Imagens da página

altar and the god sink together in the dust; his soul walks abroad in her own majesty ; his body swells beyond the measure of his chains, that burst from around him ; and he stands redeemed, regenerated, and disenthralled, by the irresistible genius of UNI


364. Robert Hall.'



In other wars we have been a divided people : the effect of our external operations has been in some measure weakened by intestine dissension. When peace has returned, the breach has widened, while parties have been formed on the merits of particular men, or of particular measures. These have all disappeared: we have buried our mutual animosities in a regard to the common safety. The sentiment of self-preservation, the first law which nature has impressed, has absorbed every other feeling; and the fire of liberty has melted down the discordant sentiments and minds of the British empire into one mass, and propelled them in one direction. Partial interests and feelings are suspended, the spirits of the body are collected at the heart, and we are awaiting with anxiety, but without dismay, the discharge of that mighty tempest which hangs upon the skirts of the horizon, and to which the eyes of Europe and of the world are turned in silent and awful expectation. While we feel solicitude, let us not betray dejection, nor be alarmed at the past successes of our enemy, which are more dangerous to himself than to us, since they have raised him from obscurity to an elevation which has made him giddy, and tempted him to suppose everything within his power. The intoxication of his success is the omen of his fall. What though he has carried the flames of war throughout Europe, and gathered as a nest the riches of the nations, while none peeped, nor muttered, nor moved the wing; he has yet to try his fortune in another field; he has yet to contend on a soil filled with the monuments of freedom, enriched with the blood of its defenders ; with a people who, animated with one soul, and inflamed with zeal for their laws, and for their prince, are armed in defence of all that is dear or venerable,--their wives, their parents, their children, the sanctuary of God, and the sepulchre of their fathers. We will not suppose there is one who will be deterred from exerting himself in such a cause, by a pusillanimous regard to his safety, when he reflects that he has already lived too long who has survived the ruin of his country; and that he who can enjoy life after such an event, deserves not to have lived at all. It will suffice us, if our mortal existence, which is at most but a span, be co-extended with that of the nation which gave us birth. We will gladly quit the scene, with all that is noble and august, innocent and holy; and instead of wishing to survive the oppression of weakness, the violation of beauty, and the extinction of everything on which the heart can repose, welcome the shades which will hide from our view such horrors. To form an adequate idea of the duties of this crisis, it will be necessary to raise your minds to a level with your station, to extend your views to a distant futurity, and to consequences the most certain, though most remote. By a series of criminal enterprises, by the successes of guilty ambition, the liberties of Europe have been gradually extinguished; the subjugation of Holland, Switzerland, and the free towns of Germany, has completed that catastrophe; and we are the only people in the eastern hemisphere who are in possession of equal laws and a free constitution. Freedom, driven from every spot on the Continent, has sought an asylum in a country which she always chose for her favourite abode; but she is pursued even here, and threatened with destruction. The inundation of lawless power, after covering the whole earth, threatens to follow us here; and we are most exactly, most critically placed, in the only aperture where it can be successfully repelled—in the Thermopylæ of the universe. As far as the interests of freedom are concerned,—the most important by far of sublunary interests, – you, my countrymen, stand in the capacity of the federal representatives of the human race; for with you it is to determine (under God) in what condition the latest posterity shall be born; their fortunes are intrusted to your care, and on your conduct at this moment depends the colour and complexion of their destiny. If liberty, after being extinguished on the Continent, is suffered to expire here, whence is it ever to emerge in the midst of that thick night that will invest it? It remains with you, then, to decide whether that freedom, at whose voice the kingdoms of Europe awoke from the sleep of ages, to run a career of virtuous emulation in everything great and good; the freedom which dispelled the mists of superstition, and invited the nations to behold their God; whose magic touch kindled the rays of genius, the enthusiasm of poetry, and the flame of eloquence; the freedom which poured into our lap opulence and arts, and embellished life with innumerable institutions and improvements, till it became a theatre of wonders; it is for you to decide whether this freedom shall yet survive, or be covered with a funeral pall, and wrapt in eternal gloom. It is not necessary to await your determination. In the solicitude you feel to approve yourselves worthy of such a trust, every thought of what is afflicting in warfare, every apprehension of danger must vanish, and you are impatient to mingle in the battle of the civilized world. Go, then, ye defenders of your country, accompanied with every auspicious omen; advance with alacrity into the field, where God Himself musters the hosts to war. Religion is too much interested in your success not to lend you her aid ; she will shed over this enterprise her selectest influence. While you are engaged in the field, many will repair to the closet, many to the sanctuary ; the faithful of every name will employ that prayer which has power with God; the feeble hands which are unequal to any other weapon, will grasp

1 Robert Hall was a Baptist minister, first at Cambridge, and afterwards at Bristol, but may be reckoned among the greatest orators of our country.


the sword of the Spirit; and from myriads of humble, contrite hearts, the voice of intercession, supplication, and weeping, will mingle in its ascent to heaven with the shouts of battle and the shock of

While you have everything to fear from the success of the enemy, you have every means of preventing that success, so that it is next to impossible for victory not to crown your exertions. The extent of your resources, under God, is equal to the justice of your cause But should Providence determine otherwise, should you fall in this struggle, should the nation fall, you will have the satisfaction (the purest allotted to man) of having performed your part; your names will be enrolled with the most illustrious dead; while posterity, to the end of time, as often as they revolve the events of this period (and they will incessantly revolve them), will turn to you a reverential eye, while they mourn over the freedom which is entombed in your sepulchre. I cannot but imagine the virtuous heroes, legislators, and patriots, of every age and country, are bending from their elevated seats to witness this contest, as if they were incapable, till it be brought to a favourable issue, of enjoying their eternal repose. Enjoy that repose, illustrious immortals! Your mantle fell when you ascended ; and thousands, inflamed with your spirit, and impatient to tread in your steps, are ready " to swear by Him that sitteth upon the throne, and liveth for ever and ever,” they will protect Freedom in her last asylum, and never desert that cause which you sustained by your labours, and cemented with your blood. And Thou, sole Ruler among the children of men, to whom the shields of the earth belong, “gird on Thy sword, thou Most Mighty,” go forth with our hosts in the day of battle! Impart, in addition to their hereditary valour, that confidence of success which springs from Thy presence! Pour into their hearts the spirit of departed heroes! Inspire them with Thine own; and, while led by: Thine hand, and fighting under Thy banners, open Thou their eyes to behold in every valley, and in every plain, what the prophet beheld by the same illumination—chariots of fire, and horses of fire ! “Then shall the strong man be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark; and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them.”

Sir James Mackintosh. 1765-1832.



ON THE FIRST CONSUL OF FRANCE-BONAPARTE. Gentlemen, there is one point of view in which this case seems to merit your most serious attention. The real prosecutor is the master of the greatest empire the civilized world ever saw; the defendant is a defenceless, proscribed exile.

I consider this case, therefore, as the first of a long series of conflicts between the greatest power in the world and the ONLY FREE PRESS remaining in Europe. Gentlemen, this distinction of the English press is newit is a proud and a melancholy distinction. Before the great earthquake of the French Revolution had swallowed up all the asylums of free discussion on the Continent, we enjoyed that privilege, indeed, more fully than others, but we did not enjoy it exclusively. In Holland, in Switzerland, in the imperial towns of Germany, the press was either legally or practically free.

But all these have been swallowed up by that fearful convulsion which has shaken the uttermost corners of the earth. They are destroyed, and gone for ever! One asylum of free discussion is still inviolate. There is still one spot in Europe where man can freely exercise his reason on the most important concerns of society, where he can boldly publish his judgment on the acts of the proudest and most powerful tyrants. The press of England is still free. It is guarded by the free constitution of our forefathers. It is guarded by the hearts and arms of Englishmen, and I trust I may venture to say that, if it be to fall, it will fall only under the ruins of the British empire. It is an awful consideration, gentlemen. Every other monument of European liberty has perished. That ancient fabric which has been gradually reared by the wisdom and virtue of our fathers, still stands. It stands, thanks be to God ! solid and entire—but it stands alone, and it stands in ruins! Believing, then, as I do, that we are on the eve of a great struggle—that this is only the first battle between reason and power—that you have now in your hands, committed to your trust, the only remains of free discussion in Europe, now confined to this kingdom; addressing you, therefore, as the guardians of the most important interests of mankind; convinced that the unfettered exercise of reason depends more on your present verdict than on any other that was ever delivered by a jury—I trust I may rely with confidence on the issue-I trust that you will consider yourselves as the advanced guard of liberty, as having this day to fight the first battle of free discussion against the most formidable enemy that it ever encountered !

Thomas Lord Erskine. 1750-1823.

PRINCIPLES OF THE LAW OF LIBEL. Gentlemen, the question you have therefore to try upon all this matter is extremely simple. It is neither more nor less than this : At a time when the charges against Mr. Hastings were, by the implied consent of the Commons, in every hand and on every tablewhen, by their managers, the lightning of eloquence was incessantly consuming him, and flashing in the eyes of the public—when every man was with perfect impunity saying, and writing, and publishing just what he pleased of the supposed plunderer and devastator of nations—would it have been criminal in Mr. Hastings himself to remind the public that he was a native of this free land, entitled to the common protection of her justice, and that he had a defence in his turn to offer to them, the outlines of which he implored them in the mean time to eceive, as an antidote to the unlimited and unpunished poison in circulation against him ? This is, without colour or exaggeration, the true question you are to decide. Because I assert, without the hazard of contradiction, that if Mr. Hastings himself could have stood justified or excused in your eyes for publishing this volume in his own defence, the author, if he wrote it bonâ fide to defend him, must stand equally excused and justified ; and if the author be justified, the publisher cannot be criminal, unless you had evidence that it was published by him with a different spirit and intention from those in which it was written. The question, therefore, is correctly what I just now stated it to be -Could Mr. Hastings have been condemned to infamy for writing this book ?

Gentlemen, I tremble with indignation to be driven to put such a question in England. Shall it be endured, that a subject of this country may be impeached by the Commons for the transactions of twenty years—that the accusation shall spread as wide as the region of letters—that the accused shall stand, day after day and year after year, as a spectacle before the public, which shall be kept in a perpetual state of inflammation against him ; yet that he shall not, without the severest penalties, be permitted to submit any thing to the judgment of mankind in his defence? If this be law, (which it is for you to-day to decide,) such a man has no trial. That great hall, built by our fathers for English justice, is no longer a court, but an altar; and an Englishman, instead of being judged in it by God and his country, is a victim and a sacrifice.

One word more, gentlemen, and I have done. Every human tribunal ought to take care to administer justice, as we look hereafter to have justice administered to ourselves. Upon the principle

« AnteriorContinuar »