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ON BEING FOUND GUILTY OF TREASON.
dices of this hour have passed away, to appeal to your own conscience, and to ask of it, was your charge as it ought to have been, impartial and indifferent between the subject and the
My lords, you may deem this language unbecoming in me, and perhaps it may seal my fate. But I am here to speak the truth, whatever it may cost; I am here to regret nothing I have ever done to retract nothing I have ever said. I am here to crave, with no lying lip, the life I consecrate to the liberty of my country. Far from it, even here here, where the thief, the libertine, the murderer, have left their foot-prints in the dust; here, on this spot, where the shadows of death surround me, and from which I see my early grave in an unanointed soil opened to re
even here, encircled by these terrors, the hope which has beckoned me to the perilous sea upon which I have been wrecked still consoles, animates, enraptures me.
No, I do not despair of my poor old country - her peace, her liberty, her glory. For that country, I can do no more than bid her hope. To lift this island up, to make her a benefactor to humanity, instead of being the meanest beggar in the world, to restore to her her native powers and her ancient constitution, this has been my ambition, and this ambition has been my crime. Judged by the law of England, I know this crime entails the penalty of death ; but the history of Ireland explains this crime, and justifies it. Judged by that history, I am no criminal, I deserve no punishment. Judged by that history, the treason of which I stand convicted loses all its guilt, is sanctioned as a duty, will be ennobled as a sacrifice. With these sentiments, my lord, I await the sentence of the court.
Having done what I felt to be my duty, — having spoken what I felt to be the truth, as I have done on every other occasion of my short career, - I now bid farewell to the country of my birth, my passion, and my death ; the country whose misfortunes have invoked my sympathies; whose factions I have sought to still; whose intellect I have prompted to a lofty aim; whose freedom has been my fatal dream. I offer to that country, as a proof of the love I bear her, and the sincerity with which I thought and spoke and struggled for her freedom, the life of a young heart, and with that life all the hopes, the honors, the endearments, of a happy and an honored home. Pronounce, then, my lords, the sentence which the laws direct, and I will be prepared to hear it. I trust I shall be prepared to meet its execution. I hope to be able, with a pure heart and perfect composure, to appear before a higher tribunal -- a tribunal where a Judge of infinite goodness as well as of justice will preside, and where, my lords, many, many of the judgments of this world will be reversed.
IX. - PUBLIC SILENCE AT A TRIAL. From a speech on the trial of Mr. Justice Johnson, Dublin, Feb. 4, 1805,
for a libel on Lord Hardwicke, Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. MY LORDS, it has fallen to my lot, either fortunately or unfortunately, as the event may be, to rise as counsel for my, client on this most important and momentous occasion. Sorry am I that the task has not been confided to more adequate powers; but, feeble as mine are, they will, at least, not shrink from it. I move you, therefore, that Mr. Justice Johnson be released from illegal imprisonment.
I can not but observe the sort of scen'ic preparation with which this sad drāma is sought to be brought forward. In part, I approve it; in part, it excites my disgust and indignation. I observe, too, the dead silence into which the public is frowned by authority for the sad occasion. No man dares to mutter ; no newspaper dares to whisper that such a question is afloat. It seems an inquiry among the tombs, or, rather, in the shades beyond them. I am glad it is so ; I am glad of this factitious dumbness ; for if murmurs dared to become audible, my voice would be too feeble to drown them. But when all is hushed, when nature sleeps, the weakest voice is heard; the shepherd's whistle shoots across the listening darkness of the interminable heath, and gives notice that the wolf is upon his walk; and the same gloom and stillness that tempt the monster to come abroad, facilitate the communication of the warning to beware. Yes, through that silence the voice shall be heard ; yes, through that silence the shepherd shall be put upon his guard ; yes, through that silence shall the felon savage be chased into the toil.
Yes, my lords, I feel myself cheered and impressed by the composed and dignified attention with which I see you are disposed to hear me on the most important question that has ever been subjected to your consideration; the most important to the dearest rights of the human being; the most deeply interesting and animating that can beat in his heart, or burn upon his tongue.
O, how recreating is it to feel that occasions may arise in which the soul of man may reässume her pretensions ; in which she hears the voice of nature whisper to her, os hom' ini suba li' me dēdit, cæ-lum'que tu-é'ri jussit !
in which even I can look up with calm security to the court, and down with the most
THE PLAINTIFF DENOUNCED.
profound contempt upon the reptile I mean to tread upon. I say reptile, my lords, because, when the proudest man in society becomes so much the dupe of his childish malice as to wish to inflict on the object of his vengeance the poison of his sting, — to do a reptile's work, - he must shrink into a reptile's dimensions ; and, so shrunk, the only way to assail him is to tread upon him.
X. — THE PLAINTIFF DENOUNCED.
From the speech in the Wilkinson trial. GENTLEMEN, although my clients are free from the charge of shedding blood, there is a murderer, and, strange to say, his name appears upon the indictment, not as a criminal, but a prosecutor. His garments are wet with the blood of those upon whose deaths you hold this solemn inquest. Yonder he sits, allaying for a moment the hunger of that fierce vulture, Conscience, by casting before it the food of pretended regret, and false but apparent eagerness for justice. He hopes to appease the manes of his slaughtered victims — victims to his falsehood and treachery by sacrificing upon their graves a hecatomb of innocent men. By base misrepresentations of the conduct of the defendants, he induced his imprudent friends to attempt a vindication of his pretended wrongs, by violence and bloodshed. His clansmen gathered at his call, and followed him for vengeance; but when the fight began, and the keen weapons clashed in the sharp conflict, where was the wordy warrior? Ay, “where was Roderick then ?” No " blast upon his bugle horn" encouraged his companions as they were laying down their lives in his quarrel ; no gleam of his dagger indicated a desire to avenge their fall. With treacherous cowardice he left them to their fate, and all his vaunted courage ended in ignominious flight.
Sad and gloomy is the path that lies before him. You will in a few moments dash, untasted, from his lips, the sweet cup of revenge, to quaff whose intoxicating contents he has paid a price that would have purchased the goblet of the Egyptian queen. I behold gathering around him, thick and fast, dark and corroding
That face, which looks so ruddy, and even now is flushed with shame and conscious guilt, will from this day grow pale, until the craven blood shall refuse to visit the haggard cheek. In his broken and distorted sleep his dreams will be more fearful than those of the “ false, perjured Clarence;” and around his waking pillow, in the deep hour of night, will fit the ghosts of his victims, of Meeks and of Rothwell, shrieking their curses in his shrinking ear.
Upon his head rests not only the blood shed in this unfortunate strife, but also the soul-killing crime of perjury; for, surely as be lives, did the words of craft and falsehood fall from his lips ere they were hardly loosened from the holy volume. But I dismiss him, and do consign him to the furies, trusting, in all charity, that the terrible punishment he must suffer from the scorpion-lash of a guilty conscience will be considered in his last account.
S. S. PRENTISS.
XI. — CATHOLIC EMANCIPATION.
From the speech in defense of Rowan, tried for libel. This paper, gentlemen of the jury, insists upon the necessity of emancipating the Catholics of Ireland, and that is charged as a part of the libel. If they had waited another year, if they had kept this prosecution impending for another year, how much would remain for a jury to decide upon, I should be at a loss to discover. It seems as if the progress of public reformation was eating away the ground of the prosecution. Since the commencement of the prosecution, this part of the libel has unluckily received the sanction of the legislature. In that interval our Catholic brethren have obtained that admission, which it seems it was a libel to propose : in what way to account for this, I am really at a loss. Have any alarms been occasioned by the emancipation of our Catholic brethren? Has the bigoted malignity of
any individuals been crushed ? Or, has the stability of the government, or has that of the country, been weakened? Or, is one million of subjects stronger than four millions? Do you think that the benefit they received should be poisoned by the sting of vengeance? Do you think it wise or humane, at this moment, to insult them, by sticking up in a pillory the man who dared to stand forth their advocate? I put it to your
oaths; do you think that a blessing of that kind, that a victory obtained by justice over bigotry and oppression, should have a stigma cast upon it by an ignominious sentence upon men bold and honest enough to propose that measure: to propose the redeeming of religion from the abuses of the church; the reclaiming of three millions of men from bondage, and giving liberty to all who had a right to demand it-giving, I say, in the so much censured words of this paper, giving " UNIVERSAL EMANCIPATION.”
I speak in the spirit of the British law, which makes liberty commensurate with and inseparable from British soil ; which proclaims even to the stranger and the soʻjourner, the moment he
sets his foct upon British earth, that the ground on which he treads is holy, and consecrated by the genius of universal emancipation. No matter in what language his doom may have been pronounced; no matter what complexion incompatible with freedom an Indian or an African sun may have burnt upon no matter in what disastrous battle his liberty may have been cloven down; no matter with what solemnities he may have been devoted upon the altar of slavery ; — the first moment he touches the sacred soil of Britain, the altar and the god sink together in the dust ; his soul walks abroad in her own majesty; his body swells beyond the measure of his chains, that burst from around him ; and he stands redeemed, regenerated, and disenthralled, by the irresistible genius of universal emancipation.
From the speech at the trial of Finnerty. GENTLEMEN of the jury, it is not upon my client that you are sitting in judgment; you are sitting in judgment upon the lives and liberties of the inhabitants of more than half of Ireland. You are to say that it is a foul proceeding to condemn the government of Ireland. You are called upon, on your oaths, to say that the government is wise and merciful, the poople prosperous and happy; and that the statements of a contrary import are libelous and false.
How could you reconcile with such a verdict the jails, the gibbets, the conflagrations, the murders, the proclamations, that we hear of every day? What is the state of Ireland, and where shall
you find the wretched inhabitant of this land ? find him, perhaps, in a jail, the only place of security — I had almust said of ordinary habitation! If you do not find him there, you may see him flying with his family from the flames of his own dwelling, lighted to his dungeon by the conflagration of his hovel ; or you may find his bones bleaching on the green fields of his country; or you may find him tossing on the surface of the ocean, and mingling his groans with tempests, less savage than his persecutors.
Is this a foul misrepresentation "? Or can you, with these facts ringing in your ears, and staring in your face, say, upon your oaths, that they do not exist ?
But the learnëd gentleman is further pleased to say, that the trav'erser has charged the government with the encouragement