215 : At Odds with the Legal System 1892, 1895

A challenge to civil rights was seen at a coroner’s inquest in Poplar, London, on 2 January 1892 [Daily News (London), 4 January 1892; Standard (London), 4 January 1892, p 4]. An area near both the West India and the East India Docks, it would have seen numerous Victorian sailors. A juror objected to another juror, saying ‘He is not a native of this country, and has no right here’ for he was coloured. The coroner said the man would be as likely as any other juror to do justice to the case, and the foreman of the jury said the man ‘is under the British flag and can fulfil the duties of a British subject, and he has a perfect right to sit here. (Hear hear.) The Juror: No he has not. I protest against it’. The man told the coroner he had lived in England for sixteen years and had married in England adding ‘I am not sitting here from choice, but of necessity’. The coroner and the foreman said the man should not be insulted. Later the jury was thanked by the coroner who ‘particularly thanked the man of colour for his services’. The story was also published in Liverpool, Belfast, Worcester and Cardiff newspapers.

At Stockport in 1895 a man named Charles Stewart had the vote which the Conservatives objected to saying he was an alien. Investigations uncovered that Stewart a ‘coloured man’ of Wellcroft Street had been born near the Niagara Falls in Ontario (Canada) and was the son of a Canadian Indian. He was thus British by birth and entitled to vote [Berrow’s Worcester Journal, 28 September 1895, p 6].