Imágenes de páginas

to, no doubt for the preservation of peace and order,—when I catch, as I cannot but do, the throb of public anxiety, which beats from one end to the other of this hall,—when I reflect on what may be the fate of a man of the most beloved personal character, of one of the most respected families of our country, himself the only individual of that family-I may almost say of that country--who can look to that possible fate with unconcern,-it is in the honest simplicity of my heart I speak, when I say, that I never rose in a court of justice with so much embarrassment as upon this occasion.

2. If, gentlemen, I could entertain a hope of finding refuge for the disconcertion of my mind, in the perfect composure of yours,-if I could suppose that those awful vicissitudes of human events, which have been stated or alluded to, could leave your judgments undisturbed, and your hearts at ease, -I know I should form a most erroneous opinion of your character.

3. But I entertain no such chimericala hopes; I form no such unworthy opinions; I expect not that your hearts can be more at ease than my own; I have no right to expect it; but I have a right to call upon you, in the name of your country, in the name of the living God, of whose eternal justice you are now administering that portion which dwells with us on this side of the grave, to discharge your breasts as far as you are able of every bias of prejudice or passion; that, if my clientb be guilty of the offense charged upon him, you may give tranquillity to the public by a firm verdict of conviction; or if he be innocent, by as firm a verdict of acquittal ; and that you will do this in defiance of the paltry artifices and senseless clamors that have been resorted to, in order to bring him to his trial with anticipated conviction.

4. Gentlemen, the representation of your people is the vital principle of their political existence; without it they are dead, or they live only to servitude; without it there are two estates acting upon and against the third, instead of acting in co-operation with it; without it, if the people be oppressed by their judges, where is the tribunal to which their judges can be amenable ?d Without it, if they be trampled upon, and plundered by a minister, where is the tribunal to which the offender shall be amenable ? Without it, where is the ear to hear, or the heart to feel, or the hand to redress their sufferings?

5. Shall they be found, let me ask you, in the accursed band of imps and minions that bask in their disgrace, and

a Chi-mer'-is-al, imaginary, fanciful.
b Cli'ent, the employer of an attorney.

c Ver'-dict, determination or a jury.
d A-me-na-ble, answerable.

fatten upon their spoils, and flourish upon their ruin? But let me not put this to you as a merely speculative question. It is a plain question of fact: rely upon it, physical man is every where the same; it is only the various operation of moral causes, that gives variety to the social or individual character and condition. How otherwise happens it, that modern slavery looks quietly at the despot, on the very spot where Leonidasa expired? The answer is, Sparta has not changed her climate, but she has lost that government which her liberty could not survive.

6. I call you, therefore, to the plain question of fact. This paper recommends a reform in parliament; I put that question to your consciences; do you think it needs that reform? I put it boldly and fairly to you, do you think the people of Ireland are represented as they ought to be ?-Do you hesitate for an answer? If you do, let me remind you, that until the last year three millions of your countrymen have, by the express letter of the law, been excluded from the reality of actual, and even from the phantom of virtual representation. Shall we then be told that this is only the affirmation of a wicked and seditious incendiary ?b

7. If you do not feel the mockery of such a charge, look at your country ; in what state do you find it? Is it in a state of tranquillity and general satisfaction? These are traces by which good is ever to be distinguished from bad government. Without any very minute inquiry or speculative refinement, do you feel that veneration for the law, a pious

and humble attachment to the constitution, form the political E morality of your people? Do you find that comfort and

competency among your people, which are always to be found where a government is mild and moderate; where taxes are imposed by a body, who have an interest in treating

the poorer orders with compassion, and preventing the $weight of taxation from pressing sore upon them.

8. Gentlemen, I mean not to impeach the state of your representation; I am not saying that it is defective, or that it ought to be altered or amended; nor is this a place for me to say, whether I think that three millions of the inhabitants of a country, whose whole number is but four, ought to be admitted to any efficient situation in the state.

9. It may be said, and truly, that these are not questions for either of us directly to decide; but you cannot refuse them some passing consideration, at least, when you remember,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

c Ef-8"-cient, that produces the effect

a Leon'-i-das, king of Sparta; killed at the battle of Thermopylæ.

In-cen'-di-a-ry, one who maliciously burns a house, or excites discord.

that on this subject the real question for your decision is, whether the allegation of a defect in your constitution is so utterly unfounded and false, that you can ascribe it only to the malice and perverseness of a wicked mind, and not to the innocent mistake of an ordinary understanding: whether it may not be mistake; whether it can be only sedition.

10. And here, gentlemen, I own I cannot but regret, that one of our countrymen should be criminally pursued for asserting to the necessity of a reform, at the very moment when that necessity seems admitted by the parliament itself; that this rnhappy reform shall at the same moment be a subject of legislative discussion, and criminal prosecution. Far am I from imputing any sinister design to the virtue or wisdom of our government, but who can avoid feeling the deplorable impression that must be made on the public mind, when the demand for that reform is answered by a criminal information ?

11. I am the more forcibly impressed by this consideration, when I reflect that when this information was first put upon the file, the subject was transiently mentioned in the House of Commons. Some circumstances retarded the progress of the inquiry there, and the progress of the information was equally retarded here. The first day of this session, you all know that subject was again brought forward in the House of Commons; and, as if they had slept together, this prosecution was also revived in the Čourt of King's Bench ;and that before a jury taken from a panel partly composed of those very members of parliament, who, in the House of Commons must debate upon this subject as a measure of public advantage, which they are here called upon to consider as a public crime.

12. This paper, gentlemen, insists upon the necessity of emancipatingo the Catholics of Ireland, and that is charged as a part of the libel. If they had kept this prosecution impending for another year, how much would remain for a jury to decide upon, I should be at a loss to discover. It seems as if the progress of public reformation was eating away the ground of the prosecution. Since the commencement of the prosecution, this part of the libel has unluckily received the sanction of the Legislature. In that interval, our Catholic brethren have obtained that admission, which it seems it was a libel to propose : in what way to account for this, I am really at a loss.

13. Have any alarms been occasioned by the emancipation

a Al-le-ga'-tion, affirmation, plea.

Sin'-is-ter, unjust, unfair:

c E-man'.ci-pa-ting, setting free.

of our Catholic brethren? Has the bigoted malignity of any individuals been crushed ? Or, has the stability of the government, or has that of the country been awakened? Or, is one million of subjects stronger than three millions ? Do you think the benefit they received should be poisoned by the stings of vengeance? If you think so, you must say to them, -"you have demanded your emancipation, and you have got it; but we abhor your persons, we are outraged at your success, and we will stigmatize, by a criminal prosecution, the relief which you have obtained from the voice of your country.”

15. I ask you gentlemen, do you think, as honest men, anxious for the public tranquillity, conscious that there are wounds not yet completely cicatrized,a that you ought to speak this language at this time, to men who are too much disposed to think that in this very emancipation they have been saved from their own parliament, by the humanity of their Sovereign? Or, do you wish to prepare them for the revocation of these improvident concessions ?

16. Do you think it wise or humane, at this moment, to insult them by sticking up in a pilloryo the man who dared to stand forth their advocate ? I put it to your oaths, do you think that a blessing of that kind, that a victory obtained by justice over bigotry and oppression, should have a stigma cast upon it by an ignominious sentence upon men bold and honest enough to propose that measure-to propose the redeeming of religion from the abuses of the church

-the reclaiming of three millions of men from bondage, and giving liberty to all who had a right to demand it-giving, I say, in the so much censured words of this paper, “UNIVERBAL EMANCIPATION !"

17. No matter in what language his doom may have been pronounced; no matter what complexion incompatible with freedom, an Indian or an African sun may have burnt upon him; no matter in what disastrous battle his liberty may have been cloven own; no matter with what solemnities he may have been devoted upon the altar of slavery; the first moment he touches the sacred soil of Britain, the altar *and the god sink together in the dust ; his soul walks abroad in her own majesty; his body swells beyond the measure of his chains that burst from around him, and he stands redeemed, regenerated, and disenthralled, by the irresistible Genius of UNIVERSAL EMANCIPATION.

a Cic' a-tri-zeil, skinned over. o Rev-o ca'tion, recall, repeal.

c Pill-lo-ry, a frame to contine criminals for punishment.

d Com-men'-su-rate, of equal measura e Dis'-en-thrall-ed, restored to liberty.

18. I cannot avoid adverting to a circumstance that distinguishes the case of Mr. Rowan, from that of Mr. Muir. The severer law of Scotland, it seems—and happy for them that it should-enables them to remove from their sight the victim of their infatuation. The more merciful spirit of our law deprives you of that consolation; his sufferings must remain forever before our eyes, a continual call upon your shame and your remorse.

19. But those sufferings will do more; they will not rest satisfied with your unavailing contrition, they will challenge the great and paramount inquest of society; the man will be weighed against the charge, the witness and the sentence; and impartial justice will demand, why has an Irish jury done this deed? The moment he ceases to be regarded as a criminal, he becomes of necessity an accuser; and let me ask you, what can your most zealous defenders be prepared to answer to such a charge ?

20. When your sentence shall have sent him forth to that stage, which guilt alone can render infamous; let me tell you, he will not be like a little statue upon a mighty pedestal, diminishing by elevation ; but he will stand a striking and imposing object upon a monument, which, if it do not-and it cannot-record the atrocity of his crime, must record the atrocity of his conviction. Upon this subject, therefore, credit me when I say, that I am still more anxious for you, than I can possibly be for him.

21. I cannot but feel the peculiarity of your situation.-. Not the jury of his own choice, which the law of England allows, but which ours refuses; collected in that box by a person, certainly no friend to Mr. Rowan, certainly not very deeply interested in giving him a very impartial jury. Feeling this, as I am persuaded you do, you cannot be surprised

-however you may be distressed-at the mournful presage, with which an anxious public is led to fear the worst from your possible determination.

22. But I will not, for the justice and honor of our common country, suffer my mind to be borne away by such me lancholy anticipation. I will not relinquish the confidence that this day will be the period of his sufferings; and, however mercilessly he has been hitherto pursued, that your verdict will send him home to the arms of his family, and the wishes of his country. But if-which heaven forbid—it hath still been unfortunately determined, that because he has not bent to power and authority-because he would not bow a In-fat-u-a'-tion, deprivation of reason: d Pre-sage. something that foreshows o Con-trition, sincere sorrow for sin. c Ped'-es-tal, the base of a pillar.


« AnteriorContinuar »