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firmness which was never overcome, rendered him almost irresistible on the defensive side of political persecution. In stemming the tide of state prosecations, this single patriot may be said to have saved his country from the horrors of a general proscription.”'I
TRAITOROUS ACTS AND INTENTIONS NECESSARY TO CONSTITUTE
Gentlemen, I have no manner of doubt that you will, I am sure you cannot but see, notwithstanding my great inability, increased by a perturbation of mind (arising, thank God! from no dishonest cause), that there has been not only no evidence on the part of the crown to fix the guilt of the late commotions upon the prisoner, but that, on the contrary, we have been able to resist the probability-I might almost say the possibility—of the charge, not only by living witnesses, whom we only ceased to call because the trial would never have ended, but by the evidence of all the blood that has paid the forfeit of that guilt already—an evidence that, I will take upon me to say, is the strongest and most unanswerable which the combination of natural events ever brought together since the beginning of the world for the deliverance of the oppressed : since, in the late numerous trials for acts of violence and depredation, though conducted by the ablest ser
· Encyclopædia Britannica. Read an excellent article on Lord Erskine in the 16th volume of the “Edinburgh Review ;' also, an admirable sketch of his character in that most instructive and eloquent book, “ Stanton's Reforms and Reformers of Great Britain." From this I must make the following extract:
" Erskine's speech for Hardy (whose case was very critical, and the first one tried) is one of the most splendid specimens of popular juridical eloquence on record. Owing to the running contests on points of law and evidence, constantly kept up while the trial went on, he lost his voice the night before he was to address the jury. It returned to him in the morning, and he was able to crowd seven hours full of such oratory as is rarely heard in our day.
regarded Hardy's acquittal or conviction not only as the turning point in the fate of his eleven associates, but as settling the question whether constructive treason should for long years track blood through the land, or its murderous steps be now brought to a final stand. He made a superhuman effort for victory, and achieved it. Profound as was his legal learning, eminent as were his reasoning faculties, classical as was his taste, transcendent as were his oratorical powers, all conspiring to place him not only at the head of the English bar, but to rank him as the first advocate of modern times; yet all were overshadowed by the inflexible courage and hearty zeal with which he met this crisis of British freedom. With the combined power of the king, his ministers, and his judges, arrayed against his clients and against him as their representative, seeking their blood and his degradation, he cowered not, but maintained the home-born rights of his proscribed fellow-subjects with arguments so matchless, with eloquence so glowing, with courage so heroic, with constancy so generous, that his name will ever find a place in the hearts of all who prefer the rights of man to the prerogatives of power."
vants of the crown, with a laudable eye to the investigation of the subject which now engages us, no one fact appeared which showed any plan, any object, any leader ;-since, out of fortyfour thousand persons who signed the petition of the Protestants, not one was to be found among those who were convicted, tried, or even apprehended on suspicion ;-and since, out of all the felons who were let loose from prisons, and who assisted in the destruction of our property, not a single wretch was to be found who could even attempt to save his own life by the plausible promise of giving evidence to-day.
What can overturn such a proof as this ? Surely a good man might, without superstition, believe that such an union of events was something more than natural, and that the Divine Providence was watchful for the protection of innocence and truth.
I may now, therefore, relieve you from the pain of hearing me any longer, and be myself relieved from speaking on a subject which agitates and distresses me. Since Lord George Gordon stands clear of every hostile act or purpose against the legislature of his country, or the properties of his fellow-subjects—since the whole tenor of his conduct repels the belief of the traitorous in. tention charged by the indictment-my task is finished. I shall make no address to your passions—I will not remind you of the long and rigorous imprisonment he has suffered—I will not speak to you of his great youth, of his illustrious birth, and of his uniformly animated and generous zeal in Parliament for the constitution of his country. Such topics might be useful in the balance of a doubtful case; yet, even then, I should have trusted to the honest hearts of Englishmen to have felt them without excitation. At present, the plain and rigid rules of justice and truth are sufficient to entitle me to your verdict.
Speech on the Trial of Lord George Gordon
PRINCIPLES OF THE LAW OF LIBEL.
Gentlemen, the question you have therefore to try upon all this matter is extremely simple. It is neither more nor less than this : At a time when the charges against Mr. Hastings were, by the implied consent of the Commons, in every hand and on every table-when, by their managers, the lightning of eloquence was incessantly consuming him, and flashing in the eyes of the public
—when every man was with perfect impunity saying, and writing, and publishing just what lie pleased of the supposed plunderer and devastator of nations-would it have been criminal in
Mr. Hastings himself to have reminded the public that he was a native of this free land, entitled to the common protection of her justice, and that he had a defence in his turn to offer to them, the outlines of which he implored them in the mean time to receive, as an antidote to the unlimited and unpunished poison in circulation against him? This is, without color or exaggeration, the true question you are to decide. Because I assert, without the hazard of contradiction, that if Mr. Hastings himself could have stood justified or excused in your eyes for publishing this Folume in his own defence, the author, if he wrote it bona fide to defend him, must stand equally excused and justified; and if the author be justified, the publisher cannot be criminal, unless you had evidence that it was published by him with a different spirit and intention from those in which it was written. The question, therefore, is correctly what I just now stated it to be-Could Mr. Hastings have been condemned to infamy for writing this book ?
Gentlemen, I tremble with indignation to be driven to put such a question in England. Shall it be endured, that a subject of this country may be impeached by the Commons for the transactions of twenty years—that the accusation shall spread as wide as the region of letters—that the accused shall stand, day after day and year after year, as a spectacle before the public, which shall be kept in a perpetual state of inflammation against him ; get that he shall not, without the severcst penalties, be permitted to submit anything to the judgment of mankind in his defence ? If this be law (which it is for you to-day to decide), such a man has no trial. That great hall, built by our fathers for English justice, is no longer a court, but an altar; and an Englishman, instead of being judged in it by God and his country, is a victim and a sacrifice.
One word more, gentlemen, and I have done. Every human tribunal ought to take care to administer justice, as we look hereafter to have justice administered to ourselves. Upon the principle on which the attorney-general prays sentence upon my client, God have mercy upon us! Instead of standing before him in judgment with the hopes and consolations of Christians, we must call upon the mountains to cover us; for which of us can present, for omniscient examination, a pure, unspotted, and faultless course? But I humbly expect that the benevolent Author of our being will judge us as I have been pointing out for your example. Holding up the great volume of our lives in his hands, and regarding the general scope of them, if he discovers benevolence, charity, and good will to man beating in the heart, where he alone can look-if he finds that our conduct, though often forced out of the path by our infirmities, has been in general well directed, his all-searching eye will assuredly never pursue us into those little corners of our lives, much less will his justice select them for punishment, without the general context of our existence, by which faults may be sometimes found to have grown out of virtues, and very many of our heaviest offences to have been grafted by human imperfection upon the best and kindest of our affections. No, gentlemen, believe me, this is not the course of divine justice, or there is no truth in the Gospel of Heaven. If the general tenor of a man's conduct be such as I have represented it, he may walk through the shadow of death, with all his faults about him, with as much cheerfulness as in the common paths of life, because he knows that, instead of a stern accuser to expose before the Author of his nature those frail passages, which, like the scored matter in the book before you, checkers the volume of the brightest and best spent life, his mercy will obscure them from the eye of his purity, and our repentance blot them out forever.
Speech on the Trial of Stockdale.
THE BRIGHTEST ORNAMENTS OF OUR RACE CHRISTIANS.
How any man can rationally vindicate the publication of such a book, in a country where the Christian religion is the very foundation of the law of the land, I am totally at a loss to conceive, and have no ideas for the discussion of. How is a tribunal, whose whole jurisdiction is founded upon the solemn belief and practice of what is here denied as falsehood, and reprobated as impiety, to deal with such an anomalous defence ? Upon what principle is it even offered to the court, whose authority is contemned and mocked at? If the religion proposed to be called in question is not previously adopted in belief and solemnly acted upon, what authority has the court to pass any judgment at all of acquittal or condemnation? Why am I now, or upon any other occasion, to submit to his lordship’s authority? Why am I now, or at any time, to address twelve of my equals, as I am now addressing you, with reverence and submission ? Under what sanction are the witnesses to give their evidence, without which there can be no trial? Under what obligations can I call upon you, the jury representing your country, to administer justice ? Surely upon no other than that you are sworn to administer it under the oaths you have taken. The whole judicial fabric, from
the king's sovereign authority to the lowest office of magistracy, has no other foundation. The whole is built, both in form and substance, upon the same oath of every one of its ministers to do justice, as God shall help them hereafter. What God? And what hereafter ? That God, undoubtedly, who has commanded kings to rule, and judges to decree justice; who has said to witnesses, not only by the voice of nature, but in revealed commandments, Thou shalt not bear false testimony against thy neighbor; and who has enforced obedience to them by the revelation of the unutterable blessings which shall attend their observance, and the awful punishments which shall await upon their transgression.
But it seems this is an age of reason, and the time and the person are at last arrived that are to dissipate the errors which have overspread the past generations of ignorance. The believers in Christianity are many, but it belongs to the few that are wise to correct their credulity. Belief is an act of reason, and superior reason may, therefore, dictate to the weak. In running the mind over the long list of sincere and devout Christians, I cannot help lamenting that Newton had not lived to this day, to have had his shallowness filled up with this new flood of light. But the subject is too awful for irony. I will speak plainly and directly. Newton was a Christian ! Newton, whose mind burst forth from the fetters fastened by nature upon our finite conceptions; Newton, whose science was truth, and the foundation of whose knowledge of it was philosophy, not those visionary and arrogant presumptions which too often usurp its name, but philosophy resting upon the basis of mathematics, which, like figures, cannot lie; Newton, who carried the line and rule to the uttermost barriers of creation, and explored the principles by which all created matter exists and is held together.
But this extraordinary man, in the mighty reach of his mind, overlooked, perhaps, the errors which a minuter investigation of the created things on this earth might have taught him. What shall then be said of the great Mr. Boyle, who looked into the organic structure of all matter, even to the inanimate substances which the foot treads on? Such a man may be supposed to have been equally qualified with Mr. Paine to look through nature up to nature's God; yet the result of all his contemplations was the most confirmed and devout belief in all which the other holds in contempt, as despicable and drivelling superstition.
But this error might, perhaps, arise from a want of due atten. tion to the foundations of human judgment, and the structure of that understanding which God has given us for the investigation of truth. Let that question be answered by Mr. Locke, who, to