The Trial of Benjamin Keach (Part 4)

We arrive at the climax and denouement of our story.  Judge Hyde accuses Keach of being a Fifth Monarchy Man, which interestingly, Keach does not deny. This does not mean, of course, that he accepted this moniker. Perhaps he knew that responding to such a charge might only make matters worse. In any case, Keach is convicted and receives his very unjust punishment. By all accounts, he bore it with grace and dignity. This is a wonderful example of two things: the difficulties endured by non-conformists during this part of the reign of Charles II; but more importantly, the demeanor that ought to be displayed by a Christian man when he endures unjust punishment. And now, the rest of our story:

The Judge having thus gone through the Indictment, the prisoner began to speak in his defence.

Keach. As to the doctrines—

Judge. You shall not speak here, except to the matter of fact: that is to say, whether you writ this book or not.

Keach. I desire liberty to speak to the particulars in my Indictment, and those things that have—

Judge, You Shall not be suffered to give the reasons for your damnable doctrine here, to seduce the king’s subjects.

Keach. Is my religion so bad, that I may not be allowed to speak?

Judge. I know your religion, you are a Fifth Monarchy Man; and you can preach, as well as write books; and you will preach here, if I would let you: but I shall take such order as you shall do no more mischief.

Keach. I did not write all the book, for there is an epistle to it written by another hand; neither can it be proved that I writ all that is put into the Indictment.

Judge. It is all one whether you writ it yourself, or dictated to another to write it: but it appears by your examination under your own hand, that you wrote it all.

Keach. Because I writ the major part of it. I was contented to let it go with the word all in my examination before justice Strafford; but I cannot in conscience say I wrote it all: nor is it proved that I published it.

Judge. Yes, you did; for Moody had six books of you.

Keach. I did neither sell them, nor deliver them to him.

Judge. He had them at your house, and it is not likely he should take them without your consent.

Keach. I do not say he had them without my consent.

Judge. It is all one, then, as if you delivered them.

Here the Judge summed up the Evidence, and gave his Charge to the Jury ; but this the amanuensis has omitted.

The Jury being withdrawn, staid for some hours: at length one of the officers who attended them came in.

Officer. My lord, the Jury about the Primmers cannot agree.

Judge. But they must agree.

Officer. They desire to know whether one of them may not come and speak with your lordship, about something whereof they are in doubt.

Judge. Yes, privately: [And then ordered one to come to him on the bench.]

Then the officer called one, and he was set upon the clerk’s table, and the Judge and he whispered together a great while; and it was observed, that the Judge having his hands upon his shoulders, would frequently shake him as he spake to him. Upon this person’s returning, the whole Jury quickly came in, and being according to custom called over by their names, the clerk proceeded.

Clerk. Are you agreed in your verdict?

Jury. Yes, yes.

Clerk. Who shall speak for you?

Jury. Our Foreman.

Clerk:. How say you, is Benjamin Keach Guilty of the matters contained in the Indictment against him, or Not Guilty?

Foreman. Guilty in part.

Clerk. Of what part?

Foreman. There is something contained in the Indictment, which is not in the book.

Clerk. What is that?

Foreman. In the Indictment he is charged with these words, ‘ When the thousand years ‘ shall be expired, then shall all the rest of the devils be raised:’ but in the book it is, ‘Then shall the rest of the dead be raised.* [* Where one is indicted for writing a libel secundum tenorem sequenttm, or for forging a deed so and as described, any the least variance between the libel recited, or deed described, and those given in evidence, is fatal. But where the substance only of a libel is set forth in Latin, it is sufficient if the libel be proved to have the same sense as is set forth. Hawk. PI. C. Book 2. C. 46. s. 36. ln manner and form fallowing, that is to say, do not require an exact recital. See, as to the tenor and effect following; and as to the kind and degree of variance that is fatal, and as to the danger of Judges indulging in solution of variances, the authorities referred to in Leach’s edition of Hawkins, ubi sup. Ed.]

Clerk. Is he guilty of all the rest of the Indictment, that Sentence excepted?

One of the Jury. I cannot in conscience find him Guilty, because the words in the Indictment and the Book do not agree.

Judge. That is only through a mistake of the clerk’s, and in that sentence only; and you may find him guilty of all, that Sentence excepted: but why did you come in before you were agreed?

Foreman. We thought we had been agreed.

Judge. You must go out again, and agree; And as for you, that say you cannot in conscience find him guilty, if you say so again, without giving reasons for it, I shall take an order with you.

Then the Jury withdrew, and in a little time returned again.

Clerk. Are you agreed in your verdict?

Jury. Yes.

Clerk. How say you, is Benjamin Keach Guilty of the matters charged in the Indictment against him, or Not Guilty?

Foreman. Guilty of the Indictment; that sentence, wherein ‘devils’ is inserted instead of ‘deed’ only excepted.

Upon this, Benjamin Keach was called to the bar, and the Judge proceeded to pass Sentence upon him as follows:

Judge. Benjamin Keach, you are here convicted of writing and publishing a seditious and scandalous Book, for which the court’s judgment is this, and the court doth award, That you shall go to gaol for a fortnight, without bail or mainprise; and the next Saturday to stand upon the pillory at Ailsbury for the sрасе of two hours, from eleven o’clock to one, with a Paper upon your head with this inscription, “For writing, printing, and publishing a schismatical Book, intitled, The Child’s Instructor, or a New and easy Primmer.” And the next Thursday to stand in the same manner, and for the same time, in the market of Winslow; and there your Book shall be openly burnt before your face by the common hangmen, in disgrace of you and your doctrine. And you shall forfeit to the king’s majesty the sum of 20£. and shall remain in gaol until you find sureties for your good behaviour and appearance at the next assizes, there to renounce your doctrine, and make such public submission as shall be injoined you. Take him away, keeper.

Keach. I hope I shall never renounce those truths which I have written in that Book.

Clerk. My Lord, he says he hopes he shall never repent.

But the Judge taking no notice, the gaoler took him away.

According to the Sentence passed upon him, he was kept close prisoner till the Saturday following, and then about eleven o’clock was carried to the pillory at Ailsbury; where he stood full two hours to a minute, was denied the liberty of speaking to the spectators, and had his hands as well as his head carefully kept in the pillory the whole time. On the Thursday following he stood in the same manner and for the same time at Winslow, the town where he lived, and had his Book burnt before him. After this, upon paying his fine, and giving sufficient security for his good behaviour, he was set at liberty; but was never brought to make a recantation.