Puslapio vaizdai





In 1803, M. Peltier published some articles in a periodical paper reflecting severely on Napoleon; who taking advantage of the peace at that time subsisting between Britain and France, instituted an action for libel in the English courts against Peltier. Sir James Mackintosh was retained for the defence.

[blocks in formation]

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 defender, a defenceless, proscribed exile. I consider this case 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 swallowed up all the asylums of free discussion on the Continent, we enjoyed that privilege more fully than others; but we did not exclusively enjoy it. 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 whose unmerited fall I do most bitterly deplore.

These governments formed a most interesting part of the ancient system of Europe. The perfect security of such feeble states, their undisturbed tranquillity amidst the wars and conquests around them, attested the moderation, the justice, the civilization, to which christian Europe had reached in modern times. Their weakness was protected only by the reverence for justice that, during a 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. Call to mind that happy period when we scarcely dreamed more of the subjugation of the weakest state in Europe than 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 civilization. These feeble states, these monuments of justice,-the asylums 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. They are destroyed, and gone for ever.

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 the 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, 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 amid 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; addressing you, therefore, as the guardians of the most important interests of mankind,-convinced that the unfettered exercise of

reason depends more on your verdict than on any other that was ever delivered by a jury,-I trust I may rely with confidence on the issue, and that you will consider yourselves as the advanced guard of liberty, -as having this day to fight the first battle for free discussion, and against the most formidable enemy that it ever encountered. Sir James Macintosh.

[ocr errors]


[blocks in formation]

Ar times Lord Thurlow was superlatively great. One instance of this was his celebrated reply to the Duke of Grafton, during the inquiry into Lord Sandwich's administration of Greenwich Hospital. His grace's action and delivery, when he addressed the house, were singularly dignified and graceful; but his matter was not equal to his manner. He reproached Lord Thurlow with his plebeian extraction [he was the son of a clergyman], and his recent admission into the peerage ; particular circumstances caused Lord Thurlow's reply to make a deep impression at the time. His Lordship had spoken too often, and began to be heard with a civil but visible impatience; under these circumstances he was attacked in the manner we have mentioned. He rose from the woolsack, and advanced slowly to the place from which the Chancellor generally addresses the house: then fixing on the Duke the look of Jove, when he grasps the thunder


“I am amazed,” he said, in a level tone of voice, “at the attack which the noble Duke has made on me. Yes, my Lords," considerably raising his voice, “I am amazed at his Grace's speech. The noble Duke cannot look before him, behind him, or on either side of him, without seeing some noble peer who owes his seat in this house to his successful exertions in the profession to which I belong. Does he not feel that it is as honourable to owe it to these as to being the accident of an accident? To all these noble Lords, the language of the noble Duke is as applicable and as insulting

as to myself; but I do not fear to meet it single and alone. No one venerates the peerage more than I do; but, my Lords, I must say that the peerage solicited me, not I the peerage. Nay, more I can say, and will say, that as a peer of Parliament-as Speaker of this right honourable House-as Keeper of the Great Seal-as Guardian of his Majesty's conscience -as Lord High Chancellor of England-nay, even in that character alone in which the noble Duke would think it an affront to be considered, but which character none can deny me—as a man-I am at this moment as respectable-I beg leave to add, I am at this time as much respected, as the proudest peer I now look down upon.'

The effect of this speech (continues Lord Campbell,) both within and without the walls of Parliament was prodigious. It gave Lord Thurlow an ascendancy in the House which no Chancellor had ever possessed; it invested him in public opinion with a character of independence and honour; and this, though he was ever on the unpopular side of politics, made him always popular with the people.

Campbell's lives of the Chancellors.



Ac'tions, n............

De-fence', n...............fendere.

Res-o-lu'tion, n..........solvere.
Aux-il'ia-ries, n.........
In-ev'i-ta-bly, adv.......vitare.

Ar the first address and presence of sickness, stand still and arrest thy spirit, that it may without amazement or affright consider that this was that thou lookedst for, and wert always. certain should happen, and that now thou art to enter into the actions of a new religion, the agony of a strange constitution; but at no hand suffer thy spirits to be dispersed with fear, or wildness of thought, but stay their looseness and dispersion by a serious consideration of the present and future employment. For so doth the Lybian lion, spying the fierce huntsman; he first beats himself with the strokes of his tail, and curls up his spirits, making them strong with union and recollection, till being struck with a Mauritanian spear, he rushes forth into his defence and noblest contention; and either 'scapes into the secrets of his own dwelling, or else dies the bravest of the forest. E very man, when shot with an ar

row from God's quiver, must then draw in all the auxiliaries of reason, and know that then is the time to try his strength, and to reduce the words of his religion into action, and consider that if he behaves himself weakly and timorously, he suffers never the less of sickness; but if he returns to health, he carries along with him the mask of a coward and a fool; and if he descends into his grave, he enters into the state of the faithless and unbelievers. Let him set his heart firm upon this resolution-I must bear it inevitably, and I will, by God's grace, do it nobly. Jeremy Taylor.


[blocks in formation]

It is truly a most Christian exercise to extract a sentiment of piety from the works and the appearances of Nature. It has the authority of the sacred writers upon its side, and even our Saviour himself gives it the weight and solemnity of his example:-"Behold the lilies of the field; they toil not, neither do they spin, yet your heavenly Father careth for them." He expatiates on the beauty of a single flower, and draws from it the delightful argument of confidence in God. He gives us to see that taste may be combined with piety, and that the same heart may be occupied with all that is serious in the contemplations of religion, and be at the same time alive to the charms and the loveliness of nature.

The psalmist takes a still loftier flight, and leaves the world, and lifts his imagination to that mighty expanse that spreads above it and around it. He wings his way through space, and wanders in thought over its immeasurable regions Instead of a dark unpeopled solitude, he sees it crowded with splendour, and filled with the energy of the Divine presence. Creation rises in its immensity before him, and the world, with all which it inherits, shrinks into littleness at a contem

« AnkstesnisTęsti »