Legal drama set in the 18th century. Garrow is confronted with an impossible choice: to expose British colonial brutality in open court, or to re-unite Lady Sarah with her son.
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-He has stolen my son!
-'But I warn you,'
Hill will come for his retribution.
My absolute right as a father is to be questioned.
I propose to apply at Chancery for the custody of my son.
I ask you to plead my case.
Do you want the child because I do not!
But she does,
and my one contentment is in her pain.
Am I now to be employed here?
You are apprenticed.
It is gaol fever.
Will I die from it?
SCREAMS AND CRIES CONTINUE
The blue, I think.
No, no, the green.
That's no help.
-You're no help at all!
And the masculine eye of the court
must be pleased today.
But not excited, no.
No, men move swiftly on
from excitement to condemnation. Do you not think?
Hypocrisy forming no obstacle.
You cannot be angry.
Then give me hope.
You cannot, you...
Your case is a battle of ideas. Perhaps Mr Southouse is right.
The time has come to acknowledge a woman's right to her child.
We are presented with the case of
a sweet, young, free-born female tortured by the vicious
Governor General of a slave-colony.
Naturally, the story is everywhere.
Torture in Trinidad!" It's a sensation.
As no doubt intended by the prosecutor.
You are distracted?
Mr James Fullerton, acting on the female's behalf,
-has paid for everything.
High principles...a radical.
So naturally he wants Garrow and must endure Southouse to get him.
Southouse is content. What do you say?
The case has substance in your...
This importunate young person is connected to you?
Ah, did I not say? No. George, pay your respects.
George Pinnock, sir. You, of course, are known to all.
The garrulous Mr Garrow. With admiration.
Shift yourself, boy. I will have private word with the garrulous Mr Garrow.
Mr Fullerton's prosecution would be a fine opportunity,
an opportunity to open the conditions in our colonies to public examination.
-I believe they are not generally...
-A word of caution, if you will.
-Our government is deep in this affair.
It touches closely upon the personal interests of several of its members.
Who enjoy their own properties in the West Indies, no doubt.
They cannot now prevent the prosecution, too late for that,
but they can hinder it, and perhaps grievously.
Is that so? Mr Fullerton attends upon us?
Upon you. George, my chambers.
I attend upon your distraction at the Court of Chancery.
Almost late, what is it?
Have you considered the consequences for Sarah herself?
What if she loses?
You must be in better heart, Will.
Being late will not help her case.
Mr Silvester, I remind you our ground here is to establish
the husband's cruelty to the son.
Samuel, you do not know me.
You live in an irregular household with Mr William Garrow,
in an adulterous liaison?
Which did not begin until Sir Arthur
cast me out of his house.
You are nevertheless an object
of moral repugnance.
A contaminated woman,
yet you presume to bring action against your aggrieved husband?
Solely in the matter of my son.
Which you found upon defamation of Sir Arthur's character.
Mr Fullerton, Mr Southouse has informed me
that you act for Miss Calderon as prosecutor. Why?
-Which particular one?
-Tyrants make enemies amongst lovers of freedom.
I have hopes that you may be such.
I believe you were chairman of The Trinidad Commission,
the civilian authority that replaced General Picton in governance of the island.
As the first civilian commissioner, I inherited a veritable hell of General Picton's making.
George, has Mr Southouse provided the specific terms of the indictment?
I have it here.
"That General Picton unlawfully..."
"Unmercifully and cruelly did cause his man Vallot to inflict
"torture upon on the body of the servant woman Luisa Calderon.
"And thereby did beat, bruise, wound and ill-treat her
"so that her life was greatly despaired of."
Do you understand that in British law torture is but a misdemeanour?
I do. But this case will allow us to expose all of Picton's many crimes.
I heard talk of the Governor's jail the first day that I landed on the island.
And what did you find?
A place of nightmare.
Filth, immorality, torment and promiscuous death.
You mentioned many crimes, sir?
How can you attest to this when you were not there?
Mr Fullerton's provided much vivid documentary evidence.
And an equally vivid witness.
We travelled to France and then Italy
-but always attended by gossip...
-"We", Sir Arthur?
Lady Henrietta Armistead and myself.
The boy was with his nurse in England.
Abandoned by his parent.
And is it true that the child was separated
from his mother, Lady Sarah, when he was at wet nurse?
Another was found.
Yes, but not the child's mother!
All's one in the matter of milk, I believe!
GASPS AND CHATTER
There have been reports of much drunkenness on your part,
fits of uncontrollable rage.
Often, sir, in the immediate presence of your son.
What say you to these charges of ill conduct?
But who amongst us might not succumb to the provocation I endured?
The criminal usurpation of my marriage, my...
cruel, unjust exile from society?
Yet I believe the innocence of my son has worked to
bring out the better part of his father's nature.
Decency has not prevented you from bringing this child
of innocence into contact with a person with whom you have
formed a vicious connection?
Only the mother's adultery is material.
-That cannot be just!
-This will not help.
A father has the absolute right of full possession of his child.
Sir Arthur speaks as if motherhood were not a legitimate aim in its own self.
By your conduct you have forfeited any rights a mother has...
Does not the carrying of a child, the pangs of birth, the feeding,
the constant care, confer a status greater than
receptacle of a father's issue?
It is, of course, true that a man's love for his son may be deep,
when it is present.
Oh, you shame yourself, madam!
But this man's affection for Samuel is not a shadow of mine, his mother!
Do I not have claim, in part at least,
to the child I laboured long to bring into the world?
-You abandoned him!
You stole him from me!
Beside the point, madam, irrelevant to the law, m'lord.
I have heard enough. Thank you, gentlemen.
KNOCK ON DOOR
May I present to you Senor Pedro Vallot.
He was Picton's man in Port of Spain jail
and the executor of that evil man's crimes.
You kept a sorry jail, sir, but compendious records.
The general required them.
And what have you been paid to say, sir?
Mind you do, all of it, but nothing else.
What did the general pay you?
The rate for each thing was fixed.
So much for this. So much for that.
What legal authority did you have for your thises and thats?
I mean what law, sir?
What General Picton said.
Picton was as bloody a tyrant as any in ancient Rome.
Help me to bring him down.
First I will see Miss Calderon, it is, after all, her case. Where is the lady?
Miss Calderon will meet us at The Boar's Head,
in 15 minutes.
ECHOING VOICES AND LAUGHTER
Madam, you and your friends come here to display
and gawp like it were a Drury Lane entertainment.
Vastly less amusing since you and your friend come here
to scowl and sermonise.
I came for my son. And I have lost him.
HUBBUB OF CONVERSATION
Where is the old man? Mr Sootyhouse?
He's on other business.
Mr Fullerton, who is this child?
Your elder...I believe.
But without the experience in your walk of life that I have in mine,
Nevertheless, I'm your Mr Sootyhouse today.
may I present to you Miss Luisa Calderon.
Miss Calderon. I see that you have a prodigious talent for theatre.
Beware of it becoming too high in The Bailey. Juries have a way to detect artifice and punish it.
Do they also have a way of punishing a great wrong?
I believe that you were kept in the Port of Spain gaol,
accused of the theft of £500 from your master.
And that you refused to confess.
I was innocent.
So General Picton had you put to the torture?
And yet still you did not oblige with a confession. Why so?
Can you not conceive of the possibility that a poor person,
a person of colour, perhaps,
was not a criminal if a rich, white man says she was?
Easily, I see it every day.
Picton could not conceive of that. He used me most cruelly
and I want him paid out!
Dare you stand up for me,
General Picton stood up for me on the occasion of giving me these!
Taking pleasure in the infliction,
I do stand up for you...
at the Bailey.
-My Lord Melville requires your presence.
Follow me, sir.
Forgive the delay, Mr Garrow,
official business eats my time quite away.
-A glass with me, sir?
-No, thank you.
It must seem to you that our enmity is implacable,
but it need not be so.
We appear on the opposing sides in so many matters, sir.
Oh, sides! A side is a surface.
The real engine of our state turns at a much deeper level.
Do you begin to see that yet?
I confess, I am at a loss to see anything clearly here, sir.
I requested that you attend on me in the matter of Luisa Calderon.
I ask you, in the King's name,
to keep it to the lady, that is to keep it narrow,
to that one case, and to avoid all consideration
of those wider issues
regarding our rule in the West Indies. Mr Garrow?
Your thoughts will be with the Court of Chancery, with Lady Sarah
and Sir Arthur Hill.
That gentleman holds the key to your future happiness, Mr Garrow,
and that gentleman does my bidding.
Melville wills, Hill acts.
What do you intend?
I will use my influence with Hill, and you know how great that is,
to get him to give over Samuel into your charge.
So Melville wills and Garrow acts?
In consistency with his desire, his duty and his honour.
I perceive here some shabby offer, some sly, underhanded, political manoeuvre
and I do not like it.
Careful, not too rash.
May I just say that my honour is in no-one's hands but my own.
I beg to be excused.
Hurry, Lady Sarah will, no doubt, have need of comfort.
You do not know that Hill has won his case. He's pleased.
Not as pleased as you, my lord.
Every man reaches a point in his life when he must compromise,
Is that how you became what you are, sir?
You may one day hope to do the same.
You have it in you, I believe.
What can I do?
Sir Arthur. Would you grant me a moment?
I am here as Lady Sarah's friend
to ask that you show mercy.
Give the lady her son.
I think not.
Sir Arthur, all decent men will condemn you for this.
Oh, indeed, will they now?
And who is this who speaks for all decent men...
oh, it's craggy old Mr Southouse, the Bailey furniture.
An old man of little importance.
Whose opinion of me is of no consequence at all.
I cannot deny it.
Will you not take the hand of this old man,
the Bailey furniture?
Who acknowledges your victory.
I wish you joy of your triumph. I hope in the future
you may reflect upon this moment with much feeling.
KNOCK AT DOOR
How is she?
I do not know what more I could have done.
Maybe you think I did too much?
Encouraged her too far?
All you have ever been, Mr Southouse, is her good friend, and mine.
Please, stay back...
I abhor promiscuous demonstrations of affection.
In time, she will take comfort from having exerted her powers to the limit.
That will be a very small comfort indeed, if she does not get her son.
Hill will never give him up.
It will be best if I watch her alone, Mr Southouse.
Good night, Mr Southouse. We thank you for your kindnesses.
Surely Lady Sarah has more need of you tonight?
-This will keep till the morning.
-She prefers to be alone.
The hurt will ease in time.
All hurts do. Even the deepest.
We have ordered the prison papers, Will.
And what a depraved tyranny it reveals.
There are records for everything.
I cannot use this...
..or this, or this. The papers are disorderly, Mr Pinnock.
No, there is much evidence here!
Not to Miss Calderon. She is the case in hand.
And part of the matter only.
If we haven't Calderon, then we have nothing.
Fullerton's thoughts have gone before us.
Everything is ready.
-And the papers are here.
-See, our plans are laid!
It has been a hard, hard day.
Go home to your lady.
Find a way to comfort her.
There is but one way to do that.
Before you speak, I wish to apologise.
Samuel did not know me...
He's so young.
No, he did not know me, and now he never will.
Well, there is yet hope.
-There is no hope. There is none!
-Listen... Listen to me!
Today I attended upon my Lord Melville at his most particular request.
-What can Melville want from you?
-The government fear our use of the Picton trial
to expose the true conditions of our colonies to public view.
Powerful personal interests are at work against that.
If I oblige them by keeping my argument narrow, to Calderon...
You are promised Samuel.
You would become Melville's creature entirely. You cannot.
How can I not?
I do not permit it.
The decision is mine and mine alone and I have made it.
Nothing in my life can take precedence
over your interest in a matter so very close to your heart.
I am resolved.
My very best compliments, Madam.
I am glad to see you, I will not say looking well...
but looking better.
Indeed, Miss Calderon. Today you are before me again.
You may not talk to our witness!
Don't piss yourself this time.
Come away, Miss Calderon.
Good day to you, Mr Garrow.
So, Melville, will he serve?
If not provoked.
What's this? What have you done?
Do your duty...
We will look to him.
< Mr Garrow?
Gentlemen, here you shall hear a thing almost beyond credence.
That the governor of our colonial dependency Trinidad
has abused the situation to which he was raised, and disgraced the country to which he belongs
by inflicting torture on a young woman merely to gratify his tyrannical disposition.
Luisa Calderon was a domestic in the house of Pedro Ruiz.
A quantity of money was stolen, and as night follows day,
suspicion was cast upon the convenient servant girl.
But she most inconveniently and steadfastly maintained her innocence
until at length the examining magistrate considered his present powers were at an end,
and resorted to General Picton to supply the deficiency.
General Picton obliged.
Here is his authority, written in his own hand,
in the language of the island.
"Appliquez la question a Luisa Calderon."
"Inflict the torture on Luisa Calderon."
Who let us be clear, is a British subject.
My Lord, I call Luisa Calderon.
You must rest, sir.
My life, in days...
mind first, body next,
It's all one.
Miss Calderon, for how many days did you refuse to confess to the crime of which you were accused?
And what then happened?
The jailer, Vallot...
..put his hand upon me.
I mean, I was put to the torture.
Pray describe to the court what then happened to you.
The wrist of my right hand was bound to a rope
connected to a pulley.
My left hand tied to my right ankle.
Will I show you?
I was raised into the air.
Suspended, and my foot lowered on to the spike.
Spike? By spike you mean...
One like this?
for how long were you tortured, that is to say,
how long was each session of torture?
I have been told it was more than an hour.
And did General Picton spectate upon the torture that he devised?
And when you were put upon the picket the next day?
Again... Every single minute of my torment.
Until I was again insensible.
Did you confess?
Yet you were held for eight months, without trial.
Pray describe to the court the conditions in...that prison chamber.
And yet there you stayed, in fetters,
daily to witness the place of torture,
expecting it to be resumed at any moment.
And still you did not confess?
I did not.
With my Lord's permission, I would ask Miss Calderon to show the jury
the lasting effects of the torture and the confinement.
Have you seen Mr Vallot?
Now... "Miss" Calderon.
You have said that you were a domestic in the house of Ruiz.
Did you not live in a state of prostitution with him?
Speak true now.
I was promised marriage!
During your imprisonment, is it not also true that you shared the last favour,
or perhaps in your case, the first of favours, with the jailer Vallot?
Under oath now!
Was this to increase your comforts during imprisonment?
It was not mere comfort... it was survival!
So you are a prostitute, are you not?
Men have always...
What...have they always done?
This is all I've had. No education...
No fine suit of clothes, no silver tongue.
An elaborate yes.
You laid with Ruiz at the same time as indulging
in a criminal intercourse with the negro Gonzalez,
with whom of course you also lay, and who stole the money?
I did not know he stole the money.
So you admit the man?
Is it not the truth, "Miss" Calderon...
..that you are a whore, a thief and a liar?
Is it possible that we are to take the word of such a person
against the word of a distinguished servant of the crown?
Hear, hear. >
You say you were induced to go to the house of Ruiz by promise of marriage.
Why not marriage at once?
I was too young.
How old were you?
Too young to marry...
but not too young to be put in the bed of an old man.
..if a man likes a negress, he buys her from her owner.
If he likes a mulatta...
he buys her from her mother. I was sold.
The word "prostitute" is harsh, I think, for those circumstances, gentlemen.
I must see him...
I swear by Almighty God to tell the truth,
the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Is it true that Miss Calderon was kept in the jail for eight months?
So I was told.
She was one amongst many in that place of nightmare.
And you saw the instrument of her torture. Is this it?
It was but a small part of the horrors inflicted in that place.
As...recorded in the prison documents.
No more questions, my Lord.
My Lord, grave news of Mr Southouse.
Mr Silvester, I find the need to consult
on a matter of Trinidad law.
Out of my way!
Yes, it's William.
Come to take your leave of an old friend?
My leave? Certainly not.
Take heart, Mr Southouse, there is always hope.
It is gaol fever, Will. He has known for weeks.
My wise old friend, hmm?
I cannot begin...
Do you remember how generous you were, Mr Southouse,
to that...callow young man so sorely in need of your good wisdom
and your quiet affection to guide him?
How liberally you gave it both.
And how much you are...
loved for it in return.
I hope you have considered me a creditable pupil.
when you are honest...
What did they...buy you with?
"Fiat justitia ruat caelum."
"May justice be done though the heavens fall."
You will watch him?
Perhaps he will speak with me again.
CHATTER AND BUSTLE OF CROWD
Mr Vallot, you have been a wicked man.
I only did what I was told.
Without once speaking out against it.
But you are fortunate,
because you still have the opportunity to do so
and perhaps your God...
..he might still listen.
Life goes on, I see.
It's a mighty machine, Will.
It stops for no-one.
How is your old friend?
Ah. Sad indeed.
Will you proceed?
Are you able?
I am. As ever.
You will remember our arrangement?
Who is that man?
Pedro Vallot, my Lord.
Gaoler, executioner and torturer of Trinidad, whom I now call.
Garrow will be...Garrow.
Was this, the note written in General Picton's own hand,
the instrument that gave you authority to examine Luisa Calderon?
Please read it to the court.
"Appliquez la question a Luisa Calderon."
GASPS OF ASTONISHMENT
And does this describe truly your part in inflicting that agony on that lady?
Miss Calderon has described for two succeeding days
she was tormented in that same manner until she was insensible.
-MUTTERING FROM CROWD
-At which point you let her down. Is that so?
God forgive me.
Please answer the question.
Please answer the question.
I administered all the General's punishments.
And how much were you paid?
Mr Vallot, you are drunk, are you not?
It is the only condition in which I can endure what I have done.
Yes, one must be able to live with what one has done.
I am obliged to inform you that Mr John Southouse, Attorney, has gone.
When a good man dies, so much dies with him.
Not the goodness, I hope.
We have great need of that in this place.
We who held him in such respect and regard should demonstrate it now.
What other work did the General pay you for, in His Majesty's name?
Is this relevant?
Mostly, though others too. Mulattos. Even whites of the lower sort.
Ear-cropping, how much for that?
Five shillings for a slave, seven for a free man.
Or woman. Lip cropping?
So they could not protect their eyes from the sun and dust?
So they go blind.
How many hangings?
126 at 15 shillings.
126 at 15 shillings?
Mostly slaves. Some of those were burned.
30 shillings for each burning.
11... No, no...
13 of burnings.
And pray describe to the court those dreadful crimes
which merited those punishments, for dreadful they must have been.
Walking alone after church.
Suspicion of plotting rebellion.
Suspicion of poisoning cattle.
Suspicion of witchcraft. Suspicion...
Of anything that wandered into the General's mind at breakfast.
General Picton, how do you characterise the state of the colony
when you assumed the governorship?
Perilous. That territory was but recently acquired by The Crown.
A campaign in which you served with distinction.
It has been said.
What does perilous mean to a man of proven military worth
and recognised personal valour such as yourself?
Following the conquest when our navy had retired, French, American
and Spanish privateers returned in great numbers.
Not to mention the common pirates that stalked the surrounding waters
like sea wolves. Raiding our shipping and our shores at will.
And the island itself?
In a sorry state.
A hotbed of crime and sedition amongst the civil population.
Near-rebellion, inflamed by voodoo witchcraft amongst the blacks.
With such poor means and materials at my command,
an unyielding regime was necessary to restore order.
You faced an onerous duty, sir. We may wonder how you fared.
What was the condition of the island
when you handed over to the civilian authority led by Mr Fullerton,
a mere three years later?
Pacified and productive.
And was everything that brought about this remarkable transformation
done at your express authority?
It was and I take full responsibility for all, without reserve.
Thank you. M'lord.
You take full responsibility for all measures that Mr Vallot executed?
You are proud of your achievement?
I believe I have that right.
Though Fullerton there weeps for it like the proverbial crocodile.
Proud of torture?
If you speak of that woman, it was but a slight torture.
She has exaggerated in play for your entertainment.
You call the sufferings of that lady slight?
The one that you abused most cruelly, most unmanfully and dishonourably.
If she had been a lady, it might be so.
All I see is hot, brown meat in a white cloth.
My Lord, I beg the court's forgiveness.
General Picton is a simple soldier and moved to rough words
when his honour is traduced.
He will watch his words in my court!
This lady is a British citizen, entitled to British justice.
is a tuppeny-ha'penny mulatta whore who lay with a sambo,
and helped him steal her white master's gold.
She was entitled to what she got, and the rope she 'scaped.
The island was teeming with half-breed criminal scum like her.
-Harsh measures were needed to keep them in order.
-And the Africans?
There were, are, thousands upon thousands of them.
Every last manjack and missy inflamed to rebellion by native witchcrafters
and gentlemen of fashionable radical opinion such as yourself!
Inflamed perhaps by your measures.
Do you know what a slave rebellion is like?
On San Domingo not one white woman 'scaped rape then butchery.
Babies skewered on pikes and carried as standards.
Beasts, who must be tamed to strict obedience!
Which you did?
Which I did.
And secured for this country a most profitable possession.
Does a colony exist solely
for our convenience, as a source of wealth?
For what else?
As a place where the common notions of justice do not apply?
They cannot apply!
Where any and all measures are justified
if they lead to our general enrichment?
Measures including, I quote further from the compendious
records of your proud governorship, including...
"Drowning in sacks like dogs.
"Crucifying on planks. Burying alive.
"Flaying with the lash then tossed on dungheaps...
"..to be devoured alive by worms and insects."
Six men burned to death, not in your usual humane manner,
but with sulphur about their heads.
Burning sulphur was placed about their heads as a means of execution?
And all to pave the streets of Bristol and Liverpool,
and put the sugar in our cake and the coffee in our cup?
The record of my period of office...
Speaks for itself.
Today, sir, you are in a place where the common notions of justice do apply.
And are demanded by this lady, for herself, and for all the others
that you have tormented and murdered with your diabolical brutality.
The beast in Trinidad, sir, is you.
It is you who must be tamed.
Gentlemen of the jury, you will consider your verdict.
How say you, how do you find the defendant?
Guilty, my Lord.
Damn you, Garrow... and your friends.
Sentence is set aside until proper consultation
with the appropriate authorities has been concluded.
Court shall rise.
What will his sentence be?
Most of our government, including Mr Pitt himself,
have plantations in the West Indies.
Picton will go free.
I must find some other means to come at him.
No-one won here today, madam. But there was a kind of justice.
What now? Trinidad?
It's easier with friends. There's a shop I know...
There's a shop?
I tell you Master George, that the manager at Drury Lane
has indicated the possibility of an offer.
Then I might expect to see you on the stage?
And off it, perhaps.
What goes here?
You may go. Lady Henrietta and I have something to discuss.
Well? Come for more of your husband's property?
I've come for my son.
You know you are prevented from him, madam. His father says this.
The Court of Chancery says this.
And yet, I will have him still.
There is a higher court than Chancery, madam.
I answer to that. So do you.
CROWD: Fox, Fox!
It is a murder, Mr Garrow, of a gentleman struck down on voting day.
Even if Sarah is run to France with the boy, I will pursue her.
And I will bring an end to this.
When a man was killed in your unjust war,
you twisted your efforts so an innocent man would hang.
I came to support a man who toils
because he recognises a fellow innocent.
Sir, I'm no fist-fighting man.
But neither am I a man whose obligations can be deflected by blows or threats.
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Garrow is confronted with an impossible choice: to expose British colonial brutality in open court, or to re-unite Lady Sarah with her son. The dangerously ill Southouse intervenes, and Garrow is forced to decide. Love or honour? It cannot be both.