« ZurückWeiter »
could think of giving notice, that he would move " that two books should be opened, one of them
(bound in black) in which should be entered all « the enormities of those who deserve the censure; " and in the other, the merits of those who deserve “ the gratitude of the Society.” You will not be surprised, if you should find persons in these affiliated societies, of lower descriptions, holding conversations about seizing the most august persons in the nation ; if you should hear of their holding conversations about the situation of persons in the House of Commons, and the means by which they could know their persons.
Upon the whole, Gentlemen of the Jury, I shall now lay the testimony before you, submitting this written evidence to you, calling witnesses, above all exception, to a great part of the case ; calling some witnesses, whom I now avow to you, you will find, were persons employed by Government to watch over the proceedings of these Societies, and who therefore became informed, in consequence of such employment, of some of their transactions; and Government would have been wanting to itself, and would have been wanting to a degree of criminality, which no man can describe, if this country had at this moment been in the state in which it would have been, if these pikes had been brought into actual exertion.
At Sheffield, indeed, I am told they had got to the length of forming iron instruments, which were to disable horse, which they called night-cats, and
which would immediately insert themselves into the boofs of horses' feet. I say, if, with these projects going on in the country, a Secretary of State,
other person in the executive government, had hesitated a moment to procure information, these parties might have been able to put into execution the projects they were meditating, and he would have been answerable for it.
Gentlemen, it is the great province of a British Jury, and God forbid these Prisoners should not have the benefit of the reflection, that British Juries are able to protect us all are able to sift the characters of witnesses to determine what credit is due ta them-listening to men of good character without any impression against their evidence--listening to med, such as I have stated, with a strong impression against their evidence; that impression, however, to be beat down by the concurrent unsuspicious testimony arising out of the rest of the case, if, upon the whole, you shall find the case to be made out as I have stated it to you.
Gentlemen, I forgot to mention to you, that you will likewise find, about the time that this Convention was talked of, that there was a new constitution framed for the Corresponding Society, in which they speak of a royalist as an enemy to the liberties of his country of a democrate, as a friend to the liberties of his couutry; and you will find, that, in a constitution again revised, the whole was thrown into a scheme, and into a system, which was to add phy
sical strength to the purposes of that Convention, which was, I submit to you, to assume all civil and political authority. If you
find all these things, and, if under the direction of that wisdom that presides here, with respect to which, Gentlemen, let me say again, that the situation of this country is indeed reduced to a most miserable one, if the respect which is due to the administration of the law, is suffered to be weakened in any manner, if the respect which is due to the administration of the law, that administration, which perhaps is the best feature of the constitution under which we live, is destroyed, miserable indeed must be the situation of your country! If you
find under that direction that the case, being proved in fact, is also made out in law, you will do that on behalf of the publie which is due to yourselves, to the public, to your posterity, and theirs.
But on the other hand, if, after hearing this case fully stated, and attempted to be fully proved, you should be of opinion that it is not proved, or you should be finally of opinion that the offence is not made out, according to the hallowed interpretation of the statute of Edward III. ; I say, then, in the conclusion, I join, from my heart, in the prayer which the law makes on behalf of the Prisoner, God send the Prisoner a safe deliverance !
Before Mr. Erskine's Speech for the Prisoner, we think it right to introduce a remarkable circumstance that attended this Trial, namely, that, it being impracticable to bring the evidence within the
compass of the longest possible sitting, it became necessary, from day to day, to adjourn the Court ; and the following extract from the proceedings will show to what disadvantages, even with the indulgence of the Court and Jury, the Prisoners' Counsel were subjected. The trial began on Tuesday, the 28th of October, and the Court sat till a late hour on that day, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, assembling at nine every morning. It is plain, that not a moment's time was afforded for considering and arranging the various matters to be observed upon in the defence. When the Court, therefore, was about to adjourn at two in the morning' of Saturday (being the fourth day of the trial), and the evidence for the Crown being about to close, which would have rendered it necessary for Mr. Erskine to open the case of the Prisoner at nine the same morning, the following dialogue took place : · Mr. Erskine. My Lords, this is the fourth day that my friend Mr. Gibbs and myself have stood in a very anxious situation ;-there has been a most voluminous body of written evidence, all of which has not been printed :—copies of that part which is unprinted, have not as yet reached me :-there have been two days spent in hearing parol evidence; and we (being but two) assigned as counsel for the Prisoner, have been obliged to be constantly engaged in Court, in cross-examining the witnesses for the Crown ;-and your Lordships very well know, that the cross-examination of the witnesses presents, an important feature of our case on the part of the Prisoner, a great deal of which has fallen upon me: your Lordships must be sensible that it was im. possible I could, at the time of cross-examining a witness, take any particular. note of what he had said.- When the evidence for the Crown was near closing, I humbly requested of your Lordships the indulgence of an hour or two to look over the papers ;---your Lordships were pleased to grant my request, which I considered as a personal civility to myself; but I was prevented, by extreme sickness, from availing myself of those two hours, for I was indeed so ill, that nothing less than a case of this magnitude could have brought me into Court.-Since that time I have not had natural rest, not having got home till between two and three o'clock in the morning, and having been here again at nine; so that I can say with a safe conscience, I have not had: an opportunity of eyen casting my eye. upon any; part of the evidence, though I trust I have something of the general result of it in my mind.--I should hope, under these circumstances, that the Prisoner might be indulged with some opportunity for my