supplication, that the great Author of violated humanity may not confound them together in one common judgment,

Gentlemen, I find, as I said before, I have not sufficient strength to go on with the remaining parts of the book. I hope, however, that notwithstanding my omissions you are now completely satisfied, that whatever errours or misconceptions may have misled the writer of these pages, the justification of a person whom he believed to be innocent, and whose accusers had appealed to the publick, was the single object of his contemplation. If I have succeeded in that object every purpose which I had in addressing you has been answered.

It only now remains to remind you that another consideration has been strongly pressed upon you, and, no doubt, will be insisted on in reply. You will be told, that the matters which I have been justifying as legal, and even meritorious, have therefore not been made the subject of complaint; and that whatever intrinsick merit parts of the book may be supposed or even admitted to possess, such merit can afford no justification to the selected passages, of some which even with the context, carry the mean. ing charged by the information, and which are indecent animadversions on authority.

Gentlemen, to this I would answer (still protesting as I do against the application of any one of the innu. endos,) that if you are firmly persuaded of the single, ness and purity of the author's intentions, you are not bound to subject him to infamy, because in the zealous career of a just and animated composition, he happens to have tripped with his pen into an intemperate expression in one or two instances of a long work. If this severe duty were binding on your consciences the liberty of the press would be an empty sound, and no man could venture to write on any subject however pure his purpose, without an attorney at one elbow, and a council at the other.

From minds thus subdued by the terrours of punishment, there could issue no works of genius to expand the empire of human reason, nor any masterly compositions on the general nature of government, by the help of which, the great commonwealths of mankind have founded their establishments; much Jess any of those useful applications of them to critical conjunctures, by which from time to time, our own constitution, by the exertion of patriot citizens, has been brought back to its standard.

Under such terrours, all the great lights of science and civilization must be extinguished: for men cannot communicate their free thoughts to one another with a lash held over their heads.

It is the nature of every thing that is great and useful, both in the animate and inanimate world, to be wild and irregular; and we must be contented to take them with their alloys which belong to them or live without them. Genius breaks from the fetters of criticism, but its wanderings are sanctioned by its majesty and wisdom, when it advances in its path. Subject it to the critick, and you tame it into dulness. Mighty rivers break down their banks in the winter, sweeping away to death the flocks which are fattened on the soil that they fertilize in the summer. The few may be saved by embankments from drowning, but the flock must perish for hunger. Tempests occasionly shake our dwellings, and dissipate our commerce; but they scourge before them the lazy elements, which without them would stagnate into pestilence,

In like manner, liberty herself, the last and best gift of God to his creatures, must be taken just as she is. You may pare her down into bashful regularity, and shape her into a perfect model of severe scrupulous law, but she will be liberty no longer; and you must be content to die under the lash of this inexorable justice which you have exchanged for the banner of freedom.

If it be asked where the line to this indulgence and impunity is to be drawn; the answer is easy. The ļiberty of the press on general subjects comprehends and implies as much strict observance of positive law

as is consistent with perfect purity of intention, and equal and useful society; and what that latitude is, cannot be promulgated in the abstract, but must be judged of in the particular instance, and consequently upon this occasion must be judged of by you, without forming any possible precedent for any other case; and where can the judgment be possibly so safe as with the members of that society, which alone can suffer if the writing is calculated to do mischief to the publick.

You must, therefore, try the book by that criterion, and say whether the publication was premature and offensive, or, in other words, whether the publisher was bound to have suppressed it until the pub. lick ear was anticipated and abused, and every avenue to the human heart or understanding secured and

blocked up

I see around me those, by whom, by and by, Mr. Hastings will be most ably and eloquently defended ;* but I am sorry to remind my friends, that but for the right of suspending the publick judgment concerning him till their season of exertion comes round, the tongues of angels would be insufficient for the task.

Gentlemen, I hope I have now performed my duty to my client; I sincerely hope that I have : for, cer. tainly, if ever there was a man pulled the other way by his interests and affections; if ever there was a man who should have trembled at the situation in which I have been placed on this occasion ; it is myself, who not only love, honour, and respect, but whose future hopes and preferments are linked from free choice with those who, from the mistakes of the author, are treated with great severity and injustice. These are strong retardments; but I have been urged on to activity by considerations, which can never be inconsistent with honourable attachments, either in the political or social world; the love of justice and of liberty and a zeal for the constitution of my country, which is the inheritance of our posterity, of the publick and of the world.

* Mr. Law, Mr. Plumer, and Mr. Dallas.

These are the motives which have animated me in defence of this person, who was an entire stranger to me; whose shop I never go to; and the author of whose publication, as well as Mr. Hastings who is the object of it, I never spoke to in my

life. 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 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 Gospels of Heaven. If the general tenour 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


which like the scored matter in the book before you chequers 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 for ever.

All this would, I admit, be perfectly foreign and irrelevant, if you were sitting here in a case of property between man and man, where a strict rule of law must operate, or there would be an end in that case of civil life, and society.

It would be equally foreign, and still more irrelevant, if applied to those shameful attacks upon private reputation which are the bane and disgrace of the press; by which whole families have been rendered unhappy during life, by aspersions, cruel, scandalous, and unjust. Let sUCH LIBELLERS remember, that no one of my principles of defence can at any time or upon any occasion ever apply to shield them from punishment; because such conduct is not only an infringement of the rights of men, as they are defined by strict law, but is absolutely incompatible with honour, honesty, or mistaken good intention.

On such men let the attorney general bring forth all the artillery of his office, and the thanks and blessings of the whole publick will follow him. But this is a totally different case. Whatever private calumny may mark this work, it has not been made the subject of complaint, and we have therefore nothing to do with that, nor any right to consider it. We are trying whether the publick could have been considered as of fended and endangered, if Mr. Hastings himself, in whose place the author and publisher have a right to put themselves, had, under all the circumstances which have been considered, composed, and published the volume under examination. That question cannot in common sense be any thing resembling a question of Law, but is a pure question of fact, to be decided on the principles which I have humbly recommended. I therefore ask of the court, that the book itself may now be delivered to you. Read it with attention, and as you find it pronounce your verdict.



« ForrigeFortsett »