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ment completely undermined the constitution, there yet remain principles for which the right honourable gentleman thinks it his duty to contend, under the sanction of which, he is yet permitted to accuse his majesty's ministers as criminals for doing that which necessity provoked, and which precedents warrant. Undoubtedly, Sir, I think that whether the people of England will hereafter approve of the conduct of opposition as constitutional conduct, they will admit that it is a vigilant opposition. On the present occasion, however, much of that vigilance seems to me to have been exerted in vain. They have not, with all their industry, fallen even in the way of one precedent, that might have induced some little relaxation of their inordinate zeal. They have not discovered that the act they have marked with every species of obloquy, of which language is capable, is an act that has been again and again approved of. It is even within the admitted principle of successive parliaments. But the members who sat in the last parliament have not forgot that, when a loan of four millions and a half was proposed to be granted to the emperour, the intention of granting that loan was known as early as February, 1795. A message had been received from his majesty, stating that a negotiation was pending with the emperour to maintain 200,000 men. The loan to be granted when the negotiation succeeded, and when it failed, to be mentioned. Soon after the answer to this message was communicated to the throne, a motion was made for an account of 250,0001. advanced to the emperour in May, 1795; and again a similar motion was made for an account of 300,0001. also, advanced to the emperour in the month of May following. With respect to these sums, it was agreed by the house before the loan was debated, that they might be afterwards made good out of the loan. This, sir, I have stated to show that the members who sat in the last parliament cannot be altogether ignorant of the principles of the constitution. After the negotiation was concluded, the loan was debated; the house was divided, but no objection was made to these advances. On the subject of the prince of Condé's army being supplied with money by this country, I can only say, that whatever sums that army has as yet received have been paid, on account of services rendered, as forming a part of the Austrian forces. The circumstance of a part of the 1,200,0001. stated as being sent to the emperour, being afterwards received in this country in part payment of the interest due on the second Austrian loan, is also easily accounted for, these payments, on account of being in their nature the same, as if the emperour, instead of being so accommodating to himself as to pay the money, by his agent, on the spot, had ordered it to be sent to Vienna, and transmitted by the same post to this court.
I may now, sir, I think, he permitted to ask on what principle of justice a criminal charge can be brought against me for merely having followed the uniform tenour of precedent, and the established line of practice ? By what interpretation of a candid and liberal mind can I be judged guilty of an attempt, wantonly to violate the constitution? I appeal to the right honourable gentleman himself, who is not the last to contend for the delicacy which ought to be used in imputing criminal motives to any individual, and to urge in the strongest terms the attention which ought to be shown to the candid and impartial administration of justice. In what country do we live ? and by what principles are we to be tried ? By the maxims of natural justice and constitutional law, or by what new code of some revolutionary tribunal ? Not longer than a year and a half since, the same principle was adopted, and suffered to pass without any animadversion; and now, at a crisis of tenfold importance, and where the measure has not outrun the exercise of a sound discretion, it is made the foundation of a criminal charge. We are accused with a direct and wanton attack upon the constitution. It is not supposed that we have been actuated by any but the blackest and most malignant motives. We are not allowed the credit of having felt any zeal for the interest of our country, nor of those advantages which the measure has produced to the common cause.
I have now weighed the whole merits of the transaction before the house, and with them I am well content to leave the decision. While we claim a fair construction on the principles and intentions which have guided our conduct, if it shall appear that it has in the smallest instance deviated from any constitutional principle, we must submit to the consequence, whatever be the censure or the punishment. It is our duty, according to the best of our judgment, to consult for the interest of the country; it is your sacred and peculiar trust to preserve inviolate the principles of the constitution. I throw myself upon your justice, prepared in every case to submit to your decision; but with considerable confidence, that I shall experience your approbation. If I should be disappointed, I will not say that the disappointment will not be heavy, and the mortification severe ; at any rate, however, it will to me be matter of consolation, that I have not, from any apprehension of personal consequences, neglected to pursue that line of conduct which I conceive to be essential to the interests of the country and of Europe. But while I bow with the most perfect submission to the determination of the house, I cannot but remark on the extraordinary language which has been used on this question. Ministers have been broadly accused with a wanton and a malignant desire to violate the constitution : it has been stated that no other motive could possibly have actuated their conduct. If a charge of such malignant intention had been brought against men, who have affirmed the present war to be neither just nor necessary, and who on that ground cannot be suppo. sed friendly to its success; who have extolled, nay, even exulted in the prodigies of French valour; who have gloried in the successes of the foes of civil liberty, the hostile disturbers of the peace of Europe, men who blasphemously denied the existence of the Deity, and who had rejected and trampled on every law, moral and divine; who have exclaimed against the injustice of bringing to trial persons who had associated to overawe the legislature; those who gravely and vehemently asserted, that it was a question of prudence, rather than a question of morality, whether an act of the legislature should be resisted; those who were anxious to expose and aggravate every defect of the constiJution ; to reprobate every measure adopted for its preservation, and to obstruct every proceeding of the executive government to ensure the success of the contest in which we are engaged in common with our allies; I say, if such a charge of deliberate and deep rooted malignity were brought against persons of this description, I should conceive that even then the rules of candid and charitable interpretation would induce us to hesitate in admitting its reality; much more when it is brought against individuals, whose conduct, I trust, has exhibited the reverse of the picture I have now drawn. I appeal to the justice of the house, I rely on their candour; but, to gentlemen who can suppose ministers capable of those motives which have been imputed to them on this occasion, it must be evident that I can desire to make no such appeal.
MR. CURRAN'S SPEECH,
ON THE TRIAL OF PETER FINERTY, FOR A LIBEL. TRIED IN
THE CITY OF DUBLIN, BEFORE MR. JUSTICE DOWNS, ON THE 224 DECEMBER, 1797.
explain some allusions in the present speech, it is necessary briefly to relate, that William Orr had, in the preceding year been convicted of treason; but there appearing to the jury circumstances to mitigate his offence, he was recommended by them to mercy. Their recommendation, however, producing no effect, sentence of death was pronounced on him. Previous to the day appointed for execution, various representations were made to the Lord Lieutenant in his favour, and one especially by the magistrate who had originally committed him, accompanied by affidavits which went to impeach the credibility of Wheatley, the principal witness on the trial.
In consequence of these representations, it is sup. posed, the prisoner was twice respited, and it was confidently expected that he would be ultimately pardoned. But government were inexorable.
The execution of this unfortunate man seems to have excited the deepest sense of horrour and indignation among the people of Ireland.
At a court held at the city of Dublin, Peter Finer. ty, editor of the paper called the Press, was tried and found guilty, on the charge of being the printer and publisher of the “ following false, scandalous, and libellous letter, addressed to earl Cambden."