Wall, Joseph (DNB00)

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WALL, JOSEPH (1737–1802), governor of Goree, born in Dublin in 1737, was a son of Garrett Wall of Derryknavin, near Abbeyleix in Queen's County, who is described as 'a respectable farmer on Lord Knapton's estates.' At the age of fifteen Joseph Wall was entered at Trinity College, Dublin, but preferred an active career to the life of a student; and about the beginning of 1760, having entered the army as a cadet, he volunteered for foreign service. He distinguished himself at the capture of Havana in 1762, and at the peace returned with the rank of captain. He next obtained an appointment under the East India Company, in whose service he spent some time at Bombay. In 1773 he was appointed secretary and clerk of the council in Senegambia, where he was imprisoned by Macnamara, the lieutenant-governor, for a military offence, with circumstances of great cruelty. He afterwards obtained 1,000l. damages by a civil action. After his release he returned to Ireland ' to hunt for an heiress.' He found one in the person of a Miss Gregory whom he met at an inn on his father's estate. But he pressed his suit 'in a style so coercive' that she prosecuted him for assault and defamation, and 'succeeded in his conviction and penal chastisement.' Wall had some time previously killed an intimate friend in one of his frequent 'affairs of honour,' and he now transferred himself to England. He divided himself between London and the chief watering-places, spending his time in gaming and amorous intrigues. At length, finding himself in embarrassed circumstances, he in 1779 procured through interest the lieutenant-governorship of Senegal or Goree, as it was generally called, with the colonelcy of a corps stationed there. Goree was the emporium of West African trade; but the governorship was not coveted, not only because the climate was bad, but on account of the garrison being composed of mutinous troops sent thither for punishment, and recruited from the worst classes. On the voyage out Wall had a man named Paterson so severely flogged that he died from the effects. The occurrence is said to have so affected his brother, Ensign Patrick Wall, as to have hastened his death, which took place soon after he reached Goree.

After having been governor and superintendent of trade for rather more than two years, Wall's health gave way, and he prepared to leave the colony. On 10 July 1782 a deputation of the African corps, who had been for some time on a short allowance, waited on the governor and the commissary to ask for a settlement. It was headed by a sergeant named Benjamin Armstrong. Wall, who appears to have been in liquor, caused the man to be arrested on a charge of mutiny, and a parade to be formed. He then, without holding a court-martial, ordered him to be flogged by black slaves, which was contrary to military practice. Armstrong received eight hundred lashes, and died from the effects some hours afterwards. On Wall's return to England several charges of cruelty were laid against him by a Captain Roberts, one of his officers, and he was brought before the privy council and a court-martial; but the charges were for the time allowed to drop, as the ship in which the witnesses were returning was believed to have been lost. He then retired to Bath. Afterwards, upon the arrival of the principal witnesses, two messengers were sent to bring him to London, but Wall escaped from them at Reading, and thence to the continent. A proclamation offering a reward of 200l. for his apprehension was issued on 8 March 1784. He spent the succeeding years in France and Italy, living under an assumed name. In France he was received into the best society, and was 'universally allowed an accomplished scholar and a man of great science.' He frequented especially the Scots and Irish colleges at Paris, and is even said to have served in the French army. He ventured one or two visits to England and Scotland, during one of which he was married. In 1797 he came to live in England, having apparently a 'distant intention' of surrendering himself. On 28 Oct. 1801 he wrote to the home secretary, Lord Pelham, offering to stand his trial, and was soon after arrested at a house in Upper Thornhaugh Street, Bedford Square, where he was living with his wife under the name of Thompson.

Wall was tried for the murder of Armstrong on 20 Jan. 1802 at the Old Bailey by a special commission, presided over by Chief-baron Sir Archibald Macdonald. Wall, himself addressed the court, but had the assistance of Newman Knowlys, afterwards recorder of London, and John (subsequently Baron) Gurney, in examining and cross-examining witnesses. The chief evidence for the prosecution was given by the doctor and orderly-sergeant who were on duty during Armstrong's punishment. All the officers had died. The evidence was not shaken in any material point, and the charge of mutiny was not sustained. Wall declared that the prejudice against him in 1784 had been too strong to afford him assurance at that time of a fair trial; that the charges then made against him had been disproved, and that the one relating to Armstrong came as a surprise to him. The trial lasted from 9 A.M. till eleven at night, and resulted in a verdict of 'guilty.' After having been twice respited, he was ordered for execution on Thursday, 28 Jan. Great efforts to obtain a pardon were vainly made by his wife's relative, Charles Howard, tenth duke of Norfolk [q. v.], and the privy council held several deliberations on the case. His fate was probably decided by the apprehension that, in the temper of the public, it would be unwise to spare an officer condemned for brutality to his soldiers while almost contemporaneously sailors were being executed at Spithead for mutiny against their officers. At eight o'clock, when Wall appeared from his cell in Newgate, he was received with three shouts by an immense crowd who had assembled to witness the carrying out of the sentence. The event is said to have excited more public interest than any of a similar character since the death of Mrs. Brownrigg, and in case of a pardon a riot was even apprehended. The body was only formally dissected, and, having been handed over to his family, was buried in St. Pancras Church. Wall left several children by his wife Frances, fifth daughter of Kenneth Mackenzie, lord Fortrose (afterwards Earl of Seaforth). He was six feet four inches in height, and of 'a genteel appearance.' Mr. F. Danby Palmer had in his possession a drinking-horn, bearing on one side a carved representation of the punishment of Armstrong, in which a label issuing from Wall's mouth attributes to him a barbarous exhortation to the flogger, and on the reverse a descriptive inscription. Evans mentions a portrait by an unknown artist (Cat. Engr. Portraits, 22456).

Wall had a brother Augustine, who served with him in the army till the peace of 1763, and afterwards went to the Irish bar. He died about 1780 in Ireland. He is described as 'a very polished gentleman of great literary acquirements,' whose productions in prose and verse were 'highly spoken of for their classical elegance and taste;' but his chief title to remembrance was the fact of his having been the first who published parliamentary reports with the full names of the speakers.

[An Authentic Narrative of the Life of Joseph Wall, Esq., late Governor of Goree, to which is annexed a Faithful and Comprehensive Account of his Execution, 2nd edit. 1802, was written by 'a Military Officer,' who describes himself as an intimate of the family. See also State Trials, 1802-3, pp. 51-178 (from Gurney's shorthand notes); Trial of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Wall, 1802 (from shorthand notes of Messrs. Blanchard and Ramsey); Manual of Military Law, 1894, pp. 194-5, 206-8; Browne's Narratives of State Trials, 1882, i. 28-42; Trial of Governor Wall, published by Fred Farrall (1867?), described as 'the only edition extant,' with some additional preliminary information; Gent. Mag. 1802, i. 81; European Mag. 1802, i. 74, 154; Ann. Reg. 1802, Append, to Chron. pp. 560-8; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. viii. 438, 6th ser. viii. 208, 9th ser. ii. 129; Georgian Era, ii. 466.]

G. Le G. N.