Examine the case of the prosecution and the defense. Then decide: Which side are you on?

The Coulson Psalm Book

Samuel Coulson was a 26 year old English merchant based at Hitu. When he was tortured, Coulson made a standard confession that he had agreed to join in Towerson’s conspiracy to seize control of the castle. This much was familiar, but as he lay in chains imprisoned on one of the ships in the harbor, awaiting execution, Coulson appears to have scrawled an impassioned declaration of innocence across five unprinted pages of a child’s book, The Catechisme Or Maner to Teach Children the Christian Religion, an English translation of the famous Heidelberg Catechism. Coulson’s psalm book, as it would come to be known, eventually ended up in London, carried by the English survivors of the trial, where it was presented as explosive evidence of their innocence. Dated March 5, that is, just three days before his execution, Coulson’s message explained that he was “clear of all such conspiracy.” For the Prosecution, the psalm book changes nothing. It could have been faked by the English or Coulson could simply have been lying even in the days before his execution. For the Defense, this declaration was clear evidence that there was no plot. Coulsons psalmboek Samuel Coulson was een Engelse handelsman van 26 die was gestationeerd in Hitu. Toen hij werd gemarteld gaf hij de standaard bekentenis dat hij mee zou doen met Towersons samenzwering om het kasteel over te nemen. Dit was bekend, maar toen hij in de boeien geslagen en opgesloten in een van de schepen in de haven lag te wachten op zijn executie, lijkt het erop dat hij een vurig betoog schreef over zijn onschuld op vijf onbedrukte pagina’s van een kinderboek, The Catechisme Or Maner to Teach Children the Christian Religion, een Engelse vertaling van de beroemde Heidelbergse Catechismus. Coulsons psalmboek, zoals het bekend werd, werd meegenomen door Engelse overlevenden van de rechtszaak en belandde uiteindelijk in Londen, waar het werd gepresenteerd als overtuigend bewijs van hun onschuld. Op 5 maart, slechts drie dagen voor de executie, schreef Coulson dat hij ‘niets te maken had met een samenzwering’. Voor de eiser veranderde er niets door het psalmboek. Het kon immers een vervalsing zijn van de Engelsen of Coulson kon zelfs dagen voor de executie simpelweg liegen. Voor de gedaagde was dit betoog duidelijk bewijs dat er geen complot was

The Prosecution

Coulson confessed to his involvement in the plot and duly signed his confession. This is the only document that matters. A secret document that later appeared in London means nothing. If Coulson did in fact write it, there is no way to guarantee that he was telling the truth. It was perfectly possible for even the most guilty of parties to “faine and dissemble at the houre of [their] death." At the same time, this supposed psalm book only surfaced a year later in London. It could have been forged by EIC representatives and there is no way to prove absolutely that it was written by Coulson. We should pay attention to the legal documents generated by the trial and especially to Coulson's actual signed confession. This exhibit is immaterial.
“concerning certain Declarations and Writings of the condemned English before their death where they have protested their innocence and they were judged wrongfully, whereupon by presumption is inferred that it must be true, because it is not to believed that any one was so wicked and impious as to dare to faine and dissemble at the hour of his death.”

The Defense

Coulson's psalm book dismantles the Prosecution's entire case. Coulson was lying in chains ready to be executed. He had no reason to lie and yet here we see him declaring not only his absolute innocence but also that of all the other English merchants executed at Amboyna. Coulson explains that he was savagely tortured, which caused him to give a false confession but as soon as the torture ceased, he declared his absolute innocence. Forced to “confess that I never knew, or else go to torment,” he declared that his confession was entirely fabricated, for he knew no more than a “child unborn of the business.” We need only read his words to know that the Prosecution has no case.
“I, Samuel Colson, late factor of Hitto, was apprehended for suspicion of conspiracy, and for any thing I know, must die for it. Wherefore, having no better means to make my innocency known, have writ this in this book, hoping some good Englishman will see it.”


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