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SIR JAMES MACKINTOSH.
IN BEHALF OF FREE SPEECH, ON THE TRIAL OF
ARY 21, 1803.
GENTLEMEN OF THE JURY :
The time is now come for me to address you in behalf of the unfortunate gentleman who is the defendant on this record.
I must begin with observing, that though I know myself too well to ascribe to any thing but to the kindness and good nature of my learned friend, the Attorney-General, the unmerited praises which he has been pleased to bestow on me, yet, I will venture to say, he has done me no more than justice in supposing that in this place, and on this occasion, where I exercise the functions of an inferior minister of justice, an inferior minister, indeed, but a minister of justice still, I am incapable of lending myself to the passions of any client, and that I
will not make the proceedings of this court subservient to any political purpose. Whatever is respected by the laws and government of my country shall, in this place, be respected by me. In considering matters that deeply interest the quiet, the safety, and the liberty of all mankind, it is impossible for me not to feel warmly and strongly; but I shall make an effort to control my feelings however painful that effort may be, and where I can not speak out but at the risk of offending either sincerity or prudence, I shall labor to contain myself and be silent.
I can not but feel, gentlemen, how much I stand in need of your favorable attention and indulgence. The charge which I have to defend is surrounded with the most invidious topics of discussion; but they are not of my seeking. The case and the topics which are inséparable from it are brought here by the prosecutor. Here I find them, and here it is my duty to deal with them, as the interests of Mr. Peltier seem to me to require. He, by his choice and confidence, has cast on me a very arduous duty, which I could not decline, and which I can still less betray. He has a right to expect from me a faithful, a zealous, and a
fearless defence; and this his just expectation, according to the measure of my humble abilities, shall be fulfilled. I have said a fearless defence. Perhaps that word was unnecessary in the place where I now stand. Intrepidity in the discharge of professional duty is so common a quality at the English bar, that it has, thank God, long ceased to be a matter of boast or praise. If it had been otherwise, gentlemen, if the bar could have been silenced or overawed by power,
that English jury would not this day have been met to administer justice Perhaps I need scarce say that my defence shall be fearless, in a place where fear never entered any heart but that of a criminal. But you will pardon me for having said so much when you consider who the real parties before you are.
I. Gentlemen, the real prosecutor is the master of the greatest empire the civilized world ever saw.
The defendant is a defenceless, proscribed exile. He is a French Royalist, who fled from his country in the autumn of 1792, at the period of that memorable and awful emigration, when all the proprietors and magistrates of the greatest civilized country in Europe were driven from their homes by the dag.
gers of assassins; when our shores were covered, as with the wreck of a great tempest, with old men, and women, and children, and ministers of religion, who fled from the ferocity of their countrymen as before an army of invading barbarians.
The greatest part of these unfortunate exiles, of those, I mean, who have been spared by the sword, who have survived the effect of pestilential climates or broken hearts, have been since permitted to revisit their country. Though despoiled of their all, they have eagerly embraced even the sad privilege of being suffered to die in their native land.
Even this miserable indulgence was to be purchased by compliances, by declarations of allegiance to the new government, which some of these suffering Royalists deemed incompatible with their consciences, with their dearest attachments, and their most sacred duties. Among these last is Mr. Peltier. I do not presume to blame those who submitted, and I trust you will not judge harshly of those who refused. You will not think unfavorably of a man who stands before you as the voluntary victim of his loyalty and honor. If a revolution (which God avert) were to drive us into
exile, and to cast us on a foreign shore, we should expect, at least, to be pardoned by generous men, for stubborn loyalty and unseasonable fidelity to the laws and government of our fathers.
This unfortunate gentleman had devoted a great part of his life to literature. It was the amusement and ornament of his better days. Since his own ruin and the desolation of his country, he has been compelled to employ it as a means of support. For the last ten years he has been engaged in a variety of publications of considerable importance; but since the peace he has desisted from serious political discussion, and confined himself to the obscure journal which is now before you ; the least calculated, surely, of any publication that ever issued from the press, to rouse the alarms of the most jealous government; which will not be read in England, because it is not written in our language; which cannot be read in France, because its entry into that country is prohibited by a power whose mandates are not very supinely enforced, nor often evaded with impunity; which can have no other object than that of amusing the companions of the author's principles and misfortunes, by pleasantries and sar