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heated expressions and invective may be found in some of its parts, which, taken singly, might even be construed as libellous, yet, if taken as a whole it shall not be found to exceed the limits of fair discussion, the defendant shall be acquitted. However individual tastes may differ as to the place which should be assigned this speech of Mr. Erskine's, its high merit none will deny. Comparison has been most frequently instituted between this and his argument in defence of Lord George Gordon, and with varying opinions. A cotemporary of Erskine in a critical review of his published speeches, does not hesitate to pronounce this the “finest of all his orations, whether we regard the wonderful skill with which the argument is conducted, the soundness of the principles laid down, and their happy application to the case, or the exquisite fancy with which they are embellished and illustrated, and the powerful and touching language in which they are conveyed. It is justly regarded by all English lawyers as a consummate specimen of the art of addressing a jury; as a standard, a sort of precedent for treating cases of libel, by keeping which in his eye, a man may hope to succeed in special pleading his client's case within its principle, who is destitute of the talent required even 10 comprehend the other and higher merits of his original. By those merits it is recommended to the lovers of pure diction, of copious and animated description, of lively picturesque, and fanciful illustration, of all that constitutes, if we may so speak, the poetry of eloquence, all for which we admire it when prevented from enjoying its music and its statuary." See Edinburgh Review, Vol xvi., 110-11.
REPLY OF THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL.
GENTLEMEN OF THE JURY: My learned friend and I stand very much contrasted with each other in this cause. To him belong infinite eloquence and ingenuity, a gift of persuasion, beyond that which I almost ever knew fall to any man's share, and a power of language greater than that which ever met my ear.
In his situation it is not only permitted to him, but it is commendable; it is his duty to his client, to exert all those faculties, to comprehend every possible topic, that by the utmost stretch of ingenuity can possibly be introduced into the most remote connection with the cause. I, on the other hand, gentlemen, must disclaim those qualities which I ascribe to my learned friend, namely that ingenuity, that eloquence, and that power of words; but if they did belong to me, we stand contrasted also in this circumstance, that I durst not in my present situation use them, whatever little effort I might make to that effect, acting the part simply of an advocate in a private cause. All that I must abandon to-day, recollecting the situation in which I stand. Gentlemen, however unworthily, yet so
it is, that I stand in the situation of the first officer of this high court; therefore the utmost fair dealing, the plainest common sense, the clearest argu
, ment, the utmost bona fides with the court and jury, are the duties incumbent upon me. In that spirit therefore, gentlemen, you will not expect from me the discharge of my duty, in any other way than by the most temperate observation, and by the most correct and the fairest reasoning in my power.
One should have thought, from the general turn of my learned friend's arguments, that I had in this information imputed it as a crime to the deceased gentleman whom he named, and whom I think I hardly recollect ever to have heard named before, that I had imputed it to him as an offence, merely that he reasoned in defence of Mr. Hastings ably and eloquently, as is asserted. My learned friend has said, that I have picked out passages here and there disconnected and disjointed, and have omitted a vast variety of other passages. I hardly think that his second observation would have been made, had it not been for the sake of his first; but inasmuch as I studiously avoided, and would insert no one single line that consisted of fair reasoning and defence of Mr. Hastings, inasmuch as it was no part of my duty so to do; so he has exculpated me by saying, that the loading an information with that which was not immediately to the point, was a thing which I had avoided with propriety.
This book, as my learned friend himself has described it to you, and read the greater part of, consists of many different heads; it consists of an historical narration of facts, with which I do not quarrel. It consists of extracts from original papers, with which I do not quarrel. It consists of arguments, of reasoning, and of very good declamation ; with that I do not quarrel. But it consists also of a stain, and a deep stain, upon your representatives in Parliament. My learned friend says, that this is written with a friendly zeal for Mr. Hastings. I commend that zeal; but at the same time you will permit me to distinguish, if that could avail, between the zeal of an author for Mr. Hastings, and the cold, lucrative motives of the printer of that author's work. It was the duty of that printer to have the work revised by some one else, if he has not the capacity to do it himself, and to see that poison does not circulate among the public. It was his bounden duty to do that: zeal could not excuse or exculpate even the author, much less the mechanical printer; though, perhaps, if this had been shown in manuscript as the work of a zealous friend, great allowance might have been made for that zeal.
My learned friend, for the purpose of argument, deviated into almost every field that it was possible
for knowledge such as his, for reading, experience, for knowledge of nature, and every thing that belongs to human affairs; he has deviated into them at great length, and nine-tenths of his argument consisted of nothing else. Instead of that, what is this question? The coldest, the dullest, the driest of all possible questions. It is neither more nor less than this, whether, when the great tribunal of the nation is carrying on its most solemn proceeding for the benefit and for the interests of the public, whether, while it is even depending, and not ripe for judgment, the accusers, the House of Commons, who carry up their impeachment to the House of Lords, are slandered by being called persons acting from private and interested animosity; persons who studiously, when they find a meritorious servant of the country come home crowned with laurels, as it is expressed, are sure to do what? To impeach and to ruin him.
I shall also studiously avoid anything respecting politics or party, or anything respecting the conduct or opinions of any men in another place; and my
learned friend will excuse me also, if I do not state my own. These I avoid for this reason, that when we are within these walls, we are to betake ourselves to the true and genuine principles of our law and constitution; the justest picture of oppression of one man cannot justify the calumniating other men; it may justify the defending that man,