COLONEL JOHN HAMILTON
Convicted of Manslaughter, 11th of September, 1712, as Second in a Duel between the Duke of Hamilton and Lord Mahon
NO occurrence, short of a national misfortune, at this time, engaged the public equal to the memorable duet between the Duke of Hamilton and Lord Mahon; and no crime of this nature was ever committed with more sanguinary dispositions. The principals murdered each other, and Mr. Hamilton was one of the seconds.
John Hamilton, Esq., of St Martin's in the Fields, was indicted at the sessions held at the Old Bailey on the 11th of September, 1712, for the murder of Charles Lord Mahon, Baron of Oakhampton, on the 15th of November preceding; and at the same time he was indicted for abetting Charles Lord Mahon and George Macartney, Esq., in the murder of James Duke of Hamilton and Brandon; and having pleaded not guilty to these indictments, the witnesses proceeded to give their testimony in substance as follows: --
Rice Williams, footman to Lord Mahon, proved that, his master having met the Duke of Hamilton at the chambers of Master in Chancery, on Thursday, the 13th of November, misunderstanding arose between them respecting the testimony of an evidence: that when his lord came home at night he ordered that no person should be admitted to speak with him the next morning except Mr Macartney: that on the Saturday morning, about seven o'clock, this evidence, having some suspicion that mischief would ensue, went towards Hyde Park, and seeing the Duke of Hamilton's coach going that way he got over the Park wall; but just as he arrived at the place where the duellists were engaged he saw both the noblemen fall, and two gentlemen near them, whom he took to be the seconds, one of whom he knew to be Mr Macartney; and the other (but he could not swear it was the prisoner) said: "We have made a fine piece of work of it."
The waiters at two different taverns proved that the deceased noblemen and their seconds had been at those taverns, and from what could be recollected from their behaviour it appeared that a quarrel had taken place and a duel was in agitation; and some of the Duke's servants and other witnesses deposed to a variety of particulars, all which tended to the same conclusion.
But the evidence who saw most of the transaction was William Morris, a groom, who deposed that, as he was walking his horses towards Hyde Park, he followed a hackney coach with two gentlemen in it, whom he saw alight by the lodge and walk together towards the left part of the ring, where they were about a quarter of an hour when he saw two other gentlemen come to them: that, after having saluted each other, one of them, who he was since told was the Duke of Hamilton, threw off his cloak, and one of the other two, who he now understands was Lord Mahon, his surtout coat, and all immediately drew: that the Duke and Lord pushed at each other but a very little while when the Duke closed, and took the Lord by the collar, who fell down and groaned, and the Duke upon him: that just as Lord Mahon was dropping he saw him lay hold of the Duke's sword, but could not tell whether the sword was at that time in his body; nor did he see any wound given after the closing, and was sure Lord Mahon did not shorten his sword.
He declared he did not see the seconds fight, but they had their swords in their hands, assisting the lords.
Paul Boussier, a surgeon, swore that, on opening the body of the Duke of Hamilton, he found a wound between the second and third ribs, which entered into the body, inclining to the right side, which could not be given but by some push from above.
Henry Amie, a surgeon, swore, that he found the Duke of Hamilton had received a wound by a push, which had cut the artery and small tendon of his right arm; another very large one in his right leg, a small one in his left leg, near the instep; and a fourth on his left side, between the second and third ribs, which ran down into his body most forward, having pierced the skin of his midriff, and gone through his caul; but that the wound in his arm caused his so speedy death; and that he might have lived two or three days with the wound in his breast, which wound could not be given but by an arm that reached over, or was above him.
He further deposed, that he also viewed the Lord Mahon's body, and found that he had a wound between the short ribs, quite through his belly, and another about three inches deep in the upper part of his thigh; a large wound, about four inches wide, in his groin, a little higher, which was the cause of his immediate death; and another small wound on his left side; and that the fingers of his left hand were cut.
The defence made by the prisoner was that the Duke called him to go abroad with him, but he knew not anything of the matter till he came into the field. Some Scottish noblemen and other gentlemen of rank gave Mr Hamilton a very advantageous character, asserting that he was brave, honest and inoffensive; and the jury, having considered of the affair, gave a verdict of "manslaughter"; in consequence of which the prisoner prayed the benefit of the statute, which was allowed him.