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His clients must sometimes have been surprised to observe the relevancy of topics and the force of arguments, in his hands, which had never even occurred to their own busy and inquisitive thoughts. The sensible and patriotic Editor of the volume informs us, that Mr. Curran, while at the bar, surpassed all his fraternity in the sagacity of cross-examination.
• The editor, who has often observed him in the different branches of professional exertion, cannot omit that in the crossexamination of a witness he is unequalled. The most intricate web that fraud, malice, or corruption ever wove, against the life, fortune, or character of an individual, he can unravel. Let truth and falsehood be ever so ingeniously dove-tailed into each other, he separates them with facility. He instantly seizes the first in consistency of testimony, pursues his advantage with dexterity and caution, till at last he completely involves perjury in the confusion of its contradictions. And while the bribed and suborned witness is writhing in the mental agony of detected falsehood, he wrings from him the truth, and snatches the devoted victim from the altar. It is when in a case of this kind he speaks to a jury that he appears as if designed by Providence to be the refuge of the unfortunate, and the protector of the oppressed.'
No part of the process of the trials is given but his speeches, with those occasional sentences of interruption which came from the court; but the manner in which he sometimes comments on wicked evidence, may give some idea of the torture he must have inflicted on the suborned and perjured wretches, while he had them under the question, and of the little less enviable sensations of more important personages, when they had an interest in the success of the villany. The galling missiles of this terrible sagittary would not seldom strike those more important persons themselves, sometimes by a direct but sudden aim, and sometimes by a matchless dexterity of slanting flight. Of this latter there is an admirable example in the first of the speeches, a very long one, before the Lord Lieutenant and Council, on a question of the right of election of the Lord Mayor of Dublin, a very important subject then and there, though now, and to English readers especially, of the most diminutive interest: but the speech, even thus imperfectly reported, contains some fine specimens of acute argument, unexpected resource, daring and presence of mind, and happy and powerful satire; and then, there is the indirect and most vengeful piece of inflictive justice to which we alluded. The chief object of it was the Lord Chancellor Clare, In making some historical references, strictly connected with bis subject, Curran took occasion to introduce the character of an Irish chancellor in the time of queen Anne, Sir Constantine Phipps, who had actually committed some such violations of the municipal rights of the city of Dublin as
the splendid court to which the Advocate was addressing him. self, had given ground for suspicion of being disposed to repeat. My Lord Chancellor Clare seemed afraid there might, in such hands, be mischief in the subject, and interrupted Mr. Curran with an observation that it was altogether foreign to the present cause. In a few calm sentences the advocate sbewed how it had a very evident relation to it; and then, probably from the inere impulse of the moment, for the passage comes in with all the ease of casual thought, went off in the following strain, and very probably, though it is not mentioned, fixing the well known intrepid keepness of his dark eyes on the proper object.
In this very chamber did the Chancellor and Judges sit, with all the gravity and affected attention to arguments in fayour of that liberty and those rights which they had conspired to destroy. But to what end, my lords, offer argument to such men? A little and a peevish mind may be exasperated, but how shall it be corrected, by refutation. How fruitless would it have been to represent to that wretched Chancellor, that he was destroying those rights which he was sworn to maintain, that he was involving a government in dis. grace, and a kingdom in panic and consternation; that he was violating every sacred duty, and every solemn engagement, that bound him to himself, his country, his Sovereign, and his God. Alas ! my Lords, by what argument could any man hope to reclaim or dissuade a mean, illiberal, and unprincipled minion of authority, induced by his profligacy to undertake, and bound by his avarice and vanity to persevere ! He would probably have replied to the most unanswerable arguments, by some curt, contumelious, and unmeaning apophthegm, delivered with the fretful smile of irritated self-sufficiency and disconcerted arrogance; or even, if he could be dragged by his fears to a consideration of the question, by what miracle could the pigmy capacity of a stunted pedant be enlarged to a reception of the subject? The endeavour to approach it would have only removed him to a greater distance than he was before : as a little hand that strives to grasp a mighty globe is thrown back by the re-action of its own effort to comprehend. It may be given to a Hale or a Hardwicke to discover and retract a mistake; the errors of such men are only specks that arise for a moment upon the surface of a splendid luminary; consumed by its heat, or irradiated by its light, they soon purge and disappear; but the perverseness of a mean and narrow intellect is like the excrescences that grow upon a body naturally cold and dark: po fire to waste them and no ray to enlighten, they assimilate and coalesce with those qualities se congenial to their nature, and acquire an incorrigible permanence in the union with kindred frost and opacity. Nor indeed, my Lords, except where the interest of millions can be affected by the vice or the folly of an individual, need it be much regretted, that, to things not worthy of being made better, it hath not pleased Providence to afford the privilege of improvement po
llow fares my good Lord Chancellor the while ?' He could not keep himself quiet on the velvet cushion of state; he again admonished the offerer of the sulphureous incense, that he had altogether departed from the proper ground of his subject. Curran resuming, re-asserted argumentatively the propriety of taking a wider scope of observation than that dictated to him by the court; and he went on, .
"I am aware, my Lords, that truth is to be sought only by slow and painful progress : I know also that error is in its nature Alippant and conspendious; it hops with airy and fastidious levity over proofs and arguments, and perches upon assertion, which it calls cons clusion.
This sentence appeared to his Lordship so ominous of another storm, that he moved to have the chamber cleared, and during the exclusion of strangers.moved the council. that Mr. Curran should be restrained by their Lordships authority from proceeding, further in the line of argument he was then pur. “suing; but his Lordship was over-ruled,' and the Advocate went on as he pleased; but judging, doubtless, that he had now literally fulfilled his duty to the Chancellor, did not recall him by a new attack from the luxury of rumination on what he had already received. .
It is evident from the general clearness and connexion of the thoughts, and the complete construction of the sentences, that this speech was much more fortunate in a reporter than many of the others. It was effectual as to the point in litigation.
The powerful speech for Mr. Archibald Hamilton Rowan, attaided its deserved celebrity in England, and will maintain it by means of several splendid passages which have taken their place, among our ordinary collections of extracted specimens of fine composition.
Between the speeches we have referred to, are interposed, subsequently to the first edition, several brief reports of speeches in the Irish Parliament, where the orator was not less at bis ease, nor less..courageous against oppression and corruption, than in the courts of law. But the Editor aoknowledges these are feeble abstracts, and inserted only in compliance with what he. understood to be the public wish. They are indeed, with the exception of some-spirited. passages, but faint echoes of orations which no doubt abounded with sentences like those at the commencement of a speech on Attachments, in 1784.
MrCurran said he hoped he might say a few words on this great subjects: without -disturbing the sleep of any right honourable member, (the Attorney-general having fallen asleep on his seat) and yet, perhaps, added he, I ought rather to envy than blame the tranquillity of the right honourable gentleman. I do not feela myself so happily tempered as, to be lulled to repose by the storms; that shake the land. If they invite any to rest, that rest ought not to be lavished on the guilty spirit. .
The defence of Mr. Oliver Bond is very inefficiently and meagrely given; it might even as well, perhaps, have been omitted, if no better report could be obtained. In those for the family of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Mr. Patrick Finney, and Mr. Peter Finnerty, we recognise the orator's characteristic power ; eminently so in the last, which is a defence against a prosecution for a political libel. It abounds with eloquent representations of the importance of the liberty of the press, illustrative at the same time of the extent to which that liberty must go, if the phrase is to be used in any sense that shall not be an idle or a bitter mockery of the people. · The prosecution was for the publication, in a news-paper, of a bold indignant letter to the lord lieutenant (Lord Camden) on the subject of the execution of a Mr. William Orr, for administering the oath of an United Irishman to one Wheatley, who turned informer and evidence against him. 'A verdict of death had been given against Orr, by a jury of whom three men soon afterwards, and before it was too late, most solemnly made oath, with all the earnestness of remorse, that they had been at once intimidated and made drunk to force their concurrence in the fatal verdict, while in their consciences they were satisfied of the innocence of the prisoner. A recommendation to mercy was transmitted by the judges to the lord lieutenant; the informer was proved to be a most infamous wretch; three successive respites were granted by his Excellency, who nevertheless terminated the process and the long suspence by consigning the prisoner to death. In observing on the strong language of Mr. Finnerty in animadverting on this decision, the Advocate appeals to the jury whether any terms could be strong enough for the occasion; and under the privilege of his office he takes upon himself to make, with the aggravated force and severer sting of his own eloquence, the very assault for which the prisoner was prosecuted. In doing this he took his stand on the implication conveyed in the noble prosecutor's refusal to permit the prisoner to produce his offered evidence of the truth of all the facts asserted in the libel. We presume it is the very same person, now in an English prison, that was in an English court in the very same; way refused, when pleading in mitigation of punishment, the : benefit of evidence which he offered to prove the truth of charges which he was under sentence for having pablished against another noble personage, relative to transactions in Ireland in those melancholy times. Of this most eloquent speech it appears Mr. C. did not, at the time of coming into the court, expect to utter one sentence. It is therefore a passing
ion, the Aayage of Mr. Finder to death. In
wonderful display of mental power. And its energy and splendour come with an indefinitely augmented force on the reader's mind, from a certain moral element which pervades the per, formance. It is of a far different quality from the eloquence of a mere advocate. The advocate is lost in the patriot, the lofty censor, the philanthropist. Indeed, partly owing to the nature of the subjects in many of these trials, as involving great and national interests, and in volving them in a melancholy manner, and partly owing to the habits of the orator, as a politician, a large thinker, and the associate of large thinkers, it is a very prominent general distinction of Mr. Curran's eloquence, as displayed in this volume, that it is something quite different from that of a mere clever barrister, It has the mingled complexion of the legislator and the poet, often indeed reddened and darkened into a vindictive and ireful expression at the view of great and favoured criminals. .
We cannot make extracts of suficient length to display to full advantage the manner in which he represents the con dition of Orr, and the feelings of his family, and the appeals to the conscience and the feelings of the jury whether they can,. . in the sight of God and their country, dare to justify by their ... verdict the chief infiictors of those feelings; nor would we detach from the connexion · any part of the truly dreadful picture of the state of the nation as abandoned to be devoured by demoniacs in the shape of privileged and rewarded spies and informers; a picture, of the truth of every part of which he commandingly appeals to them that every man of them has the most absolute conviction and certain knowledge, while nevertheless they are assembled, as he plainly tells them they themselves know, by selection and management, 'for the purpose of giving á verdict which shall virtually declare all these representations to be false.
But the speech which beyond any other that our readers ever heard or read will put their indignant emotions beyond their power to restrain, is that for Mr. Hevey against Major Sirr. We would make an abstract of the facts of this case, whatever space it might occupy, but from the consideration that this volume has already been extensively read, and will be yet much more so. For these two last mentioned speeches not to, have been recalled to public memory and circulation, and secured for perpetuity, would have been a great loss to justice, history, and eloquence. In perusing the latter of them, every reader will ask with impatience whether several horrid miscreants exhibited there continued to enjoy impunity, nay favour and distinction, and whether no infesting thorns have been lodged ; beyond extraction in the consciences of those who could em. ploy such agents and sanction such transactions.. is di
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