Loss Of The Emigrant Ship
TRIAL OF THE CAPTAIN
SUPPLEMENT TO THE PLYMOUTH AND STONEHOUSE JOURNAL
Thursday August 2nd,1855
The Court was opened at nine o'clock this morning, and the jury proceeded to try Edward Rawle , 34, master of a ship, who was charged on the coroner's inquisition with the manslaughter of Eliza Hallet, at St. Keverne. The Court was densely crowded during the trial, and considerable interest appeared to be felt in the proceedings. Serjeant Kinglake, Mr Collier, QC, and Mr Coleridge were counsel for the prosecution; attornies, Messrs. Eastlake, of Plymouth, who were instructed to prosecute on behalf of the Treasury. Mr. Slade, QC, and Mr. Kingdon defended the prisoner. The prisoner was accommodated with a seat during the proceedings, and appeared to keenly feel the position he was placed in.
Serjeant Kinglake addressed the jury. He said, the prisoner at the bar is charged with the serious offence of manslaughter, and the charge is brought before you under circumstances which require your serious consideration.
The charge is not only a serious one to the prisoner, but is serious to the public generally. I shall perform my duty by laying before you, in as clear a manner as possible, the facts of the case. I shall state to you the law bearing upon this case, and his lordship will tell you how far I am right, and you will be then called upon to give an opinion whether the death of the deceased was caused by the prisoner's want of judgement, or skill.
It is the duty of a captain or commander of a vessel to properly pilot his and to see that his orders are carried out, and if by want of skill or judgement he causes the death of a fellow-being, he is open to the charge of manslaughter.
I apprehend the law to be this, that if an individual fills an office or executes any employment, he is bound to provide proper skill in the discharge of his duties.
The master of a vessel must be a competent pilot, but when I say that, I do not mean an extraordinary but a common pilot; and if by the want of common ability he occasions the death of another, he is criminally liable, again, if he gives orders and does not see them properly executed, and mischievous results should follow, then he is equally responsible, because he has been negligent of his duty.
I will call your attention to the facts of the case, and from the witnesses for the prosecution will be shown how far I am right. On the 3rd of May last, the prisoner was the master of the barque John, 468 tons register, on the afternoon of which day she sailed from Plymouth for Quebec.
On board that vessel were 260 steerage passengers principally composed, as I have been told, of mechanics and labourers with their wives and children. There were also on board five cabin passengers of a superior character.
The crew numbered nineteen, including the master.
The vessel sailed about four o'clock in the afternoon. The wind was N.M.W., and was very fair, and there was nothing to prevent her going on her course. When she left, Andrew Elder was the steersman, and he will tell you that he steered her westerly until about seven o'clock. He was relieved by a person named Rowe, and he received instructions from the captain, through Elder, to keep in the same course. Rowe did not remain long at the helm, but was succeeded by a person named Bennett*, who was told to proceed in the same direction.
She was not so steered, and, in point of fact, the vessel was continued on the westward course. Bennett* was relieved by a person named Venning who was succeeded by another person named Curry, and you will find the from the time she left Plymouth to the time of her striking the Manacles Rocks, she was steered by five different persons.
The captain was on deck during the whole of the time, and it will be important by and use what are his duties. It is his duty to superintend the steering of the ship, to direct the courses, and if he does give any orders, they are imperative, and it is his duty to see them carried out.
There was the compass and a number of people under his charge and he was compelled to superintend the sailing of the vessel; and when a direction is given it is his duty, in point of fact, to see it carried out.
When Venning gave up the helm to Curry, the latter was given certain directions. I will not say what those directions were, because they will be detailed to you by the witnesses themselves, thus preventing your minds from being misled. It will appear that he gave certain directions o Curry, which wound denote that her head was to be kept to the south. He gave some directions to him which he continued, and about five minutes afterwards she struck on the Manacles Rocks, St. Keverne.
I believe it will appear before you the water was calm, and that there was light enough to see land all the way down. I have heard that the weather was hazy, but I believe that the witnesses will tell you that there was nothing in the weather which would have any connection with the disaster. When she struck she was what is called "tailed off", and after proceeding a short distance, she struck a second time.
At that time it would appear the tide was receding, the passengers thronged the deck, where they found the captain. They there asked him to launch the boats, but he told them that they should wait until the morning, and then all would be right. He was pressed, and he said he supposed they knew better than him.
Soon the tide began to rise, and the crew and the passengers began to see the awful position in which they were placed, and they again called upon the captain to launch the boats. This is another question. I apprehend that it is the duty of the captain when place in such a position to endeavour to save the lives of the passengers, and the opinion is that the prisoner is culpable throughout. The orders he gave he did not see executed; the course he took was a wrong course, and the vessel having gone on shore, it was his duty, I say, to superintend the handling of the passengers.
He appeared to show want of skill and judgement prior to the disaster in not properly piloting the ship, and after the ship struck, he again betrayed a want of skill and ability in providing for the safety of the crew and the passengers.
When the passengers found that the tide was rising rapidly upon them they went to him and implored him to launch the boats, and the reply was that he would not give any order for the launching the boats, because he did not know the coast.
Gentlemen, this being the state of things, soon, I am told, the sea began to rise, and it was not so calm as before. The women and children were on the poop of the vessel, and the crew in the rigging, the captain with them, while the ship lay at the mercy of the waves. I shall prove to you that the women and children were swept away from the poop sometimes a dozen at a time, and so this melancholy state of things continued until four or five o'clock in the morning, when boats from the shore came to the wreck and received those who are living.
To show you the serious importance of this case I will tell you that 190 poor souls met their death on this occasion, who were chiefly those who crowded the poop.
There were not I believe any men there.
Now, gentlemen, I come to the facts which affect the captain, and, after the examination of the witnesses, you will have to perform your duty whether the case is made out or not, according to his lordship's directions.
About two o'clock a boat was launched from the vessel and five of the crew got into her, the captain included. Let it not be supposed that the captain was going to leave the wreck at this time. I will not say that, but you must draw your own inferences from the circumstance. The boats were launched without any oars. - (Mr SLADE: There were two oars) - but before she left, the captain returned to the ship. Throughout the instrumentality of the crew in that boat, many of the passengers were saved by their giving some information to the coast guard men of the neighbourhood, who sent boats from the shore to the rescue of the unfortunate passengers.
The weather at the time had become very bad. On that night the wife of a passenger of the ship was drowned, and having been subsequently washed on shore, was identified, the captain was committed to take his trial on the coroner's inquisition for having caused her death.
There was a long boat on board, but which, however, could not be used because there was a hole in her. The life boat was launched, and she was also rendered useless from some cause or other. The other boat remaining on board was the launch, and the witnesses will tell you the captain's reasons for not launching her. I believe there can be little doubt that if the captain had superintended the launching of the boats and endeavoured to prevent the confusion on board, that a large number of the passengers might have been saved.
There were not enough boats on board to take all the passengers on shore at one time, but the weather when she first struck was calm, and the distance from the shore was not far.
As I said before a captain of a vessel must be ordinarily skilful when the lives of passengers are entrusted to him, and if he is not and causes the death of another, he is criminally responsible.
The death of Eliza Hallett there can be no doubt was occasioned by the captain not possessing the proper qualifications for the master of a vessel. I have one remark further to make to you. I shall prove to you the actual course the vessel took after leaving Ramehead to the time she struck. The witness will tell you that the course taken was wrong from the beginning to end, and the consequence was that she was wrecked on those rocks. The witness will further show that in piloting a vessel from any port to port, say from A to B, you must give certain allowances for a variety of matters.
The weather on the night in question was so calm and so fair that it could not be considered more than an ordinary coasting voyage, and in passing down the channel it is absolutely necessary that the Lizard light should be kept in view; but if you "hug" the shore, you shut out the light, and your position is then very dangerous. These are the general facts of the case.
The witnesses will be called before you, and if it lies in my power, I shall be happy to render the prisoner any assistance which may be consistent with my duty.
The first witness was William Goodwin, who was examined by Mr. Collier.
He said, I was the first mate of the John, who was examined by Mr.Collier. He said, I was the first mate of the John, emigrant ship. She was a bark of 465 tons register, and sailed from Plymouth on Thursday the 3rd of May, about four o'clock in the afternoon, for Quebec. The crew numbered nineteen including the prisoner who was the captain, and myself. I was the first mate of the ship.
There were some cabin passengers on board but I don't remember how many. She had a considerable number of steerage passengers.
When we started the weather was moderate. The wind was about N.N.W. I was on deck when she left Plymouth, the captain was also there. Andrew Elder was the man at the helm. I stayed on deck until about half-past eight. I was on deck the whole of the time I have mentioned. I do not know who succeeded Elder at the helm. The ship proceeded all right around the Ramehead, which was the first headland after leaving Plymouth. (Mr Collier here handed his lordship a chat). I remember her coming to the Deadman Point, which is the next principle point. When she got there it was eight o'clock. She was about four miles off it. A little after half past eight, I looked at the compass.
When the captain is on the deck he has charge of the vessel, and if the captain goes below the watchman has the charge. If the captain had been on deck and I had been on the watch, I should not have had charge of the ship as regarded her steering. About half past eight her course was W.S.W. I left the deck at that time. When I went down the captain and second mate were walking the deck, and the captain said now "Mr Goodwin we are steering W.S.W".
I looked at the binnacles and found that her head was west and by S half S. That is half a point more to the westward than W.S.W (witness afterwards corrected himself and said he did not look at the compass but Curry told me she was going W.S.W., and subsequently he looked at the compass and found she was going half-a-point differently.
I partly undressed and turned in my hammock. Before I went to sleep I thought I heard a pulling of the rope or trimming of the sails somehow. I was awoke by the vessel striking. It was about ten o'clock or after at night. I felt the shock and thought at first she had come into collision with another vessel; my berth was in the cabin of the deck. I got out immediately I saw Elder. I asked him what was the matter. He said she had run on the Manacle Rocks.
The captain was on the round house ladder. It was hazy but I could see the "loom" of the land. I could not estimate the distance. There were a great many passengers on deck. I ran below and found a great deal of water in her, and I lighted the lamp to assist the passengers. I ran to the wheel and found the rudder was gone. I sung out to the captain that the rudder was gone and gave orders to trim the yards and run her on shore.
She ran towards the shore to about 400 yards, and then she got aground and the captain the ordered the port anchor to be let go. That was soon done, and in my opinion it was then about low water.
Soon after she first struck there were about five feet of water in her hold and when she struck the second time there were eighteen inches of water on her deck. Her deck was covered with water, and the poop was about five feet out of the water. the captain then gave orders to lower the boats. The quarter-boat was the first lowered. It was a small boat and would contain about fourteen persons. There was only one whose name I know got into the boat, which was Curry. There were five in the boat in all. I could not se whether the captain got in or not. The boat was hanging alongside by the painter, but a very short time. The painter of the boat parted, and she drifted away, and I did not see her again.
We then went to try to get the life-boat out. I did not hear the captain give but one order about getting the boats out, and that was when the vessel first came to the place where she struck. The quarter-boat having drifted away, I went to get out the life-boat. We stove her in getting over the rail which rendered her useless. I saw Rowe, Curry, and Andrew Elder, and four or five others help to get out that boat.
We then attempted to get out the long-boat, and the captain told us that we had better leave it till daylight. The long-boat remained in the tackle. She had been on the deck but we were rising her, and then the captain said that we had better leave her till morning. When we left her she was a little way from the "chocks," and she no longer rested on the deck. She afterwards settled down on the chocks, and as the tide and the sea made she was swept away. It was an hour at least afterwards that she was swept away. If she had not been lifted she would have been more secure.
We had a pinnace on board, but I don't know what became of her. I suppose the long-boat would carry about thirty-five, the life-boat about thirty, and the pinnace from sixteen to twenty. The captain then gave me orders to go aloft and stow the sails; we did so. I believe it was low tide when she grounded, and when we cam down from stowing the sails the water was over the main deck.
A number of the passengers were on the rounding-house deck, and some were in the mizen and main rigging. There were men, women, and children on the round- house deck - the greater part of the children were there.
The tide was then rising and continued to rise.
I was then on the round-house deck myself. I remained there till almost daylight in the morning. That was about half-past three. I left the round-house deck and went to the main top, apprehending that the sea would break her in two. There were then about twelve or thirteen feet of water on the main deck. The round-house deck kept moving up and down, and the waves continually washed over it. I saw numbers of people washed away from there. The mizzen boom gave way by the "guys" breaking. The consequence was that all were swept away but myself and I remained alone - women, children, and all, indiscriminately, were washed off. I kept my hold by some ropes, and that prevented my being washed away. I was there for some time and was joined by two others, but I don't know what became of them. I contrived to get across to the main rigging where there were a number of passengers.
I did not se the captain until I got in the main top. He was then on the starboard side of the main top. I last saw him when I came down from stowing the sails. He was then on the main deck up to his knees in water. At that time the long-boat had not been washed away. I did not hear him after that give any orders. I remained on the main top till I was taken off by the boats from the shore. I was a good bit after daylight that the boats came there. The captain and the crew were all saved.
The vessel did not make any signals of distress that I saw. I saw no guns, or rockets, or bluelights on board.
Cross-examined by Mr.SLADE:
I had orders to get all the boats out. I have been two voyages with Captain Rawle to Quebec, and then as far as I saw he was a good sailor and thoroughly up to his work. The owners and the passengers appeared to be well satisfied with him.
The John was at Cardiff about two months repairing. She had a new kind of compass there, which was the one on the binnacle that I have referred to.
We left Plymouth between three and four o'clock. We were an hour and a half in rounding the Ramehead. The tide flows in the channel three hours later than in the harbour. That being so it was a judicious course to take to steer to the west, after passing the Ramehead regard being had to the tide. When we started it was N.N.W. the wind was as close as we could go when we started. It was judicious and proper to steer due west because the captain carried the ebb tide with him. It was a very hazy night. It was not possible to see the Lizard light that night.
The Lizard is about fifty miles from the Ramehead. I don't think the Lizard could be seen more than twenty miles during any fine weather, and impossible in such a night as this.
It was such a night that it was necessary to steer by the compass. The course ordered was a judicious one. I saw no snow that night. The course if properly attended to would have taken her six or seven miles clear of the Manacles Rock.
At half-past-eight the course was W.S.W., and that course if it had been followed would have taken her clear of all danger. The next minute I might have found her half a point different. There is no merchant ship that can steer to half a point. I have seen one sea heave them five or six points from their course. Q. Can a man have his eye always on the binnacle?
Mr.COLLIER objected to the question being put.
Mr.SLADE observed that he thought the learned counsel (Sergt. KINGLAKE) intended to assist him.
Witness: The captain can't always keep his eye on the binnacle. When I came again on deck after sleeping it was "hazier" than when I went below. After she struck the order of the captain to run her on shore and to trim her sails was a judicious course to follow. Also his having the anchor thrown out when she grounded. Up to that time all that the captain had done was what a good seaman would have ordered. The captain gave orders for all the boats to be lowered. The sea was then running very high, which was the cause of the painter being broken. As a practical seaman in my opinion it is the best course to adopt, not to allow the last boat to be lowered. In my judgement had the boats been launched, and the passengers got into them, they would have been in infinitely greater danger than they were then in. The sea was then getting up.
It was more than an hour between the time the prisoner gave orders for the lowering of all the boats and the directions that the last boat should not be lowered till daylight. I did not hear him say when he gave the last order that he had already lost two boats. The captain's order to furl the sails was a prudent course. The object in stowing the sails was to save the masts from going overboard. I urged on the passengers over and over again the necessity of getting to the rigging. I urged it, I should think, at least twenty times. I did not hear the captain give such an order. The boom took the greater number of passengers overboard. I do not know that the captain saved the life of a child by going into the rigging. It was the Coast Guard boats that came alongside the ship.
Had the passengers gone into the rigging as I advised them, the greater part of them would have been saved. Those who were saved were those who were in the rigging. I left in the next to the last boat. The captain left about the same time. There were three men in the rigging when he left. They might have got down by some exertion. They were, however, ultimately saved.
When I was taken on shore the sea was very rough and we could not be landed till a grapnel was put out, and when we landed there was not half the sea that there was in the middle of the night. Had the people attempted to be landed in the middle of the night they must have been all lost. I was hauled up by a rope. The captain acted very prudently in not allowing the passengers to land in the middle of the night.
Re-examined by Mr.COLLIER: The quarter-boat which was launched reached the shore. There was a cross-tree in the rigging that would have held sixteen or eighteen people.
Mr.COLLIER: Have you spoken to the prisoners attorney (Mr Preston Wallis) on this subject?
Mr SLADE objected to such a question being put to the witness.
The JUDGE thought Mr.Collier should put his questions in a different manner.
Mr.COLLIER to witness: Have you seen the attorney for the Captain?
Witness: I saw him yesterday.
Mr.COLLIER: have you seen him more than once?
Witness: yes; yesterday and the day before.
Mr.COLLIER: Where did you speak to him?
Witness: In his office.
Mr.COLLIER: Oh, you have been in his office.
The JUDGE: You have no right to question the witness in that manner. You have no right to say to him "oh, you have been in his office." You must confine your questions to the case in the criminal charge.
Mr.COLLIER: Well, my lord, I will. Did you have any conversation with him?
Witness replied that he had. Mr Wallis asked him what the state of the wind and the weather was.
Mr.COLLIER: Did he ask you some of the questions that my friend Mr.Slade asked you.
Mr.Slade objected to the question being put, but the Judge over ruled the objection, and Mr Collier pressed for an answer. The witness replied that he did not recollect it. In reply to other questions put the witness replied that he went to Mr.Wallis's office once, with Noble, a Plymouth pilot. On this occasion Mr.Wallis did not ask him any questions. The pilot was not questioned in witness's presence. Witness was sent for to go to Mr.Wallis's office. Could not say whether Mr.Wallis asked him if the Captain gave the proper order after the vessel struck. Witness was not a certified mate, but had a certificate of service.
Mr.COLLIER: you have stated that the captain did everything that a captain should have done. Do you mean to say that striking on the Manacle rocks was a proper course for him to have taken?
Mr.SLADE here rose and put it to the Judge whether it was a proper question.
His HONOUR thought that it was not.
Mr.COLLIER: You have said that the captain told you when you went below that the vessel's course was W.S.W., and you looked at the compass and found that her course was half a point different. Was that a proper course?
Witness; She was half a point out of her course.
Mr.COLLIER: Supposing she had gone on that course would she have cleared the Manacles?
Witness: She would have gone clear of the Manacles by six miles by that course.
Mr.COLLIER: Then by striking on the Manacles there must have been some alteration to her course?
Witness: Yes, or the compass must have been wrong.
Mr.COLLIER: But would not the compass have shown the difference in her course?
Witness: Of course it would, supposing it to have been right.
Mr.SLADE said this was a very serious case, and therefore he thought Mr.Collier out of order in putting such questions to the witness.
The JUDGE saw no reason why Mr.Collier should not put such questions.
Mr.SLADE: I never saw a witness examined in this manner - and your own witness too.
Mr.COLLIER (laughing): A witness that has been in your attorneys office. I will now ask this question which his lordship has given me permission to ask. Were the tide and the wind taken into consideration in passing down the channel.
Witness: Yes, of course.
Mr.SLADE: Well I shan't object to anything after this - (laughter).
Mr.COLLIER: I'm very glad of that.
S then put the following question to the witness through the Judge. When the Deadman point was made was the distance from the shore a safe one?
Witness replied that it was.
The JUDGE: Could the passengers have landed had the captain allowed them to leave in the boats on her first striking?
JUDGE: Was it dark when the captain gave a general order to get out the boats?
The witness replied that it was.
JUDGE: But there was no sea at the time to prevent the passengers landing?
Witness: We could not see to land.
The witnesses had been ordered out of court previous to the commencement of the case; but Sergt.Kinglake had asked his lordship to allow Captain Lory to be present as he was a scientific gentleman, and it was important that he should hear the evidence of the next witness.
Mr.SLADE objected, but his lordship saw no reason and he was therefore called in.
Andrew Elder was then called and examined by Mr.Coleridge. He said, I was an able seaman on board the John. I was at the helm when she left Plymouth and took her out of the Sound. I left the Sound at about seven o'clock, and she was then abreast of Fowey. When we came out of the Sound the wind was N.N.W., but came round to the north, rather to the east. After leaving the Ramehead the course was westerly. The Capt. was on the poop several times and gave me the west course to steer. He came up to the wheel several times. I kept a due west course till I left the helm. She was then going when I left the helm about seven knots an hour. After leaving the helm I was employed to clear the deck. About eight o'clock the captain ordered me to "take a pull of the spanker out hole". That was done to make the sails stand better. About eight o'clock I looked at the compass and the ship's head was then about west, but it might have been half west or half south. The ship at that time was about three miles from the Deadman. The Deadman was then bearing right a beam and the ship's head west. I went below about nine o'clock. I could then see the Falmouth light. It was about two points abaft the beam. I only took my coat off and about an hour afterwards the ship struck. When I went below I should suppose the Falmouth light about five miles distant. When she struck I went on the deck and found she was on the Manacles rocks. I found people were then bracing the yards so that the ship might run on shore, and I went to assist them. She then proceeded towards the shore and some went to get out the life-boat. I did not see the captain go to the quarter boat. I helped to get out the life-boat, but I don't know who ordered it. There was so much confusion on board that we could scarcely move along the boats. I heard the captain say when the last boat was about to be lowered that it had better not be done until the morning. I thought it was better to get the boats out, but I can't recollect that I told the captain my opinion. One of the boats was stoved in upon the deck. The captain said to me that the vessel was aground and he ordered me and others to furl the sails. This was done. The main deck was flooded about two hours after the sails were furled.
Cross-examined by Mr.SLADE: it was very hazy on the land, but not a very thick night. It was not as thick as a "hedge". I have seen many a thicker night. It was a very deceiving night, and no moon could be seen. It was a revolving light that I saw two points abaft of the ship. Falmouth light is a revolving light, but the light I saw might have been a ship's light. When nearly abreast of Fowey the course was due west. I believe I steered my proper course. When off the Deadman the course was then west. I do not know what became of the parties who left in the quarter-boat. I believe they landed at Coverack. I saw two people go off in the life-boat and I understand that they were drowned. I did not hear the captain say that he had lost two boats already and that he would not allow any more to be launched. He might have said it, but it was all confusion on board.
Re-examined by Mr.COLERIDGE: I could see the land quite clear as long as I was steering.
William Rowe examined by Serjeant KINGLAKE: he said I was seaman on board the John. I took the wheel about half past six or seven, which was after Elder gave it up. I continued steering till about eight o'clock. Elder gave me the course to steer. The course he gave was west. I continued that course for a little while. I saw the captain whilst I was steering and he told me to keep her west-southerly. That means that I was not to go north of the west. I do not know how long that was after Elder gave me the course. Elder was near the helm almost all the time. He only gave me one direction which I followed. I gave up the helm to Bennett* about eight o'clock.
Cross-examined by Mr.SLADE: It was hazy during the time that I was at the helm. There was no sleet when I was at the wheel, but I saw some after she struck. West-southerly means quarter of a point south of west. I landed in the boat in the morning on the cliff. I had to go up about forty of fifty feet by a rope. I heard the captain tell the passengers that they had better get to the rigging. I heard him give the directions once. I went to the rigging myself. It might be two hours after she struck. I do not think that the passengers could have landed had they left in the middle of the night.
Re-examined by Mr. Serjeant KINGLAKE: The wind was northerly. When the captain requested the people to go to the rigging there was water on the deck. I do not know whether there were other landing places.
Edward Venning examined by Mr.COLLIER: I was one of the crew of the John. I relieved Rowe, and remained at the helm about a quarter of an hour. I took my orders from Rowe. The captain was walking the deck. He walked up and down the binnacle. I could see the land all the time I was steering. After I left the wheel I went below and know nothing more till she struck. Rowe gave me the course west southerly. I handed the vessel up to Curry. It was very hazy off the land, I could see the "loom" of the land as far. As I could judge he was acting very skilfully. I heard the captain say it would be safer to keep the long boat till daylight, because the other two boats were gone. The long boat was all that we had left. I heard the captain several times entreat the passengers to go up the rigging. I saw the captain on the main top. He had a child with him and he was endeavouring to save it. When the boats came off, the captain, the mate, and myself, assisted the children into the boats - the shore boats. There were two boats from the shore alongside at the same time. When the captain left there were only three men remaining in the rigging. I have no doubt that had all the passengers got into the rigging they might have saved themselves. The children that were saved were handed down to the boats with great care. I have been at sea six years. I have not made that passage to Quebec and never left Plymouth before.
Re-examined by Mr.COLLIER: When the captain said that the long-boat should not be launched the boat was then in the tackle. The greater portion of the passengers were lost from the poop deck. The sea dashed over it at times. West southerly means nothing in the north.
James Curry examined by Mr.COLERIDGE: I relieved Rowe. The course was then west. After a few minutes the course was altered to west half south. The captain told me to alter the course. I could not see how far we were from the Deadman then. I kept that course about ten minutes; it was altered to W.S.W., which was also by the captain's order. That course was taken about an hour and then to the S.W., which was also by the captain's order. She was kept on that course till a very few minutes before she struck. The captain was on the poop when she struck. I saw a revolving light on the starboard quarter a few minutes before she struck. I could see the land very plain whilst I was at the helm. I was knocked down when she struck and I heard the captain say "man the boats and lower away". I got hold of the after tackle and I got into the boat. I saw the captain get into the boat. He was the first to get in. when we got down close to the water he desired us to hold on, and then he went on board again. The boat then slewed right round. The boat had no trowels but had paddles. We skulled her, however, down and landed at Coverack. We held up the grating of the stern sheet for a sail. The wind was blowing fresh when we got on shore.
Cross-examined: The captain told me to stop lowering the boat in order that he might get back to the ship. It was a little hazy off the land, but not to the sea. I did not hear an apprentice say that a light was held up for us to return to the ship.
The jury here retired for ten minutes and on again returning the next witness was called.
Captain William Lory, examined by Mr. Serjeant KINGLAKE: He said I am a commander in the Royal Navy. I have commanded vessels from Plymouth Sound to the Lizard light for many years. In taking the departure from the Rame Head, which may be considered the first point, I should take my course west by west nothing west. That would take me four or five miles westward of the Lizard. I should take my bearings from every head-land and remarkable place as I passed it and refer to the chart. I know the Lizard light perfectly well. In keeping the Lizard light in sight you must pass clear of the Manacles. As a matter of navigation or prudence a person ought to sight them in order to keep clear of the Manacles. In coming round the Rame Head you ought to keep the Lizard right in view. If you lose sight of the Lizard in clear weather you are in danger, because you might be too near the land, and be in danger of going on shore, if you steered westward. The Blackhead point shuts out the light of the Lizard. I heard the evidence of the four helmsman - Elder (whose evidence was very good), Rowe, Venning sand Curry. I attended to the course as given by the men to-day. That course was decidedly wrong. I have heard the quarter from which the wind was blowing. Supposing the course to be followed as the helmsmen were directed, it would have brought her on the Manacles. I have collected that from the evidence of the witness. You must take into consideration the wind and the indrafts into the bays. The wind being on the quarter would have an effect of edging her a little in the windward of her course, and that would cause her to be wrecked on the Manacles. I commanded the Express from Falmouth to Brazils. I have not been to sea for six years. I commanded packets from Falmouth for nine years. We always landed our mails at Falmouth and then proceeded to Plymouth to refit before the next voyage. I have not commanded a ship from Plymouth direct to foreign station.
Mr.SLADE: Have you taken great interest in this matter:
Witness: I have not taken more interest than any other person under the circumstances.
Mr.SLADE: Have you not said that the wind to the quarter, and the course being due west, would bring her on the Manacles.
Mr.SLADE: I suppose you would keep W. and by S. from the Rame Head.
Witness: Yes, that would be my steering.
Mr.SLADE: Supposing the wind to be on the quarter, and the wind edging, would that not bring her on the Manacles?
Witness: No, you have plenty of room if the vessel was edged two or three miles from her course.
Mr.SLADE: And then supposing you can't see the Lizard?
Witness: I should then decidedly sound. A person must judge where he is by sounding.
Mr.SLADE: That is when you are making the land?
Witness: Yes, and when you are edging by the land.
Mr.SLADE: Do you mean to tell me that the lead is kept going in merchant ships?
Witness: Yes, and a person would not do his duty if he did not occasionally use the deep sea lead.
Mr.SLADE: What! In merchant ships?
Mr.SLADE: Do you not know that that is an Admiralty regulation, and does not apply to merchant ships?
Witness: Every person.
Mr.SLADE: You must answer my question yes or no.
The witness again proceeded to offer an explanation when
Mr.SLADE said: You shall answer my question if you remain her all night. He then repeated the question.
Witness: It should apply to every vessel.
Mr.SLADE: That is not my question. Do the coasting vessels use the lead?
Witness: No vessel should be within ten miles of the shore without soundings.
Mr.SLADE: Would it be right to sound within five miles of the Deadman?
Witness: No; it would not be necessary.
Mr.SLADE: Do you mean to say that a vessel going seven knots an hour can take soundings in thirty fathoms of water?
Witness: You can take it with the deep sea lead, but not with the common lead.
Mr.SLADE then put the following important question:- You will please take the chart (handing the witness a very large one,) and we put ourselves at eight o'clock four or five miles off the Deadman, and the Ramehead having been passed a mile and a half distant, steering west southerly, the ship continuing seven knots an hour, where would she be at ten o'clock?
Witness was understood to say about twenty yards outside the Manacles.
Mr.SLADE: Draw a line a mile and a half from the Ramehead to a point opposite the Deadman; where would she be at a given time?
Witness: Steering six miles off the Deadman
Mr.SLADE: If she stood due west going seven knots an hour, where would she be in twenty minutes?
Witness: It would give her about two miles and a quarter.
Mr.SLADE: I will now give you ten minutes west half south.
Witness said he had marked it off.
Mr.SLADE: And now take it W.S.W. for an hour.
Witness after a minute or two said he had also done that. A similar question was put for him to mark another five minutes course, South West.
Mr.SLADE: That would bring you 41 miles off the Manacles Rocks.
Witness: The wind was blowing from the shore on the starboard quarter, and you must take into consideration the indrafts of Fowey, St.Austell and Polkerris harbours.
Mr.SLADE: How is a person to know the indraft of Polkerris harbour?
Witness: By experience. The course he steered was a dangerous one.
Mr.SLADE: According to you I suppose he ought to have steered southerly?
Witness: No; west by south.
Mr.SLADE: I am afraid your course would bring you on the Manacles.
Witness: Oh, no, sir.
Mr.SLADE: Do not accidents often occur which are unaccountable?
The JUDGE: If you do not know, say so.
Witness: Accidents happen very frequently.
Mr.SLADE: Don't make yourself a partizan.
Witness: I am not a partizan, nor am I prejudiced against the prisoner. I never saw him previous to this disaster.
The JUDGE: You may mention any accidents.
Witness: I am not sufficiently aware of any accidents.
The JUDGE: Then you have not known of any accidents having occurred without being accounted for.
Witness was not observed to make any answer.
Mr.SLADE: What do you mean by the Great Britain in Dundrum Bay? She left Liverpool and ran on shore on the coast of Ireland, and that was not accounted for by any one but you.
Witness: It was carelessness.
Mr.SLADE: Do you think the loss of the Great Britain was the result of an accident and can be explained?
Witness: It occurred from want of good judgement.
Mr.SLADE: And the loss of H.M.S. Thetis, Captain Sutherland (we believe), with a quantity of bullion, off Rio - that was unaccountable, I suppose, too. She was one of your own cloth.
Witness: Yes. With proper care she would not have been lost.
Mr.SLADE: Then, again, there was the stranding of H.M.S. Hecla, on a passage from Malaga to Gibraltar; and the Cossack, near Plymouth.
Witness: Yes, I have heard of it. There are between 500 and 600 vessels lost every year, and it is my impression that two-thirds of them are lost through drunkenness and carelessness.
Mr.SLADE: Then you have a very strong opinion on the matter?
Witness: Yes, and particularly in this case.
Mr.SLADE: And then when a ship is lost you take the strong opinion first.
Witness: Oh, no, sir.
Mr.SLADE: Do you remember the loss of the Birkenhead off the Cape of Good Hope, with the loss of nearly the whole on board? Did that make any impression on you?
Witness (indifferently): Oh, no, sir. I would have studied the matter before I came into court had I known you were going to ask the question.
Mr.SLADE: Do you know of any one being charged with manslaughter for the loss of that steamer?
The witness returned no answer.
Re-examined by Serjeant KINGLAKE: You have heard the course she was steered - was that a right or wrong course.
Witness: A wrong course.
Serjeant KINGLAKE: And to have brought her, in your opinion, on the Manacles Rocks?
Witness said yes, and he was about to explain why she got there when he was interrupted by the Judge, who said he was not called upon to explain the cause.
Serjeant KINGLAKE: I think you stated just now that in coming round the Rame Head the course should be west or westerly; which is the course?
Witness: West by south going down the channel, and not to the westward.
Some other questions were put to captain Lory, but they were unimportant.
Mr.COLLIER was then about to call Capt.Wake, the commander of the Coast Guard in the St.Keverne district, but Mr.SLADE objected to his being examined from being in court during the examination of the witnesses.
The JUDGE said he could not be called for the above reason - Captain Lory being the only witness who was asked to be allowed to remain.
Serjeant KINGLAKE: We will not call him then.
The next witness called was
Michael Stadden, who was examined by Mr.COLLIER.
He said I am a shoemaker, residing at Launceston. I was a passenger on board the John. I had a wife and five children on board, who were all drowned. I could see the land quite plain. It was a moonlight night. It was not a thick night. I saw the captain on the forecastle. I thought the ship was too near the land, and I went to the helmsman and make some enquiries of him. I then went below thinking that it was all right if the captain was on the forecastle. I went below, and before I had time to undress she struck. I then ran on deck and the first person I saw was the captain, and I asked him what was the matter? He replied that it would be all right. I then went below and told my wife to dress, and I lighted the only lamp in the ship. I heard the captain say, "lower a boat," and he pointed to the quarter-boat. The boat was lowered and he was the first person who jumped into it. Two of my children were on the deck. I went below and left three of my children in bed. When I came on deck again the captain was there and I asked him if there was any danger, and he replied "it is all right, I am with you." I begged him to lower the boats and he said that he could not, but that we should be all right. I heard many persons also request him to lower the boats, and he returned them a similar reply. He said he was a ruined man, and should not see his owner any more. The deck of the ship was dry when the long-boat was about to be launched. The sea was not rough then, and the people around were quite composed. I should not have been afraid to go on shore in the boat. I saw that the tide afterwards began to rise, and I felt alarmed. I looked about for the captain, but could not see him. The water was then coming over the poop, and the sea increased with the tide. I went below to the captain and said a gun had been fired from the shore, and he made no reply. I can't describe the confusion that took place when the tide began to rise. It was awful. The captain came on deck with a great coat under his arm. The poor people on the poop could not have gone to the rigging; it was impossible for any one. I tried myself, and lost a child in the attempt. The captain said he was there amongst them, and should not leave them. A short time afterwards when I was on the weather side of the ship, I saw the captain in the rigging. He was in the rigging before the people were washed off from the poop.
Cross-examined: The captain said we should be all right." I have been to London in a steamer. I never heard the captain entreat the people to go to the rigging. I am certain of that.
Re-examined by Mr.COLLIER: I never heard the captain give a single order with the exception of the lowering of one boat.
William Henry Yelland, examined by Mr.COLERIDGE: I was a passenger by the John. I was on deck at eight o'clock, and I fancied I was near the land. I could see it plain. I walked on deck till about nine, and went below, and about ten I was awoke by a shock. When I came on deck I heard the captain giving orders to furl the sails. She then "forged" off and took ground a second time on her helm. We were very near the land - about three or four minutes pull from the shore. She remained very calm and the sea was not rough till the tide began to rise. The people went to the poop, and I saw the captain there, and I asked him to get the boats out, to which he replied "get them out yourself." I did not hear him say anything to the passengers before that. I assisted in getting out the life-boat. I did not see the captain then. The boat had no oars or trowel pins, and she went adrift with two poor fellows in it. There were no trowels in the long-boat. I made some trowels for that boat. I remained till the sea began to break over the boat, and I went to the mizen rigging and was washed off once, but saved myself. The captain said the shore was very rocky, and he was afraid of losing the people, and he thought all would be well in the morning and, under these circumstances, I remained perfectly composed.
Cross-examined: The captain did exert himself for the good of all. I slept in the boat about an hour. I went on shore in the last boat. I went on shore in the same boat as the captain. I did not see the captain in the rigging with a child.
John Houghton, examined by Serjeant KINGLAKE: I was a passenger on the John. I was in my berth when the ship struck. I came on deck, and went below a second time, and then found the ship was making water. When I again came on deck I asked the captain where we were, and he replied "on the Manacles." I said "lower the boats and land us." He said "my dear man there is no danger." He also said he did not know the nature of the coast. I said "send in some men and see for a landing place," and he replied "there is no occasion, stay steady till the morning and then you will be taken off by the land's boats." He also said "you see that I am not drunk." No one that I had heard had spoken to him on that matter. I saw the land quite plain, and there would have been no difficulty of our landing. I remained on the deck. The tide at that time was ebbing, and a few hours afterwards it again began to rise. A portion of the deck was dry when the tide was receding and another portion wet. When the tide began to rise the men went to the rigging, and the women and children to the poop. About an hour and a half afterwards, I saw the captain in his cabin. He appeared to be in a very drowsy state. I did not speak to him. I did not see him any short time before that about the ship. I assisted in lowering one boat which afterwards parted her tackle having slipped. A man named Elder was there.
The witness was not cross-examined by the counsel for the prosecution.
William Clements, another passenger, said: I spoke to the captain about lowering the boats, and he said first that it would be no use, and that we should be safe on the quarter-deck. I said "I should not be safe there as the tide would flow three times as high as that," and he said it wouldn't. I told him that when I left Torpoint it was high water at six o'clock in the morning, and he said it would be high water the next morning at about three or four o'clock. Between two and three o'clock the water began to float the poop. About two hours after she struck, I went to the captain's cabin and saw him. He was lying on his back, and appeared to be sleeping; he was snoring. It was in his berth that he was sleeping. I saw him again afterwards on the topmast. When he was on the topmast the poop-deck was full of people, and the sea continually washed away the people. I saw that the captain had a coat on.
Cross-examined: The captain held my child two or three times. I believe that I was not before the coroner or the Grand Jury. I was examined at Falmouth. Capt.Wake brought me up. I have not been bound over to attend. I was requested to do so partly by Capt.Wake.
Q. What have you to say about Captain Rawle after his kindness to your child?
A. I don't know, sir. It was very good of him as far as it goes. There was some water in the cabin when I saw the captain there. It was up to my shoes. I did not go there for any particular business. I saw a young man there and I went to him. I am one of St.Kew, which is about eight miles from here. I want to tell the truth, as I believe things were done that were not right.
Q. Did not Captain Rawle consent to take you and your family for £2?
A. Not very likely. I paid in all £26. My own fare was £4, and the captain consented to take me for half the fare, viz., £2.
Re-examined by Mr.COLERIDGE: I have no ill-will against the captain, and the only purpose for which I have come here is to tell the truth. There was enough water to wet a person's feet in the cabin when I saw him there. The bed in which the captain was sleeping was out of the water.
George Wilce said I was a passenger on board the John. I saw the captain after the ship struck. He said "Some of the passengers would say I am drunk, but God d--- am I drunk?" The next place I saw him was outside the cabin door. I asked him for a blanket, and something to cover my sister. He returned me no answer. He was sleeping in his cabin on a barrel, and he roused from the end of the barrow where he was sitting, and went into his bed. I afterwards saw him in the main top. I saw him make no exertion to get the people into the rigging. At the time he was in his bed there were opportunities of getting the passengers into the rigging.
Cross-examined: I was not before the Grand Jury. Capt.Wake, of the Coast Guard, brought me here. We were saved by the Coast Guard.
Mr.SLADE asked the witness who was Capt.Wake? The witness returned no answer.
Captain WAKE, who was behind the counsel for the prosecution here rose from where he was sitting and some very personal remarks were made by Mr.Slade towards him which were interrupted by the Judge, who requested the learned counsel for the defence to remember that he was in a court of justice.
Nicholas Reed: I saw the captain after the John struck, and asked him why he did not throw out the boats, and he said "do it yourself." I then assisted with some other persons to get the life boat out. She had no oars and drifted away. We endeavoured then to get out the long boat, but we received instructions not to put it out. We saw the captain afterwards and the people went around him. He said they would be safer there than in the boats.
Cross-examined: When the water was rising I heard the captain give directions for the people to go to the rigging.
Wm.Hallett, husband of the deceased, was the next witness examined. I was a passenger on board the John, with my wife, who was drowned. I saw her body afterwards at St.Keverne church. When the vessel struck it was rough, but it got calm afterwards, and about one o'clock it got rough again. I did not hear the captain give any orders that night.
Timothy Carew examined by Mr.Coleridge. he said, I am a lieutenant in Her Majesty's navy, and was emigration officer at the port of Plymouth. It was my duty to inspect the John, and I did so the day she left Plymouth. I gave her a certificate to the effect that the provisions of the act had been complied with. I mustered the crew previous to her leaving. She was fully manned. She had four boats - the number required was three. They were all good boats. I caused the John to be surveyed previous to her being taken up as a passenger ship. There were compasses on board - five in all, one of which was an Azamuth compass. There was one on the deck and one in the captain's cabin. It is not the duty of an emigration officer to examine the compasses, but I satisfied myself that there were some on board in a casual way.
Cross-examined: I saw a card under a glass case similar to the one produced. I was inspecting emigration officer. I gave a certificate that she had complied with the previous act. I believe that three of the compasses were stowed away. I believe that in Her Majesty's service, ships are swung to adjust the compasses, I have heard it from earsay only.
Captain Lory was recalled, and was asked by Mr.Slade if Her Majesty's ships were swung to adjust their compasses? He replied that he believed they were, but he was never swung in one.
This was the case for the prosecution.
Mr.SLADE then rose and addressed the jury on behalf of the prisoner. He said it now became his duty to address them, and he felt that more than ordinary responsibility rested upon him on this occasion. He would have the jury to well remember that their duty was also responsible, because if their verdict was adverse to the prisoner he would in all probability be transported for life as a felon - a man who was as respectable, and was as much respected as any one who sat in the Jury box; and, therefore, it was with no ordinary feeling that he rose to address them on his behalf, for with them rested all the prisoner's happiness in this world. He felt confident that they, in common with himself, were anxious that the law should be carried out, but he felt equally certain that notwithstanding every one must deplore the awful loss of life occasioned by the wreck of the John, if he had no occasioned their death they would not feel anxious to punish him.
To the bereaved friends and relatives of the unfortunate passengers was due the deepest sympathy, but the Jury should never forget that if in their judgement they convicted him their verdict would send him across the seas. He would impress upon them to banish from their minds all that they might have heard or read in the newspapers, and confine themselves to the facts of the case as adduced before them, that day.
Fortunately it did not devolve upon Captain Lory to prove the case, as he did not possess the greatest attainments. Captain Lory had given them his opinion of the matter, but he (Mr.Slade) confessed that it went very little towards showing that the prisoner was culpable at all. This was the first time of a captain being brought forward to answer such a charge; and because the guys of the ship broke and a large number of the passengers were drowned through that circumstance, ought the captain to be put on trial for manslaughter? He believed that if there had been but one life lost such a charge would never have been brought against him, and if such a charge were not brought because one person only came to his death, why should there be when 189 persons were drowned? The fact was it was considered that some one was to blame, and the cry was "we must have the captain." He defied any one to say that Captain Rawle neglected any part of his duty on the trying night in question which should make him criminally responsible for the loss of so many lives. Nearly the whole of the crew spoke highly in favour of him and none were so capable of judging as they were. When she struck, his words were, "Fear not; I will stay with you to the last." That was the true sentiment of a British sailor, and if he (Mr.Slade) wished to trust his life on a long voyage there was no one with whom he should feel so comfortable as with Capt.Rawle. He gave advice to all, and it would have been well for if they had followed his advice. When his own time was very near, when his own death knell was about to toll, they found him protecting this poor child; and who was the man brought up by Captain Wake, but the very man whose child Captain Rawle had protected and saved; and yet Capt. Wake had not brought up his own Coast guardmen to give them an account of the matter. He deeply regretted that Captain Wake should have thought it his duty to rake up evidence that had not been before the Grand Jury and the coroner.
Captain Wake rose, and said the statements were false.
The JUDGE: You are too strong Mr.Slade.
Mr.SLADE: I withdraw them.
Serjeant KINGLAKE: They are already made.
The JUDGE was understood to say that he could reprove Captain Wake.
Mr.SLADE said in continuation, that he was wrong in saying "raking" up the evidence, and therefore he would withdraw his remarks. His learned friend (the serjeant) had laid great stress on the captain not having put out the boats. His friend said if the boats had been put out the lives might have been saved. What an issue on which to found an accusation for manslaughter. Thousands of lives had been saved by remaining with the vessel. If they had gone up into the rigging they might have been saved, but they stood upon the poop-deck, and the stays which held the boom breaking, that boom rolled about and swept them off at twenty and thirty a time into the sea, and was the captain answerable for that? Would they have had the captain, in such a situation, with a rolling sea and surrounded by rocks, magnify the danger? Would that not have increased the confusion? He had jumped down in the first boat to see that all was right, and then, like the brave fellow as he was, he got on board again, to share the danger with those by whom he was surrounded. If they were to hold that the captain of a merchantman placed in such a situation was afterwards to be tried as a felon, there was an end of the merchant service, for no one would go to sea with a rope around his neck. He believed to Captain Lory and Captain Wake they owed the prosecution. He did not complain it; for people when they got strong notions in their heads would carry them out. He would prove the innocence of Captain Rawle by the witnesses against him. His friend said that there was only one solution to this question, and that was that the ship got on the Manacles rocks by the negligence of the captain. He (Mr.Slade) thought there were two solutions, and his theory was as reasonable as Serjeant Kinglake's. the witness said the captain could not be every twenty-four hours in every part of the ship at once; and because this men chose not to carry out his orders, should he be criminally responsible? He submitted that if the men did not steer as he told them, Captain Rawle was not responsible in a criminal court; but he would not put it upon the men; he would put it upon that fruitful source of maritime misfortune - if the compass was not correct it was a guide to mischief. Our fostering Government would provide it's own agents to see that all was right, and yet this agent said that he had nothing to do with the compass. Whether it was true or false he did not know. He saw two, and he was told that three were locked up. He hoped that next session some law would be introduced making it necessary that the agent should attend to the compasses. A new-fashioned compass (an Azamuth) had been put on board at Cardiff, and that had carried Captain Rawle upon the Manacle Rocks, which was fully proved by the evidence of Captain Lory, who had drawn upon the chart the course which the witnesses believe had been taken. What motive could Captain Rawle have had for running the vessel ashore? Why, he had lost all he had. There was no cutting corners; he was attempting to take the proper course. It was his duty to take advantage of the ebb tide, which was inshore. The mate had said that the conduct of Captain Rawle was judicious. Did the ship get upon the rocks for the want of skill or negligence on the part of Captain Rawle? If so, he was guilty; but he contended that, from the evidence, it was manifest that he had shown skill and attention, and that if there was any fault at al, it must have been with the compasses. The learned counsel then pointed out upon the chart the course that was pursued, as stated by Captain Lory, according to the directions of Captain Rawle, and that would have taken the vessel between two and three miles from the Manacles. Captain had a theory; he did not blame him for it, because human nature was weak, and to the day of his death, while he was taking his gin-and-water with his friend Captain Wake, he would say, "I don't mind what the jury up at Bodmin said, I am still of the opinion Rawle was guilty; don't you think so, Wake?". And Captain Wake would say "Yes." It was an absurd theory tried to be carried out by a still stronger absurdity. Unless they were prepared to render up their common sense to Captain Lory, his client was entitled to claim their verdict. Mr.Slade then proceed to call
Captain Henry Nichols, who said - I was part owner of the John. I have known the prisoner seven or eight years, both as chief officer and captain - the latter about eighteen months. I have also known him at Quebec as chief officer in our employ; and his character was as good there as in England.
Robert William Avery said - I live at Plymouth, and also was part owner of the John. I have been connected with shipping about forty years, and I have known Captain Rawle five or six years. I believe he has carried out the wishes of the owners in every respect, in the various positions he has held. As one of the owners I would have no objection to again take him into our service.
Cross-examined: We have place £3500 into the hands of the Board and Trade as security arising out of the loss of the John.
Christopher Rea, tide surveyor to the Board of Customs at Plymouth said, "I have known Capt.Rawle five or six years. I have known him as chief officer of the Margaret and Ann and of the John. In my official capacity I have had occasion to go on board these vessels at various hours; and I have always seen him attentive to his duties.
The certificate granted by the Board of Trade to the prisoner was also put in.
This was the case for the defendant.
Mr.Justice Williams then summed up the case to the jury, and observed that this was a most important case, and one which required at their hands the most calm, dispassionate, and unprejudiced investigation. On the one hand, it was natural that they should feel very deeply on the subject of this most deplorable wreck, and the miserable death of so many of their fellow creatures; it was natural that they should be anxious that someone should be punished in order to prevent, if possible, a reoccurrence of such a melancholy event. On the other hand, they owed it to the man who sat at the bar charged with this serious offence to do him no injustice, and they would do him injustice if they found a verdict upon any other grounds than a patient and just view if the evidence. He would entreat them to dismiss from their minds everything that they had heard before they came into that box, and to act faithfully and entirely upon the evidence which had been laid before them. The prisoner was charged with manslaughter by culpable neglect and discharge of his duty, causing the death of Eliza Hallett by the law of this country, if a man took upon himself an office such as that of commander of a merchant vessel, for which a certain quantity of skill, care, and activity was requisite, he was bound to the ordinary, skilful, careful and active in the discharge of his duty; and if, by his unskilfullness, carelessness, negligence or supiness, he caused the death of a fellow creature, he would be guilty of manslaughter. If they thought it had been proved that the ship having become a wreck was attributable to the neglect of the captain in the ordinary duty of navigating the ship, or that the loss of the life of Eliza Hallett was generally to be attributed to his want of taking proper steps after it happened hey ought to find him guilty; but they must bear in mind that it was ordinary skill and ordinary exertion only that could be required; it was not because by more than ordinary skill the wreck might have been avoided, or because by more than ordinary activity the lives might have been saved, that they would find the prisoner guilty of this charge. He could hardly see that after the wreck there was anything that could be called culpable negligence or want of skill on the part of the captain to lead to the death of these unfortunate people. Then it was for them to say whether the occurrence had arisen through the want of skill in the captain in navigating the vessel; if the compasses were incorrect the captain was not responsible for that circumstance; therefore, if they thought that incorrectness had led or contributed to the unfortunate occurrence, the captain would not be guilty of having caused the death of the deceased. If they had had any doubt, the captain was entitled to an acquittal.
At seven o'clock the jury retired to consider their verdict, and after about five minutes deliberation, returned a verdict of "not guilty".
Signs of approbation were shown when the jury returned their decision, which was quelled by the officers of the court. Several friends congratulated the prisoner previous to leaving the hall, whilst others heartily shook hand with him.
The above case concluded the business of the Assize.
NB: Three references are made to Bennett
having taken the helm at some point. He does not,
however, appear on the Crew Agreement, so was
possibly a late replacement.
Interestingly, a further anomaly exists in respect of Bennett:
In his opening address Serjeant KINGLAKE states that the sequence of helmsmen was ELDER/ROWE/BENNETT/VENNING/CURRY.
During his evidence, ROWE states that he gave the helm up to BENNETT, but VENNING states that he took over from ROWE and makes no mention of BENNETT.
One wonders, therefore, if the references to BENNETT are an error on the part of the court reporter.