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seen at an inn in the town at eleven, and arrived at other lodgings, which he had hired in the town, at a quarter past. Here the evidence ends. A vast amount of testimony was given at the trial, as to whether the body of the girl floated or not; as to whether a body thrown into the water after death would float or sink; but it came to nothing. The coroner's inquest had been hurried over, and no examination of the body had taken place until long after decomposition had proceeded too far to allow of any satisfactory result being arrived at.
In a former Number we observed on the effect of the rule of law which excludes a prisoner not only from giving evidence on his own behalf, but also from tendering himself for cross-examination. If Cowper was innocent, that rule bore hardly upon him in the present case. We will, however, give him the full benefit of his own account of the matter. He said*-and in this he was confirmed by the evidence of his brother-that having received a pressing invitation to take up his quarters during the assizes at Mrs Stout's, he had resolved to do so, his object being to save the expense of other lodgings at the house of a person of the name of Barefoot, where he had been in the habit of staying with his brother. Finding that his brother would be detained in London by his parliamentary duties, he requested him to write and countermand the lodgings at Barefoot's. This he neglected to do, and on Spencer Cowper's arrival at Hertford he found them prepared for him. Finding that he should have at any rate to pay for these lodgings, which were nearer to the court-house and more commodious than Mrs Stout's, he determined to occupy them. His account is as follows:
"My Lord, as to my coming to this town on Monday, it was the first day of
the assizes, and that was the reason that brought me hither: before I came out of town, I confess, I had a design to take a lodging at this gentlewoman's house, and the reason why I did not was this: having been invited by letter so to do; my brother, when he went the circuit, always favoured me with the offer of a part of his lodgings, which, out of good husbandry, I always accepted. The last circuit was in parliament-time, and my brother, being in the money-chair, could not attend the circuit as he used to do : he had very good lodgings, I think one of the best in this town, where I used to be with him; these were always kept for him, unless notice was given to the contrary. The Friday before I came down to the assizes I happened to be in company with my brother and another the letter by which I was earnestly ingentleman, and then I showed them vited down to lie at the house of this gentlewoman during the assizes (it is dated the 9th of March last); and designing to comply with the invitation, I thereupon desired my brother to write to Mr Barefoot, our landlord, and get him, if he could, to dispose of the lodg ings; for, said I, if he keeps them, they must be paid for, and then I cannot well avoid lying there. My brother did say he would write, if he could think on it; and thus, if Mr Barefoot disposed of the lodgings, I own I intended to lie at the deceased's house; but if not, I looked on
myself obliged to lie at Mr Barefoot's. Accordingly I shall prove, as soon as ever I came to this town, in the morning of the first day of the assizes, I went directly to Mr Barefoot's (the maid and all agreed in this), and the reason was, I had not seen my brother after he said he would write, before I went out to London; and therefore it was proper for me to go first to Mr Barefoot's to know whether my brother had wrote to him, and whether he had disposed of his lodgings or not. As soon as I came to Mr Barefoot's, I asked his wife and maidreceived a letter from my brother to unservant, one after another, if they had bespeak the lodgings; they told me no, that the room was kept for us; and I think they had made a fire, and that the sheets were airing. I was a little concerned he had not writ; but being satisfied that no letter had been received, I said immediately, as I shall prove by several witnesses, If it be so, I must stay with you; I will take up my lodging here. Thereupon I alighted, and sent for my bag from the coffeehouse, and lodged all
* 13 State Trials, 1149.
my things at Barefoot's, and thus I took up my lodging there as usual. I had no sooner done this, but Sarah Walker came to me from her mistress to invite me to dinner, and accordingly I went and dined there; and when I went away, it may be true that, being asked, I said I would come again at night; but that I said I would lie there, I do positively deny; and knowing I could not lie there, it is unlikely I should say so. My Lord, at night I did come again, and paid her some money that I received from Mr Loftus, who is the mortgager,
for interest of the £200 I before mentioned (it was £6, odd money, in guineas and half-guineas): I writ a receipt, but she declined the signing of it, pressing me to stay there that night; which I refused, as engaged to lie at Mr Barefoot's, and took my leave of her; and that very money which I paid her was found in her pocket, as I have heard, after she was drowned."
When Cowper recurs, at a later period of the trial, to the events of that night, he says—
"Now, if your Lordship pleases, I would explain that part of Sarah Walker the maid's evidence, when she says her mistress ordered her to warm the bed, and I never contradicted it."
And after calling the attention of the court to the warm expressions contained in the letter he had received from the girl, he goes on
It will be observed that Cowper first puts his change of intention as to staying at Mrs Stout's solely on the ground of having other lodgings on his hands. He says that until he found those lodgings were engaged, he had determined to take up his abode at Mrs Stout's. The question was simply one of the cost of the lodgings. When, however, he has to account for the servantgirl's evidence as to his consent to the preparations for his passing the night there, orders for which were given in his presence, then, for the first time, he begins to talk of "provoking the censure of the town and country." It is impossible to know what took place after the servant-girl left the room. Cowper himself leaves it unexplained whether he left Sarah Stout in the house, or whether she quitted it at the same time that he did. The latter would seem to be the more probable conjecture, from the fact that the door was only heard to shut once, and it was proved that it was not easy to shut the door without being heard. If Cowper had been entitled to submit himself to cross-examination, these facts might have been, and probably would have been, explained.
Here not only the evidence, but the whole substance of Cowper's defence ends. The trial was prolonged by an enormous mass of testimony, partly from men of the highest eminence in the medical profession, and partly from persons who had seen great numbers of bodies, some of which had been thrown into the sea after death, and. others of which had been drowned in naval engagements and shipwrecks, as to whether the fact of a body floating afforded any evidence that life was extinct before it had been thrown into the water. On this point the evidence was, as might be anticipated, contradictory, but had it been otherwise, it would have been of no value; for the question, whether Sarah Stout's body + Ibid., 1170.
"I had rather leave it to be observed than make the observation myself, what might be the dispute between us at the time the maid speaks of. I think it was not necessary she should be present at the debate; and therefore I might not interrupt her mistress or the orders she gave; but as soon as the maid was gone I made use of these objections; and I told Mrs Stout by what accident I was obliged to take up my lodging at Mr Barefoot's, and that the family was sitting up for me; that my staying at her house, under these circumstances, would in all probability provoke the censure of the town and country, and that therefore I could not stay, whatever my inclination otherwise might be; but, my Lord, my reasons not prevailing, I was forced to decide the controversy by going to my lodging; so that the maid may swear true when she says I did not contradict her orders."+
* 13 State Trials, 1150.
floated or sank was not proved either one way or the other. was found entangled among some stakes in the mill - dam, in a manner which rendered it impossible to say whether it was supported or kept down.* There was therefore no basis on which to found the scientific evidence, and the case against Cowper rested upon a very few facts, and may be summed up in very few words. He was the last person in Sarah Stout's company. His conduct on leaving the house was mysterious and unexplained. When he left, instead of going direct to his lodgings, he went to the Glove and Dolphin Inn to pay a small bill for horse-keep. This had somewhat the appearance of a desire to secure evidence of an alibi. He was, on his own showing, embarrassed by Sarah Stout's pertinacious attachment, and had a stronger motive to get rid of her than has sometimes been found sufficient to prompt men to the most revolting crimes. On the other hand, it must be remembered that Cowper was not, like Tawell, a man who prided himself on his reputation for the respectabilities of life, but, as well as his more celebrated brother-a man of known libertinism, not likely to commit a crime of the deepest dye for the purpose of concealing a disreputable intrigue. To have convicted Cowper
of murder upon this evidence would have been, of course, impossible. But the case must ever remain shrouded in the darkest mystery. If not guilty of what the law defines as murder, there can be no doubt that Cowper's conduct was the immediate cause of the death of the unhappy girl. When the servant left the room they were on the most amicable terms. This is fixed by the evidence, as nearly as possible, at half-past ten by the town-clock. As the clock struck eleven, Cowper entered the Glove and Dolphin Inn. In that short half-hour he had either incurred the guilt of murder, or by his unkindness had driven a woman, who loved him with the most devoted affection, to rush uncalled into the presence of her Maker. Cowper, if not a murderer, which we think he was not, must, at any rate, have been a man of a singularly cold and unfeeling disposition. According to his own version of the story, the girl, whom he had left only a few moments before, immediately upon his quitting her, sought a refuge from her love, her sorrows, and her shame, under the cold waters of the Priory river. On the next morning he heard of her fate, and the first thing he did was to send the hostler from the inn to her mother's house for his horse, fearing lest, if the coroner's jury should bring in
* See the evidence of Berry, Venables, Dell, Ulfe, Dew, Edmunds, Page, How, and Meager, 13 State Trials, 1116 to 1122. All these witnesses, who were present when the body was found in the mill-dam, agree in asserting that the body "floated," and they no doubt believed what they said, their evidence affording an example of how far a preconceived idea will affect belief; they describe the body as lying on the right side, the head and right arm being driven between the stakes, which were something less than a foot apart, by the stream. Robert Dew and Young, who were called on behalf of the prisoner, and who were also present when the body was taken out of the water, assert equally positively that the body sank. See P. 1151. These two witnesses describe the mode in which the body was entangled in the stakes with more particularity than the witnesses for the prosecution. The judge, in his charge to the jury, treated this evidence like a man of sense. "I shall not undertake," he said, "to give you the particulars of their evidence; but they tell you she lay on her right side, the one arm up even with the surface of the water, and her body under the water; but some of her clothes were above the water; particularly, one says, the ruffles of her left arm were above the water. You have heard, also, what the doctors and surgeons said, on the one side and the other, concerning the swimming and sinking of dead bodies in the water; but I can find no certainty in it; and I leave it to your consideration."-13 State Trials, 1188.
+Evidence of Elizabeth Spurr, 13 State Trials, 1177.
a verdict of felo de se, the animal might, being found in her stable, be claimed as forfeited to the lord of the manor. From first to last there is not one word of tenderness or regret. He never went near the bereaved mother, but he attended the coroner's inquest, gave his evidence with the most admirable coolness, and the next day proceeded on circuit as if nothing unusual had taken place. Three other persons were indicted along with Cowper as the accomplices of his crime, but against them there was not even the shadow of a case. The jury, after deliberating for about half an hour, acquitted all the prisoners.
The relatives of Sarah Stout attempted to bring Cowper to a second trial by means of a proceeding now abolished, entitled "The Appeal of Murder." The attempt failed through the influence of the Cowpers, who tampered with the sheriff, and procured the destruction of the writs. The sheriff was fined and imprisoned for his misconduct, Holt, the Chief Justice, severely animadverting on the foul play which had been employed to impede the course of justice.* Cowper continued to practise at the bar, and was at last raised to the bench of the Court of Common Pleas, a remarkable instance of a man who had held up his hand on an arraignment for murder trying others for the same offence. He is said to have learned a lesson of caution and mercy from his own experience, and to have been remarkable for both those qualities.
One might have supposed that poor Sarah Stout would have been allowed to sleep in peace without having her name revived, and her sad story made famous more than a century and a half after her death. But such was not to be her fate. The opportunity of a double fling at Quakers and Tories has been too great a temptation for Lord Macaulay. It was a rightand-left shot at the game he loved
best. Accordingly, in the fifth and concluding volume of his History, in that part which we are told by the editor he had left "fairly transcribed and revised," we find four pages devoted to the case of that unhappy girl. The whole passage is so eloquent, so picturesque, so ingenious in insinuation, so daring in the misrepresentation of facts and the distortion of evidence, and affords so good an epitome of the best and the worst qualities of the author, that we give it entire.
"One mournful tale, which called forth the strongest feelings of the contending factions, is still remembered as a curious part of the history of our jurisprudence, and especially of the history of our medical jurisprudence. No whig member of the Lower House, with the single exception of Montague, filled a larger space in larger space in the public eye than William Cowper. In the art of conciliating an graceful and engaging eloquence cast a audience, Cowper was pre-eminent. His spell on juries; and the Commons, even in those stormy moments when no other defender of the administration could obtain a hearing, would always listen to him. He represented Hertford, a borough in which his family had con
siderable influence; but there was a strong tory minority among the electors; and he had not won his seat without a hard fight, which had left behind it many bitter recollections. His younger brother, Spencer, a man of parts and learning, was fast rising into practice as a barrister on the Home Circuit.
"At Hertford resided an opulent Quaker family named Stout. A pretty young woman of this family had lately sunk into a melancholy, of a kind not very unusual in girls of strong sensibility and lively imagination, who are subject to the restraints of austere religious societies. Her dress, her looks, her gestures, indicated the disturbance of her mind. She sometimes hinted her dislike of the sect to which she belonged. She complained that a canting waterman, who was one of the brotherhood, had held forth against her at a meeting. She threatened to go beyond sea, to throw herself out of the window, to drown herself. To two or three of her associates she owned that she was in love; and on one occasion she plainly said that the man whom she loved was one whom
* LORD RAYMOND, vol. i. 575, R. v. Toler.—13 State Trials, 1199.
she never could marry. In fact, the object of her fondness was Spencer Cowper, who was already married. She at length wrote to him in language which she never would have used if her intellect had not been disordered. He, like an honest man, took no advantage of her unhappy state of mind, and did his best to avoid her. His prudence mortified her to such a degree that on one occasion she went into fits. It was necessary, however, that he should see her when he came to Hertford at the spring assizes of 1699, for he had been intrusted with some money which was due to her on mortgage. He called on her for this purpose late one evening, and delivered a bag of gold to her. She pressed him to be the guest of her family, but he excused himself and retired. The next morning she was found dead among the stakes of a mill-dam on the stream called the Priory River. That she had destroyed herself there could be no reasonable doubt. The coroner's inquest found that she had drowned herself while in a state of mental derangement. But the family was unwilling to admit that she had shortened her own life, and looked about for somebody who might be accused of murdering her. The last person who could be proved to have been in her company was Spencer Cowper. It chanced that two attorneys and a scrivener, who had come down from town to the Hertford assizes, had been overheard, on that unhappy night, talking over their wine about the charms and flirtations of the handsome Quaker girl, in the light way in which such subjects are sometimes discussed even at the circuit tables and mess tables of our more refined generation. Some wild words, susceptible of a double meaning, were used about the way in which she had jilted one lover, and the way in which another lover would punish her for her coquetry. On no better grounds than these, her relations imagined that Spencer Cowper had, with the assistance of these three retainers of the law, strangled her, and thrown her corpse into the water. There was absolutely no evidence of the crime. There was no evidence that any one of the accused had any motive to commit such a crime; there was no evidence that Spencer Cowper had any connection with the persons who were said to be his accomplices. One of those persons, indeed, he had never seen. But no story is too absurd to be imposed on minds blinded by religious and political fanaticism.
"The Quakers and the Tories joined to raise a formidable clamour.
Quakers had, in those days, no scruples about capital punishments. They would, indeed, as Spencer Cowper said bitterly, but too truly, rather send four innocent men to the gallows than let it be believed that one who had their light within her had committed suicide. The Tories exulted in the prospect of winning two seats from the Whigs. The whole kingdom was divided between Stouts and Cowpers. At the summer assizes Hertford was crowded with anxious faces from London, and from parts of England more distant than London. The prosecution was conducted with a malignity and unfairness which to us seem almost incredible; and, unfortunately, the dullest and most ignorant judge of the twelve was on the bench. Cowper defended himself and those who were said to be his accomplices with admirable ability and self-possession. His brother, much more distressed than himself, sate near him through the long agony of that day. The case against the prisoners rested chiefly on the vulgar error that a human body found, as this girl's body had been found, floating in water, must have been thrown into the water while still alive. To prove this doctrine, the counsel for the Crown called medical practitioners, of whom nothing is now known except that some of them had been active against the Whigs at Hertford elections. To confirm the evidence of these gentlemen, two or three sailors were put into the witness-box. On the other side appeared an array of men of science whose names are still remembered. Among them was William Cowper,-not a kinsman of the defendant, but the most celebrated anatomist that England had then produced. He was, indeed, the founder of a dynasty illustrious in the history of science; for he was the teacher of William Cheselden, and William Cheselden was the teacher of John Hunter. On the same side appeared Samuel Garth, who, among the physicians of the capital, had no rival except Radcliffe, and Hans Sloane, the founder of the magnificent museum which is one of the glories of our country. The attempt of the prosecutors to make the superstitions of the forecastle evidence for the purpose of taking away the lives of men, was treated by these philosophers with just disdain. The stupid judge asked Garth what he could say in answer to the testimony of the seamen. 'My Lord,' replied Garth, I say that they are mistaken. I will find seamen in abundance to swear that they have known whistling raise the wind.' The jury found the prisoners Not Guilty,