TRINIDAD - The Trial of Governor T. Picton, for Inflicting the Torture on Louisa Calderon, A Free Mulatto, and one of His Britannic Majesty’s Subjects, in the Island of Trinidad. Tried before Lord Chief Justice Ellenborough and a Special Jury, and Found Guilty. Taken in Short-Hand during the Proceedings on the 24th of February, 1806. London, Dewick & Clarke for B. Crosby & Co., 1806.
8vo. Slightly later restored half-calf over marbled boards, spine lettered vertically in gilt; pp. 126, [2, publisher's catalogue], engraved frontispiece; spine with flawed head and tail, but now secured, frontispiece with light trace of humidity, first and last page a little toned, complete with half-title and catalogue at the end, very good.
This is the very rare first edition of the most authoritative eyewitness account of one of the great media sensations of the British Empire during the early 19th Century. On February 24, 1806, Brigadier-General Thomas Picton, the former Governor of Trinidad, was placed on trial for ordering the torture of Luisa Calderón, a free mulatto woman (Picton is today perhaps most famous for having been the Duke of Wellington’s ‘righthand man’, killed in action at the Battle of Waterloo). Tried before Lord Chief Justice Ellenborough, after a single day of arguments and only five minutes of jury deliberations, Picton was found guilty.
The former Governor of Trinidad, who was accused of illegally ordering the torture in 1801 of Luisa Calderón, a thirteen-year-old free mulatto woman suspected of being an accessory to burglary. The method of torture used in an attempt to extract a confession from Calderón was known as “picketing” (the British public would come to call it “Picton-ing”) and is here illustrated in a striking full-page engraving, an image which takes its place among the more disturbing visualizations of torture from the colonial Americas. Even before the incident involving Luisa Calderón, numerous reports of Picton’s bad governance and maltreatment of the slave population in Trindad had reached London. Picton immediately appealed his conviction for the torture of Luisa Calderón and at a retrial in 1808 the conviction was overturned based on a new examination of Spanish legal precedents, but the jury asked for the court to consider that torture of a free person was so repugnant to the laws of England that Picton must have known he could not permit it, no matter what Spanish law authorized.
Provenance: Half-title inscribed in a contemporary hand in ink 'I was present during the whole of this Trial J: F. M. D.'. Ink inscription in a different hand above '[illegible name] bought in Southampton June 7th, 1806'. Ink note in a contemporary hand at the end of the text 'A new trial was granted & held [?], and Picton was thereon acquitted'.
Goldsmiths II, 19253; Sabin; 62684; COPAC records copies at Universities of Birmingham and Southampton, at UCL, and University of Edinburgh; the British Library seems to have it only in digital form; the last sales or auction record we can trace is from Sotheby’s in 1972.