Indictment: Glasgow, January 1841

INDICTMENT

Against

Robert xxxxxxxxxxx and James xxxxxxxxx

(Assault and Robbery.)

Image

Robert xxxxxxxxxxx, a labourer, sometime residing in or near the village of Forth, in the parish of Carnwath and shire of Lanark, and James xxxxxxxxx, a sawyer, lately residing in or near Forth aforesaid, present prisoners in the prison of Lanark, you are Indicted and Accused at the instance of ANDREW RUTHERFORD, Esquire, her Majesty’s Advocate, for her Majesty’s interest: THAT ALBEIT, by the laws of this and of every other well governed realm, ASSAULT, especially when committed to the effusion of blood and the serious injury of the person, and by a person who has been previously convicted of assault; as also ROBBERY, are crimes of a heinous nature, and severely punishable: YET TRUE IT IS OF VERITY, that you the said Robert xxxxxxxxxxx are guilty of the said crime of Assault, aggravated as aforesaid, and of the said crime of Robbery, actor, or art and part; and you the said James xxxxxxxxx are guilty of the said crime of Assault, aggravated by its being committed to the effusion of blood, and the serious injury of the person, and of the said crime of robbery, actor, or art and part: IN SO FAR AS,

Late on the evening of the 1st, or early on the morning of the (Wednesday or Thursday.) 2d day of July 1840, or on one or other of the days of that month, or of June immediately preceding, or of August immediately following, on the public road leading from the village of Forth aforesaid, to the town or village of Carnwath, and on or near that part of the said road which is 724 yards or thereby from the West Forth Toll-bar, and 287 Yards or thereby from the bridge on the said road across the water called the Mouse Water, and which part of the said road is situated in the parish of Carnwath and shire of Lanark aforesaid, you the said Robert xxxxxxxxxxx and James xxxxxxxxx did, both and each or one or other of you, violently, wickedly, and feloniously attack and assault Robert xxxxxx, then and now or lately a dealer in swine, and then and now or lately residing at or near Lockerbie, in the parish of Dryfesdale and shire of Dumfries, and did with a bludgeon or stick, or some other instrument or instruments to the Prosecutor unknown, strike him one or more severe blows on his head, and did seize him by the breast of his coat, and did pull him from off the tram of a cart which he was then driving, to the ground, and while he was lying on the ground did kick him repeatedly with your feet on his head, and other parts of his person, and did by kicking him on the head with the toes or points of your boots or shoes, or in some other manner and by some other means to the Prosecutor unknown, inflict several severe wounds on his head, and did otherwise maltreat and abuse him, to the great effusion of his blood and serious injury of his person, and did, both and each or one or other of you,

Time and place above libelled, by force and violence, take from the person or pockets of the said Robert xxxxxx, and rob him of

A dark coloured fustain purse,

Fourteen pounds, or thereby, in bank or banker’s notes,

Two pounds five shillings sterling, or thereby, in silver money,

2 ½d., or thereby, in copper money, and

A ready-reckoner, having a brown leather cover, the property or in the lawful possession of the said Robert xxxxxx: And you the said Robert xxxxxxxxxxx have been previously convicted of assault: And you the said Robert xxxxxxxxxxx and James xxxxxxxxx, being conscious of your guilt in the premises, did abscond and flee from justice: And you the said James xxxxxxxxx having been apprehended and taken before Daniel Vere, Esquire, sheriff-substitute of the shire of Lanark, did, in his presence at Lanark, on the 3rd and 29th days of July 1840,

Emit and subscribe two several declarations: And you the said Robert xxxxxxxxxxx having been apprehended and taken before Daniel Vere, Esquire, sheriff-substitute aforesaid, did, in his presence at Lanark, on the

12th day of November 1840

Emit and subscribe; and having again been taken before the said Daniel Vere, Esquire, sheriff-substitute aforesaid, you the said Robert xxxxxxxxxxx did, in his presence at Lanark, on the

17th December 1840

Emit a declaration, which declaration was subscribed by him in your presence, you having declined to sign the same: Which declarations being to be used in evidence against each of you the said James xxxxxxxxx and Robert xxxxxxxxxxx, by whom the same were emitted; as also an extract or certified copy of a conviction of the crime of assault, obtained against you the said Robert xxxxxxxxxxx, before the Circuit Court of Justiciary at Glasgow, bearing to be dated 8th January 1835, being to be used in evidence against you the said Robert xxxxxxxxxxx; as also a medical report or certificate, bearing to be dated ‘Carnwath, 2 July 1840,’ and to be signed by ‘Alexr. Gray, M.D. James Thomson, ‘surgeon;’ as also a medical report or certificate, bearing to be dated ‘Lanark, 3 July 1840,’ and to be signed ‘Alexr. Gray, M.D.;’ as also a bank note of the Bank of Scotland for one pound sterling; as also a light coloured fustain or moleskin coat; as also a shirt; as also a pair of ancle boots or shoes; as also a pair of fustain or moleskin trowsers, (to which bank note, coat, shirt, boots or shoes, and trowsers respectively sealed labels are now attached), being to be used in evidence against both and each of you the said Robert xxxxxxxxxxx and James xxxxxxxxx, at your trial, will, for that purpose, be in due time lodged in the hands of the clerk of the Circuit Court of Justiciary before which both and each of you the said Robert xxxxxxxxxxx and James xxxxxxxxx are to be tried, that you may respectively have an opportunity of seeing the same: ALL WHICH, or part thereof, being found proven by the verdict of an assize, or admitted by the respective judicial confessions of you the said Robert xxxxxxxxxxx and James xxxxxxxxx, before the Lord Justice-General, Lord Justice-Clerk, and Lords Commissioners of Justiciary, in a Circuit Court of Justiciary to be holden by them, or by any one or more of their number, within the burgh of Glasgow, in the month of January in the year 1841, you the said Robert xxxxxxxxxxx and James xxxxxxxxx OUGHT to be punished with the pains of law, to deter others from committing the like crimes in all time coming.

GEO. DEAS, A.D.

How convenient was it to have access to an almost endless supply of labour, free labour – slaves by any other name? How just was it to put a man to trial, when that man had no right to speak in defence of himself in court? Just how many of the countless ‘convicts’ sent to the ‘new world’ by the British legal system were actually guilty of the crimes they were accused of?

James “Elshender” Alexander was born poor and remained so for the duration of his life. His struggle was one of survival, beset on all sides by the ‘laws of the land’ which made such a task increasingly difficult. A man who found his way from the lowlands of Scotland to Lower Canada, in search of a life free from the interference of over-zealous authorities. On his return to Scotland, to aide his wife’s mental health problems, the authorities would not leave him be, and eventually fabricated a charge that would see Elshender transported for life to Tasmania, the largest penal colony of its time.

There has yet to be retribution for the indiscriminate wielding of tabula rasa. Elshender: A Tale of a Poor Man is one small step in this direction, linking the stories of Scotland’s poor with the Haudenosaunee of Lower Canada, and with the indigenous peoples of Tasmania.

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