I came across a treasure trove of original documents. Millions of pages of old court records.
The NYT has an article about a link known as the Old Bailey link. Remember Rumpole of the Bailey? The TV series about a barrister who argues criminal cases at the Bailey?
Well the Bailey has been around for centuries.
I tend toward the boring and the tedious but this is sooooooooo very interesting to me! And when did boring and tedious ever stop me? Just ask my kids.
The Old Bailey offers a unique window into the criminal justice system and, by extension, British culture. The free searchable online archive, oldbaileyonline.org, contains accounts of nearly 198,000 trials between 1674 and 1913. “It’s the largest body of accurately transcribed historical texts online,” said Tim Hitchcock, a historian at the University of Hertfordshire in England and part of the team. “All of human life is here.”
Oh I hit this link like pancakes in the early morning hours following a hard drinking night at the local university pub!
I picked the year 1700 to begin my descent into history. I found paragraphs discussing this dispostion and that disposition and then after five or so entries I was treated to a ‘special link’ which brought me to a picture of the original document! Just as it was printed on a Guttenberg Press in 1700!
This experience was much more fun than internet porn! Ha
As one can imagine 239 years of criminal proceedings might be difficult to consume, NYT discusses this ‘project’.
Mr. Hitchcock argues that new methods of digitally analyzing and mapping the history of crime using the entire Proceedings will revise “the history of the criminal trial.” After scouring the 127 million words in the database for patterns in a project called Data Mining With Criminal Intent, he and William J. Turkel, a historian at the University of Western Ontario, came up with a novel discovery. Beginning in 1825 they noticed an unusual jump in the number of guilty pleas and the number of very short trials. Before then most of the accused proclaimed their innocence and received full trials. By 1850, however, one-third of all cases involved guilty pleas. Trials, with their uncertain outcomes, were gradually crowded out by a system in which defendants pleaded guilty outside of the courtroom, they said.
Conventional histories cite the mid-1700s as the turning point in the development of the modern adversarial system of justice in England and Colonial America, with defense lawyers and prosecutors facing off in court, Mr. Hitchcock and Mr. Turkel said. Their analysis tells a different story, however.
Here is how it worked for me (so far)
January 15, 1700
The proceedings in question ran from January 15th thru the 19th.
Andrew Andrews , of the Parish of St. Giles in the Fields , was Indicted for Feloniously Stealing 2 Cloath Coats 2 Holland Shirts, 2 Flaxen Shirts, 2 pair of Stockings, and 5 l. in Moneys numbred , the Goods and Moneys of George Norford , on the 27th, of December last; to which Indictment he pleaded Guilty .
Francis Coleman , of the Parish of great St. Bartholomews , was Indicted for privately Stealing out of the Shop of Benjamin Paris , 2 Dozen pair of Mens Kidleather Gloves value 30 s. on the 11th of January last . The Prosecutor said that he found the Prisoner in his Shop, with the Goods upon him. The Prisoner alleadged that he did come to the Shop from one Mr. Williams to fetch such Goods but could not prove it. He was known to the an old Offender, the Jury thereupon found him Guilty .
Walter Terry and James Jones , of the Parish of St Gregories , was Indicted for Feloniously stealing a lack Silk Fur Cap, of the value of 5 s. the Goods of Edward Gilford , on the 30th of December last. It appeared that they were brought before my Lord Mayor Suspicion of having comitted another Fact, and being searcht, the Cap was found upon Terrey; but upon enquiry, it was own’d by Mr. Guilford, who said That it was his Cap, and was taken away from his Stall; but Terrey denied it, saying he bought it of an Ends of Gold and Silver Man in Covent-garden, but could not prove it, nor give any good account of himself; the Jury thereupon found him Guilty , but the Evidence not being sufficient to Convict Jones, he was acquitted .
found. The Jury having considered the Matter, found her not Guilty .
Reference Number: t17000115-7
Anne Graham and Elizabeth Barnett , both of the Parish of St. Martin Orgars, in the Ward of Candlewick , were Indicted for Feloniously stealing 13 Yards of Drugget Stuff, value 40 s. the Good of Benjamin Barnsly , on the first of January last. The Prosecutor declared that the Prisoners came into his Shop pretending to buy a Gown and Petti-coat, and whilst he was busy, Graham took the Stuff and conveyed it under her Cloaths; after they had done cheapning, they bid an under Price, and were going away; but he having perceived that Graham took the Stuff, laid hold of her, and brought her into the Shop, where she dropt it. He further declared, That she said when her Mitimus was made to send her to Newgate, that it was but putting her Head into a new fashion Engine, and be burnt in the Munns. The Jury thereupon
found her Guilty : But the Evidence against Barnet not being sufficient to Convict her, she was acquitted .
I will continue to research this major exposition of original court documents but let me tell you what I have surmised so far.
The primary trespass involves shoplifting of one sort or another.
Women and men will visit certain clothing marts and such as possible buyers and shove products into their clothing and abscond with all they think they can get away with.
As in all eras, there are murders and other mayhem.
One line of court proceedings really got to me.
Now we must remember context at all times.
The southern Mediterranean kingdoms were made up primarily of African-European Blacks. These people from the highest of civilizations mirroring the ‘civilizations’ to their north controlled as much of the trade and traffic of the Mediterranean culture as anybody else.
And we must recall that by 1700 A.D. a large percentage of sailors operating throughout the Mediterranean and Europe were Black.
Well one aspect of these court proceedings involved white slave traders who would kidnap Blacks found in Europe (England) and sell them into slavery; sending them to the New World for fun and profit.
I just found it so interesting to see criminal proceedings brought against these slave traders when slave trading of course was not outlawed in the British Isles until the late 18th Century.
These types of proceedings brought the death penalty of course.
The other two main punishments involved ‘branding’ and the whip.
So we see a system is being developed in GB that is rather interesting.
A bloke gets off from time to time for what appears to be a proper analysis of evidence.
Those who are found guilty (by confession or verdict) fall into a few categories.
You are hung.
You are burnt.
You are whipped (whipt, I love spelling)
Now, being burnt carries a biblical theme it seems to me.
A mark of Cain so to speak—although remember the Mark of Cain was meant by the Good Lord to keep Cain safe according to the Bible. Later the parable was skewed so that the Mark of Cain would identify those who had transgressed the Commandments of God.
So, much like the manner in which we treat sex perverts, those who were burnt could be easily identified as having ‘a record’.
At least if you were whipped (and recall that for centuries those of the Cloth would thusly ravage their own bodies) you could hide your scarring with clothing.
As the NYT notes, the first modern prison in England does not appear until 1792—about the same time America saw her first modern prison.
It was as if society did not know exactly what to do with transgressors.
For millennial there seemed to be two choices:
Kill the bugger or exile him.
Socrates took the poison pill so to speak.
Aristotle took the exile without really being offered that choice. In other words he skipped town.
And yet, the debtor’s prison has been around for a long long time.
Something repubs all over this free and fair nation would like to see return as a fiscal measure during these troubled economic times, no doubt.
So to say that there were no ‘modern day prisons’ until 1792 cannot be correct. And these annals demonstrate this time and time again.
There is an illogical approach to those sentenced to debtor’s prison by the way. I mean if you are sentenced to debtor’s prison for a year, how in the hell will you be able to pay back the debt that sent you there?
My take on debtor’s prison (which was in full force and effect in our country years after the Constitution was in force) was that it was a blackmail and extortion racket.
Give us our money or your father/brother/nephew will rot in prison.
Madison procured the monies necessary to get his pal-a former Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court out of stir.
And irony of ironies, both Madison and Jefferson came close to finding themselves in debtors prison due to their own financial quandaries.
That is enough for now.
But I shall delve into an interesting question for me anyway.
Think about how many of those whom we shut away into private and public prisons, offering them $.25 an hour for their work and providing them with nothing after they serve their time.
How many felons at the onset of their criminal prosecutions would have gladly accepted a good whipping or a branding?