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James Smith Hall (1821–1850)

An inquest was held on Monday last, at McQuade's Hotel, Windsor, before Dr. Dowe, Coroner, on the body of James Smith Hall, a young man about twenty-six years of age, and very respectably connected. It was a most distressing case of suicide, as will appear from what follows. The Rev. Matthew Adam (the only witness examined), stated: I am a minister of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland; the deceased came to my house on Wednesday morning last, and appeared in a state of great excitement, and exclaimed, "oh! Mr Adam, Mr. Adam, what shall I do?" I asked him what was the matter to which he replied, "I am very ill;" I asked, "shall I run for a doctor?" He replied, "no, no use, no doctor can do me any good but one, and you know who that is;" I said to him, "I know now what you mean, what is on your mind, what is wrong?" After some hesitation, he said he had sinned against God, and was resisting the spirit of God, that he had ceased to strive with him, and that God had left him without hope; I I tried to find out on what ground he came to the conclusion that his state was hopeless, and he gave me the same answer; I asked him would he give me any reason why he should believe that the grace of God had withdrawn from him, and if he had committed any great sin; he answered that he had endeavoured to keep free from sin, and had not been guilty of any vice; I asked him if he had been attending to his religious duties, he said he had attended to chapel at Portland Head, but there was no service there; he then said he would go to Sackville Reach, to hear Mr. Walker preach; I said "James, you seem in a state of great excitement, you had better see a physician, to which I received the same answer as before, of "no," & c. I told him, "you had better go to that physician then;" he then threw himself on a sofa in a state of great excitement. I then recommended him to calm his mind with prayer, and engaged in prayer with him; during the time of prayer he was much excited, threw himself down on his knees, and frequently got up and moaned; after prayer he became more calm; I tried to find out what was upon his mind, but met with the same answer. Mr. Ascough, J.P., came over, which I believe was the means of his being calmed down until after breakfast; he said he must see Mr. Watsford, I advised him to go; he went and returned in about an hour; said he had not seen Mr. W. but had seen Mr. Somerville, a Wesleyan minister; I asked had he got any relief from Mr. S., and he said "no," and that he was much disappointed at not having seen Mr. Watsford; I conversed with him, and endeavoured to comfort him, by impressing upon his mind the mercy of God to sinners; he asked me had I got a gig, as he wanted to go to Parramatta; I said I had not; he was then in great excitement; I advised him to go home, bade him good bye and told him to take some medicine before he left; he returned in about ten minutes, when he exclaimed, "yet once again!" I took him into the drawing room when he threw himself down upon his knees against the sofa, and used most incoherent language in his prayers; after prayer he appeared to be calm; he dined with me that day, and I having occasion to go up the town, left him very despondingly exclaiming, "What shall I do! What shall I do!" After dinner I gave him a glass of wine and left him apparently asleep; I returned at tea time, and found him in the same state; he went to bed about ten o'clock. On Thursday morning, I asked him if he was better, and what was the cause of the state of mind he had been in; he said he had tried, but it was of no use; I felt his pulse, it was strong, full but irregular. I said you had better go to a physician, and got the same answer as before; he then breakfasted; he was all the morning in the same desponding state. A little after ten o'clock I advised him to go home. At this time I thought there was something wrong with his brain; on Friday evening, at a little better than five o'clock, upon being questioned he said he had the same feeling yet, and said he was going to Parramatta to see Dr. Gwynne; that his feelings were in the same state, and there was no alteration on his mind; that he would stop over Sunday, and be back on Monday. He took tea, when I asked him what made him so cast down? He said he had been ashamed of Christ, and had not confessed him; and that Christ would be ashamed of him, and not confess him. As he expressed his intention of going to Parramatta, I recommended him to go to Mr. Ridge's Fitz Roy Hotel, and spend the night, as the coach started from there; he hesitated, but afterwards accompanied me there. He then seemed so settled that no one would have supposed there was anything the matter with him. On Saturday night, about ten o'clock, I heard a light knock on the door; thinking it was a servant of mine who had been misbehaving, I did not open it, and the party went to the back door, afterwards returned, and paced in the verandah. I looked through the blinds, saw it was the same young man, and immediately let him in. He came in with a smile on his countenance, and said he was quite well; he seemed to me to be quite a different man. He said, "See what a different man I am; I am quite a different person altogether. I did not see Dr. Gwynne, because as I was on my way to him, I thought, why should I go to a doctor when there is nothing the matter with me? but I saw Mr. Tait. After looking at my horses in the stable that night I found him reading the Bible; he said, "I am quite well, I never passed a pleasanter evening till bed time." I saw him to his room, about 12 o'clock, saw him put on his night shirt, and going to bed. About half-past seven next morning I found him at the foot of the bed suspended by a black silk handkerchief from the bed post; I rushed to the kitchen, got a knife and instantly cut him down, he was then warm. Dr. Dowe was immediately sent for and attended, he attempted to restore the deceased to life, by applying bellows to the nostrils, and also by the operation of tracheotomy (introducing a quill into the windpipe) but unsuccessfully. The Coroner expatiated upon the circumstances to the jury, and clearly defined to them the different causes which might create insanity; one of the jurors was at first dissentient, but Dr. Dowe having again explained to the jurors that in this case, as in others of a like nature, there was a subsisting cause which produced the natural effect, the jury unanimously agreed upon the verdict, and the foreman stated as the verdict, Insanity.

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Citation details

'Hall, James Smith (1821–1850)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 April 2024.

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