網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

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 new-it 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. Holland and Switzerland are no more; and, since the commencement of this prosecution, fifty imperial towns have been erased from the list of independent states, by one dash of the pen. Three or four still preserve a precarious and trembling existence. I will not say by what compliances they must purchase its continuance. I will not insult the feebleness of states, whose unmerited fall I do most bitterly deplore.

These governments were, in many respects, one of the most interesting parts of the ancient system of Europe. The perfect security of such inconsiderable and feeble states, their undisturbed tranquillity, amidst the wars and conquests that surrounded them, attested, beyond any other part of the European system, the moderation, the justice, the civilisation, to which Christian Europe had reached in modern times. Their weakness was protected only by the habitual reverence for justice which, during a long series of ages, had grown up in Christendom. This was the only fortification which defended them against those mighty monarchs to whom they offered so easy a prey. And till the French revolution, this was sufficient. Consider, for instance, the Republic of Geneva: think of her defenceless position in the very jaws of France; but think also of her undisturbed security, of her profound quiet, of the brilliant success with which she applied to industry and literature, while Louis XIV. was pouring his myriads into Italy before her gates; call to mind, if ages crowded into years have not effaced them from your memory, that happy period when we scarcely dreamed more of the subjugation of the feeblest

republic in Europe, than of the conquest of her mightiest empire, and tell me if you can imagine a spectacle more beautiful to the moral eye, or a more striking proof of progress in the noblest principles of civilisation. These feeble

states, these monuments of the justice of Europe, the asylum of peace, of industry, and of literature: the organs of public reason, the refuge of oppressed innocence and persecuted truth, have perished with those ancient principles, which were their sole guardians and protectors. They 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!

SPEECH OF FRANCIS JEFFREY.

[The ease and humour displayed by Mr Jeffrey (now Lord Jeffrey) in some of his speeches at the Scottish bar, are exemplified in the following extract from one of his speeches. The facts of the case in which he spoke were shortly these:-The late Lord Bute had appointed a Mr Cooper, a theological student at Glasgow University, to be private tutor to his son, and after a few years, in compensation for his services, had presented him with a bond of annuity for life. Some time afterwards, his lordship procured Mr Cooper some livings in Wales, to the amount of L.300 a-year, and, in 1811, Mr Cooper surrendered to his lordship the bond of annuity. In 1820 he died; and the present action was brought by the father of the deceased, to claim from the present marquis the annuity due from 1811 to 1820 inclusive. The case was tried on the two following issues: was the deceased sane or not at the time of giving up this bond? and was the obligation extinguished by its surrender? The great point which Mr Robertson, the plaintiff's counsel, laboured to establish, was the insanity of Mr Cooper at the time of giving up the bond; and, certainly, evidence was adduced which was irrefragable. It was, however, wonderful to see the confidence with which Mr Jeffrey undertook to grapple with the whole body of the obnoxious testimony, and explain away the apparently incontrovertible manifestations of madness into any thing but madness. He had a reason ready for every thing. One circumstance adduced in corroboration of the alleged insanity of the plaintiff, was, that he one morning leaped from his bed, and sallied forth with a sword in one hand, and a pistol in the other, in pursuit of a-hen, which he chased thrice round the garden. This was a desperate and incontrovertible fact; but our counsellor "found nothing in it indicative of madness;" and, after convulsing the court with laughter by a caricature of this insane exploit, instructed the jury to look at it in no other point of view, than as the frolicksomeness of an eccentric young man !]]

And now, gentlemen of the jury, let us pause for a moment or two to look about us. You perceive, we have come to another of the card-built castles of our opponents. Mr Cooper, conceiving himself an object of ridicule to both students and tutors, abruptly leaves Cambridge; and is, therefore, forsooth, if we are to admit the clever casuistry of my learned friend (Mr Robertson), insane. Why, gentlemen, every man who does a very absurd and unaccountable action, with his eyes open, may be called, to a certain extent, insane; that is, not of a sound well-ordered mind. But with regard to this Mr Cooper, I am apt to think his conclusions were not quite so chimerical and groundless, as to his being an object of curious speculation and droll remark to those around him. I will go so far as to say, that if I or Mr Robertson were at Cambridge, and received similar

treatment to that which Mr Cooper received, we should be apt, at least I know I should, to decamp without much ceremony. It is, I say, very possible that Mr Cooper might be shunned at Cambridge, and therefore feel inclined to run back to dear Scotland and her consolations. This, I am apt to imagine, shows rather sagacity and spirit than madness. Let it be remembered that Mr Cooper went to Cam bridge at a comparatively late period of life, when he would be no meet companion for his lighthearted juniors. And in what character did he mingle with the gay, spirited, and high-bred crowd, at an English university-with the bright tribes of Eton, Harrow, and Westminster? What did he appear to them other than a great, gloomy, hulking, Scotch dominie, wandering about like "a statue stepped from its pedestal to take the air," having nothing in common with the vivacious youngsters around him but his cap and gown? And then, again, when the fastidious ears of the Etonians would be shocked by hearing the strains of Virgil or Horace shouted in the rich northern brogue, and ghastly guttural intonations of Mr Cooper, not unaccompanied, perchance, with a false quantity to add to its attractions; is there, I ask, any thing extraordinary in supposing them to be amused with these and similar gaucheries of the raw Caledonian? Nothing more natural, I am sure, gentlemen. The simple fact of the case is this: Mr Cooper was very eccentric-a Scotchman-an elderly eccentric Scotchman; and his companions were very free and quizzical, and the consequence is unavoidable. He was fair game for them; and not being able to stand the chase, he took to Scotland again for shelter. Now, was not this the very best thing he could do? I think it would have been a much more unequivocal symptom of insanity had he remained at Cambridge. I cannot, therefore, but admire the ingenuity and hardihood of my learned friend, in grounding on this part of Mr Cooper's conduct a plea of insanity. Had I, in short, as I said before, been in Mr Cooper's circumstances, I am sure I should have taken a similar step; but to be brought in mad for it, oh, it is preposterous!

[Notwithstanding the ingenious pleading of the defendant's counsel, the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff.]

[ocr errors]

BROUGHAM'S INAUGURAL DISCOURSE ON BEING IN-
STALLED LORD RECTOR OF THE UNIVERSITY
OF GLASGOW, 1825.

It now becomes me to return my very sincere and respectful thanks for the kindness which has placed me in a chair, filled at former times by so many great men, whose names might well make any comparison formidable to a far more worthy successor.

I feel very sensibly, that if I shall now urge you by general exhortations, to be instant in the pursuit of the learning, which, in all its branches, flourishes under the kindly shelter of these roofs, I may weary you with the unprofitable repetition of a thrice told tale; and if I presume to offer my advice touching the conduct of your studies, I may seem to trespass upon the province of those venerable persons, under whose care you have the singular happiness to be placed. But I would nevertheless expose myself to either charge, for the sake of joining my voice with theirs, in anxiously entreating you to believe how incomparably the present season is verily and indeed the most precious of your whole lives. It is not the less true, because it has been oftentimes said, that the period of youth is by far the best fitted for the improvement of the mind, and the retirement of a college almost exclusively adapted to much study. At your enviable age, every thing has the lively interest of novelty and freshness; attention is perpetually sharpened by curiosity; and the memory is tenacious of the deep impressions it thus receives, to a degree unknown in after life; while the distracting cares of the world, or its beguiling pleasures, cross not the threshold of these calm retreats; its distant noise and bustle are faintly heard, making the shelter you enjoy more grateful; and the struggles of anxious mortals embarked upon that troublous sea, are viewed from an eminence, the security of which is rendered more sweet by the prospect of the scene below. Yet a little while, and you too will be plunged into those waters of bitterness; and will cast an eye of regret, as now I do, upon the peaceful regions you have quitted for ever. Such is your lot as memhers of society; but it will be your own fault if you look

« 上一頁繼續 »