Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

guilty intention if they discover in the contents of the paper a wicked and malicious spirit, evidently pursuing a bad object by unwarrantable means. If I should put a paper into the hands of the jury, desiring them to put my learned friend to death, would not that prove an evil intention against my friend's life? In all cases of publication containing anything improper, the bad intention of the person publishing was clear, unless on his own part, he could prove the contrary. Such has always been the law of England in criminal cases of this description. Mr. Erskine has desired you to carry out the paper, and look at the other advertisements. Upon this I am bound to remark, that there is not one of them, except that in question, which is not dated in the month of December, while this advertisement is dated on the 16th of July, though it did not find its way into the Morning Chronicle until the end of the month of December. How that came to happen I cannot tell ; it must be left to you to determine; but it does appear that at a very critical moment to the constitution of this country, it was brought out to counteract the intention and effect of all the other declarations in support of government. At what time the defendants received the

in question, they have not attempted to prove. Why, if they received it in July, they did not insert it, they have not said. They have brought no exculpatory evidence whatever to account for the delay. It was urged that the defendants only published it in the way of business, as an advertisement, and therefore they could not be said to be guilty. If I should be brought to admit this as a sufficient answer, and never institute a prosecution where such was the case, I should, in so doing, deliver the jury, and every man in this country, to the mercy of any newspaper printer in this kingdom, to be traduced and vilified, just as the malice of any man, who chose to pay for vending his own scandal, should dictate; I therefore entreat you to bring the case home to your own bosoms, and to act for the public as in such an instance you would wish to act for yourselves. I must likewise say, that if you are to look at the intention of the defendants in the other matter contained in the same paper, you will find various strong, and even intemperate things. Among others, you will find the following, which, if it did not show a seditious, did not breathe a very temperate spirit: “Well might Mr. Fox call this the most momentous crisis that he ever heard of in the history of England; for we will venture to say there is not any one species of tyranny which might not, in the present day, be tried with impunity; no sort of oppression which would not find, not merely advocates, but supporters; and never, never in the most agitated moments of our history, were men so universally tame, or so despicably feeble.”

paper

This paragraph is no advertisement; it came from no society; and will, I take it for granted, not be disavowed by the defendants.

Upon the question of a reform of Parliament, I remain of the same opinion which I have always entertained; and whatever may have been said or thought by Mr. Fox, Mr. Pitt, the Duke of Richmond, the late Earl of Chatham, or the late Sir George Saville, or by any man, let his authority have been ever so great, never while I live, will I consent to vote for a reform in Parliament, until I see something specific to be done, and can be very sure that the good to be gained will make it worth while to hazard the experiment.

In this way of thinking I am the more confirmed from the circumstance, that of all the wise and excellent men who have at different times agitated the question of reform, none of them have ever been able to agree upon one specific plan. And I declare, that I would rather suffer death than consent to open a door for such alterations in the government of this country as chance or bad men might direct; or even good men, misled by bad, might, in the first instance, be inclined to adopt. I shudder, indeed, when I reflect on what have been the consequences of innovation in a neighboring country. The many excellent men who there began to try experiments on government, confining their views within certain limits of moderation, and having no other object than the public good, little did they foresee in their outset the excesses and crimes which would follow in the progress of that revolution, of which they were the authors, and of which they were themselves destined to become the victims. They are now lying in the sepulchres of the dead, and the tombs of mortality; and most willingly, I am persuaded, would they have consigned themselves to their fate, if, by their death, they could have saved their unhappy country from the horrors and miseries of that dreadful anarchy into which it has fallen. Never, with such examples before my eyes, will I stake the blessings which we possess under the government of this country, upon the precarious consequences of innovation; nor consent to any alteration, of which, whatever may be stated as its object, the precise effects can never be ascertained. Indeed, I must think that my friend Mr. Erskine, in his propositions with respect to a reform, allows himself to talk like a child, and does not sufficiently consult that excellent judgment which he displays on every other occasion. But let me entreat him to reflect on the situation in which both of us are now placed, and which, if twenty years ago, any person told me I should have attained, I should have regarded it as madness. If we, by our industry (my friend, indeed, with the advantage of his superior talents), have acquired a degree of opulence and distinction which we could not reasonably have looked for, let us be thankful to that government to whose protection and favor we are, in a great measure, indebted for our success; and do not let us, by any rash attempt upon our constitution, put it out of the power of our children to rise to similar situations, or deprive them of those blessings which we have ourselves so signally experienced. Do not let us pull down a fabric, which has been the admiration of ages, and which it may be impossible to erect anew.

Let me again call your attention to the paper upon which this prosecution is founded. (Here Mr. Attorney-General read several extracts from the declaration.]

After what you have heard, I think it is impossible to doubt of the libellous tendency of this publication. It states, as I have already said, the whole of our government as one mass of grievances and abuse; while it does not so much as enumerate a single blessing or advantage with which it is attended. It represents it as corrupt and oppressive in every branch, as polluted in its very source, its legislature, and its courts of justice. What, I ask, can be supposed to be the spirit with which such representations are dictated, and the consequences to which they are calculated to lead? Can you admit such representations to have been brought

« ZurückWeiter »