The real cases behind Garrow's Law
Garrow’s Law aims to give viewers a window on life in late eighteenth century London.
Mark Pallis, Garrow's Law Story Editor and consultant on legal and historical matters, tells us more about the real cases and events that inspired each episode.
Poor old Mr Southouse, struck down with gaol fever! But what was gaol fever, and how accurate are the symptoms that you saw on screen? Gaol fever is more commonly known as typhus. It was a serious scourge at the time, and it's a well documented fact that more people died of gaol fever whilst in Newgate than were ever put to death under the bloody code. And it was not just in gaol, sometimes, prisoners would bring the disease with them into court, and this led to the deaths of several court officials over the years.The History, Diagnosis and Treatment of Typhus Fever
As to symptoms and treatment, I was lucky to find a textbook written in 1842 entitled "The History, Diagnosis and Treatment of Typhus Fever" by Elisha Bartlett MD. We used this book as the source of inspiration for the symptoms that Southouse would experience. As you will see in the book, these included chills, coughing, vomiting, and lesions on the skin, amongst other symptoms. As far as treatment is concerned, in 1842, there were a variety of approaches. We distilled these to come up with the idea of an emetic and rest, that you see on screen. I heartily recommend the book if you're interested in finding out more about the different approaches to treatment.
Correction: Invention of the Stethoscope
Last week, you may have noticed Mr Southouse undergoing a medical examination. This was seen by “Digby” who kindly let us know that the Stethoscope was not invented until 1808, and patients rarely took off their shirts during consultations. Thanks for the correction.Digby's post
The Trial of Thomas Picton
The trial of Thomas Picton took place in 1806. Garrow was prosecuting, and the case is regarded by many as Garrow's finest hour.The Trial of Governor T. Picton
Garrow opened the case by expressing his outrage that Picton, in his role as "representative of our sovereign, and governor of one of our colonial dependencies," and thus "bound to protect his fellow-subjects ... has disgraced the country to which he was born." "British character" had been "stained" by the infliction of the cruelties of torture.
The trial that you see on screen has both similarities and differences from the real trial. Garrow's indignation at Picton's treatment of Calderon is certainly evident. I encourage everyone to read the full report if they have the time, it's fascinating. Some of the real aspects of the case that we have dramatized are the ways in which Luisa Calderon's character was called into question. Picton's defence labelled her a prostitute and Garrow defended her character by saying that she was "induced" to live with the man, aged ten or eleven, and also that "in that hot country, the puberty of females is much accelerated."
Another aspect from the real case that we use is Garrow's production of watercolour drawings in court. This was highly irregular at the time and caused a sensation. In addition, Garrow really did state that the punishment to which Luisa was subjected - picqueting - should be re-named, Pictoning. Finally, Picton was found guilty. However, after the case, he appealed and the case dragged on for a number of years and Picton was never actually sentenced.
Some of the differences include: the trial took place in 1806, not the 1780s. Silvester was not the barrister for the defence, and Buller was not the judge. A more significant difference is that the real case ultimately turned on a legal question of Spanish law (we retain an oblique reference to this, when Buller makes a reference to needing to go and consult on a matter of Spanish law!) In the real case, there was a lot more law: first, the question of what law applied in Trinidad at the time (the answer being Spanish law) and then the separate question of whether torture was permitted by Spanish law at the time. Garrow called an expert witness who the jury found credible and the defence case fell to pieces when it transpired that a key defence witness, who was supposed to be an expert on Spanish law, couldn't speak the language! In reality, there was a longer time lag between the incident and the case coming to court, so at the time she was tortured, Luisa Calderon was around eleven years old.
The other point to mention is that the intersection of the Lord Melville storyline - and his bargain with Garrow in return for the case being kept ‘narrow’ - is a purely dramatic invention. However, it is true that Picton had considerable support in Parliament and many were becoming rich through plantations in that part of the world.
Who was the real Picton?
Picton was a Welsh army officer and is regarded by many as a hero. He has a monument in his name in Camarthen.Brutality of Picton past examined
In 2007, in a BBC Radio Wales programme marking the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade, Picton's legacy was reconsidered.
Chris Delaney, of Carmarthen Museum, stated: "He is remembered more for his military prowess, his military skills and the fact that he actually died at Waterloo.
"He was quite clearly a hero of Britain and if you look at biographies, this trial is a small stain on his character."
But Trinidadian historians say they have uncovered the full brutality of Picton's rule in Trinidad. "He had a very bad reputation as a governor," civil rights campaigner Khafra Kambon told the programme.
"He was extremely harsh in the kind of punishments he meted out.
"There was a lot of terror associated with him. He was a very hard, unfeeling governor, he was regarded as a beast."
More about the issues raised
In 2011, calls were made to remove the portrait of Picton from Carmarthen Court.Carmarthen court Thomas Picton portrait removal call
Those interested in finding more about the issues might enjoy the following online resources (see Related Links section):
- Politics of Colonial Sensation, an article by James Epstein.
- In addition, V.S. Naipaul produced a seminal work which goes into great detail about the situation in Trinidad during Picton's time, 'The Loss of El Dorado'.
- Contemporary coverage in the Newgate Calendar
Fiat justitia ruat caelum
Finally, when Mr Southouse is in his bed, he whispers a latin phrase to Garrow, 'Fiat justitia ruat caelum', which translates as 'Let justice be done though the heavens fall'.Fiat justitia ruat caelum
- William Garrow
- Andrew Buchan
- John Southouse
- Alun Armstrong
- Lady Sarah Hill
- Lyndsey Marshal
- Sir Arthur Hill
- Rupert Graves
- Aidan McArdle
- Judge Buller
- Michael Culkin
- Lord Melville
- Stephen Boxer
- George Pinnock
- Harry Melling
- Luisa Calderon
- Sasha Frost
- Zubin Varla
- General Picton
- Patrick Baladi
- Sir Alexander Lamb
- Ron Donachie
- Will Keen
- Lady Henrietta Armistead
- Olivia Grant
- Bryn Higgins
- Nick Pitt
- Kevin Hood
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