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The character of pupil he carried out, steadily and well. He made considerable progress in drawing, attempted an etching, &c., and from the skill and readiness he exhibited in his new vocation, there is little doubt, with time and practice, he would have made some stand in that most difficult art-portrait engraving. He also took upon himself the task of schoolmaster to Mr. Holl's younger sons, and rapt their knuckles for their inattention or blundering, with a proper sense of his new authority.
These incidents will show the confidence he had in his new friends, and his readiness in adapting himself to circumstances.
At night he was provided with a newspaper, and read aloud the busy subjects of the day, and the all-engrossing one of his own immediate self. His captures—his arrests—his flights, and his disguises—of his being taken in Holland—at Boulogne, Bordeaux, &c., and of his having escaped in the disguise of an old Frenchwoman-of some clue to his retreat being found-or of all trace of him being lost—as likewise the detailed accounts of the “
takings up,” and examinations in all parts of the country, of the many young men in “ brown great-coats,” whose appearance in any measure tallied with his own. Daily arrests and daily disappointments went the round of the papers, together with the tempting offers of rewards for his apprehension. The perusal of these paragraphs caused him no small amusement, and his laughter found a ready helpmate in the eldest daughter of Mr. Holl, who at every fresh disappointment clapped her · hands, and expressed her eager hope that “he'would never be taken.” Little did she suspect the object of this search and turmoil was quietly seated by her side, reading his own dangers
Early in the month of January, 1817, he read an account of a young man, supposed to be Young Watson, who had sailed from Hull under circumstances of a mysterious nature, for some port in Prussia, or Denmark. Officers were immediately dispatched in his pursuit, but returned without meeting with the object of their search. This circumstance suggested the idea of deceiving the police with the belief that this young man was indeed Young Watson. To further this deception, he wrote a letter detailing many imaginary escapes, and other particulars of his fictitious journey from London to Hull-of his kind reception by a friend there, and final departure from the kingdom. His letter was written with the intention of being conveyed, through the agency
of a friend, to Hull, and so by post to London, and was addressed to Mr. Evans, senior. This was inclosed in an envelope of thin paper-so that Mr. Evans's name could easily be read through the cover-and directed to the “ President of the Meetings, at the Cock, in Grafton-street, Soho," where a Spencean meeting was held.
There was little doubt this letter would fall into the hands of government, and that the particulars of his flight to Hull, &c., in his own handwriting, would confirm the notion that the young man, whom the officers had followed, and lost on the continent; was no other than Young Watson himself. By this means he hoped the news of his escape would spread over the country, and not only put the police on a wrong scent, but cause them to slacken the vigour of their search. Young Watson was acquainted with the master of a vessel trading between London and Bull
, named Banks, in whose friendship he had implicit faith. Through him, he hoped to get this letter conveyed to his uncle, Mr. Knowles, residing near Hull. It was accordingly inclosed in a parcel to his uncle, with a request that he would immediately forward the letter by post to London. The particulars concerning his abode, it need scarcely be said, he carefully avoided mentioning.
This letter was conveyed to Captain Banks, whose vessel was on the eve of sailing, who promised to deliver it into the hands of Mr. Knowles.
The packet had been dispatched some days, when Young Watson received the painful intelligence that Mr. Evans and his son were arrested, and his mortification was increased by the supposition that the letter he had sent had been the cause of his arrest. This was indeed a sad blow, since, independent of his regret at their present danger and imprisonment, he had lost two faithful and valued friends friends who had proved their friendship in his need, and in whose kindly offices he had the greatest faith.
The arrest of the Evans's, however, was not in consequence of this letter. The parcel was safely delivered to Mr. Knowles ; but in the interim of its receipt, and such time as he should post letter, he read an account in the newspaper, of the arrest of Mr. Evans and his son, and not thinking it prudent either to forward or to keep it in his possession, he burnt it.
The destruction of this letter was a fortunate eircumstance for
Mr. Knowles, as police officers came to examine his premises only a day or two afterwards, which they did in a very minute manner, inspecting every scrap of paper they could find, &c. One of them drew a young child of Mr. Knowles's apart, and giving him cakes, asked him a variety of questions as to whether he had seen his cousin James lately, if any one was in the house, &c. Failing in their search of Young Watson, or some clue to his retreat, they put Mr. Knowles under arrest, and took him before the magistrates at Hull for examination. A vast deal was here spoken about “ offended justice," “ his king and country,” and “that it would be the height of patriotism and virtue to deliver his nephew
-if he had him, or knew where he was over to the hangman. But in this particular Mr. Knowles was as ignorant as even the worshipful magistrates themselves.
During the concealment of Young Watson, the out-door discontent had by no means abated. Provisions were fearfully dear. A quartern loaf was as high as one shilling and eightpence, and the general distress sought far and wide a relief from suffering. The Prince Regent and the ministry turned a deaf ear to petition and remonstrance, while public clamour was assailing them on every side; and, not content with words, the populace attacked the carriage of the prince on his return from opening parliament, January 28th, 1817. Stones were thrown at the guards, while missiles of every description were hurled at the prince and the royal carriage in its passage between Carlton Gardens and the stable-yard gate. The glasses were broken ; and, from the evidence of Lord James Murray, it appeared “that one or two bullets had been fired at the coach." The next day, a royal proclamation offered a reward of 10001. for the apprehension of any one who had so offended.
Doctor Watson, Preston, and John Keens were arrested about this time, on the charge of high treason. The Messrs. Evans and Hooper were already in custody on the same charge. Thistlewood and Young Watson were yet to be taken.
· In the two Houses of Parliament, the proceedings of the 2nd of December, and their enlarged consequences, were not suffered to remain idle ; and by way of paving the way for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, the report of the committee of public safety was laid before the house, February 19th, to the effect that"
your committee are convinced that, notwithstanding the failure of the 2nd of December, a pian was formed for a sudden
rising in the dead of night, to surprise the soldiers, to set fire to the barracks, to seize the river, and the bank, and that, to assist in the execution of their project, a formidable machine was invented, by which the streets could be cleared of all opposing force ; that placards, bearing the following inscriptions, were exhibited in all parts of London : Britons, to arms! the whole country only waits the signal from London. Break open the gunsmiths. Arm yourselves with all sorts of instruments. No rise in the price of bread. No. Regent. No Castlereagh-off with their heads. No taxes. No Bishops—they are all useless lumber;" and that nothing less than a revolution, expected and avowed, was the object of the Spencean and other Societies.
This report was followed by Lord Sidmouth proposing in the House of Lords, February 24th, a bill for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act-a bill, “ to enable his Majesty to secure and detain such persons as may be suspected of intention against his Majesty's peace and government, since no doubt was left in the minds of the committee that a traitorous correspondence existed in the metropolis, for the purpose of overthrowing the government;" and he required the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, since “ it was not merely the lower orders who had united in the conspiracy: individuals of great activity, resolution, and
energy, were engaged in the contest. On the bill being read a second time, the Duke of Sussex rose and said,
“He had been present at the examination of most of the rioters, and the result of all he had heard was, that the subscription amounted to the enormous sum of ten pounds. The ammunition was contained in an old stocking—there were about 50 balls, none of which fitted the pistols, and one pound of powder! Such was this mighty plan of insurrection, and he would not allow molehills to be magnified into mountains. He, therefore, should vote against the second reading.”
It was carried by a majority of 115.
On the same date, in the House of Commons, Lord Castlereagh had proposed the suspension of the Habeas Corpus, and other Acts, “ for the security of his Majesty's person.
Mr. Bennet rose, and after commenting strongly upon the bad policy of such a measure, said, " that ministers had already imbued their hands in the blood of their country, and had been guilty of the most criminal cruelties.”
Upon the second reading of the bill, Sir Francis Burdett,
moved as an amendment, “ That no person detained under this bill should be shut up in a dungeon, or other unwholesome place, or be deprived of air and exercise, loaded with irons,” &c. This proposal was negatived without a division.
The suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act was a fresh theme of discontent, and public murmur. '
Persons in the least obnoxious in their principles, or supposed to be so, were immured in prison at the will of the Secretary of State, or upon the information of hired spies and ruffians. No man's home was safe, and, as may easily be supposed, the situation of Young Watson, and his protector, was rendered even more critical and trying. The vigilance of the police and their agents seemed to increase rather than diminish, by their unsuccessful search, while Camden Town seemed literally beset with officers.
Nor was the arrest of Doctor Watson and his friends, together with other circumstances just detailed, the only peril Young Watson had to encounter. The danger had, in fact, reached the
The search was so untiring, and minute, that all persons, whose age, stature, dress, or person, in any way corresponded with Young Watson, were viewed with eager suspicion, while he himself was scented at the heels. Officers and their myrmidons seemed to have taken up their station at the corner of every street in Camden Town, and all the avenues leading to, or from it, where they seemed to have their regular system of conimunication. The public-houses were frequented by them, at all hours in the day, and questions asked of all who came, or went ; while, to render the situation of the refugee yet more perilous, Bow-street officers were seen lurking at each end of Bayhamstreet, and a house was searched only four doors off !
It was learned afterwards, that a young man, lately returned from sea, had been followed to the house where he lodged, No. 18, and being mistaken for Young Watson, was immediately arrested, but as his identity could not be sufficiently established, he was discharged the next day.
The close surveillance under which Camden Town was placed left no doubt but that some clue had been found to Young Watson's retreat. But how obtained ?
A second proclamation had by this time made its appearance, "in the name and behalf of his Majesty,” in which was renewed the promise of a reward of 5001., "offered on the 6th of December for the apprehension of James Watson the younger, charged