This broadside letter begins: 'SIR, ACCORDING to your desire, I have sent you an Account of the lamentable Catastrophe, which happen'd on Thursday the 9th of May instant, which has filled all the Kingdom with an universal Regret; and this Part of it with the utmost Grief and Confusion imaginable; which is to be seen in the Faces of young and old, all over the Country; the fact is as follows . . .' Although no publication details are listed, the date on the letter itself is given as the 16th of May, 1728.
This broadside tells of the tragic end that befell the Earl of Strathmore, in 1728. The letter writer describes the awful death of the Earl as a terrible accident, and reports that he was killed while trying to break up a fight that occurred outside a tavern, following a drunken wake. However, Carnegie of Finhaven, the man whose blow killed the Earl, was tried for his murder in a famous trial. Defended by Robert Dundas, the case became famous not only for its sensational content, but also because it resumed the right of Scottish juries to 'judge a case not only by the naked facts, but of the facts and the law conjunctively'. Thanks to this reassertion of ancient Scottish rights, a verdict of not proven was returned.
Broadsides are single sheets of paper, printed on one side, to be read unfolded. They carried public information such as proclamations as well as ballads and news of the day. Cheaply available, they were sold on the streets by pedlars and chapmen. Broadsides offer a valuable insight into many aspects of the society they were published in, and the National Library of Scotland holds over 250,000 of them.
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