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561. The Trial of James Hill'otherwise James Hinde, otherwise

James Actzen or Aitken,* (known also by the name of
John the Painter) for feloniously, wilfully, and maliciously
setting Fire to the Rope House in his Majesty's Dock-Yard,
at Portsmouth : had at the Assizes holden at Winchester,
Before the Hon. Sir William Henry Ashhurst, knt. one of the
Justices of his Majesty's Court of King's Bench, and the Hon.
Sir Beaumont Hotham, knt. one of the Barons of his Ma-
jesty's Court of Exchequer, March 6: 17 GEORGE III. A. D.
1777. [Taken in Short-Hand by Joseph Gurney; and pub-
lished by Permission of the Judges.]

James Hill, otherwise James Hinde, otherwise Viscount Palmerston

James Actzen, on the said 7th day of DecemP. Taylor, esq.

ber, in the year aforesaid, with force and arms Rt. bon."Hans Stanley C. Saxton, esq. Sir R. Worsley, bart. Jobo Pollen, esq.

at Portsea aforesaid, in the county aforesaid, a

certain building erected in the dock-yard of Sir H.P.St. John,knt. T. Gatehouse, esq. Sir W. Benett, kat. T. Sidney, esq.

our said lord the king there situate, called the

Rope-house, feloniously, wilfully and maliciSir C. Ogle, kot. J. Amyatt, esq. ously, did set on fire, and cause and procure to H. Penton, esq.

Tho. South, esq.
J. Iremonger, esq.
A. Harmood, esq.

be set on fire, against the form of the statute in T. S. Jolliffe, esq. W. Harris, esq.

such case lately made and provided; and J. Worsley, esq. Richard Bargus, esq.

against the peace of our said lord the king, his

crown aud dignity. C. Spooner, esq. Philip Debany, esq.

Aud the jurors aforesaid, upon their oath T. Ridge, esq.

aforesaid, do further present, that the said INDICTMENT.

James Hill, otherwise James Hinde, otherwise Southampton,

James Actzen, on the said 7th day of Decem

ber, in the year aforesaid, with force and arms THE jurors for our lord the king, upon their at Portsea aforesaid, in the county aforesaid, a oath, present that James Hill, otherwise James certain building of our said lord the king there Hinde, otherwise James Actzen, late of Portsea, situate, in which great quantities of naval in the county of Southampton, labourer, on the stores, that is to say, twenty tons weight of 7th day of December, in the 17th year of the hemp, ten cable-ropes, and six tons weight of reign of our sovereign lord George the 3d, now cordage, of our said lord the king, were then king of Great Britain, &c. with force and arms placed and deposited, felodiously, wilfully, and at Portsea aforesaid, in the county aforesaid, maliciously, did set on fire, and cause and protwenty tons weight of hemp of the value of cure to be set on fire, against the form of the 1001. ; ten cable-ropes, each thereof being in statute in such case lately made and provided, length one bundred fathoms, and in circum- and against the peace of our said lord ihe king, ference three inches, and of the value of 80l.; his crown and dignity. and six tous weight of cordage, of the value of

The Prisoner was arraigned upon the above 2001.; the said hemp, cable-ropes, and cord- Indictment, to which he pleaded Not Guilty, age, then and there, being naval stores of our when the following persons were sword: said lord the king, and then placed and depo

THE PETIT JURY, sited in a certain building in the dock-yard of our said lord ibe king there situate, called the Henry Lucas, of the Soke. Rope-house, feloniously, wilfully, and mali- Richard Long of the same. ciously, did set on fire and burn, and cause Robert Moody, of Thruxtou. and procure to be set on fire and burut, against John Cole, ot Upelatford. the form of the statute in sucb case lately

William Cole, of Longstock. made and provided, and agaiost the peace of

Richard Vokes, of Kingsworthy. our said lord the king, his crown and dignity. Rechab Thorne, of Itchin Stoke. And the jurors aforesaid, upon their oath

Samuel Maunder, of Hyde-street, aforesaid, do furtber present, that the said George Newsham, of Wickbam,

Joha Kent, of Farebam. * Some account of this man is given in the John Berry, of the same. Annual Register for 1777, Hist. of Europe, p. 28. Charles Cobb, of Gosport

Counsel for the Crown.-Mr. Serj. Davy, / as soon as this misfortune bad happened, all Mr. Mansfield, Mr. Missing, Mr. Buller, Mr. imaginable enquiry was made, in order to find Fielding

out the cause of it, but all to no purpose, no Mr. Fielding. May it please your lordship,

fire or candle had been there, none ever is and you gentiemen of ihe jury, this is an indict used there, particularly in the eastward part of ment against the prisoner at the bar for a crime the building; nobody

could tell by what

means of so atrocious and uncommon a nature, as to it would have passed as an accident, the causes

it bappened, and all enquiry was fruitless, and pender it impossible to affix any epithet to the of it unknown to this day, had it ooi been for a crime descriptive of its enormity. This is very extraordinary discovery, which was made and I bope in God it will be the last. The io- upon the 15th of January, five or six weeks af. dicto.ent, you have perceived already, turos upon

terwards, which led to an enquiry, and which three counts: the prisoner at the bar is first enquiry produced the most ample and clear charged for setting fire to a quantity of hemp discovery that ever was laid before a court of and ropes particularly specified; the second

justice. count is for setting fire to a certain building bouse, which is another very large building,

Upon the 15th of January, in the Hemperected in the dock-yard, called the Rope and which contains hemp of an infinite value house; the third count is for firing bis majes, belonging to the crown, there was discovered ty's naval stores. Gentlemen, the matter will be more fully opened to you by the learned by Mr. Russell, and two others, in turning and experienced gentleman wbo leads this bu- over some of the hemp for some purpose, some siness, and I doubt not but your verdict will be bright; it appeared upon taking it up, that it

thing which shone a little and appeared satisfactory to your country.

was a sort of canister, which one at first sight Mr. Serj. Dary. May it please your lordship, imagined to be a tea canister; it was a machine and you gentlemen of ihe jury, I am of coun- which nobody could tell what to make of; sel in this case for the kiog in the prosecution upon looking a little further on the same spot, of the prisoner at the bar, who is described by there was found a sort of box, containing comthe name of James Hill, otherwise James bustibles of various kinds ; there was oil of turHinde, otherwise James Actzen, for setting pentine, there was hemp, there was tar; the fire to the Rope-house at Portsmouth Dock, moment that was seen, it struck them; and belonging to the crown, the place where there could be no doubt in any mind upon that cordage is made to supply the king's navy, subject, that whoever placed that machine and which crime is constituted a capital felony there, bad av intention to set the place on fire ; by an act of parliament* trade in the 12th year it was alarming, the men were struck with asof his present majesty, till when it had not en- tonishment and wonder, looking at each otber tered the imagination of man that such a crime and at the instrument in their hands, and upon could be committed at all. It will be unne- recollection determined to do the only thing fit cessary for me to expatiale upon the pature of to be done, to go to the Commissioner of the ibe offence; that has nothing to do with the Dock and inform him of it, that the proper prisoner at the bar, any more than as he was evidence of this matter might be laid before go. an agent in the commission of it; aud it will be vernment, and fit enquiry made into it; then necessary for me, therefore, to mention to you it was, for the first time, clear and apparent to only those particulars that we have to lay be- every one, that the fire, which had happened fore (you in evidence, by which to affix the on the 7th of December in the Rope-house, crime upon the prisoner, and to submit to you had not been by accident, but design. Now, upon the consideration of those facts, whether gentlemen, let us endeavour to recollect every he is or is not guilty of the charge in the in- circumstance of that unhappy day...while it dictment.

was thought to have been accident, nobody Upon the 7th of December in the afternoon gave themselves the trouble to enquire or to re(I believe about 4 o'clock) a dreadful fire broke collect who they had seen, who was there, or out in the Rope-house at Portsmouth Dock, who was not there; but from the instant that which I think was entirely consumed ; it is an they resolved that this must bave been the edifice of very great extent and magnitude in- work of some devil, or that this was some hu. deed, (perbaps you may have seen it) and is man contrivance, that this was an act done on consequently of great value, and it is exceeding purpose, then it was fit to advert back to the lucky for the public that it did not happen at subject, and to turn in their minds all the cir. that time to contain so much cordage as at cumstances of that day; among others it ocsome times it had; that was not the only thing curred (for it was the talk of all ihe thousands intended to be consumed that day, but fortu- in the Dock in five minutes, I suppose) that a pately that alone was consumed. "Gentlemen, man had been seen upon the day of the fire, it is necessary to mention to you that the fire lurking very much about the Henip-house and broke out at the easternmost part of the building; about ihe Rope-house; then it occurred, that

a man had been locked into the Rope-bouse, * Stat. 12 G. 3. c. 24. See East's Pleas of and with some difficulty had got out again ; then the Crown, chap. 22, s. 38. For the law of Ar- it occurred, that the person upon whom suspi*ul, see the preceding chapter of that work. cion then féll, from several vague indefinite cir,

cumstances, was one whose sirvame was not very likely that he might have known him, but known, but who was called John, and who was be happened not to know him at all; that perby business a painter, who had worked for a son being dismissed from the room, where this Mr. Goulding, a painter at Titchfield, at a gen- examination, though I can hardly call it an tleman's house in the neighbourhood, and that examination, where this little matter had passwas the origin of the name given to bim of ed, and retiring to the other room where the John the Painter.

prisoner was, the prisoner having hecn informed John the Painter then being the man upon that this person, whose name is Baldwin, was whom suspicions strongly fell from several cir- an American and a painter, naturally enough cumstances, none of which concluded directly beckoned to him and desired him to sit down by and positively against him, but all of wbich led him. Baldwin sitting down by him, a conversa. to extreme strong suspicions; and the circum- tinn began between these people, touching their stances that caused these suspicions, were put trade, and touching America and Philadelphia, together in the form of an information, aod laid that part of America in which they had lived, before a inagistrate, in order, if possible, to the distance of the place, a few names, and some have this John the Painter apprehended and general conversation ; the place and occasion furtber enquiry to be made. Upon this, there would not admit of a long conversation. The was an advertisement published in the papers, prisoner at the bar desired Baldwin to do him with a reward of 500. for the apprehending ihe favour of a visit at New Prison, ClerkenJohn the Painter, describing him as well as they well, where he was going, desired be would be were able, and his person and his dress were so good as to call upon bim, he should be glad very sufficiently described by the people who to see him. Now, gentlemen, here let me tell had seen him before.

you, for fear I should forget it, that all this was A very worthy honourable gentleman, whom ihe mere fruit and offspring of accident; this I have in my eye, and who is a very great Baldwin was not set upon him, was not desired friend to the public, and in the strict and true to obtain any confession from him, nor desired sense of the word, a patriot, having seen this to make any acquaintance with him; but an advertisement, very actively stirred himself in intimacy passed between these people for sevethe business, and was very much the cause ral days afterwards, before any body concerned of the apprehending of this John the Painter. for the prosecution knew any thing of it. It is John the Painter was accordingly taken up, I fit the world should know that. In consebelieve, in this county, at Odiham; and you quence of this short conversation that passed will be pleased to mark, that there was then at sir John Fielding's, Baldwio went as de. found upon him, a loaded pistol, a pistol tinder- sired by the prisoner, to visit him at Clerkenbox, some matches, and a bottle of oil of tur- well New Prison ; when he was there, a conpentine; he was examined, but he had too versation passed between them of po very great much sense, he was too much guarded to make importance, it was only general, concerning any considerable discovery upou the examina- persons and places, some of which both of tion that he underwent before a magistrate, them knew, some of which only one of them and had it not been for a circumstance, which knew. The next day, Baldwio paid bim anoI am now going to mention to you, it would be ther visit, for the prisoner liked his company, an extremely difficult matter to affix the crime and it was a very lucky circumstance; it was upon this person at the bar, however satisfied indeed the providence of God that this man one might bave been in one's own private judg. placed that fortunate (for fortunate I may call ment of bis guilt.

it for the public) confidence in this Baldwin, It happened that there was one of the same by which he afterwards made the ample discobusiness, a painter, who had been as the pri- veries that you will hear by and by. The prisoner likewise had been, a painter in America ; soner told him after various visits, for he visited for this gentleman (the prisoner) has worked in the prisoner at his own request alıoost every America ; he is an American, not by birth, for day, for, I believe, near three weeks from that by birth he is a Scotchman, but he is an Ame time, and it was not for many days, not uotil a rican, there he was settled, from thence be had full diseovery was made, that Baldwin comJately come, and thither be meant to return. municated the matter to any body, and when One of that business, and who likewise had be did, he communicated it to ap bonourable worked as a painter in America, it was ima- person not at all connected with goveroment; gined might possibly know this Jobo the he told him, among other things (I will de Painter, and therefore he was sent for to sir scend to the particulars by and by, for a very John Fielding's in Bow-street, upon the 7th of striking reason which you will go with me in February, in order to be shewn the prisoner, observing when I descend to them, he told him) and to inform the magistrate whether he did or that he had lately come from France, that he did not know bim; that man being asked the bad been employed there by a geotleman, question answered, that he did not know him, whom he was surprised that Baldwin did not and to the best of his recollection had never know, as he was a man of so much note, and seen him in all his life time; there was an end whose name had been so frequently in the therefore, of that business; as that man had news-papers, which was a Mr. Silas Deane ; worked in the same place, for 1 tbiok the pric that Mr. Silas Deane was a very honourable soner had worked at Philadelphia too, it was gentleman, employed by the congress in Ame! 1323] 17 GEORGE 11. Trial of James Hill alias John the Painter, (1924 rica, as well as another very hon. gentleman, a in order to set the store- houses on fire; and te Dr. Franklin ; that Mr. Silas Deane had em- told bim there the manner of his making its ployed bim in the noble business in which he composition; that it was by grioding charean. had been engaged ; that his employment was to with water very fine upon a colour stode, sach set fire to the several dock-yards, to destroy the as painters use in gripdiog their paint, Bo W.2 navy of Great Britain ; that he had uöder- a pestle and mortar ; that it was ground ta aa e taken that work, and that he was to have a pe- ceediog fine powder'; that it was then to be witcuniary reward for it; that Mr. Silas Deane ed with gunpowder : betben mentioned to be was bis employer ; that this was a noble act, how it was to be diluted with water, aod in this was a patriotic measure, this was wbat proportions of the powder and the charcoala, all patriots would exceedingly appland, this and to what consistency it was to be mind, was the right way to expose government, this and so this ended with the particulars of a was the way to render Great Britain for ever this composition was made the prisones ta. subject, by bending its neck to the yoke of bim that in the afternoon of the 6th, the day America, this was the way by which we before the fire, being in the Rope-bouse, be a were to prosper ; this great work was to be a parcel of bemp, and strewed the hemp ades effected by bis band under the employmeut of where he intended the match to be ; that he Silas Deane, and that he did not at all doubt laid a bottle of turpentine on its side, wo but that Dr. Franklin was likewise engaged in hemp placed in the neck of the bottle iosteade the same good work; he told him, he had a cork; that he laid the match upon a piece si taken Canterbury in the way from Dover ; and paper in which was some gunpowder, now I am going to descend io some particulars, over the gunpowder some hemp strewed fel wbich I shall by and by have an occasion to re-light; he told him that as soon as the maze peat, in order to shew you that it is impossible reached the gunpowder, it would fire the (I will not change the word) that it is impossi- hemp, and he mentioned also bis throwing: ble but that Baldwin's account should be per quart of turpentine about the bemp; all bez fectly true; he told him, that in his return particulars he told this man of the manner from Paris to England, he bad landed at Dover, setting it on fire; I shonld have told you thai xe and so came through Canterbury; and at Can- said ibis Mrs. Boxell was impertinent, sex terbury he had engaged a man to make a tin- turned him out of his lodgings; he told him : machine, which you will see by and by some circumstance of bis being shat in at the Rope what resembling a tin-canister, the purpose of house; that he was so long in the place abos which was, to act the part, if I may so say, of this work that the time of shotting it up bad ata lap'ern; that is, that a candle might be en- rived, and when he attempted to go out at the closed in it, and yet the candle perfectly be bid, door at which he got in, he could not get ot, so that no eye should see the light; tbat the that after baving walked up and down witbes man he employed to make this tin-canister for bis shoes to avoid being heard, and endearor: him, was an awkward fellow, and set about it ing to get out quietly, binding all that impractiin a way that convinced him he was dull, and cable, that he knocked, and cried out bolla! did not comprehend bis meaning; but that his upon which a person came to the door and a servant, a lad, had a much brighter genius ed who is there? that the person directed to than his master, and very well understood bis to go straight forward, and possibly he was directions; that he set about the work, and he find a door open ; however, he did bappa made the canister for bim. Gentlemen, you to get out: be nentioned also the circos. will remember these particulars ; he told him, stance of his calling to a person on tbe outside. that he had ordered two more at another under apprehensions of his being shut in ; hoe shop, but had not time to stay for them; and likewise told bis acquaintance Mr. Baldws, so left them behind him, but this canister he that he had been before on the same day in the took with him ; he told him that when became Hemp-house ; it was the Rope-house you cbto Portsmouth, he took a lodging; I had for- serve that was set on fire; that in the Hemp got the wooden-box; he told him that he had house he had laid the tin canister which be bsd likewise got made for him a wooden box; I got made : you will be pleased to observe be told you that the use of the canister was to con- did not effect the fire in the Rope. house by tain a candle, hiding it; the use of the box was means of the tin canister; I bave tuld you to contain the combustibles wbich were to be already bow be effected that, but tbe la cacaslighted by the match, in order to set the place ter he got made at Canterbury was laid in the on fire; ihe preparatioo and the ingredients of Hemp-bouse, wbich was not set on fire, for by this you will have an account of. He told the providence of God, the matches which bei him be had taken a lodging at Portsmouth, at been lighted bad luckily gone out; that there a Mrs. Boxell's, where he bad made some pre- he bad likewise laid a square box, in which parations for the work of setting the place on square box there was room to put a cande; fire; I should have told you in the conversa - that he had put into the box tar aod turpentine, tion with regard to Canterbury, be told Bald- and hemp and other combustibles; these things win likewise of a quarrel which he bad bad he said he placed in the Hemp house; that there with a dragoon, which had led to a sighit making all this preparation, and doing this in of this canister under the flap of bis coat; he the Hemp-house, bad taken up a great deal of said at Mrs. Boxell's he had made preparations time; that he was so much beated, though a

the month of December, that he had pulled off that the prisoner had told it to Baldwin : now his coat, which he could not hnd for some time; I will tell you why I said so; Baldwin having that when he found it, there was a good deal of made a discovery of these conversations, that hemp sticking to it, which he picked off as he had beld with this man, so the effect I well as he could; he said the next day he went have mentioned, then it was that an enquiry into the Hemp-house, in order to set it on fire; was made into these particulars; for that led the candle was placed in the wooden box, and to all the discoveries, of which you shall now within this tin machine ; and he mentioned to have an account, and which will be ed to him this circumstance likewise, that he had you in evidence. In the first place, I wilt bought some matches for the purpose of mention to you, not in the order of time in which Jighting it of a woman at Portsmouth, which the discoveries came out, but in the order of time be supposed were damp because he could not in which I have mentioned the transactions themmake them catch fire, in order to light the can- selves to have happened: baviog told the dle; so you see the saving of the Hemp house story to this Baldwin of what had passed at from destruction that day, was, because the Canterbury and the other places, messengers matches were not so well made, or being well were sent to all these places to find out the made, had been so long made that the wood people referred to, and to see whether these was not dry enough, and would not catch fire, several accounts were true or no; upon enqui. so as to enable him to light the candle ; for if ry, they found out the persons who made these the candle bad been lighted, the Hemp.bouse tin canisters, not only the persons that made must infallibly have been burnt; tben, be the tin capisters by his directions, which he says, that not being able to set that on fire, he had left upon their hands, not having time to. got some matches of a better sort, and then re. stay for them; but we found out the very perturned to the Rope-house; that there he placed son who made the tin canister that was left in himself in such a way, as that no body could the Hemp-house, in order to set it on fire ; see it; when he struck a ligbt, that he lighted you will see the very boy who made this, and the match, and every thing being prepared he he confirms exactly the account as related by went away, leaving that to be burnt, very Baldwin; that his master having first been much vexed that he was not able to set the employer to do this work, and not rightly Hemp-house also on fire; that he set out as understanding the instructions he received, that fast as he could from Portsmanth; that just the boy understanding them, made the canister, after his leaving the town be overtook a woman aud the boy will swear, that the very canister in a cart; that he got her leave to get into her now to be produced at your bar, abd which cart, for the sake of expediting his journey ; was found in the Hemp-house, be made for the that he gave her 6d. in order to make baste prisoner. The story of his quarrel with a drawith bim; that he then hastened to London as goon at Canterbury, will be confirmed by the fast as he could. Another circumstance, like. dragoon who quarreled with him; the stripping wise, he mentioned; that, besides the lodging off, or taking np the lappet of his coat, and the which he took of Mrs. Boxell, he took another seeing the canister under it at that time. The of a woman on Portsmouth Common; the making of the wooden box will be proved; the pious map mentioned something to be done to witness swearing to the identity of the person, the poor woman of whom he look the lodg- by whose order it was made. Mrs. Boxell will ings; they had a very fortunate escape too, for be produced to you; she will tell you, that this his intention was to set those lodgings on fire, very prisoner at the bar, came to her bouse to in order to engage the engines, that they might take a lodging, the day, I think, before the pot assist to extinguish the fire in the dock-yard; fire happened ; that, afterwards, observing a but by good luck that did not succeed neither; strange sulpburous smell in the lodging, she burning a house was 'nothing to him ; he went about, inside and outside of the house, told Baldwin a circumstance of his leaving a and could not guess from whence it came : bundle at the lodging on the common; he said, that the next morning there was the like smell; that be bad come away from Portsmouth in so she then traced it to the very room that the great a burry, that he had not time to go there prisoner had taken to lodge in ; she found him for it, and that bundle, be said, contained three at work, in preparing combustibles, and there books, the titles of which he mentioned ; there was a stench of gunpowder, or nitre, or what. was an English translation of Justin, another ever it was, which I mentioned to you just of Qvid's Metamorpboses, and there was a now from the account he gave to Baldwin, Treatise of the Art of War and of making how he bad prepared this; we will produce to Fire Works, or something of that sort, and you the person, upon whose colour-stone the likewise a pair of breeches, a pair of buckles, prisoner ground the very charcoal, and who and a French passport; all these things, he saw the prisoner grinding the charcoal. Gensaid, were in his bundle, which he had left tlemen, we will prove the circumstance, I menwith the woman, at bis lodgings at Portsmouth tioned to you, of the Rope-house being sbut, Common ; now all these particulars he told to and the prisoner being shut in ; we will prove Baldwin. I mentioned to you just now, gen- by the recollection of the people in the ropetlemen, that it would come out in the course of yard, that there was a man exactly in the cirthis cause, that it was impossible for Baldwin cumstances that he describes himself to Bald. to bave invented this story; but that it must be, win to bave been in, making a poise; asking

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