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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 publick ear was anticipated and abused, and every avenue to the human heart or understanding secured and
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, certainly, 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 admi. nistered 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 be. ing 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 passages, which like the scored matter in the book before you che. quers 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.
SPEECH, OF MR. CURRAN,
ON THE TRIAL OF ARCHIBALD HAMILTON ROWAN, ESQUIRE,
FOR THE PUBLICATION OF A LIBEL.
AT the dawn of that spirit of faction, and disloyalty in Ireland, which soon afterwards burst forth in open rebellion, and afflicted the country with the train of horrible consequences incident to civil commotions, ARCHIBALD HAMILTON Rowan, a gentlemen, uniting to the advantages of birth, superiour talents, elegant accomplishments, and untarnished reputation was seduced by the warmth of a mistaken zeal arising partly out of the temper of the times, and inflamed by the generous enthusiasm of his nature into those schemes which, under the immediate pretence of redressing certain grievances, had, as events proved, their ulteriour views fixed on a dissolution of the ex. isting connexion with Great Britain, and the erection of an independent republican government.
At a special meeting convened on the 16th December, 1792, of the United Irishmen, a society, professing to have for its objects the redress of these grievances by procuring the abolition of all legal tests and proscriptions, the entire emancipation of the Catholicks, and a radical reform in parliament, the subse. quent paper was distributed by Mr. Rowan, exhorting the Irish volunteers in an animated appeal to their patriotism and prejudices to rouze to arms, &c.