4th November 1839. Rough Justice.
In the early reign of Queen Victoria and time of the Author’s Great-Grandfather, the last sentence for Hanging, Drawing and Quartering was handed down.
The late 1830s saw the rise of Chartism, a movement, whose leaders William Lovell and Henry Hetherington had founded the London Working Men’s Association in 1836.(1)
The People’s Charter called, amongst other things, for male suffrage and removal of property requirement to become MP.s.
The Charter was taken to Parliament where it was rejected by 235-46 , and this along with the conviction in August of Chartist Harry Vincent for unlawful assembly, was to result in widespread unrest.(2)
One of the worst outbreaks resulted from riots Today in 1839 when 5,000 men marched on Newport, Monmouth from the Welsh valleys, led by three Chartists, John Frost, William Jones and Zephaniah Williams.
The focus was the Westgate Hotel where local Chartist ‘trouble-makers’ had been rounded-up, once the authorities knew of potential violence.
Hundreds of Special Constables were sworn, and a detachment of the 45th (Nottinghamshire) Regiment of Foot were deployed, who in opening fire, killed at least twenty-two, resulting in a rapid dispersal of agitators, leaving pikes, bludgeons and other motley weapons behind.
The fourteen ring-leaders were arrested and in December stood trial being prosecuted by John Campbell later Lord Chancellor, under the Treason Act.
Sentencing took place on 16th January 1840, when Lord Chief Justice Tindal in condemning Frost, Jones and Williams to death, wound up:
…and nothing more remains than the duty imposed on this court, to all of us a painful duty…that you will be taken to a place of execution…each of you will be hanged…until dead…and afterwards the head shall be severed…and the body divided into four quarters.
However after much petitioning the Whig Home Secretary reduced the sentences to Transportation for life, with five years for Lovell at the Millbank Penitentiary.(3)
In the event Frost was later pardoned and returned to England. Later Jones and Williams were also pardoned, but remained in Australia.
The Mayor Thomas Phillips wounded after defending the hotel was awarded a knighthood by Victoria six weeks later.
Lord Chief Justice Tindal, is commemorated by Statue in Tindal Square, Chelmsford and a monument in the Cathedral.
John Frost, a draper, is commemorated by an eponymous town square and murals in Newport.
(1) Lovell convicted of seditious libel was imprisoned and transported.
(2) Rejected on 12th July 1839. Vincent convicted 2nd August 1839.
(3) Whigs were predecessors of the Liberals.
Ref: wikipedia.org/chartist_petition/Pic Image.
Ref: monsgenes.org.uk/Pics of Court and Hall.