April 29, 2021
Whole Number 63
WHO WAS THE THOMAS SPARKS WHO WAS FINED $23.00 IN DECEMBER 1816
THE MOUTH OF THE KENTUCKY RIVER
BY AN INTOXICATED JUDGE AND JURY?
(Editor's Note: The following document has been preserved among the papers of Kentucky's Governor Gabriel Slaughter in the Kentucky Historical Society's library in Frarikfort. At present, we know nothing more about this Thomas Sparks than what he reveals about himself in this document. He was obviously in the prime of life in 1816, judging from the manner in which he cleared his keel boat of a party of "disorderly men." Any clues regarding his identity will be appreciated.)
To his Excellency The Governor of Kentucky
Your Petitioner, Thomas Sparks, respectfully showeth that on the 3rd day of December 1816 when at the mouth of the river Kentucky, and having the command of a keel boat laden with salt, several disorderly men came on board from the Town of Port William, and behaved themselves indecently towards your Petitioner who with mildness requested them to leave his boat being then about to ascend the river. The men premptorily refused and with threats and very opprobrious language abused and insulted your Petitioner, who in consequence of their refusal was compelled to use force to clear his said boat of the said turbulent men; it is true your Petitioner did strike some of the said men, but was compelled threto by the outrageous conduct of the said men and to maintain the rightful and undisturbed occupancy of the said boat. Your Petitioner further represents to your Excellency that immediately afterwards he was arrested by a warrant from a Mr. Samuel Turner, a Justice of the Peace living in the said Town under the authority of the Act of Assembly against Riots routs &c. That your Petitioner was brought to his trial before the said Samuel Turner and a Jury of twelve men selected for that purpose - - that at the time of the said trial not only the said Samuel Turner, the Justice, but a majority of the Jury men chosen and summoned by the officer of the said Justice, was very much intoxicated by spirituous liquor, so as to render them totally incompetent to Judge of the case or to decide correctly, your Petitioner being a stranger. The intemperate Justice and his intemperate Jurors intemperately adjudged your Petitioner to pay a fine of $20 & costs amounting in all to $23, a Judgment which your Petitioner considers to.be oppressive & unjust. Your Petitioner is well advised that the laws of his government ought strictly to be observed, and that the delinquent should be punished, but the guilt of the accused should be made manifest by sober testimony before a temperate and upright Judge and a Jury whose minds were not bewildered and disordered by the intemperate use of ardent spirits. Your Petitioner states that he has been illegally condemned and adjudged, that the act charged against him when properly explained was such as by the laws of his Government he would be Justified. Your Petitioner does not rely upon his statement alone, he begs the attention of your Excellency to affidavits which accompany his Petition; and resting upon the Judgment and sound discretion of your Excellency, he humbly petitions f or a remission of the said fine, so illegally & unjustly adjudged against him. And as in Duty bound he will ever pray &c.
[signed] Thos. Sparks
December 16th 1816