A Bridge to Nowhere.

Thomas Bridge needed this

I have been meditating a lot on the proceedings of the court case I have chosen on Thomas Bridge and I have come to two conclusions:

1)   Drinking a pint of Gin (no matter what century you are in) is a terrible idea with terrible outcomes.

2)   People still do not know how to use their cutlery properly.

The second point is because I have yet to figure out how to dice onions fast enough to avoid crying like a small child, much like Mr. Bridge could not eat breakfast without stabbing his wife in the chest.

But I digress.

The Thomas Bridge case deals with a lot of witness accounts, to be very precise, 11 different witness accounts on: the scene of the crime, the night of June the 4th, the morning of June the 5th, Elizabeth Bridge and Thomas Bridge himself.  Most of the witnesses consisted of Bridge’s associates, a shop owner, the constable who brought in the prisoner and the coroner who examined Elizabeth Bridge.

Now, each witness account is not so much individually different as…the exact same story with slightly varying details or points of view.

Take for example the account of John Thomas; one of the witnesses who saw Bridge before the morning of the murder. Thomas describes Bridge as being “much in Liquor” which I deduced to mean, “being very drunk”. Again, you may be wondering how this is relevant to the case, besides obscuring one’s sound and moral judgment.  The phrase “being much in Liquor” is relevant because it was repeated not once, not twice, not thrice but 7 times (twice by Sarah Miller) to describe Bridge’s demeanor.

I take suspect to this little detail for this reason: the judge and jury had to hear 6 different witnesses say that Thomas Bridge “was much in the Liquor” 7 different times in order to determine that yes, he was a bit drunk. I understand that these court proceedings were quite thorough in the 18th century but to study this case in GREAT detail I have figured out what details are important to the case and what details are relevant but do not need to be repeated 7 TIMES. Really though the last witness, Sarah Miller had to reiterated this fact specifically, when asked how Thomas Bridge was acting “Very brisk; – but he was in Liquor”.

Which brings me to my next point: Thomas Bridge’s defense. This, has to be, the worst drunken explanation of how someone “accidentally” murdered they’re wife I have ever read. The worst part is, Bridge sticks with this story when he defends himself on the stand and I am fairly certain that you aren’t allowed to be drunk in court even in the 18th century.

Bridge’s first account was retold by John Wilsted (witness); the first of the witnesses to see John after the murder and hear his story.

“The Prisoner, on the 5th of June, came to me, and told me, that his Wife was murdered, and that he had stabbed her in the Breast with a Knife, and that she was dead. I asked him if his Wife was dead? He said yes, and lay dead on the Floor.”

Right at the very beginning of the story, he admits to Wilsted that he murdered his wife and told Wilsted what he did in details…and then continues.

“He told me, he was eating a Piece of Bread and Cheese, and held his Knife against his Breast; with the Point outwards, and she flew at him in a violent Passion, and stabbed the Knife into her Breast.”

For the sake of clarification, Bridge confessed to eating his breakfast while his wife ran herself through on his knife. If it wasn’t for the fact that this case is accessible through the Old Bailey website I would not believe that any human being could possible make up a story like Bridge’s story; let alone present it in front of a judge and jury.  Of course it is more extraordinary that Bridge’s sticks to his alcohol inspired story in court and more incredible that he expects people to believe it.

And who eats like that?

With the Thomas Bridge case, the sense of unnecessary repetition and over zealous attention to detail is overwhelming. I find myself both amused and angry because of how obvious the evidence points to Thomas being the murderer. Which causes me to pause…

What I think I have to understand is the context in which Bridge’s case falls under and I think context gives way to better understanding what I may deem as an excruciating and needless attention to a man who is clearly the guilty.  I think about what I know about the role of women in the 18th century, and I think about how a judge and jury may view the murder of a woman in comparison to say the murder of a man or a child. 18th century women were, in essence, property of the men they were tied to; whether they were their fathers, brother or husbands essentially women were just another piece of property to be sold, bought, traded or exchanged.

This changes the flavor of the whole court proceedings. Instead of being a really annoying tedious bureaucratic process it is now a really REALLY annoying bureaucratic process. The Thomas Bridge case seems more like an excuse to draw out the fact that the Bridge was obvious a drunk, obviously not very bright and obviously someone who is guilty but yet the judge, jury and the court found different ways to draw out the proceedings to, give Bridge an out?

If you read the proceedings in close details, you can almost visualize the faces of each witness as they say repeatedly things like “I am sorry I  don’t have so much to say against him” (George Reader) and “I never heard any Ill of either of them” (John Thomas) that give Thomas Bridge a sort of sensible demeanour except that we have just heard their accounts on what a drunk Bridge is. I think this is the most infuriating and ridiculous detail about the entire court proceedings; they are looking for an excuse to let him of the hook. It is hard for me, a 21st century man, with the weight of my present perspective to read the Bridge case with the historical context behind it but this case (no matter what century) is open and shut.

And do you know what detail tip the scales for the judge and jury to find Bridge guilty? The one thing they could not let slip?

“After my Wife had received the Wound, she fell from me; I withdrew the Knife, and put it into the Sheath, and clapp’d it into the Bosom of my Waistcoat.” (Thomas Bridge)

“One would think it more natural for the Prisoner to have dropp’d the Knife, after the Accident, than to have put it first into the Sheath, and then into his Bosom.” (Jury)

“It was as quickly put there as any where.” (Bridge)

It wasn’t the ridiculous story, it wasn’t that many of the witnesses saw how drunk Bridge was, it wasn’t the obvious blood that drenched Bridge’s body and clothing or that he changed out of the bloody clothing or that no one eats with their knife resting on their chest (point out) as they eat. No they thought it was ridiculous that a man would sheath his knife instead of dropping it on the floor after “accidentally” stabbing their wife. I don’t know whose worse, Bridge or the judge and jury.

Thomas Bridge’s case is on of intrigue because of how RIDICULOUS it is, and not because of the actual crime but because this case had to go through court and God knows how long it actually went on for. It also sheds light on how difficult women in the 18th actually had it when it came to justice and rights. A man who clearly murdered his wife and even ADMITTED to doing so had to stand trial with 11 witnesses saying the exact same thing in order to be found guilty. The real tragedy about the Bridge case is how justice for Elizabeth Bridge came only because of a technicality and not because of the obvious evidence.

I would like to say that we have come a long way from this kind of ridiculousness but the truth is we haven’t.

So boys, next time you decide to eat your breakfast in a new and adventurous way, remember! Women tend to stab themselves randomly and enthusiastically.

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2 comments on “A Bridge to Nowhere.

  1. kellyja03 says:

    Ernesto, well there is not much to say here—your trial was awesome! The approach you took was funny and makes your trial stand out from the rest (especially that photo). I liked the way you started, it caught my attention and although I was assigned to read it, I would have kept reading regardless.

    Minus a few misuses of punctuation I did not notice anything I would change to be honest. I loved the approach you took and the trial had me laughing as I was reading it. The links you “hid” in your post were hilarious and it was almost like a scavenger hunt, I was excited to find the next link.

    Overall, a very well-written blog. You have great detail, the content seemed to all be there and an interesting way at looking at the trial. I think it is great how you were able to take what would have been a serious trial of the time and make today’s audience laugh while learning about it. I would definitely recommend others in the class to read your trial.

    Amazing work!

  2. Let me premise my feedback by saying how much fun I had reading your post. Like I mentioned in class last week, I loved your laid-back tone and I thought you did a great job balancing humour, frankness and seriousness. If my comments seem harsh, it’s because I think your writing is good enough to be worth the work. Also, keep in mind that I’m a crazy perfectionist, so some of my suggestions may be over-the-top. It should be pretty clear which ones are essential and which ones are optional so really, you can just go with the ones that work for you.

    Let’s start with the most basic stuff. There were a couple homophone/typo issues that I noticed throughout your piece. If you have trouble finding them, I also printed off a copy and wrote in my corrections. I’ll bring it to class on Tuesday and you can have it if you want it. Specifically, I noticed a “they’re” that should have been a “their,” an “of” instead of an “off” and a “whose” that should have been a “who’s.” Also, go over your commas, colons and semicolons and make sure you’re using them correctly; you misused them in a couple places. The other issue with punctuation was your use of ellipses (e.g. “…”). I checked a couple different style guides and they all suggest different presentations of the ellipse, so have a look over those and go with the recommendations that make the most sense to you. In my opinion, you should just leave a space between the last dot in the ellipsis and the following word. So rather than “not so much individually different as…the exact same story,” you’d have “not so much individually different as… the exact same story.” That being said, I admit that the proofreader for my word-processor doesn’t like the way I use ellipses, so you’ll have to make your own call. Finally, make sure all your punctuation is correctly placed relative to nearby quotation marks; there were a couple issues with that as well.

    In terms of more advanced style advice, I’d recommend spelling out any numbers that aren’t dates or times. That means you’d say “eleven different witness accounts” rather than “11” and “not once, not twice, not thrice, but seven times” instead of “7 times.” The change is especially important when you’re using once/twice/thrice because the change to 7 is jarring; you have to use seven for the sake of consistency. The other change I’d recommend is using bold or italics when you want to emphasize a word rather than all-caps. That way, you get emphasis without sounding like you’re suddenly shouting. If you REALLY (imagine that is in bold and italicized) want to emphasize something, you can use bold and italics at the same time, or, to go all-out, bold, italics and caps-lock. You can conjure up a whole range of tones this way, giving a ton of variety and authenticity to your relaxed presentation of the case. Finally, please have a really careful look over your grammar, mechanics and word choice. I found your sentence structure confusing in a couple places. There were some redundant or confusing expressions like “individually different,” “the exact same” and “traded or exchanged.” You’ll have to change “I take suspect to” because you just can’t use the word suspect that way. I’d recommend “take issue with,” “I am suspicious of” or “I find this little detail suspicious.”

    Okay, now for the important stuff. Your paragraphs were structured mostly for phrasing, so make sure that you’re still using them to communicate a unified idea. Also in terms of structure, your analysis and presentation are interwoven and your argument makes itself, rather than you hitting the reader over the head with it, which I really, really like. Just make sure your structure creates a smooth, gradual build toward the argument that the court was biased in Bridge’s favour because he was a man and try not to get distracted along the way.

    Wow, I can’t believe how long this is. I’m… Sorry? I hope it’s helpful and not harsh.

    – Kathleen

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