The Ship "John"
Summary of Trial of Captain Rawle
PLYMOUTH AND STONEHOUSE JOURNAL
Thursday August 2nd,1855
The trial of Captain Rawle for the manslaughter of one of the many unfortunate passengers that were lost by the foundering of the emigrant ship John, of this port, in the month of May last, took place at Bodmin, on Saturday, when the case was most fully and carefully investigated.
We give, in our supplement, the fullest report that has been published of the trial. The case on behalf of the Crown was most ably sustained by the counsel for the prosecution, and on going through the evidence adduced in support of the prosecution, it seems to us that it would not have been possible for the jury to arrive at any other conclusion than that of acquittal.
The evidence makes it appear that on the night of the unfortunate accident, the man at the helm had steered in the direction indicated, and there was no want of attention in the performance of his duties on the part of the unfortunate captain of the ship.
It was stated at the time, that there was on his part the greatest carelessness - that when the accident occurred he was the first to get into a boat to endeavour to escape, and thus to leave all the unfortunate people not yet drowned to save themselves in the best way that they could. Instead of that, it is certain he called upon all who could do so to get into the rigging, as their only means of safety, and when he took to the rigging himself tried to save a child belonging to one of the passengers.
It is possible that had an attempt been made immediately after the accident, and while the tide was ebbing, to land the passengers, it might have proved successful. But the whole of the coast near the Manacles is extremely rocky, and the captain being afraid of losing his passengers, and hoping that they would be able to weather the night, urged them to remain on board; and did not himself leave the ship till the last boat went ashore.
It seems to us most probable, and it appears to have been the opinion of the learned Judge before whom the case was tried, that the cause of the disaster originated in the incorrectness of the compasses. One of these was a "new-fashioned" one, and to that, perhaps, may really be attributed the dire calamity which carried so many persons to a premature and untimely grave. However, be the cause what it may, there is no sufficient reason for any other verdict than that which the Cornish jury returned in regard to Captain Rawle.