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truth of a monster. They would have despised the threats of a foreign tyrant, as their ancestors braved the power of oppression at home.
In the court where we are now met, Cromwell twice sent a satirist on his tyranny to be convicted and punished as a libeller, and in this court, almost in sight of the scaffold streaming with the blood of his sovereign, within hearing of the clash of his bayonets which drove out Parliament with contumely, two successive juries rescued the intrepid satirist [Lilburne] from his fangs, and sent out with defeat and disgrace the usurper's attorney-general from what he had the insolence to call his court! Even then, gentlemen, when all law and liberty were trampled under the feet of a military banditti; when those great crimes were perpetrated on a high place and with a high hand against those who were the objects of public veneration, which, more than any thing else, break their spirits and confound their moral sentiments, obliterate the distinctions between right and wrong in their understanding, and teach the multitude to feel no longer any reverence for that justice which they thus see triumphantly dragged at the chariot-wheels of a tyrant; even. then, when this unhappy country, triumphant,
indeed, abroad, but enslaved at home, had no prospect but that of a long succession of tyrants wading through slaughter to a throneeven then, I say, when all seemed lost, the unconquerable spirit of English liberty survived in the hearts of English jurors. That spirit is, I trust in God, not extinct; and if any modern tyrant were, in the drunkenness of his insolence, to hope to overawe an English jury, I trust and I believe that they would tell him: “Our ancestors braved the bayonets of Cromwell ; we bid defiance to yours. Contempsi Catilinæ gladiosnon pertimescam tuos ! ”
What could be such a tyrant's means of overawing a jury? As long as their country exists, they are girt round with impenetrable armor. Till the destruction of their country, no danger can fall upon them for the performance of their duty, and I do trust that there is no Englishman so unworthy of life as to desire to outlive England. But if any of us are condemned to the cruel punishment of surviving our country -if, in the inscrutable counsels of Providence, this favored seat of justice and liberty, this noblest work of human wisdom and virtue, be destined to destruction, which I shall not be charged with national prejudice for saying
would be the most dangerous wound ever inflicted on civilization; at least let us carry with us into our sad exile the consolation that we ourselves have not violated the rights of hospitality to exiles—that we have not torn from the altar the suppliant who claimed protection as the voluntary victim of loyalty and conscience!
Gentlemen, I now leave this unfortunate gentleman in your hands. His character and his situation might interest your humanity ; but, on his behalf, I only ask justice from you.
I only ask a favorable construction of what can not be said to be more than ambiguous language, and this you will soon be told, from the highest authority, is a part of justice.
Notwithstanding the great impression made by his speech, the charge of Lord Ellenborough made it necessary that the jury should render a verdict of guilty. In his instructions his Lordship said that under the law of England “any publication which tended to degrade, revile, and defarne persons in considerable situations of power and dignity, in foreign countries, may be taken and treated as a libel, and particularly where it has a tendency to interrupt the pacific relations of the two countries."
The jury found Peltier guilty ; but as war was almost immediately declared, he was not brought up for sentence, but was set free,
“As an advocate in the forum, I hold him to be without an equal in ancient or modern times." This is the judgment of the author of “ The Lives of the Lord Chancellors," in regard to Thomas, Lord Erskine. But for the modern student, Erskine was not merely the most powerful advocate that ever appealed to a court or a jury, but what is more important, he was, in a very definite sense, so closely identified with the establishment of certain great principles that lie at the foundation of modern social life, that a knowledge, at least, of some of his speeches is of no little importance. The rights of juries, the liberty of the press, and the law of treason were discussed by him not. only with a depth of learning and a power of reasoning which were absolutely conclusive, but
at the same time with a warmth and a brilliancy of genius which throw a peculiar charm over the whole of the subjects presented.
Thomas Erskine was the youngest son of the Earl of Buchan, the representative of an old Scotch house, whose ample fortune had wasted away until the family was reduced to actual poverty. Just before the birth of the future Lord Chancellor, the Earl of Buchan abandoned his ancient seat, and with wife and children took up
his abode in an upper flat of a lofty house in the old town of Edinburgh. Here Erskine was born on the roth of January, 1750. The poverty of the family made it impossible for him to acquire the early education he craved. Some years at the schools in Edinburgh, and a few months in the University of St. Andrews, completed his academic days. He gained a very superficial knowledge of Latin, and, if we may believe Lord Campbell, "little of Greek beyond the alphabet.” In the rudiments of English literature, however, he was well instructed ; and he seems, even while