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May 1 1857

The Staffield Manslaughter

Character of Henry Graham

To the Editor of the Carlisle Journal

Sir – a report has gained circulation in the northern counties, and in some quarters has been believed, to the effect that in the late case of manslaughter at Eden Banks, Henry Graham was suspected in his own neighbourhood of being “the principal criminal” but possessed sufficient influence with his brother to induce him to take the whole weight of guilt upon himself.

You have not, so far as I am aware, assisted in the propagation of this absurd and mischievous rumour; yet, some week ago, you erroneously described Henry as a “notorious poacher” and again, as “a youth who worked bits and poached bits.” In this respect you have been misinformed; and as you would not insert any incorrect statement with a view of doing an intentional wrong, you will, I trust, readily publish this, my refutation of the error. I venture to hope, however, that in the case of an innocent and injured person, you will at the same time enable me, as the minister of the parish to which he belongs, and as the landowner in whose employment he has served, to give to the more serious rumour, to which I first referred, the most public and the most emphatic contradiction.

Upon the discovery of the fatal result of the encounter last November, no one whatever in this parish or neighbourhood suspected Henry Graham of having been concerned in the gamekeeper’s death. No one could possibly have supposed so who had been acquainted with his previous character.

As Henry was in my employment during a great part of last year, up to the time of his apprehension, I can speak with confidence on this point, and can declare without hesitation that no one could have been more steady, more upright and more industrious than he was at the same time that he was exceedingly quiet and inoffensive.

From persons who have resided here all their lives, I find that he has been of a peaceful disposition from a child.

Evidence to this purport would have been tendered by me at the last assizes if it had been required; and, in giving it, I should have been supported by many of the most esteemed and trustworthy of my parishioners.

The only part which Henry took, in reference to the late fatal struggle, was the hiding of a gun stock on his brother’s behalf. Which of Henry’s prosecutors would not have done the same thing for a brother under similar circumstances? Yet, for this affair, he was committed for trial, detained in prison nearly the whole winter and, when the assizes came on, was discharged, the case not being considered worth bringing into court.

This lengthened imprisonment, if it was intended to injure Henry’s character and to destroy his prospects for life, has had precisely the opposite result. Upon his return to the parish, so far from being received and treated with suspicion, and with slight, his services were sought by farmers of the highest respectability, and had had more applications for them that he could satisfy, for I have re-engaged him with the feeling that his character is unimpaired, and without any diminution of the confidence with which I have always regarded him.

I am, Sir, yours very obediently,

A M Wilson MA

Vicar of Ainstable

Ainstable Vicarage Penrith April 27th 1857.