The Most Sad and Deplorable Case of Robert Blackburne, John Bernardi, Robert Cassills, Robert Meldrum, and James Chambers. Humbly Presented to the Parliament of Great Britain
London: ca. 1715. Broadsheet, 14 x 8½ inches. pp. With ornamental initial on recto and and printed docket title on verso. Disbound. Early folds and early stab holes in left margin. Small portion of inner margin excised, with no loss to text. Mild foxing.
An early example of lobbying literature, which first began proliferating in the lobby of the House of Commons in the first decade of the 18th century. Signed in print by Robert Blackburne, John Cassells, John Bernardi, Robert Meldrum, and J. Chambers. Rare, with ESTC recording only four copies, three in England and one at the Folger Library.
A petition to Parliament to review the case of Robert Blackburne and others connected to the so-called "Lancashire Plot" who were imprisoned in London without charges, trial, or opportunity for habeas corpus. Robert Blackburne (d. 1748), a scion of prominent Roman Catholic families in Lancashire, and his companions were arrested in 1695 on suspicion of connection to an assassination plot against William III and held at Newgate prison, where "no person but our Jaylor and his Servants were permitted to speak with us. We were denied the Use of Pen, Ink, and Paper, debarred of all Comforts and Conveniences, and under great Hardships as to the very Necessaries of Life; out Confinement being so strict, that even our Food and Linnen were searched, to prevent the least Communication." When after many years of being held without trial they finally managed to enter a request for habeas corpus, their petition was denied because they had not claimed it during the first parliamentary session after their imprisonment. This, they note, had been impossible to do, as they had had no access to pen, paper, or friends beyond the prison walls. Around 1715, following the accession of King George I and the election of a new Whig Parliament, the prisoners learned of a new bill in Parliament which they hoped would at last secure their release. It apparently was never passed, and Robert Blackburne was never exonerated; he died after fifty-three years' imprisonment, never brought to trial.
Thomas Taaffe, "Robert Blackburne," in The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 2 (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907).