of granting a new Trial because a Verdict is contrary to Evidence, that the Jury ought to ground their Verdict intirely upon the Evidence given in Court; for if they have a Power to ground it upon any other Evidence, how unreasonable would it be for the Judge before whom the Cause was tried, who must always be a Stranger to what did not appear in Court, to report that the Verdict is contrary to Evidence, or for the Court to set it aside as being so.”


Rex v. Oneby, 2 Ld. Raym. 1485, 1494, 92 Eng. Rep. 465, 471 (K.B. 1727): “And the jury may, if they think proper, give a general verdict, either that the prisoner is guilty of murder or of manslaughter.”


Anon., 12 Mod. 336, 88 Eng. Rep. 1362 (K.B. 1699), per Holt, C.J.: “In granting a new Trial we ought not altogether to rely on the Certificate of the Judge who tried the Cause, but upon the Reason of the Thing; and sometimes I would grant a new Trial against the Certificate of a Judge, if in my Judgment and Conscience the Matter deserves a Re-examination.”


1 Coke, Institutes *228b: “Although the Jurie, if they will take upon them (as Littleton here saith) the knowledge of the Law, may give a general verdict, yet it is dangerous for them so to do.”


4 Blackstone, Commentaries *354. For text, see note 56 172 above.


2 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 310. For text, see note 57 173 above.


Ashley v. Ashley, 2 Str. 1142, 93 Eng. Rep. 1088 (K.B. 1741). For holding, see note 53 169 above.


3 Blackstone, Commentaries *375, mentions “the grounds, upon which such new trials are every day awarded, viz. that the verdict was given without, or contrary to, evidence.”


Foster, Crown Cases 255. For text, see note 9 125 above. Also:

“In every Case where the Point turneth upon the Question, Whether the Homicide was committed Wilfully and Malitiously, or under Circumstances Justifying, Excusing, or Alleviating; the Matter of Fact, viz. whether the Facts alledged by Way of Justification, Excuse, or Alleviation are True, is the proper and only Province of the Jury. But whether upon a Supposition of the Truth of Facts such Homicide be Justified, Excused, or Alleviated, must be submitted to the Judgment of the Court.”