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I. — RIGHT OF SELF-DEFENSE. From a speech before the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, 1806, at the trial
of Thomas 0. Selfredge for shooting Charles Austin, who attacked him with a cowhide.
THE opposing counsel have contended, gentlemen of the jury, in order to establish the guilt of my client, that the right of selfdefense is not given by the law of civil society. It is founded, then, on the law of nature — a law of higher authority than any human institution. Surely I need not tell you that the man who is daily beaten on the public exchange can not retain his standing in society by a resort to the laws. Recovering daily damages will rather aggravate the contempt of the community.
It is a most serious calamity for a man of high qualifications for usefulness, of a delicate sense of honor, to be driven to the necessity of repelling a brutal personal attack ---of saving himself from the profanation of a ruffian's blow. Yet, should it become inevitable, he is bound to defend himself like a man; to summon all the energies of his soul, rise above ordinary maxims, poise himself on his own magnanimity, and hold himself responsible only to his God. Whatever may be the consequences, he is bound to bear them; to stand like Mount Atlas,
“When storms and tempests thunder on his brow,
And oceans break their billows at his feet.” Do not believe that I am inculcating opinions tending to disturb the peace of society. On the contrary, they are the only principles that can preserve it. It is more dangerous for the laws to give security to a man disposed to commit outrages on the persons of his fellow-citizens, than to authorize those, who must otherwise meet irreparable injury, to defend themselves at every hazard. I will not, if I can help it, leave it in the power of any daring miscreant to mutilate, maltreat, or degrade me. I respect the laws of my country; I revere the precepts of our holy religion ; I should shudder at shedding human blood ; I would practice moderation and forbearance, to avoid so terrible a calamity; yet, should I ever be driven to that impassable point where degradation and disgrace begin, may this arm shrink palsied from its socket, if I fail to defend my own honor !
II. — THE NATURE OF JUSTICE. From the speech on the trial of Warren Hastings, June 6th, 1788. LET me call the attention of the court to the magnificent paragraph in which Mr. Hastings concludes his communication. It will give you some idea of this man's notions of justice. "I hope,” says Mr. Hastings, “it will not be a departure from official language to say, that the majesty of justice ought not to be approached without solicitation. She ought not to descend to inflame or provoke, but to withhold her judgment until she is called on to determine.” Justice ought not to be approached without solicitation! Justice ought not to descend! But, my lords, do you, the judges of this land, and the expounders of its rightful laws, do you approve of this mockery, and call it justice ? No! justice is not this halt and miserable object; it is not the ineffective bauble of an Indian pagod; it is not the portentous phantom of despair; it is not like any fabled monster, formed in the eclipse of reason, and found in some unhallowed grove
of superstitious darkness and political dismay! No,
lords. In the happy reverse of all these, I turn from this disgusting caricature to the real image! Justice I have now before me, august and pure — the abstract idea of all that would be perfect in the spirits and the aspirings of men; where the mind rises, where the heart expands; where the countenance is ever placid and benign; where her favorite attitude is to stoop to the unfortunate, to hear their cry and to help them; to rescue and relieve, to succor and save; majestic from its mercy, venerable from its utility; uplifted without pride, firm without obduracy; beneficent in each preference, lovely though in her frown!
On that justice I rely, deliberate and sure, abstracted from all party purpose and political speculation, not in words, but in facts. You, my lords, who hear me, I conjure, by those rights it is your best privilege to preserve; by that fame it is your best pleasure to inherit; by all those feelings which refer to the first term in the series of existence, the original compact of our nature, our controlling rank in the creation. This is the call on all, to administer to truth and equity, as they would satisfy the laws; ay, as they would satisfy themselves with the most exalted bliss possible or conceivable for our nature, -- the self-approving consciousness of virtue, when the condemnation we look for will be one of the most ample mercies accomplished for mankind since the creation of the world! My lords, I have done.
THE UNITED STATES AND THE CHEROKEES.
III. - THE UNITED STATES AND THE CHEROKEES. In the Supreme Court of the United States, January, 1831, in the case of the
Cherokees against the State of Georgia It is with no ordinary feelings that I am about to take leave of this cause. The existence of the remnant of a once great and mighty nation is at stake, and it is for your honors to say whether they shall be blotted out from the creation, in utter disregard of all our treaties. Their cause is one that must come home to every honest and feeling heart. They have been true and faithful to us, and have a right to expect a corresponding fidelity on our part. Our wish has been their law. We asked them to become civilized, and they became so. They have even adopted our resentments, and in our war with the Seminole tribes they voluntarily joined our arms, and gave effectual aid in driving back those barbarians from the very state that now oppresses them. They threw upon the field a body of men who proved, by their martial bearing, their descent from the noble race that were once the lords of these extensive forests.
May it please your honors, this people have refused to us no gratification which it has been in their power to grant. They are here now in the last extremity, and with them must perish the honor of the American name for ever. We have pledged, for their protection and for the guarantee of the remainder of their lands, the faith and honor of our nation — a faith and honor never sullied, nor even drawn into question, until now. We promised them, and they trusted us. They trust us still. Shall they be deceived? They would as soon expect to see their rivers run upwards on their sources, or the sun roll back in his career, as that the United States would prove false to them, and false to the word so solemnly pledged by their Washington, and renewed and perpetuated by his illustrious successors.
With the existence of this people the faith of our nation, I repeat it, is fatally linked. The blow which destroys them quenches for ever our own glory; for what glory can there be, of which a patriot can be proud, after the good name of his country shall have departed? We may gather laurels on the field, and trophies on the ocean, but they will never hide this foul and bloody blot upon our escutcheon. “ Remember the Cherokee nation!” will be answer enough to the proudest boast that we can ever make-answer enough to cover with confusion the face and the heart of every man among us, in whose bosom the last spark of grace has not been extinguished.
I will hope for better things. There is a spirit that will yet
save us. I trust that we shall find it here - here in this sacred court; where no foul and malignant dēmon of party enters to darken the understanding, or to deaden the heart, but where all is clear, calm, pure, vital, and firm. I cannot believe that this honorable court, possessing the power of preservation, will stand by, and see these people stripped of their property, and extirpated from the earth, while they are holding up to us their treaties, and claiming the fulfillment of our engagements. If truth, and faith, and honor, and justice, have fled from every other part of our country, we shall find them here. If not, our sun has gone down in treachery, blood, and crime, in the face of the world; and, instead of being proud of our country, as heretofore, we may well call upon the rocks and mountains to hide our shame from earth and from heaven.
IV. - IRISH RELIGIOUS DISSENSIONS.
From a speech at the trial of O'Connell, 1843. SIR, religious conflicts have been our bane. We of Ireland are prevented by our wretched religious distinctions from cooperating for a single object by which the honor and substantial interests of our country can be promoted.
Fatal, disastrous, detestable distinctions! Detestable, because they are not only repugnant to the genuine spirit of Christianity, and substitute for the charities of religion the rancorous antipathies of sect, but because they practically reduce us to a colonial dependency; make the Union a name; substitute for a real Union a tie of parchment which an event might sunder; convert a nation into an appartenance; make us the footstool of the minister, the scorn of England, and the commiseration of the world!
Ireland is the only country in Europe in which abominable distinctions between Protestant and Catholic are permitted to continue. In Germany, where Luther translated the Scriptures; in France, where Calvin wrote the Institutes, -ay, in the land of the Dragonados and St. Bartholomews; in the land from whence the forefathers of one of the judicial functionaries of this court, and the first ministerial officer of the court, were barbarously driven, — the mutual wrongs done by Catholic and Protestant are forgiven and forgotten; while we, madmen that we are, arrayed by that fell fanaticism which, driven from every other country in Europe, has found a refuge here, precipitate ourselves upon each other in those encounters of sectarian ferocity, in which our
TRIBUTE TO AMERICAN CLERGYMEN.
country, bleeding and lacerated, is trodden under foot. We convert the island that ought to be one of the most fortunate in the sea, into a receptacle of degradation and of suffering; counteract the designs of Providence, and enter into a conspiracy for the frustration of the beneficent designs of God.
RICILARD LALOR SHIEL.
V. - TRIBUTE TO AMERICAN CLERGYMEN.
From the speech in the Girard Will Case. Sir, by the will of Mr. Girard, no minister of the Gospel, of any sect or denomination whatever, can be authorized or allowed to hold any office within the college; and not only that, but no minister or clergyman of any sect can,
for any purpose whatever, enter within the walls that are to surround this college. Now, I will not arraign Mr. Girard or his motives for this. I will not inquire into Mr. Girard's opinions upon religion. But I feel bound to say, the occasion demands that I should say, that this is the most opprobrious, the most insulting and unmerited stigma, that ever was cast, or attempted to be cast, upon the preachers of Christianity, from north to south, from east to west, through the length and breadth of the land, in the history of the country. When have they deserved it?-Where have they deserved it? how have they deserved it? They are not to be allowed even the ordinary rights of hospitality: not even to be permitted to put their foot over the threshold of this college !
Sir, I take it upon myself to say, that in no country in the world, upon either continent, can there be found a body of ministers of the Gospel who perform so much service to man, in such a full spirit of self-denial, under so little encouragement from government of any kind, and under circumstances almost always much straitened and often distressed, as the ministers of the Gospel in the United States, of all denominations. They form no part of any established order of religion; they constitute no hierarchy; they enjoy no peculiar privileges. In some of the States they are even shut out from all participation in the politica! rights and privileges enjoyed by their fellow-citizens. They enjoy no tithes, no public provision of any kind. Except here and there, in large cities, where a wealthy individual occasionally makes a donation for the support of public worship, what have they to depend upon? They have to depend entirely on the voluntary contributions of those who hear them.
And this body of clergymen have shown, to the honor of their own country, and to the astonishment of the hierarchies of the