« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
them to church, two and two, to the great edification of the people and the honour of the Christian religion : afterwards, like the ancient Spartans, or the fraternity at Kilmainham, they might dine altogether in a large hall. Good Heaven! what a sight to see them feeding in public upon public viands, and talking of public subjects for the benefit of the public! it is a pity they are not immortal ; but I hope they will flourish as a corporation, and that pensioners will beget pensioners to the end of the chapter.
Extract from a Speech of MR. CUARAN, on the trial of
WHERE the press is free, and discussions unrestrained, the mind, by the collision of intercourse, gets rid of its own asperities, a sort of insensible peroration takes place, by which those acrimonies, which would otherwise fester and inflame, are quietly dissolved and dissipated. But now, if any aggregate assembly shall meet, they are censured; if a printer publishes their resolutions, he is punished; rightly to be sure in both cases, for it has been lately done. If the people say, let us not create tumult, but meet in delegation, they cannot do it ; if they are anxious to promote parliamentary reform in that way, they cannot do it; the law of the last session has for the first time declared such meetings to be a crime. What then remains ? Only the liberty of the press, that sacred palladium, which no influence, no power, no minister, no government, which nothing but the depravity, or folly, or corruption of a jury, can ever destroy. And what calainity are the people saved from, by having public communication left open to them? I will tell you, gentlemen, what they are saved from, and what the go. vernment is saved from ; I will tell you also, to what both are exposed by shutting up that communication. In one case sedition speaks aloud, and walks abroad ; the demagogue goes forth, the public eye is upon him, he frets his busy hour upon the stage ; but soon either weariness, or bribe, or punishment, or disappointment bear him down, or
drive him off, and he appears no more.
In the either case, how does the work of sedition go forward ? Night after night, the muffled rebel steals forth in the dark, and casts another and another brand upon the pile, to which, when the hour of fatal maturity shall arrive, he will apply the flame. If you doubt of the horrid consequences of suppressing the effusion even of individual discontent, look to those enslaved countries where the protection of despotism is supposed to be secured by such restraints, even the person of the despot there, is never in safety. Neither the fears of the despot, nor the machinations of the slave, have any slumber, the one anticipating the moment of peril, the other watching the opportunity of ag. gression. The fatal crisis is equally a surprise upon
both; the decisive instant is precipitated without warning, by folly on the one side, and by phrenzy on the other, and there is no notice of the treason till the traitor acts.
In those unfortunate countries (one cannot read it without horror) there are officers whose province it is to have the water, which is to be drank by their rulers, sealed up
in bottles, lest some wretched miscreant should throw poison into the draught.
But, gentlemen, if you wish for a nearer and more interesting example, you have it in the history of your own revolution ; you have it at that memorable period, when the monarch formed a servile acquiescence in the ministers of his folly, when the liberty of the press was trodden under foot, when venal sheriffs returned packed juries to carry into effect those fatal conspiracies of the few against the many, when the devoted benches of public justice were filled by some of those foundlings of fortune, who, overwhelmed in the torrent of corruption at an early pee riod, lay at the bottom like drowned bodies, while soundness or sanity remained in them; but at length becoming buoyant by putrefaction, they rose as they rotted, and floated to the surface of the polluted stream, where they were drifted along, the objects of terror, and contagion, and abomination. In that awful moment of a nation's travail, of the last grasp of tyranny, and the first breath of freedom, how pregnant is the example? The press extinguished, the people enslaved, and the prince undone.
As the advocate of society, therefore, of peace, of do
mestic liberty, and the lasting union of the two countries, I conjure you to guard the liberty of the press, that great sentinel of the state, that grand detector of public imposture; guard it, because when it sinks, there sinks with it, in one common grave, the liberty of the subject, and the security of the crown.
Gentlemen, I am glad that this question has not been brought forward earlier; I rejoice for the sake of the court, of the jury, and of the public repose, that this question has not been brought forward until now. In Great Britain analogous circumstances have taken place. At the commencement of that unfortunate war which has deluged Europe with blood, the spirit of the English peowas tremblingly alive to the terror of French principles ; at that moment of general paroxysm, to accuse was to convict. The danger loomed larger to the public eye, from the misty medium through which it was surveyed. We measure inaccessible heights by the shadows which they project; where the lowness and the distance of the light form the length of the shade.
There is a sort of aspiring and adventurous credulity, which disdains assenting to obvious truths, and delights in catching at the improbability of circumstances, as its best ground of faith. To what other cause, gentlemen, can you ascribe, that, in the wise, the reflecting and the philosophic nation of Great Britain, a printer has been gravely found guilty of a libel, for publishing those resolutions to which the present minister of that kingdom had actually subscribed his name? To what other cause can you ascribe, what in my mind is still more astonishing, in such a country as Scotland, a nation cast in the happy medium between the spiritless acquiescence of submissive poverty, and the sturdy credulity of pampered wealth ; cool and ardent, adventurous and persevering; winging her eagle flight against the blaze of ence, with an eye that never winks, and a wing that never tires; crowned as she is, with the spoils of every art, and decked with the wreath of every muse; from the deep and scrutinizing researches of her Humes, to the sweet and simple, but no less sublime and pathetic mo
rality of her Burns.* How from the bosom of a country like that, genius, and character and talents, should be banished to a distant, barbarous soil ; condemned to pine under the horrid communion of vulgar vice, and base born profligacy, for twice the period that ordinary calculation gives to the continuance of human life? But I will not further press an idea that is painful to me, and I am sure must be painful to you: I will only say, you have now an example of which neither England nor Scotland had the advantage; you have the example of the panic, the infatuation, and the contrition of both.
It is now for you to decide, whether you will profit by their experience of idle panic and idle regret, or whether you meanly prefer to palliate a servile imitation of their frailty ; by a paltry affectation of their repentance. It is now for you to shew that you are not carried away by the same hectic delusions, to acts, of which no tears can wash away the consequences, or the indelible reproach.
Extract from the Speech of MR. CURRAN, on the trial of
Archibald Hamilton Rowan, Esq. on the publication of
HERE, gentlemen, I own I cannot but regret, that one of our countrymen should be criminally pursued for asserting the necessity of a reform, at the moment when that necessity seems admitted by parliament itself; that this unhappy 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 ?
I am the more forcibly impressed by this concern, when I consider, that when this information was first put
* Here a beautiful compliment is paid to the genius and industry of Scotland. The author tben alludes to the cruel banishment of Muir, Palmer, and their associates, (by the Scotch Judges) to the barbarous shores of New llolland, where they all perished.
upon the file, the subject was 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 court 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 might have here to consider as a public crime.
This paper, gentlemen, insists upon the necessity of emancipating 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
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. Have any alarms been occasioned by the emancipation of our Catholic brethren? Has the biggoted malignity of any individuals been crushed ? Or, has the stability of the government, or has that of the country been weakened ? Or, is one million of subjects stronger than three millions ? Do you think that 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
have obtained from the voice of your country." I ask you, gentlemen, do you think as honest men, anxious for the public tranquillity, conscious that there are wounds not yet completely cicatrized, 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