Sayfadaki görseller
[graphic][merged small][merged small]

and fondling his children, was meditating his ruin.* Here was to be seen the wild Atheist, who had gloried in his incredulity, enjoying a lucid interval of faith, to stamp a legal value on his oatht—there the dishonest dealer, the acknowledged perjurer, the future murderer.f

It has been often a matter of surprise that juries had not the firmness to spurn altogether the testimony of such delinquents. In England, upon a recent occasion,s a jury did so; but in Ireland there raged, at this time, an epidemic panic. In the delirious fever of the moment, even though the juror might not have thirsted for the blood of the accused, he yet trembled for his own-affrighted by actual danger, or by the phantoms of his disturbed imagination, he became blind or indifferent to the horrors of the immediate scene. The question was often not whether the witness was a man he could believe, but whether his verdict dare assert the contrary. Perhaps the more flagitious the witness, the more absolutely was he the tyrant of the juror's conscience. Any movements of humanity or indignation in the breast of the latter must have instantly been quelled by the recollection, that to yield


* Jackson's Trial and the Trial of the Sheareses. A few days before Cockayne had openly announced himself as an informer, he was invited to accompany Jackson to dine with a frierd of the latter. After dinner, as soon as the wine had sufficiently circulated, Jackson, according to a previous suggestion from Cockayne, began to sound the political dispositions of the company, and particularly addressed himself to a gentleman of rank who sat beside him, and who, there was subsequent reason to believe, was deeply involved in the politics of the time. During the conversation, Cockayne appeared to have fallen asleep; but, in the midst of it, the master of the house was called out by his servant, who informed him, that he had observed something very singular in Mr. Jackson's friend" he has his hand," said the servant, “over his face, and pretends to be asleep, but when I was in the room just now I could perceive the glistening of his eyo through his fingers." The gentleman returned to bis guests; and whispering to him who was conversing with Jackson to be cautious of his language, probably prevented some arowal which might eventually have cost him his life. Upon such trivial accidents do the fates of men depend in agitated times !-C. + Trial of the Sheareses.-C.

Finney's Trial; and the other State Trials of 1799.--0. $ Trial of Watson and others for high treason.-C.




'' །

to them might be to point out himself as an object of suspicion, and as the next experiment for an adventurous and irritated informer.

It is in the same circumstances that we are to look for an excuse (if excuse be necessary) for those impassioned appeals, for that tone of high and solemn obtestation, by which Mr. Curran's professional efforts at this period are distinguished. In more tranquil times or in a more tranquil country, such enthusiasm may appear extravagant and unnatural; but it should be remembered, that, from the nature of the cases, and the character of his audience, his address often became rather a religious exhortation than a mere forensic harangue.* His situation was very different from that of the English advocate, who, presupposing in his hearers a respect for the great fundamental principles of law and of ethics, securely appeals to them, in the conviction, that, if his client deserves it, he shall have all their benefit. In Ireland, the client was not certain of all their benefit.

In Ireland, during those distracted days, every furious passion was abroad. The Irish advocate knew

* Of this, examples will occur, in the following pages. Upon inferior occasions we find him impressing the most obvious political truths, by a simplicity of illustration, which shows the description of men among whom he was thrown. When he wished to explain to a jury, “that their country could never be prosperous, or happy, without a general participation of happiness to all its people," he thus proceeds :-"A privileged order in a state may, in some sort, be compared to a solitary individual separated from the society, and unaided by the reciprocal converse, affections, or support of his fellow men. It is like a tree standing singly on a high hill, and exposed to the rude concussions of every varying blast, devoid of fruit or foliage. If you plant trees around it, to shade it from the inclemency of the blighting tempest, and secure to it its adequate supply of sun and moisture, it quickly assumes all the luxuriance of vegetation, and proudly rears its head alost, fortified against the noxious gales which agitate and wither the unprotected brambles lying without the verge of the plantation. Upon this principle acted the dying man, whose family had been disturbed by domestic contentions. Upon his death-bed he calls his children around him; he orders a bundle of twigs to be brought; he has them untied; he gives to each of them a single twig; he orders them to be broken, and it is done with facility; he next orders the twigs to be united in a bundle, and directs each of them to try his strength upon it. They shrink from the task as impossible. Thus, my children, (continued the old man) it is union alone that can render you secure against the attempts of your enemies, and preserve you in that state of happiness which I wish you to enjoy.'" -Spoech in Defence of Bird, Hamil and others, tried at Drogheda, 1794.-C.

[graphic][merged small][merged small]

that the juries with whom he had to deal were often composed of men whose feelings of humanity and religion were kept under by their political prejudices—that they had already foredoomed his client to the grave—that, bringing with them the accumulated animosities of past centuries, they came less to try the prisoner than to justify themselves, and make their verdict a vote of approbation upon the politics of their party.* To make an impression upon such men, he had to awaken their dormant sympathies by reiterated statements of the first principles of morals and religion : he addressed himself to their eternal fears, his object being frequently, not so much to direct their minds to the evidence or the

[ocr errors]

* The following observations of Mr. Curran will give some idea of the juries of those days: he is addresing a jury impannelled to try the validity of a challenge :

* This is no common period in the history of the world—they are no ordinary transactions that are now passing before us. All Europe is shaken to its centre; we feel its force, and are likely to be involved in its consequences.

There is no man who has sense enough to be conscious of his own existence, who can hold himself disengaged and unconcerned amidst the present scenes ; and, to hear a man say that he is unbiassed and unprejudiced, is the surest proof that he is both. Prejudice is the cobweb that catches vulgar minds; but the prejudices of the present day float in the upper regions—they entangle tho lofty heads—they are bowing them dowo-you see them as they futter, and hear them as they buzz. Mr. — has become a very public and a very active man; he has his mind, 1 doubt not, stored with the most useful and extensive erudition-he is clothed with the sacred office of a minister of the Gospel-he is a magistrate of the county-he is employed as agent to some large properties--he is reputably connected, and universally esteemed, and there. fore is a man of no small weight and consideration in this country. He has more than once positively sworn that he has applied to the high sheriff—that he struck off no names but those that wanted freeholds; but to-day, he finds that freeholders were struck off by his own pen-he tells you, my lords, and gentlemen triers, with equal modesty and ingenuity, that he has made a mistake-he returns eighty-one names to the sheriff-he receives blank summonses, fills what he deems convenient, &c. Gracious heaven ! what are the courts of justice? what is trial by jury? what is the country brought to ? Were it told in the courts above-mere it told in other countries-were it told in Westminster Hall, that such a man was permitted to return nearly one half of the grand panel of the county from one particular district,-a district under severe distress,—to which he is agent and on which, with the authority he possesses, he is able to bring great calamity! He ascends the palpit with the Gospel of benignity and peace-he endeavours to impress himself and others with its meek and holy spirit:-he descends—throws off the purple-seizes the insurrection act in the one hand, and the whip in the other-flies by night and by day after his game; and, with his heart panting, his breath exhausted, and his belly on the ground in the chase, he turns round, and tells you that his mind is unprejudiced--that his breast is full of softness and humanity."-Doron Assizes, 1795.-C.

[ocr errors]

law, as to remind them of the Christian duties; and even in those cases, where both law and fact were upon his side, and where, under other circumstances, he might have boldly demanded an acquittal, he was in reality labouring to extort a pardon.

It was with the same view that he so often made the most impassioned appeals, even to the Bench, when he saw that its political feelings were hostile to the interests of his client. Thus, upon the trial of Hamilton Rowan, the principal witness for the Crown, having deposed that he had seen Mr. Rowan at a meeting of United Irishmen, consisting of one hundred and fifty persons, and his evidence upon this most material fact having been impeached, the Chief Justice (Lord Clonmel), in his charge to the jury, observed, “One hundred and fifty Volunteers, or United Irishmen, and not one comes forward! Many of them would have been proud to assist him (the traverser). Their silence speaks a thousand times more strongly than any cavilling upon this man's credit —the silence of such a number is a volume of evidence in support of the prosecution.”* Upon a motion for a new trial, Mr. Cur

[ocr errors]

* This passage of Lord Clonmel's charge was omitted, and, bo doubt, designedly, in the original edition of Hamilton Rowan's trial, published in Dublin.-C.

Lord Clonmel, for many years Chief Justice of the King's Bench in Ireland, was a man whose mind and form were very coarse. He had risen from a low origin to greai wealth and high station, but never looked like a gentleman. His manners were coarse. His appearance was peculiar-his face was the color of the scarlet robe which he wore, as Judge, and literally "flared up" (so rubicund was it) when he got into a passion, which was about once in every twenty minutes. He and Curran did not agree. At the bar, when both were young, they had had several wordy contests, in which Curran succeeded. This was never forgotten by his opponent when a Judge. It is related that on one occasion the noble lord was so pressed both by the argument, the eloquence, and the wit of Mr. Curran, that he lost temper, and called on the sheriffs to be ready to take any oue into arrest who would be found so contemptuously presuming to ny into the face of the court. Mr. Curran, perceiving the twittering of a swallow actively in pursuit of flies, in his turn called on the sheriff's to take that swallow into arrest, for it was guilty of contempt, as it had contemptuously presumed to fly in the face of the court. The ridicule of this, and the peals of laughter which ensued, closed the scene. On some contested argument in the Court of King's Bench, Lord Clonmel, who was said to have a stronger dash of the overbearing than of the brave, stood out against Mr. Curran with a brow-beating vehemence, and showed a determination to have things entirely in his own way. He made repeated but ineffectual efforts to reduce Mr. Curran, or (as the phrase is used) to put him down. He, however, withstood all the violence of those attempts, and the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


ran, in commenting upon those expressions, could not refrain from exclaiming, "I never before heard an intimation from any judge to a jury, that bad evidence, liable to any and every exception, ought to receive a sanction from the silence of the party. With anxiety for the honour and religion of the law, I demand it of you, must not the jury have understood that this silence was evidence to go to them? Is the meaning contained in the expression "a volume of evidence only an insinuation? I do not know where any man could be safe—I do not know what any man could do to screen himself from prosecution-I know not how he could be secure, even when he was at prayers before the throne of Heaven, that he was not passing that moment of his life, in which he was to be charged with the commission of some crime to be expiated to society, by the loss of his liberty or of his life--I do not know what shall become of the subject, if the jury are to be told that the silence of a man charged is “ a volume of evidence that he is guilty of the crime. Where is it written? I know there is a place where vulgar phrensy cries out that the public instrument must be drenched in blood—where defence is gagged, and the devoted wretch must perish. But even there the victim of such tyranny is not made to fill, by voluntary silence, the defects of his accusation; for his tongue is tied, and therefore no advantage is taken of him by construction : it cannot be there said that his not speaking is a volume of evidence to prove his guilt.” After some farther observations, he thus concluded his arguments : “You are standing on a narrow isthmus, that divides the great ocean of duration—-on the one side of the past, on the other of the

care bee

encounter was upheld with all that passion could supply, or courage hope to extinguish. Mr. Curran looked, and lighted up all the fire of his mighty eye, surveyed his adversary with the most intense and indignant scowl, such as would have pierced through all impediments; while the red and inflamed countenance of the Judge, with the menace and attitude of an overwhelming passion, kindled into a burning blaze. With a firm, calm, and measured tone, Mr. Curran addressed him, and whilst he did so, he seemed armed with the bolt of heaven, ready to hurl destruction on his victim. After some prelude, he concluded his address in these words: “Does your lordship think I am that silly dog to bay that moon-to bay that moon—which I am not able to extinguish ?”—M.

« ÖncekiDevam »