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The Story of the Lunar Rogue

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On May 4, 1814, the trial of Henry More Smith began. Spectators arrived from all over the country and witnesses had come from around the province and as far away as Nova Scotia. At 11:00 am, his Honour Judge Saunders and the Attorney General, Thomas Wetmore, arrived from Fredericton and at 1:00 pm, the whole court moved in procession to the courthouse.

Sheriff Bates, in his book “the Mysterious Stranger”, provides this description of the opening courtroom scene. “…The prisoner was called to the bar. The jailer and four constables brought him and placed him in the criminal’s box. He made no resistance, nor took any notice of the court and, as usual, acted the fool or the madman, snapping his fingers and patting his hands; he hem’d and ho’d, took off his shoes and socks, tore his shirt. Every eye was fixed on him with wonder and astonishment.”

The Lunar Rogue stood silent, paying no attention to the Judge as he asked if the prisoner’s plea was guilty or not guilty. Receiving no response, Judge Saunders directed the Sheriff to empanel a jury to, “inquire whether the prisoner at the bar stood mute wilfully and obstinately or by the visitation of God”. Since the evidence showed Henry had been in this state for three months “during which time he could not be surprised into the utterance of one word”, the jury found that the prisoner stood mute by the visitation of God and a plea of not guilty was entered on Henry’s behalf.

Had they paid admission, the spectators could not have hoped for a better opening act for the show that was only just beginning in the crowded courtroom.