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,','FRIDAY EVENING, FIVE O'CLOCK.…

HOUSE OF LORDS.

NEWPORT.

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SHIPWRECKED MARINERS' BENEVOLENT…

- WRECKING.

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WRECKING. The last six months have been so pregnant with wrecks, that we cannot do better service to this, and all other counties which border on the sea;, jthan qnote that part of Judge Coleridge's charge, delivered to the grand-jury of the County of Glamorgan at the Lent assizes, 1837 :— The first charge is against three persons, for what is commonly denominated wrecking. Since I have had the honour of a seat on the bench, I have not been called on to try any such offence nor-have I had acquaintance enough with this county to enable me to say whether it is a crime of frequent occurrence on your shores. If, however, it be a new or unusual offence here, or if, unfortunately, I am to consider it as one which disgraces your population by its frequent recurrence, in either case it is necessary to repress a crime of such magnitude and mischievous consequences, by the strongest interposition of the law. It is fitting that your population oh the sea-coast should be taught how se- riously the law regards the offence, and upon what grounds that it is not because the ship, us stores, or its, cmga, are a species of property which, in themselves, it is more "wicked to plunder than any other-but because it has been found that the plunder of these leads more frequently, by more obvious and certain steps, to the commission of brutal vio- lence, and even to the' destruction of human life. It" is, indeed, melancholy to think, where this crime has become habitual on a line of coast, to what a state of savage and deliberate barbarism it has reduced the people—to any one of us the spectacle of an impending and inevitable Vreck would be, perhaps, the iupstheart-rehding which could be imagined. The dullest a&d least courageous among us would be roused to very active exertions to ward otLtbe ruin or administer help to the sufferers. It is, however, the tendency of this practice to make that epectacfe, not merely a matter of indifference,.but of savage and selfish pleasure- nay, to inure the mind to contrivances for bringing. it about and not only to steel the heart against active pity towards our fellow-creatures in that most, fearful agony of hnman life, but to urge us on to deeds of violence & blood, M much the more atrocious, as the objects are wholly unoffending, and in circumstances which m themselves might' soften the most obdurate, natures. I do not meati to use the language of exaggeration in this placwhat I say, you know that history attests to be the simple truth—it cannot be too I widely or to generally circulated for many commence the practice of plundering wrecks in blind imitation of what their fellow-villagers have immemorially done before them. Not aware of, nor intending to advance to the fearful' con- sequences I speak of—often, indeed, half persuading them- selves, that if not entirely innocent, it is, at least, a very venial offence to appropriate to themselves that property which the storm has deprived of its owner, and which, they think, might perish uselessly, if they neglected to take it as. y cast before them. With such notions they naturally are led to set themselves in array against the law ItS too severe and partial, regarding it only as framed for the protection of property, or the manorial rights of the lord. In the present case it appears that a vessel, with a general cargo, having been driven on shore near Dunraven Castle, a great number of persons—I may, indeed say the whole neighbourhood—turned out, apparently with no shame, and little concealment, and proceeded to the plunder 'of the wreck as common property. The facts of the case are not stated with much distinctness in the depositibils, nbr shall 1 attempt to give them to you in detail. But F am anxious to take this opportunity of stating to you the SiVe'mr I enact- ments of the law on this subject. Until the 7th and 8th o George I v., the statutory provisions as id tftfs class of offences were to be found in the 26 George tf. c.: 1$, if statute very severe in its enactments, and commenced, as it truly migl*, by a recital, that notwithstanding the previous laws many wicked enormities had been committed, to the disgrace of the nation." rhe 7 and 8 George IV., c. 29, has three sections on the subject, the 18th, 19th Atttid 20th. By thefirstTo plunder or steal any part of any ship or vessel which shall be in dis- tress, or wrecked, stranded, or cast on shore or any goods, merchandise, or articles of any kind belonging to such ship, is an offence punishteble eapit ally—to this a provÏltois'added" that when articles of small value shall be stranded or 'east Qn shore, and shall be stolen without circumstance of cruelty, outrage, or violence, the offender may be" prosecuted and punished as for simple larceny. You will perceive at' once the ground of the distinction between the two cases. It is not the value of the property; nor is the law so penal merely to preserve property, but in the ibrmer case, he who goes on board—he who plunders a wreck—may find some ,one there. The unhappy owner, perhaps, needing his pro- tection, or attempting to preserve his property; even if he be perfectly resistless, his very presence alive has been igno- rantly thought to prevent a supposed right of wrecking. Thence comes the temptation to violence and bloodshed and the law opposes to this, even at a periodjlikefthe present, when so few offences, comparatively speaking, are capital, the fearful punishment of death. When, however, articles of small value are-stranded. or vast on shore;-They are'seated from the wreck itself, the same temptation is less likely to exist-and if they be taken without cruelty or outrage, the offence becomes a mere larceny—punishable still, however, be it remembered, by a long imprisonment with hard labour, or transportation. If, indeed, violence were used, and they were taken from the person, then, whatever were the value, the offence of robbery would have been committed, and the act would be punishable capitally under that de- nomination."

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