Document of the Day: By Miriam Van der Molen, Maynooth University Library
Thomas Graham (1838-1905) was a partner in the Belfast wine and spirit business, Keegan Graham and Company, from 1881. The Special Collections and Archives Department at Maynooth University holds various documents concerning Thomas Graham, both as an individual and as a partner in the business. The document that I have chosen to explore is an item from the personal, non-business, section of Thomas Graham’s archival material. It is a document made of vellum, which appointed him as Justice of the Peace for County Down. It was issued by “Nugent Liutaigne Clerk of the Crown and Hanaper and Permanent Secretary to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland”. It is dated 6 January “in the fifty-sixth year of our [Queen Victoria’s] Reign” (i.e. 1893) and measures 600mm x 695mm.
In the first paragraph, Queen Victoria addresses councillors and cousins who have positions of authority in Ireland, such as the Lieutenant General of Ireland, various dukes, earls, marquises, barons and viscounts and others with legal and administrative functions or who were apparently held in esteem for some other reason. The first portion of names is printed, while the second is handwritten. The final name in this list is “Thomas Graham, Esquire, Thornbrook, Bangor, County Down”.
The second paragraph states that those same people, named in the first paragraph, are appointed “Justices to keep our Peace in our County of Down”. The list of names is again partly printed and partly handwritten. This time, the handwritten names very soon begin to only have initials for the honorific titles and first names, presumably to cut down on the already onerous task of writing out the lengthy list of over two hundred names a second time.
The third paragraph states that the Justices of the Peace will uncover the truth, lawfully, about various offences. The offences specifically named are “Treasons, Murders, Manslaughters, Burnings, Unlawful Assemblies, Felonies, Robberies, Witchcrafts, Inchantments [sic], Sorceries, Magic Arts, Trespasses, Forestallings, Regratings, Engrossings and Extortions”, as well as disturbing the peace in different ways. A person could be punished for their offences by “Fines, Ransoms, Amerciaments, Forfeitures, or otherwise”. While the names of most of these offences are understandable today, I looked up the meanings of “forestalling”, “regrating” and “engrossing”, which were all seen as offences against public trade. “Forestalling the market” was the buying of goods on their way to market or stopping traders selling at the market or encouraging traders to raise their prices, all of which could cause a decrease in market competition. “Regrating” and “engrossing” appear to be synonymous with each other in being defined as “buying corn or other dead victuals (i.e. food)” with a view to reselling in the same market. The price would be raised as the person reselling would have to make a profit, and thereby make the food more expensive for the buyer..
A black wax seal is attached by another piece of vellum to the document designating Thomas Graham as Justice of the Peace. It shows the head and upper torso of Queen Victoria, with her head framed by the roof-like peak of the throne on which she is sitting. In her right hand, she is wielding a sceptre, symbolic of authority. The impression on this seal is actually only a detail of the full image of the Great Seal of Queen Victoria. The full seal shows a person to her left and right and also an orb which the Queen is holding in her left hand. This orb, like the sceptre, is part of the royal regalia and symbolises the globe and thereby the monarch power on earth. This authoritative power is conveyed in the wording of the document appointing Thomas Graham a Justice of the Peace.
 ‘Commentaries on the laws of England: Book the fourth’ by William Blackstone, Dublin 1770, page 158.