Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

inconveniency from the persons of their servants being liable to be arrested. One noble Lord observes, that the coachman of a peer may be arrested while he is driving his master to the House, and, consequently, he will not be able to attend his duty in Parliament. If this were actually to happen, there are so many methods by which the member might still get to the House, that I can hardly think the noble Lord is serious in his objection. Another noble Peer said, That by this bill one might lose their most valuable and honest servants. This I hold to be a contradiction in terms;

for he can neither be a valuable servant, nor an honest man, who gets into debt which he is neither able nor willing to pay, till compelled by law. If my servant, by unforeseen accidents, has got into debt, and I still wish to retain him, I certainly would pay the debt. But upon no principle of liberal legislation whatever, can my servant have a title to set his creditors at defiance, while, for forty shillings only, the honest tradesman may be torn from his family, and locked up in a gaol. It is monstrous injustice ! I flatter myself, however, the determination of this day will entirely put an end to all such partial proceedings for the future, by passing into a law the bill now under your Lordships consideration.

I come now to speak upon what, indeed, I would have gladly avoided, had I not been particularly pointed at for the part I have taken in this bill. It has been said by a noble Lord on my left hand, that I likewise am running the race of popularity. If the noble Lord means by popularity, that applause bestowed by after-ages on good and virtuous actions, I have long been struggling in that race; to what purpose, all-trying time can alone determine ; but if the noble Lord means that mushroom popularity that is raised without merit, and lost without a crime, he is much mistaken in his opinion. I defy the noble Lord to point out a single action of my life, where the popularity of the times ever had the smallest influence on iny determinations. I thank God I have a more permanent and steady rule for my conduct,--the dictates of my own breast. Those that have foregone that pleasing adviser, and given up the mind to be the slave of every popular impulse, I sincerely pity: I pity them still more, if their vanity leads them to mistake the shouts of a mob for the trumpet of fame. Experience might inform them, that many who have been saluted with the huzzas of a crowd one day, have received

their execrations the next; and many, who, by the popularity of their times, have been held up as spotless patriots, bave, nevertheless, appeared upon the historian's page, when truth has triumphed over delusion, the assassins of liberty. Why then the noble Lord can think I am ambitious of present popularity, that echo of folly, and shadow of renown, I am at a loss to determine. Besides, I do not know that the bill now before your Lordships will be popular; it depends much upon the caprice of the day. It may not be popular to compel people to pay their debts; and in that case, the present must be a very unpopular bill. It may not be popular neither to take away any of the privileges of Parliament; for I very well remember, and many of your Lordships may remember, that not long ago the popular cry was for the extension of privilege ; and so far did they carry it at that time, that it was said that the privilege protected members even in criminal actions ; nay such was the power of popular prejudices over weak minds that the very decisions of some of the courts were tinctured with that doctrine. It was undoubtedly an abominable doctrine ; I thought so then, and think so still : but, nevertheless, it was a popular doctrine, and came immediately from those who are called the friends of liberty; how deservedly, time will show. True liberty, in my opinion, can only exist when justice is equally administered to all; to the king, and to the beggar. Where is the justice then, or where is the law, that protects a member of parliament more than any other man, from the punishment due to his crimes? The laws of this country allow of no place, nor any employment, to be a sanctuary for crimes; and where I have the honour to sit as judge, neither royal favour nor popular applause shall ever protect the guilty.

I have now only to beg pardon for having employed so much of your Lordships' time; and I am sorry a bill, fraught with so many good consequences, has not met with an abler advocate; bnt I doubt not your Lordships' determination will convince the world, that a bill calculated to contribute so much to the equal distribution of justice, as the present, requires, with your Lordships, but very little support.

SECTION III.

ELOQUENCE OF THE BAR. mi

1.-Cicero against Verres. THE time is come, Fathers, when that which has long been wished for, towards allaying the envy your order has been subject to, and removing the imputations against trials, is effectually put in your power. An opinion has long prevailed not only here at home, but likewise in foreign countries, both dangerous to you and pernicious to the state -that in prosecutions, men of wealth are always safe, however clearly convicted. There is now to be brought upon this trial before you, to the confusion, I hope, of the propagators of this slanderous imputation, one whose life and actions condemn him in the opinion of all impartial persons: but who, according to his own reckoning and declared dependance upon his riches, is already acquitted; I mean Caius Verres. I demand justice of you, Fathers, upon the robber of the public treasury, the oppressor of Asia Minor, and Pamphylia, the invader of the rights and privileges of Romans, the scourge and curse of Sicily.

If that sentence is passed upon him which his crimes deserve, your authority, Fathers, will be venerable and sacred in the

eyes

of the public; but if his great riches should bias you in his favour, I shall still gain one point-to make it apparent to all the world, that what was wanting in his case, was not a criminal nor a prosecutor, but justice and adequate punishment.

To pass over the shameful irregularities of his youth, what does his quæstorship, the first public employment he held, what does it exhibit, but one continued scene of villanies ? Cneius Carbo plundered of the public money by his own treasurer, a consul stripped and betrayed, an army deserted and reduced to want, a province robbed, the civil and religious rights of a people violated. The employment he held in Asia Minor and Pamphylia, what did it produce but the ruin of those countries ?-in which houses, cities, and temples, were robbed by him. What was his conduct in his prætorship here at home? Let the plundered temples, and public works neglected (that he might embezzle the money intended for carrying them on) bear witness. How did he discharge the office of a judge ? Let those who suffered by his injustice answer. But his prætorship in Sicily

crowns all his works of wickedness, and finishes a lasting monument to his infamy. The mischiefs done by him in that unhappy country, during the three years of his iniqui tous administration, are such, that many years, under the wisest and best of prætors, will not be sufficient to restore things to the condition in which he found them; for it is notorious, that, during the time of his tyranny, the Sicilians neither enjoyed the protection of their own original laws, of the regulations made for their benefit by the Roman se nate upon their coming under the protection of the common wealth, nor of the natural and unalienable rights of men. His nod has decided all causes in Sicily for these three years: and his decisions have broke all law, all precedent, all right. The sums he has, by arbitrary taxes and unheard-of impositions, extorted from the industrious poor, are not to be computed. The most faithful allies of the commonwealth have been treated as enemies. Roman citizens have, iike slaves, been put to death with tortures. The most atrocious criminals, for money, have been exempted from the deserved punishments : and men of the most unexceptionable characters condemned and banished unheard. The harbours, though sufficiently fortified, and the gates of strong towns, opened to pirates and ravagers. The soldiery and sailors, belonging to a province under the protection of The commonwealth, starved to death. Whole fleets, to the great detriment of the province, suffered to perish. The ancient monuments of either Sicilian or Roman greatness, the statues of heroes and princes carried off; and the temples stripped of their images. Having by his iniquitous sentences, filled the prisons with the most industrious and deserving of the people, he then proceeded to order numpers of Roman citizens to be strangled in the gaols; so that the exclamation, “I am a citizen of Rome !" which has often, in the most distant regions, and among the most barbarous people, been a protection, was of no service to them; but, on the contrary, brought a speedier and more severe punishment upon them.

I ask now, Verres, what you have to advance against this charge? Will you pretend to deny it? Will you pretend, that any thing false, that even any thing aggravated, is alleged against you ? Had any prince, or any state, committed the same outrage against the privilege of Roman citizens, should we not think we had sufficient ground for declaring immediate war against them? What punishment

[ocr errors]

ought then to be inflicted upon a tyrannical and wicked prætor, who dared, at no greater distance than Sicily, within sight of the Italian coast, to put to the infamous death of crucifixion, that unfortunate and innocent citizen, Pub lius Gavius Cosanus, only for his having asserted his privilege of citizenship, and declared his intention of appealing to the justice of his country, against a cruel oppressor, who had unjustly confined him in a prison, at Syracuse, whence he had just made his escape? The unhappy man, arrested as he was going to embark for his native country, is brought before the wicked prætor. With eyes darting fury, and a countenance distorted with cruelty, he orders the helpless victim of his rage to be stripped, and rods to be brought; accusing him, but without the least shadow of evidence, or even suspicion, of having come to Sicily as a spy. It was in vain that the unhappy man cried out, “ I am a Roman citizen: I have served under Lucius Pretius, who is now at Panormus, and will attest my innocence." The blood-thirsty prætor, deaf to all he could urge in his own defence, ordered the infamous punishment to be inflicted. Thus, Fathers, was an innocent Roman citizen publicly mangled with scourging; whilst the only words he uttered amidst his cruel sufferings were, “ I am a Roman citizen !" With these he hoped to defend himself from violence and infamy. But of so little service was this privilege to him, that, while he was thus asserting his citizenship, the order was given for his execution—for his execution upon the cross!

O liberty ! O sound, once delightful to every Roman ear 1-0 sacred privilege of Roman citizenship !once sacred !-now trampled upon !—but what then Is it come to this ? Shall an inferior magistrate, a governor, who holds his whole power of the Roman people, in a Roman province, within sight of Italy, bind, scourge, torture with fire, and redhot plates of iron, and at last put to the infamous death of the cross, a Roman citizen ? Shall neither the cries of innocence, expiring in agony, nor the tears of pitying spectators, nor the majesty of the Roman commonwealth, nor the fear of the justice of his country, restrain th entious and wanton cruelty of a monster, who in confidence of his riches, strikes at the root of liberty, and sets mankind at defiance ?

I conclude with expressing my hopes, that your wisdom and justice, Fathers, will not, by suffering the atrocious and unexampled insolence of Caius Verres to escape the

« VorigeDoorgaan »