On February 28, 1817, Sir William Garrow addressed the House of Commons with a lengthy speech on the pending Habeas Corpus Suspension Bill. His remarks were in stark contrast to what many remember him for today – the defender of prisoner rights. He spoke in support of temporarily suspending the rights of a prisoner accused of treason. As the last major speaker before the vote was taken in the House of Commons, he helped carry the day for the passage of this highly debated and controversial act, an act that to this day is the subject of special attention in the tide of English history.
At a special time in William Garrow’s career, the first few months of 1817, William Wilberforce asks a special favor of Garrow. He requests Garrow to defend John Hatchard on the charge of libel for actions he has taken as publisher of material for the African Institute. It is thought to be the last time in his long career that Garrow serves as defense counsel, the role he pioneered in the English legal system.
William Wilberforce was one of the leading English abolitionists. He headed the parliamentary campaign against the British slave trade for twenty-six years until the passage of the Slave Trade Act of 1807, and continued throughtout his life to fight the institution of slavery. The African Institute’s materials served as a voice for the anti-slavery forces in England, and the plantation owners were fighting back. It is interesting to observe that Wilberforce wants Garrow, in his private capacity, to defend Hatchard, even though Garrow, as Attorney General and lead prosecutor for the Crown, would normally prosecute in a case of the King v. John Hatchard. Garrow chooses to assist in the defense of Hatchard.
As a descendant of William Garrow, I feel drawn to continue to explore the real life of William Garrow. This is in addition to enjoying the fictional aspects of Garrow romanticized in the BBC “Garrow’s Law”, a drama that moves quickly between fact and fiction.
Concerning the real William Garrow, I have been attempting to understand his engagement in the various civic societies seeking to improve the quality of life in London and the surrounding area, in addition to his newly remembered legal career. He was a member of the Royal Society with its international acclaim for probing scientific understanding, and for five years served as a trustee of the British Museum. He was a Vice President of the Royal Sea Bathing Infirmary, focused on dealing with tuberculosis in London’s children who were living in abject poverty. And he was a lifetime sponsor (contributor) to the Philanthropic Society, a boy’s town type program for children of convicted felons, children heading toward a life of crime themselves. Upon retirement he became a member of the Privy Council. In addition, he had a long time involvement as a Vice President of the Royal Humane Society. It is his involvement in the Royal Humane Society that is the subject of this report.
Garrow prosecuted General Thomas Picton, who, while serving as the first British governor of Trinidad, ordered that a young free person of color, Louisa Calderon, be tortured to get her to confess a crime. Being brought home to face a series of related charges, Picton was eventually tried on the single count of using torture on Louisa Calderon. The trial commenced on February 24, 1806 in the court of King’s Bench. Garrow was prosecutor. It was a much followed event in London. And it was this trial that was featured in the next to last episode of the BBC1 historic drama “Garrow’s Law” (originally aired 27 November 2011). The trial is also featured as Chapter 7 of our biography: “Sir William Garrow, His Life, Times and Fight for Justice.” The trial is one of the highly remembered cases in Garrow’s career. Continue reading “Thomas Picton: “Inflict the torture upon Louisa Calderon””
Sarah Lowndes married the Rev. David Garrow on 5 June 1748, a marriage that would last 40 years. In this marriage Sarah gave birth to ten children, but only five survived to adulthood. William Garrow, their eighth child, was the youngest to achieve adulthood.
Comparing fact and fiction in terms of family, fortune, politics and intriguing relationships
Arthur Hill, the chief antagonist in the BBC award-winning historic drama, “Garrow’s Law,” was an actual person. For those readers interested in the real story behind this character, the following biographical sketch will fill in some of the facts, especially as it relates to the storyline in “Garrow’s Law.” Indeed, Arthur Hill’s real story is a drama of historic interest on it’s own, and does touch the lives of William Garrow, and “Lady” Sarah. Continue reading “Arthur Hill in Life and in “Garrow’s Law””
The spectacular views of William Garrow’s seaside property in the Kent village of Pegwell have been captured by artists in famous paintings. The white chalk cliffs that border the property on Pegwell Bay drop straight down to the water’s edge. As the tide goes out, the water recedes exposing a beach at the bottom of the cliffs. Visitors are drawn to explore the nooks and crannies of the cliffs, and the shells, rocks and underwater plants that inhabit the ocean’s edge. Continue reading “Painting of Garrow’s Seaside Property”
The Reverend David Garrow (1715-1805) was born and raised near the village of Aberlour in northern Scotland. He studied at King’s College, Aberdeen, graduating in 1736 with a Master of Arts degree, and was then ordained into the Church of England. In 1747 he started at Monken Hadley in Hertfordshire The Priory, a boarding school which prepared boys for commercial careers such as the East India Company, and served as headmaster for the rest of his working life. He married Sarah Lowndes (1723-1789) in 1748 and together they raised a family of 5 children to adulthood, Edward, Eleanora, Jane, Joseph and William. Eleanora stayed home and cared for her parents, and the others had highly successful careers in England and India. It is interesting to note that the person who became Sir William Garrow was their third child to be named William, the first two dying as infants.
The Sarah Dore Detective Club invites you to help solve some of the mysteries surrounding Lady Sarah in “Garrow’s Law”.
The issues: Who was the mysterious Sarah, Sarah Dore who eventually married William Garrow? What was her family background? Was she Irish? Was she Catholic? Was she high born? What was her true relationship with Arthur Hill? What was the true relationship between Sarah and William Garrow before they married? Is it true that……? While there is a chapter on Sarah in the biography, “Sir William Garrow, His Life, Times and Fight for Justice”, there remain unanswered questions.
Artists of political satire in the early 1800s had fun on occasions with William Garrow, along with many others in the public eye. The British Museum is preserving over 10,000 of these satirical prints from this period…including a few with Garrow in the focus of the satire. In addition, Dorothy George, in her ‘Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum’,( IX, 1949) has given the political context to some of these prints. Drawing from these collections, and with some added words of my own, here are some of the satirical prints I find most interesting….ones that illustrate Garrow stories that I enjoy telling.