« AnteriorContinuar »
CLOSE OF MR. WEBSTER'S DEFENCE OF JUDGE PRESCOTT.
MR. PRESIDENT,—The case is closed. The fate of the respondent is in your hands. It is for you now to say, whether, from the law and the facts as they have appeared before you, you will proceed to disgrace and disfranchise him. If your duty calls on you to convict him, convict him, and let justice be done! but I adjure you, let it be a clear, undoubted case.
Let it be so for his sake; for you are robbing him of that, for which, with all your high powers, you can yield him no compensation; let it be so for your own sakes; for the responsibility of this day's judgment is one, which you must carry with you through your lives.
For myself, I am willing here to relinquish the character of an advocate, and to express opinions, by which I am willing to be bound, as a citizen of the community. And I say upon my honour and conscience, that I see not how, with the law and constitution for your guides, you can pronounce the respondent guilty. I declare, that I have seen no case of wilful and corrupt official misconduct, set forth according to the requisition of the constitution, and proved according to the common rules of evidence. I see many things imprudent and ill-judged; many things that I could wish had been otherwise; but corruption and crime I do not see.
Sir, the prejudices of the day will soon be forgotten; the passions, if
there be, which have excited or favoured this prosecution, will subside; but the consequence of the judgment, you are about to render, will outlive both them and you. The respondent is now brought, a single, unprotected individual, to this formidable bar of judgment, to stand against the power and authority of the State. I know you can crush him, as he stands before you, and clothed, as you are, with the sovereignty of the State. You have the power, 'to change his countenance, and send him away.'
Nor do I remind you that your judgment is to be rejudged by the community; and, as you have summoned him for trial to this high tribunal, you are soon to descend yourselves from the seats of justice, and stand before the higher tribunal of the world. I would not fail so much in respect to this honourable Court, as to hint that it could pronounce a sentence, which the community will reverse. No, sir, it is not the world's revision, which I would call on you to re
gard; but that of your own consciences, when years have gone by, and you shall look back on the sentence you are about to render. If
respondent, condemned and sentenced, from yqur bar, you are yet to meet him in the world, on which you cast him out. You will be called to behold him a disgrace to his family, a sorrow and a shame to his children, a living fountain of grief and agony to himself. If you
shall then be able to behold him only as an unjust judge, whom vengeance has overtaken, and justice has blasted, you will be able to look upon him, not without pity, but yet without remorse,
But, if, on the other hand, you shall see, whenever and wherever you meet him, a victim of prejudice or of passion, a sacrifice to a transient excitement; if you shall see in him, a man, for whose condemnation any provision of the constitution has been violated, or any principle of law broken down; then will he be ablehumble and low may be his condition—then will he be able, to turn the current of compassion backward, and to look with pity on those who have been his judges. If you are about to visit this respondent with a judgment which shall blast his house; if the bosoms of the innocent and the amiable are to be made to bleed under your infliction, I beseech you, to be able to state clear and strong grounds for your proceedings.
Prejudice and excitement are transitory, and will pass away. Political expediency, in matters of judicature, is a false and hollow principle, and will never satisfy the conscience of him, who is fearful that he may have given a hasty judgment. I earnestly entreat you, for your own sakes, to possess yourselves of solid reasons, founded in truth and justice, for the judgment you pronounce, which you can carry with you, till you go down into your graves; reasons, which it will require no argument to revive, no sophistry, no excitement, no regard to popular favour, to render satisfactory to your consciences; reasons which you can appeal to, in every crisis of your lives, and which shall be able to assure you, in your own great extremity, that you have not judged a fellow creature without mercy.
Sir, I have done with the case of this individual, and now leave him in your hands. I hold up before him the broad shield of the constitution; if through that he be pierced and fall, he will be but one sufferer, in a common catastrophe.
There's a spell in his eye,
Now, now is the time,
Shout for the mighty men,
Who died along this shoreWho died within this mountain's glen! For never nobler chieftain's head Was laid on Valour's crimson bed,
Nor ever prouder gore Sprang forth, than their's
who won the day Upon thy strand, Thermopylæ! Shout for the mighty men,
Who, on the Persian tents, Like lions from their midnight den Bounding on the slumbering deer, Rushed
a storm of sword and spear ,
Like the roused elements, Let loose from an immortal hand, To chasten or to crush a land!
But there are none to hear;
Greece is a hopeless slave.
Upon thy sea-washed grave.
And it is given!—the surge
The tree-the rock-the sand
The vision of thy band
And is thy grandeur done?
Mother of men like these!
Till in thy crimsoned seas
DUKE OF MILAN PLEADING HIS CAUSE BEFORE CHARLES V.
I COME not, Emperor, t'invade thy mercy,
I profess I was thine enemy,
although my neck were under
Now, give me leave