ページの画像
PDF
ePub

of the address of the Provisional Government, that every hazard attending an independent effort was deemed preferable to the more fatal risk of introducing a French army into the country. When the fluctuating spirit of French freedom was not fixed and bounded by the chains of a military despoi, it might have been an excusable policy to have sought the assistance of France, as was done in the year 1798 ; then it might not have been so great a hazard to have accepted of French aid under a guaranteeing treaty such as Frank. lin obtained for America. But, in the present day, could the Provisional Government have formed such a plan they would have exhibited such a proof of mental imbecility, as to unfit them for the common offices of life. Small would be our claims to patriot. ism and to sense, and palpable our affectation of the love of liberty, if we were to encourage the profanation of our shores by a people who are slaves them. selves, and the unprincipled and abandoned instruments of imposing slavery on others. If such an inference is drawn from any part of the Proclamation of the Provisional Government, it calumniates their views, and is not warranted by the fact. How could they speak of freedom to their countrymen-how as. sume such an exalted motive, and meditate the introduction of a power, which has been the enemy of Freedom in every part of the globe ? Reviewing the conduct of France to other countries; seeing how she had behaved to Italy, to Holland, and to Switzerland, could we expect better conduct towards us? No!-Let not then any man attaint my memory by believing that I could have hoped freedom through the aid of France, and betrayed the sacred cause of Liberty, by committing it to her most determined foe. Neither let any man hereafter, abuse my name, or my principles, to the purpose of so base and wicked a delusion. Oh! my countrymen, believe not those who would attempt so parricidal an imposition upon your understandings. Deliver my country into the hands of France! What! meditate such a cruel as

sassination of her political life! Had I done so, I. had not deserved to live; and dying with such a weight upon my character, I had merited the honest execration of that country which gave me birth, and to which I would have given freedom. Had I been in Switzerland, I would have fought against the French, for I am certain, the Swiss are hostile to the French. In the dignity of Freedom, I would have expired on the threshhold of that country, and they should hare entered it only by passing over my lifeless corse. Is it, then, to be supposed, that I should be slow to make the same sacrifice to my native land ? Am I, who lived but to be of service to my country-who resigned for that service the worship of another idol I adored in my heart, and who would subject myself to the bondage of the grave to give her independence-am I to be loaded with the foul and grievous calumny of being an emissary of France ?

My Lords, it may be part of the system of angry justice to bow a man's mind by humiliation to meet the ignominy of the scaffold, but worse to me than the scaffold's shame or the scaffold's terrors, would be the imputation of having been the agent of French despotism and ambition; and while I have breath, I will call upon my countrymen not to believe me guilty of so foul a crime against their liberties and their happiness. Though you, my Lord, sit there a Judge, and I stand here a culprit-yet, you are but a man, and I am another; I have a right, therefore, to vindicate my character and motives from the aspersions of calumny; and, as a man to whom fame is dearer than life, I will make the last use of that life in rescuing my name and my memory from the af. flicting imputation of having been an emissary of France, or seeking her interference in the internal re. gulatiun of our affairs. Did I live to see a French army approach this country, I would meet it on the shore, with a torch in one hand, and a sword in the other-I would receive them with all the destruction of war! I would animate my countrymen to immo.

late them in their very boats, before our native soil should be polluted by a foreign toe. If they succeeded in landing, I would burn every blade of grass before them--raze every house-contend to the last for every inch of ground—and the last spot in which the hope of freedom should desert me, that spot. would I make my grave! What I cannot do, I leave a legacy to my country, because I feel conscious that my death were unprofitable, and all hope of liberty extinct, the moment a French army obtained footing in this island.”

Section IX.

FIRST PART OF MR. GRIFFIN'S SPEECH, IN THE TRI

AL OF M. LIVINGSTON, ESO. AGAINST I. CHEET-. HAM, FOR A LIBEL, IN 1807.

The defendant (Cheetham) stands convicted of the serious offence of publishing against the plantiff (Live ingston) a false and defamatory accusation. And you (gentlemen) are the organ to pronounce the sentence of violated law.

What damages will you give? This libel, gentlemen, is not a solitary ebullition of passion. It is a part and parcel of a deliberate and extended system of attack. The defendant foretold that he would wager ra terrible warfare" against the plantiff : and this prediction he has indeed tremendously accomplished. With a step steady as tiine, and an appetite keen as deatlı, he has been seen waging agaiņst the plantiff a warfare, not of conquest, but of extermination. He has been seen opening on the plaintiff the batteries of the press. Yes, gentlemen, the defendant has fotced the press to become the disturber of domestic quiet, the assassin of private reputation. Our press, gentlemen, was destined for other purposes. It was destincd not to violate, but to protect the sanctity of private

rights. It was kindly ordained by a beneficent prov: idence to inform, expand and dignify the public mind. It was ordained the watchful guardian, the undaunted champion of liberty :

Not that'syren word lib. erty, which is sometimes used as an ignis futuus to allure mankind through the mire and swamps and mountains and precipices of revolution ;--but that liberty which spreads the banners of its protection over man in the walks of private life, and gives him the proud consciousness of security in the enjoymerit. of property, person and character. It is for these high purposes our press was ordained ; but the defendant has rendered it the degraded vehicle of foul defamation. Of this I complain, not merely as counsel for the plaintiff, but as the humble advocate of my country. This is a crime against liberty herself. It is corrupting her centinel; it is debauching her vestal, There was a tiine when the press of our country had an exalted character ;-when at the call of the press the American pulse beat high,----when the press wa's capable of stirring the best blood in American veins,

of rousing a nation to glorious enthusiasm, of calling from the plough the ploughman, from the closet the scholar, to fight with a Washington and a Hamilton the immortal battles of American independence. Why had the press this resistless influence ? Becalise it was then the vehicle of truth. But now our press has lost its character for veracity. The de. mon of party has forced it to become a prostitute in the service of licentiousness. It requires the avenging arm of a jury to redeem it from its degradation and restore it to its pristine utility and grandeur.

In his attack on the character of the plaintiff, the are constrained to admit that the defendant has been but too successful, When so much is said, something will be believed. Constant attrition wears away the solid rock. But character, gentlemen, is not made of rock. It is at once the most valuable and delicate of all human possessions : it is tarnished

even by too much handling. The plaintiff has been written down. Any man in society may be written down. No man is proof against the artillery of the press. But has it come to this ? Shall the press of our country be indeed converted into a tremendous engine for writing down characters ? Why, gentlemen, if it is to be thus prostituted, instead of being a blessing, it would be a scourge. Instead of rendering national thanksgiving for its institution, our country ought to be on bended knees in fervent supplication to heaven for its abolition. For it would be a scourge, compared with which, the inquisitorial wheel and revolutionary guillotine would be instruments of mercy.

During this assassination of his character, it is not to be supposed that the mind of the plaintiff has been at rest. Put yourselves in his situation. What would be your feelings while slanders the most vile, while calumnies the most base, were circulating against you through the medium of a widely extended public newspaper : to be read by your cotemporaries-your friends and sneering enemies ; to descend to posterity, and be read by your children and grand-children; to be re-published perhaps by some future libeller when you would be slumbering in your grave, to the mortification and disgrace of your descendants, who might then be destitute of the means of detecting the calumny? Oh, gentlemen, your hearts would be tortured on the wheel of agonizing sensibility. You would find no balm in innocency--no physician there. What you would suffer, the plaintiff has suffered. I should think meanly of him did I suppose him capable of retiring from the feelings of nature, and wrapping himself up in the mantle of insensibility. He this day appeals to a jury of his country. He has a right to demand of you, and in his name, gentlemen, do I solemnly demand of you, full remuneration for every honest man's confidence which has been estranged from him, for every wretched hour, for every sleepless night that he or

« 前へ次へ »