« ZurückWeiter »
and decency charged upon me, I shall neither attempt to palliate or deny; but content myself with wishing, that may be one of those, whose follies may cease with their youth, and not of those who continue ignorant in spite of age and experience.
Whether youth can be attributed to any man as a reproach, I will not, Sir, assume the province of determining; but surely age may justly become contemptible, if the opportunities which it brings, have passed away without improvement, and vice appear to prevail when the passions have subsided. The wretch who, after having seen the consequences of a thousand errors, continues still to blunder, and in whom age has only added obstinacy and stupidity, is surely the object either of abhorrence or contempt, and deserves not that his grey head should secure him from insults. more, Sir, is he to be abhorred, who, as he has advanced in age, has receded from virtue, and become more wicked, with less temptation; who prostitutes himself for money which he cannot enjoy, and spends the remains of his life in the ruin of his country.
But youth, Sir, is not my only crime: I have been accused of acting a theatrical part. A theatrical part may either imply some peculiarities of gesture, or a dissimulation of my real sentiments, and in the adoption of the opinions and language of another man.
In the first sense, Sir, the charge is too trifling to be confuted, and deserves to be mentioned only that it may be despised, I am at liberty, like every other man, to use my own language; and though I may perhaps have some ambition to please this gentleman, I shall not lay myself under any restraint, nor very solicitously copy his diction or his mien, however matured by age, or modelled by experience.
But if any man shall, by charging me with theatrical behaviour, imply that I utter any sentiments but my own, I shall treat him as a calumniator and a villain; nor shall any protection shelter him from the treatment
which he deserves.
I shall, on such an occasion, without scruple, trample upon all those forms, with which wealth and dignity entrench themselves, nor shall any thing but age restrain my resentment,—age, which always brings with it one privilege, that of being insolent and supercilious without punishment.
But with regard, Sir, to those whom I have offended, I am of opinion, that if I had acted a borrowed part, I should have avoided their censure. The heat which offended them, is the ardour of conviction, and that zeal for the service of my country, which neither hope nor fear shall induce me to suppress. I will not sit unconcerned while my liberty is invaded, nor look in silence upon public robbery. I will exert my endeavours, at whatever hazard, to repel the aggressor, and drag the thief to justice, whoever may protect him in his villainy, and whoever may partake of his plunder.
EXTRACT FROM LORD ERSKINE'S SPEECH.
Such my Lords is the case. The Defendant,-not a disappointed and malicious informer, prying into official abuses, because without office himself, but himself a man in office; not troublesomely inquisitive into other men's departments, but conscientiously correcting his own ;-doing it pursuant to the rules of law, and, what heightens the character, doing it at the risk of his office, from which the effrontery of power has already suspended him, without proof of his guilt; a conduct not only unjust and illiberal, but highly disrespectful to this. Court, whose judges sit in the double capacity of ministers of the law, and governors of this sacred and abused institution. Indeed, Lord Sandwiche has, in my opinion,
acted such a part * * * * * * (Here, Lord Mansfield, observing the Counsel heated with his subject, and growing personal on the first Lord of the Admiralty, told him that Lord Sandwiche was not before the Court.) I know that he is not formally before the Court, but for that very reason I will bring him before the Court: he has placed these men in the front of the battle, in hopes to escape under their shelter, but I will not join in battle with them their vices, though screwed up to the highest pitch of human depravity, are not of dignity enough to vindicate the combat with me. I will drag him to light who is the dark mover behind this scene of iniquity. assert, that the Earl of Sandwiche has but one road to escape out of this business without pollution and disgrace; and that is by publicly disavowing the acts of the prosecutors, and restoring Captain Baillie to his command. If he does this, then his offence will be no more than the too common one, of having suffered his own personal interest to prevail over his public duty, in placing his voters in the hospital. But if, on the contrary, he continues to protect the prosecutors, in spite of the evidence of their guilt, which has excited the abhorrence of the numerous audience that crowd this court; IF HE KEEPS THIS INJURED MAN SUSPENDed, or dares TO TURN THAT SUSPENSION INTO A REMOVAL, I SHALL
THEN NOT SCRUPLE TO DECLARE HIM AN ACCOMPLICE IN THEIR GUILT, A SHAMELESS OPPRESSOR, A DISGRACE TO HIS RANK, AND A TRAITOR TO HIS TRUST.
But, as I should be very sorry that the fortune of my brave and honourable friend should depend either upon the exercise of Lord Sandwiche's virtues, or the influence of his fears, I do most earnestly entreat the Court to mark the malignant object of this prosecution, and to defeat it I beseech you, my Lords, to consider, that even by discharging the rule, and with costs, the defendant is neither protected nor restored. I trust, therefore, your Lordships will not rest satisfied with fulfilling your judicial duty, but, as the strongest evidence of foul
abuses has, by accident, come collaterally before you, that you will protect a brave and public spirited officer, from the prosecution this writing has brought upon him, and not suffer so dreadful an example to go abroad into the world, as the ruin of an upright man, for having faithfully discharged his duty.
My Lords, this matter is of the last importance: I speak not as an advocate alone,-I speak to you as a -as a member of a state whose very existence depends upon her naval strength. If a misgovernment were to fall upon Chelsea Hospital, to the ruin and discouragement of our army, it would be, no doubt, to be lamented, yet, I should not think it fatal; but, if our fleets are to be crippled by the baneful influence of elections, we are lost indeed! If the seaman, while he exposes his body to fatigue and dangers, looking forward to Greenwich as an asylum for infirmity and old age, sees the gates of it blocked up by corruption, and hears the riot and mirth of luxurious landsmen drowning the groans and complaints of the wounded, helpless companion of his glory, he will tempt the seas no more. The Admiralty may press his body, indeed, at the expense of humanity and the constitution; but they cannot press his mind, they cannot press the heroic ardour of a British Sailor; and instead of a fleet to carry terror all round the globe, the Admiralty may not much longer be able to amuse us with even the peaceable, unsubstantial pageant of a review.
FINE AND IMPRISONMENT!-The man deserves a palace, instead of a prison, who prevents the palace, built by the public bounty of his country, from being converted into a dungeon, and who sacrifices his own security, to the interests of humanity and virtue.
And now, my Lords, I have done :-But not without thanking your Lordships, for the very indulgent attention I have received, though in so late a stage of this business, and notwithstanding my great incapacity and
DRAMATIC AND ORATORICAL LESSONS.
inexperience. I resign my client into your hands, and I resign him with a well-founded confidence and hope; because that torrent of corruption, which has unhappily overwhelmed every other part of the constitution, is, by the blessing of Providence, stopped here by the sacred independence of the judges.