페이지 이미지

Old World, that it is practicable in free governments to raise and sustain, by voluntary contributions alone, a body of clergymen, which, for devotedness to their sacred calling, for purity of life and character, for learning, intelligence, piety, and that wisdom which cometh from above, is inferior to none, and superior to most others.

i I hope that our learned men have done something for the I honor of our literature abroad. I hope that the courts of justice I and the members of the bar of this country have done something to elevate the character of the profession of the law. I hope that the discussions in Congress have done something to meliorate the condition of the human race, to secure and extend the great charter of human rights, and to strengthen and advance the great principles of human liberty. But I contend that no literary efforts, no adjudications, no constitutional discussions, nothing that has been done or said in favor of the great interests of universal man, has done this country more credit, at home and abroad, than the establishment of our body of clergymen, their support by voluntary contributions, and the general excellence of their character for piety and learning.

The great truth has thus been proclaimed and proved,—a truth which I believe will, in time to come, shake all the hierarchies of Europe, that the voluntary support of such a ministry, under free institutions, is a practicable idea.



In the case of "the British Debts," 1791.

THE first point, gentlemen of the jury, which I shall endeavor to establish, will be, that debts in common wars become subject to forfeiture; and, if forfeited in common wars, much more must they be so in a revolutionary war, as the late contest was. In this war we had a right to consider British debts as subject to confiscation, and to seize the property of those who originated that war. Notwithstanding the equity and fairness of the debt when incurred, if the security of the property received was afterwards destroyed, the title has proved defective. The title was destroyed by the very men who come here now and demand payment. For the long catalogue of offences committed against the citizens of America every individual of the British nation is accountable. How are you to be com-pen ́sated for those depre dations on persons and property? Are you to go to England to find the very individual who did you the outrage, and demand


satisfaction of him? To tell you of such a remedy as this, is adding insult to injury. Every individual is chargeable with national offences.

What would have been the consequences, sir, if we had been conquered? Would we not have shared the fate of the people of Ireland? A great part of that island was con-fis'cated, though the Irish people thought themselves engaged in a laudable cause. What confiscations and punishments were inflicted in Scotland, the plains of Culloden and the neighboring gibbets would show you. Thank Heaven that the spirit of liberty, under the protection of the Almighty, saved us from experiencing so hard a destiny! Had we been subdued, would our debts have been saved? Would it not have been absurd for the enemy to save debts, while they would have burned, hanged, and destroyed? I would not have wished to live to see the sad scenes we should have experienced. Needy avarice and savage cruelty would have had full scope.

If it be allowed to the British nation to con-fiscate, not only debts, but life, may we not confiscate-not life, for we never desire it; but that which is the common object of confiscationproperty, goods, and debts, which strengthen ourselves and weaken our enemies? If there ever was a case requiring the full use of all human means, it was ours in the late contest; and, sir, I therefore maintain that we were warranted in confiscating the British debts. PATRICK HENRY


At the trial of John Magee for a libel against the Duke of Richmond.

THE attorney-general has talked of his impartiality: he will suppress, he says, the licentiousness of the press. Gentlemen,. the attorney-general was waited on, and respectfully requested to prosecute the Hibernian journal upon the terms of having the falsehood of certain libelous assertions first proved to him. I need not tell you he refused. These are not the libelers he prosecutes.

Contrast the situation of my client with that of the proprietor of the Hibernian journal. The one is prosecuted with all the weight and influence of the crown, the other pensioned by the ministers of the crown; the one dragged to your bar for the sober discussion of political topics, the other hired to disseminate the most horrid calumnies. Let the attorney-general now boast of his impartiality; can you credit him on your oaths? Let

him talk of his veneration for the liberty of the press; can you believe him in your consciences? Let him call the press the protection of the people against the government. Yes, gentlemen, believe him when he says so! Let the press be the protection of the people! he admits that it ought to be so. Will you find a verdict for him that shall contradict the only assertion upon which he and I, however, are both agreed? Gentlemen, the attorney-general is bound by this admission. It is part of his case, and he is the prosecutor here. It is a part of the evidence before you, for he is the prosecutor. Then, gentlemen, it is your duty to act upon that evidence, and to allow the press to afford some protection to the people.

[ocr errors]

Is there amongst you any one friend to freedom? Is there amongst you one man who esteems equal and impartial justice, who values the people's rights as the foundation of private happiness, and who considers life as no boon without liberty? Is there amongst you one friend to the constitution?- one man who hates oppression? If there be, my client appeals to his kindred mind, and confidently expects an acquittal. There are amongst you men of great religious zeal of much public piety. Are you sincere? Do you believe what you profess? With all this zeal, with all this piety, is there any conscience amongst you? Is there any terror of violating your oaths? Be ye hypocrites, or does genuine religion inspire you? If you be sincere, if you have consciences, if your oaths can control your interests; then my client confidently expects an acquittal. If amongst you there be cherished one ray of pure religion, if amongst you there glow a single spark of liberty, if I have alarmed patriotism or roused the spirit of freedom in one breast amongst you, my client is safe, and his country is served. But, if there be noneif you be slaves and hypocrites—he will await your verdict, and despise it.



A JURY of my countrymen have found me guilty of the crime for which I stood indicted. For this I entertain not the slightest feeling of resentment towards them. Influenced, as they must have been, by the charge of the lord chief justice, they could have found no other verdict. What of that charge? Any strong observations on it I feel sincerely would ill befit the solemnity of this scene; but I would earnestly beseech of you, my lord, you who preside on that bench,-when the passions and preju



dices of this hour have passed away, to appeal to your own conscience, and to ask of it, was your charge as it ought to have been, impartial and indifferent between the subject and the


My lords, you may deem this language unbecoming in me, and perhaps it may seal my fate. But I am here to speak the truth, whatever it may cost; I am here to regret nothing I have ever done to retract nothing I have ever said. I am here to crave, with no lying lip, the life I consecrate to the liberty of my country. Far from it, even here - here, where the thief, the libertine, the murderer, have left their foot-prints in the dust; here, on this spot, where the shadows of death surround me, and from which I see my early grave in an unanointed soil opened to receive me- even here, encircled by these terrors, the hope which has beckoned me to the perilous sea upon which I have been wrecked still consoles, animates, enraptures me.

No, I do not despair of my poor old country her peace, her liberty, her glory. For that country, I can do no more than bid her hope. To lift this island up,-to make her a benefactor to humanity, instead of being the meanest beggar in the world, to restore to her her native powers and her ancient constitution, this has been my ambition, and this ambition has been my crime. Judged by the law of England, I know this crime entails the penalty of death; but the history of Ireland explains this crime, and justifies it. Judged by that history, I am no criminal, I deserve no punishment. Judged by that history, the treason of which I stand convicted loses all its guilt, is sanctioned as a duty, will be ennobled as a sacrifice. With these sentiments, my lord, I await the sentence of the court.

Having done what I felt to be my duty, having spoken what I felt to be the truth, as I have done on every other occasion of my short career,-I now bid farewell to the country of my birth, my passion, and my death; the country whose misfortunes have invoked my sympathies; whose factions I have sought to still; whose intellect I have prompted to a lofty aim; whose freedom has been my fatal dream. I offer to that country, as a proof of the love I bear her, and the sincerity with which I thought and spoke and struggled for her freedom, the life of a young heart, and with that life all the hopes, the honors, the endearments, of a happy and an honored home. Pronounce, then, my lords, the sentence which the laws direct, and I will be prepared to hear it. I trust I shall be prepared to meet its execution. I hope to be able, with a pure heart and perfect composure, to appear before a higher tribunal- a tribunal where a Judge of infinite good

[ocr errors]

ness as well as of justice will preside, and where, my lords, many, many of the judgments of this world will be reversed.




From a speech on the trial of Mr. Justice Johnson, Dublin, Feb. 4, 1805, for a libel on Lord Hardwicke, Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland.

MY LORDS, it has fallen to my lot, either fortunately or unfortunately, as the event may be, to rise as counsel for my client on this most important and momentous occasion. Sorry am I that the task has not been confided to more adequate powers; but, feeble as mine are, they will, at least, not shrink from it. I move you, therefore, that Mr. Justice Johnson be released from illegal imprisonment.

I can not but observe the sort of scen'ic preparation with which this sad drāma is sought to be brought forward. In part, I approve it; in part, it excites my disgust and indignation. I observe, too, the dead silence into which the public is frowned by authority for the sad occasion. No man dares to mutter; no newspaper dares to whisper that such a question is afloat. It seems an inquiry among the tombs, or, rather, in the shades beyond them. I am glad it is so; I am glad of this factitious dumbness; for if murmurs dared to become audible, my voice would be too feeble to drown them. But when all is hushed, when nature sleeps, the weakest voice is heard; the shepherd's whistle shoots across the listening darkness of the interminable heath, and gives notice that the wolf is upon his walk; and the same gloom and stillness that tempt the monster to come abroad, facilitate the communication of the warning to beware. Yes, through that silence the voice shall be heard; yes, through that silence the shepherd shall be put upon his guard; yes, through that silence shall the felon savage be chased into the toil.

Yes, my lords, I feel myself cheered and impressed by the composed and dignified attention with which I see you are disposed to hear me on the most important question that has ever been subjected to your consideration; the most important to the dearest rights of the human being; the most deeply interesting and animating that can beat in his heart, or burn upon his tongue.

O, how recreating is it to feel that occasions may arise in which the soul of man may reässume her pretensions ; — in which she hears the voice of nature whisper to her, "os hom'ini subli me dedit, ca-lum'que tu-eri jussit !"— in which even I can look up with calm security to the court, and down with the most

« 이전계속 »