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Gentlemen, I think I can observe that you are for money, whatever may be the necessity for touched with this way of considering the subject, taking it.13 All these things must ever be oe. and I can account for it. I have not been con- curring. But under the pressure of such considering it through the cold medium of books, stant dithiculties, so dangerous to national honor, but have been speaking of man and his nature, it might be better, perhaps, to think of effectually and of human dominion, from what I have seen securing it altogether, by recalling our troops of them myself among reluctant nations submit- and our merchants, and abandoning our Oriental ting to our authority. I know what they feel, empire. Until this be done, neither religion por and how such feelings can alone be repressed. philosophy can be pressed very far into the aid I have heard them in my youth from a naked of reformation and punishment. If England, The Indian savage, in the indignant character of a from a lust of ambition and dominion, will insist Chief. prince surrounded by his subjects, ad- on maintaining despotic rule over distant and dressing the governor of a British colony, hold- hostile nations, beyond all comparison more nuing a bundle of sticks in his hand, as the notes merous and extended than hersell, and gives of his unlettered eloquence. “Who is it," said commission to her viceroys to govern them with the jealous ruler over the desert, encroached no other instructions than to preserve them, and upon by the restless foot of English adventure- to secure permanently their revenues, with what “who is it that causes this river to rise in the color of consistency or reason can she place herhigh mountains, and to empty itself into the self in the moral chair, and affect to be shocked ocean?' Who is it that causes to blow the loud at the execution of her own orders; adverting winds of winter, and that calms them again in to the exact measure of wickedness and injussummer? Who is it that rears up the shade of tice necessary to their execution, and complainthose lofty forests, and blasts them with the ing only of the excess as the immorality, considquick lightning at his pleasure? The same Be- ering her authority as a dispensation for breaking who gave to you a country on the other side ing the commands of God, and the breach of of the waters, and gave ours to us; and by this them as only punishable when contrary to the title we will defend it," said the warrior, throwing ordmances of man? down his tomahawk upon the ground, and rais- Such a proceeding, gentlemen, begets serious ing the war-sound of his nation. These are the reflection. It would be better, perhaps, for the feelings of subjugated man all round the globe ; masters and the servants of all such governments and depend upon it, nothing but fear will control to join in supplication, that the great Author of where it is vain to look for affection.12
i violated humanity may not confound them toThese reflections are the only antidotes to gether in one common judgment. those anathemas of superhuman eloquence which | Gentlemen, I find, as I said before, I have not have lately shaken these walls that surround us, sufficient strength to go on with the remaining but which it unaccountably falls to my province, parts of the book. I hope, however, that notwhether I will or no, a little to stem the torrent withstanding my omissions, you are now comof, by reminding you that you have a mighty pletely satisfied that, whatever errors or misconsway in Asia, which can not be maintained by Iceptions may have misled the writer of these the finer sympathies of life, or the practice of its pages, the justification of a person whom he be. charities and affections. What will they do for lieved to be innocent, and whose accusers had you when surrounded by two hundred thousand themselves appealed to the public, was the sin. men with artillery, cavalry, and elephants, call. glo object of his contemplation. If I have suc. ing upon you for their dominions which you have ceeded in that object, every purpose which I had robbed them of? Justice may, no doubt, in such in addressing you has been answered. a case forbid the levying of a fine to pay a re- ! It only now remains to remind you that anvolting soldiery; a treaty may stand in the way other consideration has been strong. If the writer of increasing a tribute to keep up the very ex- ly pressed upon you, and, no doubt, was honest ia istence of the government; and delicacy for will be insisted on in reply. You will be ouglit net women may forbid all entrance into a Zenana be told that the matters which I have for andra
been justifying as legal, and even mer- ** inevitably have fallen altogether; and, in addition to this, he was constantly pressed by the Directors of
itorious, have therefore not been made the subthe East India Company for remittances of money,
ject of complaint; and that whatever intrinsic which could only be extorted by oppression. Al merit parts of the book may be supposed or even though his government was arbitrary, yet it was admitted to possess, such merit can afford no popular among the natives, being milder and more justification to the selected passages, some of just than that of their own princes; while he him which, even with the context, carry the meaning self was respected for the unusual regard which he
charged by the information, and which are indepaid to native prejudices and customs, and his pat. Loont animadversions on authority To this I ronage of literature and the fine arts.
would answer (still protesting as I do against 13 The reader will be struck with the rapid flow of the rhythmus in this speech of the Indian chief, so
the application of any one of the innuendoes), admirably corresponding in its iambic structure
that if you are firmly persuaded of the singlewith the character of the speaker. It should be ness and purity of the author's intentions, you read aloud in connection with a correspondent passage of Mr. Grattan, already remarked upon for its 13 See introduction to Mr. Sheridan's speech, p. slow and majestic movement. See page 390. | 405–6.
to be ppuising
severe a restriction on
are not bound to subject him to infamy, because, / which you had exchanged for the banners of in the zealous career of a just and animated Freedom. composition, he happens to have tripped with If it be asked where the line to this indulgence his pen into an intemperate expression in one or and impunity is to be drawn, the an- General printwo instances of a long work. If this severe swer is easy. The liberty of the press, please che duty were binding on your consciences, the lib on general subjects, comprehends and press. erty of the press would be an empty sound, and 'implies as much strict observance of positive law no man could venture to write on any subject, as is consistent with perfect purity of intention, however pure his purpose, without an attorney and equal and useful society. What that latiat one elbow and a counsel at the other.
tude is, can not be promulgated in the abstract, From minds thus subdued by the terrors of but must be judged of in the particular instance, Evils of too punishment, there could issue no works and consequently, upon this occasion, must be striction on of genius to expand the empire of hu- judged of by you, without forming any possible the press man reason, nor any masterly composi- precedent for any other case; and where can tions on the general nature of government, by the judgment be possibly so safe as with the the help of which the great commonwealths of members of that society which alone can suffer, mankind have founded their establishments; if the writing is calculated to do mischief to the much less any of those useful applications of public ? You must, therefore, try the book by them to critical conjunctures, by which, from that criterion, and say whether the publication time to time, our own Constitution, by the exer was premature and offensive, or, in other words, tion of patriot citizens, has been brought back to whether the publisher is bound to have suppressits standard. Under such terrors, all the great ed it until the public ear was anticipated and lights of science and civilization must be extin- abused, and every avenue to the human heart or guished; for men can not communicate their free understanding secured and blocked up? I see thoughts to one another with a lash held over around me those by whom, by-and-by, Mr. Hasttheir heads. It is the nature of every thing that ings will be most ably and eloquenty defendis great and useful, both in the animate and in- ed ;ló but I am sorry to remind my friends that, animate world, to be wild and irregular, and we but for the right of suspending the public judg. must be contented to take them with the alloys ment concerning him till their season of exerwhich belong to them, or live without them. tion comes round, the tongues of angels would Genius breaks from the setters of criticism, but be insufficient for the task. its wanderings are sanctioned by its majesty and Gentlemen, I hope I have now performed my wisdom when it advances in its path: subject it to duty to my client: I sincerely hope that I have; the critic, and you tame it into dullness. Mighty for, certainly, if ever there was a man pulled the rivers break down their banks in the winter, other way by his interests and affections—if ever sweeping away to death the flocks which are there was a man who should have trembled at fattened on the soil that they fertilize in the sum- the situation in which I have been placed on this mer: the few may be saved by embankments occasion, it is myself, who not only love, honor, from drowning, but the flock must perish for hun- and respect, but whose future hopes and preferger. Tempests occasionally shake our dwellings ments are linked, from free choice, with thoso and dissipate our commerce; but they scourge who, from the mistakes of the author, are treatbefore them the lazy elements, which without ed with great severity and injustice. These are them would stagnate into pestilence.14 In like strong retardments; but I have been urged on manner, Liberty herself, the last and best gist of to activity by considerations which can never be God to his creatures, must be taken just as she inconsistent with honorable attachments, either is : you might pare her down into bashsul reg. in the political or social world--the love of jusularity, and shape her into a perfect model of tice and of liberty, and a zeal for the Constitusevere, scrupulous law, but she would then be tion of my country, which is the inheritance of Liberty no longer; and you must be content our posterity, of the public, and of the world. to die under the lash of this inexorable justice These are the motives which have animated me
in defense of this person, who is an entire stran14 This is one of the finest amplifications in En
ger to me--whose shop I never go to—and the glish oratory, beautiful in itself, justified by the im. author of whose publication, as well as Mr. Hastportance of the subject which it enforces, and ad. ings, who is the object of it, I never spoke to in mirably suited to produce the designed impression. my life.
The seminal idea was probably suggested by a re. One word more, gentlemen, and I have done. mark of Burke, whose writings Mr. Erskine inces. Every human tribunal ought to take A remed to hasantly studied. “Il is the nature of all greatness
care to administer justice, as we look man trailty to not to be exact."--See page 252. We see in this
be observed in
hereafter to have justice administered namastering case, how a man of genius may borrow from anoth
to ourselves. Upon the principle on er, without detracting in the least from the freshness and originality with which bis ideas are ex.
which the Attorney General prays sentence upon pressed and applied. At the present day, there can my client-God have mercy upon us ! Instead be very little of that originality which presents an of standing before him in judgment with the idea for the first time. All that can be expected is, that we make it our own, and apply it to new pur- 15 Mr. Law (afterward Lord Ellenborough), Mr. poses.
| Plamer, and Mr. Dallas.
hopes and consolations of Christians, we must by which whole families have been rendered uncall upon the mountains to cover us; for which happy during life, by aspersions, cruel, scandalof us can present, for omniscient examination, a ous, and unjust. Let such libelers remember pure, unspotted, and faultless course? But I that no one of my principles of defense can, at humbly expect that the benevolent Author of our | any time or upon any occasion, ever apply to being will judge us as I have been pointing out shield them from punishment; because such for your example. Holding up the great volume conduct is not only an infringement of the rights of our lives in his hands, and regarding the gen- of men, as they are defined by strict law, but is eral scope of them ; if he discovers benevolence, absolutely incompatible with honor, honesty, or charity, and good-will to man beating in the mistaken good intention. On such men let the heart, where he alone can look; if he finds that Attorney General bring forth all the artillery of our conduct, though often forced out of the path his office, and the thanks and blessings of the by our infirmities, has been in general well di- whole public will follow him. But this is a torected; his all-searching eye will assuredly nev- tally different case. Whatever private calumny er pursue us into those little corners of our lives, may mark this work, it has not been made the much less will his justice select them for punish subject of complaint, and we have therefore nothment, without the general context of our exist- ing to do with that, nor any right to consider it. ence, by which faults may be sometimes found We are trying whether the public eould have to have grown out of virtues, and very many of been considered as oflended and endangered if our heaviest offenses to have been grafted by hu- / Mr. Hastings himself, in whose place the author man imperfection upon the best and kindest of and publisher have a right to put themselves, our aflections. No, gentlemen, believe me, this had, under all the circumstances which have been is not the course of divine justice, or there is no considered, composed and published the volume truth in the Gospels of Heaven. If the general under examination. That question can not, in enor of a man's conduct be such as I have rep- common sense, be any thing resembling a ques. resented it, he may walk through the shadow of tion of Law, but is a pure question of fact, to be death, with all his faults about him, with as much decided on the principles which I have humbly cheerfulness as in the common paths of life; be- recommended. I, therefore, ask of the court that cause he knows that, instead of a stern accuser the book itself may now be delivered to you. to expose before the Author of his nature those Read it with attention, and as you shall find it, frail passages which, like the scored matter in pronounce your verdict. 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 This trial took place before the passing of Mr repentance blot them out forever.
Fox's Libel Bill; and Lord Kenyon charged the All this would, I admit, be perfectly foreign jury that they were not to consider whether the and irrelevant, if you were sitting here in a case pamphlet was libelous, but simply whether it had of property between man and man, where a strict been published by the defendant. Under these rule of law must operate, or there would be an circumstances, they spent two hours in delibera. end of civil life and society. It would be equal- tion, but finally broke through the instructions of ly foreign, and still more irrelevant, if applied to the court, and found the defendant not GUILTY, those shameful attacks upon private reputation thus anticipating the rights soon after secured to which are the bane and disgrace of the press ; l juries by an act of Parliament.
SPEECH OF MR. ERSKINE IN BEHALF OF JOHN FROST, WHEN INDICTED FOR UTTERING SEDITIOUS WORDS,
DELIVERED BEFORE THE COURT OF KING'S BENCH, MARCH, 1793.
INTRODUCTION. This was the first trial under what has been called the “Reign of Terror.” Mr. Frost was a London attorney of eminence, who had just returned from a visit to France, at that time under the government of the Convention, and hastening toward the revolutionary crisis. He dined with an agricultural society at a coffee-boase, on the 6th of November, 1792. On his coming down from the private room, where be had been dining, into the public coffee-room, between nine and ten in the evening, he was addressed by a person of the name of Yatman, who, knowing Mr. Frost, and that he had just returned from the continent, said to bim, “Well, how do they go on in France ?" Upon which Mr. Frost, who was much heated with wine, exclaimed, “I am for equality, and no King." Mr. Yatman replied, “ What! no King in this country ?" and Mr. Frost then repeated, “ Yes, no King; there ought to be no King. And it was for the use of this language, and for nothing beyond this, that the indictment was preferred.
SPEECH, &c. GENTLEMEN OF THE Jury,—I rise to address sider myself entitled, not only for the defendant you under circumstances so peculiar, that I con- / arraigned before you, but personally for mysell,
to the utmost indulgence of the court. I came be, in any shape, before you; and that upon the down this morning with no other notice of the trial of this indictment, supported only by the evi. duty cast upon me in this cause, nor any other dence you have heard, the words must be judged direction for the premeditation necessary to its of as if spoken by any man or woman in the kingperformance, than that which I have ever con- dom, at any time from the Norman Conquest to sidered to be the safest and the best-namely, the moment I am addressing you. the records of the court, as they are entered here I admit, indeed, that the particular time in for trial, where, for the ends of justice, the charge which words are spoken, or acts com- if these were must always appear with the most accurate pre-mitted, may most essentially alter connected with cision, that the accused may know what crime their quality and construction, and should have he is called upon to answer, and his counsel how give to expressions or conduct, which in the indict Embarrassment he may defend him. Finding, there in another season might have been ment arising from the fore, upon the record which arraigns innocent, or at least indifferent, the highest and traveled out of the defendant, a simple, unqualified most enormous guilt. But, for that very reason,
charge of seditious words, unconnect the supposed particularity of the present times, ed, and uncomplicated with any extrinsic events, as applicable to the matter before you, is abso. I little imagined that the conduct of my client lutely shut out from your consideration-shut was to receive its color and construction from out upon the plainest and most obvious principle the present state of France, or rather of all Eu- of justice and law; because, wherever time or rope, as affecting the condition of England. I occasion mix with an act, affect its quality, and little dreamed that the 6th of November (which, constitute or enhance its criminality, they then reading the indictment, I had a right to consider become an essential part of the misdemeanor itlike any other day in the calendar) was to turn self, and must consequently be charged as such out an epoch in this country (for so it is styled in upon the record. I plainly discover I have his the argument); and that, instead of having to Lordship's assent to this proposition. If, there. deal with idle, thoughtless words, uttered over fore, the Crown had considered this cause originwine, through the passage of a coffee-house, with ally in the serious light in which it considers it whatever at any time might belong to them, I to-day, it has wholly mistaken its course. If it was to meet a charge of which I had no notice had considered the government of France as actor conception, and to find the loose dialogue, ively engaged in the encouragement of disaffecwhich, even upon the face of the record itself, tion to the monarchy of England, and that her exhibits nothing more than a casual sudden con- newly-erected republic was set up by her as the versation, exalted to an accusation of the most great type for imitation and example here; if it premeditated, serious, and alarming nature— had considered that numbers, and even classes verging upon high treason itself, by its connec- of our countrymen, were ripe for disaffection, if tion with the most hostile purposes to the state, not for rebellion; and that the defendant, as an and assuming a shape still more interesting from emissary of France, had spoken the words with its dangerous connection with certain mysterious the premeditated design of undermining our govconspiracies, which, in confederacy with French ernment-this situation of things might and ought republicans, threaten, it seems, the Constitution of to have been put as facts upon the record, and as our once happy country.
facts established by evidence, instead of resting, Gentlemen, I confess myself much unprepared as they do to-day, upon assertion. By such a Injust to involve for a discussion of this nature, and course the crime, indeed, would have become of feridant with de a little disconcerted at being so. the magnitude represented; but, on the other Frencla politics. For although, as I have said, I had hand, as the conviction could only have followed no notice from the record that the politics of from the proof, the defendant, upon the evidence Europe were to be the subject of discourse, yet of to-day, must have an hour ago been acquitted. experience ought to have taught me to expect Not a syllable has been proved of any emissaries it; for what act of government has, for a long from France to debauch our monarchical princitime past, been carried on by any other means ? ples; not even an insinuation in evidence that, if When or where has been the debate, or what has there were any such, the defendant was one of been the object of authority, in which the affairs them; not a syllable of proof, either directly or of France have not taken the lead? The affairs indirectly, that the condition of the country, when of France have, indeed, become the common stalk- the words were uttered, differed from its ordinary ing-horse for all state purposes. I know the condition in times of prosperity and peace. It honor of my learned friend,' too well to impute to is, therefore, a new and most compendious mode him the introduction of them for any improper of justice, that the facts which wholly constitute, or dishonorable purpose. I am sure he connects or, at all events, lift up the dignity and danger them in his own mind with the subject, and thinks of the offense, should not be charged upon record, them legally before you : I am bound to think so, because they could not be proved, but are to be takbecause the general tenor of his address to you en for granted in the argument, so as to produce has been manly and candid. But I assert that the same effect upon the trial and in the punishneither the actual condition of France, nor the ment, as if they had been actually charged and supposed condition of this country, are, or can completely established. If the affairs of France,
as they are supposed to affect this country, had · The Attorney General, Sir A. Macdonald. been introduced without a warrant from the
for the Crown
charge or the evidence, I should have been whol- country, were, for no other crime than their perly silent concerning them; but as they have been severance in those sentiments which certain peralready mixed with the subject, in a manner so sons had originated and abandoned, to be given eloquent and affecting as, too probably, to have up to the licentious pens and tongues of hired made a strong impression, it becomes my duty to defamation; to be stabbed in the dark by anonyendeavor at least to remove it.
mous accusations; and to be held out to England The late revolutions in France have been rep- and to the whole world, as conspiring, under the
resented to you as not only ruinous auspices of cut-throats, to overturn every thing by the counsel to their authors, and to the inhabit- sacred in religion, and venerable in the ancient
** ants of that country, but as likely to government of our country. Certain it is, that shake and disturb the principles of this and all the whole system of government, of which the other governments. You have been told, that business we are now engaged in is no mean specthough the English people are generally well af- imen, came upon the public with the suddenness fected to their government-ninety-nine out of of a clap of thunder, without one act to give it one hundred, upon Mr. 'Attorney General's own foundation, from the very moment that notice wis statement--yet that wicked and designing men given of a motion in Parliament to reform the have long been laboring to overturn it; that noth- representation of the people. Long, long, being short of the wise and spirited exertions of fore that time the "Rights of Man," and other the present government (of which this prosecu- books, though not complained of, had been writtion is, it seems, one of the instances) have hith- ten; equally long before it, the addresses to the erto averted, or can continue to avert, the dan- French government, which have created such a gerous contagion which misrule and anarchy are panic, had existed; but as there is a “gire and spreading over the world; that bodies of English-take” in this world, they passed unregarded. men, forgetting their duty to their own country Leave but the practical corruptions, and they are and its Constitution, have congratulated the Con- contented to wink at the speculations of theorists, vention of France upon the formation of their and the compliments of public-spirited civility. monstrous government, and that the conduct of But the moment the national attention was awak. the defendant must be considered as a part of a ened to look at things in practice, and to seek to deep-laid system of disaffection, which threatens reform corruptions at home, from that moment, the establishments of this kingdom.
as at the ringing of a bell, the whole hive began Gentlemen, this state of things having no sup- to swarm, and every man in his turn has been The
port whatever from any evidence be- stung. . before the jars fore you, and resting only upon opin- This, gentlemen, is the real state of the case ;
ion, I have an equal right to mine; and I am so far from pushing the ob. The defendant having the same means of observation with other servation beyond its bearing for the entert people of what passes in the world, and as I have defense of a client, that I am ready to put as a icra a very clear one upon this subject, I will give it admit Mr. Frost, in his conduct, has ary retura. you in a few words.
not been wholly invulnerable, and that, in some I am of opinion, then, that there is not the measure, he has brought this prosecution upon
smallest foundation for the alarm which himself. Gentlemen, Mr. Frost must forgive me, views direct has been so industriously propagated; if I take the liberty to say that, with the best inly the reverse.
*- in this I am so far from being singu- tentions in the world, he formerly pushed his oblar, that I verily believe the authors of it are servations and conduct respecting government themselves privately of the same way of think- further than many would be disposed to follow ing. But it was convenient for certain persons, him. I can not disguise or conceal from you, that who had changed their principles, to find some I find his name in this green-book, as associated plausible pretext for changing them. It was with Mr. Pitt and the Duke of Richmond, at the convenient for those who, when out of power, Thatched House Tavern, in St. James's Street. had endeavored to lead the public mind to the ne- I find him, also, the correspondent of the former ; cessity of reforming the corruptions of our own and that I discover in their publications on the government, to find any reasons for their contin- structure and conduct of the House of Commons, uance and confirmation, when they operate as expressions which, however merited, and in my engines to support themselves in the exercise of 9 In allusion to Mr. Pitt's altered opinions as to powers which were only odious when in other parliamentary reform. hands. For this honorable purpose, the sober, re- 4 Mr. Charles Grey, at the request of the Society flecting, and temperate character of the English of “The Friends of the People," op the 30th April, nation was to be represented as fermenting into 1792, gave notice of his intention to bring forward, sedition, and into an insane contempt for the re- / in the ensuing session, a motion to this effect.
for this is Mr. Erskine read the minute (in Mr. Pitt's own vered institutions of their ancestors. For this.
handwriting) of a meeting of members of Parliament, honorable purpose, the wisest men—the most em
and of members of several committees of counties inent for virtue--the most splendid in talents
and cities, held at the Thatched House Taveru, at the most independent for rank and property in the which Mr. Frost was present, on the 18th of May,
1782, and at which resolutions were passed in ap. ? Among the principal were Mr. Burke, the Prince probation of Mr. Pitt's motion, on the 7th of May preof Wales, the Duke of Portland, and Lords Spencer, vious, on the subject of the representation of the Mansfield, Fitzwilliam, and Loughborough.
people in Parliament.