« 前へ次へ »
in the wall,” to consume our constitutions: suppose I had muttered along through the gloomy passages: “What, is this cursed trial of Hastings going on again Are we to have no respite Are we to die of the asthma in this damned corner? I wish to God that the roof would come down and abate the impeachment, lords, commons, and all together.” Such a wish, proceeding from the mind, would be desperate wickedness, and the serious expressian of it a high and criminal contempt of parliament. Perhaps the bare utterance of such words, even without meaning, would be irreverend and foolish; but still, if such expressions had been gravely imputed to me as the result of a malignant mind, seeking the destruction of the lords and commons of England, how would they have been treated in the house of commons, on a motion for my expulsion How! The witness would have been laughed out of the house before he had half finished his evidence, and would have been voted to be too great a blockhead to deserve a worse character. Many things are, indeed, wrong and reprehensible, that neither do nor can become the objects of criminal justice; because the happiness and security of social life, which are the very end and object of all law and justice, forbid the communication of them; because the spirit of a gentleman, which is the most refined morality, either shuts men's ears against what should not be heard, or closes their lips with the sacred seal of honour. “This tacit but well understood and qelightful compact of social life, is perfectly consistent with its safety. The security of free governments, and the unsuspecting confidence of every man who lives under them, are not only compatible, but inseparable. It is easy to distinguish where the publick duty calls for the violation of the private one; criminal intention, but not indecent levities, not even grave opinions unconnected with conduct, are to be exposed to the magistrate; and when men, which happens but seldom, without the honour or the sense to make the due distinctions, force complaints upon governments, which they can neither approve of nor refuse to act upon; it becomes the office of juries, as it is yours to day, to draw the true line in their judgments, measuring men's conduct by the safe standards of human life and experience.” II. 341, 344.
After quoting Mr. Burke's spirited remarks on the system of espionage and persecution practised in France, he proceeds:
“If these sentiments apply so justly to the reprobation of persecution for opinions, even for opinions which the laws, however absurdly, inhibit; for opinions, though certainly and maturely entertained, though publickly professed, and though followed up by corresponding conduct; how irresistibly do they devote to contempt and execration, all eavesdropping attacks upon loose conversations, casual or convivial, more especially when proceeding from persons conforming to all the religious and civil institutions of the state, unsupported by general and avowed profession, and not merely unconnected with conduct, but scarcely attended with recollection or consciousness! Such a vexatious system of inquisition, the disturber of household peace, began and ended with the starchamber. The venerable law of England never knew it; her noble, dignified, and humane policy soars above the little irregularities of our lives, and disdains to enter our closets without a warrant, founded upon complaint. Constructed by man to regulate human infirmities, and not by God to guard the purity of angels, it leaves to us our thoughts, our opinions, and our conversations; and punishes only overt acts of contempt and disobedience to her authority.
“Gentlemen, this is not the specious phrase of an advocate for his client; it is not even my exposition of the spirit of our constitution; but it is the phrase and letter of the law itself. In the most critical conjunctures of our history, when government was legislating for its own existence and continuance, it never overstepped this wise moderation. To give stability to establishments, it occasionally bridled opinions concerning them; but its punishments, though sanguinary, laid no snares for thoughtless life, and took no man by surprise.” II. 345, 346.
We subjoin one other passage from the conclusion of the speech, because its application to the present times is but too striking.
“Indeed, I am very sorry to say that we hear of late too much of the excellence of the British government, and feel but toe little of its benefits. They, too, who pro. nounce its panegyricks, are those who alone prevent the entire publick from acceding to them; the eulogium comes from a sus. pected quarter, when it is pronounced by persons enjoying every honour from the crown, and treating the people upon all
* The King’s Bench sat in the small equrt of Common Pleas, the impeachment
having shut up its own court.
occasions with suspicion and contempt. The three estates of the kingdom are coordinate, all alike representing the dignity, and jointly executing the authority of the nation; yet all our loyalty seems to be wasted upon one of them. How happens it else, that we are so exquisitely sensible, so tremblingly alive to every attack upon the crown, or the nobles that surround it, yet so completely careless of what regards the once respected and awful commons of Great Britain'
“If Mr. Frost had gone into every cof. feehouse, from Charingcross to the Exchange, lamenting the dangers of popular government; reprobating the peevishness of opposition in parliament; and wishing, in the most advised terms, that we could look up to the throne and its excellent ministers alone, for quiet and comfortable vernment, do you think that we should ave had an indictment I ask pardon for the supposition; I can discover that you are laughing at me for its absurdity. Indeed, I might ask you whether it is not the motorious language of the highest men, in and out of parliament, to justify the alienation of the popular part of the government from the spirit and principle of its trust and office, and to prognosticate the very ruin and downfal of England, from a free and uncorrupted representation of the great body of the people I solemnly declare to you, that I think the whole of this system leads inevitably to the dangers we seek to avert; it divides the higher and the lower classes of the nation into adverse parties, instead of uniting and compounding them into one harmonious whole; it embitters the people against authority, which, when they are made to feel and know is but their own security, they must, from the nature of man, unite to support and cherish. I do not believe that there is any set of men to be named in England, I might say, that I do not know an individual, who seriously wishes to touch the crown, or any branch of our excellent constitution; and when we hear peevish and disrespectful expressions concerning any of its functions, depend upon it, it proceeds from some practical variance between its theory and its practice. These variances are the fatal springs of disorder and disgust; they lost America, and in that unfortunate separation laid the foundation of all that we have to fear; yet, instead of treading back our steps, we seek recovery in the system which brought us into peril. Let government, in England, always take care to make its administration correspond with the true spirit of our genuine constitution,
and nothing will ever endanger it. Let it seek to maintain its corruptions by severity and coercion, and neither laws nor arms will support it. These are my sentiments; and I advise you, however, unpopular they may be at this moment, to consider them, before you repel them.” II. 353–356.
In the violence of that day, the exertions of Mr. Erskine failed of their accustomed effect; and Mr. Frost was found guilty. But the impression of his defence was not lost; and it deterred the government from risking its credit on such precarious speculations, until, in 1794, the charges of high treason were brought forward, the whole force of the bar marshalled against the prisoners, and every effort used to beat down their undaunted defender. Then it was that his consummate talents shone in their full lustre. His indefatigable patience, his eternal watchfulness, his unceasing labour of body and of mind, the strength of an herculean constitution, his untameable spirit, a subtlety which the merest pleader might envy, a quickness of intellect which made up for the host he was opponed to: these were the great powers of the man; and the wonderful eloquence of his speeches is only to be spoken of as second to these. Amidst all the struggles of the constitution, in parliament, in the council, and in the field, there is no one man, certainly, to whose individual exertions it owes so much, as to this celebrated advocate; and if ever a single patriot saved his country from the horrours of a proscription, this man did this deed for us, in stemming the tide of state prosecutions.
We have spoken most at large of his later productions; but the reader will naturally be anxious to look at the beginnings of his career. We subjoin, therefore, an extract from his celebrated speech for captain Baillie, being the first he ever made, and pronounced by him immediately after he was called to the bar. The specimen we are about to give, is selected principally with a view to show, that the courage which marked Mr. Erskine’s professional life, was not acquired after the success which rendered it a safe and a cheap virtue; but, being naturally inherent in the man, was displayed at a moment when attended with the most formidable risks.
“In this enumeration of delinquents, the revd. Mr. , looks round, as if he thought I had forgotten him. He is mistaken; I well remembered him; but his infamy is worn threadbare. Mr. Murphy has already treated him with that ridicule which his folly, and Mr. Peckham with that invective which his wickedness, deserve. I shall, therefore, forbear to taint the ear of the court further with his name: a name which would bring dishonour upon his country and its religion, if human nature were not happily compelled to bear the greater part of the disgrace, and to share it amongst mankind.”
“Such, my lords, is the case. The defendant, not a disappointed, 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 withoutproof 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 governours of this sacred and abused institution. Indeed, lord has, in my mind, acted such a part.
* * *
[Here, lord JMansfield observing the counsel heated with his subject, and growing personal on the first lord of the admiralty, told him that lord was 710t before the court.]
“I know, that he is not formally before the court; but, for that very reason, I will 3ring 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. I assert, that the earl of -- has but
one road to escape out of this business without pollution and disgrace; and that is, by publickly 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 personql interest to prevail over his publick 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 —'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
“My lords, this matter is of the last importance. I speak not as an Advoca TE alone, I speak to you as A MAN, 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, who, while he exposes his body to fatigues 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 landmen drowning the groans and complaints of the wounded, helpless companions of his glory—he will tempt the seas no more. The admiralty may press HIs Bo Dy, indeed, at the expense of humanity and the constitution, but they cannot press his
mind; they eannot press the heroick ardour of a British sailor; and, instead of a fleet to carry terrour 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 IMPR1son MENT' The man deserves a PAL Ace, instead of a PR1son, who prevents the palace, built by the publick bounty of his country, from being converted into a dungeon, and who sacrifices his own security to the interests of humanity and virtue.” I. 20.29–32.
The professional life of this eminent person, who has, of late years, reached the highest honours of the law, is, in every respect, useful, as an example to future lawyers. It shows, that a base, time-serving demeanour towards the judges, and a corrupt or servile conduct towards the government, are not the only, though, from the frailty of human nature, and the wickedness of the age, they may often prove the surest roads to preferment. It exalts the character of an English barrister beyond what, in former times, it had attained, and holds out an illustrious instance of patriotism and independence, united with the highest legal excellence, and crowned, in the worst of times, with the most ample success. But it is doubly important, by proving how much a single man can do against the corruption of his age, and how far he can vindicate the liberties of his country, so long as courts of justice are pure, by raising
his single voice against the outcry of the people, and the influence of the crown, at a time when the union of these opposite forces was bearing down all opposition in parliament, and daily setting at nought the most splendid talents, armed with the most just cause. While the administration of the law flows in such pure channels; while the judges are incorruptible, and are watched by the scrutinizing eyes of an enlightened bar, as well as by the jealous attention of the country; while juries continue to know, and to exercise their high functions, and a single advocate of honesty, and talents remains—thank God, happen what will in other places, our personal safety is beyond the reach of a corrupt ministry and their venal adherents. Justice will hold her even balance, in the midst of hosts armed with gold or with steel. The law will be administered steadily, while the principles of right and wrong; the evidence of the senses themselves; the very axioms of arithmetick, may seem, elsewhere, to be mixed in one giddy and inextricable confusion; and, after every other plank of the British constitution shall have sunk below the weight of the crown, or been stove in by the violence of popular commotion, that one will remain, to which we are ever fondest of clinging, and by which we can always most surely be saved. .
The Lady of the Lake; a Poem. By Walter Scott, Esq. 4to. 21. 28. boards. Philadelphia, republished by Edward Earle, in a miniature edition. Price $1. 1810.
but we trust that our readers will not find us disposed to cavil; and we are certain that censure, in this instance, will not be idle, because, if a pure literary taste be yet worth preserving among us, on no occasion can its advocates stand forwards with better grace, and with more likelihood of obtaining the approbation of the judicious and intelligent, than on the present. With due respect, then, we approach an author whose eminent genius we warmly and freely acknowlegde, but whose carelessness in composition is, we conceive, making a rapid progress in barbarizing our language and corrupting our taste. We shall begin by a general survey of the plan of the poem, interspersed with such remarks as arise from the subject; then make some cztracts as specimens of the style and execution; and conclude with further observations on its merits in all these respects.
The events recorded in the story are supposed to have taken place in the reign of James the fifth of Scotland. The scene is laid chiefly in the vicinity of Loch-Katrine, in the western Highlands of Pertshire. The time of action includes six days; and the transactions of each day occupy a canto. After a fine address to the harp of the north, the first canto, which is called The Chase, commences with an account of a long and dangerous hunt, over a tract of country, of which, we have no doubt, the topographical accuracy is equal to the picturesque description. The huntsmen drop the pursuit in succession,
“And when the brigg of Turk was won, The headmost horseman rode alone.”
His two bloodhounds drive the “stalwart stag” up to the western Vol. iv. 2 R.
boundary of Loch-Katrine; where, as they approach to seize him, instead of turning to bay, he dashes into a deep ravine, and foils their pursuit in the crags and thickets below. Here the gallant steed of the sportsman falls exhausted, and expires. He pathetically apostrophizes the noble animal, and calling off his dogs, endeavours to retrace his way to his companions; when his road. on the wild borders of the lake, among mountains and woods, is as clearly brought to our view as if we really beheld it. Having wandered for some time in this romantickscene, his path winds out on the Lake, and gives him a glorious prospect of its expanse. Here he blows his horn, in hopes of summoning some straggler of his train; but, to his astonishment, he perceives a damsel of matchless beauty and elegance, whose dress betrays the daughter of some highland chief, guiding a light skiff over the water. As she draws near the shore, she looks round for the person who blew the horn; asks whether it was her “father,” and, more gently, whether it was “Malcolm ?” On seeing a stranger, she pushes her boat from the shore, but, reassured by his address and appearance, she listens to his tale of losing himself in the chase, and courteously offers him the rights of hospitality in her father's house. To his surprise, she adds that old AllanBane, their secondsighted minstrel, had foretold his mischance, and his arrival at the lake. He takes the oar from the lady, and they land on a thickly wooded island. The “rustick bower,” or, as the lady gayly calls it, the enchanted “ hall,” which they reach through a tangled path, excites still farther the wonder of the stranger. The large room which they enter is hung round with trophies of the chase; and a sword of enormous size, falling as they cross the threshold with a loud clang on the floor, not a little startles the knight; but he blushes for his mo"