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GENTLEMEN, I mean not to impeach the state of your representation, I am not saying that it is defective, or that it ought to be altered or amended, nor is this a place for me to say, whether I think that three millions of the inhabitants of a country, whose whole number is but four, ought to be admitted to any efficient situation in the state. It may be said, and truly, that these are not questions for either of us directly to decide ; but you cannot refuse them some passing consideration at least; when you remember that on this subject the real question for your decision is, whether the allegation of a defect in your constitution is so utterly unfounded and false, that you can ascribe it only to the malice and perverseness of a wicked mind, and not to the innocent mistake of an ordinary understanding ;-whether it may not be mistake; whether it can be only sedi. tion.
And here, gentlemen, I own I cannot but regret, that one of our countrymen should be criminally pursued for asserting to the necessity of a reform, at the very moment when that necessity seems admitted by the parliament itself; that this unhappy reform shall at the same moment be a subject of legislative discussion, and criminal prosecution. Far am I from imputing any sinister design to the virtue or wisdom of our government, but who can avoid feeling the deplorable impression that must be made on the public mind, when the demand for that reform is answered by a criminal information ?
I am the more forcibly impressed by this consideration, when I reflect that when this information was first put upon the file, the subject was transiently mentioned in the House of Commons. Some circumstances retarded the progress of the inquiry there, and the progress of the information was equally retarded here. The first day of this session you all know, that subject was again brought forward in the House of Commons, and as if they had
slept together, this prosecution was also revived in the Court of King's Bench; and that before a jury, taken from a pannel partly composed of those very members of parliament, who, in the House of Commons, must debate upon this subject as a measure of public advantage, which they are here called upon to consider as a public crime.
This paper, gentlemen, insists upon the necessity of emancipating the Catholics of Ireland, and that is charged as a part of the libel. If they had kept this prosecution impending for another year, how much would remain for a jury to decide upon, I should be at a loss to discover. It seems as if the progress of public reformation was eating away the ground of the prosecution. Since the commencement of the prosecution, this part of the libel has unluckily received the sanction of the Legislature. In that interval, our Catholic brethren have obtained that admission, which it seems it was a libel to propose : in what way to account for this, I am really at a loss. Have any alarms been occasioned by the emancipation of our Catholic brethren? Has the bigoted malignity of any individuals been crushed ? Or, has the stability of the government, or has that of the country been awakened? Or, is one million of subjects stronger than three millions? Do you think the benefit they received should be poisoned. by the stings of vengeance? If you think so, you must say to them, “ you have demanded your emancipation, and you have got it; but we abhor your persons, we are outraged at your success; and we will stigmatize, by a criminal prosecution, the relief which you have obtained from the voice of your country.” I ask you, gentlemen, do you think, as honest men, anxious for the public tranquillity, conscious that there are wounds not yet completely ci catrized, that you ought to speak this language at this time, to men who are too much disposed to think that in this very emancipation they have been saved
from their own Parliament by the humanity of their Sovereign? Or, do you wish to prepare them for the revocation of these improvident concessions ? Do you think it wise or humane, at this moment, to insult them, by sticking up in a pillory the man who dared to stand forth their advocate ? I put it to your oatlis, do you think that a blessing of that kind, that a victory obtained by justice over bigotry and oppression, should have a stigma cast upon it by an ignominious sentence upon men bold and honest enough to propose that measure; to propose the redeeming of religion from the abuses of the churchthe reclaiming of three millions of men from bondage, and giving liberty to all who had a right to demand it-giving, I say, in the so much censured words of this paper, “ UNIVERSAL EMANCIPATION !" I speak in the spirit of the British Law, which makes liberty commensurate with, and inseparable from, the British soil -- which proclaims, even to the stranger and the sojourner, the moment he sets his foot apon British earth, that the ground on which he treads is holy, and consecrated by the genius of UNIVERSAL EMANCIPATION.--No matter in what, language his doom may have been pronounced; no matter what complexion incompatible with freedom, an Indian or an African sun may have burnt upon him; no matter in what disastrous battle his liberty may have been cloven down; no natter with what solemnities he may have been devoted upon the altar of slavery; the first moment he touches the sacred soil of Britain, the altar and the god sink together in the dust; his soul waks abroad in her own majesty; his body swells beyond the measure of his chains that burst from around him, and he stands redeemed, regenerated, and disenthralled, by the irresistible Genius of UNIVERSAL EMANCIPATION!
[Here Mr. Curran was interrupted by a sudden burst of applause from the court and hall. “After some time, silence
was restored by the authority of Lord Clunmell, who acknowledged the pleasure which he himself felt at the brilliant display of professional talents, but disapproved of any intemperate expressions of applause in a Court of Justice.]
Mr. Curran then proceeded. Gentlemen, I ani not such a fool as to ascribe any effusion of this sort to any merit of mine.
It is the mighty theme, and not the inconsiderable advocate, that can excite interest in the hearer. What you hear is but the testimony which nature bears to her own character; it is the effusion of her gratitude to that Power which stamps that character upon her.
Gentlemen, I am glad that this question has not been brought forward earlier; I rejoice for the sake of the court, of the jury, and of the public repose, that this question has not been brought forward till now. In Great Britain, analogous circumstances have taken place. At the commencement of that unfortunate var which has deluged Europe with blood, the spirit of the English people was tremblingly alive to the terror of French principles; at that moment of general paroxysm, to accuse was to convict. The danger loomed larger to the public cye, from the misty medium through which it was surveyed.-We measure inaccessible heights by the shadows which hey project, where the lowness and the distance of the light form the length of the shade.
There is a sort of aspiring and adventurous credu, lity, which disdains assenting to obvious truths, and delights in catching at the improbability of circumstances, as its best ground of faith. To what other cause, gentlemen, can you ascribe that in the wise, the reflecting, and the philosophic nation of Great Britain, a printer has been gravely found guilty of a libel, for publishing those resolutions to which the present minister of that kingdom had actually subscribed his name? To what other cause can you ascribe, what in my mind is still more astonishing, in such a country as Scotland, a nation cast in the happy medium between the spiritless acquiescence of submissive poverty, and the sturdy credulity of pampered wealth; cool and ardent, adventurous and persevering; winging her eagle flight against the blaze of every science, with an eye that never winks, and a wing that never tires ; crowned as she is with the spoils of every art, and decked with the wreath of every muse ; from the deep and scrutinizing researches of her Humes, to the sweet and simple, but not less sublime and pathetic morality of her Burns-how from the bosom of a country like that, genius, and character, and talents, should be banished to a distant barbarous soil ;* condemned to pine under the horrid communion of vulgar vice and base_horn profligacy, for twice the period that ordinary calculation gives to the continuance of human life?
I cannot, however, avoid adverting to a circumstance that distinguishes the case of Mr. Rowan, from that of Mr. Muir.
The severer law of Scotland, it seems, and happy for them that it should, enables them to remove from their sight the victim of their infatuation. The more merciful spirit of our law deprives you of that consolation; his sufferings must remain forever before our eyes, a continual call upon your shame and
* MR. Curran alludes to the sentence of transportation passed in Scotland upon Mr. Muir, &c. &c.'.