John Bellingham

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Recollect, Gentlemen, what was my situation. Recollect that my family was ruined and myself destroyed, merely because it was Mr Perceval's pleasure that justice should not be granted; sheltering himself behind the imagined security of his station, and trampling upon law and right in the belief that no retribution could reach him. I demand only my right, and not a favour; I demand what is the birthright and privilege of every Englishman
~ Bellingham at his trial

John Bellingham (1769-1812) was a British former banker who assassinated prime minister Spencer Perceval.

Biography

According relatives, Bellingham was born in St Neots at some point in 1769, brought up in London and apprenticed to a tailor when he was fourteen. However, they claimed he did not stay in this position and instead became midshipman on the ship the Hartwell, which ran aground after a mutiny occurred. Bellingham's life from this point until about 1800 is unknown, although records show that a "John Bellingham" was declared bankrupt after a business enterprise failed in 1794, and that a "John Bellingham" worked in a counting house in the 1790s.

In about 1800, Bellingham began working as an imports and exports agent in Arkhangelsk. In 1803 Bellingham's boss, Soloman Van Brienen, sabotaged his boat in order to claim insurance money. Bellingham discovered this and leaked it to the insurance company, who refused to pay up. Enraged, Van Brienen told the Governor-General of Arkhangelsk that Bellingham failed to pay a debt of 4890 roubles, resulting in his imprisonment. After Bellingham was released, he went to St Petersburg to try and have the Governor-General impeached, only to be imprisoned again for "departing Arkhangelsk in a clandestine manner".

Bellingham returned to Britain in 1809, and began attempting to claim compensation. However, prime minister Spencer Perceval denied his request both times as Russia and Britain were no longer allies so the British government could not be held responsible. Bellingham refused to accept this and, on the 11th of May 1812, Bellingham approached Perceval as he was leaving the house of commons and shot him in the heart. Bellingham then placed his gun on the ground and sat on a bench until the police arrived and arrested him.

At Bellingham's trial four days later, he argued that he was justified in killing Perceval as he was the representative of his oppressors who wouldn't give him justice, then pleaded insanity. However, both arguments were brushed aside by judge James Mansfield, who sentenced Bellingham to death.

John Bellingham was hanged on the 18th of May, 1812.