Friday, April 11, 2008

Amidst the dusty archives

The relative silence on my part in recent weeks has had much to do with being preoccupied with doing some of the necessary ground work for a new research project that a colleague and I will be spending the rest of the year on.

I've been in London for the last week or so, busily -- if somewhat monotonously -- photographing some of the key records that we'll be using. (Said activity will be continuing through next week. Feel free to stop by if you want to see the truly glamourous life that historians lead.)

One of these sources involves criminal registers, which list information about all of the suspects tried for relatively serious crimes in London at the end of the 18th century. There's not a lot of detail about each case (this will be the basis for the quantitative analysis), but there are a few where you really wish there were.

One of my favourites so far is William Hudson, a London doctor who, in October 1793, was tried for sedition and 'calling the King [George III] a German hog butcher &c. and wishing success to the French Republic'. (Britain was at war with France at this point.)

Now, which one of us hasn't on occasion done something similar, eh?

For his impertinence, however, Hudson received two years in Newgate and a hefty fine.

Thanks to the wonderful Old Bailey Proceedings Online, I am able to point you to more details on this interesting little case (which, sadly, has nothing to do with the project we're working on) without you even getting your hands dirty.

Q. How far off was you from the prisoner? - I was in the next box, sitting in a chair at the end of the next box.

Q. In the course of this conversation was the King mentioned at all? - He was.

Q. By whom? - By Mr. Hudson.

Q. Be so good as to tell us what part of any thing was mentioned by Mr. Hudson? - He said, 'The King, what was he, George Guelph, a German Hogbutcher, a dealer of human flesh by the carcase, and sold his Hanoverian subjects to his British subjects for thirty pounds a piece.'

Q. Will you utter the words just as he uttered them? - I think it was, 'The King, what is he, George Guelph , a German Hog-butcher, a dealer in human flesh by the carcase, he sells his Hanoverian subjects to his British subjects for thirty pounds a piece, and that he was not satisfied with that, that he was partner with the Prince of Hesse Cassel.

Q. Speak the words in the manner he related them? - And not content with that he goes partner with the Prince of Hesse Cassel, and has fifteen pounds a head for each of his carcases.

Q. In what tone of voice was this said? - It was in a sharp tone of voice, and rather felt noisy by the gentlemen that were sitting along with him; it was louder than the common conversation.

Q. Do you know in point of fact whether it was heard by those persons in the neighbouring boxes? - It was heard very plain by the gentlemen that sat with him, and several others.

Q. After he had made use of these expressions what followed then? - There was some conversation took place between Mr. Pigot and him, Mr. Hudson took up the paper, and read of the King's going a hunting, and seemed to reflect much on his Majesty's doing so, at the time that his country was in such calamitous war.

As you might have suspected, alcohol was involved.

Q. Was there any toast given by any body? - In the time of conversation they had drank two glasses of punch each, they called for a three penny glass, and hurried it.

Q. Were they tumblers or small glasses? - Large glasses such as they charge sixpence a piece for; as soon as they had got them Mr. Hudson drank aloud, The French Republic or Constitution! I cannot say which exactly, and Mr. Pigot said, I will join you in that with all my heart, on the doing that, the gentlemen in the room got up on their feet, except them two men, he and Pigot, and The King! The King! was called from all quarters of the coffee room, to my knowledge it was; when that was the case Mr. Hudson got up his glass and in a very loud voice called out The French Republic, and may it triumph over all the governments in Europe!

Q. In what tone of voice did he call out that? - In a very loud tone of voice, much sharper than he had said any thing before.

So, watch out, please, for those sixpenny glasses of punch. They might be smooth going down, but before you know it you'll be condemning German princes and uttering revolutionary slogans.
I'm also intrigued by one David Ferrand, a French hair dresser who was accused of 'neglecting to depart this kingdom as an alien'.

It may be that hair dressers were seen as a particularly fearsome potential fifth column in the war against revolutionary France.

For whatever reason, however, his case never came to trial.

Back to the files...


Jura Watchmaker said...

One of my favourites so far is William Hudson, a London doctor who, in October 1793, was tried for sedition and 'calling the King [George III] a German hog butcher &c. and wishing success to the French Republic'

Sounds like William of the Rubbish in a previous incarnation.

So where in London are you working?

J. Carter Wood said...

I'm sorry to say I'm not familiar with that particular William, and my (hasty and not very thorough) online search hasn't brought up anything. I'm intrigued.

As to your question: The National Archives. Though staying in Bloomsbury. Till Friday.

Jura Watchmaker said...

That's will of the Drink-Soaked Trots.

J. Carter Wood said...

Ah, of course. Sorry: fighting off a headcold and not thinking clearly.

But yes, the comparison does seems apt.