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by which he was actuated in the crime of which he had been adjudged guilty. That a judge has thought it his duty so to have done, I have no doubt; but where is the boasted freedom of your institutions, — where is the vaunted impartiality, clemency, and mildness of your courts of justice, – if an unfortunate prisoner, whom your policy, and not justice, is about to deliver into the hands of the executioner, is not suffered to explain his motives sincerely and truly, and to vindicate the principles by which he was actuated ?
My Lords, it may be a part of the system of angry justice to bow a man's mind, by humiliation, to the purposed ignominy of the scaffold; but worse to me than the scaffold's shame, or the scaffold's terrors, would be the shame of such foul and unfounded imputations as have been laid against me in this Court. You, my Lord, are a judge. I am the supposed culprit. I am a man, — you are a man also. By a revolution of power, we might change places, though we never could change characters. If I stand at the bar of this Court, and dare not vindicate my character, what a farce is your justice! If I stand at this bar, and dare not vindicate my character, how dare you calumniate it? Does the sentence of death, which your unhallowed policy inflicts on my body, also condemn my tongue to silence, and my reputation to reproach? Your executioner may abridge the period of my existence ; but, while I exist, I shall not forbear to vindicate my character and motives from your aspersions. As a man to whom fame is dearer than life, I will make the last use of that life in doing justice to that reputation which is to live after me, and which is the only legacy I can leave to those I honor and love, and for whom I am proud to perish. As men, my Lord, we must appear, on the great day, at one common tribunal; and it will then remain for the Searcher of all hearts to show a collective universe who are engaged in the most virtuous actions, or actuated by the purest motives, -- my country's oppressors or
My Lord, shall a dying man be denied the legal privilege of exculpating himself, in the eyes of the community, of an undeserved reproach thrown upon him during his trial, by charging him with ambition, and attempting cast away, for a paltry consideration, the liberties of his country? Why, then, insult me? or, rather, why insult justice, in demanding of me why sentence of death should not be pronounced? I know, my Lord, that form prescribes that you should ask the question ; the form also presumes the right of answering! This, no doubt, may be dispensed with; and so might the whole ceremony of the trial, since sentence was already pronounced at the Castle before your jury was impanelled. Your Lordships are but the priests of the oracle, and I submit to the sacrifice; but I insist on the whole of the forms. * Here Lord Norbury exclaimed : « Listen, Sir, to the sentence of the law.”
Here Mr. Emmett paused, and the Court desired him to proceed.
I Am charged with being an emissary of France. An emissary of France ! — and for what end? It is alleged that I wished to sell the independence of my country! And for what end? Was this the object of my ambition ? and is this the mode by which a tribunal of justice reconciles contradictions ? No! I am no emissary. My ambition was to hold a place among the deliverers of my country, — not in power, nor in profit, but in the glory of the achievement. Sell my country's independence to France! And for what? For a change of masters? No; but for ambition! O, my country! was it personal ambition that could influence me? Had it been the soul of my actions, could I not, by my education and fortune, by the rank and consideration of my family, have placed myself among the proudest of your oppressors ? My country was my idol. To it I sacrificed every selfish, every endearing sentiment; and for it I now offer up my life! O God! No! my Lord; I acted as an Irishman, determined on delivering my country from the yoke of a foreign and unrelenting tyranny, and from the more galling yoke of a domestic faction, its joint partner and perpetrator in the patricide, whose reward is the ignominy of existing with an exterior of splendor, and a consciousness of depravity. It was the wish of my heart to extricate my country from this doubly riveted despotism. I wished to place her independence beyond the reach of any power on earth. I wished to exalt her to that proud station in the world which Providence had fitted her to fill.
Connection with France was, indeed, intended; but only as far as mutual interest would sanction or require. Were the French to assume any authority inconsistent with the purest independence, it would be the signal for their destruction. We sought aid of them; and we sought it, as we had assurance we should obtain it, – as auxiliaries in war, and allies in peace. Were the French to come as invaders or enemies, uninvited by the wishes of the People, I should oppose them to the utmost of my strength. Yes, my countrymen, I would meet them on the beach, with a sword in one hand and a torch in the other. I would meet them with all the destructive fury of war; and I would animate you to immolate them in their boats, before they had contaminated the soil. If they succeeded in landing, and if we were forced to retire before superior discipline, I would dispute every inch of ground, raze every house, burn every blade of grass before them, and the last intrenchment of liberty should be my grave. What I could not do myself, if I should fall, I would leave in charge to my countrymen to accomplish ; because I should feel conscious that life, more than death, is unprofitable, when a foreign nation holds my country in subjection.
But it was not as an enemy that the succors of France were to land. I looked, indeed, for the assistance of France; but I wished to prove to France, and to the world, that Irishmen deserved to be assisted; that they were indignant at slavery, and ready to assert the independence and liberty of their country! I wished to procure for my coun
try the guarantee which Washington procured for America, — to procure an aid which, by its example, would be as important as by its valor, — allies disciplined, gallant, pregnant with science and experience; who would preserve the good and polish the rough points of our character ; who would come to us as strangers, and leave us as friends, after sharing our perils and elevating our destiny. These were my objects; not to receive new task-masters, but to expel old tyrants. These were my views, and these only become. Irishmen. It was for these ends I sought aid from France, because France, even as an enemy, could not be more implacable than the enemy already in the bosom of my country.*
I Have been charged with that importance, in the efforts to emancipate my country, as to be considered the key-stone of the combination of Irishmen, or, as your Lordship expressed it, “the life and blood of the conspiracy." You do me honor overmuch. You have given to the subaltern all the credit of a superior. There are men engaged in this conspiracy who are not only superior to me, but even to your own conceptions of yourself
, my Lord ; - men, before the splendor of whose genius and virtues I should bow with respectful deference, and who would think themselves dishonored to be called your friends, — who would not disgrace themselves by shaking your blood-stained hand! +
What, my Lord, shall you tell me, on the passage to the scaffold which that tyranny, of which you are only the intermediate minister, has erected for my murder, that I am accountable for all the blood that has been and will be shed, in this struggle of the oppressed against the oppressor ? Shall you tell me this, and must I be so very a slave as not to repel it? I, who fear not to approach the Omnipotent Judge, to answer for the conduct of my short life, - am I to be appalled here, before a mere remnant of mortality ? by you, too, who, if it were possible to collect all the innocent blood that you have caused to be shed, in your unhallowed ministry, in one great reservoir, your Lordship might swim in it ! !
Let no man dare, when I am dead, to charge me with dishonor. Let no man attaint my memory by believing that I could have engaged in any cause but that of my country's liberty and independence, or that I could have become the pliant minion of power in the oppression and the miseries of my countrymen. The proclamation of the Provisional Government speaks for my views. No inference can be tortured from it to countenance barbarity or debasement at home, or subjection, humiliation or treachery, from abroad. I would not have submitted to a foreign oppressor, for the same reason that I would resist the domestic tyrant. In the dignity of freedom I would have fought upon the threshold of my country, and its enemy should enter only by passing over my lifeless corpse. And am I, who lived but for my country,
* Here he was interrupted by the Court. † Here he was interrupted by Lord Norbury. Here the judge interfered.
— who have subjected myself to the dangers of the jealous and watchful oppressor, and now to the bondage of the grave, only to give my countrymen their rights, and my country her independence, — am I to be loaded with calumny, and not suffered to resent it? No! God forbid * If the spirits of the illustrious dead participate in the concerns and cares of those who were dear to them in this transitory life, O, ever dear and venerated shade of my departed father, look down with scrutiny upon the conduct of your suffering son, and see if I have, even for a moment, deviated from those principles of morality and patriotism which it was your care to instil into my youthful mind, and for which I am now to offer up my life My Lords, you seem impatient for the sacrifice. The blood for which you thirst is not congealed by the artificial terrors which surround your victim; — it circulates, warmly and unruffled, through the channels which God created for nobler purposes, but which you are bent to destroy, for purposes so grievous that they cry to Heaven. Be ye patient! I have but a few words more to say. I am going to my cold and silent grave. My lamp of life is nearly extinguished. My race is run. The grave opens to receive me, – and I sink into its bosom I have but one request to ask, at my departure from this world; — it is the charity of its silence. Let no man write my epitaph; for, as no man who knows my motives dare now vindicate them, let not prejudice or ignorance asperse them. Let them and me repose in obscurity and peace, and my tomb remain uninscribed, until other times and other men can do justice to my character. When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, – then, and not till then, – let my epitaph be written I have done. —o
6. GREAT MINDS IN THEIR RELATIONS TO CHRISTIANITY. – Erskine, in the trial of Williams, for publishing Paine’s “Age of Reason.”
Thomas Erskine was born in Scotland, in 1750, and made Lord Chancellor in 1806. He died in 1823. He was one of the greatest advocates who have graced the Bar; and, in serious forensic oratory, has never been surpassed. It has been said of him, that no man that ever lived so elevated and honored his calling. IN running the mind along the long list of sincere and devout Christians, I cannot help lamenting that Newton had not lived to this day, to have had his shallowness filled up with this new flood of light, poured upon the world by Mr. Thomas Paine. But the subject is too awful for irony. I will speak plainly and directly. Newton was a Christian' — Newton, whose mind burst forth from the fetters cast by nature upon our finite conceptions; — Newton, whose science was truth, and the foundations of whose knowledge of it was philosophy; not those visionary and arrogant presumptions which too often usurp its name, but philosophy resting upon the basis of mathematics, which,
* Here Lord Norbury told the prisoner that his principles were treasonable and subversive of government, and his language unbecoming a person in his situation; and that his father, the late Dr. Emmett, was a man who would not have countenanced such sentiments.
like figures, cannot lie; – Newton, who carried the line and rule to the uttermost barrier of creation, and explored the principles by which, no doubt, all created matter is held together and exists. But this extraordinary man, in the mighty reach of his mind, overlooked, perhaps, what a minuter investigation of the created things on this earth might have taught him, of the essence of his Creator. What, then, shall be said of the great Mr. Boyle, who looked into the organic structure of all matter, even to the brute inanimate substances which the foot treads on ? Such a man may be supposed to have been equally qualified, with Mr. Paine, to look up through nature to nature's God; yet the result of all his contemplation was the most confirmed and devout belief in all which the other holds in contempt, as despicable and drivelling superstition.
But this error might, perhaps, arise from a want of due attention to the foundations of human judgment, and the structure of that understanding which God has given us for the investigation of truth. Let that question be answered by Mr. Locke, who was, to the highest pitch of devotion and adoration, a Christian; - Mr. Locke, whose office was to detect the errors of thinking, by going up to the fountains of thought, and to direct into the proper track of reasoning the devious mind of man, by showing him its whole process, from the first perceptions of sense to the last conclusions of ratiocination, putting a rein upon false opinions by practical rules for the conduct of human judgment. But these men were only deep thinkers, and lived in their closets, unaccustomed to the traffic of the world, and to the laws which practically regulate mankind.
Gentlemen, in the place where we now sit to administer the justice of this great country, above a century ago, the never to be forgotten Sir Matthew Hale presided, whose faith in Christianity is an exalted commentary upon its truth and reason, and whose life was a glorious example of its fruits in man, administering human justice with wisdom and purity, drawn from the pure fountain of the Christian dispensation, which has been, and will be, in all ages, a subject of the highest reverence and admiration. But it is said by the author that the Christian fable is but the tale of the more ancient superstitions of the world, and may be easily detected by a proper understanding of the mythologies of the heathens. Did Milton understand those mythologies? Was he less versed than Mr. Paine in the superstitions of the world ? No; they were the subject of his immortal song; and though shut out from all recurrence to them, he poured them forth from the stores of a memory rich with all that man ever knew, and laid them in their order, as the illustration of real and exalted faith, unquestionable source of that fervid genius which cast a sort of shade upon all the other works of man. But it was the light of the BODY only that was extinguished; — " the celestial light shone inward, and enabled him to justify the ways of God to man.”
Thus you find all that is great, or wise, or splendid, or illustrious, amongst created beings, — all the minds gifted beyond ordinary nature, if not inspired by its universal Author for the advancement and dignity