THE FIRST PUBLIC DEBATE ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY IN ENGLAND

Letters and Editorials in the
Morning Chronicle concerning the Case of Captain Jones, 1772


NOTE: The following "Letters to the Printer" (the eighteenth-century equivalent to "Letters to the Editor") were published in The Morning Chronicle, and London Advertiser during August and September 1772, in response to the reprieve and subsequent royal pardon granted to Captain Robert Jones, who had been capitally convicted of sodomy with a 13-year-old boy (but, as many of the letters suggest, the boy had been a consenting partner, at least during his first few visits with the Captain). Many letters also appeared in other London newspapers, but the Morning Chronicle was the major mainstream newspaper, equivalent to today’s The Times, and the letters are representative. They are an important paret of the first major public discussion of homosexuality in England. For an overview, and links to other pages in this section, see my essay The First Public Debate about Homosexuality in England.


Wednesday 5 August 1772

To the Printer of the Morning Chronicle.
In arduis & magnis circumspice!
SIR,
The crime for which Capt. Jones is to suffer, is generally believed to be of foreign import, which makes it reasonable to look into the criminal laws of foreign countries to find what they determine about it.
     The Roman laws (which Dr. Blackstone, who sat at the trial, somewhere justly pronounces to be ‘a collection of written reason, and which therefore our laws cannot possibly deviate from’) do state, that in delictis carnis ad ecustituendum crimen, actualis penetratio vaginae, et immissio seminis conjunctim requisuntus ergo in crimine s––, as the most heinous of them all. It does not appear to me, that the boy has apadictice proved both those requisites, and then the whole of his evidence at best amounts to no more than that the Captain has committed some indecencies with him; his evidence would constitute crimen attentatum only, not consummatum; perhaps penetratio was impossible, on account of the youth and tenderness of the patient, and supposed strength of the agent, consequently immissio seminis could not take place.
     Ocularis inspectio by two surgeons upon oath, would have been proper and requisite: this has been neglected; but even if it had took place, if the opinion of the surgeons had been in favour of the evidence given by the boy, yet would the Roman laws not find the Captain guilty, because the testimony of a minor, though it be admitted in civil cases, is never admitted in criminal cases, unless he be twenty years and upwards. If it should be alledged, the boy gave his evidence with such clearness, steadiness, and perspicuity, as even a person in years could do, I readily admit he did; the observation only proves the boy was clever, sensible, no noviciate, no such innocent chap, no such simpleton as not to know what he was about; he returned to the charge again and again, because he earned something by it. The Roman laws would in this case not only reject that evidence quia propriam turpitudinem alleganti non creditur, but even be of opinion, malitia supplet aetatem, and deem the boy as guilty as the Captain, if the crime could be proved against them, by legal evidence, according to the above principles.
     I think, Mr. Printer, if the above be taken into consideration, there is sufficient room for a respite at least, and that the civil laws which I have quoted, and of whom Dr. Blackstone affirms, ‘that no man than himself is more thoroughly persuaded of the general excellence of its ruler, and the usual equity of its decisions, nor is better convinced of its use as well as ornament, to the scholar, the divine, the statesman, and even the common lawyer,’ might well be the rule of conduct in this dark affair.
     I am, Sir,
          Your humble servant,
               INQUISITOR.
Morning Chronicle)

Thursday 6 August 1772

This Day is published,
Price Sixpence,
The State of the Case of Captain Robert Jones, as it was presented to his Majesty at St. James’s, on Tuesday last, by a principal Officer in the law department; and in consequence of which His Majesty was pleased to respite him till Wednesday next.
     Printed for J. Peate, in the Temple Exchange Passage, opposite St. Dunstan’s church, and may be had of all the booksellers. (Morning Chronicle)

Saturday 8 August 1772

For the Morning Chronicle.
To James Eyre, Esq; Recorder of the City of London.
SIR,
Considering you as the hand by which our Sovereign is accustomed to convey judgment or mercy to the malefactors, whom their country has condemned to die, I am tempted to address you in the present instance. – Two poor wretches, guilty only of infringing the property of their neighbours, were this day carried, unpitied, to receive a punishment inflicted by a law which, however I may privately consider it, I am not now about to arraign. Think what must have been their feelings, when they left behind them a monster, whose extirpation from society I believe the law of no nation under heaven would hesitate to pronounce! Think what must have been the indignation of the surrounding populace! Surely, considering that our law knows no difference of punishment between the simple exactor of forty shillings on the highway, and the most atrocious villain, except in the delay of execution, that delay should not have taken place in this instance.
     However, though I certainly condemn the measure, yet, as I think my heart might have shrunk from the idea of precipitating to eternity a wretch horribly unfit for such a state, I cannot, as many do, much blame the advisers of it. But I cannot contemplate this respite as a possible prelude to a final pardon without horror; and I beg you, sir, to consider what horror, and what indignation, such an event must produce. – The spirit of Englishmen, sir, though the present æra proves that it is easily led astray, will not less easily take a right path when that is pointed out, – and, if what I am now dobuting and depreciating should happen! – I love my country, I honour its laws, I love and honour its king, I glory in the name of Briton, – but I am an Englishman, and I will not be outdone by a Scotch mob, whom many now living can remember.
     I can, sir, make one in an English mob on a proper occasion, though I am, with real respect,
     Sir, your unknown,
          humble servant,
                         Aug. 5, 1772.                         L. O.
Morning Chronicle)

8 August 1772

To the printer of the Morning Chronicle.
SIR,
If your profession of impartial justice in your Paper is not a joke, you will insert the following fair representation to the public.
     Do not let the really good and well-meaning be the bubbles of the affected clamour of some of the vilest of mankind, against the humane respite extended by the Royal Mercy to the convicted, and very probably innocent, Captain Jones: A mercy extended not from any clemency to that horrid crime of which he was accused, but from a just tenderness of consideration of his having been convicted upon too slender an evidence; an evidence, the sufficiency of which being once admitted, would expose even the greatest detesters of that crime to all the dangers, and fatal consequence of actual guilt. A degree of evidence, which if legal, would put it into the power of every barber that shaves you, every urchin of an apprentice that serves his time with an ill-will, or any footboy to swear sodomy against his master. A Justice of Peace can legally take no bail. The party charged is legally sent to Newgate; and the first sessions legally tried and condemned for a crime which his soul has ever held in the utmost horror. And all this very legally.
     As to those fire-and-faggot declamations against this extension, rather of justice than of mercy to this unfortunate convict, the public may, for obvious reasons, depend on it, that some of the scribblers of them are wretches ripe for any villainy; and that, with all their furious zeal, and with even a natural abhorrence of such an unnatural crime, they would not the less submit to the prostitution of their own persons to it for a couple of shillings. It is not justice they mean to recommend, but to abuse the King; without the least regard to the spilling of innocent blood, or of the danger to the liberty and life of thousands, by such a precedent. Let then these scarce less execrable miscreants, the fillers of the cry for human blood, ring at their pleasure the changes on those edifying sounds of Sodom, Gomorrah, D[r]yb[u]tt[e]r, &c. but let those who sincerely and laudably execrate this hell-born crime, remember that it is still better that ten guilty of it should escape the vengeance of justice, than that one innocent person should suffer; which would almost inevitably be the consequence of opening the door to such charges, on no better ground that in the present case, in which there is absolutely no proof, and great want of probability.
     If the boy’s innocence was surprized into his clearly apparent consent to the fact, this does not indeed clear Capt. Jones; but as to this innocent boy’s repeated return to the like prostitution, on no better an excuse than that of his hoping to get his uncle a customer by it, it is left to every impartial judge to consider, whether such an evidence is receivable, especially in his allegation of shame, or can be held sufficient to take away a man’s life, or but the life of a dog.
          ANTI-SODOM.
(Morning Chronicle)

Tuesday 11 August 1772

To the Printer of the Morning Chronicle.
SIR,
Your inserting the following Queries on the case of Capt. Jones, will very much oblige
     Your’s,
          A Friend to Truth.

I. Can it be supposed that any one that is not totally vicious in his habits, can entertain any inclination to such a filthy and destestable practice; and does Captain Jones appear to be of such loose morals?

II. If the boy was really innocent, would he not have discovered the first attempt? and how happens it that he is just under the age which would have made him particeps criminis, by ours, as well as the Roman law?

III. Whether judgment of death is not too penal for a fact not so very material in its consequences, which the philosophy and legislators of Greece and Rome esteemed as an indifferent thing? and although it is become sinful under the Christian dispensation, whether the punishment should not be somewhat of an ecclesiastical nature, as excommunication or outlawry, and interdiction of any community with the fair sex, unless restored by the king’s pardon? (Morning Chronicle)

Tuesday 11 August 1772

To the Printer of the Morning Chronicle
SIR,
Many virulent and palliating letters have appeared in the public papers relative to the crime for which Jones stands capitally convicted, and as it seems the court was satisfied with the verdict, therefore I shall not attempt to palliate or extenuate the offence. What I mean by this address is, to be satisfied in respect to the following point. – As law is founded upon reason, I should be glad to be informed by some of your correspondents learned therein, what reason can be assigned why an agent of an unnatural crime may be convicted solely upon the oath of a voluntary patient under the age of thirteen years, and yet the infancy of that patient shall protect him from punishment? Or in other words, Why it shall not be deemed felony in such a patient, though within the age of discretion, and yet the testimony of such a patient alone shall be esteemed evidence sufficient to convict the agent capitally? (Morning Chronicle)

Thursday 13 August 1772

To the Printer of the Morning Chronicle.
SIR,
Your correspondent, A Lover of Truth, in his queries of to-day, declares himself openly in the most impudent, and at the same time, the weakest manner. It is not, it seems any defect of proof, but the severity of punishment; that alarms his gentle breast: EXCOMMUNICATION, in his eyes, would be a proper punishment for unnatural crimes. O pious [George]!What abominations has thy ill-timed lenity encouraged, when such advocates dare publish their infamous tenets in open day?
     In answer to his first query; – A man may doubtless be addicted to this black crime, without being a ruffian, a murderer, and a cheat; and he may be a good engineer, bomb-barder, scaramouch and punch. – If it be necessary that he who harbours this foul crime, must be abandoned to all others, with what consistency can this ‘Lover of Truth,’ desire a milder sentence that what the law inflicts in it, since, according to him, the proof of it, is proof of consummate villainy? This wretched sophister condemns himself.
     He asks if the boy’s behaviour be consistent? The Jury thought so, and they were perhaps as good judges of human nature as your correspondent. The law declares him not an accomplice, because incapable, at such an age, of consenting; let the statute therefore be repealed, together with that of the same nature against rapes and then the ravisher and the s[o]d[o]mite, will be both secure from punishment, but do not make the law a mere nose of wax.
     But how came the boy to be only 13 years old? – A wise question! – enquire of the parish register.
     But the last query explains all this impertinence. The law is too severe. Hang a man for picking your pocket, – for not consenting to starve, – but let the unnatural miscreant poison the pure air at large. – for this is only a crime under the Christian dispensation, of which the culprit’s defenders do not believe a word, and ’tis practised at Rome. What! is it not a crime against the law of reason, conscience, nature, and God? But these miserable palliators evince the justice of such a capital sentence. For if, in this luxurious and abandoned age, the natural horror and detestation of unnatural crimes is worn off by excess of profligacy, it is high time, and more than ever necessary, for the laws to interpose their salutary influence, by checking the diabolical depravity, and annexing the ideas of horror, death and infamy, to such shocking eccentrical sallies of intemperance. When sod[o]my stalks abroad at mid-day, and every day brings forth a fresh culprit, is it no season to talk of relaxing the penalty, or substituting ecclesiastical censures, in the room of temporal, unless indeed they extended now, as they once did, to the stake and faggot.
     One man now lies under condemnation for s[odom]y, whom I verily believe, no man, (from the nature of his own defence,) believes innocent. Another is under sentence for bestiality in the country. Yet G[eorge], our pious Prince, when many others are accused of the same practices, instead of giving one example to justice, reprieves them both. – Blush, Britain! blush, at the infamy to which thou art exposed, after the race of glory thou hast run!
     A Friend to Nature.
          Tuesday, Aug 11.
(Morning Chronicle)

Monday 17 August 1772

To the Printer of the Morning Chronicle.
SIR,
WHATEVER pretensions you may make to impartiality, one that is not a friend to truth can have no just pretension to the character. When your unmerciful corresondents, by means of your paper, were chasing a poor condemned wretch to the shades, in opposition to the King’s most gracious sentiments, I was induced merely from compassion, and in order to have some doubts on the case explained, to send you several queries, in order to be informed why a minor should be admitted as competent witness, and yet be deemed incompetent in point of understanding of being particeps criminis, when the witness, by his examination, shews that he was duly sensible of the criminality; whether a person otherwise virtuous, without any hereditary tendency thereto, can have any taste for such an indelicate vice; whether the philosophers or legislators of Greece or Rome, or any other civilized country, deemed this case to be immoral or criminal; and although announced to be a sin by the Christian church, whether the punishment ought not to be somewhat of an ecclesiastical nature, as excommunication or outlawry, penance or pillory, &c. as being with respect to its temporal consequences nothing more than the late Dr. M—’s diverting himself with a girl’s locks. And if our trials, or criminal executions, should occasion any doubts or troubles in the fountain of justice, what cause ought to be taken; which after some delay you was pleased to insert.
     To these no very immodest, or unimportant questions, I received no direct answer. But with a view of misleading us from the purpose, one of your noisy correspondents, under the signature of A Friend to Nature, varied the questions, and takes it for granted that there can be no sort of doubt as to the guilt, the legality of the evidence, or adequateness of the punishment, without any pretence to mercy, as there has been a formal conviction according to an act of parliament. Now, if every sinner was to be put to death without mercy for such sins, crimes, or impunities, I doubt your friend to nature, who can be no better than an infidel, would stand but a poor chance for his life. However, as this law was once repealed, I will at a more convenient opportunitiy consider its foundation, but in the mean time would recommend to your noisy correspondents the perusal of the late learned remarks of Dr. Kenrick on this subject; who, like Aristophanes of old, seems to consider it as a mere matter of ridicule or satire; nor do your very delicate, virtuous correspondents discuss the business in a more serious, or Christian-like manner.
[For more discussion of Kenrick, see The Macaroni Club.]
     It is indeed my humble opinion, that this very unusual clamour is mostly owing to the partiality, prejudice, and ignorance of those who, in spite of common sense, are for controuling, and having every thing in their own way; for as I passed to and fro along the streets, my ears have been lately accosted with obscene songs on the occasion, and exclamation of d[am]n him, a Welch goat! The little He-goat will for this time escape us.
     Yet is seems that Jones was born and bred in the same parish as his most gracious Majesty, whom God long preserve to deal impartial justice, like the sun; and in times of storms and troubles mercy among his people. Nor is Jones originally a Welsh name, but framed out of the Norman John since the time of King John and the Normans numerous settlements in, and intire government of Wales; all the ancient Welsh names being English, with a small dialectic disguise, as appears by their pedigrees, registers, and annals. But what mostly proves Jones, if guilty, to be no ancient Briton is, that the filthy practice never had existence among the people; nor is it genuine English, but an Italian or Roman vice imported here with their colonies, and confined amongst the provincials. And why should not this, as well as other vices and diseases, be hereditary, national, or topical, as anciently at Sodom and in Italy, the leprosy in the land of Canaan, the venereal disease amongst the Indians, and various others peculiar to different parts and people?
     But, guilty or not, your correspondent, the Man of Nature, has, in my opinion, been somewhat too presumptuous in determining the degree of punishment to be inflicted for this sin, when he cannot see the distinction betwixt it and rape, b[ugger]y, &c. respecting the violence, injuries, and consequences, to the individuals, and society in the latter instances, and that the former became an offence from its impure contradiction to the Christian System, more than the preservation of a race of Sodomites, who had been totally extirpated Sodom by the hands of Providence. And was this an offence capital by the law of Nature, our friend to human nature would have found it in his catalogue of capital crimes, or in the decalogue. But, says our charitable friend, it has been made so by an act of parliament. So have witchcraft, heresy, and many more such damnable sins, but those acts of parliament have been since repealed. In short, Sir, as you have been pleased to admit into your paper, things to the disadvantage of your fellow-subject in such distress, and of myself, for my compassion towards him, I expect that you will insert this as an answer to your uncharitable correspondents.
     And am, your’s,
          A Friend to Truth.
(Morning Chronicle)

Tuesday 18 August 1772

To the Printer of the Morning Chronicle.
In arduis et magnis circumspice!
SIR,
THE Roman laws are particularly tender and cautious in criminal matters; they never enter upon any prosecution till what they call Corpus Delicti is fully established and ascertained before a magistrate, till a magistrate quod sensus & intellectum is convinced of the existence of a crime; upon which they look out for the perpetrator, he is apprehended, tried, amply heard in his defence, acquitted, condemned, or if the proofs do not amount to a full conviction, the sentence may be non liquet which in reality is, our ignoramus. It is perhaps worth while, Mr. Printer, to apply this rule, which I am apt to bleieve is a very rational one, to the case of Capt. Jones. It is worth while to scrutinize, how a Roman Judge would have behaved, if the case had come before him in a proper manner, I mean in manner their laws direct; and what on the other hand would have been his conduct, had he been applied to as it stands with us.
     As to the first supposition; a boy thirteen years of age comes running to his relations immediately after the fact of prostitution, bitterly complaining how he has been served, he bears all marks of distress, violence, and despair in his countenance; they apply to a magistrate, the magistrate separates the parties, every one of them is heard separately, no questions are asked, no suggestions are made use of; the magistrate only hears and records what is said; the boy’s linen is examined, his body inspected, the surgeons find him in a shocking condition, penetratio, &c. is visible. The judge therefore without hesitation records, de corpore delicti quoad sensum & intellectum sufficienter constat; an unnatural rape appears to have been committed upon that boy. Now for the perpetrators. The boy no doubt has mentioned him during the telling of the story, but the judge could take no notice of the perpetrators of a crime, until its existence was proved in all its latitutde; and this being at present the case, the boy is solemnly prepared for the question, who is the perpetrator? The boy with candour and simplicity fixes it upon Captain Jones, whom the judge either knows, or is informed to be a man of character and reputation; will Captain Jones be apprehended upon the boy’s allegation only? No, not upon his oath? No, the law does not admit him to swear. The judge looks round for collateral evidence, he finds the boy has often been seen conversing with the captain; that the boy entered the Captain’s apartment the very day the crime was committed. Somebody in the shop heard some struggles and noise whilst they were together; running up stairs to see what was the matter, finds the door locked; the boy is let out at last, and is seen in the distressful condition before described. The Captain comes down afterwards, and bears some marks of guilt and confusion in his countenance, because he apprehends to have been detected. Here we have the boy’s evidence as to the perpetrator, variis circumstantiis pregnantibus stipata, and as the existence of the crime did before appear quoad sensum et intellectum, so does now, presumptione hominis, i.e. judicis, the perpetrator in the person of Captain Jones, he is therefore taken, brought to his trial, and unless he can prove a conspiracy, there seems to be no possibility of an escape; he will suffer the law, which is decollation [beheading].
     As to the second supposition; a boy thirteen years of age is enticed to an unnatural connection, he submits quietly, receives a reward, and at divers times returns to the agent, to undergo the same prostitution, or to suffer other indignities; he is took very ill, shame hinders him to tell the story, he gets well again without assistance, his relations by some means or other suspect something, the boy is hunted about by them and their friends, he relates his story, is tutored in it, dangerous suggesetions are made use of. Many weeks expired since the crime is said to have been committed, they at last apply to a magistrate; the Judge hears and records the story; the same linen is not upon the boy, it has been washed and cannot be produced; ocularis suspectio that basis and fundamentum totius inquisitionis, (entirely neglected by Mr. Justice Mercer) however takes place; the Surgeons can find no symptoms, the parts from the time elapsed are found in their natural state. The crime in law is in some measure faits permanentis, and the boy by his unfortunate conduct has sunk the only evidence which could establish the existence of the crime; he indeed alledges some reasons, I think a sense of shame, his getting some more money, the uncle’s getting business, and the like. But those reasons are partly against the boy and his character, besides that any reasons which may be given for sinking evidence do not re-establish that evidence in matter of fact; the imputit sibi belongs to the boy. The judge therefore dismisses the complaint; and records de corpore delicti non constat; no unnatural rape appears to have been committed upon that boy. The Judge is not authorized to make any questions about the perpetrator, if the existence of the crime be not previously proved; and indeed, if the boy and his relations (in this our second supposition) were to cry aloud against Capt. Jones, and charge him with the crime, if the circumstantial evidence related in the first supposition actually appeared against the Captain, yet would the Judge ob desectum corporis delicti dismiss the complainants with the rational advice, not to expose themselves in so odious a manner, and there the affair would rest and be buried in oblivion. Such is the philosophy of the Roman laws, which they derived from a few established principles, viz. Crimina sunt facti et evidentissime probanda. – Incriminalilbus probationes lave meridiana clariores requiruntur. – Quilibsi presumitur bonus donec evidentissime probetur contrarium.
     We may well suppose, Mr. Printer, that his Majesty has been guided by those rational principles, in granting a respite to Captain Jones, and if so, that they will finally operate a free pardon.
     Had Mr. Justice Mercer adopted the conduct which I have pointed out, and which does not appear to me to be against the law of the land, he had prevented a gallant officer, a man of character and reputation, to be prosecuted for an odious crime – had secured to the unfortunate boy an unblemished character, had saved one or more families from distress and disgrace, and the public had not been pestered and scandalized with discussions dishonourable to human nature.
     I am, Sir,
          Your humble servant,
               INQUISITOR.
August 13, 1772. (Morning Chronicle)

Wednesday 19 August 1772

For the Morning Chronicle.
To the **** [i.e. King]
     I Importune your reflection on a subject that stands parallel, if not past, any of the horrid crimes that grace the page of infamy, that vile, unnatural, detestable sin of sodomy. A crime so destructive to human society to come within the circle of R[oyal] approbation, staggers my imagination. Mercy, when well administered, ought to be applauded by every man who holds commiseration in his breast for his fellow-creatures; but when these well-meant rules of lenity are o’er-leaped by an extension of R[oyal] mercy to a being which ought not be, whose actions are abhorrible both to God and man, claims the attention of every individual. Let contemplation on your station, and duty to your God, coincide with your conscience, before the petition of a group of fawning sycophants. I beg, R[oyal]
S[ir], in the name of our Creator, as K[ing] of a brave, free, civilised people, as a man held singular for his exemplary piety, to look with contempt on your conduct elapsed, and not let such a wretch escape the hand of justice; and thereby sheltering the invoked wrath of our Creator from pouring down his just judgments on a people, a degree beyond wicked. This unhappy criminal was justly tried and condemned by an upright Judge and merciful Jury; the witnesses accusations delivered with a free, authentic declaration and unbiassed conscience, not couched under the canopy of malice, as has been falsely represented by some evasive subterfuges that have appeared in the different papers. Where was this nice point of mercy eloped in that ever-memorable case of the unfortunate juvenile, vilely massacred and slaughtered merely to satiate the blood-thirsty appetites of malicious villains, the offspring of an honest Englishman, who repeatedly entreated to R[oyal] ear for justice? The comfortable rewards for the aged injured was a scoff at his lack of understanding, in letting vanity so far animate his soul to dare attempt to ask for redress for a North Briton’s launching his only son into endless eternity, in the centre of a meretricious metropolis, with all his imperfections on his head. The heart relief for the old man was, in a few weeks, to hear the villains were enlarged from their confinement, and an annuity conferred on the murderer for life. The murder of Clarke, at Brentford, by a set of ruffians, hired previous to the election to repel the freeholders, and prevent a conscientious choice of their representatives. The man was murdered, as were many more, the villains apprehended by the indefatigable zeal of a few honest men, their pains rewarded with contempt, and a R[oyal] mercy to the assasins. The Kennedies, for murdering a poor old man in the decline of nature, cruelly butchered as a being not fit to crawl ’tween heaven and earth, reprieved by the desire of the notorious Poll Kennedy, their sister. Baretti, that peaceable Italian, for murdering a youth who set a girl to kiss him, a thing so inconsistent with his nature; Roscious [i.e. David Garrick] appeared in his friend’s behalf, assured them he was a harmless, inoffensive creature, and would not have stabbed him had not the prelude been provocation; reprieved. Where was justice then? Why fallen a sacrifice to the gilded persuasions of ministerial mandates. Not that I am for condemning without hesitation, but endeavour to let my words correspond with my conscience, and let the punishment be adequate to the offence. Let us unroll the records of time, and take a peep at futurity, and see it written, that none at this period but murderers and sodomites escaped the gallows. Suppose time should produce the crime universal, they would probaby and justly charge the augmentation to us, for not cropping the sin in its bud. The thoughts of a future state ought to claim the consideration of the Prince as well as the beggar. To think that by reprieving this man a Prince incurs the displeasure of that omnipotent Being who requires blood for blood; and that at the great tribunal he stands accused by the law of God, to answer for the crimes of those he has unjustly suffered to exist, when such pests to mankind ought to be annihilated from the race of man, and every individual roused at the great call of nature, to lend his aid towards the destruction of such wretches, and not let this great, opulent, and commercial city suffer the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. To compromise the whole, the æra seems to have arrived, when the punishment of the criminal shall be magnified or diminished according to the station he holds in life, or the prostituted friends he boasts at Court. A Noble Lord may, with impunity, wantonly run his sword through his valet de chambre’s body for his morning’s amusement; the man dies, and his Lordship, the same evening, graces the polite assembly at Madam Cornely’s’s, rails at religion and morality, and sincerely confesses there is nothing so abominable and pernicious to the taste of a man of quality as those eternal duns the tradesmen; the affair sinks in oblivion, and his Lordship passes unmolested; while the poor mechanic, with a wife, and perhaps five or six children, all of whom are fed and clothed by his labour, shall be necessitated, totally against his inclination, through want of employment, to steal a joint of meat (to satisfy the heart-piercing cravings of his starving innocents from some over-gorged forestaller, who, sooner than vend it a farthing a pound cheaper than usual, shall probably order that, and many more, to be thrown into the river, buried, &c.) shall be taken, tried, and hanged, without the least spark of remorse. What queries are there? no flaw in the indictment? no dissastisfactory evidences? No; his fate is sealed, and the awful object pays the great debt of nature by a chearful resignation of his soul into the hands of him that gave it: – thus mercy is infused in man! The wretch unserviceable to mankind, whose deeds are inconsistent with nature, shall now be metamorphosed to an object of compassion, and a poor hireling, who by his labour has contributed to the existence of many, shall, for a little misdemeanor, be precipitately hurried, unpitied, to an ignominious exit. We have too often instances of such misconstrued judgments.
     I shall conclude my anxiety for equity, by making this just remark, that I may, without the least ostentation, boast, that no nation whatsoever shews more encouragement to exotic taste than England, nor none so little to their own. One Italian shall gain more by a transient bauble in one night, than one thousand labouring mechanics, our own natives, in one week.
     O! Tempora, O Mores, vals justitia, nunquam amplius resurges.
          From your’s,
               a loyal subject,
                    Philo-Misericordia.
(Morning Chronicle)

Wednesday 19 August 1772

For the Morning Chronicle.
Of the crime against nature; an Extract from Montesquieu.
GOD forbid that I should have the least inclination to diminish the horror people have for a crime which religion, morality, and civil government equally condemn. It ought to be proscribed were it only for its communicating to one sex the weaknesses of the other, and for leading people by a scandalous prostitution of their youth, to an ignominious old age. What I shall say concerning it will no ways diminish its infamy, being levelled only against the tyranny that may abuse the very horror we ought to have for the vice.
     As the nature of this crime is secrecy, there are frequent instances of its having been punished by legislators upon the deposition of a child. This was opening a very wide door to calumny. ‘Justinian, says Procopius, published a law against this crime; he ordered an enquiry to be made not only against those who were guilty of it, after the enacting of that law, but even before. The deposition of a single switness, sometimes of a child, sometimes of a slave, was sufficient, especially against such as were rich, and against those that were of the green faction.’
     It is very odd that these three crimes, magic, heresy, and that against nature, of which the first might easily be proved not to exist at all; the second to be susceptible of an infinite number of distinctions, interpretations, and limitations; the third to be often obscure and uncertain; it is very odd, I say, that these three crimes should amongst us be punished with fire.
     I may venture to affirm, that the crime against nature will never make any great progress in society, unless people find themselves induced to it in other respects by some particular custom, as among the Greeks, where the young people performed all their exercises naked; as amongst us, where domestic education is diffused; as among the Asiatics, where particular persons have a great number of women whom they despise, while others can have none at all. Let there be no customs preparatory to this crime; let it, like every other violation of morals, be severely proscribed by the civil magistrate, and nature wll soon be seen to defend or resume her rights. Nature, that tender, amiable, and loving parent, has strewed her pleasures, with a bounteous hand, and while she fills us with delights, she prepares us for future satisfactions of a more exquisite kind than those delights themselves. (Morning Chronicle)

Thursday 20 August 1772

To the Printer of the Morning Chronicle.
SIR,
Your inserting the following Quere [i.e. query] will oblige
     Your’s, &c.
          ETYMOLOGIST.

Whether b[ugger]y and s[odom]y are not in their nature and consequences as their names import, distinct offences; the former signifying unnatural commerce with a beast, and the latter only with the dung passage; or in another sense, a political stink-trap, invented by Henry VIII, demolished by his daughter Mary, and restored by Elizabeth, during the contentions betwixt the clergy and laity for dominion; and although the practice in either case ought highly to be punished, yet whether in the latter case it is of a capital nature, and whether the commission of it as in other felonies ought not to be supported by some other evidence besides that of the particeps criminis?

Thursday 20 August 1772

To the Printer of the Morning Chronicle.
SIR,
I have been much provoked at the declaration of you and your brother printers, that you would admit no disquisitions concerning the crime of which Capt. Jones was convicted. Whence this resolution? The matter is the subject of universal conversation; the public are interested in it, and ought to have every information upon it. The manner in which I shall endeavour to handle it ought to insure me a place in your paper. I shall consider the propriety of putting Jones to death as I would that of any other political institution, and instead of investigating any particular foul offence, I shall make it merely a question of penal law. The true mode of estimating (I speak politically) the guilt of any act, is by the degree of injury it is of, or threatens, to the society. The humane and ingenious author of the principles of penal law says, that ‘the infliction of death is our last melancholy resource in the extermination of those from society, whose continuance among their fellow citizens is become inconsistent with the public safety.’ Will any body say that Jones’s case comes within this rule? Nobody will be so hardy. The only argument I ever heard used (for the words unnatural, shocking, detestable, abominable, &c. &c. though they shew an honest and generous indignation against the offence, yet they carry no degree of conviction to a cool, deliberate mind) to prove the enormity of this crime, is, that if it was practised in its full extent, it would stop the propagation of mankind. Could this supposition ever have been advanced seriously? Could so phantastical a fear ever have had possession of the brain of any mortal? Those who produce this argument are not aware of what an ill compliment they pay to the fair sex. I shall now proceed to give some instances that the ancients did not look upon this vice as threatening the destruction of society. ... [gives a quotation from Solon and Cornelius Nepos]. It is a maxim among the Turks seldom to make enquiries after secret criminals, being unwilling to seek occasion for scandal; the severity of their laws is directed against open breaches of the peace of society. An ingenious modern above-mentioned says, ‘The unavoidable and geneal detestation of mankind will always be a strong barrier against so horrid a crime; but it may be a question, whether the public prosecution thereof be founded in wisdom. Some have thought it unsafe, and rather likely to sollicit the attention, than to deter from the crime.’ These are the reasons which induce me to be ready to defend the King’s most gracious interposition in favour of the wretched criminal, though I think the evidence upon which he was convicted is at least very disputable; if we can suppose the boy conscious of the guilt of the action, it certainly is not sufficient. If any of your correspondents should incline to answer me, I declare before-hand, that I shall take no notice of assertions without proofs, and scurrious declamations; but if they deny my principles, with the same decency and coolness as I have endeavoured to lay them down, they may expect the best reply in my power.
          A.B.
Morning Chronicle)

Friday 21 August 1722

To the Printer of the Morning Chronicle.
SIR,
FOR God’s sake, Mr. Printer, what are you about? surely you carry your ideas of impartiality too far! It is certainly commendable in you to side with neither party in personal and political disputes; but every man ought to be a partizan in morals. There is no hesitating between virtue and vice. Give room to every argument that may be brought in favour of the innocence of Captain Jones: but, for God’s sake, I say, reject every thing that tends to apologise for his supposed crime. I am induced to take this freedom with you, in consequence of the letter signed A Friend to Truth, in your paper of Monday, the writer of which not only endeavours to lessen the guilty of pederasty, but advances a scandalous lie, in affirming, that the celebrated chastiser of our modern Roscius, seems, like Aristophanes of old, to consider this odious vice as a mere matter of ridicule or satire. You, Sir, could not but know this affirmation to be false; as in one of the extracts that lately appeared in your paper, Dr. K[enrick] expressly says, ‘had I conceived Roscius to have stood in the odious predicament of Nyky, the pen of the satirist should have lain still. I differ from Juvenal and Persius, in thinking crimes of enormous guilt proper subjects for satire. Objects of horror are no topics of humour. To lash such wretches as Nyky, would have been to assume the office of a common executioner.’ With what face then could your correspondent sign himself A Friend to Truth, or you admit of affirming so known a falsehood?
     As to Mr. Inquisitor of to day, I join with him as far as his argument tends to exculpate the individual: but it should be considered, that there would be an evident impropriety in our following the example of the Roman judicature, unless we would have this horrid vice looked upon in as venial a light as it was among the Romans. When we adopt the Roman manners we may safely adopt their laws. If such, indeed, be Mr. Inquisitor’s view, he would make a better inquisitor in Italy than in England; where, if the rigour of our law does not serve to amend, I hope its lenity will never tend to corrupt, our manners. In times like these, in which unnatural wretches are almost daily detected, and, till they are detected, lose no respect from suspicion: in times when the known encouragers of such wretches skulk under the protection of the law; when it is held infinitely more criminal to call a man a pederast than to be one; surely we want a public example to be made of some of them. Heaven forefend that such example should be made of an innocent man; but still we want an example: nor do I think those who countenance and encourage suspected characters, or the writers, who would lessen the odium still subsisting against the crime, a whit less criminal than a particeps criminis, a pederast himself. And hence it appears to me that Dr K[enrick] has taken a great deal of needless trouble to clear Roscius of the obloquy, supposed to be thrown upon him. At the same time, I cannot but think the public highly indebted to the spirit of a writer, who at his own peril hath, in his satire on Mr. G[arrick] done more toward the exposing, and I hope extermination of those wretches, and that in a few weeks with his pen, than the sword of justice in the hands of the law, hath been doing for many years.
     Your’s,
          ANTIPEDERAST.
(Morning Chronicle)

Saturday 22 August 1772

For the Morning Chronicle.
WHY, in the name of wonder, Mr. Printer, would you send your s[odomite]s over to us? Have we not enough of your rogues already, or would you plant that vice too in our once virtuous land, in order that we may keep you in countenance? If J[one]s be innocent, why is he not released from a loathsome prison, and restored to his friends and acquaintances? and if guilty, why does he not suffer that punishment which justice, and every social virtue so loudly demand? He is to have an appointment too in America equal to what he had here, but let him have one at Tyburn, and that will be equal to his merits.
          Your’s,
               AMERICANUS.
Dufours’-Court.   (Morning Chronicle)

Tuesday 1 September 1772

To the Printer of the Morning Chronicle.
SIR,
As there have lately appeared in the papers so many fine apologies for sodomitical practices, suppose on the other hand, to keep up the horror of the people against such animals, you were to insert the character of a sodomitical I—, as it is drawn in the Voluntary Exile, a Poem, written by Dr. Free.
[Here follows a boring and incomprehensible poem, which I have omitted.] (Morning Chronicle)

Tuesday 1 September 1772

To the Printer of the Morning Chronicle.
SIR,
Amazement and horror! – Good God, what times do we live in! The most detestable of all crimes clearly proved, and the perpetrator pardoned by a gracious and amiable – [King]. It is said, that a Northern potentate is grown almost an ideot. By this, in England the King of Denmark is meant. Such a paragraph on the continent might justly be otherwise construed. – For God’s sake, Mr. Printer, give us the names of those wretches who have procured the S[odomite]’s pardon; The public have a right to know them. A single evidence is object to by these ingenious casuists. If the accuser has formerly borne a bad character, or if it appears that revenge, or to extort monety, were his motives, the utmost tenderness is due to the accused; but not one circumstance of the kind appears in the present case, and to set aside such an evidence as this, his being unfeignedly shocked and disgusted, and the unaltered simplicity of his first confession, all witnessed by gentlemen of credit; if this is to be set aside, merely because the evidence is single; what is it but to give a legal licence to the vilest depravity that disgraces our species. My blood freezes and boils alternately when I think on the idiotism of such conduct: And what adds to my horror, I really believe the affirmation of the Bible, that the abominations of a land call down the divine vengeance upon it. There is no demonstration in Euclid more certain, if we once admit a Divine Providence; neither is there any demonstration in Euclid more certain than the evil tendency of this idiotical lenity: Idiotical I call with respect to only one person; to the worthies who procured it I would attribute a fellow-feeling. The evil tendency is certain: Had the condemned wretch been hanged, danger would have deterred the S[odomites] in their attempts. Now there is less danger than ever; they have already seen the laws baffled, and the fires of hell will sting them on to multiply their horrid proposals: In short, they have every possible tacit allowance from above, all but an express act of parliament in their favour. When Wilkes’s mob bespattered a certain Personage, I have often written in his defence; now, in pity to my country, I am almost ready to act a very contrary part.
          I am, &c.
               Honest Indignation.
(Morning Chronicle)

Thursday 10 September 1772

SIR,
AMONG other publishers of abusive letters addressed to a great character, I see you have departed from your usual caution and decency, by inserting of late more than one insolent effusion of an intemperate zealot, who, though he is visibly actuated by an honest resentment aginst a culprit convicted of the most abominable of all crimes, suffers himself to pen a language replete with scurrility and the grossest indecency. In an era like the present, when every day furnishes us with a fresh proof of the rapid encrease of catamites, and the shameless frequency of the almost open practice of their detestable vice, I cannot but regard the many letters against them, which have appeared in our several papers for some time past, as a laudable testimony of the abhorrence s[odom]y is held in by the many, the wise, and the virtuous. The writers, as individuals, deserve our warmest acknowledgments, and their writing should be generally considered as a matter of national consequence, since they will, in a future century, bear incontrovertible evidence that the cause of manhood was, even at this degenerate day, in this age of effeminacy and folly, strenuously defended and supported. .....
          A Detester of Catamites, but a Respecter of a Great Personage.
Nando’s coffee-house,
Sept.
9, 1772.
(Morning Chronicle)


CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (ed.), "The First Public Debate about Homosexuality in England: Letters and Editorials in the Morning Chronicle concerning the Case of Captain Jones, 1772", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 19 December 2004 <http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/jones5.htm>.


Return to The First Public Debate about Homosexuality in England,
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