This extensive collection consists of a number of accounts of the trials of the five individuals known to history as The Scottish Martrys: Thomas Muir, Thomas Fyshe Palmer, William Skirving, Maurice Margarot and Joseph Gerrald. They were each delegates to a political gathering of 160 held by the Friends of the Constitution and of the People, in Edinburgh in December 1792, called The British Convention. Attendees came from all across Britain, with delegates drawn from most of the leading political reform societies of the time, including Margarot and Gerrald from the influential London Corresponding Society (LCS), with Skirving as the Secretary of the Convention. Delegates referred to each other in the French style of ‘Citizen” and adopted views that were considered by the government to be quite immoderate. Muir and Palmer had already been tried, convicted, and sentenced under sedition laws, essentially for promoting the Friends of the Constitution before the Convention had even taken place. Margarot, who had been an early member of the LCS and was now its President, and Gerrald who had been active in calling for parliamentary reform, along with Skirving were all identified by the authorities as leaders of The British Convention and were rounded up and arrested on charges of Sedition. In due course each was sentenced to be transported, a punishment thought sufficiently harsh that many questions were raised in the English Parliament to examine the rightfulness of their convictions, though in the end it was felt inappropriate to interfere with the Scots judicial system. Sentenced to be transported to Botany Bay, New South Wales; Muir, 14 years; Palmer, 7 years; Skirving, 14 years; Margarot, 14 years, Gerrald, 14 years.
Their lives, brief or otherwise, in NSW have been recorded and accounted in a number of the publications in this collection, but two died shortly after arrival (Gerrald & Skirving), two served their full sentences (Margarot & Palmer), whilst Muir escaped the Colony. Finally, after much debate in Scotland, and a considerable effort at fundraising a monument was unveiled in 1844 to commemorate their achievements and sufferings at Calton Hill in Edinburgh, 90 feet (27m) high in sandstone. Subsequently another monument to the men was built in London at Nunhead Cemetery in 1851, in solid granite, 33 feet high and weighing 40 tons. The substantial nature of these monuments illustrate the political influence the events in Edinburgh in 1793-94 had on public thought even as the country became more democratic and representative, or perhaps indeed because of it, and shows how much regard the aims of these radicals had come to be held in.
This substantial collection provides an excellent framework for further research and understanding of the active political lives of those campaigning for democracy at the time of the French Revolution and under the influence of the American Revolutionary Wars, as well as showing the brutality and concern of the authorities at the threat they felt under from individual radicals. The material is particularly interesting for dealing at a personal level with the politics of the individuals and their beliefs in a wider franchise leading to a fairer society, and actually benefits from not being too dry and obscure in relating political meetings and messages whilst putting them into the context of these men’s lives and the price the paid for their beliefs. It also provides quite an insight into the workings and shortcomings of the Scottish judiciary in the cases, and the wider questions thrown up in regard to the workings between the Parliament in England and its influence on Scottish legal affairs. A close reading of this material ought to provide the opportunity for new interpretations and commentary upon the radical politics of late eighteenth century Britain and how vulnerable individuals were to being picked off and silenced by the state.
The books are in a variety of bindings and conditions (see pictures), some items are bound together, others are separate, though most importantly all are original publications. The dates given with the publishing details are the published dates for each work. These are not modern reprints or facsimiles.
1. Sentence of the Court of Justiciary, in the Cases of Mr. Muir, Mr. Palmer, &c. House of Lords, Tuesday, January 28, 1794 WITH Trial of Mr. Muir before the Court of Justiciary in Scotland. House of Lords, Tuesday, January 31, 1794. Contained in An Impartial Report of the Debates that occur in the Two House of Parliament. By William Woodall and Assistants. Volume 1. London, 1794.
2. Mr. Palmer’s Sentence. House of Commons, February 24, 1794 WITH Mr. Palmer’s Petition. House of Commons, February 27, 1794 WITH Cases of Messrs. Muir and Palmer. House of Commons, March 10, 1794. Contained in An Impartial Report of the Debates that occur in the Two House of Parliament. By William Woodall and Assistants. Volume 2. London, 1794.
3. First Report from The Committee of Secrecy of the House of Commons WITH Inquiry Into the Cases of Messrs. Muir and Palmer. House of Lords, April 15, 1794. Contained in An Impartial Report of the Debates that occur in the Two House of Parliament. By William Woodall and Assistants. Volume 3. London, 1794.
4. Report from The Committee of Secrecy, To whom the several Papers, which were presented (sealed up) to The House by Mr. Secretary Dundas, upon the 23d day of January 1799, by His Majesty’s Command, were referred; relating to Seditions Societies, &c. reported by Mr. Secretary Dundas, 15th March 1799 WITH Two Reports from the Committee of Secrecy… relative to the State of Ireland, and to the Proceedings of certain disaffected Persons in both Parts of the United Kingdom, 13th April & 15th April, 1801, Reported by the Right Honourable Thomas Pelham. Contained in Reports from Committees of the House of Commons. Volume X. Miscellaneous Subjects: 1785-1801. House of Commons, 1803.
5. Proceedings on the Trial of Thomas Muir, Esq. the younger, for Sedition, A.D. 1793. Contained in State Trials, by Thomas Jones Howell, Volume XXIII. London 1817.
6. Proceedings on the Trial of Rev. Thomas Fyshe Palmer, for Seditious Practices, A.D. 1793. Contained in State Trials, by Thomas Jones Howell, Volume XXIII. London 1817.
7. Proceedings against Alexander Scott, for Sedition, A.D. 1794. Contained in State Trials, by Thomas Jones Howell, Volume XXIII. London 1817.
8. Proceedings on the Trial of William Skirving, for Sedition, A.D. 1794. Contained in State Trials, by Thomas Jones Howell, Volume XXIII. London 1817.
9. Proceedings on the Trial of Maurice Margarot, for Seditious Practices, A.D. 1794. Contained in State Trials, by Thomas Jones Howell, Volume XXIII. London 1817.
10. Proceedings in the Case of Charles Sinclair, for Sedition, A.D. 1794. Contained in State Trials, by Thomas Jones Howell, Volume XXIII. London 1817.
11. Proceedings on the Trial of Joseph Gerrald, for Sedition, A.D. 1794, [with] Vide Addenda. Contained in State Trials, by Thomas Jones Howell, Volume XXIII. London 1817.
12. Memoirs and Trials of the Political Martyrs of Scotland; Persecuted during the Years 1793-4-5. Contained in Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine, January 1837.
13. The Life of Thomas Muir, Esq. Advocate, younger of Huntershill, near Glasgow, one of the Celebrated Reformers of 1792-93, who was Tried for Sedition before the High Court of Justiciary in Scotland, and Sentenced to Transportation for Fourteen Years. With a Full Report of His Trial [WITH Trial of Maurice Margarot]. By Peter Mackenzie. Glasgow: Muir, Gowans, & Co. Argyll Street; and Wm. Tait, Edinburgh. 1837.
14. The Trial of William Skirving, Secretary to the British Convention, before the High Court of Judiciary, at Edinburgh, on the 6th and 7th January, 1794, for Sedition; with an Original Memoir, and Notes. [With Appendix. Trial of Robert Watt and David Downie for High Treason]. Glasgow: Muir, Gowans, & Co. 42 Argyll Street; Sold by A. Rutherglen & Co. 84 Trongate and Wm. Tait, Edinburgh. 1837.
15. The Trial of Joseph Gerald, before the High Court of Justiciary, at Edinburgh, on the 13th and 14th of March, 1794, for Sedition; with an Original Memoir, and Notes. Manchester: Published by A. Heywood. 1840.
16. Sketch of the Life of Joseph Gerald, reprinted from the Magazine of the London Corresponding Society, May, 1797. Contained in The Chartist Circular, Issue No. 12, Glasgow, Saturday, December 14, 1839.
17. The Story of the English Jacobins: being an Account of the Persons Implicated in the Charges of High Treason, 1794. By Edwards Smith. Casey, Petter, Galpin & Co. London. No date . A considerable study of the London Corresponding Society.
18. Case of Maurice Margaret, 13th January 1794. Contained in An Examination of the Trials for Sedition which have hitherto occurred in Scotland. By Lord Cockburn. Volume 2. Edinburgh, David Douglas, 1888.
19. Case of Joseph Gerrald, 3rd, 10th, 13th, and 14th of March 1794, [with] Proceedings in Parliament. Contained in An Examination of the Trials for Sedition which have hitherto occurred in Scotland. By Lord Cockburn. Volume 2. Edinburgh, David Douglas, 1888.
20. Case of Charles Sinclair, February and March 1794. Contained in An Examination of the Trials for Sedition which have hitherto occurred in Scotland. By Lord Cockburn. Volume 2. Edinburgh, David Douglas, 1888. Has an interesting and detailed appendix regarding the raising of funding and subsequent erection of the Calton Hill monument to the Martyrs.
21. The Scotch Martyrs. Edited by F.M. Bladen. Contained in Historical Records of New South Wales, Volume 2, Grose and Paterson, 1793-1795. Government Printer, 1893.
22. Maurice Margarot: A Radical in Two Hemispheres, 1792-1815. By Michael Roe. Contained in the Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research. University of London, The Athlone Press. Volume XXXI, No. 83, May 1959.
23. The Scottish Martyrs. Their Trials and Transportation to Botany Bay. By Frank Clune. Angus & Robertson, 1969.
24. The Scottish Martyrs. The Story of the Political Reformers of 1793-4. By Wally Macfarlane. A Nunhead Document, 1983.