Cruelty on the JOHN BRIGHT, 1860

Daily Post, Jan 2nd 1860

Police court, Saturday, before Mr MANSFIELD

Alleged cruelty to a seaman

Mr J. B. ASPINALL applied to the magistrates to make an order of discharge on John TOWART, 1st mate of the American ship JOHN BRIGHT, who was charged under the Extradition Act with having caused the death of William KELLY, seaman, who died in the Northern Hospital, since a post mortem had been carried out the man had been proved to have died from congestion of the lungs, there were no signs of violence. - discharged.

Cruelty on shipboard, the Extradition Act, United States

Philander HALL and Donald DEVONPORT, remanded from the previous Saturday, charged with having caused the death of a man named WILSON by continued violence and ill-usage, prisoners are respectively, 2nd mate and Boatswain of the U. S. ship JOHN BRIGHT, the deceased was a seaman on board.

The vessel sailed from New York on the 25th October last and arrived in Liverpool on the 20th December last and WILSON was buried at sea 4 days previously.

Mr WILDING, Vice Consul of the United States was in court during the investigation.

Mr SQUAREY of the firm DUNCAN SQUAREY and DUNCAN, prosecuted, Mr J. B. ASPINALL defended.

1st witness, John HACKETT, stated deceased was beaten on the second occasion because he had taken out a knife on the 2nd mate, he heard deceased was a convict and had spent 6 years as a transport in Gibraltar. He swore, deceased was ill-used 4 days before he died, the violence began because he didn’t go fast enough, he was kicked, pricked and rope-ended to go faster. He was lame and could not go fast.

Witness PRITCHARD was examined and repeated his testimony given on the previous hearing.

J. JOHNSON Seaman, stated on the Sunday after deceased came on board he saw him run into the forecastle with the 1st and 2nd mate after him, both had chains in their hands. He saw him on deck later the same day and the 2nd mate jumped on him having one foot on his head the other on his chest, he jumped on him with all force. He heard WILSON was treated that way because he drew a knife, he frequently saw deceased beaten with a ropes and belaying pins, and pricked with palming needles, as was the witness himself. On the Sunday before he died deceased showed witness his person, he had marks of ill-treatment on both sides of his chest and parts of his body were swollen. On the week he died he saw the 2nd mate lash the deceased from the aft to the forecastle, on another occasion deceased was hollering on the forecastle, it was dark at the time, the 2nd mate was there, he saw the deceased come down on the deck the 2nd mate followed kicking the deceased.

Mr ASPINALL believed the doctor [not called], that deceased died from different causes than violence and ill-treatment.

Mr MANSFIELD, said, whatever the man died of cannot justify ill-treatment, ill-usage may have accelerated the pulmonary disease of which the deceased was dying from.

Mr ASPINALL called for examination of the doctor, but, Mr SQUAREY said he new nothing of him and didn’t know what he could say.

Mr ASPINALL on addressing the court Said, it was no part of his duty to shut out the fact that rough usage was given on ships coming from New York, and as long as American ships were crowded on leaving New York with crews who were not seamen, and included vagabonds of every description, it was impossible that officers could regulate such men without rough usage. If such was done in the case before them, no doubt it deserved a certain amount of reprobation, revolting as it was. There was nothing to show they had jointly and in connection with each other used such violence, and consequently there was nothing on which to ground a joint charge against them. The 2nd mate had received some provocation when he followed the deceased into the forecastle, on that occasion, though the man was roughly treated, they might be inclined to say he deserved what he got. And if it had stopped there, there would not be any grounds for a charge of that kind.

He asked if the case against the boatswain, for he was bound to separate the two, depended on evidence before the court, would the court commit, not upon a charge of murder, but would it say, that whatever he had done, had anything to do with the cause of death, if so why should he be committed when he stood with a man who had done more.

Mr ASPINALL submitted in regard to the 2nd mate the case was strong, but he would put it to the court, however, that it might feel the man had used unjustifiable violence, would the court feel justified in handing him over to the American Authorities, to be tried on a charge of murder? The was the only offence dealt with by the act, there was no evidence to support a charge of that gravity. He called therefore for his discharge.

Mr ASPINALL then said he would call the Captain a gentleman whose character for humanity was well known, who would say the deceased had abundant opportunities of complaining of ill-usage but had never done so, and would also say he would not permit such violence on his ship, no vessel was recognised as bearing a higher character for subordination than the JOHN BRIGHT, Capt CUTTING, Commander, had not the gentleman some time ago upon an accident occurring to one of his passengers on the homeward voyage, amputated the passengers limb himself and brought the patient safe to port.

Capt CUTTING was then called.

He stated the surgeon who sailed with him several times was on board, but on this occasion was a passenger. He engaged the 2nd mate in New York two days before he sailed. The boatswain had sailed with him for 3 years and was never until this occasion charged with violence. On the occasion the deceased called murder, he saw the 1st and 2nd mate and the boatswain holding the man.

He called out, “What are you doing to that man?.”

They said he had drawn a knife to the 2nd mate.

“Well,” witness replied, “Let him alone; leave him to me. Get up man and go to your work.”

He answered he would not, and witness said, “If you do not we must put you in irons.”

Deceased had never complained to him of any ill-treatment, he had the opportunity, the men knew, he would not suffer it on board ship. A few days before his death he was alone with deceased, on another occasion they were alone together at the wheel and the deceased did not complain to him.

Mr SQUAREY, said, “Never saw ill treatment towards the man, I have heard that there are seamen now in hospital said to have been ill-treated during the voyage.”

Thomas KENNEDY, 3rd mate deposed that the deceased threatened the 2nd mate with a knife.

James WARD, seaman, who had sailed seven voyages on the JOHN BRIGHT, said, the deceased was skulking on the occasion he drew the knife and refused to work, when he called “Murder,” there was no one near him.

Mr TOWART, 1st mate, deposed that the deceased refused to work the first morning after coming on board, on the same morning he drew the knife on the 2nd mate.

Mr SQUAREY stated the deceased was never in the forecastle there was a disturbance, the 2nd and 3rd mates and the boatswain engaged in it, the 2nd mate told him he had hurt his leg by kicking the Dutchman, the deceased was not a Dutchman.

Surgeon, Mr MOORE was examined.

He saw deceased on deck and he complained to him of pains in the chest, he had a bad cough and great expectoration. He complained of a fall, and he found his side bruised and sent him to bed. He never complained to him of ill-treatment.

To Mr ASPINALL, I attribute his death to inflammation of the lungs.

Mr MANSFIELD concluded, no good would come from handing the men over for trial in the United States, with the evidence of the surgeon to the specific cause of death, there was no chance any jury would attribute death to the violence of the prisoners, they must be discharged.

Copyright 2002 / To date