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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 matter 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 walks 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 Clonmell, 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 am 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 uestion has not been brought forward till now. In reat Britain, analogous circumstances have taken place. At the commencement of that unfortunate war 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 eye, from the misty medium through which it was surveyed. We measure inaccessible heights by the shadows which they project, where the lowmess and the distance of the light form the length of the shade.
There is a sort of aspiring and adventurous credulity, 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 2 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 born 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.
* Mr. Curran alludes to the sentence of transportation passed in Scotland upon Mr. Muir, &c. &c.
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 your remorse. But those sufferings will do more; they will not rest satisfied with your unavailing contrition, they will challenge the great and paramount inquest of society: the man will be weighed against the charge, the witness and the sentence; and impartial justice will demand, why has an Irish jury done this deed? The moment he ceases to be regarded as a criminal, he becomes of necessity an accuser; and let me ask you, what can your most zealous defenders be prepared to answer to such a charge? When your sentence shall have sent him forth to that stage, which guilt alone can render infamous; let me tell you, he will not be like a little statue upon a mighty pedestal, diminishing by elevation; but he will stand a striking and imposing object upon a monument, which, if it do not, and it cannot, record the atrocity of his crime, must record the atrociof his conviction. Upon this subject, therefore, credit me when I say, that I am still more anxious for you, than I can possibly be for him. I cannot but feel the peculiarity of your situation. Not the jury of his own choice, which the law of England allows, but which ours refuses: collected in that box by a person, certainly no friend to Mr. Rowan, certainly not very deeply interested in giving him a very impartial jury. Feeling this, as I am persuaded you do, you cannot be surprised, however you may be distressed at the mournful presage, with which an anxious public is led to fear the worst from your possible determination. But I will not, for the justice and honor of our common country, suffer my mind to be borne away by such melancholy anticipation. I will not relinquish the confidence that this day will be the period of his sufferings; and however mercilessly he has been hitherto pursued, that your verdict will send him home to the arms of his family, and the wishes of his country. But if, which heaven forbid, it hath still been unfortunately determined, that because he has not bent to power and authority, because he would not bow down before the golden calf and worship it, he is to be bound and cast into the furnace; I do trust in God, that there is a redeeming spirit in the constitution, which will be seen to walk with the sufferer through
the flames, and to preserve him unhurt by the conflagration.
[Upon the conclusion of this speech, Mr. Curran was again for many minutes loudly applauded by the auditors; and upon leaving the court was drawn home by the populace, who took the horses from his carriage.]
ELOQUENCE OF POPULAR ASSEMBLIES.
SPEECH of PATRICK HENRY,
Before the Convention of Delegates for the several coun
ties and corporations of Virginia, on Thursday, the
23rd of March, 1775.
Mr. HENRY rose with a majesty unusual to him in an exordium, and with all that self-possession by which he was so invariably distinguished. “No man,” he said, “thought more highly than he did of the patriotism, as well as of the abilities, of the very worthy gentleman who had just addressed the house. But different men often saw the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, he hoped it would not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen, if, entertaining as he did, opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, he should speak forth his sentiments freely, and without reserve. This was no time for ceremony. The question before the house was one of awful moment to this country.—For his own part, he considered it nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery. And in proportion to the magnitude of the subject, ought to be the freedom of the debate. It was only in this way that they could hope to arrive at truth, and fulfil the great responsibility which they held to God and to their country. Should he keep back his opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offence, he should consider himself as guilty of treason towards his country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which he revered above all earthly kings.