Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

levelling familiarity, when I speak of persons in the higher ranks of society-distinctions of orders are necessary, and I always feel disposed to treat them with respect—but when it is my duty to speak of the crimes by which they are degraded, I am not so fastidious as to shrink from their contact, when to touch them is essential to their dissection. In this action, the condition, the conduct, and circumstances of the party, are justly and peculiarly the objects of your consideration. Who are the parties? The plaintiff

, young, amiable, of family and education. Of the generous disinterestedness of his heart, you can form an opinion, even from the evidence of the defendant, that he declined an alliance, which would have added to his fortune and consideration, and which he rejected for an unportioned union with his present wife. She too at that time young, beautiful and accomplished; and feeling her affection for her husband increase, in proportion as she remembered the ardour of his love, and the sincerity of his sacrifice. Look now to the defendant! I blush to name him! I blush to name a rank which he has tarnished and a patent that he has worse than cancelled. High in the armyhigh in the state—the hereditary counsellor of the king-of wealth incalculable--and to this last I advert with an indignant and contemptuous satisfaction, because, as the only instrument of his guilt and shame, it will be the means of his punishment, and the source of compensation for his guilt.

But let me call your attention distinctly to the questions you have to consider. The first is the fact of guilt. Is this noble lord guilty? His counsel knew too well how they would have mortified his vanity, had they given the smallest reason to doubt the splendour of his atchievement. Against any such humi. liating suspicion, he had taken the most studious precaution by the publicity of the exploit. And here, in this court, and before you, and in the face of the country, has he the unparalleled effrontery of disdaining to resort even to a confession of innocencehis guilt established, your next question is, the da

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

mages you should give. You have been told, that
the amount of the damages should depend on circum-
stances. You will consider these circumstances,
whether of aggravation or mitigation. His learned
counsel contend, that the plaintiff has been the au-
thor of his own suffering, and ought to receive no
compensation for the ill consequences of his own
conduct. In what part of the evidence do you

find
any foundation for that assertion? He indulged her,
it seems, in dress-generous and attached, he pro-
bably indulged her in that point beyond his means ;
and the defendant now impudently calls on you, to find
an excuse for the adulterer, in the fondness and libe-
rality of the husband; but you have been told, that the
husband could not. Odious and impudent aggravation
of injury—to add calumny to insult, and outrage to
dishonour. From whom, but a man hackneyed in
the paths of shame and vice from whom, but from
a man having no compunctions in his own breast to
restrain him, could you expect such brutal disregard
for the feelings of others—from whom but the cold-
blooded veteran seducer—from what, but from the
exhausted mind—the habitual community with shame
—from what, but the habitual contempt of virtue and
of man, could you have expected the arrogance-
the barbarity--and folly of so foul-because so false
an imputation ? He should have reflected, and have
blushed, before he suffered so vile a topick of defence
to have passed his lips. But, ere you condemn, let
him have the benefit of the excuse, if the excuse be
true. You must have observed how his counsel flut-
tered and vibrated, between what they called conni-
vance and injudicious confidence; and how, in af-
fecting to distinguish, they have confounded them
both together. If the plaintiff has connived, I freely
say to you, do not reward the wretch who has prosti-
tuted his wife, and surrendered his own honour-do
not compensate the pander of his own shame, and
the willing instrument of his own infamy. But as
there is no sum so low, to which such a defence, if
true, ought not to reduce your verdict, so neither

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

is any so high, to which such a charge ought not to inflame it, if such a charge be false.

Where is the single fact in this case on which the remotest suspicion of connivance can be hung ?-Odiously has the defendant endeavoured to make the softest and most amiable feelings of the heart, the pretext of his slanderous imputations. An ancient and respectable prelate, the husband of his wife's sister, chained down to the bed of sickness, perhaps to the bed of death. In that distressing situation, my client suffered that wife to be the bearer of consolation to the bosom of her sister-he had not the heart to refuse her-and the softness of his nature is now charged on him as a crime. He is now insolently told, that he connived at his dishonour, and that he ought to have foreseen, that the mansion of sickness and of sorrow, would have been made the scene of assignation and of guilt. On this charge of connivance, I will not further weary you, or exhaust myself—I will add nothing more, than that it is as false as it is impudent—that in the evidence, it has not a colour of support; and that by your verdict, you should mark it with reprobation. The other subject, namely, that he was indiscreet in his confidence, does, I think, call for some discussion-for I trust, you see, that I affect not any address to your passions, by which you may be led away from the subject- I presume merely to separate the parts of this affecting case, and to lay them item by item before you, with the coldness of detail, and not with any colouring or display of fiction or of fancy.-Honourable to himself was his unsuspected confidence, but fatal must we admit it to have been, when we look to the abuse committed upon it; but where was the guilt of this indiscretion? He did admit this noble lord to pass his threshold as his guest. Now the charge which this noble lord builds on this indiscretion is-“Thou fool! thou hast confidence in my honour—and that was a guilty indiscretion--thou simpleton, thou thoughtest that an admitted and cherished guest, would have respected the laws of honour

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

and hospitality, and thy indiscretion was guilt. Thou thoughtest that he would have shrunk from the meanness and barbarity of requiting kindness with treachery, and thy indiscretion was guilt.”

Gentlemen, what horrid alternative in the treatment of wives would such reasoning recommend ? Are they to be immured by worse than eastern barbarity ? Are their principles to be depraved—their passions sublimated, every finer motive of action extinguished by the inevitable consequences of thus treating them like slaves ? Or is a liberal and generous confidence in them to be the passport of the adulterer, and the justification of his crime?

Honourably but fatally for his own repose, he was neither jealous, suspicious, nor cruel. He treated the defendant with the confidence of a friend and his wife with the tenderness of a husband. He did leave to the noble marquis the physical possibility of committing against him the greatest crime which can be perpetrated against a being of an amiable heart and refined education. In the middle of the day, at the moment of divine worship, when the miserable husband was on his knees, directing the prayers and thanksgiving of his congregation to their God--that moment did the remorseless adulterer chuse to carry off the deluded victim from her husband from her child-from her character from her happiness-as if, not content to leave his crime confined to its miserable aggravations, unless he also gave it a cast and colour of factitious sacrilege and impiety. Oh! how happy had it been when he arrived at the bank of the river with the ill-fated fugitive, ere yet he had committed her to that boat, of which, like the fabled barque of Styx, the exile was eternal. How happy at that moment, so teeming with misery and with shame, if you, my lord, had met him and could have accosted him in the character of that good genius which had abandoned him. How impressively might you have pleaded the cause of the father, of the child, of the mother, and even of the worthless defendant himself. You would have said, “Is this the

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

requital that you are about to make for the respect and kindness, and confidence in your honour? Can you deliberately expose this young man in the bloom of life, with all his hopes yet before him. Can you expose him, a wretched outcast from society, to the scorn of a merciless world? Can you set him adrift upon the tempestuous ocean of his own passions, at this early season when they are most headstrong; and can you cut him out from the moorings of those domestick obligations, by whose cable he might ride at safety from their turbulence? Think of, if you can conceive it, what a powerful influence arises from the sense of home, from the sacred religion of the heart in quelling the passions, in reclaiming the wanderings, in correcting the disorders of the human heart. Do not cruelly take from him the protection of these attachments. But if you have no pity for the father, have mercy at least upon his innocent and helpless child. Do not condemn him to an education scandalous or neglected-do not strike him into that most dreadful of all human conditions, the orphanage that springs not from the grave, that falls not from the hand of Providence, or the stroke of death; but comes before its time anticipated and inflicted by the remorseless cruelty of parental guilt. For the poor victim herself, not yet immolated, while yet balancing upon the pivot of her destiny, your heart could not be cold, nor your tongue be wordless. You would have said to him, Pause, my lord, while there is yet a moment for reflection. What are your motives, what your views, what your prospects from what you are about to do? You are a married man, the husband of the most amiable and respectable of women; you cannot look to the chance of marrying this, wretched fugitive. Between you and such an event there are two sepulchres to pass. What are your inducements ? Is it love, think you? No. Do not give that name to any attraction you can find in the faded refuse of a violated bed. Love is a noble and generous passion; it can be founded only on a pure and ardent friendship, on an exalted

« ForrigeFortsett »